Gift Giving Alternative To Want, Need, Wear, Read

It was a couple of years back that I first came across the "Want, need, wear, read" gift giving mantra for parents. The idea is a way of simplifying the buying of gifts for kids and it suggests buying them
  • Something they want
  • Something they need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read
I like this concept because for me it's a much needed guideline. I tend to celebrate special occasions with a range of gifts. I buy something then find something that will be so much better and before you know it, I have a pile of gifts. Limiting myself to a smaller number with a purpose is exactly what I need.

However, I did some thinking and decided to modify the "want, need, wear, read"  to better suit my gift-giving style. So I came up with my own little gift buying formula - Body, Mind, Soul and Spirit -  which I practiced for the first time this birthday for the girls. Here's how it worked
  • Something for the body: Similar to something to wear, but for future it can also be experiential gifts like a dance class. The twins got Cat in the Hat t-shirts and loved them
  • Something for the mind: Something that educates. I got them alphabet flashcards on a keyring - hopefully less messy than individual flash cards. They're doing very well with their numbers so its time to tackle our ABCs. The jury's still out on this one
  • Something for the soul: That's similar to something they want. The idea is simply something that comforts their soul and/or makes them giddily happy. They got replacement Sock Monkeys by Schylling (the ones I got from Walmart are already falling apart) and stuffies made by Jellycat. (I'm emphasizing the manufacturers because apparently quality matters when it comes to stuffed toys)
  • Something for the spirit: Something that benefits their spiritual life and brings them closer to God. We've started reading our baby bibles at bedtime but I wanted something with more words so I got the Jesus Storybook Bible
The girls immediately fell in love with their Jellycat stuffies. I presented the stuffed animal to each baby separately and sang happy birthday. Spice got hers first. As I turned to start singing to Sugar, she hugged her giraffe really tight, smiled at me and said "thank you mummy". My heart melted. That moment was worth a thousand giraffes.

Wise Inspired Tuesday

Ever so often, I "meet" a blog that inspires me; one of those is Krissy's B-Inspired Mama and today I have the priviledge of guest posting over there.
Do check it out. I especially enjoy her "Mama Knows Best" series which showcases wise nuggets from experienced parents. 

Since I have kids in twos, I have wisdom-sharing moments in twos as well. Samantha from Cherry Pie Twins asked me to contrubute to her "Twin Moms Wisdom" post. It's a must read if you got twins and enjoy the idea of staying sane. Pop on over and have a good read!

PS: I just survived a 4 hour flight alone with 2 year old twins! I got lots to share over the next one week.

Birthday Fruit Tray For Toddlers

Taking cupcakes to the daycare was a big part of my 2nd birthday party plan for the twins. Unfortunately, the daycare informed me that some parents had complained about their kids being given cake so birthdays had to be celebrated with fruit. Bummer! Time to change plans. I considered Edible Arrangements but their products would be better appreciated by adults. Next option? Fruits by mommy. Ha! After some consultation with google and Pinterest, I decided to make 2 fruit trays - one for each birthday girl.

Equipment needed:
Cookie cutters (from Micheal's. Buy those with sharp edges to cut fruit comfortably)
Paring knife
Cookie tray or suitable presentation container (Also bought at Micheal's)

Fruit used:
Seedless watermelon, honey dew melon, red grapes, green grapes, mini oranges, pineapple

Main tip for toddler fruit tray arrangements:
Sizing is the most important thing when making a fruit tray for toddlers. The pieces of fruit need to be either bite-sized or real big that they have to be held with 2 hands. Avoid medium sizes especially when dealing with 2 year olds - if they're anything like my girls, they'll try and stuff the medium sized pieces in their mouths, succeed and create a choking hazard for themselves

You know how the contestants on Top Chef name their dishes when presenting to the judges? Well, allow me to present:
Toddler Fruit Tray Idea
"2". The tray is named "2" because it was a "2" written in red and green grapes and surrounded by segments of mini-oranges.

Second tray is named "it's-midnight-and-I'm-sick-and-tired-of-cutting-and-eating-fruit-and-I-can't-believe-that-darn-seedless-watermelon-is-full-of-seeds". I know that's quite a mouthful so we'll just call it "fruit tray" for short. It's honeydew melon rings plus star-shaped watermelon pieces and pineapple pieces. If you squint while looking at it, it sorta looks like a smiling face.

I don't think my 2 year old diners noticed all the fancy I put on the tray but I do feel good that I "made" my girls' second birthday cake. If you'd like some more complex recipes, check out Menu-Planning Monday's linky and Sweet Sharing Monday Linky

Oh How They've Grown!

And so the countdown begins! In less than 24 hours, I'll be mom to 2 year old twins. Be generous with the tissues and the stress balls if you please

My heart is too full and all my words feel too empty for me to write a halfway decent post.

The Highs and Lows of My Second Year As a Twin Mom

In a few days, my princesses will be 2 years old. I’m all sorts of nostalgic and overwhelmed. Where did the time go? Where did my babies go? And who are these very opinionated young women living in my house rent-free?
As their birthday looms closer, I’ve been reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly parts of my second year as a twin mom; or rather the highlights, the lowlights and the WT??? Permit me to share

The Highlights
My Project 52: To take a photo of the girls every week of their second year and put a photobook together. Looking through those photos brings so many poignant memories like the first visit to the park when they were terrified of going up the slide, the second visit to the park where my confident daredevils insisted on going on the big kid slides (and messing with mommy’s blood pressure). I"m missing photos from 4 out of the 52 weeks so I feel quite good about this.
Follow up: For this third year, I plan on doing a project 52 but this time it’ll be 52 experiences. I hope to introduce the girls to a new experience each week. I got the idea from the "52 brand new experiences" blog authored by Danielle. It would be great to add some words to next years photobook
Shopping our closets: I started reaping the dividends of buying the girls clothes a year or two ahead on clearance and off season. Whenever their wardrobe was starting to look old, I just indulged in some retail therapy via the totes full of new clothes.
Follow up: I’ve restricted myself to not buying more than 2 years ahead so after Friday (their 2nd birthday); I’ll be shopping size 4T clothes to my heart’s content. The 3T tote is already a decent collection of summer and winter basics
Teaching the girls their numbers and new words and saying "Amen" after bedtime prayers and saying "please" and "thank you" and "all done"
The Lowlights
Discipline: I haven’t fared well with having an effective discipline tactic yet. In fact, my failure fills my ears almost everyday… you see, a few months back Spice wouldn’t stop cry-whining. She went on and on and on and finally I got on my hunches, looked her in the face and said STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP! It didn’t make an impression on her but it did on Sugar. The next day, I was listening to the girls waking up in the morning. Spice started crying for me and her milk and from across the room I heard Sugar yell STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP! I was instantly mortified and ashamed. Of all the things she should pick up from me so fast, it had to be that. She’s been doing it ever since – yelling STOP if there’s something going on that she doesn’t like. I do appreciate having a daughter who knows to yell “STOP”; it’s a good skill to have in my opinion. I just wished she had learnt it from my good example not my bad.
Follow up: Read the 1-2-3 magic book that I’ve had for over a month now and be more intentional with discipline issues
Separating twins in school: I asked the daycare to do this when the girls moved to toddler groups in August. Well, a month into it, I noticed that the baby who was previously lagging behind in verbal skills had caught up and was thriving. The other baby seemed to have regressed and also become moody. I didn’t know whether to attribute that to
·          a reaction to not spending the day with her twin sister
·         our focusing attention on helping her sister communicate better and in the process neglecting(?) her
·         her not liking or connecting with her new caregivers/teachers
·         just happened to be going through a “wonder week?”
I didn’t have the answers and I don’t think I ever will. Regardless, I requested the daycare to put them back in the same class and we’ve already seen improvements. I still think separate classes are a positive to helping twins develop their individuality but I do not think I will try this again until they are in kindergarten
The WT..? Moments
Stranger mouth diarrhea: This moment was in the running to top this list until last week when I had another moment. Random stranger walks up to me and said “when I was a little girl I wanted to be black so I could have my hair in rows like that”. Said while pointing to the girls’ braided hair. I didn’t know how to break it to her that braided hair was not exclusive to any race (Bo Derek in 10 anyone?)
Tantrums, a month long battle with toddler diarrhea, several crib escapes… all in a year’s work!

Organizing Our Twin Toddlers' Toys

Clothes, paper and toys! The 3 banes of any home with young twins.
I’ve already sorta developed systems for taking care of excess clothes and organizing paperwork. The toys were the last (very daunting) frontier to be conquered. Our last month’s home move was my opportunity to finally organize the twin’s toys.
Here’s my 10 step program on toy organization for toddler twins
1.       STOP BUYING: At least temporarily. I had developed the habit of regularly coming home with some new toy that was guaranteed to make the girls smarter, stronger, happier etc. I had to tell myself that I am in no way compromising their future SAT scores if I occasionally visit Walmart without checking out the toy aisles
2.       TOY POLICY AND VISION: Once I stopped buying and gave myself a breather, it was time to define my toy policy. This will be my guideline for all future toy acquisitions and definitely is not a one-size fits all. For us, the toy vision I have is avoid battery-operated toys with all the obnoxious lights and sounds when possible. I want toys that encourage the girls to do more than just push a button.
3.       The second part of our toy policy is LESS IS MORE. I’ve read on a few blogs and also seen this play out with the girls – the fewer toy options they have, the better the quality of their play. They are able to focus on one activity and enjoy it for stretches of time. When I have a lot of toys laid out, they flit from one toy to the next and are crankier too
4.       DEFINE PLAY AREA: This is a function of the family’s day to day lifestyle. Where do you want the kids to spend most of their play time? A separate playroom, the family room or their bedroom? What currently works for us is 2 play areas. The first is a corner of the living room close to the kitchen so that I can keep an eye on the girls while I do kitchen-y stuff. The main play area is on the second level. We converted our fourth bedroom into a sort of playroom with a TV. This is where we spend majority of our evenings and weekends
5.       DESTASH: Once there’s a policy and vision on hand, it’s time to organise the toys currently owned.  We pruned the toys to the necessary quantity and quality viz
   a.       TRASH the toys that are irreparably broken   
   b.      STORE for future citizens of twintopia, the toys that the girls really enjoyed playing with but have outgrown
   c.       DISOWN the toys that are age appropriate but either the girls do not like or I don’t like. This is where a lot of the big lights-sounds-and battery stores went. Other toys in this pile include the Weebles which are deadly to walls and hardwood when my girls hurl them. These toys can be sold, donated or gifted but they have to go
   d.      SHELF the toys that the girls do not seem to have grown into. The Megabloks fall into this category. We’ve owned them for almost a year now and the girls have shown little interest in them. They are on a top shelf hidden away for now and I will bring them out again in a couple of months. If the girls still show no interest, they will be moved to the DISOWN pile and I’ll call it a day.

6.       ARRANGE the toys in the respective play areas. The living room toys are all toys that won’t prove to be a nuisance should we be entertaining guests while the girls are playing in the corner. Play kitchen, cleaning set, drum, xylophone and bead maze are the living room toys. All the other toys are upstairs in the family play room.
This is a work in progress but at least now that there’s a plan in place I can lift the buying ban in step 1 and start “intentional” toy acquisition.

For those interested, the list of items that I use in organizing the toys (affiliate links) includes
Extra Thick 36 Piece Foam Mat
Toy organizers in the play room for the little toys
Children's Bookshelf in the girls' bedroom
Disclosure: The living room corner looks all pretty like that because I just set it up. That tidiness is so 30 days ago :).

Green Toys Build-A-Bouquet Review

According to the parenting experts, stacking blocks is a developmental milestone for children between the ages of 1 and 2. So like any parent who spends far too much time on Babycenter and parenting blogs, I bought my twins a set of nesting/stacking blocks just after their first birthday. They chewed on them, kicked them but would not stack ‘em so when it was time to move in February, I conveniently forgot to pack the blocks.
2 months later, I repented and bought another set of blocks and these ones had a “Cat in the hat” theme. Surely NOW the girls would stack ‘em like smart babies are supposed to do? No! They threw them, stood on them (and fell off them) but would not stack them. I was not impressed and decided that stacking was just one skill my girls were not interested in developing so when I got a chance to review a free Green Toys Build-a-Bouquet, I wasn’t expecting much.

  Straight out of the box, the girls couldn’t figure out how to stack the pieces so I had to give them a demonstration. Quite a bit of fine motor skills is involved in putting the pieces into each other and initially the girls struggled with this and there were some tears of frustration. 15 minutes later, we had our first flower bed built and I showed the girls how to take the flowers apart and store them in the box. Game over for the day?! No. Spice went back and spent the next 20 minutes building her own flower tower. I was so impressed that I pushed back bedtime just to watch her play.
It’s been a couple of months now since the Build-a-Bouquet playset became a staple in our playroom and it has jumped to number 1 on my list of best toys for 2 year olds. It’s the one toy that the girls ALWAYS head for and play with for at least 10 minutes at a time. Like I said, I had little expectations from this eco-plastic garden but my expectations have been exceeded – whoever designed this toy got it right and all the 5 star ratings on Amazon give testament to that. I plan on reviewing the Green Toys’ catalogue to pick out Christmas gifts for the girls
Disclosure: I got a free Build-a-Bouquet playset for review. This mama loves her freebies, but they do not influence the content of my posts.  

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