When it comes to raising multiples, they've all been there. And they've got plenty of kids' clothes, toys and gear to prove it.
Now reaching more than 100 members, the Miraculous Multiples Mothers of Twins Club for McHenry County families has grown, and in turn, so has its annual resale.
The event, in which club members sell at least $5,000 worth of gently used items, has turned into quite an undertaking for the club. They've gone from adding machines to databases and bar codes, even accepting credit cards and drawing at least 500 people.
Families get good deals, and the club raises money to support itself and help needy families of multiples. A portion of the money goes to families who have been adopted by the club, either locally or through efforts by state and national twin clubs.
"It's amazing what you can find in deals, and things are good quality," said Terri Paulauski of Marengo, the club's vice president, a resale co-chair and mom to 7-year-old David and 3-year-old twins Molly and Leah.
"Some of the plastic toys for the little ones, you can't wear them out. It just makes sense to keep them clean and turn them back around," she said. "We talk about putting a microchip in one of the items of clothing and following it to see how many families it goes through before it's finally retired."
The sale, scheduled to be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Huntley Park District, 12015 Mill St., serves more than one purpose.
Families, especially those with multiples and young children, often rely on resales.
Only club members can sell items, and they get first dibs on buying other members' items at pre-sales. The sellers then give 15 percent of their profits back to the club to cover the overhead costs and donate to families in need.
"We don't let anything out on the floor that has any stain, any tear, any button missing," Paulauski said. "If it's a toy or a book or a game, it has to have all of its pieces. The strollers, the cribs, the bouncy seats, everything has to be in good condition."
All who participate have the opportunity to donate to families with "extraordinary needs," Paulauski said. A similar effort is made at Christmas when the club hosts a holiday party to raise money for local families with multiples in financial hardship.
The resale also has helped raise awareness of the club itself and all it has to offer the growing number of families with multiples, members say. It goes beyond events, such as playdates, Moms Night Out and other gatherings.
What the club provides best is support, members say.
"The other day I was having a really, really hard day," Paulauski said. "The girls were pushing me, challenging me. They were just being 3 year olds. ... I was finding myself wanting to just walk out the door."
So she turned to the club's private Facebook page to vent a bit.
"I got probably 20 responses from other moms. 'Hang in there.' 'It's just a phase.' 'Go walk outside for a minute.' All this encouragement and support, and everyone saying, 'I've been there,' " she said. "It's hard to have two at that age at the same time. It's hard."
Just knowing other moms are available day or night to provide encouragement or advice or simply recognition that, "It's normal," helps so much, she said.
Like many members, Paulauski joined while pregnant with her twins. She wanted advice on the logistics of everything, how to feed two at once, what products to use, that sort of thing. What became even more important was simply having someone else understand what she's going through, she said.
Expectant moms come in with "their deer in the headlights look," she said. "Most of them are blinking their eyes going, 'I don't know what I just got into. I don't know what to expect. Tell me it's going to be Ok.' "
Kristy Dodge of Wonder Lake, the club's treasurer, joined because of the resale, wanting to stock up on gear while pregnant with her now 5-year-old twins. She stayed because of the camaraderie.
"It's just the friendships you form," she said. "You're watching your kids grow together, and everybody is kind of going through the same stuff you are. With twins, it's difficult sometimes, You feel like you're pulling your hair out. You know you're talking to someone that can relate to you."
The club has strived to reach more moms in recent years, pushing to get brochures in pediatrician and OB/GYN offices. Joining has become simpler, as well, with improved technology allowing those interested to simply click to join on the club's website at www.miraculousmultiples.com.
Through partnerships with the state and national twin clubs, the local club has access to resources and more families who might share similar unique challenges, such as those with children with special needs or food allergies.
Monthly speakers have talked about everything from organization to coupons to healthy snacks. The club takes suggestions from its members on topics.
And through a meal support program, members get free meals brought to their homes after babies are born or during tough times.
"It's just really a big support system," Dodge said, "a bunch of moms getting together, talking and helping each other. We're all going through the same thing, and we've all been there."By JAMI KUNZER - firstname.lastname@example.org