Celebrating Differences

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

How cute are these Kate Spade outfits which my mom picked up for my girls?!!?  Those bows set my heart a flutter. I didn't even know Kate Spade was making girls' clothes, so these are a special treat!

This post isn't about clothes though. I'm posting to share another twin experience. Lately, we have really started to see our girls reach different milestones at different times. Just this week, Alexa started to excel at soccer (she scored three goals in her first game) whereas Mia is excelling at reading (she's participating in a school reading project). It's so challenging to try to congratulate and encourage one twin while not hurting the other twin's feelings. But we gotta do it. We can't just ignore their accomplishments just because they are achieving things at different times or making different achievements altogether. It's a very delicate balance. We repeatedly tell them that what makes them different is what makes them special (and we ask coaches/teachers to treat them as individuals). There's no better or worse, just different. This is a recurring theme on my blog and in our life with twins.

My mom gave me a great suggestion based on something she heard recently. Since the twin experience is unique in that twins experience everything in life together, they should be encouraged to do things separately. To foster a strong, healthy bond, the suggestion is to take each twin separately and have have her plan something special for her twin sister. I like this idea of having each twin think about her sister as a separate person and taken time to plan something special. I hope to try something along these lines and report back about it.

Best >>> <<< Friends

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

When I was first expecting my twins, I had no idea of the fascination with twins which we would eventually attract. I suppose I was naive to think people wouldn't be curious about my giant twin belly or my massive double stroller or seeing two sweet babies together. Mostly the attention was positive (sometimes it was negative though) but, even still, I didn't want to make too much out of it for fear of making my girls feel like a sideshow. We didn't dress them alike or even refer to them as "the twins" (we still don't). After all, as fraternal twins they are really just sisters. They are each unique and special, and we celebrate their individuality.

But I can't deny there is something special about them even as fraternal twins. They have a special bond unlike any other. While our household isn't immune to sisterly frustrations and squabbles over wanting the same toy, it's filled mostly with laughter and hugs. These t-shirts from monkeydoodle so perfectly capture the essence of the bond which Mia and Alexa share. They are sparkly, stylish and express to the world the beauty of having a built-in best friend.

The bestest of friends

Tees: c/o monkeydoodle | Headbands: twolittlebeesbtq |
Mia's pants: Zara | Alexa's pants: Target | Moccasins: Minnetonka

Doing what best friends do.... chatting at Starbucks
(don't worry they only had water)

You can check out monkeydoodle on InstagramFacebook and etsy. In addition to darling custom t-shirts and onesies, they have adorable invitations and party items plus cute one-of-a-kind creations. And as a bonus for my Canadian friends who get frustrated by duty and shipping, they are located in the GTA!!
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms, grandmas, great-grandmas, step-moms, moms-to-be and all others in a mama role, and also special thoughts to all those who have lost a mom, lost a child and those struggling to become a mom. 

I feel so lucky today and always for these two girls who call me mommy. 

How To Boost Early Literacy

Monday, 27 April 2015

Junior kindergarten is wonderful and all but, in my experience, schools nowadays are expecting some home instruction, particularly when it comes to reading. Today, I'm going to share some of the things we have been doing at a home to boost early literacy. While I'm a lawyer and I have tons of lawyer friends (and husband), I also have many teacher friends and family members... so you better believe I'm constantly asking them for advice and tips. Now I'm no "tiger mom" tirelessly drilling my children with lessons and tests. I just do what I can to help them get a bit more one-on-one (or one-on-two) help in learning the fundamentals of reading. Pinterest is also incredibly helpful with at-home reading activities.

Mia and Alexa started junior kindergarten with good letter recognition -- they could recognize and sound out almost every letter. They could write their names and were interested in trying to write letters and draw lines and such. Since then, these are some of the things we have been doing at home to boost their early literacy skills.

* Read to them

Any person or book I have consulted has reiterated the best way to help kids learn to read is to read to them a lot. This is a given, and we do our best to read to them.

* Talk about the stories you read

To get the girls engaged in reading, we ask a lot of questions about the stories. We stop and talk about what the girls may think will happen next or why a character acted in a certain way. These kinds of conversations help with reading comprehension.

* Leave books out in the open

We leave the storybooks out in their bedroom and playroom. Many times I will catch them flipping through the books and narrating their own version of the story. This encourages familiarity with books. Sometimes I catch them using books under their feet to "skate" across the floors or building princess forts with them, and that's okay too.

* Pick out the words they know

In addition to story books, we also have some early reader type books where we help pick out words that they know. I run my finger under the words as we read and they can help read the words they recognize. There are about 15-30 sight words that they know at this point (see more below).

Teacher friends have also passed along some of the levelled readers used in the schools. These are really simple books made up mostly of sight words (see more below), accompanied by helpful images and that are repetitive. Things like "we like school / we like reading / we like art".They help build confidence in early reading.

* Sight word games

I am teaching sight words in several different ways. Home made flash cards were very helpful. Right now, I have a sight word matching game which I made (as seen in the above photo). By making it fun, they don't feel the pressure to learn so much. I also have posted the sight words in the kitchen (as seen in the above photo). We often refer to the words. The girls have journals, and I will ask them to write various words. I will also post them around the house and make a finding game. The more the activity seems like a game, the more enthusiastic they are. Just this week, I started a words of the week game. I'm picking some of the sight words which they have a more difficult time remembering then posting them and trying to get them to use this words in our everyday conversation and find them in the books which we read.

* Rhyming games

I try to turn everything into a rhyming game. If we are blowdrying their hair, then I ask them to name words which rhyme with "hair". If we are in the kitchen, I will ask them to find something in the room that rhymes with "coaster" (trying to get them to come up with "toaster"). There are an endless amount of ways to create rhyming games. And these games help them understand how words work plus they help with focus and concentration.

Another variation is to ask them to replace one sound with another. Take away the "k" sound from "cat" then add the "b" sound, "r" sound, etc.

* Online reading programs

We also have an online subscription to a reading program to help them learn at their own pace. Again, they look at this like a fun activity and don't feel pressured to learn. The only downside to the online stuff is they learn how to "beat" the program and pass levels based on repetition and I sometimes feel they haven't actually learned the letters or words. In any event, it provides them with repeated exposure to age-appropriate reading skills and I get feedback reports on their progress as their progress is measured and recorded.


While Mia and Alexa are not reading just yet, I think they are well on their way. And with a teacher strike looming in Ontario, who knows how much more of this type of thing I will be doing at home in the coming weeks (please no strike, please no strike, please no strike)!

Do you have any tips for how you get your kids to read? What resources do you use? I'm not a teacher, these are just some things that I've tried in our house and they seem to be effective.

Best Ever Pancake Mix

Thursday, 23 April 2015

We don't usually keep pancake mix in the house. My go to pancake recipe is still this. I've tried other variations like this or just bananas and eggs mixed into batter. I rarely use store bought pancake mix.

On our latest trip to Trader Joe's, I couldn't resist this mix for toasted coconut pancakes. It sounded too yummy to me -- I'm a major coconut lover.

It did not disappoint. The pancakes came out absolutely delicious. If you like coconut, then you have to try this pancake mix. There's a nuttiness to the mix and actually pieces of yummy toasted coconut mixed throughout. It's easily the best ever pancake mix I've ever eaten. And my little ones enjoyed these pancakes just as much as me. They have been very sick for the past week, and it was so easy to break this out and make dinner for breakfast one night. 

As you can see, we also purchased Trader Joe's maple syrup. There is no shortage of pure maple syrup where we live and usually we buy local or at least something Canadian. We got the TJ version on a whim just because we were buying the pancake mix and happened to be out of our usual maple syrup at home. The TJ pure maple syrup is on par with our Canadian ones.

We tend to cross the border to get groceries at Trader Joe's (and also Wegmans for the non-TJ staples like Chobani yogurt) every 3-4 months. It's a quick trip from our house and we are usually home before lunch unless we stop to do something else while out that way. It's probably a good thing this mix isn't easily accessible for me because I would be eating it way too often otherwise! 

Picky Eaters: Don't Lose Hope

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

This post is a "shout out" to all the moms of picky eating toddlers -- there is hope. Picky eating was something we have struggled with for the past two years or so. At some point in their toddler-life, my girls decided to stop eating just about everything except pizza, burgers, grilled cheese, pasta and chicken nuggets. I prepared a great many healthy meals only to see them get rejected and thrown on to the floor. I resorted to hiding veggies in smoothies and muffins. Sometimes I even bribed my cheeky little darlings to eat. It was frustrating. Recently, I posted about how I noticed a shift and my girls were more willing to try new things. I'm happy to say this trend has continued, and Mia and Alexa have suddenly grown not only willing to try new things but they're actually liking many new and different foods -- they even request new foods. There has been renewed interest in vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers and broccoli. They are choosing healthier options at restaurants like grilled chicken over chicken nuggets. They have even tried more adventurous things like sushi, lobster and shrimp. I don't know what changed and I don't want to take any credit for the change... I'm just happy to see the change.

There's a great all-you-can-eat sushi place near us, and we have been there with the girls twice recently. It's a great way to encourage them to try even more different foods. We love sushi, so it's a real treat to be able to go to a sushi restaurant as a family and have it be a positive experience rather than a total disaster.

How cute are these kid sized chopsticks?

Picky eating is one of those topics that can elicit a great deal of debate since parents have a lot of strong opinions on the subject. I was both embarrassed and frustrated to have picky eaters. Did I do something wrong to create picky eaters? Or was it just a phase? Our family doctor told us to give it time. I don't really know what changed except that they got older and more open to trying new things. If we did anything right in our house, we just kept offering a variety of different foods and didn't put too much pressure on my girls to eat. They still have their picky moments and are as messy as ever though!
As a mom and lawyer, I'm sharing a friendly, unsponsored PSA today about an important new law in Ontario. As of April 15th, it is mandatory that homes in Ontario have a carbon monoxide detector installed outside sleeping areas. This new law applies to high-risk homes that have at least one fuel-burning appliance (such as a gas furnace or gas water heater) or an attached garage. Click here for more information about the law.

We have two carbon monoxide detectors in our home --
one outside the bedrooms and one near the door to the garage

While the law requires a carbon monoxide detector only outside sleeping areas, experts recommend that you have one on every floor of the home. Anyone found to not be in compliance with the carbon monoxide detector law is subject to fines. More importantly, having carbon monoxide detectors in your home can help to keep you and your family safe.

Brows and Pop

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

I wanted to do a little update on two topics: brows and pop. If you are a long, longtime reader, you may remember a little post I did about brows when I first started this blog (it's so long ago I was still blond). Click here for a refresher. I enlisted the help of my beautiful and talented cousin Vanessa to teach me to fill in my brows. I still follow the techniques which Vanessa explained in the video but I have changed my products over time. I've had a few people ask about my brows lately, hence the update today.

I start with a NYX eyebrow pencil from Ulta. It's really inexpensive especially considering how seamless it is to use and apply. After I filled in with the pencil, I use the powder from the Benefit brow zings set from Shoppers. Last, I set my brows with NYX tinted brow mascara also from Ulta. Together, these products help me to keep my brows -- using the latest terminology-- "on fleek". I find it hard to find a balance between filling in my brows and not wanting them to look painted on. Another tutorial which I found helpful was this one from Carly from the last season of the Bachelor. If you remember Carly, her brows were hideous. Like, really really bad. With the help of a makeup artist, she has great brows. I love his tip to use a bit of concealer to define under the brow, it really works!! 

My second update has to do with my recent Coke Zero detox. Click here for a refresher. I went three weeks with absolutely no Coke or Coke Zero. And while it was great to achieve this little goal, I hated every minute of it. After the three weeks, I decided to try to reintegrate pop into my life by letting myself have it only when I'm not at home (meaning I would never buy it for the house). The problem with this approach is I turned into that kid who is not allowed sweets at home so she binges on candy and cupcakes when she goes to parties. For example, Lauren and I took the kids to see the movie Home and I drank two large cups of vanilla flavoured Coke Zero from a pop dispenser. Clearly, my detox has not resulted in me no longer wanting the stuff. I started to question why I bothered to give it up at all. Like I said in my original post, I have like no other vices. I don't drink, smoke or drink coffee (if anything my coffee intake increased as my Coke intake decreased). Then I saw two different things online which said -- despite popular belief -- there is no scientific evidence that drinking diet pop on a daily basis is bad for you. First, there was the Science Babe. I don't know how familiar you are with the media war between the Food Babe and the Science Babe... let's just say Science Babe knows a lot about science and she drinks Diet Coke daily, and also she said in a recent reddit Q&A that there's no harm in drinking diet pop or something to that effect (sorry, I can't find the link anymore). Second, fellow twin mom and dietician Amber Massey recently posted the following on her blog (after attending a food and nutrition conference): 

  • Artificial sweeteners have been rigorously studied and tested for safety (and is probably the most common question I get asked about..) These studies have corroborated the safety of these products, and to suffer ill health effects you would need to consume quite a bit more than you are likely to. How much was what we were all asking - even me and the several pregnant women sitting in the vicinity: A 150-pound woman would have to consume 20 diet sodas per day, every day for the rest of her life.. OR consume 100 Equal packets. 

Where does that leave me then? I want to drink Coke Zero and maybe it's not so bad. Should I just let myself off the hook and drink it then? The only reason I can think to not go back to drinking one or two Coke Zeros per day at home is my daughters. Right now they have no interest in pop. The day may come and it will be really hard to steer them away from drinking pop when I'm guzzling half a case a day. I don't know what to do... excuse me while I run to the store to get a bottle of Coke Zero to drink while I ponder it. 

Born Together, Friends Forever

Monday, 13 April 2015

Recently I posted about styling outfits for Mia and Alexa for a mini photo session -- I styled their outfits around these precious tees from Hip Little Tribe. The photos turned out perfectly! I can never get enough photos of my sweet girls (no, seriously... I'm obsessed).

Hipster photos

People always ask me about these tees... whether my girls are wearing them out and about (they even wore them at Disney) or online on my various social media accounts. They truly capture the essence of the amazing bond between twins.

Hip Little Tribe on Instagram

Check out Hip Little Tribe's Instagram account here. They recently posted about my girls and are offering a 15% off code for current pre-orders. I haven't been compensated for promoting this great shop. I just love to share about unique, quality products made by these moms with a great style, strong social conscience and also with twins!

Making Our Way Through JK

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

With my girls back at school today after the four day long Easter weekend, I have been reflecting on full day kindergarten and I made this collage of photos from the first day of each month of their first year of school... there are only two more of these to go. How can there be less than three months left in their first year of school?

Despite all of my worries about their young age (only three years, eight months old when they started) and the new full day kindergarten regime, junior kindergarten has been mostly a positive experience (so far). Mostly I still worry about the amount of independence and self-care which is expected of them but I have been impressed by the way my girls approach new things and ideas.

Because so much of the full day kindergarten curriculum is child led, the children learn to pursue and explore ideas at their own pace. They are naturally curious beings and full day kindergarten teaches them to delve into new interests without hesitation. I'm constantly fielding questions like "how do you build a swimming pool?", "what makes it windy?", "does this float?" and "where is New York?".

They were asking about volcanoes recently and it became something of an obsession. Somehow we started talking about Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I thought they might be frightened about the eruption killing an entire civilization but they weren't. They just wanted to know more and more. They even made pictures of the lava erupting from the volcano and covering the people. To me, it seemed to be such a morbid thing for four year olds to be interested in but I didn't want to discourage their interest in it. I tried to answer their questions as best as I could without making them afraid. We talked about how we don't live near any volcanoes, and also how back then there wasn't the news or tv or computers to warn people about the explosion. It's pretty amazing how their little minds work. I wonder what they will grow up to study and to do... right now Mia wants to be a rockstar and live in New York with Taylor Swift while Alexa wants to be a superhero!

People have been already asking about next year and whether we will keep them in the same class. We haven't given this a great deal of thought just yet. At this point, my guess is we will leave them in the same class for another year and revisit the issue for grade 1. I can say that having them in the same classroom is easier on me. It's just more convenient. That said, I know it will be important to separate them at some point. I volunteer in their classroom and see they operate independent of one another while at school. And the teachers say the same. If that were not the case, I may be in more of a rush to separate them. This is just one of those twin-specific parenting issues and most parents don't have to deal with it. We try to be mindful and speak to other parents who have been on a similar journey, and in the end we make the decisions we feel are best for M&A.