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October 31, 2011

In Preparation for Halloween...

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you probably know I'm a SUCKER for holiday-themed t-shirts...Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, and of course, Christmas...sign me up!

It's a little indulgence I allow myself. It just gets me in the holiday mood (whatever "holiday" that might be!), seeing my babes all dolled up.

Thanks to the timing of B's potty-training, we've done lots of laundry lately, so the girls got to wear their Halloween shirts almost every day this past week! :)


I got to join in on some of the Halloween action this year, too...thanks to an awesome apron I won from Charlene at Adventures-in-Mommy-Land. (I love it...a candy corn print, accentuated with ruffles and stripes and the cutest zig-zag stitching...and Charlene MADE it! Thank you, Charlene!!!)

I wore my new apron to carve our pumpkin. I know the girls are going to love seeing our kitty cat aglow tonight!


And given the theme, I couldn't resist luring Sasha into the kitchen for a peek at the pumpkin. (I'm not sure she saw the resemblance, though.)

And finally, when everyone was in bed, I made a batch of Ghost Cookies (Nutter Butters dipped in white chocolate, with mini-chocolate chips for eyes...so easy!).

I am still in the process of preparing for Halloween, as I don't have these wrapped up yet, but you can see the tags the girls (and I) made to accompany our spooky goodies.

I let the girls glue strips of orange, yellow, and white paper on a manila-colored sheet. I cut simple triangles and rounded the edges. "Happy Fall, Y'all!" the tag reads.

We will do a sort of reverse-trick-or-treating, if you will...delivering goodies to our neighbors in our Halloween outfits. The girls will probably score a few pieces of candy, and that's OK, but we won't be going for the mother lode by any stretch.

(The "burden" would fall on Yours Truly to eat most of the candy...and Heaven knows I've consumed enough candy corn by this time to meet my sugar quota until at least Valentine's Day!)

And just because I can't resist a good comparison picture...here are the girls on their first Halloween, at almost 10 months old.


...and last year, just shy of two...


Hope everyone has some great fun with their little pumpkins!

I'm connecting with Marcia's Virtual Craft Day link-up again this month for my cookies and tags. Check out all the craftiness Marcia has assembled! And if you're into crafts - especially ones you can do with your kiddos - head on over to see Charlene at Adventures-in-Mommy-Land, too!

October 30, 2011

Potty Humor

Warning: If you are squeamish and/or offended by a two-year old’s potty-related humor, you may want to read another post.

If you think a grown woman shouldn’t stoop to laugh at second-grade playground-level jokes, then I’m sorry to have disappointed you.

But if you believe there’s some truth in the great Jimmy Buffett’s line, “…if we couldn’t laugh, we’d all go insane,” then please join me for a glimpse into my world.

Ahead of potty-training, I never talked much about the contents of the girls’ diapers. Pee and poop are just a factor of life, and there’s no need to discuss their comings and goings.

But when every action was deserving of high praise, tee-tee and stinkies (as we call them in our house) became a prominent part of our everyday vocabulary.

Although she’s been out of diapers for over six months now, Baby A still has quite a dialog surrounding the potty, often personifying her stinkies.

Hello, little stinkies! It’s nice to see you!

I made you some tee-tee so you can swim!

Mommy, my stinkies look like an airplane! …snake! …boat!

Mommy, my stinkies are big! …smelly! …cute!

(In response to asking if she needed to make any stinkies...) No, my stinkies are still sleeping in my hiney.

As of this past week, Baby B has joined the ranks of the potty-users. She’s doing a fantastic job, and I’m so proud of her! I’m seeing progress every day, but she has yet to accomplish making stinkies in the potty.

She had a little accident yesterday afternoon, and I asked her, “Next time, what are you going to tell Mommy?” I was looking for her to say, “Mommy, I need to sit on the potty.

Instead, she responded, “Mommy, change my panties!” I sighed, but I also had to laugh…otherwise, I really might go insane!

***

More to come on the potty front next week. We are now using the big potty (with a ring) much more than the little stand-alone potty. Among other things, I’m hoping – at least for Baby A –that will take some of the focus (at least the personification!) away from our bathroom output.

October 29, 2011

This Book Brings Tears to My Eyes

I happened upon the most beautiful book last spring, one that brought tears to my eyes while I stood there in the bookstore. My best friend was about to have her first baby, and I knew it would make the perfect "welcome home" gift.

I bought another copy for our girls' second birthday. We read it as a bedtime story that night. While I hadn't been the basket of emotion that I'd been on their first birthday (crying off and on all day in reflection), reading the book prompted the first tears of the day.

Nancy Tillman's "On the Night You Were Born" begins...

"On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder, and the stars peeked in to see you, whispering, 'Life will never be the same.' For never before has there been anyone like you."

The book has the most gorgeous illustrations to complement the majestic prose, ending...

"Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn, on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born."

It is a celebration of the uniqueness of each and every one of us, such an awesome message.

I stopped in Kohl's earlier in the week, and I noticed that there are several Nancy Tillman books as part of the Kohl's Cares for Kids collection right now, including "On the Night You Were Born". I bought the girls "The Spirit of Christmas", thinking we can start reading it after Thanksgiving.

The Kohl's Cares for Kids collection is priced at $5.00. Kohl's states that 100% of the net profits from the program sales go to support kids' health and education initiatives.

I don't know much more about the program than that, but I know we've been on the receiving end of their funding already. Kohl's funds some of the prenatal classes through our hospital. And I remember when my friend's son was in the hospital a couple of years ago, he got a big bag of goodies from Kohl's to help boost his spirits.

Kohl's regularly features some great children's books as part of their charity program. I've bought some from Dr. Seuss and from Eric Carle. Not only are they great additions to our bookshelf (and at a fantastic price!), but I feel good supporting a program that benefits our community.

I'm linking up with Julia at Pontifications of a Twin Mom for her "Mama Loves" series. This mama loves good books, and this mama loves seeing corporations give back to their communities.

October 28, 2011

Fab 5 Friday...and ME!!!

I’m so thankful that the girls are fully over their colds! We got out of the house last Saturday, the first time in an entire week. Frozen yogurt has never tasted better! But wait…there were even more fabulous happenings (such that I could only narrow down to six, not five)!

1) On our way home from our yogurt treat on Saturday afternoon, we happened upon a hot air balloon inflating at the golf course. We were able to park and get out and watch it lift off, which was really cool. Baby A kept saying, “But I don’t want to get in the basket!” (I guess she thought that was an option, like in one of our Curious George stories???) When we got home we went for a walk in the neighborhood, and we were able to see the balloon during most of our walk. We’d lose sight of it behind the trees, and then someone would spot it again. The girls were so excited!

2) From the time they were a year or so, until maybe 18 months, the girls love to both pile in my lap for me to read them books. They gradually moved away from that practice…both as they got bigger and they often wanted to be doing different things. For some reason this week, that’s en vogue again…and I’m soaking up every moment. It is more difficult to balance two babes and turn the pages of a book, though!

3) Of her own accord, Baby B asked to sit on the potty on Wednesday!!! While we haven’t exactly been high and dry ever since, I haven’t changed a diaper in three days!

4) After a successful trip to Target on Tuesday morning, we met “Aunt” Karen for lunch at Panera. I discovered recently that they like grilled cheese sandwiches, and they love the vegetarian black bean soup there. As eating out goes, it’s pretty healthy…and the girls devoured it. Some of the “healthy” was offset by the manager bringing the girls a gigantic cookie, “just because”, but it was such a sweet – and unexpected! – treat.

5) The girls had fun doing a little glue project this week, and also helping a bit in the kitchen. I let them dip the tops of some pumpkin spice muffins in butter, and then in cinnamon-sugar. They were so thrilled…the first thing they told Daddy when he came home was, “We made muffins for your colleagues!

6) And the quote of the week??? Baby B said, “Daddy looks like an elephant!” I asked why, and they both answered, “Because he has on a blue shirt!” Gotta love their logic (?), or at least their imaginations!

And what did I do for ME this week???

I cleaned out and reorganized my closet…hallelujah! And, after a somewhat nutty morning on Thursday, I mixed away my stress by baking pumpkin spice muffins…yum!

What made your week fabulous?

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Thanks to Dollimama for hosting this awesome link-up, and welcome back to Blogland! We missed you!!! Head over to check out how she's keeping her groove...and wish her a [slightly belated] happy birthday while you're there!

October 27, 2011

Another Mommy Milestone!

Gauging by some of my friends in the blog world and on Facebook, I think I may be a little slow on the uptake sometimes. I know I’m conservative. Cautious. That I tend to think through worst case scenarios…all of them…before I jump [or crawl] into a situation.

I look at some of my friends and think, “I need a dose of her [seeming] ‘throw caution to the wind’ attitude.” “I need to chill out and relax and go with the flow.

And I’m trying.

My girls can walk up and down the steps unassisted (although I still prefer to walk closely alongside). I let them use finger paints (on rare occasions when I can work up the nerve). And we’ve played outside a lot these past few weeks…I let them sit in a pile of leaves (on the ground!)…I let them run in the side yard (which is not fenced in!)…and they’ve gotten lots of practice on their tricycles (even surviving a couple of inevitable spills!).

Still, it’s not always easy for this mama to step outside of her comfort zone. So when I do, I celebrate myself.

So what was the momentous milestone this week???

We went shopping at Target. Sans stroller.

Oh, yes, we did!

I let the girls walk with me on short errands – like to buy stamps at the post office, or make a deposit at the bank – and they always walk these days when we go for yogurt or a cookie. But for any transactions that will require both my hands for any period of time – like grocery shopping – I still use the stroller.

On Tuesday I had just a couple of things to pick up at Target, and I decided to give the girls a try. We had a big pep talk, and I was prepared to leave the store empty-handed if they didn’t behave as I asked them to. We walked in and I got a hand basket. I instructed the girls to keep one hand on the basket at all times, and off we went.

The girls did very well, not letting go of the basket at all. They wanted to reach and grab a bit with their free hand, but I invoked the “one finger” rule, and they did pretty well.

We spent a good 15 minutes in the store, and we even had time to look at the cards before we headed to the register (an all-time favorite activity, by the way). By the time we reached the check-out, the girls were starting to fidget, but all in all, I consider it to have been a very successful trip.

So I’m patting myself on the back…which requires letting go of the girls’ hands for just a second…but I think I’m up for that.

October 26, 2011

Retaliation

When the girls were smaller, maybe between 15 and 18 months old, we had some trouble with biting. The pediatrician assured us it was a normal part of most children’s development, and that the girls would outgrow it. And they did.

I was so thankful when that phase passed. How pitiful (and embarrassing!) it was to see a big red bite mark and nasty accompanying bruise on my girls’ tender little arms.

Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. Within the past couple of months, Baby B has begun wielding her teeth once again, and Baby A has the battle scars to prove it.

Only this time, I don’t think B is simply testing her pearly whites. I didn’t realize this right away, but I’m pretty sure B considers biting a primary tool in her problem-solving set.

[Switching gears for a moment...stick with me here...]

My husband is an avid soccer fan. He’s played it all his life (one of those kids that kicked the ball before he could walk, I imagine). He’s also coached and refereed at various levels. I’ve heard him remark before about aggression on the field…that the referee doesn’t usually see the initial infraction; he’s much more likely to see – and card – the retaliatory effort.

Bingo.

Baby A is the more likely of our two girls to “set the tone” in the play room. She’s also more likely to decide which toy she wants to play with…and B is usually quite likely to concede to her sister.

B has her limits, though. It’s hard to always catch, but there comes a time when B has had enough. Not realizing / respecting that, A continues to push her agenda.

B’s solution? To bite her sister, of course.


Baby B gets disciplined for biting, but I’m learning that’s only part of the equation. I’d be upset, too, if someone grabbed a toy from my hand.

I’ve been trying to talk to the girls, to give them alternatives to dealing with situations outside of becoming physical. I remember reading a post from Reanbean a year or so ago, in which she was trying to instruct Buba to tell his sister, “No, I don’t like that!

I’ve offered two phrases, “No, Sissy, I don’t like that!” And if that doesn’t work, “Mommy, I need help!

I was so proud to hear B say yesterday, “No! I don’t like that!” to her sister…without baring her teeth.

Hubby would certainly profess that life is like a soccer game. At least in this instance, I’d have to agree.

October 24, 2011

Lady Justice Explained...and a Winner Announced

I started blogging almost two years ago. At first I thought I’d post a couple of times a week. Little did I know how much I would enjoy the medium… that it would feel like such a great outlet for me…that I would come to post 20+ times a month…that I would find myself a part of such an awesome community of parents…that I would meet some really great friends.

Hubby and I don’t much trade gifts for holidays or birthdays. I can’t tie this decision to any one occasion, but I decided to treat myself to a blog makeover.

I approached my sweet blogger friend Kate, of Mommy Monologues, about a design.

I wanted to play up the “trials and triumphs” part of my blog title. I chose that title two years ago, and it still rings true for me every day.

Heaven knows there are challenges in raising children – and specific challenges in the world of multiples – but, even in the midst of being tag-teamed by my dynamic duo, I always appreciate that the joys outweigh those trials.

I told Kate I wanted to use the scales of justice as part of the design. She sent me some images to think about, including some majestic pictures of Lady Justice.

Bingo! Eureka! That’s ME!!!

Dating back to Greek mythology (although I’m not that old), Lady Justice holds the scales of truth and fairness. Certainly I try to be truthful to my kiddos, and fair in my parenting.

And she wears a blindfold, representing objectivity. Certainly I try to parent my girls as individuals. And I prefer to turn a blind eye to some of the “trials” inherent in any given day…all the better to focus on the triumphs!

Impassioned with so many new ideas, I then approached a friend, former colleague, and very talented artist, Chris, [seriously, check out his work!] to see if he’d be willing to create a custom image of Lady Justice, Mandy-style.

Between Chris’s awesome artwork (tipping the scales and even indulging my “sunglasses on the head” that I feel are a mark of my mommy-hood!), and Kate’s crisp, clean layout and cool color scheme…I couldn’t be happier with my new blog design!

A big, big thank you to Kate (and congratulations on the upcoming arrival of Baby #2!)…and a big, big thank you to Chris!!!

And a big, big thank you to everyone who reads this blog…who laughs at our crazy antics…who shares in our triumphs…and who helps coach me through the trials.

Life is a balance. Thank goodness the triumphs outweigh the trials. And thank goodness for friends to share them with!

(And congratulations to Melissa at MaMe Musings for winning my Makeover Giveaway! A $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble will be on its way…may you drown any trials in a nice, warm latte, and may you celebrate some triumphs with a new read!)

October 23, 2011

A Bit About Me, October Edition

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

27) I loved my Little Red Riding Hood costume as a child.

It’s the Halloween costume I most remember…I think I wore it for two years, maybe when I was three and four. I’m assuming it had some kind of red cape, but I most remember the plastic-y mask with the cut-out eyes and elastic strap around the back of the head. That’s certainly a far cry from today’s elaborate costumes (and guidelines not to cover a child’s face!), but I thought it was pretty special.

28) I hate to cut my nails.

There’s something about that metallic CLICK that just makes me cringe! Instead, I just file my nails into shape every week or so. That’s a lot of filing, such that I find myself buying a new pack of files at least once a month! (This is a new realization for me…before kiddos, I used to get a manicure every couple of weeks…so I never bought nail files!)

Tune in next month for more randomness!

October 22, 2011

Mama Loves: Organization!

In hindsight, I'm a bit ashamed to admit it's taken us so long to get an organizational system in place for the girls' toys.

We had places in the den / playroom for certain things...balls, stuffed toys, books...and I try to rotate toys in and out so there are never too many there at once. Still, there seemed to be quite a heap of toys at any one time.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a small storage bin shelving unit. After the girls were in bed, I assembled it and organized their toys.

They squealed with glee upon seeing it the following morning.


After a little tweaking, our bins are organized as follows:

- vehicles
- blocks and balls
- musical toys
- stacking toys
- electronic toys
- shapes
- other plastic toys
- puppets
- soft toys
- books (3)

We still have some toys that don't fit in the bin -- like our building blocks and a few larger balls -- but they have their own places.

I've seen other families label bins to help their children remember what belongs where, and I think it's a great idea...a picture of books / balls / trucks / etc. Since we have a few "miscellaneous" bins [like soft toys], though, I'm not quite sure how I'd capture the contents with a picture.

Nonetheless, I've been so pleased how quickly the girls learned what toys belong in which bin.

Further, they've done a much, much better job at keeping their toys organized. I encourage them to take out only a few things at once, and return them to the bins when they're finished playing. It doesn't always work that way...but sometimes it does!

And the girls seem to be more engaged in clean-up, too, knowing everything has a place.

I wish we had an actual playroom to house all the girls' things, but this system at least makes the den a little more liveable for us as a family.

I'm linking up again today with Julia for her "Mama Loves" series. It's a great way to see what works for other families!

October 21, 2011

Fab 5 Friday...and ME!!!

The girls have been sick this week…nothing really serious, just colds, I think…and I’m so thankful to declare this house fever-free for the first time all week! Despite the inordinate amount of tissues consumed in the past five days, there was still lots of fabulousness to count...

1) Friday night we held our weekly youtube fest (twenty or so minutes of pulling up different songs to dance to, Mommy and Daddy taking turns with the selection). I chose a Los Lonely Boys song. I asked the girls if they recognized the song, and they said they did. I explained that they went to a LLB concert when they were in Mommy’s tummy. “But I’m out now,” B confirmed in all seriousness.

2) We went to a birthday party for fellow twin friends last Saturday. The girls played so well and had a really great time. And seeing five sets of twins don party hats (at least for a few seconds) met my cuteness quota for at least the next week.

3) Daddy has been encouraging the girls not to run full speed in the house. (It used to be OK for them to run on the carpet, just not on the hardwood, but they’re getting to be such speedsters!) He’s trying to teach them the concept of “jogging”, but that seems to be pretty foreign to my two-year olds. They try though…they bend partly over and run in slow motion…and it’s pretty darn hysterical.

4) I love how the girls talk about what other people / animals / even inanimate objects must be thinking. We went for a walk over the weekend and saw a squirrel right next to the road. Baby A said, “There’s a swirrel! Hi, widdle swirrel! He said, ‘What are those baby girls doing here, I wonder?’ And then he said, 'I am cute!'

5) And the quote of the week? After explaining something to the girls, B told me, You’re probably right.” She’s TWO…not TWELVE. I may be in trouble.

And what did I do for ME this week???

Hubby and I marked the 16th anniversary of our first date on Thursday. (Yes, we started dating when I was seven.) With everything going on internally this week, I honestly didn’t realize the date until mid-morning. Our mini-celebration was pretty impromptu…we treated ourselves (and the girls) to takeout pizza from a new gourmet shop in town. But I did take the time to make chocolate molten lava pudding cake, coordinated perfectly to come out of the oven as the girlies went to bed. Hubby and I may have over-indulged a bit…each having two servings…but it was a celebration, afterall!

October 20, 2011

Should I Buy the Wooden Cupcakes?

With the holidays and the girls’ birthday quickly approaching, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about toys. What would the girls like? What do they need? What would stimulate them to reach the next level of play?

I take these decisions pretty seriously.

I like to think of myself as a minimalist when it comes to toys. There is certainly no shortage of brightly colored plastic in our house, but I believe that “less is more” in a lot of ways. I try to rotate the girls’ toys and books so that they can actually see, find, and appreciate what they have to play with.

I recently bought an organizational shelf for the girls’ toys. In separating things into different bins, I realized they still have quite a few baby toys – things they’ve had since infancy – in the rotation. I moved a handful of items into the consignment pile, but many of the items they still play with regularly.

They’re certainly not using the plastic teether necklace for teething…but it often serves as a float when they pretend to take their baby dolls swimming.

The bunny rattle that used to Velcro onto the handle of the carrier? The girls like to build a tree with their blocks and attach the bunny to a limb, talking about how much he likes to swing.

While I may like to think of myself as a minimalist, I’m also kinda sentimental. I could probably clean out a lot more of the infant toys, but I tell myself I’m fostering the girls’ imagination. ([Theoretically speaking,] I may also be avoiding purging all evidence of the girls’ babyhood [ahem].)

So…back to the holidays…there are some really cool baking sets on the market. I know the girls would have a blast stacking up felt toppings on wooden cupcakes. But they already play “cupcakes” with their stacking cups (that they’ve had since they were about three months old).

Should I buy the wooden cupcakes? Or is it better to challenge the girls to stretch their imaginations?

Is it time to bite the bullet and admit my girlies aren’t tiny babies anymore?

Or should I just chill out and enjoy the transition from brightly colored plastics to (much more sophisticated) wood and felt?

October 19, 2011

Forever in Blue Jeans

I remember hearing someone scoff not long ago at the idea of "skinny jeans" for babies. How disgusting, right? What slaves to fashion we all are, and to think about someone imparting that on their innocent children. Humph.

But when I started trying to outfit the girls this fall, I realized how my "babies" are growing up. While I have hopes that the girls might surpass their 5'2" mama in the height department, their proportions are making it hard to find pants that fit. Even the 2T pants that were too big last year, are still too big in the waist this year...but are too short already.

Skinny jeans, here we come!

I took this picture of the girls in their new jeans last week.


The moment I downloaded it, I thought back to a similar picture I had of the girls in their first pair of (non-skinny) jeans, almost exactly two years ago.


This picture always melts my heart. At eight months old, I love how they were just propped up on the couch (weren't those the days!), leaning against each other to check out this new denim phenomenon.

In having girls, I am thankful that leggings are such an easy option. And I'm also thankful that I found a way to outfit the girls in jeans, too. Every gal needs at least one go-to pair, right?

(And I'd be lying if I said I'm not looking forward to seeing them in their jeans and boots! Mama may not be able to pull it off, but I'll bet they can!)

I'm linking up with Cheryl at Twinfatuation for Way Back When-esday. Thanks, as always, for prompting me to dig back through my picture files, Cheryl! It's always a sweet treat.

And if you haven't entered my GIVEAWAY to celebrate my new blog design...you have until Sunday, October 23rd to do so!

October 18, 2011

Leave No Sock Unturned!

I’m a little freaky when it comes to socks…specifically the girls’ socks. In my almost three years of parenting two rambunctious girlies, I’m proud to say I’ve never lost a one!

One of the most useful pieces of random advice I got when I was pregnant was to wash all those itty bitty socks in a lingerie bag. It works like a charm, ensuring the dryer doesn’t “eat” any of those dainty little socks. And it makes sorting and folding laundry a little bit easier, too.

I’m no supermom, but I do seem to have a supernatural sense for finding errant socks. My girls are champion sock-puller-off’ers, especially in the car and in the stroller.

I learned early on that the side pocket in the door of the backseat is a prime spot for dropped socks. That’s always my first place to look when I see exposed piggy toes in the car. Failing that, I strain to look between the car seats. And failing that, I will climb into the backseat (using my amazing pretzel-like contortion skills), until I find the missing sock(s).

I’m usually pretty good at recognizing when the girls are messing with their socks when we're out and about. I’ll try redirecting their attention / reminding them that big girls wear socks and shoes / threatening to never let them out of the stroller (as you can’t walk without socks and shoes). If those measures don't take, they just have to go sock-less...and I have to ignore the looks of disapproval from some fellow shoppers.

There was only one time when I didn’t catch the action as it happened. We were at Target, and I noticed we were only sporting three socks as I neared the checkout. Forget that it was close to nap time. I retraced every step until I spotted that tiny little sock amid the kitchen wares.

My crowning glory happened a few days ago. A year ago (I think), I found a hole in one of the girls’ socks. I threw it away and saved the widowed one in their sock bin. Last week, as I was pulling on B’s socks, a hole ripped in the toe of one. My mind immediately raced to the lone sock I had been saving. Following the next load of laundry, I reunited one sock with the other…oh, the satisfaction!

[And I know you’re wondering…the girls’ socks are nothing extra special. Save a couple of cutesy striped pairs, they’re otherwise from Walmart and Target. And while the girls’ feet have grown over the past couple of years, we still seem to be wearing the same socks. And no, I’m not that cheap, but I can be that stubborn!]

***

Don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY to celebrate my new blog design! It's open through Sunday, October 23!

October 17, 2011

In Celebration...A GIVEAWAY!!!

I'd been thinking about a new blog design for quite some time, and I finally decided to treat myself to a little makeover.

I feel like a brand new mama [minus the sleepless nights and spit-up], and I'm really loving my new look!

In celebration, I'm so excited to host a little giveaway!

Now, I'd love to offer up an all-expenses paid trip to fabulous New York City for a spa makeover weekend...or maybe a new pair of designer sunglasses and an online shopping spree...

...but I decided instead on a $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble! Just think how far you can travel with your imagination!!!

Step back, sip on a latte, and peruse the travel section...or indulge in some fashion magazines...or get lost in a juicy paperback! (Or buy a couple of new books for your kiddos...which will, in effect, buy you some fuss-free time at home, right?)

To enter, just leave a comment on this post...I'd love some suggestions for new reads.

For additional entries, I'd be honored if you'd...

* Follow my blog (or tell me that you already do).
* Like my blog on Facebook (or tell me that you already do).
* Follow me on Twitter (or tell me that you already do).

[Icons for each are on the right side of my page.]

This giveaway is open through Sunday, October 23. I will announce the winner on Monday, October 24.

Thanks so much for helping me celebrate my new look! Looking forward to many more shared triumphs!

October 15, 2011

The Beauty of Fall

(...and the leaves are pretty, too!)

I am just loving fall this year!


The cooler temperatures mean we've been outside to play almost every day. And the girls are having such fun "crunching" leaves as we walk.

It's pretty awesome to see them paying such attention to detail...looking at different leaves, and talking about how dry one is versus another, or oohing at a particularly big leaf on our path. They're also enthralled with pine straw, which is near and dear to this southern girl's heart.

We went to play in the backyard a couple of days ago, with the express intent of crunching leaves. The girls had a blast!


Mommy even encouraged them to sit in the leaves. I thought this would be a bigger hit...but I think the lure of running was just so strong.


The dandelions are also drying up, so I shared one of my fond childhood memories with the girls, blowing the dried seeds.

(I remember loving the yellow flowers in our yard as a child, which my dad didn't think were very "pretty". And then I remember blowing the seeds, which my dad also didn't love, as I was - of course - just spreading the weedy wealth...HA!)

It's funny that blowing on a dandelion seems like it should be so easy...but the girls were working really hard in that venture. Mommy had to help them finish it off each time (but I didn't mind!).


And lastly, Daddy helped the girls pick a few colorful leaves from the lower branches. We talked about the color and texture, and the girls didn't want to let those special leaves go!

Once again, Happy Fall, Y'all! Enjoy the beauty of the season!

October 14, 2011

Fab 5 Friday...and ME!!!

It’s been another fabulous week at A&B Enterprises! I’m so thankful to report that we went seamlessly back into our routine after having Daddy home all last week. Hallelujah!

1) On Saturday we took the girls downtown for our town’s monthly street festival. I love how they just jump right in and dance to the music. Kids truly “dance like no one’s watching”…although my dynamic duo does sometimes draw a few spectators. :)

2) The girls are doing great with their tricycles! Baby A has mastered forwards, backwards, and she’s pretty proficient with steering. Baby B can peddle quite a long distance, and pretty fast, when she sets her mind to it. She is still working on the steering part, though…so I have to make sure she doesn’t gather speed and suddenly head into the curb!

3) [KNOCK ON WOOD], the girls have napped so well this week! To celebrate, I took the girls on Wednesday afternoon to a new bread shop for a cookie. They were so well-behaved! They sat perfectly nicely while I got our cookie and paid and fixed their cups of water. They even talked with the baker lady when she came over to say hello…even before I’d made my way back to the table. My little ladies are growing up!

4) Instead of riding tricycles one afternoon this week, I took the girls to the backyard with the express intent to crunch leaves. They had a blast! They ran and stomped and crunched, and sat and crunched some more. (And I might have taken 124 pictures in about 30 minutes, enjoying it all myself!)

5) Daddy introduced the girls to the idea of “adults” and “children”. After he left for work one morning, Baby A said, One adult is here, and one adult is at work.” Too funny!

And what did I do for ME this week???

I got a massage!!! I had intended to indulge in that more frequently this year (maybe once a quarter), but I hadn’t kept that promise to myself. There was no special reason for this one, other than I just wanted it. And I have to say, it was The Best Massage Ever! I saw the same therapist I’ve seen for several years, but I think I was just in the perfect mental state, or something. Bliss!

And instead of rushing home to fix supper after my massage, I picked up a pizza instead. That was another big treat…no fuss, no mess…and the girls were SO EXCITED over such an almost-unheard of mid-week treat.

What made your week fabulous???

October 12, 2011

The Power of Snot

As parents, our primary job is to take care of our children…to love them, nurture them, and care for them. Under “care for them” fall several less-than-glamorous jobs, including the handling of all manner of bodily functions, secretions, and other output.

To date I’ve been really impressed with myself. I have handled the poopiest of poop (even when it was smeared in places it shouldn’t have been). I have taken care of pretty big puddles of pee. I have even muddled through middle-of-the-night vomit without tossing my own cookies. And of course I’ve wiped a lot of noses.

All of this is just part of it, right? I do these things not with glee, exactly, but at least with a certain degree of satisfaction in knowing that I am taking care of my baby girls, no matter what the situation.

What gets a little sticky, though, is when my children try to use Mommy’s “care for them” obligation to their advantage. Their latest trick?

WIPE…MY…NOOOOOOOOOOOOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And let me tell you, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Much of the time, I am engaged with my girls. But there are times that I’m not…times when Mommy needs to fix lunch, or make a phone call, or wipe her own nose.

And most of the time, the girls do great playing together, or by themselves.

But there are times when they want Mommy…and they want her NOW. And their way to signal Mommy? “Mommy, wipe my nose!

Feeling like any self-respecting Mommy should surely wipe her child’s nose, I usually comply with the first request. But then, it continues.

And if I suggest that their nose doesn’t need wiping; I just wiped it? This is often the cue for actual crying…which leads to the production of actual snot.

Rinse (er, wipe), and repeat.

Snot. It’s a powerful thing thing. And my girls know it.

October 11, 2011

My Irresistible Counting Trick

I know…I know…playing tricks isn’t nice…

…but this is really pretty benign – academic, even! – and this mama is not above trickery.

Once upon a time it seemed like a novelty for the girls to clean up their toys in the den. They loved “helping”, and life was good. The novelty of that wore off after a while, though, and I had to get inventive.

My next stop was to ask the girls to play “teacher”. “Can you teach Abby and Lily [the girls’ dolls] how to stack the dishes in the kitchen?” “Can you show Abby and Lily where the books go?” Granted it took longer when the girls had a baby under one arm, but they were the cutest little instructors, taking care to make sure their babies understood what to do.

That tact still occasionally works, but not always. I guess Abby and Lily have a pretty good grasp on the basics of cleaning, and unmotivated students can make for unmotivated teachers.

My newest trick involves counting. “Let’s put the blocks in the bin,” and I’ll start counting, “One-two-three-four,” as I put each block in. The girls can’t seem to resist. This often evolves into a near-shouting match as the girls scramble to count how many blocks they’re stowing away.

I’ll encourage them to count how many things they can pick up to return to the toy shelf. “One-two-three-four-five…Mommy, I have full hands!

Score! A math lesson AND a clean floor…I love it!

As we’ve been practicing with the girls on their tricycles this week, I again employed my counting trick.

The girls were pretty good with the peddles after the first day, but they didn’t seem to want to peddle for very long. I don’t know if it’s just hard work for them…or the lure of fallen leaves that Need To Be Crunched is just too strong…but they would go five feet or so, and then hop off.

I knew they needed to get a real feel for distance before they could really start to enjoy their trikes. I tried saying, “Let’s go check the mailbox!” which I think sounded like so much fun, they wanted to run there instead.

Finally, I said, “Let’s see how many times you can peddle!” I started counting each time they pressed their foot forward…and viola! Baby A took off pretty quickly thereafter, such that I lost count. I counted up past 100 with Baby B before my tongue got tied.

I’m sure I’ll have to find another trick at some point, but I’m going to count this as a success as long as I can!

October 10, 2011

Fall Break Bucket List: Report

Daddy's Fall Break was last week. We didn't have any "big" plans...but we planned to do lots of "little" fun family things.

We delivered on all my hopes and expectations...and then some. It was a busy week, but not too busy. We had some nice downtime in there, too.

Friday. Kicked off the vacation by ordering pizza...yum!

Saturday. Bagels at Panera, followed by giving the girls their tricycles. They were a hit! That afternoon we turned our focus indoors, and the girls got to decorate cupcakes for the first time. [Saturday night Mommy met a few friends for a small baby shower / late dinner (hence the cupcakes). Girl time is always great!]

Sunday. Family breakfast and lots of downtime. [Mommy slipped away mid-afternoon for a pedicure!]

Monday. Semi-annual trip to The Big City for new shoes and shopping. It was an all-day affair, and the girls did great!

Tuesday. We hung out at home in the morning, and Miss Jennifer came to play with the girls in the afternoon. [Meanwhile, Mommy and Daddy had an afternoon "date". We enjoyed the most wonderful homemade pizza (Sashimi Tuna with Spicy Aioli Sauce...ahhh-mazing!). Oh, and then we might have had a little ice cream before heading back home.]

Wednesday. We ran a couple of errands as a family, and then went out for lunch.

Thursday. Took the girls to the zoo! They were such troopers...they walked the entire time and ooh'ed and ahh'ed at all the animals, right on cue! We enjoyed a late lunch at P.F. Chang's (another big treat), and the girls napped in the car on the way home.

Friday. Family grocery shopping in the morning. [Mommy slipped out for some solo errands in the afternoon.]

Saturday. Bagels at Panera, dancing to live music on the square downtown (as part of the monthly street festival), and lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Frozen yogurt as an afternoon treat. [Mommy and Daddy enjoyed "date night in" after the girls were in bed, piled on the couch to watch the Bama game on the DVR.]

Sunday. Family breakfast and a great walk. A picnic snack with "Aunt" Karen on Sunday afternoon, and time spent walking around downtown.

Tricycles were a part of every day...and I'm proud to report that every day but one also included a nap (for the girls and Daddy, and a couple of times for Mommy, too!)!

This picture, taken at the zoo, sums up the week for me...lots of awesome family time, lots of time outdoors, and lots of great experiences.


So...looking back at my bucket list for the week, we did pretty well! The only exceptions...

  • We didn't go to the orchard (but it was so warm this week...I decided I didn't want pumpkin patch pictures in halter tops!).
  • I didn't clean out my junk drawers or my closet (but I rationalized that it was "vacation"...and I opted to do some scrapbooking and some reading at night instead).
  • I didn't get a massage...but I have one booked for later this week. SO looking forward to that little gem!!!

***

We're back to regularly-scheduled programming today.

We've spent the morning building block towers, having tea parties, doing artwork, and reading. With all our going and doing over the past week, I realized the girls haven't used crayons in over a week! We can't let that trend continue!

Looking forward to another great (albeit quieter) week!

October 8, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

We're having a fantastic week, enjoying Daddy's vacation to its fullest!

I hope to post about all our adventures, but in the meantime, this picture says a lot about what we've been up to...


...new kicks on new tricycles!

Happy Saturday, Everyone!

October 7, 2011

Fab 5 Friday...and ME!!!

How is it Friday already??? Daddy has been on Fall Break this week, and we’ve been making the most of each and every day. This fabulous week has flown by!


1) We were stopped in traffic in front of a Hardee’s. From the backseat, Baby B said, “Mommy, is that Starbucks? I told her it was Hardee’s…a long way removed from Starbucks. But it has a star,” she rationalized. I’ve been beaming over that display of logic all week.


2) Every morning we look at our Page-a-Day calendar, which has a picture of a kitty, along with his name and the city and state in which he lives. Over the past couple of months we’ve been looking at the kitty’s state on the map each morning. One morning the kitty was from Minnesota. Before getting the map, I told the girls that Minnesota was next to Wisconsin. A little while later, I heard B ask her Daddy, “Do you know where Minnesota is? Before he had a chance to answer, she volunteered, “It’s on the map! I don’t think she was trying to make a joke, but it sure made me cackle.


3) The girls have been stuck on the song “Found a Peanut”. It’s hilarious to hear them finagle the lyrics…and try to keep up with each other’s changes as they try to sing together. I L-O-V-E it!


4) I wish I could have recorded the conversation the girls and I had after they helped me pick out a baby gift at Target. It started with, “The baby will say ‘thank you’? I explained that he was still in his mommy’s tummy, so she would say thank you for him. I told him the baby would be born in the hospital. Our hospital?” they asked. Yes. Is he getting his bag ready? And on and on.


5) [KNOCKING ON WOOD AGAIN…] The girls have napped every day but one this week. They’ve just generally been in good spirits, playing and sharing and having fun. It doesn’t always go this way, but it makes for such an awesome week.


And what did I do for ME this week???


I got a pedicure on Sunday, all by my lonesome. In fact, I was the only one in the salon, and it was great. My piggy toes are now a shiny orange-ish color (in a good way), my small tribute to fall…with thanks to warmer-than-usual weather so I can still wear flip-flops to show off said piggy toes!


Photobucket

October 6, 2011

The Meaning of Success

I hadn't planned to blog about this today...but sometimes circumstances arise, events happen, and my thought process is jarred.

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday.

I sit here typing on a Toshiba laptop, my [drug dealer-esque prepaid] cell phone buried somewhere at the bottom of my diaper bag. And as fate would have it, I just made a public admission on Wednesday afternoon to never having owned an iPod.

Although I'm not an Apple techie myself, I still have a profound respect for Steve Jobs as an amazing visionary.

I saw a quote last night from Steve Jobs that made me stop and think...

"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will."

Certainly the technology created under Jobs' leadership is revolutionary. I'm sure it will morph a million times over, even within our lifetimes, but his legacy will likely live for many, many generations to come.

That Jobs quote reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, from Ralph Waldo Emerson, on the meaning of success...

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Chances are I won't invent any revolutionary technology. And try as I may, I most likely won't go down in the history books as the world's greatest marketer of socks, underwear, packaged meat, or any category of consumables, for that matter.

But what I can do is give 100% of myself to my life. I can follow my passions. I can invest in my family and in those around me.

I believe I can make the world a little bit better...and I hope to instill that belief in my girls, too.

...and acting upon that belief will be to have succeeded.

October 5, 2011

I'm Kind of Ashamed to Admit This...

…and this is not even the first time I’m writing about this.

What is wrong with me???

Or can this be characterized as part of the “dignity you lose when you have kids”???

::sigh:: ::deep breath::

Here ‘goes.

I ‘fessed up once before about watching Jon & Kate + Eight. I talked about having watched a few early episodes of the show, in awe of the simple idea of So Many Kids in such a small space.

When we began to make family plans, I started to pay a little closer attention, and then I began watching religiously when we learned we were having twins. I know TWINS are not SEXTUPLETS, but as an only child I was grasping for any insight I could get.

When the girls were born, I would sometimes relax during nap time by watching something mindless on TV…and at that time, it was so easy to find reruns of J&K+8 throughout the day. I remember they ran from 9:00 - 10:00, coinciding perfectly with the girls’ morning nap. I’d often tune in to maybe learn a little something…or doze off to the sounds of children laughing and crying (and Kate yelling).

I know the family had external help – I really think you’d HAVE TO with that many children – but I still found odd comfort in the situation. If Kate could do it with eight kiddos, I know I can make it through the next feeding with my two, I’d tell myself.

At the time when things started to turn south for Jon and Kate, I was still able to watch bits and pieces of the morning news programs (based on my girls’ schedule). I watched sadly as the family began to tear apart in such a public forum. My mind, of course, was on the children, kiddos I felt I “knew” a little bit from having watched them grow for quite some time now.

I’ve continued to tune in to watch the Gosselin family over the past year or so. There’s been much less learning about life with multiples, more watching the family on various adventures around the globe. Still, it has fulfilled my need for mindless TV (now after the girls are in bed, as I don’t dare turn on the TV during naps!). And I do occasionally make mental notes about experiences I’d like to have with the girls one day.

I think it was from the cover of a tabloid magazine in the grocery store newsstand that I learned Kate + Eight was being cancelled. I wasn’t surprised, as the show has lost most of its original appeal, at least in my opinion.

Still, I was a little sad…sad for the reminder of the break-apart of that family…and sad that something I’ve oddly tied in with my own family’s story was ending.

I watched the final episode on my DVR a couple of nights ago. And I’m kind of ashamed to admit this…but I may have gotten a little misty-eyed.

***

Like my new look??? I've still gotta learn my way around some of my new bells and whistles, but I L-O-V-E it!!!

Stay tuned next week for an Official Kick-off [at least it will be "official" to me], complete with a giveaway!

October 3, 2011

Fall Break Fun!

I really can't believe it's already time for Hubby's Fall Break! It seems like he just started back to school...but I'm not complaining!

We don't have any big plans, but we hope to spend a lot of fun family time together.

We kicked things off on Friday night by ordering pizza, a very rare treat.

On Saturday morning we headed to the farmer's market, followed by bagels at Panera. Saturday afternoon we gave the girls their tricycles.

We've actually had their tricycles since last December, but we'd been waiting for the right time to give them to the girls. The weather this week is supposed to be pretty perfect...nice fall temps and beautiful sunshine. That, coupled with an extra set of hands from Daddy, made us decide that Saturday was "The Day".

I sent the girls on a walk around the block with Daddy, while I staged their trikes in the drive. The girls were ecstatic when they looked to the top of the driveway, breaking into a run.


Saturday afternoon we got some peddling in, but it wasn't until Sunday afternoon that we made any considerable forward (and backward!) progress.

I'm hoping that "steering" kicks in on Day 3.

As for the rest of the week, here's my bucket list...

Family / The Girls

  • Jackson’s Orchard, including a wagon ride and pumpkin patch pictures
  • New shoes
  • New fall / winter clothes
  • Trip to the zoo
Me
  • Clean out two junk drawers
  • Organize my closet
  • Order September pictures
  • "Date" with Hubby (in some form or fashion)
  • Pedicure
  • And should I be so bold as to actually consider a massage???

Looking forward to a great -- and productive! -- week!

October 1, 2011

Easy-Peasy Fall Craft

When we went to the orchard a couple of weeks ago, we let the girls each pick a little pumpkin to get them in the fall spirit.

LinkI had originally thought we'd make "pumpkin people" by stacking two pumpkins on top of each other, snowman-style.

But as I considered this option, I realized the stems were too long...and I'd need to find an old knife, or a small handsaw...and I could just envision bad things happening. A trip to the ER was not exactly what I'd envisioned to get us into the fall spirit.

Instead, I decided we'd decorate the pumpkins with ribbon and buttons. We soon ditched the button idea in lieu of some scrapbooking materials...and I just love the results!


Doing this again with the girls, I would have used more vibrant colors...couldn't you just imagine some lime green ribbon with some bright pink and/or turquoise accents?

Or next time I might buy three pumpkins and spell out "B-O-O" or "E-E-K".

In any case, these were super simple to make, even with four little hands "helping".

I let the girls help me apply the glue to the ribbon (we used glue dots). I helped them use a paper punch to make the scalloped circles from card stock. And they applied their initial sticker.

Viola! A great decoration for the mantle...as easy as [pumpkin] pie!

I'm linking up again this month with my sweet friend Marcia at 123 Blog for her Virtual Craft Day. Hop and over and get inspired by the many great ideas!
 
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