I Read 123 Magic and Grew...

1-2-3 Magic is a kiddie discipline book written by Dr Thomas Phelan and beloved by many parents including parents of twins. To be honest, it probably has a bit of a cult following. I first heard about it on one my parenting forums and must have borrowed and returned to the library 5 times before I finally got around to reading it cover-to-cover


It's a good book. Even if you don't adopt everything it says, there's a few good tips in there that make parenting 3 year old twins easier. The 2 main lessons I walked away with after reading?

  1. Be consistent - give kids the same message about your expectations all the time, every time. 
  2. Say what you mean and mean what you say when it comes to behaviour and consequences for kids. In other words, no empty threats
So what happened next? Public timeout! 

I used to be one of those people who felt really embarrassed when my kids acted up in public.When they were acting up, all I could see was my parenting skills being judged and found wanting by the observing public. 
 I made their behaviour all about me instead of focusing on them. Being the smart young 'uns that they are, the kids quickly sensed it and take advantage of this weakness (especially in the grocery store). I realized that by being reluctant to correct in public, I was doing my kids a disservice and sending them the message that private and public standards of behaviour are different. They're not and thanks to a few lessons from 123 Magic, we established that!

It was a cold winter morning is how this story starts! Twin 1 wanted to press the elevator button but it's Twin 2's turn. So Twin 1 is more than a little miffed. To express her displeasure, she twacks my knees a couple of times. Smacks my lunch bag. Kicks the air. Kicks the innocent yellow "wet floor" thingie (all the while ignoring my nos) and I did something that 5 months ago I wouldn't have the guts to do. I disciplined her in public. She took a quick timeout by the nearest wall, apologized and we continued on our way. 


I read 1-2-3 Magic and grew a thicker skin and a pair. Feels like heading in the right direction

PS: For a more indepth review of the book, check out MandyE's post on the HDYDI blog and the review on about.com

Twins In The Classroom

This graphic is helpful and I agree with some of the observations on whether twins should be kept together or separate in school.

I know my girls didn't do well when I tried to put them in separate classes at age 2+. If you have twins, where do you stand on the separate vs together discussion?

How Many Activities Does a 3 Year Old Need?

Swimming, soccer, sportsball, gymnastics, jazz dance, ballet, cycling, art....

That's a short list of the activities currently available for my twins this summer. They're 3 so they don't qualify for karate, singing, piano, etc. 

Come winter, we'll add skating to the list.

If we have country club in our genes, we could add tennis, horse riding and maybe even golf

Before getting caught up in the frenzy of having kids (TWINS) in multiple activities, I had to stop and ask myself a few questions

Why do the kids have to take part in any activity?

  • Because living in a city where the winter is truthfully 7 months long, we need a physical activity to tire the girls out on weekends.
  • Because kids need to have fun
  • Because they need to start learning about teamwork and listening to an authority figure and getting along with their peers
  • Because they need to be exposed to a variety of activities so that they can discover their likes and dislikes
  • But can't  we have fun and get some exercise as well if we just go out to the park or an indoor rec center?
  • But where are the adults - who took a myriad of classes as kids - today? Are they maestros or  "Jacks"?
  • But seriously, how many activities does a 3 year old need to sign up for?
Those are the questions I ask myself as I look through all the summer schedules for preschoolers. Like always, I'm sure I'll solve this problem with a list but for now, I need to ask:

What organized activities did you consider critical for your 3 year olds? Which ones gave the best value?

3R Aids for the Three & Half Year Old

Just before the girls turned 3, I wrote a post about the tools and methods I was using to teach them their 3Rs - Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. This is more or less an update post for the 3-1/2 year olds.

PS: The comments by Johanna and Samantha on that post were really helpful to me and worth a read.

READING: Following up on the good work done by the LeapFrog Letter Factory "movie" we've graduated to sounding words and actively practicing phonetics. Right now this involves me coming up with a word and having the girls guess the first letter of the word based on their knowledge of phonetics

aRITHMETIC: Fingers and toes have been very useful tools in learning how to count around here. The twins are also recognizing double digit numbers and I'm just waiting to break out the abacus and start teaching basic addition

wRITING: There are 3 things that have proven to be most useful in the girls learning to write their letters

  1. The Elmo ABC app on my iPad - they trace letters with their fingers
  2. The Pre-K writing readiness book by the Canadian Curriculum Press (Not sure if this version is available in the US but any book that teaches preschoolers to trace their letters will do
  3. I sold the play kitchen and bought an easel (I got the Step2 Easel For Two because it comes with a chalkboard side and a magnetic side. Theoretically that means one child can play with chalk while the other plays with magnets and peace reigns. In myTwintopia reality, both girls want to be on one side at the same time and sometimes peace does NOT reign) 
Other Supplies for our homeschool
  1. A comfortable writing table and chair
  2. Crayons
  3. Pencils
  4. A collection of story books and activity books
  5. Chalk and magnets for the easel
  6. A variety of jigsaw puzzles with varying level of difficulty
  7. Educational electronics (apps, DVDs, TV shows, toys etc)
C'est bon. There you have it. If you've passed this road before, any other learning aid you'd like to add to this list?

Scheduling in Homeschool

No you're not on the wrong blog and no I have not grown a home-schooling gene overnight. However, in my one year experiment of researching elementary schools in Calgary, one big factoid jumped out at me. 


I've heard President Obama say that over and over again in so many speeches but it wasn't until I took a closer look at the educational system that I "got" it. We the parents will always be the first and best teachers our kids have.

Before last year, I erroneously assumed that the more you spent on your kids education, the better the quality. This of course fueled my thinking that private schools are better than public schools. However, at least in Calgary, there are public schools that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best private schools. The public schools may not have the funds and resources of the private schools, but the combination of good teachers and involved parents will triumph every time.

So with that lesson learnt, it's time for action. One of  my goals this year is to establish a "homework" routine for our family that will hopefully carry us through the school years. The plan is simply to include "home work" time in our new schedule.  

This is now what our evening schedules look like.

5:30 - 6:00  Get home and unwind
6:00 - 6:45  Homework time
6:45 - 7:00  Dinner
7:00 - 7:20  Play or TV time
7:30    Bath time and then bed

Times are quite flexible and the homework time so far has been anything from 15 - 45 minutes. The number of minutes is not as important. What's important is that EVERYDAY, each child participates in a parent-led educational activity. 

The goal is that this becomes a routine so that when the girls start formal elementary school in a couple of years, it'll be an established habit and maybe forestall any homework wars. 

So far? The girls love it and so do I. I've learnt so much in the last few months of doing this. Tomorrow, I'll share the tools we use and changes we've made to the playroom to accommodate the school-at-home.

Parenting with Lists & Bullet Points

It's 13 degreesC in Calgary today y'all. That means SPRING is definitely in the air and after spring comes summer. And with summer comes summer lists...

I have some loose family plans for the whole year and I know that this summer, I'll have a to-do list of stuff because I love lists. Making lists is one of my favorite pastimes. As with any important activity, being intentional with the plans is a critical component to success. When I had the girls, I prayed and hoped that I would be an intentional parent and I try to live that out by defining goals and then making a list with the little steps required to meet those goals. (Kinda similar to what I did in researching elementary schools for the girls)

With that in mind, I finally put pen to paper on my goals for intentionally parenting my 3 year old twins in 2014  and it looks something like this:

This list is very specific to us. The social-emotional goals are focused on issues that the girls can encounter as twins and as Nigerians living in North America. The ice skating goal is there because we live in Calgary. The spiritual goals are there because we are a christian family. The language-communication goals were chosen to address the current gap in language development between the 2 girls

Why do I do this? 

  1. It helps in how I make everyday decisions that involve the girls. Activities to participate in, TV shows to watch, which books to read and how many and how often? 
  2. It means when life is running on auto-pilot, I have a reference point to go back to.
  3. It reminds me of the little but important things like planting the seeds of self and body love today before the girls are old enough to open the pages of Seventeen magazine
  4. I find that when I make lists, my chance for success go up
When does it expire?
It doesn't. The items on the list may change but the need for a list remains. 

I started doing some reading on child development before I wrote this list. I'm thankful for the resources on PBS and I can teach my child blog

Which Booster Car Seat?

In my last post, I shared that my twins were rapidly outgrowing their Britax Marathon convertible seats and would need to move into booster car seats before the fall. And with that knowledge comes the question "which booster car seat is the best for us?"

Choosing Booster Car Seat 101

  1. There are 2 main types of booster car seats - harnessed and non-harnessed. The harnessed ones have shoulder harnesses for a 5-point fit while the non-harnessed do not. Under the non-harnessed category, you also have the highbacks and the backless. I prefer the harnessed because my girls are on the small side even though they are tall. Harnessed seats are recommended for kids under 40lbs. 
  2. Check the current list of Best Bets as tested by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). This is important because there are some popular brands that have been on the best bet list for a longtime but fell off the list in 2013. The Britax models I would have normally gone for, were rated "Check Fit"
  3. Check the ease of use ratings from the NHTSA. Because if you've ever sprained a thumb and twisted your back after spending an hour trying to wrangle a car seat into the latch position, you know how important ease of installation is.
  4. Check if it's available in Canada... yeah! Good time to remember it's not one big, happy, North American family. Some US car seats are illegal in Canada
  5. Check for price and the extra conveniences like cup holders and armrests

This exercise led me to a fairly short list of 3-in-1 and combination car seats with price points that fit every budget. I'm still a little bummed about having to exclude the Britax family of seats so I'll be checking their IIHS rating again before I pull the trigger though the Evenflo Maestro is looking pretty good.   (Was recalled a few weeks after I wrote this. Firmly back on the Britax wagon!)

Note: Most of the seats are available in more than one Canadian retailer. I just chose the first one that popped up in my search.

3-in-1: The 3 in 1 car seats can be used in 3 different  install positions - rear-facing, forward-facing and booster. This is like a convertible-booster combination seat

Combination car seats can be used in 2 different  install positions - forward-facing and booster. They are also referred to as harnessed boosters as they will come with a 5 point harness and are good from 25lbs up.

Boosters: There are 2 types of booster car seats - harnessed and belt-positioning. All harnessed boosters are belt positioning boosters but the reverse is not the case. Kids have to be at least 40lbs to use belt positioning boosters

Air plane use: Most combination booster seats are approved for airplane use in the harnessed configuration.

(Check out the Britax website for a more insightful description of the two type of boosters)

Britax also explains the different types of side impact protection very well on this page

Seated Shoulder Height

Seated Shoulder Height!

What's that? It's the new buzzword in the carseat safety business. Simply put, its the height of the kid from butt to shoulder

Why is it important? When your kid who is within the height and weight specs of the carseat starts complaining about being uncomfortable or having back aches after sitting, it's time to whip out the tape measure. Two kids can be the same height but have different torso lengths which will affect how comfortably they fit into their car seats.

I know that when I bought the girls' Britax Marathons almost 2 years ago, Seated Shoulder Height was not an official thing. Now it is and details can be found on the Britax website here

I measured the girls and Spice has a Seated Shoulder Height of 14.5 inches while Sugar is around 16 inches. 

What next? I plugged the girls' numbers in the Britax "Fit My Child" tool and theoretically they're still good for their Marathons. However the maximum Seated Shoulder Height for the Marathon is 16.75 inches so I think new booster car seats are on the table before this fall. 

If you have kids currently in convertible car seats, it's worth it to do some research on the recommended seated shoulder height for that seat and see if you're due for a change or not.

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