Friday, September 29, 2017

Birthday Party

Having a birthday party is an exciting time, but trying to get to very different kids to agree on a theme is difficult. Sweet Daughter wanted to host a 5k race for all of her friends. Sweet Son wanted to invite a few friends to play with Legos quietly, preferably not talking to each other at all. After much discussion they finally agreed on a theme - laser tag. Then came the debate about food. They don't like cake. They had recently proven they could eat an entire doughnut when they are hungry, so they decided on a doughnut "cake."

Birthday "cakes"

Laser Tag in the dark doesn't offer a lot of great photo opportunities

Happy 7th Birthday Sweet Son

Happy 7th Birthday Sweet Daughter

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Twin Pregnancy

This post was originally published in January of 2011.

I approached pregnancy just like everything else, with tons of research. When we found out I was having twins I had to do even more research.

I read about nutrition in multiple pregnancy, exercise, how to prevent common problems, etc. I also looked at the survival/disability rates for multiples in many other countries. The countries with the highest rates of living, healthy multiples did many things differently than the standard of care in the U.S.

In the U.S. most women are told to take a prenatal vitamin every day and that's the extent of the nutrition advice. However, the better a woman's nutrition the healthier the babies. Weight gain in a multiple pregnancy is extremely important. The more weight you can gain earlier, the better. I interviewed multiple providers before finding one (with a team) that I knew would lecture and provide me with research on things like nutrition at every appointment. She also was available by email, text, and phone all the time.

I struggled with weight gain. I had all day sickness (not just feeling nauseous) every day for 5 months. I ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration because I couldn't even keep down a sip of water. I tried every cure out there. When we would go out, my husband often carried lemon slices in a baggie in his pocket. Smelling and biting into one would often give me enough time to get to a trashcan or bathroom.
4 months pregnant

About the time that ended, we went on our last big vacation before having kids. It was an incredible trip to Hawaii. I was limited to just walking and swimming for exercise, so we hiked and swam every day. It was beautiful, though I will have to go back another time when I can swim with sharks and do a few other things I wasn't able to do that trip. I remember thinking I was huge and looked so bad in everything I wore. Little did I know how much bigger I would get.
 Hiking - 6 months pregnant
6 months pregnant - I thought I was huge.
Another thing I learned from other countries, is for the best chance of avoiding early labor (other than tons of water and staying hydrated) is to stop working at 30 weeks. This is enforced by doctors in other countries because it is so much safer! While I did stop working at 30 weeks, a situation/opportunity  presented itself and I did work a few more months. However, I worked with my legs up and kept drinking tons of water.

In the U.S. most multiple pregnancies are over by 36 weeks. The OB has often scheduled the c-section early in the pregnancy to prevent any problems. In the countries with the highest success rates multiples are usually born vaginally between 38-42 weeks. This was my goal. While I did make it to 38 weeks, I ended up with a c-section.
38 weeks - I gave up on maternity clothes fitting
While pregnant (and huge) people would often comment on having twins. Most people said things about how wonderful it is, how lucky we are, and how they have always wanted twins. People who had multiples would say they are thinking of us, wish us luck, and offer condolences. My favorite response at the time, and looking back, still the most accurate, came from a young 2 year old. He is a twin and was usually a happy, silly, bouncy boy. When his mom told him I was having twins he stood still, looked very serious, and very slowly said, "Ha. Ha." He then walked away. That pretty much sums it up.

I made some very unusual decisions for a multiple birth in the U.S. Many people thought I was crazy and should just do what an OB tells me without question. However, when I had to go to the hospital at 38 weeks, the nurses assured me I never would have made it that long with an OB. I did end up with a c-section and looking back would absolutely do some things differently. Choosing a care provider (midwife) who had the same goals I did would not be something I would change. My kids were born at just over 5 pounds each. If they had been born any earlier, they would have spent time in the NICU. Instead they spent their time with us, in our arms, and bonding from the moment I was awake.
1 day old
Most people don't realize how dangerous it is to carry twins. Fetal deaths per 1000 births is 26% for twins (7% for singletons). Everyone knows premature birth is dangerous, however most don't realize that 62% of twins in the U.S. are born early - usually through an induction or c-section. 82% of twins are born with low birth weight. 70% of low birth weight babies have a disability diagnosed before age 11 and 30% within the first year. There are also serious risks for the mother trying to grow multiple babies at one time.

I spent the entire pregnancy thinking things like, if they were born now they have a 5% chance of survival. If they were born now, they have an 80% chance of survival, but a 98% chance of disability. When I made it to 36 weeks I finally breathed a small sigh of relief. I was still waiting for their weight to go up. Knowing that most ultrasound weight estimates are off by +/- 2 pounds I wanted them to measure at least 7 pounds before I would feel safe. At my last ultrasound, 2 days before they were born, they measured 7lb 5oz and 6lb 15oz. Almost there and I felt relief. I am so glad I didn't believe they would be born the size they were estimated.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Birthday Balloons

Our tradition continues, when the kids wake up on their birthday they find tons of balloons. Here they are playing with literally a room full of balloons.

Monday, September 25, 2017

7th Birthday

Happy 7th Birthday!

Sweet Son loves Legos, video games, and music. He plays piano, trumpet, and accordion. He stays up late reading and his favorite meal is usually around 10pm. He enjoys puns and bathroom humor. While he prefers playing by himself most of the time, if he sees someone being left out or ignored, he will play with them. I  have observed him playing more than once with children with Down's Syndrome and including them without hesitation. He has an amazing heart and an amazing mind.

Sweet Daughter loves stuffed animals, games, and people. She plays piano, guitar, flute, and is starting voice lessons. She wake up early full of energy and wants to run, play sports, and be active all of the time. She has recently decided she loves reading and will often get a book to read or write in a journal if there is no one else to play with. She prefers being around people and board games and card games are almost an obsession with her. Playing risk for four hours in the afternoon just means she will want to play Catan or Ticket to Ride later in the day. She has some incredible leadership skills and no matter what group she is in, she quickly ends up being the one running things.

They are best friends when in a large group and fight like siblings when it is just the two of them. They always stick up for each other and have started standing up for each other against us! Every time they help each other or do something for the other without being told or asked, my heart melts just a bit more. I love them move every single day and I am so proud of who they are becoming.

Friday, September 22, 2017

More photographs of both kids

I love the photographer we use every year and the fact that my kids cooperate for good pictures! Here are some more of both kids together.

"Wrap your arms around each other"

This is his "I'm innocent!" look as he tickles her

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Self-Esteem

This post was originally published in July 2013

If you are reading this blog, I'm sure you already know that telling kids they are smart does more harm than good. So, what else does the research say about self-esteem?

First you should realize that most of us have the wrong definition of self-esteem. Self-esteem is not about feeling good. Self-esteem is simply a set of opinions about yourself. Self-esteem is built though competence and new achievements. There is a balance of the two. Trying a new experience you can't possibly succeed at will not build self-esteem any more than a high level of competence at something you have been doing for years.

Our society need to shift from our current view of children as helpless and needing to be protected. We need to support them through the difficult times, not rescue them. One of my personal pet peeves is hearing parents talk about how they don't want their child to be behind or have to try "too hard" at something. No one is the best in everything and the earlier you learn that the better off you will be. You should not try to get rid of the bumps in the road for your child. Instead, teach them how to handle the bumps. We should not teach our children to give up when it's difficult or they aren't the best. Imagine what that society will look like when they are adults. The goal here is to raise children to be independent, successful adults. You can't always protect them, so learning to deal with the bumps when they are small is crucial.

"Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do." Piaget

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sweet Son

Here are Sweet Son's individual photos. :)

This one is my favorite because you can see his personality.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sweet Daughter

She was born first, so here are her individual photos. I will post his tomorrow. :)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kids Pictures

Here are some of the photos of the kids together.

She wanted to be the tall one.

The photographer said, "Can you give each other a hug?" 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Motivating Students

This post was originally published in July of 2013

There are some things children are motivated about on their own and some things we need to help them find motivation for. So, what are the best ways to motivate using brain research?

First you need to know about the nucleus accumbens. For those that want this simplified, it's known as the reward center of the brain. It's a limbic structure that sends dopamine throughout the brain. This is the specific part of the anatomy that generates and sustains motivation. When you think dopamine you probably think Ritalin and ADHD, so let's start our discussion there.

Volkow (2009) found a disruption in two dopamine reward/motivation pathways among adults with ADHD. The severity of this disruption was related to the severity of inattention. Another study done in Barcelona, found that children with ADHD have a smaller ventral striatum (including the nucleus acumbens), especially on the right side. The volume was correlated with hyperactivity. We know that Ritalin produces significant levels of dopamine in the brain. This increases motivation and makes tasks seem more interesting. When you look at brain wave activity in typical kids versus ADHD kids there is a huge difference. The theta/beta ratio for typical kids is 4:1, while the ratio for ADHD kids is 9:1. For some kids necessary tasks require a Herculean effort. 

Typically, our society adds pressure and stress when people are not completing required tasks. It has been proven that when under stress, students work harder, but produce poorer quality work. The more stress you apply, the worse the results. While students are trying and giving it their all, they accomplish less. This also decreases motivation and makes students want to avoid challenges. This becomes even more harmful in the long run.

Sleep also plays a huge part on working memory, attention, and reaction time. Forth and sixth graders were paid to sleep one hour more or less for three consecutive nights. After a loss of 35 minutes each night for 3 nights (most couldn't make it an entire hour less) they lost two years of efficiency in these three areas. We are just starting to understand the impact of sleep and how many areas it impacts. I suspect this area of research to have a huge boom in the near future (3-5 years).

So, how do we motivate our children and students? Students need optimal challenges, feedback from the task (rather than from the teacher), freedom from demeaning evaluations, a sense of autonomy, choices, and self-direction. In other words, they need more meaningful projects and less testing. Good luck getting this in traditional schools. There are certainly teachers out there who are doing exactly this for each of their students, but they are becoming more and more rare.

There is one other thing I feel I should mention here. The brain interprets rewards and punishments as a loss of control, which is demonstrated by the stress hormones being released in the brain. The brain is wired to try to find ways of getting the reward without doing the job/assignment. We should stop fighting this and change the way we are teaching. 80% of education in public schools is competitive. While this is motivating for the top few kids, it's extremely demotivating for the other 95% of students. Why try if you aren't going to win? Stop and think about this - 95% of students are being discouraged 80% of the time in school. In order to address this, our society keeps adding more tests and rankings. We are just making it worse rather than embracing the research and trying to help the students.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Family Photos

Once a year we have professional photos taken. Here are the pictures of the 4 of us.

Ok, she said the kids should climb in the tree, but I'm pretty sure I was included...

In a creek bed


Monday, September 11, 2017

Consignment Sale Finds

We buy the kids clothing twice a year at consignment sales because it is so much cheaper. I can average less than $2/item and end up with high end name brands. This time the kids had to come with me and I knew it would be about a 2 hour shopping trip, not exactly exciting for them. I told them if they were good we could look and see if they could find a toy for their birthday.

As soon as we walked in Sweet Daughter saw this. She proclaimed, "I have always wanted one! You have never bought me one. This is what I have wanted more than anything!" 
This is a 5 foot tall banana with dreadlocks and a reggae hat.

At the end of the trip Sweet Son decided he wanted this plane that lights up and makes noises.

They both got what they requested. Sweet Daughter even bargained to get a cheaper price on the banana because hers cost more than his toy did. They lowered the price of the banana, TWICE because she explained that it was for her birthday and how much she had always wanted a banana with dreadlocks. ummm?

Yes, she slept with the banana.

A year later and I have no idea where the plane is, but the banana is played with almost every day. It makes a great body pillow and the kids love falling asleep on top of it. We quickly discovered the dreadlocks come off easily and everything is covered in "banana hair." This leads to many strange looks when discussing in front of people who haven't seen a banana quite like this one.

Friday, September 8, 2017


An early birthday present arrived in the mail and the kids were excited. They each got a set of gears and they went to work.

Sweet Daughter's first creation - her favorites are the swing and merry-go-round for bears

 Sweet Son was more interested in how many gears he could hook together

They put their sets together and made a 3d set that worked smoothly

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Early Education Priorities

This post was originally published in August of 2013.

Kids were tested going into Kindergarten on their knowledge of reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies. What was the best predictor of later reading and Math tests (2nd grade and up)? Science and Social Studies, in that order. Kindergarten reading was not even correlated to 2nd grade reading. Early reading certainly didn't cause higher reading scores. It is much more important to do Science with your kids than any other subject when they are young. This is great because most young kids would rather do Science than reading anyway. Everyone's happy! Also interesting is that early reading doesn't improve later Science and Social Studies scores. Since those subjects are most traditionally taught through reading, I found that interesting. So far the research hasn't figured out why, but still fascinating.

The best way to improve Math scores is going to surprise you. Fine motor skills help with Math. The larger the fine motor deficit, the more impaired later Math becomes. This is most obvious when replicating figures or models, but is true for all areas of Math. They tested many different ways to improve Math scores and the top interventions are: drawing (but not coloring), Legos, fuse beads, pattern blocks, Montessori triangles, puzzles, paper folding, blocks, knob cylinders, and Colorforms. No worksheets, flashcards, or tutoring made the list. Kids tend to shut down when forced to do something they think they aren't good at, but hand them a bucket of Legos or teach them paper folding and they are willing and successful. 

Now for something that makes me feel old. These studies weren't just done with young children. These studies went all the way through college students. At the beginning and the end of the college student study they needed a novel way to test their ability to do mental rotation. Something the kids hadn't done before and were unlikely to practice in between the two tests. They used Tetris. For those of you who are around my age you just freaked out a little that college students have never played Tetris. I was presented with this information at a conference. The group of young guys in the row in front of me spent about 5 minutes debating what Tetris is before using their smart phones to look it up. They decided it must be a game for old people. 

It's well known that the current educational policy is dill and kill. Everyone says they want their kids to have critical thinking skills. You need to know that these are learned before/after and outside school, usually through play. Music, sports, fine motor, problem solving, etc. It's also important to realize that most colleges care more about these activities than you might expect. When looking at two kids with identical grades and test scores the one that will stand out is the one who was involved in things outside of school. This is also one reasons the homeschooling movement is growing in the United States.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Sweet Daughter decided to play basketball this Fall. She wanted something with people and competition. She's actually a decent basketball player, despite her height.

She's the tiny one in purple in the middle of the photo. 
Yeah, the other girls were all MUCH bigger on both teams.

She is the one with the ball trying to figure out who is open.

I'll be honest, this is what most of my photos look like. I think she's the small blur in front.

Notice the video camera in front of me? The other team recorded each of their games and then would meet and analyze their performance and what they needed to work on. Their coach was... intense. She screamed and called them names and insulted them. Did I mention this is first and second grade girls recreational basketball? We lost the game, but our girls walked away happy because no one screamed at them. It taught them to appreciate something they had taken for granted before.