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December 31, 2011

Looking Ahead to the New Year

Our girls turn three in less than a week. While I breathe deeply and try to digest that coming milestone, I’m also looking forward to the year ahead.

This past year has truly been an awesome one, as I’ve (mostly dry-eyed) witnessed our babies turn into little girls. I inscribed the girls’ ornaments this year “a year of first adventures”, and it’s such a true sentiment. This year we definitely branched out, even leaving the city limits on a number of occasions! :)

We took our first mini-vacation as a family of four. We made our first of several trips to the zoo. The girls mastered their tricycles. And we’ve gotten a lot more “adventurous” with our day-to-day, as well, more often leaving our stroller in the trunk, and having ditched the notion of high chairs in restaurants months ago.

And in response to the question, “What’s your biggest accomplishment this year?” posed on Facebook yesterday, I quickly answered “Potty-training twins!

I know there will be many more “big kid” changes in the year ahead of us. And while I know some of them will be bittersweet, I’m excited to see what’s in store.

A year from now, my girlies will have long since adjusted to their big kid beds, and (I hope!) most of our baby-proofing will be behind us. They’ll be on a break from a preschool program, and I hope we’ll have enrolled them in some type of extracurricular activity, like gymnastics, or swimming, or music, or dance. And I’m certain we’ll have so many more adventures on which to reflect.

I hope that my then almost-four-year olds will be taller and stronger and faster and more well-travelled…but I hope there are other things that will be just the same.

I hope they’ll have the same zest for life, love, and learning. I hope they still squeal with delight. I hope that their eyes still twinkle at the sight of a four-legged friend. I hope that even as they grow, they’ll continue to find comfort in snuggles with Mommy and Daddy.

And I know, no matter how big they are, they’ll always be my tiny baby girls.

May your 2012 be filled with many continued blessings! Happy New Year to you and yours!

December 30, 2011

Fab 5 (or There Abouts) Friday

So thankful for a fabulous week with my baby girls!


1) I bought the girls watercolors a couple of months ago, and I finally got brave enough to get them out this week. It was a bit of a challenge for them to get the order of things down…first water, then paint, then paper…but I was impressed at them using a paintbrush relatively proficiently. Plus, I discovered that the watercolors blend together much prettier than what eventually turns into a big brown mush of finger paint.


2) The girls are having so much fun exercising their new scissors. They don’t quite have the full technique, but they’re close. And I’ve been really thankful that they’re being pretty patient with themselves as they learn. (And I’m looking forward to this progression, as it will certainly take our crafting to new levels!)


3) We took the girls to lunch on Wednesday, to a locally-owned soup and sandwich shop where Hubby and I used to eat about once a week. The last time we ate there wasn’t very pleasant (not very fair, as the girls were just 18 months, but I was still psychologically scarred). This time was so effortless, though! We all ate a great lunch, and in the process, we discovered the girls have quite a passion for broccoli slaw. Who knew???


4) We had Miss Rachel and her hubby over for dinner this week, along with their 13-month-old twin girls. A and B were elated to learn they were coming. They immediately started taking certain toys out, “The babies will enjoy this! Can I sing a song for the babies? And they even voluntarily straightened the rest of their toys in preparation. Maybe we should have company more often!


5) We so enjoyed celebrating the third birthday of our sweet twin friends K&S on Thursday! Their birthday party was a great play date, complete with story time, cupcake decorating, and lunch. The girls had so much fun!!! (And I might just brag on myself a bit that I took the girls by myself, and I only used four wet wipes, even through cupcake decorating and lunch…HA!)


6) And Baby A was so cute after we came home from the birthday party. I just couldn’t believe cameras were there!” she said, talking about the kid-sized digital camera she was playing with.


7) I know I need to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get out of hand, but I have to laugh when I hear the girls correcting each other. Last night, A said to B, “ Don’t bang your feet. That’s not nice.” And B almost always reminds A, “Cover your mouth before you sneeze, Sissy!


8) While it can drive me a bit batty, the girls are having lots of fun with what I describe as their version of Pig Latin. They’ll change Mommy to “Mom-pay” and Daddy to “Da-tay” for example. They only do it with names, but they think it is absolutely hysterical.


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


I enjoyed a pedicure with three girlfriends!!! Two were running late, but they made up for it by bringing lattes for all of us! Bliss!!!


Hope you had a super-fabulous week, too!

December 29, 2011

Making Time

This time of the year always seems so busy…even when I think I’m taking a simple, straightforward approach to things…even when – at least in comparison to some folks – I don’t feel like we have a million engagements to attend, or seven different sides of the family to fit in…there’s still always something to do, something shiny to draw my attention.

Amid the hustle and bustle this year, though, I have been able to step back and appreciate what has to be one of my favorite parts of the season.

It struck me when I got together with three of my twin mom friends on December 21, just a few days before Christmas. We met one evening at a downtown restaurant for appetizers and desserts, after our kiddos were in bed.

We had such a fun time, and it was so relaxed! We devoured three appetizers, and we shared a monstrous dessert, the whole time telling some pretty tall tales…such that I felt a little sorry for our waitress. She kept coming to check on us, and we’d say, “Oh, we’re fine, just talking.” She may have been wishing we’d hurry things up…or then again she may have been entertained by some of our shenanigans. (We’ll hope it was the latter…as long as she didn’t hear too much!)

I came home pretty exhausted, but so happy…happy to have been surrounded by such good company, and ultimately energized by the fun we’d had.

I know each of us had a to-do list a mile long, but for those couple of hours, our lists were forgotten. We made the time to share with each other, and what a great gift that was.

Over the past week, I’ve enjoyed several such experiences…connecting with friends, appreciating each other’s company, and enjoying the holiday season together.

I didn’t trade expensive gifts with any of my friends…but the gift of time, particularly carved out during such a busy season, is so much more than money can buy.

December 28, 2011

Holiday Confessions

Here, on December 28, this is mostly a moot point…but I still feel the need to tell on myself a bit, to record a bit of the craziness…in hopes that I might learn from my misgivings and manage next year’s holiday in a little more orderly fashion.

I generally think of myself as taking a very commonsensical approach to the holidays. We have a small family and a relatively small circle of friends, so I don’t buy a lot of gifts. But I like to do little things…mostly baked goods…for the people we know.

I thought I had it all figured out…and I did get a great start a couple of weeks before Christmas. I had all the homemade goodies for Hubby’s colleagues ready to go on the Monday before his last day of school the next Friday. Early and eager, I was!

And then we went to Alabama a full week before Christmas. We enjoyed our visit, and came home on Tuesday before Christmas.

And I guess that’s where I went wrong.

In my mind, I had all sorts of time between our Alabama trip and Christmas day. And maybe that’s why I sat back and didn’t do a darn thing for a couple of days. (That’s not really true…but that’s the way it felt during my near-meltdown on Christmas Eve).

I began the majority of my work in the kitchen on Thursday afternoon, and it seemed like every spare moment for the next 48 hours was spent with flour on my hands, batter on my elbows, and a sink full of dirty dishes.

I don’t mean to complain about the batter on my elbows…rather, I love being in the midst of mess in my kitchen. It’s just that I felt so rushed…like I was on a deadline…that I couldn’t really enjoy it. And sadder yet, nor could I enjoy the time with my girls that I wanted to.

In the spirit of confessions, here are some of the things that I let slide during my frenzy…

Laundry. We lived out of the clothes basket for about a week. I would get from the dryer what we needed, maybe fold a few pieces here and there, but I never saw the bottom of the basket for way too long.

Cleanliness. My girls didn’t have a bath for approximately 3 ½ weeks. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we definitely missed a scrubbing or two.

Suitcases. Our suitcases from our trip stayed piled in my bathroom for a full week. SHOOT ME NOW!

Christmas cards. I got about 2/3 of my cards in the mail before Christmas, but there are a good 1/3 that will fall into the New Year’s card camp, for sure.

Groceries. The girls and I went for necessities – and more baking supplies – when we got back from Alabama. However, I somehow failed to plan a Christmas day menu! Honestly, we probably ate what we would have anyway, since I’d been thinking about certain things for a while…but it was some kinda weird not to have my menu planned in advance!

Despite my lack of planning, we still had a great Christmas. And on December 28, I’m very happy to report that my laundry is caught up, the holiday decorations are down, and my house is back in order.

Now I’d better start thinking about our New Year’s plans…before December 31!

December 27, 2011

Our Christmas (Mostly) in Pictures

After much thought, we finally decided to get the girls a train set for Christmas this year. They have been IN LOVE with all things "train" for quite a while now...a small plastic train they have, train books, and -- of course -- riding the train at several zoos.

We opted for this wooden set, and Hubby and I had some bonding time setting it all up on Christmas Eve night.

The girls began exploring it immediately on Christmas morning.

The elaborate set-up made it about 30 minutes (which impressed me!), before we decided to lose most of the bi-level components. Daddy helped the girls figure out a different setup.

I pointed out the train depot to the girls, and told them that's where the trains sleep at night. They promptly began calling it the Home Depot, and saying, "Go to sleep, Little Train!"

The girls also got a set of stacking ABC boxes, which are right up their alley, too.

After our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Cinnamon Pull-Apart bread, the girls wanted to open their stockings. This is what they most remembered from last year, and they've been talking about them ever since they saw them a couple of weeks ago.

The stockings are big, and the girls kept asking for help to dig around!


In their stockings, the girls got scissors, a small book, and an ornament. Here they are, hanging their choo-choo train ornaments on the tree. The engraving reads, "A year of first adventures."

The girls then got to open their wrapped gift, a bib and bottle set for their baby dolls.


This was a huge hit with our miniature mommies! And this is my favorite picture from Christmas this year, my babes cuddled together, feeding their babies.

The girls then helped Daddy open his gift.

And then they snuggled with Mommy to read their new books.


The girls were delighted to give Sasha her gift. And at one sniff of the catnip toy, Baby Sasha put on quite a show for them, rolling around all over the place.

I don't have a picture of her acrobatics, but she did have a lot of fun batting a tag on a gift bag much of the day.


While we missed seeing our family on Christmas, we had so much fun as a family of four, relaxing, playing, enjoying the company of each other. And with a gorgeous sunny day to boot, we even logged a family walk on Christmas afternoon.

And I could not ask for more.

***

The girls got many more gifts from friends and family over the past week. Here they are, playing with a couple of favorites...

Magnadoodles from Miss Jennifer...

...and a doctor kit from Aunt Alison. They usually take turns being "sick", and they'll say, "I don't feel well...take care of me!"


It was certainly a Merry Christmas to us all!

December 26, 2011

Super Stuff on a Monday

As I knew it would, this week absolutely flew by. It was truly a whirlwind, but one that was chock-full of so much super-wonderful-fabulous stuff…

1) We had a great trip to Alabama last weekend. It was not very stressful [speaking relatively to travelling with two, two-year olds], and we got to spend time with much of our family and several friends. The girls will remember the fun we had on this trip for a long, long time.

2) The girls got stuffed dolphins from a family friend. They are so soft, and they just love them. They named them Davey (at my suggestion), but instead of Willy, Baby A said hers would be Peter. I love her opinion, and her conviction!

3) I showed the girls a short youtube video of dolphins swimming. They were mesmerized, and they’ve had lots of fun letting their dolphins glide across the smooth leather couch.

4) The girls have had lots of fun this season making crafts, and I loved getting them involved in the gift-giving process. They were so proud to see their finger painting turn into bookmarks, and they loved pointing out the gift tags that adorned many of our gifts.

5) Miss Jennifer came over on Wednesday afternoon. She was so very sweet to bring a stack of holiday books from her childhood to read to them. And they were so excited to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to her, which she started teaching them the prior week.


6) On Thursday we took the girls to the Opryland Hotel. It is truly amazing year-round, but it is particularly breathtaking during the holidays. The girls loved looking at all the decorations…the highlight for them was the gigantic hot air balloon (papier-mâché?), and riding the escalators (which had nothing to do with the holidays…HA!). And Mama got a lot of joy out of seeing them in their reindeer sweater dresses from last season.


7) We spent time on Christmas Eve morning with a friend of mine who has an almost-four-year old son and a six-month old baby girl. The girls were so well-behaved, playing with the little boy, and ooh-ing and goo-ing over the baby.


8) Late Saturday morning we delivered a few homemade goody baskets to some neighbors. I had made most of the deliveries the night before, by myself, but it was so fun to be able to do it as a family. The girls handed off the gifts with a “Merry Christmas!”, and then they sang a short song – “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” or “Jingle Bells”. They were so excited to go “caroling”!

9) The afternoon of Christmas Eve, we visited with an older neighbor lady, whom the girls call Grandma June. She had gotten some books out for the girls to look at, and they did a great job of “reading” and visiting, and they even performed a couple of songs.

10) Baby B has been using the word “incredibly” a lot this week. For example, she said one day, “I’d like to do a craft today…because it’s so incredibly nice to do crafts.” I need to try to get her on video doing one of her “explanations”…which are full of inflection, hand motions, and exaggerated expressions. HA!

I’m saving the fabulousness of Christmas for a separate post…it deserves it! Hope you and your family had a fantastic week – and of course, a fantastic holiday – too!

December 23, 2011

A Bit About Me, December Edition

My birthday is February 23, and on the 23rd of each month, I have taken to sharing a couple of really random things about myself. For December, in the spirit of Christmas...

31) I have a certain (random) affinity for horses.

I've shared before that I played the trumpet when I was in high school. During our annual Christmas concert, from the ninth through the twelfth grade, I had the honor of doing the horse "whinny" in "Sleigh Ride". Each year around this time, when I hear "Slide Ride", my heartbeat increases slightly in anticipation of that part in the song.

32) Divinity has a special place in my heart.

Every Christmas, my grandmother would come stay with us for a few days. She always brought tins of goodies, and I remember being so excited to open them -- what seemed like stacks upon stacks -- and see what delectable treats she'd made. Two staples...two of my very favorites...were buckeyes (peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate) and divinity. I've made buckeyes myself, and they were good, but I've never tried my hand at divinity. It seems so intimidating...but I've gotta kick that thought soon so my girlies can have a taste of that divine spun sugar.

Random...I told ya!

December 22, 2011

Smoking is Bad, and Other Holiday Lessons

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I have a deep hatred for the tobacco industry.

I don’t usually think much about smoking, as our exposure is – thankfully – pretty limited. But when we do see someone smoking, outside a store, for example, I usually proclaim something along the lines of “Hold your breath, girls! Shewey-stinky smoke!

[I also say the same thing when a smelly truck passes us on a walk, “Shewey-stinky truck!” And we often call poop “shewey-stinky” at our house, too. It’s not a compliment.]

I sometimes elaborate that it’s not good for our bodies when we smell smoke.

[We talk regularly about things that are good for our bodies, like fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and water, playing nicely, and resting well.]

When the girls are older, I will approach the subject more directly, but I feel like I’m establishing that smoking is bad at a very early, very basic level.

Enter the holiday season, 2011.

At almost three years old, the girls are really engaged in holiday stories and songs. It’s been so much fun to have so many “new” books to read and music to enjoy over the past few weeks. While we have a few newer Christmas storybooks, many of the ones we’re reading are from my childhood.

Sounds romantic, right?

Yes, except that I’ve had to have some relatively strange conversations with the girls, ones I didn’t remotely anticipate.

In the classic tale of Frosty the Snowman, Sally gave him a button nose and a funny corncob pipe.”

And in “The Night Before Christmas”, "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth. And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

What’s a pipe? Why was there smoke?

I’m not remotely trying to suggest we re-write these classics, but it is really interesting to gauge the cultural differences in just the last 60 years.

I’ll continue to explain things to my girls at an age-appropriate level, to the best of my ability. And I pray that – among many other things – they grow up agreeing with their mama that smoking is really shewey-stinky.

And I guess we’ll sit back and see what another 50 or 60 years brings…who knows what will be considered shewey-stinky then.

December 21, 2011

Our Christmas in Dixie

We made our holiday trip to Sweet Home Alabama early this week. I keep thinking about the trip in little snippets, things I'm thankful for...

The girls insisted on wearing Alabama jerseys for the trip to Alabama...and who am I to argue with such brilliant logic???


The girls asking for "Alabama music" in the car, which I finally figured out was "Sweet Home Alabama". And I just so happened to have my friend Lynyrd Skynyrd along for the drive!

The first thing my sweet little mommies did when they got to Granddaddy and Emme's house was check on their baby dolls (the ones they play with there)...so sweet!


Snuggles with Granddaddy and Emme...

A walk in Granddaddy's neighborhood by the pond to see the geese.

Sharing a beautiful holiday meal on Sunday night.

The girls telling Granddaddy and Emme "Laku Noc" -- "Good night" in Serbian.

Being able to comfort Baby A who was having trouble settling down in a new place.

(Very) early morning snuggles with Baby A who just couldn't seem to get comfy in her pack-and-play.

[Note: I'm very un-thankful for forgetting to take my camera with us on Monday...grrr!]

Aunt Alison taking a very early lunch to meet us for a mid-morning snack on our way to Aunt GG's house.

One of the most fantastic pastries I've ever eaten -- seriously! -- at the German bakery where we met Aunt Alison.

The girls giving Aunt Alison hugs.

Having a friend like Alison.

The girls running straight for Aunt GG when we got to her house.


The girls singing the blessing before lunch at Aunt GG's.

A beautiful holiday lunch at Aunt GG's, featuring some of my favorites from my childhood.

The girls loving the same macaroni and cheese of my childhood dreams.

The girls devouring (relatively politely, too) Aunt GG's Grecian orange cake and her coconut cake.

Baby A have a blast running around the house in Aunt GG's furry slippers.

Napping in the car.

The girls appreciating the gifts from Granddaddy and Emme, and beginning to learn about giving gifts, too.

Visiting the state park close to Granddaddy's house to see the amazing display of holiday lights.

The excitement over seeing the train approach that would carry us through the park.

Bundled-up family snuggles (with Granddaddy in tow to capture it on film).

Walking through part of the park after the train ride, listening to the Christmas music.

The girls being content to sit for stories with Emme.


The girls going to sleep without a peep on Monday night.

More (very) early morning snuggles with Baby A.

The girls singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in its entirety in front of several audiences.

A fun visit with Aunt / Grandma Linda and Uncle / Grandpa Cecil.


Stopping by to see a childhood friend and her mom for a couple of minutes on our way out of town.

Not losing my keys on this trip.

Despite an impossibly LONG trip home (due to a longer-than-anticipated lunch, several potty breaks, and 5:00 traffic), the girls being awesome travel troopers.

The girls running inside to tend to their baby dolls when we got home.

The girls telling Sasha how much they loved her, how much they'd missed her, and Baby B saying, "I'm sorry we were away."

Baby A telling her baby doll, "Don't worry, Abby. I'm right here. I'll hold your hand. I won't leave you." ((sniff, sniff!))

So many wonderful gifts -- the kind without wrapping paper! -- and that's what it's all about.

December 18, 2011

We May Not Be Up for Making a Gingerbread House...

...but we sure enjoyed making ice cream cone trees and marshmallow snowmen!

Inspired by an idea that Deanna at It's a Crazy, Beautiful Life posted a few weeks ago, we invited our friends K and S to join us for some edible holiday crafting.

Everyone had such a fun time...and I was quite impressed that it wasn't even that messy!

(It might have helped that my two girlies were strapped securely in their high chairs! But even in Big People Chairs, K and S kept the mess to a minimum. I didn't even have to mop afterwards!)

While the wee ones had an extra-special mid-morning treat of M&Ms and pretzels, their mom Jenny and I spread store-bought frosting on store-bought waffle cones. (We spread it liberally to allow the M&Ms to stick more easily.)

We gave each kiddo a small bowl of holiday M&Ms, and they got to work!

I love the concentration on K's face (and her tongue sticking out, too!)...

Here's Jenny reminding S that he'd had his snack, and the M&Ms in the bowl were to be used for decoration. (She finally made a deal with him that, for every three candies he put on the tree, he could eat one...HA!)

My Baby A surprised me with how diligently she worked.


And here's a typical pose from Baby B, loving life and enjoying herself a marshmallow break.


The kiddos worked for a pretty long time, and, despite surely having a sugar rush from their extra-special snack, they were quite proud to pose and show off their creations.


It was such a fantastic morning...it just felt successful all around. The kiddos played well, enjoyed themselves, and of course Jenny and I had fun hanging out together, too.

It's hard to look ahead a full year...but I can't help but wonder if we'll be ready to attempt a gingerbread village next year??? At least we know we can supply some great foliage!

December 17, 2011

Super Stuff on a Saturday

I had a fabulously super week with my baby girls!

1) As we ate our traditional Sunday morning breakfast, Baby B said, “It’s nice to be together.” We eat supper together all but one or two nights a month, but I love that the girls recognize our family breakfasts are a special treat.

2) On Tuesday we hosted our sweet friends K&S for a play date, which included the assembly of ice cream cone Christmas trees, decorated with M&Ms. It truly warms my heart to see my girls playing with K&S, having known their sweet mama since we were both pregnant. It’s amazing to think back to our first play date, when the kiddos had just celebrated their first birthdays. I love that our girls will grow up having such precious friends, right from the start.

3) The girls have so enjoyed checking out my small collection of nutcrackers, displayed on the mantle for the holidays. One morning I dialed up a short Russian ballet performance on youtube, and then we listened to the entire suite on CD. The girls were quite intent on trying out some new dance moves. And I couldn’t believe they correctly remembered “Tchaikovsky” as the composer when we recounted our day to Daddy before bedtime.

4) I was upstairs one evening, shortly before bed, and Daddy was hanging out with the girls, reading books. I had such a fun time just listening…they were doing a lot more talking and explaining than he was, reading. In particular, Baby B is so emphatic when she explains things, and it cracks me up how she gets her hands going, too. I’ve heard her say this for a while, but it’s so funny when she says, “MY Mommy…” with emphasis on “MY”…as in, “MY Mommy said our bath water should be nice and warm, not hot, and not cold, because babies need to stay warm.

5) I try really hard to model proper grammar for the girls. I couldn’t help but beam with pride when B said, “If Sasha were to eat this…”…conditional sentence structure at its finest!

6) Since we put the Christmas tree up last weekend, we’ve been sitting in the living room for a few minutes each night before bed. Many nights our kitty Sasha has joined us, rubbing on the lower branches. Because the girls hung so many ornaments at the bottom of the tree, Sasha frequently rings some of my jingle bell ornaments. The girls think she’s doing it just for them. “Ring the bell, Sasha!” and then, “Thank you, Sasha!” they exclaim.

7) After a few brutally early wake-ups this week, the girls both slept soundly until 6:30 on Friday (when Hubby had to start getting ready for work). I was so thankful for them to wake up well-rested...I just hope it continues!

8) On one of the mornings when we were up at the crack of dawn, I heard the girls “reading” to each other. “Don’t be sad, don’t be blue, you love me and I love you.” That definitely put a smile on my otherwise groggy face.

9) Several weeks ago, I bought a beautiful book about the true meaning of Christmas, thinking it would be a great bedtime read. I’d almost forgotten about it until this week, and we read it for the first time a couple of days ago. The artwork and the text is so beautiful…I’ll admit I was almost sobbing by the end.

10) The girls and I were out and about one afternoon, and I tooted the horn at a lady in front of me, who didn’t realize the light had turned green. From the backseat, almost in unison, the girls immediately belted out, “Honk, honk, rattle, rattle, rattle, crash, beep, beep!” HA!

Even amid the crazy...the crack-of-dawn wake-up calls...the spilled milk...there's always plenty of super fabulousness if we only stop to appreciate it.

Hope you had a great week, too!

December 16, 2011

52 Weeks of ME! Challenge

It’s certainly been a busy week…but truly, when was the last time I haven’t had a busy week? Um, I’d say close to three years ago!

Still, I carved out some super fun time with a couple of girlfriends this week…and what a fun time it was!

The occasion? Karen and I met at Shanda’s house one evening (my children both nestled snugly in their beds) for some good, old-fashioned cookie baking!

I was responsible for the cookie paraphernalia, and we all agreed to wear pajamas.

I debated on whether to wear my fleece monkey pants to Shanda’s house…or just change into them when I got there. I decided I should be OK to drive in them, as our neighborhood is adjacent to hers, meaning I didn’t have far to go.

So I donned my comfy pants…a delicate, light blue fleece, graced by a repeating pattern of dancing monkeys wearing Santa hats and holding candy canes. It was paired with a demure (in comparison) red holiday tee (on sale this season at Target), declaring “Goodwill to All”.

I was also slightly nervous about the small (dime-sized?) bag of flour I had in the passenger seat, but I figured if I were to be stopped, surely the nice policeman would see my rolling pin and red and green sprinkles to corroborate my cookie-baking story.

Thankfully I made it to Shanda’s house without triggering any red and blue lights, and the baking efforts began.

The cookies weren’t gourmet by any stretch, but we decided we’d rather concentrate our efforts on decorating (and eating) than actually mixing dough.

Still, we floured and rolled and embellished.

And then, of course, we toasted our success and gobbled up some ooey-gooey cookies, hot out of the oven.

It was such a fun, lighthearted evening. And – not being a roll-out-kinda-cookie-baker myself – it gave me some ideas on how to approach such an event with my girls.

I think that’s a priority…as is repeating this little get-together in the holidays to come!

***

What did you do for YOU this week?

Link up, or just leave a comment…hope you’re finding a way to step back, catch your breath, and savor the best of this holiday season!

December 15, 2011

Gifts: Intangible and Virtual

My sweet friend Melissa at MaMe Musings is hosting a series of posts this month, highlighting the "gifts" of some of her readers.

I think it's a beautiful thing to acknowledge our talents and traits, the things that make us who we are, and I'm so thankful to be part of her series.

Still, as I was writing my piece for her blog, it felt weird...weird to be patting myself on the back...weird to be putting myself out there to talk about what I love about ME.

I think humility is part of most of our natures...and as a general rule, I think it's a pretty good thing.

I've been thinking a lot about it, though...probably over-thinking (as I might occasionally sorta-sometimes have a tendency to do)...particularly in the context of modeling for my girls.

Certainly I want them to be humble, but it would break my heart to see them be too self-deprecating. Yet another balance to add to the list, I guess.

And particularly in this season of giving, I want to encourage them to think about their intangible gifts as one way they can share with their friends and family.

I'm not sure I've adequately expressed what's been on my mind...but I hope as my sweet friend Julia at Pontifications of a Twin Mom does a great job of reminding us...let's all try to grant each other the gift of grace.

[Now head on over to Melissa's and accept my "virtual" gift to you of homemade peanut brittle!]

December 14, 2011

Gettin' Crafty for Christmas - III

The girls and I have had lots of fun over these past few weeks doing holiday-themed crafts.

One of our projects this week was disguising some gift bags as snowmen.


We bought a pack of medium-size brown bags at the craft store (12 for $3.59 with a coupon).

I cut out a hat from cardstock. We used some scraps of cardstock and construction paper to embellish the hat and make the mouth. We used buttons for eyes, orange felt for a nose, and a bright red rhinestone for the holly berry.

My girls now know the word "rhinestone"...should I be worried???

At not quite three years old, I'm not quite comfortable at turning the girls loose with a bottle of glue. I ran the smaller pieces (like the holly leaves and mouth) through my Xyron to make "stickers" for the girls to apply. I drew lines on the bag to guide their placement.

For the rhinestone, buttons, and felt, I put dots of glue on the bags, and they put the embellishments in place.

We put these together over three sessions, I think, to allow the glue to dry for the various sections. The girls really enjoyed it (and it wasn't too messy for this mama!).

While I'm personally much more of a gift-wrap-kinda-gal...

...I like wrapping gifts with nice crisp corners and pretty ribbons and tags...and then ripping the paper off (not the gifts I wrapped, just to be clear)...

...in addition to our handmade gift tags, I thought this would be another fun way to get the girls involved in the gift-giving process.

December 12, 2011

Saving It For Later

I distinctly remember the first time I realized the girls could fill in the blanks in nursery rhymes and some of the texts from books we read frequently.

They were 21 months old, and I had wedged myself into the back seat, between their car seats, trying to entertain them to keep them awake on a 45-minute drive.

I thought I’d recite one of their ABC books. ’A’ is for apple, that I like to...and before I could finish, someone yelled out, “Bite!’B’ is for bear, whom I cuddle at…“Night!” We continued on and on, and they filled in most of the blanks in the alphabet. I moved to nursery rhymes, and they amazed me there, too.

I wondered how much the rhymes were giving the girls clues. Over the next couple of weeks, I began omitting words here and there in Curious George stories and other books. I remember laughing when one of them filled in the words “launching site” in a book about a rocket ship…it seemed so random, and it certainly didn’t rhyme with anything.

Over the last few months, the girls have started “reading” to themselves and their baby dolls. It’s amazing how they can recite page after page in so many books. There are times when they’re describing the pictures, but there are many times they’re saying the written text word for word, complete with Mommy’s inflections.

I remarked to a girlfriend how, despite me having read those books a gazillion times…which is obviously how the girls are learning the text in the first place…I couldn’t recite the text word for word.

A seasoned mom, she immediately responded, “They’re saving it for later.

I’ve thought about this a lot. And I don’t mean to sound trite, but I keep equating it to what is said of someone who loses the sense of sight, for example, that his other senses become heightened.

The girls can’t read yet, so if they want to enjoy their books when Mommy is not reading to them, this is their solution.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Frosty the Snowman book, the original text from 1950. Granted, I read that book probably 20 times in three days, but I was astounded when the girls started reciting it verbatim within a few days.

Even otherwise unfamiliar text, like “floppy galoshes,” and more poetic syntax, like “said he”…they’ve got it down. And it’s so cute, where one trails off, so often her sister will pick right up.

The capacities of the human brain never cease to amaze me.

...now if I could just channel some of their capacities to remember what I need at the grocery store!

December 11, 2011

Super 7 Sunday

So thankful for a super fabulous week with my baby girls!

1) On Sunday, Baby A woke up early from her nap. I let her help me make Pumpkin Gingerbread. She was such a great help! She dumped the ingredients in the bowl for me, and turned the mixer on and off. And of course she was so proud of herself.

2) And later in the week I let the girls help me make a simple batch of candy. They mostly dumped ingredients in the bowl and stirred a little bit, but it made their day! They were so proud of themselves. After supper, B told Daddy, “I will share my candy with you.” HA!

3) I was so proud of the girls for accompanying me to Hobby Lobby this week. I only had one thing to get, and I asked if they would like to walk (as opposed to loading up in the stroller). They behaved so well! They held onto the hand basket and were super good about keeping their hands to themselves. They even made a bit of conversation with the cashier. A big accomplishment, indeed!

4) Coming out of Hobby Lobby we took the opportunity to contribute to the Salvation Army. I gave the girls each a dollar, and they put in the bucket. Then the lady let them ring her bell. They talked about it all afternoon, saying, “…and we put cash in the bucket and rang the bell.” I must have said, “Let me see if I have some cash,” but it cracked me up for them to use that word.

5) The girls are having a great time listening to Christmas music, although they’ve altered quite a few lyrics. “Two turtle ducks,” for example, and Feliz Navidad is “Police la-dee-dah.” At least they know how to request Michael Buble’ by name.

6) We went to lunch on Saturday at our favorite sushi restaurant. We hadn’t taken the girls there since this summer, as they had a big case of the wiggles the last time we were there…not quite in keeping with the otherwise zen atmosphere. This time, they did fantastic! They sat up straight in their chairs, enjoyed edamame and part of my salad, and they ate every scrap of their chicken and shrimp teriyaki.

7) We finally got our Christmas tree up on Saturday afternoon. Baby A was up early from her nap, and I was amazed how patiently she watched Hubby and me put the lights on the tree. She then did a great job of helping me take ornaments out of their boxes. When B got up, I loved seeing the surprise on her face at glimpsing the tree. “Is it Christmas?” she asked. And I’ll pat myself on the back for allowing the girls to hang the ornaments…I expected a lot grouped together on the bottom…but I didn’t anticipate they’d also be so intent on decorating the back of the tree. Oh, well…they had fun!

Hope you had a super fabulous week, too!

December 10, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread...Oh, My!

I tried this recipe for the first time last weekend (with the very excellent help of Baby A, I might add). Melding together two quintessential flavors of this wonderful holiday season, it's definitely a keeper!

Pumpkin Gingerbread

3 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 c. water
1 - 15oz. can pumpkin puree
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly grease two 9x5" loaf pans.

In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil, and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon.

In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven about an hour, until toothpick comes out clean.

I went heavy on the spices, and this was ahhhh-mazing!!! (Just look past the gallon of oil and five pounds of sugar...it's the holidays!)

December 8, 2011

52 Weeks of ME! Challenge Link-up

Amid the hustle and bustle of this wonderful season, it's really important for me to consciously step back, catch my breath, and re-energize. I hope you're finding time to do the same!

***

I had a pretty fabulous week with my baby girls...and I managed to log some "me" time in there, too!

On Thursday night, after all our respective kiddos were in bed, I met with three fellow twin mamas from our MoMs group.

Over gigantic cups of hot tea, we had a really productive meeting, outlining our full 2012 schedule. (Did you happen to hear our collective WOO HOO!!! at accomplishing such a task?!)

Of course we talked about more than meeting topics and picnic venues.

I've known one of these ladies since we met in the prenatal classes at the hospital, a couple of months before our babes were born. Her B/G twins are exactly one week older than A&B. The other ladies I met through our MoMs group, and their twins were born within 9 months of ours.

We've worked closely together as part of our group for a couple of years now. Even when we have "work" to do, it's still always so refreshing just to be around them.

They get it. Completely.

These mamas are such a wonderful, warm, supportive group (and their kiddos are pretty fantastic, too). I learn so much from them...and they might just make me feel a little more "normal"...or at least remind this high-strung mama she's not alone on this amazing journey. :)

***

What did you do for YOU this week?

You're welcome to link up, or just leave a comment. Then sit back, grab a cup of hot tea if you'd like, and see how other mamas carved out a little time for themselves this week.

The Egg Carton Doesn't Lie...

...my girls will be THREE...SOON!!!


That's hard for me to grasp on several levels...one of which is definitely the fact that I've gotta make time during this holiday hustle and bustle to nail down birthday party plans...eek!!!

We are thankful for so many wonderful things to celebrate these next few weeks...even if my to-do list is consumes a spiral-bound notebook. :)

December 7, 2011

The Early Birds Sits on the Potty

Our girls began sleeping through the night when they were around three months old. It seems like forever their wakeup time was 6:45. Some days they might have woken up a little earlier, but particularly as they got older, they were very content to babble to each other for a little bit.

Some time before the girls turned two, I realized I was waking them up many mornings. One day, I decided to see how long they’d sleep…and for about six months, I so enjoyed them getting up about 7:30!

[I still maintained my 5:45-ish wakeup, but that meant I had time to work out, shower, and get dressed…it was glorious!]

Enter our first round of potty-training, in April.

As fantastic as it was to change only half the number of diapers, I had no idea that it would so affect the girls’ sleep!

While I continued to put diapers on A for naps and nighttime for a couple of weeks, I don’t think she once went in them. I know that’s actually a good thing…but she would wake up screaming and crying, near hysterical, to sit on the potty. And early, at that. And of course B would wake up, too, upset over her sister being upset.

It was rough.

Things have leveled out with the hysteria. I think that was just a matter of A understanding what was happening with her body. Still, for the last seven months, the days have begun rather early at our house.

A 6:30 wakeup is a good day. The girls no longer cry, but they start pleading immediately, “I need to sit on potty!” (in stereo, of course). And forget them “talking” peacefully while I finish my bowl of cereal. Their requests are usually pretty urgent (and I don’t want to test their little bladders!).

I know this is just part of it…things will even out…and one day I’ll be dragging them out of bed to get ready for school.

In the meantime I’ll focus on the positives…NO MORE DIAPERS…and extra time to read some books in the mornings before I start making breakfast…

…even though I do it in my pj’s without having combed my hair…yikes!

December 6, 2011

Gettin' Crafty for Christmas - II

I didn't grow up with the tradition of an Advent calendar, but I've been thinking about it over the past couple of years. At almost three, I figured our girls are old enough to at least begin to grasp a count-down to the holidays.

While I've since seen some really great ideas for Advent, ranging from whimsical fun to spiritual...ones which I'm already excited about for next year...I took a simple approach this year.

When the girls' hands were already messy with green paint from our gift tag production, I had them make a handprint tree. (This required quite a bit of direction on my part, basically "stamping" their hands in the desired configuration.)

When that dried, I plotted numbers 1 - 24 [for which I may have used an Excel spreadsheet].

I added a star to the top of the tree with the year written on it, and I cut out a square for each letter of their name at the bottom of the tree, to look sorta-kinda like presents.


Every morning, the girls add an ornament sticker to the tree. I know they don't have an appreciation for "19 more days" (as of today!), but they do love getting to play with stickers right after breakfast.

And of course these will find a home in their scrapbooks after the holidays, a reminder of early morning sticker fun...and the size of their precious little hands, once upon a time.

December 5, 2011

Alliteration Escapes Me

I’ve been doing a Fab 5 Friday post for eons now. Occasionally that turns into a Super 6 or 7 Saturday or Sunday.

I’m running a bit behind this week, though, and I just can’t come up with good alliteration for this Monday morning. Nonetheless, it was a pretty amazing week with my baby girls, and here are just a few of the reasons why…

1) We met my friend and former colleague Rebecca for lunch on Tuesday. The girls hadn’t seen her in a couple of months, but they warmed up right away. I love that their memories are so strong, they knew who she was and remembered things we talked about two months ago! And I love seeing her with them…she has grandchildren of her own, and she exudes all that wonderful warmth towards my babes.

2) Miss Rebecca gave the girls a set of Go Fish cards. They’re not exactly playing “Go Fish” with them, but they’ve had a great time lining them up, sorting them out, and naming all the different kinds of sea critters.

3) On Thursday we took the girls to Downtown Lights Up, when the Christmas lights are turned on for the first time. We got to the square just in time for the countdown. The girls clapped for the lights, and loved walked around (and around and around), listening to the choir sing and looking at everything aglow. And I loved seeing my babes toddle around in their cute little hats, dressed in so many layers they could hardly put their arms down.


4) On Friday I needed to go to the bookstore. It was a beautiful morning, and I decided to brave the outing with the girls on foot (not in a stroller). They did really well! I let them play with the train table in the bookstore (after which I sanitized their hands, of course). They even walked beside me – not holding my hands – on the way to the cash register. They behaved so well I decided to take them next door to the pet store. They squealed with delight in seeing all the fuzzy critters, and I think it made their week to pick out a toy for our kitty Sasha for Christmas.

5) We had occasion to wrap a couple of birthday presents this week. I let the girls “design” the wrapping paper (scribbles on drawing paper) and assist me with the tape. So all week they’ve been “wrapping” their toys in washcloths and blankets, giving them to each other and their baby dolls. So sweet.

6) We went to a birthday party for one-year old twins on Saturday. My girls just love these two sweet babies, and their parents. And A&B finally got to meet their puppy dogs…they were over the moon!

7) I love listening to the girls invent new games and pretend scenarios. I can often piece together parts of books they’re enacting. I had to laugh when B was getting a game plan together one day, “We’re going to the wishing well [from a book]…and then to the yogurt shop [a real-life wish, I imagine]…and then to the shore [also from a book…I promise my babies have not been watching Jershey Shore!].”

8) Both of the girls love to play tickles. They’ve started “tickling” their baby dolls and stuffed animals. Baby A gets the cutest look on her face when she says (of her baby / dog / the cat), “She’s a tickle-girl.

9) And the quote of the week? Overheard, from Baby B: “I’m going to sit right next to my sissy. We’re sisters and we need to be together!

10) [And just so I have an even 10…] The girls are having so much fun with the Christmas season. A separate post to come!

Hope you had a super...fabulous...awesome week, too!

December 3, 2011

Pausing to Catch My Breath...

...and guest-posting at Multiples & More today about 52 Weeks of ME!

Hope you can take pause for at least a bit this week and do something for YOU!

December 1, 2011

52 Weeks of ME! Challenge Link-up

Amid the hustle and bustle of this awesome season, I hope you've found a way to carve out at least a bit of time for YOU.

Be it big or small, we owe it to ourselves to step back, relax, and recharge...and enjoy!

What did you do for YOU this week???



And what did I do for ME???

Since we didn't travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, our five-day weekend was pretty relaxed. We enjoyed lots of family fun on our own schedule...and I was thankful to carve out a bit of time just for me, as well.

At the beginning of the year, my bestie and I decided we'd get pedicures together once a quarter. Following our December twinkle toes, we held off until February before we booked another appointment. At that point we decided that three months was too long to wait for pretty toes...surely we could swing a quick date once a month.

We haven't quite met up once a month, but we've enjoyed several pedicures together this year.

On Saturday Aunt Shanda picked me up after the girls' nap time. She had her seat warmer fired up and Christmas music in the CD player. We enjoyed having our piggy toes pampered just as much as we enjoyed catching up...it had been too long!

I vowed this week I would talk about something other than coffee...so I won't include as "me" time the holiday Starbucks we picked up on the way home, or the toast we made (and took a picture of!) to our friendship...and to pretty toes!

 
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