November 2015

This One Question Stopped Me in My Tracks

by Samantha on November 29, 2015

Having a doppelgänger as a sibling presents unexpected and surprising challenges

Boys pic

My son Erik and I were looking at pictures of him and his brother recently. With my laptop cracked open, he had peered over my shoulder as I was idly going through my ever-growing iPhoto library in an effort to determine which photos were going to be moved to make more room for, well, more photos.

We came across a picture of him and his identical twin brother, Aubrey. As the mother of identical twin boys, it had been years since I had finally figured out how to tell them apart, an ability that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to master when they were babies.

“Which one is me?”

His question hit me like a ton of bricks.

All at once, it occurred to me that he - unlike most of us singletons - was not able to immediately discern his likeness in a picture, at least not in a picture that also featured his identical twin brother. By virtue of the fact that they share the exact same DNA and very similar looks (by most accounts), their ability to distinguish themselves from each other is not an easy task. That sense of “self” that we all take for granted? Well, it’s a bit more complicated for identical twins.

Our capacity to recognize ourselves is something that most of us take for granted. And yet, for identical twins, it is something that is learned, something that needs to be practiced until the subtleties that indicate difference become irrefutably clear.

With identical twins,  the mere act of looking at each other is, in essence, the same as looking into a mirror. To this end, understanding that their twin looks just like them to most people, they are no different from any other person in not being able to discern the physical difference between themselves and their siblings. A unique problem indeed.

With identical twins, the mere act of looking at each other is, in essence, the same as looking into a mirror.

How disturbing this must be for both people whose doppelgänger presents themselves to the other with startling frequency (at least in the case of young siblings growing up in the same  household). With less instances of looking at themselves in the mirror and more of looking at each other, is it any wonder that discernment of self is a challenge, to say the least?

And let’s not forget the inevitable effects on the injured parties (the twins) in these situations:

  • A confused sense of self leading to frustration and insecurity
  • An overwhelming desire by each twin to individuate themselves from each other
  • Resentment at having to try harder than most to carve out a persona that is discernibly separate and different from their twin

While it’s certainly disconcerting to say the least for each twin in these equations, it’s equally distressing to loved ones who - despite their best efforts - are not able to tell the twins apart, adding to each twins’ frustration. We all have a journey towards our sense of self; for identical twins, the road to self-awareness both literally and figuratively, is particularly challenging. In the case of my kids and so many other identical twins:

  • They sleep together in the same room; bunk-beds, yes, however they are together.
  • They’re in the same class at school and look at each other’s likeness daily; oftentimes, their teacher and classmates cannot tell them apart
  • They are siblings - and with that designation, act out their respective roles accordingly, both within the family structure an outside of it (“The Quiet One,” The Outgoing One,” “The Sensitive One,” etc.)

Our capacity to recognize ourselves is something that most of us take for granted.

Where does it end, they must think? And for those of us who love and care for them, how do we modify our behaviour to support their individuality as well as their similarities?


I’ve previously written about this topic, and you can read some of my suggestions here:

How to Foster Individuality in Twins

In addition to these five points outlined in the article, consider the following:

1)Avoid referring to your twins as a single unit - Instead of saying “The Twins” or “The Girls,” refer to them instead by their unique names: “Sarah and Emily,” and other times “Emily and Sarah.” The key is to always reference them as individuals as well as to not always have one child as the first name that is called or referenced, so that no preference is conveyed.

2)Support individual pursuits for each twin - Though it’s much easier to put your twins into the same classes and extra curricular lessons (from a logistics standpoint alone), encourage them to pursue separate interests. Not only will it help them to form their own strengths, but it will underscore the differences from their sibling that makes them unique.

3)Make “one-on-one” time a priority - Each child needs to feel that they are valued as an individual. As their parents, it’s important that we support them through special times spent with each of them, alone. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but should be consistent and frequent.

4)Discourage comparisons or competitions between twins - They are individuals and are likely compared to each other by the outside world on a regular basis. Make their lives with the family different by discouraging competition or comparisons between them. They will appreciate not having to live up to expectations that are hard to achieve.

5)Create separate memories - Along with the one-on-one time with each twin, curate special memories through keepsakes for each of your children. Instead of grouping them both together in a memory box or photo album (digital or physical), keep separate items and photos labelled for both of your individual children. Show them by your actions that you recognize and love their uniqueness.

To read this article on Huffington Post, click here.

How do you deal with the unique challenges of parenting identical twins? What can parents of identical twins do to help their children develop individuality and a positive sense of self?


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An Absolutely Brilliant Cure For the Bedtime Stalls

by Samantha on November 25, 2015

Netflix and Dreamworks offers parents a five-minute solution to bedtime stalling tactics

DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.

Ummm….this isn’t my first rodeo. Really.

Yet my twin boys seem to think that it’s a free-for-all when it comes to bedtime. Yes, they think that their various “reasons” (read: excuses) will prolong the inevitable just a few precious moments longer.

Here are some beauties:

  • “I’m not tired!” (usually stated when their eyeballs are almost rolling back in their heads and the distinctly shrill, whiny tone of exhaustion has taken hold)
  • “I’m thirsty/hungry!”
  • “My head/foot/eyeball hurts!”

Get the picture?

It’s pretty clear that anything and everything is fair game in the quest to extend bedtime for even five minutes longer. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” a wise man once said. He must have had kids.

Not surprisingly, bedtime excuses are universal. According to a global poll by Netflix, a full 61 per cent of parents have the pleasure of listening to the various excuses and bedtime stalling tactics provided by their kids. To this end, it’s probably no surprise then that 79 per cent of parents worldwide are willing to make compromises with their kids at bedtime, spending an average of 20 minutes per night negotiating with them to go to bed. That’s a lot of lost sleep, frustration and tears for all involved.

In an effort to support exasperated parents and wily children, Netflix has come up with the brilliant idea of how to give in to your child’s demand of “five more minutes” by giving them…well…five more minutes!

In partnership with DreamWorks Animation, Netflix has launched the new Dinotrux 5 Minute ‘Favorites,’ the perfect solution for parents who are at the end of their collective ropes.

Because of this option, bedtime now looks like this (at least it does in my house):

Me: “Time for bed. Let’s brush your teeth then get tucked in.”

Boy #1/Boy #2 or both: “My leg hurts!” “I’m thirsty!” “I’m not tired!”

Me: “Okay - how about I give you a very special treat: time to watch a whole Dinotrux show on Netflix and then right when it’s done, you go right into bed. Deal?”

Boy #1/Boy #2 or both: “Okay! Thanks, Mommy!!” (both boys walk away and park themselves in front of the TV, thinking they’ve won the bedtime battle, laughing to themselves; I sit tight for a mere 300 seconds, knowing that the bedtime follies will be ending momentarily).

At this point, there may actually be time for some adult Netflix time once the kids are in bed. What could be better than that?

Here’s a short video clip to show you what to expect from these five-minute shows:

And in case you’re not sure which bedtime staller category your child falls into, here’s a handy-dandy chart, based on Netflix show characters to help you successfully pinpoint your little darling’s style (These shows are great entertainment for the whole family when there’s more time to be had watching shows. Maybe a Friday or Saturday night movie night?):

5 more minutes

If it’s not immediately clear, I think that these mini-shows are a stroke of genius and a huge help to all of us parents who have struggled to get our kids into bed every night. Check them out and let me know what you think!



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Get paid at the rate of almost $20 per hour with new app


Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog knows that I’m all about the savings. After all - having a number of young mouths to feed, clothe and raise can put stress on one’s family budget, to say the least.

I’m always looking for a deal and/or a way to make my family dollar stretch as far as I can so when a way to do so comes my way, it’s a “no-brainer” to say the least!

Such was the case with the newly launched app, Caddle.

You want savings? With this app, you’ll get ’em - easily.

Here’s how it works:

Caddle pays you, not only for your engagement, but for your feedback and purchases as well. AND, invite along a few friends for the ride and you’ll get paid as well. See what I mean about a “no-branier?”

The great thing for companies is that they get a dedicated paid audience, and even better, as a consumer - you get to engage, learn and be compensated for your time!

I know you’re wondering how to get this app and start saving, so here you go. All you have to do is:

1. Download the app (right now it is available for iOS and you can sign up on your desktop as well, a version is coming for Android users).

2. Select an offer.

3. Watch the AD.

After the ad is finished, answer the questionnaire and get paid. It all takes about a minute. You can earn at a rate of about $20 an hour.

No-brainer, right?

As an added bonus, you earn even more if you actually go and purchase an item on Caddle. You can upload your receipts and receive cash back for featured products. As I mentioned previously, share Caddle with your friends and earn even more.All they have to do is download the app and use it. It’s that easy!

Got some spare time? Think about the time spent in line for coffee at Starbucks, waiting for the bus or passing the time when you’re awaiting you little one to come through the doors at the end of the school day.

Watch this short video to find out about how it works:

To celebrate the launch of this great new Canadian app, we are hosting a Twitter Party on Thursday, December 3rd at 9pm EST.

See below for details. You can win  one of 3 $100 Visa Gift Cards or 1 $200 Visa Gift Card.

No-brainer, right?

Register for the party in the party below. Just fill in your name and get ready to have fun and save.

Twitter Party Details:

Hashtag: #CaddleLaunch

Host: @CommonCentsMom. Follow her for questions and prizing

I’ll be joining in as well, of course! I can be followed at @samkj27

Special Guest: @CaddleCanada

Moderators: @cammipham @gingermommy and @oldermommystill @canadianmomeh

Prizing: 3 $100 Visa Gift Cards 1- $200 Visa Gift Card

RSVP here:




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Panel of older moms discuss their experiences on national television show

Canada AM Panel

Between The New Family, Toronto Life and Canada AM, there’s been a lot of discussion in my world about being an “older mom.”

The reality is, however, that becoming a parent later in life is an increasingly more common occurrence. As women struggle with financial responsibilities, career goals and the inherent challenges of biology and fertility that age brings, the definition of “older mom” will continue to shift. While my personal situation is atypical (having raised a child to adulthood and also raising young children), my experience in being an older mom to elementary-aged children is not.

As a result of the Toronto Life and The New Family articles and podcast, the conversation on this topic continued on Canada AM (You can read the full Toronto Life article here:The Mid-Life Moms Club).

The segment made me reflect upon some of the both positive and negative aspects of parenting at an advanced age. Here’s some of the pros and cons of having children when you’re over 40 (or in your late 30’s).


  • I’m more calm and confident in my abilities
  • I’m more self-assured and less anxious
  • More financially stable/more money available
  • I’ve had the experience of already raising a child so know what to expect and am able to provide advice to first-time parents who are uncertain
  • Life experience has made me wiser and I don’t feel like I have something to prove
  • Career is more established when you’re older with kids
  • People judge me and think I’m crazy
  • Less energy than I had when parenting at a younger age - I get tired more easily
  • Going through menopause and middle-age while dealing with young kids or teen angst can be challenging
  • Generally speaking, older parents will have less time to spend with your kids and may not be able to be an actively-engaged grandparent due to age-related illness
  • Kids may not get to know their grandparents (my younger kids never met their paternal grandparents)

Did I miss any? :)

Watch the full segment here and let me know your thoughts:

Canada AM: Becoming a Mom at 40+

What are your thoughts about becoming a mom later in life? Has this been your experience or do you know someone who has taken this untraditional route? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.


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Faking It: When Your Kid Pretends to be Sick

by Samantha on November 7, 2015

So you suspect your child isn't really sick? Here are 5 tips for what to do

All of a sudden, your kid is nursing a cold. Then it’s a horrible tummy ache. Then their head hurts.

Trouble is, they were fine just a few minutes ago.

Coincidentally, you find out that one (or more) of the following things is occurring:

  1. Your child has a newfound bully
  2. Your child is struggling with a new subject: math/spelling/reading
  3. Your child dislikes his new teacher or there’s been a change in the curriculum
  4. Your child just wants some extra attention from you, alone
  5. Your child needs a “mental health day” away from school
  6. Your child is officially addicted to video games and would much rather stay home in bed all day playing Minecraft than be at school slugging through  the Three R’s

There are many reasons behind why your child may say that they’re sick when they’re not.

They could be trying to avoid a difficult situation at school. They may be feeling lazy and, like all of us, just need a day off to relax and reboot. Or, sadly an more alarmingly, their feigning illness may be a subtle cry for attention regarding something that’s very wrong at school, or an effort to avoid an uncomfortable or troubling situation that may await.

We’ve all tried this trick as kids - I know I did; my parents still laugh so many years later about the time I faked illness when I heard that they had both taken the day off work to have a movie date, only to be sidetracked by my “mystery illness.”

Indeed, most instances of “faking it” are caused by the usual reasons, most of which are innocuous; it’s the more insidious ones that we, as parents, need to be aware of so that we can address the causes at the basis of why our children are avoiding school.

If you believe your child is faking being sick, here’s what to do:

  1. Get to the root of the problem. Your child’s feigned illness may be caused by a number of things. The desire to stay home may be linked to something minor, like just wanting to have the freedom to play all day or take it easy. Conversely, not wanting to go to school could be the result of something major, like being the victim of bullying. Consider any recent changes to your child’s life - both at school and at home. Remember - even what an adult may consider a minor change or shift in how things are done can have a major effect on kids.
  2. Make sure they really aren’t sick - Look for measurable, physiological symptoms. Take their temperature, gauge their behaviour (sick one moment, happy and laughing the next) and look for other tell-tale signs of real illness (lethargy, no appetite, bathroom frequency, etc.).  Following all of these steps will help you figure out what’s really going on with your child and whether or not you have real cause for concern.
  3. Open the doors of communication - Talk to your child, consistently. Don’t wait until a claim of being sick before asking questions an finding out what’s going on in your son or daughter’s’s life. Discuss their daily activities, specifically what they’re doing in school (academically an socially), as part of your regular conversations. Sometimes it’s hard to do, but by making it easy and safe to talk about difficult topics with your child, the real reasons behind their hesitance to go to school will become apparent.
  4. Line Up Resources - You may have an inkling that your child’s problem is more involved that you originally thought. For this reason alone, it may be time to call in the experts. Start with your in-school resources, including the school counsellor, nurse and of course your child’s teacher(s) and principal. Most educators are happy to help parents and kids resolve any issues that may be occurring.
  5. Bite your tongue - Your first instinct may be to say “You’re fine!” or “No, you’re not sick! You’re going to school.” Often, if a child is indeed faking being sick, there are larger issues at play (see point #1). A gentle touch and gentle prodding will likely garner you much more information than following your first instincts that may stop your child from revealing what’s really going on.

Does your child fake illnesses in order to avoid going to school? What are the reasons for your kids’ behaviour? Are they trivial or more serious? How do you handle these situations? Tell me about it in the comments section below.


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You Can Camp if You Want To, You Can Leave Your Fears Behind

November 6, 2015

Ivy Lea KOA provides an enjoyable camping experience for non-campers I’m not a camper. Anyone who knows me knows that camping and I — “never the twain shall meet” Having grown up as a first generation Canadian with parents from the Caribbean, the whole “camping in the woods, getting back to nature, avoiding bears paradigm […]

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TORONTO LIFE FEATURE: Experiencing Motherhood at a Later Age

November 1, 2015

Article outlines the personal stories of moms who became parents over the age of 40 On family, over the ages. The November, 2015 edition of Toronto Life magazine peers into the lives of women who have bucked convention and have gone on to become moms at the ripe old age of 40+. Who are these […]

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