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.”

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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, particularly 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 felling fulfilled as much as they need our time and attention. It’s okay 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.

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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!

Giveaway: Valentine’s Day Edition

Enter the hdydi.com Parenting Book Giveaway Feb 10-12 2014 for a chance to win '31 Days to Great Sex' and two Life Well Blogged books!

It’s time for our fifth and final giveaway for the week. In honour of Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a package that includes 31 Days to Great Sex, Holly Daze: Underachiever Extraordinaire, and No Laughing Allowed.

Win this package of books Feb 14-16, 2014 on hdydi.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget that we still have two other giveaways underway!

Raising Your Spirited Child – A Book Review

Spirited

There is plenty that I don’t like about Raising Your Spirited Child, a classic of parenting by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. My greatest annoyance with the book is its tone. Much of the content is targeted at the parent who has already labeled his or her child “difficult” — a label the author rejects — has reached the end of their rope, and is looking for some hope that they can survive until their child leaves home. At times, I feel like the author is simply showing parents how to avoid meltdowns, which I don’t believe is much related to the goal of parenting.

Still, much of what Kurcinka says has rung true over the years for my 7-year-old daughters, M and J, as well as a number of their friends. The author’s central point is that some children (and adults) are simply more. They are more intense, persistent, sensitive, distractible or perceptive and less adaptable than the average child.

spiritedKurcinka suggests ways of working with these traits to allow both the child and the parent-child relationship to flourish. One of the biggest realizations for me was that many people, adults and children alike, are not spirited. Since our entire family falls well within the parameters of “spirited”, it hadn’t occur to me before I read the book that other kids didn’t have the same sort of observations, insights, and endurance as my daughters.

Chapter 3 of Kurcinka’s book contains a questionnaire to help identify where on the spectrum of “cool”, “spunky” and “spirited” your child falls. At age 3, M scored deep in the spirited range. J was a point shy of spirited, and measured spunky. Over time, J has waffled between scoring spirited and spunky, whereas M has always, always, always been deep in the spirited zone.

Here are some of the points from Raising Your Spirited Child that were the biggest eye-openers for me as a mother.

Kurcinka spends some time discussing introversion and extraversion. At age 3, M’s explosion of talking and J’s thoughtfulness have made their differences in this area particularly obvious. Spirited children can fall anywhere on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, and I found the author’s discussion of how to work with our different energy sources very helpful. I allow J her quiet time and opportunities to develop a few very deep relationships, while giving M plenty of opportunities for interaction. J certainly enjoys large social gatherings, but she needs the intimacy of close friends and mentors. M enjoys having some friends who “get” her, but she’s energized by hanging out with lots and lots of people.

As LauraC points out, it’s helpful to remember that my daughters experience the world intensely, and that is why their reactions are so intense. I hardly ever give half-answers to their questions. I know that both my daughters are persistent and curious enough that it’s not worth the effort to explain something to them unless I’m going to do it right. In return, they have learned to trust that when I say we’ll discuss something later, I will come back to it in the best way I know how, under more convenient circumstances.

It was worth reading Raising Your Spirited Child to learn about myself, too. Kurcinka provides tips for the spirited parent to reduce the intensity of their interaction with their spirited child. I continue to remind myself to choose my battles. Before I read the book the first time, I’d go toe-to-toe with my daughters about everything. Everything. I have worked long and hard on my patience with the girls and I’m pretty good at redirecting their energy. I’m drawn to children others find difficult. The techniques that make communication with my daughters successful often work wonders on their peers whose intensity may not have been understood in the past.

Sure, the tone of the book irritated me, but the nuggets of wisdom were well worth it. I just wish I’d read it earlier, since the author addresses indicators of a spirited temperament in infants.

A caveat

Do not treat this book as your single guide to parenting. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.

Kurcinka takes an approach in which she advocates adjusting the world around the child to accommodate his or her intensity. While some accommodations are appropriate, going too far down that road runs the risk of raising a child unable to function among people unwilling or unable to adjust to them. For instance, the author praises the parent who bought swiveling chairs to allow her child to wiggle and move at the dining table. That’s fine at home, but this child will need to be able to know when to sit still in a restaurant or school cafeteria.

There’s understanding that your child is intense, and then there’s giving into it. It is the solemn duty of those of us lucky enough to be raising spirited children to arm them with the tools and skills they need to manage and target their intensity.

Do you have a spirited child? Are you a spirited adult? How does the intensity manifest in your day-to-day life?

A previous version of this review was published on Double the Fun.

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.

The Foster Parenting Toolbox – A Book Review

Foster

The The Foster Parenting Toolbox is precisely what it says, a collection of tools for parenting foster children. While the sections of the book are specific to foster situations, there’s a lot of parenting wisdom in this book that applies more generally to raising children.

Over 100 contributors wrote short pieces to contribute to this bulky tome of 446 pages. The style and tone of the pieces vary, from the first hand account from an experienced foster mother about her first foster experience to data-based treatises from academics and case studies from social workers.

A mother of twins reviews The Foster Parenting ToolboxThe book is divided into themed sections, most about 20 pages longs and each containing several related pieces.

  • Why Foster
  • Perspectives
  • Transitions
  • Teamwork
  • Birth Family Connections
  • Loss, Grief & Anger
  • Attachment & Trust
  • Trauma & Abuse
  • Family Impact
  • Discipline
  • School Tools
  • Parenting Teens
  • Nurturing Identity
  • Allegations
  • Respite & Support
  • Reunification, Adoption & Beyond

Obviously, some of these sections don’t apply at all unless you are a foster parent or are considering fostering. I’ll talk about those first.

Content Specific to Foster Parenting

I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely sold on become a foster parent when I picked up this book. There was a particular child I knew in need of foster care, and I hoped to foster, perhaps adopt him. It didn’t end up working out; he is instead in his grandmother’s custody. I figured that would be the end of any thought of fostering, but I leafed through the book anyway since I’d ordered it.

By the time I’d finished the 11 pieces in this “Why Foster” section, I was sold on fostering. It didn’t hurt that the tenth story was one of identical twins boys fostered because of neglect who were ultimately adopted by the author. That’s how you get to me: a story of a child in need with a happy ending, and twins at that.

I had a lot of questions about the financial realities of fostering. The articles that address this issue are refreshingly honest. Caring for a child costs far more than the stipend a family might receive for fostering that child. I would need my finances in order before I would want to register as a foster mother.

I had hoped for more guidance from the book on talking to the children I already have about the realities of foster care, but found myself going alone on that. Issues of sibling integration are woven into many of the first-person stories, but I would have loved a section devoted to this. The focus of the book is certainly on foster children, although it touches on life after foster care in foster-to-adopt situations.

General Parenting Advice

There is no section of the book intended to provide generalized parenting advice, but the anecdotes, recommendations and research on helping the most vulnerable children in our society can be brought to bear on parenting our forever children too. For instance, I find myself sitting quietly with a screaming child (my own and others’) just to let him or her know that I’m there for whenever they’re ready to talk. Before I read this book, I would have spent more effort to trying to reason and be heard over the screaming.

I found reading through parts of the Trauma and Abuse section very difficult, but still healing for the little girl inside me who still hurts from the emotional and verbal abuse of my childhood. I felt a little less alone and wanted to reach out to the children just coming out of those situations to let them know that there is happiness and security on the other side.

Overall

I haven’t read the book from cover to cover. This is another one of those resources that makes the most sense to approach from the index for inspiration in dealing with specific challenges. Having read selections, though, I feel more knowledgeable about what foster parenting would really be like. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, if a foster child or children do enter our family some day. I hope they do.

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 atAdoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children – A Book Review

Book review from a mother of identical twins, both identified as gifted

By the time my children were born, I felt fully capable of raising two little girls, whatever their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. When they proved to be rather bright, I relished the gift of being the one to guide and nurture their curiosity and insights. My daughters’ daycare teachers were wonderful, encouraging them to explore, providing them just the right level of challenge, and introducing academic learning in a way that made it fun.

It wasn’t until kindergarten that it occurred to me that J and M’s intellectual gifts might present a challenge when it came to fitting into mainstream education. Thanks to their school in El Paso, I learned that their giftedness challenged the status quo. I was going to have to learn to be not just the mother of M and J, who happen to be smart, but to be a Mother of Gifted Children.

I confess that I fought the labels. Why couldn’t my kids just be kids? I could challenge them intellectually at home if the school couldn’t.

I finally gave in and bought A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children. It sat on my bookshelf for a while. When I finally cracked the spine, I wished I’d done so earlier.

My daughters, I learned early in the book, could be described as being at the lower end of the “profoundly gifted” category. As I read through dire warnings of teachers who don’t know what to make of gifted children, I was ever more appreciative of their teachers this year. While my girls have little to say about the research projects they’re working on with their Gifted and Talented teacher, they’re constantly bubbling with news of the extra lessons both their “regular” teachers teach them throughout the day, whether they’re done early with an assignment or seeking more excitement on a test than the basic instructions offer. Both teachers actually spend time with my daughters after school, while I’m still at work, giving them enrichment exercises, feeding their curiosity, and encouraging them to pursue their intellectual interests. I know, we are blessed beyond anything I could ever repay.

I was embarrassed to see myself described in early chapters of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, the mother who underplays her child’s gifts, claiming that a child is merely a good test taker and not “special” in any other way. I find myself fighting for equity between my daughters by explaining away the small ways in which M is stronger in math and J in critical analysis. When my daughters’ teacher presented their test scores to me, I tried to explain away M’s slightly higher scores. I, proponent of treating all people as individuals, was trying to force my two children into a single mold.

In the early chapters of the book, it served more as a self-help book for me than a guide to dealing with my kids’ above average intelligence. I appreciated the very first words of the introduction: “The Importance of Parents.” I’ve never been one to believe that it is the school’s job to raise my children. Given my kids’ smarts, sending them to school is primarily to help them develop their social skills. I had high hopes for the school I chose for them, but I really lucked out in having several teachers in the dual language program who are committed to nurturing each child in the class as an individual. I’m glad that the girls’ teachers push them, but if they didn’t, filling in that space would be my responsibility, not the school’s.

Unlike some of the other book reviews I’ve written this week, I don’t feel like I can summarize the key points of the book in a way that’s helpful. The thing about giftedness is that it is unique every time. Realizations I had about J didn’t, for the most part, apply to M, or vice versa. I knew I was going to have to advocate for my girls’ academic opportunities and appreciate the guidance the book provides on those issues.

If you have, or suspect you have, a gifted child, I’d recommend reading through this book to find gems that help you be the best parent you can be to the little miracle in your care.

A mother of gifted identical twins reviews this book.

To give you a feel for what’s in the book, here are some chapter subheadings that stood out me:

  • What Exactly is Giftedness?
  • Is My Child Gifted or Just Smart?
  • Punishing the Child for Being Gifted
  • Why Wouldn’t a Gifted Child Be Motivated?
  • Avoid Power Struggles
  • Develop Rules as a Family
  • Types of Perfectionism
  • Depression and Suicide in Gifted Children
  • Peer Comparisons and the Gifted Label
  • Unequal Abilities among Siblings’
  • Does Common Wisdom Apply to Exceptional Children
  • When Parenting Styles Differ
  • When Scores Do Not Match Characteristics
  • Trust Your Own Observations
  • Can’t I Simply Trust the Schools?
  • Financial Support for Gifted Education

Any of these headings jump out at you? If they do, consider checking this book out of you local library.

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.