New York, New York

me just chillinI 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 [email protected] 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

  • son is sleepingLegends 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 98º 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.
  • he is eating!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.

  • at prospect parkProspect 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.

hey look at the cameraOverall, 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?

Gold Rush

lactating babyBreastfeeding 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, pumping breast milk instead, or 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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

Inform your kids

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

Taxis

Taking a taxi if you aren’t bringing car seats is always a little confusing. 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.

Extra set of hands

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

Documents

Bring your children’s social security cards or passports if you have them. ID isn’t always needed, but you never know.

Mutual roles

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.

Ask for assistance

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

They 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. 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 DBPOWER 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!

Getting To Know You

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I am a fan of getting some alone time with each of my children and really trying to nurture their individuality. By that, I mean that I really spend time trying to get to know, in some depth, what makes each of my children tick; what is our son like when he’s not with our daughter?  What is our daughter like when she’s not having to share everything with her brother? What do they like to talk about/do/eat? What will they share when they have mommy’s ear all to themselves? It can be a true revelation to even the most involved parents when you separate your twins for some one on one time and discover parts of your child’s personality you didn’t know existed because they were either camouflaged by sibling rivalry or were missed because you were trying to focus on too many things at once!

There’s a terrific book called “Siblings Without Rivalry” which, while not twin-specific, has excellent suggestions and discussions about what is going on underneath the surface when siblings fight. There is a section where the authors deal with what happens when parents struggle with keeping everything “fair and equal”. I think this happens often with twins especially because they are so often together and so often doing the same activities. But what happens when they ask: “Who do you love more?”, do you simply say “I love you both the same”? That might be your initial instinct but really, what your kids want is to know that you see them as unique individuals, that you love them for being who they each are.

From “Siblings Without Rivalry”

“You can tell yourself,” I answered, “that even though they seem to want everything the same, they don’t really.” He looked at me questioningly.  It was a difficult concept to explain.  I told them all the story of a young wife who suddenly turned to her husband and asked, “Who do you love more? Your mother or me?” Had he answered, “I love you both the same,” he would have been in big trouble.  But instead he said “My mother is my mother. You’re the fascinating, sexy woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.” “To be loved equally,” I continued, “is somehow to be loved less.  To be loved uniquely – for one’s own special self – is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.”

And so, we wonder as parents, “how do I really get to know my children?” I recently attending a workshop about “Triangular Attachment” (twins’ attachments to each other and their parents) with Betsy Brown Braun. Betsy is a mother of grown triplets and a parent educator (among many other things). At the end of the class she handed out an extensive list of ways to nurture individuality in multiples. I found this list really insightful and comprehensive so I wanted to share some of it. The list is directly from Betsy, with a few comments from me added.

in the gardenBy the way, don’t feel that you have to do all of the things on this list; that is setting yourself up to be overwhelmed and guilt-ridden. I always think to myself that if I’m doing at least 50% of all the things I wish I could do, then I am doing a great job. This is just food for thought and some of these ideas may sit well with you, while others may not. I’m interested to hear your thoughts!

  1. Tune into your internal feelings about each of your children. Key into their differences (rather than their similarities) and how they feel to you.
  2. As your children get older, openly encourage and applaud the children’s obvious differences, their different tastes, and the different choices they make. Praise the act of being different and thinking for yourself. NOTE: praising their differences should be done without comparisons. As Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish say in “Siblings Without Rivalry”: “…Whatever you want to to tell this child can be said directly, without any reference to his brother. The key word is describe. Describe what you see. Or describe what you like. Or describe what you don’t like. Or describe what needs to be done. The important thing is to stick with the issue of this one child’s behavior. Nothing his brother is or isn’t doing has anything to do with him.”
  3. Give each child the opportunity to make as many individual choices as possible.What do you want for lunch? What color shirt do you want to wear? If one child has the tendency to mimic what the other has chosen, be sure to ask him first, and heavily praise the choice.
  4. If your children share a room, provide separate drawers (or dressers) for each child. Separate the hanging section of the closet, and separate storage for possessions.
  5. Solicit each child’s individual feelings and opinions. If one is more outspoken than the other, take turns on who goes first.
  6. Do not [always] include both on playdates. You will need to facilitate this upon receiving invitations, as the world will think they are doing you a favor by inviting both children..
  7. Refer to your children’s differences in response to the public pointing out their similarities. Note: children are paying attention all the time. Doing this helps them have the language to describe themselves when you’re not there (ie: Yes, we look very similar, but one of the ways were really different is that I’m really good at art and my brother is really into sports).
  8. Refer to your children by their names. Or the children, the kids, the guys…but NOTthe twins. [by this, Betsy is referring to the way you or others address them. ie: “What would the twins like for dinner?” “How are the twins?” etc. It is, of course, totally fine to celebrate the fact that your children are twins! They should know what it means, that it’s a special thing and that your family is very proud of the fact. Just take care not to lump them together as “the twins”, when referring to them, on a regular basis].
  9. Take the time to correct others who refer to your children this way; it’s a clear message.
  10. Birthdays. This is a loaded one and asks a lot from parents. as early as you are able, celebrate your children’s birthday separately. Think about providing separate parties as soon as you are able. If you cannot do separate parties, at the very least provide separate cakes and themes, as chosen by the children
  11. Encourage family and friends to gift your children with different things and [if possible] not one to share.
  12. Avoid comparisons like the plague. Comparisons create jealousy. Jealousy thrives in a feeling of inadequacy or being less than. Comparisons eat away at self esteem.
  13. Allow your children to cultivate separate existences. Often multiples’ separateness needs to be taught to them.
  14. Allow your children to own their own toys. Not all toys should be shared. Color code toys or put child’s letter on the back, allowing them to readily claim their own. Children who are given permission to own something are much more able to share. Children often see their toys and possessions as an extension of themselves, and separate possessions will validate their sense of separateness and individuality.
  15. It is okay for one child to be unhappy because the other has received the thing she wants.  Learning to tolerate disappointment is a crucial lesson.  Resist the temptation to fix it.

Again, from “Siblings Without Rivalry”:

“Each of you is so special to me, because each of you is so different.  What would I do if anything happened to my Amy? How could I bear the thought of losing someone who is such a pleasure to be with and talk to?  I’d never find another one like her anywhere.  She’s a complete original.  It’s torture to even think about it!’ That did it.  She seemed completely satisfied.  She never even asked me how I felt about her sisters.  She just wanted to know how much I valued her.”

These are just 15 ideas out of a list of 40. Betsy offers numerous workshops on a variety of parenting topics including one on August 8th entitled “DOUBLE( Triple!) YOUR PLEASURE: Multiple Birth Parenting”. I will most likely take this class, if you decide to go as well, let me know!

I’d love to know what you have tried in terms of nurturing your twins’ individuality. What’s worked well for you? What hasn’t? How do you feel about the idea of it? If you are hesitating about doing this, try it on for size. Our children are beside themselves with excitement over getting me all to themselves. And having time away from each other actually helps strengthen their bond. This morning I had time alone with my son while my daughter went to a play date on her own. As they were parting, he said “I’ll miss you!” to her and she hugged him. I melted. Giving them time apart allows them to realize how much they like being together. All that, in addition to developing their sense of self? What more could I ask for?