Finding the right stroller for twins

Somebody recently asked me how I had chosen and bought our twin stroller and it made me rethink all the things that have lead to our decision. Twin strollers come in 3 different types: with seats next to each other, with seats behind each other or with seats ‘on top’ of each other. You can choose them in many price categories, the cheaper ones starts around 100 euro, the most expensive one probably is the bugaboo donkey twin (around 1700 euro).

How to choose the stroller that suits your needs the best? These are the things that we took into account:

  • Size. Will it fit through your door? (some are too wide so measure the smallest door in your house that it needs to go through) Will it fit in the building elevator? (strollers can be too wide and too long!) Will it fit in the boot of your car when folded?
  • Where do you use it? Do you take public transport a lot? Then make sure you pick a model that fits in the tram/bus/metro. You can easily check this with other twin mums in your city to see what they use (social media is a great source for this). Do you travel a lot by car with the kids (on your own)? Then make sure you look at how easily the stroller is folded and if you can actually lift it yourself.
  • Where will you use it most? Now think about where you intend to walk to with your twins. Brussels has a lot of of cobblestones and walking on those with thin swivel wheels is horrible. The same is true for forest walks. The more expensive strollers have strong air tires, which takes away a lot of the ups and downs of bumpy roads.
  • Then of course there is the budget question. Spending more than a 1000 euros on a stroller is not a light decision to make for most people. The only thing I want to add to this is that if you take good care of your stroller you can resell it for quite a bit of money after 3 years. There will always be new twin parents looking for a bargain. This is also something to consider, you can buy yours second hand as well and save money that way.
  • The last thing to think about is what model you actually like. Do you want your children to sit next to each other or not?

I recommend you answer all the questions mentioned above before you visit a shop and then try out different models. Walk with them and especially turn some corners. Or ask other twin moms if you may try their stroller. My opinion changed completely after trying several strollers.

We ended up buying an Easywalker Duo. More than 3 years later I am still very happy with our choice.

Father’s Day – some craft ideas

Father’s Day is coming up. Yes, I can just hear you think– Yaiks, there is no time, I am too busy and I have no idea what to make or buy.
We all know how busy we get, so here are some quick ideas to still be able to give your man a present from the children and you.

  • Take a walk to a photo-boot (to be found in metro- and train-stations) and take a (funny) picture of you and your kids together. Either make 1 picture or a set of 4 for in his wallet. Frame it, or not. Just see how much time there is. This idea is perfect when you have a very small child.
  • Get the finger paint out, put your child’s hands or feet in it, put them carefully on a canvas and your are done. Best done before bath time  to ease the clean-up 🙂 Perfect with a very small child and also great gift idea for grandparents.
  • Get the finger paint out for your toddler/ older children and give them a canvas to make their own art. Cheap canvas can be found at any Action shop.
  • Buy some white cloth handkerchiefs for men (Hema has them) and some permanent clothing markers. Have the kids draw on them. Wrap them up. Can also be done with tea towels, t-shirts or an apron, but I find that handkerchiefs are the most likely to actually be used.
  • Design some labels for beer or wine bottles. This sounds more fancy than it is, just cut out some white cardboard or thick paper and make sure it fits around the bottle you have picked out as a gift. Give this paper to your children to be drawn or painted on. When they are done you use sticky tape or glue to fasten is around the bottle and you have a perfect gift.
  • Make cards. Go to Action or Hema and buy loads of stickers and some empty cards. Let the kids design their own card for daddy. They can of course also use their markers, pencils and stamps.

Hopefully this was helpful. Enjoy the fun!

Candle light dinner

No this is not a post about a romantic evening. This is about getting your toddlers to eat. Our latest success formula starts with candle light! Read and learn peeps, hopefully this trick can be used on all toddlers 😉

As the days were getting darker due to winter times I decided it was time to light candles more often. I also thought it was a good idea to make the boys a bit more aware of fire and especially the dangers of it, as many people we visit in winter have candles in their houses. So I put two candles on the dinner table and explained our boys about their use and dangers.

They were mesmerised. Not specifically by the pretty flickering light, but mainly by the idea that they could blow it out. Of course I did not want them to do this yet, I had just lit the candles. So I said they could blow out the candles, one each, after they finished their dinner.

This resulted in them eating quicker than I’ve ever seen. Their plates were clean before I had the first bite of my dinner. Wow! Of course I kept my promise and they could blow out a candle each. It was not easy, as they had hardly ever done this, but they managed. Next day the same happened. And the next. And the next.

It  has been weeks now and every day they finish their dinner in order to be allowed to blow out a candle. Nothing makes them happier, they even ask for candles at lunch now haha.They have gotten really good at it too and it only takes a few blows before they succeed. So when they will turn three later this year, they can actually blow out the candles on their birthday cake, another bonus. And they behave very carefully around the candles, are very aware of its danger.

So all in all this was a great win. But the biggest bonus of course is a relatively hassle free dinner with two toddlers.

Stormy weather

Very stormy weather in the Netherlands and Belgium today. Cold, rainy and really hard winds. Definitely not weather to go outside. I hate it and I know the boys are quite afraid of the wind blowing hard.

But of course they want to go outside. And trying to reason with them and explain they don’t like the wind does not work. So I get them their jackets and hats and tell them they can go outside. I open the back door and don’t even bother to put my jacket on. I take them to the windiest point I can find. My point is made within seconds.

“Mommy, want to go inside,” they cry after the first gust of wind.
Mommy smiles.

Twin politics…

The winter months bring a lot of rain to Brussels. This means I get soaked a lot because waiting for the rain to stop and only bringing your children to school when it’s dry, is apparently not done.
The boys also don’t like the winter weather. They especially hate strong winds. ‘Make it stop mommy,’ they tell me. If only I could. So often the boys are under the plastic cover to keep them warm and dry.

But twins would not be twins if they did not have different opinions. So one of the boys always wants to be under the cover, the other one often does not like it. ‘I want to be in the rain,’ he yells in frustration while trying to kick the plastic off.
Sigh, so what do you do here as a twin-mom? I tried to explain many times that they had to work this out, seeing that we only have one big cover and one of them really does not want to get wet, but somehow their debate skills are not up to that yet.

In the end I tried to compromise and fumbled around with the plastic until I had a solution that satisfied them both but looks very strange.
Not to mention the look on the faces of many passers-by, wondering why one of my kids is getting soaked in the rain. Guess they never had a determined toddler…

Sleeping together -twins

One of the questions that is asked most amongst twin mothers is: do you let your twins sleep together?

For me it was clear even before they were born I wanted our boys to sleep in the same bed for a while. It was not only a romantic idea about twins having a special bond (and looking so beautiful together), but also inspired by practical reasons: I wanted them to be used to each other, especially to each other’s noises and sounds.
When our boys came early and had to stay in the hospital for many weeks, we expressed this wish to the neonatal staff and as soon as it was possible they were put together in the same warming bed. Not only was it a great sight to see them cuddling up together, it also comforted me a lot to know that even when I was not with them in the hospital, they were never alone but always had each other.

When they finally could come home with us we had a beautiful twin crib waiting for them. They slept in that for many months and my theory really worked; the boys were so used to each other’s sounds that they never woke each other up. Now don’t get me wrong here: they did wake up a lot, we did not sleep through the night or anything remotely related to that. But they did not wake each other, so when one had been fed and was sleeping happily and the other one was suddenly crying his heart out, he did not wake his brother.

From the twin crib they moved on to two baby beds. The first year they were put right next to each other, but then we moved them half a meter apart as the boys started partying together and deliberately waking each other.
Soon we will move them to bigger beds, but they will continue to share the same room. I like to think it makes them bond more.

And to this day my theory is still working out, when one of them wakes up in the night for whatever reason (bad dreams, not feeling well, in need of a cuddle, need to do a pipi etc.) the other one is not woken up by his crying.

Parent hacks for the kitchen: my best helpers

Shops sell many gadgets that are supposed to make a mothers ‘life easier. In hindsight many women admit that a lot of those gadgets were not much of a help at all. Some things however, are a life safer and really help out. Like the Roomba I mentioned in an earlier post.

In this post I want to share the kitchen items that have helped me a lot these past years.

    • First item on the list is something you need from day one: a microwave bottle sterilizer. Because boiling teats and pacifiers in hot water is really time consuming. And even when you breastfeed you may have to supplement (especially with twins this can happen) and need a bottle once in a while. Or when you pump your milk, so your partner can bottle feed while you rest. You can also throw in plastic teething toys btw.

    • Second item would be a steamer or a steamer basket for the microwave. Never before have vegetables and potatoes been ready so quickly. Ideal when you start with the first solids, but also 2 years later for quick and healthy family meals. I actually have a microwave oven with steamer function. Very happy with that choice.

    • Air fryer. I admit, I have had this gadget for many years and was already happy with it before the twins arrived. But many years later this still is my favourite kitchen item. No fats, very quick and perfect fries! Or anything else potato related. Even meat can be made in it without the use of extra fat. And another bonus, no smells, so the air fryer is also great if you live in a small apartment or have an open kitchen.

  • Latest addition to my kitchen favourites: a soup maker. I love soup but I find it quite time consuming to make. The soup maker does all the work. Just shop up fresh vegetables, add water and spices and 20 minutes later you have 1,2 litres of fresh soup. The twins love it and so do I. Also ideal for leftover veggies and potatoes. Just throw them in the soup maker and 30 minutes later the kids eat the soup without noticing they’re eating yesterdays dinner after all ;).

 

What is your favourite kitchen aid? Please share!

Parent hack: record your songs!

One of the things that helps to calm down our boys when they are crying, is singing to them. I actually love doing that and it was especially nice when the boys were babies.
But honestly, I did get fed up with singing the same songs so often. So one day I decided to record myself on my smartphone.  I recorded an audio file of nearly 5 minutes of different ‘things’ that happen on that bus. The cat on the bus says meow meow meow. The bird on the bus says tweet tweet tweet. The pizza on the bus is yummy yummy yummy… whatever I could think of.

And wow, what a life saver that recording was! After we put the boys to bed I would play the song outside their door. I could clean up while they thought I was still there. It also worked great when I was home alone, had one of the boys out of bed for a feeding and the other one felt lonely. Or when I was so exhausted I could not remember the words to the song anymore.
And in the car, when they needed entertainment, I would just put my phone in the back playing my song. So much easier than singing loud enough to be heard over the combined sound of the engine and the wheels going over the crappy Belgian roads.
It worked so well I made a few more recordings so I could vary the repertoire J (row row row your boat, twinkle twinkle little star…)

Now that the twins are a bit older they like to sing along and they actually ask me to play the songs sometimes, while they are busy drawing or making puzzles. And when they are in ‘a mood’ I get a loud ‘noooo, not that song’, because they want to decide.
But the recorded songs still work at bedtime, when they are completely exhausted but don’t really want to admit that. Listening to my voice ‘usually’ calms them down. (not always of course…)

© Carien Touwen 2017

The feeding logbook

Our first months with the twins were completely exhausting. Our whole day revolved around feeding them, changing their nappies and sleeping, especially sleeping. Their sleeping I mean, don’t count on getting anything more than three hours in a row yourself.

a page from our logbook

With 7-8 feedings per child, so sixteen in total, the difference between day and night completely disappeared those first months. The only thing that endured was the question: what do they need?
As our sleep deprivation got worse, we quickly realised we needed some way to keep track of what we were doing to whom. I breastfed the twins but we supplemented with expressed milk and formula. I often was so sleepy I had no idea who I had fed when. My husband helped out as much as he could, so we had a lot of half asleep conversations to establish what had and had not happened.
We both realised quickly this was not working, so we started keeping a logbook of things. Just a simple chart.

with the boys’ names, the time they had been fed last and which milk they had had, how much they had had etc.. With one glance at the book we knew if the twin that was awake was already in need of more milk or if it could be something else. This made life a lot easier. No more remembering, just writing things down and looking it up.
When we both realised neither of us could not remember if we had changed any poopy diaper in the last days, we added a nice poopy drawing to our log whenever a baby had done a number 2 to make sure all the milk was going down smoothly.
After about seven months we could quit using the logbook (due to less feedings, not due to more sleep and more memory function sadly…) and I started using it as a log of their activities, accomplishments and behaviour.
When I l read back in the book now and see those first pages I can’t imagine anymore how we did it. I guess you just go with the flow. Sleep is for babies anyway.

© Carien Touwen 2017

Family dinners… usually cold

Since the boys turned one we have always tried to have dinner together. I like the idea that a family has at least one moment each day to sit together, share a meal and tell their stories. In theory this sounds great, the practise with small children means that the parents usually eat a cold dinner. In the beginning we would just feed the boys first and then dish up our own food, while they were babbling and messing around with their yoghurt.
But once they were around 20 months they ate quite well by themselves and we actually could all eat together. This is when the boys discovered additions like mayonnaise and gravy (more sauce mommy please) and salt and pepper (I want to shake it mommy!).
Let’s pretend there were never tantrums (I don’t like it mommy, want to play mommy, meh mommy, meh) and say these were lovely times of blissful warm family dinners.
The age of two/ two-and-a-half brought different times again. Mainly due to potty training and the fact that they sit on trip-trap chairs now and can get on and off by themselves.
Before dinner there is always the battle of washing hands. But now we have added going to the loo to that, so it takes forever to get them to be ready for dinner.
One of our boys is already potty-trained and has discovered he gets to walk away from the table whenever he says he needs to do a pipi. As happy as I am to have him nappy-free, the undesirable side-effect is that my dinner once more is going cold due to countless visits to the bathroom. Our other son is about to discover this as well, we have already had some fights about who gets to sit on which toilet or potty so there are many more cold meals to follow. Maybe I should start making salads more often…

© Carien Touwen 2017