Sunday, November 26, 2006

Do You Know a Family with Twins or Multiples?

If you happen to have multiples, or are close with a family who has twins, triplets (or more!), I have the perfect holiday gift! I’m pleased to announce the publication of my new book, Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons! Published in conjunction with TWINS magazine, this book is a compilation of inspiring stories written by parents and other family members about the joys and challenges of raising multiples. These true tales reflect a variety of topics, such as the special bond between multiples, typical crazy days in the life of a family with twins, challenges encountered in pregnancy or childhood, humorous situations created by multiples, adopting twins, and much more. If you’re the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or even just a friend of twins or triplets, you’ll love these heart-warming and encouraging stories. Twice the Love also makes a great gift for those who are expecting or raising multiples! To order, please go to www.twinsmagazine.com/twice_the_love.html or www.susanheim.com/twicethelove.php.

CHAPTER TITLES

1. A Day in the Life . . .
2. Reflections on Parenting
3. Family Ties
4. Treasured Moments
5. Trials and Triumphs
6. Becoming a Family
7. A Special Bond
8. Mischievous Multiples

The cartoon artistry of the talented John M. Byrne from London, England, is also featured.

PRAISE FOR TWICE THE LOVE

“Having just had identical twin boys, I can promise you, you need all the help you can get. This book helped me realize we were not alone . . . Enjoy it!”
-- Kenny Rogers
award-winning recording artist

“‘Twice the work, half the sleep’ says one mother of twins in this wonderful and entertaining book. As a mother of eighteen-month-old twin boys, I couldn’t agree more! Susan Heim has compiled the most entertaining stories of the good, the bad and the chaotic from parents of twins. The stories are laugh-out-loud funny, inspiring and right on the money.”
-- Soledad O’Brien
CNN Anchor

“This is a delight. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
-- Adrienne Barbeau
actress/author and mother of twins

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Are You Happy?

Most parents will tell you they’re happy they had children. But let’s face it, when you’re caring for young children all day, there are plenty of moments that make you less than happy—much less. When the kids are fighting, refusing to eat, disobeying your instructions, dawdling, or refusing to take their nap, it’s tough to find joy when you want to tear your hair out. Of course, there are enough good moments to make you realize how fortunate you are. When you hear your little one giggle or mispronounce a word, that precious moment just warms the heart and rekindles your love for your child. But when the day-to-day stresses outweigh those endearing moments, you might need some better strategies for increasing your happiness level:

Everyone’s grumpier with inadequate sleep and nutrition. Try to get some zzzz’s instead of staying up to watch TV, and make sure you’re not skipping meals in your haste to serve the kids.

Try to do more things that give you pleasure. The laundry can wait. Break out the Play-doh with the kids. Find joy in the little things. . . and don't feel guilty about it!

Insert humor into your day. Talk to your kids in silly voices or pretend you’re Julia Child while fixing their breakfast. Laughter puts everyone in a good mood.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling stressed. Just because you’re having a rough time doesn’t mean you’re not a good parent. In fact, this is entirely normal!

Keep your relationship with your spouse strong. When you have marital problems, it spills over into your life with your children, making you more impatient. Make sure you and your partner find time to reconnect with each other.

Remember how lucky you are. When the kids’ noise is driving you crazy, think about how lonely you’d be if you’d never had kids. Appreciate the gift of parenthood.

Remind yourself that nothing lasts forever. Your kids won’t be throwing food on the floor in a few years, but neither will they be running up to you for kisses. Enjoy the good stuff while you can get it, and don’t sweat the bad stuff.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The "Ooooooooooo" Response

In 2001, I wrote a piece for the book, Human Moments: How to Find Meaning and Love in Your Everyday Life, by New York Times bestselling author Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. (I would highly recommend this book, by the way, and not just because my anonymous story is in it! It's just a wonderful book about how to discover the things that really matter in life, with some beautiful personal stories by Dr. Hallowell and others.) Following is what Dr. Hallowell wrote to introduce the piece, and then my own story:

When you bring your first child home from the hospital, your skill level is low and the challenge is great. Psychologists will tell you this is a recipe for anxiety. However, nature has built into babies and their parents a special protection against this anxiety, which I call the "Ooooooooooo" response. When you hold any baby, but particularly your own baby, you experience a special kind of human moment characterized by a feeling of "Ooooooooooo." Translated into English, "Ooooooooooo" roughly means, "You are so incredibly adorable and cute and lovable and so divinely cuddle-able that I would like to simply rock you in my arms forever, and I just do not have the words to describe the transcendent feeling that you give me." The author of the following short piece gives an excellent example of "Ooooooooooo." -- E.H.

Eleven years ago, I was a new mother. I'd always wanted to have a child but, like most new parents, I was somewhat surprised at how overwhelming it was to keep my baby happy twenty-four hours a day. One particular evening, my little son had been overly fussy, and both of us were worn out from his crying. Finally, exhausted, I lay down on the couch with the baby stretched across my chest. Both baby and I fell fast asleep.

A while later, I awoke to the bright glow of the moon shining through the window. I opened my eyes to find this tiny body still sprawled across me, his little hands tightly clutching the sides of my shirt. His bow-shaped mouth was slightly open and his sweet baby breath caressed my face with each rise and fall of his chest. His skin was translucent, and his dear face was the picture of innocence bathed in the moonlight. Tears came to my eyes, as I realized that this delicate child nestled close to my heart had truly stolen my heart. I felt wondrously blessed to have this precious son.

From that moment on, whenever I grew frustrated with my attempts to keep my child satisfied, I'd transport myself back to that perfect night, to feel again the soft weight of his warm body on mine and his light breath blowing across my face.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Kids Are Always Naughtier for Their Parents

When my teenagers were little, I would pick them up at the babysitter’s house, and she would tell me what little “angels” my boys were. “Are we talking about the same kids here?” I would ask. I couldn’t believe how well they behaved for her! They morphed into little monsters as soon as they stepped through the door at home!

I now have twin preschoolers, and it’s happening all over again! Their preschool teachers just love them! “They are such sweet little boys,” they tell me. I can’t believe it’s the same little boys who destroy my house and try to maim each other every day. They, too, have Jekyll and Hyde personalities. But I know this phenomenon isn’t unique to my kids. Another mother at preschool told me that her little boy has destroyed her house, yet is good as gold at school.

It’s sad, but I almost dread hanging out with my twins in public. When they’re in Sunday school or preschool, and I happen to be visiting or volunteering, they cling to my legs and cry, refusing to participate in the activities. But when I’m not there, their caretakers assure me that they’re just fine (after the initial clinginess as I drop them off).

In a way, it’s sweet that they want me, but it’s also exasperating . . . and, I admit, somewhat embarrassing. After all, we all want our kids to be “perfect,” especially when other parents are watching! I find myself making excuses when my boys act out in public. “Oh, they’re overtired,” I’ll say. Or, “He’s just acting that way because I’m here.” Or even, “He’s not feeling well right now.” It’s natural, I guess, not to want people to think we’ve managed to raise little “mama’s boys” or spoiled brats.

Fortunately, I have the benefit of hindsight since I have two teenagers. I know this kind of behavior won’t last forever, nor is it a sign that they’ll end up clinging to my coattails for the rest of their lives. It’s a normal developmental stage that most children go through. Some day, my twins will be more than happy not to have me around. And, sadly, that stage lasts a lot longer than the other one!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Happy Marriage Is at the Core of a Happy Family

Having children is a wonderful blessing in a marriage, but somehow in the process of becoming a family, married people often lose the feeling of being lovers. We start to think of ourselves more as “mom” and “dad” rather than “husband” and “wife.” Instead of discussing our hopes and dreams for the future, our conversation revolves around whether little Tommy went “poo-poo” today or whether preteen Erica needs a training bra. Our hands are too full of toys to hold hands with each other, and our eyes are too busy watching the kids to gaze longingly into each other’s eyes.

My friend Monica grew up in a family with six children. Her mother gave up her nursing career to devote herself full-time to raising the kids. Not surprisingly, she spent a lot of time running them to and from their various activities. While Monica’s mom was caring for the kids, their father, a police officer, took as much overtime as possible to be able to cover the expenses of such a large family. While the children prospered, their parents’ marriage floundered. Monica’s parents rarely spent time together, and whatever free time they had was devoted to the children. One day Monica’s dad devastated the family when he left Monica’s mother for a woman he had met on his bowling team. He told Monica’s mother they no longer had anything in common except the children.

Experts say that couples with strong marriages make better parents. The peace and love they feel from a successful relationship spills over to the entire family, benefiting everyone. Therefore, couples should not feel guilty about taking time away from the children for a “date” or even a vacation together. Maybe if Monica’s parents had hired a babysitter and bowled together once a week, they would have continued to enjoy some “couple” time together and would not have grown apart.

God intended marriage to be the core of a happy family. Find ways to continue to grow in your love for your spouse. Attend a couples’ retreat weekend. Take a trip together for your anniversary while the grandparents watch the children. Schedule a “date night” once a week. Make your marriage a priority. You won’t be neglecting your children; you’ll be preserving your family.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Don't Give Up on Your Dreams Just Because You're a Parent

We give up a lot of ourselves when we become mothers. Did you have a lot of dreams and interests when you were younger that you put on hold to raise your children? Nowadays, mothers can’t even daydream in the bathroom without one of the kids yelling through the door, “Mommy, Justin hit me!” or “The dog just ate the meat loaf!” For the time being, our identities revolve almost exclusively around being our little ones’ mom.

When I was growing up, I dreamed of traveling to exotic foreign countries. I wanted to visit as many places and cultures as possible. But I also had another dream: to be a mother. I even determined that four kids would be the perfect number. I’m thrilled that I’m now fulfilling this dream—even down to the desired four children!—but there’s also a longing in me to achieve the other desires of my life, such as the urge to travel. I know that—for now—my other dreams must be put on hold as I spend most of my time raising my young children. But I also realize that it’s still important to hang on to my other dreams and not lose that part of myself.

As the kids get older and more independent, mothers can work on smaller steps to achieve their dreams. For instance, I plan to take a foreign language class to prepare for my future travels, and I keep a file with pamphlets and articles about places that I want to visit. I may not have a lot of time yet to pursue all of my life’s dreams, but I’m happy knowing that I don’t have to let go of them while I devote myself to caring for my children.

Write down the dreams you have for your life and rediscover your passion for them. Figure out what small steps you can take to keep your dreams alive. Continue to nurture your God-given dreams as you raise the children you’ve been blessed with. When your children are older, you’ll be ready to continue making your dreams come true!