Twins In School: Separation Not Severance

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know that I am a huge fan of Dr. Joan Friedman, author of “Emotionally Healthy Twins“, therapist, identical twin and mother of 5 (including fraternal twin boys). Dr. Friedman’s admittedly enmeshed relationship with her sister has made her a passionate advocate for the individuation of twins. Because of society’s perpetuation of what she refers to as “the twin mystique” many parents are confused about how to give their multiples separate and individualized lives, especially when it comes to school. Today I received a blog post from Dr. Friedman on the topic of separating your twins in school; it was so good that I had to re-post it here:


I feel compelled to write because I am outraged, saddened, but not surprised about society’s disingenuous beliefs about the “twin mystique”. A recent experience recounted by an acquaintance of mine has riled my discontent . A conscientious and psychologically sophisticated mom of four-year-old twins decided to separate her fraternal twin daughters into their own classrooms. They had been together the first year of preschool, and both mother and the teachers agreed that the girls would thrive in separate classes. One child has an independent, outgoing, and free spirited personality; her sister has a propensity to be dependent, clinging, and easily frustrated. Mother consulted with friends, family and professionals to discuss her concerns and ideas. Mom’s fraternal twin sisters validated her decision; they were understanding and steadfastly supportive about their nieces needing opportunities and permission to be on their own. Understandably mom was upset and worried when the class roster arrived. She realized that one twin would be in class with all of her friends while her sister would be in a classroom without any former classmates.

Mother attended a school event prior to the preschool’s opening day. Unsuspectingly, she found herself barraged and assailed by other families about her decision to put her girls in separate classrooms. They treated her as if she were committing a despicable crime. Her sole allies were the teachers, who encouraged her to follow through with her plans.

The transition has been a bit difficult –however, not impossible, not tragic, and not traumatizing. Many developmental milestones involve a brief period of disregulation. The twin in the classroom without her own friends does feel lonesome, upset and envious that her sister is comfortable and happy. She cried about this with her mom and dad and told them how she felt. However, when her dad asked her if she wanted to be in the classroom with her sister, she resolutely answered no. Her parents empathically support her desire to be on her own and recognize that she has emotional hurdles to overcome. Nonetheless, the family feels confident that this is the right move for their free spirited daughter. With their love and support, I am quite convinced that this child will manage the challenges and emerge from the experience feeling masterful, confident, and self-assured.

For those of you who might feel that it is wrong, unnecessary, or even unconscionable to “put a child through this” and believe that twin separation/individuation issues at this age are exaggerated or unimportant – please reflect upon the following. Many of our children’s expectations about their burgeoning individuation are inextricably linked to parental consideration of separateness. Do not delude yourselves into believing that the older the twins get, the easier it becomes to individuate. While in some instances this is true, in other cases it is not. Just yesterday I received the following email from a distraught parent: My twins just started kindergarten and are having an extremely difficult time making friends. For all the reasons you lay out, we have been the beneficiaries of having children whose best friend is each other. However, now we see the harm that may have been done, as each girl has no interest in making friends and moreover does not know how to make a friend.

I can assure you that if you have faith in your child’s capacity to handle age appropriate challenges, rationally assessing whether or not your twins will benefit from separate classrooms is not inhumane, insane, or insignificant. Stereotypic as well as mythic beliefs that relationships between twins will be harmed rather than strengthened by thoughtful opportunities for alone time deserve an educated, calm, and thoughtful reappraisal by families, school administrators, and society at large. Generally speaking, it is an uninformed public that perpetuates narrow-minded thinking about twins and their needs for togetherness. What is not appreciated is that twins need advocates and parents who understand that most of us need to experience our singular shining moments undiluted by the presence of another.

I have written previously about my efforts to allow my children to have time alone with both myself and my husband, to attend play dates without their co-twin, to have after school classes that are just theirs and not shared with their sibling; none of that is simple, but the benefits of it so far outweigh the difficulties that I encourage every parent of twins to do it as often as they can.

A good friend of mine who has triplets told me yesterday that two of her children, who share a classroom, were invited to a birthday party while the third triplet, who is in another classroom, was not. She was struggling with what to tell the one who wasn’t invited and wondered if she should try to get him invited. My advice to her was that she should let the two go and the son who wasn’t invited should have a special day to himself (with dad, in this case). He will surely be disappointed, but it’s important on so many levels to allow him those feelings and not try to fix it for him. It’s equally important to give the other two the sense that they can do something as special as go to a party, without the third person in their group.

The funny thing is, I don’t think anyone would hesitate to say their singleton son or daughter needs their own friends, own soccer class, own birthday party that doesn’t have to be shared with their younger or older siblings. Why do we assume that because our children are the same age they want to do everything together and share every moment with each other? The last line in Dr. Freidman’s article was really powerful for me: “What is not appreciated is that twins need advocates and parents who understand that most of us need to experience our singular shining moments undiluted by the presence of another”.

What are your thoughts on this? Are your twins in separate classes at school? Were you supported in your decision or made to feel that you were hurting your children? I’d love to know your experiences and struggles with individuating your multiples.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

The Two Most Important Questions

We’re beginning our search for Kindergarten for our twins and, having learned a few things along the way after applying to preschools, we’re trying to be a bit more educated about the process this time around. Getting into your choice of schools involves, in part, really knowing your kids and your family and what you want from a school. Sounds easy enough, but it’s actually harder than you’d think.

For one thing, if you and your partner haven’t talked about it before your parent interview, you may sit there disagreeing about your children’s characteristics and personalities in front of the admissions director! Probably not such a great first impression. And if you haven’t thought about what you really want from a school, other than it being a “good” school, you are going to have a hard time really knowing what you’re looking at.

I recently got a very interesting newsletter from Kim Hamer, an LA private school expert and financial aid guru. In it, she discusses the importance of asking two key questions:

“A good application actually starts with a focused tour. But, most parents don’t understand how to focus on a tour. Here are two questions to ask yourself to help you determine when you tour WHY the school is a good fit for your family.”

What values do you want your child to have as an adult?

This is the most important question … I’m going to say … EVER. Yes, you can find a good school without answering it. Yes, you can get into that school without answering it, BUT if you take the time to answer it, you will find that it provides such a great compass you’ll wonder what you were doing before you answered it!

The beauty of your answer is that it can have an effect on other parts of your life as well, such as making decisions on the rules you have in the house, giving you words to explain your expectations of your kids and why you feel it’s important for them to strive to meet them. I have used our list a lot lately.

Answering this question, provides the framework for defining what a good school is to you.

The exercise:

Write a list of 10 values you want your child to obtain by the time she or he is twenty-one. To help you with this question, go to and click 332 Values.

  1. Print out two separate lists. One for you and one for your partner.
  2. Start crossing out the values that are not important to you.
  3. When each of your lists is down to 15 values, combine the lists and get it down to 10.

The result is a list of the 10 most important values to you for your child. This is the list you can use when you tour. As you tour, look for ways that a school demonstrates the values on your list.

What skills, including academic, do you want your child to possess when they leave school?

I love to quote the Talking Heads song, Once In A Lifetime.

“You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife.
You may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?”

Answer this question and you’ll have an idea. Wanting your child to have good grades is not enough. The path to success is not linear. Do you want your child to be able to interpret what his or her teachers say? Know how to assess a social situation? Know how to recall and restate information? Understand how to critically take apart a theory and/or develop and try to prove his or her own theory?

Think back to when you were in high school. Now look at your current working/living life. What skills did you learn back in elementary school or high school that help you now? What skills did you wish you learned then but had to learn in your adult life? Those are the skills you want to put on your list. That is what you want to see being demonstrated on the tour.”

My husband and I did this exercise and it was really interesting on many levels, not the least of which was how hard it was to narrow down to just 10 the values we want for our children! However, it also opened up a great dialogue between us about how we see our children in the future, what we like or wish we could change about our own personality and what we want in a school environment. So, having done it, we now are able to narrow down what we’re looking for; this is particularly important because, unless you have nothing else going on in your life, I can’t imagine you want to tour every single school in LA.

Television Projects and Special Offers

Now and then I get information on events, outings and projects that may be of interest to you, my dear readers. Today I have two for you.

The first came yesterday in the form of an email about CBS’ new show “The Talk” which features Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Leah Remini, Holly Robinson Peete and Marissa Jaret Winokur as the hosts. The show’s executive producer very nicely asked if any of my readers would like to organize a “VIP Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) Morning Off” at a taping of their show.

It’s a chance to get away in the middle of the hectic day, spend time with your friends and listen to the lively discussion (ie: have some adult time). The show tapes live from 11-12, giving parents in the audience time to get home before their children finish school.

From Brad, the executive producer:

“The Talk is live at 2PM EST on CBS (which means we tape in Los Angeles at 11AM). We shoot Monday-Thursday at 11AM, and do Friday’s show at 1PM on Thursday. Our hosts begin the day by talking about the news of the day which for us could be a news making interview, an event, or one of our host’s bad hair day or child’s first day at school. Then, we will introduce our celebrity guest. We round out the show with other topical bookings, guests, authors, parenting advice and human interest stories. Some examples of topics: When do you talk to your children about sex, working moms, how to cut your family’s grocery bill in half, can you protect your children from bullies, flying with children and surviving the terrible twos.

Betsy Brown Braun will be on the show on October 27th, along with Jamie Lee Curtis. Betsy will follow a humorous “terrible two opera” tape piece and give some real take-away information for two year olds and tips and scripts to deal with this time in our children’s lives.

Tickets are available at the CBS website; BUT, I want your readers to get the special VIP treatment. If any of your readers want to attend a taping of The Talk, they can e-mail my audience producer Danny Verdugo directly at [email protected] and say they are ‘A FRIEND OF BRAD.’ He will arrange for seats at any of our tapings. They need to arrive no later than 9:30AM for our 11AM LIVE show.

On background, the show is the brainchild of Sara Gilbert, of “Roseanne” fame. After she had her second child, Sara felt disconnected from the world, so she found her way to a mother’s group who would meet once a week in her house and talk about EVERYTHING – what was up with their children, the news, their bodies, their diets, their husbands and partners. In this group, they found friendship, fun and a new sense of empowerment to live their lives more fully for themselves and for their families. One day, Sara thought, “This should be a television show.” And, CBS agreed.”
Taping Times: Monday – Thursday 11AM PST, Thursday 1PM
VIP’s Arrive NO LATER than 9:30AM.
Location: CBS Radford, Studio 16
4024 Radford Avenue Studio City, CA 91604

So, this offer is for any taping; the one with Betsy Brown Braun and Jamie Lee Curtis (who writes children’s books now) was highlighted as Brad felt it would be of specific interest to readers of The Twin Coach, but because all of the hosts are mothers, parenting and family topics will be discussed on every show. Extend this offer to your friends, offer it to your MOMS clubs and I hope some of you can take advantage of this as it sounds like fun!

The second part of this post is about a Parenting Television Project which someone I trust implicitly is involved in; she passed along this Family Casting Notice:

  • Are your kids’ lives scheduled down to the minute?
  • Do you drive your kids to soccer practice, piano lessons. dance lessons, a language tutor, schedule all of their play dates and help with homework every night?
  • Are you a super parent who is involved in every aspect of your kids’ lives?

If so, a television production company casting for a new TV show for a major cable network would like to speak with you.

We’re seeking dynamic, open and honest families who live in Los Angeles to participate in a new show that will help give parents the tools they need to support, nurture and care for their kids in a constructive way – while giving them room to grow.

If this describes your situation or that of someone you know, please send a short note about the family, detailing the problem(s), along with your contact information via email only to [email protected]

This is not my usual style of post, but sometimes a little something light is good in between all the deep stuff! 😉

What I Am Is…

I think this might be my new theme song. I know it was written for Sesame Street, but I can’t stop listening to it. It’s catchy, just puts a smile on my face and I love the sentiments expressed: “I will always be the best me I can be…there’s nothing I can’t achieve because in myself I believe”.

I think that, as parents, we all have the goal of giving our children a sense of self-worth and confidence. How this is accomplished isn’t always clear to us though. It has recently been suggested that our natural instincts to praise our children’s every accomplishment may, in fact, have the opposite effect we intend. This excerpt from “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children” is titled The Inverse Power of Praise and one of the main points the researchers make is that simply praising a young child for being “smart” can actually be crippling as he then becomes afraid to push himself for fear of no longer being thought of as smart; whereas praising effort in a child actually encourages them to do (and enjoy doing) things they might possibly fail at because they believe what matters is how hard they try.

“Dweck [the researcher] had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

As with any parenting research I think it’s important to use common sense; of course it’s OK to tell your kids they’re smart now and then (and frankly, as a proud mom, it’s hard not to); but I do believe strongly in the power of praising effort over intelligence, just as I believe it is more helpful to comment on a child’s painting with questions about and descriptions of what you see, as opposed to a simple “oh, that’s so beautiful”. The former expands their thinking, your child learns nothing from the latter except that, perhaps, their next picture might not be “beautiful”.

Author and lecturer, Alfie Kohn, takes aim at a phrase parents (me included) seem to use with our children at every turn; “Good Job!” is exclaimed for every accomplishment from taking those first steps to pooping in the toilet. His article, “Five Reasons To Stop Saying Good Job”, brings up some very interesting research and concepts for those who look at this comment as simply a way to encourage our children.

“The more we say, “I like the way you….” or “Good ______ing,” the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval…Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.”

And so how do we bring up children who “in [themselves] believe” as Elmo and friends sing? Recent research points towards raising a child’s “emotional intelligence”. Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions (both in oneself and in others). The thinking goes that the more one is able to recognize and understand their own emotions, the better able they are to deal with things like frustration, sadness, anger; and the more one can do this, the happier one is in their own skin. To me, this makes sense and I love the idea that our children would grow up more resilient because they are not simply flooded with feelings they don’t understand. Additionally, the more they are able to read the emotions of others the better able they are to connect, form relationships, succeed in the workplace and so forth. Yes, emotional intelligence sounds like something worth increasing! So….how do we do it?

  • I am a big believer in labeling and describing things for our children. I really try to pay attention to what is going on for them, guess what they may be feeling in a particular instance and then label the emotions for them.
  • I also try to label my own emotions as they’re happening (mommy is feeling really frustrated, mommy is nervous, mommy is excited etc.); this gives them the language to express themselves and to begin to understand what they’re experiencing. It also helps them understand that grownups have big feelings too. Children have the same emotions we do, the only difference is that we have more practice at regulating them.
  • Be sure to give them a rich vocabulary of words, not just “good” and “bad”, and do this from very early on; baby talk isn’t helping anyone.
  • Additionally, helping them to connect the consequences of their actions to how it makes others feel has been quite helpful (“Do you see her face? How do you think she feels when you do that?”).
  • Help them see that talking about feelings is a good thing by expanding on their questions when they ask a question like “why is that boy crying”; ask them what they think might have happened, what are reasons that people cry, what feelings do you have when you cry and so on.
  • When you discipline, focus on teaching coping skills as opposed to extinguishing the behavior; as therapist and parent educator Dr. Pamela Varady says, by teaching your children empathy, conflict resolution, delayed gratification and responsibility for choices you “get to say goodbye to the unappealing jobs parents unwittingly assume: cop, judge and jury, and say hello to the pleasurable and rewarding job of [becoming] our children’s emotional coach”.
  • Really try to tune in to your children; feeling “felt” is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone else. It also is a sure-fire way to calm a tantrum or a meltdown.
  • I love the new website The Mother Company and their concept for teaching children about feelings. They have a delightful group of videos, a new DVD coming out and even a “happy song” recorded by the wonderful Elizabeth Mitchell. Check The Mother Company out, they’re really on to something!

Aristotle understood the idea of emotional intelligence when he was famously quoted: “Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy”. And he was right, it’s not easy; but it can be within everybody’s power, with some effort it can be learned. And what about that video at the top of this page? It makes me chuckle to think that someone named wrote a song called “What I Am”; there’s a certain level of emotional intelligence at work there.

Pushing Politeness, Creating Kindness

practice politenessI’m a polite person. Perhaps it’s because I care about what others think of me, but I do like to think it’s because I care about others. I want other people to know that I appreciate what they’ve done or that I appreciate who they are. Where did this come from? I don’t actually remember my parents teaching me to be this way, but I suppose they modeled it for me. I recall how they treated the people they came in contact with; there was never a sense of hierarchy or snobbery. Actually, I joke that my parents are almost too non-judgmental! But I do think this ideal that was, perhaps, generated by their hippie years is a beautiful way to look at the world. And in a way, it’s very childlike.

One of the things I love about my children is that they respond to everyone they meet in pretty much the same way; from the guy who scrubs our car at the car wash, to my husband’s law firm partners, my kids will greet you with a wide smile and a cheerful conversation if given the opportunity. Although they notice skin color, when they mention it, it is the same as if they are pointing out the color of someone’s eyes or shirt; just a way to describe someone. Last year’s Newsweek cover story (an excerpt from the excellent book NurtureShock) that asked “Is Your Baby Racist” was an eyeopener for me. The point that stood out for me most was that if you avoid discussing skin color, instead of creating a “colorblind” child, you indirectly make race something that children think is not to be discussed and therefore something “bad”. Additionally, the researchers found that children begin to automatically group things into categories of “like me” and “not like me” and classify these things with the ubiquitous “good” or “bad” labels. Thus, just being around people of different races without explicit discussion of it, does not lead to more interracial friendships or understanding. So even though it’s slightly uncomfortable for me when our son loudly points out that someone is “brown”, I do talk to him about it and remind him of all the “brown” friends he has and where their families are from and why people’s skin comes in different colors. It’s interesting for me to note my own discomfort in comparison to his natural ease, and I hope I am creating a world for him in which he does not sort his friends by the color of their skin, and where he is kind to others because of who they are, not because they resemble him.

Our daughter was always the one with the ready smile for strangers while our son would hang back a bit to suss out the situation. They seem to have flip-flopped personalities now and she takes longer to warm up to someone new. I fend off people’s desire to label her “the shy one”, as I know she is not shy at all. Sometimes I feel caught between my own need to be regarded as a polite person, which requires that my children, too, are seen as well-behaved, and my desire to let them be true to themselves. For example, sometimes I’ll ask my daughter if she wants to say goodbye to someone or give them a hug. Is this gentle prompt meant for her good or for my comfort? I don’t believe in pushing children to engage in social niceties if they don’t want to. Certainly a child should never be forced to hug Aunt Marge if they aren’t comfortable doing so, whatever their reason for it. But it is interesting to become aware of one’s own discomfort in such a situation, and how one may feel a need to apologize for one’s child’s behavior. Why do we do that? I recently read an excellent blog post on “A Beautiful Place of the World” called “What do you saay…” Nooo Thanks! in which the author, Nathan M. McTague, discusses prompting kids to be polite:

“I am also of the opinion that the prompting method is demeaning, both to the children and the parents. Have you ever seen this? Person gives child something, parent looks wistfully at gift-giver, then quickly to the kid and says robotically, “What do you saay?” then the kid says (just as robotically), “thnkue”. Then the parent looks back at the other person, with sort of an embarrassed, “hope-that-was-good-enough” look, mingled with a “see-we’re-all-compliant” demeanor and then tries to move on. Again, I’ll bet you anything, that even if the parent doesn’t feel uncomfortable with this scenario, the kid does. And more importantly, the child probably also feels sold down the river, embarrassed, disrespected, and (remember this one) resistant. You may want to tell yourself this isn’t true, especially if you learned the prompting method from your parents or other parents you know, but let me reassure you, kids don’t like to be reminded of things like this, and being publicly reminded is almost always embarrassing — to anyone. I am sure you can think of examples from your own life. Oh, and just so you know, there is no evidence out there that proves embarrassing children is a successful way to make them learn something (except maybe that their feelings don’t mean that much to you…).”

Remember, being polite is actually dictionary defined as “showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of others”. After reading this post I thought about how I do this all the time with my kids. Is my need for them to meet adult expectations actually getting in the way of my being considerate of my own children? Was I doing it because I am nervous about what others think of me? Or about what they might think of my children if they didn’t say “thank you” or “I’m sorry”? But am I really teaching the kids to be polite or are they, as McTague says, just answering robotically as opposed to coming from a place of true gratitude. I have seen the difference in their responses when they spontaneously are polite and truly grateful as opposed to when I remind them to be that way. But the question remains, are they learning this behavior because I am modeling it constantly or because I am reminding them constantly? What if I were to remove the prompting and let my own behavior be their principal guide? Actions speak louder than words. Do I remove the prompting in order to be more respectful of the children? Or will my attempt to respect them lead to their lack of respect towards others? Have I mentioned that I tend to over think things?

We’ve started adding “what were you grateful for today?” into our bedtime routine as a way of teaching our children about being thankful for all that they have. Usually they’ll answer this question with something random like “I’m grateful for apples and trees”. But now and then they’ll say “I’m thankful for mommy’s kisses” or “I’m thankful for daddy not working today” and then I realize they do get it. I know my parents’ modeling taught me to be kind and respectful; I hope that my own modeling is doing the same for our children. I liked McTeague’s description of his family’s visit with his parents:

“So when we went to the science museum and IMAX theatre the next day, and our kids did not thank my dad directly for all the fun they had — though they did say they had a lot of fun — I got a little antsy about how my dad would feel about it. I came very close to actually whispering to the girls, “Hey do you want to let your Grandpa know how much you appreciated the fun outing?”. And I think that would have been all right, but I chose something else instead. I let my own appreciation be known, and in earshot of the girls I thanked my dad a couple times for all of us.”
I think I may try this more. Less pushing politeness in the hope that by modeling it myself I may see more of their genuine and spontaneous bursts of gratitude and kindness; I think those feel better to receive as well.

Don’t you?

Brat-Proof Your Children!

You all know how I like parenting seminars. I go to as many as I can find. Especially if they’re free! At the end of the month Betsy Brown Braun will be speaking at The Center For Early Education (CEE) in West Hollywood. Betsy is a child development and behavior specialist, a parent educator and bestselling author. She’s also the mom of adult triplets and the author of a new book called “You’re Not The Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your 4 to 12 Year Old Child“. Good title, huh? Anyway, I should be at the event taking tons of notes (as usual); let me know if you’ll be going too! Details of the evening are below. RSVP at

Food, Glorious Food.

I’m having another one of those days where signs keep showing up pointing me in a particular direction. For a few days I’ve been struggling with trying to write about food. Yes, food. It’s been on my mind lately (well, let’s face it, food is on my mind often) but this time it’s because I was lamenting the disappearance of our children’s favorite chicken nuggets from the aisles of Whole Foods. This led to my having a discussion with friends about what snacks our kids eat, which resulted in the inevitable “what do you put in their lunch boxes at school?”, which then got me thinking about how particular my once easy eaters had become. As if that wasn’t enough, a post came in today from one my favorite blogs, Zen Family Habits, about family dinners. Ok, ok! Enough already! I need to write about twins and eating apparently!

So let me begin with chicken nuggets. What is it about these things that children devour them like manna from Heaven? We somehow stumbled upon the Alexia Broccoli and Cheese nuggets , which were so delicious my brother-in-law began referring to them as “Nuggets of Love”. These became my go-to meal when nothing else would suffice. They worked for play dates, they worked for the school lunch box. They were genius! And then…one day…GONE! No one at Whole Foods knew a thing. Some mysterious conspiracy was afoot. I polled other moms (as I know we all have a nugget that works for us) but nothing would do. I tried Jessica Seinfeld’s “Deceptively Delicious” recipe to no avail. Finally, I broke down and wrote a plea to Alexia begging them to divulge where I might find these damned nuggets! Send me a prayer that I get an answer soon. I promise to share the wealth when I do!

So, being totally bored with the same old snacks I give my kids, but still trying to give them things they’ll eat that are healthy, I began a discussion with a couple of friends. I figured, if I’m bored with packaging the snacks, God knows the kids must be bored of eating them! Here’s a list of the things that are winners for us, and some new things my friends serve that excited me (and although I am easily excited by chicken nuggets, I am not easily excited by food):

  • Every type of fruit on the planet
  • Whole Foods (365) fruit filled Cereal Bars
  • Protein shakes (good for breakfast too). We use Jay Robb whey protein, almond milk, a banana, frozen berries and about a tablespoon of flax seed oil. I alternate between using the whey protein and using a scoop of chocolate Kidz SuperFood along with the almond milk, fresh and frozen fruit and maybe some yogurt. The SuperFood is packed with so much good stuff that it’s like getting 3 servings of fruit and vegetables in one glass! You can get single serving packets of the SuperFood; it can be an acquired taste and you might want to experiment a bit before you spend $25 on a can of the stuff.
  • Carrots and hummus (I like to buy our hummus at the local farmer’s market, but Sabra is a yummy brand our kids like too).
  • Homemade ice pops made from 100% juice (I like R.W. Knudsen’s) which you can cut with water. Alternately, a milk/yogurt/fruit mix works well too. If you (or your kids) are too impatient to wait for them to freeze, try this William’s Sonoma popsicle maker which makes them in as little as 7 minutes! Come to think of it, this is a great activity to do with your kids, especially if they are done that quickly! Nothing like (almost) instant gratification!
  • Frozen Peanut Butter (or soy nut butter) Bananas. Peel bananas, slice it lengthwise (not in half, but put a cut in the banana lengthwise) put peanut butter inside. Freeze. Then take it out and slice it into small circle chips that have a bit of peanut butter in them. It is sooooo delicious!
  • Frozen Dipped Yogurt Bananas. Insert a popsicle stick into the banana. Dip it in yogurt and add sprinkles (or nuts or chips). Then freeze it and you can give to the kids like an ice pop.
  • Fruit/Veggie muffins. These are courtesy of a website called Raise Healthy Eaters. My friend, Jackie, who makes these muffins adds this comment: The nice thing about these is you can cook up a batch, let them cool and then freeze them. When you want a muffin, you just pop one in the microwave and they are ready (and fresh tasting!) in 30 seconds!!! I usually double the ingredients.
  • Happy Melts. These are my new favorite find. I buy them at Whole Foods (yes, I still shop there even though they arbitrarily eliminated my nuggets) and they are simply freeze dried yogurt drops. Strawberry, banana or mixed berry flavor. They melt in your mouth into little splashes of yogurt. And no mess!
  • Greek yogurt (more protein and even the non-fat is rich and creamy) blended with fresh fruit and a bit of agave nectar if it needs sweetening. I like the Fage (pronounced Fa-yeh) brand of yogurt best.

When it comes to meal time, one of the things that another friend suggested was to get creative on presentation. For example: plan picnics either inside or out, serve dinner as “appetizers” with everything cut small on tapas plates and using toothpicks, have “upside down day” and eat breakfast for dinner. Getting out of your rut is good for everybody! There are some other good tips about family dinners and why they’re so important in Wednesday’s post from Zen Family Habits.

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not an amazing cook. I can follow a recipe and I know what I like and what tastes good (to me). But I do like to experiment when I have the energy and when I do, I go to a few websites for ideas. Here are three I really like:

  1. Weelicious for amazing kid’s food ideas (all beautifully photographed). Everything on her site sounds so delicious and while it is not as simple as popping some nuggets in the oven, it’s so worth attempting to broaden their repertoire. Check out the “Cilantr O’s” and “Wee granola” in this lunch box photo! Take some time to surf through her site, you’ll find delicious treats like mini phyllo cheesecakes and PB and J breakfast muffins. Mmmmm. Yummy!
  2. Out Of The Box Food” for a terrific look at how “real” food compares to pre-packaged food including good, simple recipes. I love how she deciphers the labels on the boxed food we buy; once you really know what sodium lactate or PGPR (Polyglycerol polyricinoleate) is, you may think twice about what you serve your kids.
  3. The aforementioned Raise Healthy Eaters is written by a mother who used to be in my local MOMs club and who is also a dietician and nutritionist. She was actually just featured on Jen’s List with a 5 part series of posts on picky eaters. She has some great recipes, but she also posts often about attitudes toward food, health tips, feeding strategies and more.

So, now I had a few new ideas about what to make for the kids’ school lunches and I realized I hadn’t bought them new lunch boxes yet. There are so many lunch box varieties out there and after a year of school I realized that little kids don’t do well with multiple plastic containers and Ziploc baggies full of things. Nor is it so great for the environment. After a bit of research (and frustration because I waited too long and some things were sold out) I decided upon the Go Green Lunch Box and was really happy with our first day using it. It has a bento box style food compartment and this cool “turn ‘n lock” key that allows you to put things like yogurt or applesauce alongside your pasta or sandwich without ending up with a gooey mess. So far, so good on that front. For other great “green” school lunch ideas check out Green My Lunch Box.

I’m inspired to try some new things now that I have this cool, new lunch box to fill. I think I may head to the market to stock up. And, if my somewhat picky kids start eating all of these great new treats, I might not even need to have a word with the Whole Foods store manager about those chicken nuggets!

Feeling Too Much

My astrological sign is Cancer. Actually, Sun, Moon and Mercury are in Cancer in my chart and, as those of you familiar with astrology will know, this means that I am what I like to refer to as a “Super Cancer”. That is, the attributes assigned to Cancerians are more pronounced for me. I feel a lot. I am super sensitive, not just in the I-get-my-feelings-hurt-easily kind of way (which I do), but also that I feel other people’s emotions very easily; I am very sensitive to how others are treated or to how something might affect another person. I’ve always been this way, but since I’ve had children this attribute of mine has been in overdrive.

Do I wish someone had tried to prepare me for how much children would change me? Even if I had wanted to know, I don’t know if anyone could have really explained it so I could grasp it. And what would I have done with the information anyway? What would I do with the knowledge that I would have to leave a theater, mid-show, when I realized that it was about a couple dealing with the death of a child? Or that a children’s book called “Someday“, about a mother’s wish for her child, would leave me with tears streaming down my face every time I try to read it to my kids. What if I had known ahead of time that I would no longer be able to watch the evening news or read the newspaper? Would I have ever imagined that once I was a mother, even something as indirectly related to children as Hurricane Katrina would now be sending my mind spinning as I imagined the horrors of surviving something like that with your children in tow?

I ache when my children cry. I literally leap over things to get to them if they are in danger. I struggle with knowing they need their independence yet wanting to baby them forever. I live for the moments when my daughter throws her arms around my neck, hugs me and whispers “I always, always, always love you” or when our son dances with joy and says “oh thank you mommy!” when he gets to spend time alone with me. Those little things melt me completely. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night just to look at them sleeping; I bend down to their warm, little faces, kiss them and whisper “I love you” in their ears. And sometimes, when I have had a day where I have not been the type of mother I want to be, I look down at them and say “I promise, tomorrow I will do better”. Then the thought of being frustrated or angry at these two peacefully sleeping babies floods me with guilt and shame.

There is real pain for me when a friend tells me of overhearing a teacher (a teacher!) berating a young boy on a field trip for being “stupid” and an “embarrassment”. Before having children I might have thought that teacher to be obnoxious or out of line, but now I can’t stop thinking about that little boy and wondering what he must think of himself because now I really know how powerful our words are to these little people we care for. Now I know how something like that teacher’s abusive language could affect that boy his whole life. And even as I write this, that makes me cry. I can’t help but imagine my own child suffering this way.

This hyper sensitivity started when our twins were born, but it really kicked into gear when we had a terrible incident with our first nanny. In that instant I so clearly felt how much I had come so close to losing; I felt so fully both intense love and blinding hatred. And through that experience I became exponentially more connected and empathic toward our children; as if by being that way I could save them from any future suffering.


The crab is the symbol given to the zodiac sign of Cancer; it is said that people born under this sign are just like that crab: a hard outer shell protecting the tender, soft and vulnerable inside. Ever since my children were born I feel as though my shell has gone missing and my insides are simply exposed and reactive. I’m not sure how much more of this emotion I can take…..

In our house we have a statue of the Quan Yin Buddha. Our daughter has loved it since she was a tiny baby. “Boo-dah” was actually one of her early words. I’m surprised I bought this particular one because it’s not your typical Buddha, but something about it spoke to me. Only afterwards did I learn that Quan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion and the literal translation of Quan Yin is “one who hears the cries of the world”. As I pass her in the hallway it makes me smile to know there’s someone out there who understands me. 🙂