When that Second Set Arrives: How Hard Can It Be?

Hi. I’m Michelle and I have two sets of twins. Nineteen months apart.

Here is a quick visual of what that looked like:

Twins times two. Tips from a mom who has survived the first years and flourished!

And I think this picture was taken by my parents as they were getting ready to fly home after helping me for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure… but I think I’m crying in this picture.

And, even though my memory is really really sketchy about this time and the two years that followed, I think I can muster up some advice for those moms who are expecting their second set of twins.

Get Help. No, not like help in the head although there are going to be times that you feel like you need it. Hire as much help as you can afford for as many days a week you can afford. Hire babysitting help. Hire someone to clean your house. Find that 6th grader who loves babies who would be willing to hold/feed/play with any of your children. Piece together what you can. And, don’t be afraid of letting the person go who isn’t helping. You need another you! Find that person.

Twins times two. Advice from a mom who has been there!

Get Out. No, not like run away and never come back. More like, get out of the house without babies at least one day a week… you need a break. It is not a sign of weakness or that you don’t love your kids. But you first need to love on yourself a little bit. You are a better mother if you can walk away from being a mother… even if it is for a little while. Listen to yourself and what you need and put those needs first.

Twins time two. Michelle now has flourishing preteens and tells us how she did it!

Photograph the heck out of all of it. First, because you won’t remember any of it. Second, because having two sets of toddlers won’t last even though you feel like this is the worst hell imaginable (e.g.. every outing where one of them said, “I have to poop!” and EVERYONE had to go into the bathroom together). Make sure you get as many “ugly” photos as you do with everyone matching and smiling. Actually, get mostly ugly photos and videos of tantrums and messy house and potty training and the food everywhere and the two or more crying at the same time. You will look back… believe me you will… and want to go back again to hug and love on those babies and to help out that poor mama who is doing the best she can and still feeling like it isn’t even 1% enough.Twins times two. Thoughts from a mom who's been there.

On your best days you will be doing a good job if you are only meeting basic needs: food, changing, loving, and maybe reading a story or two. Forget the glitter painting and stamping and crafty crap that you always imagined you’d do with your kids. DON’T look at Pinterest and see what you could be doing… yeah, if you had one child. Your child is not missing out and glitter is so everywhere.

Make friends with other Mothers-of-Multiples. These will be your sisters-in-arms. You will need them like you need a nightly glass of wine. They are the ones who during an outing won’t bat an eye when YOU have to go to the bathroom and you ask one of them to keep an eye on your kids. They will empathize, sympathize and encourage you… and agree that no one understands.

Twins times two. You can do this.

Find a good parenting class. Mostly you’ll learn that you are doing it right… and you’ll learn not to worry about the small stuff. You’ll learn to let your child fall and not rush over. You’ll learn that listening is the best communication tool that you’ll ever cultivate. You’ll learn that other parents are going through EXACTLY THE SAME STUFF at the SAME TIME. This is called child development. Make friends with the stages… they are necessary for healthy growth. And, sometimes these classes also have FREE CHILDCARE!

Say this Mantra: THIS WON’T LAST. THIS WON’T LAST. Because it won’t and you don’t get a do-over. The potty training, the tantrums, the middle of the night wake-ups. These all go away… as do your babies.  So let toys be everywhere and in every room. Let them ride mini big wheels in the house on a rainy day (heck, on a sunny day so you can get dinner made!). You will remember these crazy times as being your favorite times. You are striving for happy… and peaceful… and loved. Mostly loved.

I remember an older mother of four teens saying that she’d go back to the infant and toddler time in a heartbeat. At the time I thought, I will NEVER wish for that! And, you know what, I’d go back in a nanosecond. You will too. Just wait. You’ll want to go back in time and tell that mama that she is doing a GREAT job… and you might even stay to do a load of laundry… or six.

twins times two and one more. Michelle has managed, and so will you.

Finally, as my husband reads this over my shoulder, he says longingly, “It goes by so fast!” It won’t seem like it at the time, but it does. Do whatever you can to enjoy the time. Find help, get out, take lots of photos, have a mantra that helps you stay sane, learn about child development so you know why some of the most difficult states (in stereo with twins) are the most necessary!

Michelle blogs at www.twinstimestwo.com where she tries to piece together those lost early memories from mothering two sets of twins and where she tries to record the daily joy and chaos of being a mother of multiples.

Toddler Thursday: Two vs. One

Don’t hate me, but I love toddlers.  Yes, there are tantrums and days full of “I do it!”, but there are also hugs around your knees and the adorable language I call “toddlereese”. I was an early childhood education major in college and spent many years teaching young children before I became a mom.  These experiences helped me immensely when my other three children were toddlers, so much so, that this stage has always been my favorite. Then I had twins.  They are 19 months old and I am tired. Just for fun I used my Iphone to record our morning.  I won’t bore you with the video or the entire morning, but here’s a transcription of part of it:

It’s 8:00 and Oliver, my 4 year old, is due at school at 9:30. I still have to get myself, Oliver, and my 19 month old twins dressed.  I’m already feeling frazzled and I’ve only been awake 30 minutes. So far I’ve fed all five kids and have kissed my older two boys goodbye as they left for school with their dad. I meant to wake up earlier so I could get myself ready in peace, but Rhodes slept with us last night and kicked and squirmed so much I didn’t sleep well. When my alarm went off I opted for 30 more minutes of sleep.

8:05 I’m standing at my sink brushing my teeth while Oliver is taking a shower. Laurel has toddled into the bedroom and is rummaging through my night stand. Rhodes is standing at my feet whining to be picked up.

8:07 Oliver has gotten soap in this eyes and is screaming. Rhodes is still whining and Laurel comes back from the bedroom covered in cuticle oil.

8:08 I grab Laurel and put her into the shower with Oliver. I’m rinsing Oliver’s face and hair when Rhodes’ whining escalates into crying. I glance at him to find he’s hit himself in the mouth with my hairbrush and has a bloody lip.

8:09 After a quick cuddle I put Rhodes in the shower too and cross my fingers that it will clean off the blood and keep him entertained long enough that I can get dressed. It’s at this point I’ve realized the extra 30 minutes of sleep weren’t worth it.

8:10 I’m in my closet trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans that I swear fit last week (Darn Easter candy). I make them work and throw on a blousy shirt in hopes of hiding the muffin top my now too tight jeans have caused. I do some lunges on my way out of the closet. Yay! Multitasking! I’m exercising and stretching my jeans!

8:11 All three kids are playing so I take the opportunity to throw on my makeup. I realize that Rhodes has chewed on all my makeup brushes and they are wet and gross. I use my fingers to apply eye makeup and blush.

8:13 My hair is too dirty to pull back but there is no time to wash it. I briefly toy with the idea of using one of Laurel’s head bands to hide my roots and greasy part. I decide I’m too old for that and use a bobby pin to pull just my bangs back.

8:14 The water has gotten cold so all three kids are fussing to get out.

8:15 While I’m getting Laurel out and dried off Oliver escapes and runs thru the house soaking wet.

8:17 Both twins are dry and as I’m walking them to their room to get them dressed I slip in a puddle of water. My bottom hurts and the twins are crying because I yelped when I fell.

8:18 We make it to the twins room and Oliver joins us. He’s still naked and is fussing because he wants to play on his older brother’s Itouch. I try to ignore him while I’m picking out clothes.

8:20 Rhodes and Oliver are now dressed but Laurel is nowhere to be found.

8:21 I find Laurel in the utility room eating dog food.

8:22 Laurel is throwing a fit because I’ve disturbed her second breakfast and Oliver is still whining. Rhodes is pushing cars around the playroom.

8:24 I’ve given in to Oliver and allowed him to play with the iPod Touch. Laurel is dressed but now Rhodes is crying about another bloody lip. He was crawling too fast, fell on his face, and bumped his lip on the car he was pushing.

8:26 Rhodes is calm. Oliver is calm. Laurel has once again disappeared.

8:27 I find Laurel in the bathroom where she is happily shredding toilet paper. I decide the mess is worth the peace and go looking for our shoes.

8:30 Victory! Everyone but Oliver has on shoes. He is pouting because I can’t find his Buzz Light Year socks.

8:33 Negotiations are complete. I’ve convinced Oliver to wear plain socks in exchange for allowing him to play with the Itouch in the car on the way to school.

8:34 The twins are gone. The house is quiet. This. Is. Bad.

8:35 I find them both outside. They have crawled through the pet door and are splashing in the bird bath.

8:40 I have wrestled the twins into new clothes. I’m sweating and grouchy. If I hurry I can make a cup of coffee to take with me.

8:42 I put all three kids in front of Curious George and head to the pantry.

8:43 Oliver is screaming because the Itouch’s battery is dead. Rhodes is screaming because Oliver is screaming. Laurel is in the pantry looking for cookies.

8:44 I’m charging the Itouch and holding Rhodes. Laurel has decided a cereal bar will work since we have no cookies. She has squished it while bringing it to me so when I open the package the bar crumbles to the floor.

8:45 Laurel is on the floor rolling around in cereal bar crumbs crying for cookies. I decide to not change her out of the sticky, crumb covered clothes.

8:47 I’m now holding Laurel and Rhodes and trying to put a coffee pod into my Kureig using my teeth. The twins explode into giggles.

8:50 Coffee’s made and we are on the way to the car. Everyone is happy!

8:51 I drop my bag and as I bend over to get it I spill coffee all over my shirt. I briefly contemplate sucking it out of the fabric.

8:53 Oliver is buckled into his seat. The twins have decided it’s time to ride bikes and are fighting over a ride on toy. Rhodes pushes Laurel and she is MAD. I scoop her up just as she’s lunging to bite him.

8:56 The twins are buckled into their seats but are not happy about it. Laurel is screaming for cookies and Rhodes is screaming because he can.

8:58 Silence. Everyone is watching the video and we are finally on our way.

I’m sure many of you a shaking your heads and smiling because you have been there. You know how it feels to run from one problem to the next all while trying to keep the day moving and actually be productive.

This post is so funny and painfully true. One morning with toddlers is a messy sticky comedy of errors!

There are several universal truths to parenting toddlers. These apply whether you have one or five. All parents of children this age can relate to these things:

There is a constant battle between independence and needing/wanting to be cared for.  It’s hard for them to decide what stance they want to take in any given situation and it’s even harder for parents to read what their child wants.  What’s ok one day just might not be the next

You will witness wonderful creativity. I’m always amazed how toddlers can turn anything into a toy or game.  I watched Rhodes play this afternoon with a cup, bowl of water, and a rock for over 30 minutes. Never underestimate their ability to entertain themselves without toys or technology.

Toddlers crave and respond to routine. The need for a schedule doesn’t stop at the end of infancy. Knowing what to expect and what’s coming next is reassuring to children of this age.  I find when I stick to our routine that tantrums are greatly diminished.

Parenting toddler multiples is very different.  I was naïve and really celebrated when my twins turned one.  I remember telling a friend “They are sleeping through the night, nursing is done, and they are learning to walk and talk. Things are bound to get easier now.” So far that hasn’t happened.

Parenting twin and singleton toddlers  are distinct experiences.

Here are the ways I find parenting toddler multiples different than singletons: Whether you admit it or not you are always comparing them. When I was parenting my singleton toddlers comparisons usually happened at playgroups or in online forums.  The anxiety of “Why aren’t they____?” was usually confined to that situation or to the few moments I’d spend replaying my day.  Now I find myself not only constantly comparing them, but also trying to compensate for imaginary weaknesses.  For example Laurel’s language is very advanced.  Her adjusted age is only 17 months and she’s already stringing together words to make sentences. Rhodes isn’t doing this.  He knows several words, but isn’t close to speaking in sentences. His speech is exactly where it should be for his adjusted age, but I find myself grabbing a book and pulling him into my lap more often than I do Laurel.  I’m constantly repeating his gibberish back to him correctly and engaging him in songs. None of this is done intentionally and I know I’m intuitively trying to encourage his language development because his sister’s is so advanced. If he was a singleton the poor kid wouldn’t be subjected to my constant singing and chattering.

Everything is more.  The noise, the mess, the laundry, the…   you get the point.  Laurel is a screecher and Rhodes is a yeller. Happy, sad, mad, all require screeching and yelling.  My house regularly sounds like a pet store.  Double the toddlers means the playroom regularly looks like tornado hit it. Unfortunately both twins are “dumpers”. They love nothing more than to walk up to a basket of toys and dump it out.  They don’t do this to look for a specific item.  They just enjoy pouring all the toys. When you have one child that screeches or pours toys it’s annoying.  When you have two a bad day can bring you to your knees.

Outings require pickiness.  I have a friend whom I love dearly but I will not bring the twins to her house.  She has an elderly grouchy dog, a very tall slide, and a sunken living room.  With one toddler I could manage all these variables by keeping the child in my line of sight.  With two toddlers who are inevitably drawn to different areas I just can’t do it.  I’ve also run into this when choosing parks and restaurants with out door seating (is it fenced?).  Any place I’m going to have to follow them around in order for them to be safe is out.

Confinement is necessary. My morning adventures would have been much easier if I could have gotten us ready to go out from our playroom.  We have put a lot of time and effort into making it a room that is comfortable for adults as well as fun and safe for the twins. There is really nothing they can do to hurt themselves while playing in it. The furniture is bolted to the walls, all outlets are covered, the floor is soft, and most importantly they can’t go in separate directions.  It’s so nice to have a place where we can spend time and the twins will be safe without me needing to be in two places at once.

You can’t mess with naps. When my singletons were toddlers there were times when I’d force them to make do with a nap in the car or go without one altogether.  I’d pack lots of snacks and expect to have to keep them really busy. Most of the time this would work and we’d get to enjoy whatever event was happening during their nap time.  Unless it’s a once in a lifetime event or an emergency I won’t do this with the twins.  Not much is worth the risk of potentially having two tantruming toddlers.

Toddler relationships  Children of this age generally don’t play together.  They usually engage in parallel play (side by side) or spectator play (observing and mimicking).  Very rarely will two toddlers actually interact during the same activity.  Laurel and Rhodes play together.  They will roll balls or cars together or look at the same book and chatter to one another about it.  It’s amazing and adorable. I have to say that this is my favorite part of this stage.  I love watching them interact.

This season of my life is challenging to say the least.  It’s full of rushing, managing, planning, and adjusting. Despite these difficulties I can’t remember a time I’ve been happier.  Rhodes and Laurel are amazing and I’m so blessed to call them mine.

What differences have you seen raising singleton toddlers vs. multiple toddlers? 

Linked at

The Twinkle Diaries

Twins Separating Spontaneously

The Togetherness

My identical twin daughters, age nearly 9, are going through a major relationship realignment. They’ve always been very twinny twins, much to my initial surprise. They still sleep in the same bed, despite nominally having separate ones. They’ve asked to be in the same classroom for the past two years and foreseeable future. They identify as twins above all.

These twin sisters have always wanted to be together.

Don’t get me wrong. They’ve always had their unique personalities and interests. M is the chatterbox. J is a talker, but she has moments of thoughtful reflection. M doesn’t. M prides herself on being a mathematician and loves to perform feats of mental mathematics for fun. J likes math too, but prefers mathematical concepts to hard numbers. J is enormously protective of her sister, I suspect at least in part because of her frontonasal dysplasia, whereas M is surprised on the rare occasion that J’s feelings are hurt. M is cautious, while J is my risk-taker.

J and M with mommy as toddlers.

They both love to read and are intensely social. They both have fabulous senses of humour and a love of wordplay. They’re both smart and insightful and self-righteous and persistent and messy and forgetful and my favourite people in the entire world.

The Divergence

I’ve always said that I would support my children’s religious choices and do my best to educate them to enable them to make their own decisions. I’m an atheist, but have raised my daughters within a Christian community and with age-appropriate knowledge of the Bible.

For the past 9 years, I have been taking my children to church. Just over two years ago, they chose the church to attend, and thereby their own denomination too. They’ve attended the Kids’ Kingdom Sunday school program and developed deep friendships. They both feel very much at home there.

Or rather, they both felt very much at home there.

At age 8, identical twins start down different faith paths as one choose Christianity and the other atheism.

This week, M informed me that she is atheist. She’s been thinking about her beliefs for about 6 months, starting during the period during which we were apart. She is very much at peace with her choice. Her biggest concern was how to break the news to her sister. I told M that as long as she was honest and respectful of both J’s feelings and beliefs, it would be okay.

That same night, with very little fanfare, M decided that she was too hot and wanted to sleep alone. J wanted snuggles and crawled into my bed. For the first time that I can remember, M slept in a room alone. J has done so before, but never M. She’s growing up and growing independent. It struck me that with that small step and the much larger faith decision, M is started to tread her own path, not in active contrast to her sister, as she’s done with math, but spontaneously, organically, and age-appropriately.

J took the news of M’s atheism surprisingly well. When I asked if she wanted to talk to me about how she was feeling, J retorted that I wouldn’t understand. I reminded her of the church community members who would understand and would be available for her to talk to. She said she would call them after she’d had some time to think.

And so it begins, the gentle individuation of my monozygotic daughters. I had feared that this tearing apart would wait until the teenage years, when my daughters will additionally be forging identities separate from me and the family unit. Perhaps this will make the teenage years a little less terror-inspiring? Or at least only as terrifying as that of their singleton peers?

Have your multiples been independent from the start? Or has their inter-dependency evolved over time?

National Reading Day: Books About Twins

Books About Twins As a past elementary school teacher (having taught kindergarten, 2nd, and 4th), it’s no surprise that I love books. I prided myself on having one of the largest (and most organized) classroom libraries in our school. When I left teaching to be a mom to Audrey and David, I brought all of those books home with me! One thing that was missing, however, was books about twins! In the past year, I’ve been on the hunt for books about multiples for our children. As a way to celebrate National Reading Day today, here is what I found:

In my searching, I also found some books for adults:

Do you have any favorite twin books? Share with us in the comments!

Maintaining the Silliness Quota

Today, my daughter M and I went to her very own doctor, the one she doesn’t share with her sister. M’s twin sister, J, did not join us, instead staying at school with their 3rd grade class. This is quite the rare occurrence, since I usually try to schedule appointments outside school hours and therefore have both girls with me.

M was very silly at the appointment, needing more reminders than usual to focus on the doctors’ questions. I wondered what was going on, only to discover this was yet another sister thing.

M: I was super extra goofy for you at the doctor.
J: What?
M: You weren’t there, so I did your sillies for you.
J: WHAT!?
M: You weren’t there, so I had my own sillies and then I was extra silly to make up for you.
J: Yeah, I got that, and I repeat: “WHAT!?” That makes no sense.

At least she agrees with me.

M missed her sister. The appointment ran late enough that M risked missing lunch at school, so I took her to a restaurant for a meal. When I asked for a table for two, M let me know that it sounded wrong. She went through every combination of meal partners she could think of, pointing out that we always needed at least 3 seats.

By the time we were done eating, though, she was enjoying herself.

“I like this quality time with you, Mommy,” she confessed, “just the two of us.”

Now I need to find some Mommy-and-me outing time for J. She would be okay with M going on a playdate without her to make it work, “as long as it’s not with [one of their 3 best friends] S. We’re a trio.”

Guest Post and Book Giveaway: Elise Bruderly

Today, we have a special treat for you: a guest post and book giveaway from twin mom and author Elise Bruderly. If you’d like to win a copy of her book, be sure to enter the giveaway below! Now, hear her story in her own words. – Sadia

Win a copy of Elise Bruderly's book Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year

 

In May of 2005, I found out I was expecting twins.

As I “recovered” from the shock of this news, I said, “Someday I’m going to write a book about this!” And that day has come. Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year is the handbook I wish I had, to guide me through the ups and downs and twists and turns of that first year as a parent of twins. The book weaves together actual stories and journal entries from that first year, with practical parenting advice and ideas, as well as a focus on the emotional journey, and growth, required. I hope that this book serves as both an inspiration and a source of reassurance for expectant parents and parents in the midst of that first year.

Please enjoy this excerpt from the book.

from Chapter 6: How Parenting Twins is Different

How to be a Parent of Twins

When you think about how to parent twins and how to be a parent of twins you really must consider two areas of growth.  First is the actual, physical “doing” of life.  These are the “how to clone yourself” questions, like, how to get two babies a bath when you are home alone, how to pick up two crying babies, what to do when the phone rings and your arms are full.  You can learn how to do all of these things- either with advice from other parents of multiples, from books, or by trial and error.  Never be afraid to try a new idea, and never stop trying new ideas.  As your babies grow and develop things will change, sometimes by the hour.  What did not work yesterday might work today and what you wish would work today might very well work in a few days if you stick with it.  Becoming capable with the tasks of parenting twins is both liberating and confidence-building, two essential traits for your continued journey as a parent.  The sooner you make peace with yourself- giving yourself permission to try something new, and not feeling silly if the whole idea fails- the easier you will find the ongoing tasks of parenting twins.

The being a parent of twins is much harder to learn and much more abstract to describe.  I have often felt “out of step” with friends and others raising singleton children the same age as my babies.  Nothing ever felt quite the same to me as it appeared to be for my friends- the lack of sleep, the ability (or not) to get out of the house.  When a parent is already struggling to adapt to their new role, feeling alone in that role can be even more demoralizing.  I will never forget the first time I felt this difference square in the face.

My babies were born in the late summer and came home in the early fall.  It was a long, cold winter where we did not get out very much.  By the time they were around seven months old I was feeling more capable and a more pressing desire to “be normal.”  I started taking them to a baby playgroup that was held at the library.  There was fifteen minutes of songs and stories and then forty five minutes for the babies and parents to interact with toys and each other.  I saw, quite quickly, what two babies meant for me.  While others picked up their child and moved around the floor, checking out different toys and talking to others while swinging their baby in their arms, I sat on the floor with my babies- in one spot while reaching out to grab a toy here or there that made its way over to our area.  I was not mobile in the least, and, as such, I was not social.  It’s not that others were mean to me, it’s just that they were doing what they could do and did not realize my limitations.

We continued attending the playgroup, and talked to those who might be around us.  I watched others make coffee dates for afterwards and thought to myself that I wasn’t sure my “lunar lander” could even maneuver into or around the coffee shop.  I thought that perhaps I was too much work to be friends with, I couldn’t zip around with a little stroller, or walk around with one arm full of baby and the other with my hot drink.  I wished very much to feel less isolated and wondered if I was having fun.

How did I learn to be a parent of twins?  How did I learn to embrace the challenges and enjoy the moments?  It was a journey, to be sure.  It required building confidence in my parenting decisions both big and small.  It required perseverance- attending those playgroups where I felt alone, getting through failed trips to the store, talking myself through the hard days of nursing through growth spurts, and functioning on a severe lack of sleep.  It required reaching-out, feeling awkward and uncomfortable at times, and making new friends who were parents of twins.  It required an ability to laugh at myself, knowing that there is just nothing that can be done when babies decide to explode through their diapers and spit-up all over at the same time.  It requires “digging deep” to find that better self that is there inside of you and accessible only when you want it and need it so badly.  I’ve often heard that things are given only to those who can handle them.  Personally, I believe that handling the challenges makes us that person.

When you are expecting twins, or are learning to be the parent of twins, what you must know and remember is this:  The road will never be quite as smooth as you might wish and you might never master juggling.  But if you remember to love your children and remember that you are doing the very best you can, you will find the energy and strength to get through the day.  Each day is the beginning of a new adventure and each adventure will provide a smile once you learn to recognize the moments.

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Elise Bruderly, MSW, LMSW, lives with her husband and boy/girl twins in Dexter, Michigan where she enjoys the ongoing adventure of parenting twins.  Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year is available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.

Toddler Thursday: Gardening with Twins

Fall has finally arrived here in Central Texas, though you’d hardly know it by the hot, dry weather we’ve had lately.  Still, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as we approach the middle of October. My twins turn three this month, and they are very interested in playing outside and being involved in everything I’m doing. It’s put me in the mindset of starting a garden with my kids this fall – a goal I’ve had since before I even had kids. (In the northern climes, most gardening happens in the spring, but here in Texas, where are summers are far more extreme than our winters, the best gardening happens in October and November.)

Gardening is a great activity to do with toddlers as they start to develop their gross motor skills. It allows them to get fresh air and some sunshine, it’s physical, and, with a bit of luck, they can watch their work blossom into fruition! (See what I did there?)

It’s a good idea to consider a plan for your garden before you break ground. First, it might be helpful to choose a theme that appeals to you and your kids. You could choose edible plants, like herbs and veggies, to encourage your kids to try new flavors and eat more plant-based foods. You could decide on a garden full of plants that attract beautiful butterflies or hummingbirds. You could choose all the purple plants you can lay your hands on.  In our case, the garden we’ve been working on is inspired by the sense of touch – plants with interesting textures, herbs that emit lovely smells when the leaves are rubbed, and generally anything that allows kids to get hands-on with the garden.

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

You’ll also need to think about the conditions of the area in which you’re planting. We’re working in an existing bed which happens to be located in a shady part of my yard. I’ve done some research to determine which plants with interesting textures would grow well in that environment in my region, and when I went shopping, I took a list with me. Herbs are great for a touch garden, but most herbs require lots of sun, so I had to adjust my list accordingly. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantia) is a great choice, and one that I have experience growing. It has thick, velvety leaves and spreads into an attractive ground cover. It even has a pretty purple bloom! I also chose Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), which blooms feather-soft in the fall,  globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), which has a bright papery bloom, and a few mint plants, which give off a lovely smell and flavor when touched. (Note: mint is inclined to go wild under favorable conditions. I planted mine in a pot which I submerged in the ground to reduce those tendencies.) Leave a little room open in the budget for getting new ideas once you get to the nursery, and consider a few inexpensive annuals to fill out your garden with colorful blooms. Your kids can help you pick out some plants that they find interesting, as well – however, you’ll want to be mindful not to buy anything overly toxic. This is often noted on the plant’s information tag.

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Plants grow best in soil that has organic matter mixed in. The easiest way to achieve this is to dig your bed and mix the dirt with compost. Your children can help by using a scoop or a pot to pour compost onto the dirt as you turn it, or by using a trowel or small shovel to turn one corner of the bed. Once your dirt is prepared, you and your kids can dig holes for the new plants, pre-watering the holes, spreading the roots a bit as you pull them out of the pot, and depositing them in their new homes. Watering in the plants is also, not surprisingly, a very popular pastime in my garden.

fairy furniture

Fairies throw parties in our little garden every night after bedtime.

If you have some space and are interested in adding a visual element to your garden, you might consider adding a fairy garden. I found a local nursery that sells inexpensive fairy furniture, but you and your kids can make your own fairy decorations, as well. Consider painting a rock or a pinecone and leaving it as art for your garden’s faeries to enjoy! Place a marble in the ground as a gazing ball. If you have older kids, they might enjoy building and painting small wooden structures (like you might find at a craft store), or even making their own with twigs and bark. You’re limited only by your imagination!

Keep your plan a little flexible. Let your kids have as much control as is feasible over the placement of items in your new garden, even if it doesn’t match your mental image. With my three year olds, their attention span runs low before the work runs out, so I can do a little bit of editing to their work, but this is a shared space for us, and I want the final product to reflect that. Ultimately, if you’re gardening with kids, the final garden is secondary to the process of creating it.

Garden in progress.

Our work in progress.

Halloween Costumes for Multiples

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

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

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

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

Butterfly Morning

My little Robin, from her earliest days, has been a quiet poet. She would wake up before Hailey, as a baby, be happily lifted from her crib into my arms, and look out the window for a long while at the sun rising over the mountains. As she has grown, she has continued to show me that she is always watching, taking in her surroundings with a keen eye. I see what catches her attention; it is the beautiful things. A flower blowing in the breeze, a colourful earring dangling from someone’s ear, a canopy of trees overhead.

butterfly2I have been making more efforts to go on adventures with the girls one-on-one. This past weekend, I brought Robin out on a rainy morning for a donut at Timmie’s and a tour of the biology department’s greenhouse at Carleton U, which was hosting a tropical butterfly exhibit. It was free, not too busy when we arrived, and fulfilled its advertised promises of colourful butterflies landing all around us. I was so happy that I could bring my little Robin to such a beautiful, engaging activity.

Of all my girls, I knew she would like it the best, so we went just us two. She tried holding an orange quarter with a butterfly perched on top, but she quickly grew nervous and dropped it. She told me she preferred to look and not touch, so that’s what we did.

butterfly5We acted as though we were the only two there. I hoisted her up in my arms to get a better view, and together we watched colourful butterflies flutter and land all around us. I watched her delicate hand extend to point out a butterfly quietly eating flower nectar, and met her gaze when she looked at me with amazement. It was a moment I hope I never forget.

We didn’t talk a lot, and I knew she wouldn’t want to. It wasn’t a morning to quiz her, or encourage her to work on her speech. We observed, we found beauty, we shared looks of wonder. We turned our heads up to see the busy cloud of fluttering wings darting around the ceiling, captivated by the flashes of colour.

butterfly4A butterfly was passed onto my hands, so I squatted down to bring it close to her. She stepped back, hesitant in case is flew anywhere near her face, but stood close enough to see its antennae, its legs, its slowly opening and closing wings. For a moment, I saw the essence of childlike wonder erupt over her face, evidenced by her shy smile.

butterfly10It was only a morning, but without anyone else to detract from our moments together, I felt like I learned so much about my younger twin girl. My hope was that she would feel special, attended to, and worthy of my undivided attention. I think she did, as much as I can gather from her limited speech. What I know for sure is that I have a very deep soul in my Robin, and I am the lucky one for being chosen to mother her beautiful little spirit.

 

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.