Friday, 18 April 2014

A Chance to Win My Book, Twice Blessed

My blog has reached 2500 page views in only two years! As a thank you to the readers of this twins parenting blog and my Facebook page followers, I am giving away a paperback copy of my book. I will mail a paperback copy of Twice Blessed: A Parent's Guide to Twins anywhere in the USA or Canada or a pdf version emailed anywhere in the world. All you have to do is Like my Facebook page if you haven't already at www.facebook.com/twiceblessedguidetotwins. Then Like or Comment on any post by the end of April for a chance to win in our random draw. Each Like or Comment on a different post gives you another chance to win. Good luck to everyone!

Saturday, 12 April 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, 11 April 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, 4 April 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, 11 March 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, please go to www.twiceblessedguidetotwins.com for all my blog entries.

Monday, 3 March 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, 21 January 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.

Thursday, 16 January 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, 9 January 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, 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

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!