Should You Go to MommyCon? Yes!

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What exactly is MommyCon?

MommyCon is an entirely unique event: part trade show, part kid gear market, part mommy meetup, part parenting course. I went in without expectations, and came away thinking, “I have to tell everyone about this!” MommyCon is ideal for expectant parents and those with little kids (infants and toddlers) seeking community and solutions. I found plenty to hold my interest for the full day even though my kids are older. If MommyCon has an event in your area, I strongly recommend that you go.

Expect a large exhibit hall where you can browse products, go shopping, and chat with product representatives. Nearby, find lectures and group discussions on all aspects of parenting and womanhood. I hear that the talk on sex while breastfeeding was a huge hit, although I didn’t attend. I enjoyed chatting with other MommyCon attendees, especially when they were breastfeeding their little ones or taking a snack break. While most of the folks I met were local, some had come to Austin from as far away as Dallas and the exhibitors were from all over the country.

MommyCon is a gathering of mothers, brands and parenting experts designed for babywearers on the lookout for high quality products and parenting insight.

I’d never even heard of MommyCon before Penny over at Foster2Forever mentioned that it was coming to Austin in a local bloggers’ Facebook group. I went ahead and entered Naturepedic’s ticket giveaway and didn’t think much more of it. Lucky me! I won the giveaway. And lucky you! Most of the goodies that I picked up will be coming to HDYDI readers in future giveaways.

If you’re near Washington, D.C., you may even be able to land a pair of free tickets of your own for the July 23, 2016 MommyCon event in town. Naturepedic is giving away tickets! MommyCon also comes to Texas, Florida, and California, with a total of 10 events a year.

Who should go to MommyCon?

MommyCon is definitely targeted at the babywearing, cloth diapering crowd. The products available to try or buy are generally for expectant mothers and those whose kids who are still in diapers. However, there is plenty to do and learn for those of us whose children are older.

The best thing about MommyCon, in my opinion, is how kid-friendly it is.

At @mommycon. So impressed by the @babyganics changing station.

A photo posted by Sadia (@hdydiblog) on

Unlike most other mom events I’ve attended, MommyCon actively accommodates children, providing toys and diapering supplies. Most importantly, every single person there welcomes children into every part of the event. We all understand full well that kids are going to cry, run around, interrupt, and push the occasional button. While the crowd was overwhelmingly female, there were plenty of babywearing dads and expectant fathers, tending to kids, joining in parenting discussions, and shopping.

MommyCon features awesome products and an involved, interested group of parents.

When my twins were infants, I had a baby carrier, but wouldn’t describe myself as a baby-wearer. I used the carrier only when both my babies demanded to be held and I needed a spare arm. I liked the idea of cloth diapers, but my children were in daycare for 11 hours a day. Disposable diapers were the only option, at least on weekdays. I felt completely at home despite being a working mom whose maternity leave ended when my babies were only 11 weeks old… a decade ago. Much as I had wanted to wear my babies back in 2006, I used my single baby Snugli carrier quite rarely.

What kind of products does MommyCon feature?

If it has to do with mom or baby, MommyCon probably has it. I chatted with a local Baby Sign teacher, checked out adorable clothes and toys, looked at all sorts of safety supplies, ate the most delicious yogurt in history, and even tried a better tasting infant iron supplement. MommyCon is a great opportunity for boutique shopping for yourself and baby.

Baby carriers

As far as I’m aware, baby carriers designed for twins weren’t even on the market back in my day. I finally got to try the TwinGo carrier I’ve been drooling over online in MommyCon , where the exhibits include a phenomenal wrap and carrier library where you can try on tens of different baby carriers to find the right one for you and your brood.

The TwinGo carrier lets you wear two babies at once, but can also be separated into two separate carriers, one for each parent.

The TwinGo is genius. It doesn’t just allow you to safely and comfortably wear both your babies at once. It also comes apart into to separate carriers so that you and your co-parent can each wear a baby. If you’re expecting twins, add it to your baby registry now. Really. I can wait.

In addition to the wide array of carriers available to try out in the babywearing area, a number of company representatives manned their own tables. Jess Mann at the Moby Wrap was particularly helpful. Although the company does not promote wearing two babies in a single wrap, Jess did acknowledge that many parents of multiples do so. I really appreciated her taking the time to lament with me the challenges of a top-heavy mother trying to wearing tiny babies.

The founder of Kanaluti carriers was also at MommyCon and made an excellent recommendation: check with your pediatrician before wearing your babies, especially if they’re fragile preemies like mine were. A number of other carrier companies were present, but I didn’t stop at all the booths. My 10-year-olds are a little beyond baby carriers these days.

Car seats

I’m kind of a car seat nerd, so I spent a lot of time chatting with the car seat folks. I stopped by the Britax booth and thanked them for the wonderful information about car seat safety I’d used to educate myself before my daughters were born. I swear to this day that the Britax Marathon gets all the credit for keeping my children entirely safe in the one accident we’ve been in. I was pleased to see that they’re now selling some narrower seats. Despite my loyalty to their brand, I had to switch away to fit three kids in the back seat of my sedan.

I was blown away by the Kiddy brand car seats, which are new to the US market. I’ve been frustrated by boosters sliding around on the seat. The Kiddy seats have a retractable LATCH attachment that allows the seat to push up flush against the back of the car’s seat. They’re also designed to absorb the impact of a crash so that the child’s hips feel less of it.

In addition to safety, Kiddy engineers have thoughtfully designed their seats accommodate children of different sizes. My own girls being in the 1st and 3rd percentiles for height and weight, I’m fully aware of what a challenge it can be when things are designed only with the average person in mind. The Kiddy car seat I looked at expands up, sideways and even forwards to fit longer legs. Some of their seats take kids up to 110 lbs; while I weighed only 2 lbs more than that when I got pregnant, I know that there are kids who because of age or maturity need to be in car seats at that size.

Kiddy is a new brand to the US car seat market. The seats adjust to children of different sizes. The seats even stretch forward to fit long legs.

I’ve been through the expense of car seat expiration before. I asked about their expiration period, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Kiddy seats can be good for 8 years. Or was it 7? I should have taken notes!

Strollers

I confess that I didn’t spend much time at all with the strollers. I was, however, deeply impressed by the SCOUT car attachment. This simple smart solution lets you attach bulky (and often filthy) jogging strollers to the back of your car. No more wrestling a jogging stroller into the trunk while your babies scream. No more having to buy a new car because the trunk isn’t big enough.

The SCOUT jogging stroller attachment lets you keep your jogging stroller on the outside of your car!

I had a lovely conversation with SCOUT’s inventor and his wife, and briefly even met one of their sons. This product is lightweight and simple, and it was clear to see how much love and thought had gone into designing a solution to make an outdoorsy family’s life a little easier.

And tons more

The goody bags that they hand out at MommyCon are, of themselves, worth the price of entry. Here’s most of the content of one:

  A photo posted by Sadia (@hdydiblog) on

I’ll tell you more about the eating supplies, cleaning products, body care products, jewelry, and accessories in future posts, since I’ll be giving away most of the stuff in the photo above to readers.

MommyCon Lectures and Discussions

At MommyCon Austin. I went to a great talk on preparing our daughters for their first period by the perfectly named Leah Love. Even though there were no other twin moms present, the entire room weighed in with thoughtful answers when I asked how to handle any awkwardness that might arise if one twin hits this milestone before her more competitive sister. I cried during the Q&A portion of Chasity Boatman‘s talk, where she covered both her experience of post-partum depression and her successful exclusively expressed breastmilk feeding relationship with her son. That talk alone was worth making the choice to go to MommyCon.

Let me just share with you the discussion schedule. These are top notch presentations. I understand that other locations will have some overlap in content, but quite a bit varies from city to city.

Considering whether to go to MommyCon? The talks are well worth it, even without the swag bag and industry experts.

So, yes, you should go to MommyCon

MommyCon is targeted at baby-wearing, cloth diapering moms and moms-to-be. It’s definitely most relevant to parents with little children, infants and toddlers. However, the event has plenty to offer to parents who follow all sorts of parenting philosophies. If you have the chance, go to this entirely unique event! (And then send me a note to let me know how you enjoyed yourself.)

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Personalized Christmas Ornaments for Twins and More

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

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

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

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

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

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

wpid-Photo-20151231121925419.jpg

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

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

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

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

The order form is wonderfully easy to use.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

#POFY even has ornaments for triplet families!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Primo Bathtub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Toddler Thursday: Letter Recognition Activities

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We all want to give our children the skills to make the most of their educations. One basic concept that we can encourage our toddlers to develop is letter recognition. Children who know their ABCs early are at an advantage, and may quickly move onto becoming fluent and critical readers.

My girls are well beyond learning their letters now that they’re 9 and reading at a middle school level. When they were younger, I had a repertoire of alphabet toys and “ABC games”, as a I called them, at my disposal. I think that these, in combination with constant access to age appropriate books, regularly being read to, and observing me read, helped my daughters become the strong and willing readers that they are today.

Alphabet Toys

I don’t believe that toys, in isolation, can teach our children to read, but educational toys have their place alongside literacy experiences shared by parent and child. In my experience, Leapfrog is the leading brand when it comes to toys that help to teach literacy and numeracy skills.

The LeapPad2™ Power is one of several literacy-related toys produced by Leapfrog.

I personally prefer their hands on toys, such as their Fridge Phonics set, to their tablets for getting toddlers excited about the alphabet.

Fridge Phonics' music may get stuck in your head in the worst possible way, but it does help your toddler learn the letters of the alphabet!

We had a much older version of this toy nearly a decade ago. Its repetitive song of “‘B’ says /b/, ‘B’ says /b/, every letter makes a sound, ‘B’ says /b/” may have driven me a little batty, but my daughters did learn their letters! The letter magnets are interchangeable on the base. Press on the magnet, and it sings to your child the name of the letter. The musical note button sings the Alphabet Song.

I apologize for the vacuum cleaner in the background. Loved that Roomba!

Flashcards

I picked up a cheap set of letter flashcards at our local dollar store and kept them in the car. When we were stuck in traffic, I could hold a card up over my head and show my toddlers a letter. At first, I’d just tell them what the letter was. After a few weeks, they were able to tell me the name of the letters I showed them. Next, I started listing all the words I could think of that started with that letter. As my twins got older, they began to offer up their own words.

Scavenger Hunts

As I mentioned in my college campus post, one simple activity involved writing each letter of the alphabet, in both upper and lower case, on a sheet of paper on a clipboard. We went outside or looked through books and magazines, crossing out each letter on the list as we found it.

Alphabet scavenger hunts are great fun for a toddler, who doesn't even realize she's learning!Label Reading

One way to keep my kids occupied when we were running errands was to assign them each a letter of the alphabet to find. They could last an entire grocery shopping trip, hunting for the first letter of their names or looking for every “E” in sight.

Keep your toddler occupied at the store by having him scour the labels for a particular letter or number.

What games do you play with your toddlers to teach them the alphabet?

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Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Reusable Baking Cups

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You’ve probably used paper baking cups at some point. They’re available in enormous variety, from the plain white ones to extraordinary feats of artistry.

These paper cupcake liners are so pretty... but the reusable kind are more adaptable
Image by Le Living and Co is licensed under CC 2.0

Adorable as the paper kind can be, my heart belongs to their reusable silicone brethren.

Image by Le Living and Co is license under CC 2.0
Image by bloggyboulga is licensed under CC 2.0

I occasionally use reusable silicone baking cups to bake cupcakes, breakfast muffins, or the dangerously addictive brownie-dipped Oreos that I blame LauraC for adding to my baking repertoire. More often, though, I use them in my daughters’ school lunches. These flexible molds are just perfect for keeping the different elements of their lunch separated.

Reusable baking cups are ideal for keeping lunch components separated.I use reusable baking cups for both hot and cold lunches. The hot lunch above consists of peas, rice, and sausage. The liners fit perfectly inside our small lunch Thermos containers to stack the dishes and keep them separate. My girls do then need to pry them out with the help of a fork, for a nice hot three part meal. For cold lunches, the liners serve to keep carrots or raisins from running into a sandwich or wrap.

I’ve even taking to packaging rice in these liners as soon as it’s cool, so the rice is already sorted into single servings when I go to the fridge.

They’re not all that expensive, either. I find the Ikea liners to be very affordable. I recently received a set from Calphalon that were excellent quality, but rather pricey.

Do you have reusable baking cups? Are they gathering dust in your kitchen? Do you use them for storage?

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Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Shower Ring Breastmilk Storage

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I’ve been expressing breast milk for my babies and freezing the excess. With everything that comes with caring for two newborns, the last thing I wanted to do was to search through dates when it’s time to thaw some milk. I had an epiphany in the shower.

I can punch a hole in the top of each bag and string them in chronological order on a shower hook!

Genius solution for keeping your pumped milk ordered by date!

It’s a cheap and easy way to keep breastmilk in order. A binder ring might work too, although the plastic gets less cold to the touch in the freezer. I just slide the newest bag on one end and slide the oldest one off the other.

What cheap and easy time saving solutions have helped you through the first months with twins?

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How the 1-2-3 Magic Approach Supports Parental Consistency

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I’m a huge believer in parental consistency. When the parent is consistent, it gives each child a feeling of security. In a world in which they have little power and even less context, they can trust that their parents will always follow through on what they say and can be relied on implicitly. By demonstrating self control, we teach them lessons that will last their whole lives. Yes, I know. It doesn’t much seem like they’re learning any self control at all at ages 2 and 3, but they are.

The challenge is that consistency is hard. Being sleep-deprived and pulled in eleven directions at once as a new parent makes it even harder. 1-2-3 Magic is a book by Thomas W. Phelan that provides parents with a practical approach to achieving consistency.

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

MandyE wrote a review of 1-2-3 Magic that is a good counterpoint to the summary I provide below.

I have to confess that I came to the book late, when my kids were at the tail end of the Terrible Awful Horrible Threes.  What I discovered was that I’d been practicing its tenets already. I had a leg up, though. My baby sister is 10.5 years my junior so got some parental practice as a pre-teen and teen. I also spent a lot of time in therapy before getting pregnant talking through exactly how I wanted to parent, in my attempt to break harmful family patterns. As my former husband put it, 1-2-3 Magic is just a matter of common sense, but it’s common sense spelled out with practical steps for application.

Premise

The basic premise of 1-2-3 Magic is that structure can help parents achieve consistency.

Phelan’s approach also assumes something that child psychologists know well: the ultimate reward any child seeks is attention. If a kiddo gets attention from her parent for bad behaviour, then she’ll continue it. If you withdraw attention for bad and give attention for good, you’ll quickly retrain his expectations.

That’s where time out comes in. Time out is simply the withdrawal of parental attention. It doesn’t have to have special chair, unless that’s what works for you. It certainly doesn’t involve talking or eye contact.

Goal

So, what is consistency? It boils down to two things:

  1. Parents do what we say.
  2. Parents are predictable.

Technique

The 1-2-3 Magic approach is a combination of counting and time out.

First, you set expectations. Tell your children that you are going to count 1, 2, 3 if they’re naughty. At 3, they’ll go to time out. Don’t worry if they don’t understand. They’ll pick it up.

When they do something against the rules, say 1. The next time they do something inappropriate, or if they don’t stop the original behaviour, say 2. At the next infraction, you say 3 and put them in time out.

If they come out of time out, don’t make eye contact. Don’t try to reason with them. Just gently pick them up and place them back in time out. The total time for time out should be one minute per year of age for neurotypical children.

When the time out is over, don’t try to reason with them or tell them what they did wrong. You can go over basic rules at a point when they’re not already upset. Don’t go back over examples of early indiscretions. They’ve already paid for the rule they broke, and listening to a lecture is a second punishment that accomplishes very little.

I’d recommend waiting a few hours, maybe until the next day.

My personal approach — I can’t remember if this is in the book — is to talk about rules when we’re happy and having a good time together. I don’t even bother trying to reason with the kids when they’re upset. I just say to my 9-year-olds, “I love you, but we can’t have a discussion like this. When you feel calm, we can talk if you want to.” What cracks me up is that my girls now use that on each other!

If you stick with the 1-2-3 Magic approach, your kids will know that you’re serious. Don’t let them get away with someone one day and punish them the next (except the day you start implementing 1-2-3 Magic). It gives them a feeling of safety to know what the rules are, and this is far more effective than talking it through. Yes, there’ll be a lot of screaming at first, but they’ll figure out you’re serious.

Personal Example

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

I haven’t had to count past 1 with my girls in at least 3 years. Seriously. I don’t think they have any idea what would happen if I got to 3. I don’t even know what would happen. My daughters are 9 and are generally reasonable human beings. But when they hear me say, “One,” in an I-am-not-messing-around tone, they straighten right up.

An even better example of effective use of the 1-2-3 Magic philosophy occurred with my nephew. By the time he was two years old, he hadn’t had consistent nutrition, much less consistent discipline. I had to go to London to take care of him for a week while his custody was being determined.

It took 6 hours for him to figure out the system. Six hours.

Sure, I had to pick him up and place him on the chair I designated for timeout 26 times the first time, but he got it. I just picked him up and placed him in a chair, saying the word “time out”. I avoided eye contact. Every time he slipped out of the chair, I gently picked him up and placed back on it. When the fifth time out came around, he didn’t try to escape. He sat there, crying, for 120 seconds. When the time was up, I picked up him up, hugged him, and told him that I loved him. We returned to playing with cars.

At the end of the week, when he saw his mom, he begged to stay with me (which broke my heart, because I couldn’t bring him to the US to live with me because of immigration laws). He didn’t see me as Mean Auntie. He knew that I was predictable, and that predictability made him feel safe.

If you want a much more well written explanation of the whole thing, buy the book. It’s a very quick read.

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Early Readers: Children’s Books Based on Movies

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My daughters, now aged 9, are fluent readers, several years ahead of where they need to be. Their elementary school librarian regularly requests books from the local high school library, since her shelves are targeted at less fluent readers than M and J.

Going through my old videos, I found this gem, taken when J was 4 years old. Yes, at that age both M and J wore butterfly wings more often than not. Seeing J’s hard work reminded me that, although reading came extremely easily to both my daughters, it took work and patience. In the video, J is reading a book based on the Disney movie Chicken Little.

I’m generally leery of using television as an educational tool for young children. However, one way to tempt a new reader is to offer him or her a book based on a film they know and love. Disney Little Golden Books are a great resource for this approach.

5 years later, J and M watched the first Percy Jackson movie, only to be appalled by the liberties taken by the producers. J pointed out error after error compared to the book by her favourite author, Rick Riordan. I agreed with her that I found film versions of my favourite books to be disappointments. I smiled inside about being able to share a love of literature with both my daughters.

What books got your kids over the hump of needing to spell things out?

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Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Bottle Care

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We’ve written quite a bit about our infant feeding experiences here on HDYDI, but I realize that I’ve neglected to discuss my bottle feeding experiences. That realization wasn’t a surprise. As I’ve told you before, much of my identity as a new mother was tied up in breastfeeding. Baby bottles were up there with gavage tubes on the list of things that I’d rather forget.

The fact is that baby bottles are genius.

A baby bottle can allow a father to feed a child. A baby bottle can allow a working mother to provide her child with breastmilk when she can’t be with her baby. A baby bottle can allow the bond of feeding between a mother and child when breastfeeding isn’t an option.

It’s been nearly 8 years since my daughters moved on from bottles, so I’m not the person to tell you about the newest and greatest development in baby bottle technology. What I can tell you is that, like every other aspect of parenting, it’s not just about what you like. You’ll have to take your child’s preferences into account. With twins, that means two sets of children’s preference, and they may like different things.

With M and J, we used Playtex VentAire bottles for formula and Playtex Nursers with Lansinoh storage bags for expressed breastmilk.

Baby bottles are for formula and expressed breast milk alike.

Once I returned to work, J and M went through 6-7 bottles a day, each. Every night, I had 12-14 bottles to wash. During my limited hours home, I had to breastfeed, eat, occasionally shower, complete household chores, and do that thing where you lie down and close your eyes. I’ve heard it rumoured that it’s called “sleep”. That last thing I wanted to spend my time on was scrubbing bottles.

Since all the bottles we used were open at each end, a bottle brush wasn’t a necessity. I didn’t use it much once the babies had outgrown preemie bottles. Instead, I used my dishwasher.

I had three of these handy dishwasher baskets. All the small parts associated with baby bottles and breastpumps fit in the basket for dishwasher cleaning and disinfection. I was a master of placing all the nipples, rings, bottle valves, pump valves, and lids so that each one was fully exposed to water.

This basket holds small bottle parts for dishwasher disinfection.For the first several months, I would take the washed bottles out of the dishwasher and boil them in a pot of water for disinfection, but over time, I grew to trust the High Heat setting on the dishwasher. Before long, the girls’ immune systems had built up to where disinfection was no longer called for. After all, they were getting plenty of immune exercise from their time a group daycare.

For simplicity, I assembled rings, nipples and lips and stored those stacked beside all the bottles. That way, there was no need to spend time unscrewing bottles or pulling through nipples when it was time to feed.

What are your timesaving tricks for life filled with baby bottles?

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Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Felt for Projects

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We have turned the spare room into The Activity Room. In addition to the guest bed and some storage for guests, the room is filled with crafting supplies. We have glue, tape, kids’ scissors, sequins, stickers, paper of all sorts, crayons, markers, paint, knitting needles, yarn and sewing supplies. These include felt for projects. Lots and lots of felt.

Occasionally, I propose crafting projects to J and M. For the most part, I allow them to come up with their own projects ideas. In the last few weeks, M has been getting deeply into sewing. She’s been making small purses for her friends and clothes for her toys. She took some photos of her daughter Valentina modeling her latest creations and allowed me to share them with you.

9-year-old access to felt, needles and thread translate into clothing for stuffed toys.

Home sick today, J was also inspired to try her hand at sewing, although she’s usually a knitter. She decided that she wanted to make a doll. We found the perfect pattern, Mimi Kirchner’s Felt Doll, at The Purl Bee. She’s made some pretty impressive headway for someone who learned to backstitch and whipstitch today and has never handled fiberfill before.

Mimi Kirchner's simple felt doll pattern is a good one for the beginning seamstress, aged 8 and up.

Ages 8 and 9 are just wonderful when it comes to learning new skills. Children this age have a sudden increase in patience and are able to understand that hard work pays off. They’re willing to put the time in for a satisfactory outcome. They’re on the young side to have lost faith in their abilities, so they’re quite willing to try new things. They don’t yet have the critical eye to be thrown by most newbie mistakes. A few tears may be shed, but a hug from Mommy can still make it all better.

That said, my daughters aren’t quite up to hand hemming their creations yet. That’s why I wouldn’t do without felt squares in our Activity Room supplies. The beauty of felt, in contrast to other fabrics, is that it doesn’t fray, and therefore doesn’t require hemming. It cuts easily, so I don’t have to make my fabric shears available to the children. They can use their own scissors. It’s stiff enough to hold up to small fingers instead of draping over a child’s hand as he or she learns a new stitch.

Felt is the perfect fabric for children learning to sew.

I picked up our latest stash of felt at Jo-Ann Fabric. I’ve bought it at Michaels in the past, and I’ve found amazing prices online for other crafting supplies at Factory Direct Craft. When my daughters were smaller, I’d cut small figures out of felt, sometimes people, sometimes animals, and sometimes abstract shapes. Against a background of construction paper, we put on plays. Or the girls created shapes. Or they made piles.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.Felt is extraordinarily versatile. If your kids are old enough to keep it out of their mouths, I’d recommend picking some up. You never know what creations your creative children will think up.

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