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November 30, 2011

Meal-Planning Mayhem

Well, “mayhem” is probably too strong a word…and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m no expert meal-planner, by any stretch.

Still, over the past couple of weeks it’s become clear that I need to adjust my calculations in making my weekly grocery list.

I usually sit down at some point and make a list of what I’ll need to buy, keeping in mind the staples we use every week, and meals I plan to make.

On average, I probably make three meals a week. There are some meals that we consume in one sitting, but there are plenty of meals – soups, stews, roasts, and casseroles – that I make in larger portions, from which we can eat leftovers a time or two.

It’s not that my family has started to balk at leftovers [I shudder at that horrific thought!]…it’s that my girls are eating like HORSES these days!

Following our Thanksgiving meal, for example, I made a chicken pot pie (or hen pot pie, if you wanna get all technical). Once upon a time, Hubby and I could have made close to three meals from that. Factoring in the girls, I banked on it for two meals.

I will admit I didn’t have a full spring in my step when they asked for seconds…and then thirds!

C’mon girls…don’t you know Mama’s got a meal plan going here?


I sent what was left of the pie to work with Hubby today, and I’ll be heading to the grocery store a day earlier than planned.

While I’m thankful that the girls eat well – and that they like Mama’s cooking – if this is what they’re consuming just shy of three years old…I can’t begin to imagine my grocery bill when they’re twelve!

Yes, it’s time to adjust the calculations on my spreadsheet. (I kid!...kinda…)

November 29, 2011

Gettin' Crafty for Christmas

Despite the girls not following my fingerpainting directions very closely last week...going all impressionistic on me instead...I whipped out my paper punches, glue, and scissors and forged ahead with my visions of handmade gift tags for our holiday gifts.

I used a 1.5" scallop punch to cut out the girls' "wreaths".

I then used a standard hole punch to make six random holes in each wreath. And I used a 1" punch to cut circles from red card stock.

My little elves then glued the red circles on the backs of the wreaths.


I then mounted everything on a larger piece of red (and some wine-colored) card stock, then on white, to make a gift tag.

(Using the 1" red circles seems like an extra step, but it was helpful in giving the fingerpainted disks more stability...particularly when Baby A glops the paint so thickly, causing the paper to wrinkle!)

At not-quite three, our girls are still a bit young to be a lot of help in the kitchen...but I know they'll be really proud to see their handiwork adorning the homemade gifts to our neighbors and friends this holiday.

I'm linking up with Marcia at 1,2,3 Blog for her Virtual Craft Day link-up. (Thank you to Marcia for encouraging me to get crafty at least once a month...it's not always easy to make time for it, but it's good for this mama's soul!)


And I'm linking up with Charlene at Adventures-in-Mommy-Land for Hey, Mom, Look What I Did! (Head over for loads of great inspiration to get crafting with your kiddos!)

November 28, 2011

History Repeats Itself

I’ve heard all my life that girls turn into their mothers. Sometimes that’s said with nostalgia, and sometimes it’s shrieked in a Facebook status, followed by “Aaaaaaagh!

I’ve had a couple of funny realizations myself over the past few weeks, things that just sneaked up on me…some causing me to shake my head, and others just making me laugh, understanding first hand that I must have caused my mama some headaches now and then.

When our girls were infants, I agonized over every ounce of milk they drank. Since they started eating big people food, though, I’ve taken a more laissez-faire approach…they’ll eat when they’re hungry, and they’ll drink when their thirsty. It will all even out, as long as I offer them a variety of healthy choices.

Baby B has started drinking very little milk in the mornings. She warms up later in the day, but there are times when I don’t think she has even one sip with breakfast. I found myself directing her, “Drink your milk, Sweetie!” “You’ve gotta start the day with some milk!” And I was instantly transported back to being a three-year old myself, my mom directing, pleading, bargaining with me to drink milk.

Gasp! Stop it, Mandy…lest Baby B develops the same psychological (?) disdain for milk that I had growing up!

I gasped similarly when I was putting undershirts on the girls a few days ago. I HATED wearing undershirts when I was a kid. I remember asking to wear a certain shirt, and my mom would say yes, but I had to wear an undershirt.

But nobody else wears undershirts!” I’d rebut. I remember thinking how dowdy they seemed…slightly gauzy with this scratchy lace trim…ick!

Note to self: Don’t make a big deal of undershirts. Play up the layered look if you have to. And maybe forego the lace trim.

And then I just had to laugh when I realized I’d been whispering a certain sweet nothing in the girls’ ears ahead of nap time. As I try to set the mood for the girls to “Lie down, close your eyes, relax, and go to sleep,” I recently added, “You need your rest to grow up big and strong.”

My mom really dangled that carrot far above my short, stubby legs, telling me I’d grow up tall if I slept well. As a ~four-year old, I remember telling her I thought I was getting really tall, since I’d been sleeping so well. HA!

(Either I didn’t rest as well as I thought I did, or my mom was stretching the truth…I somehow ended up only 5’2”.)

These are certainly not the only times I’ve hearkened back to my upbringing, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. I guess it’s part of the circle of life, so to speak.

I’ll do my best to learn from those before me…and hope I won't have to do too much "paying for my raising".

November 27, 2011

Mama Loves...Bundling Up!

I've had a lot of fun over the past couple of months, checking out Julia's "Mama Loves" link-up at Pontifications of a Twin Mom. It's great to see tried and true reviews by real mamas, on real gear, books, toys, songs, and games.

As I think about the baby items that have truly stood the test of time at our house, ones I wouldn't have wanted to live without, I can't help but beam about our carrier / stroller blankets.

Before the girls were born, I found the Bundle Me covers for the girls' carriers. They came home from the hospital in these in January, and I don't think I took them off their carriers until late spring.

Here's a picture of the girls at about 10 weeks old, ready for our very first walk!


Bundle Me comes in various sizes and thicknesses. Since we live in a more moderate climate, I bought the Bundle Me Lite.

If it was cold, I could stuff a blanket down in the bottom and zip the girls up (kind of like a sleeping bag). If it was warmer, I could leave the girls in a sleep-and-play and just cover their legs.

We continued to use the Bundle Me with the girls' carriers through their first birthday.

When we invested in a jogging stroller when the girls were nine months old, one of our first purchases was a Bundle Me for it. I again bought a Lite thickness, in an extra large size (knowing the girls can use it for a long time to come).

Here's a picture of the girls on Thanksgiving weekend last year, just shy of two years old. (The Bundle Me was old news, but the mittens were quite the novelty!)


All in all, we've had a pretty warm fall. That, coupled with how often our girls walk hand-in-hand with us (not in the stroller), we've only had our Bundle Me in our stroller for a week or so. I have yet to snap any photos this year...but I'm sure I will soon.

Here's to many more walks with my sweet girlies...cozy and comfy in even the coolest of weather!

November 26, 2011

Super 7 Saturday

(Like Fab 5 Friday, plus a couple!)

Super...fabulous…no matter how I say it, it’s been a pretty great week.

1) We had a very rainy first-part-of-the-week, which just seems to call for finger paint. The girls had a great time, and [KNOCK ON WOOD!], they’ve done so well the past couple of times, containing their mess. I love seeing their different techniques, too. B tends to use a little bit of paint to go a long way, while A globs it up so thick it takes all day to dry. You’d think they’d been to different schools of art, or something.

2) The skies dried up by Wednesday, just in time for the start of Daddy’s Thanksgiving vacation. We bundled up and went to the zoo…and had the place almost to ourselves! We literally didn’t see another family for the first 45 minutes we were there. We mostly hung out with the giraffes and elephants, and they put on quite a show for us. It was really neat to feel that connection with those gorgeous animals.

3) Thursday we enjoyed our first Thanksgiving as just the four of us. It was a pretty special day. We sat at the dining room table together (no high chairs!), and the girls enjoyed quite a feast. The weather was perfect that afternoon for a long walk together, and we ended the day with a sampling of Mommy’s pumpkin cheesecake. (The girls are officially in love, I’m afraid. The first words out of B’s mouth on Friday morning involved “dessert”…HA!)

4) Friday morning the girls helped me make Chex Mix. They were very patient, taking turns measuring the ingredients and dumping them in the bowl. And they were super excited to enjoy the fruits of their labor as a snack.

5) Friday afternoon, Hubby and I put up the outside Christmas lights while the girls napped. They both were all giggles to spy the wreath on the front door (which they could see from upstairs when they got up). Their faces were priceless when we came home from the grocery store at dusk and saw our bushes aglow. Baby A cracked me up when she said, “I’ll just stand right here while you make a picture.” She must really have been taken, as she’s not usually one to volunteer to pose for the camera!

6) My babies are growing up, and I notice it in some of the most everyday ways sometimes…Baby B is quite the master at covering her mouth before she sneezes, and then she’ll say, “I covered my mouth!” And I just noticed how proficiently Baby A is going down the stairs, one foot on each step, just like a grown-up!

7) The girls never cease to amaze me…every day…with what they know and what they remember. As we were pulling into the zoo, B said, “You need to get a ticket to park.” I have no idea how (or why!) she remembered that minute detail from our one trip, almost two months ago, but she was right! And as we were walking on Thursday afternoon, a very large cat crossed our path about a block ahead of us. Baby A squealed that she saw a puppy. “I think that’s a kitty cat,” I told her. Oh! I got confused! she laughed. Seriously...too cute.

So thankful this week…and always…for my super, fabulous, awesome blessings.

November 25, 2011

52 Weeks of ME! Challenge Link-up

Being a mama is always a 24/7 job...but it seems like I somehow need to work overtime from Halloween through the girls’ birthday in January, just to pack in all the wonderful activities of the holiday season.

During this time of the year, more than ever, I know I’m going to have to remind myself to carve out a little “me” time. Sure, Mama would love a new pair of shoes, but a soak in the tub with a good book will also do this soul a lot of good.

I’m really excited to be carrying on the weekly link-up started by dollimama, “52 Weeks of ME!”

It’s been an awesome challenge to do at least a little something for myself each week…which some weeks is just stepping back to appreciate the little things, like a yummy cup of coffee.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating ourselves each Friday. Link up a blog post with what you did for YOU this week. Or just leave a comment. I find it really refreshing to hear how other mamas are appreciating themselves.



So…what did I do for ME this week???

Well, speaking of a yummy cup of coffee…

I did my Thanksgiving week grocery shopping on Sunday morning, or at least most of it. I realized as I was chatting with the check-out lady that – of all things – I forgot THE TURKEY. We had almost constant rain from Sunday through Tuesday, and I didn’t want to get the girls out if I didn’t have to. Still, I knew I’d better get a bird and get it thawing, fast!

On Monday night, after the girls were in bed, I donned a hoodie and headed back to the grocery store. I took my time, browsing through the holiday goodies (where I might have bought a bag of my favorite Christmas candy). I got my bird, and then made a loop through Starbucks.

I got a yummy (decaf) latte for me, and one for my bestie…I took the long way home so I could drop it off by her house and run in for a quick toast. There’s just something about those beautiful red Starbucks cups this time of year…along with the seasonal flavors…and better yet if shared (even for a moment) with a friend.

November 24, 2011

Every Day is Thanksgiving

...when you're a parent.


I am so thankful for my multiple blessings, today and always.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration!

November 23, 2011

A Bit About Me, November Edition

My birthday is February 23rd, and on the 23rd of each month, I’ve taken to posting a little something random about me. As this is Thanksgiving Eve, I thought I’d keep with a holiday theme…

29) For some reason I don’t seem to have a lot of distinctive memories from Thanksgiving when I was growing up...

...save one year, when I was five or six. My grandmother, who was visiting from the next state over, introduced me to the idea of the wishbone. We waited a day or two to let it dry, and then she and I set to break it, understanding that the one who got the larger half would have her wish granted. She got the bigger piece, and I was disappointed I wouldn’t get my wish…for her never to have to go home. [The mind of a five-year old, huh?!]

I also remember my great aunt, the girls’ Aunt GG, telling me a story every year about a turkey in the woods who was scared for his safety. I didn’t think a thing about it when I was little, but as I got older, I had to laugh that she’d risk telling such a “scary” story to a little kid! [Love you, Aunt GG!]

30) It’s Wednesday evening as I type this, waiting to take my pumpkin cheesecake out of the oven…which reminds me…two of my prized possessions are pie-related.

I have a corning ware pie plate that was my mom’s. I don’t remember her making many pies, but she made the meanest batch of fudge, and she always poured it into that plate. Just the thought makes my mouth water!

And I have my afore-mentioned grandmother’s aluminum pie taker (I guess you call it). She used to make The Most Wonderful Apple Pie. She often brought one for me when she’d come to visit (and a pecan pie for my dad). It’s a great memory…and a handy-dandy tool that I use on occasion when I take a pie somewhere.

November 22, 2011

Following Directions is Not Our Strong Suit...Or We Lean Heavily Towards Impressionism

I had [what I thought was] a fantastic idea...the girls would help me make gift tags for our holiday goodies! Brilliant, right?!

The peanut brittle and peppermint bark will be made long after their bedtime in the evenings...but they could still make a very meaningful contribution to the presentation of the gift (in addition to the caroling we're practicing).

I decided that they could finger paint a wreath. As a second step, we could add some dots of red paint, or maybe some red stickers, or maybe some ribbon.

I cut some squares from white card stock and used a pencil to draw a circle on each. I dressed the girls in their smocks, and got plenty of wet wipes handy.

I dipped my finger into the green paint to illustrate how to make a wreath...


Simple, right?

Except I got a lot of this [Baby A]...


...and this [Baby B]...


I revised my instructions, asking the girls to fill in the circle, which yielded this [Baby A]...


...and this [Baby B]...


Better...but still not quite wreath-like. I'm seeing more of an evergreen swag (once we add a bow or something)...


We'll see what Mama's craft punches and a little glitter glue can do.

...to be continued...

[But no matter the outcome, I'm already having so much fun celebrating the holidays with my baby girls!!! And anyone who can't appreciate some messy finger paint artwork isn't deserving of my kitchen confections, anyway! HA!]

November 21, 2011

What Would a Turkey Do...

…if he didn’t have plans for Thanksgiving?

I’m guessing he’d hightail it to Canada!

And I sure wish we could join him. I’m picturing a beautiful snow lodge with fireplaces, fountains of hot chocolate, and stacks of books, just waiting to be devoured.

...but if travelling to Canada were possible, then we’d actually just hop in the car to Sweet Home Alabama.

Alas, travelling with little ones is not easy, though, and we’ve opted to do it only once during the larger holiday season. Thus, we’ll be staying put for Turkey Day.

While we’ve been on our own for Christmas several years, it dawned on me that this is the first time we’ll be away from family for Thanksgiving. Over the past 15 years or so, our family hasn’t followed any kind of Turkey Day rituals, but we’ve always been together in some form or fashion.

So…in the absence of ritual and being just the four of us…what’s our little family to do?

I debated a number of different game plans, but I think I’ve settled on a few things.

Wednesday we’ll go to the zoo. I wouldn’t want to brave the Big City traffic on Thursday or Friday, but I think that will be a great family treat to kick off our vacation time together.

Thursday – despite the hubby’s encouragement to “make something different” since he says he’s not a big fan of turkey – I’m going to cook a relatively traditional meal…at least including turkey and homemade cranberry sauce. We’ll do baked sweet potatoes (no casseroles for this girl!), and steamed asparagus (not sure if the pilgrims would approve of that one, though).

And I’ll make my semi-famous pumpkin cheesecake. I started making that a few years ago, and it’s been a keeper. The girls have never had it, but my hunch is that they’ll be fans.

The big ta-da for me is that we’re going to sit at the dining room table for our main meal. I’ve been laughing to myself that the girls probably don’t realize that table is actually for eating…as we’ve never done so since they were born!

I hope between the turkey and cheesecake and table arrangements, the girls will recognize the day as a special one. I also want to spend some time talking about things we’re thankful for. I hope the girls will cooperate for some craft time…in my mind I’d love to make a “thankful tree”, writing the things we’re thankful for on the leaves. What fun it would be to repeat that, year after year.

On Friday I have plans to make Chex Mix. My grandparents used to make the most wonderful concoction of snack mix this time of year, but this will be the first time I try my luck. I think I’ll enlist the girls’ help to dump the cereals together…and I may even get crazy and let them mix it up with their hands.

Saturday is GAME DAY in our world…Alabama versus Auburn…the day the entire state of Alabama stands still for four hours for the rivalry that determines bragging rights for the next 364 days.

Hubby and I will DVR the game in order to watch it uninterrupted after the girls are in bed, but we’ll all don our jerseys for the first half the of the day. And of course the second half of the day will be spent avoiding all outside contact in order not to accidentally learn the score.

No matter what the agenda, I know we’ll enjoy the family time together. And no matter the turkey, the trimmings, or even the outcome of the football game (did I just write that???), we’ll be thankful for so many blessings.

November 19, 2011

This Morning We're Gonna Party Like It's 2004!

Once upon a time, I used to love to host people at our house.

We didn't do it very often, but I so enjoyed the thrill of cleaning...decorating...menu-planning...cooking...serving...and of course I loved the fellowship with friends, colleagues, and family.

Outside of a few visits from family and the girls' birthday parties, though, we haven't hosted many people at our house over the past three years. It's just so much work...on top of everything I have going on in my little world every day...but I miss it.

On a bit of a whim, I jumped at the chance to apply to host a Shutterfly House Party. I was so excited that I was selected to showcase Shutterfly's awesome selection of holiday cards and give away coupon codes for cards and calendars to my party guests.

[I've been a huge Shutterfly fan for a number of years, so this was not a stretch!]

I had so much fun planning my menu, plotting my tablescape, and thinking about a way to wrap up the coupon cards in cute little goody bags.

Still, as last Saturday drew near, I thought more than once, "Maybe it's too early...maybe the girls are still too young for Mommy to be able to play Hostess with the Mostess."

And I was really thinking that as I was ever-so-quietly crushing miniature candy canes for peppermint bark, long past my bedtime on Friday night.

Even having gone to bed much later than usual the night before, I woke up Saturday morning with a spring in my step. I scheduled the party from 9:00 - 11:00, and I invited several of my mommy friends (thinking that would be an appropriate time for a play date / mid-morning snack).

The display table was set (featuring the sample cards from Shutterfly and the goody bags, along with a few different cards and books I've ordered from Shutterfly over the past year or so)...

...the food was made (pigs-in-a-blanket, strawberry muffins, pumpkin spice muffins, pretzel M&M's, and peppermint bark)...

...and Mommy and her co-hostesses were dressed for the occasion...

We played...


...and we crafted (this is a picture of A&B with the ornament craft they made a few days ago...I was too concentrated on foam and glue during the party to take any pictures!)...


...and one of the best parts was realizing I had all the makings of a former work team (from 2004!) at my house [plus a few little additions, of course!]...


Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was a lot of work. But it was fun.

And it showed me that it is possible to wear a hostess badge and mom jeans at the same time. :)

[I was not compensated for writing this blog post...but, Mr. Shutterfly? if you're listening?...I certainly wouldn't be offended at an offer!]

November 18, 2011

Fab 5 Friday...and ME!!!

Very thankful for another fabulous week!!!

1) We hosted a little get-together on Saturday morning (sponsored by Shutterfly) to get everyone thinking about the holiday spirit. The girls were so excited to get up to the smell of muffins in the oven, the sight of Christmas decorations on the table…and of course to welcome several of their twin friends to play. The girls played so well and shared their toys very nicely – I was so proud of my little co-hostesses!

2) On Sunday we decided to allow the girls to watch about 10 minutes of a soccer game between England and Spain (one Hubby was really having a fit to see). I thought they would be enthralled, but after less than a minute, B jumped up, got her ball to kick around the den, declaring, “I can do that!” Within 10 minutes we decided to take the girlies to the park so they could really play.

3) We had rain the first part of the week, so I decided to break out the finger paint one morning. The girls were so well behaved! They had fun mixing colors, I got some discernible handprints (a first!), and they kept their paint-covered hands where I asked. It was a very successful morning!

4) The girls have been all about snuggling lately. They’re really into reading mode, and so many times they’ve piled up on the couch with blankets, leaving a space between them for Mommy to join. We haven’t put together as many puzzles or built as many block structures as usual this week, but we’ve read tons of books to make up for it. This snuggly stage is one I’m loving!!!

5) One evening I was looking at a book and said the word “babotchka” [Russian for butterfly]. B said, “That means ‘grandmother’ in Russian!” She was close…grandmother is “babushka”…but I couldn’t believe she knew that, as I can’t begin to remember the last time I used that with them.

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

Miss Jennifer was here with the girls on Tuesday afternoon. I had a quick errand to run at the mall, after which I promptly high-tailed it to Panera. I got a latte in one of their big, oversized ceramic mugs, scored a comfy leather chair by the fireplace, and read a book – uninterrupted – for a good 45 minutes. Ahhh!!!

Thanks to dollimama for hosting this fantastic link-up every week...asking us mamas to step back and think about what we did for ourselves this week. I'll miss the link-up...but I hope to keep up the diligence. A little "me" time has definitely been good for my soul.

November 17, 2011

Because Gift Shops Give Me the Creeps

When I was growing up, I remember going to national parks, aquariums, and taking factory tours with my parents. As a kid I thought it was so interesting how the tour always managed to end in the gift shop. How neat!

As an adult, gift shops kinda creep me out, to be honest. You may have enjoyed the most beautiful hike through a cave system, or learned about rare species of butterflies...but then to be confronted by over-priced trinkets, over-sized stuffed animals, and magnets galore...it is not the lasting taste I want to remind me of my adventure.

And as a parent, I don't want a magical adventure to end in tears because I refuse to buy said trinkets, stuffed animals, and magnets.

Our girls are still a bit young to fully understand the tradition I'm imparting, but I'm encouraging them to collect postcards. Having collected them myself as a kid, I think a postcard is an awesome reminder of almost any kind of adventure. It's easy to store, and at usually less than $1 each, it's economical, too.

To reinforce our adventures this summer, I helped the girls each start a scrapbook to keep their postcards. When they get a little older, I hope they'll journal about what they saw. Until then, I've tried to think of little art projects they could do to complement their postcards.

Here are the pages from our visit to an aquarium this summer...


I cut out fish shapes in various sizes and colors and let the girls glue them to a piece of card stock, representing the many different types of fish they saw swimming together.

And here, from a state park we visited with Granddaddy and Emme...


The girls' favorite part of the visit was riding the train. I used my Cricut to cut the letters CHOO-CHOO, and had them glue them under their postcard.

And here, from our first visit to the zoo...


I cut pieces to make grass, a tree, and a sun, and had the girls glue them down. I bought them each an inexpensive pack of stickers with zoo animals. My sticker-loving girls really had fun with this one.

The girls have had a blast crafting, and they love to look at their scrapbooks. And I love that we not only have a reminder of what we did and when, but a sample of the girls' handiwork at the time, as well.

I'm linking up with Charlene at Adventures-in-Mommy-Land for "Hey Mom, Look What I Did".


Head over to check out what other moms are up to with their kiddos this week...and check back with Charlene often, as she posts so many great crafty ideas every week.

November 16, 2011

Reflections on Potty-Training

[WARNING: LONG, ARDUOUS POST AHEAD!]

I remember where I was a year ago…I didn’t know much about potty-training, but I knew it would be in my relatively near future. I planned to do my research and decide upon an approach. I would be prepared, and I figured that would be at least half the battle.

When Baby A started showing some signs of interest in the potty, shortly after she turned two, I started reading…the parenting books I had, online sources of parenting information, blog posts. Outside of the “boot camp” approach, I didn’t feel like there was much “methodology” to understand. I read about reward systems and pull-ups, but I surely didn’t find a step-by-step guide as I’d hoped.

Having said goodbye to diapers three full weeks ago (!!!), I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned. I know that two children does not a statistically significant sample make, but – even with the girls being very different from each other – there are a couple of learnings I can point to in our experience. Some of these are personal opinions of mine, and some are more overarching principles that I’ll actually reference beyond potty-training.

Consider your rewards very carefully, in light of what behavior you’re trying to motivate.

I often hear about people using sticker charts or M&Ms, with rewards earned for output, sometimes in weighted amounts. In both cases, our girls told us they wanted to start using the potty, so I didn’t need to motivate them to “produce”.

Instead, I sold our girls hard on how cool it was to get to flush the potty. With both of them we went through a period of time when they wanted to tee just a couple of drops to be able to flush (I could just imagine how manipulative things could have gotten if they were jonesing for M&Ms!). I told them, “That’s not enough to flush.” (In Baby A’s first couple of days, we flushed so much the potty actually did “break”…fortunately Hubby heard the anguish in my voice and was able to rescue me during his lunch period that day. In the midst of potty-training, I was in no state to deal with a plunger myself!)

The “prestige” of being a big girl, of flushing the potty, and of wearing pretty underwear seemed to be motivation enough for both our girls. After several months, Baby A began having some very small accidents…not wanting to interrupt her play for a bathroom break. About six weeks ago I started awarding her a sticker at the end of the day for keeping clean and dry all day. It worked like a charm! She loves to get her card off the refrigerator, pick a sticker, and show her new sticker off to her daddy. I immediately got Baby B on the same system, and she’s been earning stickers almost every day, too.

“Play” is part of learning, but I only allow it in measured doses.

When both girls started using the potty, it was quite the novelty, of course. It was so frustrating to me how much they wanted to play! Whereas I don’t tolerate playing at mealtime, though, I was afraid to reprimand them too much on the potty…ultimately they were doing what I was trying to encourage. Someone commented on a blog post, reminding me that a child’s job is to play. It was a great reminder for me to be patient, and know that the novelty would wear off sooner or later.

Still, I have rules about sitting on the potty. Your hands belong on the handles on either side of the seat. When the girls start to play the “why” game, or sing, or get otherwise distracted, I’ll remind them, “We’re here to make our tee-tees / stinkies. We can talk / sing when you’re finished.”

I don’t “reprimand” them so much as encourage positive behavior. After a point, though, if I think they’re truly just playing, then potty-time is over.

Be flexible – and encourage flexibility – in the potty location.

Before the girls started to potty-train, I was vehemently opposed to using a potty chair. (I couldn’t imagine having to clean it out!) I bought the girls a potty ring for the regular toilet. That worked fine…until Baby A seemed to use potty-time as an excuse to garner one-on-one time with Mommy (the bathroom being separate from the playroom). I bought the potty chair and put it right next to the playroom. That quickly addressed Baby A trying to go every five minutes.

Baby A used the potty ring on the upstairs potty, and she had no trouble using the portable potty seat in public restrooms. And if we’re at a friend’s house, she does fine sitting on the regular toilet (I hold her gently to make sure she doesn’t lose balance and fall in!) I have heard about kids getting attached to one particular potty chair or ring. By introducing different potty paraphernalia from the beginning, I hoped to avoid that issue.

I started Baby B on the potty chair, but she was playing so much…bouncing with her feet and wanting to lift the seat from the base. So I moved her to using the potty ring. That allowed me to discourage her playing, as her feet don’t touch the floor. I also transitioned A to the big potty, so we’re potty chair-free these days, too!

I never used Pull-ups.

I don’t mean to be controversial here…I know there’s a big market for this intermediate step, so it must work for a lot of families. Maybe because I was able to wait for our girls to make the first move, though, letting me know they wanted to use the potty, I never felt Pull-ups were necessary. I didn’t like the idea of putting a “just in case” / back-up system in place.

I think some parents use a Pull-up when they leave the house, to avoid messy accidents away from home. I certainly understand that fear! I wanted to avoid that scenario at all costs, too. For us that meant staying at home during the first three to five days when the girls were taking on their new responsibility.

With Baby A, who trained at 27 months, I took very small outings at first…a walk around the block for 30 minutes…then working up to a quick run to Target within a 45 minute window. I would wait until she’d just used the potty at home to time our trip.

With Baby B being older (I guess), this didn’t seem like much of an issue. When she “got it”, within the first five days, I felt comfortable to leave the house as usual. She used a public potty within the first week, and it wasn’t a big deal.

Potty-training is an emotional time.

I saw it with both my girls…they became very sensitive when they were potty-training. I’ve read about developmental changes inciting emotions, and I believe it wholeheartedly. I explained it to myself that the girls were coping with a huge responsibility, and – relative to their little worlds – that was a lot of pressure on them. Once they became more confident in their abilities, within a week or so, their emotions stabilized (at least relative to a two-year old!).

Baby A also regressed a bit when Baby B started training. I didn’t anticipate it, but I recognized it quickly. For a full six months, Baby A had been a star on the throne…and here was her sister joining her in the spotlight, wearing pretty underwear, and getting stickers, just like she had been. Whereas Baby A’s potty use had become a fact of life, I began to praise her again, noting how proud I was of her, as well as her sister.

Potty-training is stressful.

A blog friend of mine wrote a year or so ago, “If potty training is stressful, your children aren’t ready.” A couple of kids later, I agree…but…it’s all relative.

Even though I feel confident both my girls were ready, such that motivation wasn’t a huge factor, potty training was still a stressful time. That first week or so there was a constant need for attention…looking at the clock…listening for cues…back and forth to the potty…wanting to discipline, but not wanting to discourage.

But…everything evens out. The newness wears off, the routines kick in, and – over time – going to the potty becomes a part of life. Like so many other journeys to date in this crazy ride called parenthood, potty-training is just a phase. It will pass. You will all survive.

Still…treat yourself! I didn’t reward the girls with chocolate, but you’d better believe I kept a stash for myself! And I distinctly remember on Day 6 of Baby A’s training, I took myself to the Dairy Queen after the girls were in bed. I got a Reese’s Blizzard and sat in the car, all by my lonesome, and enjoyed every spoonful.

Could this be my last potty-training post??? Dare I dream???

The next frontier I can think of is weaning off the sticker rewards (maybe when the girls turn three?), and then maybe moving away from the potty ring. All in good time, though…those props are ones I can handle.

November 15, 2011

Sometimes I Feel Like a Cop

Sure, there are many, many hats we mamas wear…

…nose-wiper, pooper-scooper, boo-boo-kisser…

…librarian, train conductor, obstacle-course-maker…

…cook, housekeeper, courier…

I could easily characterize my biggest role as teacher, which encompasses so many facets of our day.

And it’s probably not surprising that I feel like a referee a fair amount as well.

What makes me laugh right now is how I occasionally feel like a cop, too.

It’s not what it probably sounds like…I’m not actually talking about discipline (‘cause I file that under “teacher” so as to pretend that “disciplinarian” doesn’t deserve a classification unto itself)…

…no, it’s actually potty-related.

The girls’ big “reward” for using the potty is getting to flush it. I positioned that as a very big deal…something only big kids do…and they take their responsibility very seriously. After they finish their business, they can’t wait to hop down and run around to the side of the potty to flush.

And therein lies the issue. The toilet paper holder is located precisely at their eye level. They have to navigate around the toilet paper holder to get to the flusher.

Ever afraid of an eye injury or a blow to the temple (which, coming from a toilet paper holder, among other things, would be another embarrassing injury), I always put out my hand to make sure they duck around the holder.

It occurred to me recently that it’s a similar movement to what you see on TV, when a cop puts his hand on the perpetrator’s head to maneuver him into the back seat of the squad car.

I’ll add it to my list of “talents”, I guess...and maybe file it away for playing cops and robbers when the girls get older.

November 14, 2011

Exuberance

Saturday afternoon was a typical fall day…cool, cloudy, and breezy.

Two years ago or more it would not have seemed inviting to me to spend time outside. Rather I probably would have donned my fuzzy pants, turned on the fire, and made some tea.

But these days the girls love to be outdoors, so we look for opportunities to take advantage of family time and fresh air. We bundled up and took the girls to the soccer fields close to our neighborhood.

As soon as their feet hit the turf, they were off. Kicking the ball, chasing leaves, running in circles, they were having a blast.

I’m gonna get you!” I’d tease, and they’d be off, running for all they were worth. (And my almost three-year olds can actually burn some rubber…at least relative to their short-legged mama!)

As I’ve thought about what a fun afternoon we had, I can only describe the looks on their faces as ones of exuberance – pure, unadulterated joy. Their cheeks and noses red from the wind, their eyes aglow, and the biggest grins on their faces as they looked back to see me chasing them…I never want to forget it.

They are unburdened by bills, dishes, laundry, groceries, dust. And for that time on the soccer fields, I was, too.

Sure, the bills and dishes and laundry and housework will always be there waiting for me…but my little girls won’t be little forever.

And what a blessing we get to be reminded of the bigger things in life by the smallest of joys.

November 11, 2011

Fab 5 Friday...and ME!!!

It was a pretty fabulous week! Family time, warm weather (at least some of the time), and healthy, fun-loving girls...what more could a mama want???

1) Despite the DREAD that always consumes me before every time change, the girls have done really well adjusting to the new clock. Sunday was a long day, but we filled it with all sorts of excitement – including lunch at our favorite Mexican dive – and time spent playing outside. Whew!

2) The girls attended their first pancake breakfast this past weekend, with our Mothers of Multiples group. No doubt fueled by the Curious George story we read every week, they were so excited when I told them our plans on Saturday morning. They ran around, chanting, “I’m excited for my breakfast!” They had a great time, played with all their twin friends, and napped like logs afterwards.

3) Daddy was out of school for election day on Tuesday. We took a trip to the Louisville Zoo, and the girls were so excited to see the baby polar bear and get a close-up look at the elephants. They thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Macaroni Grill (even getting into dipping their bread in olive oil!), and napped on the way home. It was a fantastic family day!

4) Daddy’s best friend came down from Chicago for a short visit this week. The girls hadn’t seen Uncle Steve since they were about six months old…but they wasted no time in warming up to him, and then climbing all over him and showing all their “tricks”. It was awesome to see Hubby, Steve, and A and B wrestling around in the den, and later curled up on the couch reading books.

5) I have pulled out several of the books I had when I was growing up to read to the girls recently, including “The Three Little Pigs”. I edit a bit here and there as a read, but the girls burst into giggles when I squeal about my “chinny-chin-chin”. After a meal this week, Baby A reminded me, “Don’t forget to wipe my chinny-chin-chin!

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

Thursday night I met Aunt Shanda for the first peppermint mocha of the season…and then we indulged in a little shopping. Good latte…good time…great friend…definitely good for the soul.

What made your week FABULOUS? And what did you do for YOU?

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November 9, 2011

Patterns in Language Acquisition

It’s so amazing to watch and listen as our little ones acquire language skills…going from gurgles and coos…to strings of consonants and vowels…and finally to first words.

In the beginning I wrote down each new sound the girls made, and then I kept a running list of new words as I heard them. At some point I realized I couldn’t keep up…the girls’ speech was progressing so fast!

I eventually moved to noting longer phrases, and then sentences. And these days, I note much more of the girls’ wit and humor.

In any case, their speech development is truly music to my ears.

Still, there are things they say that are like nails on a chalkboard.

Some mispronunciations are cute to me…like “breftast” for “breakfast”…and Baby A has the cutest way of saying, “I fink so,” instead of “I think so”…and I am already missing the girls saying “norsey” for "horse".

It’s the improper past tense formations that threaten to drive me nuts. The worst? “We goed,” instead of “We went.”

And there’s one particular possessive, “mines” instead of “mine” that sends shivers up my spine.

I’ve read that such indiscretions are actually a good thing. They show that children are thinking about the language patterns. As most past tenses are formed by adding “-ed”, for example, saying “goed” shows that children are actively processing what they hear.

Mines”? My guess is that goes back to “hers”.

So I’ll do my best to shake the shivers, knowing this is a normal part of language acquisition.

And in the meantime, I’ll continue to laugh at some of the girls’ funnies…lately the addition of “-er” to form nouns.

Good job, Sissy! You’re a good jobber!

I’m proud of you for playing so well today!” “Yes, I’m a good player!

And…just last night…Baby B was pretending to use a screwdriver (holding a plastic bowl and turning it over a stack of books???). “Look at my screwer, Mommy!

November 7, 2011

Quit Trying to Make My Babies into Big Kids!!!

A couple of months shy of three, my girls feel a lot like big kids…and I love it.

They speak mostly in complete sentences.

They have amazing memories and incredible imaginations.

They can take quite the hike with Mommy in the neighborhood.

They feed themselves pretty proficiently, and eating in restaurants with them can actually be quite pleasurable.

They are smart and funny and full of life, and life is pretty darn good.

Still, I’m not anxious to push them to grow up any faster than the crazy pace they’re already keeping. I know that before I can blink, they’ll be in elementary school…they’ll zoom through middle and high school…and I’m already dreading them starting to date when they graduate from college.

As I’ve been window shopping these past couple of weeks, thinking about the holidays and the girls’ birthday in January, my “big kid” anxiety has definitely heightened.

I’d been thinking for a while about getting the girls a dollhouse for Christmas…but I’m not sure I can do it. It just seems like such a “big kid” toy.

Several friends suggested a modern-day version of paper dolls...magnetic or snap-on dress-up play. While I imagine the girls would love it, that seems so grown-up, too!

As I step back, I think a big part of what weighs on my mind is that many of the dollhouses and dress-up sets on the market are so pink. To date, most of the girls’ toys are more gender-neutral, and it feels like a huge step to move away from the primary colors and wooden construction.

I’ve done some online research, and I think I can still accommodate my wish list for the girls, if I choose. There are more gender-neutral dollhouses, and there are dress-up sets that feature soccer players / doctors / firemen and policemen.

So I was breathing easier, at least feeling like I had more options…until…I went window shopping for holiday dresses over the weekend.

I was in a major department store, in the children’s section. I walked past the section labeled 2 - 6x, filled with beautiful pageant-type dresses. I was looking for size 3T, when I spotted the cutest red Scottish plaid dress with a sweet cream turtleneck underneath.

Hmmm...I only see through size 24 months, though...perhaps they're low on stock.

I looked around a bit more, and finally found a salesperson to ask what was going on with their inventory. She kindly steered me back to the big, fluffy beautiful pageant-type dresses. “Here you are!” she declared.

Whoa. My babies are not old enough for taffeta and rhinestones! I need plaid and knit, people!

Plaid and knit, primary colors and wood…perhaps I have texture issues. As pretty as the girls would look in those dresses, and as much fun as they’d have with those dollhouses, I’m just not sure I’m ready.

My girls may be growing by leaps and bounds, but this mama needs to take baby steps.

November 5, 2011

Such a Simple Gesture

We had a busy, fun-filled morning...

The girls had an absolute blast at their first Pancake Breakfast. We joined our Mothers of Multiples group for pancakes, muffins, bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit. They really enjoyed their breakfast, they had fun playing with crayons and paper, and they loved experimenting with a super-duper cool parachute. And it was so much fun to see them running around with their little friends.

On the way home, we realized the Veteran's Day Parade was happening downtown, so we stopped to see the first part of it...complete with horses and clowns and Corvettes and lots and lots of motorcycles.

When we got home, we went for a walk in the neighborhood. It was just too beautiful of a morning to go inside...crisp, cool air, vibrant blue skies, and the most gorgeous leaves in every direction.

When we finally went inside, the girls were so sweet, snuggling with their baby dolls whom they'd no doubt missed, having been away from them all morning.

After lunch, the girls went straight back to their babies, while I cleaned the kitchen. I went to join them in the den, and found them tucked in the corner beside their kitchen, next to their toy shelf. They each had their baby with a little basket, a stuffed dog, and a small toy car.

"We're somewhere!" they exclaimed when I approached them.

Where are you?

"We're at the hotel!"

"There's not much room, but you can come in, Mommy," they said, as they started squishing themselves tighter into the corner, making room for me to join them on their little "adventure".

Mommy would love to come in, Babies! Thank you!

It was such a small gesture, but it brought tears to my eyes.

While the going and doing of the morning was so much fun, this is what it's all about...seeing my babies playing together, and having them invite me to join them.

And I could not ask for more.

November 4, 2011

Fab 5 (-ish) Friday...and ME!!!

It’s been a fabulous week in so many respects!

1) We took the girls to our favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch on Saturday, to celebrate Baby B being such a big girl. She was so proud of herself, and the girls (and Mama!) were so tickled to enjoy some cheesy goodness…it had been a while!

2) One night this week, the girls were sitting in Daddy’s lap right before bedtime. Baby A reached over and started “fluffing” her sister’s hair. Your hair looks nice, she said. And then A said to B, “Tell me my hair looks nice.” I think I’d call that begging for a compliment…HA!

3) We had the most fantastic park date on Wednesday! Daddy hurried home from work to join us. We started on the soccer field, and the girls were actually pretty interested (for a while, at least) in running and kicking the soccer ball, and even kicking into some small practice goals. Then we headed to the playground. Baby B asked to swing (something that used to frighten her), so she and Daddy hung out there, while Baby A ran Mama ragged on the slides. It was neat to see the girls interact with a couple of other kids there…they didn’t play together, exactly, but they did share the equipment pretty nicely. We swung by the pizza place on the way home, capping off such a fun afternoon.

4) I’ve been counting the pieces of blocks, for example, when we’re cleaning up. It seems to motivate the girls to hear each piece that they drop into the bucket be acknowledged. The girls easily know their numbers to 20, and they can pick up the pattern when I start 21, 22, 23… I was so surprised when I paused after the number 69…B piped right up, Seventy! I guess they’re listening, after all!

5) On Thursday night, we had another big celebration for B. I’ll save you the [stinky] details, but we had been talking about going out for ice cream after she reached another big milestone. The milestone was reached just before bedtime, so I asked if we could just have ice cream at home and go out for ice cream the next day. The girls were giddy at having a little scoop of ice cream at home, which they never, ever have. And the first thing B said this morning when she woke up? “We’re going to have ice cream today, because it won’t be dark.

6) I taught the girls a new song this week, “On Top of Spaghetti.” They have had so much fun singing it, and in a very dramatic fashion…I love it!

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

I indulged in quite a bit of reading. Several nights I called it an early evening and snuggled under my covers in bed to read for a while. I finished my book last night, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” and it was really excellent. Set on the West Coast between 1942 and 1986, it follows two Asian families – one Chinese and one Japanese – beginning with the Japanese internment during WWII. It is a work of fiction, but it supposed to be historically accurate, and it was such interesting insight into two different cultures. Awesome “me” time, for sure!

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November 2, 2011

We're Diaper-FREEEEEEEEEEE!!!

(Said a la Dave Ramsey…which, come to think of it, may be appropriate…since versus this time last year we’ll be saving about $80 a month on diapers! [Of course there’s the additional cost of toilet paper and water from flushing, but it’s not like I’m setting up a spreadsheet or anything…])

Baby A has been out of diapers since the end of April. All the while, Baby B seemed very comfortable in – even quite proud of – her diapers. She would ask to sit on the potty from time to time, and I’d oblige, but she never had any success. (She did have a small output about three weeks ago, but it seemed to be an isolated incident.)

Baby B has been staying dry through naps and overnight for quite some time. And over the past two or three months, she would tell me the moment her diaper needed changing, and insist that it be done immediately.

I would occasionally remind B, casually, to try to tell Mommy before she needed to go so she could sit on the potty. We started a sticker card for Baby A (one sticker for keeping clean and dry all day), and Baby B would cheer her sister’s successes.

Still, she wasn’t keen on me actively encouraging her to sit on the potty. She even got pretty upset a couple of mornings when – given her dry diaper – I tried getting her in position.

Enter Wednesday of last week.

Mid-morning, Baby B asked to sit on the potty. I put her there, and sat down with her for some encouragement. She seemed to somehow have a different look on her face. I leaned in and told her, “It’s OK to let go.” She looked right back at me, said, “I know,” and went!!!

I asked her if she wanted to wear underwear, and she said yes. I haven’t changed a diaper since!!!

We had a couple of accidents on Wednesday and Thursday, and maybe one each on Friday and Saturday. Sunday Baby B earned her first sticker for keeping clean all day!!!

It’s been amazing to watch the progression, and over such a relatively short period of time, too. Those first couple of days, even after B would tell me she needed to sit on the potty, it would take her a long time – maybe five or ten minutes – to “relax”. That definitely presented some challenges, as it was sometimes hard for Baby A to be patient, and/or wait for her turn on the potty.

B gradually got more comfortable, and by Saturday she was much more efficient.

It was also incredible to see how she learned to give me more notice before she needed to go. Those first couple of days, her need was pretty instantaneous. Again, by the weekend, she was able to offer me a “window of opportunity” of at least a couple of minutes.

The first few days were pretty emotional. I remember when Baby A was going through this…it seemed to be such a big adjustment to a new level of responsibility, she was very, very sensitive. The experience was very similar with Baby B.

This time, I also had to remember to praise Baby A…although she’s been out of diapers for six months, I quickly realized I should tell both girls how proud I am, not just focusing on Baby B’s new talent.

One week later, I’m so very proud of my girlies. Baby B has progressed so quickly, having earned another sticker yesterday. Both girls seem to have adjusted to their new levels of responsibility…and are doing really well in learning to take turns.

And we're looking forward to a farewell ceremony for our diaper pail this weekend!

November 1, 2011

Annual Family Photo

It's usually hard for us to get candid family photos, as we don't have family in town. Last Christmas went by with lots and lots of pictures of the girls, for example, and random shots of Mommy or Daddy...but no pictures of the four of us.

Because of the nature of Halloween, though...that there's a window of time during which everyone and his brother / uncle / cousin / dog seem to be milling about our neighborhood...we have managed to con someone into taking a family photo of us each year.

2009:

2010:

And 2011:

The girls had such a fun evening! We practiced our trick-or-treating technique yesterday afternoon...we set up our stuffed animals around the den and pretended to go to each of their houses.

Knock...knock...knock!

Trick or treat!

Thank you! Happy Halloween!

We went to see six or eight of our closest neighbors, and the girls did great, as rehearsed (with a little prompting here and there).

In comparison to last year, they walked with such confidence and enjoyed seeing all the sights. Their favorite costumes were those worn by doggies...they'd squeal in delight!

We delivered our cookies and picked up a few pieces of candy in exchange. After the girls had their supper, I let them split a snack size Kit-Kat.

And in comparison to last year, the girls have developed much more of a sweet tooth. That was the candy I let them sample last year, as well...but they didn't like it! This year they devoured their piece with gusto. (They're my children, after all!)

It's incredible to reflect on the changes from year to year. Time certainly does fly quickly...but I sure am enjoying the ride!
 
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