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Archive for the ‘Singletons’ Category

My doctor asked me yesterday how old my kids were. When I told her I had two year old twins, she responded by saying, “Boy, that first year was just hell, wasn’t it?”. The other doctors and nurses in the room looked at her with something like horror, but I knew what she meant. Not how I would describe it necessarily, but boy, was it hard! As soon as we’d figured out one thing, like breastfeeding, another issue came along, such as sleep or introducing solid foods. I always felt like I was one step behind them, and could never get ahead. Don’t get me wrong. I love my twins. I love having twins. I wouldn’t go back and undo the choice I made to have twins. But, this has been my life for so long that I forget that other parents don’t necessarily have the same experience. That some people might not describe the first year like my doctor did, or would be horrified to hear it described that way. Sometimes it takes an experience like that, or a lunch with a friend and her one newborn, for me to really understand how different our experience as parents was, or how much I missed out on having my two babies together, instead of one at a time.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came over for lunch with her 11 week old baby. When I had my babies, none of my friends had had kids. I met many friends with babies when mine were newborns, but I was too tied up in what I was doing (hurry, swaddle Danny so he won’t scream. Crap, is it time to feed them again? Who’s hungriest and should go first? Really?! You pooped through AGAIN?) to notice what anyone else was doing. And as my kids have gotten older, many of the newborns I spend time with are twins.  Anyway, I watched this friend with her one baby and was simultaneously shocked at her parenting, and a bit horrified by my own take on it.

These were the things I noticed:

#1: She took the (sleepy, happy) baby out of the carrier right away. Right away! And held him.
#2: She didn’t put the (sleepy, happy) baby down the WHOLE TIME she was at my house. Not to eat her sandwich. Not to have a sip of coffee. Not to go pee.
#3: She told me that she loves holding him while he sleeps. Huh. I always thought that sleeping meant that you had time to do all of the aforementioned (eat, sleep, pee). Why would you HOLD a sleeping baby? That is what the carrier is for!
#4: She did not, at any time, put the baby in the carrier and rock it with her foot while she ate/drank coffee/held another baby with her hands. She kind of looked at me surprised when I mentioned rocking babies.

I offered to bring her her food or coffee so she could eat with one hand while the baby ate or slept. She said no thank you. I offered to hold the baby so she could eat. She loves holding sleeping babies. She told me how lovely this time is with him and how every day feels like Saturday. Like Saturday? My memory of newborn days is that every day felt like 6am Monday morning, even Saturdays. I wanted to help her put the baby down and eat. I wanted to teach her how to get some more time for herself. And yet, she didn’t want any of that. She didn’t need any of that. The little techniques that got me through the day or a trip out to a friend’s with two babies? She didn’t need those with one baby. She just held and snuggled the baby.

And while I love having twins, I realized how much I missed out on in those first 6 months. The reveling in the baby. The way your whole world revolves around the baby—in a good way, not in a please, God, make this baby finally go to sleep way. The contentness. I loved having babies—but that first year was the hardest first year of my life. I find myself both really envious, and yet feeling a bit superior—to those moms holding their one sleeping baby. How can I feel both? I have no idea. But every once in a while something like this happens and I realize just how different having twins is than having one baby. Not better or worse, just a really different experience.

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This weekend, my husband Jon and I  watched our friend’s son Ben along with our twin boys Nate and Alex.  I learned some valuable lessons, most notably that Jon and I are definitely two-kid parents. I also had a super huge light bulb go off in my head. Twins versus singleton: it is very different, from both sides.

In the past, most of my focus has been on the negatives of parenting two the same age. Nate and Alex always have to share. They always have to wait. They never get alone time. In all of this, I never understood what my twins are GAINING from this experience. They are great at sharing. They have patience.  They have each other. It’s all cliche but it is true.

All of this was highlighted over the weekend when we threw Ben into the mix. Nate and Alex are used to waiting their turn to speak, or when they do speak, they often speak to each other. Ben is used to talking to adults, so even when Nate and Alex talked to him, Ben wanted to talk to the adults. Nate and Alex often have to wait for us to help them, so they’ve learned to try to do things themselves if we are busy. Ben often has the help of multiple adults, so he wanted us to do things for him.

This last point was highlighted frequently in physical activities. Jon and I simply can’t do everything physical for two 30+ lb children, so we rely on the boys to do a lot of the physical stuff. They take off their own clothes, climb into their chairs, climb into the tub, wash their own hands, climb into their car seats, etc. We’ve pushed them into more physical independence because it’s easier for us. It was very interesting to be around another child the same age who could not or did not want to do these things.

In no way am I saying either situation is better. What I took away from this weekend is that it will always be hard for twin parents and singleton parents to relate to one another on tackling issues because parenting multiples and parenting one kid are such completely different experiences. But I’ve always looked at it from the twin mom perspective. As a twin mom I’ve had to do things, so many things, to compromise but I could always justify it because I have twins. I now see things from the singleton mom perspective, where your kid relies on you for so much.

I’m so very glad we had this weekend, for me, for Jon, for my boys, for my friends, and for Ben. I feel like everybody won in some way. Our friends got a much-needed vacation. My boys got to take in another boy like a brother. Ben got to live in a house with “siblings”. Jon and I took away a better understanding of the things our boys have gotten from the experience of being a twin, lessons I will never forget. And I feel like I will be a better friend to my singleton mom friends when they talk to me about their trials and tribulations.

Now who wants to take my boys for a weekend so you can experience singleton versus twins?

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When I found out I was pregnant again after having multiples, I panicked. I cried. I stressed.

Did I mention the multiples were only 8 months old when I got the news? And my “big” girl had just turned 3? And some amount of bedrest would be all be guaranteed with my history? Yup. Scary stuff.

My husband talked me down off the ledge. I had the support of an amazing family. I had a job with wonderful benefits and an incredible amount of understanding. I mean, it wasn’t fun telling my manager that I was pregnant again when I hadn’t even been back five months from the last maternity leave, but the conversation went more smoothly than I could have ever dreamed.

Now that the baby is four months old — and since Goddess specifically asked about it this week — I’ve been thinking: is it as hard as I thought it would be? Would I do it again?

Yes and yes.

I won’t lie: going through a higher-risk pregnancy with multiples SO young was treacherous. The boys didn’t walk until the last six weeks of my pregnancy so they needed to be carried around. A lot. I was told to lift “nothing”. Hmmm… The boys also didn’t sleep through the night until the same time. I needed more sleep than ever. It was hard. THEN came bedrest.

I kept telling myself, if I could just make it through the pregnancy, things would only get easier with every passing day after that. And, for the most part, THEY DO. Sure, kids get sick and there are the normal daily challenges. But really, now that my body is my own again, it’s easier to take all that in stride.

There are certainly things that are more difficult, but in dealing with them, my husband and I find our own positives. We’ve had to face some really hard facts and make some hard choices. The biggest issues, of course, revolve around money and time and how it seems we never have quite enough of either. But, the process of making these big decisions has really brought us together. Our relationship is stronger and we are better parents for it.

One thing I had been excited about was the chance of a “do-over” with a singleton baby. That has been wonderful. I find I am so much more relaxed with this baby. And I am able to really savor and enjoy little things like going out with just a single stroller. Or not having to run home from an outting to breastfeed because unlike the days of tandem nursing, I can modestly feed one child at a time in public.

We’ve also noticed that Aaron and Brady are treated less like “twins” with the addition of the new baby. The focus from the outside world is no longer on the fact that they are multiples. When strangers meet us, they almost always focus on the family as a whole rather than singling out the boys — at the inevitable expense of their sister —  which I love.

Aaron and Brady are also incredibly loving and accepting of their new brother. I really believe that the fact that they are multiples plays a part in this. In their whole lives, they’ve never been the “only child”. By definition, they are accustomed to sharing — their parents’ attention, their stuff, their space.

So, more kids after multiples. Clearly it is an issue for you to take up in your own family. But for this family, it was the greatest give we could have received. It’s challenging. But then again, was life really easy before? No. And it’s a whole lot more rewarding now.

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Our house is turning into a “sharing-free” zone. It has been to a certain extent for a while, but it’s now almost complete. So if you are sick of saying, “honey, you have to share your puzzle with your brother,” only to have both kiddos freak out, take refuge with us for a while!

It wasn’t always this way. For the first six months, EVERYTHING was shared. It just didn’t matter, to them or to us. Ahhhh…the simplicity of it all! Then “I want that!” entered their developing psychologies, and while it wasn’t a substantial strain, it ushered in the era of disgruntled babies who had their siblings rip toys out of their hands. One of mine handled it far better than the other, but it made me realize I needed a consistent strategy for mediating the situation. So I decided, at this very early stage, that if someone was playing with a particular object, it was theirs for the time being. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Only when they were finished could the other one have it. And if it were taken prematurely, I stepped in and returned it to its temporary owner. Of course I did this as gently and comforting as possible. As far as non-toy items (clothes, etc.) the boys still shared everything.

This was all fine and dandy until the boys hit one, and the concept of territory became acute. The battles over toys, food, clothes and attention escalated at a rapid clip. Reffing became a full-time occupation. The rules of the game: no hiting, biting, hair pulling or pushing. Yah right. It was truly trying to ref and call no-holds barred fights. No matter what, though, if you took something, you had to return it. I was generous in giving them plenty of time to process the concept of returning. And it took time. And many times of me returning the object for them. But they started to catch on and I saw real progress. Stealing became less and less. And if they did steal, they even started to catch themselves and give it back without prompting. The praise flowed like the Nile on these occasions.

We would go to the playground and I’d watch (and still watch) other kids bulldoze themselves into toys – grabbing, throwing, taking. The parents of the accosted would say to their dumbstruck child, “you have to share! Johnny can play with that for a while.” I say, screw that philosophy. How would you feel if you were sitting on a park bench, totally content surfing the web or texting on your iPhone, and some random stranger ripped it out of your hands and started emailing their friend? And then pitched a fit at you when you were forced to nicely ask for it back! Oh, the injustice of being a child sometimes.

We’ve maintained this no sharing philosophy pretty well. Of course, they need to play with a few things together, namely the train set. And this becomes a challenge. But we even set up the tracks to have many options so they are not constantly bumping into each other. However, I’ve just begun to realize that the boys still technically “share” everything. They have no toys, no books, no clothes, not even their comfort blankets, that are expressly theirs. The only thing they don’t share is their shoes – and this is by necessity because Oskar has mallets for feet and wears a Stride Rite XW. But I’ve noticed the boys becoming acutely aware of whose is whose and starting to naturally assign ownership. It started a few months ago. Oskar pointing and saying, “Abie’s milk.” Abel doing a roundhouse ID of where everyone sits at the table, “Mommy’s chair, Ozzy’s chair, Daddy’s chair!” And their overall general interest in identifying themselves as individuals. Abel points proudly to himself and say’s with a big smile “ABIE!” This is a big deal, because three months ago, if I showed them a picture of Oskar and asked them who it was, they’d both exclaim, “ABIE!”

So things are changing even more in the direction of no sharing in our house. Shirts are being identified as expressly Oskar’s or Abel’s (and it’s their doing – Abel got the monkey shirt from Lee-Lee for Christmas and he as required it to remained so. And vice-versa). Salty is Ozzy’s train. Thomas is Abel’s. And they have developed an awesome system for “sharing” their belongings all on their own. It’s called the trade. They actually ask each other if they want to trade, and if they are both in agreement, whaalaa! If they are not both in agreement, no go. Pretty cool! Of course, now I find myself reffing “trading” matches when they’re not on the same page, but I’ll take it.

I think given their strong self-awareness and human nature, the tide will continue to turn in this direction. Which makes things more complicated to manage. However, I can’t help but believe this no-sharing philosophy has some merit. Multiples are confronted with identity challenges that don’t enter the world of singletons. They are also forced to, on many levels, share so many things from conception on. This is a remarkable blessing and a curse. The more I can foster their own sense of individuality and ownership in things, the better off they will be. Because even though I maintain this “no sharing” mantra, the reality is they have to develop a sense of sharing and one another way earlier than a singleton child. They are birthed in a world that doesn’t solely revolve around just them.

I’ve often wondered if multiples behave differently than singletons in larger play situations? If they steal less, respect personal space more? Or if kids will be kids, regardless. Sounds like a cool HDYDI study. Leave your experiences with how you handle your kids sharing (or not sharing!) in the comments and let’s see!

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I  first read about dyeing rice on The Crafty Crow, who got it from Colorfool. I’ve been meaning to do it for quite some time but when I realized that yesterday was Monday (my usual post day) and that I was late (again) with posting my activity o’ the week, I figured now (yesterday) was the time.

Of course, once I bothered to read the setup directions, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen in one day – you gotta let the rice dry out first. Bummer. But on the good side, once you create your dyed rice then you will be the proud owner of a nice container of dyed rice that can be used/enjoyed for years to come.

Core Activity: Pour or scoop lovely dyed rice from one container to another.

  • Age appropriateness: 15 months & up (whenever you think that your kids won’t just cram the rice into their mouths)
  • Materials needed: a bag of rice (I used regular long grain white rice that I found in the pantry, which happened to be 6 years old – yuck!), food coloring, rubbing alcohol or white distilled vinegar, and a big plastic baggie.
  • Setup: put desired number of drops in the baggie (I ended up using about 10 drops of red and 10 of blue) plus about 2 teaspoons of alcohol or vinegar (brightens up the color) into the baggie and mix together. Then add the rice (I had about 36 ounces ’cause that’s what came in the package I had on hand), MAKE SURE THE BAGGIE IS WELL SEALED, and then shake, shake, shake your booty, ahem, I mean, baggie. Spread it out on a cookie sheet (a jelly roll pan is best ’cause it’s got a rim) and let the rice dry overnight.

Activity: Set a cookie sheet out in front of your kids. Add various random containers, spoons, scoops, cups, whatever you’ve got around. Add the rice. Let the kids pour, scoop, spoon, draw lines with their fingers or pick up individual grains.

I was inspired to do this after reading (too many) blogs written by homeschooling moms and Montessori teachers. The concept of pouring and scooping as activities is not only fun for kids but it teaches some of the Practical Life skills that the Montessori method advocates. (I’m currently half considering homeschooling my kids. Primarily because the public schools in my town aren’t good. At all. And private schools for three kids is waaaaay too e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e. But I digress.)

Anyway, Katie seemed to enjoy this quite a bit and I’m glad I have something on hand that I can quickly stick in front of her and get an extra 5-10 minutes of distraction.

Read.

Eat. Well, uh, duh. How about some rice? Some nice sushi anyone? Although I don’t recommend eating the dyed rice. I suppose if you made it with the vinegar it’s probably safe enough. Still, you won’t catch me eating anything my 3-year-old has been playing with for 25 minutes!

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There are so many differences between a singleton pregnancy and birth and a multiple one.  I am so very, very fortunate to have been able to experience both already. I feel like the first time around I was overwhelmed as a new mother. But after having twins, my perspective has changed slightly. So I’m thrilled that I get a, sort of, do-over with another singleton. I am more relaxed and, definitely, I understand that this time will be, at the very least, less physically demanding.

There are so many things that I took for granted the first time around that I’m looking forward to experiencing (with greater gusto) this time. Things like going out with just one baby for a quick trip to the mall. Or, going to the doctor and only filling out the required paperwork ONCE (while entertaining said child in the waiting room). But there are also so many things unique to the multiples experience that I feel this baby — and I — will miss out on.  Here are some examples:

  • I’m looking forward to nursing one baby and savoring the cradle hold. With the twins it was all about the football hold since there were always two on me.
  • I will miss looking down during a nursing session and seeing two little babies instinctively reach out and hold each others’ hands across my chest.
  • I’m looking forward to buying — and stocking — normal amounts of diapers and wipes.
  • I will miss watching this child have a built-in best friend.
  • I’m looking forward to being able to pick up my new baby’s prescriptions in a timely manner because there isn’t any confusion with my insurance company about why I’m filling and re-filling a prescription at the same time! For the life of them — no matter how many phone calls I make — my pharmacy insurance will only work from a date of birth, which means every time the twins have prescriptions filled simultaneously, only Aaron’s is filled. Brady’s is always rejected because they see it as a refill (being filled too soon). Knock on wood, though, we won’t need to fill as many for this child!
  • I am looking forward to a “normal” birth experience; that is, giving birth and getting to hold the baby rather than having him whisked off to the NICU before I can touch him.
  • I will miss the amazing sense of pride that comes with saying “yes, they are twins.”

I am also curious to see how small of a diaper bag I can carry this time. With my first child, I had a bag that could have easily doubled for weekend, carry-on luggage! I was constantly over-supplied and over-burdened with just stuff. When the twins arrived, the size of the bag actually decreased by more than half. Only the bare essentials made the trip. And I learned to stock extras in a small storage bin in my car – there if really necessary, but not a burden to carry around. I’m curious to see with three children under two years, how small of a bag I can pare down to this time around.

With the birth just weeks away, I am excited. I can’t wait to put my new, more relaxed approach to motherhood to work and just enjoy this baby. I hope it will be a more carefree experience than the first time around. I also hope that having gone through the first year with twin boys hasn’t made me TOO relaxed so that this kid turns out to be a holy terror! Time will tell. But I’m so thankful that the multiple experience has mellowed me out as a mom.

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I’m going to shamelessly borrow this activity from my friend EO. She thought up this very clever idea to do at her son’s 3rd birthday party last month. She had an adorable construction theme, complete with a very cute cake. (Pictures of cake at the end of the post.)

She and her hubby got their hands on a refrigerator box and transformed it into a house. All of the kids who attended the party got their own toolbelt and hard hats. Finally, the cuteness continued with paint trays filled with tempura paint, paintbrushes and even paint rollers. The kids went to it and had a great time.

Core Activity: Paint cardboard (sounds dull, but it’s tres fun for the kiddies)

  • Age appropriateness: 15 months & up (whenever you’d feel comfortable giving your kids a paintbrush & paint)
  • Materials needed: cardboard box, paint brushes, paint roller, tempura paint

Activity: We’re painting the house. If you can’t easily get your hands on a giant cardboard box, just use the box your kids’ diapers came in. (I swear we have at least 6 of them hanging around the house at any given moment. Perhaps that has to do with having twins in diapers plus a 3-year who REFUSES TO USE THE TOILET. End of rant. Sorry.) If you need to, cut up a box, draw the outline of a house with a permanent marker, and give one to each kid. Have them “paint their houses.”

Sing.

Make. Another very fun, and very, very easy alternative to this activity is to have your kids paint your actual house. No, seriously. With water! I can give my daughter a paintbrush and a bowl of water and this will keep her occupied for 10-15 minutes easy.

Explore.

Read.

Eat. I can’t exactly recommend that you serve your kids cardboard. But…you could draw a plate, napkin, flatware, etc., on a relatively clean piece of cardboard and then serve your kids a snack or a meal on their pretend table. For style points, add a vase with a flower in it. Just a thought.

Sorry for the last minute post. Since the hubby was home, I was thinking all day that today was Sunday… Hope your 3-day weekend was as relaxing as mine was! And isn’t this cake amazing?!

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