Kids Flying Alone

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Categories Divorce, Older Children, TravelTags , , 4 Comments

Earlier this week, my 9-year-old daughters flew halfway across North America, unaccompanied. This was the first time they’d flown without an adult travelling with them, so I was nervous. It went remarkably well.

I’d done my research, but there were a few things that caught me by surprise, so I thought I would share our experience with you.

One mother's experience putting her children on a plane, unaccompanied.

I printed out Alaska Airlines unaccompanied minor form before I arrived at the airport. It included the children’s information and details for both the adult dropping them off and the adult picking them up.

We arrived at the airport about 2.5 hours before the girls’ flight. We stood in line until a check-in agent was available. When we reached the front of the line, I let the agent, Suzanne, know that the girls would be travelling unaccompanied. She was very sweet.

After she checked their suitcase, Suzanne gave the children stickers indicating their unaccompanied status to wear visibly. Along with the girls’ boarding passes, she issued me a gate pass. I paid $25 per child for the extra attention they would need.

I took the children through security as if I were travelling with them. The one odd moment was with the TSA agent who checked our passes. He asked each child whether I was her mother. They both giggled and informed him that I was.

We filled the girls’ water bottles and stopped for breakfast: some of Austin’s great breakfast tacos. We made our way to the gate and let the agents know that I had two unaccompanied minors. They told us that an airline employee would come and escort from me to their seats. Since we had some time to kill, we sat on the floor and played a game of UNO.

The night before travel... unaccompanied.
This photo was taken the night before the girls’ flight. M has become quite camera-shy of late, and I want to be respectful of her wishes. She instigated this photo, though, and gave me permission to share it.

When it was time to pre-board, M and J were called over the speakers by name. We went up front, but there wasn’t enough staff to go around, so the lady who would take them to their seats said she’d come back for them at the end of boarding. At this point, M began to complain that she felt like throwing up. J was still giddy about the whole adventure, so I was able to focus to M. She said she was going to miss me, but just wanted to hold my hand rather than get a hug.

Finally, it was time for them to go. To distract M, I kissed her on the top of her head, something she has recently declared to be yucky. She was so busy scrubbing off her hair that she didn’t even notice that I didn’t follow them to plane. We’d talked about what would happen, so she knew what to expect.

The only people left at the gate were me and a father who had sent his two children off unaccompanied. His kids were experienced unaccompanied travellers, and he helped put my mind at ease. We stayed at the gate until we were informed that the airplane had taken off (both because of mommy worry and because of airline policy).

On the other end, my former mother-in-law got her own gate pass and retrieved the children at the gate. The unaccompanied children were the last to exit and the airline staff confirmed Grandma’s identity by matching her legal ID to the unaccompanied minor form I’d provided them. When they called me, J and M were in high spirits.

I had made sure that the girls had plenty of activities to keep them occupied. We’d loaded up their Kindle with electronic books checked out of the library. I had packed some crayons and a colouring book, and the girls brought some crafts with them. J had her knitting, and M her sewing.

As it turns out, they didn’t need them. Alaska Airlines issued each of the unaccompanied minors on the flight his or her own iPad to watch movies on. As J put it, she had so much fun on the flight that she forgot I’d packed her snacks. M, on the other hand, appreciated the munchies.

Having been through this once, I feel far more confident about my kids flying alone. I can’t wait for them to come back home so I can hear all about the adventure of the flight back. I promise I won’t kiss M goodnight, although she does still like her bedtime snuggles.

I understand that different airlines have different policies, but the general experience I had seems to be typical.

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Daddy Dolls

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Categories Dads, Emotion, Holidays, Products, Talking to Kids, Toys, Travel, Wouldn't Do Without WednesdayTags , 48 Comments

Monday was Memorial Day, the American remembrance to honour all who have given their lives in service to the USA.

Too often, we get caught up in the excitement of a day off work, family barbecues, and widely advertised sales, forgetting the Memorial part of the day altogether. My daughters’ father is a career soldier and has served 3 combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we’re thankful that he has never been injured, I’m very aware that not all military families are so fortunate. On this day of the year, I always remember a waitress I met near where we live. We started chatting about our families when she noticed that my girls were twins. She was pregnant with her twins, she told me, when her husband was killed on duty at the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001. She moved back to Texas so that her parents could help her raise her three children even as she grieved.

It’s easy to overlook how war, especially war that takes place far from our shores, impacts children. It does impact them, though. My daughters have known all their lives that Daddy goes away to catch bad men. They know that he carries a gun, and so do the bad men. They also know that most of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan are just mommies and daddies and kids who don’t want any fighting. They just want to be together.

These conversations with my daughters were not easy. They were at least as hard as the conversations we’ve had about divorce and that mommy and daddy don’t love each other any more. Now that M and J are 9, they can verbalize how they’re feeling. When they were younger, it was much harder, especially with Daddy away more often than he was living with us at home.

To help my daughters talk about and process their father’s absence, I turned to Daddy Dolls, a company started by two Marine wives. They turn the full-length photo of a loved one into a doll for your child to interact with. Ours came out wonderfully. They held up through 2 years of daily hugs and countless runs through the washing machine, looking just as they did they day we received them. Sadly, they’ve been left at the bottom of the toy bin since shortly after the divorce, despite my efforts to bring them out to play.

I ordered the girls’ dolls the day that my now-ex left for his 3rd combat tour. We took photos of L in front of our garage the morning he deployed to Afghanistan. The company removed the background image and printed a smiling picture on each of two camo-backed dolls.

Daddy dolls give the military child something to hold onto while a parent is deployed.

When our then 4-year-old daughters received their dolls, they were completely enamoured. You can see their reaction in this video.

A few days after we received the Daddy dolls, I walked over to J’s bed after brushing M’s hair. J had her doll in her hand, facing me.

J (age 4, as Daddy): Hi Sadia!
Me: Hi L (ex’s name)!
J: So, how are you doing?
Me: I’m fine, but I miss you. I have a hard time falling asleep.
J: I just came by to say, “You’re welcome.”
Me: I see.
J: You’re welcome for the dolls.
Me: I love you!
J: I miss you all, even Penelope (the cat).
Me: And we miss you.
J: (as J, addressing the doll) You and me only have the … What’s the hole called?
Me: A dimple.
J: You and me only have a dimple.
M (age 4): Mommy and me have moles!
J: Does Daddy have a mole?
Me: Yes.

Of course, the utility and value of these dolls isn’t limited to families with a deployed parent. Any child suffering loss might benefit. I gave a gift card to the site to a friend for her son when her husband passed away. Moving away from the morbid, when it comes time for holiday shopping, a Daddy (or Mommy or Grandma or Sister) Doll might make for a good present. We received ours in less than two weeks.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.As with all Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday posts, I received no compensation for this review.

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: gogo Kidz Travelmate

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Categories Products, Travel, Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday3 Comments

Today marks the beginning of a new occasional series, brainchild of our own MandyE. We’re calling it Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday. (Insert your groan here, over my abominable abuse of alliteration.) In short, the HDYDI MoMs will share with you various products, services and tricks that have made our lives easier.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.We will not accept advertising pitches. The stuff featured in Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday consists of things we genuinely use, that we feel moved to share. We think you may not have heard of these items, or perhaps we’ve found secondary uses for household things that you might like to try.

gogo Kidz Travelmate

My pick for this week is the gogo Kidz Travelmate. Forgive the goofy spelling and capitalization. This contraption attaches to your convertible or toddler car seat, and its wheels essentially turn your car seat into a temporary stroller. In my opinion, if you’re flying with multiple toddlers, you have to invest in a few of these.

With my children asleep in their car seats, I was able to get from airplane door to my car without waking the twins. The only help I needed was that of the flight attendant who sat with one child while I carried the other out, carseat and all. It took a little creative positioning to drag a seat and suitcase behind me in each hand, but it worked.

gogo Kidz Travelmate in use. This is the easiest way to get a car seat through the airport.I wouldn’t recommend the Travelmate for everyday use. You probably still want a stroller. For getting through the airport, though, I have yet to see anything better than the Travelmate. I’m a big proponent of having non-lap baby smaller children fly in their car seats over being loose in the airplane seat. At least for my kiddos, being in the familiar confines of the car seat was a sign of the behaviour expected of them, and there was no risk of them sliding out. Plus, our car seats weren’t going to be crushed or mishandled in transit

Here’s how I used mine:

  1. When the Travelmates arrived in the mail, I grabbed my screwdriver and attached the bottom to the handle.
  2. The kids rode to the airport as usual.
  3. When we got out of the car, quickly attach the Travelmate to the back of the car seat.
  4. We rolled through the airport, stopping at least 10 times to answer questions about where you got this miracle
  5. Security was the biggest pain, which should come as no suprise. I had to take the pieces apart because our Britax Marathons wouldn’t go through X-ray otherwise, but it took only seconds to put it back together. Of course, the kids had to get out of the seats to go through security.
  6. I wheeled the car seats quite literally to out seats, one pushed in front of my and one dragged behind down the plane aisle.
  7. I popped off the wheels, stuck them in my carry-on and installed the car seats using the airplane seat belts.
  8. I then did everything backwards at the other end of the flight.

gogo Kidz Travelmate

 

Have you ever used the Travelmate? Did you find it as useful as I did?

Traveling with Toddlers and a Preschooler

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Going out, Joy, Napping, Overnight, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Sleep, Toddlers, Travel1 Comment

Having twin babies was overwhelming, having twin toddlers is exhausting, and having a preschooler and full time job on top of that is mentally draining. This is on a daily basis, in a confined predictable environment. So when Hubby suggested a trip away during my spring break last week, I was trepidatious, to say the least.

TravellingOur twins have never taken a trip of over a few hours at a time, we’ve never been out on vacation together as a family, and our preschooler hasn’t spent a night away since she was with Grandma when her siblings were first born almost 1.5 years ago. Suffice it to say, it’s been a long time. I also really wanted to go.

So, fully willing to accept getting no sleep, dealing with cranky children, and having no fun at all, we went… And it was GREAT! Completely exceeded all my expectations. For those contemplating travel with young multiples, it is possible. Here is what we did that I believe, contributed to a wonderful mini-vacation for us:

Location, Location, Location

We decided not to go too far, but far enough to stay overnight. Hubby’s suggestion of Legoland was perfect! Less than 2 hours away, nice hotel on site. We figured we’d give ourselves time to really explore, and we’d probably want to be taking it easy with so many young children, so I booked a two-night stay, and bought us 2-day hopper tickets.  We planned all our driving to coincide with the kids’ naps so that we’d have a nice quiet ride both ways.

Don’t Stress

Being very Type A, I knew beforehand I had to let go of some control. I had to force myself to relax my Nazi sleep schedule for the trip. I made a decision to prioritize nighttime sleep for the entire family and allow naps to be skipped/shortened for a couple of days. This was not easy for me, as I believe sleep is the foundation of everything for young children, but it was a necessity to balance the needs of everyone the trip. Obviously we knew what times the kids would all be sleepy, and sort of worked around those times (allowing twins to lay down in their stroller, taking it easy after lunch and returning to the hotel for a siesta), but for the most part I just loosely let naps be how they would.

Similarly, I only roughly planned the activities on this trip: What times we’d be driving, check-in/out times, the buffet hours, hotel entertainment events. I didn’t even know the layout of the park until we got there and explored it together. Besides a little mixup with our luggage being delivered to our room the first night (which of course was out of my control anyway), everything worked out great with my unplanned planning.

Eat at Buffets 

Our hotel stay included a breakfast buffet, and our kids ate free during the dinner buffet. Though we could have gotten dinner probably for less in the park or elsewhere, the convenience of food being an elevator ride away from our room, and the abundance of highchairs and kid food available at a place catering to children (an entire buffet section was at kid height) can’t be beat. We ate there for dinner both nights. Since breakfast was included for everyone staying at the hotel, it got to be very busy around 8:30am every morning. Not a problem for us: our kids are up and hungry by 6:30am. We ate breakfast there both mornings too.

Lunches we had in the park. As with all amusement park food, it was expensive and not the greatest. Factor in waiting for the food while your children are hungry, and you’d come to the decision to eat at a buffet whenever possible too.

Sleeping Arrangements 

When booking our reservation, I asked for a room on the top floor, away from the elevators. I knew that with so many kids staying in the hotel it would be loud, so I wanted to eliminate the noise as much as I could. I also brought a loud fan from home to use as a cover for any small noises we would make moving around the room. Again, this hotel is pretty spectacular that all their rooms are like mini-suites with a section for children that includes a bunk bed. My preschooler has never slept in a bunk before, so it was very exciting for her to look forward to being up high.

The hotel offered pack-n-plays, so I requested two of them. I was a little worried that there would be no space for them both, but going without them was not an option so we just had to wait and see. Thankfully, both cribs fit with plenty of space. We kept them at the foot of the adult bed. Knowing from traveling with their big sis at a younger age that being in an unfamiliar place might mean they would have trouble sleeping, I made sure to pack the bedding that they’re used to from home. The sheets and blankets took up almost half of the larger luggage we brought (the kids’), but it was worth it. They made not one peep either night. The fact that we all got a full night’s sleep really was the best part of this trip.

Ultimately, as with most things, I was much more worried about doing this than I should have been. I think now that I have 3 children instead of just one, I am learning to go more with the flow. Though damn expensive, this trip has taught me that some planning and the right attitude go a long way. I can’t wait for our next family vacation!

(As an aside, Legoland is such a wonderful place for young children. I would say it is perfect for kids aged 4 to 10. It is much smaller than Disneyland, easily walkable for young children without getting too tired. It was also less crowded, and if you don’t go during peak times there are no lines. Going almost anywhere with a double stroller often means a lot of maneuvering and blocking traffic, but Legoland was full of doubles, and we never had a problem getting around. Even “stroller parking” seemed plentiful. The Legoland hotel was the highlight of this trip though. Catered specifically to this age group, it had so many conveniences and amenities that made the trip super easy for us. Highly recommended.)

lunchldyd is mom to an almost-4yo and her 17mo b/g twin siblings. She is a high school teacher in a suburb of Los Angeles.

Twice Upon a Time: A Fairy Tale Weekend in Twinsburg, Ohio

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Categories Celebrations, Fraternal, Higher-Order Multiples, Identical, Multiples in the News, Parenting, Travel5 Comments

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We just returned home from our family’s 4th annual trip to Twinsburg, OH for the Annual Twins Days Festival. My Twin Boys are three, we went the first time when they were 9 months old. I have written here on HDYDI about Twins Days before, but it is just so much fun I wanted to share it again. Every year the festival is the first full weekend in August in the Ohio town of Twinsburg. (Near Cleveland) Twins (and triplets and more!) come from around the world to celebrate their twinship, meet other twins and partake in the festivities. It is such a fun weekend and we have met so many amazing people. So many adult twins we have met have shared how special the weekend is to them, and one duo we met said how the rest of the people in their family have weddings and birthdays and celebrations, but for them, Twins Days is their best time. 

We drive from Chicago for the weekend, leaving early Friday morning, arriving in time for the Welcome Wiener Roast for twins and their families on Friday evening. Waiting in line that evening to pick up our registration packet for our boys, a new mom of twins behind me in line said she couldn’t stop giggling and staring, she said it felt like the Twilight Zone where there was two of everyone. I told her we felt the same way our first year, as non-twins my husband and I actually felt sad at the end of the weekend to not have a twin. We loved how much everyone enjoyed and celebrated being a twin, and we wanted our boys to share in that celebration. We’ve been back every year since then. 

Our boys are young and don’t really understand what it means to be a twin, so for our family, the highlight of the trip is always the Double Take Parade. Any twins who are registered for the festival are invited and encouraged to walk in the parade. Each year the festive has a theme, generally announced a few months in advance of the event. This year’s theme was fairy tales “Twice Upon a Time” so everyone was decked out in their finest fairy tale costumes. There are some that are quite elaborate with costumes and outfits, turning wagons and strollers into mini floats, but some twins just walk the route in matching street clothes. That’s the fun thing about Twins Days, even the adult twins dress alike for the weekend. 

Here are some of my favorite shots from the parade. My boys are in Prince Charming outfits I made for them, and they even had tiny glass slippers they tried to fit on nearly every pair of princesses they could find. It was pretty, well, charming. 

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The parade isn’t like most. There are floats for sure, but the first few waves are just pairs of twins, usually in matching themed costumes, walking down the street. And the street is lined with people, shoulder to shoulder, some twins, others just locals coming to watch the parade or grab some candy.

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After the parade there are plenty of photo opportunities. One set of twins generally asks another for a photo, then more and more join, two by two, until it is a huge group. These Cinderella and Prince Charming pairs were happy to include their tiny doppelgängers for a group photo. (and be sure my kids tried their glass slippers on those princesses too. 

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After the parade the festival opens, there are carnival rides, lots of food vendors, free Twin Pop popsicles, research study opportunities, a craft fair, a beer garden, and contests. My boys were in the theme costume contest. (the didn’t win.) but there are also contests for most-alike and least-alike twins, oldest twins and youngest twins, twins traveled from the furthest distance and more. 

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The youngest twins in Saturday’s contest were 3 weeks old, the oldest are 98 years young!

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 Then in the afternoon there is a break in the contests to take a group photo. We’ve been lucky the past two years to meet some very helpful older twins to wrangle mine for the photo since it takes about 30 minutes to get everyone into place for the group photo. My kids are sitting in the middle on the laps of their new friends. 

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A Charming Weekend indeed.

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If anyone else was in Twinsburg this weekend and wants to share photos or experiences, we’d love to hear them. And mark your calendars for the first weekend in August next year, it’s definitely something every twin family should see at least once!

 

Trust

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Categories Babysitting, Childcare, Mommy Issues, Other people, Relationships, Safety, Travel, Working1 Comment

I recently had to take an emergency trip from my home in Texas to London, where I was needed to help care for my 2-year-old nephew. A co-worker pointed out that this went against the norm. It’s normally the UK that exports its nannies to the US, he said.

It didn’t make sense to bring my daughters with me, financially or practically. I didn’t want them to miss school. We wouldn’t even get to see London because I was going to have to focus on my nephew. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to get them passports in time. I cut it close with my own passport as it was. It had expired, but, fortunately, I fell within the criteria for an emergency travel credential, a passport substitute, good for this trip only. I drove 300+ miles roundtrip while my first graders were at school to obtain it.

I had to figure out how my daughters would be cared for while I was away. Their father lives 600 miles away and wasn’t going to be available. I don’t have any family nearby. What I do have is the village that it takes to raise a child, the people who are more family than family. These are the people who love J and M nearly as much as I do, from choice, not obligation.

I sent out two text messages, one to our babysitter Angie, and one to our former neighbour Heidi.

Angie used to teach at the daycare J and M attended for over 4 years. She’s known the girls for over half their lives, and is a trained childcare provider. She’s creative, funny, and affectionate, but doesn’t accept any disobedience or lack of discipline.

Heidi’s daughter is two months younger than my girls, to the day, and our girls have grown up like sisters, at least sisters where one sister can’t tell the other two apart. Heidi used to be the person I’d call if the girls wanted to play outside while I was in the middle of cooking dinner. As early as age 3, I knew I could trust them to go out the front door by themselves as long as Heidi knew they were out. I’d just usually end up stretching dinner to feed both families. I taught Heidi’s daughter how to bake, and she taught mine how to navigate the swampy area behind our first home. All 3 girls have known all their lives to listen to both sets of parents as if they were their own, and that the different rules of each house started at the edge of lawn and extended from the sidewalk to the back yard.

Both Angie and Heidi immediately said they could help care for the girls whiIe I was away. I went with Angie, because she could come and stay at our house with the kids, minimizing the disruption, avoiding the packing, and saving me having to find someone else to feed the cats and discipline the kitten. Her nannying schedule worked out to be a perfect complement to the girls’ school and after school care times.

I didn’t just want a babysitter for the kids, someone who would just ensure that they were safe and on schedule. I wanted someone who could fill in as Mom while I was away. Someone who would address their concerns about my absence openly and completely. Someone who wouldn’t take shortcuts to get through the evening, but would instead carry forward the work of raising the girls, discussing the choices they’d made during the day, challenging them to be responsible, building their confidence while emphasizing humility. What a gift to have two such people actually available to us on a week’s notice! There are still others in our community who would have gladly done it, had their work or childcare obligations allowed.

While I was in London, I videoconferenced with the girls on Skype every day, some days twice. I could tell that they were comfortable and happy. Their smiles were genuine, their stories from their day those of typical 6-year-olds, and their trust in Angie palpable. A couple of times, they had worries to discuss with me, but for the most part they wanted to hear about my day, be silly with their cousin, and confirm that I was okay before getting back to their busy lives of art projects and games of pretend.

Angie was the first person I gave a key to my home to after I bought it. There is nothing more precious to me than my children. I’d never leave my kids with someone I wouldn’t trust with my house keys. Anyone I can trust with them, I can trust with all that I own. After all, I’m trusting them with my life.

 

Sadia lives with her 6-year-old daughters in the greater Austin, Texas area. Her trip to London was her first to her home country in over a decade. She was too busy with a toddler and bureaucracy to see much of London.  Still, she was reminded that snow needn’t be too deep to crunch underfoot, that people walk on the left there, and that British biscuits are a far superior comfort food to American cookies. She heard a lot more Portuguese and Spanish than was spoken in London in her childhood, and was happy to learn that 11 years had put no dent in her closeness to her cousins or closest college buddy.

Mum Connections

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Categories Family, Feeding, Mommy Issues, Other people, Theme Week, TravelTags , , , , , , 3 Comments

A month ago, we had dinner at the Calgary Airport. What better restaurant to have our last meal in oil and beef-heaven than at a steakhouse?

The waitress greets us with a cheery smile, asks us how many we are. “Four adults, two children,” I answer, pointing out L and R. My parents are sending us off before they head to Montreal the next day.  As the waitress walks us to a booth, she asks if I prefer high-chairs or booster-seats for the children.

“What are booster-seats?” I ask, fully aware of my ignorance. “Little seats that you can move around. They add height to any other regular seat,” she replies, without a hint of condescension.

The booster-seats sound perfect. My kids hate high-chairs.

“Great! Come on over this way. I’ll get the brown paper laid out first, and then bring out the crayons.” She smiles as she walks away in her black pants, and black t-shirt; her blond pony-tail bobbing along behind her.

“Here’s the crayons, and some menus. You need anything else, give me a shout. I’ll be back for the order in a few minutes,” she assures us. How wonderful! L and R sit at the table happily, unrestricted; and they draw pictures with my parents.

When she returns, Maher asks if she can suggest any vegetarian options for my mum. She pulls her pen out of her apron and uses it as a pointer, “There’s the garden salad, the coleslaw, there’s a veggie fajita, and we can do most any of the starters’ vegetarian. You just ask me, and I’ll request it in the kitchen.”

“Fantastic!” he replies.

“One chicken fajita should be enough for the two children right?” I ask her.

“Plenty. Portion’s big here.”

We place the rest of the order, and just before she turns around to leave, she asks if we want the fries out first. Maher and I looked at each other and then up at her. She understands. “Yes please, and the guacamole, and anything that’s ready. They’re hungry.” We didn’t mention that they won’t stay put for very long.

She smiles, winks, and asks, “They twins?”
“Yes, 23 months old,” I reply.
“I have three kids. A four year-old, and two year-old twins. All boys.” She says with a gleam in her eyes.
“Really? That’s wonderful. So you know!” I sigh with a sense of relief that sweeps across me.

I don’t usually stress out about being at a restaurant with my toddlers. In China it’s easy. Children are welcome everywhere, easy-going restaurants for sure, fancy places are no exception. The hosts, even the guests happily chat and play with them. That’s not to say that I’ve had any criticism in Canada over the last 3 weeks, neither in Montreal nor in Calgary; but it’s on my mind that they have to behave a bit differently. I do my best to keep the situation as much under-control as possible, without making a big deal out of it. And with my parents there to help, at least we’ll all get to eat.  But the mess we leave is always bigger than at the other tables, and our sweet waitress is the one who’s got to take care of it.

My stress dissipates after she hangs out longer, and after she tells us about her children. I feel a connection with her just for being a Mum of Twins. It’s not rational. But she understands what it’s like to be at a restaurant with excited twin toddlers. She’s not fazed by their loud chatter, their need to switch seats as they spill the water, and their desire to reach for the knives.

Part way through the meal, L needs a change of diaper. As we walk back from the washroom, the appropriately positioned toy store – right across from the restaurant — with a large poster of a crocodile eating a monkey, sucks Leila in. Before long, Rahul and two adults in our group join her. 15 minutes into the discovery, and a number of different dynamics later, I am back at the restaurant finishing up my meal, with my mum. I pick at the colourful bell peppers and onions from the children’s fajita, after I’m done with my own dish. It’s time to go though; time to say goodbye to my parents. I ask for the bill.

While I pay, the sweet waitress and I have a little chat. She’s the kind of woman who calls you honey. Not in a patronising sense.

“Who helps you with the kids?” I ask.

“My husband. He takes care of them in the day while I’m here, and he works at night. I was just talking to my co-worker over there,” she tilts her head towards another waitress, “Was just tellin’ her it’s been a week since I saw him. ‘N’ we live in the same house.”

“Man, that’s not easy,” I sympathise. She looks up at me, shrugs her shoulders and smiles. That’s when I notice the dark circles around her eyes.

“Have a good flight!” She waves.

“Thanks, and good luck with it all,” I pat her shoulder, and push our over-packed stroller out of the restaurant.

My mum and I walk over to the crocodile and monkey toy shop to pick up the rest of the gang. We slowly make our way to the security check.

Just this morning, L and R talked about a crocodile eating a monkey.

Have you had random mum connections that you still remember?

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Natasha, mum of Leila and Rahul was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until her little yogis became the teachers. You can find more of her thoughts and stories at Our Little Yogis.

Seeing Double at Twins Days in Twinsburg, OH

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Categories Activities, Fraternal, Identical, Multiples in the News, Parenting Twins, TravelTags 3 Comments

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Our family just arrived home from our second trip to the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, OH. Last summer we attended a wedding in Philadelphia with our 9-month-old twins. We packed the car for a road trip from Chicago but had to divide our drive into a few days. Looking for a half-way point we saw Twinsburg, OH on the map and thought, “Hey, we should stay there, it’s a town named Twinsburg.” A quick Google search revealed Twins Days Festival, a record-setting gathering of twins from around the world which just happened to be the weekend we were driving through Ohio. We had to go. How could we pass it up?

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We enjoyed our first Twins Days experience so much, we decided before we even left Ohio we would try to go back every year. It is an experience unlike anything I have seen. The sense of community and camaraderie among twins from all over really is amazing. Among the many activities, our favorite has been the Double Take Parade, which encourages any and all twins to join in the themed parade. This year’s theme was Circus, a truly fitting theme for a gathering of twins. My boys were dressed as Human Cannonballs, with their wagon outfitted as a cannon. There are also lots of research studies for twin participation, and mingling with twins young and old. The youngest set there was 8 weeks, the oldest was 96 years old! There are lots of contests, carnival rides, food, and fun. Friday night is a Wiener Roast for twins and their families, Saturday night there are fireworks and Sunday morning is a pancake breakfast. For older twins there is a golf tournament, a 5K and lots more.

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So much I have read and heard since we were expecting twins focuses on the challenges: the high-risk pregnancy, the bleary-eyed, soul-crushing sleep deprivation, the expense, every-rough-patch-times-two. Dress them alike. Don’t dress them alike. Separate them in school. Keep them together. Everything I read seems to threaten all the ways I am destined to mess my kids up. Plus, as much as strangers are fascinated with and willing to offer up comments about twins, they are almost always negative. “You’ve got your hands full!” or “Double Trouble!” or “Better you than me!”

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It is easy to lose sight of how wonderful it can be raising twins. We have twice the giggles, twice the hugs. My boys are growing up spending every day with a best friend. I get to watch my two tiny infants as they grow into little boys. My boys are 21 months old, racing from milestone to milestone, growing noticeably each day. I wonder every single day how they can possibly be cuter than they were yesterday and how did I get so lucky to be here for the ride. The truth is that while my boys are fraternal and are very different, they were born a pair. Twins Days is such a unique celebration of twinship, I want my boys to grow up appreciating how truly special it is to be a twin. In Twinsburg for that one weekend a year, they can be among people who know what it’s like to go through life with a doppelganger, with a relationship unlike any other. They can be part of the community and celebrate being twins.

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My boys are often subject to lots of attention when we are out and about, and sometimes I feel like they are a spectacle. (I imagine it is nothing compared to identical twins or even triplets or quads!) I want them to feel proud that there are two of them, and love that they came into this world as a set. Twins Days Weekend is always the first weekend in August in Twinsburg, OH. For more photos and information about our trip, you can check out our rundown of our weekend as well as photos form this year and last. You can read more about the adventures of our family at goteamwood.com

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Same Different: A Constant Pull

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Categories Toddlers, TravelTags , , , 3 Comments

Just as we are working to affirm and encourage individuality in our daughters, they seem committed to being more definite about being treated the same. For example, if one is wearing a sweater to go outside, the other one wants her sweater too. If one is wearing her brother’s shoes or bike helmet, the other wants to do the same. If one of them is reading a book with me, the other one goes to get a book to read. Or, even harder yet, if I’m carrying one, then I’d better be prepared to carry the other one next.

Wearing the big kids' bike helmets

So, I’ve started experimenting to see how they respond to different situations. I’ll admit I’m as curious about multiples and the “twin connection” as the next person. So, I’ll get one girl dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Then I’ll offer her sister a choice of outfits that is either similar to her sister or different.  Now, I can’t say they always choose the same or always choose different, but I can say they are definite about their choices.

At snack time, if one does the sign for milk and her sister does the sign for water. I’ve noticed that if I get water (or milk) for one girl, her sister will change her mind and want the same. If one finishes her snack more quickly and asks for more, her sister will expect more even if she hasn’t finished what she already has.

The other day, I tried switching their cribs to see how they responded. About the only consistently different thing between the girls has been their cribs. Since we moved and set up two cribs in their bedrooms, they have consistently slept in the same crib, unless we get them mixed up, unless the nanny isn’t as concerned about this as I am, as far as I know. So one day when they were playing around a nap time, and neither wanted to get in her crib, I plopped them in to the closest cribs, which meant they were in the “wrong” cribs.  This didn’t seem to bother them at all. Nap time went without any problems.

Riding on the same toy car

So I’m left wondering do they have a sense of individual identity or shared connection or not? Do they care who sleeps in which crib or who has which blanket, or does it only matter when someone is getting special treatment or extra attention?

And most importantly, I continue to wonder how do we foster individuality when they spend so much time together and they seem so much alike?

A Pivotal Twenty Sixth Month

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, Development, Family, Toddlers, Travel9 Comments

So I’ve been writing this series of posts (on my blog) about how we’ve been blurring the lines of our formerly iron-clad (at the demand of the twin’s, not us!) routine. Things like pushing back bedtime, and going to the zoo when they’d typically be going down for a nap, and taking a day trip to the beach, and staying out “way past” bedtime, and traveling during the time that the kids are usually long in bed.

All this in the last six weeks!

It’s like all of a sudden we can finally do things we haven’t been able to do and we actually have fun while doing it and we’re not always scared we won’t ever get to sleep ever never again, and we’re actually able to relax (a little bit) while the kids entertain themselves instead of living our public lives in a sweaty, running in opposite direction mess.

And it only took TWENTY SEVEN MONTHS!

Any breakthroughs, milestones, realizations for you this summer? Anything you long for? (I long for a margarita.)

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Rachel’s family is breaking new ground over at Motherhood.Squared .