Doubling Up: the Unique Joy of Parenting Twins


Out on the playground, parents will observe twins playing and say to each other, “that must be exhausting. Double Trouble.” To outsiders it looks like twice the work, twice the clean up and twice the discipline.

And truth be told, that is sometimes the case, but parents of twins will also tell you that having two at a time solves some problems too. “You are already doing it for one baby,” a mother of identical girls explained. “And now we don’t have to think about another pregnancy, another birth, another sex. It solves the sibling problem.”

Yes, there are more diapers, there are two sets of needs that don’t always correspond, but by the same token, developing side-by-side, twins can also adapt easier, they can socialize faster, learn how to share, feel empathy and communicate. Once they get the hang of the sleeping thing, they are more likely to sleep through the night because they have a buddy.

And whether or not twins are close together in terms of personality, size and physical appearance, their individual natures will emerge and often complement each other. In fact, often twins bond so fiercely that entertaining them is not such an issue. They have a built in playmate!

As far as learning goes, there is some overlap; it’s not like parents have to relay two sets of instructions all the time and there is some sharing of information because twins really delight in teaching each other. It’s an amazing experience to watch their unique preferences and personalities form in tandem.

If you are a first time parent, there is leverage in raising two at a time. You have a sort of “control group” where you can experiment with certain foods, the bouncy chair, and the nightlight. You can see what is working without the feeling of failure that goes along with having no comparison. One kid may love it, the other, not so much. It lightens the load.

Twins also elicit help from other people at the grocery or DMV where single babies may not. When someone sees a mother struggling to get two carriers through the door, they feel duty bound to help.

Children are hard work but it may be the most rewarding work in the world and twins are no different. If you are lucky enough to have them, you really do get a double dose of parenting wonder.


5 Reasons that the Library is a Priceless Resource for Your Children


Most busy, modern parents understand the value of reading. But in our current, commercial climate, we also automatically buy books, DVDs and games without a second thought. There is nothing wrong with wanting your child to have a library of their own; books are like friends we always want to spend time with.

The library is not simply about accessing these fun and educational stories; it is it’s own experience. Here are five reasons you may not have considered that your public library is an untapped treasure trove.

  1. It Ain’t Your Mom’s Library. Sure, you have a clear memory of stepping inside a cool, quiet place surrounded by readers. And that is still true. But the library today is a transformed place. Gone is the Dewey Decimal System– libraries have faced out their juicier titles like a retail space and organized their titles by subject to make them easier to find.
  2. It’s More than Just Reading. Today, local libraries have developed all kinds of useful classes, craft workshops, story hours and music programs to encourage children. Most of them have a website or post their activity schedules. This is not only fun for kids, but it brings talented community members into the library setting.
  3. Meet Other Moms and Dads. If you are a new parent, or new to your area, the library is the go-to place to for your kids to make friends, and you too!
  4. A Lesson in Sharing. This is a golden opportunity to introduce your kids to the value of borrowing and returning. Just like we teach them to take turns and share, the library magically lets us take home these great books and movies, just as long as we return them.
  5. You Already Paid for It. As a taxpayer, you have already invested in this precious service, why wouldn’t you take advantage? The exploration of a new author, genre or subject doesn’t have to be an expensive purchase; it can be a loaner. Discovering whether or not your kid is actually into the topic or illustrations is a smart move. If they love it, and really need to own it, then you can buy it.

Libraries are the hallmark of civilization, and somehow they always end up on the chopping block when the conversation turns to budget. Aside from the fact that libraries represent a drop in the bucket in terms of public cost, part of the problem is that people just don’t know how much amazing stuff their neighborhood branch contains. Our kids can develop a healthy appreciation for the library culture. All it takes is a little help from us.

Need more convincing? Check out these great resources on child literacy and supporting libraries:

In Harmony: Helping Twins Strike a Balance Between Bonding and Independence


Twins have their own unique development experience that is awe-inspiring. Unlike the rest of us, they have a real life mirror, even if they are not identical, they have another character cast right alongside them in their story. And to extend that metaphor further, sometimes we look in the mirror and we like what we see, and sometimes we don’t.

Research on twins is abundant; it has illustrated just how much our genetics plays a role in behavior. A study at the University of Turin and the University of Parma in Italy concluded that twins become aware of each other when they are still in the womb. Unlike solo babies, they spend a large portion of their gestational time communicating with their roommate. This discovery indicates that social behavior starts much earlier for twins.1

What this means is that that twins emerge into the world with a sense of connection, and that connection can either flourish or cause problems. Parents who understand the distinct parameters of raising twins are better set up to tackle the obstacles they are likely to encounter.

Here is a funny home video of some toddler twins having a very animated “conversation”:

Dr. Barbara Klein blogs extensively about twins and common challenges that occur for parents. As a twin herself, she has first-hand understanding of the fine line between nurturing the bond between twins and fostering codependence. Here are some of the ways she recommends parents can diffuse potential problems, or as she refers to it, Double Trouble:

1. Know each of your children as an individual and help them develop their strengths and work on their challenges.
2. Make sure that you understand how your twins are relying on one another. If you see that one twin is taking care of the other “too much,” then understand why, and help the child that needs help so the brother or sister is not burdened with this responsibility.
3. Develop realistic parent rules that establish a child-centered structure that can be understood and followed. Have realistic consequences when children do not listen to you.2

Twins move at their own developmental pace, but because of their intimate, ongoing conversation, they often aid each other in adapting, problem solving and learning. That is a beautiful thing to witness, but there is a downside: they can collude against their authority figures. Remember The Parent Trap where Hailey Mills meets her twin at summer camp and they switch places? It might not be as dramatic, but twins have been known to see if they can test those boundaries. Fortunately, as they age, identical twins are rarely perfect doppelgangers. But any parent of multiples will tell you, they quickly learn how to team up and circumvent their caregivers.

Twins that do not get the support they need can become insular, and even adversarial toward the world around them. There is a story about a pair of identicals that had a mother with Alzheimer’s Disease, who regularly neglected and misidentified her children; as adults, those twins lived together, got the same education, the same job and never dated or ventured out on their own. They were distrustful of anyone outside their relationship.

Parents can strike a balance between protecting the primary bond and helping their children to individuate in a healthy way. This means encouraging communication between them, but also exploring their individual natures, interests and strengths. Avoiding direct comparisons and supporting separate social relationships is another way to guide a balanced upbringing for multiples.

Another pitfall with twins, especially triplets or more, is infighting. All siblings compete for attention from their parents and with twins, that competition can become magnified. So just like with sibs, parents can address this but divvying up the parental attention i.e., today, Dad is taking twin A to the park and Mom is taking twin B to the zoo.

For twins to cultivate sharing skills, they must also have a sense of ownership. Here’s Dr. Klein again: “One way to encourage sharing is to teach them the difference between mine and yours. For example, designate some important objects in the non-share zone. Parents can see which toys, clothing, and friends are special and keep them as separate.”3

It also helps to give them their own space, even if they share a room, they should have assigned areas for their own belongings and parents should protect ownership.

Twins are a magical anomaly that has taught us so much about humanity. In no other relationship do people find such harmonized resonance and a kindred ally in the complex process of becoming adults. Parenting this special occurrence presents different challenges, but the rewards are greater than the sum of their parts.




Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

Growing Kids, Growing Garden: The Wonders in Your Own Back Yard

Invite a little more life in by planting something green with your kids’ help.

It’s the perfect time of year to get out into the yard and beautify, why not enlist your little helpers? Gardening and yard work are fun, healthy and satisfying.

Its worth mentioning that April 15th is Earth Day, and this is a golden opportunity to instill some sensible and sustainable values in our children.

To get a little motivation, visit which is a fantastic resource through the National Gardening Association. This site is loaded with tips on how to engage kids in the back yard. “Gardening grows environmental stewardship. Participating in school gardening helps young people learn to value, protect, and conserve our environment and all the creatures we share it with.” On point!

Think about where you want to plant and how much shade, sun and drainage those plants will get. Do a little research to figure out what wants to thrive in your neck of the woods. Take into consideration your water usage and go for heartier varieties and desert plants that can tolerate less water and temperature fluctuations.

Take a trip to the nursery where your children can pick out some special flowers or their favorite veggies.

Letting them be part of the preparation and decision making builds anticipation for the project. And remember: keep it simple; don’t level your whole yard with the idea that you are going to re-landscape. Pots and window boxes do the trick too, especially if you live in a condo or apartment.

Kids love to rake leaves, dig up weeds, learn how to use the shovel and move the dirt around. Popsicle sticks and a marker will do the trick so you can remember what you have planted.

One of the other lessons in the garden project is maintenance. Put it on the calendar which days the plants need water, plant food or pest spray (use the organic kind, its essentially soap that wards off critters.)

When those baby shoots start to come up, the flowers bloom and the first sweet peas and strawberries arrive, your little one will have a proud moment knowing that their hard work made it happen. Its our job to make sure, in a world where devices and distractions abound, that the next generation knows how to nurture their own little piece of the planet.

For more information on the benefits of gardening for children (and grown ups!) check out the children and nature network:

A Collection of Valuable Ideas for the Child Collector


As adults, many of us have had an inner-collector emerge at some point in our lives. For some of us, it may be sentimental holiday ornaments. For others, it could be a particular type of figurine. Some may have even started a (valuable) baseball card collection as a child that continues well into adulthood.

A lasting interest in such a collection starts a good conversation. While some parents may view a child’s room as simply being overtaken by a herd of plastic animals, jars of seashells from the beach, or a growing number of American Girl® dolls, this isn’t necessarily just clutter at all. Collecting is an exciting exercise in creating a world that’s all his or her own. It can help them bond with friends, start conversations, socialize better, gain responsibility, become an expert in something, and learn about money.[1]

This leads to the question, what is a good collection for your child to start? Which options can really make the most of the mentioned benefits? Let’s take a look at some of the following suggestions for a new collection.

1. Vintage Toys and Books

This is a fun one because it also involves you as the parent and your own childhood! Tell your little one all about the toys you used to play with, and books you used to read. Even have them ask their grandparents about the toys they used to play with…and let the search begin! You may still have some of your own in storage, but also try yard sales, eBay, Amazon, etc. This type of collection is educational, and can also truly be a family affair.

2. State Quarters

The state quarters are a great segue into the coin collection realm, which can be a lifelong interest. It’s also a way for your children to learn about the 50 states. Consider getting a display folder or book to organize the coins, or even the collector’s map, which is a big seller on Amazon. In addition, there are helpful online resources and books that thoroughly cover the history and development of the state quarters series.

3. Pins

Whether it’s a souvenir from a trip to Disneyland, showing support for a local team, or a way to celebrate an upcoming holiday, gathering various pins can become a wearable, useful collection. If the options seem a little overwhelming, consider narrowing it down to a certain category; for example, your child may be interested in just collecting Disney character pins.

4. Rocks

This one may sound a little basic, but think about it. It’s an inexpensive way to keep mementos from different places your family has been (camping, hiking, etc.), and you can even use a Sharpie® to mark where each rock came from, along with the date. It’s also educational in an archeological sort of way, driving interest in a new area for your child.

5. Stamps

Lastly, there’s a reason stamp collecting has stuck (pun intended) around for so long. Stamps are printed in endless designs that may interest kids, and many stamps depict historically or culturally significant people, places, or events. There are many ways to arrange a collection, and new stamps are always as close by as the local post office. Misprinted stamps or stamps that are from a batch with few left in existence are considered rare. While rare stamps can be pricey, they are also exciting for children to find. Kids can decide to start a specific type of stamp collection that includes only stamps of famous people, animals, places, or events.

No matter which type of collection best suits your child’s situation and individual interests, he or she will benefit from a meaningful and useful activity that can span the course of years. And with a little luck, you just never know; an item that was added at some point in time could end up being that Honus Wagner baseball card gem. Well, maybe that’s a bit far-fetched, but the important thing to remember is that a collection can always offer value far beyond dollar signs.


Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves: Surprising Facts about Female Entrepreneurs


It’s easy to see that women are making constant strides in business, but the facts behind the advancements may startle you.

Let’s get some rather grim statistics out of the way before we look at the good news. Despite all our efforts on a grass roots social level to empower women as business leaders, the numbers are actually discouraging.

According to the Center for American Progress in 2014, women compose roughly 50.8% of the population in the United States, they earn 60% of both graduate and master’s degrees, and 44% of master’s degrees in business and management. However, “they are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.”[1]

These numbers are staggeringly disproportionate and indicate a bias toward men when it comes to climbing the ladder inside big companies. However, women are great at finding a work-around to the good old boys’ club: they go into business for themselves.

Converse to these woefully imbalanced numbers of women in positions of power, women are surging ahead when it comes to forging their own companies. Check out these figures:


  • Women are starting their own companies at 1.5 times the average rate across the country [2].
  • The U.S. ranks number one among 31 countries in supporting female entrepreneurship, according to a study conducted by Dell.[2]
  • Women-owned businesses generate $1.7 trillion, a 79% increase since 1997.
  • “Businesses with a woman on the executive team are more likely to have significantly higher valuations at Series A–as in, 64 percent higher.”[2]
  • “46% percent of the privately held companies in the U.S. are now at least half owned by women.”[2]
  • Growth rates for revenue and employment among women-owned companies continue to outshine their male counterparts over the last two decades.2 Between 2007-2015, male owned companies shed 1.5 million jobs, where companies with women in charge created 340,000 jobs in the same period.[3]

What are we to extrapolate from this? The obvious conclusion is that more women are having success across the board with regard to job satisfaction, profit, job creation, and competition when they strike out on their own. They receive significantly less venture capital than men in their same field, yet their businesses achieve more long-term success[1.]

Even more promising are the facts when it comes to ethnic background: in 1997 non-Caucasian women represented one million female-owned firms, where today that number is at a staggering 3.1 million, outstripping non-minority women business owners several fold[3.] So credit where credit is due: women of color are major contributors to the health of our national economy and they are often operating with less capital, mentorship, and resources. Food for thought.

If we look at the essential principles of liberty and free enterprise that our nation was based on, we can see that women are carrying that torch with more determination and success than ever. It is important that we continue to push the envelope when it comes to the corporate world, but if you are on the fence about starting your own business, consider the prosperity your fellow sisters have created for themselves, and how you can join that circle.





Eat Your Way Around the World: Italy


Busy families rely on spaghetti as a default, kid friendly food, and there’s nothing wrong about that, but consider this: Italian style eating is a really easy, surefire way to get some nutrition onto the plate and into kids’ mouths.

There is perhaps no culture on the planet more passionate, more dedicated to the quality and care of food than the Italians. Their processes and their pride in their work go back centuries. Conceptually, eating in Italy is a fascinating study of human nature, not to mention, completely delicious.

If your kids are finicky, making Italian food is a twofer: a chance to create something beautiful and a chance to talk about the idea of really enjoying the art of making and eating everyday, like the Italians. Here are some simple dishes to try with your kids, and some tidbits of culture to boot.

Caprese Salad. Basil, Cacio (or Mozzarella) Cheese, some summer tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil, and boom, you have an edible work of art. Originating from the Island of Capri, this simple salad is so fun for kids to arrange on the plate. You can also use baby mozzarella for the little ones and they love the bite size chunks.

Orzo Salad. This light, pasta dish is great, again simple to prepare, but filled with yummy ingredients and its fun to riff on this and throw in other seasonal flavors like sweet corn or beans.

Cherries with Ricotta and Almonds. This desert is so delicious – and it only has three ingredients! It also welcomes a swirl of honey or a dash of cocoa powder. And you know how kids love to garnish. Ricotta originated in Sicily, but the processes of creating the cur go even further back to the ancient Greeks.


Eat Your Way Round the World: Thailand

With its bright colors and wide variety of flavors, Thai food is a delicious vehicle for getting your kids their daily dose of nutrition, plus it’s really fun to make. Try these really simple but winning combinations that get kids fired up about dinnertime.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce. Kids love this assembly, and the yogurt, curry, peanut combo is a slam dunk with all ages. We recommend dialing back or eliminating the chili sauce.

Look Chin (Sweet and Sour Meatballs) These Thai meatballs are street food grilled and served on their own, or in a red curry broth with noodles. Red doesn’t necessarily mean spicy, in fact this dish has been described as Thai Spaghetti.

Mango Sticky Rice. Sweet and smooth, this yummy healthy desert goes over well with even babies, and for kids you can throw a little saffron in there to make it more exotic:

Thailand abounds with wonderful and unusual scents and tastes, the kind that kids really love to explore, too. Maybe starting with some simpler ingredients like whole raw coconut (really wow them by drilling a hole and drinking right out of the hull!) or baby corn can give them an idea of some possibilities.

Bonding with the Grandparents: Tips for Kids and Parents


Our parents can provide our children with some unique life lessons.

Intergenerational learning is a lost art. It used to be that we picked up all our life skills by watching our parents or grandparents, but in this era, our children’s primary source of information is school. As a result, we have lost valuable lessons about everything from cooking to mechanics.

The good news is that we as parents can enrich our children’s lives by encouraging them to access one of the most valuable resources at their disposal: their grandparents. Here are a few easy ways to think about enhancing the lives of both our parents and our children.

Take the time. Every week, if not more, the kids should make a call, write a letter or visit. Parents can facilitate this as a matter of course for families that live close together by keeping communication with both kids and grandparents on what activity they would like to do and planning accordingly.

Special Skills. Does grandpa hunt or fish? Does grandma bake or sew? Maybe the both do all these things, and can impart needlework or flyfishing. Sometimes, we as their children don’t even know about some of our parents’ secret skills. And what a gift to give the next generation.

Cut Costs. There are ways in which our older children can help tend to the yard, take out the trash, help repaint or do other odd jobs that may save the grandparents time and money. Conversely, grandparents can watch the kids and they are usually happy to do it instead of a babysitter.

Make a Family Tree. This is a project that the whole family can get into, by going through the photo albums and whipping out the art supplies. It is a great life lesson for kids to see a bit of their ancestry and a nice opportunity for the grandparents to tell some stories and take a walk down memory lane.

The more we include our parents in the family conversation, meet them half way, and explore ways for our kids to broaden their relationship to their grandparents, the stronger the family as a whole becomes. It sets us up for more joy and more ability to take life’s tough obstacles. And it helps our children be more compassionate, well-rounded people.


Eating Your Way Round the World: Germany

susie almaneih

In introducing our children to other cultures, one of the most immediate and effective approaches is food. Cooking and preparing a meal is a tactile activity that can involve the whole family and provide a window into other country’s traditions by way of ingredients and techniques.

Germany is a rich and prolific culture that has a fascinating array of kid-friendly, tasty treats. We selected some delicious and easy to make recipes that don’t require obscure ingredients. And for fun, we’ve included some interesting facts and history around each dish.

Meatless Balls in Tomato Sauce – Roggenkloesschen in Tomatensosse. If your kids like spaghetti and meatballs, your family will love this. Because Germany’s geography has a short growing season, hardy grains like rye make up a sizeable portion of the diet. This wonderful vegetarian spin on meatballs will be a big hit with the kids, in part because rolling the cooked rye into balls is really fun.

Cucumber Salad. Germans are big on dill; it’s often incorporated into pickling recipes for added flavor. This easy recipe is slightly sweet and very cooling, a great side for any hot dishes.

Cream Roll. Known for their tempting baked goods, German confections go back a long way. A German delicacy that is lightly sweet and fruity, this Cream Roll is a traditional German favorite: simple, minimum prep and delicious.

It’s not all sauerkraut and sausage! There is so much to discover and love about Germany by way of its rich culinary customs. Give your family a little taste of the history, while sitting down together for an incredible meal.