Favourite Thing Ever

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Relationships, School-Age, Siblings4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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Silly Old Grandpa

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Categories Celebrations, Family, Holidays, Love, Parenting, RelationshipsLeave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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Toddler Thursday: Preparing at home for the NICU stay

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Categories Childcare, Family, Household and Family Management, NICU, Organization, Singletons, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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Why There Are Pickles in My Tea: Introduction to Beth

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Categories Family, Parenting TwinsTags , , 4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

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Categories Blogs, Community, Family, Feeling Overwhelmed, HDYDI Blog, How Do The Moms Do It, Other people, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old
L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

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

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Taking Back Our Weekends

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Family, Organization, Parenting, Preschoolers, Routines, Time Management4 Comments

So this is what it feels like to be a full-time working mom of three. My posts have been few and far between lately… because working has been seriously kicking my ass.

With a three-year-old and two ten-month-olds, attempting to do well at another job sometimes is just. too. much. I am thoroughly exhausted most of the time, both physically and mentally. Teaching 120 high school freshmen is both mentally and emotionally demanding. I am “on” every single moment of every single class period, and I honestly think it’s just as difficult as my first job as a mommy. I am flat out drained at the end of each day. And I usually don’t get help with bath/bedtime, so there is no reprieve for me until 8pm, when all the kids are down. But by then there is no energy left for anything else either.

Which is why we’ve been using our weekends as our catch-all. Laundry gets done on weekends, mail gets read on weekends, bills get paid on weekends, grandparents get visited on weekends, grocery gets bought on weekends, chores and errands and trips to the library and keeping in touch with friends. It was getting so that our weekends were busier than our weekdays. It was getting so that any time we had for a breather we were using as down-time. Much needed time to rejuvenate, to relax, to unwind.

But I started noticing that our kids were getting left to fend for themselves. Of course they were fed and cared for, and their physical needs were met, but beyond that we just had nothing left to give. With time at such a premium, we found ourselves arguing about how it should get allotted to each grandparent, how much of our weekends we could devote to any activities, and just to complicate things even further, we still had to account for all that baby-napping we have going on. It’s just really been stressful.

One day I had an epiphany. I don’t want to live my life this way. I don’t want it to be forgotten in a whirlwind of running here and rushing there. I want to spend it together, as a family, enjoying each other’s company, making memories. My children will never be this age again. Our lives will never be here again. I want to cherish our weekends.

So I sat down with Husband and had a serious conversation about how we could rethink the use of our time. By no means are we any less busy, and our time-budget issues haven’t all been magically resolved, but our mentality has since changed. We are now committed to spending quality time together, regardless of what we’re doing. We are going to be present, in the moment, for our children and our family. We do not allow ourselves to hide in another room surfing our iPhones while our children are awake. We eat together, as a family. No electronic devices during mealtime. Whenever possible, we gate ourselves in with our kids to roll around, crawl, jump, tickle, get slobbered on, and giggle with them in the playroom.

What a wonderful way to de-stress.

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Foodie Fridays: Saving Money at the Grocery Store

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Categories Family, Feeding, Finances and Saving, Financial Literacy, Foodie Fridays, Parenting, Theme WeekTags , , , 3 Comments

Food: you need it; you crave it; you can’t live without it. But, food is one of the biggest on-going expenses of our lives.  When blessed with multiples, your food costs also seem to multiply! ldskatelyn and MandyE are sharing what they have learned about saving money at the grocery store through couponing and price-matching.how to afford twinsCouponing – by ldskatelyn

I have been regularly couponing for over a year now, and I am amazed at how much money we have saved.  From January to August of this year, we have saved almost $600 using coupons.  That is some serious savings!  We use coupons on groceries, toiletries, cosmetics, paper supplies, laundry, cleaning supplies, and even at restaurants.  I am a sucker for saving money.  I love it!  I am not an extreme couponer, but I have been able to (finally) build up a little stockpile in our apartment.

Here is a brief overview of saving money at the grocery store with coupons:

  1. Subscribe to the Sunday Paper.  The small cost will be far outweighed by the savings. I promise.
  2. Sign up for mailing lists (with a non-personal email account) and print coupons from sites like coupons.com, couponnetwork.com, smartsource.com, redplum.com, bettycrocker.com, kelloggs.com, pillsbury.com, pgeveryday.com, rightathome.com, and armandhammer.com.  You can also like your favorite brands on Facebook for additional coupons sometimes.  Also, many grocery store’s loyalty cards can be loaded with digital coupons.
  3. Get your coupons organized.  I use a basic accordion file folder to store my coupons.  Some big time couponers use binders. I used to use just a few paper clips.  The point is to be organized so you can find the coupon you need, when you need it.  Put them into categories that make sense to you. Also, go through your coupons at least once a month to throw away expired coupons.
  4. ONLY use coupons for things you actually like or normally buy.  Coupons will not save you money at the grocery store if you use every coupon you clip, just because “you had a coupon.”  Clip smart, and only use coupons on products you already use or love.  If you don’t normally buy Hamburger Helper, then don’t buy it now.  (Well, you can use coupons to try out new products from time to time.)
  5. Save your coupons for when the item is on sale, otherwise buy generic.  Often, we like to think that our coupons will make what we buy a great deal.  But, it isn’t true. Generics, bulk buys, and store-brands will most likely still be a better deal if you aren’t using your coupons on TOP of store sales.  Coupons are for name brand products.  Name brand products cost more than store-brand products.  Coupons only save you money if you are getting a better deal, after its use, than the going store-brand cost. Stacking coupons on top of great sales is how extreme couponers walk away paying next to nothing for products.  It’s also how you can stockpile on your favorite non-food items.
  6. Make a “buy price” list to build a stockpile.  Figure out what is a great price for local produce, dairy, cereal, meats, and so on and compile a list of them.  Then, when you see a sale for less than that price, buy them in bulk!  Freeze the food, store them around your apartment, and enjoy saving money overtime.
  7. Use your coupons correctly and legally.  Did you know coupons are getting less valuable, and that part of that reason is because of extreme couponers, and people using coupons incorrectly?  Know your store’s coupon policy.  Some stores double or triple coupons, or stack coupons, but most don’t.  Some will allow you to use both a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same item.  Do NOT buy coupons from on-line sources, or go past a site’s coupon printing limit.  Do not sell your coupons to others. Do not try to use both a digital coupon (loaded onto a shopper’s card) with a paper coupon, unless specifically allowed.   Read the fine print on coupons and use the coupon only for the product or products specified.  Don’t substitute.  And don’t use expired coupons.

Price Matching – by MandyE

I shop using coupons, as well, and I usually record about $25 a month in savings.  The bulk of my grocery bill is usually spent on meat, dairy, and produce, though, and I rarely find coupons for those items.

To save on what we buy most, I take advantage of Walmart’s price matching policy.  While Walmart’s prices are generally pretty competitive, some other chains run a high/low price strategy, where they will offer a few items at a considerable discount.  Walmart will match the advertised price from any local competitor, allowing me to take advantage of those sales without running from store to store.  (Click HERE for Walmart’s corporate policy.)

Every Sunday, I sit down with a stack of sale papers for the local grocery and drug stores.  I make a list of sale prices for items that we like.  Occasionally I find prices on packaged goods, like cereal, crackers, or cheese, but the bulk of my price matches are on produce.

For example, Walmart currently sells pineapples for $2.98 each.  A local store was running pineapples on sale for $1.00 last week…you’d better believe we ate our weight in pineapple!

At the cash register, I simply say, “I’d like the price from XYZ Store on this item.”  The cashier may reference the sale paper from that store, and then she rings up the item at that price.

We eat a LOT of fruit and vegetables every week, so I save an average of $20 a week on produce alone!

In addition to the awesome savings, this policy allows me to do one-stop shopping, which is so very helpful to a mom of small kiddos.

To the tips that Katelyn outlined, I would add that I keep a spreadsheet of my weekly savings.  It takes a few extra minutes to go through my receipt when I get home, but it’s so rewarding to see how much money I’m saving our family.  It’s definitely motivation for me to continue the effort…and it occasionally serves as justification for that trip through the Starbucks drive-thru!

ldskatelyn is a stay-at-home mom to twin girls and a baby boy.  While her husband is in charge of bringing home the bacon, she pays the bills and manages the finances. She prides herself in making ends meet, saving money, cutting costs, and getting great deals.  It was her idea to put together this savings week because she is so passionate about money.  Find out more about her life at What’s up Fagans?

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

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How to Afford Twins: Bringing in Extra Income

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Categories Babysitting, Blogs, Family, Finances and Saving, Financial Literacy, Parenting, SAHM, Theme WeekTags , , , , , , 2 Comments

With two or more blessings coming into your life at once, cutting back seems the obvious route to go when figuring out how to afford twins or more, but sometimes it just isn’t enough, especially if one of the parents is now at home with the kids.  That is why you may want to consider bringing in extra income, because every little penny helps.  *Please be aware some of the links below are ldskatelyn’s affiliate or referral links.how to afford twinsDonate Plasma

Not everyone can qualify to donate plasma, and not everyone should or will want to (I have personally never done this), but if money is tight you might want to consider donating plasma.  You can help others and make a good chunk of change for going regularly.  It can be $15-35 per visit, or more.  To learn more check out donatingplasma.org and find a center near you.

Sell Your Stuff

Ebay, Craigslist, consignment shops, the newspaper, pawn shops, and yard sales are all ways you can sell things you already have and make some extra money.

Childcare at Home

As a mother of multiples, you already know how to do crowd control, so what’s one or two more kids around the house?  And an extra playmate for your kids might actually give you a break. Look into watching a friend’s children, or a neighbor’s child, or check local listings in papers, craigslist, and on sites like sittercity.com.  There are dozens of childcare websites out there, and lots of people looking to find affordable childcare, that perhaps you can help fill.  While I once looked into doing this, the thought of watching someone else’s child for 40+ hours a week, on top of my own, felt super overwhelming.  Know your limits, and know how many hours a week you’d be able to offer childcare in your home, and what to charge.

Independent Beauty or Other Sales Consultant

There are still several companies out there that still sell their goods through an in-home sales consultant.  Some of these companies are Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Thirty One, and Lia Sophia.  So, if you love make-up, jewelry, kitchen appliances, storage containers, or purses, you may want to think about reaping the rewards monetarily from your love affairs.

Tutor or Teach

Were you a brainiac in school?  Did you excel in a certain field?  Do you do a craft or have a skill that could be shared with others?  Then think about teaching or tutoring.  Whether a cake decorating class, keyboarding 101, Zumba, math, or piano lessons, there is probably a need out there for you to fill.  You can try offering your services through places like craigslist.org and your local newspaper.  There are numerous tutoring websites and networks out there for you to apply to be a tutor on.  You can check with local craft stores, gyms, libraries, and even nursing homes to see if they would pay for you to teach a class.

Online Survey Sites

While not a great source of additional income, it is an easy way to make a few extra dollars.  I have signed up and used various online survey sites, and my favorite one has to be valuedopinions.com. But, there are dozens of survey sites out there, some better than others.  What I like about Valued Opinions is they offer cash, not points, in return for taking surveys.  I like cash.  I like knowing exactly how much I will earn from each survey I take, so I can gauge if it is worth my time or not.  Another survey company that does cash payouts is MindField Online.  Other survey sites I’ve used are Toluna, which offers by far the most surveys, increasing your chance of being able to take them and earn.  (See THIS post I wrote about how some survey sites compare.)

Rewards Search Engines

Did you know you can be rewarded for searching the internet?  Yes, just for doing regular searches in a specific search engine can mean a little extra cash!  I have used swagbucks for probably two years now.  You can download their search toolbar and make them your default search engine. Swagbucks doesn’t reward a set amount per search, and is a bit hit and miss, but typically awards 6-10 points at a time.  Points or swagbucks can be redeemed for an array of different gift cards and other rewards.  I most often cash out at just 450 points for a $5 Amazon gift card.  They also offer tons of other ways of accumulating points as well, like 10 points for using a coupon printed from their site.

Another search engine you can do this with is Bing. Bing Rewards also allows you collect points for using their search engine which can be used to cash in on gift cards and other prizes.  Honestly, I haven’t used this very much at all, but I think I may start.  Bing is a much more powerful search engine than the growingly popular Swagbucks website.  My husband, for instance, hates using swagbucks to search for things because he doesn’t like that results he gets.  Also, earning is simple with Bing. You earn 1 credit per 2 Bing searches, up to 15 credits a day.  If you got 15 credits a day, it would only take you 35 days to cash in a $5 amazon gift card.  Whatever you prefer, it is a simple way to earn without having to spend any extra time.  You’re going to do internet searches anyways!

Cash-Back Online Shopping

This is one of my very favorite ways to bring in a little extra money.  I feel like I win the lottery each time I do it because I save even more on my bargain hunting online.  There are many cash back online shopping sites, and I use three different ones.  Why three?  Because sometimes one will have a better deal at the moment than another and not all websites have contracts with all of them.  And ShopAtHome.com will do 110% Price Match Guarantee (which I have used numerous times). The three I use are ShopAtHome.com, Ebates, and UpromiseUpromise – The Smart Way to Save for College is a free service, and by adding your credit, debit, or grocery card means that you can begin saving money for college every time you shop at participating retailers.  However, you can always just cash it out too.  Upromise offers 5% cash back or more on just about all of their online retailers.  Not all online retailers (like Amazon) are connected to these cash back websites, or only offer cash back on certain purchases.  Always make sure the check the fine print.  So, before you buy something online again, STOP, and shop through one of these sites!  It’ll be like getting the tax back on your purchases!

Baking and Cooking

Do you love to cook?  To bake?  Then maybe you should think about doing it to make a little extra income.  Cupcakes and specialty cakes seem to be all the rage.  Offer your services to friends and neighbors who will be having a themed birthday party soon or online.

Photography or Art

Are you an artist or a photographer?  Think about offering your services and creations to others.  There are lots of local venues and markets for artists to share and sell their goods, as well as bigger art fairs.  You can take requests and do commissions, a guaranteed way to make money. Or, create several works and take them to a fair or art show and try to sell them. Or think about opening an etsy shop with prints of your works.

Etsy Shop

Do you have a crafty hobby?  Do you already spend time creating?  Then you might want to think about starting your own business via etsy.  Etsy is a great place for creative people who also know how to operate a small business.  I have known many people to be very successful etsy sellers. It isn’t for everyone, as it is indeed a business and can be time-consuming and expensive to start up in the beginning, but can be very fun and rewarding!

Blogging

Everyone is passionate about something.  And sometimes that passion can be profitable.  If you love writing, social networking, websites, and graphic design, you may want to think about trying to make money from blogging.  There is never a guarantee return with blogging, especially as more and more blogs start every single day, but there are tons of resources out there to help you try.  Also, the more focused your niche (your hometown, animal photography, Atkins dieting, whatever) the more likely you can be successful.

What have you done to bring in extra income to afford your twins (or triplets)?

ldskatelyn is the mastermind behind this week’s theme week of saving money, trying to help others learn how to afford twins.  She loves saving money and making ends meet and is so excited that she is sharing some of her knowledge with others this week!  She blogs about her family and parenting over at What’s up Fagans?

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back to (home)school with twins

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Categories Classroom Placement, Education, Family, Older Children, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School-Age, SingletonsTags , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Where we left off (more than a year ago… whoops!), our twins’ IQ test results placed just one of them into our public school’s gifted program, which helped solidify our decision to homeschool them – and eventually all four of our children (girls ages 11 and almost 7, and our twin boys, who turn 9 today!)  – for the 2012-2013 school year.

We are now one week into our 2nd school year at home, and I’ve learned a lot. Not about geography and grammar and other boring stuff, but about my children.

Homeschooling twins: 5 key take-aways

  1. The bond between my kids – not just my twins – is stronger. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, our oldest was at a different school than our twins and our youngest, who form a very tight trio. Over the last year I’ve noticed a change in how our oldest relates to the other three, and I think being home with the other three has made her feel less left out of twinhood. When most of the neighborhood kids went back to school and there was no one to play with but each other, my kids got really close. Over the last couple months my kids have been picked on and ostracized by a handful of neighborhood kids, but rather than being upset at being left out, they’ve felt pretty meh about it all. They enjoy each other. And I love it.
  2. I have perspective on my twins’ academic strengths and weaknesses. The twin with the lower IQ finished math a full month ahead of his brother last year, and is much more successful at employing various strategies to solve multiplication problems in his head, for example. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this for myself if they were in school. And if I’d placed his brother into the gifted program, the not-gifted twin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to surpass his brother academically every now and again, and build his confidence.
  3. It doesn’t solve everything. The twin with the higher IQ tested into a higher math this year. (So far no one has noticed.) I’m still doing school work twice. We’re still dealing with “mean kids” and bullying.   
  4. They are less like twins; more like brothers. Because they are at home with people who can tell them apart, and because they are doing different work, there isn’t anything “twinny” about their day-to-day life. I don’t know that this is good or bad for them – I imagine that, for them, everything is “twinny” as much as it is not. But it is good for their older sister, and at least I know they aren’t being placed in the wrong levels or called by a hybrid name all day.
  5. There is no peer pressure. Including peer pressure to pronounce words. Being at home with people who can [mostly] understand their garbled speech has in no way motivated my boys to work hard on speech skills. In. No. Way.  

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twin boys who turn 9 today, and two girls ages 11 and almost 7.Once in a blue moon, she blogs at Minivan MacGyver about stuff like speech therapy and homeschooling and how there is not one single day without multiple kid activities and other stuff the rest of the internet seems to deal with in a much calmer fashion.

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Quitting Breastfeeding

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Categories Breastfeeding, Emotion, Family, Feeding, Feeling Overwhelmed, Formula, Mommy Issues, World Breastfeeding Week Blog Carnival5 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding CenterWelcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

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The three of us, at 2 weeks, around 5 a.m. after tandem nursing for one of 12 times a day.

Before I was a Mom, my goal was to breastfeed my baby. When I found out there were two babies, I still wanted to breastfeed exclusively. Breastfeeding was tough, much harder physically and emotionally than I could have ever imagined. One of my sons had a terrible latch and it hurt every single time I fed him until the very last time. My twin boys were born at 38 weeks and were nearly 7 lbs each, but by the time my big babies were five days old we were told we had to supplement them with formula, they were not only not gaining weight, but had lost more than 20 percent of their birthweight. Despite sitting topless in my living room in the flotation raft of a twin nursing pillow around the clock for the first few months, they didn’t exceed their birthweight until nearly a month old and struggled to gain an ounce some weeks. We hoped we could get back on track and drop the formula. We never did. By the time I went back to work at 6 months I was nursing and pumping and not coming close to meeting the demands of two growing boys. My breastfeeding journey was long and difficult, but I fed them some breast milk every day until they were almost 9 months old. By that time, I was pumping less than 5 oz a day, which could not feed one bottle to one baby. They were eating foods and finally gaining weight and on the growth chart for the first time in their lives, but it wasn’t from me.

weights

I charted their weights for the first 6 months because it was so challenging.

Quitting was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I felt like a huge failure. I cried and cried. (It has been three years and re-reading this letter I wrote brought back the tears.) I didn’t want to give up but my body did. I talked to the lactation consultant I had been seeing since my boys were born and she suggested I pump to comfort in order to quit. I only had to pump one more time. I was done. I wrote this letter to my boys that day, three years ago. I wanted them to know I did everything I could for them.

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This photo was taken on the day I wrote this letter. It was a setup for a BBQ invitation, but fitting since they were moving on to different culinary pastures.

July 24, 2010

My dear little boys, I love you so much. I want you to know that I quit breastfeeding today. It has been a long time coming I am afraid, but I want you to know that I tried everything to make it work for us. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I have only wanted the very best for you.

When we found out there were two of you I knew it would be hard at times, and wonderful and amazing. I still wanted the best for you. It would have been easy to forgo breastfeeding entirely, but I know that it is the perfect food for a baby and I wanted you to have it.  I managed to carry you to full term, which gave you a great start. You were both big and healthy and perfect.

Even in the hospital, though, the three of us had difficulties feeding. We struggled with latch problems, some of which were never resolved. Those early weeks were rough. I was in pain, I got an infection, you both lost a lot of weight, I never seemed to produce enough and you were weak and shrinking and it was heartbreaking.

Dad was amazingly supportive and helped with all those feedings, every two hours. For the first two months, we fed you on every even hour – midnight, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, noon, etc. around the clock. I nursed and pumped and we gave in and gave you formula. Your weight would go up an ounce or two then down, then stay the same, for weeks on end.

You were healthy, though, and doing all the milestone things you were supposed to. I was told time and again that I wasn’t feeding you enough, and it killed me to hear that because I was doing everything I could to feed you as much as you needed.  When one of you developed a milk allergy Joshua, it wasn’t easy to completely eliminate dairy in all its forms. I have missed cheese and ice cream and butter. But knowing it would make you so sick, it was easy to stick to a dairy free existence. And I hope it means you will outgrow it and you’ll be able to enjoy those things too.

The three of us went to the hospital every Wednesday to weigh you and see how you were growing. And those early months the change was gradual. You stayed in your Newborn clothes until you were more than 3 months old. The 0-3 months stuff just started to fit at 3.5 months. Winter was nearly over by the time you got into those 3-6 months clothes at 5 months. I charted your weight gain each week, and the graph was moving up, but very slowly. We would go to your pediatrician appointments and were told you were both 1st percentile in weight, or sometimes not even on the chart. At one point Justin, you were a full pound and a half smaller, even though you were the bigger baby at birth. I was so afraid they were going to think I was a bad mom and take you away or put you in the hospital or something.

At six months you were both finally on the percentile chart. You had doubled your birth weight. You were in the 3rd percentile. And for the first time since birth, Justin was heavier again. For the next two months you took turns, sometimes Joshua was heavier, sometimes Justin. Several weeks you were exactly the same. But once you added solid foods like cereal and veggies you really started to grow and grow. 

Now you are almost 9 months old. You are amazing little boys. You are both so curious and sweet and loving. You are both becoming mobile and are crawling around on your tummies.

I hope I have given you a good start to a long life of health and love. I hope that you know I have done everything I could to make your first months the best I possibly could. I have taken herbal supplements, I have resorted to prescription medication, I have rented a pump, bought a pump, eaten nearly any food any wives tale suggested might increase milk supply. I have only ever managed to make about half of what you have needed.

Now that I have gone back to work, though, it’s just not working out anymore. I no longer produce enough to feed you each one bottle a day. I take extra breaks and drink a ton of water and do all the things that are supposed to help. I pump five times a day and often in a small closet where the door doesn’t shut all the way. I do this because I love you.

But happy, healthy babies need more than just breast milk. They need a Mommy who is happy and healthy too. I know it hasn’t been perfect, and it hasn’t gone how I had hoped, but I truly did the very best I could to give you every drop I could manage. I am sure this is not the only time I will fall short of my hopes for you, I guess being a parent means having the highest hopes and doing the best you can. You are truly wonderful little boys and I am glad to be your mommy. I hope you will always know I will always do what I can for you. This Mommy business is hard, but with two great kids and a wonderful husband, I am the luckiest Mommy ever.

Thank you.

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Jen W. is the mom of two very energetic, and on-the-percentile-chart 3-and-a-half-year-olds who leave me asking at the end of every day, “How DO I do it?” 

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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 5 with all the carnival links.)

  • An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
  • It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
  • Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
  • Mikko’s weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
  • My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Celebrating Each Mother’s Journey — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
  • Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband’s deployment to Iraq, and Baby J’s nursing strike.
  • So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
  • Milk Siblings: One Mama’s Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
  • Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
  • When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She’s still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she’d always hoped.
  • Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams‘s first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son’s survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk – then she started giving it away.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
  • Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship. Her article can also be found at her blog:
  • Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson’s Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam’s milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom’s life too!
  • Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
  • Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen’s collaboration of a few dear mama’s reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
  • Quitting Breastfeeding — Jen W at How Do You Do It? share a letter she wrote to her boys, three years ago exactly, the day she quit breastfeeding after 9 months.
  • A Pumping Mom’s Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.
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