Planning a Date Night for the Whole Family

Last week Chris and I realized that although we manage to get out and away from the kids once a week, that this time is usually spent with our friends. We counted it up and we generally make it out together “alone” on a date less than once a month.

We wouldn’t change the quality time with our friends for anything, however we are unable to finance a ton of extra romantic evenings away from the kids on top of our “wildly” busy social lives. There are limits to how often we can call in the grandparents, because I’m pretty sure that they didn’t retire so Chris and I could go out to dinner and stare lovingly into each other’s eyes. Also, if we go out on a work night it generally means that Chris and I have seen the kids for less than an hour that entire day, which we both hate, added to the expense of hiring a sitter to take care of our twin munchkins.

We decided to come up with a few economical solutions to give us a “date” when we feel that we haven’t had enough couple time. As a part of this solution we’ve found the ideal couple to double date with – our 22 month old twins.

560450_10150995661177110_2068335716_nMe and Miss Molly on a “date” at Granville Island Brewery in BC

Drive In Movies

I have a real soft spot for the Drive In that started in the early 80s when my parents would take my sister and I in the hatch back Celica and we’d watch the first movie (or most of the first movie) from our sleeping bags and then fall asleep giving my parents a night at the movies. As a parent of infants The Drive In appeals to me because the car provides some shelter from disturbing fellow movie goers if there is a melt down, you have space to comfort and cuddle babies if they need it and Molly and Jack are generally really good in the car. I’ve found that our car is surprisingly sound proof! As the kids get older we’ll bring special snacks, play Frisbee outside before the movie starts, and watch them fall asleep during the first feature.

Backyard Romance

Getting out and organized with enough supplies can be a giant hassle and sometimes we’re too tired to make the effort. Now that the nice weather is here, we’re trying to celebrate in the evening by bringing a couple of beers or some wine out into the backyard, along with the baby monitor.

Brunch is Best

We go out at the time of day when our children are best behaved (for us this is generally late morning/early afternoon). I am a huge fan of brunch with kids because: 1) You can get something a little bit fancier for cheaper 2) The food is served quickly 3) There are often a lot of other children around even if the establishment isn’t a “family” restaurant and people seem to be generally more patient and understanding of kids being around during the day 4) Many places offer special child friendly menu options, colouring books and crayons. Our kids are usually really well behaved at restaurants, but they aren’t silent, not even close to it. It’s nice not to have to worry about offending other patrons or having to shush your children when they’re just being kids while you enjoy a meal out together. We always order the bill with our food, just in case we need to jam because of a meltdown.

Dinner & Movie

This is a bi-monthly tradition we started BC (before children) in the colder months to beat the winter blahs. When the minions get older this is something that everyone can enjoy and work on together in teams. Right now one of us is on childcare/bed time duty while the other person prepares for our late dinner in. Essentially how it works is that you alternate turns where one person selects a movie and prepares an appropriately themed dinner to go along with it. Chris is much better at the dinner and movie selection than I am. Personal favorites: Casablanca with a Moroccan Feast including sweet mint tea, The Godfather with spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and red wine, or Cool Hand Luke with Southern fried chicken and a dozen hard boiled eggs.

Hopefully this will allow us, and others to carve out a little together “alone” time and start some great traditions!

*This is an excerpt from a post on my blog.  Read the entire post click here

SaraBeth is a Toronto based writer.  Her blog Multiple Momstrosity was named one on Toronto Mom Now’s 2012 Top 30 Mom Blogs.  She is a two-time veteran of the Three Day Novel Writing Contest.  She lives in The Junction with her husband and fraternal toddler twins (Molly & Jack).

Two of Me

I needed to assemble some new furniture recently. I put the first bookshelf together while my 6-year-old daughters were sleeping and presented it to them proudly when they awoke. J was unimpressed.

J: You did that by yourself.
Me: Yes, honey. Do you like it?
J: How did you do it by yourself?
Me: The same way I did the dining table. I just followed the instructions.
J: It’s supposed to take two people.
Me: I could see it being easier with two, but I was fine by myself.
J: Last time you had someone else.
Me: I don’t think so. Do you want to help me with the others? I’d love some help putting your book bag cubbies together!
J: You need two people. Two of me is one you. M is another me because we’re sisters and twins. Sometimes she has some different thoughts, but really, she’s another me. So me and M together is one you and we’ll help.

They did end up helping me assemble the cubbies we’re now using to house their schoolbags, dance bags, and piano books. M’s contribution was minimal, since she spent so long washing her hands that we were nearly done by the time she showed up.

When the girls were first born, I would have bristled at anyone saying that M was “another” J. Over the years, though, I’ve learned to embrace the similarities and closeness between my girls, while also celebrating their individuality and differences. Both my girls are well-adjusted, independent, and happy. Most of the time, they love being together, but sometimes they need time apart and they argue often.

I don’t think J’s conception of M as her other self was imposed on her from outside. It’s just one more aspect of the relationship that M and J share, one that might have existed even if they weren’t identical, even if they weren’t twins, perhaps even if they weren’t sisters. I kind of like the idea of my daughters adding up to “another me” when it comes to physical labour, too.

How do your multiples perceive their siblings in relation to themselves?

Sadia is a divorced mother of 6-year-old twin girls, living in the Austin, TX area.

Switcheroo

My daughter J cried herself to sleep last night, as she had the night before.

The first night, it was because I made her go to bed without a bath after she earned a timeout. She earned the timeout for backtalk and kicking at me for asking her to take a bath. Yes, that’s exactly as circular as it sounds. Last night, the tears were because I didn’t let her finish her science homework because she remembered it (after I’d asked 2 hours earlier and she’d told me she was done) 1 minute before bedtime.

Over dinner tonight, I had to lay out our ground rules again. I’m willing to hear the girls’ opinions, but they are to listen/obey first, then talk.

We’d talked specifically about what had gone wrong last night earlier in the day, after we’d all had a chance to sleep on it. I reminded J that I’d made it very clear that both my 6-year-olds were to be in bed at 8:30, no matter what.

“You didn’t explain that properly,” she retorted. “‘No matter what’ isn’t even words!”

“I know what ‘no matter what’ means,” her twin, M, piped up helpfully from the other bed. “It means, ‘no exceptions!’”

My girls have a tendency to react to bad behaviour from Sissy by being extra-helpful and extra-cheerful. It’s actually a great arrangement from my perspective, since it means that I have only rarely had to deal with both girls crying or acting out at once. Most of the time, they’re both very good-natured and bouncy, so I’m glad they don’t get down in the dumps together.

When I go to the bottom of what was bugging J, it was concern about the next week. Spring break starts tomorrow, and the girls will be driving off with Daddy to spend the week with him in El Paso. They live with me, and this will be the longest they’ve spent with Daddy since he and I separated last April.

Tonight, it was M who cried at bedtime.

“When the overwhelmness fills my whole body,” M explained through her tears, “it makes tears come from my eyes. I’m going to miss you too much. I hate this divorce. Divorce is a ugly stupid word. I wish no parents ever fought ever and there was no word of ‘divorce.’”

J was the one to try to lighten the mood, reminding her sister of a movie they’d watched with their school counselor at ‘divorce club,’ the monthly meeting for 1st graders with divorced parents.

The nutty thing is that, until the last month or so, J has been the one completely in touch with her emotions. She’s been the one who explains to me clearly exactly how she feels about all the recent changes in her life, while M has acted out and needed a lot of help to get to the root of her worries.

This sort of role switcheroo happens all the time with my girls. One will be extremely mature and in touch with her feelings, while the other is a mess with no idea what’s bothering her. After a few days, or weeks, or months, they’ll suddenly switch roles. One will bury her nose in a book 24/7, while the other wants to play, and one day, the arguments will remain exactly the same, but with J and M reversing positions. When they were babies, M was the one who loved to be held and rocked and snuggled, while J would cry to be put down. Today, J’s the one who lists “snuggles” in the “need” column on school assignments on needs versus wants, while M tells me that my goodnight hug was “too much squishing.”

Of course, there are a lot of ways in which M and J are consistently distinct from each other. M can talk the hind leg off a donkey and just be getting started. J takes earnestness to a fine art. M is a picky, picky eater, while J is usually open to liking new things if I can convince her to try them. J has the ability to warm a stranger’s heart with one word or look, while M can leave people writhing with laughter with her wry humour.

I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing conscious about the way that J and M go about reversing roles and maintaining balance, but I can’t help thinking that the sensitivity that they’ve learned from adjusting to each others’ moods and needs will serve them well in personal and professional relationships throughout their lives.

Do your multiples switch roles?

Sadia lives and overthinks matters of parenting in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is newly divorced and works in higher education IT. She will be at work, not at SXSW, this week. Her daughters, M and J, are identical 6-year-olds in 1st grade.

Paired Imagination

I’m not a huge fan of driving—I put off learning how to drive until I was 25—but I do love overhearing my daughters’ conversations in the car.

Yesterday was Movie Day at the summer day camp our 6-year-olds are attending. The kids were invited to bring pillows and blankets, and the older kids were put to work first thing in the morning dividing a massive quantity of popcorn into single servings.

FueyFuzzy

The girls asked me to photograph their toys to acknowledge their first day of school, and added hair accessories before posing them, to mark the occasion. The blue Care Bear is M’s Fuey, the other J’s Fuzzy.

J and M decided to take their bedtime friends with them for Movie Day.

Before getting into the car, J had a serious discussion with her lovey, Fuzzy, about what she could expect at school.

“This is the first time she’s gone out to the world,” J explained to me, dead serious.

“Fuey’s been to school with me before, but this is a new school for her,” M added.

In the car, there was a discussion of how to ensure the toys’ safety. The girls finally settled on using the tightening straps on their carseats as seat belts for their toys.

“Fuzzy needs a baby seat,” J explained. “She’s only zero. She’ll be only zero forever.”

“Fuey only gets to 7 years old,” M chimed in. “Right now she’s 6, no 5. When she has a birthday, she’ll be 6. On her next birthday, she’ll be 7. But the next birthday, she’ll still be 7, because of magic.”

“Yes,” J agreed, “Magic keeps Fuzzy zero. It’s okay, little Fuzzy. You’ll like my friends.”

I know that most kids build extensive and vivid imaginary worlds, but I love that I get to hear my girls doing it. In addition to their toys having very real personalities, both girls have distinct imaginary friends who, on occasion, they lend to Sissy for the purpose of populating a game. My favourite of their imaginary friends is Dustin, M’s friend, named after a coworker of mine. He has a habit of refusing to answer to “Dustin,” instead choosing alternate names to go by on a nearly daily basis.

What do your kids’ imaginary worlds look like? What do you overhear them discussing?

Sadia, her twin daughters J and M, and her grandchildren, Fuey and Fuzzy, live in El Paso, Texas.

Annoying

Technical difficulties prevented this post from being published on Sunday, October 10.

M and J are five years old. In all those years, neither of them has ever asked for time away from her sister. From time to time, they have chosen to pursue different activities with one parent or the other, but my husband and I have had to work hard to pry them away from one another. We didn’t give them the option of being in the same kindergarten class (a discussion for another day), and they made it abundantly clear that being split up was not their preference.

M is a talker, and always has been. She narrates the world around her, and has ever since she mastered the sign for “more” and the word “uh-oh”. I’m as extroverted as anyone I know, but even I tire of the constant avalanche of words and ideas. J doesn’t. J listens, and listens, and listens, and if she absolutely must make herself heard, she does. Don’t get me wrong. J is a huge talker too. She’s just better able to pick and choose between her thoughts to identify what she wants to share.

This afternoon, M told we that she was feeling strange. She couldn’t describe exactly how, but I suspected that she was coming down with the ugly cough that’s been plaguing J and my husband. Since he reported that a nap had helped him significantly earlier, I suggested that we have a mommy-daughter read-and-snuggle session. J picked up Enid Blyton’s Melody and the Enchanted Harp and M grabbed Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go. I grabbed the P.D. James novel I’d been snacking on, since I knew that any other of my current reads would have me reaching for a notebook and pen.

We curled up under our covers and settled down to reading. M elected to read out loud. She has a tendency to skip over unfamiliar multi-syllable words, so I haven’t done much with her to encourage silent reading. On practically every page, she had an editorial comment, on witty rhymes, silly words, or interesting ideas. She wished we could have towed our old neighbourhood to our current location so she wouldn’t have to miss our neighbouts. Were Hakken-Craks real? Having years of practice as mother of the terribly talkative twins under my belt, I am adept at carrying on a conversation with one or both of them while reading (or cooking or cleaning).

Halfway through the Dr. Seuss, J had had enough. “May you please read in your head?” she asked her sister. When M ignored her, she repeated her request, adding, “It’s annoying.” M read silently for a couple of pages before picking up her chatter again. J elected to let her be.

Perhaps I should have scolded J for calling her sister annoying. All I could think, though, was that this was a milestone. For the first time, one sister had expressed annoyance with the other. It wasn’t enough for J to want alone time, but I feel like we’re on the path there. It’s bittersweet. I’ve loved this extraordinary acceptance our daughters have of one other, knowing full well that the closer they are, the harder it’s going to be for them as they develop their distinctive interests and lives.

How old were your kids the first time they got on each other’s nerves? Did you/do you think it’s healthy?

can i make my twins wear Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts?

Nearly everyone has an opinion about dressing twins alike. (Mine? It’s adorable when they’re little, but a luxury people who dress mostly in hand-me-downs can rarely afford!) My boys have a handful of matched shirts — gifts from their grandma, or the fruit of a Target clearance rack. Every so often they like to dress alike, and cackle together about their plans to confuse people. For the most part, though, they dress in totally different things.

It has not helped people tell them apart, except that once a person asks, “Are you G or P?” he or she can keep track more easily for the rest of the day.

All last school year they had different haircuts, but still very few of their classmates and teachers could remember who was who.

This year they have a wonderful teacher I trust. I know he cares about them as individuals, and is working hard to learn to tell them apart. They have the same haircut now, and it obscures the two easiest “tells” — their different hairlines, and a fading scar on one boy’s forehead.

As I said last year in one of my many *upset* posts [that got me crying again reading it now],

…my little boys …are actual peoplewho deserve to be recognized and called by name and valued as individuals. How can you love or even like a person if you don’t recognize him, or can’t differentiate him from another?

So I’m trying to help their teacher (and them) out, by color-coding them. G in green or grey, and P in blue.

Problem is, they don’t always want to wear their assigned colors. They understand why we’re doing this, but sometimes P wants to wear the grey shirt. Or they both want to wear blue shirts. I’m only comfortable pushing this up to a point.

What are your thoughts on this? My boys are 7. How hard should I push them to wear color-coded clothes to school? I feel like I am crossing some sort of civil rights line in the sand when I tell P he has to save his grey shirt for the weekend and wear the blue one like I asked.
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she teaches readers how to survive various life crises with materials commonly found in a 5-door family vehicle with seating for 7.

After-School Together Time

A few weeks ago, our 5-year-old twins J and M were pre-schoolers. I’d clock off work around 5:00, and drive to their pre-school to pick them up. When I reached daycare around 6:00 pm, they were always bursting with stories, discoveries, and questions to share with me. They’d trip over each in other their attempts to tell me and their Dad everything they had to report. M tends to be more long-winded than J, but many of their tales were groups efforts, born of their day in a common classroom.

Our schedule in our new city is quite different now. I work until 4:00 pm local time, and that work is done in my home office. Our daughters are elementary school kids. We have yet to finalize after-school care arrangements for our girls, but for now, my husband is picking the girls up from their bus stop around 3:00 pm. He’s finally getting to enjoy some post-deployment time off work.

I had already explained to the girls that my work in my home office made me as unavailable as I had been at work before I started telecommuting. Still, I prepared myself for another serious conversation with the our daughters about the fact that I would unavailable to them for their first hour home from school.

I needn’t have worried. M and J are in different classrooms for kindergarten, apart for much of the day for the first time in their lives. They have little desire to spend any time with me or Daddy when they get home from school. They need to be together. They grab a snack, during which M briefly reports on her day to Dad, and then both girls disappear into their bedroom, shutting the door behind them.

Do Not Enter: Twins at Play

They have plenty to tell us come dinnertime, but the first hour of the day during which they can be fully together is sister time. It’s not enough for them to see each other at on the school bus, at recess, and at lunchtime. It’s not nearly enough, after almost six years together, starting in the womb. They haven’t complained at all about being in separate classrooms, beyond first-day jitters. They just silently agreed on how to get quality twin time into their day.

How much time do your multiples spend apart? Do they want more? Less?

i take my school-related concerns to the next level

Internet, today I sent my boys back to school after spring break. And I hated it.

If you’ve met me [online] or my children [in real life] you know how odd it is for me to want them in the house more. They yell. They chase. They maraud. They fight. They plunder. I reupholstered my dining room chairs in December, and the new vinyl is already shredded. Yesterday my son yanked the pull chain out of a floor lamp because he was angry. Someone stabbed a hole in my (p)leather ottoman just to see what would happen. Life with my kids at home is non-stop destruction.

My boys got haircuts over the weekend, and they wanted the same thing. Afterward, they fooled their sisters. A bit later, they confused their dad. The next morning, in my early-morning sleep haze, I had a brief conversation with P but thought he was G for most of it. Sending them to school looking identical didn’t mesh with my primary objective for the day, which was to contact their principal about my concerns.

To review:

  1. I suspect the boys might have been switched during placement testing.
  2. My boys told me their teacher mixes them up all the time.
  3. The school asks parents to provide a photo of their child along with any medication, to ensure it’s given to the right child. As if that would help.
  4. The combination of these three things irritated me quite a bit.

So this morning I called the principal. Because I’m one of the most awkward people not officially diagnosed with Asperger’s, I stuttered and stammered through the call and I’m not sure she knew what I wanted. So later I wrote her an email to make sure I communicated effectively. I totally sucked up at the end of it because I’m really worried this will turn into their teacher not liking them as well and therefore not being as nice to them.

Tonight at bedtime I asked G if anyone had said anything about he and his brother looking more alike today. He said no, they just said, “Griff-Peter.” [For this example, pretend my boys' names are Griffin and Peter.] I quizzed him, and according to him everyone called them a hybrid name all day long. I’m not sure that’s true, but it’s what he said.

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she alternates between waxing nostalgic over her children’s toddler years, and despairing over the amount of work still required for their upkeep.

Ranting Update On My Evolving Feelings About the Boys’ Teachers

Friends, thank you for weighing in on my previous post. (Also, forgive me for posting twice in a row as if this were my personal blog.)

Based on Mommy, Esq.’s comment on how it hurt her feelings to be confused with her sister, even though they had way different hairstyles, and on torie’s comment about how this should be a learning experience for the student teacher, I composed a fantastically diplomatic email to the boys’ teacher suggesting a handy mnemonic device for the student teacher to use.

She wrote back with what I took to be a tone (an email tone, you know) that said, “Yeah, yeah, lady.” I have gradually accepted being *that mom* to this teacher… After the second or third time I had to suggest she might have had my boys confused for important things like testing and placement, I figured our relationship may grow strained.

Aside: Did I update you on that? Because after I asked a bunch of times I got an email that pretty much confirmed someone mixed up either the boys or their paperwork for some length of time.

Anyway. After the “yeah, yeah” response, I tried my hand at mining my 6-year-olds for info. First I asked P if their friends know who they are, or if they have to ask. He said most of their friends know. Then I asked about the teachers. He said, “Not so much.”

“Mrs. Johnson [school guidance counselor] knows us. And [librarian] is having me help her learn who is who. And [classroom aide] knows us but she said she doesn’t want us to get our hair cut the same! But [classroom teacher] and [student teacher]…” He shook his head. “…Nope!”

My feelings can best be summed up in language that is inappropriate for HDYDI.

My follow-up questions revealed that his classroom teacher mixes up their names all the time. “Like Daddy and I call you the wrong name sometimes?” I asked. He said no, not like that.

This is gut-wrenching. First, that this woman hasn’t been able to get them straight the entire school year… And maybe this is an argument for separating multiples in school, but mine wouldn’t have handled that well at all and we shouldn’t have to sacrifice their emotional well-being to protect them from people being lazy morons.

Second, this situation makes it even more likely that my boys were placed in the wrong reading groups for the first half of the school year, with the more competent boy placed in the remedial/intervention reading group, and the more challenged boy placed in the reading group for kids who are doing just fine. I can hardly believe this really happened.

Third, my heart breaks for my little boys who are actual people who deserve to be recognized and called by name and valued as individuals. How can you love or even like a person if you don’t recognize him, or can’t differentiate him from another?

This has happened despite never dressing them alike and maintaining different haircuts (one almost buzzed, one long and shaggy) the whole school year. Their names don’t start with the same letter or rhyme. They don’t sit together. They hold their faces differently. They have different friends and different mannerisms. Somehow, though, the fact that they are twins conveys free license to never really look at them.

Judging by the comments on my last post, this isn’t a problem exclusive to identical or even same-sex multiples! Being born as part of a set is dehumanizing enough that they’re reduced to the level of purebred dogs that no one but the owners can tell apart, and that’s okay and shouldn’t be at all offensive or surprising.

I’m fired up, people! I want to send a letter to the principal, the superintendent, and the United Nations, but I fear retaliation against my fellas. Internet, you’ve never steered me wrong. What do you advise?

Marriage and Multiples – Follow up

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about marriage and multiples which included a link to the MOST (Mothers of Supertwins) survey about Divorce and the Multiple Birth Family.  After gathering survey data for a month, the preliminary results are available.

2,849 parents and guardians of multiples completed the MOST Divorce and the Multiple Birth Family survey.  Most of them were mothers of multiples from the United States.

While divorce rates are often said to be around 40 or 50%, the survey results showed much lower divorce rates among survey respondents.  Here are some of the details:

  • That 4.3% of respondents divorced during the pregnancy or following the birth of multiples (indicating that the divorce rate among this group may not be as high as many have speculated.)
  • Over 95% of the marriages were intact.
  • About 82% of the respondents reported an overall positive level of marital satisfaction.

Specifically, the divorce rate was:

  • 3.6% for parents with twins
  • 5% for parents with triplets
  • 9.2% for parents with quadruplets
  • 4.2% for parents with quintuplets/sextuplets or multiple sets of multiples

Among those who divorced, the majority of their multiples were between the ages of 1 and 5 at the time of divorce.

To find out more about the survey results at the MOST website.

Another mother of twins and I were talking about how to find time for your relationship with your partner when you have young twins (our are both under 6 months old). The challenges of time, energy, money and childcare all making it difficult.  How do you manage these challenges?