Really Really Really

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

It's been a while since I did a post about the funny things Mia and Alexa say. This now extends beyond just funny pronunciations and grammar mistakes, and extends into their thought processes and the things about which they are curious. We have a lot of those endless "why" conversations like you see in the movies when a precocious child continually asks an adult "why" about some new situation or concept and the adult grows increasingly flustered in how to handle the innocence of childlike curiosity. One of these situations that sticks out in my mind was when my mom and I took the girls to see the movie Big Hero 6. The plot was complicated for the girls which resulted in them loudly asking "why" about a million times during the movie.

Another new thing is when they compete about something by repeatedly adding the phrase "a lot" or the word "really" into a sentence. For example, one will say "I really really really really really like cookies" and then the other will try to outdo her sister by saying "I really really really really really really like cookies". This can go on for a while. Mia likes to say "alright alright alright" and "okay okay okay" too which is so random and funny. Making up silly nicknames is also popular right now. Dado for daddy. Stellie for Stella (my brother's dog). Sweety pershmeety and deedee beneenee. They also come up with so many creative names for their dolls and toys. They name a lot of things Salla (not sure where that came from). They told me they both want to grow up and have a baby girl and these girls will be named Sara (by Alexa) and Lemon (by Mia).

Of course, now that they spend 6 hours a day at school there are all kinds of new phrases that have made their way into our house many of which I wish they would never have learned. They like poop and fart jokes now. In particular, Alexa thinks it's hilarious to say "you're a pain in the butt". They are learning to tell jokes now too but they don't completely understand the concept of there being a punchline at the end of the joke.

Mia started talking about a giant mouse that comes to visit her when she sleeps. I would be alarmed if we were not really into the Nutcracker these days. The girls' upcoming 4th birthday party is Nutcracker ballet themed (more to come on that in a future post) and they are loving the Barbie movie version of the Nutcrackers, which is all to say I think the idea of the mouse is a byproduct of that. Once Mia started this, Alexa caught on and she often talks about the giant mouse visiting in her sleep. They say he's scary and they see his shadow on the wall in their room at night. Their imaginations run wild!

Some of the crafting I'm doing for the Nutcracker ballet party

Acti-fried Chicken Wings

Monday, 24 November 2014

We've had a Tfal Actifry for a few years now and I usually use it to make French fries. The beauty of this device is things come out tasting as good as if they had been fried except it uses little to no oil. I take a bag of frozen French fries, add them to the Actifry with less than a tablespoon of oil, and the fries come out tasting so delicious (and much crispier than if they had been baked).

I recently heard that others like to use the Actifry to make chicken wings. Now, chicken wings are not something we normally eat because they are fried, greasy and so unhealthy. I was intrigued by the idea of making a healthier version in the Actifry. I found this recipe via Pinterest and decided to try it when we had friends over the other night. It was so risky to try something new with guests though, right? Luckily, these were absolutely delicious. Chicken wings are never the healthiest of options but with no breading, no frying and no carbs, this Actifry chicken wings recipe is most definitely a better alternative. I will be making these again.

They were really simple to make -- I mixed the wings with salt, pepper, a package of powdered ranch mix, dried garlic and tons of parmesan cheese. I put them in the Actifry with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and let them cook for 45 minutes. I served the wings with a garlic dipping sauce. Easy and delicious. The full recipe is here.

Teacher Gift in a Jar

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Before Halloween, I came across cute Christmas jars in the dollar bins at Target. I wasn't quite sure what I'd do with them but I bought four jars anyway.  Knowing the cutest Christmas stuff gets snapped up pretty quickly, I didn't hesitate. Then a friend send me this link and my mind starting swirling with ideas. Since I've decided to give the girls' teachers gift cards for Christmas, I thought it would be a cute idea to bury the gift cards in the jars concealed by candy.

All it took was adding the gift card and candy into each jar. To make sure the teachers don't overlook the gift cards, I added a little sticker inside.

On a twin-specific note.... I don't know what the protocol is for gifting teachers with twins. To me, it makes the most sense to take the amount I was willing to spend and double it since I have two children. The girls have two teachers in their class so I got a gift card in double the amount for each teacher. I'm also going to get smaller gifts for the music teacher, support staff and crossing guard. I'd love to hear what you do for your kids' teachers especially if you have twins.

The Best Way To Spread Christmas Cheer

Thursday, 20 November 2014

It's finally time to bust out the Christmas decorations! For the most part, our house looks the same as it did last year with the addition of a few things here and there.

Quoting the movie Elf

Twinkle Noel sign

The one thing that I changed was the girls' tree. Last year, they had a small purple tabletop tree which displayed all of their favourite ornaments. And by favourite, I mean mostly Disney inspired ornaments. Their collection has grown so much over the past four years that I decided to decorate a bigger tree for them in their room with just their ornaments. This tree is about a million years old from back when I lived alone in a condo in downtown Toronto. Now, I put it in the girls room and decorated it with their Disney ornaments. I got everything ready today and I'm going to surprise them when they get home from school. I know they will love it!

Disney inspired tree

From our trip to Disney World in January 

All of the princesses are represented
(I'm still looking for Aurora and Maleficent and maybe some Star Wars characters too LOL)

I picked up these soft dolls at Target because I thought they resembled the girls

We get a real tree for our official family tree. It's still a bit early for that though yet... maybe by next weekend we will head up to a Christmas tree farm for that.

First Snowfall and First Santa

Monday, 17 November 2014

Well, hello there! It's been a while since I blogged. It's been for no particular reason other than life being busy. It seems like we missed Fall entirely over here because we already had our first official snowfall and started full blown Christmas activities this past weekend. The girls had a great time at the Santa Claus Parade and riding a local Santa Train. They are old enough to really enjoy the festivities and are asking funny questions like "why does Santa come" and "how does he get to all of the houses". It's such a joy to experience these things with them.

With their 4th birthday party coming up, still about 70% of Christmas shopping to be done and more snow in the forecast, it's going to be a busy few weeks. No complaints though, I love this time of year!


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Birthday brownies made for daddy reflect the eclectic tastes in our household..... Star Wars characters complete with Princess Aurora standing in for Princess Leia and an artistic interpretation of Flounder from The Little Mermaid... And all prepared with Taylor Swift blaring in the background

Today, Mia and Alexa's birth story is featured over on Twin Talk Blog. Click here to check it out.

My first time holding my girls in my arms

Twin Talk is an incredible resource for twin moms. I really wish it had been around back when I was expecting my twins because the twin pregnancy and new twin mom experience really is different than the rest. Even now with older twins (I really can't believe they are almost FOUR), it's still special to connect with other twin moms who know. They just know!

If you want to share your birth story with Twin Talk, you can click here to fill out a questionnaire.

Ghosty Toasty

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

It was a hectic morning today but with the help of some Halloween themed cookie cutters I turned things around. Say hello to "ghosty toasty" and "peanut butter pumpkin toast". 

I love Halloween week! 

Melted Crayon Pumpkins

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Until now I have avoided ALL melted crayon crafts. I worried they'd be too messy and disregarded the many cute ideas I've seen on Pinterest. Then today, I saw this melted crayon pumpkin idea on Pinterest and decided to just go for it.

While the kids were still at school, a friend and myself glued broken crayons to pumpkins with a hot glue gun.

Once the kids were home from school, we laid down a plastic table cloth and let them have fun with the blow driers. It was really easy and fun for the kids, and because of the plastic table cloth the mess was contained....not to mention that it was less messy than the traditional carving of pumpkins.

Now I know first hand there are so many melted crayon crafts on Pinterest because they're just amazing. A few tips though.... The smaller pumpkins were cute and turned out well; however, I think the impact was better on the medium sized pumpkins because there was more surface area on which the crayons could melt. My advice would be to use medium or large sized pumpkins. Another tip, there were all kids of different crayons in our stash. We learned the cheaper the crayons the better they melted (the really good Crayola crayons didn't melt as quickly). But really.... so long as you have something covering your floor then you really can't screw up this craft.

On my quest to read 50 books in 2014, I figured it would be a good idea to throw a few non-fiction books -- parenting books specifically -- into my usual mix of fiction, suspense and YA novels. I didn't have any particular parenting issue in mind when I decided to read "Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected" by Susan Stiffelman. This excerpt from the book jacket caught my attention:

"While most parenting programs are designed to coerce kids to change, [this book] does something innovative, showing you how to come alongside your children to awaken their natural instincts to cooperate, rather than at them with threats or bribes, which inevitably rules their resistance. By staying calm and being the confident 'Captain of the ship' your child needs, you will learn how to parent from a place of strong, durable connection and you'll be better able to help your kids navigate the challenging moments of growing up".

What I took away from this book was not clear cut strategies or action plans for how to deal with childhood behavioural issues (although there is some of that in the book) but rather the book left me the desire to make sure I create and uphold an unshakable connection with my daughters. The first part of the book is about creating attachment as the precursor to healthy relationships. With attachment in place, parents can be calmly and confidently in charge. Children need you to be in charge but not in control. The rest of the book elaborates on how to deal with common parenting issues such as whining, cooperation, etc. by parenting alongside your child rather than by coercion or other means. Here are some highlights for me:

- offer your attention to your children completely and generously
- kids only tell their truth if we let them know we can handle it
- don't eliminate frustrations because it prevents them from developing the vital life skill of learning to adapt
- sometimes children need to feel their feelings of sadness to learn to move on
- help them learn the essential life skill of adaption equipping them with the means to be happy regardless of whether people, events or circumstances conform to their expectations
- let them feel you are on their side
- kids are inclined to do what you ask when they feel close to you and you ask from a sense of connectedness
- accept the reality that kids are biased towards maximization of fun and enjoyment

Some practical tips which I liked included:

- when a child is frustrated, it is not a good time to teach or advise
- encourage cooperation by making them feel good when they are cooperative
- speak as though you're in charge and walk away with the assumption the child is going to do what you asked
- couch a request in polite terms by saying "honey I need you to..."
- instead of saying "no" say "yes, after..."

Here are two practical tips which I have already put into place at our house:

The first is setting known consequences. Recently, I noticed that Mia and Alexa's teacher posted a classroom contract in their class "signed" by all of the children. What I understand from talking to teacher friends is that the classroom contract is an example of self-directed learning -- the theory being that children learn more effectively and independently if they choose their own activities and pursue them in their own way. By having the children make the list of class rules and then sign the contract, they are actively agreeing to follow such rules and then be willing to face the consequences of breaking them. This is where the book comes in -- as part of parents being steady and calm, the author stresses the importance of discussing as a family the possible outcomes for failing to live up to the family's standards of cooperation and kindness.  With this in mind, I decided to create a family contract at home. As a family, we came up with the rules. I helped guide the girls to focus on really simple and practical rules which will be easy to enforce. We talked about the consequences for breaking the rules, I wrote out the rules and then each member of the family signed the contract. I posted it in our kitchen to keep it as a visible reminder.

The second tip is a simple way to deal with how to "give in" to your child while still keeping control. For example, if you told your kid she can have one cookie but then she's pestering you for another cookie and for whatever reason you want to give in, then you say "you must have read my mind, I was just about to offer you another cookie". That way, you still hold your place as being in charge when really you have given in!

More than these practical tips, what I liked best about this book is how the author believes parents need to act as guardians of their children's innate light, honouring them as the emissaries of joy that they are. She also advises parents to delight in our children's unique interests, talents and personalities. So often I see parenting books, websites and blogs offering parents instructions on how to change a child or how to get them to do what you want. This book is different. It's about bringing out the best in our children. My girls are at an age where they delight in everything about life. They are mostly smiles and excitement. Their "innate light" as the author calls it is very bright. I would never want to do anything to diminish that. It doesn't mean that we are not the parents and will allow them to wreak havoc on us. In fact, the author talks about doing the opposite of just agreeing with your kids, doing what they want and eliminating any frustration or conflict from their lives. She wants us to teach them resilience. She says when children grow up believing they can only be happy if events in their lives unfold in a particular way they want them to, they become handicapped adults unable to cope and suffer emotionally as a result. This book is about fostering good relationship so that you can parent from a place of calmness and thereby focus on teaching important life skills and also exploring their unique interests, talents and personalities

One last thing to note... The book reminds us to live like our kids are watching because they are, which I think is maybe the most critical piece of advice. We can establish whatever rules we want but if we are not living as good examples for our children then those rules are meaningless.  

Parenting Without Power Struggles was an enlightening read and I would recommend it to parents of kids of all ages.