Saturday, August 16, 2014

Let me count the ways...that Dads Can Help!

I have read quite a few posts on Facebook recently from mothers of twins complaining that their husband does not help enough with the twins or other children, and the amount of stress it puts on the mom.  As a dad of twins myself,  I hope that the reason in most cases is that the dad may not be aware of the ways he can help with his babies, toddlers or children,  It is in this vain that I write this list of ways, from my experience at least,  that dads can help with twins.


  1. Help with any bottle feedings.  Even after going back to work I did a late night feeding.
  2. Change diapers.  Hey,  it's only poo!
  3. Buy and make any formula.   Please read the section in my book, Twice Blessed: A Parent's Guide to Twins for more details on this topic.
  4. Watch the babies or kids for an hour or two or three to give your wife a break or to let her get out of the house. 
  5. Make dinner once or twice a week.   It can be something simple such as sandwiches or nachos (my wife's favourite!)
  6. Take one twin outside,  to the park, or on an errand for some one on one time. 
  7. Do some household chores such as cleaning up after meals or folding the laundry.
  8. Take time to listen and talk to your wife. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Turning a Family Trip Into a Real Vacation

A few years ago, my wife and I were sitting in a restaurant discussing an upcoming trip.. A gentleman at an adjacent table, who must have overheard our conversation, chimed in that when he and his wife went away with their kids it was called a trip, but if they were alone it was a vacation. While there is a lot of truth to that, I have also come to learn that there are ways to turn those family trips into memorable and happy family vacations.

1. Plan out any car route with your stops in mind, and if at all possible, book your accommodations ahead of time. Try to book a rate with a flexible cancelation policy rather than saving a few dollars for a non refundable advance payment.

2. Stay in a reliable chain that is family friendly such as Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express that include a breakfast buffet. Starting your day with a hearty breakfast will make everyone happier and more relaxed. It also means that you don't have to worry about where to eat each morning, and it helps make budgeting easier.

3. Staying at a hotel with breakfast also allows you to take a cup of coffee with you or muffins or fruit for later.

4. Bringing your Ipad, tablet or portable DVD player with headphones is a great way to keep the kids entertained on route. My wife also had us buy a multi headset connector so that both kids could listen to the movie simultaneously. The simplest and cheapest Ipod was great too. If you have multiple Apple devices the song can be downloaded into your cloud so each device has the same one.

5. Trust Trip Advisor reviews! We recently stayed in four different hotels from different chains based on our needs, the reviews, availability and price, and each one of the four was very good to excellent. The Trip Advisor app also allows you to search for availability and price for specific dates.

6. Choose restaurants with an extensive kids menu and preferably offering something for them to do. also pack a small backpack or one for each of your kids with crayons, coloring books, and books to read to keep them occupied.

7. Visit places that are not only going to amuse the kids, but the parents too. On our most recent vacation trip, two places that we went to that everyone thoroughly enjoyed were Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania and the Strong National Museum of Play. Natural wonders such as an ocean beach or Niagara Falls are also fun for everyone in your party.

8.  My wife had us pack two coolers, one large one for the trunk or cargo space and the other, a small one for inside the car.  The small one contained little snacks for everyone and the big one contained bread, peanut butter (or soya butter), jam,  and juice boxes in order to prepare quick lunches when needed.  This not only will save you a ton of money and time finding a place to eat, but it lessens the automatically high vacation intake of junk and fast foods!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Being Together or in Separate Classes

My own son and daughter started in the same junior kindergarten class. This was our request and the school's principal was more than happy to comply. This went very well for two years.

 Our kids, according to their kindergarten teacher, were very independent of each other. She said that on occasion they would enter the classroom together holding hands, but would then separate for the rest of the day, Each twin was his and her own person with very different interests and friends. The teacher also recognized that our twins enjoyed each others comfort, but that this did not impact negatively on either of their learning and growth.

 This is why when we moved to a new school, which was much larger, she suggested keeping our twins together for one more year. However, this request could not be accommodated, and our kids were placed in separate classes, right next door to each other.

So now we have experienced our children in the same and separate classrooms. There are pros and cons to both. But the bottom line is that parents know their kids best and should advocate for which situation they feel is best for their twins. Keeping twins together is probably especially good at the beginning of their education, due to the fact that it adds that comfort factor, Also, it can only be a positive for a child to start school with a close or best friend. Greater comfort level and happiness will usually Increase learning.

I am an elementary teacher as well as a father of twins. There are two possible cons to your children being in the same classroom. If one tends to follow the other around like a puppy, he or she may be too dependant on his or her brother or sister. This is not a great learning situation for either twin. Also, teachers are human and have the tendency to compare. The other side of the coin is that in separate classrooms, comparisons by teachers are rare. If your twins are identical or fraternal but very hard to tell apart, being in separate classrooms helps the teachers better distinguish the two of them, not only physically but each one's unique personality.

The biggest con that we found to being in separate classes was dealing with different teacher's homework and other expectations. Sometimes teachers will plan together and even assign the same homework, but not always. It can become confusing on occasion. But we also found that each teacher seemed to fit our son and daughter's learning styles, which was definitely an added benefit. Both of them loved their teacher.

So both being in the same or separate classes have pros and cons that have to be weighed, and then adjusted according to your own situation.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

After One Year in Separate Classes

It has been one full school year since our twins were separated. This had not been our request, but as the school year approached we were more pleased with the decision. So today was the last day of school and it has been a great year for both of our children.

They have each made a ton of friends and by getting to know their friends' parents, we feel much more a part of the community. Another set of girl twins have also become friends with our kids and likewise with their parents. We didn't make a request to keep our kids separated, but we assume they will be. However, what worked really well this year, that we did request again if possible, was to have them in classrooms nearby or in the same pod area. The school is large and it still increases their comfort level to be nearby each other.

One interesting aspect of their school's class placement process is that each student gets to list six friends in his or her grade that he or she wants to be with. We asked our kids to tell us each of their lists, and even though the names were quite different, I believe each still listed the other as a choice. That was nice to hear.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sometimes They Can't Both Win

Recently, a Facebook post caught my attention by asking what you do when one twin wins an award and the other doesn't. I got several Likes for my comment that my wife and I try to teach our kids to be happy for each others successes and not to brag about their accomplishments. This past year, there have been a few of these situations that we have had to deal with.

The most recent was my daughter passing her swim level while my son did not. We were proud of both children's effort and progress and my wife thought to reward both of them by making a special treat at home for them. This worked well.

Earlier in the school year, my son was surprised with a class academic award at a school assembly. But the best part of the story is that my daughter stood up and gave him an impromptu hug in support. So I think they are learning that each will have his or own time to shine and to be happy for the other one's accomplishments.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

It is Never Too Early to Plan for Disney World

We knew we wanted to go back to Disney World as soon as we left from our last trip. But is a year or even more too long in advance to plan? I thought I was the only crazy one until the other day I saw a Facebook post asking how long people planned their trip ahead. The answers ranged from a minimum of five months up to 18 months ahead.

But is this necessary? Not necessary, but wise. Here are some of our reasons. My wife and I are both teachers, so our choices are either during school breaks or the hot summer. The best summer deals are in late August, but my wife and I have to prepare for the new school year at that time. So if we go at Christmas or spring break, we have to pay a premium and also book ahead to get a reasonable flight. This becomes magnified if some or all tickets are on points. It is, however, important to consider that some Airlines only book about six months ahead.

The other consideration is the 180 day ahead rule for booking character meals and any other Disney restaurants. For the breakfast in Cinderella's castle or Chef Mickey's, or a dinner at the California Grill, you have to reserve 180 days in advance to guarantee that you will get in. And finally, if there is a specific hotel you want to stay in, especially during peak times, you have to book far in advance. 

So there are lots of reasons to plan early...even a year or more ahead sometimes! I have already started looking through some guidebooks, including The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids which I will be reviewing in the next few weeks. This book also has a Facebook page which I follow along with WDW Hints, another good one.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Making Requests for Twin Class Placements

As soon as the first time you go to register your twins for kindergarten, you will think about their class placements, perhaps even before that. The question will always be: together or separate classes? And the truth is, you the parent are the best person (along with your spouse) to answer this. The problem is that you often don't get the final decision. The school does.

However, you can help your chances by making the request in the best possible fashion. Usually this will be in writing, and some schools won't consider it otherwise. So my advice is to write a concise letter to the school's principal or administrator, and if already in the school, cc it to the current classroom teacher or teachers. Keeping them informed is important because teachers often do the class placements. Don't cc the school board superintendent or supervisor. It could be looked on by the principal as challenging his or her authority. Give your reasons as clearly and succinctly as possible. If you wish to speak to the principal in person about class placements, request this in the letter.

The administrator may tell you that the school has a policy of separating twins. If so, ask to have it explained to you. It may just be a decision made at the administrator's discretion.   If you want your twins together, and the school is insisting on separation, then at least ask that your twins be in adjacent or nearby classrooms to increase their comfort level.  Good luck with your request.   Be persistent, yet patient.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Booster Seat Break Through!

Finally! At our twins' yearly medical check up, we got the news we had been waiting for. Our daughter finally weighed the required forty plus pounds to move from a forward facing car seat to a booster seat. Our son had done so a year ago. We all, including my daughter, were getting sick of the nuisance and permanency of the car seat.


Since both of us are regularly involved in either dropping off or picking up at school and activities, we need car seats and/or boosters in both cars. My wife's car had a regular car seat in it, so we removed that and bought my daughter a new booster. We debated putting her in the basic seat with no backing, but opted for a Graco one with a removable back, for greater safety. Some kids eventually don't want the backing because they feel they have outgrown it. We actually ended up getting the same model as my son's except in pink and black. Our daughter loved it!

In my car I had a two- in - one which converted from a forward facing to a booster seat. However, it was clear my daughter didn't want this as it wasn't a real booster and feels like a regular car seat. At the same time, my son's converted booster from a three - in - one had just expired after six years of use. So the decision was made to purchase non backed boosters for my car.

The other great things about booster seats are that they aren't attached and don't have to be installed, and they take less time for our kids to get strapped in. Our two are already slow enough leaving the house as it is! We are going to try to sell our car seats to someone in our local multiples group as the seats aren't near expiring. Finally!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Interesting Look at Birthday Gifts for Twins

So our twins just had their combined 7th birthday party. A few of the kids had invited one of them, a couple had invited both, and some had not invited either (at this point in the school year). Most of the invited were friends of one of our children but only a few were both. The invitations had both our kids name on it. So how did our guests' parents handle the gift giving? We expected in fairness that some would bring a gift for only one child, the one they would have been invited by. Especially if only one of our kids attended their party and brought one gift. But it was more than a few that bought both kids a gift. And the quality of the gifts were no less thoughtful and impressive. It makes me feel good about making sure that if both our kids go to a party, they bring a total of two gifts, and each gift is the same as if the child was attending alone.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Time Alone is Important Too

On most Wednesday and Saturday evenings my wife and I have dinner by ourselves after the kids are in bed. We have been doing this since our twins were very young.

Last Wednesday,my daughter asked why we were not eating with them again. My wife quickly responded that "We love each other and just want to spend some time together. It is important that we do." Well stated. This echoes my sentiments exactly. 

It is extremely important for parents, especially with twins, to make time for each other as well as the kids. It could just be a few minutes each night or the occasional dinner. Once a month we try to get paid or unpaid for babysitting for a "date night". Nothing fancy. Just time spent alone together to eat, enjoy a glass of wine, and chat. On Wednesday nights,I usually make nachos and we sit in front of the TV. But this makes a world of difference to our relationship,and we don't love our kids any less!

Friday, April 11, 2014

How to Purchase My Book, "Twice Blessed: A Parent's Guide to Twins"

Now that my website has been closed down (by choice), this blog and my Facebook page become the primary methods for promoting the book. This includes informing my fans of how and where they can get it. It is available through most major online retailers in both paperback and e-reader formats. 

There are editions for the Kobo, Kindle, and Nook ereaders and I am still working on getting it into the Itunes store. Hopefully that will happen this summer. You can go to Amazon.com (which has a Look Inside feature on the Kindle page), Indigo.ca. BarnesandNoble.com, or Kobobooks.com amongst others to purchase the book. The book retails for $12.95 (sometimes less) in paperback and usually $6.99 for the e-reader versions. Just go to a website and search "Twice Blessed."

Friday, April 4, 2014

An Update on my Book, "Twice Blessed" and my Website

This blog was originally started with no intention of writing a book. I wanted a place to post some of the articles I had been writing for such publications as Twins Magazine, The Bulletwin, and more recently, Multiple Moments, amongst others. Then came the book, published in June of last year. I certainly never intended to get rich or famous off of the book, and I wasn't writing a bestseller! I wanted to accomplish two things, write a good book and have it published, and hopefully help some fellow twin parents along the way. I know that it has since some of tbe books' readers have let me know that it did. The website, www.twiceblessedguidetotwins.com was launched prior to the book's publication as a way of promoting both the book and my blog. It has served its purpose and since I only linked to my blog, the blog page still exists as a separate entity. I also have a successful facebook page at www.facebook.com/twiceblessedguidetotwins and this has become my prime tool for promoting the book and my twins parenting blog. For this reason, I am shutting down the website and just continuing with my blog and Facebook page. I will continue to write about issues relating to parenting twins and will post links to online retailers of my book, Twice Blessed: A Parent's Guide to Twins. Some of these include Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Indigo.ca, and Kobobooks.com. Thank you for continuing to read the blog and feel free to post comments both on the blog and on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tips for Planning a Combined Birthday Party Outside of Home

There are a variety of options for combined birthday parties outside the home, and I will key on a few that seem to have mass child appeal. When our kids were both one year old and three years old, we had parties at a play center. Play centers offer an indoor playground atmosphere with jumping castles, ball pits, climbing equipment, and slides. They usually include a private party room with the option of either ordering food and/or bringing your own, and some even will create loot bags for you for an extra charge. Many also have a party host, and best of all to parents, clean up is often included!

The other great thing about play centers is that they can usually accommodate a large number of kids, even thirty or more in some cases. But be aware, that while some offer private play space for your party, many indoor playgrounds are not only available to other parties at the same time, but also to private individuals who want to use the facility. You may also be limited to a certain block of time, with very little flexibility. It is also true that play centers or indoor playgrounds can be expensive, but when everything is taken care of for a large number of guests, and two birthday children, it actually seems more reasonable. When kids are very young, however, you have to factor in food for the adults too, who have to stay with their children.

Cooking parties are also great, as long as your twins can agree on what to cook. When our kids were four years old, we did a party at a supermarket’s cooking school. It was a pizza and cupcake making party and both our kids and their guests had a blast making and eating their own individual pizzas, including rolling the dough and choosing toppings! Then they decorated a series of six mini cupcakes that became their loot bag to take home. It was a drop off party, and most parents did just that. We provided coffee and a fruit tray for the adults, and the party cost was quite reasonable. This particular place could accommodate a large number (up to about 30 children), but some cooking party centres may limit numbers. We held their sixth birthday party at a trampoline center, and this was, and since has been a popular party with both boys and girls. 

Other similar and popular types of parties are bowling and glow-in-the-dark mini golf. Bowling parties, which are still quite reasonably priced, go back to when I was a kid. Parties at restaurants such as Chuck E. Cheese or Dave and Busters are fine too, but it is still the games and winning tickets and prizes that are most exciting to the kids, rather than just the eating.

That brings us to this year. For our twins seventh birthday, we are going back to the same play center that we went to when our kids were three. No, we haven’t lost our minds! This particular center offers a wide variety of parties and you can even combine them. This is exactly what we are doing as we are having a sports and games (such as parachute or dodgeball) theme, along with a karaoke option. The party will start with the kids having a choice of the two options, be broken up with the food and cake (which we will be providing), and then finishing off in the gym with some games.

Finally, there are a few things that you should consider no matter what you choose to do for your party. We have always tried to get separate cakes, if at all possible. One party, the cake that was being provided was so large that we divided (but not cut) it in half, and decorated each half differently for our son and daughter, according to their requests. We always sing happy birthday twice. If the place you are holding the party provides a gift for the birthday child, insist on a second gift, and, if necessary, pay for it begrudgingly! One way to reduce the cost of food is to hold your party in between meal times (such as mid-afternoon) and just have snacks and cake. If all else fails, hold separate parties for each of your twins, and let me know how it goes! If you found this helpful, read the read other blog entries at http://atwinsdad.blogspot.ca.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tips for Planning a Combined Home Birthday Party

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, January 21, 2014

Planning Help for a Trip with Young Twins (or Children) to Disney World

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. This hotel is located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, a five to ten minute walk to Downtown Disney.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Taking Twins to Disney World: The Stroller Question

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, January 9, 2014

Twins and the NICU

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 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 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, our daughter 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 she 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, December 29, 2013

Embracing Family Time During the Holidays

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, November 23, 2013

Tips for Road Trips with Young Twins

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, November 13, 2013

School Separation Update

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.