Kids are Different – More Different When They’re Not Identical Twins

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Categories Education, Identical, Individuality, Parenting, Siblings, Talking to Kids8 Comments

“My kids are totally different,” I tell anyone who will listen.

Identical twins aren’t identical people, after all. They’re siblings who happen to have matching DNA and several months as wombmates.

One of my girls gets anxious more easily than the other. One is loving her Orff ensemble, while the other has us scheduled to attend a sculpture demonstration this weekend. One is all about T-shirts and sweatpants, while the other can spend an hour matching a new top to the perfect skirt.

In celebrating my twin daughters as individuals, I forget, sometimes, how similar they are. Their shared DNA, the shared crucible of our single parent home, and being in the same school and extracurricular programs all contribute to similar interests and abilities.

Girls Scouts: The Reality Check

I’m a Girl Scout leader. Exhausting though it is, I love it. I get to have 9 extra daughters, in addition to a supportive community of other adults who mentor girls from age 5 to 18.

5 Girl Scouts posing. Girl Scout leaders get to experience a massive variation in abilities and interests. The the identical twin kids are different!

Girl Scout meetings, field trips, and cookie sales have made me realize that my daughters are far more alike than different. While my troop runs the gamut in mathematical ability from struggling with subtraction to bored with basic algebra, my daughters are the ones who see math in everything they do. I see all sorts of behavior when the troop is together, but my girls tend to have the narrow repertoire of hard work, silliness, and sulking. My daughters are among the most extroverted in the troop. They’re also the shortest.

One of the moms in my troop is leading the Geocaching badge. I usually plan out badge work myself or help one or two of the girls come up with the plan. I thought it would be nice to share some hard-earned wisdom with the mom on her first badge-leading escapade:

Don’t assume all the girls have the same background knowledge. You may need to cover basics like “the world is a sphere” when explaining latitude and longitude.

Then I remembered that she has two kids of different ages. She deals with different levels of knowledge and ability every single day. She doesn’t need my advice on handling differences in ability. I’m the one who needed that advice, because I’m the one wearing identical twin blinders.

Would I parent differently if I had kids of different ages with a greater variety of talents and interests? I would definitely spend more time marveling at how similar my identical twin daughters really are in contrast.

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Should You Go to MommyCon? Yes!

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Categories Community, ProductsTags 1 Comment

What exactly is MommyCon?

MommyCon is an entirely unique event: part trade show, part kid gear market, part mommy meetup, part parenting course. I went in without expectations, and came away thinking, “I have to tell everyone about this!” MommyCon is ideal for expectant parents and those with little kids (infants and toddlers) seeking community and solutions. I found plenty to hold my interest for the full day even though my kids are older. If MommyCon has an event in your area, I strongly recommend that you go.

Expect a large exhibit hall where you can browse products, go shopping, and chat with product representatives. Nearby, find lectures and group discussions on all aspects of parenting and womanhood. I hear that the talk on sex while breastfeeding was a huge hit, although I didn’t attend. I enjoyed chatting with other MommyCon attendees, especially when they were breastfeeding their little ones or taking a snack break. While most of the folks I met were local, some had come to Austin from as far away as Dallas and the exhibitors were from all over the country.

MommyCon is a gathering of mothers, brands and parenting experts designed for babywearers on the lookout for high quality products and parenting insight.

I’d never even heard of MommyCon before Penny over at Foster2Forever mentioned that it was coming to Austin in a local bloggers’ Facebook group. I went ahead and entered Naturepedic’s ticket giveaway and didn’t think much more of it. Lucky me! I won the giveaway. And lucky you! Most of the goodies that I picked up will be coming to HDYDI readers in future giveaways.

If you’re near Washington, D.C., you may even be able to land a pair of free tickets of your own for the July 23, 2016 MommyCon event in town. Naturepedic is giving away tickets! MommyCon also comes to Texas, Florida, and California, with a total of 10 events a year.

Who should go to MommyCon?

MommyCon is definitely targeted at the babywearing, cloth diapering crowd. The products available to try or buy are generally for expectant mothers and those whose kids who are still in diapers. However, there is plenty to do and learn for those of us whose children are older.

The best thing about MommyCon, in my opinion, is how kid-friendly it is.

At @mommycon. So impressed by the @babyganics changing station.

A photo posted by Sadia (@hdydiblog) on

Unlike most other mom events I’ve attended, MommyCon actively accommodates children, providing toys and diapering supplies. Most importantly, every single person there welcomes children into every part of the event. We all understand full well that kids are going to cry, run around, interrupt, and push the occasional button. While the crowd was overwhelmingly female, there were plenty of babywearing dads and expectant fathers, tending to kids, joining in parenting discussions, and shopping.

MommyCon features awesome products and an involved, interested group of parents.

When my twins were infants, I had a baby carrier, but wouldn’t describe myself as a baby-wearer. I used the carrier only when both my babies demanded to be held and I needed a spare arm. I liked the idea of cloth diapers, but my children were in daycare for 11 hours a day. Disposable diapers were the only option, at least on weekdays. I felt completely at home despite being a working mom whose maternity leave ended when my babies were only 11 weeks old… a decade ago. Much as I had wanted to wear my babies back in 2006, I used my single baby Snugli carrier quite rarely.

What kind of products does MommyCon feature?

If it has to do with mom or baby, MommyCon probably has it. I chatted with a local Baby Sign teacher, checked out adorable clothes and toys, looked at all sorts of safety supplies, ate the most delicious yogurt in history, and even tried a better tasting infant iron supplement. MommyCon is a great opportunity for boutique shopping for yourself and baby.

Baby carriers

As far as I’m aware, baby carriers designed for twins weren’t even on the market back in my day. I finally got to try the TwinGo carrier I’ve been drooling over online in MommyCon , where the exhibits include a phenomenal wrap and carrier library where you can try on tens of different baby carriers to find the right one for you and your brood.

The TwinGo carrier lets you wear two babies at once, but can also be separated into two separate carriers, one for each parent.

The TwinGo is genius. It doesn’t just allow you to safely and comfortably wear both your babies at once. It also comes apart into to separate carriers so that you and your co-parent can each wear a baby. If you’re expecting twins, add it to your baby registry now. Really. I can wait.

In addition to the wide array of carriers available to try out in the babywearing area, a number of company representatives manned their own tables. Jess Mann at the Moby Wrap was particularly helpful. Although the company does not promote wearing two babies in a single wrap, Jess did acknowledge that many parents of multiples do so. I really appreciated her taking the time to lament with me the challenges of a top-heavy mother trying to wearing tiny babies.

The founder of Kanaluti carriers was also at MommyCon and made an excellent recommendation: check with your pediatrician before wearing your babies, especially if they’re fragile preemies like mine were. A number of other carrier companies were present, but I didn’t stop at all the booths. My 10-year-olds are a little beyond baby carriers these days.

Car seats

I’m kind of a car seat nerd, so I spent a lot of time chatting with the car seat folks. I stopped by the Britax booth and thanked them for the wonderful information about car seat safety I’d used to educate myself before my daughters were born. I swear to this day that the Britax Marathon gets all the credit for keeping my children entirely safe in the one accident we’ve been in. I was pleased to see that they’re now selling some narrower seats. Despite my loyalty to their brand, I had to switch away to fit three kids in the back seat of my sedan.

I was blown away by the Kiddy brand car seats, which are new to the US market. I’ve been frustrated by boosters sliding around on the seat. The Kiddy seats have a retractable LATCH attachment that allows the seat to push up flush against the back of the car’s seat. They’re also designed to absorb the impact of a crash so that the child’s hips feel less of it.

In addition to safety, Kiddy engineers have thoughtfully designed their seats accommodate children of different sizes. My own girls being in the 1st and 3rd percentiles for height and weight, I’m fully aware of what a challenge it can be when things are designed only with the average person in mind. The Kiddy car seat I looked at expands up, sideways and even forwards to fit longer legs. Some of their seats take kids up to 110 lbs; while I weighed only 2 lbs more than that when I got pregnant, I know that there are kids who because of age or maturity need to be in car seats at that size.

Kiddy is a new brand to the US car seat market. The seats adjust to children of different sizes. The seats even stretch forward to fit long legs.

I’ve been through the expense of car seat expiration before. I asked about their expiration period, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Kiddy seats can be good for 8 years. Or was it 7? I should have taken notes!

Strollers

I confess that I didn’t spend much time at all with the strollers. I was, however, deeply impressed by the SCOUT car attachment. This simple smart solution lets you attach bulky (and often filthy) jogging strollers to the back of your car. No more wrestling a jogging stroller into the trunk while your babies scream. No more having to buy a new car because the trunk isn’t big enough.

The SCOUT jogging stroller attachment lets you keep your jogging stroller on the outside of your car!

I had a lovely conversation with SCOUT’s inventor and his wife, and briefly even met one of their sons. This product is lightweight and simple, and it was clear to see how much love and thought had gone into designing a solution to make an outdoorsy family’s life a little easier.

And tons more

The goody bags that they hand out at MommyCon are, of themselves, worth the price of entry. Here’s most of the content of one:

  A photo posted by Sadia (@hdydiblog) on

I’ll tell you more about the eating supplies, cleaning products, body care products, jewelry, and accessories in future posts, since I’ll be giving away most of the stuff in the photo above to readers.

MommyCon Lectures and Discussions

At MommyCon Austin. I went to a great talk on preparing our daughters for their first period by the perfectly named Leah Love. Even though there were no other twin moms present, the entire room weighed in with thoughtful answers when I asked how to handle any awkwardness that might arise if one twin hits this milestone before her more competitive sister. I cried during the Q&A portion of Chasity Boatman‘s talk, where she covered both her experience of post-partum depression and her successful exclusively expressed breastmilk feeding relationship with her son. That talk alone was worth making the choice to go to MommyCon.

Let me just share with you the discussion schedule. These are top notch presentations. I understand that other locations will have some overlap in content, but quite a bit varies from city to city.

Considering whether to go to MommyCon? The talks are well worth it, even without the swag bag and industry experts.

So, yes, you should go to MommyCon

MommyCon is targeted at baby-wearing, cloth diapering moms and moms-to-be. It’s definitely most relevant to parents with little children, infants and toddlers. However, the event has plenty to offer to parents who follow all sorts of parenting philosophies. If you have the chance, go to this entirely unique event! (And then send me a note to let me know how you enjoyed yourself.)

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How to talk to kids about the Orlando shooting: 5 musts

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Categories Anger, Community, Fear, Grief, How Do The Moms Do It, Mental Health, Older Children, Parenting, Talking to Kids1 Comment

I felt like I was falling. My immediate reaction to learning of Sunday morning’s Orlando tragedy was visceral. I felt my stomach and heart drop before my brain could catch up to put words to my feelings. Grief. Anger. Fear. Above all, confusion. How could someone be so evil? Why would anyone bring a gun to a place of joy?

I quickly confirmed that everyone I knew who had even the most remote possibility of being at the scene of the massacre was safe. They were. My entire focus then turned to my daughters. How was I going to talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting?

Like so many parents, I’ve wrestled over whether to talk to my children about the horrific murders committed by a single deranged man. My daughters are 10. They interact with other children during the day. If they were going to learn about the shooting, I wanted them to learn about it from me, in a way that was honest, age appropriate, and non-sensationalist. I thought long and hard about how I would talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting specifically and mass shooting in general.

The way our morning went Monday, I only got around to talking to one kid. When I picked the kids up from camp, she was the one to encourage me to talk to her sister about the Orlando tragedy.

“Something really bad happened yesterday,” I started.

“49 dead? 53 injured?” she interrupted.

It turns out that she had read about the tragedy in Orlando on the news ticker. There was sports programming playing on TVs at the day’s field trip destination.

I wished I had spoken to her before she’d read those details, but she didn’t seem too traumatized. I got the impression that my willingness to discuss the matter did a lot to counter the children’s fear of this act of terrorism. Their confusion mirrored mine.

My willingness to discuss #Orlando with my kids did a lot to calm their fear. Click To Tweet

My daughters are as goofy and energetic as 10-year-olds come, but they are unusually mature. They, like me, feel empowered by information. You know your children better than anyone. If they are at a stage where they still think that everything that happens is because of or about them, they may be too immature to handle the news. Protect them from the television, radio, newspapers, and unthinking adults. You need to decide for your family, for each individual child, how to talk to them about the Orlando tragedy.

I knew that my daughters needed to talk this horrific event through. I explained that a very wrong man went to a place that is specifically intended to be a safe place for gay people to meet and hang out.

“That’s a great idea,” my daughter interjected. “It’s nice that there’s a place where gay people can know that all the not gay people will be nice to them.”

Obviously, my kids were already familiar with the concept of homosexuality. I told them that boys could marry boys and girls girls when they were toddlers. They’ve since noticed a number of lesbian and gay couples among my friends and met kids with two moms.

“But,” my little girl continued, “that makes the bad man even worse. Because he picked a place that’s nice to be mean.”

She was right, I told her. There were five massive ideas at play in the Orlando shooting, as I saw it. She had already identified two: terrorism and homophobia. She brought up 9/11 and we talked about the parallels between the two events for a bit.

It was then easy to segue into the religion part of the discussion. I told my daughter that a lot of people associate terrorism with Islam. A lot of our Muslim friends and family feared hatred from people who painted all Muslims with a single terrorist brush. I confessed that a small part of my choice to keep my married name after divorce was to avoid a recognizably Muslim name.

“But mostly to match us?” she asked. Yes, I mostly kept my married name to match my kids.

“But Mom,” my daughter realized out loud, “Christian people do bad things sometimes, but I’m not a bad person and I’m Christian.”

She was spot on. “What does it mean to be Christian?” I prompted. “If someone hurts a bunch of people, is that following Jesus’ example?”

“No,” she realized, “and he wasn’t very good at being Muslim either.”

Whenever I can, I let my children draw their own conclusions. I learn far more from them than they do from me.

“That’s three things, mom. You said there were five.”

The other two things were mental health and gun ownership. We have depression in the family, so we’ve talked in the past about chemical imbalances in the brain. I told my daughter that there was probably something very very wrong with the shooter’s brain for hmm to even imagine what he had done, much less follow through.

Next, we briefly touched on gun rights. Her father is a soldier, so she’s familiar with responsible gun ownership. I told her that my personal belief is that guns should be treated like cars, with training, licensing, and insurance required.

It was a great conversation, although one I wish we didn’t have occasion for.

“I understand the five things,” my thoughtful child told me, “but I still didn’t understand.”

I told her the truth. I didn’t understand either. No one would ever understand. There was nothing sensible, logical, or comprehensible about what this man had done. The families who are smaller today will never understand why their loved ones will never come home. The big question – WHY? – would always be out there confusing us all.

My daughter accepted my answer. She was old enough to get that this story wasn’t going to wrap up neatly. She asked me to spend the night in her room, because she was sad. We snuggled up in shared sadness, confusion, and complete love and trust.

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Mommy Judgment and Me Time

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Categories Diversity, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Multiple Solutions, Other people, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Generally speaking, parents are supportive of one another. We share parenting tips, recommend kid-friendly restaurants, and set up playdates. However, we can also be brutally judgmental of each other.

“Me time” is an area where otherwise accepting and supportive people dive headfirst into the mommy wars.

Just the other day, Sadia found herself nodding along in disbelieving and disapproving agreement when a summer camp counselor mentioned that another parent had arrived half an hour late to pick up her child because she’d fallen asleep. “How dare she,” Sadia thought, “make use of summer camp time to take a nap!” The fact is, we don’t know this other mother’s circumstances. Perhaps she works nights. Perhaps she’s unwell. Perhaps she fell asleep at work at her desk. Perhaps she has a newborn. Perhaps she fell asleep at her desk while suffering from mastitis.

SaraBeth receives a lot of “it must be nice” comments on getting a sitter and doing so regularly. It used to annoy her, but that time together as a couple is more important to her than big vacations or fancy name brand clothes. It’s her choice, and her husband’s, to make that time a priority.

Elizabeth, a single mom, is frequently told that she shouldn’t be running errands when her girls are with their dad. Instead, she is told  she should be doing more stuff for herself, such as getting coffee with friends or setting a massage/hair/nails appointment. She has her “me time” set up just how she likes it, and it isn’t when the girls are with their dad. She stays as busy as possible during that time running errands and getting things done that are harder to do with 2 preschoolers in tow.

Sadia is also a single mom. Lots of people (most recently her dentist) tell her that she should be grateful to have several weeks child-free during the summer when her ex-husband exercises his visitation rights. She doesn’t see it that way. She only has 9 years left before her twins leave home to build their adult lives. She wants to make the most of their time together while they still enjoy her company. The teen years and parental rejection that will come with that aren’t far off. Call her boring, but she doesn’t spend her nights drinking and clubbing when the girls are away. Instead, she ends up spending more hours at work and the gym. She’d much rather be adventuring with her daughters.

As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), SaraC finds a lot of people asking her, “What do you do with all that time?”. Three of her 4 children are still in diapers, so we MoMs know exactly what she’s doing: primarily feeding and cleaning four people, keeping them safe, and letting them know that they are loved.

MandyE received negative feedback for a blog post she wrote one time about “me time”.  The commenter challenged her that “’me time’ begets ‘me time’” and if she continued to “indulge”, she would grow to resent her children.  She admits the harsh words threw her for a loop and caused her to question herself.

Amy is her own worst critic. She criticizes herself for having help with childcare and housekeeping even though she’s a stay at home mom of four (two sets of twins). If she didn’t have help, she would never get “me time”. She deserves to go to the store by herself too!

Jen Wood gets judged for not taking “me time” at all. During the time she was a SAHM, she couldn’t justify paying someone to watch her kids unless she was making money to offset it. She had a high school girl, an assistant at the boys’ preschool, watch the boys ONCE. After paying her $30 for 2.5 hours out, Jen just could not do it again. It felt far too indulgent for a mother making zero dollars an hour. She doesn’t have family nearby, so free care is off the table. Most of Jen’s “me” time is at home with the kids, doing something in another room while they destroy the one they are in.

People ask SaraC, when she’ll go back to work, judging her for being a SAHM. Her answer is that she’ll return when it’s right for her family. She also meets working moms who feel they need to explain themselves to her! SaraC responds by letting these moms know that she worked when she just only 2 kids, so she completely understands the working mom’s lifestyle. She also fully recognizes that each family is different. She has no time or desire to judge a working mom and would appreciate them withholding judgment too!

During Sadia’s early Army wife days, she was informed by other military spouses that she was an abhorrent mother for working outside the home. She was told that a good mother would stay home with her babies. Her response then was that she was a better mother when she didn’t look to her children to fulfill her intellectually and socially. The outlet of work allowed Sadia to focus on being for the babies what they needed. Her response now is that her job provided stability, both financial and psychological. Her divorce three years ago would have been much more traumatic to the children if they weren’t already accustomed to Sadia working full time. If she didn’t have an established career to fall back on, with a salary to match, they would have noticed a rapid decline in their quality of life, one from which Sadia was able to shield them. 

Michelle finds other mothers expecting her to have far more free time now that her children are older. There is a hope (maybe a fallacy) that “me time” increases with our children’s age. That hasn’t been true at all for Michelle. The children don’t nap and they stay up later. Their demands are just as insistent. There’s as much, if not more, to stay on top of. Michelle’s husband has asked her to consider quitting her job, but with the cost of extracurricular activities, the family relies on her paycheck to help defray the cost of five kids in five different activities.

We’ve all been judged for how we spend our time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve probably judged other mothers. We hope that our perspectives have shown how different “me time” can be and there is no single approach that works for every family.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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A Gift of Mommy Time

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Categories Making Time for Me, Marriage, ParentingTags , , Leave a comment

I don’t think any first time mother quite knows what she’s in for, regardless of how much childcare or research she has done before her children come along. All mothers are thrown in the deep end of motherhood. The pool into which I was thrown was a little colder and deeper than some others.

Like most of our readers, I had the twin thing to contend with. Two babies are no small challenge. I worked full time. I exhausted my maternity leave and returned to work when the babies were 11 weeks old. I worked forty hours a week. Add in a required lunch break and an hour or more of commuting in each direction. I was committed to spending the remaining 113 hours of my week with my babies and maximizing our chances of breastfeeding success. The Iraq War didn’t help. My husband deployed when the babies were 5 months old. We didn’t have any family nearby, although our neighbours became practically family.

My husband knew me well enough to realize that I would never willingly take any time for myself outside work. He came up with a truly inspired gift. The perfect gift. My husband bought me a pair of premium season tickets to Broadway in Austin, the local series of touring musicals.

I’m something of a musical theatre geek. Name a song in Rent, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Singin’ in the Rain, or Mary Poppins, and I can sing it for you, likely the melody line and a few harmony parts for good measure. By giving me pairs of tickets, my (now ex) husband ensured that about once a month, I would have to hire a babysitter and schedule a night out with a girlfriend.

I came back from these evenings out re-energized and feeling loved. I went to each show with a different friend, ranging from choir buddies to coworkers, and once even my mother-in-law. My daughters were no worse for wear after an evening with a babysitter, an evening I wouldn’t have taken were it not for the tickets burning a hold in my pocket.

I recently gave a dear friend two gifts at her baby shower: a Boppy pillow and an offer of 12 date nights worth of babysitting, one night a month for Baby’s first year. Her son is now 5 months old and she cashed in her first couple time this past weekend. I’m hoping that my attempt to give her the gift of me-time is as effective as my husband’s.

Have you ever received a gift of me-time?


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Inexpensive Ways to Make Time with Your Partner

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Whether you’re a two income family, or a one income family, money is a concern. As a one income family of six, creativity is the name of the game when it comes to entertainment, date nights, and me time. For me, being with my husband—alone—often translates to me time. As I mentioned in a previous Me Time post, nurturing my marriage is crucial to both myself and my husband.

Recently, we moved from the city to the country to be closer to my husband’s family. It has been quite an adjustment for everyone, but a wonderful one overall. Because of this, we have free babysitting, BUT we do not abuse them, we always plan ahead with them, and our children pay them in slobbery kisses.

I asked my husband for input on this, and his immediate response was sex. Well yes, he’s right, sex is free and you don’t have to leave the house or hire a sitter. Can I actually talk about such things on a parenting blog? I suppose so, since we became parents this way! All joking aside, finding ways to be intimate in any way with your partner is a fantastic use of Me Time and can truly enrich your marriage/partnership.

Other ways my husband and I make time for one another, AND that will not get me in trouble in the blogosphere, include:

Date night in. We have Netflix and Hulu streaming subscriptions, so our options for movies are vast. We also have a large DVD collection to choose from. I’m also a fan of the free Redbox codes that come out occasionally. If it isn’t free, it is still way cheaper than a movie ticket! Pick a movie, grab a snack, and cuddle up together.

We are also huge game night fans and really enjoy playing cards together. This is a great way to initiate conversation fairly easily and it rarely revolves around the children. ~Cough, ahem, cough~ We also enjoy playing video games, like Zelda and Final Fantasy. And this mama has been known to pull out her NES for a good game of Super Mario Bros. Just sayin’.

Take people up on their offers. If you have friends or family members that have offered to help you with meals or childcare (and you trust them), take them up on it. As one who has been on both the giving and receiving ends of this offer, they really do mean it and are truly happy to help.

Go for a walk. This requires some outside help (see above or hire someone), but aside from finding someone responsible to watch your child(ren) for a bit, a walk is free. My husband and I walk every evening together when he is not traveling for work. Typically this is after the children have gone to bed so that my in-laws only have to be there for nightmares and ensure that a fire doesn’t break out. We don’t go for more than 20-30 minutes, but it is a great way to clear our heads after a long day and reconnect as a couple.

Go shopping. Oh yeah, now we’re getting sexy. Wait, buying groceries and clothes for the kids who insist on eating and growing isn’t sexy. But finding a way to do it with one another—without said kids—that’s special. I always enjoy those shopping trips more because we always ALWAYS end up giggling and really enjoying that time. This too, requires some outside help. Currently, we do this after the children are in bed as well. This way, we aren’t abusing grandma and grandpa.

What if I don’t have free help like you? Before we moved here, we used friends and occasional family members. I also called up our local college and found out that they have a website for their students who are looking for part time work. I went on, posted a babysitting job at the hourly rate I was willing to pay, interviewed applicants and ended up hiring a wonderful sophomore who became very close with our children for a year. Perhaps your local church would know someone reliable and reasonably priced. Or your local MOPS or multiples group might have some references (or older children of their own looking for a job).

Get creative! While it isn’t always easy, we make time for our marriage. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it costs a little bit, but the investment into our relationship is priceless. (Did I go a little MasterCard advertisement there?) There are no limits on your creativity. If you’re out of ideas and don’t like mine, ask your partner. Just be ready for an answer like my guy’s. Yeah, I’m keeping this one!

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Children Matter, But Not Above All Else

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Categories Making Time for Me, Marriage, Parenting, Perspective, Time Management53 Comments

My children are not the most important thing in my life. GASP! Okay. Deep breath. Let’s try this one again.

I have four incredible, messy, beautiful, frustrating, funny and crazy children. And they are not the most important thing in my life. There… I said it.

I realize that such a statement is not a popular one, so let’s go back to the title that children matter. My children matter so much to myself and my husband. They are the reason we wake up early (too early) every morning. They are the reason that my husband works hard at his wonderful job. They are the reason I chose to leave my job and stay home after the Twinkies (#3 and 4) were born.

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These four beauties hold my heart. So why aren’t they the most important things in my life? Three big reasons: doing so makes them the center of my world, my marriage, and taking care of their mama (me) matters a whole lot.

#1 – Making my children the most important thing makes them the center of my world.

The idea of making my world revolve around my children is a problematic one for me. Making them my sole focus puts unrealistic expectations on them and gives them the job of making me happy. They are children, they are innocent, and their only job is to be a kid, not to make their mama happy. Additionally, making them the center of my world takes energies away from my marriage and self-care.

#2 – Nurturing my marriage benefits my entire family.

Special K (my hubby) and I have built a strong foundation for our marriage, but that doesn’t mean that we can forget about it and count on it to be just as strong later on. We must put time and energy into our marriage. Whether they know it or not, our children need us to nurture our marriage so that they can grow up in a happy, healthy, two parent home.

In no way am I putting down single parents or divorced parents. As a child of divorce, I know what it feels like and I nurture my marriage in the hopes of protecting my children from such feelings.

If you’re a parent, you know that your child(ren) watch everything you do… everything. This includes how I speak to my husband, how he greets me when he returns from work, how we fight and how we make up. We know that our children watch our examples, and in putting my marriage first, I am (hopefully) teaching them how to model their relationships after ours.

Okay so how do we do that?

I’m going to delve deeper into this on a future post this week, but for a few quick ideas:

  • Date night in after the kids are in bed. Easy and free!
  • Utilize offers from family and friends of help, whether that’s bringing a meal, watching kids, or something else. If people in your life offer to help, let them!
  • Get creative! We are a single income family supporting 6, but we still make time (which sometimes costs money) for our marriage. Our last date was a trip alone to the grocery store! Sexy? No. Fun and loaded with non-kid conversation? Yes! There is no limit to how creative you can get. You just have to be willing to look at things differently and be committed to taking time to take care of your relationship.

We had children early into our marriage, but we were married first. This relationship is primary for us. Someday, if we do this whole parenting thing right, our children will leave our home as independent individuals and we will be left with just each other. After our children grow up, I want my marriage to continue and I want to know and love the man that I’m sharing an empty nest with. In order to do that, I have to put him and our relationship before our children… FOR our children.

#3 – Taking care of mama so that I can, in turn, take care of the children.

Oftentimes, I find that I take care of my family before I take care of me. I’m sure that I am not alone in this. For the last year, I’ve been dealing with a major health issue that has hopefully been resolved with recent brain surgery. I had to leave my children for three very long weeks while I left the state to receive my surgery and post-operative care. Since being home, I’ve had to let others take the lead while I ensure that I don’t overdo it. Obviously, this is extreme, but the point is still valid. If I didn’t take care of myself, I would have died. Then who would be their mother?

Okay, how about a more relatable tale? With my last (twin) pregnancy, I gained about 55 pounds. I nursed both twins so the weight came off quickly, but I knew that I needed to take care of myself to keep the weight off after weaning the girls. I found a gym with daycare options and pinched and tweaked our budget for a few months while we worked the membership into it. As soon as I got the membership, I went at least every other day. I found that when I was done at the gym, I felt stronger, healthier, and more emotionally available to my children.

What I’ve learned over the past few years is that I am a better mother when I am healthy, well rested, etc. Perhaps you need 10 minutes to yourself to sneak in a walk after dinner when your spouse or friend can watch the children? Perhaps you need to skip a latte or two so you can get your hair done? Perhaps you need to go to bed 30 minutes earlier tonight so that you are better rested for your day tomorrow? Whatever it is, if you take care of their mother first, your child(ren) will have a healthier, more secure, happier life.

What things do you do to take care of your marriage/your relationship/yourself?

How do you encourage or remind yourself to take time for you?


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Mommy Blogger Privacy?

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Categories Blogs, Community, Independence, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships5 Comments

My daughters are thoughtful and well-informed. Our family dynamic is one of laughter, mutual respect, and open communication. I hope that our family’s approach to mommy blogger privacy can help other families set guidelines that work for them.

I have been blogging since before my twins were born. In the early years, it was up to me to decide what details to put out there and what to keep private. In those days, I could rely on my narrow audience of friends and family to keep things secret. Now that I have a much larger following, and now that the kids are old enough to understand what it means for information to be published on the internet, it is only right that they have a say in what I do and do not share.

Allow me to lay out the privacy doctrines I have followed from the seventh week of my pregnancy.

Mommy Blogger Privacy Doctrine

  • The children’s physical security is paramount.
    1. Do not share information that would allow a reader to pinpoint the children’s location at any time.
    2. Do not share information that would allow a reader to contact the children online.
  • Children deserve respect. Do not share anything that the children consider embarrassing. Something that wasn’t embarrassing two years ago may be so today. Take it down.
  • Children have a right to their own memories. I may remember an incident in one way. My daughter’s recollection of it may be completely different. An adult’s experience of an event is no more right than a child’s. Always acknowledge that you can speak only from your own perspective.

Make a Personal Agreement with Your Children

For example:

  • You will not write a post about a specific event or experience unless a child proposes that you blog about it or you clear it with them beforehand, as with publicity events. If they do approve writing a post about a specific family outing, they will review the entire thing, including photos, and okay it before publication.
  • If you wish to use a particular example from your lives in a post, check with all children before using it. Have each of them review the post in its entirety before publication. They have the veto.
  • I can write about what I have learned about parenting or about myself without running it by kids, as long as I do not reference specific examples that include them, or these examples have previously been posted about.
  • Either one of my daughters can ask me to take down a post I have authored, at any time, no explanation required. If they wish, they can propose ways in which I can rewrite the post to eliminate any content they find objectionable. But first, it comes down. Any rewrites can come later.

Some Practical Pointers

To protect keep the girls’ physical location off the internet, I have taken the following precautions:

  • Thus far, my girls have been referred to by their initials, with very rare exception. They now no longer wish to be referred to even in that much detail, so I’ll just be saying “my kids,” or “the twins”.
  • I do not name the town or neighbourhood in which we live. The suburbs of Austin, TX are large and numerous enough for us to be able to disappear.
  • Photographs are chosen to minimize unique attributes that might indicate the location of our home. Therefore, I either use photos taken away from our home, or within our house or back yard. License plates that may appear in a photograph are blurred. The GPS on any device used to take photographs is disabled.
  • During the time that I’ve been employed by the state, my professional information has been a matter of public record. However, I restrict release of every piece of information that the law allows, including home address and phone number.
  • I do not name the children’s school, ever, and I refer to teachers and other school staff only by their last initial. We don’t want someone to be able to Google “gym teacher Mrs. Wigglesbottom” [not a real name] and be able to figure out the girls’ school. While I do wish I could give credit to the extraordinary teachers in the twins’ lives, they understand the need to maintain anonymity. We love our school and summer camp, but you’re going to have to wait until the girls have outgrown them or we move away before I’ll tell you which they are.
  • I do not announce our intentions to attend local events. I only blog about them after the fact. You will notice that the only events I have promoted on this blog are ones we couldn’t possibly attend. This means that I will not live tweet events unless the children are absent.
  • Similarly, I do not announce travel plans until the travel is complete and we are back home. You may also see me say vague things like, “several thousand miles away” or “in the UK”.

I’m Not the Only Blogger

My kids’ teachers have, on occasion, maintained a classroom or program blog with student contributors. I think that blogs make for wonderful educational tools. I am incredibly proud of my children for initiating conversations in their classroom about online safety. For instance, during the creation of one school blog, they pointed out to Mrs. O that I only refer to them by their initials, and why. They had a productive discussion on the topic.

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Double your Fun at Twins Days Festival: Your Guide to the World’s Largest Gathering of Twins and Multiples

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, Community, Friendships with Other Multiples, Travel6 Comments

Twinsdays Festival, Twinsburg, OH. Getting geared up!

The clock is ticking down. It is almost time for the 40th Twins Days Festival, a yearly celebration in Twinsburg, Ohio.

In just 10 days, thousands of twins will arrive, two-by-two, in this small suburb of Cleveland to celebrate all things twin. This will be our family’s sixth year attending Twins Days. Rather than a recap, I’ve decided to put together a little guide to the weekend based on our experiences. The festival has been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Annual Gathering of Twins and consists of a weekend of activities. We have only participated in a handful of the scheduled activities, but here are some of our family’s favorites.

All the photos in this post were taken by me during our trips to Twins Days Festival and are mostly of my own kids. 

Friday’s Welcome Wiener Roast at Twinsburg High School

All of the events scheduled on Friday are only for registered twins and their families. This is the time when everyone is coming into town (we usually leave Chicago Friday morning and arrive in time for the Wiener Roast). Twins who are pre-registered can pick up their festival packets, which include name tags, programs, Wiener Roast dinner tickets, lots of coupons for local places, information on Twin Studies and more. The name tags also serve as admission to the festival grounds and the ID number on the back is used for any of the contests on Saturday and Sunday.

The Wiener Roast is a time when old friends meet up. There are thousands of photos taken and fun for the whole family. Dinner is, of course, hot dogs, and is included for registered Twins. (Those of us born without a twin can pay a couple dollars and eat too.) There are bounce houses for kids, bags games for adults, lots of camaraderie and catching up with twins you see year after year. Definitely bring your camera and be ready to take pictures. Two sets of twins will get together for a photo then others will join until there are 10 sets in the frame.

The first year we went, we sort of happened upon the event, having no real idea what to expect. Walking into the gymnasium at the high school was honestly surreal. Everyone you see has a double. Nearly everyone dresses like their twin for the event, even if they never do in real life.

Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, OH. Almost every set of multiples wears matching outfits, even if they wouldn't in real life.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH. The theme was Superheros!

Double Take Parade

Double Take Parade, Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, OH

For me the parade is the highlight of the festival. It is unlike any parade I have ever seen. There are floats and marching bands and politicians waving from convertibles as you’d expect, but the parade is also open to all twins who wish to walk. If you want to be in the parade, plan to get there early. Parking is available at the high school, but the area where the parade starts is about a mile away. There are golf cart shuttles that run back and forth, but it can be difficult if you have a stroller or a wagon, as most of the families with young twins do, so plan to arrive early enough to park and walk. The actual parade route takes you back up past the high school, so you will definitely do some walking that morning. The parade lineup starts at 8 a.m.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH. 2015 will be its 40th year.

At the square where everyone gathers, they arrange the twins by age. The youngest ones head out first. This is great since then you finish first and can grab a spot near the end of the parade to see the rest. We tried without a wagon for the first time at age 3 and ended up carrying the kids part of the way. I would suggest unless your kids are used to walking more than a mile in a stretch, bring a stroller or wagon for the under-5 set.

Double Take Parade, Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, OH

Every year the festival has a theme, which is usually announced a few months in advance. Most people do dress to the theme, though there are plenty who just wear matching t-shirts too. Recent themes have included Western, Superheroes, Circus, Fairytales and the ‘60s, all with a twin flair. Some costumes are quite elaborate, with themed vehicles built on wagons or strollers. It’s definitely fun to see what costumes the theme will inspire. This year’s theme for the 40th festival is “Twins Days: Times 2 Remember!”

Double Take Parade, Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, OH

Double Take Parade, Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, OH. A Twins Days Festival Guide.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH

Registered twins who walk in the parade receive a participation ribbon, and they do have trophies for the best theme outfits. There are lots of twins who line the parade route and watch too. You don’t have to walk in the parade. (My kids love being in the parade though.)

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH. Your guide to Twins Days - make the most of the festival.

The Festival

The Parade route ends at the bottom of the hill from the festival grounds. Once you’re to the top of the hill you will find carnival rides, tons of fair foods, entertainment, a craft fair, research studies, twin contests and the group photo. My kids’ favorite part last year: The free Twin Pops! Most of the research studies are open to identical twins and adult twins, but we actually had one on skin cancer that my fraternal boys were able to participate in one year.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH. The theme that year was The Sixties!

And there is always more posing for photos.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH

The contests are held in a large tent and have lots of different categories, including youngest and oldest twins, best theme outfits, furthest distance traveled for the festival and most-alike and least-alike. There are usually four contests on the stage at any time, it is a little chaotic but fun to watch. When we’ve been there, the youngest twins were only a few weeks old and the oldest were in their 90s.

Competing for Youngest Twins at Twinsburg.

 

Competing for Oldest Twins at Twinsburg.
Youngest and Oldest Twins Contests

My boys actually won second place for least-alike boys last year. We haven’t done the contests on Sunday but I imagine there is a much smaller group competing since the festival on Sunday tends to be less crowded in general.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH

The Group Photo is done on the football field, taken by someone who goes up on a cherry picker to get a good arial photo of the group. Get there early, even if it is hot and miserable. It gets really crowded and I have seen people get a little cut-throat about their spot to late-comers. (Most people are pleasant.)

The photographers only want twins in the photo, so they encourage parents of young kids to stay with them up until the last 1 minute warning and then get outside the photo area. The first year we just left them in the stroller. In the years after that we found some older twins who were willing to keep an eye on them; one year they even sat in the laps of the twins who were willing. Group photos are available for purchase and arrive about a month after the festival.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH. Posing for the group shot.

Twins Days Festival Twinsburg, OH. The group shot. The official photographer is up on a cherry picker to be able to fit everyone in!

A Few Other Notes

  • Twinsburg is a pretty small city. There are only a couple hotels and they book up fast with regulars who go every year. I also understand they can get pretty rowdy. We have always stayed in another suburb about 15 minutes from Twinsburg.
  • There are definitely regulars who go every year. We have met so many twins who have been going since they were babies who are now teenagers, who have made life-long friends at the festival and who consider it “home” where everyone there understands you in a way you just don’t get outside Twinsburg.  (There is even the story about identical twins who married other identical twins they met at Twins Days, and had identical twins.) Every year when we leave, my husband and I lament how the weekend makes us each wish we had a twin.
  • Sunday is much less crowded than Saturday. The first year we went to the festival on Sunday and did the group photo that day, it was a lot more sparse. My kids got their picture in National Geographic online. (I found that out because it showed up in another page I follow.)
  • There are tons of other events I didn’t even touch on here like a golf tournament, a 5K, Talent Shows, even fireworks.
  • It can be hot. REALLY HOT. Bring plenty of water and stay hydrated.
  • It’s a good idea to bring business/mommy cards with your contact info. You’ll meet tons of people and it’s an easy way to exchange information.
  • There is a lot of press there. As I said, my kids ended up in National Geographic, but I also found a picture of them on the local Cleveland CBS website and I was interviewed for a story once in the Wall Street Journal. The Friday events are no-press but during the rest of the festival, expect cameras and news stories.
  • Other twins we have met always want to know who is Twin A and who is Twin B. There is a certain kinship, I guess, with the A’s and B’s and we were asked that often.
  • It’s not just for Twins! There are lots of Triplets and Even Quadruplets who attend. It’s called Twins Days but it is definitely for all multiples.

Are you a regular? Will you be going to the first time? Share your tips, experiences, and questions in the comments.

Jen Wood is a computer-nerd-turned-stay-at-home Mom to 5-year-old fraternal twin boys. They live in the suburbs of Chicago and make a yearly trek to Twinsburg Ohio for the Twins Days festival since they happened upon it when her boys were 9 months old. She is counting down the days until the dynamic duo start Kindergarten next month but will probably freak out from all that quiet.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Social Life with Infants

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Categories Community, Infants, Other people, Parenting, Relationships, Twinfant Tuesday3 Comments

In case you hadn’t figured this out, I’m quite the friendly outgoing person. I’m extroverted to degree that I max out the extroversion scale on every personality test known to man. Staying home alone with my children all day, every day, simply wasn’t an option for me. I knew that would have been a recipe for resentment, and I’m glad to report that I have never resented my daughters.

J and M came home from the hospital tiny (under 5 lbs each) but otherwise healthy. Their immune systems were immature, although boosted by my breastmilk, and so I initially kept the babies out of large crowds and sick people. Still, once I was clear to drive, we could go to our local outdoor mall and people watch. The fresh air of the outdoors meant that even though there was a good number of people around, the babies weren’t any more exposed to pathogens that in our home. Texas summers get very hot, so these adventures were usually complete by 10:00 am.

Getting stir crazy with a new baby? Go people watching at an outdoor mall.

People watching is fine and all, but getting out of the house was far more fun with friends.

The friends who were easiest to socialize with were those with children of a similar age. They understood why I took forever to get anywhere and would happily breastfeed unobtrusively (or bottle feed less unobtrusively) with me. They had no problem with my umpteen diaper change stops or my need to order two entrees at a restaurant to have enough calories for myself and my two nurslings.

Out and about with other new mommy friends.

They understood my great love for my double stroller system.

Three car seats? That's what you get when you make friends when you're pregnant with a woman expecting twins!

Even while I was getting my extrovert top-up, my girls were learning about friendship themselves. They were learning to interact with children other than their twin.

Interactions with other babies set the stage for understanding social norms.

Once my littles were slightly less little and far more prone to run away on chubby little legs, these same friends had chubby little legs of their own to contain.

The Three Musketeers at the mall. Holding hands keeps them headed in generally the same direction, make moms' lives a little easier.

We quickly learned that requiring them to hold hands kept them all going in the same direction, which made our lives easier.

If you’re expecting and make friends with another pregnant woman, don’t be surprised if that friendship lasts the rest of your lives… and your children’s!

 

 

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