Gifting Times Two

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Gift-giving is on everyone’s tongue right now. Instead of the weather, people are greeting me with, “have you finished your holiday shopping?” I strongly dislike shopping, malls, and buying stuff, but to answer your question: Yes, I have finished. I got it out of the way a while ago, mostly online, so I could enjoy the season and be present in all these chaotic holiday moments with twins and my singletons running amok in the house.

One consideration I have been careful to make is gift-giving and our twins. Ours are identical girls, soon to be four years old, who also have two other sisters. We have learned to strike a balance between repetition, individuality and superfluous giving. As the girls grow older (as they are wont to do, in spite of my wishes), this will evolve, of course, but here is what has worked for us:

  • We have made suggestions to family and friends, but never have we ever dictated what people should buy them. Above everything else, we would like to model grace, gratitude and humility for our girls. Those values come before presents.
  • When asked (usually by grandparents) if one should buy the twins similar, the same or different gifts, our answer has been: Similar gifts (please) when possible. A doll, for instance, with slight differences in colour or outfit means each twin opens a similar gift and can share in each other’s enthusiasm while still feeling ownership over the toy that is clearly chosen for her. Being made to feel special and chosen is important, no matter what age.
  • When possible, (and accommodating their young ages) we have tried to have them open gifts at the same time. Delayed gratification can be hard for two toddlers to understand. If I can find the two similar-sized gifts from the same giver, I’ll have them open them simultaneously. It just avoids the crying from one twin, with far-fetched assurances like “yours will come later/next.” Call me lazy, but Christmas morning is not the time for difficult lessons in patience and understanding.

Like every other stepping stone on this crazy journey parenting multiples, we learn as we go and sometimes have to do things differently from families with singletons. Holiday gifts (and birthday gifts) can bring out the best and worst in little-people behaviour. If patience, kindness and understanding are at the root of our intentions, then I’m sure we’re doing our best.

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Make-It Monday: Coffee Filter Snowflakes

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Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we’re getting fully into the winter celebratory spirit. Our first winter craft of this year has been coffee filter snowflakes.

Coffee filter snowflake. The folded filter has tiny pieces tiny out of it (top left) and unfolds into a delicate work of seasonal symmetrical art.

Any paper can work for a pretty snowflake, but the circular shape and thin nature of coffee filters makes them all the easier to cut. You want to use the circular ones for this project, not the cones.

Circular coffee filters are the perfect material for paper snowflakes.

Depending on your child’s maturity, patience, and hand-eye coordination, he or she may be able to fold the filters or require your assistance. I like to flatten them, then fold them into twelfths, as shown below, but folding them in eighths is easier. The snowflake shown at the top of this post was cut from a filter folded in twelfths, the one at the end in eighths.

How to fold a coffee filter in even 12ths to make a lovely paper snowflake.

The next step is to cut small pieces out of the folded filter, being sure to cut through all layers. You can go with geometric shapes, or something more targeted. Hearts, Christmas trees, and flowers are all shapes with a line of symmetry, so those work well along the fold lines.

Sample cuts for a coffee filter snowwflake.

When you’re done cutting, unfold a lovely snowflake. These can go up on your wall, be assembled into a pretty mobile, or be glued onto cardstock for a cute homemade holiday card. You can also teach your kiddos about symmetry while you make these!

Unfold your paper snowflake and teach your little one about symmetry while you're at it!

Coffee filter snowflakes are an easy art project and illustrate the basics of symmetry.

I’ve been having just as much fun making these coffee filter snowflakes as the girls have. If you do this project, send us a picture on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

If you want to get really impressive, check out Anthony Herrera’s snowflake designs. We tried our hands at some of his Frozen-themed ones, and they were amazing!

Anthony Herrera's Olaf snowflake/

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An Open Letter to Marissa Mayer

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Dear Ms Mayer,

I know that you get a lot of flak. Because of your job as a relatively young female CEO of a high profile company, the world reads into your personal decisions all sorts of gender stereotypes and norms. You may have no interest in serving as a feminist symbol, whether icon or patsy.

I’m not writing to you as a feminist (which I am) or to criticize how you achieve family-work balance. Instead, I’d like to talk to you working MoM to working MoM. First off, congratulations on your identical twin daughters! I wish for you a healthy and comfortable pregnancy.

Welcome to the most wonderful club in the world, that of Parents of Multiples. While I’m sure that every parent of several revels in their children’s sibling relationships, there’s something magical and humbling about the wombmate bond. The identical bond is even deeper. I’m a mother of identical twin daughters myself, and close as we are, I can only marvel on the beautiful intimacy of their unique relationship.

The fact that you already know that your daughters are identical makes me suspect that your daughters may share a membrane and/or placenta. Of course, you may have conducted genetic testing and have a di/di pregnancy. If your girls do share a placenta, though, that makes your pregnancy a high risk one. Like you, I intended to work right until the moment that I went into labour, but the babies had a different idea. I started having preterm labour symptoms that forced me to reduce my work hours at 31 weeks gestation. Please listen to your body, which may not have quite the commitment to working all the way through your pregnancy that our work ethics have.

I wish for you your dream birth. However, we MoMs often don’t get that luxury. In fact, about 75% of twin births are C-sections. In my own case, I had to have an emergency C-section because one daughter’s water broke and both babies were breech. Even though it was only 3 hours from entering labour to delivery, Twin A was in distress by the time she was born.

Ms Mayer, please allow me to assure you that a C-section is major surgery. Yes, it’s standard surgery, but even a run-of-the-mill Caesarean involves cutting through multiple organs, each of which must heal. You’ll need time to let your body stitch itself together, ideally with minimal scar tissue. The scar tissue from my C-section has left me unable to have sex without excruciating pain. Like every other mother, your organs will be moving into their post-pregnancy arrangement, which may not look like where they were before you got pregnant. All this will be happening in the first days of your daughters’ lives, when they need you and you’re enveloped in visitors and well wishers. Allow yourself to heal, please.

I hope for your girls the full term gestation that my daughters were denied. I had a picture perfect pregnancy, but my sweet girls were still born at 33 weeks, less than 4 lbs each. They’re doing fine now, but they were in the hospital for just over 2 weeks. If your little babies were to follow the same schedule as mine, your commitment to return to work when they are 2 weeks old would put you at the office when they are released from the NICU. I wouldn’t recommend it.

A mom with one of her identical twins, born at 33 weeks gestation. Identical twin pregnancy risks are real.Don’t get me wrong. I, too, considered returning to work relatively early. While my girls were in the NICU, I considered returning to the office. I thought this would let me have a few weeks home with them once they were released. I was ready to start the paperwork when a NICU nurse told me to hold off. Our daughters would be home in days, not weeks.

I honestly thought I was in control of the schedule, but pregnancies have their own ebb and flow, as do newborns. Our bodies and those of our babies run the show. I hope that you have everything you dream of, but in your commitments during this pregnancy and its aftermath, I ask you to leave room for the unknown. Identical twin pregnancy risks are all too real.

Sincerely,

Sadia Rodriguez

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Twinfant Tuesday: The Tale of the Holiday Girl

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Once upon a time there was a girl who loooooved the holidays.  She loved the decorating and cooking.  She couldn’t wait to wrap and bake.  She enjoyed every part of the holidays: the smells, the planning, the parties, the crafting.  She loved it all!  When The Holiday Girl grew up she had lots of babies.  At first she had them one at a time.  Three little boys came all in a row.  Thankfully, her babies loved to snuggle so she’d wear them close to her heart and still get to enjoy her favorite time of the year. One cold February day The Holiday Girl got the best Valentine’s Day surprise ever! She found out she was having twins! Twins could only make the holidays better! She thought about tiny pilgrim hats and little stockings.  She dreamed of 2 extra place settings at the Thanksgiving table and 2 tiny twin themed Christmas trees. The birth came and went and finally the babies’ first holidays were approaching.  The Holiday Girl was beside herself! Oh the plans she had! So much cooking, and crafting, and shopping; she couldn’t even sleep from the excitement.  But something odd was happening. The closer Thanksgiving got the more anxious The Holiday Girl became.  Where she was usually calm and happy this year she felt overwhelmed and frazzled.  Nothing was going as planned.  She couldn’t get the shopping done, because the babies wouldn’t settle for a nap. She struggled to finish the adorable placemats she was making because the babies always wanted to nurse.  Forget about making extra pies for the older boys’ teachers she was drowning in laundry.  The Holiday Girl was sad and grouchy and confused. “Let us help” said her family. “What can we do?” asked her friends.  “No and Nothing” The Holiday Girl always replied.  She struggled to finish her to do lists and finally Thanksgiving Day came.  The Holiday Girl woke up extra early in anticipation of the extra time she would need for the babies.  By 10:30 she was sweating and no where close to on schedule.  Guests would be arriving and she had no appetizers and was still dressed in her pajamas. This wouldn’t do.  This wasn’t the way The Holiday Girl hosted events. Somehow Thanksgiving dinner got made but The Holiday Girl didn’t enjoy cooking it.  She was angry to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else was enjoying the day.  Somehow she set the table, but The Holiday Girl was so frazzled that she forgot to use the placemats she had fretted over getting done.  The dishes were washed and dessert was served, but neither task was done with the usual care and love The Holiday Girl normally completed them with.  All she could think about was how much work everything was and how tired she felt.  At the end of the day when the house was asleep The Holiday Girl replayed the day in her mind. She realized she hadn’t taken one single picture.  She hadn’t noticed how the babies reacted to the house full of people.  She hadn’t watched the cousins play together or the grandparents enjoy the new twins.  She’d missed everything.  She’d missed her babies’ first Thanksgiving.  The Holiday Girl realized right then that Christmas would have to be different.  And so it was.

I have a confession to make.  I’m The Holiday Girl and I missed my twins first Thanksgiving because I wouldn’t ask for help.  Looking back I realize that the only time I interacted with the babies that day was when they wanted to nurse.  As soon as they were done I passed them to the nearest adult and scurried back to the kitchen.  I still cringe when I think about that.

If you are a MoM with new multiples don’t worry! I’ve come up with 4 questions you can ask yourself to ensure you don’t become The Holiday Girl:

  1. Who can I ask for help? Be creative. Do you know someone with a tween that would like to earn some extra money by wrapping your gifts? Know anyone with teen boys that could pick up a Christmas Tree for you, hang lights, get your holiday décor down from the attic?  What about a teenager or young adult who could fight the Thanksgiving crowds and do your grocery shopping for you? Use Facebook as your job board.  Post what tasks you’d like help with and see who’s interested.  You’ll be surprised who answers.
  2. What can I give up now and start again later?  If you usually host Thanksgiving would someone else mind doing it this year? Advent calendars are adorable and fun, but can be a lot of work to set up.  Do you really need to use every box of decorations or could just putting up a tree work for this year? It’s hard not to be emotional when it comes to holiday traditions. It can feel like you’re losing an old friend. Try to remember that the babies will be older next year and you can add back what you missed.
  3. What shortcuts can I take? Grandma’s sugar cookie recipe is amazing but it’s messy and time consuming.  What about Easy Bake cookies this year? Could you order your side dishes from a deli or restaurant? Instead of Christmas Cards with envelopes try postcards – no stuffing  When you have infant multiples time is a luxury. Don’t waste it on things that aren’t really important to you.
  4. Do I have realistic expectations?  How much traveling can you reasonably do this year? How many guests can you accommodate? Having more than one infant makes everything more complicated. Be kind to yourselves and commit to doing less than what you feel capable of.  When you’re tired and anxious about getting your to do list finished you will be glad you didn’t sign up for more.

The holidays are such a magical time when you have a house full of babies! Keeping things simple and asking for help will make sure that you won’t miss a moment. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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How Much Should We Tell Children?

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The recent events in Paris are unthinkable. The unlivable circumstances in Syria defy reason. The devastation in Beirut is horrific. There is so much ugliness in the world.

I don’t believe in shielding my daughters completely from what goes on outside our immediate sphere, but I also think that it’s my job to mediate this knowledge and protect children’s right to feel safe.

All we parents are back in the quandary of talking to children about terrorism. There’s no one right way to approach it. I had the radio on for a little while driving, but the children were too absorbed in their books to notice what was being said. If it were a different week, I might have chosen to mention the Paris tragedy to my girls, but they’re already dealing with a challenging time within the extended family.

Tomorrow, my 9-year-olds will be back at school. All I can do is prepare myself for any questions they ask and reassure them that they are safe, that our little suburb is too unimportant to be a target, and that Daddy and his soldier friends are out there keeping us safe.

Much as I hate the apathy of the Western world toward tragedy occurring outside our borders, right now the mother in me is grateful. That very apathy is keeping my daughters from feeling that grief, anger, and fear that the Paris attacks have brought me.

Update – Monday, Nov 16

This morning, one of my girls asked me about the Paris attacks. “Mommy, there were bad guy shooters in Paris?” I told her that there were. Her sister had been entirely unaware and wanted details. I just told her that some bad guys decided that shooting a bunch of people would be a good idea, like on 9/11.

Then my first daughter asked whether it wouldn’t make sense if the news people only broadcast kid-friendly stories during the time that most children were being driven to school. I told her that it was parents’ responsibility to determine what’s appropriate for their children, not journalists’. There are plenty of stories that I choose not to let them hear, but I strike a balance between letting them know that people in the world are generally good, but that there are people who make really bad decisions. Unless we have some awareness of the suffering of others, we wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate what we have.

“That’s good, Mommy,” she told me. “That’s a good balance.”

Once again, my children clarified for me parenting decisions that I was over-thinking. Whatever I may be teaching my children, they teach me so much more.

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Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Primo Bathtub

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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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Twinfant Tuesday: Birth Stories

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From the moment we saw and heard two heartbeats, I knew that life was going to change in a huge way. Immediately my thoughts went to pregnancy complications. Would both babies be healthy? Would I carry them to term? I was afraid to get too attached to the babies for fear that something would go wrong. My husband, on the other hand, blurted during the ultrasound that we were going to need a minivan. But I knew from my reading (I’ve always had a fascination with twins) and friends’ twins that prematurity and congenital defects were risks with twin pregnancies.

At every appointment I was cautiously optimistic. When they became more “real,” I began to hope for a set of b/g twins (we knew they were fraternal). I thought that the best since same-gender twins would have to live with constant comparisons to each other. Lo and behold, at 20 weeks that is exactly what we found out. To this day I still don’t know how I got so lucky as to call the gender of every one of my births.

With my doctor’s approval, I stopped working at 28 weeks, then appointments at 32, 34, 35, 36, 37 weeks, and all seemed to be going well. Of course at this point I was huge and not so very mobile, but I’ve always loved being pregnant (don’t hate me!), and knowing my babies were thriving gave me joy every moment of every day.

Finally my csection was scheduled for 38 weeks at 7am the Monday after Thanksgiving. So Sunday night we were getting ready: hospital bag, BigSis stuff, shipping her off to my mom’s. Then we went to bed, but I never fully slept. I ended up getting up around midnight feeling lousy (which were contractions, but I didn’t know it then because with BigSis my water broke and I had an epidural right when I got to the hospital– but, that’s another story). After fighting the feeling for another couple of hours thinking it would go away, I told my groggy husband we should probably head to the hospital early. We got there at 3am, two hours before my scheduled check-in time.

Turns out I was 4.5cm dilated already. Everyone was pretty surprised I had gone into labor on my own just hours before I was scheduled for surgery (coincidentally this is almost exactly what happened with BigSis as well). So the babies arrived two hours before they were scheduled, at 4:58 and 4:59am. They had been transverse, which probably contributed to my mostly-comfortable pregnancy. I clearly remember the gushing of amniotic fluid (twice!) when the doctor went in and opened up their sacs to get them out. I also remember meeting my little babies one after the other, thinking they looked huge. It was no wonder though, they were the size of full-term single birth babies: 6 lbs. 5oz. and 6 lbs. 10 oz. And they were perfect.

I knew then, and even more so looking back, that we were so so very blessed that the babies were full-term and healthy. I am extremely grateful. Now that we have gotten the dreaded minivan and pricey bigger house, and on trying days when they have tantrums back-to-back, I should remember this more :)

lunchldyd is mom to almost-3yo b/g twins and their 5.5yo sister. Between working mornings, kindergarten, preschool, kids’ activities, remodeling/moving into a new house, and daily tantrums, she is… not complaining.

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MomCom 2015

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On the off chance that any HDYDI readers will be attending MomCom in Austin tomorrow, I’d like to invite you all to come and say hello. I’ll be helping out at registration and would love to meet you!

Here’s what I look like… when I’ve had time to brush my hair, put in contact lenses, and have the cash to hire a professional photographer.

Sadia

Ha! Far more often, I look this this: wearing my daughters’ artwork and surrounded by books and laundry. You might need to look down. I’m very short.

Meet Sadia of How Do You Do It?

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Twin Toddlers: Wishful Thinking

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I have recurring daydream.  It’s not reminiscent of fifty shades of whatever or spending the day at the spa alone.  It’s not having a chef and personal trainer.  It’s not being given the vacation of a lifetime or a shopping spree for a whole new wardrobe.  In my dream I’m gifted a service dog.  Yep, you read that right.  I want a twin wrangling, sanity saving, furry friend. I long for a gorgeous, well trained German Shepard named Gretchen.  I know I could hire a mother’s helper, but wouldn’t it would be so much simpler to just yell “Go, Gretchen!”?  Gretchen and I would be a team. We would work together to conquer this mess of toddlerness named Laurel and Rhodes.

There is nothing I hate more than the in and out routine associated with car seats.  It’s even more painful when there are two car seats to unfasten and refasten.  And let’s not even talk about how frustrating it is when the errand I’m running is quicker than it takes me to get both toddlers out of their car seats and buckled into their stroller (which is made so much harder because they insist on flopping around like catfish out of water).  If I had Gretchen she could stand guard over the twins while I ran my quick errand, or better yet, SHE could run my errand for me.  Gretchen could fetch my preschooler from his class and bring him to the car, she could mail the package, she could buy diapers.  Ok, maybe not buy diapers, but you get the drift.

Rhodes and Laurel are notorious for wandering away.  They don’t do this in the traditional toddler fashion where you see your child getting a little too far away and you can call to them.  My duo has mastered what I call the Ninja Stealth Wander.  I’ll give you an example that happened today.  I was checking out at the dentist office and the twins were literally standing on my feet.  Like right on my feet.  Hurting my toes.  I passed my debit card across the counter, looked down, and they were gone.  Poof! It hadn’t been more than 45 seconds since I’d seen them.  Right as I start to get alarmed a technician turns the corner with the twins.  She’d found them trying to get a drink from the water fountain.  Gretchen would have never allowed that to happen.  She would instinctively grab any toddler that wanders further than arm’s length away from me.  She would also know to grab any twin walking into a mud puddle, or accepting a blue snow cone.

How many times have you gotten situated to change a diaper or start the nap time routine only to find you’re missing one crucial item?  You know if you get up it means both toddlers will also get up and then you’ll have to play Catch the Twin all over again.  My ever helpful Gretchen would be able to bring me the blankey or the wipes in these situations.  This skill would also prove useful in the evenings when I’m just too exhausted to get the corkscrew or chocolate.

I freely admit that I rely on technology to entertain the masses when I get overwhelmed or have a task I really need to get done.  While this isn’t ideal, there are so many quality apps and videos available I never hardly feel any guilt over it.  Keeping the devices working and charged is a challenge for me.  With five kids in the family chargers get lost and screens get shattered on a semi regular basis.  It’s a frustrating and expensive problem.  In my daydreams Gretchen has the ability sniff out lost chargers and swoop in to catch devices before they hit the floor.

Having a toddler is hard.  Having twin toddlers (or more) is exponentially more difficult.  Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate seem to come with the territory.  While I may not have a Gretchen to relieve some of the stress, indulging in the occasional off the wall daydream and keeping my sense of humor help keep things in perspective.  This time is short. Try to roll with it and be kind to yourself. We are all doing the very best we can.

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Twinfant Tuesday: My Favorite Laundry Tip

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I originally published this on my blog when my girls were two.  It references one of the most useful pieces of “housekeeping” advice I got before the girls were born…an awesome laundry tip that’s saved me a bundle (of socks, anyway!)!

***

I’m a little freaky when it comes to socks…specifically the girls’ socks. In my almost three years of parenting two rambunctious girlies, I’m proud to say I’ve never lost a one!

One of the most useful pieces of random advice I got when I was pregnant was to wash all those itty bitty socks in a lingerie bag. It works like a charm, ensuring the dryer doesn’t “eat” any of those dainty little socks. And it makes sorting and folding laundry a little bit easier, too.

I’m no supermom, but I do seem to have a supernatural sense for finding errant socks. My girls are champion sock-puller-off’ers, especially in the car and in the stroller.

I learned early on that the side pocket in the door of the backseat is a prime spot for dropped socks. That’s always my first place to look when I see exposed piggy toes in the car. Failing that, I strain to look between the car seats. And failing that, I will climb into the backseat (using my amazing pretzel-like contortion skills), until I find the missing sock(s).

I’m usually pretty good at recognizing when the girls are messing with their socks when we’re out and about. I’ll try redirecting their attention / reminding them that big girls wear socks and shoes / threatening to never let them out of the stroller (as you can’t walk without socks and shoes). If those measures don’t take, they just have to go sock-less…and I have to ignore the looks of disapproval from some fellow shoppers.

There was only one time when I didn’t catch the action as it happened. We were at Target, and I noticed we were only sporting three socks as I neared the checkout. Forget that it was close to nap time. I retraced every step until I spotted that tiny little sock amid the kitchen wares.

My crowning glory happened a few days ago. A year ago (I think), I found a hole in one of the girls’ socks. I threw it away and saved the widowed one in their sock bin. Last week, as I was pulling on B’s socks, a hole ripped in the toe of one. My mind immediately raced to the lone sock I had been saving. Following the next load of laundry, I reunited one sock with the other…oh, the satisfaction!

[And I know you’re wondering…the girls’ socks are nothing extra special. Save a couple of cutesy striped pairs, they’re otherwise from Walmart and Target. And while the girls’ feet have grown over the past couple of years, we still seem to be wearing the same socks. And no, I’m not that cheap, but I can be that stubborn!]

MandyE is mom to 6 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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