The Summer Childcare Quandary

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Categories Childcare, How Do The Moms Do It, Older Children, School-Age6 Comments

Like most people with full time jobs, my work hours remain the same during the summer when school is out. Like the other 12 million single parents in the US, finding childcare for my children falls solely to me. Technically, the girls’ father has summer visitation privileges, but I need to have a plan in case he doesn’t show up. I also have to choose between missing registration deadlines or forfeiting deposit payments if he does decide to spend time with the children.

Given the enormous variety of summer camps available here in suburban Texas, you might assume that the only challenge for summer childcare for my elementary school children is our custody situation. You’d be very, very wrong.

Most day camps sold as “full day” camps run from 9 am to 3:30 or 4 pm. After-school childcare programs suspend for the summer, so those of us who work fairly typical hours (8 am to 5 pm in the US, plus commute time) are out of luck. Some companies, including mine, can accommodates shorter hours in the office to allow us to work from home to make up the balance. However, that’s not an ideal solution, either. When I’m home with my children, I want to be actively with them, not simply physically present but mentally at work. My daughters aren’t huge outdoors kids, so shooing them out into the Texas heat to play only buys me a few hours per week.

Ever year, starting in March, all the working moms I know begin our summer care hand wringing. It never gets better, though. Given that stay-at-home motherhood is no longer the only norm in our society, I really don’t understand why we haven’t come up with better solutions. Year round school would work. Full day summer camps would be great if their hours mirrored daycare programs for infants and toddlers. After camp care, similar to after school care, including transportation where necessary, would be enormously helpful.

I must acknowledge that most of these options don’t account for how out of reach summer camp costs are for many single parents, often around $150-200 per child per week, more for extended care. I know. This is quite a bit less than infant care, but it’s still a major stressor for families. I know of kids my daughters’ age, 10 years old, who have been staying home along during the summer for years. While that may have worked in past generations, when free range parenting was just called “life”, it not a sustainable way to keep kids out of trouble in 2016.

Childcare for elementary schoolers when school lets out for the summer can be a nightmare for the working parent.

I’m very thankful that we have a full day gymnastics camp only 15 miles out of our way that always makes room for my girls. My boss is open to my leaving an hour early every day to pick the kids up before they close. Neither of my daughters does gymnastics during the school year, but they enjoy the program for the summer. In all honesty, they’d rather attend others, but I can’t meet registration deadlines because of visitation challenges. In a pinch, teacher friends will watch my girls, but I can’t expect that for the 10 weeks school is out.

Any great ideas for fixing our summer childcare culture?

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Travelling With Multiples

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Categories Ask the Readers, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers, Travel3 Comments

Who else has Spring Fever??? So many people have been slammed with snow, us included, that I’m getting slightly tired of it…and it’s only February! Colorado had a rare 70 degree day yesterday and it got me thinking about our travel plans this Spring.

My family lives here in Colorado close to us. Special K’s family lives in Kansas. Google Maps says it takes 5.5 hours door to door.

We have four kids…we know this isn’t true…for us.

All in all, it takes us under 7 hours to get from our house to my in laws in the van. And we’re actually pretty good at handling it…both the kids and the grown ups. Here are some of my road trip survival tips with multiples (or with multiple children):

  1. Start them early.We began doing this trip when each child was about a month old. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it because now they are used to being in the car for long periods of time. You may be thinking, “thanks jerk, my kid is four, this tip is worthless.” Sorry! Read on, I have more up my sleeve. :)
  2. Plan ahead. Before we go on any trip that is longer than an hour, we plan for potty breaks and possible leg stretching breaks. We will alter our route to ensure that there are ample opportunities to walk and pee if necessary. If no one needs the break, we just cruise on by. We also pack snacks, diapers and extra clothes. These may seem like “duh” moments, but a few weeks ago we had a trip to the aquarium, which is just over an hour from our home. I packed snacks just in case, thinking we wouldn’t need them…but there was a HUGE car accident that left us sitting on the highway for about 45 minutes. If I hadn’t packed those snacks, there would have been an uprising! 3 of my kids are in diapers, so this seems like a silly thing to add to the list, but again, I always plan for more than I could possibly need, because I am terrified of running out. If it’s a day trip, I still bring at least one change of clothes because spills happen and diaper leaks happen and no one wants to sit in wet clothes!
  3. Leave right before nap time or bed.The bedtime one might be hard on the grownups if you’re cool like me and go to bed by 10, but it is soooo nice to have a quiet trip the whole way! Typically, we leave right before or right after lunch…that way, there is some activity in the car as a distraction (food), and then the littles have their nap afterwards. This can buy us anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours of silence.
  4. Pack comfort items.This is critical, especially on our long road trips to Gramma and Papas house. H still uses a binky, but we are strict that she only gets it for nap and bed time. The one exception to this rule is long road trips. It’s her way of soothing herself and if it keeps her happy, then we all are happy! M likes her monkey and her blanky…she gets those too. Whatever it is, even if you don’t pull it out unless you are desperate, bring it. It is way better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it (I’m talking one item per kid…don’t use this logic for the whole toy box!).
  5. Pack activities.My oldest is seven, so she can have things like a book or coloring pages. Sweet Pea also enjoys a folder of coloring pages. For this I simply print up free coloring pages that I find online, hole punch them and put them in a 3-ring binder. Each child also gets their own pencil box with crayons/washable markers. I get some of the free coloring pages from PBS Kids and others from my favorite mom bloggers. Do a little looking on Google and you can find a whole lot of free goodies! As for the Twinkies, I simply pack some toys that they haven’t seen or played with in a while.
  6. Electronics. I know, I know…they are young and electronics are so pervasive, but seriously, it is a seven. hour. car. ride. We have a Kindle Fire, kids version, that has an account for M&M and Sweet Pea, as well as a dual monitor DVD player that the Twinkies use to watch shows and movies. The kids only get such electronics in the car for our long haul trips, which keeps them special…and highly effective.

Now for the fun part. We just booked a trip to visit my Grammy in Florida this May. YAY! Here’s the kicker…we’re flying. The Twinkies are 2, so they need their own tickets now. Okay okay, even if they weren’t two, I would buy them their own seats because who wants to have a wiggly kid on their lap for 6 hours? Not me! Only M&M has been on a plane…my three littles are total newbies.

So what did I do? I read about 3715 blog posts on how to travel with toddlers on airplanes, but none of them really addressed the issue of multiples. Three of my children are under the age of four, and all of them are in diapers. I know that this will be challenging. Thankfully, some of my above tips can be modified for the airplane, but I’m still wondering how to manage this?

Here’s our current plan:

We have two flights with a nearly 2 hour layover in between (the gates are really close together and they are with the same airline, so we didn’t feel the need to factor in more time there).

We are bringing the car seats with us so no need to worry about renting them in Florida.

We will be bringing above mentioned coloring kits, Kindle Fires (we have two) and our laptops. That brings us to one coloring kit and electronic device per child.

I am planning on packing lots of little snacks that they will have to spend time opening (like presents!), and am considering giving them things like mini M&M’s that they don’t normally get.

We are also seriously considering purchasing a Trunki for each child.

10835410-1375201107-272949Have you ever seen such a thing? Have you ever heard of these? There are loads of rave reviews on them, and according to the website, they can handle all four of my children. Well, not at once. But one at a time! The kids can sit on them while we wait in various lines at the airport, and there is a “leash” attachment where we could drag them behind us…or they could drag each other.

If you’ve used these, could you please let me know what you think? We might buy just one and see what we think, before committing to three more.

Okay dear readers:

What have I missed? 

What tips do you have for travelling with multiples? With toddlers? 

Do you have any advice specific to airplane travel?

Happy travelling!

 

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Personalized Christmas Ornaments for Twins and More

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Categories Holidays, ProductsTags , , , 4 Comments

Disclosure: I received a $35 credit plus free shipping from Personalized Ornaments for You in exchange for an honest review. Images are shared with permission.

We absolutely love decorating our Christmas tree. Since my twins are responsible enough to handle breakable ornaments, I trotted out all the special ornaments this winter. These are the one-off ornaments that hold special meaning to us, whether they were a gift from my daughters’ great-grandmother to commemorate their first Christmas or handmade by my daughters the year they learned to write.

Popsicle sticks, paper plates, glue, and paint make for an easy Christmas ornament for little artists.

I’m a sucker for little things with big meaning. Family themed Christmas ornaments? Sign me up.

This ornament commemorates baby's (or in the twins' case, babies'!) first Christmas.

While the Hallmark First Christmas kitten in a stroller is adorable, its true meaning comes from it being a gift from Grandma Great. Let’s be honest, if it weren’t for that, it would be a little generic. Grandma Great was thoughtful enough to buy two of them so that each twin will have one to grace her own Christmas tree when she is grown.

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My girls have recently come to realize how very special their twin bond is. They spend a lot of time with their best friend, who was an only child for nearly 9 years. This friendship has inspired them to express more and more how special it is to have an identical twin sister.

2015 was the perfect time to find gifts for my daughters that would acknowledge their unique connection, and I found them in the form of Christmas ornaments.

This ornament from #POFY was an instant hit with twin sisters. Of course, mommy had to get two of them!

How utterly adorable is that mantle with matching stockings with each girl’s name (which I’ve edited out for their privacy)? The stock text for the ornament was “TWINS’ 2ND CHRISTMAS!”, but I was able to supply my own text for no extra cost. Of course, I also specified my daughters’ names. Adorable personalized ornament! #POFY #twins

The order form is wonderfully easy to use.

 

Ordering affordable personalized ornaments could not be easier! #POFY has a huge variety of family themed christmas ornaments as well as others.

I ordered two of the ornaments. Because, twins. They’re excellent quality and honestly far nicer than I expected them to be, given the prices and rapid delivery. I can’t come up with a criticism, and I’ve tried. They’re nice heavy ceramic with a beautiful sheen and the pride put into the handwritten lettering is clear.

When Personalized Ornaments for You first reached out to us for a review post, I was ready to say, “Thanks but no thanks,” as I do to most companies, since most companies have nothing specific to offer our multiple birth families. Generic family themed Christmas ornaments weren’t going to cut it.

#POFY was completely different. Not only did they offer options for twins, there were so many to choose from that I had to make a shortlist of favourites, step away from the computer, and then decide. In fact, although I went to their site fully intending to order a single ornament, I ended up ordering three, supplementing the company’s generous credit with a bit of my own money. I’ll get to keep my own single mommy of twinfants ornament when my grown daughters abscond with theirs!

An ornament for a single mother of twins? Oh, sure, Personalized Ornaments for You has even this mom covered!(My daughter has been exceptionally camera-shy of late, but she loved these ornaments so much that she even offered to model them for the blog!)

#POFY doesn’t just have stuff for twins, either! Triplets and quadruplets are set, as are larger families with singletons in the mix.

#POFY even has ornaments for triplet families!

How perfect would an ornament like this be to announce a multiple pregnancy? Instead of names, you could go with “Baby A, Baby B, Baby C, Baby D”?

A perfect ornament for the family of quadruplets that has everything. #POFY

Or you could sneak a due date in place of a name and watch realization dawn on Grandma’s face!

A great keepsake for a BIG family! #POFY has great family themed christmas ornaments.

I was going to distribute our ornaments around our tree, but one of my daughters stopped me. “Put them together, Mommy,” she requested, “because it’s our family, and we belong together.”

How cute are these ornaments for a single mom family with twins? #POFY has great family themed christmas ornaments for families of all sorts.

So, have I talked you into wanting your own little tear jerker moment, inspired by a personalized ornament? I’m happy to tell you that Personalized Ornaments for You is hosting their close out sale starting today, through the end of the month. If you’re in the US or Canada, hurry over to grab some gifts for loved ones or treats for yourself to squirrel away until next December.

Of course, I’ve focused on the multiple family-themed ornaments, but you’ll find something for everyone and every occasion on the #POFY website. Happy browsing!

Personalized Ornaments for You offers just that - the perfect personalized ornament to say, "You are special."

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New Year’s Resolution: Return to Balance

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Categories Balance, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Lifestyle, Time ManagementTags , 3 Comments

Happy New Year to everyone in the HDYDI community! Have you made New Year resolutions?

(Please forgive this post being one day late for the new year. I was making lunch for my girls on New Year’s Eve while working from home. The knife slipped and I ended up needed some minor sutures. The Urgent Care doc banned me from manual tasks, including typing, for a couple of days. I’m glad to report that I’m altogether free of pain now, except for the pain of embarrassment.)

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions. My commitment to a two-week balance of my priorities has generally kept me in a place where I’m deeply joyful with the state of my life. I haven’t had a need to make a major life shift at my entry into the new year. Instead, I adjust as I go, regardless of the date on the calendar.

However, I started a new job in August, just as my daughters were starting fourth grade. My dear friend Jen offered to watch my girls after school. I took on the leadership of our Girl Scout troop and joined the leadership of our school district’s parent council for Gifted and Talented services. In the midst of all this change, I didn’t take the time to realign my priorities.

I finally get the point of New Year’s Resolutions. January 1 serves as a reminder to rethink the balance.

So now, here’s my newly ordered priority list. Each item on the list will need some time and focus, if not daily, at least every 2 weeks.

  1. The kids’ immediate well-being.
    • Safety.
    • Nutrition.
    • Intellectual stimulation.
    • Social stimulation.
    • Rest.
    • Play.
  2. The kids’ long-term well-being. Are they on a path to being healthy, happy, wholesome, productive adults?
    • Routine.
    • School performance and enjoyment.
    • Spiritual nourishment and church.
    • Maintaining positive relationships.
    • Socially appropriate interactions.
  3. Friends
  4. My job and my immediate co-workers and customers
  5. My mental and physical health (including getting sleep)
  6. Housekeeping and home maintenance
  7. Community leadership
    1. Girl Scouts
    2. How Do You Do It?
    3. Multiples of America
    4. Gifted and Talented council
  8. Community participation
    1. How Do You Do It?
    2. School
    3. Church
    4. Work
    5. Blogosphere
    6. Volunteering

I know this system works for me. Starting at the inception of 2016, I resolve to get back to it, with my priorities where they need to be at this moment in our family’s development. I’m going to return to balance.

What are you doing this year to reprioritize?

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Experiential Gifts

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I pride myself on giving thoughtful and personal gifts. However, my love of gift giving is in direct conflict with my penny pinching tendencies and antipathy toward consumerism. I’m a decent cook and baker, so I tend to give food gifts to friends. Since I feed my kids anyway, gastronomical gifts don’t work as well for them during the holidays, when my oven is rarely off. My daughters love being my quality control department. A gift of freshly made cookies or bread wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful to them as I want their gifts to be.

Two colours are all you need to achieve festive elegance. Food gifts are wonderfully economical, useful, and personal.

Now that my daughters are old enough to appreciate delayed gratification, I can give them gifts that aren’t objects. I can give them experiences. This Christmas, for example, I have enrolled my daughters and their best friend in a children’s sewing class offered at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. They’ll learn the basics of cutting fabric for a pattern, using a sewing machine, and will come away with a brand new pillowcase for their effort.Turn a mason jar into an experiential gift container with a short and sweet note.

To help the girls feel that this was an inclusive group gift, I chose a colourful fabric for the main part of the pillowcase, with contrasting fabric in each child’s favourite colour.

Achieve coordination and individualization at the same time in the decor of a shared bedroom!

The challenge with experiential gifts is how to effectively fold them in Christmas Day gift-opening wonder. Opening an envelope and finding a gift card is nice and all, but it’s not nearly as tactile as unwrapping a gift. I love seeing my girls wonder what’s inside, then spend anywhere from a few minutes to several hours exploring the contents of each package. My twins, like me, avoid rushing through gift opening, instead savouring each gift as it makes an appearance.

I will admit that I’m quite proud of how I wrapped the three girls’ sewing class gift. I purchased all the supplies they needed for the class, except for the required pincushion and the sewing machines BFF’s mom and I already own. I then hit Pinterest and followed a wonderful tutorial from The Seasoned Homemaker to turn the lids of three mason jars into pincushions. Fabric, pins, thread, measuring tape, and seam rippers went into each jar, along with a printed invitation to the class. I wrapped the whole mess in happy Christmas paper. Sadly, the fabric shears couldn’t possibly fit in the jar, so I wrapped those separately and taped a pair to each jar.

Make an experiential gift one that a child can open with this mason jar sewing lesson kit!

 

I can’t wait to see the results of their effort!

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Gifts Even (Twin) Toddlers Can Make!

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, crafts, DIY, Lifestyle, Make-It Mondays, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers1 Comment

Since our girls were about two, I’ve been working to involve them in our holiday gifts, at least in some small way.  I took a quick trip down Memory Lane to find pictures of some of our creations.

gift7Our longest-running tradition is gift tags.  The first one we did was a fingerprint wreath.  The girls finger painted big sheets of green.  I used a scallop punch to make a wreath shape.  I used a hole punch to make “berries”, and the girls glued the wreaths on red card stock for the berries to show through.

[The girls’ involvement has evolved over the years.  “Gluing” with a two-year old, at our house at least, meant that I used a tape runner to apply adhesive to the item to be glued.  I handed a piece at a time to the girls — nestled securely in their highchairs — to place where I pointed.  My girls are almost seven, and I finally (sorta-kinda) trust them with actual glue.]

Since then, we’ve used finger prints (using washable ink pads, which I LOVE!).  At four years old, the girls were old enough to make these reindeer themselves.  I love how different they all turned out!

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The following year the girls made snowmen using non-toxic washable paint.  After the paint dried, they used markers to make the snowman’s features.

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And this year we’re in the process of making penguins.  I love seeing some of our relatives keep these as ornaments year after year.

gift2We’ve also made gift bags.  I cut out the hat and mouth from card stock.  We used buttons for eyes, orange felt for a nose, and a bright rhinestone for the holly berry.  The girls glued everything onto a brown craft bag.  They were so proud to give these to family and friends!

And we’ve been making these gift card holders for a few years now.  I love the personal touch these add to the gift cards we give to the girls’ teachers.

gift6

And in the way of gifts, bookmarks have been big hits at our house.  We’ve done these several different ways.  When the girls were about 18 months old, they did some crayon scribbles, which I cut into strips…put the strips back to back (so they both had representation on the bookmark)…and had them laminated at the office supply store.  I punched a hole and let the girls choose a ribbon and a bead to top it off.  We’ve done similar bookmarks with fingerpaint and water colors.  Most recently, the girls in kindergarten, they wrote notes to each family member.

gift1I love my bookmarks so much.  They’re a great little token of the girls’ art ability, and they’re very functional, too.  Who can’t use a bookmark or two???

The girls look forward to our yearly projects.  I relish the opportunity to involve them in making something from the heart!

I’d love to hear what other mamas have done to involve their kiddos in gift-giving.  This is one of the great joys of my holiday season, for sure!

MandyE is mom to fraternal twin girls who will soon be seven.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

 

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Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Primo Bathtub

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Categories Parenting, Products, Routines, Wouldn't Do Without WednesdayLeave a comment

primo-eurobath-kit-in-white-2404856-01

This is the Primo bathtub. We have used it every single day since we brought out first daughter home from the hospital, right up until we moved and finally decided to retire it. It has served us faithfully for almost 5.5 years. And amazingly, my eldest used it for almost as long.

It’s made to be an infant-toddler-in-one bathtub. You can see there is a side molded for an infant (I used a towel to keep them from slipping around when they were really little), and a side for a larger more upright child. BigSis never did turn herself around to the other side though, she just scooted down and bent her legs. And we would often bathe the twins in it together. They fit perfectly, one on each side. When I finished with one, the other would switch sides to get the perfect angle for hair rinsing while lying on the backrest.

My kids loved the safety that this tub provided. They knew that the molded sides would keep them from falling over in the water. For that same reason, I was able to fill the tub to a more comfortable level, to cover more of their bodies so they didn’t get cold. It was also nice to be able to fill it so quickly and not waste water.

We all loved this tub so much that I always wished we could take it with us whenever we were staying overnight anywhere else. In fact, is has made a couple of trips to Grandma’s house, but we always missed it on vacations.

Now that they’re older, the kids are all taking their baths together in the big tub now. We are still saving water in that they are sharing, they love to “swim” in the big tub, and there are perks to being able to shower them off in the end, but I still look back and remember our Primo bathtub fondly.

lunchldyd is mom to almost-3yo b/g twins and their 5.5yo sister. Bathtime isn’t always her favorite time of day, but she knows it will one day be something else she misses.

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Toddler Thursday: 8 Tips for Surviving Halloween with Toddlers

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When my twins were toddlers I was incredibly excited about celebrating Halloween with them. They were finally old enough to walk and we would be able to go out and explore a handful of houses on our street before retiring home to give out treats to older kids.  What I wasn’t expecting was two entirely different Halloween experiences: one with a child who couldn’t wait to show off her costume to as many people as physically possible, basking over how cute everyone was telling her she was and another with a child who alternated between lying on the sidewalk refusing to move and trying to break inside the house of every place we visited (in one case making it most of the way down a hallway before he was apprehended and finally taken home).  Managing exciting, sugar fueled holidays with one child is hard enough….when you have multiples….

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Below are eight tips for surviving Halloween with young children (multiples or otherwise):

  1. Fill them up with a warm hearty meal (that they’ll actually eat) before they start filling up on candy.
  2. Try to meet their costume requests….get creative if you have to. It’s amazing how much you can impress a toddler with your ingenuity.
  3. If it’s going to rain….clear garbage bags can become excellent make-shift raincoats that ensure everyone can see their costume.
  4. Have extra adults on hand in case some of your children tire of Trick or Treating before others.
  5. Go out early…the closer it is to bed time, the more likely you are to have meltdowns.
  6. Be prepared for surprises.  Your child(ren) may decide that there is no way that they are going to wear the costume that they picked out themselves just two days ago.  Yes, it’s annoying, but it happens. The sooner you move on the better, trust me.
  7. Take breaks if you need to.  This is not an all or nothing situation.  There’s no rule that you can’t recharge for half an hour before heading back out.
  8. Remember to have fun, take lots of pictures and enjoy yourself!
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Twinfant Tuesday: To separate, or not to separate?

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Categories Going out, Guilt, Independence, Parenting, Routines, Time Management, Twinfant Tuesday1 Comment

Looking back on our early days with our now two-year-old twins, there aren’t too many things I’d do differently.  (Well, maybe hire a night nurse!)  But one thing that stands out in my mind that I would have changed if I could, is taking one baby out for an outing more often.

I recall having friends ask how often my husband and I would split up with our kids.  At the time, I filed these comments into “you don’t understand because you don’t have twins” category.  On days when my husband and I were both around, we pretty much operated as a family of four.  We did all activities together, or were cooped up in our house together.  It felt essential to have both sets of hands on deck for both kids at all possible times.  For those necessary tasks like running to the grocery store, which, sadly became our “me” time for the first year, one parent would grin and bear it for an hour, while the other blissfully strolled the aisles solo.  This made perfect sense to us: it’s not “easy” to bring just one of the babies on errands, so why wouldn’t we leave both kids at home if we had the option?

However, now that our kids are older, we split up much more often.  We’ll take one on an errand alone, or on a special outing, and the kids light up at that grocery store, like we took them to Disneyland.  (They do often end up shouting the other twin’s name, and/or the absent parent’s name, on the outing, looking for them.  But, it still is so precious to see how excited they get to have their own trip with mom or dad.)

It makes me feel sad that I didn’t realize earlier how special that solo time would feel to them.  Arguably, maybe they were too young to have the awareness of this separation before we started doing it.  But, still, I think there may have been value in us splitting up with them before they did recognize it.  So much of the first 18 months or so of parenting twins was filled with anxiety for me.  Looking back, I think if I had ventured out on my own with one baby more often, it would have built some confidence in me that would eventually have led to adventures with both babies.  I think it also would have led to less mommy guilt: ie, since an hour at the store was my “me” time, I wasn’t “allowed” other time alone.  If we’d divided up with baby, maybe I’d have done more sans baby for mommy.  :)  Lastly, I think it may have been healthier to split them up more than we did, allowing them to be their own person, even if just for an hour.

Katie is a working mom of 2-year-old twins, who makes too many trips to the grocery store, with or without kids!

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Toddler Thursday: Twin Toddler Travel Tips

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Categories Single Parenting, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers, Travel1 Comment

This post was originally published when my twin daughters were 2 and a half on my personal blog.

My twin daughters, aged 2, and I flew to Oregon and back, just the three of us, and the whole process was remarkably easy. Sure, we had a few hiccups, but I’d be happy to repeat the experience.

I think a number of things contributed to our positive experience.

The great

Southwest Airlines: The flight attendants on Southwest were just wonderful. On every leg of the journey, they helped me carry the car seats on and off the airplane. They were gentle with the girls, and praised them for being so obedient.

The first leg of the journey home was particularly noteworthy. The flight attendant, Laura, was an identical twin herself and has a 20-month-old and an 11-year-old. Whenever she wasn’t busy helping other passengers, she was chatting with the girls, keeping them entertained. She installed the car seats for me, told me about her relationship with her siblings, discussed parenting philosophies with me, and was just all around wonderful. Another attendant, whose name I didn’t get, walked us all the way out to the gate to wait for our next flight. This all went far beyond the call of duty, in my book.

GoGo Kidz Travelmate: This handy wheeled contraption attaches to the back of your child’s car seat, turning it into a stroller.

GogoKidz Travelmates make travel possible for the outnumbered parent.
The wheels snap off easily, and you don’t have to remove the back to install the seat in the airplane (although the manufacturers don’t recommend that). The security folks at the airport did take the Travelmates off the car seats, but they also reattached them for me. The Travelmates did away with need for a stroller and made it extraordinarily easy to transport the car seats through the airport, whether or not they contained children. Even my husband was impressed with them, and he usually laughs at my affinity for gadgets. The only downside is that there is not convenient place to store the wheels and the bar they attach to when they are removed. Fortunately, I was able to stick them in the overhead baggage compartment.

Car seats in the airplane: I never considered leaving the car seats at home or checking them, but once we got settled in our seats, I realized some benefits in addition to general safety. Since M and J are used to sitting in their car seats during our long commute, they knew exactly where to tuck their toys and sippy cups so that they would stay put. It gave them a great measure of comfort to be sitting side by side in their familiar seats. They almost thought it was a treat that I was able to interact with them and hold their hands, since my rule when I’m driving is that I can’t help them pick up toys or give them more snacks until we come to a stop.

Lollipops: I invested in a couple of packages of ring pops and brought a couple of extra lollipops along. Sucking on this candy helped little toddler ears adjust to the pressure changes of takeoff and landing, and kept both girls entertained.

Rolling backpacks: I bought the girls Disney princess backpacks that they could roll through the airport. When the kids were in the carseats, I just slung the backpacks over the Travelmate handles. I put a change of clothes in each backpack, as well as all the girls’ airplane activities and diapering supplies. The one tray table I had also fit inside the bag. I put a box of raisins in each bag for them to “discover” on the plane. I had them pack up their lovies into the front pocket of their backpack when we arrived at the airport, and put an empty sippy cup in a side pocket of the bag.

Stickers and notebooks: I handed M and J each a sheet of stickers and a plain notebook. They were given a clear admonition that stickers were not to be stuck anywhere but the pages of the notebook. This was all it took to keep J and M entertained for half an hour at a time. The smaller the stickers, the better, since it made it more of a challenge to peel the stickers from the sheet. J made up a matching game involving her stickers, matching them by colour and object.

Mini magnadoodles: These weren’t quite the hit the stickers were, but were good for 15 minutes of entertainment at a time. I ended up doing most of the scribbling, and the girls practiced identifying the letters I wrote out for them.

Lovies: Usually, the girls’ lovies, whom they call “Bee”, are limited to naptime and bedtime. For the course of the trip, however, I allowed free access to their Bees, which I think made them a lot braver and more comfortable in the airplane than they otherwise might have been. I did insist that Bees be packed up in the girls’ backpacks when we were in airports, because if we lost one, it would be the end of the world. They were handmade by my friend Suzanne; I can’t exactly run to the store for a replacement.

The okay

Movies: I took my laptop on the plane in lieu of a DVD player. I hadn’t tested my computer’s DVD playing abilities and discovered myself to be without sound. Mel and Jess didn’t mind, or even notice, in part because the first movie I put on was The Snowman, which has no dialogue. The movies gave them something to do, but I think we had enough other activities that we could have done without.

Star Kids Travel Trays: I had high hopes for these snack trays, but I only received one in time for the trip. Since the last thing I wanted was an argument over unfair treatment, I didn’t pull out the one tray table I had except on one leg of the trip, when Jess was allowed to hold the laptop on her lap. I think the tray table could have been very useful if the girls weren’t already accustomed to keeping themselves entertained in their car seats. The airplane tray tables don’t fit flat over our Britax Marathons, so if the girls had been using open cups, some sort of tray table would have been a must.

Books: I packed a couple of very small board books in the girls’ bags. Although they usually love books, they weren’t too interested in them during our flights. They only provided about 5 minutes of distraction between sticker adventures.

Washable crayons: I’m glad I had them along, but the kids didn’t even get around to pulling these out.

The hiccups

On the way there, M kept dropping things on the floor when she was done with them instead of handing them to me, meaning that I had to crawl on the floor in front of the seats to pick up her toys and trash. By the time we headed back to Texas, she’d seen her sister praised enough for handing me her things that she realized it would be a good idea to copy her. (Subsequent to this trip, it occurred to me that tying toys and the like to my diaper bag with ribbon would greatly simplify life, although there’s a strangulation hazard concern.)

Both girls threw brief tantrums on the way home, but they’d been woken at 4:30 am Pacific time and can be forgiven. Still, when one of them threw a full-on lying-on-the-floor drumming-her-heels tantrum at the gate in Phoenix, I wasn’t having it. I told her that if she didn’t stop screaming and stand on her feet by the time I counted to 10, she would get a spanking. Yes, I threatened a spanking in front of at least 100 hundred travelers, and was prepared to follow through. Perhaps someone would have called CPS on me. We’ll never know. I got to six, and she was good as gold.

There was at least one proponent of my flavour of discipline among the onlookers. From far back in the boarding line, I heard a man say, “She only had to get to six. Wow!”

Have you travelled alone with multiples? What worked for you?

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