Archives for June 2011

Advice for Conference Newbies

It’s that time of year again. Conference season! And as my readers know, I attend more conferences than any one normal person should attend. So I’ve been thinking… What piece of advice do I have for blog conference newbies? I have quite a bit of advice actually…

1. Create a general itinerary.

Having an idea of when and where the session is that you’d like to attend is important. So is the time and place of the next party! A visual aid is a good idea so that you can see where your activities might be over lapping. Additionally, You’ll want to make note of when and where meals and snacks are being served. Taking advantage of the food that came with your conference badge is a great way to save money while on your trip!

2. Introduce yourself. (To everyone.)

You may be a wall flower at home… but a conference is no place to be anti-social. Step out of your comfort zone and meet some new people! New people bring a fresh perspective. They also come with some great ideas! Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and give some too! You never know… you might be talking to a brand representative who really likes your style or you could be talking to your new best friend. So shine your light!

3. Bring along some business cards.

“I’m not a business!”, you say. It doesn’t matter. You need a card. It gives people a reference to look back on and remember who you are. It also shares your blog information and don’t you want to tell the world about your blog? One of my favorite places to get cards is Tiny Prints. If you’ve not checked them out before… click the name and be transported through the magic of hyperlinks!

For realsies tho… you need business cards. If you don’t have them… you’ll be that girl that’s like… “Hold on.. I’ll write my blog on this scrap of paper for you.” It’s embarrassing. Trust me. I did this. More than once.

Here’s a bit about Tiny Prints:
Tiny Prints provides stylish, modern and unique stationery that cover all your paper needs. You’ll find summer party invitations, personalized greeting cards, thank you cards, business cards, and even custom wedding invitations. Come try the easy card personalization, powerful preview engine and top-notch customer service and paper quality for yourself! With Tiny Prints by your side, commemorating every holiday and momentous occasion is a cinch!

For sharing this little bit about Tiny Prints with you… I’m getting a set of shiny new business cards for free. I’d tell you about them anyway… because they’re the bees knees!

If you’d like a chance to write about Tiny Prints on your blog, you can fill out this form.

I’ll be at Type A Parent (come sit in my session!), EVO, BlogHer, BlogWorld Expo and SheStreams (stop in my session there as well!). Where will you be this year? If you’ve been to a conference… what advice do you have to share with a conference newbie?

Twin Tuesday: Giggle and Screams, Hugging and Fighting

Note: In anticipation of a mentally and physically exhausting week for me, I begged and pleaded with fellow twin parent, Dave, to whip up a guest post for me this Twin Tuesday.  Eh, no big deal–he just poured his daddy heart out into a well-crafted essay about watching his babies grow up before his very eyes, that’s all.  Read, enjoy, and remark!

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I’m finding, over time, that one of the things I am enjoying the most about being the parent to twins is watching the personalities of these two little characters unfold before my eyes. It all moves so fast. Often times, it’s feel like I’m watching one of those time-lapse movies of a flower blooming…it starts off as a seed, the stem quickly grows, sprouts up. Then the little bud slowly opens, and then explodes into this brilliant flower, all color and life. Right about now, I think – who am I trying to fool, I’m just guessing really – that I’m watching what is the portion where the buds begin to rise up, of the little flowers that are these, my, little girls: Emma and Maddie, 22 months old. I say ‘guessing’ because who knows of what they’re going to do next or of how much of their personalities at this moment will remain and be part of their more permanent personalities in a week, or a month…or forever. It’s interesting to see these pieces of their character come to life and expand, or shed from them…and to wonder as they’re presenting to me, “will this stay with her?”.

When their big sister Sydney, now 5, was their age, I didn’t notice it as readily as I do with the twins. Not that I wasn’t paying attention, I was, and very much so. At the time, it was all just so overwhelming and so new, as a new parent later realizes. Syd was our first child, which my inexperience and fear that I’d break her if I held her to tightly. I think I was too worried about making sure she was perfectly safe and perfectly happy and perfectly-diaper-changed-the-very-moment-she-soiled-it, that I didn’t have time or situational awareness to enjoy the nuances of what was happening.

Nuances…Indeed.

With the twins, I’m much more relaxed, and am really aware of the very minute changes happening in them daily (Another benefit of being the stay-at-home-dad right now). They’re so visibly happy all the time, you’d think they just smile non-stop, as is the opinion of family and friends who see them frequently, but don’t get the full measure of their personalities. I try to explain that, although they’re very smiley, they should see Maddie when she’s balking at doing something she thinks might be dangerous, or Emma as she’s trying to spread-eagle dive off the arm of the couch like a midget daredevil…or how they both break out the funny and the sarcasm as if they’re not a year and a half old, but teenagers in tiny little bodies. It’s this the other stuff that is becoming the most interesting for me…. also the most scary at times too, but definitely the most interesting

It’s been pretty amazing how that unfolding is revealing three completely different personalities, with slight overlaps. Sydney, the oldest, the Princess, at first couldn’t be bothered with spending time with her sisters. They were just interlopers that came along, uninvited by her, to mess up her room and take her Mommy and Daddy’s attention away. Now, the first thing she does in the morning is to go give her “sissies” a kiss and hug, and they now seek her out too, to do the same. The excitement is palpable when they see each other after being apart for a while, which is maybe the most amazing thing to watch of all of their interactions. But, really, the sweetness, although genuine, lasts only a few minutes and then the dynamics of these three little fireballs really comes into play. Sydney: sweet, outgoing and becoming much like a teenager than a 5 year old… a teenager in training. Then there’s Emma: sarcastic, funny, a total goofball…she’ll do just about anything to get a laugh out of you. She’s the daredevil of the three. Finally, the youngest, Maddie: She’s the most reserved, cautious, has the sharpest claws of the three when it comes down to it, and most definitely the loudest scream. The girl can clear a room like no other. These three, well, it’s like a non-stop comedy troupe performance, with the occasional foray into high drama… Giggle and Screams, Hugs and Fights.

As they continue to change and grow into themselves, their personalities seem to get even bigger. At our YMCA branch, I frequently drop the girls off to play in their Child Care area while I go on to my regular ‘getting worked over by the treadmill, crunch machine or any other number of torture devices’, where they’re starting to form their first friendships as individuals. Both of the twins frequently playing with their own new friends separate of each other, outside of their own little clique of two. It’s fun to see what sort of kids they’re individually drawn to, and how different they are from each other. They’re still very much there for each other when needed, though. They’re each other’s ‘security blanket’, always having each other there in case they’re needed, and for the occasional introducing of the other by saying “Sissy” and then putting their hand on the others arm as to say “this is her”. When I see these things happening, I wonder why I wasn’t paying as much attention to these things when Sydney was a toddler…maybe it’s that the twins do a volume business and it’s hard to ignore it because they just don’t give you a moment’s time to NOT notice them.

The developing of all of this personality in my girls, as well as all of the ways they’re changing daily, I’m finding, is most fun for me to share with other parents of twins. It’s like a little fraternal organization, the “United Parents of Twins, Local 602”. You’ll meet parents of twins at the zoo, or park, or mall, and it’s almost as if you’re comrades in some society that only parents of multiples really understands or gets admittance to. As a parent of twins, talking to another parent of twins, I love to find out what unique experiences that they’re going through with them now, as well as the funny anecdotes from their travels. I think I find, in those times when I’m wondering if I’m doing this right, that those shared stories and funny asides brings me around to the realization that most of us worry about that too….

So, as a parents of multiples, or, heck, even as an observant parent of a singleton, what do you see in your children that makes you pause and take it all in? Do you see traits in them that remind you of yourself or your spouse? How do you feel about them? Are they good traits, or traits you’d prefer they didn’t have?

Tell us about your twins and their unique personality quirks…I’m pretty sure we could always use the reassurance hearing those stories brings. We’re the United Parents of Twins Union Local chapter, come join us.

Leading by Likeness

Note from the editor: It’s Friday… my favorite day! We get a peek into the live of real dads and their daily struggle. Today, John, @TheDaddyYoDude, discusses the fact that our children are soaking us up… every little nuance… every quirk… every word. Oh! The pressure! His solution… leading by likeness. Take a peek. And read more on his blog The Daddy Yo Blog.

Nobody likes a copycat. Well, that’s not entirely true. I love two copycats. They are my children. They love to imitate everything I do and say. More often than not, it ends up being a not so great thing, especially out in public or with company here.

I am a major fan of using the fart noise as an escape method out of any tense situation that could lead to a meltdown of one or both children. I have to admit that I am probably just as much of a child as they are in a lot of regards. The problem now is that when they get nervous or start getting tired, they will start making these noises anywhere. And I mean ANYWHERE!

How does this have anything to do with anything? Children emulate their parents on a lot of levels, and in many ways that we may not recognize right off the bat. Most commonly you hear that parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke. Not because of second hand smoke or early nicotine addiction, but because they learn to replicate these behaviors. These simulations of the parents’ lives can go much deeper though. Even to an emotional and mental level.

This really hit home a few days ago while watching my son play by himself in the kitchen. I could hear him getting louder and what sounded like having an argument with himself. As I listened more closely, I realized he was not arguing with himself. He was being me, arguing with himself. He was reenacting a disagreement we had earlier in the day and the horrible way in which I reacted to that situation.

I was shocked that he had it down so remarkably well, and remembered it to a tee. I was also heartbroken that my son was currently remembering me that way. Children are very perceptive and are like video cameras. The problem is, there is no erase, and you have no control over the timing of the playback. They live a lot of their lives in our likeness.

The solution to these heartbreaks and situations? Leading by likeness. As a parent, we all want to raise the best children we can. It all starts with how we act and what they reflect of us, especially at a young age. It quickly sank in on me that day that if I want to raise loving, compassionate, and great people, I have to be those things as well. The best example of such things they will ever see is me.

Sometimes I find myself hoping that my children don’t turn out like me later on in life. And this is for a multitude of reasons. Then I find myself asking “what can I do to make sure of this?” and the answer is now clear: I must lead by likeness. Perhaps the change in them will also be the change in me. And in that way, all of us will benefit.

Wordless Wednesday: NonStick

One of these days… I’ll own a nonstick pan that’s really nonstick. *sigh*

Kids Say The Darndest Things

The 7 year old: “Mom, did you know that boys go to college to get more knowledge, but girls go to Jupiter to get more stupider?”

me: “Where’d you hear that?”

The 7 year old: “VBS.”  (Vacation Bible School)

me: “That’s great. Say, would you like to know how the real world works?”

The 7 year old: “No.”

me: “That’s okay, I’ll tell you anyway. It’s ‘Girls go to college to get more knowledge. Boys go to college to join a fraternity and get drunk and stupid.’ ”

And that, my friends, is what she sing-songed the rest of the night while she skipped around. No no, I’ve patted myself on my own back, you don’t need to do it again for me.

So hey, I bet you’re wondering why I have a photo of Jim Belushi up there with my kid.  Completely unintentional on my part.  It’s because WordPress can be hard.  So hard.  “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at Byrds for a Cure.

GOLD MEDAL PARENTING

Editor’s Note: This week’s post by Jeff @OWTK is one that will leave you rethinking your parenting plan. I am of the opinion that we’re not supposed to be our kid’s best friend. We are their parent. We guide them to do the right thing. However… I would want my girls to think of me fondly and not think of me as some sort of dictator. It’s a fine line. Read Jeff’s hockey analogy and let us know where you stand.

To borrow a popular public radio intro…This I believe: I believe it’s critical that my daughters stand united with each other. I believe that the strength of their friendship will be both the engine and the hull of a ship that will cut through the stormiest of seas. I believe that I’m willing to do anything to ensure that my girls are emotionally connected to each other for life…even if it means they hate me.

Most every proud American, sports fan or not, is familiar with the story of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team. What’s that, you’re not? C’mon they made ‘em into a Disney movie for goodness sakes! If you do need to be brought up to speed, here’s the quickie version: A ragtag collection of scruffy U.S. college kids enter the ’80 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY with little fanfare and even less expectation. They’d been plastered 10-3 by the dominant Russian team earlier in the final warm-up match before the Olympic Games and with hockey not holding a prominent place in American culture (hey, what else is new), not much thought was given to these boys. This was our national ice hockey club. Hurray. But what da’ya know, they won the Gold medal after knocking off that same Russian team (The Miracle on Ice game) before finishing off Finland.

That legendary hockey team was coached by a unique man who is probably less well known than the club itself and it’s remarkable accomplishments: Mr. Herb Brooks. One of the key techniques Brooks used to unify this motley crew was to find a single common denominator, a flag they could all carry along side their beloved stars & stripes. That singular thing? A powerful hatred of him. The result? Nothing short of a miracle.

I believe that a pair of miraculous young ladies who believe in themselves and each other, who will fight for the rights of the other, who will defend and protect, scratch and claw and, ultimately take a proverbial bullet for their sibling is, in a parenting sense, akin to hearing your national anthem played during a gold medal ceremony. And like Herb Brooks, I’m willing to be hated to help that scenario become a reality.

Radical? Probably. Stupid? Possibly. And yes, I understand that two children under 8-years old share exactly zero of the personality traits of bearded collegiate athletes, but still I contend there is a parenting lesson to be had here. Maybe I’m simply hoping for a miracle off-ice.
I don’t wish to be an evil father figure, of course. But I will, from time to time, play the villain intentionally and relatively harmlessly (I hope) to rally one girl to her sister’s side. They gang up on me verbally and, sometimes, physically. Bring it, girls. And never stop. Just put down the hockey sticks first.

To read more from Jeff… check out his blog: Out With the Kids.