2012 Goals - Looks like a B

The thing about setting goals for the year is that the goals are always a yardstick at the back of my mind. 3 months after I set my 2012 parenting goals, here's my report card:
 Goal 1: Introduce the girls to at least one new vegetable every month and share the winning recipe. We've tried potatoes and mushrooms and celery and even drank our avocados.

Goal 2: Continue with regular monthly development posts with less focus on the physical data. I need to practice writing all the new things the girls do down. By the time I write the post, I only remember half of what's new.

Goal 3: Potty train the girls before their second birthday. I laugh at the ambitious twin mom that wrote that. The thought of trying to potty train twins scares the "potty contents" out of me

Goal 4: Learn to sew. Well, I got some needle and thread and fixed the hem on a pair of pants that needed fixing since 2010. Plus I bought a sewing machine 2 days ago. Does that count for something?

Goal 5:  Learn the basics of early childhood education and the Montessori system so that I can create a mind-nurturing home for my babies. Hmmn! I'm learning a lot from other mom blogs but haven't done any more formal learning.

Goal 6: Start weekly excursions to paid-for-by-my-tax-dollars places like free museums, libraries, farms etc We've visited a rock museum, the zoo and an indoor playground. None were paid for by my tax dollars though

Goal 7: Implement the divide and conquer weekends - Daddy takes one baby, mommy takes the other and we have one on one time. We've had a few days like this; totally unplanned and impromptu though and never the whole day. Just for a few hours.

Goal 8: Teach the girls manners. The girls regularly say thank you at home and in the daycare now.

Goal 9: Incorporate Christian and biblical teachings into our daily life. Haven't moved past the nightly and occasional morning prayers yet.

Goal 10: Get the girls familiar with Yoruba language and Nigerian culture. I don't always remember to speak yoruba with them but they do have these really pretty ankara dresses thanks to grandma. That counts for something

I think my GPA would put me somewhere in the B range. I can live with that. I still have 9 months to go right?!

Tips for Saving on Britax Seats

Even though I got a 2 Cosco Scenara seats for $29.99 each a while back, I do not consider them our longterm convertible seats. I've been waiting for the family to settle before buy one of the convertible seats on my shortlist. It's been between First Years True Fit Diono Radian R100 or the Britax Boulevard or Marathon.

I decided to go with the Britax seats because they seem to be a favorite among parents and if there's one thing I've learnt in this twin parenting journey, it's that sometimes following the crowd is a smart move. It's hard to find Britax car seats on sale and the numbers add up very quickly when you have to buy 2 seats. Hard but not impossible. This mama likes saving her green and would love to share with you some resourceful ways of saving on Britax carseats.
  1. US Tip 1: Subscribe to feeds from Baby Cheapskate if you're in the US. I have no affiliation with Angie who runs the site, but I think she's wonderful. She tracks the prices and will alert you when the seats are at a discount worth looking at. Here's a link to her "Buy it now" price recommendations for the most popular car seats.
  2. US Tip 2: Order from Amazon and ship for free. Right now, a lot of the Britax seats are up to 25% off on Amazon. Sales like that don't last very long I assure you so don't dawdle when you see a good price on the seat you want
  3. Canada Tip 1: Babies R Us during their special baby sale weeks. The Britax deals were not in the flyer but when I went to the store, the Marathon was selling for $209 instead of $299. I bought one and got a raincheck for the second. The only downside to this is that it might not be in the color you like.
  4. Canada Tip 2: Buy online. Sometimes you can't wait for a sale and have to buy now. The solution, buy off Babies R Us online using EBates. You get 3% rebate apart from whatever cashback comes with your credit card and it ships for free. It's not 25% off, but it's better than nothing
  5. Canada Tip 3: Don't try to save by buying from a US website. Car seats used in Canada have to be purchased in Canada because the rules are different. Cross-border shopping for carseats is illegal y'all
So how did I do? Well I got 2 Britax Marathons. One from a Babies R Us store  for at $90 savings (#3) and ordered the second one online (#4) for $15 savings. Not earth-shattering but not shabby either.

And I believe that is the last of the big ticket baby items we need to buy. Phew! I'm going to have to do a post on that one. Now onto saving for college and the first cars :)

Have a great weekend y'all!

Hair Care and Routine at 15 months

The twins hair is growing longer, the bald patch at the back is closing up nicely and a new hair routine has evolved. This is what our routine looks like

Pre-poo: Pre-poo means to prepare the hair for shampooing. I do this by massaging in some olive oil (yes the one in the kitchen). This happens Friday evening after taking out the previous braids

Shampoo or co-wash: We do this every other week. Any more than that in the winter will make their hair break from being too dry. I use Herbal Essence Hello Hydration shampoo and conditioner for that. (Co-wash means to wash the hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. It's to stop the stripping of oils from already dry hair). This happens usually on Saturday mornings

Condition: Immediately after shampooing, I apply leave in conditioner. The objective is to add some slippage for detangling. Right now I'm using Shea Moisture LeaveIn but I am not impressed.

Detangle: I still use the Denman detangling brush for this

Style: This involves putting little braids on the girls hair. I do this once the hair is dry and up to 24 hours after shampooing. That's because the scalp can be quite sensitive after shampooing which makes braiding painful. Depending on our itinerary, I can style on Saturday or Sunday evening

Moisturize: At least every other day using the Jane Carter Nourish and Shine blended with aloe vera.

So far so good; with each styling session, the girls protest less and I learn more about what to do and what not to do.

Smoothies for Toddlers

I have started giving the twins fruit smoothies. This is a good additional tip to fill picky toddlers with more calories. My strategy with the smoothies is that I hope to replace one of their milk cups with a smoothie cup. Asides from the extra calories, it also gets them used to "drinking" their vegetables - a habit I hope will carry through to adulthood.

Toddler Smoothie Composition
For each smoothie, I try to include one of each group below. Some ingredients overlap and in real life, any available fruit or veggie would do.
  1. A source of dairy - either milk or yoghurt. I like to use either plain or vanilla flavored yogurt. Just get the big tub.
  2. A high calorie vegetable - avocados, bananas etc
  3. Sweetener - This is a sweet fruit like orange, grapes etc. Stay away from bottled juices if possible and use the real fruits. A handful of red grapes imparts a lovely, non-cloy sweetness to the smoothies
  4. Thinner - something to give the smoothie a more flowy consistency that can be sucked out of a sippy cup. This could be the milk, water or a fruit with a high water content like watermelon.
3 Toddler Smoothie Recipes
In the last 2 weeks, I've tried the 3 recipes below

Banana smoothie: Banana + grapes + honey-flavored greek yoghurt + water.
Avocado smoothie: Avocado + grapes + vanilla-flavored yoghurt + water.
Carrot smoothie: Carrot + watermelon + vanilla-flavored yoghurt + water
Avocado Smoothie
Carrot Watermelon smoothie

All 3 were very well received by the girls with a few caveats. I used an ancient blender so some of the drinks were gritty. Specifically, we had visible pieces of the grape skins and carrot chunks as well. These blocked the valves of the sippy cups several times resulting in angry, screaming. I had to rinse out the valves before the girls could continue drinking. This could have been prevented with a more powerful blender or sieving the drink before serving or serving in a straw sippy cup. All 3 options were not available to me at the time. However once we unpacked and I made a smoothie with my Oster Blender, the texture was great.

Suggestion: Thin the smoothies with water AFTER pouring in the sippy cups. That way mommy still has a thicker smoothie to pour on ice.

Confession: I don't like smoothies or thick liquids in general or vegetables. So yes I tasted the smoothies and loved them, but I'm still working on being able to drink my veggies

For the younger toddlers who can't use drinking straws yet or for when you're leaving the house, consider putting the smoothies in a reusable food pouch.

Enjoy and do let me know what combinations you tried in the comments section.

10 Tips for When Twin Toddlers Become Picky Eaters

When Twin Toddlers Become Picky Eaters and What To Do About It

For the first time in over one month, my twins ate chicken. That's a big deal for me though you may not get it. You see, when I was pregnant these girls had me driving in rush hour traffic 5pm everyday to get my fix of KFC original spicy chicken. It started at around 4 months pregnant with a 2 piece meal. By my delivery date, I was buying the family bucket to take home for snacking. I swear the babies were the ones eating this stuff not me.

Now that you have the background, you can better understand how mind blowing it was when they started refusing chicken along with a lot of other foods. I dreaded that I may have picky eaters in my hands. Dreaded because I hate labelling kids as picky especially because I used to be the queen of picky eaters. So here's the little tricks that stopped us from descending into hardcore picky eating with twin toddlers
  1. Substitute within the food groups. When the twins stopped eating chicken, I started giving them sausage instead. They stopped liking wheat bread and butter, gave them raisin bagels with cream cheese instead. Suddenly hated pasta, I substituted with rice and barley. The grocery store is full of options
  2. Add grown-up novelty to the feeding time. Sometimes the girls ate more when I served them out of our dinnerware or gave them teaspoons instead of their plastic spoons
  3. Feed them. By feed them, I mean I'm actually the one putting the food in their mouth versus them feeding themselves. It may seem retrogressive, but because I encouraged self-feeding from when the twins were 9 months old, they are not used to me spoon-feeding them and sometimes that makes the food go down (At other times, they slap my hands away)
  4. Replace cutlery with mommy's hands. They love this as well
  5. Share a plate. They will eat anything as long as it's on mommy or daddy's plate. A piece of toast on their plate gets the pinky-flick. On my plate, they can't get enough of it
  6. Divide, distract and conquer. This works if one twin always likes to imitate the other. In twintopia, Sugar likes to do whatever Spice is doing and Spice is the more selective when it comes to food. So when Spice says no to food, Sugar does the same in imitation. The trick to to distract Sugar for a minute or two and resume feeding her only. This works for a lot of other scenarios as well when it comes to parenting twins. It pays to know which twin is doer and which one is the mirror
  7. Make mealtimes freestyle. This is does not help develop good table manners but still... Just let the kids play and come to their food at whim. It works in that they're so distracted with their play that they're eating on auto-pilot and forget to say no
  8. Increase calorie-density of foods. If they won't eat much, at least let the little bit be full of calories. I've done this by adding extras into their omelettes, adding powdered formula to their milk cups, substitute yogurt for greek yogurt and occasionally replacing milk with Pediasure
  9. Don't make a big deal out of their refusal to eat. Kids are smart and kids love to have 100% of their parents attention. Twins moreso because they've always had to share the attention. If they make the connection that refusing to eat, earns them a lot of attention, they'll do it all the time. Once the twins say "all done" I take away the food and move on to other things. If I don't make it a big deal, neither will they
  10. Relax! As one very wise doctor told my panicked parents when I drove them to dispair as a toddler picky eater "Leave her alone. She'll eventually eat when she's hungry. Believe me, she's not going to starve herself" and he was right! 
Anyway, so back to last night's chicken triumph; all it took was numbers 2,3,4,5,7 and 9 to get the twins eating chicken again. I feel good because I really didn't want to eat the 3 pieces of chicken all by myself.

Your Toddler Highness

It's been a long while since I last wrote a post like this so I thought I'll update you on the latest remarkable difference between my 2 twin girls.

Eating styles:
Since I wrote the Fast food and Fine Dining post, things have certainly changed. Spice who used to wolf down her milk as a baby is now a fine diner extraordinaire. Seriously, it's like this kid went to finishing school in-utero. She eats neatly and always picks up her food with thumb and index finger and pinky held up. She does the pinky thing so much that I feel like calling her your royal highness.

Sugar on the other hand now gobbles her food. And by gobble, I mean grab with both hands and stuff mouth and then try to chew with all of 6 teeth.  The only way to stop this is to give her one or two pieces at a time. It's a wonder to behold how much food that little mouth can take.

The best part of all this? They switched again last week. Sugar now has the royal pinky and Spice is all about mouth stuffing. This twin parenting business... I love the unpredictability of it!

Sweet 16 Month Olds

A month is a really long time in toddler land, that's why it's a good thing to document the twin's development month by month. Last month is soooo 30 days ago. Today, things are a little different in casa twintopia. Specifically here are the milestones for my sweet 16 month olds:

Vocal Development: Both girls now chatter and sing on a regular basis. I've been singing a lot of "Row, row, row your boat" and "Baa baa black sheep" to them because they love the repetitive nature of the first lines. I swear Spice was singing row row row your boat in the car yesterday. I know she was singing and here were a lot of "ros" in the song

Communication skills: The twins learnt the sign for "More" in daycare so they have multiple ways of communicating when they want something and they do that quite regularly. Spice has added "more", "shoes", "toes" and "socks" to her arsenal of words. I think in being too literal I may have confused her with the toes, socks shoes thing because she sometimes uses them interchangeably.
Sugar now says a definitive "hiya" when she picks up any phone.

Physical development: Sugar has grown 2 more teeth, bringing her grand total to 6. She's also now noticeably taller than Spice by almost a good inch. And by tall I mean 12-18 months leggings are now highwaters. I can't wait for their 18 month checkup to have their heights and weights checked again.

Non-social skills: Both girls have mastered some of the intricacies of nose blowing aka snoot-smear-lick. Spice has learnt that if its white and flat, you can blow your nose in it. That means she's tried to blow her nose into dryer sheets and printing paper. Sugar on the other hand has figured out that if you place one teeny finer over your teeny nostril, you can increase the force and volume of snoot coming out.


Twin Parenting Month 16 - Mama Says
Potty training: I now have 2 pottys but I have to be honest that the thought of potty training twins makes me break out in a cold sweat. I think I'll wait till we're done moving.

Menu Planning: I'm having to be more innovative with foods and mealtimes because the twins are now more selective with food. More on that next week.

Review of Melissa and Doug Baby Puzzle

I finally found the Melissa and Doug puzzle that was on our Christmas wishlist. As far as I know, it's the only puzzle for babies a year and above. I got the first shapes and farm puzzles on sale at BRU.  
 

Cost: I've seen these puzzles on sale in stores for 12 - 17 Canadian dollars. In the US, I've seen them in TJX for 10 dollars and on Amazon for under 10 dollars. They usually go on sale so no need to buy them at full retail.

Play factor: Having owned this puzzle for a couple of weeks now, I think perhaps Melissa and Doug overestimated the abilities of one year olds just a little. Yes the girls love the puzzle and do try to put the pegs in the hole; but more often than not the pieces are used as nibble toys and bath toys. The most fun the twins have had with their puzzles is Sugar throwing the pieces in the bath tub one piece at a time.

Ah well! I think puzzles are best left for 18 months and older.

Playskool Busy Poppin Pals

I mentioned buying the Playskool Busy Poppin' Pals as a Christmas gift for the girls because I have a preference for battery-free toys. Now that was 20 dollars well spent. The twins love this and I'm actually considering buying a second one just to avoid the inevitable fights over this toy.

Since the popping pals became a part of our family, the girls have learnt to operate the different buttons/switches to make the animals pop. This is one of the two toys that can actually keep them engrossed for over 10 minutes at a sitting. (The other is the cell phone.) 10 minutes of a 15 month old's attention is a big deal, believe me. I had this toy on our last flight and it was a major contributor to my not being led off the plane in a strait jacket.

The wierd thing is Spice only operates one switch and Sugar has learnt how to operate all the other switches EXCEPT for the one switch that Spice has mastered. I don't know what to make of that, but I do know that this toy is a solid A+ in helping them develop motor skills. In fact the twins are feeling so dexterious right now that they've been operating the switches with their chins and feet - basically any body part that can be manuvered.


Disclaimer: I suspect that Sugar's expertise with this is what led to her expertise with opening all manner of door knobs so if you're trying to delay the inevitable bathroom intrusions and bedroom escapes, you may want to skip this toy. But I don't think you should. The kids are going to start messing with those door knobs sooner or later anyway.

Traveling with Twin Toddlers - The Ziplock edition

It was ten years ago when I first learnt the importance of traveling with ziplock bags. I had gone to visit my sister when I found a really large bottle of my favorite shampoo. As this shampoo was hard to find at home, I got a couple of bottles to take home with me. When I got home, my suitcase was a big, ugly, shampoo-blue mess. It took several washings to get rid of the "heads and shoulders"smell on my clothes.

I learnt the valuable lesson that day. When traveling, all liquids, gels, lotions and creams should be kept in sealed ziplock bags. Even if they spill in transit, the spill is contained. Since becoming a parent to twins, this lesson has proven even more useful.

Everytime I've traveled with the girls, their toiletries have been in zipped, plastic bags. In their diaper bag, clean pacifiers, dirty pacifiers, medicine bottles and smaller toys all have their individual ziplock bags. This last trip, I even kept all their socks in one big ziplock bag and it made unpacking that much easier. The one thing I forgot to bag? Their diaper rash powder and this is the price I paid.

This picture reminds me of why this mama loves traveling with ziplock bags. Glad to be linking up with Julia for another weekend edition of mama loves and Works for me Wednesdays

Save on Good Baby Shoes

When I wrote the post on baby shoes last month and included the list of kid's shoe brands recommended by the APMA, I felt unsettled. Why? Because all those brands are quite expensive and retail for anything from 30 to 80 dollars. That is so not me. As a follow-up to that post, it's only appropriate that I share with you ways in which I saved on buying brand-name baby shoes; specifically Robeez.

I first heard about Robeez shoes from the Baby Bargains book I read while pregnant with the twins and they do have a stellar reputation as makers of children's shoes. Since then, I made it my mission to try and get a pair of Robeez shoes in each size for girls. My price target was less than 20 dollars per pair.

  1. Availability. Out of all the shoes on the APMA list, Robeez are the easiest to find and the the biggest brand. That size means that discounts are easier to come by
  2. StrideRite stores: Robeez shoes are made by StrideRite and they have stores in select locations as well as online. The stores usually have a shelf or two of clearance shoes and socks.
  3. Mailing list: You can save by joining their mailing list to be alerted when they have promotions. I know that at certain times through out the year, they have BOGO sales.
  4. Receipts: I bought some socks once in a Stride Rite store and noticed that the bottom of the receipt had an offer for me to participate in a short poll and get 5 dollars off my next purchase. Combined with in-store promotions, it was a good deal
  5. Amazon: Yes I buy shoes for myself and the twins from my favorite online store. Amazon has a very formidable selection of baby shoes. Practically all the brands on the APMA list are available on Amazon. I always check the sales and deals page for additional discounts that are applied to the price on checkout. Ever so often, some third-party sellers on Amazon will offer $20 off a purchase of $60 or more. That's an instant 33 percent off. 
  6. Department stores: End of season sales at Dillards netted me 2 beautiful pairs of Robeez at $9.99 each. That's a hard to beat deal for shoes that cost 3 times that amount at full price. I've also had good picks at Nordstrom Rack.
  7. Deal-A-Day sites like Zulily come up with major discounts on Robeez and other baby brands. They're free to sign up for
  8. Sharing oranges with dada in our cute red shoes
  9. Ebay: No savings blog post is complete without a nod to ebay. There are a lot of parents like me selling new or like new baby shoes. No fluke. I have 2 pairs of Robeez that were never worn and another 2 pairs that the girls only wore on their birthday. Check out my numbers
So maybe Robeez are not the only shoes out there, but I like them and I love the way my girls have been rocking their little red maryjanes. Dorothy's got nothing on us.

PS: This post was not sponsored by Stride Rite or Robeez. They just happen to make expensive baby shoes that I like and would love to buy at a discount.

Avocado Cheese Omelette for Toddlers

The vegetable for this month is avocado. I have a love-hate relationship with avocados. Love them in small chunks for 5 minutes then I hate the browning leftovers that have to be thrown away. As the twins have started eating a lot less, my Dr.Sister advised that I make sure that the little they did eat was calorie dense - avocado is a very healthy calorie dense food and the girls do love fried eggs. So here's my recipe for avocado cheese omelette for twins and mommy.

Ingredients
Diced onions and tomatoes
Avocado chunks cut into sizes that babies can comfortably "chew"
Shredded cheese
3 eggs (because this was for the 3 of us)
Olive oil for frying

Preparation
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the diced onions and tomatoes. Fry until the veggies are soft. Stir constantly of it could end up with  one side burnt and one side undone.
I prefer to add the shredded cheese into the eggs, so break eggs into a bowl, whisk and add the shredded cheese. Add to vegetables in frying pan.
Stir until egg is done and has no liquid parts showing.
Fold in avocado chunks and turn off the cooker. As avocado does not need cooking, I just added it in the frying pan so it blends into the egg and absorbs some of the taste.

Twin Toddler Verdict
Sugar liked it and ate quite a bit. She had no issues with the avocado chunks. Spice has been VERY selective with her solids lately plus she was nursing a cold so she was not interested. I give this dish an unenthusiastic pass

Twin Mama Verdict
This is a really heavy and filling meal.I felt stuffed after a few mouthfuls. It tasted good after I added salt to mine. This dish can work as meal for parents and babies with the addition of salt and maybe spices to the parent version.

I like omelettes because you can add just about anything into them. Since my girls love fried eggs, I've had success with introducing vegetables through their omelettes. My feelings for avocados still haven't changed however. Much as I enjoyed this dish, I still had 3 other avocados that eyeballed me as they grew softer and mushier on the kitchen counter. They have since gone to their forever home in the trash without ever seeing the inside of a frying pan. My bad!

Linking up with Laura of OrgJunkie
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