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: Easing Fears at the Pediatrician

The holiday just before my girls were three, they got a toy doctor kit.  Immediately, it was a huge hit.  They checked out all their babies, and each of their stuffed animals took a visit to the vet clinic.

Dr kitWith their three-year check-up soon approaching, I decided to get in on the pretend action, admittedly with a bit of an agenda.

I made a big deal, talking about each of the different instruments, what they were used for…and how they were just like the ones Dr. F, our pediatrician, uses.  We took turns being the doctor, the nurse, and the patient, and I made a point to work into the scenario that someone was scared.

“I understand you feel scared, Mr. Bear, but you know Dr. A.  She’s been taking excellent care of you since you were a tiny cub.  First, she’s going to listen to your heart.  What a cool stethoscope!  Ooh…is it cold?  Does it tickle?  I know it does hurt.”

“Now she’s going to take a little peek in your ears.  It’s OK…there’s no need to be scared!  She’s just checking to make sure you didn’t lose any bananas in there.”

“This little band measures your blood pressure, how fast your blood is dancing around inside your body.  Is your arm ready for a hug???”

The girls got very accustomed to the routine, and soon they were repeating it to all their babies.  They were very encouraging, even to the most scared bear cub.

The real key (advice I got from a friend) was the positioning of the shot.  There’s truly nothing to be afraid of as far as the exam goes, right?  But shots hurt…no way around it.  And that’s the approach I took with the girls.

Mr. Bear, it’s time for a shot.  It will hurt, but ONLY for a second!  Then you’ll be ALL DONE and then we’ll go do something fun / get a sticker / have an ice cream [insert reward of choice]!”

My girls are now almost six, and they haven’t cried at the pediatrician — even for shots — since before they were three.  Empowering them with information and perspective has made visits to the pediatrician nothing to sweat.

(And, as a side note, my girls still play with their doctor kit almost daily.  “Vet” is a huge theme at our house.  That’s what both girlies say they want to be when they grow up, and they make sure to get lots of practice.)

MandyE is mom to 5 1/2-year old twin girls, A and B.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Make-It Monday: Thank-You “Notes” for Pre-Writers

We recently went to Chicago to see the sights, and also to visit some friends and family we haven’t seen in far too long.  When we got home, I wanted to have the girls make some type of thank-you gestures for those we saw.  I think it’s a great way to help them remember what we did, with whom…and I knew our friends and family would love seeing the girls’ handiwork.

I asked the girls what they most enjoyed about seeing Aunt and Uncle K.  They unanimously named Aunt K’s corn on the cob (she fixed it twice for them, seeing how much they loved it), and playing soccer with Uncle K.

I came up with a couple of fun crafts for them to make…

Craft1For our ear of corn, I gave the girls yellow paint and showed them how to dab it onto a long oval shape I drew.  [This was the first time we'd used Q-tips with paint...it was great!  We'll be coming up with more "dabbings" soon!]

When the paint was dry, the girls added green hand prints for the leaves.  (I didn’t take pictures of this part of the craft…even at age 5 1/2, I stay pretty close by when we start getting our hands covered in paint!)

For the soccer ball, I let the girls trace small hexagons (we have these awesome stencils). They cut out the shapes and glued them onto a piece of card stock.  Craft2 Then they traced a larger circle and cut it out.  Viola!  I am seriously in love with the way this turned out.

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Here are the finished products…

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The girls wrote little messages and signed their names.  I’m going to print a couple of pictures of A&B with Aunt and Uncle K to accompany the crafts.  I know they’ll be tickled to get this little surprise in the mail…and I love that my girls are still talking about Aunt K’s corn, and what soccer tricks they want to show Uncle K the next time we see him.

Do you have any tricks for making thank-you notes with pre-writers?

MandyE is mom to 5 1/2-year old twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

An Exersaucer Just for Twins? Yes, Please!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably walked through the baby section of the store or seen a handy baby gadget at a friend’s house, and thought, “I wish they made that for multiples. It would just need a [insert brilliant recommendation here].”

And if you’re anything like me, you probably moved right on with your day.

Allow me to introduce you to Karan. She had an idea for a twin improvement, and has actually done something about it!

Meet Karan, twin mom and inventor of the Twin Funsaucer.

Karan, twin mom and inventor of the Twin Funsaucer.

Karan’s a MoM, just like us. Her mono/mono identical boys, Nolan and Gabriel, turned a year old in May. Karan saw how much her little guys enjoyed their one exersaucer and bought a second one, but wished she could have just one that they could share and interact in.

Identical twin brothers.Karan drew up an idea for a two-baby interactive exersaucer. A Twin Funsaucer, if you will. There’s a spot for one baby in the center, and the other baby has a spot around the outside of the exersaucer, like a snuggly wriggly solar system of joy. You can see a diagram at Quirky, where inventors can submit their ideas, and the best ideas can get turned into reality.

If you want to help get the Twin Funsaucer to market, or just help another MoM out, please visit Karan’s invention on Quirky and give it a nice big thumbs up. You do need to register to vote, but you can connect your Facebook account or create a Quirky-only account with your email address. I did the latter, and it took less than a minute to sign up and vote. I imagine that Facebook is even faster.

I asked Karan how inspiration struck, and here’s what she had to say:

The inspiration for my idea was essentially that our boys always want to play with the same toy at the same time, but with exersaucers and jumperoos, it wasn’t possible.

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[Gabriel and Nolan] like interacting, but there also needed to be enough space between them that they couldn’t grab or hit one another. We have exersaucers, and this other Bright Starts toy that has an activity table with a seat attached that allows freedom of movement around the table – like a walker.

I thought, if you could combine those things, then two children could play at once. Then I thought, why couldn’t you sell an another seat for triplets? And for that matter, possibly even create a way to turn the seats into walkers when they are not attached?

I am an ideas person, but I never had something I felt so filled a niche. My mother-in-law helped me come up with a couple of possible design concepts and that was that!

More About Karan

karan umbilical knotAbout her sons, Karan says, “They are so smart and funny. We feel incredibly blessed that they have done so well – especially when their umbilical cords were so knotted.” Karan had to return to work only a week after the boys came home from the NICU. Her husband had been laid off from his bank manager job and stayed with them for nearly 8 months. Now that he’s back at work, they consider themselves very lucky to have found a daycare they trust with their sweet boys.

Karan and her husband met later in life. His 11-year-old daughter lives with them during the school year. You can see what a great big sister she is, and how she is adored in the photo below!

Big sister with twin brothers!Karan started trying to conceive at age 38 and lost a pregnancy. She and her husband tried again a few months later and Gabriel and Nolan joined the family. Karan is a sonographer by day, so she discovered that she was expecting monoamniotic twins on her own! She went into inpatient care at 24 weeks at the University of CT Health Center and delivered via scheduled C-section at 32 weeks. The boys were 4 lbs 1 oz each and spent 40 and 42 days in the NICU/step down unit respectively.

Karan, expecting twin boys!Karan loves everything about motherhood much more than she thought she would. The biggest challenge she faces being a twin mom is not being able to help them both at the same time. The boys are still too little to understand that she only has two arms and doesn’t have the power to make all their hurts go away.

Look at that proud Daddy!

Karan confesses that having twinfants is also stressful on a couple. She calls her husband a patient, forgiving person, admitting that she can be hotheaded. I think a lot of us can relate to that!

You can reach Karen by email… and don’t forget to give her Twin Funsaucer your vote of confidence!

What’s your brilliant idea, just waiting to be produced?

Talk to Your Children About What You Read

I’ve been reading The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. I really should be reading the version for dealing with children, since I’m single with no intention of changing that. However, it doesn’t take much to see how the simple premise of the book relates to parenting and sibling relationships.

As you have probably gleaned from others discussing this book, the message boils down to this: people usually give and receive affection in one or two of five ways, or “love languages”. Identify your loved one’s primary love languages, seeking to display your love (and accept theirs) in a way that brings them joy, and they will be able to recognize your affection.

The five love languages are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Me? I tend to show love and appreciation through quality time and words of affirmation. I am most touched by acts of service and words of affirmation.

My daughter J, my snuggle bunny, needs physical touch and quality time.

M is glutton for words of affirmation and physical touch. Until her dad I divorced, her secondary love language was actually receiving gifts or treats..

The basics of applying the 5 love languages to parenting. Recognize what your child needs to feel loved and validated.

I’d heard about this idea before, but it really rang true for me. As I was chatting with my daughters after school, getting that quality time in, I told them about what I’d been reading. J, in particular, was fascinated. We went to the book series website so that they could examine the list of love languages at their leisure.

“That makes sense!” she told me. “I need snuggles more than M. And she is always talking! What’s your love language?”

I told her that spending time with her and M was what really filled my heart, and hearing “I love you” made it overflow. So, quality time and words of affirmation were mine.

Next, she wanted to know what her teacher’s was. I told her I wasn’t sure, but that her teacher and I had a lot of other character traits in common, so we might have love languages in common too. I knew that she volunteered at the local food pantry and was always going the extra mile to help us out, so I suspected acts of service were up there for her.

The conversation eventually wound down to a logical end, and I didn’t think too much more about it.

The next day, J and M’s teacher texted me a photo of a letter she had found on her desk.

A 7-year-old wrote this to her teacher after learning about the 5 love languages. From hdydi.com

J had taken away from our discussion the idea of words of affirmation and put it into practice. Instead of just hugging her teacher or trying to perform her best on schoolwork to show her appreciation, she put it into words.

I was reminded of the bigger lesson. In order to build their literacy, it’s critical to talk to your children about what you read. It’s amazing what they can understand. By letting them know that you are a reader, you’re showing them that reading is a pleasure, not simply something one does because an adult orders them to do so. By discussing what you’ve taken away from your book, you demonstrate basic critical thinking skills, how to identify key points, and self-reflection. It’s also helpful, once they’re reading silently, to develop the habit of discussing what each of you has read to confirm that each child’s reading comprehension is keeping up with their reading fluency.

I may have taken this a little far. I used to hold extended monologues on literature with the girls when they were infants. There wasn’t much I could do while breastfeeding besides reading. They were my very passive and rather greedy book club.

Encourage your kids to read, but let them see you read too. Show them how you think critically, and they will copy you.

Do you and your children discuss what you (and they) read?

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

Review: “The Birthday Triplets: Granny Rosie’s Amazing Magical Day”

I don’t have a hard count, but I’d guess we have upwards of 500 children’s books at our house.  I have the majority of books from my childhood, and I cannot resist buying books for the girls.  When I think about our vast library, though, there are only a handful of stories that relate in any way to multiples.

TheBirthdayTriplets Book CoversmallWhen the author of “The Birthday Triplets: Granny Rosie’s Amazing Magical Day” contacted us at How Do You Do It?, I jumped at the opportunity to review the book.

The Birthday Triplets are Candi, Cookie, and Coco, three vivacious little girls who abound with love and joy.  Set amid lively, colorful artwork, and fun, rhyming text, I knew my twin girls would be mesmerized with the story.

The story opens with a very lovely, but sad Granny Rosie.  Granny Rosie specializes in stirring up adventures in her whimsical adventure factory, but she laments that she hasn’t been able to cook up an adventure to keep her from being alone on her birthday.

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I love how the text is part of the picture, too!

At last Granny Rosie happens upon a forgotten adventure recipe, one that invites her to her own birthday party!  Granny Rosie begins to measure and stir…until…she is surprised at a huge BLAST!  She thinks she’s made a mistake, until she hears giggles.  She’s swept away from her factory by three giant balloons, who soon reveal themselves to be The Birthday Triplets!

Candi, Cookie, and Coco arrive just in the nick of time to help Granny Rosie celebrate her birthday!  After much joyous dancing and singing, The Birthday Triplets hatch a plan to help Granny Rosie bring birthday adventures to anyone feeling sad or blue.

The girls head home – in a magical cloud, no less! – to Granny Rosie’s cottage.  Granny Rosie tucks them into their beds, with visions of new adventures dancing gleefully in their heads.Triplets_inbed

The story itself is incredibly sweet and fun, underscored by the qualities of kindness, empathy, bravery, and being your best self.  The artwork is truly magnificent.  I can’t help but be reminded of what the most beautiful candy shop must look like in the eyes of a child, the perfect embodiment of her vivid imagination.

And as a twin mom, my favorite part of the book is when Cookie finds herself afraid at flying home in Granny Rosie’s magical cloud.  She is immediately comforted by her sis Candi’s hug and wise words:

But we’re always together – we’re there for each other forever and ever.  Cookie, try to be brave.  You’ll see it’s alright.  Hold onto my hand as we fly through the night.”

Sweetness.

2014 birthdaytimesv13“The Birthday Triplets: Granny Rosie’s Amazing Magical Day” is the first in what will be a series of birthday adventures starring Candi, Cookie, and Coco.  The next book is scheduled to release this fall.  In the meantime, kids of all ages can connect with The Birthday Triplets via their Facebook page.  (Be sure to sign up to receive cards from The Triplets on your kiddos’ birthdays!)  And through The Birthday Triplets’ website, kids can also sign up for the The Birthday Triplets Times newspaper.

The hardcover book is available through The Birthday Triplets website, and the softcover is also available through Amazon.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have written this review, and to have added another book with a multiples theme to our library.   In exchange for writing this review, I received a copy of The Birthday Triplets book.  Well, and I got to engage in a fun email conversation with the author, Kelly Tooman.  [I think it's so cool that she and her mom, Lynn Tooman-Cser, work as a mother-daughter writer-illustrator team.  And that, of course, got me thinking about how amazing it would be to team up with my dynamic duo one day...but I digress.  :)  ]  The views expressed here are my own.

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

The Problem with Great Readers Is that We Run Out of Books

“Mom!” said my 7-year-old, M, when I arrived from work to pick up my kids from daycare, “I checked out three chapter books from the library three hours ago and now I’ve read them all. I have nothing to read!

I checked her backpack to see whether she’d picked out particularly short or easy books, but she had a 90-odd page Bailey School Kids book, a decent length presidential biography and a Katie Kazoo book in there. I asked her to tell me about the books and she regaled me at length with not-quite-summaries of what she’d consumed.

I know. This is a pretty great problem to have. My kids love to read. They’re fast. The challenge it poses, though, is a very real one.

Given a choice, this is the problem to have. Still, finding enough reading material to satiate voracious readers is a real challenge.

This is J. She was the one who happened to have a book in her hands when it occurred to me to take a photo for this post. M was brushing her teeth.

I do what I can to keep my kids supplied with reading materials.

  1. We take regular trips to the public library. Each child is allowed to pick out 7 books. Any more than that, and they lose track of where they are. I reserve a cube of the Ikea Expedit shelves in our living room for library books to keep them in one place.
  2. I haunt bookstores. We visit Half Price Books frequently and keep an eye on their clearance racks both for our home library and their classroom book collection. I invest in books that my girls will want to read again and again.
  3. Their school library is relatively well-stocked, although my daughter J took advantage of a persuasive letter writing assignment at school to ask her principal to invest in harder books.
  4. I donate outgrown books to the girls’ classroom teacher, in part so that she can also snap up more advanced books for her collection when she’s adding to it.
  5. I do a lot of book shopping online. Ebay sometimes pops up pretty fantastic lots of books. I can always donate any duplicates that we have. My girls have tablets, but they just prefer the feel of paper books to reading ebooks on their devices. I limit my Amazon.com shopping to books on specific subjects that I want but can’t find at the library, like foster care or divorce.
  6. Our loved ones know what readers J and M are. They are wonderful about giving them gifts of books.
  7. Paperbackswap.com is a great place to trade in old books for new for just the cost of media mail.

Anyone else have this problem? Any solutions I’ve missed?

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

Make it Monday – A Birthday Tribute to Dr. Seuss

Happy Birthday Dr Seuss Make-it-Monday hdydi.com

Did you know that March 2 is the Birthday of Dr. Seuss? Marking what would have been his 110th birthday, today schools, libraries and other organizations participate in Read Across America, an initiative to get more kids reading and to honor Dr. Seuss. His books were my favorites when I was a kid, and we have a large selection of them in regular rotation here. Plus, any parent of twins has to have an appreciation for Thing 1 and Thing 2, which I firmly believe had to be modeled on twin toddlers!

Happy Read Across America Day in honor of Dr Seuss! #neareads #sewingforboys #drseuss

Today I am happy to share a little project I did for my kids which is a great tribute to the beloved Dr. Seuss for his birthday today. To be completely honest, when I started the project it was not timed in conjunction with the Dr. Seuss celebration or the Read Across America initiative at all. I made them because these are favorite books of my kids, and when I found this fabric I knew I wanted to do something fun for them. See, in addition to being a stay at home mom to my 4-year-old twin boys, I also have a small business making custom kids clothing. My kids see tons of cute shirts and outfits on my sewing table and most often it is not for them. So when they saw this fabric, they were elated! My son Justin chose The Lorax, which has been a favorite book and movie for years and Joshua picked Green Eggs and Ham which has become a recent favorite bedtime story.

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(Kindly disregard the chaos of my sewing room and look at that smile when he saw his fabric!)

My boys love their new shirts, and I love seeing their love of books.

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So now, the nitty gritty of the shirts. They are made from The Scientific Seamstress Bowling Shirt, which is a PDF pattern you can purchase from Etsy and a few other places. This was one of my first patterns when I started making kids clothing, and I have made these bowling shirts in a few dozen versions. It’s so fun and versatile. Plus, the Scientific Seamstress patterns are like a mini sewing lesson and a pattern in one. I hadn’t sewn a garment since the 7th grade HomeEc class when I made my first set of Bowling shirts for my duo, and they turned out great! There aren’t a lot of great patterns for boys, this is my main go-to pattern for boys. It has so many options for stripes and piecing, and you can be as creative as you want with fabrics. For these I decided to vary the standard piecing options (which are normally vertical or horizontal stripes) and just did the top horizontal stripe to make more of a yoke. (Which of course I cracked myself up making a yoke on a shirt with eggs. Get it? Yoke/Yolk? Cracked myself up! hahaha! Anyway…)

The shirt is lined, and therefore doesn’t have a lot of hemming or zigzagging and doesn’t require a serger to finish seams, but still has a nice, finished look. And since this is a Moms of Multiples blog, I will add that I almost always make two (or more) at a time. I made my boys several for our Disney trips, and have made a few as gifts and, like these, with no occasion at all.

I find it easiest to do all of one step on both shirts before moving to the next step. Cut out all the pieces first, then assemble. I keep the pieces of each separated in ziploc bags. Each shirt takes about 1 yard of fabric in the 3/4 or 5/6 size, depending on how you cut and whether the fabric is directional. If you intend to use directional fabric and vertical stripes, I would suggest a yard and a quarter. I have generally bought 1-1.25 yards of each of two fabrics and made two shirts from it.

I have made it with and without stripes, all one fabric and several, plus added appliqués and without. These I did add appliqués, and yes I have a fancy embroidery machine. But the Green Eggs and Ham one was not done with the embroidery machine, I did it the old-fashioned way, cutting out four eggs from scrap fabric, ironing on Heat-n-bond and tight zigzagging around it. Well, maybe not that old-fashioned, I guess.

I cannot speak highly enough of the Scientific Seamstress patterns for beginners or seasoned sewists. I have most of her patterns, and each one is easy to follow and has tons of options to customize size and style to your liking. If you’re new to sewing or just want to get something cute made for your own kiddos, you can’t go wrong with any of these patterns.

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In the Spirit of Full Disclosure, the Links to the Books on Amazon are Affiliate Links. If you click and chose to add these titles to your own personal library I will get a few cents. (Thanks!) I did not receive any compensation for the review of the pattern from the Scientific Seamstress. I bought and love the pattern. I do also sell handmade items on Etsy and through my own Facebook page and take custom orders, though this was not intended to be a shill for that business.

Jen is the stay-at-home mom of newly minted 4 year old boys who all survived the terrible threes. They live in the arctic wasteland formerly known as Chicagoland, where they have been cooped up inside for the worst winter in half a century, left with plenty of time to reflect and reminisce. Her family blog Go Team Wood is oft-neglected and now functions mostly as a repository for Instagram pics and occasional updates that are far and few between. You can find out more about her handmade kids clothes biz at Just-Joshin.com

We Love Each Other, But… – A Book Review

Review of We Love Each Other, But from hdydi.comI’m divorced.

It’s a little awkward to be recommending a marriage advice book when my own marriage failed. Clearly, I’m no example of how to make a marriage successful, so perhaps my endorsement itself makes you swear to never look to this book. I hope not, though. We Love Each Other But… Simple secrets to strengthen your relationship and make love last is an easy-to-read book chock full of practical and effective ideas for making your partnership the strongest it can be, despite the challenges that life brings.

I feel like I’m the exception the proves the rule when it comes to the effectiveness of the approaches discussed in We Love Each Other But… I believe that implementing some of Wachtel’s advice gave my marriage an additional two years we wouldn’t have otherwise had. Over those two years, I saw my husband abandon the positive practices described in the book, one by one. I suppose his desire to leave the marriage was making itself apparent, but I didn’t see it until he said those words. “I want a divorce.”

but

What’s in We Love Each Other But…

When I read the book, I was embarrassed to look at the chapter headings and realize how typical I was, having allowed my marriage to grow weeds through neglect:

  • We Love Each Other But … Every Decision is a Tug-of-War
  • We Love Each Other But … We Get into Really Bad Arguments
  • We Love Each Other But … We Don’t Have Much of a Sex Life
  • We Love Each Other But … But I Have a Hard Time Dealing with my Partner’s Emotional Hang-ups
  • We Used to Love Each Other But … Now I’m Not So Sure
  • We Love Each Other But … Life with Children Isn’t Easy
  • We Love Each Other But … Is This It?

Wachtel’s advice is straightforward. Her writing is very readable. My ex, who is NOT a self-help seeker, read the book from cover to cover and recommended it to anyone who would listen. We read it together, each with our own copy, while he was deployed in Iraq. We wrote to each other with our thoughts and reactions.

The author mixes advice with case studies of real couples.

An example of her advice is the author’s recommendation of turning potentially explosive arguments into productive discussions by walking away from the conversation when either partner gets emotional or defensive, returning to it after 10 minutes or an hour. Agree to accept it when someone calls a time out. Equally important, don’t forget the point of contention when tempers cool; find a mutually agreeable solution after the emotional component has been removed. When my ex and I were practicing this take-a-break-then-deal approach, we pretty much eliminated unproductive disagreement. After having found a space in which to think, not feel, about the conflict, it often seemed less important to have our own way. In many cases, a creative compromise became apparent.

A Criticism

Wachtel’s claims that her practices can be used effectively even if only partner chooses to use them. I disagree. When my husband and I agreed to discuss points of conflict after we’d overcome any initial emotional reaction, communication was stellar. We had fun together, looked forward to our time together, felt loved. When he abandoned that practice, things fell apart.

In the most extreme instance, we were in disagreement over something. I don’t recall the topic of contention. I determined that the escalation of emotion was unproductive and decided to take a shower to take a break from the conversation. My husband waited a few minutes, but then couldn’t wait to address the issue any longer. He came into the bathroom, shouting. Let me tell you, cornering a rape survivor naked in the shower is a great way to trigger a paralyzing flashback.

That whole rape issue was addressed very well in the chapter in emotional hangups.

Applied to Parenting

There are a couple of ways that the content of this book speaks to parenting. First and most obviously, there’s a chapter devoted to making room for your marriage in light of the demands of raising children. Secondly, I think that it’s worth noting that there are a number of parallels between sibling relationships and marriage, especially if you have particularly close multiples.

We Love Each Other But… Life with Children Isn’t Easy

Wachtel starts this chapter by confronting the guilt that we parents feel for any feeling of frustration or resentment of the changes and challenges that our children bring. She reminds us that our children need their parents to project feeling fulfilled as much as they need our time and attention. It’s okay and important to spend time and energy on your partner and marriage. After all, as my ex used to say, ours was the relationship that would still be there after the kids had moved onto their adult lives. (Oh, the irony.)

The author’s tips from this chapter are:

  1. Develop a ritual for you and your spouse to spend fifteen to twenty minutes alone together every day.
  2. Go out together.
  3. Have romantic “dates” at home.
  4. Break the rules.
  5. Steal a sexy moment.

She also addresses the anxiety we often feel about leaving our children in a babysitter’s care, resolving conflict over the division of child-care responsibilities, the stress of kids’ bedtime in particular and family time in general and other common concerns.

Relationship Advice that Applies to Siblings

You may have seen me write about the parallels between marriage and the twin relationship. I think that a lot of the same conflict resolution techniques work in both types of relationships.

Three of We Love Each Other But…’s basic truths about lasting love apply to siblings:

  1. We love those who make us feel good about ourselves.
  2. Most of us know what will warm our partner’s heart.
  3. Criticism erodes love.

I encourage my daughters to communicate the positive things they see in both each other and their friends. It’s so important, I think, to communicate those things. Both my girls make daily gestures to bring joy to Sissy’s heart. For instance, M spent half her saved up allowance to buy her sister a stuffed toy she fell in love with at the store as a Valentine’s Day gift. We don’t do gifts in Valentine’s Day. She has no expectation of anything in return beyond the joy in her sister’s heart.

We talk often about choosing what points of criticism to raise with Sister. M struggles more with this that J. J is very protective of M’s feelings, but M is more likely to be on a mission to help everyone find their best selves, which can include some brutal critiques. We’re working on it.

The fourth truth Wachtel identifies, “There is no such thing as unshakable, immutable, affair-resistant love,” is only partly true of siblings. The “affair” part isn’t really relevant, although I do recommend talking with your multiples about sharing their sibling’s affection with friends and other family members. Fortunately, my kids see no conflict between loving their friends and each other. However, my daughter M did once find herself calling a friend to task when this friend asked her to choose between J and the friend. Sibling love is as strong as it comes, but it cannot be taken for granted. I think often on a coworker of my ex-husband’s who hasn’t spoken to her identical twin in years because she felt that her sister was unable to accept her as she was.

For most of us, our multiples will have each other long after we are gone. We must teach them how to nurture their relationship for a lifetime. This book’s techniques can really help.

Great Wedding Gift

I give copies of this book as wedding gifts. Love isn’t what makes a marriage work. Love is why you do the work that makes a marriage work, and We Love Each Other But… helps make that work more manageable.

If you decide to pick up this book or have already read it, stop by and tell me what you thought.

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

Finding Time for Romance When You Have Kids

Marriage. Complicated at best even before you have kids. Add some multiples in the mix, and hey, let’s just say ‘ain’t nobody gettin’ lucky for awhile ’round here’.

LifeHacker.com recently posted an infographic with some interesting statistics on what makes a marriage happy, so this is definitely a hot topic. In fact, they said that the happiest couples are the ones without kids and that satisfaction levels in marriage drop for 67% of married persons.

Ouch.

So, when you have multiples (or kids in general), how do you keep your marriage relationship healthy? How do you find the time for romance? Well, with today being Valentine’s Day, we here at HDYDI figured we’d offer up some advice.

Before we dive into the juicy tips, I want to share a few resources we’ve found that can help in spicing up your marriage (did you see our giveaway today!?!) and having a healthy marriage after kids.

Healthy Marriage Resources

Books

{affiliate links}

Internet Resources

Alright, let’s get to the tips!

Romancing the Marriage…

Ldskatelyn was sick of not going on regular dates with her husband, and tired of asking the question “what should we do?” when the opportunity for a date night did appear, often resulting in the super over-done dinner and a movie date. So, for Christmas 2012 she planned out a year of date nights for her husband – 24 dates, 1 date night in and 1 date night out each month. All he had to do was pick the day! While some of the planned dates didn’t happen on schedule, or were switched with other dates, or included the kids, she ended up having way more date nights than she would’ve had otherwise. She especially found that date night ins were a great thing to have planned, especially since you can’t always afford the time or the cost of getting out, and it sure beat just watching movies or TV shows every night. For a look at what date nights she planned over the course of her year and how you can make your own ‘year of dates’, check out this post.

Not having family close-by, or a budget to hire a sitter very often, MandyE and her husband enjoy date nights “in” to stay connected with each other. For inspiration, they often think back to what they enjoyed together before their girls were born. While they haven’t made it to a college football game in the past five years, one of their favorite “dates” is to set up a tailgating event, complete with all their most-loved appetizers… even if it means watching the big game on tape delay. They find it’s a meaningful way to relax and remind themselves how much they enjoy each other’s company. See more of her date night ideas here.

SarahP understands that some people have a hard time leaving new babies. She says you should take people up on their offers to watch your kids and get out with your spouse (she’s really big on regular dates). Hanging out at home is great too, but actually leaving your home to do something together is also really vital. She encourages parents to change up their dates too. Do you want to be adventurous by exploring food you’ve never had before? What odd-ball Groupons are available? If you always go out to eat, maybe do something like ice skating or bowling. Do things that help you get to know the area you live in better. She’s very adamant that married couples should be spending quality time with their spouses, and it’s made a big difference in her marriage.

DoryDoyle shares an article on her blog about Love and Marriage and Parenting Twins. This is her first year of marriage with babies in tow, and she wanted to reflect on how to keep her marriage strong while raising twins. She shares that the statistics for couples raising multiples isn’t encouraging, and that it’s important to keep an eye on your relationship-meter. She gives 9 great tips on things she and her hubby do to have both a solid marriage (including romance!) and have fun parenting.

Marissa explains that because of her situation (complex medical needs), she and her husband really couldn’t both be gone that first year. So they did the next best thing – had a sitter come over and stay upstairs while they enjoyed take-out and a movie downstairs. No baby monitor to distract them either, because they were still right there in case of a medical need.

One of our newest contributors, MariTherrien says it’s the little things that matter. A quick backrub or playing with her hair the way she likes. Remembering your first date-iversary with a card, getting your partner’s favorite coffee or little treat at the store. Romance doesn’t always have to be movie-like grand gestures. When you do the little things you send the message that s/he matters!

They’re right. Going out on dates with your spouse – finding that time time bond – is pretty important. But, today is Valentine’s Day already, so how are you going to put together something that will show your spouse you’re serious about this romance thing?

Here’s what I did this year (see pic below). I made mine on HeritageMakers.com, but I also designed some free printable coupons where all you have to do is fill in the blanks and give  it to your spouse. It’s a cute idea that will start getting you on the right track towards adding that romance back in.

valentines gift love coupons

More Than Just Romance…

Now, romance is great and all, but let’s face it, there are other things that are also important to keeping a marriage healthy, like communication.

Sadia emphasizes that a marriage takes two, and it’s about more than just romance (although, that certainly helps!). She gives these tips:

  • ALWAYS say “I love you.” And always mean it.
  • Listen to understand, not just to respond.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s efforts, no matter how small.
  • Choose to be in love every single day.
  • Nurture your partner’s values, even if you don’t share them.
  • Don’t try to be everything to your partner. It’s okay for them to have friends to share certain interests with.

RebeccaD has one add-on to Sadia’s list above: figure out how to manage your own stress. Raising twins is STRESSFUL, especially the first year. If you don’t know how to manage it positively (or if you’re in need of new strategies now that time for workouts, spa dates, and sleep is nil), it will come out negatively at the nearest available adult—namely, your spouse.

I agree with them. Ever flown before? In the event of an emergency, you’re supposed to put on your air mask first, then help your children. Why? Because if you pass out while trying to help them, then you’re both doomed. And that’s the thing. The biggest piece of advice we can give you today:

Take care of your marriage first (or at least make it a strong priority), and parenting will fall into place.

When Romance & Marriage Just Aren’t Working…

This couldn’t go without saying, so here’s a side note from us HDYDI moms that have had a marriage end: We realize that not every marriage is a happy one, even if you’ve tried the above suggestions. So, if one spouse decides that they want out and has no interest in making things work, it’s time for both of you to put the children first and minimize the anguish of what is an unavoidably heartbreaking situation. Don’t get vindictive. Don’t get mean. Help your children know that they will never have to choose between their parents. You can’t convince someone to stay in a marriage after their commitment and heart have left it.

How do you keep your marriage strong and your romance alive? Tell us your tips and let’s all have a happier Valentine’s Day!