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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.

Consider:

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 oh.so.hard. 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...
August
September
October
November

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.

Must.pick.at.crack.

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.

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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.

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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"...as long as they're not "know-it-alls".

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