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August 31, 2012

Weekly Awareness: Creating in a Place of My Own

I have always love to craft.  That was easily my favorite part of Girl Scouts, and I always relished art day at school.  My mom was a crafter, too, and I remember many hours spent spread out over the kitchen table, sharing scissors and glue and ribbon and yarn.

As an adult, I've gone through my craftier times...I was on a huge Christmas ornament kick for a few years.  I've done needlework and I've made jewelry.  Over the past 10 or so years, though, I've leaned much more towards the realm of stationery and scrapbooking.

I tend to work in the kitchen...but that largely means I'm working at night, after the girls are in bed and my chores are done.  That's all fine...but the downside is that I have to pull everything out, and then put it all away at the end of the night.  I tend not to get my goodies out very often, unless I have a large chunk of time I can dedicate, as it's not been worth the spread-out and clean-up hassle.

I finally decided this week to act on something I've been thinking about for a long time.

I moved my scrapbooking supplies (which are nicely organized in several flat-bottomed totes [31 brand]) to our upstairs guest room.  We have an antique dresser there that sits low to the floor...about the height of the bed...and I'd been dreaming about spreading out there, working on my knees.

While I have missed having all my paper and punches downstairs a time or two, during crafting with the girls, I've gotten so much scrapbooking done this week!

My goal has been to finish my BFF's scrapbook from the baby shower I hosted for her...almost 2 1/2 years ago...gulp.  I'm so proud to report that it's DONE!

For the first time in my scrapbooking career, I was able to do multiple layouts at once, so that everything would tie together.  Instead of having to pack everything away, though, risking the loss of my groove, I could leave the layouts, ready for final assembly.

I feel so accomplished at FINALLY having finished her book.  (I'll admit it was a big undertaking...I scrapped all THREE of her showers.)  Just as importantly, I had such a blast CREATING.  It's good for my soul, and -- given my new set-up -- there wasn't an undertone of dread at the process.

This is a good reminder to me...to be AWARE of the things that make me happy...and find ways to make those things happen.

I'm linking up with Marcia today for her CREATE challenge.  Thanks, Marcia, for the crafting inspiration...but even more for the constant inspiration to do things that make us happy.  :)

And of course I want to share a couple of my favorite layouts!

This is the shower I helped host.  The decorations were clothelines, strung with bibs and mittens and booties.  I love the clothesline I made of twine for the bottom pic, strung with miniature baby clothes!

I love the top left page, with the circular "belly" picture...Alison's hands, along with her mom's and sis's.  I also love the "tags" I made on the bottom left page, to note a couple of special foods / drinks.

Another clothesline on the bottom left page, and a nod to sock monkeys -- a special surprise gift -- on the bottom right page.

From Alison's family shower...she got an Alabama plate and cup set.  That inspired the houndstooth corners against the pink gingham.  LOVE!
Can you tell I had fun???

August 30, 2012

Where Is Heaven on the Map, and Other Tough Questions Posed by Three-Year Olds


We lost one of our kitties to kidney failure when the girls were about 15 months old.  I can’t imagine they remember him, but they see pictures of him and hear us talk about him.  They know that “Misha is in Heaven”.

At first they were satisfied with that explanation.  Over the past few months, they’ve started to ask why Misha moved to Heaven…when can we go visit him…and most recently Baby A asked, “Mommy, where is Heaven on the map?

I have explained as best I could that Misha was very sick, and that he went to Heaven to be with God so he could feel well again.  Whew.  I want to be careful that they don’t think “you go to Heaven” when you get sick…as in, catch the flu.

[I remember my little cousin, when she was about five, lost her dog.  Her parents told her that they had to put the dog to sleep and that he was buried behind the vet’s office.  A few months later she had to have a medical procedure, and her parents explained the doctor would put her to sleep.  She became hysterical, screaming, “I don’t want to be buried behind the vet’s office!  That impressed upon me how careful I need to be with my words!]

As to the geography question, I explained to the girls that Heaven is a very big concept, one they’ll understand better when they get older.  It’s a place in our hearts and in our minds.  We can’t take an airplane to get there.”

We’ve had that conversation a couple of times this week, and they seem to be trying to grasp it…at least relative to a three-year old level.

The girls are full of tough questions these days.  Last week they saw someone holding a sign, begging for money (a rarity in this area).  Sometimes people don’t have enough money, and they need to ask other people for help,” I told them when they asked why he was holding his sign by the side of the road.  I tied back to how we donated our old refrigerator, and we cleaned out our closets recently, giving those things to people who needed them.

If he needs money, why doesn’t he go to school to work?” Baby A asked.  [The girls know their daddy goes to school to work to make money for the things we need.]  Whew.  Another toughie, for sure.

Other challenging subjects over the past couple of weeks have been adoption, government, and taxes.

Seriously?  You’re three.  I didn’t expect to have to address the hard stuff for at least another couple of years!

I’m glad the girls are curious, that they’re trying to understand.  I just hope my mind can form the right words to explain things to them…keeping at an age-appropriate level, and protecting their tender hearts, too.  At the same time, I don’t want to sugar-coat the world for them.  I can only say I’m doing my best to approach subjects with an open mind and an open heart, my ultimate hope that they will form their own opinions one day.

This.is.hard.

August 29, 2012

Look Who's Ready for Some Football!

Our dear friend Miss Rachel made the girls the cutest Alabama blouses.  They asked to wear them on Monday, and they were actually giddy about having their pictures taken.  (I always jump on that kind of rare opportunity!)  The sun was a little brighter that morning than they'd probably bargained for, but I got a couple of gems...



It's that wonderful time of year again, the anticipation of the start of football season.  I'm so ready!  This time of year makes me think of gorgeous college campuses...a hint of fall in the air...tailgates and ballgame food...and great friends and family.

We have yet to take the girls to their first Bama game...I'm thinking next year will probably make sense for us to make the trip...but -- even a couple of states removed from the Heart of Dixie -- we still celebrate kickoff in full Bama regalia.

Here's a little look back at our celebratory gear...

Season 1, ~7 months old...the first picture of them both smiling!

Season 2, 20 months...the day of the Penn State Game game.

Season 3, 2 1/2 years old...sporting their new jerseys and giving a hearty ROLL TIDE!

We're definitely ready for some football in our house!  (At least Daddy and I are...the girls are just excited about wearing their Bama gear, and that's OK, too.)

I'm linking up with Ms. Cheryl at Twinfatuation for Way Back When-esday.  Thanks -- as always -- for the inspiration to dig through my photo files.  I always love the walk down Memory Lane.  :)



August 28, 2012

Pre-Reading Skills


I never sat down and said, “I’m going to teach my girls the alphabet.”  They’ve had a pretty good working knowledge of it for a long time now, which I largely attribute to a handful of books and a couple of puzzles.

When the girls were a little more than two, they got really interested in puzzles…the wooden ones with the chunky block pieces.  After they’d mastered the handful of animal puzzles we had, I found a couple of great alphabet puzzles.  They first conquered this uppercase one.  
 

I’m sure at first they were just filling in the slots by shape, but after a while of me cheering, “Yeah!  You just found the ‘S’!” or “Only two letters left…who wants to put in the ‘R’?” they started naming letters on t-shirts and signs.  I’ll never forget Baby A galloping past the dishwasher, barely slowing as she called out, “B-O-S-C-H!

I later introduced this puzzle, which helped the girls learn their lower-case letters.
 

In addition to puzzles, we have been reading several alphabet books, such as Dr. Seuss’s ABC and B is for Bear, since the girls were teeny-tiny.  Curious George’s ABCs is my very favorite, since the illustrations show the letter drawn into a picture.

Starting when the girls were about 21 months old, they have been able to fill in the blanks with many of their favorite books.  All I have to say is, “Big B, little b, what begins with B?” and they easily spout off, “Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumblebee!  [The entire line came later than 21 months, of course, but that marked the start of their completing sentences from books.]

Finally, one of our favorite children’s CDs has a great A-B-C song.  After a few standard renditions, it names one word that begins with each letter of the alphabet.  A, apple…B, boy…C, cat…D, dog…  The girls have known that song for quite a while, too.

So…where are we now???

At 3 ½, I think the girls have a pretty good start on pre-reading skills.  The know all their letters – upper- and lower-case – and they are also pretty good at identifying the sounds different letters make.

Mommy, what does ‘happy’ start with?

I can feed them a couple of clues…”a HOUSE on a HILL”…or ”HUNGRY HORSE, HEN in HAT”…and they’ll proudly proclaim, “H!!!

I’m challenging them now by asking them, “What do YOU think it starts with?

Just another progression…fitting the pieces together…making it fun.  There again, I don’t think they realize they’re learning!

August 26, 2012

Super Stuff on a Sunday


It's been a very good week.  The girls have continued to enjoy their time at preschool.  Along with that, we've had a great mix of family and friends and down time at home.  I might even call it super-fabulous!

1)      On Saturday morning we went for a great hike at a park near our house.  It’s so nice to get our blood moving as a family, and it just so happens that the trail ends right by the playground, which keeps everybody moving at a nice, healthy pace.

2)      On Sunday afternoon we went to celebrate Aunt Karen’s MBA graduation at a beautiful reception.  The girlies were so cute in their pink flamingo-print dresses, and they were such little ladies, enjoying all the yummy finger foods.  It was so much fun to see a lot of my former colleagues, and to introduce them to my girlies (outside of Facebook).

3)      Following the reception, we ran home to change into our cookout clothes to join a farewell party that our dear friends Rachel and family were hosting.  I loved seeing our girls playing with their friends, and our whole family relaxing with such a super group of people.  And…I was so proud of our adventurous girls for sampling – multiple bites! – of my Aussie burger (topped with pineapple, beets, sautéed onions and mushrooms, to name just a few of the ingredients).

4)      On Wednesday morning the girls and I went for a great walk in the neighborhood.  It’s been incredibly hot most of the summer, and we’ve really missed making our rounds. 

5)      As part of our walk, we stopped by to see our sweet neighbor, “Grandma” June.  She and I sat on a bench in her backyard and caught up a bit, while the girls played so nicely in her yard, coming by every few minutes to check in. 

6)      After a glorious nap (HALLELUJAH!) on Wednesday afternoon, I took the girls for frozen yogurt.  It was a very nice way to celebrate their accomplishment (i.e. settling for a nap).  ;)

7)      During the farewell party on Sunday, several of us decided we weren’t seeing enough of each other.  We made tentative plans to meet at the park on Thursday afternoon.  It’s one of those things we couldn’t have planned better if we’d tried…FIVE FAMILIES of twins made it out to play together that day! 

8)      Included in the FIVE FAMILIES at the park were my sweet, sweet friend Jenny and her family.  I’ve blogged about her several times before…she and her hubby have been working for over TWO YEARS to adopt.  They returned home from the Congo on Tuesday with their precious blessings E&J, and we got to meet them for the first time on Thursday.  My heart is still smiling at seeing their whole family together.

9)      On Saturday we made an impromptu decision (based on coupon expiration dates) to go shopping in Nashville.  Daddy and the girls did so well hanging out, having a snack, while I got my errands done in one store.  We then got the girls new shoes for the fall, and enjoyed a yummy lunch at Macaroni Grill.  Since the girls had been so well-behaved, we treated them to a ride on the carousel.  It was such a nice – and productive! – day.

10)   We always buy Shell brand gasoline.  When we were leaving the mall on Saturday, though, the only station nearby was not our beloved Shell.  We pulled in, and Baby B nearly came apart.  Mommy!!!  This is not our gas station?!!!  And I guess that’s how brand loyalty is inadvertently born.

11)   Every once in a while I’ll think to ask the girls what they want to be when they grow up.  B usually says a doctor, or a vet; and A is pretty consistent with saying she wants to be a teacher.  They both always follow that up with, …and a mommy.  So sweet.

12)   Whereas it was a regular mid-summer routine, we haven’t been counting as much with the girls lately.  I was very pleasantly surprised when first Baby A, and then B, could both count by 10’s to 100, and by 100’s to 1,000.  I love seeing their minds work!

Very thankful for such a great week with my girlies.  :)  :)

August 24, 2012

Schedule Woes


Two weeks in, and the girls are enjoying school so much.  They seem to love playing with the other kids, singing new songs, and the activities they do make for plenty of new pretend play fodder.  They are much more attune to the days of the week now.  Our former markers were “the garbage truck comes on Mondays” and “Daddy is home on Saturdays and Sundays”.  Now they are acutely aware of Tuesdays and Thursdays, too.

The only negative to date is that we’re still trying to find our groove with the girls’ school-day schedule.

Our daily schedule has been running along these lines:

6:30:      get up
7:30:      eat breakfast
9:30:      snack
11:30:    eat lunch
12:15:    snuggle on the couch to read books before nap
1:00:      nap
2:30:      up from nap / eat snack
5:30:      eat supper
6:45:      start bedtime routine
7:15:      girls in bed

Since the girls were born, I have stuck to a schedule.  It’s VERY rare that we deviate from what we do every day…what works for us.

The girls’ school starts at 9:00.  That allows us plenty of time to snuggle and play as usual in the mornings.  The issue is that they don’t finish until 12:00.  We come straight home, and I have lunch waiting…but it’s still usually about 1:00 when we are finishing our meal.

The girls are SO TIRED at the end of school.  SO…VERY…TIRED. 

We make it through lunch, and settle down with our books, and they still seem so utterly exhausted.

But…they’re STRUGGLING to settle down for nap time, especially Baby A. 

Based on our occasional nap challenges over the past couple of years, I believe my girls to be pretty sensitive to time frames.  If I miss their nap window by too much, it’s not a good thing.  I think they get a second wind, and all bets are off.

Yesterday we had a really efficient lunch (the girls seemed to inhale their food).  We read a handful of books, and they asked to go for nap.  We were actually only a few minutes late to our usual schedule.

But y’all…it was bad.  B-A-D. 

After about 15 minutes of silence, Baby A started calling me…about her blanket…she needed potty…she wanted to sleep with me (which is not an option).  Then Baby B was begging her sister to be quiet.  Sissy!  Be quiet!  We need to sleep!  Please!!!

I’ll spare the ugly details of the next hour, but our time-out chair got lots of use.

The rest of the afternoon was painful.  The girls were so utterly exhausted, and that’s not good for anyone.  We had a quick bath and started bedtime at 6:30.  They were lights out at 6:45, and I didn’t hear one peep until 6:30 on the dot this morning.

So…

I’ve hurried to adhere to our usual schedule, and that doesn’t seem to do the trick.

My next tact is to try to give them that 45-minute play / snuggle time after lunch, recognizing we’ll be going for our nap considerably later than usual.

Thoughts???

This was one of my biggest reservations in them starting school.  To date, I’ve been able to structure our days according to their schedule.  I hate seeing my babies so uncomfortable.

Sigh.
 
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