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April 30, 2012

How I Bought Myself an Extra 15 Minutes a Week


Sure, 15 minutes a week doesn’t sound like much…an extra couple of minutes a day…but, coupled with a corresponding decrease in mental anguish…it’s like having an extra 20 minutes at least.

So what is this miracle time-saver?

Velcro-closure tennies, that’s what!

When we bought the girls’ first shoes when they were about 15 months old, we picked out the cutest tennis shoes with the cutest Velcro straps.

But, we discovered after walking approximately 50 feet outside the store (the girls in their stroller), our cutest Baby A had the ability to take off her new shoes with lightning speed.

We did a quick turnaround and exchanged the Velcro straps for iron-clad lace-ups.

And so I’ve spent the last two years laboriously tying and untying the girls’ shoes for each and every outing.

A couple of weeks ago, we made our biannual trip to purchase new shoes for the girlies.  Over the past year, the girls have become much better with keeping their shoes on…last summer, their Velcro-closure sandals, and this winter, their [imitation] Ugg boots that can slip off relatively easily.

The assortment of lace-up tennis shoes was practically nil, so I decided to chance it with Velcro.

We’re two weeks in, and so far, so good!

My “deal” with the girls is that they have to keep their shoes on in the car.  If they don’t, then they won’t be able to walk, and we’ll have to use the stroller.  That’s usually a big deterrent for them.

And I can’t say how freeing it is to get shoes on in a fraction of the time.  And yesterday, I realized the girls could probably put their own shoes on…viola!

I still had some straightening and tightening to do, but that’s nothing compared to the contortions sometimes involved in four shoes and four double-knots in our tiny mud room.

So, to the question, “When does it get easier?  Well, in this respect, it’s when Velcro enters the picture.

April 29, 2012

Weekend Awareness: Entertaining and Time with Friends


This week I hosted a small group of friends for an UsborneChildren’s Books party.  My friend Jenny is a new consultant, and I wanted to help her get up and running.  (I also happen to be a big fan of the book line, and it was a great excuse for me to add to our library!)

I set the date with Jenny, and invited some friends…and then, frankly, I started to dread it a little bit.

When would I have time to clean the house?
When would I have time to prepare the munchies?
What if no one could come?

I did my best to set aside those reservations, and I started to plan.

I decided to work around a theme…”Dive into a Good Book”.  My mind began to spin (in a good way) with visions of beach-y décor and a flight of sweet and savory dips.   

[Get it?  Dive into a book…dive into dips?  Perhaps it was a bit of a stretch, but it made me chuckle.]

While it was a bit of a feat to do some cleaning and straightening downstairs (especially since our girlies came down with a virus early in the week), and I had a couple of late nights getting everything prepped and ready…

…I had so much fun!

There’s definitely something really energizing about seeing things come together…the yummy dips, the fish-shaped bowls, and the beach towel and sand bucket spread on my kitchen island…

…and of course, time spent with friends – especially propped around my countertops, the heart of my home – makes my heart sing.

This week, I’m reminding myself – challenging myself to remain AWARE – of how much I enjoy some casual entertaining. 

Yes, it’s work.  But, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  (I didn’t catch a single person on Thursday night checking the bottoms of my chairs for lint!) 

And it’s so much fun to break from the norm…challenge some creative juices…and appreciate time with friends.

April 28, 2012

Mama Loves: Trains!

Our girls had their first train experience...a miniature choo-choo through a state park close to Granddaddy and Emme's house...at Labor Day.  Of all the things we did on that trip to Alabama, all the people we saw and food we ate, that was what they consistently talked about.

Coupled with their love of several train stories we had, and their delight at the sight of the train running through downtown, I decided to get them a train set for Christmas.

I researched and thought and shopped and debated, and I finally settled on a wooden train set, but without the train table.

I am so happy we went that route!

Our girls play with their train set probably four or five days a week.  When it's not in play, all the train pieces fit in three plastic bins on our storage shelf.  A big part of their fun is constructing new track configurations...no two are ever the same! 

I love the problem-solving that's involved in the track set-up...making a loop to go under the bridge...figuring out what lengths and shapes of track are necessary to go around the depot.  Usually, B will work on a track heading in one direction, and A goes in another.  Then the trick is to make those tracks work together (which is often where Mommy comes in).

Not having the train table allows the girls to build a really big configuration.  I've found that works really well for them to both play, too...one can sit "inside" a loop and drive her trains, and the other can work from the outside of the pattern.


Once the track is satisfactorily up and running, the girls sometimes like to set up scenes alongside the railroad.  They might pull out their barn so the farm animals can wave to the train.  :)  Or sometimes we'll make a tunnel from blocks from the train to go through.

The train set has been a great investment (along with a small expansion set we got a few weeks ago).  The play patterns are endless, and I can see it growing with them for a long time.  Oh, and Mommy and Daddy enjoy it about as much as the girlies!

I'm linking up again today with Julia at Pontifications of a Twin Mom, for "Mama Loves".  It doesn't always work this way, but I love having invested in great, classic toys that our girls love, too!

April 27, 2012

Fab 10 Friday!


We've been battling a virus this week, but I am thankful we've still had plenty of fabulousness at Casa de A&B.

1)      Ahead of the cold and wet weather that was due on Saturday, Friday was a beautiful day.  We decided to make an impromptu trip to Jackson’s Orchard when Daddy got home from school.  We were there by ourselves most of the time, and the girls had an absolute blast on their huge playground.  I think I counted 12 trips Mommy made down the “bumpy slide” [6 for each babe].  They could not get enough!  They loved climbing on the wooden tractors and pretending to steer, too.  We took a short walk down to a little pond, and we got to see tiny frogs jumping from the banks into the water…we walked all the way around the pond, the frogs jumping in just ahead of us.  It was so cool!

2)      At the orchard we bought a quart of beautiful strawberries.  Part we ate fresh, and part I put into a strawberry cobbler…the girls really loved that extra-special treat.

3)      On Saturday we went to a birthday party for a sweet four-year old little boy.  The girls were excited about going…but even more excited about seeing his nine-month old baby sister.  They were enamored to get to sit on the couch beside Baby Allie.

4)      And I could not get enough of seeing all the kiddos at the birthday party dressed in their pirate garb.  The girls played with it all afternoon, too.  They need to practice their “Aaargh!” though.  It sounds much more like your standard, “Ugh!

5)      We went downtown late Sunday morning, with the intention of taking the girls to a new restaurant.  We’d told them about it, and they were all excited.  But…even going early…there was a 30-minute wait.  I was so thankful the girls were so agreeable with a change in plans.  We let them pick another restaurant, and we still had a great lunch.

6)      For the past couple of years, we have been walking at least once a week, on average, with our neighbors.  Because of the weather and our different schedules, though, we haven’t walked together much at all these past few months.  We got in a walk on Monday.  It was great to catch up, and so amazing to realize how our wee ones are growing in comparison to each other.

7)      Baby A was checking out tummy one night.  Why do you have a belly button, Mommy?  I told her we all have belly buttons.  But not Daddy, right?  I told her yes, even Daddy.  But Daddy has a fluffy belly button,” she said.  Oh, my…belly laughs, for sure!

8)      I was getting dressed one morning, and I declared I would wear my butterfly shirt.  That’s a MOTH, Mommy!” Baby B shirked.  You’re right, Baby.  Mommy misspoke.  How do you know it’s a moth?  Because it has a bigger body.”  Guess I got schooled!

9)      It warms my heart when the girls ask to do a craft.  I think they’d be content with a craft every morning and afternoon!

10)   And my heart is even further warmed at the girls watching me make almost every meal this week.  They’ve smelled every spice, and sampled quite a few ingredients along the way.  It amazes me how patient [relatively speaking] they’ve been.  It’s such an awesome thing to experience the joys of cooking with them.

Hope you had a fabulous week, too!  

And if you haven't already done so, there's still time to enter my Usborne Children's Book GIVEAWAY, though Sunday, April 29...good luck!  

April 26, 2012

Deprivation is the Mother of Invention


Years ago, I remember a neighbor talking about her sister.  She didn’t allow her children to have any type of toy guns or weapons, but she said that didn’t stop them from playing any number of cops and robbers and battle games.  They used anything that was remotely shaped like a gun,” she recounted.  A hair brush, a microphone, a stick…they made ‘guns’ from blocks and clay.”

I can’t remember the context of that conversation, but it stuck with me…thinking about kids’ ingenuity, their creativity, and their determination.  I also wondered if there was the lure of a “forbidden fruit” at play.  I didn’t know the details of that situation, but my guess is that there could have been, given the subject matter.

To date, our girls haven’t fashioned any guns.  As I type this, I’m wondering if they’ve ever even heard the word “gun”…but this little anecdote still came to mind a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t have a hard-and-fast rule, exactly, but so far I’ve shied away from electronic toys.  The girls’ kitchen makes a few sounds, and they have a couple of play phones that require batteries, but we otherwise don’t have any Leap Pads / iPads / iPods / electronic readers…I don’t even know the terminology.

It’s never been an issue…the girls don’t know they’re missing anything…so there’s no “forbidden fruit”…at least not yet.

(And I don’t intend to hold that line forever.  Of course I want my girls to have an appreciation for technology.  I know I would be doing them a huge disservice if I withheld it for too long.  I’m just trying to gauge the time that’s right for our family.)

Still, the girls see me on the computer, and they have long pretended to “type”, usually banging their fingertips on the trays of their high chairs.

Recently, Baby A took her game to the next level.  Look at my computer!” she exclaimed one day.

She now assembles this configuration of puzzle boxes pretty regularly.  It cracks me up how intently she looks at the screen, the determination with which she pecks out emails.


And, not to be outdone, here is B’s version (since her sis had already claimed the coveted puzzle boxes this particular morning)…


The phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention” came to mind for me…but then I decided – in the case of our girls – maybe it’s more like “Deprivation is the mother of invention” in this instance.

Yes, my poor "deprived" children...HA!

***

If you haven't entered my GIVEAWAY from Usborne Children's Books, I invite you to do so...it's open through Sunday, April 29...good luck!

April 25, 2012

Earth Day Celebration and CRAFT

I'll admit I was a bit belated in our acknowledgment of Earth Day.  Saturday and Sunday were so grey...no sight of the sun...the brilliant greens and blues and yellows that I typically associate with our planet just weren't top of mind.

Thankfully Monday was much brighter, and this mama was much more creatively inspired.

We started our discussion with Curious George and the Rocket, and how George travels into space.  The girls and I looked online at a few satellite pictures of the Earth.  We talked about the blue water, the mostly green continents, and the white clouds.  We compared those pictures to the world map that we look at every day.

I had the girls use watercolors to paint the back side of a small white paper plate.  I encouraged them to use mostly blue, with some green and purple, if they'd like, to represent the oceans.  I reminded them that any white spaces would look like clouds.

Baby A followed directions almost exactly.  B got a little more free-form with her colors, incorporating some red, brown, yellow, and black...perhaps a representation of what the world might look like if we don't take better care of it...ACK!

I had cut 1/2" squares of light green tissue paper that I thought would stick to the wet paint to form the land masses.  It didn't adhere like I'd thought, though, so I told the girls we'd continue our project later in the day, after the paint dried.

The next morning, we again looked at the online pictures, and I told the girls I was going to "draw" some continents on their globes with glue.  Piece by piece, they filled in the glue outline with the tissue paper.






I absolutely love the way these turned out...particularly how the glue shows through the tissue paper in places, creating some cool shades and textures. 

 

We also talked about ways to take care of the Earth.  I was impressed that the girls named a long list of initiatives for their daddy at the end of the day, including...recycle, don't waste, no cigarette smoke (which was an example I gave of pollution...HA!).

April 24, 2012

A Bit About Me, April Edition


My birthday is on February 23, and on the 23rd(-ish) of each month, I share a little something about me...usually of a pretty random variety.

Here's April's randomness...

39)  I used to bite my nails.

I grew up a nail-biter, and I think it was in the sixth grade that I finally quit.  I would regress from time to time throughout high school and college, but for the most part, I realized I liked the look of manicured nails.  I specifically remember the last time I fell off the wagon…election night in 2004…and a nail-biter, that was!  I can’t remember if my hang nails lasted throughout all the hanging chad controversy, though.  ;)

40)  I sometimes have trouble getting rid of things…

…especially favorite articles of clothing.  I had the yummiest pair of corduroy pants in college.  I wore them until the seat literally wore out.  There was no way to fix them, but the thought of throwing them away made me teary-eyed.  I had Hubby do it, out of my sight.  Just put them out of their misery,” I begged him.

And this past week, I lost a favorite pair of flip-flops.  They needed to have been put to pasture probably two years ago…but I just couldn’t find a suitable replacement.  They had been relegated to my “garage shoes”, but they still got substantial wear.  I was traipsing around in the yard, and they BROKE.  Once again, Hubby came to the rescue and disposed of the evidence.  Sniff, sniff.

***
If you haven't entered my GIVEAWAY from Usborne Children's Books, you have until Sunday, April 29, to do so...hope you'll check it out, and good luck!!!
 
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