Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Twin Birth Story: Crystal Carpenter

If you'd like to contribute your own twin birth story, CLICK HERE to fill out the questionnaire!

Crystal Carpenter

Where do you currently live?  Amarillo, TX

Monday, June 29, 2015

Twin Birth Story: Elizabeth

If you'd like to contribute your own twin birth story, CLICK HERE to fill out the questionnaire!


Where do you currently live?  Dallas, TX

Friday, June 26, 2015

Twin Birth Story: Ashley

If you'd like to contribute your own twin birth story, CLICK HERE to fill out the questionnaire!


Where do you currently live?  Peoria, IL

Monday, June 22, 2015

Healthy Snacks & Meal Ideas

Hi fellow twin mamas, it's Noelle again! I am super excited to be joining the Twin Talk team.  Thanks for all your great questions relating to feeding your sweet little ones.  I am going to get to all of your questions over time, but for now, this post will focus on understanding what is “normal” food-related behavior is for babies and toddlers and give you practical tips for healthy snack and meal ideas. See the end of this post for future topics that I will cover.

A common trend for children 12-36 months (1-3 years) is increased autonomy in all that they do.  With food this often turns into what we refer to as “picky eaters” or to a less extreme “food jags”.  Picky eaters are the ones that have a few favourite foods and refuse to eat anything outside of their top picks, even if they liked that food as an infant.  Food jags refers to the times when a toddler loves a food one week and hates it the next.  Anyone have one of those days when they are jumping up and down because their child loved a new food only to go and buy more of that food just to find out that now they hate it?! Been there done that…with way too many foods ;) With twins we have twice the food jags and twice the picky times.  But we must persevere and keep offering.  At some point they will like it again….or at least one will which somehow always makes me feel better.   
Whether your child will eat anything you serve them or seems to have a repertoire of three foods, we need to be very careful not to label our kids as “the picky eater”; the one who “won’t eat meat” or “doesn’t like vegetables”; etc.  It is easy to say things about our children and not realize that they will take this to heart.  If your child hears you describe them as “the one who will only eat fruit but no vegetables” then they will continue in this behavior as it lives up to a label that you have evidently accepted since you are willing to describe them this way to others. This is magnified with twins as they are labelled even more often than singletons when compared to each other. I have often had people ask me “so which one is the quiet one and which one is the loud one?”.  I am appalled at these types of questions as it makes my kids feel like they are supposed to fall into a certain box of behavior as a twin.  Our children are individuals who just happened to be born at the same time.  They do not need labels about anything….especially when it comes to the type of eater that they are.  So even if your child only eats mac and cheese, be careful how you talk about them to others.
Okay, now for the practical suggestions.  A few of you asked for quick and easy lunch and snack ideas. So here are a few lunch ideas to start, then snacks.
  1. Quick and easy lunch for home or on the go - Whole grain crackers, a few slices of cheese, diced chicken or turkey pieces, diced avocado, and cut up grapes.  Just a few bites of each to start then once everything is gone allow your child to have more of their favourite.  Children need small portions so they are not overwhelmed.  You will find your child eats more overall if you start small and add as needed.

  1. Eggs with toast and a crunchy fruit or vegetable – Eggs are packed with nutrients that children need so don’t be afraid to give eggs a few times each week.  You can hard boil eggs or scramble them or make a fun quiche.  Come up with names for the different types of eggs and then ask them what they want.  For example, at our house quiche is called pot pie eggs.  If your kids love hard boiled eggs, may you could call them boat eggs.  Give your children variety in texture so along with the eggs you could serve crunchy toast (with mashed avocado on top for added good fats) and freshly cut cucumber or carrots or apple slices.  

  1. Chicken Fried rice – This is an easy meal packed with nutrition.  In anticipation of making this, cook chicken the night before and have some leftover.  Fry up a scrambled egg, once it is cooked add in peas and corn, diced chicken (that is already cooked of course), and some rice – preferably brown rice.  Once you have mixed this all together and turned down the heat add some grapeseed or avocado oil and stir.  From here you can serve this as is or you can add another ingredient to make it stick together a bit.  For example, a little bit of yogurt or apple sauce.  It sounds odd but kids love it!  This is also a great meal to have kids watch you make. It is quick and has lots of fun colours in it.
Snacking is super important for children. Children’s stomachs are small and they need little bits of fuel all day long.  Sometimes we get caught up in needing our kids to have big meals and we forget that it doesn’t matter when they eat, as long as they get the nutrition that they need. Many children will actually eat more of the snacks they are served than the meals they are served.  This is often magnified with twins as they may compete for a snack served in bulk, but will not compete for a meal as they are seated for it with their own plate or bowl.  The only drawback to snacking is when it allows kids to fill up on goldfish crackers and puffs, which leads to little room left for nutritious foods.  Try to plan your snack options as mini meal options and then you won’t be as stressed when you 20 month old will only eat sweet potatoes at supper….three nights in a row.  I speak from experience on that one!   
Snacks should have at least two food groups present.  Here are some fun and healthy snack ideas that you can mix and match that won’t destroy your carpet, car seat, or stroller.
  1. Diced apples or canteloupe
  2. Raisins or Craisins (for over 18 months)
  3. Sliced grapes
  4. Cubed cheese or cheese strings
  5. Sliced cucumbers
  6. Baby carrots (cut in half)
  7. Whole grain crackers
  8. Homemade mini banana muffins (I find that other types of muffins tend to crumble but banana muffins tend to stay together)
Another option is to use snack time as a time to offer foods your children aren’t fond of.  For example, we found that our twins were refusing their veggies at meals starting at about 16 months so we started giving them steamed veggies as a snack about 30-60 minutes before meal time and they consumed a ton of vegetables this way.  You can try this with steamed cauliflower or broccoli or carrots or cut up fresh cucumbers or peppers.  
I hope that this is useful and answers some of your questions.  Watch for my upcoming posts on
  • The importance of food exposure as opposed to consumption;
  • Incorporating food allergies into your toddler’s diet;
  • The influence of twins on each other’s eating habits; and
  • Eating for 3 – nutrition while breastfeeding twins.  

More from Noelle....
CLICK HERE to read Meal Tips for Picky Eaters

Friday, June 19, 2015

Twin Birth Story: Jamie Zenerovitz

If you'd like to contribute your own twin birth story, CLICK HERE to fill out the questionnaire!

Jamie Zenerovitz

Where do you currently live?  Hamilton Square, NJ

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Photographing Multiples During Different Stages

Hi there! It’s me, Carleigh, owner and photographer over at Sweet Poppy Studios, with some great general tips for photographing your twins and also some age-specific tips I have learned along the way. I am an auntie to nine month old identical twin boys, and I have been photographing multiples for many years. Here are some general tips you can apply to every age:

Find the Right Light. Lighting is key when photographing anything, but it is especially important when photographing children. Children can’t control when they squint, so choosing lighting that makes it easy for them to give you a natural face is important. My first choice is always FULL SHADE. This even lighting will give you the best chance of a non-squinty, open-eyed shot. Second choice is full sun. It can be especially beautiful if you can keep your own shadow out of the shot! Avoid that splotchy, half sun/half shade scenario. In that lighting, it is hard to get an evenly lit shot, and you will likely detract from the beauty of your children with weird shadows and lines on them. This goes for indoor shots as well. If you have enough light to turn OFF your overhead lights, I would. Avoid the tones cast and the shadows they can create on faces by eliminating them.

Do Your Prep Work. Once you find your spot with the right lighting, get set up. Take a test shot before you bring your kids over to make sure you are ready for the shot. Bring whatever activity you want to photograph them doing and have it in the right spot ready to go. Being ready for the shot is half the battle, and sometimes they only give us a quick moment to get the shot. This applies to phone photos, too!

Go For the Gusto. You are ready, you have the right light, so now is the time! Place your children in the spot you want and go right for the shot! I have found that your best opportunity for a shot with both children looking at the camera is in those first few seconds you place them, when they are still looking at you for instruction. If they get engaged in the environment or activity, you are going to have a hard time getting them both back to being focused on you! So try for that shot with them both looking first.

Overstimulation - Let’s avoid it. Many children, especially twins, come to me for their sessions uninterested in having their photos taken due to an abundance of overstimulation by parents. We overstimulate them by repeatedly calling their names to try and get them to look at us. I rarely use their names to get them look at me. I find ways to get them to interact with me because they WANT to. This means participating in the play, cheering for them, laughing with them and being interested in what is going on - not just interested in the photo. If you say their names ten times, guess what!? They are going to start ignoring you, and we don’t want that. Patience will help you catch them looking or engaging if you wait.

No Negotiating. I don’t negotiate with or bribe children to have their photos taken for many reasons. The first is that you do not want to set the precedent that getting your photo taken is a situation which needs to be negotiated. We negotiate things that are tasks, compromises, give and take. We don’t want them thinking this about photos! Kids are smart, and the negotiations are only going to get more and more intense. My other reason is that you are the parent, and instruction with activity actually helps them know what to expect and what to do. “We are going to take your pictures, then blow bubbles in the yard!” “We are going to Grandma’s house. Hold your Brother’s hand here on the porch for this photo so we can get in the car and go.” Quick lines of instruction help them, so stick with that and leave the negotiations at work.

Outfits. This is the question I get asked the most often by my clients, and I understand because it is a tough choice! My main tip here is to avoid clothing with words on the front. Most of the time, only part of the lettering ends up visible, and it’s distracting. Opt for a pattern or a solid instead. Also, and I know this is hard with twins, but I would avoid matching (my sister completely disagrees here!). Instead, try for coordinating colors. My reasoning is that matching can sometimes blend together in weird optical illusions and coordinating helps eliminate that issue. More importantly though, as your children grow, is that THEY feel comfortable and most like themselves. After all, capturing stages also means what they were actually like at that stage - not a fake version for a photo. You can help by letting them choose their own favorites from limited choices you approve of already.

Be a Parent First and a Photographer Second. This one is hard. As their parents, you are the main documenter of their lives and all of their important moments - but you have to be a parent first and foremost. You are going to miss some great shots, and that is okay. Seeing your face smiling back at them during those moments when they need it is far more important than any photo you will ever take. If you followed my tips above and did your prep work, you should have been able to get a few shots right off the bat. At some point shortly thereafter, you need to put the camera down and wholeheartedly be present for them. Play the game, enjoy the show, cheer for them! If at some point they get busy playing without your undivided attention, you can return to the camera and snap some great lifestyle shots of them engaged. Also, I would highly recommend scheduling a yearly photo shoot with a pro so you can be in some shots feeling beautiful too!

Safety First. I think this goes without saying, but safety comes first. Never place your children where they can fall, or where they might be in danger. I use the ground for most of my shots, and it’s easy! All you need to do is get down flat on your belly so you can be at the same level as them. No one can get hurt, and I get some exercise getting up and down =) But seriously, no shot is worth the danger, so think about safety before worrying about photos.

Print Your Work. Sometimes, we take all these pictures and we enjoy them, but the children hardly ever see them. You see them on your devices, but they don’t. This makes it hard for them to feel invested in capturing these moments. Print your photos out. Put them around your home, in your children's rooms, at grandpa’s house, on the desk at Mom’s work. Even if they aren’t perfect. Even if they are from your phone. I get the best responses from repeat families who print their photos and display them around their home. The kids are genuinely excited to participate in creating more memories to display. I love to print from Artifact Uprising. They have gorgeous products and a great phone app. I print my phone photos from there too!

Age Specific Tips:

Newborn. This cute squishy stage is so darling and one I know you all want to remember forever. Since newborns cannot control their limb movement, if they are awake, the best way to get a shot is to swaddle them and place them next to each other, then shoot from directly over the top. Watch out for your shadow! I prefer to photograph newborns asleep since they cannot focus far anyway. If they are asleep, make sure they are in a deep sleep before placing them next to each other. Make sure they are close together!  Never ever leave babies unsupported or get far away where you can’t reach them.

Baby. They are starting to smile at you here, and who doesn’t want to capture that! I would shoot them awake, from directly over the top. They can’t sit up, so it looks silly and uncomfortable when you try to prop them up next to each other all slumped over with pillows. Another great view is from the side. Let them show off how they have learned to track you by turning their necks to the side. Tummy time is also great as they are learning to push up to elbows. Never force babies into awkward positions or place them where they might slam their heads into each other.

Sitters. This might be my favorite stage. They laugh at you, are inquisitive, have great expression, and love getting reactions from you. They are sitting up and it’s the cutest. Sit them next to each other with their bottoms touching - feet slightly angled out. I like to use silly noises to make the boys laugh at me, or look my way. I also like to get them looking at each other too. Remember, I don’t shout their names, and you shouldn’t either. Also, this is the stage where parents like to start dangling their favorite toy/food/phone over the camera. Don’t do that! They are going to want that object and get mad at you when you don’t hand it over. This is also a great place to address when you have twins where one has reached a milestone and the other one hasn’t (Baby A sits up and Baby B doesn’t!). That’s okay! Photograph them together with their own skills. It’s okay if they aren’t both looking at the camera. You might be surprised how special a photo that shows off the individuality of each child while still capturing both is to you.

Crawling. When you place them down, place them in the sitting position, and let them navigate themselves into the crawling position. Bonus points if you have another person available to seat them while you are already set up for the photo. You need to back up here and give yourself more room because they are likely to come right toward you! Starting further back, on the ground at their level, will give you a little extra time to get a few shots off. I like to shoot laying down on my belly supported by my elbows for this stage.

New Walkers. Similar to crawling, start a little further away. I like to shoot on my knees at this stage so I am close to eye level for the shot. They usually come either right for me or their parents (strategically positioned waiting for them in the direction I want the kids to head). This goes without saying, but please stay away from streets, ditches, and other areas where you might not be able to get to them fast enough. Fenced yards and big parks are much safer options!

Toddlers. This is the HARDEST stage by far, especially with two. They have mobility and definite ideas about what they do and don’t want to be doing with with their time. They go any direction, and a lot of times, it's away from you as fast as possible. It’s tough, and you have limited time, so be ready. I use age appropriate “games” at this stage to occupy them. Can you clap? Jump? Dance? Blow a kiss? Try to keep them in the same place for a second or two and go for it. This seems to be where the negotiating starts (stand here and you'll get a fruit snack!), and I would avoid starting this bad habit. You still need to be eye level with them, so either sit, squat, or shoot on your knees.

Preschoolers. This is another stage I love. Their world is all about play, and you are the center of it all. You can create games, activities, and ideas that they will be happy to engage with, and they are also able to understand the concept of getting their photo taken to help you out. They are trying to establish skills and independence at this stage, and that is a wonderful thing to capture. Motor skills are great activities - blowing bubbles, hopping, making faces, tickling - are all fun things they love. They also love to show you things at this stage - a drawing, a rock they found - anything! Embrace this stage and roll with it. Ask them to “show you who is taller - stand back to back!” - fun things like this to keep them interested help. After, let them each pick a photo to print. Next time they will be even more excited to help out.

School Aged. The great thing about school is that they have learned the “sit here and give me your attention” trick. It is helpful, just not incredibly helpful for capturing genuine smiles! They have learned to fake smile like little pros and, as darling as that can be, it’s not usually what we are aiming for. I use this stage to ask them questions that might help them give me what I want. For example, I might ask “What’s the silliest thing your sister has ever done?” or "What is the funniest thing that has ever happened at school?” A lot of times, just like adults, they smile thinking about these memories. I also ask them serious questions too. “What’s the best thing about having a twin?” or “What do you like the best about your Mommy?” They still love to play at this age, so games are fantastic. Red light, Green light, Simon Says, and Follow the Leader are a few of my personal faves.

Pre-teen/Teenager. Ah, the growing stage. They can be happy and sweet one moment, and little monsters the next. Self conscious, awkward, and unpredictable are all words I hear from families planning shoots with their tweens and they make complete sense. As we are trying to raise independent-thinking, good decision making, compassionate, loving, members of society, there are a lot of growing pains in the way. Here, my very best advice is respect their voice in the process of photo taking. If you have a teen that takes some warming up to the idea, give them enough warning to be prepared. Twins can go either way at this stage - some close as ever and others really trying to establish their own identity by showing how different they are. Which ever set of twins you have that particular day, keep it in mind and allow them to help lead you. I’ve found that communicating with them what the photos are for is helpful in getting them on board. “This is a gift for Dad for Father’s Day - he did such a great job making sure you both go to soccer practice on time every day this season!” “This is for my desk at work. The one I have there now is from when you were both five and I need a new one!”. Even the most surly of teens usually cooperate for a few moments when you tug at their heart strings.  

Whatever stage your little ones are at, I hope you gained a few tips to help you capture them! How do you capture your little ones?! Share your images, successes, questions and other tips with me on instagram by using the hashtag #spslovestwintalk. I cannot wait to see what you share!

Stay in touch with me on Instagram @sweetpoppystudios and on our Sweet Poppy Studios Facebook Page too!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day in the Life: 17 Months

The Day in the Life series continues with Karen and her 17-month-old B/G twins...

8:48 am
Everyone is awake.  It was a long night.  Sadie my daughter spit up last night and when I woke up in the morning our room smelled so I'm washing everything.  Wyatt my son is on my bed with the TV remote which I take away.  I change both of their diapers  and hand them a water.  I usually make breakfast first thing in the morning.  

10:06 am
I'm almost done making breakfast.  Normally I do French Toast because neither are into eggs by themselves or haven't been so I'm trying today to see if there's some interest.  I can hear Wyatt making his distress call.  I can already tell without walking in the room he's on the second shelf of my bookcase.  

I was so judgemental before I had children.  If someone would have told me their son had climbed the bookcase I would have thought " where were you ?".  

All of our furniture is bolted with a safety device to a stud in the wall.  I thought it was a little extreme, but finding him for the first time on a shelf like this I was thankful we took the extra measure.  We also have both of our flat screen televisions anchored to their cabinet.   This doesn't mean we allow them to do this but it allows us to correct the behavior without a major accident.  

10:10 am
Breakfast is cooled off.  I take some chicken out of the freezer to put in the Crok Pot for dinner.  I usually defrost it but forgot.  Right now they are fighting at the baby gate that separates the main room from the kitchen.  The kitchen is the only room in the house I refuse to give them access to.  

I'm pretty sure Sadie's smiling in the background. 

Sadie gets so mad when Wyatt cries.  It's almost like she yells back at him "ya ya ya ".  In this picture she's hitting him on the head.  We don't spank our children or pets.

10:15 am
I take breakfast and the twins outside.  I got rid of their high chairs when they turned one.  They have a small table and chair set they sit at but today were eating breakfast outside in our Radio Flyer Wagon.  This way I can let them eat while I feed our pets and water what needs watering.  

This is one of the reasons why I ditched the high chairs.  Sadie prefers to take a bite and throw something she's not interested in.  I've tried to get her to stop but it was becaming a game. 

Beggars are always on stand by.  Normally I put the dogs in the back but today I forgot. 

Menu Breakfast :  eggs, garbanzo beans, cheese, watermelon and orange slices.  

I'm on a anti sippy cup campaign.  People roll their eyes when I tell them sippy cups are no different than bottles. I have cleaned bottles everyday for the past 17 months and I'm not transitioning to cleaning and putting together a sippy cup.  These water bottles are probably not much different other than they have to hold it upright to drink and they have to suck through a straw.  I used to practice with actual cups in the wagon but now we do that at bath time.  They can drink from a cup but I'm not ready to leave them alone with one full of milk. 

A little sand box time.  Yes in a diaper. He spilled his water all over himself. 

11:00 am
We go back inside the house.  Breakfast is done.

11:02 am
I chased Sadie who was putting my shoes in her mouth while I was filling tub.

11:03  am

This is when I practice having them drink from a cup.  I fill it up with bottled or clean tap water and they drink. 

11:25 am
Both are in diapers crying.

11:30 am
After breakfast and a bath I give them a bottle with milk and turn on a movie.  They have bean bags I bought them which they love.  

This is our room .  I've had them in here from Fisher Price Rock n Plays to a crib and now toddler beds.  As you see everyone's blankets and sheets are stripped due to last nights incident.

11:33  am
I'm in the kitchen putting dishes in the washer and clean sheets and blankets in the dryer. 

11:55  am
Both are Asleep

I moved Sadie to her bed even though it's not made.  I didn't like her sleeping position on the bean bag. 

How I use my time while they nap:

Clean Bottles 
Pick up Toys 
Check on Animals Outside 
Put the Frozen Chicken in the Crok Pot on High

1:25  pm
Wyatt's awake.  I change his diaper and put clothes on and give him water. 

1:36  pm
Wyatt's watching Baby First TV and drinking water dressed.  

2:04  pm
I sat on the couch and thought Wyatt was coming over to snuggle no he has a poopy diaper 

2:28  pm
I'm making lunch.

Menu Lunch:  cheese quesadillas, turkey breast lunch meat and Ronzoni garden delight pasta. 

2:50  pm
Changed Wyatt's diapers and Sadie is chewing on the wall at her special spot.

I had them both tested for Iron deficiencies last week.  My concern has been PICA but their Dr says they are fine.  

2:55 pm
Lunch was ready so I told them to sit at their chairs.  I put the plate down then they sit and grab a piece of food.  I spilt their food up on the table and take the plate away. 

3:14 pm
They are both fighting over one of my flip flops one of them  reached through a baby gate and grabbed.  

3:19  pm
Now their playing but Wyatt's crying because he can't get his toy quad to go in the direction he wants.

3:26  pm
Wyatt's in the bookcase again 

3:33  pm
They have already eaten what their going to eat so I give them a milk.  Plus Wyatt saw me pouring it and immediately started whining .  If he could have it his way he'd just drink milk.  Sadie loves both solid food and milk. 

3:42 pm
They both drank about 3 fl oz of milk and are done so I'm putting the bottle back in the fridge Sadie is now sitting on my bed making her poop face.  

3:50  pm
I let Bellamy the dog inside.  Normally dogs are not allowed inside but I've given in.  It may sound terrible and dirty but they are excellent on picking up spilled food. 

4:00 pm
I put on "Dr.  Seuss Horton Hears a Hoo" and I take a shower.

4:20 pm
Nevermind I haven't taken a shower I've  been messing around but just took a piece of plastic away from Sadie .  I wouldn't have known she had it unless Wyatt was chasing her for it.  

4:47  pm
I  took a shower but  still need to brush my hair.  We are just hanging out in the living room there's a Step2 playhouse a slide and some Fisher Price Little People toys.  They each have a water and I put out some Earths Best Organic cheddar crackers. 
4:57 pm
They are  both pooping again .

5:00 pm
I changed Wyatt's diaper and put socks on.  

5:10  pm
Sadie's  diaper is changed and shoes are on them both.  They are  in the living room watching Baby First TV while I wait for rice to boil so I can set the timer and go outside.  Dad should be home soon.

5:59 pm
We are eating dinner in the wagon watching dad put something together from work.  

Menu Dinner:  chicken, garbanzo beans, orange slices, white rice, banana

6:12 pm
Dinners done now we're at the swing set 

6:25  pm
Back inside for an emergency diaper change.  The outdoor swing part is over and their a little upset but tired.

6:40  pm
Both diapers have been changed and their clothes off.  They are sitting on their bean bags watching the rest of Horton .  I need to get their pajamas and put the sheets on everyone's beds. As I type Sadie's eyeing the chew spot on the wall.

6:58 pm
Wyatt popped so I changed his diaper.  I still haven't put their pajamas  on. 

7:04  pm
They are playing with daddy I'm finally going to get their pjs.

7:25  pm
Pajamas on and daddy put all the sheets on the beds.

I bought this turban thing in the mail that I tried on Sadie during changing time.  She looks so cute. 

8:00  pm
I let them lay on my bed with a water watching the end of the movie. 

8:30 pm
Everyone is asleep I just have to move them to their beds.  

9:16 pm  
Sadie woke up not sure why but 
she went right back to sleep. 

5:00 am  
Wyatt woke up for a diaper and went back to sleep. 

About Us: 

My husband and I were married for 10 years before I finally became pregnant with twins.  We had fertility issues and conceived via IVF thankfully the first time.  So finding out I was pregnant with twins was not a surprise.  We have a lot of pets and spend most of our time outdoors.  I love doing new things with them and I am constantly taking their picture.  It's funny they are normally happy smiling children and this was a bad day.  Spitting up never happens and a leaky diaper on the swing set is a first too.  Everyday is different.  As of today a week later they are no longer chewing the walls and those photos of Wyatt in the book case were his last attempts.   We went on a Ranger ride the following day and I thought what a perfect time for a family selfie.

As far as a schedule I have never had one except for when they were infants and they ate every three hours.  I've always done everything with both at the same time.  

Some recent favorite photos.