Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with the old, in with the zoo

Before the Christmas gifts entered our house, I knew the play room was reaching its saturation point.  It wasn't completely overrun with toys, but no more cars would fit in the car cubby.  Pull one book from the shelf, and three close neighbors would escape with it. 

We know we are very fortunate that Sophie and Michael are given new toys so generously by family and friends.  Even a new neighbor said she ran into Santa and brought over a couple of goodies for them.  But in order to keep our little home functional and moderately attractive (and to keep my sanity), I knew the full load of Santa's sleigh would have to be dealt with differently this year.

Here was my solution:


Mike took some outgrown baby equipment from our basement living space and storage room (baby bath tub, jumperoo, etc.) to a local resale shop to free up some of our prized real estate.  Although I still have several bins of outgrown clothes and smaller items to sell, we just couldn't wait for a mom-to-mom sale for everything. 

In the storage room I stacked six new clear bins of toys that previously resided on shelves in the play room.  Let's be honest, this was all just another excuse to put my love of sorting and my label maker to work.  We have a bin for books, another for instruments, one for stuffed animals, and so on.  I also bought one huge tub for larger plastic toys and intend to rotate everything through the play room again over time.

New table

Old beads, meet new push and pull toys.

I should have taken a before picture.  But trust me, this is a much lighter load.

For the time being, the selection upstairs is a tad sparse.  However, Michael and Sophie seemed perfectly satisfied with some go-to favorites and a handful of thoughtfully chosen new toys this afternoon.  I look forward to introducing some brand new ones in the weeks to come and making some old toys new again after some time out of sight works its magic.

Where there used to be a jumperoo and exersaucer

While I'd love to move into a larger home, for now I'll have to keep the old gear flowing out as new items come in and find other creative solutions as needed.  Perhaps one option down the road will be to convert our basement living space into a larger play room.  Today, thankfully, out with the old and some reorganizing made room for the new.  Welcome home, horsies!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Letter to Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

Since at 20-months-old Michael and Sophie don't really get the Christmas thing just yet, we know you'll keep their gifts to a minimum again this year. They've both been amazingly good all year long, consoling each other when hurt or sick, giving out hugs and kisses to their loved ones, and growing beautifully in all ways.  Admittedly, they are your typical toddlers who need reminders about sharing and test the limits by pushing the buttons on the T.V. and standing up on the couch, but I'm proud of how they do cooperate and respond to corrections most of the time. 

I think Sophie and Michael would love to have a pair of  Melissa and Doug Frolicking Frogs, two Green Toys Tugboats, and a pair of Plan Toys Walk N Rolls to play with together.  I checked a lot of reviews and believe these toys will be fun, safe, and are made by companies with commendable priorities, not unlike your own workshop.  My peanuts are also starting to grow out of their 12-month-sized clothes and could use a couple pairs of 18-month-sized pajamas and a couple of outfits each, fleece ones from Carters...or whatever your elves can whip up.

I'm so looking forward to seeing Michael and Sophie's eyes fill with excitement this Christmas morning.  As much as I appreciated the Atari, the Care Bear, and the Cabbage Patch Kids, I know that my kids' joy will be the best gift I've ever seen by the light of a tree.

Merry Christmas, Santa!

Love,
Michael and Sophie's Mom

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy (but screaming in terror) Holidays!


Last night we attended the holiday party at Michael and Sophie's child care center for the second year. The center provides dinner, pictures with Santa, crafts, and performances by the kids. 

Above are the Rudolph ornaments the kids made (clearly with a lot of help from their teachers) and gave to us as gifts.  They're shatter-proof and adorable, a great little project one could even do at home with older kids.

Another cute idea I saw there was a large, cut-out paper Christmas tree on the classroom wall that the toddlers "decorated" with stick-on Christmas wrapping bows as one of the party activities.  Their teacher could hardly remove the backing from each ribbon fast enough, the kids enjoyed this so much.  One of those might pop up on the playroom wall at home over the next few days.

As we stood in line to meet the big guy, Sophie spotted Santa's face on a poster, smiled, and said his name clearly for the first time.  We've been pointing out pictures of Santa, talking about sitting with him with excitement in our voices, but every time we've asked the kids if they wanted to see him, they clearly said, "No."  Every time. Our hopes weren't very high, but we continued trying to psyche the kids up as we made our way up the line, directing their attention to happy preschoolers on Santa's lap joyfully listing their Christmas wishes. 

But our efforts did no good.  Michael clutched my sweater and squeezed my waist with his knees as we made the final approach.  He let out a whimper, and we knodded to Santa and the teacher-photographer to take a standing-up family portrait.  Even that elicited a terror that I have never seen on my children's faces.  As Sophie caught a glimpse of Santa over Mike's shoulder, her face twitched and contorted, and she squirmed to get away, presumably thinking Santa planned to eat her for dinner along with the organic green beans and whole wheat mostacolli.

Last year's picture is of Sophie and Michael stoically tolerating their moment on Santa's lap, but we're now yet another family with a kid-screams-at-Santa photo, not even one that's so bad it's funny. 

Now for the famous last words: maybe next year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, good, I'm healthy.

I guess it figures that on a day that I stay at home with Michael and Sophie (due to Sophie being sick), a study like this would be making the rounds.  It concluded that working moms are typically "healthier" than stay-at-home moms, but moms who work part-time are the big winners.

Whatever.

Although I admittedly turn a jealous shade of green around moms who have part-time and/or work-from-home arrangements, I shake my head at this study not out of bitterness.  I feel contempt because to work or not to work (like to breastfeed or not to breastfeed, disposable diapers or cloth, minivan or crossover, public or private) is a choice that ultimately comes down to what is best for your specific family in your particular circumstances.

For some moms the to-work or not-to-work choice is a no-brainer, but for many others including myself it just isn't. After a year and a half as a full-time teacher and mom, the choice I made to work still sends me spinning now and then.  Ultimately the ride winds down as I land on the belief that I'm giving Sophie and Michael the best upbringing I can with my family's arrangement.

I sort of feel the need to explain this further with our daily/weekly/yearly routines and a glimpse into our finances.  I'm going to resist that.  Those details are specific to us and probably wouldn't really offer much insight for anyone reading this. 

The fact is that this decision is a complex one.  It's not a matter of choosing to be either a stereotypically warm and nurturing stay-at-home-mom or an equally cartoonish cold and distant working one.  Nor is it between being a healthy and fulfilled working mom or a depressed stay-at-home one with heart disease. 

The conclusion of my own study conducted over 33 years of living in this world is this:  there are both stay-at-home moms and working moms who suck at parenting.  Both can also be amazing.  Generalizations do absolutely no good.  The last thing any well-intentioned family needs as they weigh the many options along the parenting journey is judgemental commentary.

I do appreciate that the study and USA Today article emphasized that part-time work for moms is healthy for everyone involved and that this option is not a realistic one for many when health insurance, career advancement, and other benefits are typically limited for part-time employees. I would love it if that was what our culture took from this research, and employers and others with the power to make this a more workable option for families would attempt to do so.

But the local news story I saw on this study didn't empasize that messsage, and neither did the people who commented on the online article.  My gut reaction to this study, the contempt, frustration, and overall annoyance is really about the divisiveness. 

It seems our society has a hard time looking at the full complexity of issues like this, and that, along with health insurance and a savings account, leads me to kiss my kids good-bye in the morning and head back to my classroom.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Must be Santa!


We're going to pretend the kids got hungry while waiting for Santa and ate the cookies and milk, not that their mother neglected to prepare those details in the staging process.  I think it's a pretty cute picture anyway, taken at Mike's parents' house yesterday while there for his grandpa's 90th birthday.  Yup, I said 90th!

This is also the debut of the Christmas morning pajama pants that I made for the kids, my first garments ever.  Stay tuned for a better shot of those after the big day as well as my future appearance on Project Runway.  I plan to rock a toddler jammies challenge someday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

She's at it again


I think this wall has been decorated and redecorated more than any other in my 50+ year old home.

When envisioning the kids' room before they were born (yep, back two years ago), the image included black and white newborn photos.  An old friend was just taking her photography to the professional level when Michael and Sophie were born and captured some remarkable images of my little buds.  I made and ordered a photo book and various prints here and there, and even included a couple close-ups of the babies' feet in the scrapbook page frames I did hang on the wall.  But that really wasn't what I had in mind when I stared at those nursery walls with my belly out to there.  I admittedly have an addiction to redecorating in small ways, but when I look at this arrangement I sigh, finally satisfied by its simplicity and the appropriate display of a couple of my favorite photos.


See more of Alison Claire Photography here.

I was happy to find frames in the same antiqued bronze finish of the dresser knobs for a good price over Thanksgiving weekend.  They look darker in these pics.


The box shelves and scrapbook frames that were previously above the dresser will reappear in the playroom in the coming days.  I do love those. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taking pictures

I spent some time on Thanksgiving as a photographer's assistant, but the results weren't what we hoped for.  My mother-in-law wanted to get a picture of Michael and Sophie to send out with her Christmas cards, but things went the way these things sometimes do.  It looked a lot like this:


This was the day I tried to get Michael and Sophie's 17-month picture.   I don't normally take quite so many pictures in one attempt.  The idea for this video came to me after a few shots, so I tried to capture more of the acrobatics that often go into this ritual.  Picking out some photos for my in-laws to use in their Christmas cards just now I was reminded that I never posted this. 

The first picture is what I actually used. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving at Mike's parents' house yesterday and that alone is something to be thankful for this year.  His dad looks great and is getting around with little evidence of the physical challenges he's faced this year.  His mom made a delicious dinner and is in good health as well.  Our families get along great, so my parents and brother joined us there this year along with Michael and Sophie's Gigi and Papa (Mike's mom's parents) and some family friends.

We made some fantastic memories including:

 - continuing the tradition Mike started as a kid of putting black olives on his fingertips at the dinner table...Michael and Sophie fed their parents in this manner

 - the kids hiding in the hallway and entering on cue ("Where did Michael and Sophie go?") to be greeted with enthusiastic applause...all 27 times

 - Michael refusing to nap but conking out for all of five minutes on Grandpa's shoulder...only to be woken by Mama bumping his foot as she tried to transfer him to a Pack and Play

 - the kids high-fiving Papa again and again

 - Michael sharing pumpkin pie with Daddy and Sophie requesting bite after bite of just the crust (good work, Mom!)

And here are a few more moments:

The song is "Make Someone Happy" performed by Seal.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Famliversary

It's officially a tradition.  On the day before Thanksgiving, Mike, the kids, and I fill ourselves with the kitchiest kitch around by going up to Frankenmuth, spending some time at Bronner's, and hitting a few stores in the outlet mall at Birch Run.  I considered skipping the trip this year, but I'm glad we didn't.  There's nothing like a couple of one-and-a-half year olds to bring a Christmas store to life.  Here's a little glimpse of our visit to Bronner's.

The song is "Merry Christmas Baby" performed by Otis Redding.


Here's last year's post that explains the tradition.

This past weekend we went downtown Detroit for Christmas Wonderfest.  Seeing my two favorite faces watching the ice skaters, looking up at the big Christmas tree, and even dancing in their high chairs at the Hard Rock Cafe made it clear to me that this year Christmas is going to be crazy fun. 

But first, let's eat some turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

- Rockin' with Grandma -

While the kids were sitting in the rocking chair this afternoon, my mom started singing a new version of "Rock-a-Bye Baby" that involved a chair instead of a tree and no little ones falling to the ground.  Michael and Sophie rocked and clapped along.


I considered using this as their nineteen-month picture but went with one from yesterday instead.  I thought this one still deserved a little attention.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lazy Monkeys

For weeks our Five Little Monkeys finger puppets have been miracle workers.  I pop them on my fingers, start bouncing my hand up and down, and let the kids take one at a time off as I sing the little song. Countless tears have turned into playful giggles.

Then Mike made things difficult.  He's been sharing Bruno Mars' video for "The Lazy Song" with the kids.  Not entirely toddler-appropriate, but it's available on demand, and Sophie and Michael have come to really like it.  Today Mike took it a step further and started singing that song complete with whistles while dancing the little puppets around.  It was clever, cute, and got Michael dancing (although that kid dances light classical).


Unfortunately when I tried to sing the original song, Michael would have none of it.  He even attempted to whistle to communicate my error.  Since I'm much more comfortable singing Five Little Monkies, I'm hoping a good nights' sleep wipes the finger puppets' most recent performance from the kids' little memories!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Monkeys


Michael and Sophie have a couple of new best friends.  Thank you, Uncle Nick and Aunt Molly!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Party

For the second year in a row, Mike and I took the kids to a Halloween party at a small farm.  Here's last year for comparison.

This year the animals were a much bigger hit.  However, learning "moo," baa," boo," and "bye-bye" all around the same time can be tricky.  Cows sometimes say "boo" and sheep occasionally say "bye-bye."


Gotta love the tippy-toes.



Watching the kids dance around one day, this costume idea came to me.  Ten minutes later, I'd found Sophie's Gymboree poodle-skirt costume complete with tags and Michael's leather jacket on eBay.  Right sizes, right prices...ours.

Sophie looooved this rocking horse and we think she'll be asking Santa for something similar this year.  Perhaps his elves should make two?

Mike's parents and my mom came along today.  It was Mike's dad's first real outing since his illness, and it was great to see him getting around so well.  I suspect the photo above will become Grammie's desktop wallpaper very soon.  :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

More peas, please!

Instead of saying my twins are a boy and a girl, I might start saying one's an herbivore and the other's a carnivore. 

Check out the trays, a pretty typical dinner time scenario.


Both kids were given cut up pork chop and fork-mashed peas, and both were asking for "moah" (more) when their trays looked like this.  If you can't tell, Sophie still has plenty of pork and Michael has a toddler-sized handful of peas at his reach. 

They're both good eaters, but they clearly have their preferences!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bye-bye Summer

Sunday was an unseasonably warm October day, and we found ourselves grateful for the late taste of summer.   


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mom-to-Mom Loot


Sophie "bowling"

I sold in a fall mom-to-mom sale and made about $200 off of Sophie and Michael's 6-12 month gear. But if you subract what I paid for the tricycles, wooden puzzles, and outfit for Sophie that I bought at that sale...and the stuff I bought this morning at another sale...I'm only up about $100 in the mom-to-mom game. Seems fair enough to me, though.


These are the tricycles.  While setting up my own stuff at the sale, I spoke to the seller as she priced them at $35 each.  She said she paid about double that, and online searches confirmed that's the average price ($50 + shipping was the best I could find for them new).  Michael and Sophie aren't tricycle-ready yet, so these will probably make an appearance under the Christmas tree or after birthday cake in April.


Above is what picked up this morning at our neighborhood elementary school's mom-to-mom sale.  Aside from more shoes and boots, we're all set on clothes right now, so I came home again feeling like Santa.  I'm sure I could have done better if I'd haggled a little bit, but for $25 I picked up a wooden block train set, a wooden puzzle (see my obsession below), a soft bowling set, a Five Little Monkeys board book with finger puppets, five other books (three of my favorites and two holiday ones), two CDs, and two drum/maraca/tamborine sets.  Like the tricycles, I couldn't resist the instrument sets because there were two of them, one pink and one blue.  I'm hopeless in that scenario.  Let's hope I never encounter a pair of ponies for sale.


My latest obsession at these sales and at resale shops is wooden toys.  The ones above were all purchased used in the last few months.  While Sophie and Michael certainly have their share of plastic toys that we love, health and environmental concerns drive me to keep them to a minimum.  Toys made of other materials tend to be pricey, so buying used seems to be the way to go. Since plastic toys are easy to clean and giving them a second go around keeps them out of landfills, I suppose it's better just to buy everything used!


We've spent a lot of time having fun with the new toys today, especially the instruments and the train.  I didn't get a chance to really show Sophie and Michael how the bowling set worked.  I had about five of the animal pins set up when they started knocking them down with their hands and feet.  That produced enough giggles for us to consider that "bowling" for now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Visiting Grandpa

I had to take a few pictures of the kids in the sweaters Grammie brought back from France before heading out to visit Grandpa on Saturday.

In September the four of us started  a routine of visiting Mike's dad in the hospital on Saturday afternoons.  Michael and Sophie are still a little nervous around hospital equipment, but they've come to enjoy toddling down the long hallways and dancing on the table in the visitor's room--it's a thing now.

This week Michael and Sophie brought gifts.  I printed a message for Mike's dad and one for Mike's mom on card stock and taped the paper to highchair trays for the kids to color.  Trading crayons back and forth held most of their attention at first, but they eventually created masterpieces.

This ordeal certainly isn't over, but Mike's dad is recovering well. Whether he'll go home in a wheelchair or with a walker is uncertain at this point, but Mike Sr. has obviously put his mind to getting back on his feet as soon as possible.

While I don't love the idea of my kids facing difficult challenges in their lives, I know tough times are likely to come along.  I hope Michael and Sophie will be inspired in those situations by the story of Grandpa's recovery, a tale of facing a very frightening challenge with a positive attitude and hard work.  We'll see how this tale ends, but I trust it's of the happily ever after variety.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Watch your language

I believe we're on the brink of having two little language sponges on our hands.

Following directions is like a game right now.  Overnight it seemed that saying, "Sophie, bring me your pants, please," or "Michael, let's read Going on a Bear Hunt," actually started making them stand up and go get stuff, and the specific stuff I mention.  Sometimes the kids will be playing in their bedroom, starting to get into drawers or climb on the ottoman, and I'll say, "Come on, let's go out the door," to stop the mischeif, and they do it happily.  I suspect this will change once they're two or three, but for now I'm marvelling at their intelligence and cooperation.

As far as actually speaking, they've been saying "kitty," mama," dada" and "hi" for a while. Now both are saying "more," ball," yeah," bye," and will repeat back sounds like "moo" and "vroom-vroom."  They also enjoy mimicing intonations and melody, something Sophie seemed to do even as a newborn.

So I guess we better take a tip from Up All Night and cool it on the cussing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hello Good-bye

When I returned to work last month after our second summer together, the kids went through an emotional phase.  Sophie would snuggle and follow me around in the morning, tears flowing as soon as my purse appeared.  For weeks they both kept a close eye on Mike and me when out of the house together, sounding the alarm if one of us strayed too far or out of view.  But now that the routine is re-established, the tears are rare and usually alleviated in the morning by asking the two of them to wave good-bye out the window. 

With so many greetings and departures over the last few weeks, Michael has also developed a sincere and heartwarming "bye-bye."  He likes to say it and wave at the ends of books and before naps and bedtime.  Sometimes he pokes his foot out of his sleep sack as I'm zipping it up and waves with his toes while he says it.

With construction on my work commutes, non-stop technology problems at work, and added pressure and responsibilities for teachers in general, returning to work has been less than smooth this year.  But I'm feeling more at ease now, and Sophie and Michael clearly are as well--it's surely a reciprocal kind of thing. 

Off we go to another school year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I like to do things twice.

I very rarely get DIY projects right the first time.  Painting the mobiles, arranging the scrapbook page frames, and now making the babies' pillows--all done twice.  As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I felt I rushed the pillows I made last month and have just not been happy with them. 

Here's take two:

Better, I think.

Here's what they looked like before:

Blech, right?

 
But now I'm thinking I might take the new picture over again in the daylight.  It never ends!

Monday, August 22, 2011

DIY Nap Mats

When visiting the child care center a few weeks ago, I was reminded that in addition to diapers, sunscreen, extra clothes, and a set of sippy cups for water, Michael and Sophie would need nap items like small blankets and crib sheets to go over their cots.  The director mentioned that one of the kids had a little nap mat with a blanket and pillow attached that rolled up like a sleeping bag.  She said his mom got it at Buy Buy Baby and that we could get a couple of those if we wanted.

When at Buy Buy Baby a few days later I spotted the nap mats, but at about $30 each, a $60 investment for the two, I opted out.

Soon after that I saw a DIY nap mat tutorial on the Prudent Baby website, and I felt inspired. I felt a tad intimidated as well, but I tried to focus on the inspired part. 

Here's how they turned out.  I'm pretty impressed with myself, I have to say.






If I was going for cost savings, this project was a total failure.  After peeking around online and totalling up the cost of making them myself, I see now that those $30 mats are a bargain.  However, I really took this project on for the sewing practice, and that I got!

I bought anti-pill fleece that I thought would feel familiar to Michael and Sophie since it's much like the sleep sacks we use at home. Fabric appropriately masculine for even a male toddler is tough to find. I chose two-toned green for Michael and two-toned purple for Sophie, happily venturing away from the usual blues and pinks.

I made the pillows removable for the mats' weekly cleaning like a later tutorial suggested, shortened the dimensions a bit, and attached Michael and Sophie's names. I really wanted to practice using bias tape, but I only did so on the blanket part (the tutorial uses it on every edge). Fleece doesn't really need finishing, I was eager to trim the cost of this project down, and being my first attempt at bias tape I felt less would just be more. I did ok with it, but I still need a lot of practice!

The main thing I learned from my recent sewing endeavors is to slow the heck down.  I don't have entire afternoons to devote to projects anymore, and I have to embrace chunking them into pieces.  With that lesson in mind, I've recently disassembled the pillows I made last month.  I wasn't happy with how my hurried work turned out, and so far going back and taking my time is paying off.  I'll reveal those finished products soon.

I'm not sure if we'll really use these nap mats this year or if we'll wait until preschool days since Sophie and Michael don't really sleep with pillows at this point. They might be more comfortable with a blanket and a sheet or their usual sleep sacks, so I'm planning to send all three options to the center tomorrow for the teachers to choose from.  Potentially annoying, but I'm pretty sure I'm just that kind of mom.

Did I say tomorrow?  Wow, that was one fast summer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A little serendipity

It was in Paris five years ago that our little girl's name came to us. I joked that if we accidentally conceived a child on that honeymoon, we would have to name her something French, like Sophie. The connection Mike and I felt to it in that moment gave the name an edge over all others we considered during my pregnancy.

Michael's name was decided long before our honeymoon.  I knew for a decade that Mike shared his name with his dad and intended to pass it on, and I thought I supported that.  But when it came down to it, it took the entire pregnancy for me to get fully on board with our little guy not having a name all his own.  Now that I've met our kids, I see their names are just right.

I've found myself thinking back to our time in Paris a lot over the last few weeks.  Mike's parents are there right now but for reasons far less romantic than a honeymoon.  Mike Sr. was there on business in July and developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  From what we understand, his hands and feet went numb, he fell, and was taken to the hospital.  Gail flew out right away.

Soon this neurological condition led to a breathing tube and medication that has had Mike's dad in and out of consciousness and struggling to communicate.  While he's expected to make a full recovery after a period of rehabilitation, the family has been in a frightening time warp.  We were told he could be on a medical flight home "in a few days" or "sometime next week" again and again and again as setbacks kept arising.  Suddenly it's been a month.

Understandably, after weeks away from home and having only prepared for a short stay in a foreign country, Mike's mom needed someone there to share the load of this emotionally draining experience.  My husband returned to our honeymoon destination.  Although I'm never eager for the taste of single-parenthood that Mike's trips out of town give me, I've hoped that this one would give his mom some comfort, his dad a boost of healing morale, and himself some peace of mind.  Envisioning his dad so far away, uncomfortable in a hospital bed, and unable to actually speak to him for weeks has been unsettling for my husband.

I had an experience the other day that made this journey feel especially right.

At dinner on one of our Parisian honeymoon nights, Mike and I met a family from California--a mother, father, and school-aged daughter who had been traveling the country for several weeks.  The mother mentioned that she was an author of children's books and gave me one of her bookmarks, pointing out that the titles were all variations of "peek-a-boo."

While we've never actively looked for them, stumbling upon one of these books has been a casual hope of mine and Mike's all these years.  When we received some with similar titles at our baby shower last year, I dug out our honeymoon scrapbook and checked the bookmark.  We had forgotten the author's name and found that our babies' books were not written by her. 

Mike left for Paris Wednesday night, and I took Michael and Sophie to our public library in the morning to get audiobooks for him to take to his dad, my sad attempt at help.  The kids and I stopped into the children's area where they always enjoy the fish tank, playing with activity cubes, and toddling in opposite directions with destruction in their eyes.  I was momentarily distracted from protecting our community's collection of children's literature when I noticed this:


 Peek-a-Moo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti, smiling up at me from a kiddie table.  I recognized the book immediately.  It found me on the day Mike was scheduled to fly back to Paris, and that felt like a cosmic wink, a little John Cusack-style serendipity.

I checked the book out, of course, and Michael and Sophie love it.  They both sign "more" when we get to the end, telling me to read it to them again and again and again.  That's my favorite kind of time warp.  I've been reading the book to the kids every day of Mike's trip as reassurance that things are somehow working out, falling into place, and will be just fine.

During Mike's visit his dad made greater progress than any of us could have hoped for.  At this moment my husband is on his scheduled flight home, and his mom is with him.  His dad is also in the air right now, on an International SOS flight home.  The two planes should land here within hours of each other.  How's that for falling into place?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Peeeeanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly"

"First you take the peanuts and you..." well, you do your best to get that perfect picture of the two of them in their adorable onesies, but sometimes it just doesn't happen!




I'm hoping to get a picture of them both looking at the camera, or smiling, or (although it's just too much to hope for) doing both before Michael and Sophie outgrow/destroy these outfits.  I just love my PB&J!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beach Buddies

After taking a few trips to the Traverse City, MI area as a couple, Mike and I agreed it was a region we would share with our children one day.  Last weekend we made that little dream a reality.  We traded in the wine tasting for sandcastle building and found ourselves regretting not planning a longer stay. 

Four years ago Mike and I celebrated our first anniversary at same hotel we stayed at this time, but back then we were disappointed by the hundreds of feet of ankle-deep water that stretched beyond the shore with no space nearby to fully immerse oneself...unless one was only a couple feet tall.  Back then I made note of a toddler happily splashing around in water up to her hips, and I'm glad I did.

This was Michael and Sophie's first beach adventure, and despite many stumbles face-first into the water, the only tears came when we carried our shivering buddies out of the bay.




Sunday, August 7, 2011

Britax Boulevards for our Tiny Toddlers

We've gotten a number of comments in recent months about how little Michael and Sophie are.  Today a dad in a park called them "early walkers," assuming our nearly 16-month-olds were well under a year.  While they were born at 6 lbs. 6 oz. (Michael) and 6 lbs. 1 oz. (Sophie), they've lingered in the 5th-10th percentile for height and weight for most of their lives.  Right now they're both about 28 inches tall and roughly 22 pounds, wearing 12-month sized clothing and size 3 diapers with plenty of room to grow. 

I adore their teensiness, can't imagine them growing any faster, and am learning not to go into a minor mommy panic everytime I see other kids their age who are taller, chubbier, and who even refer to Michael and Sophie as "babies" themselves.  My toddlers are reaching milestones appropriately, eat like champs, and the pediatrician is not at all concerned, so I remind myself not to be.

One benefit of Sophie and Michael's small physiques is the longevity they've given our infant car seats and accessories.  We used the Baby Trend Double Snap N Go Stroller and the SnugGlider Swing Bases for far longer than we would have expected, just recently retiring the DSNG since the Baby Jogger City Mini Double fits in the back of our new van unfolded and ready to roll.  The swing bases were moved to the basement storage room a few months ago to make more space in the play room, but because the car seats kept Michael and Sophie from sitting up while swinging and the bases were so low to the ground anyway, I felt safe using them long after most swings would have been unstable.
We'll keep using the Graco Snugride 35's until Michael and Sophie reach the height or weight limits of 32 inches or 35 pounds.  However, we no longer use them as carriers and are just going to keep these seats in the Jetta like convertible seats once I go back to work.  They'll be replaced in the minivan with our recently purchased Britax Boulevard 70 CS Convertible Car Seats, enormous beasts of safety ($255 on Albee.com--a great deal compared to $329 at BRU).  Perhaps we'll go with something more compact for the Jetta once Michael and Sophie outgrow the Snugrides, but we'll see.



Regardless of what we choose for our second set of convertibles, this new phase of carseatdom is likely to cost us over $1,000 for four of them.  And we need four since Mike drops off at the child care center and I pick up.  Of course, when you consider the purpose of these seats, one can't help but be reminded that no expense is too big to help ensure the safety of our teeny, tiny cargo.  It's amazing they don't charge more with that kind of leverage.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Slouchy Stroller Solution

While I love our stroller for all of its other features, since we started using our Baby Jogger City Mini Double , I've been a little disappointed in how slouchy the seats are, how Michael and Sophie never seem able to sit completely upright.  I discovered on message boards that the 2010 versions of our stroller are sort of notorious for that, and the 2011 models came with boards to be slid into the seat backs.  You can order the boards from the manufacturer, from Amazon.com, and from other baby product websites for $15-20 each plus shipping.  Since we would need two boards, this would cost us about $60, and the idea of sinking that money into an already expensive stroller (thanks again, co-workers!) has kept me from diving into this option.

Thinking about this issue the other day, I wondered if Mike could cut some pieces of wood to slide in there.  Looking at the boards online, trying to find their dimensions, I thought, "They're basically the size of a plastic cutting board."  A moment later I was in the driveway where I'd left the stroller after a walk, opening one of the velcro backs, and sliding a cutting board back there.  Perfect.

Since we do need our plastic cutting board and we need two for the stroller anyway, yesterday we went to Home Goods, bought boards for $7 each, and easily slid them in for a quick trip around our local mall.

So if you also have a 2010 City Mini, consider this solution!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hungry Hungarians

Last week while walking through Randazzo's together, a bin of cabbage gave my mom an idea.  Several days later she was at my door with all the ingredients, and she and I made stuffed cabbage over the course of the afternoon, rolling up the leaves while the babies napped. 

Someday I'll try this one on my own, but as my mom pointed out, you really need to make these family recipes a few times with someone who really knows how in order to catch on to the subtleties.  I have a number of memories my grandma measuring ingredients with her palm and seemingly cooking by instinct, so I know what my mom means.

I also have memories of not liking chicken paprikash (usually just called "Hungarian chicken" in my family) and turning my nose up at stuffed cabbage.  I think it's over time that a kid learns to appreciate the smell of onions and paprika wafting from the kitchen.  Boiling cabbage starts to smell like family memories and actually inspires you to eat it, to request it for your birthday, to learn to make it for your own kids.

But in the beginning, one's first taste is likely to look like this,


or this,

and that's to be expected.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just some of your everyday ridiculousness

Last summer Mike and I unknowingly scheduled our individual dental cleanings with our family dentist on the same day, one hour apart.  At first we thought we had a child care conflict.  Then we realized this arrangement would work perfectly.  We'd meet at the dentist at 5:00.  I'd bring the babies and their dinner and get my teeth cleaned first while he fed them in the lobby.  At six I'd take the babies home while Mike got his teeth cleaned, and he'd pick up dinner on his way home.  We did that six months later and then again today.

When I chatted with the hygenist at the start of my appointment today, discussing the twins, my summer off, and going back to work for a second time this fall, she made one of my least favorite comments.  She said she really struggles with the idea of working once she has kids, but she knows she'll have to.  "I'd rather stay at home so I can raise my kids.  I don't want someone else to do it," she said. 

While I certainly understand her unease, as she clipped the paper bib around my neck, I assured her that even working parents are raising their kids.  A child care center, a nanny, or whoever watches your children while you work takes care of them.  You raise them.  "You'll see," I told her, a phrase that I try to use sparingly and positively as a parent talking to anyone are pre-kids.

When I returned to the lobby where Mike was packing up the kids' dinner gear, Michael and Sophie smiled up at me.  I gave their yogurty faces some kisses, and the receptionist told me I was very lucky.  I said thank you and that I agree.  "He just impressed me so much, feeding both of them like that."  Realizing she meant I was lucky to have Mike, I again agreed, saying I have a really great husband and that I couldn't imagine doing this without him.

It was later in the night that I let these two well-intentioned comments really get to me.  I wondered why nobody ever asks a man how he can do it, how he can go to work and let somebody else "raise the children"?  And why doesn't anyone ever tell Mike how lucky he is to have a wife who feeds the children, sometimes all by herself?

Why?  Because it's ridiculous.  And I'll leave it at that...for now.

EDITED TO ADD: I shared this post on a message board for working moms where I've gotten a lot of support in the challenge of merging career and motherhood.  The comments inspired me to respond there with the following.

As a working mom and a mom of multiples, I hear a lot of stupid comments and am typically pretty good at shrugging them off. I've heard both of these statements before, but since they were said right after each other like that, they just got to me and made me think about what's expected of parents today.

It's sad to me that it's typical for a woman, particularly prior to having children, to perceive working as "not raising her kids." Sadly, it's also pretty common for someone to find dads like my husband literally remarkable for being equal partners in the job of parenting.

I guess we're just in a transition between the expectations that were on the last generation of parents and those that more appropriately fit parents of today and hopefully the future. Unfortunately I think those who feel much of the growing pains are moms of today while dads are held on a pedastal for changing a diaper or two.

I also don't feel my kids are "better off" at child care. Both stay-at-home-moms and working moms are capable of providing great childhoods for their kids, but being one or the other doesn't inherently make her kids better off in my opinion.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Toddler Room Visit

It's August now.  For the last month or so I've put off thinking about the fall, but August always makes me.  So today we went to the child care center on our first of probably a few visits before I go back to work.  At that time Sophie and Michael will be in a toddler room, a new environment with new teachers, so I want to help make the transition a smooth one.

Like most adventures with twins, it began with me wondering how I was going to do this, literally how I was going to get Michael and Sophie into and out of the center this year now that we've retired the DSNG.  Last night when I shared my concern with Mike, he said we would carry one kid while pushing the other in an umbrella stroller, keeping one stroller in each car.  He said it so matter-of-factly that surely I already thought of this and told him the plan previously. 

During some play time early this morning I brought in one of the strollers, put Michael in it, and carried Sophie.  We gave Michael a little ride around the living room, making turns around the rug and into the hallway, confirming that these cheapo strollers can be pushed one-handed.  "My idea" is a good one.

The numbers were low at the center today, only six toddlers in attendance, so the two rooms for that age group merged.  We took a peek at the actual room where Michael and Sophie will spend three days a week this year, discussed with the director what supplies they'll need (a sippy cup for water, diapers, and nap gear), and then went to play with the kids and the teachers gathered in the other classroom.

We saw many familiar faces including several toddler friends who grew out of the infant room over the last year as well.  Still, Michael and Sophie weren't eager to mingle.  The kids and teachers sat on the classroom rug reading a book about the solar system, sang some songs, practiced a few signs, and even danced a little--all pretty familiar stuff.  However, I had to carry Michael and hold Sophie's hand, tugging her a little bit, to get them to join the party.  I sat on the floor with them, and before long Sophie stood up and walked into the crowd.  Michael stood up as well and reluctantly accepted a hug from an old buddy who was eager to play.

The teachers set up for art, and Michael and Sophie explored the room.  The big play kitchen and a couple of Sit and Spins signaled that we weren't in boring old Kansas anymore.  My buddies were pulling beanbag fruits and veggies off of a shelf--proof that they are in fact toddlers, according to the center director--when they were invited to make some art.  Sophie and Michael used white chalk to make a solar system on black construction paper and stuck star stickers onto it as well.  Sophie even ripped her paper to show her artistic sensibilities.  Such a divergent thinker.

Of course, after taking the time to ease in and get used to the environment, leaving was now tricky as well.  Sophie didn't want to give up her piece of chalk, and Michael discovered a big red phone and was chatting away.  I had to use the L-word (lunch) to coax them back home.

We'll go back again probably next week.  Like last year, these visits are partly for me, so I can envision them playing happily, knowing they are familiar with the people and surroundings of the center when I'm back at work. 

I've heard mothers debate whether it's better to go back to work when your kids are infants and are less aware but seemingly more delicate or when they're toddlers, seemingly stronger but more aware of your absence.  I am incredibly grateful for my two months at home with Michael and Sophie this summer and for being able to have spent several months with them after they were born, but I'm in no hurry to have experience on both sides of that argument.

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