June 25, 2017

Preschool graduation? Isn’t that a little silly?

Gray and Miss A on the last day of preschool

Preschool Graduation? Isn’t that a little silly?

That’s the kind of thing I would have said before I had kids.

And listen…when the twins ‘graduated from preschool’ last week, there was a small part of me that felt a tiny bit silly hearing ‘congratulations’ from the other parents in the class.  I mean…it does sound sort of funny. Congratulations for what? You can still play with sand? You get an A+ for managing to get through snack time?

The truth is, completing preschool (especially completing the truly stand up program we were lucky enough to find) is a celebration of many things that really ‘are’ accomplishments.

It’s definitely not about the ‘snacks’ or the ‘sand’.

What is really is about is the personal growth and development that a young child sees over the span of September through June.

Some of you may remember my first posts about preschool from the very beginning of the school year – My Twins Started Preschool and I’m Mourning, and also, My Twins Started Preschool – Update.  We have really come so far since then!

And by ‘we’, I mean ‘me’. I was the one who felt a little sad about preschool.  The twins had started other un-parented programs by then, which I think really helped relieve any apprehension they might have had otherwise. Gray and Miss A were excited to start preschool!

Attending and completing preschool was a year where the twins were building their character qualities, learning and, even, discovering important life lessons!

For our family, and our kids, preschool meant…

-Creating a schedule and following through with it.

-Working together to be on time (like the time Gray had to blow dry Miss A’s hair for mommy!).

-Building confidence and breaking through some shyness (Miss A).

-Developing new friendships (that kind that are authentically created, not only created because mom and dad are friends with their mom and dad).

-Learning numbers, letters, the world around us, and all of that wonderful stuff!

-Learning how to be inquisitive and imaginative in appropriate ways.

-Meeting people who are very ‘different’ from us, and learning that ‘different’ is ‘okay’ and can be embraced!

Those are the best, and most important things, we are celebrating when we are at preschool graduation!

Academically, the twins have learned so much and that was really exciting for us to see throughout the year! They participated in activities and learned about things that never would have been on my radar had I kept them at home with me.

Gray’s spring report card

Miss A’s spring report card

So…that’s it in a nutshell! Now you (and I) both know why we celebrate a preschool graduation. Yes…I admit to you childless adults…it a little, teeny-tiny bit over the top.  But…when you become a parent, you will understand the pride you feel as a parent seeing your child grow and develop the way they do when they are two or three or four-years old.

So…

CONGRATULATIONS Gray and Miss A!

We love you and we are SO very proud of you!

Mommy

xo

 

Miss Ann, Gray and Miss Sheri

Miss Ann, Miss A, and Miss Sheri

Miss Ann, Gray, Miss A and Miss Sheri

Thanks to the teachers for suggesting to take this last photo with both kids.  It’s the kind of photo a twin parent really appreciates and I would have forgotten to do that in this moment!

PS In case you are searching for a truly amazing preschool program for your littles (in south east Calgary), I’m going to offer a little plug for the Bright Stars Preschool Program. I am ‘that’ thankful and happy with them!

The kids attended a truly amazing preschool with exceptional teachers who took a lot of time to plan a great program. The classroom play centres changed every single class. There were also stories, rhymes and songs every class and they also brought home a high-quality craft…yep, you got it…also every class.

We had so many amazing crafts in our house, I was compelled to create a special art wall to display it all!

The teachers also took the time to make sure a variety of important skills were touched on each day: Language, math, fine motor, gross motor and sensory.  Here is a copy of one of our weekly updates we received via email…they are the real deal!

Our Week at a Glance week 35 page 1
Our Week at a Glance week 35 page 2

 

Can you believe it?? I’m amazed at how much they were able to cover in two and a half hours!

A big huge thanks to the twins’ teachers, Miss Ann and Miss Sheri – your reputation precedes you and you didn’t disappoint!

May 6, 2017

Is one of your children staying at, or visiting, the Alberta Children’s Hospital?

Is one of your children staying at, or visiting, the Alberta Children’s Hospital?

If so, have you heard of Emily’s Backyard?

If you haven’t, this blog post is definitely for you!

We have been visiting the Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH) since the twins were born. We have mainly been there for clinic visits plus, one unfortunate trip to the emergency room, when Gray was accidentally burned on our gas fireplace.

Each visit we had to ACH, we either had one parent stay home with the non-visiting child or we tried our best to arrange childcare. Usually, after months of waiting to get in to see a specialist, I like to be focused on the appointments and not distracted by the extra parenting efforts that we are required with additional children. You know how it goes…

”Please don’t touch that, it’s not a toy.”

“No, you can’t climb on there.”

“Please get off the floor, it’s yucky.”

“Stop poking your sister.”

Having only the ‘patient-child’ in the appointment allows me focus on actually ‘hearing’ what is said and maybe taking a few notes with my phone. I also find that I have a reduced chance of forgetting to ask the questions I wanted to ask (or…like I mentioned earlier, actually ‘hearing’ and ‘retaining’ what the answers are).

If you have visited the hospital, for any reason, you have probably walked by it. It is a colourful play area, seen through windows, right as you enter the hospital. The name of it is posted above the doors (there is a second location on the second level of the hospital as well).

So, here it is…in case you aren’t aware (like I wasn’t)…it is a short-term childcare option available if you have a child staying in the hospital, or visiting a clinic.

And are you ready for this?

IT IS FREE!!!

What??? Why didn’t anyone mention this to us when we booked our clinic appointments? Man…if only I had known about this sooner. For some reason, it didn’t even occur to me that this was a service available to us. Don’t ask me what I thought it was for…or who it was for…but it just never occurred to me.

Anyhow, after 5 years of visiting ACH, I had a brainchild to check into it when Miss A had her most recent clinic visit just last month. I can’t believe how easy, and convenient, it was to book our son in.

If you are wondering how Emily’s Backyard works, here is some info you might find helpful:

 

-Emily’s Backyard is intended for patients, or siblings of patients, who are staying at (or visiting) the hospital

-This amazing service is free!

-Emily’s Backyard is suitable for children who are as young as infants and as old as early teens

-You cannot stay in Emily’s Backyard if you have any of the following symptoms: rash, cough, fever, runny nose, diarrhea, or nausea/vomiting

-There are a variety of activities available for kids to do…from toys to games to crafting

-There is a maximum time limit a child can be left at Emily’s Backyard (at the time of writing this, the maximum is 1.5 hours)

-Emily’s Backyard is operated by both staff and volunteers

-It is best to pre-register your child (which you can do up to two-weeks in advance), but they will work to accommodate drop-in if they can.

That’s it!

I booked the service by submitting an email (you can call or email) and I had a response the very next day…and it was good news…they had space!  A part of me was expecting to have to be put on a waitlist or something of that nature, but that was not the case at all.

I will also say that the environment was very welcoming and Gray didn’t have any troubles being dropped off at all.  He was playing happily when I came to pick him up after Miss A’s appointment.   In fact, the hardest part was trying to explain to Miss A why she couldn’t also visit.  They sent us off with a sticker for ‘both’ kids which I thought was a nice touch.  It also worked as a distraction for Miss A’s disappointment of seeing this fun place but not being able to stay and play.  Awesome!

Like I said earlier…I am a little disappointed and surprised that this fantastic service wasn’t mentioned in the past, when we have booked our appointments there…but now we know and we are so happy that we do!

If you are interested in more information, on Emily’s Backyard, you can get more information here.

Hopefully this post finds you ahead of any visits you might have with your littles there. If you have any additional thoughts or suggestions about Emily’s Backyard, please feel free to comment below.

Grayson playing when I came to pick him up from Emily’s Backyard

April 25, 2017

My Favourite YYC Used Kids’ Clothing, Toys and Gear Sale (plus tips for successful shopping!)

Living and raising a family in Calgary is expensive…especially if you have kids. Most of the parents I know are conscious about wanting to save money – and that’s why I want to tell you about my favourite used kid’s clothing, toys, and equipment sale here in the city.

Some of you may have heard me talk about my favourite local organization, TTMAC (the Twins, Triplets, and More Association of Calgary) before.  If not, you can check it out here. Not only are they a wonderful organizing supporting YYC families with mulitples, they also put on a really great consignment sale twice a year which is open to the general public.

Now, if you don’t have twins, triplets, etc., please don’t feel like this sale isn’t for you. Most items for sale there are not sold in pairs (although some are and that is super for those looking for coordinating outfits, toys, etc).

Here is what I love about the sale:

 

It is extremely well organized

Everything is sorted in the room based on category…clothes are organized by size, toys are all together, strollers are all together, bikes are all together, etc.

Everything in season

The timing is perfect for trying to update everyone’s spring/summer or fall/winter wardrobe in new sizes (depending on which sale you are attending).  Typically there is a sale in the spring and one, again, in the fall.

The variety is awesome!

This sale isn’t specific to just ‘clothes’ or ‘toys’.  Some of the items you will find here include: toys, strollers, high chairs, clothes sized newborn to size 12, gymnastics and dancewear, shoes, equipment, baby gear, bikes, books, and even maternity-wear.

Photo credits: Twins, Triplets, and More Association of Calgary

Coordinating items are available for those with multiples

This is awesome for those parents of twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc. who might like to coordinate their littles.  Where else can you easily find gently-loved items that match??

The organizer, and the sellers, are near and dear to my heart

TTMAC has been a great resource that I have been supported by since I was pregnant with Gray and Miss A.  I’m always really happy when I can try to ‘give back’.  The sale is run by TTMAC volunteers to sell consigned items from members.

 

Tips for Successfully Shopping the TTMAC Sale

 

Okay – so let’s talk strategy here! Before I attended my first sale, I got some good tips from other fellow parents. I have since added to this list and here it is:

Arrive as close to opening as possible

Of course the early bird gets the worm. If you want the best selection, you definitely should consider starting your shop early, when the sale begins.  If you do arrive early, you should expect a short line up.

Take advantage of special early access shopping privileges

If you are a TTMAC member, you can usually gain early access to shop ahead of the general public. If you are not a TTMAC member, make friends with someone who is and ask them if you can be their ‘token guest’.

Bring cash

Cash the only form of payment they accept…unless you are a TTMAC member, in which case, you can also pay by cheque if you present your membership card (if you have misplaced your membership card, you can email TTMAC to arrange to have a new one picked up right at the sale).

Bring bags

This is a BYOB situation (bring your own bag). You might be more comfortable shopping if you have a large-type bag that you can carry over your shoulder…I would pack something over-sized myself.

Consider leaving your strollers and children at home

Why? Well…you know. And if you don’t know…trust me, you don’t want to.

If you think you might be shopping for larger items, bring an ally (non-shopping partner)

One year I brought my girlfriend and she found a great sandbox she wanted to buy, but she was worried to leave it alone to keep shopping. If you think this could happen to you, you may want to bring a spouse or buddy that you can leave your items with to keep an eye on.

Once you arrive…if you are considering an item, throw in your bag and keep shopping

If you are anything like me, you might get indecisive about purchases. That’s fine…but don’t waste time standing around thinking about it – you have valuable goods to get your hands on! Toss anything you are considering into your bag and keep going. Once you have been through the sale, review all of your items and then put back what you have decided against. But listen…don’t be that person who dumps it where it doesn’t belong.  If you can’t get it to where it should go, find a volunteer to give it to and just let them know you changed your mind (they are usually well-marked by the shirts they are wearing).

Enjoy your goods and revel in your savings!

That’s it! I won’t post the details of this year’s sale in this blog post since it can change from year to year…but you can always get current information (map, floor plan, etc) from the TTMAC Sales page.

Happy shopping!

This haul was from my first TTMAC sale in 2014 – I bought all of these goods for a grand total of $37.50!

April 4, 2017

Conversations with the Twins: My Body, Conception and Delivery

Now that the twins are five years old, they are more curious than ever. They are forever asking us in-depth questions about ‘ANYTHING’ and ‘EVERYTHING’.

Lately, I have been fielding a tonne of questions from them about my body, their conception, delivery and even about death. It has been a confusing, funny, and scary journey trying to navigate what information is age appropriate for them yet will still satisfy their curiosity.

Here is a recent question I got from Miss A:

Miss A: “Mommy, did I hatch out of an egg in your tummy?”

Me: “Ummm….can we talk about this later?”

Miss A: “Okay.”

Insert panic! Wow. I was not really prepared for that and I was totally unsure about how to answer it. So, I didn’t. I basically just put it off hoping she would forget about it.

Of course, she did not.

When she asked me again, a few days later, I told her I would like to talk about it in a few days after a special book arrived that would help me explain it. She agreed this would be okay and I hurriedly ordered a book that a psychologist at the Calgary Regional Fertility Program had recommended to us at one of our appointments. I remember she had suggested that when time came, we should be honest with the twins about their conception to avoid mis-trust in the future. So, I hopped online and ordered up her recommendation, a book called, ‘I loVe my Family‘.  See the ‘IVF’ in there?  This is a book about assisted conception for young children.

The book arrived and we read it…it very ‘lightly’ touched on the subject but I think it was still a bit confusing for the kids. Well, obviously Miss A was still confused because a couple of days after that…

Miss A: “Mommy, I know I hatched out of an egg in your tummy, but you didn’t tell me how I got out.”

Jesus.

Okay, so now there were two problems. First of all, she thinks she hatched out of an egg in my tummy. Second of all, she wants to know how she got out.

Why me??  I’m not ready for this!

But wait, it got better…

Miss A: “…Oh! I know! I must have come out of your mouth!”

Pretty much I was totally dying at this point. Panicked, confused, my heart was literally racing. …but, I just couldn’t let it continue so, I semi-blurted out to her, “You came out of my vagina!”.

(Insert a very long pause)

Miss A: “Did I come out of your bum?”

Me: “No, you did not come out of my bum. You came out of my vagina.”

Miss A: “Oh.” (insert another long pause) “I would like to see that sometime.”

…and thank the heavens above, the conversation ended there.  For now.


Now Gray, on the other hand, has been very curious about my body.

Right or wrong, I set the kids up with something to play with in the bathroom with me when I’m having a shower, so they do still see me getting ready for my day. Is five-years-old too old for that? I feel like we are on the cusp of needing to be more mindful of not being clothes-less in front of our opposite gendered kids…but I still feel like they should be supervised while I’m in the shower so, you can see the dilemma.

The other day I had just gotten out of the shower…

Gray: “Mommy, why do you have lines on your bum?”

Me: “Because my bum grew to fast at one time.”

Gray: “Is that what happened to your tummy, too?”

Me: “Yes.”

Gray: “Is that what happened to your breast?”

Me: (chuckling) “No, that definitely didn’t happen to my breast.”

Gray: (reaches up and ‘pokes’ my breast with one finger) “Then why is it falling down?”

Ha!!!!

…And there you have it! I’m not saying that these are the ‘right’ conversations; they are just the ‘real’ conversations.

If you happen to have come across a book you think would be perfect for us, please let me know! I’m obviously in need of some help here!

February 12, 2017

Birthday Party Loot Bags – It’s Okay to Say ‘No’!

Can we talk about birthday party loot bags for a moment? I really want to know if you ‘love them’ or ‘hate them’? Do you think it’s ‘taboo’ not to give them out?

The twins have a birthday party coming up and, to be honest, I’m not going to be providing loot bags this year. I’m kinda feeling guilty about it…but isn’t that kind of ridiculous?

The truth is that, since I went back to work (if you missed the post about this, you can find it here), I hardly have time to get out birthday party invitations in a timely fashion – let alone organizing appropriate, affordable, thoughtful loot bags. For me, affordable and thoughtful are the key points…if you have 10 kids and spend $5, or more, each…that’s $50! $50, people!!! If you are spending that kind of money on loot bags, you want them to be appreciated and enjoyed, right?

I remember one of the first years I did loot bags, I was discussing them with my friend Kim. She challenged me and asked me why I was doing them – was it to ‘keep up with the Jones’’? It was a different perspective…it made me think about the purpose of why we do give out goody bags.

Was it about keeping up with the Jones’? Honestly, the truth was that it wasn’t about that at all. I didn’t feel like I ‘had’ to provide them to ‘keep up’…I think it was really more of a cultural thing. The same way we eat cake at a birthday…there is often a loot bag given out. It felt a little more like tradition. I do remember being so excited to receive them at birthday parties when I was a child; it was fun to create the same kind of experience for the twins’ little friends!

But, here is the thing. This year, after planning an ‘off-site’ birthday party, extending invitations, and organizing the other food and details, I just don’t feel like I have the time or energy to do any more this year. On top of that, we have already spent a great deal of money on this party since it is off-site and since we have the twins (which makes our guest list a little longer). Shouldn’t that be enough?

On top of this, if I’m being totally honest, I have heard various parents comment on what is an acceptable loot bag standard and I feel like this does complicate how I approach planning loot bags. I mean, now I’m trying to find something perfect…for a reasonable price…for 14 kids…but not include what I have heard to be unacceptable loot-bag fare. Gah. In case you don’t know, here is a list of potentially unacceptable items:

…Dollar store ‘trinkets’ that break easily.

…Treats that other kids might not be permitted to eat.

…Items you may find age-appropriate but another parent doesn’t

So, now take that list and try to find something everyone will enjoy. Sounds so fun, right?

(Insert my head shaking ‘no’ here.

Isn’t a loot bag a gift? Should we really have to be so conflicted about what kind of items we ‘gift’ out?

Here is another point to consider…on the heels of talking about the fact that a loot bag is a ‘gift’…is it ‘necessary’ to be gifting children for coming to a birthday party in the first place? I mean, really…please come to our party where we have entertained you, fed you cake (and maybe snacks) and now let me give you a present for coming. Are we setting the right expectation for our kids by providing these every single year?

One thing that is really important to me as a parent is to raise my kids to be gracious and thoughtful and to not act or feel entitled. A part of me worries that my kids are going to expect that they need to receive a loot bag every time they go to a birthday party. I remember a friend of mind telling me a story about how, as a single parent, she put on a birthday party for her son. At the end of the party, a child basically chastised her since she hadn’t offered him a take-away. What??? Kind of horrible, right?

So…I’m not saying that I won’t ever do loot bags again but I do just want to say that, once in a while, we should just give them a break. I think that should be okay.

To my mom and dad friends who take the time and effort to send these home with my child…they are definitely appreciated! …BUT…I want you to know that having my child (or children for that matter) to your party is also ‘enough’.

In my opinion, it is totally okay to say ‘no’ to the loot bag. This year, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

#SayNoToTheLootBag     #NoBirthdayLoot     #NoLootForYou

December 7, 2016

The Polar Express Train Excursion at Aspen Crossing – My Review and Tips

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The Conductor punched a letter ‘G’ into Gray’s golden ticket

Since the Christmas that my twins were 2-years old, they have loved watching the Polar Express movie! I keep it stored away and only pull it out at Christmas-time to try to preserve some of the magic that the movie brings over the holiday season.

Last year, I learned that there was a Polar Express train ride being offered at Aspen Crossing in Mossleigh, Alberta (a little town, just south east of Calgary). I remember looking into it at that time, but just feeling like the season was too busy for us to add one more thing to our plate…so I left it alone.

This year was a different story and I really felt like it would be a perfect year to take the kids. They are 4-years old now and are really acting wondrous about all things these days. I knew it would be right up their alley!

The first thing I had to do was convince Darren that we should buy tickets for our family, which actually wasn’t very easy. At a starting price of $57 per ticket (plus tax) this is not a cheap excursion and it definitely required some consideration.  Initially he joked that I should just buy three tickets but then he finally got ‘on board’ (pun intended) and we took a chance!

When you arrive for your train ride, everyone meets in a common area. You find the table that holds the tickets and they will take your name and give you your train tickets – not just any ticket though, a replica of the ‘golden ticket’ that you see on the movie.

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It was fun to start the experience this way! The kids really enjoy receiving their own ticket and I think it created a little bit of a buzz for everyone. The train loading process went fairly quick and, just like on the movie, everyone loads the train and is greeted by the conductor! Note: he is in character but very happy…which was a relief since Gray and A were a little nervous about him…he is historically a bit of a grouch.

Can we talk about seating for a moment? There are various seating options you can purchase with the cheapest being in economy – and that was the max we were willing to spend. I can now assure you, they were great! We got our own table and chairs and had a window – and that’s all you really need to enjoy the ride and outside displays. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the economy section to anyone at all.

Early into the train ride, everyone receives a Polar Express mug, filled with hot chocolate, as well as a cookie. Very ‘animated’ waiters serve these and I thought they did a good job of getting everyone excited about the ride. Most of the families were starting to take photographs and, when they asked the staff for assistance with taking them, no one was ever denied.

Shortly after that, we enjoyed in-train visits from: The Conductor, The Hobo, Billy, the Hero Boy, the Know-It-All-Kid and, eventually, Santa Claus. The only character that didn’t make an appearance (that of course Miss A asked about) was the Hero Girl. I simply told her that she must be not feeling well or on a vacation and she easily accepted it.

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On our journey, we rode by several displays including a stop at Billy’s house (where he actually boards the train) and a stop at the North Pole where elves are excitedly dancing and Santa Claus boards. There was a lot of excitement around that – especially when he started making his way down the isles, gifting the children with their own Sleigh Bells. My heart, honesty melted, when Miss A placed her bell into her housecoat pocket – just to replicate what she had seen on the movie. Swoon!!!

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On the ride back to the station, there is a book reading (of course, it’s the namesake book – The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg) and the children are encouraged to dance and jingle their sleigh bells in the isles while the Waiters and parents (NOT Darren! lol) sang Christmas carols.

I have to say that the experience of this activity exceeded both my husband’s, and my, expectations. On top of the fact that there is a ride to the North Pole and a visit from Santa, there were many of the characters from the movie that made appearances on the ride and did a great, and convincing, job. Not only did they ‘look and dress’ like the characters, they were actually ‘in’ character as well and engaged with the passengers regularly. There were actually times during the ride where I felt the same magical feeling watching the kids as I did in Disneyland! Of course I’m not saying this ride is the same as a trip to Disney, but certainly there is some ‘magic’ that comes with the experience of riding this train.

Over all this was a really fun activity and something I think we would consider doing in future years again. Even Darren admitted that this excursion exceeded his expectations and said he would recommended it to others and will consider it again in the future for our family. Most importantly, the kids LOVED it!

Here are my tips if you go:

  1. Bring your kids in their pyjamas! It is encouraged and most of the kids (and some of the parents even) wore them.
  1. Pack a handful of plastic bags. You get to bring the Polar Express mugs home when you leave and, although you get a bag, we were offered 1 bag for every 2 mugs. I was a little nervous when I heard them ‘clanking’ around. It might be a good idea to be able to wrap them up a bit. Even a large baggie, for each passenger, would work well.
  1. Bring your coats, etc. from your vehicle. There is a period of time where you do wait in line to board the train and it is outside.
  1. Head out there a little early and take some time to browse the gift shop. They have some cute, little things and it was nice to get some souvenirs. We didn’t go through the gift shop, ourselves, until after the ride and it was totally jam-packed! Save your sanity and go through it beforehand.
  1. If you’re up for a little pre-ride dinner, there is a restaurant onsite inside an actual train car. I had a look at the menu and I thought it looked decent. Because we booked our tickets rather last minute the restaurant was full and I wasn’t able to get reservations, so we will have to try again next time. A mom-friend has told me that the food there is good!  …just call to book early!
  1. If you want to make a little adventure out of your evening, check out the Mossleigh Bar N Grill. I had asked some staff at Aspen Crossing for a suggestion of where else to eat, since the onsite restaurant was full, and they had suggested this spot. It is very close to Aspen Crossing and the food was decent (and so was the wine actually). Our ride was on a Sunday night, which happens to be their ‘Kids Eat Free’ night at the restaurant– so it was a total score for us! Our family of four had: four entrees, two glasses of milk, a glass of wine, and a premium beer and our entire bill (with tax) was $38.70!

Unfortunately, since I started writing this blog post, all tickets for the 2016 Polar Express have sold out. Having said that, I noticed a number of tickets available for sale on some of the buy/sell sites (including Kijiji). I took the liberty of contacting Aspen Crossing to make sure the tickets are transferable and I was told that purchasers of re-sale tickets should just ensure they have both the confirmation number as well as the name the tickets were bought under.

If you haven’t considered tickets to this fun, festive evening out, I would definitely recommend it!  Just be sure to purchase your tickets early to avoid disappointment!

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November 7, 2016

Our Son was Burned on the Fireplace last week – our Lesson Learned

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Photo credit: Benjamin Lambert Photography

I want to talk to you about a big ‘Mommy Fail’ I had last week that resulted in me having to take Gray to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Like many homes now, our house has a gas fireplace. We used to use it all the time before we had the twins, but once they came along, the fireplace literally wasn’t turned on for years. I think it might have been the end of last winter when we finally started using it again.

At that time, Gray and A were newly 4-years old. We considered them to be fairly compliant and calm for their age, so we started slowly introducing them to enjoying the fireplace with us.

We talked a lot about how ‘hot’ the fireplace is, how they should ever touch the glass, how we cannot play rowdy around it, and the normal things I think most parents would emphasize around ‘fireplace safety’. We never left the children unattended around it and things seemed to go fairly well.

Now that the weather is starting to cool off in YYC again, we have started using the fireplace again. In the morning, our family often enjoys having it on to take the chill off since our thermostat is turned down fairly low at night-time. This was how our morning began last Thursday.

I was sitting on the couch in the living room and Gray was standing in front of the fireplace warming up, with his back towards the glass. In hindsight, he was standing too close…especially since his arms were behind him as he tried to warm them up too. I should have said something at that point, but honestly, I think it was a moment of complacency since the kids have been so careful and mindful around it.

You know where this is going next. My poor little guy absent-mindedly took a small step backwards. Unfortunately, he was close enough that the backs of his little arms made contact with both the burning hot glass and the vent that sends the fireplace heat into the room.

He instantly sprang away from the fireplace and cried a cry that I knew meant he was hurt.

I immediately jumped into giving him first-aid and then I phoned health-link. Thankfully I had done everything right in treating him at home (I rant it under cold water and gave him cold compresses, NOT ICE!!!), but there was one concern that the nurse had – after the initial crying, which lasted a couple of minutes, he wasn’t having pain and I guess pain is good sign when it comes to burns. So, off we trekked to the hospital.

It turns out, Gray suffered 2nd degree burns on one arm and 1st degree burns on his other arm. Luckily, it has been fairly easy to treat at home and he has hardly complained about discomfort, so we have been able to carry on with most of our usual routines.

Thankfully, Tetanus isn’t a concern, since we are current on our vaccines. Did you know you could get infected with Tetanus through a burn? I had no idea. I guess these are the things you learn when your child goes to the hospital to be treated for one. Not quite the way you want to learn your lessons, that’s for sure.

It has been 4-days since Gray’s losing fight with the fireplace. Darren and I are trying to decide if we will re-introduce the kids to the fireplace with stricter rules in place (like, having to keep a certain distance from the fireplace), keep the fireplace off for a while, or maybe look into purchasing a fireplace screen (or maybe a combination of those).

I’m mainly sharing this story with you so you can be reminded of the importance keeping your children safe around your fireplace. This is also a good time to consider getting current on your first aid. Hopefully you won’t need it, but you never know when it might come in handy.

Please learn from my mistake!

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October 28, 2016

One-On-One Time with the Kids – Is that a Real ‘Thing’??

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(edited) Images by Larissa G Photography (www.larissagphotography.com)

One of the hardest struggles of having twins, is trying to get in one on one time with each of them – and any amount of it!

I mean, essentially they have had the same sleep schedule since birth so it’s not like I could sneak in quality time with one child while the other napped. And…until the last year or so, they have done most of their activities together, so we haven’t had much opportunity to bond during those times either.

On top of those obstacles, almost all of the time, I am out-numbered!

I remember feeling so guilty when Gray and A were newborns because it seemed there was rarely an opportunity to just enjoy a quiet snuggle with one baby – this was something I felt so envious about when we spent time with other moms who had singletons. This is literally what my schedule looked like every 3-hours when I was establishing breast-feeding (because the twins were preemies and tiny, I was discouraged from exclusively nursing at the start in case they burned more calories than they took in – it was totally nuts!!):

  1. Nurse baby A
  2. Burp baby A
  3. Top up baby A with bottle of formula
  4. Burp baby A
  5. Nurse baby B
  6. Burp baby B
  7. Top up baby B bottle of formula
  8. Burp baby B
  9. Pump with Breast pump
  10. Change diaper of baby A
  11. Change diaper of Baby B
  12. Sterilize bottles (My bad, I hadn’t bought enough)
  13. Eat, sleep, shower and do anything else that needs to be done before the 3-hour window is up (but probably get to none of it)

It was total insanity!!!!

Thankfully that only lasted for the first 3-weeks before we got the go ahead to drop the bottle-feeding and blow up that dreaded milking machine known as a breast pump…but still, that didn’t drastically change the process. And once my husband went back to work, I was all alone to manage it myself. I can’t even tell you how many times I bounced one twin in the bouncy chair (with my foot) while I nursed the other child. That really happened! All. Of. The. Time.

Side note for expecting parents of multiples: Get yourself a bouncy chair for crying out loud!!!

Thankfully, that phase is history, and now that the kids are four-years old it’s not quite ‘so’ nuts…so, I really feel like Darren and I both need to make a bigger effort to have more one on one time with each of our children.

After I wrote my blog post last month ‘Keeping the Marriage Alive – One Date at a Time!‘, I had a brain-child that maybe we should do the same thing with our kids – perhaps a one-date-per-month-per-child kind of thing?

When I suggested it to my husband, he looked totally deflated! Not because he doesn’t see the value in it, but because I’m sure he was wondering:

Do we have enough time for that? Our weekends already seem to get so busy with activities, birthdays, etc.

How much money are we going to be spending on our endless dates each month?

Why does my wife like routines so much? (I added that for ‘your’ benefit, Darren!)  🙂

Okay, so he was probably right – it’s probably not necessary to make this a formal thing, and for now, we won’t.

So, I am now trying to be mindful to catch those little moments when I can. Darren has taken Grayson out skating (outside of lessons) a few times in the last month and I stole some time with Miss A over the weekend while her brother was watching Netflix upstairs with his dad (No, Darren, I don’t think that quite counts! Lol).

Before Gray came down for the day, Miss A and I quietly got to work and baked some muffins for the family for breakfast. Miss A was so happy to help without the struggle of competing with her brother, which usually looks like this:  Who’s turn is it to pour in the next ingredient? Who’s pushing who off of the stool?  Who gets to stir first?

Miss A even took great joy in helping me set up the table and wash the dishes!  What a nice treat that was!

I know it wasn’t a fancy date out to a play place, or the mall, or swimming…but it was an hour of time that her and I had together and I think that’s what is important. Although we aren’t making this a formal ‘thing’ in our house, I know that each little step towards focusing on our family is going to make us stronger and happier in the end.

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October 22, 2016

We bought our 4-year old a drum kit. What happened here?

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I’m not going to lie…I have seriously been feeling a little embarrassed to share the news of this recent purchase with my friends (and, honestly, also with you). After all, Gray is only 4-years old. Does he ‘need’ a drum kit? Have we gotten carried away?

This is how we got here…

When Gray was just a little tyke, my girlfriend, Marian, bought him a little toy drum set. He LOVED this thing and often played while singing his ABC’s. He also loved to play while asking mommy to ‘dance’ to his beat.

What?? Nooooooo!! How?? (insert my best pow-wow dance)

There are no photos documenting this. Thank God.  But I do have a cute photo of Gray playing on his old toy drum set!  Let’s think about that instead:

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Eventually, this beloved toy drum kit bit the dust. It was a well-loved toy and always a fan-favourite when friends came over…so it was destined to have a limited life cycle. At the time, I wasn’t ‘that’ sad because, really…only your girlfriend without kids would buy that loud of a toy…but, I was definitely sad for Gray. Of course, he was upset but I hoped he would get over it and move on…and, for a while, it seemed like he did.

…Until last spring.

Last spring he started asking for drums and reminiscing about how much he loved his old toy drum set. Now that he’s four-years old, a little toy drum set like that would likely be too small for him so, I told him that’s a very expensive item he is wanting, and maybe that’s something he should ask Santa for.

He carried on into the summertime, talking about how he wanted drums and he was going to ask Santa for them. That seemed fine…the phase didn’t die off and he accepted that we weren’t just rushing out to buy drums. But, I did realize something. What happens if Santa brings the drums that Gray ‘thinks’ he wants but then loses interest?

So, I suggested to my husband perhaps we should find some little lessons for him in the fall and see how that goes before we…err…Santa…takes the plunge with the drums.

So, I put out a request into Facebook-land to see if any of my friends could recommend a music class or drum instructor…or were drum lessons for a 4-year old even a ‘thing’? It turned out another twin-mama I know recommended someone great who only lives a few blocks away from us – how convenient!

Gray started lessons in September and attends once per week for 30 minutes. The teacher we found is also a mom and does a good job of keeping him on-task but also offers little breaks when he needs it to just play as he wishes…and I like that…it seems age-appropriate to me.

The good news is that Gray seems to be progressing and he hasn’t shown any inkling of losing interest in drumming. By no means is he a ‘gifted musician’ but he really seems to be learning – and in a compound way. He regularly practices how to count (and play) different beats and patterns such as ‘triplets’ and ‘paradiddles’.

He has also worked a little bit on drawing music notes, and he is now learning the names of the different drums in a drum kit. For fun, he gets to watch a ‘Buddy Rich versus Animal-from-the-Muppets’ video – and he quite enjoys that!

Since the lessons seem to be coming along, and Gray seems to be maintaining his interest in drumming, I thought Darren and I could talk about a plan for Christmas.

Me: “What do you think about Santa bringing Gray a used drum set for Christmas? I kind think it’s too expensive of an item for him to get new. If you’re onside, we should probably start keeping our eye on Kijiji soon here.”

Keep in mind that I’m super proud here of my brainchild idea. My husband is…well…tight with money PLUS we are mostly a one-income family supporting four people. Anywhere we can save money is great! So…I’m pretty much thinking here…”I’m so smart!”.

Darren: “You want to give him a used item for Christmas?”

Me: “Well, yeah! Drums are expensive!!!”

Darren: “I don’t know. Would you like it if I gave you a used gift at Christmas?”

Me: “Well…that’s not even the same. He won’t even know – he will still be so excited to get them!”.

Darren: “Does that mean you are okay getting a used gift then?”

Me: (didn’t address the question…Abandon! Abandon!) “Okay, so the other option is we find a used set and chalk it up as a cost of doing an activity – just the same as we bought Miss A her ballet shoes, tap shoes, and dancewear.”

Darren: “Sounds good.”

And that, my friends, it exactly how we got here!

Gray’s drum teacher was kind enough to send us a list of four previously owned drum sets for sale that she thought were appropriate for Gray. She also offered her opinion of what they were actually worth (versus what they were listed for). They were pretty much all selling in the $190-$250 range. She also explained what to look for and what not to worry about (I guess the ‘skins’ are easily and eventually replaced anyhow).

In the end, we picked up a set from some parents whose son had left for university but had had to leave the drums behind. They were asking $190 and we scored a deal of $140 – which was even better than our drum instructor suggested would be a fair price for this particular set (this is where I boast that my brain didn’t turn into complete mush when I had kids and I still have some of my career ‘negotiating skills’ left in me – yay!).

As you can imagine, Gray is absolutely thrilled!!! I’m still a little baffled on how we went from a toy request in spring to a drum kit in his bedroom…but I guess that’s sometimes how it goes.

October 12, 2016

Pregnant with (or have) Twins or More in YYC? Read This!

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Image by J.A.C. Photography (www.jacphotography.ca)

Having twins, triplets or any number of ‘multiples’  is NOT easy. I mean, aside from it being an enormous amount of work (especially in the early days) it is very, VERY expensive and it is also a little scary!

That’s why I really want to tell you about an AMAZING resource I discovered when I was pregnant with my own twins – the Twins, Triplets and More Association of Calgary (or ‘TTMAC’ as many of us in the YYC multiples community call it).  I promise, they are not paying me to post this – I just love the association ‘this’ much! Honestly, it was one the greatest supports I had when preparing for and bringing home our twins!

I can’t remember exactly how I heard about TTMAC anymore, word of mouth perhaps? Regardless, I am so happy that I discovered them while I was still pregnant because I was able to take advantage of some of the membership benefits even at that time (speaking of membership, I should mention that there is a nominal membership fee…but for our family, the cost of membership has more than paid for itself year over year). Currently, the membership fee in 2016 for a new member is $50/year.

Here is a list of TTMAC membership benefits that our family has taken advantage of:

Discounts Galore!!!

Thank the heavens above because having multiples is SO expensive! Most items you will need in double (or maybe more if you’re having triplets…or quads…or…OMG!), so any little penny saved will make a big difference for you in the end.

You might be surprised to know that we actually still are able to take advantage of discounts even though we are long past the stage of buying cribs, which is so nice.

Free Loaner Items

There is quite a long list of items that TTMAC has to loan out and these items aren’t just intended for families in financial need…. they are intended for the general membership. Here are some items our family borrowed:

  1. Twin Baby Buddy nursing pillow I did buy a couple of new covers (covers were available I just preferred something a little different). This thing was a lifesaver and made a big difference when I got really crazy and tried ‘tandem feeding’.In case you’re not sure what tandem feeding is, it’s nursing two babies at the same time. It’s for people who like to multi-task. Not me. Thankfully Gray and Miss A were fairly efficient eaters!
  2. Bumbo Chair That thing was awesome and we got loads of use out of it. I used mine to prop the babes up for feeding in the early days and I also used it as an accessory with my exersaucer (which we only had one of). I would place one baby in the exersaucer and the other in the Bumbo within reach of the exersaucer – it worked like a charm and kept both babies entertained for an extended period of time. I supposed this is why exersaucers are affectionately referred to as ‘circles-of-neglect’.
  3. Resource Books The office has a decent little library of books and I did find two or three books on parenting multiples to bring home and place neatly on my bedside table.So, full disclosure here: I had good intentions of reading all of these books but, really…who has time for that when you’re waking up every three hours to ‘nurse-then-bottle-feed-then-burp’ two tiny humans (or more), change 16 diapers a day (or more), and ‘try’ to shower, sleep, cook, and wash in-between? Seriously, my God, why did I think I would be reading?

Access to the TTMAC Facebook Group (which is closed to the public)

I know this probably sounds silly, but the Facebook page has been an enormous resource to me. I have asked many multiples-related questions here such as:

“I’m moving my twins from a shared crib to sleeping in their own cribs, what should I expect?”

and

“I have diastasis recti from my multiples pregnancy and I’m looking for a recommendation on a good physio clinic.”

Honestly, the TTMAC Facebook page is a really great way to connect to the YYC multiples community.

Access to the TTMAC Facebook Classifieds Group (which is closed to the public)

This page has been so amazing for buying and selling multiples-related products and also coordinating outfits for the kids. Think coordinating/matching clothing, double-strollers, Halloween costumes, etc. Awesome!

Socials & Events

There are a wide variety of socials and events available for members. I have personally attended age-appropriate playgroup socials, evening parent socials, family events (Halloween, Christmas, etc) and my personal favourite – Mom only evenings out and retreats!

Contests

All of my friends know that I love me a good contest and TTMAC has no shortage of these! I have been lucky enough to win some products from their monthly contests and one year for Mother’s Day, our family even won an entire family photo session (including DVD) from the very kind and generous Larissa G Photography!

Early Access to the Infamous TTMAC Semi-Annual Used Clothing, Equipment and Toy Sale

This sale is huge, infamous, and very well organized! On top of that, it is another great place to buy equipment for your multiples since most of the vendors are parents of multiples. It’s also a spot you can buy coordinating (or matching) outfits for your multiples second hand.

Even if you don’t have multiples, you ‘can’ and ‘should’ go to this amazing sale!  It is totally worth it!

Workshops and Sessions

Both my husband and I took a first-aid course through TTMAC for a very nominal fee, which probably paid for our membership that year on its own.

There are other TTMAC Membership Benefits Available as well!

Support

There are quite a few areas that TTMAC offers support with if wanted…breastfeeding, NICU support, Bereavement, Single Parent support, and the list goes on.

There is also a “New to You” inventory of clothing and supply items that have been donated to the office for families who might be in want/need.

Overall…

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about becoming a member of TTMAC. If you are expecting multiples or even if you already have them, I would really encourage you to consider a membership. It has been such a great resource for our family and I honestly have met some of my most favourite people through this group…Gray and A have too!