Monday, 3 March 2014
Our boy and girl twins are approaching their seventh birthday, and for every year thusfar my wife and I have been able to do a combined birthday party with our kids' blessings. You might ask why we bother and don't just do two separate parties. Two reasons: less difficult and cheaper. There are very few economic benefits to having twins, but only one birthday party has saved us money, as well as time. I know of parents with different aged children who combine parties, and those that wish they could! But how do you do it when your twins are either of different genders and/or have very different interests? Since my son and daughter have dissimilar interests, we had to really research to find an idea that they both would be excited about. My son is very sports oriented, but my daughter has very little interest in them, but instead enjoys the arts, especially dance and music. It turns out that there are a variety of possibilities in a variety of price ranges and I shall attempt to illuminate several of these. You can always have the party in your own home if this is what you and the children desire and you have the space. But you might want to avoid themes, because it could be hard to combine a “Princess” theme with a “Superheroes” theme. Some themes that can work are ones based on movies or tv shows that both your twins enjoy and are into. For example, Toy Story allows for many possibilities, or Diego and Dora (two shows that are closely connected). When your twins are younger you can always do a party with a variety of activities or games. If both your twins are really into a sport such as soccer, you could have a party that includes playing a game of it. I have also seen entertainers such as birthday clowns or children’s singers or even a costumed character coming to the home to do a performance for the children. There are also local companies that may bring exotic small animals into your home for the kids to see and even touch! Once again though, you would probably require some consensus from the twins for any of these ideas. The other limiting dimension to most at home parties is that the majority of homes cannot accommodate a large number of guests so that your children may each be limited in the number of invites they each get. One other in-home idea that has proven successful is showing a DVD or a Blue Ray movie provided that you have a large screen television and enough viewing space for the number of guests that you want.
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
This is a slightly revised excerpt from my book, Twice Blessed: A Parent's Guide to Twins. It is part of an entire chapter on planning for a trip to Disney World. My wife Lisa told me a story about the last time she had been to Disney World as a young adult in the early nineties. She told her father at the time, “The next time I come back here, I’m coming here with my kids.” Little did she know, it would be with nearly four year old twins. As for me, I had not been to Orlando’s Disney World since I was a teenager in 1982. Epcot had just opened, and there were was no Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios at the time. But both my wife and I wanted to take our twins,about to turn four at the time, at a young age but not too young as to not remember anything or appreciate it. It is one thing to plan to take young children, but as multiple parents know, twins or other multiples always provide their unique challenges that don’t always apply with different aged siblings, so planning for Disney World had its own series of questions to be answered. Hopefully, my research, discussions, decisions, and experiences will help answer some of your questions and assist you in better planning your trip, should you decide to go. One thing is for certain, you do need to plan for Disney World. Just showing up and hoping to enjoy one’s self fully doesn’t really work, with so many options, and limited time and resources. Guidebooks and Websites There are many invaluable guidebooks and much of the information was garnered from the ones that I read. I started by checking out a few from the library to see which ones were the most helpful. You won’t usually find one for the current year, but try to find one as recent as possible. Most of the information will not change, and you can choose to purchase any that you find will be useful, both in your planning, and to take to the parks. The guidebooks explain all the attractions in detail, including what rides might scare young ones; suggestions for renting or bringing strollers; hotel information and recommendations for both inside and outside Disneyworld; and restaurant information, including character meals. In my opinion, the one guide that is the best for pre-planning is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. It has over 800 pages of information on everything related to Disney World (and even a chapter on Universal Studios as well). The best thing about this book is that they include quotes from actual families so you get an idea of what people like yourself experienced. There is also a version entitled The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. In my opinion, the best book for the parks is The Passporter’s Guide to Walt Disney World by Jennifer, Dave, and Allison C. Marx . It includes fold out maps, planning sheets, and pockets to hold information, tickets, etc. There are many great websites with information including Allears.net. Websites such as these give important information such as restaurant menus so you know whether or not there is a kids menu, and what the choices are. My son does not like pizza with sauce on it, and usually wants a cheese or peanut butter sandwich. Allears.net gave us great information including the prices. The last website I want to mention is tripadvisor.com. This website provides user’s reviews on hotels, restaurants and attractions, and ranks them based on how people rated them. We chose the Holiday Inn in Walt Disney World in large part due to the reviews on tripadvisor.com. Everything they said in the reviews was correct including how nice the rooms and pool were, the high level of service, and the frequency and punctuality of the shuttle to the parks.
Thursday, 16 January 2014
The question on whether to use a stroller for multiples in Disney World is really based on a number of factors. But for us, it came down to the fact that our nearly four year old twins did not like being in a stroller anymore. We had an amazing double stroller, the Mountain Buggy Urban, and we put it to great use until they were about three. We also had a couple of umbrella strollers for convenience sake. However, our kids liked (and still do) to walk everywhere, including a mile long hike in Ontario’s Algonquin Park the previous summer. We knew they wouldn’t get in the umbrella strollers and we weren’t planning on schlepping the Mountain Buggy on the plane. We also knew that the shuttle bus came right to the front door of our hotel and it is hard to get strollers on these buses. In some very large Disney resorts, they recommend a stroller just to get to and from the bus stop. We decided that we would take our chances on day one and rent a double stroller from WDW if we needed it. We didn’t. The kids did just fine! Double strollers rent for about $33 US a day (slightly less if you buy multiple days) and they all look the same. Also, some areas can’t be accessed with them and Disney cast members move them all the time. You have to mark your stroller with something easily identifiable such as a handkerchief or risk losing it. Other options include renting a stroller from some Orlando companies that deliver and pick them up from non-Disney hotels. But you may not know exactly how good the quality of the stroller you are getting is. One suggestion in a guidebook from a parent was to buy umbrella strollers from a store in Orlando and throw them away when you are done with them. I actually don’t think this is an environmentally friendly option and may not be convenient unless you have a car, but it could be considered.
Thursday, 9 January 2014
With twins often being born prematurely, a visit to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of a hospital is not unusual. So here is some information from my book that might be helpful. If you go on a hospital tour, ask if you can see the department just to familiarize yourself with it. Twins and multiples are far more likely to be admitted than singletons, largely because they are more likely to either be underweight, premature, or both. My daughter, Abigail was sent there a few hours after her birth for a relatively minor sucking and swallowing issue, and more than half the newborns in the ward were twins or triplets. The difficulty for us, was that our son, Joshua was discharged within the normal 48 hour period and so we had to decide how to care for both of them. Our hospital had a few rooms connected to the NICU that parents could utilize to stay overnight if they chose to, and since we were expecting our daughter’s stay to be short, we moved into one of the rooms with Joshua in tow. If your stay is long, or if both twins have been admitted to the NICU you might not opt to stay in the hospital. The difficulty comes from the fact that the hospital treats the patient’s twin sibling as a visitor. The hospital staff has no responsibility for the second baby anymore, and sometimes the nurses in the NICU seem oblivious to the fact that there is another baby to be fed and cared for. One nurse, who I doubt had children and certainly not twins, told my wife after twelve hours straight of switching between our two newborns that she had “a time management problem.” I credit Lisa, who is a highly organized person, to this day for not losing it then and there. Three days after Lisa gave birth, Abigail was supposed to be released. But about an hour before the scheduled release time, a nurse said “an incident” had occurred and so the doctor decided to keep her in the NICU. A few days later, the doctor again decided to release our daughter and so Abigail had to take the car seat breathing test for an hour, before we could take her home. It seemed like the longest hour of my life as I waited and watched to see that her breathing was normal in the bucket car seat we had purchased for her. The test went fine, and so we happily headed for home!
Sunday, 29 December 2013
In the past few years around the Christmas break, my wife and I have handled the holiday time with our children a little differently than this year. We had the kids in a full time day care and since the days were already paid for, we would keep them in for some of the time. Then we would take a family trip to Niagara Falls to enjoy an indoor water park and the famous lights. And the rest of the days were spent either celebrating holidays with family or doing some family activities. But this year, our twins are only in before and after school care and only three days of the break is care even offered. We decided to decline all these days and also to change or trip to Niagara Falls into a one-night cross border shopping excursion for just my wife and I at the beginning of the holiday. Thanks to my in-laws, the kids had some time away from us, and we had a much needed break from them. But the rest of the time we have embraced family time together, and have scheduled a wide variety of activities so that the kids will be entertained, and we can enjoy ourselves too. So far we have taken them to see a minor league hockey game (at the Air Canada Centre) and to see the movie Frozen. We have been skiing for the day twice (it is only an hour drive away) including once with another family, and also ice skating. And on another day we had an afternoon of playing scrabble. My parents joined us for an afternoon of games and Rainbow Loom and my in-laws took the entire family out for lunch. Tomorrow, we are planning to take the kids out to a pet store to purchase the fish and accessories that will go into their new fish tank (a Hanukkah gift). We have some tentative play dates arranged for this coming week, and hope to go sledding. We are really enjoying our family time together and I believe this is because rather than avoid or fret over spending the break with our children, we have largely embraced it. There have been a couple of times, we needed to separate them (see a previous blog entry for our approach) but twins require this, especially during a period of time that they see so much of each other. And we aren’t lamenting the fact that we have to spend almost the entire holiday at home and in the cold winter weather!
Saturday, 23 November 2013
My wife and I have been planning and doing road trips with our twins since they were nine months old. That first trip to Niagara Falls was my bad idea, but it, at least, taught me a great deal about what you need to do, both to prepare for a road trip, and how to make it successful. These tips for both organizing and during a road trip should help make these summer family ventures more enjoyable. 1. Plan ahead! Start off by making a list of everything you will be bringing. My wife not only does this, she checks off each item as it is packed, and if it is an annual or regular trip such as our family takes to the cottage, then she revises the list on her computer. She also highlights items that still need to be purchased. When our twins were very young, obviously things like diapers were on this list. The toys or travel games you will bring will likely change. And even the need for a stroller or a portable play apparatus will not be needed as the kids grow older. It is also important to be aware of things such as your children’s nap (if applicable) and bed times and try to plan travel around these as much as possible. 2. Since you are driving, think of where you might stop to eat and/or for washroom breaks. A GPS, if you have one, may be able to help in this regard. Smart phones and tablets have apps that can find the nearest restaurant or gas station. My personal favourite travel app is “Timmy’s Me” which locates the nearest Tim Horton’s (a Canadian and northern US fast food and coffee chain) location and can even narrow the list down to the drive thru locations only. The AAA and CAA still offer map routes and flip chart style directions from any point in North America to another if you are a member. 3. Strollers should be approached on a trip by trip basis. It really depends on a few factors. An important factor is how much you might use the stroller and for what purposes. One thing that you might not have thought about is how dependent or not your kids are on a stroller. And in certain situations, cost may also be a factor. We had a large, heavy, and expensive Mountain Buggy Urban Double and two small, cheap umbrella strollers. We rarely used the last two items. When we went to the cottage, the large double stroller was a must. We would take long walks in the countryside with it. We packed it into the back of our vehicle, on top of all our other luggage, and baby equipment. But when we travelled to Disney World when our twins were about to turn four, they didn’t want to be in a stroller anymore. After much debate, we took a chance and considered renting a double stroller at the parks at over $30 a day. But after testing the kids out by walking in the Magic Kingdom on day one, we never did rent a stroller on that trip. We sold the double stroller shortly afterwards. 4. Have the kids help you pack their stuff as much as you can. When our twins were only two or three years old, we would get them to select a stuffed animal to bring along with a couple of other toys that would go in the suitcase. Our twins now help choose their clothes each day for school and so we let them choose some for when we are going away as well. They can also pick out such items as beach towels and pajamas. As I mentioned in an earlier tip, we also let them choose a DVD to bring, if we are bringing the portable player. The more they feel included in the packing, the fewer problems you will have when you are at your destination. This also gives them something to do rather than bother you while you are trying to pack up. You might also want to pack them a separate suitcase so you don’t have to rummage through your own clothes, to get their stuff out. This strategy further allows you to pack your own clothes and necessities at your convenience. Happy traveling!
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
So it has been just over two months since our boy and girl started in a new school and in separate classrooms for grade one. At their previous school, they had been in the same class for two years of kindergarten. We thought that grade one was the year to separate them, but since they were moving to a new and larger school, we had requested they stay together for one more year. Instead, the school separated them, as apparently they do for all sets of twins. My son has three other twin children in his class, and some of their siblings are in my daughter’s class. At least they were placed in classes next door to each other that are connected by a pod area. They also happen to have gym class together. A teacher told us that at the class placement meetings, the teachers placed all the twins first because there are so many of them in the school! So how is it going so far? I will start with the only negative and finish with the positives. The homework schedule is a little confusing. The grade one teachers plan together so their programs are very similar but the homework is scheduled for different days for each of our children. This is due to the fact that each class has a different day to go to the library to exchange books, and this affects the scheduling of everything else. Not everything is done exactly the same way either, but as a teacher myself I wouldn’t expect this. Sometimes, to make our lives easier, we do the same homework together on the same day when it is possible and feasible. But this is a small inconvenience compared to the fact that they each seem to be doing well in their own classroom. They still walk together to and from school and spend about an hour each day in the before and after school care program, along with time spent at home. They can play together at recess and lunch if they choose, but usually don’t as they have, for the most part, separate groups of friends and different interests. This was the case even in kindergarten when they were in the same classroom. They also have the gym class together, and this has been, for the most part positive. There was one occasion of one twin tattle-tailing on the other, but there was also the time that when my son was hurt, he picked his sister to go with him to get an ice pack. And one day, when my son was off sick, I got a phone call to come get my daughter who was complaining of not feeling well. I believe she was a little ill, but I found it interesting that she complained to her teacher only during gym, which was probably a reminder of two things: her brother was away and she missed him...and he was probably at home watching movies! But clearly, despite not being in the same class together anymore, they still do find comfort in the other twin being there at school. But the thing that I think is best for both of them is that they aren’t being compared to each other, which isn’t really fair in the first. Our twins do not have to worry about being reported on, by each other, for minor transgressions in school that otherwise would never have come to our attention. Separation has been very good for our twins, but that was because it was the right time to do it, not because it would be the best for every set of twins.