Saturday, July 24, 2010

A love affair with books

I've been thinking about books a lot lately. Maybe it's because I just spent a few days with my parents in Brooklyn. Growing up I was always surrounded by books; the love of reading, and the love of books themselves, was something that seems to have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My family is full of writers. The walls of my parents' home are lined with floor to ceiling bookcases filled with hundreds and hundreds of books. My parents are always reading something, often stopping to look up and share something interesting or funny from a book in their hands. That's my dad, to the left, reading a book to our daughter during our visit last week. One of my favorite memories of my father involves the two of us slipping through a broken chain link fence into a forgotten and overgrown garden at a nearby park where we would take our dogs for a walk. Once inside, we would sit beneath a shady tree in the tall grass and read from "Watership Down"; one chapter at a time, hour after hour it seemed. Just the two of us, as the dogs ran free, and bumblebees buzzed lazily nearby. In my memory it feels bucolic. In reality it probably wasn't, but I like the feelings it brings up. And now, when I pick up a book and touch the crisp, paper pages as I sink into a good book, I think what a difference those early years made in terms of creating a life-long lover of books, of words, and of reading. 

I think most parents know that reading to their children is a good thing to do. I recently read an article about the importance of growing up with books in which a scientific study was discussed that showed that the more books you do have, the higher level of education your children are likely to attain. The study was conducted over 20 years, in 27 countries, and surveyed more than 70,000 people. Researchers found that children who grew up in a home with more than 500 books spent 3 years longer in school than children whose parents had only a few books. Also, a child whose parents have lots of books is nearly 20-percent more likely to finish college. Just having books around you increases the chance that you will go further in school. I found that so interesting. And so simple to do. 
We read to our children all the time. There are books everywhere: in the bathrooms, in the bedrooms, in the kitchen, even in the car! I always read them the names of the author and illustrator before I begin so that they understand that books are something people create, not just things we find at the store. I love to pick books for our kids that are beautiful and beautifully made, but of course I also have "regular" books that we read to them. I sometimes read them books that are perhaps "too old" for them, and maybe they don't catch every word or understand every concept, but I know I've hit on something when they ask for it over and over; a good story is a good story. We love books that subtly teach them something about relationships or feelings or how to "be" in the world; and of course we like books that make them laugh and feel good. Books about being a twin are great, and good ones are hard to find. We have books about missing mommy or starting school, books about standing up for your friends, books about expressing yourself, books about loving the outdoors, books about girls/boys/animals even one about a "Some Thing". I never feel as though we can have too many books. 

I like buying books because I like keeping them. There is something satisfying about looking at a bookshelf filled with books you've read and loved; I like being able to go back and re-read something that touched me or moved me once before and now look at it with fresh eyes. I even picked up a habit from my father of writing my name and the year and city in which I purchased the book inside the front cover; finding a book and seeing that inscription floods me with memories. I read recently an essay in Open Letters Monthly about a man's love of books and his mourning what he calls the "literary apocalypse" brought on by the digital age of reading. One paragraph stood out for me:
"As I look over my own shelf, I see my life pass before my eyes. The memories grafted onto each volume become stirred and awakened by a glance at the spine, which presents itself to be touched, opened, and explored. Without the bookshelf’s landscape to turn to, that manifest remainder from a lifetime of reading, how would one think? What would one write?"


Even as a young girl I knew I wanted to share my love of books with my children one day; I have many, many books that I saved from my childhood and some I re-purchased and stored away in the hopes that one day my own children would love them as I did. A few months ago, our twins transitioned out of cribs and into beds; in doing this, they also moved rooms and while preparing for this I uncovered a long-forgotten box I had put away because they were too young to enjoy the books inside. I opened the box and happily showed each book to our children as I pulled them out; they were as excited as if Santa Claus had left a bunch of presents under the tree. New books! 

Although I write a blog and I read a lot of information online (and, as my husband will attest, I love my computer), for me there is nothing that takes the place of a good book held in my hands and the time, alone, to sit and read it. I hope for my children to have the same passion for books. I encourage every parent to consider the power of having real books, if for no other reason than that books bring joy to a child; and a love of reading can lead your child to a love of learning and a love of school and a love of expanding his or her world. 

So...in the hopes that you may enjoy some of the books our twins love, here is a list of just some of our current favorites (in no particular order): Remember, they're just 3 1/2; so if your kids are younger, hold on to this list for later and if they're older, please share what your kids love! We'd all love to get some new book ideas!
  • "Corduroy"by Don Freeman (who could resist this book?)
  • "I Love You The Purplest"by Barbara M. Joosse (terrific for twins as it's a story where mother deftly comments and compliments two brothers on their wonderful uniqueness throughout the book).
  • "The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes" -  by Phyillis Krasilovsky (probably out of print, but I adored this book as a kid and have a copy that is completely falling apart that my kids still think is hilarious).
  • "The Little House"by Virginia Lee Burton (this was actually my mom's favorite as a child and then one of my favorites....it actually still makes me tear up when the house is so sad as the city grows up around her. Lovely drawings, great story). 
  • "Sylvester and The Magic Pebble"by William Steig (at this stage I skip a bit about the absolute despair the parents feel about Sylvester missing, but I love the moral of the story which basically says when you have your family, what more could you wish for? I love the delicate watercolor illustrations too).
  • "One of Those Days" - by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Funny series of things that happen to you that just make it "one of those days"; my kids current favorites are the "Feeling Left Out Day" where a girl sits looking sad while friends play jumprope nearby and the "Say The Wrong Thing Day" where a girl says hello to a boy and he, nervously, replies "Uh...uh...marshmallow?". My son thinks that's just hilarious. In the end, the books says "Luckily, every single one of those days eventually turns into night. And every single night turns into a brand-new day"). 
  • "Little Pea", "Little Hoot", "Little Oink"a series of 3 books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (A pea who doesn't want to eat his candy because he only likes vegetables, an owl who doesn't want to stay up late, a pig who hates to be messy and wishes he could clean up his room like all his friends. A little reverse psychology anyone? Great drawings too)
  • "Goodnight Moon" - by Margaret Wise Brown (I know, everyone has this. But how could I leave it out? My kids still like it from time to time).
  • "Sugar Cookies"by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. (I know, I really like her. I like that she uses different illustrators for each set of books too so each one feels like a totally unique story. The subtitle of this one is "Sweet Little Lessons on Love" and every page uses references to cookies to describe ways to love someone: "TRUE LOVE means I like a lot of cookies, but this cookie here, this cookie is extra-special...My love for it is pure and rich and endless").
  • The "How Do Dinosaurs..." series. - by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague ("How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?", "How Do Dinosaurs Say I love You?", "How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?" etc. Great even if your kids aren't particularly into dinosaurs, terrifically detailed drawings and simple, rhyming stories about behavior).
  • "Llama Llama Misses Mama"  - by Anna Dewdney. (We got this a few months before the kids started preschool as it's about a little llama who's sad and scared at his new school but realizes it's actually fun and that mama always comes back. It really helped ease the transition a lot; our preschool even uses it in their classroom when kids are homesick. Series of 3 books that also includes "Llama Llama Red Pajama" about being scared at night and "Llama Llama Mad at Mama" about having to run errands with mommy when you'd rather be playing and getting ice cream).
  • "Pinkalicious"by Victoria Kann. (I originally bought this book because our children were obsessed with cupcakes and our son, as I wrote about previously in "When Superman Wants A Fairy Wand", was enamored of all things pink. It's a cute story about a girl who eats too many pink cupcakes and comes down with a case of "Pinkititis". I just found out it's been made into a very popular kids' musical in New York City which I can't believe I didn't know about when we were just there last week! "Pinkilicious" is my favorite of the series which also includes "Purplicious" and "Goldilicious").
  • "When Pigasso Met Mootisse" - by Nina Laden. (Clever, fictionalized version of the friendship between painters, Picasso and Matisse, depicted respectively as a pig and a bull. Terrific especially if your children are at a stage where they feel their "art" doesn't measure up to someone else's as this book makes a clear statement about two very different artists both having great value. On this same note, the lovely book "Ish"by Peter H. Reynolds makes a similar point: what you create doesn't have to look exactly like the real thing, a drawing of a tree that looks "tree-ish" is just as wonderful. I love all of Peter H. Reynold's books and illustrations).
  • "Harry The Dirty Dog"by Gene Zion. (One of my childhood favorites about a dog who hates to take a bath so he runs away and gets so dirty his family doesn't recognize him when he returns. Equally as fun are the sequels: "Harry by The Sea" and "No Roses For Harry").
  • "In The Night Kitchen" - by Maurice Sendak. (Not many people's children's book collections would be complete without at least one book of Mr. Sendak's. This one is one of his weirder ones and happens to be our son's favorite. He was so obsessed with it for a time that we had to read it multiple times each night and let him sleep with it in his bed. The illustrations are gorgeous and the somewhat nonsensical story is fun to read. For some reason "Where The Wild Things Are" isn't yet on our kids' short list, but they do love the "Nutshell Library Collection" which includes great short reads like "Pierre" and "Alligators All Around".  
  • "The Incredible Book Eating Boy" - by Oliver Jeffers. (I just love everything Oliver Jeffers puts out. His illustrations are weird and beautiful, the concepts of his stories are elegantly thought out and yet simple. This book, in particular, has a message dear to my heart: it's about a boy who eats books and loves how smart they make him, but soon realizes that he's overeating and can't digest all the information anymore, so he has to stop. After sitting sadly for a while "...Henry picked up a half eaten book from the floor. But instead of putting it in his mouth...Henry opened it up...and began to read. And it was SO good. Henry discovered that he loved to read." Our son grins from ear to ear every time I read that line).
I could go on and on but I think you get the idea: we like books. The links I posted, by the way, are all from Amazon, but I love supporting small bookstores and even independent online retailers like Chronicle Books when I can. Chronicle is a great place to find more unique books than you might find by browsing the shelves at your local Barnes and Noble. Also, Double Up Books is a great online shop that specializes in books for multiples (for adults and kids). 

So, tell me...what books meant a lot to you as a child? Do you have favorite childhood memories connected to any in particular? Which do you love sharing with your children? Post a comment and let us know...maybe you've got some great ones we've missed!



Thanks for reading (literally)!
-Gina
The Twin Coach

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about my blog. You can leave them by clicking on "comments" at the end of every post, and can do so anonymously without being a subscriber or follower (although I would love if you were)!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New York, New York

I just got back late Tuesday from our East coast trip with our twins. Let me begin by saying that it was so hot and humid that when a friend joked that it must have felt like the jungles of Thailand I think she was, perhaps, not far off. I don't do well when I am uncomfortable. 

And boy, was I uncomfortable. I was tired, I was stressed, I was cranky and my poor husband had to listen to me complain non-stop. This picture of me to the left gives you a sense of how I felt the entire time: tired. All that being said, our kids had a blast. They didn't want to leave. And we didn't even get to do half of the things I thought we'd do! 

As you may have noticed, I tend to over prepare when I travel; this is my way of having some sense of security, but it doesn't always guarantee that everything will go smoothly. I thought I'd share what I learned about spending a short time in Manhattan and Brooklyn with toddler twins. One of the reasons I made myself go on this trip was because I know new experiences are good for our kids. And, hard as it was for me, I love the idea that at almost 3 1/2 they may actually remember some of the fun things we got up to while in New York! 

First things first
Remember all of those tips I wrote about previously on what to bring on the plane? Here are some updates: 
  • Richard at Angels Town Car was awesome. (310) 871-8033 or by email at angels90291@yahoo.com. New car seats, very efficient and courteous, available by email or phone, has access to mini vans or town cars, smart enough to check the arrival of our plane which came in to LAX an hour late.....he was terrific.  I would absolutely call him again!
  • I needed that extra pair of pants I recommended bringing on board as my son's milk carton spilled between my legs making me look like I had peed myself. Bring extra clothes...even if you no longer have babies who spit up!
  • I desperately needed that back up DVD battery when ours died with over 90 minutes left to go in the flight! Damn it, why didn't I listen to myself?
  • If you can avoid it, don't bring water or milk in sippy cups through security; buy that afterwards. They'll pull each item out and test it to make sure you aren't bringing some kind of poison or explosive or whatever. Not that this is a bad thing, but if you're already running a bit late, as we were, this is a bit of a drag. 
  • Additionally, if you are running late and security is checking your sippy cups and you have to send all your bags through the x-ray machine again because you've forgotten that electronics have to be screened separately from the rest of your carry on baggage, don't end up leaving one of your DVD players and the chargers behind because your son is having a meltdown over his sippy cups being manhandled and your daughter is having a tantrum about putting her shoes back on now that she's passed through security and you are so frazzled trying to keep track of everything. Or, if you do that...try to realize you've left your precious DVD player behind before the doors of your flight are closed and they won't let you exit and your son cries inconsolably. Yeah....that was not fun.
Then we arrive
  • Legends Car Service. They're the place to call if you need a taxi with car seats. Retrieve your bags from baggage claim and call your reserved car; they'll show up within 5 minutes to take you to your destination. Like Angels, they can send a town car or a minivan depending on the size of your group and amount of luggage. 718-788-1234. 




  • We decided not to rent a car as New York has a great subway and bus system; and unlike LA, people actually use it! We did, however, need our strollers. My first plan was to buy some cheap umbrella strollers to have while there. However, after a little research I found out that all of the ones I could find had a 30 pound weight limit. The ones that would hold up to the weight of our children were pricey enough that it actually was cheaper to ship my single strollers to my parents' house and back to LA again. But strollers were a must! Our kids would never want them here in LA, but with the heat and the distance we had to walk every day, the kids were more than happy to have them at their disposal (that's our son, passed out in his stroller after a long day at the playground, clutching his beloved spray bottle). I, however, was super crabby about the fact that Brooklyn's streets, while quaint and charming, are really, really uneven and make pushing a stroller, with a 43 lb child in it, in 98ยบ humid weather, up hills, a real pain in the @#$*! 
  • In a panic I also shipped rain coats and rain boots because at some point the weather report said it was supposed to thunderstorm every day for the 5 days we were there. In total it rained for 30 minutes, spread out over 2 days. We walked home in one of the 15 minute "rainstorms" without the coats or boots and the kids had fun getting wet. Well, if it had stormed the whole time you would have thought how clever I was to have planned ahead. 
Entertain me!
If you're planning a trip with your family, New York City and Brooklyn is a great destination idea. Most people love the energy of Manhattan and the plethora of things to see, do and experience. My kids had a bit of sensory overload and for the first few days couldn't stop complaining about all the smells; it really made me realize what a bubble we live in here in Los Angeles. Once they got used to it (or as I continued to ignore their whining) they began to have a great time. Here's a list of some of the wonderful things you and your twins can enjoy if you make it out East.

Manhattan:
  • Children's Museum of Manhattan. Someone recently joked that the only thing this place is missing is a bar for the parents, but in all seriousness, this is a pretty great museum. Our kids had so much fun exploring all of the different floors. The staff was really helpful, even suggesting a great place for us to have lunch when we left and they also have an awesome free stroller check at the front (I wish places in LA had that)! 




  • American Museum of Natural History. I remember loving this museum as a child. It is so much more extensive than the Los Angeles Natural History Museum so don't even think of that as a comparison. There are tons of dinosaurs and fossils to see (our daughter, in the photo to the left, is checking out a "dinosaur egg"), an amazing hall dedicated to ocean life complete with a 94-foot replica of a blue whale, and right now there are exciting exhibits with live lizards and snakes that should excite just about any kid. One tip that really helped us save some money was to be patient and wait on the longer ticket line. There are machines you can use to quickly get your entrance ticket, but they will automatically charge you the full "suggested" fee of $16 per adult and $9 per child (ages 2 - 12). Wait on the long line, which actually moved pretty quickly, and you can simply pay what you wish. Ignore the person who takes your money when they ask if that is all you wish to pay for your entire party; yes, it is. Ask her if she would like to try affording a vacation with twins these days and if she thinks coming up with an extra $50 to go to a museum on top of that would be easy. Another thing to be aware of is that on a hot, Summer afternoon this museum was extremely crowded. Our kids couldn't take very much of it, nor could they actually see much of the very popular exhibits because of the crowds. Try not going on a Monday (when many of the other museums are closed) and try to get there at 10 when they open to get the best chance of enjoying what's there.
  • Central Park. This is an amazing (and enormous) park and you could really spend your entire vacation checking out all of the things going on here: there's a carousel, 17 playgrounds (Heckscher Playground was recommended to us by a knowledgable friend), even an amusement park! Our friends who also have multiples said their kids loved watching the model boats at the Kerbs Boathouse and climbing on the Alice in Wonderland Statue. Just remember that the park is 843 acres (!) so you won't be able to see everything and if you want to see particular parts of it, it's best to map out a plan before you go. 






  • Think about relaxing your healthy eating habits and let your kids eat hot dogs, pretzels and ice cream from the many street vendors around the city...for our kids it was definitely a highlight.
  • Our friends who were traveling to New York at the same time we did said their triplets loved the ferry ride out to the Statue of Liberty. Unless your kids can handle huge crowds and long lines, I suggest just getting the amazing view from on board the ferry. If you have older children, and especially if you have family that came to America through Ellis Island, the tours there are pretty cool.
  • If it's super hot or raining (as is entirely possible in New York during the Summer) there are a few things I can recommend that we didn't get the time to try, but that sounded really fun: Moomah looks like a really terrific cafe/play area/art space/hip hang out. The indoor playground at The Chelsea Piers (just call ahead as sometimes you have to reserve space) is good if you just need to burn some energy and play indoors for a bit. The Intrepid Museum is cool for anyone into checking out a submarine, aircraft carrier or airplanes. I remember doing it as a kid and really liking it.
Brooklyn
Brooklyn used to be the red-headed step child of Manhattan, but it's no longer uncool to be one of the "bridge and tunnel crowd" (well, maybe the tunnel is still uncool....unless you love MTV's "Jersey Shore"). Anyway, Brooklyn is not only a really nice place to live (yes, I grew up there), but it also is extremely kid-friendly; especially neighborhoods like Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights. 
  • Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same men who created Central Park. At 585 acres it is slightly smaller, but truly beautiful and full of many wonderful things to do and see. I have a special place in my heart for this park because it's the scene of many wonderful childhood memories for me, and it didn't disappoint this time around either. We played in two of the seven playgrounds (Third Street Playground and Harmony Playground) both of which had terrific water features that the kids loved. The park also has a great Zoo that's been wonderfully renewed in the 15 years since it's re-opened, a carousel and lots of beautiful, rolling lawns. In the winter there are great hills for sledding and you'll always find at least half the neighborhood out doing just that whenever there's a snowstorm.
  • My parents took our children to see Jack and The Beanstalk at Puppetworks in Park Slope which the kids loved! Puppetworks was the winner of GoCityKids.com 2008 Parents' Picks quest to find the Best Indoor Playspace/Partyspace for Little Kids in Brooklyn.
  • The best, new playground in Brooklyn seems to be Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 which we, sadly, didn't get a chance to go to. Check out their website, the pictures look fantastic and I've heard nothing but great things about it (except that there could be a bit more shade....but that seems to be par for the course in New York). If you're down there, afterwards take a walk along the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights for a terrific view of the skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.
For more information, check out AChildGrows.com for anything you want to know about what to see/eat/do in Brooklyn or Time Out New York's kid section for things all over the city to experience.

Overall, the trip was a good one. I definitely had my moments of wishing I could click my heels and be magically transported back to my home in LA, but I do get why people love New York so much; there is an incredible sense of energy and life there and a real sense of "neighborhood" that you don't get in many places in Los Angeles. Our daughter made an instant best friend with the girl who lived upstairs at the house where we stayed, we easily struck up conversations with people on the subway or in the park, and I enjoyed giving my husband a running commentary on every store that had changed hands since I was a kid. I'm making baby steps towards being a world traveler with our twins; it doesn't come naturally to me, but now that I've done New York once, I think maybe I can try it again. But definitely not in the Summer!

What about you? Where are your favorite places to travel with your kids? Where do you think we should try next? 

Thanks for reading!
-Gina
The Twin Coach


I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about my blog. You can leave them by clicking on "comments" at the end of every post, and can do so anonymously without being a subscriber or follower (although I would love if you were)!

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Gold Rush


    Breastfeeding is such a complex topic. Between my friends and clients I think I have seen it all: choosing to breastfeed for years, deciding to breastfeed for a few months, not wanting to even try breastfeeding, wanting to but being unable to. It's that last category that is, perhaps the hardest one to deal with since it is a decision made for you and not by you. Like the mother who has no choice in whether or not to have a cesarean section, having the option to breastfeed taken from you can be particularly difficult to handle. 

    In many ways, becoming a mother and doing what, to most, comes naturally feels like a right of passage. But what happens when you can't breastfeed because of cancer-caused mastectomies or a medical condition that limits your breasts' ability to produce? What if you've adopted only to find that your babies aren't thriving on formula? As a mother, not being able to give your children the bare minimum they need to live is heartbreaking. On top of that sense of what you "should" be able to do, being told that this "liquid gold" (as breast milk is so often referred to) is the absolute best thing you can do for your babies but, try as you might, you just can't provide it, is enough to send any mother into a frenzied search for an answer.

    Recently I was helping a mother of 6-week old twins who had been hit by a double-whammy: she wasn't able to produce enough breast milk to feed them but her boys couldn't tolerate any type of formula. Here was a conundrum, how would she feed her children? Her story intrigued me and made me wonder whether I would have tried to continue being able to give my children breast milk once my own milk production ended, if I had known what I know now.

    There are a variety of ways to go about getting breast milk if your babies are in need. One of the best resources is MilkShare which describes itself as "simply an informational resource to help you learn about milk donation and to connect families who can help each other". MilkShare has very good resources for guidelines to follow if you are planning to request milk donations, information on the process, a lactation induction protocol for adoptive mothers (who knew?!), as well as some truly heartwarming stories from both donors and recipients of donated breast milk. In case you were wondering, donating milk isn't illegal, although charging for it is. MilkShare follows the same guidelines for donor screening and safety precautions that milk banks do.

    What are milk banks you may ask? A very simple way to look at this service is to compare it to a blood bank. We are all familiar with the concept of donating blood and having transfusions. Donor milk banks receive milk from lactating mothers who have been carefully screened for health behaviors and communicable diseases, similar to the way blood banks screen donors. Milk is transported to the milk bank frozen. The milk from several donors is pooled after thawing, and then heat-treated to kill any bacteria or viruses. The milk is processed and then refrozen. It is only dispensed after a sample is cultured and shows no bacteria growth. Milk is shipped frozen by overnight express to hospitals and to individual recipients at home. The milk is dispensed by physician prescription or by hospital purchase order only. 

    There are a number of milk banks located throughout the country. The Human Milk Bank of North America is a professional membership association for milk banks in Canada, Mexico and the United States and has set the standards and guidelines for donor milk banking for those areas since its founding in 1985. The HMBNA is a great place to start if you're looking for a milk bank as it lists contact information for all of the ones associated with it's organization. Milk banks will ship frozen breast milk to you for a nominal processing fee which covers the expense of collecting, pasteurizing and dispensing the milk. In some cases, these costs will be reimbursed by your insurance carrier; discuss this with your pediatrician as a prescription is needed first. 

    If you need any support with breast feeding, whatever your situation, there are numerous resources available. One very popular and helpful site is KellyMom.com which has many resources listed as well as a very active chat forum. La Leche League can also be a valuable resource for information. In my experience, some people involved with LLL can be quite dogmatic about their views on breastfeeding, but this does not take away from the fact that they are extremely knowledgeable and can be of great service to you if you have questions regarding any aspect of breastfeeding and milk production. A Lactation Consultant can be of great help even if your problems producing milk stem from a medical condition. Here in LA, The Pump Station is a great place to ask for a referral. You can also ask at your birth hospital for recommendations or check out the International Lactation Consultant Association for a list of LCs to contact. 

    I nursed our twins for just about seven months and stopped only because my milk production ended after a traumatic and stressful event in my life at that time. Perhaps, had I known then about all of the potential help there was out there, I might not have given up so easily. I wonder, too, if I had been one of those mothers whose milk supply was so copious, would I have considered being a donor? Again, knowing what I know now about how critical breast milk is for some babies' survival, I don't think I could have done otherwise. I am a believer in the idea that when one is blessed by abundance, it is one's duty to share that gift with others. In this same vein, I felt compelled to share this story because, like me, perhaps you had no idea this need existed. And perhaps, like me, you will share the story with others and all of this sharing will result in more babies getting that liquid gold they so desperately need.


    Thanks for reading!
    -Gina
    The Twin Coach

    I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about my blog. You can leave them by clicking on "comments"  at the end of every post, and can do so anonymously without being a subscriber or follower (although I would love if you were)!

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    On The Road Again...

    Well, not exactly "the road", but we're packing up the family and heading out this week for a flight back East to visit family. I may seem quite together when it comes to certain things, but you probably don't want to know me the week before I have to get on a plane. I may, perhaps, be one of the world's worst travelers. 

    I find this fact quite fascinating since I grew up as the daughter of hippies who spent the late 60's and early 70's (when I was a toddler) traveling throughout Europe in a VW van, picking up hitchhikers as a means of determining our destination. That's me and my mom, circa 1970. Perhaps it's those freewheeling, vagabond years that has lead to my neurotic need to take my entire home with me whenever I travel now. Did I not have a sense of permanence as a child and so I try to make up for it by dragging along every pair of shoes and every toiletry item I own when we now go on a 4-day trip? Does the fact that as an adult I tend to be a bit of a schedule fanatic stem from the laid-back attitude my parents took toward making plans?

    Well, my neuroses are your lucky day. I am about to pass on to you all of my tips for a somewhat long airplane ride with toddler twins. Since I hate the unexpected and also don't like to get dirty looks from fellow passengers, I tend to go over-prepared (at least, according to my husband who thinks traveling means throwing an extra pair of underwear in a back pack and calling it a day). However, I prefer to be over-prepared because I find, with twins, that this means you are just barely prepared. 

    To start with, remember that you have twins and most people think twins are adorable. Dress them up. Parade their cuteness. This will get you farther than you'd think. If it's their first flight, let people know. I am not one for calling attention to myself, but it's hard to avoid when you have all sorts of cuteness excitedly chattering to every person you pass. I say all of this to remind you that while some people are cranky when kids are on the plane, most will get a kick out of the fact that you have twins and will be sympathetic to how difficult it can be to travel with two children.

    Packing Tips
    • We took our first flight while the kids were still in diapers and sleeping in cribs. This can add a lot of bulk to your suitcases, but there are a few ways around it. I always liked to bring our kids' sheets and a special lovey for bedtime so it feels more like home for them. If driving, I also brought the bumpers. Hotels say they have cribs, what they mean is that they have pack n plays. Usually not terribly new ones. Bring your own sheets. If your kids are too big for a Pack n Play (they say 30 lbs is the max although I have stretched it), you can call a company like BabiesAway.com or BabiesTravelLite.com. Babies Away will deliver large items such as a highchair or crib assuming you're staying in or near a fairly large city (there's a list on their site); we were very satisfied with them when we rented cribs for our Chicago trip last year. Babies Travel Lite will deliver anything having to do with "bath time, meal time, changing time, sun time" as they say on their website. Obviously, you are paying for this convenience, but if you can't fit it all in your luggage or don't have the ability to get it all together before you go, these companies are a great help. 
    • If you're traveling for more than a few days, diapers can be ordered ahead of time online and delivered to your destination. Diapers.com will do it overnight at no extra charge. This saves a ton of space in your suitcase.
    • Your carry ons should include, at the very least, changes of clothes for both you, your partner and both babies. Younger kids especially have been known to spit up, have a blow out or a leaky diaper. No fun for anyone if there's no change of clothes! I had a friend traveling home from a wedding in Jamaica whose son threw up all over her husband (as he slept) and he ended up having to exit the plane, after the flight, wrapped in a blanket because they hadn't thought to bring a change of clothes for him. It's unlikely to happen, but you never know. Additionally, bring large ziplocs for soiled clothes; you'll be very glad to have somewhere to put wet/dirty clothes if the worst does happen. 
    • I recommend using gallon sized ziploc bags inside your carry on for each child's diapers/rash cream/wipes. That way you can just reach in & grab their "diaper bag" to deal with changing instead of rummaging for everything you need. If you have a toddler, I was very successful in using overnight pull ups (as opposed to regular diapers or pull ups). The advantage of this is that, if all they do is pee, you can easily change them, standing in their seat, and can go for a very long time before having to change them at all. 
    Prepare your kids for the trip.
    • Teach them about where you're going. Get books about the city you are visiting. The Good Night Our World series is a place to start. Just plug in the name of the city you're going to such as "Good Night Chicago". For our upcoming New York trip we got "Lisa In New York" and "This Is New York". Download Google Earth as a way to show them where you are going. This is such a cool program; it's also a great way to teach your kids about where your family comes from as well.
    • Prepare the kids for the airplane ride, especially if it will be their first one. Again, books are a great way to do this, depending on their age. We really liked "My First Airplane Ride" and "A Day at The Airport".
    • Unless your kids are used to traveling a lot, make sure your kids know that visiting somewhere else means sleeping in a new room/new bed. I did so much preparation to help our kids with the plane ride the first time but totally forgot to prepare them for sleeping somewhere else. It made no difference to our daughter who can sleep anywhere, but our son is very sensitive and was really distraught over the new room. I don't know if preparing him ahead of time would have made a difference, but it's certainly not going to hurt if you try!
    Getting To The Airport  
    • Taking a taxi if you aren't bringing car seats is always a little confusing. There are a few services here in LA that have been recommended to me. The most often suggested is Richard Bromfield at Angel's Towne Car who has car seats available in his cars and can be reached at: (310) 871-8033 or by email at angels90291@yahoo.com. He has the ability to get larger cars/SUVs if you need one. There is also Nexus Car Service which can be reached at (310) 631-9115 and L.A. Car Service. You can use your own seats and Harry, the owner, will bring them back with him when he picks you up. You just put a note on the seats with your name, phone number, and return flight. The cost for these taxis will be more than a standard ride, but perhaps less than leaving your own car in long term parking.
    • If you're traveling on your own with your twins, or even if you're traveling with someone else, once you're at the airport you may wish you had used Airport Assistance. Their representatives act as your personal assistant at the airport. You are met curbside and then escorted through all airport procedures, including security, until boarding the aircraft. Additionally, you are allowed access to private airline clubs (where available) which is genius especially if there are delays (like the 2 HOUR one we endured last time....oh how I wished I had known about airport assistance then)! The extra cost can be well worth it if having the extra set of hands will mean less stress for mom and dad.
    • Ask for help. The last flight we took we decided it was cheaper and easier to leave our car in long term parking when we flew. This time, because our flight leaves so early in the morning, we don't have time for this; so we plan to take a taxi with car seats and on our return, have our nanny pick us up at the airport. Since we are asking her to work the afternoon we return, and she has a car with 2 car seats and can fit us all, this made the most sense. It may be easiest (and least expensive) to ask a friend/relative/nanny to help with this part of the journey!
    At The Airport
    • Bring your children's social security cards or passports if you have them. ID isn't always needed, but you never know. 
    • Security is the most stressful part of the process for me. If you're traveling with really little ones, I suggest one parent be in charge of hanging onto the kids/taking them out of their strollers, etc., while the other parent collapses the strollers, puts them into the X-ray machine, helps you take off your shoes, etc. If you're both juggling the kids, and trying to do all of that it's too much.
    • Many people like to use their stroller right up until they board; this is helpful for carting carryon baggage if you're both holding the children (or they're walking). You can check in the stroller at the gate. Get tags prior to boarding the flight from the gate attendant. When you get off the plane, just wait outside the exit of the plane and a baggage handler will bring you the stroller. You'll need a cover, such as this one for the stroller so it doesn't get dirty or damaged when checked. 
    On The Plane
    • Car seats are a major topic of discussion when flying. How do we get to the airport in a taxi without car seats? Can we bring them on the plane? If I bring them I have to buy seats for my babies, can't I just hold them in my lap for the duration of the flight? Yes, you can hold the babies in your lap, but if you can at all afford to buy at least one extra seat, do it. You will want a break from holding your children and it will be so much easier for your child to nap if they're in their car seat (and boy, will you want them to nap). And yes, you're allowed to use a car seat on the plane if the car seat is certified for airplane use (almost all are, except for boosters) and if you bought a ticket for your child. In fact, the FAA requires the airline to let you use the seat if those conditions are met. You can also check the website of the airline you're flying and see their car seat policy. I have heard lots of stories about flight attendants telling parents they couldnt use their seats. Most of the problems seem to be with rear facing seats, I guess they're just not used to them. You have to be prepared to tell the flight attendants they are wrong. So bring your car seat manual, print the airline policy saying they allow car seats and most importantly print this FAA link saying the airline is required to let you use your seat: FAA Regulations. Oh, and don't book a seat on the emergency exit or the aisle (the car seat can't be between another person and the aisle). And if you want the bulkhead, keep in mind the armrests don't lift which may make installing the car seat a bit more challenging (or not fit) depending on which car seat you have. As far as installation goes, you follow the instructions on the car seat manual about installing with a lap belt. 
    • Seating. Since you won't be able to all sit in one row, the best way we've found to do the seating arrangements it for my husband and I to each sit with one child on either side of the aisle. Preferably, we're on a flight with only two seats on either side so we're not annoying (or being annoyed by) some other passenger. With two seats, the child gets the window seat and the adult takes the aisle; with three seats, the child takes the middle and the lucky extra passenger takes the window seat. Another option is to book the aisle and the window and hope that everyone avoids picking left over middle seat and sits somewhere else so you get three seats in a row. Genius! I like the side by side option because it makes it easier to see each other and to let the kids switch who they're sitting with, but we've also flown where two of us are behind the other two. I recommend this if you have one child who's a kicker. I'd rather have my kid kicking my husband's chair than some stranger who gives me dirty looks the whole flight. That's our daughter, to the left, sitting nicely and not kicking anyone.
    • Food. You can't bring enough food. I swear, my daughter ate for 7 hours straight on our last flight (that's our son to the right, about 10 minutes after taking our seats, asking for something to eat). I try to bring healthy snacks, but throw your rules out the window especially if you have finicky eaters. You just want to keep them occupied so let them eat what they want. Bring way more than you think you need. Make Cheerios necklaces. This was the greatest thing ever when I pulled them out on our flight to Chicago last year. It kept them both busy for at least 20 - 25 minutes. That's a life time when you're stuck on an airplane! The recipe I linked to above uses gummy rings, licorice and marshmallows as well as Cheerios, but it was just for illustration's sake; you can simply put Cheerios on a string and be done with it if you don't want to give the kids candy...that's all I did and it was a hit! Make sure you bring enough snacks to get you to your destination and back home!
    • Entertainment. Even if you never let your kids watch television, bring DVD players if you have a flight of more than an hour or two. Most people say they're life savers. Buy headphones that fit your kids' heads. I use a pair from Kidz Gear that work great and aren't very expensive. If you're buying DVD players, consider getting ones with the longest battery life you can find. The Panasonic LS86 can run up to 13 hours which means you can even do an international flight with this one. Alternately, buy a back up battery for yours just in case you experience a long layover or unexpected delays. And don't forget to charge both before you leave home! Other than watching movies, the toys I've had the most success with were Magnadoodle, Stickers, Pay Doh and Crayola Color Wonder products (the kind that have pens that only work on special paper). Additionally, I make a trip to the 99¢ store before we go and load up on inexpensive "junk" that get the kids excited because it's new and it's all inexpensive enough that if it gets lost on the plane you won't care. Save some of the stuff for the trip home! If you're traveling with smaller babies, I recall Jackie Rosenberg of Babies First Class having created a baby blanket with velcro tabs sewn all over it which allows you to attach toys to it and not lose them all over the airplane. I thought this was a terrific idea. The blankets are $40 and you can call Jackie directly at 818-501-BABY to ask about patterns and availability.
    • Cabin Pressure. If your children still drink from bottles, take off and landing are a good time to give them one; the swallowing helps pop clogged ears. Sucking a pacifier does the same thing. If your children are older, a lollipop is a good idea to help with this issue. 
    I'm hoping this week's flight is easier than the last one we took. It should be, if for no other reason than that the kids watch a bit of TV now and should be more easily entertained than they were last time by the DVD players we were shlepping along. Despite my stress level and general state of anxiety about traveling, I'm excited for the kids to see where I grew up and to see their grandparents. Plus, I like the idea of our children having memories of their first trip to New York; let's hope it's not a memory of mom losing it on the airplane!

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Mother, re-imagined

    Have you ever noticed that as you are going about your life, the universe is constantly sending you messages which, if you are able to be in the moment and aware, can alter the path you take? Before I had children, I was able to pay attention to many things; these days lack of sleep and an overwhelming focus on my children means that signs I may have noticed quickly, often have to be repeated again and again before I "get it".

    A few months ago a good friend who had been feeling a bit stuck and who was struggling with finding an outlet for her creativity, began a blog I've mentioned before called My Submarine To The Future, which she described as a method of "Transporting me to a life filled with art, adventure, creativity and inspiration". I was one of her main cheerleaders, telling her she was brilliant (which she is) and it would be something people would want to read (which it is). I kept telling her that she had to find something to do that she loved besides being a stay-at-home mom. Sign number one. Not long after that, this passage somehow crossed my path:
    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
    -Marianne Williamson
    I first read this quote a number of years ago and it always resonated deeply for me. Every once in a while it shows up in my life again. This time it began a train of thought that consisted, in part, of wondering, "Is there more to my life that I'm not tapping into? Maybe there's something I can do to express my own creativity? What is holding me back?" Sign number two. Not long after, I agreed to start coaching expectant twin parents and I began this blog. Not as a directly conscious response to these signs, mind you; they were sparking things on a much more subtle level. 


    As a mother, one of the goals I have for my children is to encourage them to be confident. Confidence, emotional intelligence and compassion are three aspects of my personality that have been nourished and increased by sharing what I know; on some level this sharing is part of what I see as my "Light". The line that stood out for me when I received the above quote this time around was: "And, as we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." 


    As I was writing, and thinking, and working things through in order to share them with you, the thought occurred to me that doing all of this, while it was taking time away from my children, was actually allowing me to give more to them than when I was "just" a stay at home mom. By this I mean that I was enthusiastic about something outside of my children. But what does that do for them? And then....in quick succession, sign number three arrived last week in the form of a terrific blog post by Visionary Mom entitled "Finding Your Bliss" and then, yesterday sign number four, again from Visionary Mom, was this powerful video with text below that read:
    Reason number one million and two why living OUR lives full and big, with purpose and passion is so very important: Our beautiful, amazing children, who are writing their own stories and are watching us and wanting us to teach them how to live life to the fullest….


    And so I began to write today's post to share with you because I know you are all parents who want to do the best you can for your children. I became a SAHM because, for me, it was something I was passionate and excited about. I welcomed the challenge of staying home with our kids to teach them and love them and guide them during their first years. The transition from working woman to mother wasn't simple and required a lot of emotional processing. But once I threw myself into my new role as mom, I loved it, even when it was at its most challenging. The world doesn't give mothers as much credit as they deserve, and perhaps we don't give ourselves as much credit as we are due. This video was another reminder to me.

    As the years passed and our children grew older, started school, needed less of my time, I realized that I no longer had as much purpose as I once did, both literally and figuratively. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and maybe just a bit depressed about it. It's crazy, isn't it? All that time the kids were with me 24/7 I just wanted a break; now that I had that break I didn't know what to do with myself! I had spent all of this time becoming "Mom"; that was how I knew myself, that was how I defined myself and what had given me purpose during these first three and a half years. 

    So now I was realizing I no longer wanted to be a 24/7 mom and I had a new kind of guilt. There were other things that inspired me and I had to begin the process of re-imagining what type of mother I was. Was I being a bad mother wanting this reinvention? Slowly I am beginning to realize that having something of my own that gives me an outlet and that I am passionate about renews my sense of purpose. Having this shows my children that I am not only a mother and that I have a life and interests that extend beyond my children and our home. This was, at first, difficult for me but, just like reminding myself that allowing others to do things for my children is actually good for them, I remind myself that feeding my soul is also good for my children; when I am fulfilled I am a better mother. Doing this doesn't take away from them; rather, it gives them a mother full of life, dreams and goals. How better to show our children that this is possible for them, than to model it for them? As I let my Light shine, I am showing my children that they can do the same.

    And what about you? What dreams and desires do you wish for your children? Are you living a life as full as the one you would hope for them? Take a moment to think about it....perhaps this is a sign for you.
    Thank you for reading!
    -Gina
    The Twin Coach
    I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about my blog. You can leave them by clicking on "comments"  at the end of every post, and can do so anonymously without being a subscriber or follower (although I would love if you were)!
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