Saturday, April 23, 2011


Like the Christmas party they threw back in December, the child care center that Michael and Sophie attend put on an Easter event today.  Initially we planned to skip it having already gone to an egg hunt this year, but when today's weather forecast looked amazing, we decided to go pet some farm animals and meet the Easter Bunny. 

We were lucky that both of Michael and Sophie's grandmothers could join us on such short notice.

Sophie and Michael are crazy about our cat these days, so we expected the petting zoo to be a hit.  They were into it a little bit, even called a couple critters "kitty" (more of a gurgling sound that we know means kitty), but like last week's egg hunt, we suspect animals will be a bigger source of excitement next year.

In one of our touch and feel books about life on a farm, the page with a patch of suede inside the shape of a cow reads, "Touch the cow.  Do it now."  Mike and I can't help but read that page in a Hanz and Franz accent.  The kids don't think we're funny, but we figure we'd better get used to that.

Touch the cow.  Do it now.

Our buddies have shown quite a bit of stranger anxiety lately, even toward grandparents and others they're pretty familiar with.  This made their one year photo shoot pretty much a bust and turned them into clinging monkeys for the first hour or so of their birthday party.  We totally expected to get one of those adorable screaming baby on the Easter Bunny's lap pictures if anything, but the enormous stuffed bunny who waved to them was apparently pretty exciting.

Here's Sophie's reaction:

 First she squealed.

Then she pointed.

Then she nearly leapt from my arms to get her hands on the bugger.

Despite the lack of pictures for proof, Michael got a big kick out of the Easter Bunny as well.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Teeny Tiny Rotini Eaters

Speaking of what's for dinner, I put my culinary skills to work last night by browning some lean ground turkey, cooking some whole grain rotini, and tossing it together with a jar of roasted garlic tomato sauce.  I'm pretty darn remarkable.

An hour or so before, it occurred to me that the dinner we had planned for the night was just the kind of meal they serve at the child care center, the meals that Sophie and Michael will be eating more and more of now that they've crossed the threshold of one.

When Mike got home, I started cooking, and he stripped our buddies down to diapers (we knew we were in for it) and put on their sleeved bibs typically reserved for eating out.

And here's what transpired:

Yes, those are tomatoey fingerprints on Michael's forehead. 

They really did awesome.  They jumped right in grabbing the food,  and 90% of it went into their mouths.  We were all thrilled to eat the same meal together really for the first time.

Clean-up was a little less thrilling, but it was well worth it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

First Egg Hunt

Last year our new little family was invited to the first annual Easter egg hunt hosted by a friend, but because our new little family was a little too little and new at the time, we graciously declined.

This year Michael and Sophie are still pretty little, not yet walking, so we knew there wouldn't be much hunting done by our kiddos.  Still, Mike and I were happy to get together with friends for brunch.  This mama loves her mimosa.

The hostess of the party sent a text the night before ensuring that the party would go on rain or shine, so we should bring winter clothes and rain gear.  That's Michigan for ya.  Luckily the rain...and snow...held off for the big event.

Mike and I picked up four eggs for Michael and Sophie, one for every hand.  They enjoyed shaking them to make the candy inside rattle, and after I stole their candy (choking hazard--it's my motherly duty), they happily sucked on the eggs.

The Easter Bunny was due to show up at 4:00 p.m., but Michael and Sophie were over an hour overdue for their afternoon naps when we left around three.  They slept like champs on the drive home.  We drove around running errands to stretch that out as long as we could.

The bigger kids clearly had a blast.  We're already looking forward to the third annual Easter egg hunt, knowing how much more fun it will be for our (gulp) two-year-olds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's for dinner?

Sophie and Michael are getting to be finger food connoisseurs and sippy cup pros.  They eat cereal and fruit for breakfast, a meat/vegetable mixture for lunch, a vegetable and fruit for dinner, and a couple snacks like Cheerios thoughout each day. Most of their food is organic, whole grain, and is often fresh and homemade.  I've officially started weening them from breastfeeding by dropping one of those feedings a week and replacing it with organic whole cow's milk.  Their eating habits are off to a good start.

The trickier eating habits to maintain are mine and Mike's, but I think we're doing ok there, too.  Here are some habits that work for us:

1.  Like most families, we have some go-to recipes that we turn to pretty regularly because they're easy, healthy, or provide good left-overs.  The slow-cooker is almost a member of our family these days.  Here are a some of our favorites:

Sloppy Joe's
Way better than a seasoning packet or a can and almost as easy.
Alton Brown's Meatloaf
Not simple to prepare, but Mike makes this in cupcake tins for simple leftover lunch storage.  It's so yummy it really needs a name better than meatloaf.
Healthy Beef Stroganoff
Way, WAY better than Hamburger Helper's version...and almost as easy.
Mediterranean Roast Turkey
Half a dozen people asked me for this recipe the last time I made it and took leftovers to work for lunch including my mother in law who ate it with me when Mike was out of town. 
California Chicken
You can keep most of the ingredients on hand for this one to keep grocery lists to a minimum.
Alton Brown's Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip
This is my go-to dish to pass and is always a hit.  I'm happy to share this, just don't make it if I'm coming to the party, too!

2. Every weekend we make a menu for the week and a grocery list. We plan with leftovers for work lunches in mind, try to use food on hand to keep our weekly expenses in check, and both commit to cook on designated nights. We stock up on organic ground beef, hormone-free chicken breast, and other regularly used foods and household items from Costco about once a month to help with that as well.

3. Greek yogurt, 100 calorie packs, Skinny Cow ice cream treats, and fresh fruit are around for snacks. There's usually some dark chocolate stashed away for emergencies as well.

4. Instead of filtered pitchers, a water-cooler, or buying bottled water, we refill gallons of distilled water at the grocery store for 39 cents a gallon. We use tap water for coffee and for the babies, but Mike's not a fan of it for drinking...and he's rubbed off on me.

5. We keep several frozen lasagnas or stuffed shells from our local Italian market in the freezer for nights when our time or energy has run thin. We fall back on grilled cheese and soup or carry-out as needed as well. We don't let dinner stress get the better of us.

Please share any tips or recipes of your own that work well with a busy lifestyle!

Monday, April 18, 2011

From Mommy to Moo Juice

Instead of breastfeeding them at eleven o'clock this morning, I gave Sophie and Michael sippy cups of half breastmilk, half whole cow's milk.  I sat beside them, touched their faces, said what a good job they were doing, and we all did well.

I was under the impression that breastfeeding for the first year was the norm, but I had a remarkably tough time finding advice on how to ween at this age. There's a lot out there about one extreme or the other, either weening in the very early months and introducing bottles, or baby led weening which tends to start around 18 months or older (often much older).     

Advice that I did collect was to ween right to sippy cups rather than bottles, drop one feeding per week (starting with the "least favorite"), and replace that feeding with milk and possibly a snack like Cheerios or crackers for a diversion. Since common wisdom at the moment is to hold off on cow's milk until babies are a year old, one year seemed to be the time to put this into action.

Aside from just being culturally brainwashed, I've chosen to stop nursing at one year for a number of reasons.  For one, breastfeeing is just not as easy to manage as it was when Michael and Sophie were smaller.  Tandem feeding is trickier as they don't fit as well on their double nursing pillow, and neither child is terribly patient when I feed his or her sibling first.  I can rig up extra pillows around me and tandem feed in a pinch, but then there's the issue of ear and face grabbing.  Add in the fact that I've never loved pumping, especially at work, and the stress of getting to the child care center or home in time for the 3:30 p.m. feeding, and one can imagine that part of me is relieved to approach the end of this phase.  Michael and Sophie's first birthday and my week off for spirng break are nearly simultaneous this year, confirming once again that the one year mark is right for us.

Even with some routines in place, today's attempt didn't go perfectly.  When I'm at work, Michael and Sophie get warm breastmilk in bottles while resting in Boppys.  They've also become experts at drinking water from sippy cups with snacks, and they've had a little bit of breastmilk from them.  So today I put Michael and Sophie in the Boppys that they're used to feeding in, but the cold temperature of the drink, the sippy cups for this purpose, and the cow's milk were all changes for them.  Sophie did really well, but Michael only drank about one of the six ounces before handing the sippy to me and climbing in my lap.  After offering it to him a few more times unsuccessfully, I put the milk in a bottle instead, and he did great.  However, when Sophie saw the bottle, she wanted one too.  It looks like we'll have to take this in phases.  Maybe by Friday they'll  be drinking just whole cow's milk from sippy cups.  We'll see.

There are three more feedings to drop, and we'll play it by ear a bit as to how quickly we'll go through his process.I'm looking forward to the relief this transition will bring, but I'm also glad that this will not be an overnight event.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's my birthday too--yeah!

While I'd love to share some profound insights on motherhood and the tremendous love I have for Michael and Sophie, I find that I am just not in a frame of mind where I can communicate much with words.  I'm all memories and sentimentality.  To share in that with me, play the song, play the video, and select full screen.  Spend too much time rolling your eyes at the lameness of that procedure or the few out-of-focus pictures and you'll miss some serious cuteness.

Monday, April 11, 2011

First Birthday Party

 Time flies.  They grow up so fast.  Has it been a year already? 
It's all oversaid...and all so true.

It's been a blink since I was pregnant, and yesterday we had Michael and Sophie's first birthday party!

I like to bake, but I seriously never thought I'd make a birthday cake in the shape of anything other than a cake pan.  When searching "rubber ducky birthday party" online I stumbled on a video that showed how to make this.  Super simple.  It confirmed the theme.  He was chocolate with my grandma's buttercream frosting (my mom made the frosting to save me the work).

I wanted Michael and Sophie to have their own cupcakes to eat, so I made some of those as well.  They're a yellow cake mix, but I brushed on a glaze of lemon juice and confectioners sugar when they came out of the oven and stirred lemon zest into the frosting.  I was pleased with the hint of flavor.  Michael and Sophie haven't had citrus yet, so I set theirs aside beforehand.

I bought the personalized banner and paper lanterns from Oriental Trading.  They were a great price and nice quality.  They'll be hanging in our kitchen all week!
Grammie brought Michael into the kitchen for some peek-a-boo with Sophie.  Nothing makes them smile more than each other!
Grandma showed Sophie the decorations.

This was their first taste of cake, but Michael didn't miss a beat.
Sophie needed a little help getting started but did good work too!

The playroom came in handy even for the big kids.
I made favors for every family (bubbles and a duck that squirts)...and neglected to give out even one! 
They may be showing up on doorsteps.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More nursery

I remember feeling a little guilty back when the babies were eleven weeks old and I finally finished decorating the nursery.  Now they're eleven months old and I finally finished it again.

The wall above the tall dresser needed some attention, and it took me this long to work out the puzzle.  I wanted to include photos, use the scrapbook frames I got for a shower gift, and display the snow globes the babies' grandmothers gave them for their baptism.  I also felt the need to repaint the mobiles to simplify the color scheme in the room, focusing on the brown and green that carry through to the playroom.

Here's what I came up with:

 I noticed that we kept putting pajamas and outfits on the dresser if the babies would be wearing them again, so I got a basket for that purpose. I also bought a basket for the kitchen, appropriately nicknamed the "take this sh** to the basement basket." If clutter is in the appropriate container, it's not really clutter, right?

Ok, here's how weird I am.  The only way this arrangement worked for me was when it reflected how the babies were in the womb.  Michael was head down and feet up, and Sophie was the opposite.  Do you see it?  I know.  I'm nuts.

These are, once again, photos from the newborn shoot with Alison Claire Photography.

There are a few adjustments I'm considering.  Hopefully I'll get to them before we reach the eleventh year.

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