The Twin Dynamic (Spoiler: There Isn’t Just One)

My daughters were only one of four sets of twins in their grade in the school’s dual language program. Forty-nine kids. Eight twins. This meant that their teachers got some really great insights into the variation that exists in twin relationships.

We got to talking about this the other night over dinner, and I found Mrs. H’s observations to be fascinating.

The Twin Dynamic

First, some background.

Both my 8-year-olds, M and J, are excellent at math. However, M is extremely public and loud about being good at math. When she has nothing else to do, she walks around multiplying 2 and 3 digit numbers in her head and announcing her results to everyone within earshot. J just does the math she needs to do to get through her day and make her teachers proud. She’d rather read.

In a recent math/problem-solving competition, it was J who placed nationally. M did extremely well, earning a spot on the honour roll thanks to her 90th percentile score, but J got the really big deal award.

Their teacher, Mrs. H, who is also their best friend’s mother, is very sensitive to all her students’ confidence and emotional needs. So, before announcing J’s accomplishment to the class, she asked M if it would be okay to acknowledge her exceptional performance on this test. She reminded M that she was fully aware that she was the Class Mathematician and that she really does have stupendous numerical and logical abilities.

M didn’t hesitate for a moment. Of course she wanted J acknowledged. She was proud of her sister. She was prouder of her sister being one of 89 students out of 25,000 nationwide to earn a perfect score than she would have been had she achieved it herself. In fact, it was M who bragged to me (and every stranger we encountered) about her sister’s performance, not realizing I’d already heard from the teacher. I was the one point out how well M had done, and she poopooed my enthusiasm in light of J’s win.

Mrs. H observed to me that my daughters’ pride in each other, protectiveness of each other, and lack of competitiveness in academics was unique among the twin pairs under her tutelage. J and M can bicker with the best of them, but when there’s an accomplishment to be noted, there’s never any resentment. They have no sense that one sister performing better diminishes the other in any way.

Neither of them can stand to lose at board games, though. The tears that have been shed in our house over Candyland, Monopoly and Yahtzee could fill a small lake. I banned playing for points the day I introduced Scrabble.

The other girl twins, Mrs. H told me when I asked, are rather more likely to measure their academic performance against each other. They’re more likely to take differences to heart. They, too, are extremely high performers at school. Mrs. H joked that when other teachers make comments about how smart “her twins” are, it takes quite a bit of digging to figure out which pair is under discussion. All four girls have straight black hair, are half-Mexican, dress differently from their sisters, and are sweet, well-mannered, and popular on the playground. The two sets of boys were in the class at different times, so they’re a little easier to distinguish. The boys, too, are rather more competitive than my daughters.

I think it’s important to remember that multiples, as sets, are as unique as they are as individuals. My twins’ relationship doesn’t look like your twins’ relationship, and that’s good and normal. I wish more educators were like Mrs. H, recognizing that being a twin doesn’t dictate how a child interacts with the world. At least in my experience, the twin relationship enriches the individual child, rather than dictating her behaviour or limiting her options.

Stay tuned for a post next week containing our advice to a mother who is fighting for her sons’ right to be in the same classroom. I so wish they had Mrs. H as their teacher. She gets it.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-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, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Separate Preschools – An End of Year Update

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Some of you might remember my post last summer about separating my twin boys for preschool, not into different classes, but into different schools. We are wrapping up the school year so I thought I would share a bullet-point list update of how the year went. One kid was done two weeks ago, the other finishes today. (Making up the snow days.)

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Good

  • Independence. Every discussion on separating twins in school eventually independence is cited as a main reason to separate. In our case, I didn’t feel like they were ready to be apart, and they didn’t really understand what was happening. However, it was very clear to us as parents that one was incredibly reliant on the other, to the point he would defer to his brother to answer questions about the alphabet or counting. Being in his own school, he has been able to demonstrate he can do those things on his own, without his brother.
  • New Experiences. Both boys love their teachers and have enjoyed going to school. They love telling each other about what they did today in school and they are able to share these experiences with each other.
  • Excelling in the school. Without the other to lean on, they have each grown and really prospered.
  • New friends. They have both made new friends and look forward to seeing them at school. We have set up playdates with new friends and it is nice to see them form friendships without each other. 
  • Progress. This time last year we were at such a tough place, middle-of-terrible-3’s, a kid with un-dagnosed, indeterminate delays, and it was heartbreaking and frustrating. Now a year later it is so much better. We have answers, strategies and we are all working together. It’s truly amazing to see how much progress we have all made as a family.

Bad

  • Juggling two different school calendars. One kid goes four days a week, one goes two days a week, overlapping only one day, but forcing us to be two places at once. Both schools were considerate of the situation within our family and invited the other kid to class parties. It never worked out though, it seemed whenever the parties were scheduled, one or the other was sick, or the other was in class that day in the other school. Both schools had a policy of no siblings on field trips, but requested parents to accompany their kids. Every field trip except one we couldn’t go because the trips, of course, fell of a day the other was NOT in school. 
  • Dependence. My boys are very close and play well together (most of the time.) They have active imaginations and finish each other’s thoughts. They devise games and scenarios and have similar interests. We have a playgroup we have played with since the boys were babies, comprised of other twin families, and whom my kids play with really well. It was surprising to read in a progress report that one of my sons did not have any friends, did not play with any other children and did not seem to socialize with anyone other than the adults in the room. Considering how social he is at home and with his playgroup friends, this was unexpected. He has since made a couple friends and seeks them out occasionally, but without the companionship of his brother it seems like he is less confident in making friends.
  • Emotions trauma and drama. The first weeks were really hard. Tears, tantrums, acting out, you name it. Same thing happened after Christmas break and the first few days of spring break after they’ve been together 24/7 again. We’ve also seen a lot of jealousy when one kid has something fun at school like a field trip or pajama day. One kid would have a bring-your-favorite-toy day and the other would want to bring one too. I was always writing notes explained weird outfits or things in backpacks. 
  • The Twin Thing. When we have been invited to parties or playdates, I am not really sure how to include/not exclude the other kid. I have been “that Mom” who invited her other kid to a playdate because I didn’t want to have one miss it because he has a twin brother. At age 4, playdates are still a Mom-goes-too event and as far as I am concerned these two are a package deal for now. Eventually they can have their own social calendars, but for now where one goes we all go.

Ugly

  • Germs. Lots of them. One preschool class is a pertidish of plagues, two was ridiculous. We just got through the longest, crummiest winter in Chicago in a century so we were inside, a lot. And with two classes full of oozing, snotty, sneezy preschoolers exposing our family to bug after bug, we pretty much had something or another in an endless cycle the past seven months. We had so much plague at our house, it was gross. Pink eye, tummy bugs, endless coughs, colds, fevers, snot. Yuck.
  • Uncertainty. We had to wait until May for the IEP meeting to find out whether my one son would continue in the early childhood program. Truthfully I wasn’t sure he would, he’s done so well meeting his goals. So we had to enroll him in the other school with his brother so we could save two spots in one class. At the meeting we were told he would definitely be going back next year, that he still has ground to cover before he’s ready to start Kindergarten. Due to their November birthday, they will be almost-6 when they start Kindergarten and have another whole year of preschool where they will be 5 most of the year. After this year of preschool, though, it is uncertain what will happen next. Whether they will be back together, separate classes, separate schools, separate grade levels. 

 

Jen is a stay-at-home Mom of 4-year-old twin boys who just finished up a year of preschool, separated and on their own. They all survived and thrived.  Their adventures are (intermittently and mostly in photos) blogged at goteamwood.com.

Twins Comparing Grades

My 7-year-old M was on a communication kick Monday night. She spoke to her father on the phone, texted her stepmother, and texted her grandmother. Grammy immediately called her back, and they had a nice conversation.

AplusA major news item that M chose to share with Grammy was that she was one of only two kids in her class to get 100% on their latest math test. Not even her twin sister J had made 100%, she told her, and then shared J’s grade (still an A, by the way).

J was livid. M was still on the phone with Grammy when J stormed over to me, near tears.

“Mom, M told Grammy my grade on my math test. She shouldn’t do that! That’s personal information!”

She was so indignant that it took a couple of tries to get J to notice that I agreed with her. I told her to speak to M once she was off the phone to air her concerns. J wasn’t convinced at first. She felt that M should already know that telling someone her grades was off limits. I told J that she could come to me if she felt that M wasn’t listening.

They had their conversation in their room, and M came out, running. Her attitude was a mixture of embarrassment and anger.

“I didn’t know, Mommy! I didn’t know it was personal information!”

I told her that it was fine, but that she needed to respect J’s need for privacy going forward. She agreed and J was mollified. I thought that this topic was closed.

Yesterday morning, however, J confessed to me that her confidence had taken a beating. She was convinced that M was smarter than she was because she got 100% scores consistently in math, while J had a couple of grades in the 90%-95% range. It was hard to maintain a serious demeanour as I saw my own elementary school misgivings played out in my daughter’s mind.

I did my best to point out that an A was an A, and that J still did better than the majority of her classmates, many of whom she considers plenty smart. I pointed out that she had been able to independently identify the mistake she had made on her test by looking at M’s answers, without even having her own test in front of her. I pointed out that she was just as good as M at solving problems in our everyday activities.

I know that I’ll need to boost her confidence over the next while, until J realizes that slight differences between her performance and her sister’s on tests don’t indicate an intelligence differential. Both kids are extremely bright. I give them 3-digit multiplication problems to do in their heads at home and their writing teacher has given them Latin roots to work on, all at age 7 (second grade).

This incident makes me wonder, though, how parents of multiples who aren’t as evenly matched in academic ability handle kids’ tendency to compare themselves to their siblings, whether they’re comparing grades or other measures of success.

Do your twins or higher order multiples compare their performance to that of their siblings? How about different aged siblings? How do you handle differences, whether perceived or real?

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.

After a Sick Kid Stays Home

Picking up M from school today, after J stayed home sick, was surprisingly and gratifyingly uneventful. J and I woke from a nap and drove to school. On the drive, J expressed a little concern that M might forget to come to the pick-up point, but I reminded her that their teacher was aware of where M (and every other child) needed to go.

We spotted M, pink backpack on her back and orange jacket backwards across her front. She climbed in the car and buckled up while J teased her about her apparel choices.

“It’s called a ‘backpack’,” M explained cheerfully. “So it goes on my back. It’s not a ‘front jacket’ or a ‘back jacket’ so it can go either way! My belly was cold.” She giggled. Only after this discussion had ended did she ask J how she was feeling, receiving a graphic description of her second bout of nausea in return.

M told J that she’d missed a test and missed her TAG (Talented and Gifted) research project kickoff. That was the extent of their acknowledgement of their day-long separation. No high drama. No tears. No massive reunion.

I’m watching my girls grow up. At 7, despite their tendency to articulate a high degree of interdependence, I see them become increasingly confident apart, as they already are together. I’m watching them individuate in a healthy way. Perhaps they’re scooting down the twinniness continuum.

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Do you see your multiples become more or less interdependent as they grow older?

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.

Sick Kid Stays Home

This morning started out a little hectic. I’d failed to turn on the alarm clock before I went to bed. M was the one to wake us with her wails. “It’s past 7:00. We’re going to be tardy! Why didn’t you wake us, Mommy? This is all your fault.”

I told her that I thought we could still make it to school by 7:45.

“No, I can’t do this. I can’t do this!” M continued to scream. 7-year-olds are nothing if not dramatic.

I reminded M that she had informed us just yesterday that she was a problem-solving genius. We could solve this problem. I pulled my twin daughters’ winter clothes off the shelf at the top of their closet. A cold front came in last night, dropping our high temperatures for the day 20°F overnight. I pulled M’s pants on while she grabbed a shirt, then switched to J to help her with a shirt. Each kid was handed a sweatshirt and two granola bars. I handed M a hairbrush and sent J to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

They would have switched tasks, except that when I departed to pull on my own sweatpants (thank goodness that it’s my work from home day!), M came running to me. “J’s throwing up, Mommy! J’s sick!”

Sure enough, J was retching into the bathroom sink. M gagged at the sight of her, but managed to avoid joining in the festivities. I helped J rinse out her mouth, handed her a bowl and towel, and ushered both kids into the car. Somewhere in there I managed to get pants and a shirt on, although I’m unsure how that came to pass. Bras are for sissies, right? Or at least not for working from home.

We were on the road at our regular time, even though M did have to work on her teeth with one of the disposable toothbrushes I keep in the car for days like this. I didn’t account for the rain. Mommy fail. The line of cars dropping kids off at school was several blocks long. We didn’t park until 7:50, giving us plenty of time to talk in the car.

M was frightened and worried. Was J going to get a fever? Would she throw up more? How much school would she miss? What if she felt worse? I told M that I would call her teacher if J took a turn for the worse. If she didn’t hear from me, she could assume that J was the same or better. That seemed to satisfy her. She did ask to be picked up immediately after school instead of going to afterschool care, which seemed a reasonable request.

When we went into the office, the front desk staff, including one of my daughters’ best friend’s mom, told the girls to rush to class. They wouldn’t be considered tardy because they were aware of the traffic backup. I asked what I needed to do to let them know that J would be staying home, since she was throwing up. I would just need to bring in a note on the day that she returned to school.

On the drive home, J sat with her bowl in her lap and observed that it felt weird to be in the car without M. I had to agree with her when Katy Perry’s “Roar” came on the radio. M usually sings along. J tried to fill in for her, but her singing hasn’t quite reached M’s level of tonality yet.

As soon as we got home, J threw up again, then apologized for making me clean the sink. I told her that it didn’t bother me at all; I just wanted her to feel better. After a while, she felt up to a few bites of dry Rice Crispies. I’ve let J have a lot of screen time today to be able to have work time myself, although it’s hard to focus when I’m snuggled up with her, thinking every breath portends another vomiting session.

We’ll see how M did at school by herself. After all, while M doesn’t feel the need to be in the same classroom as J, she does need to know that she’s okay. J hasn’t asked about M. My kids are getting bigger and more independent. I like it.

When one kid is sick, do you send the others to school or daycare?

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.

Twins on Being in the Same Classroom

We’re a few weeks into 2nd grade. My daughters, M and J, are in the same classroom this year. They were together throughout their daycare careers, apart for the beginning of kindergarten, together for the second half of that year, and in co-taught but separate classrooms in 1st grade. I thought it was time to get their perspective on being in the same class at school.

Me: Remember the other day, we were talking about how you felt about being in Mrs. H’s class together this year?
M: Uh huh.
Me: J, do you remember that?
J: Mm hmm.
Me: One of things I mentioned is that for some twins, being together in class is a want, for others being apart is a need, and for some being together is a need. What is it for you?
J: It’s a need for me to be with M because I get really scared if I don’t know what M is doing and I cried on the first 3 days of school in first grade. Write that.
Me: Oh, honey! What about for you, M?
M: For me, it’s a want, but … It’s a want for me, but a need for J. And I don’t like J crying, so… and it’s a need for me for her to not cry so much, so it’s a half want, half need.
Me: So, J, what’s easier now that you’re in the same class?
J: What do you mean?
M: It’s good to know what prizes you’ll get so we can make sure none of the prizes are too dangerous and tell whoever’s the sister not to get that certain prize.
J: Making sure that the other sister is behaving in person and if they do they can report to Mom.
M: Making sure that someone doesn’t bully the sister, so we can report to our teacher.
Me: But don’t you do those things for your friends already?
M: Yes.
J: ♫ Gecko, gecko gecko gecko, gecko gecko gecko… ♫ (to the melody of the Can Can.)
Me: Back to what we were talking about. So, J, has the crying stopped now that you’re in the same class?
J: I only cry now if I’m in pain or if my feelings get hurt.
M: And then M comes to the rescue!
Me: But isn’t it distracting to be worrying about your sister when you’re supposed to be learning?
M: Well, first I get permission to get out of my seat to help her or go to the nurse’s office with her.
3setsoftwinsMe: What about for D and R (the other set of identical girls, who are together in the other dual language classroom), do you think it’s a need for them?
J: I don’t know. I’m not them.
M: I think D and R fight less when they are in the same class.
Me: And what about J1 and J2 (the identical boys split between the 2 dual language 2nd grade classrooms)?
M: Well, for J1 and J2, they don’t need to be in the same class and they don’t want to be in the same class. I think that being with their brother is a distraction because they love playing with their brother and like to be good students and they don’t want to get in trouble so they like being in different classes.
J: But J1 is still one of the jokesters of the class.
M: Yes, but when Mrs. H gives him permission to be a jokester and cheer someone up.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

J: ♫ Gecko, gecko gecko gecko, gecko gecko gecko… ♫ Geckos lick their eyeballs to blink because they don’t have any eyelids. Isn’t that a fascinating fact?
M: Actually, it’s more disgusting.
J: Uh uh. It’s fascinating.
Me: So do you think schools should have a rule about whether twins can or should be together?
M: No, because for some twins it’s a need and some it’s a want and for some it’s not a need and for some it’s not a want.

In case you find it relevant, all three sets of twins were evenly split between the two first grade dual language classrooms last year. Both sets of girls specifically asked their parents if they could be placed together this year.

Are your kids together or apart at school? What’s their preference?

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.

Separate Schools, Two Weeks In

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Two weeks ago I posted about separating my twin boys for preschool, into two different schools. We are in the second week and still adjusting, but here’s a little update on how its going so far.

Both boys started on the same day, even though their schedules overlap only one day a week. We moved around my husband’s work schedule so that day he goes in much later than he used to, since we effectively have to be in two places at once. We stood on the porch and did first day of school photos, obligatory backpack shots, and lots of hugs. Even though only one kid got on the bus, the whole family waited outside for the bus, and his brother insisted on wearing his backpack too. Our little guy got on the bus that first day without a tear. Mommy, however, was not as tough. Yup, I cried. Not as much as I expected, and not as much as I had been in the months before this big day.

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Other kid’s private preschool has a very, very gradual, drawn out intro to preschool, in stark contrast to the school district’s put-them-on-a-bus-and-see-them-later approach. They have a two week orientation period which I suppose some kids probably benefit from, but our kid is ready to get going already. They only go for 1 hour, and instead of drop off, the first day was with the parent the whole time, the subsequent days the parents drop off in the room and get them into their routine before leaving. This Mommy is ready to just drop the kid at the curb, kisses and hugs and on your way, kiddo. The kid wants to know when they get to play at the playground (since they are only there one hour there’s no playground time.) Looking forward to starting for real next week. (and yes, I am one of those rip-the-bandaid off fast people.)

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Here’s a brief rundown of things the past two weeks.

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Kid 1:

  • Got kid onto bus, less than 1 hour later the bus company called (Mommy panic!) but only to tell me to expect him home a full 30 minutes before the original time they told me. Good thing we changed around Daddy’s work schedule.
  • Got a call from the social worker at the school even before he was home the first day telling me that “He was a little sad” when they put him on the bus, which I think is social worker speak for “Flipped his $#&!” when it was time to leave school. Which I guess is good he was having fun.
  • He had an ID tag on his backpack for the bus driver with contact info, but both our home address and phone number wrong. He got home safely anyway. If you ask where he lives he will tell you, “At our house!”
  • Day 2 on the bus and school day was without incident from the kid, but waving at the bus with the other kid, a nosy neighbor walked by adding, “But aren’t they twins? That one must have something wrong with him if he’s taking that bus to school.” IN FRONT OF THE OTHER KID. Gee, thanks.
  • Monday morning the bus driver was 20 minutes late, stopped way past the house, nearly to the neighbors yard and upset the poor kid so much thinking he was forgotten he cried getting on the bus and could be heard screaming as they drove away.
  • By Thursday the second week the novelty has worn off and he no longer has any interest in going to school or riding the bus. It was a major issue getting him to put on clothing and get outside for the bus. Thankful he gets Fridays off so we can not have that discussion for a few more days.

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Kid 2:

  • Went to the first day of school and had a total meltdown when the teacher told him the playtime was done and it was time to read a book. This was the first of many over-sensitive, emotional, sobbing outbursts we’ve seen since the first day of school from the typically laid-back, easy going kid.
  • Teachers told us he’s holding his own but it is obvious he misses his brother quite a lot, he talks about him constantly
  • He runs up to the bus when it arrives back home and has even run up the steps to hug his brother. It’s incredibly sweet.
  • By the 3rd day his brother was at school, he was so volatile and sensitive that I asked him to clean up his Potato Head toys and he sobbed, “But I didn’t get to give brother a hug AND a kiss before he left!”
  • He started a weekly story time session at the library, an extra activity he gets to do alone, since he doesn’t have school as often as his brother. The teacher said he did great and was one of the top participants in the activities and a great listener.
  • He told us he did not want to go to school this week because he wanted to be home for when brother’s bus came back.
  • After the bus nearly missed the house, he put on a Batman outfit because he thought meeting his brother in a Batman suit would cheer him up. (It did.)
  • His teacher at school said he was playing well with the other kids and was much happier than the previous day.

All in all, it hasn’t been bad, but it’s definitely been a transition. We have upped the frequency of random and seemingly senseless meltdowns. It’s heartbreaking to see how sad they are apart, even though they seem to both be enjoying school. They don’t yet “get’ the days of the week so it is confusing them who has school which day, and their behavior definitely shows they are hurting. With time we will all adjust to the new normal, but these first few weeks are pretty emotional.

Foodie Friday: Packing Lunches for Your Kids

There are moms who pack works of art in their kids lunch boxes every day.

And then there’s me. The fanciest I get is scribbling an “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” note, in permanent marker, on my daughters’ paper napkins.

My girls actually like the lunches served in the school cafeteria, and they’re not terribly expensive. They’re not as nutritious as I’d like, though. While they do tend to feature whole grains, there’s a lot of processed meats and fruit. School also offers free breakfast to all children, which helps all the kids by keeping their classmates from being hungry and unfocused during the day. The breakfasts are terribly sugar-laden, so I prefer to balance them with a more nutritious meal from home.

I allow the girls to choose to eat school lunch once or twice a week. The rest of the time, I pack lunches for them. Every lunch consists of some basic components.

Whole grain

The whole grain in J and M’s lunch forms the basis of the calories to fuel them through the afternoon. They’re pretty easy to feed on this front, and I have a lot of options:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat bagel
  • Tortillas
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain crackers (Goldfish, Triscuit, etc.)
  • Pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Barley

Protein

It’s tempting to leave the protein out of a child’s meal, especially when it’s hot out, but kids need protein for growth and cell repair. Just make sure you keep it either hot or cold for food safety.

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Cheese (sticks, cubes, or in a sandwich)
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Hot dogs

Fruit or vegetable

We’re unusual, I know, but vegetables and fruits are the easiest things for me to find for the kids. J is partial to jarred mandarin oranges and M can’t stand them. M likes applesauce, and it makes J gag. The kids don’t have to have identical lunches. My girls are now old enough to appreciate my efforts to personalize their meals, so if I pack oranges or grapes for J, M gets apples or spinach. Apart from applesauce and corn, my kids refuse cooked vegetables, so I don’t try.

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Jicama
  • Berries
  • Spinach
  • Chopped cabbage
  • Apple slices
  • Corn

Hot or cold solution

When school starts up in the summer, we’re still dealing with 100 degree temperatures here in Texas. Food safety is paramount. I generally stick with cold lunches and use ice packs or frozen juice boxes to keep food at a safe temperature until it’s ready to eat. It’s easier to keep food cold if it starts cold, so packing lunch the night before and storing it in the refrigerator overnight makes the morning that much easier. J has also recently developed a taste for ice cold water, so we put her water bottle in the freezer at night so she can sip it throughout the day. It melts fast.

The alternative is to pack hot foods, like soup or pasta. I like to keep the girls’ macaroni and cheese warm. We have some nice Thermos containers. I fill the containers with boiling water for a minute or so before tipping it out and refilling the container with warm lunch. My girls especially love tomato soup or spaghetti and meatballs. (Insulated containers work equally well to keep your kids’ food cold. Just store them in the refrigerator.)

Dessert

Very rarely, I’ll include a sweet treat in my daughters’ lunch. My favourite Texas grocery chain, HEB, makes a delicious store brand digestive biscuit with 3g sugar per cookie. Target’s Archer Farms brand has fruit strips made of fruit, without any added sugar. Every so often, I’ll drop in a small piece of chocolate, but only when it’s cool outside.

Combinations

There are a number of options for combining a whole grain, protein and fruit or veggie into a meal.

  • Cook up some protein with vegetables and rice, pasta or barley in an unsalted broth for a hearty soup.
  • Wrap refried beans and shredded cheese in a tortilla for a simple burrito.
  • Mix up leftovers to make a fine fried rice.
  • That old standard, the sandwich.
  • My kids call them “homemade lunchables” when I pack up Ritz crackers with sliced meat and cheese for them to make their own minisandwiches.

I wish my kids liked more adventurous meals. Apart from the soups and burritos, I’m not a big fan of the meals I pack for my daughters to take to school. They like them, though. I admit that I’ve been looking forward to the day or two I’ll get off packing lunches after a full summer of packing their food for camp every day.

Do you pack your kids’ lunches? What do they like?

Time together and apart at playschool

My daughters (R and S) are starting their third year of playschool next week.  They’ve been going to the same mothers’ day out program for those three years.

First day of Playschool - 2011 (age 2)

The first year, they went together to the toddler room. I don’t think the teachers learned much about their unique personalities that year, probably because even as parents we didn’t see many difference developing.  The teachers tried to support the girls as individuals by taking them to the bathroom separately, but it was challenging with a group of 1.5 and 2 year olds to be that structured, especially when potty training.

First day of Playschool - 2012 (age 3)

Last year, the girls went together one day a week and by themselves each one day a week in the 3 year old room. This gave the girls time at school by themselves and time at home by themselves with me.  It was during this last year that they really started developing their own unique personalities.  Their classroom teachers also recognized those differences. They told me how the girls behaved differently when they were together and apart.  R was more interested in crafts and writing her letters.  She also enjoyed helping the teachers.  S liked playing with the dolls and stuffed animals but sometimes she’d play with the cars and trains.  When they were at school together, they usually played together with each other but not with the other kids.

On the days they were at school alone, they made their own friends and ate lunch with other kids. R, who could write her name, even visited the 4-year-old class, which challenged her social and academic skills a little. The teachers encouraged this independence by separating them in different work groups or seating them apart at lunch time. R and S’s classroom teachers and many of the other teachers at the school could tell them apart. At home, I was able to include the girls in different activities like doing errands with me, playing their favourite games and helping in the kitchen.  I don’t need to tell you how much easier some tasks are with just one “helper.”

Soccer camp - Summer 2013 (age 4)

Next week, they’ll start going together one day a week and by themselves one day each again. I’m excited to see how they develop their own personalities even more over this year. At home, I’m going to work with R on her reading; I think she’ll be reading by Christmas. I think she gets bored without a challenge and that leads to potty accidents and baby behaviours. With S, I’m going to go at her pace. I think she has ideas, but she’s a little quieter so her sister and brother get to lead more. I’m curious to see what interests of her own emerge.

Even though kindergarten is still a year off, I’ve been talking to the girls about it.  They are quite definite they want to be in separate classes. I ask if they’ll be lonely by themselves, and they tell me “we will ride the bus together every day.” Since they look so much alike and their personalities are very similar, I think the time apart will let them explore their interests and develop their own identities.

When Separation Isn’t a Choice

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If there is one topic that comes up in twin-Mom blogs, forums and groups more than any other, it is whether to separate your twins in school. It’s a hot topic and everyone has their own best answer. There are laws on the books in many states allowing the parents to choose, but in reality it comes down to the principal and teachers’ willingness to do what is best for the kids.  Parents argue, teachers argue, each side cites studies and anecdotes. Before I was a Mom of twins, i probably wouldn’t have put much thought into it. When my boys were born it seemed so far away, and there were so many other, more pressing matters, like sleep.

Fast-forward to age 3-almost-4 and we’re on the precipice of preschool. But the decision to separate was made for me, without any real choice. Whether I could or would choose to put my boys in separate classes in kindergarten and beyond, I know for certain I would not have chosen to separate them at age three. Starting next month my little boys, my babies, will be starting preschool in two different classes, in two different schools in two different parts of town.

We’ve gone back and forth over the past three years whether to even put them into preschool. Long ago, before their second birthday, I quit my job to stay home full time, and had a pretty decent home preschool thing going on with them. We did fun things, they learned a ton. But by their third birthday, one seemed to be really “getting it” with complex language, learning letters and numbers, explaining complicated concepts. The other deferred to his brother for the answers. We started to see problems with behavior, outbursts that were beyond 3-year-old tantrums. He would be agitated, impatient and inflexible.  Early Intervention is available to kids under 3 who show signs of developmental delays, but he and been on track up until his 3rd birthday, so we never had any reason to call. After age 3, those services are provided through the local school district. Between January and May of this year, he went through several screenings at the school district’s preschool program, and they determined his delays sufficient enough to warrant services through the school district. He does not have a diagnosis other than “developmental delay” in the district’s qualifications. He will be starting there four days a week in September (meanwhile we are waiting for an appointment with a developmental specialist as well.)

My other son will be attending a local private preschool, the one we intended for them both to start this year. As luck would have it, some of our closest twin playmates will also be in that class. He will be going only two days a week, one of which overlaps with his brother’s school days. We have been trying to build it up all summer as a great chance to do fun things at school and how amazing it will be to run home and tell your brother. But truly, it kills me to separate them. I know they are very attached to each other. The few times we have split them up to run errands or take them to an appointment, they only worry about the other. One will tell perfect strangers in a store about where his brother is and what he is doing at the time. They speak in plurals “we would like a snack.” and do everything with the other in mind (like swipe two yogurts from the fridge, one for each!) We had a brief separation in swim lessons when one kid moved up to the next level and the other wasn’t quite there. The instructor asked if we preferred to hold the one back until they were both ready, but that didn’t seem fair. The first class they were apart the one who wasn’t quite ready refused to go in the water and cried the entire 30 minutes. He also refused to do the lesson the next three weeks.

So in a few weeks, I am going to load up my 3-year-old with a backpack full of school supplies (My Baby! School Supplies?!?!) and put him on a school bus (which I am told is outfitted with car seats for little guys.) while his brother and I wave from the lawn. On alternate days I will wait for the bus and then take the other kid to school in our not-a-school-bus Minivan. (and if you don’t think that is a Big Thing then you don’t know 3-year-old boys.) They will spend 15 hours a week apart. Neither will have his brother there when the class celebrates their birthday. My heart breaks for them. When we talk about school starting, one will invariably say, “But I will miss my brother!” while I fight back tears. It will be great to finally have one-on-one time with each, but I can’t help but feel the other will be missing out. Or maybe we will be missing out while he is having a blast at school. One of the arguments I have read so often about separate classes for twins is that they are different people and need different experiences, but can find each other at recess or lunch and still maintain their bond. I love how close my boys are to each other. I want them to excel and I want what is best, but I also want them to have each other and not feel like we are taking one away from the other.

Will this be great for both of them? Absolutely. Is it going to be the toughest adjustment we’ve faced so far? Undoubtedly. But I hope we can get each the level of help he needs to excel in school, and we will all work together so that maybe, just maybe, I can exercise my right as a parent to chose whether or not they will be together in Kindergarten after all.

Jen is a stay-at-home Mom of 3-year-old twin boys who have already packed their backpacks several times with favorite toys and random treasures, ready to start preschool next week. Their adventures are (intermittently and mostly in photos) blogged at goteamwood.com.