Sunday, May 16, 2010

Flip Video Camcorder

Not long ago my sister gave me a surprise gift. It was not my birthday or anniversary or even a holiday of any sort. She gave me a Flip Ultra HD Camcorder. Wow! She thought it would be useful for our family and for Baby Dipper, and it has already been used for both. I am really, really enjoying my Flip!

Before our twin girls were born in 2004, we made sure we had a video camera so that we could capture all of those darling moments that bombard you continuously as a new parent. After much research, we ended up buying a camcorder that used Mini-DV tapes.
So now after 5 years of filming the girls and later our twin boys using these Mini DV tapes, I have a drawer FULL of little tapes that are just sitting there. We don't have time to watch them or even figure out how to copy them over to an electronic file so that if something were to happen to the tapes themselves we would still have all of the videos from them. What to do about all of those tiny tapes?

I try to be responsible about the things that cannot be replaced. My mom and I swap jump drives with all of our digital family photos at the end of each month, thus ensuring that there are copies at two different locations, so that if one of our computers dies or one of our houses burns down, we still have a copy at the other house. In addition to having an external drive to back up my computer, my parents and I also keep a backup of our important computer files at the other's house for the same reason. On that same vein, for photos made before the digital age, Mom and I swapped negatives for all of the 35mm photos we each have. I have a huge box of her negatives in one of our closets that is all of the photos she and Dad took of my siblings and me while growing up. She keeps the prints at her house and I keep the negatives here. Opposite for my prints and negatives - photo albums here, negatives at my parents' house. Pretty smart, huh?

But these little tapes... You can probably tell that this problem has bothered me for quite some time, but that no effort has been put into solving it. One day I will get my act together and record all of those tapes in digital files that we can easily keep copies of in multiple locations. Dad actually just recently got busy digitizing his VHS tapes from long ago, so maybe his software can be used to digitize the Mini DV tapes.

The good news is, though, that as of last month I can very easily download every video I make right to my computer! The Flip camcorder is completely self-sufficient. When you first plug it into your computer, it leads you through the set-up for the FlipShare software, which is amazingly easy to use. You can even edit your films and put them together to make movies with titles and music. When it is plugged into your computer's USB port it also charges the Flip's battery!

AND, it is SO very easy to share videos with friends, family, and business associates as needed. The videos can be uploaded to Facebook, web sites, blogs, etc. I'll even upload one here so you can see how easy it is to do. That's Carlton (in light blue) and Franklin (dark blue) running and shrieking in the light rain and a puddle.

My point in all of this is that I'm quite pleased with the Flip and really don't have any complaints about it so far. It has been mostly for personal use so far, but I did use it to film myself (don't you hate doing that?!?!) for a contest I entered for Baby Dipper.

Flip offers several different versions of their camcorders. Some are smaller, some are HD, and some have longer recording times than others. There is a new one called Slide HD that, yes, slides open so that you can replay your films on a 3-inch screen. Flip Video camcorders come in a variety of colors and there are quite a few accessories that go with them. I would say that if you are looking for a small, easy-to-use camcorder, the Flip should at least be on your list of cameras to consider. They range in price from $149 to $279 and are eligible for Free Super-Saver Shipping on You can also find them in stores and on the Flip Video web site.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My guest post on Preemie Twins

OK, so I'm not the best blogger in the world. It is very hard for me to find uninterrupted time to put together a single coherent thought, much less an entire post full of them. Four of the reasons for that are in the photo above (Cora & Franklin on the left; Greta and Carlton on the right). Well, I was invited to write a guest post for the Preemie Twins blog, so I gave it a try. This was posted on Preemie Twins on May 10. I figured, though, since it's something I actually wrote myself, I might as well share it here, too. Does anyone else out there have twins? Any thoughts you want to share??? Here's the post from Preemie Twins:

Hi everyone! First, let me introduce myself. My name is Barbara Schantz. I am a mom of two sets of twins and also the inventor of the patented Baby Dipper bowl. The Baby Dipper bowl facilitates one-handed feeding of infants by parents and also helps toddlers learn to feed themselves. My twin girls, Greta and Cora, born in 2004, were the inspiration for the Baby Dipper bowl. My twin boys, Franklin and Carlton, were born in 2008, just before the Baby Dipper bowl went on the market. Needless to say, the past 6 years have been incredibly busy and the most insane years of my life (so far).

I get lots of comments from people I know and people I don’t know (usually in stores when I have all four with me and am in a hurry) about how I have my hands full or one of the other usual remarks people make about having twins. The thing is that they just don’t get it. They don’t get to experience, to observe, to participate in the daily activities of two little ones of the same age. I must say that one of my favorite ages is 18-24 months, which is precisely where Carlton and Franklin are right now at 22 months. That is the age when they truly start trying to communicate and play with each other and start using their own “twinspeak” words. For instance, my boys call drinks “neh neh” and they both understood that long before I finally figured it out.

I get the impression that people are in awe of MOMs (with twins or more) and are happy that they are not in that position. I would say that I was one of those people before I had twins of my own. Now that I have twins, especially two sets, I really would not want it any other way. My husband, Hans, and I have talked about this many times since our girls were born, even as recently as this week. In our situation with the kids 3 1/2 years apart and the girls the older of the two sets, things flow very naturally in that we are able to assign one girl to watch each boy or hold a boy’s hand. When interaction between the two sets is not needed, each twin plays with her/his co-twin almost exclusively. Yes, we do have four (FOUR!) children, but we only have two ages to deal with. I honestly think that it would be much more difficult to have kids of four different ages than having two sets of twins.

OK, let me back up a bit here. YES, it was extremely difficult at first, especially our first time around. Taking care of two newborns is pretty much double the work of taking care of one newborn. It means double diapers, double feedings, double baths, double the chance of being awakened in the middle of the night, double everything. However, lets clarify that comment about feedings. Generally twin parents are able to feed two babies at once, so that’s not exactly double the amount of work required. MOMs can breastfeed or bottle feed two babies at once (I even know of MOMs who surfed the internet while breastfeeding their twins!). Once the babies are being spoon-fed (with a Baby Dipper bowl, of course), parents can prepare one bowl of food and alternate bites between babies, so while one baby is swallowing, the parent is scooping up a bite and feeding the other baby. The babies can be bathed together once they’re able to sit up, so around 5-8 months or so, thus saving some time there. A big time-saver is when both twins are thoroughly potty-trained. There is no way around it when they are both in diapers. Each baby’s diaper change is a separate event, some more involved than others, naturally.

Once the twins start playing together and sharing interactively, mom will suddenly find that she can actually slip away for a few minutes, though she still must listen in and check on them every few minutes as twins can sometimes get into more trouble than a single child. My understanding is that singleton babies require more parental attention since there is not a built-in playmate. This is not to say that parents of multiples should leave the teaching of things such as colors, shapes, letters, numbers, etc. to the kids themselves, but that this is another aspect of twin life that turns out to be easier than having only one child. Now that our girls are five years old, they play together just about all the time that they are not at school. There is very little arguing, surprisingly. They are really starting to realize how special it is to be twins and like to announce to people (even those who haven’t inquired about if they or their brothers are twins) that we have two sets of twins. I certainly hope that they continue to be close and get along well through their entire lives.

So, when others insinuate that having twins (especially two sets) must be incredibly difficult, I sometimes tell them that it is actually not that difficult, that my girls help with the boys, that each kid has a playmate all the time, that I only had to go through two pregnancies, that we only need to have two types of food/books/toys/clothes around at any given time. But sometimes I just humbly nod and move along, letting them remain in awe of us Mothers of Multiples and ignorant of the benefits that aren’t obvious to outsiders. Let’s not forget that from the time the babies are able to react, MOMs get double smiles, double giggles, double hugs, and double kisses.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Piggy Paint for cute toes and fingers

I would like to take a moment to let you know about a fabulous new product for children that has nothing to do with feeding them. Piggy Paint is the invention of Melanie Hurley, another mom who was looking for a product for her kids. As with the Baby Dipper bowl, when she wasn't able to find a satisfactory product, she created her own. Piggy Paint is water-based, so it is non-toxic, virtually odorless, hypoallergenic, and doesn't contain any of the things that could be bad for your children like formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, Bisphenol-A, ethyl acetate and acetone. All of the details are available at the Product Information page.

So, that's the basics, but the fun stuff comes with first picking out a color and then with the painting of little toenails and fingernails. We tried out Forever Fancy (below), which is a bright pink color, much to the delight of Greta and Cora, my 5 1/2-year-old twin girls. We did learn the hard way that Piggy Paint isn't kidding when they say to apply 2-3 thin coats of polish. Our first try, I only put on one coat and after making sure it was dry (which doesn't take long at all!), they took their bath. Well, let's just say that Mommy needed to redo their nails after the bath. I also learned that Piggy Paint dries better using a hairdryer set on low for about one minute.

Lesson learned and the next painting was in the morning with 2 coats, which worked out much better. Let me clarify that my daughters are rough on their fingers and fingernails. They really enjoy playing with rocks, sticks, dirt, and digging in the sandbox. These activities are not friendly to any type of nail polish, so their Forever Fancy pink fingernails were not forever fancy after all. I do think that if they hadn't played so hard the polish would've lasted much longer. Their toenails fared much better than the fingernails.

As a "control" for our experiment, I painted my own toenails with the Piggy Paint. As I type this post three weeks later, they still look marvelous. And that was with only one coat of Forever Fancy! Clearly, I'm much gentler on my toenails than Cora and Greta are on their fingernails. :o)

You can purchase your Piggy Paint directly on their web site. Through June 30, you can use the code "Piggy15" for 15% off on the Piggy Paint website. You can also find retailers for Piggy Paint by entering your zip code on the Retailers page.

Be sure to follow Piggy Paint on Twitter and on Facebook for news and special offers!