Wednesday, December 26, 2012

May your days be merry and bright

Without making a conscious effort to do so, I've found that I'm taking the soak-it-in-now-and-reflect-later approach to the Christmas celebrations.  That has led to the photo above being one of only a few taken over the last few days but a heart full of giggles and snuggles and moments that can only be captured there anyway. 

Perhaps in the remaining week and a half of my break from work I'll jot some details on our plaid attire, some new holiday traditions, or our expanding collection of trains and tracks and dolls and how I'll end up organizing it all.

But for now I wish you all moments that warm your heart and even better days in 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Drowning Eloi

It took me a little while to identify the scene that kept replaying in my mind and why my subconscious kept trying to push it to the surface over the weekend. 

There's a rushing river, a girl drowning, a man shouting to save her, and passive onlookers frolicking on the river bank. Yes, it's like that, I thought.  That's us.

After some mental rewinding and rewatching, the pastel mini-dresses came clear in my mind along with the lead actor's jawline and that afternoon when I was nine years old that I got sucked into an old movie on TV.  It was The Time Machine from 1960.

I have no idea how true to H.G. Wells' story the film is as I've never read it, but what that adaptation has always suggested to me is that over time humanity will lose its empathy, will no longer react to human distress, and will rather watch it and then move on as if it hadn't occurred. 

We all watched the news and later cried while wrapping Christmas presents this weekend.  We all have shaken our heads and wagged our fingers and snuggled the heck out of our kids.  We've all talked of gun control, mental illness, and our culture, all in some collective search for reasons, answers, and direction. 

I certainly have views on all of that, but what haunts me most right now is the idea that if our reaction ends, if our conversation stops when the news cycle dies down, that's like waiting for the river to carry the screaming girl out of earshot so we can get back to our frolicking.

Whatever aspect of this moment in history is firing you up, please don't let time burn that out.  I'm saying that to myself as much as anyone else.  For me, that aspect is character.  Instilling empathy, creativity, and accountability in my children and students is always in the back of my mind, and I believe those traits are what prevent most of us from choosing to become monsters.  I'm not naive enough to think that's the ultimate solution, but it's what I can do.  I need to keep that effort at the forefront of my parenting and my teaching, ahead of letters and numbers and showing growth on tests.  Humanity still has a heart, and we have to cultivate it.

Otherwise the cannibals will get us. 

See the movie.  You'll feel me.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Potty Training Progress

We started potty training at the end of the summer.  I was heading back to work, and although the kids' child care center and my mom would have been perfectly competent at getting potty habits started, I wanted to be the one to get the ball rolling, to teach the kids the process.  By the time I was back in my classroom, Michael was well on his way, but Sophie just wasn't there yet.  She'd sit and sit and sit and look back at her potty expecting pee or poop to magically be there, and I knew it would be a little while yet.

It was probably possible to have stayed diligent back then and to have gotten Michael peeing in the potty consistently, but with Sophie still firmly in diapers and the rotation of daytime caregivers (us, my mom, the center) starting up again, taking it easy for the time being just made more sense.  Michael started going on potty breaks at school and would go occasionally when we encouraged it at home, but we've all been pretty comfortable living in this transition stage where diapers and Pull-Ups are more than back-up.

We did a couple more potty training days over fall weekends, doing the same routine we tried in the summer (naked bottoms, potty timer, sticker rewards, salty snacks, water, lots of Elmo's Potty Time and Potty Time with Abby), but still no real luck with Soph.  However, we gave it a shot again this past weekend and it was like the light went on for our girl.  I was down in the basement sorting through my online Christmas shopping loot when Sophie told Mike she had to go, and she did!  Since then she's been wearing her Minnie Mouse undies most of the time at home with (knock, knock, knock) no accidents, keeps her Pull-Ups mostly dry the rest of the time--even for naps, and even did number two yesterday.

But guess what.  Michael isn't as into it anymore.  He still goes when we urge him to do so, but he doesn't really tell us when it's time.  He doesn't want to wear his Thomas undies (a couple of accidents early on really bummed him out), and he's not keeping his Pull-Ups as dry as I know he could. 

I'm hopeful that Sophie's progress will be a big turning point for us, that we'll get Michael back into the swing of things with Sophie at his side (literally).  We're still going to take it pretty easily, though.  The kids will still wear Pull-Ups for naps, bedtime, at the child care center, and when we go out of the house.  Perhaps pushing forward a little faster would work better, but I just don't feel the need to stress any of us out like that.  I have Michael and Sophie's third birthday in my mind as the point when I'll get frustrated.  For now, we're in the process, and hopefully by April the process will be complete.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ribbon Tree

Michael and Sophie enjoyed sticking paper ribbons to a wrapping paper tree in their toddler classroom last year at their center's Christmas party, and I filed that away as a project to try at home.  It's not a toy that can be played with again and again like its felt cousin, but the supplies for this tree were on hand in our gift wrapping stash, and we've done it a couple of times now.  The pictures below are from the second time around when I actually cut the tree big enough to fully cover the vinyl one underneath.

Stickers are as popular as cheese around here these days, so this activity fit right in.

Ribbon Tree-1 Ribbon Tree-2

Ribbon Tree-3

Ribbon Tree-4 Ribbon Tree-5

Ribbon Tree-6

Ribbon Tree-7

Ribbon Tree-8

Ribbon Tree-9
"Help, pwease."

Ribbon Tree-10

Here's Michael playing "Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum" on the ribbon box and looking a lot like old pictures of his dad.

Ribbon Tree-11

Monday, November 26, 2012

A little Christmas

For several years I've been saying that I'd like to get a real Christmast tree, but the convenience of just reassembling our artificial one keeps winning us over with its solid argument.  This year, however, Mike and I plan to go out with the kids, hopefully this coming weekend, and actually give a tree lot a shot.  After reading about Curious George doing so year after year, Michael and Sophie are likely to get a kick out of the project.  I haven't had a real tree in my home since I was their age, so we'll see how the whole adventure goes!
Since doing things in chunks is the name of the game these days, I put up some non-tree decorations over the long weekend, including:
Some Christmas-8
I used a tiny Command hook to put a little wreath of berries on my menu board.  I wrapped those wired berries around a candle in a glass hurricane jar last year but opted for some beaded misteltoe instead this year.  I was about to pack the little red berries back up when the menu board idea came to me.
Some Christmas-7

Some Christmas-5

I've been excited to change out the record jackets on the record wall for vintage Christmas albums since the arrangement went up during the summer.  The herb buckets never really took off (shocking), so I put some fall berries in them for that season.  For Christmas I took the buckets down completely and replaced them with these snowflake ornaments from Marshall's hung from the same tiny Command hooks that I used on the menu board.  I'm enjoying the flat and simple look so much that I might come up with something similar for after the holidays.
Some Christmas-6

Michael and Sophie have been requesting "pa-rum-pa-pum-pum" at every meal now that Christmas albums are in plain view.
Some Christmas-4

I brought up a few brown pillows from the basement living area and one cream colored one from our bed to go with our Christmas pillow covers (bought from an Etsy seller who is no longer in business a few years ago).

We have no fireplace, no banister, no charming architectural detail in our home begging for stockings.  For the last few years we've hung ours from the shelves above the TV, but that never felt right to me.  Is that the hearth of our home?  Noooooooo, it's not.  My own ideas for alternatives were pretty dull, so I searched where we all search these days for better ideas:  Google and Pinterest. 

Not wanting to take the time to make or the expense to order an "And the stockings were hung" board, and knowing I had an extra curtain rod in the garage, I went with a variation on this idea of hanging stockings from a pole and Command hooks (I should ask 3M to sponsor this blog :P) from The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  I also enjoy the idea in that post for making stockings from thrift store sweaters and the fact that the blogger is a twin mom. :)  She made it to my list of favorite blogs with all that (look to the right)!
Some Christmas-3

I've had and loved the wreath below for years and never felt it got sufficient attention until I came up with this idea of hanging it...from a Command hook...from our living room mirror (bought from a consignment shop and spray painted black long ago).
Some Christmas-1

Some Christmas-2

I'm not in love with our living room shelves, but I did improve the arrangement a bit with faux mercury glass votive and tea light holders this year.  I found them on sale at Michael's when I went there for the greenery in the stockings.  I certainly could have made them myself the same way I made my lamps, but there would have been no cost savings, just time expense. 

The red wooden advent calendar was a clearance rack find at Target a couple years back (a dark chocolate a day keeps the...I don't know, but I love this tradition!).  The snowflake platter below also came from an Etsy seller a couple of years ago. 
Some Christmas-9

On Saturday morning Michael pointed up to the shelves excitedly and said to Mike, "Look, Daddy, it's Christmas up there!" so I guess I'm on the right track.

I'm linking up to:

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We've had a busy bunch of days, and I want to jot down some of my favorite moments before they slip away...

Wednesday - For this year's "famliversary" we once again went up to Frankenmuth.  At Bronner's the kids chose a couple of new Christmas ornaments, coincidentally (or not ;P) the same things they'll be asking Santa for this year--a Thomas and a mermaid

Apparently Michael enjoyed how I said, "Wow, look how huge he is!" as I pointed out a Santa statue in the parking lot when we arrived because he said that for every Santa we saw that morning!  There were more than a few.   

Thursday - We ate dinner at my parents' house this year.  Michael and Sophie were pretty psyched to eat some Thanksgiving turkey, which they did, but Mike's cranberry sauce was Sophie's favorite, and Michael couldn't get enough bread! 

Friday - The plan was for me to decorate the house for Christmas while Mike played with the kids in the basement, perhaps putting on a movie while he organized some stuff down there (they watched Cinderella).  When they came up to eat lunch, I scooted the kids to their table in the playroom since there were still bins and decorations scattered around.  Michael and Sophie have been admiring the decor over the last few days but they also remind me periodically with furrowed brows that "Mama made a big mess!" 

On Friday evening we drove through the Wayne County Lightfest.  The kids were way more into it this year than last year, and I suspect Wayne County will be getting another $5 from us at least once a week until Christmas this year.

Saturday -  We wavered for a while but have officially switched over from diapers to Pull-Ups and purposely used up all the diapers in the diaper bag in the process on Friday.  Both kids pooped VERY obviously during our lunch out with an old friend and her fiance on Saturday.  This brought to my attention that we neglected to replace those diapers in the diaper bag with Pull-Ups.  Giant diaper bag--no diapers.  It had to happen to me at some point, right? 

After some stinky good-byes and some diaper changes in a drug store parking lot, we drove to visit Mike's dad and grandma who are recovering from illness and injuries.  Mike's side of the family can't catch a break lately, but it appears once again that remarkable resiliance is in that blood.  Despite this troubling time, we had a fantastic visit.

All this traveling by car recently has created some fun little habits. I've noticed that Michael says "Woosh!" whenever we pass under an overpass. We convinced him they were tunnels and added that sound effect at one point when he was getting fussy. Also likely a result of time in the car, Sophie now sings along to the "Beast" and "Mermaid" soundtracks,  mostly just mumbling along, but occasionally really nailing a word or a phrase and turning this mommy to the mush that Disney intended.

Sunday - We woke up to see a dusting of snow on the ground this morning!  Michael and Sophie were very clear that playing outside was on today's agenda, and after a number of days of car rides and indoor play, they had the right idea.  We all had a great time running around in the fresh, cold air.

After one last lunch of holiday leftovers, the kids went down for a nap.  This afternoon is all about laundry, organizing, cooking some soup, and gearing up for a busy work week. 

I also hope to crank out another blog post to share some of those holiday decorations later this week.  :) 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sleep is back.

I've mentioned that over the last six months or so, getting both kids to go to sleep and stay asleep all night has been tricky. Over the summer Sophie and Michael's sleep habits became uncharacteristically unpredictable.  Since it was chaotic anyway, we threw giving up the pacies into the mix.  In recent months, getting back on track has continued to be a challenge.

Here's what seems to have worked (consistently for the last five nights, anyway).

#1 - Daylight Savings Time ENDED!  Despite the typical efforts to transition smoothly, I honestly think this whole ordeal was triggered by that "spring forward," it was perpetuated by some bad summertime habits, and has settled now that we are back on normal time.  Micheal seemed ready to go to sleep later and later, and 9:00 p.m. becoming 8:00 p.m. again was just what we needed.

#2 -
As soon as the kids started climbing out of their cribs a few months ago, Mike and I gave this configuration a shot.  We were worried that one of the kids would get hurt on the dresser that was between the cribs, and it was kind of remarkable how the cribs just fit like this.  However, predicting some peek-a-boo style shenanigans would ensue, we instead moved the little dresser into our bedroom (lovely) and kept the cribs further apart and turned the other direction.  Michael and Sophie hardly ever climb out, but it's nice to know they'll be pretty safe if they do.

After a particularly frustrating naptime last weekend, I scooted the kids into the playroom and made this switch.  I was hoping a somewhat dramatic change would be a useful ingredient for bedtime.  When the kids came back in, Sophie declared it a "Choo-choo!"  And I said "Yes!!!  Mommy made a sleepy time choo-choo train!" as if that was my idea all along.  Come bedtime Michael lay down with no more fanfare than covering him with a blanket.  However, he just wasn't tired, and after about fifteen minutes he called me back in.  We read a few more stories on the couch and then he was ready.  He slept in his crib all night.  He calls it the caboose.

(I also brought in the rug from the playroom since the original rug is now too small for this arrangement.  As a result I have rearranged the playroom to incorporate the changing table/dresser, and reorganized those drawers, the hall and entry closets, and my bathroom medicine cabinet.  The basement storage room is next on my list.  These things always have a domino effect!)
#3 - I listened to my own mommy.  My mom watches the kids two days a week and has had successful naptimes all throughout this craziness.  For bedtime we implemented the subtle details of her approach.  When we read bedtime stories on the couch, we bring out the kids' blankets and snuggle buddies (stuffed animals of choice), and we read until they're struggling to stay awake.  Since doing so, Sophie has been telling us when she's ready to lie down, usually around 7:30. We read to and cuddle Michael for a while longer, and he's been going down pretty peacefully about 30 minutes later.

#4 - We now also brush teeth right after getting into jammies rather than after bedtime stories.  This keeps the kids from getting all riled up after settling down with stories.  Brusha-brusha is pretty darn exciting, don't you know?
#5 - We invested in our third Homedics Soundspa.  The sound has never failed us, but the projectors notoriously stop rotating.  Because we have enjoyed uninterrupted sleep since we replaced it, Mike and I can only assume that instead of calling for us when they wake up in the wee hours, Michael and Sophie are once again happy to watch fishies swim in circles on their ceiling until they drift back off.  At $20 each, these machines are worth the additional cost. 
I feel more confident than I have in months and months and months that we have really turned a corner here (bracing myself for the waking of a screaming child as I type these words).  I know this could all go out the window again tomorrow, but my gut says things are going to be much better for a good while.  Then we'll spring forward again and we'll all cry ourselves to sleep, but for now we have our evenings again!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wow, that actually worked.

Blog Greeting Card
What you see above is something I had previously put in the category of Things That Might Never Happen, a family portrait in which all four of us are looking at the camera with happy-ish expressions, a photo that I took all by myself!
Yes, I'm pretty much just bragging right now. 
I fancied this one up with the text at following The Naptime Decorator's tip on Facebook about making your own Christmas cards.  I ended up using a different photo for our actual holiday card, one of just the kids (Sophie's hair is a little weird here and Mike doesn't totally look like himself), but I am thrilled to have a family portrait.  And it was FREE!  I'm still having a hard time re-filing this into the It Actually Did Happen category.
To get the shot we went to the same local park where I took those pictures of the kids with Sophie in the dress my grandma made.  The main intention was to get a few photos of just them again, but I did bring along my tripod with a family portrait in the back of my mind.  I don't have a remote shutter release, so this (and a handful of other decent ones) was taken the old fashioned way, setting the timer, running to scoop up a kiddo and crouch.  Perhaps that excitement is what kept Sophie and Michael's interest, but I did just put a remote shutter release on my Christmas list. ;)
(I also recently gave in and started uploading my photos to Flickr first and using the HTML code to share them here.  The post before this one was the first of that kind.  I've been getting pretty annoyed with how fuzzy so many of my photos look when I upload them here directly.  I'm not too proud to share an out of focus image here if the cuteness trumps it, but if I did manage to focus properly, I want it to look that way!)

Well, readers of this blog don't comment much, but the stats show I'm not just talking to myself here.  :)  Thank you for taking an interest in our little adventures, and we really do wish you a lovely holiday season!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

From Boo to Thanks

Since I posted our Halloween shelves and simple craft, I thought I'd do the same for the Thanksgiving change-over.
I was inspired by The Naptime Decorator's Thanksgiving candle holder craft from last year and wanted to do something that incorporated the word "Thanks" similarly.  I bought the wooden letters at Michael's for a few bucks each.  While I wish I had caught them on sale or had a coupon that would have provided significant savings, I knew I would spend $20 on a similar decoration at Home Goods, perhaps even more from Pottery Barn (ok, it might not be that cute), so $18 wasn't out of the question.  Ultimately what made the sale was my urge to do this craft (crafters feel me) and having a naptime that day during which to crank it out.
I traced each letter backwards on the back side of scrapbook paper (I love that stuff but don't actually scrapbook) and then freehanded the outline maybe 1/8 of an inch inside the first one to be sure there would be a little white showing around the colored paper once it wast attached to the letters.  I cut following those inside lines and wasn't super precise at all with the tracing nor the cutting.  I was confident that taking it easy like that would add some folksie charm.  I put my Mod Podge to work, and the whole project was done in about an hour. 

I bought the wreath and owls from Michael's as well.  The rest I already had, mostly from the fall shelves project.  I know the owl motif has pretty much come and gone at this point...but there were two of them looking up at me from the store shelf, one green and Michael-y and one red and Sophie-ish.  I couldn't just leave them there, could I?

See more fun and "happy" craft ideas at Whipperberry!


Thursday, November 8, 2012


Spending my days teaching adolescents has honed my ability to appreciate the intentions of infuriating questions and to answer them in a patient tone with the hope of enlightening our society (usually). This is good, because as the mother of twins I get asked a lot of crazy, presumtuous, often intrusive, ignorance-inspired questions from "Are they natural?" (natural?) to "Which one is your favorite?"  This is from the general public, not just filter-free teenagers.
Probably an archetype embedded in our collective subconscious is the notion that twins are polar opposites, one good/one evil, one smart/one...not smart, one Elizabeth Wakefield/one Jessica.  Therefore variations of "Which is the outgoing one?" are pretty common questions as well.  Cautious of the effects of such labels, I've tried to resist pigeon-holing Michael and Sophie in any such ways. 
Then today they made these "monsters" while sitting together with no input from me aside from occasional help peeling the stickers from their backings:


Perhaps they do have some opposite tendencies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

The kids have had two other Halloweens, but this was the first year that they got reeeeeally into it.


No, I didn't make those costumes. I've been asked that a lot, but as I've honestly replied every time, I ordered the darn things from Target, didn't even go to the store.

My mom got some great pictures tonight like the two above.  She and my dad came by to pass out candy while Mike and I took the kids around. 

Garden gnomes!


About a month ago I bought some Halloween and Thanksgiving books through a book order at the kids' child care center.  At that point the words "pumpkin,"monster,"trick-or-treat," and "costumes" were hardly in Michael and Sophie's vocabularies, but that has certainly changed.  While they have enjoyed all the books, one is a stand-out as a new bedtime favorite: The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.  I did worry during our first reading of it that the story might be too spooky for my 2.5-year-olds, but they handle it well and love all the "CLOMP CLOMP"s and "WIGGLE WIGGLE"s.

A little game also develped in recent weeks that began with Michael pushing one of his trucks and Sophie running to the lap of the nearest grown-up saying "I'm sceeeaaard!" smiling all the while.  It has evolved into an elaborate game of peek-a-boo in which the "Michael monster" or "Sophie monster" hides in the playroom making monster noises (which to them is yelling "Heh!") and crawling out on hands-and-knees to a "scared" (giggling) sibling.  They swap roles seemlessly, and the routine goes on for quite a while.  I don't want them having nightmares or anything, but I think it's healthy to explore fear a little bit.  And what better time of year?

For the last week or so we've been practicing trick-or-treating.  When the time came to actually trick-or-treat tonight, Sophie was vibrating with excitement.  We went to less than a dozen houses, and I was worried our girl wasn't going to take well to heading home (Michael was getting sleepy and cold), but it turned out that passing out candy was just as exciting to these two as any other part of this event.  They ran those pointy-toed shoes to the door for every bunch of kids that arrived after we returned and got a big kick out of dropping candy into all those pillowcases and grocery bags.

I see you eyeing my pumpkin...
Fortunately Sophie and Michael are still pretty clueless about candy, and I don't intend for that to change this year.  They enjoyed sorting their loot tonight, but when Sophie peeled the wrapper off a Snickers, clearly just for the enjoyment of peeling a wrapper, she happily handed the chocolate over.  Candy just wasn't the point this year.
Seeing Michael and Sophie engage in these traditions and fill with joy again and again has made me pretty eager for Christmas this year.  They're going to love all that hooplah!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


My friend Katie (blogger of  Walks Like Rain) brought Young House Love's recent pumpkin post to my attention a few days ago thinking Michael and Sophie would enjoy the ideas.  As I confessed to her then, I hadn't put much thought yet into what we would do with our pumpkins, partly because I know there are tons of ideas out there.  I knew I would be overwhelmed by the choices the moment I started searching.
As you can see above, we gave all three of the YHL projects a go in one form or another this weekend (please ignore the visibly wet Mod Podge on Michael's pumpkin--I was a little eager to get pictures).  The ideas were age appropriate for my buddies, perfectly cute, and I saw no reason to consider other options.
The projects were also so simple that I didn't even need to look back at the post after reading it on my lunch break a few days ago.  I easily remembered the basics and the helpful details like using a roll of electrical tape to cut two sizes of the tissue paper polka-dots for the Mod Podged pumpkins. 
  I gave Michael plain green and green dotted paper, and Sophie used plain purple and green sparkle paper.  For both of the projects that involved color, I stuck with green and purple (and orange) as the color scheme to tie the bunch together. 

For the painted pumpkins, I tweaked the idea of taping off designs by using some old letter stickers instead of tape and spelled out "Happy Halloween" to be revealed after painting and removing the stickers later on.  I bought a package of paint brush pens for the kids but was a little disappoined that they really aren't a whole lot different from markers.  They were fairly mess free, though! 

We did all three projects nearly simultaneously.  I prepped by washing the pumpkins, gathering the materials, cutting the dots, and sticking on the stickers ahead of time, all within about an hour of bringing the kids out to get started.  While the kids and I Mod Podged, Mike carved our traditional jack-o-lantern and roasted the seeds (I drew the simple face at his request).  We did give both kids a chance to play with the pumpkin guts, of course.  Sophie loved it.  Michael said it was gross and asked to get back to his "stickers." 

I had planned to apply the Mod Podge myself and have the kids just stick the dots where they wanted them, but Michael and Sophie were drawn to the sponge brushes.  In true toddler fashion they insisted on doing most of the project completely by themselves.

Eventually I declared the polka-dot pumpkins done and lured Sophie and Michael away with the painting project.  It was a good thing we had that to move on to because they would have glued and glued forever, I think. It was a hit!

Sophie:  What you doing, Daddy?
Mike: I'm carving our pumpkin.  See?
Sophie:  Oh, yes.  That's very cool.

We had quite an enjoyable time decorating our family of pumpkins, and I'm pleased with the end results.  However, I might add more dots while the kids are sleeping tonight.  It looked pretty fun.  :)

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