November 15, 2015

October Activity Roundup for Preschoolers and Toddlers

Last month was amazing and so much fun. We had such beautiful weather and there was so much to see and do with the three little ones. I don't think I've enjoyed my favorite season this much in years.!

We really soaked up the changing leaves and the weather cooling down (although we also enjoyed the 70* weather in the first week of November). Having a big kid here to do all my favorite activities with has added so much to the fun. Between Halloween, pumpkins and leaves we were super busy playing, learning and creating.

Here are some of our favorite things to do in October!

Nature Walks and Collecting Treasures

Nature walks are awesome in any season but the fall in Upstate NY makes it extra special.  We are lucky to live near a park and in a neighborhood that are filled with tons of different trees. I love taking pictures of the colors and talking with the kids about the how and why of the change. This is prime nature collection time too with the branches, leaves, acorns and pine cones falling all over the place.  There's so much to see and do that you don't even need a ball or a playground to have fun outside in the fall.


Nature Collection Exploration Box

After we have a decent stockpile of nature items I put them into bins or boxes to explore. We had a look at tons of acorns, pine cones, leaves, sticks, rocks and pumpkins through out the season.

Preschooler: We talk about colors, shapes, sizes and textures. I added tongs and buckets for some transferring practice. Later we added beans and rice for a more sensory-ish bin as well as some foam letters and shapes for R to find and match.

Toddler: We explored the real stuff a few times then I swapped it for some fake leaves and added random objects for them to find including small pumpkins, letter blocks and animals.


Leaf Creations

Not only were the colors incredible this year but we had an overabundance of leaves - I think I collected well over 500 over the month!  Aside from using them in our sensory bins and just playing with them we had fun creating with them too:

Rubbings and Prints: 

We made leaf rubbings with crayons and leaf prints by painting the bumpy side of the leaf and pressing it on to paper.

Leaf Changing Book: 

We started this one the first week of Fall back in September. I found a great book that explains why the leaves change and wanted to document the change as best as we could. We started collecting them while they were still green from the backyard and the park. Each week we would try to find leaves of the same shape and size and note if they had changed yet. We displayed them to watch the progression and at the end of week 4 I wrapped them in contact paper and stapled them together to finish our book.


Dye Coffee Filters with Fall Colors

Preschool: We used fall colors to dye coffee filters. We started using just red and yellow and watching them mix into orange, then added orange to brighten it up a bit. We experimented with mixing colors and I gave R a dropper to try too. I traced leaves onto a few and cut them out to make a falling leaf decoration.

Toddler: I didn't get pictures of it for some reason but I froze the dyed water into ice cube trays and had the girls slide them around in bins on paper. They were more interested in touching and tasting them but they made some cool designs too! We also took some of the coffee filters and balled them up to toss around. They liked pulling them back apart too.


Fall Scented Play Dough

We used The Imagination Tree's awesome play dough recipe because it is easy to make and the play dough is super soft and lasts forever! We added some pumpkin spice and green or orange food coloring. We will use it all season in different ways.

Preschool: I added some of our nature collection items and other odds and ends to explore. We made monsters and cut out leaf prints with dull plastic knives. Closer to Halloween I printed monster play dough mats and added lots of odds and ends to make monsters.

Toddler: The girls wanted little to do with the play dough and were more interested in the leaves and plastic bags. I did get them to roll it a little in their hands before they started eating it!

Painting With Fall Colors

Preschool: We talk about how and why the leaves are changing colors as the season changes and what colors we start to see as the world turns from green to orange, yellow, red and brown. We used a ball of foil for a cool fall tree effect and did a lot of free paint with these colors throughout the month.

Toddler: I gave them a small amount of red, orange, yellow and white paint in a few cups and some brushes with paper. It took them all of 2 seconds to move on to painting the mirror. I let them have at it and it added a whole new fun dimension to their play.

Cutting and Pasting Jack o'Lanterns

Preschooler: We used our coffee filters from before and some orange paper to practice cutting. R (who is a rock star at using scissors) free cut and followed lines I drew while I cut out some shapes with black paper. We talked about the shapes while he glued them on to the coffee filters to make Jack o'Lanterns and whatever else he could come up with!

Toddler: I gathered up the scraps from R's cutting and the extra jack o'lantern shapes and put them in a box for the girls to sift through. I gave them white paper that I had painted glue onto and showed them how to stick the scraps on and they made their own fall color creations. They loved sticking and unsticking them. 

Measuring and Weighing Pumpkins

Preschooler: We've been singing the song Five Little Pumpkins all season so I tied that into this activity. I bought pumpkins here and there over the season and ended up with a bunch of different sizes. I traced them in order by size on a few pieces of paper and taped it to the floor near the pile of pumpkins for R to find.  He came right over and started trying to figure out how to match them up. We sang the song and talked about size and cardinal and ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd). We got out my bathroom and kitchen scales and a tape measure and talked about height and weight before it turned into rolling the pumpkins all around the room!

Toddler: The girls ripped our paper as soon as they woke up so R organized the pumpkins by size for them and we sang Five Little Pumpkins. Then they all started stacking them and R showed them how to roll them around.

Ghostly Footprints

As much as I love open ended art I also love creating seasonal keepsakes, especially using hand and footprints. This is one of my favorites. Just paint the kids' feet white and press it on to black paper. When it dries glue on some googly eyes and draw on a spooky mouth. So cute!

Painting Pumpkins


Preschooler: I wasn't going to attempt to carve a jack o'lantern with three kids running around so I looked up No-Carve pumpkin ideas and we decided to paint them. R and I looked at some pictures online to get ideas and created some beautiful works of art with tempera paint, paintbrushes and glitter. I clearly had fun with the glitter (the middle one is my sparkly rest time creation)!

Toddler: The girls loved this activity. For them I used washable paint in just a couple colors so it wouldn't turn into a brown mess. I used tape to put their letters on them to make a tape resist initial after the paint dried. Most of their paint came from them picking the pumpkins up then rolling them in it or mushing it all over with their hands. 

Making Masks

I love making masks for Halloween. Usually we look at some spooky stuff in books to get an idea of what they want. I offer half a paper plate and whatever color paint they want while I cut out the details. R wanted to be a monster so I cut hair and bolts and hunted down a good piece of string or shoe lace to tie the mask together. I poked a hole on each side and added shoelaces that tied in the back for the perfect fit. I meant to but never got around to making masks for the girls :( Next year!

Ghost Pancakes and other Halloweeny Food:


One of my favorite parts of Halloween is themed food. I thought of the pancakes that morning and instead of our usual blueberry pancakes I just put the pancake batter in a squeeze bottle and added blueberries or chocolate chips for eyes and a mouth.

The best part is that it's all about what you call the food so it's easy to turn an ordinary lunch into a spooky one. For lunch we had snake's eyeballs or boogers as R came up with (peas), brains on bread (english muffin pizza) and witch's toenails (quartered grapes)!


Going On a Witch Hunt


One of my favorite Halloween activities that I do every year! To us adults it sounds a little strange but only because we know about the real witch hunts. To a 3 year old it just sounds like a seasonal version of Going on a Bear Hunt. You use the traditional pattern of Going on a Bear Hunt (whatever you use, I've learned several over the years) and just change it to spooky stuff. Since it's Halloween you have to act it out too - lots of running, jumping and ducking!

We had to climb a tree filled with spiders and their webs, run through a cave filled with bats and a tunnel filled with ghosts before we got to the witch's house. We spied her big black hat, crooked nose and fingers and green, glowing eyes before we turned around and ran home. Every kid I've ever known loves this. You can sub anything you want too - ghost, zombie, vampire, monster hunt, whatever!

It's even better since I've been a Witch every year for Halloween forever. Don't you love my hat?

Our Favorite Songs:


Five Little Pumpkins  (Link includes a cute little printable!)

Five little pumpkins, sitting on a gate
The first one says "Oh my, it's getting late!"
The second one says, "There are witches in the air!"
The third one says, "But we don't care!"
The fourth one says, "Let's run and run and run!"
The fifth one says, "It's time for some fun!"
Then "Wooooooo" went the wind and OUT! went the light
And they all rolled away on Halloween night

Grey Squirrel

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail
Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail
Wrinkle up your little nose, crack a nut between your toes
Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail!

I'm a Nut

I'm a little acorn round, lying on the cold cold ground
Everybody steps on me, that is why I'm cracked you see
I'm a nut *click click*
I'm a nut *click click*
I'm a nut *click click*
and you're craaazy.

Our Favorite Books: 

(affiliate links!)

The Hallo-weiner
Llama Llama Trick or Treat
The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree
Cheerio's Halloween Book

We had so much fun this month and I'm happy to start a new series of full of our favorite monthly play, create and learn ideas!


November 11, 2015

Please Be Mindful of What You Say To My Kids

I get a lot of questions and comments as a twin mom. I'm used to it and usually it doesn't bother me. But lately we're getting this one question that I had been humoring but is really starting to get to me:

"Which one is the troublemaker (or boldie, handful, evil twin, easy one, enter some other insulting but "cute" descriptive term)?"


"Double Trouble! You've got your hands full, Mom!"

Just last week at the grocery store a woman looked at my girls for all of 3 seconds and stated very matter-of-factly, "Oooh, I can tell you're the troublemaker," to Jules. I asked her why she thought that and she said, "She's got that smile, the other one just looks more cautious."

She was right, Jules was smiling and Viv was furrowing her brow at her like she tends to do. It seemed innocent but this exchange really made me stop and think about what happens when people make assumptions about kids, often based solely on the looks on their faces.

At the very least I wonder since when did a smile equate troublemaking behavior? Just because she's a little more outgoing? Isn't that a desirable trait? But I'm really trying to figure out why it's ok to say that to her face? Even if that smile does mean she's a little more brazen, does it warrant being called a troublemaker? That's not the association I want my daughter having with smiling, would you?

Are we not at the point yet where we realize our words have meaning, even for the youngest of people? People still don't understand that what we say impacts how they feel, about themselves and the world around them? And, more importantly, would she have said anything at all if her sister wasn't sitting behind her, not smiling?

I've noticed that we don't tend to do this with typical siblings - make guesses about what type of people they are, at least not in comparison to their sister. But it seems like as soon as you mention the word twins everything becomes black or white. We try to find their differences and define them, to figure out who they really are. Just because they were born at the same time.

Just being a twin does not mean one is inherently good or bad. Yes, they came from one egg that split but not in such a literal sense that they each inherited only one kind of particular personality traits. That's just crazy. And yet, when you ask my toddlers "Which one likes to give Mommy the hard time?" you are insinuating that one of them was born to be bad.

We need to remember, not just for twins but for all children: who they are at any given moment does not define them and certainly doesn't give us any logical reason to label one as "trouble" or as "the good one".

The last thing I need is one of my kids thinking she has an excuse to be a rebel just because she was born that way - while her sister got all the "good" parts.

Trust me, neither one gives me an easy time all the time. I'm fairly certain that's normal, yes?

Also, for the love of all things, please do not call them double trouble. Yes, there are two of them. Yes, kids can be hard at times - ALL kids are hard. But they are not double trouble. I can't figure out why people say it - so many do - but I think they just think it's cute. It's not. At least not to me.

Would you ever stroll past a family with just one child and randomly proclaim, "She looks like trouble!"? No, right? So, why is it different for my kids? Oh right, because they happened to be born together.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B: Each exercising their right to be 1 year old. Not double trouble. Just 1 year old sisters.

I remember people categorizing me as a child and it drove me nuts. Even though a lot of the time people were making accurate assessments it stung to hear that the adults I cared about thought I was a worry-wort, dramatic, a smart-ass or a know-it-all. I didn't choose to be these things, it was partly my temperament and partly just me trying to figure out how the world worked.

Instead of bucking those descriptions I chose to embrace them - it's what everyone thought I was anyway, so why not? I made it a point to be as obnoxious and theatrical as I could, to garner attention with my outbursts and seemingly uncontrollable emotions. By the time I was 18 I had made up my own mental illness and was on my way to getting myself committed when I realized I didn't want to play this game anymore. I made a choice to break the trend and change the way people thought of me. I reinvented myself in college, lost a lot of my old friends as a result and ultimately became a happier and healthier person. But I really wish I didn't have to go through all that to get there.

Would it have been different if I never tried to fit in the boxes people put me in?

At 15 months old I have no idea who my children are and even if I did I certainly wouldn't want to slap a label on for them to carry through their lives.

Yes, it can be fun to draw comparisons and psychoanalyze them, especially because they are identical twins (trust me my inner psych major is always itching to experiment with them). But the fact is that aside from our most basic personality traits, those that make up our temperament (think: would you rather be alone or in a crowd, do you prefer reading or running, are you anxious or easy-going?) we are meant to be fluid - changing and adapting as we grow. At the very least none of us are still the same type of person we were at 15 months old.

We need to realize that what we say matters. What seems innocent can cause harm. Those labels can and do stick and they can hinder growth, especially when there is a negative connotation attached. Like the word trouble. That's not something I want for my girls. My fear is that at some point they will internalize the idea that one is good and one is bad, or worse that they are both bad just because there's two of them. And who knows what will happen next.

So, please, when you see a set of twins out and about, don't ask which one is the troublemaker. Don't ask which one is the favorite. Don't assume to know anything about who they are based on the few seconds you've watched them or the looks on their faces. You wouldn't compare and label a set of adult siblings you just met so why treat my toddlers any differently?  Imagine how you'd feel if someone labeled you as "the bad one" just because you were having a moment. Or if you were the "good one" because your sister was scowling. It's not fair and it's not ok.

Instead, say something like, "Are you having fun shopping with your Mom?" "I like your pink shirt." or "I see you have a sister, I bet you have a lot of fun together!"

Again, I know it's hard - they're identical twins and that changes the way people think of them. I can't change that (but I'm going to try). Regardless of what you see in those few minutes you talk with us, it means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Your words, on the other hand, do mean something, so please choose them wisely.


November 6, 2015

How We Do Bath Time With Twins (without a bath tub!)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

We all know now that my own personal hygiene took a back seat to the babies but I had no idea how much I would come to hate THEIR bath time. It was once the bane of my existence.

They love baths so me hating it broke my heart. We were so blessed to have two babies who absolutely love water and never so much as whined in the bath, from day one.

But over time it became a nightmare. All because of one thing. Actually, the lack of one thing.

An actual tub.

How the heck do you bathe two babies when you don't have a freaking bath tub?

A little back story: Three years ago we lived in a vast and spacious three bedroom apartment with a huge kitchen, double sink and all. The bathroom was small but had a massive 80 year old claw foot tub. We should have loved it but we didn't. The apartment was nice, but it was old, dusty and drafty. The one thing we really hated was that damned tub. I know, le gasp! Claw foot tubs are awesome and everyone wants one, right? We couldn't stand it. The shower curtains didn't fit right no matter what we did, water sprayed everywhere and it created a wind vortex that made the curtain swallow you. Just picture being touched by a shower curtain constantly while trying to get clean. Ick. After six months we were done and when we found our current "cozy" two bedroom with a big backyard and no bathtub we were over the moon.

Just about a year later we got pregnant with twins. Oops. Looking back I realize our last place would have been perfect for our new family of four - including that massive bath tub that I hated so much. Alas, here we are and here we will stay until we buy a house so we've had to be a little innovative when it comes to cleaning the babies.

When they were small we used a great baby tub and bathed them one at a time. The Fisher Price 4-in-1 Sling 'n Seat Tub fit great in our large kitchen sink. The newborn sling worked well for the first couple months. I would put one baby in a bouncy seat on the floor next to me and bathe the other. We dried off and dressed right on the kitchen table then switched them. The whole process took about an hour and by month four I was itching to bathe them together.

Teeny Tiny Jules!
As they got bigger and moved on from the sling I wasn't as happy with the tub. They kept slipping down and rolling over and baths became downright scary. We only bathed them once a week because it was so stressful trying to get it done.

 But then the best thing happened - they started sitting up on their own. After making sure they had it down well enough to avoid head injuries I ditched the baby tub and went old school with the kitchen sink. My sweet grandmother gave us this old Flipper toy to cover the faucet and we laid a towel down on the bottom to keep them comfortable. This worked for a glorious 3 months until they started pulling up and standing. All of a sudden the sink was too short and we were risking them falling out with each bath. Back to square one.

Happy and Easy Bath!

I asked for tips in a group of twin moms and one Mom suggested using a deep and wide storage tote in the shower. A make-shift bath tub! Brilliant! I happened to have a large one just sitting in my room waiting to be filled with stuff. That night I threw it in the shower, filled it with water and popped them in after dinner.

It was awful.

For the first time ever they screamed and cried and tried to escape the whole bath time. Every time they tried to stand up they would slip and fall under the water which led to more hysterics. I won't even talk about what happened when I turned the shower on to rinse them. I pretty much resolved that we would just not bathe them ever again until we moved. If that meant we never left the house then so be it. I would not torture my babies because society thinks they need to be clean. Until we figured something else out it was baths in the baby pool out back!

How we took baths all summer!

Until the epically sticky poo-splosion of August 2015 (sorry for that visual). I had no choice. And yet I knew I couldn't put them through that again.

So I tried one more thing. Instead of putting the tote in the dark and echo-filled shower, I put it in the middle of the bathroom and turned the heat on - yes, in August. Oh the things we do for our babies. I also ran the shower for a bit to warm up the room quickly. I had picked up a bath mat for the bottom of the tote to fix the slipperiness. I filled the tote with warm water and added their favorite toys and talked them through the whole thing while we got ready. I braced myself for the screams and slowly put them in.

It was wonderful.

They laughed and splashed and played and we had our first non-nerve-wracking bath in months.

Success. No tears, no screams, happiness!
Until I tried to wash them.  Up until then I had just used my hands and soap. But that was not an option with this glue-like poo (thank you solid foods). So I soaped up one of our washcloths and tried to wipe them off. I should have known better from the way they act like you're murdering them when you try to clean their faces after a meal but I didn't realize they would hate it so much. Ugh. I tried to talk them through it but in the end just pushed through what ended up being another miserable bath. As if that wasn't bad enough I watched in horror as Jules' skin flared up right before my eyes after washing it. It had taken us months to find a soap that didn't anger her skin and now I realized that even the gentlest soap would still hurt with the harshness of washcloths. I tried multiple cloths and every one was just too rough for her sensitive skin.

I was at my wit's end.

Then I got the chance to review these incredible bamboo washcloths from The Motherhood Collection. You guys, they're like butter. They are the softest, most luxurious washcloths I've ever felt. If you buy any washcloths for your baby, make sure it's these. Not only are they perfect for Jules' skin but cleaning is a breeze - they don't even act like they feel it! Instead of pulling away and crying they just let me do it, even with their faces after meals. I wish I had found them months ago!

My mother is paranoid and only let them have like 3 inches of water. They didn't care!

I got a glimpse of how easy bath time could be when we gave them one at my mom's. It almost made me cry with how easy and stress-free it was, how happy they were to have space to crawl around and play. If we could do that every other night we would but for now, at 15 months in, I have finally found the winning combination for the perfect bath time without a tub:
  1. A storage tote from Wal-Mart placed in the middle of the warm bathroom. Use a removable shower head to fill it. We place towels under and around the tote to soak up water and to help move it over to the shower to empty it.
  2. A soft suction cup bath mat from Wal-Mart. I just bought a standard size one and it fits pretty well with the sides folded against the side of the tote.
  3. The cleanest, most hypo-allergenic soap we can find. For us it's Exederm.
  4. These amazing bamboo cloths from The Motherhood Collection

I hope no one else has to go through all this drama just for clean kids, but if there's anyone out there struggling like us may you find some relief in what worked for us!


November 2, 2015

Happy Halloween!

It is impossible to get "great" family pictures these days  but we got 3/4 of the way!

What a great Halloween we had this year! We are loving having Daddy home all weekend and it was a great treat to have Halloween be on a Saturday so we could spend the whole day together.

We started the day with spooky ghost pancakes for breakfast. I used a squeeze bottle to make ghost shapes and added blueberries or chocolate chips for eyes and a mouth. We finished painting our pumpkins and put them outside for trick or treaters to enjoy. The girls painted theirs earlier in the week using their fingers and brushes over tape resist J and V. I wish I could keep them forever!

Then we spent the day watching scary movies and listening to Halloween music while playing games and dressing up in silly outfits. We took our mandatory holiday glamour shots for instagram with our lion hoodies on. We even got to watch the city Halloween parade go right by our house - the girls LOVED that.

The best part about this year though - I actually made costumes for the girls - with some big help from my Mom. She made all of our costumes when we were kids and I knew she'd love to help make some for her granddaughters.

We originally planned on the girls being companions to my niece's Pocahontas costume as Flit and Meeko. But then my niece changed her mind and wanted to be a princess instead. The weeks leading up to Halloween were so busy that I didn't even come up with them until the week before. I saw an adorable lion costume on Pinterest and since they're Leos I had to do it. I also found a few great DIY posts from The Happy Housewife and Try It Mom and borrowed some ideas and tips. I sent it over to my mom, she helped me buy the supplies and got it started.

We picked up two fleece hoodie and pant sets that were meant to be monkeys. My mom bought two styles - one with ears and one without. We ended up picking the one without ears and adding our own. My mom sewed tan fabric over the monkey face and the feet. She also added some shoelaces into the hood to tie it. I cut out the manes and we sewed them onto the hoods and a then added a tail. We painted their noses black and voila, two little lions!

Who's who? I feel like they become really identical when their heads are covered. But if you know our trick you'll know.

I absolutely love the way they came out and I'm pretty proud of myself for finishing one completely on my own. I have only sewn a handful of times in my life so it was quite the accomplishment for me. It was also really frustrating and annoying at times. I had to start over three times due to stupid mistakes I kept making but I didn't give up and it came out great in the end!

We go Trick or Treating every year at my Dad's apartment complex. It's great because the management hands out signs for people to put on their doors letting trick or treaters know where to go and where to avoid, so no wasting time! We brought the wagon and the girls loved seeing everyone and making people smile. And of course getting candy. I'm not sure it will last until they can actually eat it so I'm doing my part by making sure none of it goes to waste!

The Renaissance Princess and her Little Beau-Leo Lions

Going .2 mph 'cuz they won't sit down!

I'm already thinking about next year and tossing around some coordinating costumes instead of matching. They'll be walking so I think it will be even more fun for all of us. So far my favorite ideas are Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, peanut butter and jelly (with us being the bread maybe?) or The Wicked Witch and Glinda The Good Witch. My sister and I wanted to have the 3 girls be the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus and my nephew be Binx the black cat but Jillian quickly shot that down because the witches are "so mean!" I have a whole year to decide but I definitely won't be waiting until the last minute again!

We hope everyone had a great Halloween!