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December 31, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

We’ve enjoyed our second fabulous week of Daddy’s vacation, packed with lots of play and a few new adventures!

1) We spent an awesome Christmas as a family of four…just being together and enjoying all that that is.

2) The girls have cooked and baked and sautéed, mixed and mashed and stirred, sliced and diced and eaten all.week.long. They have been so entertained by their new kitchen, and so have we!

3) On Tuesday night, we took the girls to our favorite sushi restaurant. They’ve been there many times in the confines of their infant carriers, but this is the first time they’d eaten there. They loved it! They didn’t exactly have sushi, but they devoured a chicken and shrimp teriyaki dish. Mommy and Daddy got our fill of the good stuff, and it was so amazing to enjoy dinner together as a family of four.

4) On Wednesday, my friend Jenny invited us to help celebrate her twinnies’ birthday with a play date at an indoor play place. The girls had a blast, and it was so much fun to see them interact with other kiddos, and in a new environment. (And I showed restraint in only wet-wiping their hands in 10-minute intervals!)

5) On Thursday, in the midst of a jam-packed morning including haircuts and errands, we enjoyed a snack at Panera. The girls did great, sharing a cinnamon scone with Mommy. And for the second time in as many days, it was so cool to sit back and enjoy our little family in a restaurant setting. I just can’t get enough of my baby girls enjoying a bite to eat with us, just like big girls!

Next week...the turn of 2011 and the girls' second birthday (gulp!)!

December 29, 2010

I'm Trying Not to Project My OCD, but...

One of the most stressful parts of moving – aside from having a team of complete strangers touch every single item in your belonging and load it mysteriously into a cavernous flatbed, while you cross your fingers and toes that the truck driver has just the right amount of coffee in his system to make the drive safely, but not too much so as to make him reckless going over the speed limit, lest your great-great-grandmother’s prized tea set be broken – is deciding how to organize the kitchen.

In our first four years of marriage, we lived in six houses, four we owned, and two we rented while we were in the process of moving. We’ve been put for almost eight years now, but I’d like to think that concentrated block of experience is still with me…that, if anyone knows how to organize a new kitchen, it’s me.

There are pretty monumental decisions to be made in organizing a kitchen, you know, ones that – at least in my experience – involve complex geometry and higher-level calculus to figure the optimal location of the silverware in relation to the sink, the dishwasher, and the prep area.

Sure, if you improperly allocated a cabinet to plastic ware, one that you later realize would be better served to house glassware, I guess you could change it. But that would involve so much work, and possibly, the use of a stepstool.

Yes, I think it’s better to make these decisions right the first time, commit to your chosen kitchen layout, and commence cooking.

After the painstaking assembly of the girls’ kitchen over the course of two nights – involving the use of both a power drill and a vacuum [thank goodness our girls are not light sleepers!] – at last it was time for me to organize their kitchen.

At this point, we have only the pots and pans and dishes and food that came with the kitchen, so the task was not too arduous, and I feel like I made really good decisions about what goes where.

I considered the utility of the items, their relation to the various appliances, and the size of the storage vehicles in reference to the number of items to be stored.


I think this makes perfect sense. I’m just trying to convince the girls to go along with The System.

Every time the girls descend upon their kitchen, they almost immediately pull out all the spoils. It’s only a couple of minutes before things are everywhere! When I’m invited to join them, “Mommy, play kitchen, please!” I often start by saying ,”Let’s put some of these things back where they belong!

The girls humor my efforts most of the time…but left to their own devices, they might put the dishes under the sink and the cookware in a drawer.

Deep breaths.

I’m trying to encourage free play. I’m trying not to project my OCD onto them.

But it’s sometimes to sit back and see a spatula amongst the fruit. There’s a drawer for that, you know???

December 27, 2010

The Elusive Perfect Picture...At Last!

Last year, the girls’ first Christmas, I took approximately 538 photos. (I have no idea how many photos I actually took, but that’s probably not too far from the truth.)

When I finally sorted through all of them, I arrived at two favorites…ones that I think capture the essence of our precious babies’ sweetness at the tender age of 11 ½ months old.

This Christmas, those iconic pictures were top of mind, and I hoped to again capture a magical moment that would encapsulate just this year.

As much as I wanted to get a picture of the girls and their brand new kitchen, the perfect shot was not to be…and I knew it would not be wise to pull them away from their cooking frenzy to try to get a picture in front of the tree.

So I waited…patiently…that is, as patiently as a mama can wait, who is anxious to compare last year’s pictures to this year’s.

On the morning after Christmas, I dressed the girls in their second set of holiday t-shirts (I knew those would come in handy!), just hoping that that would be the day.

By that evening, I could stand it no longer. I told the girls we had another surprise for them under the tree.

At first they were apprehensive to leave their kitchen. We sat them down in the living room and gave them each a present. They impatiently said, “Help, please!” right away. With a little assistance with the initial tear, though, the kitchen was momentarily forgotten, and the girls ripped into their gifts.

And at long last, my patience paid off. I captured the Elusive Perfect Picture.

I just love the sweet concentration on Baby A’s face, and the awe on B’s face at what her sister unearthed.

And then, they were off! Back to the kitchen…to cook in our tutus! Our plastic corn and cheese may be burning in the oven as we speak!

I don’t have a tally on this year’s picture count, but I’m guessing it’s in the 500-range as well. And the holiday week is not yet over. While we’re out of holiday t-shirts, there are still red and green cookies to be eaten. Must.capture.icing-covered.faces!

December 26, 2010

"Being" in the Moment

In the couple of weeks before Christmas, I enjoyed reading about some of my friends’ Elf on a Shelf antics and hearing about their kiddos’ visits to Santa. The best I could gauge, kids around the age of 2 ½ really began to “get” Christmas.

At 23 months old, I felt like we were probably missing out on some of the fun by a few months…

...the girls were excited about turning on the lights on the tree every morning, and they can “sing” “Jingle Bells” [at a 23-month old level, which means Mommy has to carry most of the tune]…but they didn’t “get” the anticipation of the holiday.

What I wasn’t taking into account was how much the girls would enjoy just “being” in the moment.

On Christmas Eve, we loaded them into the car to see the holiday lights. With Daddy as their chauffeur and Mommy as their tour guide, pretzel-ed between their car seats, they delighted in the luminary displays. When we’d pull away from a particularly decorated house, they would often whine, “More reindeer / Santa Claus / snowman, please!

Their favorite part of the tour was seeing our downtown square decked out in a gazillion lights, but more importantly driving right by two beautiful white horses giving carriage rides. “White horses…downtown!” they’ve been quoting.

On Christmas morning, we brought the girls into the den. Their kitchen was waiting for them, brimming with plastic food goodness, lots of pots and pans, and bells and whistles galore. They were mesmerized.

They have only taken breaks from “cooking” to eat a quick bite. And at that, every few minutes they say, “More kitchen please!” I have probably 100 pictures that look like this…

...I have barely seen anything but the backs of their heads in two days!

I did capture this cute one of them sampling each other’s culinary creations, giggling all the while.

As much as I wanted to take pictures of the girls sitting in front of the tree and opening their presents, I didn’t want to tear them away from having so much fun in the den.

On Christmas afternoon, we did interrupt their cooking frenzy to open their stockings. They each enjoyed pulling out a Weeble, a new Curious George book, and a box of crayons, but then they were ready to return to the den.

As of this afternoon, the day after Christmas, the girls have yet to open their gifts. I know they’ll get to it eventually, and when they do…when the time is right…I know they’ll enjoy it.

I know there will be plenty of years ahead when the girls will wake us up at an obscene hour to rip open some wrapping paper. But my experience this year has been a good reminder to me to just enjoy “being”…being in the moment, appreciating each and every stage, for the beauty it contains.

(I also enjoyed not having to hide their Christmas gifts…I know I’ll probably never have that luxury again!)

December 25, 2010

Joy to My World!

Every day I look at our girls and count my blessings, awestruck at my wonderful fortune to be their mommy. They truly bring more joy to my world than I could have ever imagined.

Merry Christmas, and Many Blessings for the New Year!

December 24, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

Although it’s seemed rather “pedal to the metal”, this has truly been a fabulous week leading up to Christmas! We’ve enjoyed having Daddy home for the holiday vacation, and – in addition to our usual fun and games – we’ve had a great time with our holiday preparations.

1) I’ve been amazed how well the girls have taken turns with switching on the lights on the tree each morning. We talk about it throughout the day. Baby A will say, for example, "[Baby a] turn tree on...morning. [Baby B] turn tree on…’morrow. [Baby A] watch.” The non-turner-on-er has been content to watch from the sidelines, and clap for her sister doing such a great job. Knock on wood, we have yet to have a fuss!

2) This week we discovered the great fun of a blanket sleigh ride around the den. The girls LOVE to be pulled around…over and over and over. Then they’ll try to pull each other (to no avail), and their baby dolls and stuffed dogs (to occasional avail).

3) The girls had more blanket fun this week…I observed them working together several times to lay the blanket completely flat on the floor. I was amazed at their teamwork!

4) We were listening to a Christmas CD by the country group “Alabama”. “Christmas in Dixie” is one of my all-time favorite holiday songs…it’s just not December in my book without it. My heart melted when, out of the blue, the girls started saying, “Merry Christmas Dixie!

5) After numerous hours spent making candy over the course of a couple of days, we were finally ready to deliver our goodies to our neighbors. We dressed the girls in their fluffy white coats and made the rounds. I was hoping they’d be up to accompanying me on “Jingle Bells”, but we did at least get “Merry Christmas” from both of them.

From the House of A and B...wishing you and yours a fabulous holiday!

December 23, 2010

A Bit About Me, December Edition

My birthday is February 23. On the 23rd of each month, I've taken to posting a couple of random bits of information about me. So for the month of December, here 'goes...

9) I am a band nerd at heart. I started playing the trumpet in the fifth grade, and I was hooked. Throughout middle school and high school, I lived and breathed it.

My most memorable Christmas present was a Bach Stradivarius trumpet. I wanted it so, so much…but it was expensive, and I really didn’t know if even Santa could cook up something like that. Still, I got up on Christmas morning when I was 13, excited as I probably ever was at the age of six. As we worked our way through the gifts under the tree, I began to realize that there was no trumpet to unwrap. When the last gift had been opened, my dad said there was one more thing...he left the room and came back with a very oddly wrapped package. As soon as he handed it to me, I knew what it was…he had wrapped the trumpet outside of the case. I was so incredibly elated.

In a surprising turn of events to most, I opted not to even be in the band in college. I couldn’t quite explain it at the time, but in hindsight, I think I was tired of being defined by music. In further hindsight, I regret not being in the band in college…but I did have a heck of a lot of fun as an athletic hostess – specifically a “Bama Belle” – and cheering on the Crimson Tide from the student section.

I dusted off my trumpet a few years ago and joined the Southern Kentucky Concert Band, playing free concerts in the park during the summers. I quit in 2008 when I was pregnant (as I had trouble breathing deeply, even when I wasn’t trying to blow into a musical instrument!). I haven’t played since the girls were born, as my husband is afraid I’ll damage the girls’ hearing. :) I am looking forward to them being a little older and introducing them to the beauty of brass…even if Hubby makes them wear ear muffs for me to do so.

10) I have no idea if I’m a “morning” person or a “night” person. When I was in college, I remember one summer during which I waitressed. I wouldn’t get home until 11:00 or so, and then I was still up for at least a couple of hours. Waking up before 9:00 seemed inhumane.

In sharp contrast, before the girls were born, I would get up before 5:00 most mornings, getting into the office around 6:00 to enjoy a couple hours of “quiet time” to work before the phone started ringing. I was in bed most nights around 9:00. Both schedules suited my purposes at the time, as long as I could manage seven or eight hours of sleep.

These days, I laugh that I am both a “morning” AND a “night” person…I am up around 5:45 to enjoy an hour and a half of “quiet time” before the girls are up and at ‘em. And I’m usually up until about 11:00, buzzing around the house after the girls go to bed at 7:30. As for my seven or eight hours of sleep? I cave in and take a nap with the girlies once a week or so, and there’s usually one night a week when I’m in bed at 8:00. Maybe it all averages out…

To check out past randomness...

December 22, 2010

We're Ebbing Again

I posted a few months ago about the various stages – the ebbs and flows – that we’ve gone through in reading books at our house…

…from Mommy reading fairy tales for hours on end when the girls were infants…

…to me “tying” them down in their high chairs, shoveling Cheerios their way, just so I could read to them for five minutes uninterrupted.

From the girls chewing on books…

…to them being entertained for hours by looking at pictures in books…

…and eventually to them loving nothing more than Mommy reading story after story…and when I wasn’t doing that, they were playing with books themselves.

Our girls have never been “easy” on books, but – after the Great Chewing Expedition that took place during Months 12 and 13 – the girls went for a good 9 or 10 months where board books were a big part of their environment.

I was so thrilled that they not only loved being read to, but they loved pretending to read to themselves, and to each other. My dreams of scholarly children were alive!

Well…I don’t know what’s happened over the past couple of months, but we’re definitely ebbing again.

And my mind tends to wander not to seeing them draped in striped honor collars at their college graduation, but rather to bailing them out of elementary school detention for writing on the walls.

I can cut the girls some slack in not fully understanding what the cover of the book is, why you can’t just open up a random page and bend it 360 degrees around to “close” the book.

But doing that 117 times tends to crease even the sturdiest of board books.

And a crease begets a crack, and a crack must be irrrrrrrresistable to a 23-month old.

And then we have peeled off paper, and/or a broken spine…and if I’m not careful, the book is a goner.

The books have once again been taken out of the play room, placed out of reach on the other side of the gate. We still read a lot of books, but it’s one by one, with Mommy holding them. I’m constantly reminding the girls that the books have “boo-boos”, and that we have to be very gentle with them.

Having books out of reach does seem to make them a bit of forbidden fruit, though. And there is something that seems so scholarly when my girls are pleading to be read to.

I’m sure this is just another phase, but I’m ready for the tide to change on this one.

We’ve got to start tracking towards that college scholarship again…’cause Mama is going to have to mortgage the house to buy more books at this rate.

December 21, 2010

A Break in Tradition to Accommodate My "Elves"

This Saturday marked the seventh annual shopping trip with my BFF Shanda, also known as “Auntie” Shanda.

After a couple of years, we had our routine down pat…

Breakfast at my house. Eat off Christmas plates and drink coffee with ample creamer from glass coffee mugs.

I drive on the even years, Shanda on the odd.

The passenger buys lunch, and the driver buys afternoon coffee.

And always, throughout the entire day, there is lots and lots of Christmas music.

We adopted “The Christmas Waltz” – the Harry Connick, Jr. version – as our anthem. Throughout the year, at random, Shanda and I will send each other an email with an opening line from this song. Just the mention of “frosted windowpanes” – even in the mid-July heat – brings a smile to our faces as we mentally transport ourselves ahead a few months.

While all went as clockwork those first few years, the last three years we’ve had to make some adjustments due to my “elves”.

In 2008, I was hugely pregnant by the first of December. We altered our plans slightly to a shorter trek…one that included an hour or so finishing up my registry at Babies R Us. But we still managed lots of good food (some of us, more than others), hot chocolate (instead of coffee), and much singing.

In 2009, the girls were 11 months old. We were determined to carry on the tradition, even with two little "elves" in tow. We still ate well and drank well, and sang lots of Christmas carols (along with some nursery rhymes), although we probably didn’t log the distance in the mall…but we did enjoy stashing our packages under the stroller.

This year, we changed things up yet again, going shopping on a Saturday afternoon so the "elves" could rest at home with Daddy Clause.

We had an abbreviated day, starting with lunch, instead of breakfast. We still had some great eats, great coffee, and got in a little shopping…and this year incorporated a pedicure into the mix.

(That's A and B admiring our matching red sparkle polish -- "Smitten with Mittens" -- in case you're wondering!)

And we came home to four outstretched arms, the sweetest little voices saying, “Miss you, Mommy” in stereo; and later, choruses of “Pretty piggy toes” over and over.

We've had to break with tradition just a bit to accommodate the "elves", but we still managed to record lots of great times over the last three years...

...and maybe in a few more years, the "elves" might join us, at least for a portion of the festivities. I'm sure they'll enjoy some red sparkle polish of their own one of these years!

December 18, 2010

Homemade Hot Chocolate...Who Knew???

A friend of mine called and said she was going to swing by on Wednesday night. I asked her if she was literally swinging by, or if she had time to come in for a cup of hot chocolate.

I offered the hot chocolate proverbially, thinking I would make a pot of decaf coffee, or offer her some egg nog. But she got so excited over the specific mention of hot chocolate, I feared that decaf coffee with fat-free creamer would probably be a letdown for her.

I have many wonderful memories of my mom making a mug of hot chocolate for me when I was growing up, and I am never without the makings in my pantry…the makings being those little packets of the powdered stuff, that is...just like my mom used.

Although I know my friend wouldn’t have thought a thing about it (she’s definitely a “come on to the back door, I’ll leave it open for you”-kind of friend), I hated to be pressing out the chocolatey-powdered lumps against the side of a microwaved mug when she walked in the door.

A quick internet search revealed there is such a thing as homemade hot chocolate…who knew???

I am kidding, of course (well, mostly…). I knew there was such a thing as homemade hot chocolate, but – outside of my friendly Starbucks – I don’t think I’d ever had any.

I found an easy recipe using basic ingredients, and I whipped up this little treasure in less than 15 minutes:

In a large saucepan, mix 4 cups milk (I used whole milk), 8 teaspoons sugar and 4 teaspoons cocoa powder (I went a little heavy on the sugar and cocoa), and 1 ½ cups of miniature marshmallows. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally (I used a wire whisk every minute or so), until the marshmallows are melted. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (next time I might try peppermint extract!) and ladle into cups.

I topped our cups with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Delish!!!

While I don’t think I’ll abandon the convenience of those powdery packets of chocolatey goodness for myself, I try to avoid processed foods with the girls. (Yes, I know marshmallows are processed…but it’s all relative in my book.)

I’m looking forward to incorporating this easy recipe into my Mommy Handbook, sharing foamy cups of hot chocolate with A and B, and hopefully making some great memories that they will treasure as they have pantries of their own.

December 17, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

Relative to Kentucky, we’ve had some winter weather over the past week. We enjoyed a beautiful snowfall on Saturday and Sunday…and an extra long, five-day “weekend”, as Daddy’s school was cancelled through Wednesday.

I know it won’t be so fun when Hubby has to make up those school days in the spring, but we enjoyed the surprise break…it was simply fabulous!

1) On Saturday morning before the snow rolled in, we ventured downtown to take in the Christmas decorations on the square. The girls wore their super-duper-fuzzy coats, and I captured this gem of my three favorite people:

2) Since the weather has gotten colder, we’ve been walking some days at the mall (and yes, I’m the youngest person there by oh, about 40 years!). We kept passing a display of super-duper-fuzzy blankets, and I told the girls that our cat Sasha would probably like one of those blankets for Christmas. Baby B made that her mission. For two weeks, she’s been saying, “Buy Sasha blanket…mall!” We finally fulfilled her wish this week, selecting the perfect present for the girls’ furry sister. And now if the girls can only keep the secret until the 25th…

3) Overheard: Baby A, talking very seriously to her stuffed dog, petting his head and saying, “It’s OK, puppy doggy. It’s OK.

4) I was talking to Baby B as I gave her a bath. “You’re a pretty girl, and sissy is a pretty girl, and Sasha [our cat] is a pretty girl.” She said, “Mommy, pretty girl,” and I just melted. Then she said, “Daddy, pretty girl,” and I just cackled.

5) After I brush the girls’ teeth and wash their faces at night, I put some moisturizer on their faces. I’ve started putting some Aquafor on their lips, which for some reason they love. They both remind me of their “Wips!” and then they rub their little lips together like little ladies. I can hardly stand the cuteness.

December 15, 2010

Turning on the Southern Charm

There's still time to share the story behind your favorite ornaments! The link will be open through Friday the 17th.


When the girls began to get really proficient with baby sign language, around 14 months old or so, I introduced “please” and “thank you” to them.

They picked up the signs really easily, and I’m proud to say that they’re really good to now say these words. I’d estimate they say “please” about 80% of the time, unprompted, and “thank you” maybe 50% of the time.

Over the past few weeks, the girls have started saying, “No!

Would you like some more chicken?No!

Ooh, let’s go look out of the window at the snow!No!

Do you want to hold your sister’s hand?No!

At least right now, I find it so darn cute, I can hardly suppress a smile. But I know that’s going to get old, quick.

With each “No!”, I have been diligently submitting to the girls, “No, ma’am,” or “No, thank you.” They will repeat after me, but – unlike “please” and “thank you” – this is not something they seem to be picking up.

The exception came a couple of days ago, when Baby A was trying to strip down for the seventeenth time in seven minutes.

Baby, you have got to wear your pants! It’s cold!

And in the whiniest voice of protest, she belted out in quick succession, “No, thank you! No, ma’am!

I couldn’t help but laugh as I put Baby A’s pants back on for the eighteenth time. At least she’s been listening on some level…and she already knows when to turn on the Southern charm.

(She still had to wear her pants, though, no matter how nicely she asked.)

December 12, 2010

If Christmas Ornaments Could Talk...

‘Tis the season of many holiday traditions. And a quick pass through the blogosphere reveals that many families share one of my favorite parts of the season, that of getting a new ornament to mark the year.

While I’ve continued to collect an ornament each year, my hubby and I haven’t actually put up a tree in about 10 years. We were afraid of our kitties’ “interaction” with the tree, and we were always out of town, so we rationalized it wasn’t worth the time, effort, and stress.

This year, we’re staying home for the holidays. We’re so excited to spend this time as a family of four…and to finally be putting up a tree! (I did invest in a new artificial tree. There have been a lot of technological advancements in the last 10 years…I had no idea pre-lit trees actually come with a remote control!)

After 10 years, it was like Christmas morning – no pun intended – opening my ornament collection. Amid the ornaments I made in grade school and those I’ve amassed from my various travels, the pride of my collection are 22 sterling silver bells.

Each year my grandparents gave me a jingle bell for Christmas, always engraved “Love Nan and Pop”. I remember not really appreciating them until I was a little older, maybe even having rolled my eyes as an eight-year old that would have rather had a new Barbie doll. But now, I wouldn’t take anything for them.

Of course I don’t remember getting the first bell, and although the engraved message is the same, I have no idea why it is different from the rest. It’s a dome-shaped bell with a music box in it. It plays the most beautiful, delicate, “tinkle-y” version of “Jingle Bells”…the sound of the holidays to this mama's ears.

When I take it out of its original box, I can almost smell Christmas Eve at my Nan’s house. And while 10 years ago I changed the ribbons on all the other bells to a classic maroon satin ribbon, I couldn’t bring myself to cut the original fuzzy knit ribbon from that first bell, my favorite. I’m sure it was the same ribbon with which many a pigtail was tied when I was a little girl.

When my hubby and I got married, we started our own tradition of engraved ornaments. And like the bells from my childhood, the first year of our marriage is marked by a special ornament, an ornate tiered wedding cake engraved with our anniversary date.

And of course when the girls were born, we started collections for them. Their first year ornaments are baby shoes, engraved with their full names and birth statistics.

I know part of most families’ ornament traditions is that, when the children grow up to start families of their own, they’ll leave with a great start to decorating their trees. Even beginning to think that far ahead makes me start to hyperventilate…so for a long time to come we’ll enjoy adding ornaments for each of the girls to our tree every year.

I love ornaments that tell a story, and I’d love to hear yours! I’ll leave this link open through Friday, December 17th. I can’t wait to read the tales of your Christmas tree.

Thanks to Andrea of The Mays Twins blog for giving me the idea for this post. Her boy/girl twins are about a year older than A and B. Not only do she and I have some of the same germophobic / gotta-get-the-perfect-picture tendencies, but I love getting a glimpse into the future, seeing what she and her kiddos are up to.

Holiday Cookie Recipes

The Multiples and More Question of the Week is about holiday cookie recipes.

One of my all-time favorite cookie recipes is for traditional butter cookies. I have cookie stamps for all occasions – including several for the holidays, of course. And this time of year, I like to sprinkle red or green colored sugar on the cookies before they bake. They look pretty on a festive plate, or tied in a goody bag with some holiday ribbon.

I like that these cookies are not overly sweet, so I don’t mind the girls having some. And I think the cookies are the perfect accompaniment for an after-dinner cup of coffee.

Butter Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour, one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. The dough will be very stiff; blend last flour in by hand. Do not chill dough.

Roll dough into smooth 1” balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly spray cookie stamp with vegetable oil cooking spray. Dip stamp in sugar; shake off excess. (Use the bottom of a glass if you don't have a cookie stamp.) Press down on dough with stamp to imprint cookie. Bake on middle rack of oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. Place on cooling rack for 5 minutes; remove from sheet and cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

I made these cookies at Halloween. I rolled the dough into balls and let the girls “help” me stamp them.

As they get older, I'm sure they’ll enjoy rolling the dough into balls, and sprinkling the sugar. I know it will make for a messier kitchen, but how much fun it will be to share in this tradition with the girls!

Go check out the other holiday cookie recipes...'tis the season...enjoy!

December 11, 2010

Jingle Bells: The A and B Edition

A and B were hilarious when I put their mittens on for the first time this year. I could hardly walk straight for peering through the stroller canopy, watching them marvel at their furry pink hands.

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle bells we holler
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In our stroller with our mama!

Dashing through the ‘hood
Our blankets feel so good
O’er the streets we ride
Sissies, side by side!

We hear scores of birdies sing
Mommy points out lots of things
Like cars and trucks and bikes
And beautiful Christmas lights!

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle bells we holler
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In our stroller with our mama!

'Tis the season! Enjoy it!!!

December 10, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

To Whom It May Concern:

Fabulous highlights from our week are as follows:

1) The girls are all about dance these days, and they love to be “baldi-rinas” (ballerinas). They walk around on their toes with their arms in a circle over their heads. Mommy doesn’t encourage that, or anything. :)

2) Baby A is beginning to say her ABCs really clearly, and with such gusto (with the minor exceptions of E, L, M, N, and O, which she always omits!).

3) On Saturday we travelled to a small town about 30 miles from here to have some family pictures made. I sat in the backseat, wedged between the girls’ car seats, to keep them company (and to ensure a good mood just prior to pictures!). We drove through some really rural areas, and the girls had a blast pointing out cows and horses. After we’d pass, they’d ask for “More!” If only I’d had my magic wand to make more appear on command…

4) I put the Christmas tree up this week, and I was so anxious to show it to the girls the next morning. I was a little disappointed at their lack of enthusiasm…they were much more interested in the cat, who was napping nearby. But it does warm my heart to see my baby girls’ adoration for their furry sister.

5) The girls have never ridden the carousel at the mall, but they L-O-V-E to stop and wave to the horses. One of the highlights of their week was seeing a girl riding a white “norsey” (as Baby A calls it). They waved to her, and she waved back…and they can’t quit talking about it.

Please contact me with any questions.

December 9, 2010

I Always Knew Dessert was Evil

The girls are no strangers to sugar. On a nice afternoon, I love to take them to the yogurt place for a few spoons of frozen goodness. Or I’ll gladly share with them a couple of bites of a cookie or cake I’ve made. I even let them sample a Kit Kat bar from their Halloween basket (which they scoffed, by the way!).

I have no problem with a sweet bite here or there. I don’t position it as a “treat” per se; I just matter-of-factly offer it to the girls once or twice a week at random. But dessert has never been a standard component of a meal or a day.

At 23 months old, I decided it was finally time I put aside my mess-ophobia and work with the girls on using spoons. I wanted to entice them with something they’d really want to work for, so I gave them each a small bowl of strawberry yogurt (dessert, some might call it) after supper one night last week.

The first night was pretty messy, but they loved the yogurt, and they were definitely motivated to try, try, try again.

The second night, I again gave them yogurt and a spoon, and they did a little better.

By the third night, they were clearly looking forward to the yogurt, asking for it at the beginning of supper. And on a mess-note, I could walk away to grab a paper towel without fear of spoons flying. I was feeling pretty good.

Yesterday, the girls asked for yogurt at BREAKFAST. I told them they could have yogurt AFTER supper. They accepted that…until supper rolled around.

I put some scrumptious chicken on their trays, chicken that they normally devour. Baby B may have taken a couple of bites, but Baby A took one look and whined, “All done!

Breathing deeply, I went ahead and served up some green beans, a perennial favorite. “All done!” Baby A cried, without so much as a bite.

Breathing even more deeply, I served the girls their fruit. They ate their blackberries and demanded yogurt.

I told the girls we weren’t having yogurt that evening. I offered them their chicken and green beans. When they refused, I took them out of their highchairs and put them in the den to play.

They were not happy.

Every five minutes or so, I offered them their chicken and green beans. After about 15 minutes, they finally relented and sat down to eat the rest of their supper, and all was well with the world.

I think I’m going to lay off the yogurt for a few more days. I hate the thought of that seeming to be their “motivation” to get through the day…the promise of what seems like a sweet treat at the finish line.

I have long thought that dessert was evil, and this just proves it. They’ll just have to learn to eat from a spoon with oatmeal and creamed spinach.

December 7, 2010

Backdoor Friends are Best

On Sunday morning, as I was preparing to make our special weekly French toast breakfast, I exchanged a few quick lines with one of my BFFs. Her hubby was out of town for the weekend, and she was enjoying a lazy morning, as her boys – 8 and 11 years old – had yet to rouse.

’Bout to make French toast for the fam…come on over!

We messaged back and forth for another minute, before I said, “Seriously, why don’t you guys come over? If, of course, you don’t mind to see me pre-shower, in glasses and PJs!

I sliced up the remainder of the loaf of French bread, got out the full-size coffee pot, stacked up the newspaper from the kitchen table, and unlocked the backdoor.

I don’t have a large family, but I’m blessed to have a handful of awesome friends…those that know me and love me, even pre-shower and wearing kooky PJs…those that know the backdoor will be open for them to come in, take their shoes off, and make themselves at home.

Auntie Shanda and her boys arrived, also in their PJs (although I think she coerced her children into taking showers before they left the house).

I cranked up the Christmas music and lit the tree. We enjoyed a big spread of French toast with maple syrup and powdered sugar, coffee (for the big kids), boiled custard with fresh-grated cinnamon [thanks to Shanda] (for the boys), and ever-so-slightly warm whole milk (for the girlies).

After breakfast, we moved the party into the den. The boys practiced some indoor soccer skills with my hubs (which was as invigorating for him as it was for them). The girls were mesmerized watching the boys play. And the boys were so sweet to include them every few minutes, inviting them to kick the ball, or pausing to admire one of their toys.

Auntie Shanda and I got in a little girl time amid refereeing the soccer match and giving cuddles to the girls.

Here is Baby A, loving Auntie Shanda and her hat.

And here are A and B, cuddled with their “cousins” A-Man and Ri-Guy.

As the saying goes, backdoor friends are best…and I’d like to edit that to add that friends who’ll literally come over in their PJs are even better.

December 6, 2010

Holiday Traditions

As I think back to my childhood, I have so many warm holiday memories. I don’t think of them so much as “traditions”, as they involve people and places more so than “events”, but they sure bring a smile to my face…

…spending the night with my great aunt and uncle on December 23, and Santa making an early stop at their house...and then going to my nan’s house on Christmas Eve to celebrate with my mom’s family…

…coming home Christmas Eve night to my (paternal) grandmother at our house, having brought with her a big tin with an assortment of Christmas goodness…

…waking up Christmas morning to open presents, and then the family coming over to see what Santa had brought me…

...I think of lazy days during Christmas vacation, cuddled up at home with the fireplace ablaze…I think of yummy candy and cookies…downtime surrounded by family.

In the way of more “concrete” traditions, my nan gave me an engraved ornament each year. When I was younger, I remember the pep talks from my mom, “Remember to thank Nan for the ornament. It’s not something to play with, but she spends a lot of money on those every year.” Now, of course, I understand…and I wouldn’t take anything for my ornament collection.

I also remember getting to open one gift on Christmas Eve, a pair of new pajamas. My mom always joked that I had to know what was in the box, but I still got so excited to get to open a present from under the tree.

Last year was our girls’ first Christmas. Although at 11 months old they didn’t have much grasp on what was happening, I thought long and hard about what kinds of traditions I wanted to start for them.

I settled on engraved ornaments. I can’t wait to hang them on the tree this year, and add to them two more on Christmas morning.

As the girls get older, I’ll layer in more traditions.

I am so looking forward to making Christmas cookies and candy…going for a ride on Christmas Eve to see the lights, Christmas music playing and hot chocolate in hand…watching Charlie Brown and Rudolph…reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

…and I love the idea of baking a birthday cake on Christmas to remind ourselves of the meaning of the season…

I want the girls to have warm holiday memories, peaked by multiple senses…the sights and sounds, the smells and tastes, and the feeling of being surrounded by love.

December 4, 2010

Holiday Practicality versus the Lure of Reindeer and Snowflakes

I bought the girls’ first holiday-themed tees a couple of months ago. Although at the time I think they were still wearing shorts and most holiday thoughts were miles away, I just couldn’t resist the playful embroidered reindeer who’d inadvertently gotten a strand of lights tangled in their antlers.

And then I bought the girls’ holiday dresses. I really debated on getting the frou-frou dresses to doll up my doll babies for their Santa pictures. But in the end I chose a more “wearable” sweater dress with a traditional reindeer / snowflake pattern across the chest. I’m nothing if not practical, right?

So what business did I have even allowing myself to look at more holiday tees last week?

None, of course.

And I walked away once.

But then I came back.

There was something about these tiny little red mittens embroidered with silvery snowflakes that just spoke to me.

And then I had a little conversation with myself. No, the conversation wasn’t about how I needed to be frugal and responsible and think of the grocery budget and the girls’ college educations...

As I have on several occasions in the past, I told myself that the girls will only be this age once...that they will only celebrate their second Christmas this one time…and if it makes Mama happy to see them in yet another holiday tee, then so be it. I’ll just consider it a present to myself.

And what a great present it was! I was somehow able to snap this picture of the girls…both smiling, AND both looking at the camera!

I absolutely cannot resist my little snow bunnies…no matter what they’re wearing.


You can still log votes today and tomorrow for the Multiples & More annual blog awards! :)

December 3, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

What a fabulous week we’ve had!

1) The girls have added a couple of new phrases to their repertoire. Hearing them say, “Uh oh, feddigo [spaghettio]!” and “See lader, aldigador!” make me smile every time.

2) After we got home from our Thanksgiving tour, the girls kept asking about Granddaddy. I told them that Granddaddy went bye-bye…and then I explained that he lives in Alabama, and we live in Kentucky. Ask the girls where Granddaddy lives, and they say, “Aldibama.” “Where do we live?” “Tucky,” they respond. They can even say the name of our city (in baby-speak, of course).

3) In addition to our craft project on Tuesday, twice this week I gave them yogurt after supper – a huge treat! – and let them practice using spoons. The mess was actually minimal (hallelujah!), and I think they felt like such big girls.

4) I caught Baby B trying to diaper her baby doll. She had the doll on the couch, legs up in the air, using a washcloth-type teether for a “diaper”. She said, “Clean diaper…good!” and I had to laugh.

5) The girls got to see their first snowfall of the season on Thursday. As we left the grocery store, it was snowing hard, in big, white, powdery flakes. They were in awe, giggling like a couple of [pre]school girls…and so was I.

These baby girls never cease to amaze me.

December 2, 2010

Calm, Cool, and Collected

Maybe it was the overcast skies, the gentle rainfall…

…maybe it was the realization that kids need to be kids, and kids make messes…

…or maybe hubby slipped a little something into my oatmeal on Tuesday morning.

Whatever the case, I woke up with a rather uncharacteristic “roll with the punches / messes” attitude. Since it was a cold and rainy day, I decided to engage the girls in a certifiable Rainy Day Activity. The lure of that Norman Rockwell moment, coupled with my calm, cool, and collected outlook, led me to open up the craft drawer.

I pulled out not only paper and crayons…but stickers, markers, AND finger paints. And with the exception of the finger paints (which I monitored very closely…my happy pill wasn’t that strong), I let the girls go to town.

Baby A did a great job. She kept most of her scribbles on the paper, although I have yet to account for one of the stickers I gave her. (Could she have eaten it? Should I be checking her poo???)

Baby B kept wanting to look at the “live” end of the markers. That resulted not only in the purple coloration on her face, but in some pretty messed-up hands…and not nearly as many scribbles.

The girls had a blast, Mommy got some fun pictures, and I didn’t even sweat the mess.

Whether it was the rain or the happy pill that did it, I probably need to channel my Chilled-Out Mommy side more often. I think the girls like that side of me.


Don't forget to check out the Blog Award nominees on the Multiples & More blog network. You can vote once a day though December 5th.

December 1, 2010

Find Your Seats

I try to refrain from labeling our girls. I am too afraid of the self-fulfilling prophecy effect; I want them to each come into their own, without trying to fit into or climb out of a mold they may have heard mentioned.

But at the risk of breaking my own rule, I can’t help but observe certain behaviors.

In many respects, Baby B has always seemed the more verbal of the girls. As a newborn, she had all sorts of funny coos (and even a Three Stooges “whoop!”), and she babbled much earlier than Baby A. While the girls said their first recognizable word apart from “Mama” and “Dada” on the very same day, Baby B’s vocabulary outpaced her sister’s for several months.

Although today I’d put the girls on an even playing field in terms of language, Baby B is almost always the first one to speak up in answer to a question.

I am confident that both girls know their colors pretty well. Whether I ask an open question, “What color is the ball?” or I direct a question specifically towards Baby A, Baby B usually jumps in there with the answer.

My mind fast-forwards sometimes, and I picture her sitting in the front row of her class, middle seat, raising her hand to answer every question.

In contrast, I tend to picture Baby A in the middle of the class, maybe towards one side. She’s not in the back with the trouble-makers, but she’s content to let someone else take center stage.

When they’re a little older, I’ll be able to politely tell B that I was talking to A, to not interrupt her sister.

For now I try to make sure to have a little bit of one-on-one time with each of my girls…even just in the tub or on the diaper changing table…to make sure she gets her chance to be heard.

And on a related note – at least to classroom decorum – Baby B is becoming quite the tattle-tale. I know I’d better take note when I hear, “Sissy…not nice! Time out!” And as helpful as the notice actually is, I know I have to be careful with that, too.

I'll be more than happy for either of my girls to fill the front row, center seat, and for both of them to "know it all" long as they're not "know-it-alls".


Don't forget to check out the Blog Award nominees on Multiples & More! You can vote once a day until December 5th.

November 29, 2010

Proud to Be in Such Good Company!

Inspired by a couple of my mommy friends, I started blogging less than a year ago. I knew I would enjoy the opportunity to document the girls’ comings and goings in an online format, and that surely has been the case. What I didn’t know to expect was the awesome community of moms (and a handful of dads) that I’d meet.

In just ten short months, I’ve connected with so many amazing people…people who share ideas and information, support each other, and – at least in my case – help keep each other sane in this sometimes-crazy world of kid-raising.

The Multiples and More blog network just announced the nominations for their second annual Blog Awards. I’ve been smiling all day at having been nominated in the Best Writing category! And I’ve been smiling just as big to be in such fantastic company as the other nominees, several of whom I consider friends, and are on my “Must Read” list…

Sadia, of Double the Fun
Christina, of Our Life with Multiples
Missy, of Two Little Monkeys
Quadmama, of Buried in Laundry
Megan, of Twinsomnia
Helene, of I’m Living Proof that God Has a Sense of Humor

If you don’t know these ladies, I’d encourage you to stop by and check them out…my girls and I give them a collective six thumbs up!

And if you’re so inclined, voting on the Multiples and More site is open until December 5th. Win, lose, or draw, and at the risk of sounding like a sappy Academy Award nominee without a speech writer, it’s truly an honor to have been nominated. :)

Out of Order!

Despite the mess that is my pantry, I am an orderly person. And I like to follow the rules. Give me an algebraic equation, a recipe, or a 20-page instruction manual, and I’m golden.

I discovered early on that kiddos don’t come with instruction manuals, but I try to make up for that when I can...

When the girls first started eating baby food, the pediatrician told me to begin with vegetables. After a couple of months, he told me to also feed them a fruit, but always after they’d eaten their veggies. When I began feeding them meat, I followed the same logic, offering it first, followed by a vegetable, and then a fruit.

Process and procedure. I’m all about it.

At 22 months old, our girls haven’t eaten baby food in many, many months. But out of habit, or fear of messing with a good thing, or even perhaps because my pediatrician hasn’t told me otherwise (kidding! [kind of…]), I continue to follow the same order of operations.

At supper, for example, the girls might eat roasted chicken. Then they might have sweet potatoes. And then they might follow it up with fresh strawberries and blueberries.

Most of the time the girls eat what I give them, give or take a bite or two. When they don’t, though, I try to remain calm. Maybe they’re just not in the mood for sweet potatoes. Maybe they saw so much orange over Halloween and Thanksgiving they are experiencing a mental block.

In such a situation, I silently take a deep breath and casually offer them the strawberries…before they've finished their veggies!...careful not to let on that they’re Messing With My Head!

You know what the crazy thing is, though? It’s not unusual these past few weeks for them to polish off their fruit…and THEN ask for their vegetable!!!

I think maybe they know fruit is at the end of the line – and they LOVE fruit – and they just can’t wait. But then they realize they’re still a bit hungry, and they know sweet potatoes are their option.

Whatever the case, I’m learning to deal with things being “out of order”. By that point I’m [silently] thrilled that they are going to eat some veggies, so I’d almost be willing to let them stand on their heads and eat.

…just please don’t tell the pediatrician that I’m breaking the rules.

November 28, 2010

Fab 10 Sunday

(…like Fab 5 Friday, but a couple of days late…)

This week just flew by! We made the arduous trek to Sweet Home Alabama for the Thanksgiving holiday. Three turkey dinners in three cities in 24 hours was a bit of a marathon, but we made some awesome memories. And of course there were plenty of fabulous moments scattered throughout!

1) I would guess that the girls have an 80% accuracy in identifying their colors. I was so surprised when I asked Baby B what color a particular toy was, expecting she would say “blue”. She more specifically told me it was turkis” (turquoise)! We have a handful of toys that color, which I’ve named for the girls, but I had no idea they were paying that kind of attention!

2) I love listening to the girls’ “stream of consciousness”-type conversations over the monitor when they wake up. And I never know what kind of greeting I’m going to get when I walk in their room. It’s usually some random observation about what I’m wearing, like, “Mommy…purple socks!

3) The girls have learned to say their full names (first and last). They’ll answer correctly for themselves, but when asked about each other, they say, “Sissy [Last Name]”. And I am “Mommy [Last Name]”, of course.

4) I worked with the girls to say, Happy Turkey Day! They were quite happy to extend those wishes to our family this week…so precious in their little baby voices!

5) The girls experienced so many new foods this week. I’m not thrilled that Baby A seems to have struck up a love affair with yeast rolls, but I’ve gotta admit that the girl has good taste!

6) After the many indulgences over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was a little worried that the girls wouldn’t want Mommy’s healthy fruits and veggies when we got back home. I was so thankful to see their little eyes light up when I served them steamed zucchini.

7) When we got home from our road trip, the girls made a beeline for their toys. They both grabbed their baby dolls and smothered them in hugs. Unprompted, Baby A said, Miss you, Baby!

8) Anytime during our trip we got in the car, Baby B would ask, Home to Sasha? Two minutes? It was a little pitiful, but so cute and funny that she seemed so ready to get home to the kitty cat.

9) Saturday was quite chilly, but I was really itching to get the girls out for a stroller ride. I bundled them up tight in fuzzy pink jackets, zipped up their bright pink stroller blankets, and put on pink fleece mittens for the first time this season. I almost tripped several times, as I couldn’t take my eyes off the girls. They were too cute in varying shades of pink…and it was heeee-larious to see them holding their mitten-donned hands in front of their faces like foreign objects.

10) Seeing the girls enjoying my family…and seeing my family enjoying my girls…priceless.

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, per A & B

Our girls aren’t quite old enough to make a craft display of things for which they’re thankful…but if they could enumerate, I have a pretty good idea of what they might say…

1) Mommy and Daddy…for endless hugs, kisses, tickles, and cuddles.

2) Sasha the Kitty Cat…for being the sweetest furry sister ever, and for giving us a great example after which to model our “meow!”

3) The telephone…so we can talk to Aunt GG and Granddaddy.

4) Our friends…we talk about “Kate and Spencer” and “Mattie and Ava” all the time!

5) Our comfy blankies…for keeping us warm and signaling when it’s time for bed.

6) Our baby dolls…who wait for us dutifully to give them hugs and kisses, and don’t mind being carried around in our red bucket.

7) Our favorite songs…we love to dance and sing!

8) Books…we love when Mommy reads to us, and we like to “read” to ourselves and each other, too.

9) Our favorite foods…blueberries, pineapple, zucchini, avocado, oatmeal (or “eamoat”, as we call it), and French toast on Sunday mornings…just to name a few.

10) Each other.

We are so blessed!!!

November 24, 2010

Jumping on the Bandwagon

After seeing a few of my blogger friends tout the virtues of the online photo service Shutterfly, I decided to jump on the touting bandwagon.

We are definitely a Shutterfly family, and have been for many years. My friends at Shutterfly have witnessed everything from the addition of our two sweet furry babies to our family in 2000, to the addition of our two sweet non-furry babies (i.e. Baby A and Baby B) in 2009.

Since the girls were born, my relationship with Shutterfly has deepened considerably. Not only do I print all my photos through Shutterfly, but I use several of their services, too.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to capturing the girls’ every move…their every outfit…their every adventure.

On average, I probably take 250 or so photos a month. I try to narrow that down to 100 that I print. (You should see the stacks of photo storage boxes I have, and the girls are only 22 months old!) I have most of the prints delivered to me, but I also send prints directly to three family members each month.

Before I found The Wonderful World of Blogging, I started a photo share site through Shutterfly. Although this blog is the best place for real-time updates on A and B, I still update my photo site once a month. It provides a great pictorial history.

I also compile my pictures into photo books. I have one for every three months…and I did a special book to mark the girls’ first birthday and party.

I have ordered a number of greeting cards (birthday cards, Father’s Day, etc.) from Shutterfly. I think that’s much better than your standard card-store greeting…and as Shutterfly will send it directly to the recipient, it has saved this baby-juggling mama a few trips to the post office.

I have ordered several photo gifts, including calendars, magnets, and mouse pads.

And of course I’ve ordered a number of photo cards from Shutterfly. I first sent a Valentine’s Day greeting when the girls were about six weeks old. I followed that up with a Happy Summer card a few months later. (I might just have been looking for reasons to send pictures of our girls to 50 or so of our closest friends!)

I ordered my holiday photo cards from Shutterfly last year, and I intend to do so again this year…as soon as I have our holiday photos made, that is (gulp!). Shutterfly has a great selection of holiday cards to choose from, they produce a high-quality product at a very competitive price, and their customer service is truly first class.

I am writing this blog post for a promotion, through which Shutterfly will give me 50 free holiday cards. To borrow a line from my bloggy friend Reanbean, I swear to you that everything written here is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I really do think Shutterfly rocks. :)

November 23, 2010

A Bit About Me, November Edition

My birthday is February 23. On the 23rd of each month, I've taken to posting a couple of random bits of information about me. So for the month of November, here 'goes...

7) (In honor of the holiday season that is now upon us…) I can bake a mean cookie. When I was growing up, I worked weekends and summers in a little bakery that was owned by friends of our family. I waitressed during lunch, and I was known far and wide (relative to our tiny town) for my cookie making abilities. The work was hot and the hours were sometimes long, but I learned a lot about the value of a dollar. I also think it helped me learn to respect people from all walks of life. And I learned some basic cake-decorating skills, so I’m gonna be one mean mama when it comes to bake sales in a few years.

8) I’m not a movie person. When I was in high school, and through part of college, I went to the movies a lot…date night! And I would hate to know, in today’s dollars, what I spent on VHS rentals over the course of my growing up. Over the past 10 years, though, I’ve probably watched fewer than 10 movies. I think it’s a commitment issue. I have no problem vegetating in front of the TV to watch a 3 ½-hour ballgame (after the girlies are in bed, of course), but to plan to sit down and be attentive for two hours? Can’t do it. I know I’ll need to figure this one out if my visions of family movie night are to come to fruition in the next couple of years!

To check out past randomness...

November 22, 2010

Feedback Loop

When I graduated college and started by first job, I remember struggling with the lack of formalized feedback. Sure, I’d get the occasional pat on the back from my boss, but gone was the predictability of at least having a midterm exam by which to gauge my performance.

I eventually learned to find satisfaction in knowing I’d done a job well; getting a yearly performance review was just a nice little bonus.

That experience came back to me recently as I thought about my ever-evolving interaction with the girls.

Since we brought the girls home from the hospital, I have been reading to them, sometimes to the point of running my throat sore over the course of a day. We’ve been singing, and dancing, and counting the stairs as we traipsed up and down.

For a very long time, there was little direct feedback. Of course my heart melted with each cuddle and smile. I was so very proud when the girls rolled over, and when they started sleeping through the night, I knew I must be doing something right.

I remember very clearly the first time one of the girls responded to some of my random commentary. Baby A was walking around the den, holding her nightgown. I said, “Put the gown on your head,” and she did! I chuckle now, wishing that first light bulb moment were a little more academic. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget how proud I was when she put that gown on her head and laughed at Mommy’s silly request.

Since then, the feedback loop has become much more continuous. It’s just amazing to sit back and watch and listen at what the girls do and say.

They’re all about pretend play right now, and it’s amazing how resourceful they are in cooking up the wildest scenarios. They’ll sit on top of their little kitchen and say, “Riding bicycle!” And they serve all manner of food and drinks to each other, to us, even to pictures in books.

The girls are also incredibly observant. From their stroller on our walk yesterday morning, one of them exclaimed, “Puppy doggy…sit down…leaves!” Sure enough, there was a dog sitting in a yard, amid a thick carpet of leaves. I hadn’t even noticed him until they said something.

I know that the girls’ vocabulary is growing exponentially right now, and I know that they won’t always have new skills to show at the end of every single day…so for now I’m just enjoying this two-way dialogue.

And in my book, seeing the girls learn new things is much more rewarding than even an A+ report card!

November 20, 2010

Cultivating a Shoe Fettish

Until they were 15 months old, our girls never wore shoes.

I’m from the deep south, and it’s not that I was trying to play into some kind of stereotype. No, I figured that they didn’t need shoes until they were walking…and then, when they started walking (in December / January), they weren’t walking outside since it was still cold.

I felt like my logic was perfectly sound. But I did get the occasional raised eyebrow and question, “Umm, why don’t your girls ever have on shoes in any of their pictures?” from some (well-meaning?) and family members.

I finally bit the bullet in April, when the girls were just over 15 months old. The girls became the proud owners of their first pair of tennis shoes.

I decided the experience wasn’t so terrifying, and I went on to buy the girls a pair of sandals, and later, a pair of water shoes.

I found there was something rather gratifying about them being able to walk outside.

This fall, about six months into their entry into the World of Shoes, I figured it was probably time for a new pair of tennis shoes. We purchased a pair very similar to their first, in a larger size.

Feeling comfortable once again, I bought the girls the.cutest.pair. of moccasins for them to wear on walks (in their stroller).

And then I fell in love with the.cutest.pair. of boots.

And then I decided a couple of days ago that the girls needed some black mary janes to wear with their holiday dress (pictures to come).

It’s only taken two years, but I am finally warming up to this shoe thing.

November 19, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

(KNOCK ON WOOD as I type this…) the girls have napped well, eaten well, and played well this week…and that makes this mama feel so good! I’m very thankful for another fabulous week!

1) The girls are getting pretty accurate with naming their colors. Over the last week, Baby B has started pointing to things, saying, “Color!” which I figured out means she wants to be asked what color something is. (And she only does that when she knows the right answer!)

2) I stepped a few feet away from the girls’ highchairs to fix their cups of milk. Baby B finished her fruit before her sister. I observed Baby A give Baby B a piece of banana, and Baby B said, “Thank you!” of her own accord.

3) Baby A can count to 10! I count aloud all the time…steps, cups, blocks, books, cars. I knew the girls could fill in the blanks when I paused, but Baby A has started reciting her numbers unprompted, seemingly talking to herself. So cool!

4) I introduced the girls to red kidney beans last Friday, and they’re hooked. They have asked for them at least once a day, every day since!

5) The girls have been talking about a number of songs from the children’s CD we’re listening to this week. The funniest is when they volunteer (at some pretty odd times, at least to me), “Found a peanut!

(And on a non-baby-related note, Hubby and I stole away after the girls were in bed on Friday night [safe in the keeping of a trusty “house sitter”] to eat at our favorite sushi restaurant. Due to a number of factors, we hadn’t been out to dinner in about three months. It tasted soooo good!!!)

November 18, 2010

Communication Games

The girls’ first form of higher communication was baby sign language, beginning around 10 months old.

I thought it was simply amazing that they were “telling” me something…and I was able to understand! It seemed like a complex game of charades at times, but we were able to engage in some pretty cool conversations.

And then, along about 15 months, the girls began to say actual words.

They would blurt out things like “Baby!” and “Ball!” sometimes seemingly at random. That felt more like a game of I Spy or Hot and Cold. It might take me a few minutes to figure out if they wanted to play with a ball, if they remembered a ball that Mommy needed to rescue from under the sofa, or if they spied a watermelon (which they at first called a “ball”).

Eventually the girls moved onto two-word phrases, and now they’re stringing several words together.

Just yesterday morning, I sat in the chair where my hubby normally sits. Baby B, slightly alarmed, exclaimed, “Mommy sit down…Daddy chair!” In the absence of most prepositions and conjunctions, I think we may have progressed to playing connect the dots.

I know I’ll blink my eyes and the girls will be speaking in complete sentences, with properly conjugated verbs and everything. And one day I have hopes that we’ll even be able to play Scrabble!

Fast-forwarding a bit to the preteen years, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll have to break out my decoding skills again, though…like when I ask, “How was your day at school?” And I get a curt, “Fine,” in response. I may find myself wishing for some hand signals or something.

November 17, 2010

Prematurity Awareness Day

When I was in graduate school, a friend of mine gave birth to a baby with a minor birth defect. She casually mentioned that her doctor told her that if she'd been taking folic acid when she got pregnant, she probably could have avoided the complication.

I was shocked.

I thought everyone knew that women who were of child-bearing age should be taking folic acid to help prevent birth defects. How could my friend, an intelligent, educated woman, not have known this?

From that time, I've always supported the March of Dimes in "working together for stronger, healthier babies."

November 17 is National Prematurity Awareness Day. In honor of our baby girls, born at 34 1/2 weeks, I'm re-posting a portion of our NICU story, told in light of the NICU reunion we attended in September.

I praise God every day that we have two happy, healthy babies. I pray for the families that are fighting for their babies...for the medical professionals who are caring for them...and for the scientists who research ways to help and prevent issues such as prematurity.

Revisiting the NICU, written September 12, 2010

...and if you'll excuse me, I'm going to give my two sweet girlies an extra big hug.

November 16, 2010

When is it a Milestone?

Particularly in our information-rich culture, I think that most mommies are trained to look for milestones…the first word, the first step, the first poop in the potty.

We know the statistics of when our babies "should" do these things. We’re looking for them. And when they happen, we must document them, and journal about them, and create a new scrapbook page.

Having watched my girls' every move over the past 22 months, I have decided I’m a pretty tough judge. I want to be fair – and accurate! – when I tell you what our girls’ first words were, and precisely when they started walking.

I’ve realized, though, that being a tough judge is actually a pretty tough job.

Was I supposed to count Baby A’s very first unsupported step as “walking”? When I could take a guess at Baby B’s babbles, was I to count that as her first word?

Not this mama.

I didn’t count the girls’ first words until they were recognizable to someone other than me. And the girls were walking at least halfway across the den before I gave them full credit.

I don’t mean to sound like a drill sergeant, but I just don’t want to be one of those moms that proclaims her children can name the constellations when they can say the word “star.”

Of course I think my girls are the most precious, most beautiful, and certainly the smartest in all the land. I’m their mommy, and that’s my job. Maybe I’m just looking to counter-balance those superlatives, lest some itty bitty people start to get a big head.

November 15, 2010

Guest Post: Learning to Dance in the Rain

I first "met" MultipleMum several months ago. Her boy/girl twins were born just two weeks before A and B, and despite the oceans between Kentucky and Australia, we quickly found a lot of common ground.

The mother of four children ages five and under, MultipleMum writes about some pretty poignant "mom" experiences...but I wouldn't necessarily classify hers as a "mommy" blog; she covers a host of topics.

The common thread -- and what keeps her blog on the top of my list of "must reads" -- is her intelligent approach, and her ability to make even whimsical ideas relevant. Oh, and she always has a really cool image kicking off each of her posts. :)

Thanks so much to MultipleMum for sharing her perspective on balancing her blessings, including her recent return to the workforce.

Life is not about waiting out the storms. It is about learning to dance in the rain.

I found out I was expecting twins at the 13 week ultrasound. The sonographer popped the ultrasound machine onto my already swollen tummy and up on the screen were two little people lying side by side. There was no hiding it.

Before the lady could complete her ‘How delightful!’ speech, the tears began to roll down my cheeks, a combination of excessive laughter and shock, and my husband started counting 1,2,3,4 over and over again.

You see, we already had two children at home. Nugget was 3 years and 3 months at that point, and Doo Dah, 17 months old. Four under four. We were genuinely scared.

The thing about life I have found is that no matter how hard it all seems you somehow find the resilience to cope. Having multiples +2 has taught me just how hard life can get, but how rewarding too.

I thought I was done during the pregnancy when I reached gigantic proportions and still had to lift my toddler and pre-schooler up for 'cuddles' on a regular basis. But, no. I survived until 36+5 weeks gestation and created two gorgeous babies (B/G twins).

I thought it was all over after the babies were born when they started on a 3 hourly feed-sleep cycle, day and night. But, no. I survived that too. Even though it was 6 months before I got more than 2 hours sleep in a row, for some reason my older boys behaved like angels during the whole stage.

I thought I would never sit down again when the Minx and Dew Drop started to crawl, then walk, then climb. But, no. I have survived that stage too. With the help of my two ‘big boys’ who helped me ‘herd’ the babies down at the park or in the shopping centre.

But when the end of my maternity leave came and I had to face returning to work, I really thought it was all over for me. How in the world could I wrangle four children and go to work? What in the world could I contribute in the workplace with my ‘baby brain’ and body-fluid stained clothes? I would be discovered as an impostor, wouldn’t I? A Mum trying to cut it in the world of paid employment. But, no. I have once again survived.

Balancing paid work outside the home and child rearing isn’t for the faint-hearted. The demands are great and there really are no winners. The children wish that you could be with them every day; your workplace filters every idea from your brain as you rush out to pick up the kids; and your husband starts sending you emails and text messages as a reminder that he too has needs.

*You* get lost in the rush and chaos of your life.

In the grand scheme of things, I am lucky. I only work 2 days a week (plenty of time at home to complete the 9 loads of washing a week). My husband is very helpful and does a lot of dropping off and picking up children. And my children are adaptable. They tell me they like their days at Long Daycare and After-school care, and I choose to believe them.

I refuse to buy into the whole Mother’s Guilt thing. I mean, we all have it, irrespective of what we do with our time (SAHM, WAHM, WM) or how we manage our children. I am just trying to do the best I can, under the circumstances I have found myself in, and still find the time to smile and enjoy life.

What are your family’s circumstances? Have you waiting out the storm or have you learnt to dance in the rain?

You can check out MultipleMum's blog at And Then There Were Four...I'll see ya there! :)

November 13, 2010

Companion Reader

A few weeks ago, I posted this picture of Baby B:

It literally makes me laugh out loud to see how hard she seems to be concentrating on the likes of Dr. Seuss.

Not to be outdone, I recently captured this shot of Baby A:

Once again, I can't help but cackle at the seriousness with which she seems to approach her introduction to the Disney characters.

"'Duck', huh? That certainly doesn't look like any duck I've ever seen. And why is she sitting beside what is called a 'Mouse'? And
why would such creatures pretend to eat pizza? Very strange...very strange, indeed."

If you could see the extremely poor condition of these books, you'd understand that they've been "loved" a lot in our house over the past few months. While it's still akin to nails across a chalkboard for me seeing a page bent the wrong way, I feel strongly about books being a big part of the girls' environment. I want them to feel like having a book in hand is only natural.

And if I do say so, they're at least posing like experts.

November 11, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

...and following are just a few things that made this week fabulous!

1) The weather has been nothing short of incredible this week...daytime highs in the 70's, with crisp, clear sunshine illuminating the still-brilliant leaves. The girls' playtime in the den has suffered a bit, as we've made every excuse to get out and about. Girls, oh girls, how I love fresh air!

2) Baby B volunteered her first phrase in Serbian this week, in context. "Let's go home!" she exclaimed from her car seat.

3) Baby A has taken a real interest in her dolls' digestive systems. She's spent a large amount of time this week "burping" them. "Burping baby!" she declares. Maybe it's all the "cookies" she's been feeding them...

4) I started singing, "Babe...I Got You, Babe..." (a la Sonny and Cher) to the girls over the weekend. At random from the backseat of the car, Baby B yelled, "I got it, Bay-ba!" Daddy and I laughed, she laughed, and then Baby A laughed. And that just prompted B to say it again and again. Hilarious!

5) I have been singing the same nighttime prayer to the girls since they were a few weeks old. Just this week, Baby A has started adding the sweetest little "Amen!" to the end of the prayer...and my heart melts into an itty bitty puddle every.single.time.

(One might think with all the singing I do that I have a nice singing voice, huh? Well, One would be terribly wrong. But I guess it goes to show that even the ongoing presence of tone-deaf singing can't put a damper on the fabulousness of the World of A & B.)

November 10, 2010

The Evolution of Walking

I remember the very first time I took the girls for a walk. I had been watching the weather forecast like a hawk, so eagerly anticipating temperatures reaching the 70-degree mark. We were under strict orders from the pediatrician not to get the girls out in public until they were three months old. The only exception he cited was a walk around the neighborhood, given that the conditions were "just right."

The girls’ first walk came in mid-March, when they were about 2 ½ months old. Between the warming spring temperatures and the girls reaching the magical three-month mark, we quickly began to incorporate walks into our daily routine.

Early on, the girls slept the majority of the time we walked. I loved gazing at their cherubic faces in the natural light, but I was largely alone with my thoughts.

After several months, they were staying awake more, and I began to narrate.

There were times I’d come home from our three-mile trek, not only "glistening" from the work-out, but near-hoarse from extolling the virtues of mailboxes and mulch.

And sometimes, if the girls were getting a little antsy the last few blocks, I might find myself jiggling the handle of the stroller to the tune of “The Farmer and the Dell”. Better our neighbors enjoy my "lovely" singing voice than the sound of babies crying in stereo.

And then one day, our routine began to evolve to an entirely new level. I pointed out a barking dog, and what to my wondering eyes did appear but the girls patting their thighs, signing, “Dog!

As the girls’ signing vocabulary grew, so did the interactivity of our walks. And before I knew it, they were beginning to call out words they knew…”Dog!”…”Flower!”…”Bicycle!”…”Airplane!”…

My one-mom narration had turned into a three-way game of I Spy.

Their observations have gradually become more descriptive. “Puppy doggy…napping!” “Bird…flying…sky!” “Squirrel…running fast!

And more recently, we’ve begun to layer in colors to our conversations. “What color is that bucket (recycling bin)?” “What color is that car / truck / van?” “I see purple flowers on that porch, do you?

Next up on my list…pointing out numbers on mailboxes.

And then will come types of cars, and flowers, and trees...and one day I can envision us working on basic math skills. “If this mailbox is 741, and that is 745, what is the next one?

The possibilities are definitely endless if we keep on putting one foot in front of the other.