Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pool Noodle Garland

Recently I was browsing on Pinterest and I came across this and decided to re-create the project myself. Do you do that? Do you pin stuff to make? And do you ACTUALLY make it? I try to make things I like -- not everything, since materials can be expensive, but I do like to find little projects and recipes to make life more interesting and to bookmark for the future.

Any-who... Back to the Pool Noodle Garland via Dollar Store Mom. I headed over to Dollar Tree to see if they some pool noodles and, lo and behold, they had the same three choices that Dollar Store Mom used. (I really wanted more color choices, but I wasn't spending more than $1 each -- this is cheap crafting, folks!) I picked up the three colors as well as a plastic clothesline to string everything on. The original project uses twine or string, but I figured the blue-and-white clothesline would be sturdier (and more colorful).

Ironically, while I waited to tackle this little craft, my husband worked on getting our pool ready.

And he saw the pool noodles and decided to use them for a late afternoon swim.

So much for that... I headed back to Dollar Tree to get three more!

The project was super-easy-peasy-simple and I think it's pretty cute and colorful. We have this totally boring, bland, plain white stockade fence around our pool ladder for safety reasons. It's a basic box where we can leave our towels and get in the pool and I think it's kind of ugly. This year, I wanted to jazz it up a bit and I thought this garland would be an easy and frugal way to add some cute summer color.

Basically you slice up the pool noodles into little flat shapes and then thread them on the string/rope/twine/whatever. It's as easy as that. Except when I got out the kitchen knife and slice up the pool noodles, the twins are intrigued and begging for a piece. So I hand Buddy Twin a blue pool noodle flower, and he takes a bite out of it.


He chomped on a pool noodle. I guess he thought it was fruit or some other food since I was cutting it up on the kitchen counter.


I pull the styrofoam out of his mouth and, choking crisis averted, continue on with crafting.

The plastic clothesline was thicker and I didn't have a "needle" to thread it, so I taped the end of the clothesline to a big giant needle to get it though the pool noodle pieces. It worked well enough for me to string up as much I wanted. I had plenty of pool noodle pieces left over, and I can make another whole garland if I want, but for now I'm letting the kids play with them.

The final project only cost $4, and like I said earlier, I could make two garlands for this price. The above photo only shows about half of what I made -- the other half links around the front of the fence. Frugal and fun! I'm sure you could add other things to the garland if you wanted, like cheap flip flops, or pin wheels or something to jazz it up even more.

And speaking of flip flops, for another great frugal and fun project, try these flip flop planters from dollar store finds on Dollar Store Crafts. Very cute!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Find It!

We are a fan of the Find It! games. We have a few of them at our house, and we have bought some for family members. Have you ever seen them? Basically they are cylinders filled with little confetti beads, and inside those beads are objects to find. The objects pop out when your shake it and roll it around and try to move the beads around to find a new thing. Each one comes with a notepad that has a list to check off with the objects. Every one has a penny which is extremely hard to find -- so hard that the company's website has a section where you can boast that you've finally found the penny! (We've never, ever, found a penny in any of them, by the way. I swear they've glued it to something in the middle or something.)

There are several version of  Find It! -- they are usually centered around a theme. We have "Kids" (show above). We also have "Sports," which was a gift for my husband. My parents and my in-laws have "At the Beach," since both like to visit Cape Cod often. I'm sure we will eventually end up with others -- I was just looking at their website to write this post and "On the Farm" or "At the Zoo" would be fun ones for the twins in the future; Big Girl would love "On a Bird Watch" since she loves birds. There's also a very girlie "Glitz and Glamour" one that is perfect for any lady in your life.

My parents just went on vacation and came home with a new one for Big Girl -- the "Starry Night" version. It's the first one that isn't the classic cylinder shape, and some of the pieces you need to find are glow-in-the-dark.

My attempt at a product shot.
It's definitely pretty cool, and much harder than the others we have. The objects follow a "space" theme, and you even have to find all the planets. I thought it would be easy to do in the dark, but the objects don't seem to glow as well as we thought they might. I'm kind of wondering if they need to exposed to light to "light up" more, like some glow-in-the-dark objects do. The one negative to this one compared to the others is that it doesn't have the list of items to find on the actual container. All the cynlinder-shaped ones have the list on one end -- this one doesn't have the list on it at all. If you misplace the notepad, it would be hard to remember what to find!

I give all the Find It! games a thumbs up, especially to take on the road for trips. It's a contained game that you can pass around, or a child can do on their own, or you can just leave in a room and look at every now and then. They can keep kids busy for a long time. They don't require batteries!! And they don't take up a great deal of space. The company website even has a list of different ways to play with Find It! here.

They also make great birthday gifts! I've seen them locally in our teacher store, but you also see them in gift shops or, of course, online.

I've seen some "homemade" versions of Find It! games on blogs and on Pinterest, but I think that is one craft I don't need to make myself. I think my homemade version might result in a mess in my house since I'm sure the twins would "find" a way to get the top off a jar or plastic container. The real "Find It!" games seem pretty secure and unbreakable -- so far!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Short Week

After a lovely day off for Memorial Day, it's time to get back to business. Whenever there is a holiday on a Monday, doesn't the short week throw you off? If throws me off... I have work deadlines today, laundry to catch up on, groceries to purchase and housework to do. It's Tuesday but if feels like Monday except it's not... This sort of week really makes me sort of crazy.

It was incredibly hot here yesterday. I swear when it's parade day it's either (a) incredibly hot or (b) raining. Never a pleasant, in the 70-degree range day. To say I was wiped out was an understatement. So instead of writing a book, I leave you with some scenes from our day!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mom's Guide to... Memorial Day!

File:If Ye Break Faith - Victory bonds poster.jpg

Monday is Memorial Day! Most people think of it as the unofficial kick-off to the summer season. We enjoy sunshine, picnics, a day off from work or school.

But we really should remember to celebrate the real meaning of the holiday as well. Memorial Day is a remembrance day, a day to honor our fallen soldiers. We are often reminded of this with our local parades, where veterans march with pride. I am often saddened that our young people don't seem to understand or value this sacrifice that so many Americans have made for us. So, in honor of the occassion, I've decided to put together a quick guide to Memorial Day with simple activities and information to help you "homeschool" your family and celebrate the holiday in the traditional way!

Mom's Guide To MEMORIAL DAY!

Memorial Day was conceived in the late 19th century and was originally called Decoration Day, where the graves of fallen veterans were "decorated." A great summary of the history can be found on this site. It should be noted that Memorial Day honors the dead, while Veterans Day honors living veterans. In either case, it is good to honor our American holidays buy understanding their meaning.

A simple way to teach children about Memorial Day is to go to the cemetery and decorate the graves of veterans. The graves of any veteran in your family can be "decorated" with a flag or flowers -- be sure to check cemetery restrictions regarding what you can and cannot do. I know the Catholic cemeteries where my family members are buried have several restrictions, but they do allow special flag markers on the graves of veterans; in fact, there a local program to place flags on graves in our region.

A popular Memorial Day symbol is the red poppy, which was originally inspired by the 1915 poem "In Flanders Field" by John McCrae, a Canadian soldier in World War I. He wrote the poem when he noted how quickly poppies grew up around the graves of soldiers in in the Flanders region of Belgium during the war:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw,
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us, who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.

Buddy Poppy

Veterans have been selling little paper poppies since 1922 outside grocery stores, etc. I can't pass a veteran selling poppies without buying one. My grandmother was an Army veteran, and she always bought the little red paper poppies, often giving them to me. It is one of my fondest memories of her, so I cannot pass a poppy seller without buying one, or two. I keep them in my car, and give them to Big Girl, and often tell my oldest how it is a family tradition to purchase a poppy.

Kids can make their own poppies for Memorial Day decorations, to pass out to veterans, to carry in parades, etc. This page has a fun way to make them out of coffee filters.

A lovely, meaningful treat for Memorial Day is Poppy Cookies, with this recipe and decorating instructions from Kraft Canada.

I pinned this on Pinterest -- isn't it cute?

Flags are also the patriotic way to decorate! Dollar stores often have inexpensive flags, which can be gathered up for a centerpiece, stuck in flower pots and window boxes, attached to wreaths or tied on bikes for a neighborhood parade. Red, white and blue bunting is also a beautiful way to decorate porches, railings and decks for the holiday celebration. It can be used year after year for Memorial Day, Flag Day and 4th of July celebrations.

Kids can also make their own flags. This "Old Glory" pennant craft is a cute vintage version, recycles paper bags, is inexpensive and is easy enough for kids of all ages. probably has the best round-up of Memorial Day crafts I've even seen. There are enough adorable patriotic crafts to get you through the summer on this site! The site also also has a "patriotic" page with many more ideas, including ideas from readers.

Looking for a game to play at your Memorial Day picnic? Try this "Patriotic Bingo" printable!

I hope you enjoyed this quick Mom's Guide to Memorial Day. As the summer rolls on, I plan on more "patriotic" posts to get us through the upcoming American holidays. Enjoy your Memorial Day with your loved ones and be sure to honor and "remember" our fallen veterans.

Goodnight Books

Source: via Jackie on Pinterest

I believe in bedtime stories. I read to Big Girl every night until just recently, when she started wanting to continue reading something she was also reading during the day. But I would read to her now if she asked -- we've completed many chapter books together and I love that time at night when I read to her. It's calm, it's quiet, and it's full of good stories and great memories.

I've continued the tradition with the twins, although admittedly it is much harder. I can't sit with them in my lap like I did with her. They are much more apt to leave my lap and wander. And they are still in their cribs, so I can't sit on one of their beds yet either. So I plop myself on the floor, between the two cribs, and they sit in their beds and watch and listen -- most of the time.

In many ways, reading at night is very routine to us. The routine started with Big Girl. Clean up faces and hands, change diapers, put PJs on, brush teeth, read three stories and tuck into bed. They know it, and they've known it for a while. They learn pretty quick.

And they already ask for certain characters, or certain book. Curious George and Clifford and Little Bear and shape books and color books and all the good ones that I don't mind repetitively reading night after night.
The last book of our bedtime story session is always, always, always Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I started that tradition with Big Girl, and it worked so well that I had to do it with the twins. (At one point in their short lives, it became apparent to Buddy Twin that this was always the last book before bed. When I read the first line in the book, he would start to cry in anticipation. He's OK with it now because this book is such a favorite. He gets very excited when he sees it and says "My Moon! My Moon!")

Reading the same book every night does not have to be boring. My husband and I may have the lines memorized by now, but it doesn't matter because so do the babies. I prompt them to fill in the last words of each page, which makes it a game. Sometimes, I "sing" the story to them. And although it's a little harder with two kids in two cribs, I try a tradition I started with Big Girl: On each two-page color spread in the book, we have to find the mouse. The mouse is always in a different spot. It's like a little game at storytime.

Of course, Goodnight Moon isn't the only bedtime book worth reading, even if it is tops in our house. Some of our other favorites include this one:

When the World is Ready for Bed by Gillian Shields has some really adorable watercolor illustrations by Anna Currey, and is a very easy, rhyming read that the kids love. We have the board book version. The story is about three little bunnies getting ready for bed and their routine, which is perfect to instill in little ones.

We also like The Night Night Book by Marianne Richmond. The book is another rhyming story that says "night night" to many things, similar to Goodnight Moon.

Whatever book you choose as your signature "goodnight" story, it will surely became part of a child's memory. Big Girl still has her original copy of Goodnight Moon on her bookshelf because she will likely never part with it. I hope someday she reads it to her own children, as well as many other of our favorites, and continues the tradition we started 10 years ago.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mediocre Couponing

Free -- yes free! This was the Target spring beauty bag giveaway.
I just sent for the free -- yes free! -- summer beauty bag.
Great for traveling, trying out products, and it comes with book of Target coupons!
I am not an extreme couponer. I am a mediocre couponer. I aspire to be better, and it is a goal. Especially when I watch that TV show and realize I could be getting things for free or practically free. I like free, but I am also crunched for time to prepare for shopping trips. I mean, seriously, how much time do these people take to get all that free stuff? I'd just like to get some free stuff to keep my cabinets stocked so I don't have to make an urgent purchase for something we use all the time. That is the goal.

I do watch "Extreme Couponing" -- which returns to TLC on Monday -- regularly. I do know most of their coupon tips, so I'm not watching for that reason. My reason for watching is mostly to be inspired to do better with my shopping planning and strategies. (And it is a bit of a train wreck sometimes, isn't it?) I do think it is a major misrepresentation of how to coupon, however, since many coupon rules/laws have been broken on that program. And many of the featured couponers actually spend money to get more coupons, which isn't factored into their shopping trips. I believe in transparency regarding all this way of saving money, and one has to factor every possible expense to show the real picture -- paying coupon clipping services, the cost of ink and paper to print coupons, buying extra Sunday papers, etc.

And I can't stand when they get things for free that they don't need unless they are donating them. Cat food without cats? Diapers without babies? Why are you holding on to this in your stockpile? Let's be real, right? Is it just hoarding and mental illness at that point?

Couponing can get completely ridiculous and out of hand. My goal is to save on things we use and need. Occasionally, I'll try something new with a coupon, or get a treat, but the real idea to keep our cabinet stocked with things that won't spoil/expire before we will use them. Not junk food or ridiculous food that is still expensive with a coupon. Things like canned food -- soups, veggies, etc. -- and toiletries -- deoderant, toothpaste, paper goods, etc. The things we always use and need should be there when we need them so we aren't paying full price when we run out of them. It's as simple as that.

While most extreme couponers carry binders of coupons, I don't think I'm heading in that direction. First, for me, couponing requires having my coupons on me at all times so if I can stop in a store, I have them with me. I'm not carrying a binder everywhere I go. So I have an accordion-type plastic file that fits in my purse and holds a ton of coupons. Plus it's easier to clean out than those clear plastic pages, and we all know coupons expire pretty quickly now, so cleaning out often is a necessity. I also carry a clear plastic pouch with an envelope in it -- the pouch has coupons which I think I might use on my shopping trip; the envelope in it has coupons I know I will use. As I go through the store, all coupons I need at the register get put in the envelope. That way I'm not the annoying person at the cash register searching for a coupon -- they are all organized to hand over to the cashier.

Do you print coupons? I do, but mostly from two sources: and I shop at Target frequently, and I like that you can stack their store coupons with manufacturer's coupons and save more.

I also pay attention to a few Web sites for frugal tips and offers: Couponing to Disney is probably my favorite. It's updated frequently during the day, is easy to search, and has more than just couponing tips. I like its premise of setting a budget for the week/month and every dollar you save under that budget is set aside in a special fund (in the author's case, for Disney trips). I find it a wise way to save for something one might need or want. And no, I haven't set up a fund like that for myself, but it's an idea that is always in the back of my head.

Couponing doesn't have to relegated to just groceries and toiletries. There are so many tips to saving money from so many sources. I always try to make sure I know my prices for big purchases. I check the internet often to get ideas of price ranges. I also have a habit of never ordering anything online without searching for a coupon or coupon code first. And before I head to the mall, I also check my e-mail for printable coupons for stores where we shop frequently. And I'm always thinking of the next holiday/birthday, and trying to plan ahead to combine sales with possible coupons for additional savings.

Now, I'm not perfect at this at all. But I'm trying to be better. There's always room for improvement. I'm always on the hunt for new tips, so if you have any, leave them below!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Home Tour: Twins' Room

Vintage things on display -- sweaters made by family members for me & my brother;
and a white shirt sewn by hand by my great-grandmother for my grandfather.
Since I showed you Big Girl's room earlier this week, I thought I would show you a glimpse of the twins' room as well. The room is painted green, which is funny to me since the one book I've read to all my children every night faithfully is "Goodnight Moon" -- if you are familiar with it, it starts "In the great green room..." We didn't choose green because of that book, but merely because it was a neutral color and matched the bedding set I picked. I wanted something that wasn't a primary color, something soft and calming, and this green fit the bill. Big Girl's room was a very pale yellow when she was a baby, and I didn't want yellow either.

A room that is "just right" to fit everything needed -- for now!
The bedding I chose was pink with green for Bunny Twin, blue with green for Buddy Twin. It coordinated, but didn't match exactly. I loved it. I wasn't a set, but separates that I found at Babies 'R Us. It went on clearance very soon after I registered for it, but I was lucky enough to get the pieces I wanted. There was not a quilt with it, but who uses that quilt anyway, right? I bought two soft blankets that the twins still use every night. (You can see themn on the chair in the photo above.) The blankets, and one of the sheet options, had little elephants on it, but the rest was just patterns that coordinated together and looked vintage, which I loved. (You can see better photos of the bedding here in this post, where I debate trying to decorate for a boy/girl room.)

Big Girl's changing table, repurposed.
The bedding has been simplified since these photos were taken last year. The bumpers are now long gone. And I do have a disclaimer: These photos were shot prior to a little furniture rearranging. The active toddlers forced me to move the dresser from between their beds and put it next to the changing table. The walls are showing a little wear and tear from toys and books being bumped into them. The wicker rocker is now gone to give more room for playtime.

I'm glad I have these photos of what their first room really looked like -- I think photos of babies' rooms are so sweet because it brings back memories of planning for a little one and all the hope you have for him or her. Even if it's not an expensive, fancy room, you can tell when someone really cares about where their baby-to-be will end up. This room was full of hand-me-down things, but we tried to still give them a special space and I think it shows. All new babies should have a special space, shouldn't they?

A small bureau with deep drawers inherited from my grandparents.
Just enough room right now -- a drawer for everyday clothes for each twin,
and the top drawer holds odd keepsakes.
In the next year, this room will evolve. The babies will need beds soon -- the cribs can only contain them for so long, unfortunately. And with beds, we will likely have to rearrange again. I've been pinning many photos of "shared spaces" for boys and girls. And this room could really use a bigger bookshelf than the tiny one inherited from their older sister. New bedding will be needed -- I am always on the hunt for the perfect set to suit both of them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This MoM Can't Live Without: Annie's Mac & Cheese

Although most dinners are cooked from scratch, I'm sure many of you have a few things on hand for a quick meal, whether it's canned soup, frozen chicken nuggets, etc.

My go-to meal for the little ones is Annie's Mac & Cheese. It's actually Big Girl's absolute favorite food, and she would eat it every day if she could. Kraft Mac & Cheese is just not the same for my Big Girl. She likes Annie's, and Annie's only -- shells with white cheddar, shells with orange cheddar, bunny-shaped pasta with cheddar. The twins will eat Annie's as well, happily.

We have a standard menu plan in our house that Big Girl always has macaroni & cheese every Thursday night. She has piano lessons every Thursday from 5:30 to 6 p.m., smack in the middle of dinner preparation time. So mac & cheese is easy to make on Thursdays when we get home from piano. It's so routine that even her piano teacher knows of her regular meal.

We always have several varieties of Annie's on hand, and when it goes on sale, I stock up. While Kraft can be found relatively cheap, our local grocery store sells Annie's for $2.50 a box, or more. Luckily, Target sells a few varieties for around $1.60 a box, so I usually buy it there. If I'm lucky, I can get it on sale for $1 a box, and if I find that sale, I buy a lot -- like two dozen boxes, sometimes more -- and fill the pantry up.

Mac & cheese doesn't have to be boring or unhealthy either. Big Girl is not a cooked veggie fan, so she has raw veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers with her meal, and applesauce for dessert. The twins often get veggies mixed in to their mac & cheese. Peas are a good choice, since they are a similar size:

Not a great photo, but you get the idea... The peas "sneak" in the shells, and get gobbled up!
I don't even really cook the frozen peas before I add them. While I'm boiling the pasta, I put frozen peas in the colander. When you drain the pasta, pour the boiling water and pasta into the colander over the peas. Make the cheese sauce in the warm pot (milk, cheese packet, and I usually add just a bit of butter), then add the hot pasta and peas and stir everything up. Dinner is served!

Annie's also has some fun things for kids on its web site at this link. Kids can also send away for "free loot," a.k.a. stickers.

To find other products which have saved my sanity
as a MoM (mom of multiples),

Monday, May 21, 2012

Home Tour: Big Girl's Room

When the twins were born, Big Girl was 7 years old. We decided to keep her in her bedroom, even though it seems larger than the twins' room. The square footage of the floorplan is actually the same but the twins ceiling is slanted from the roof on one side, making it feel slightly smaller.

Giving the twins the spare room in our house made sense to us. The closet was actually bigger (a plus for two children!) and I wanted to spare disruption to our former only child. I wanted her to not feel displaced, because the arrival of not just one, but two babies, to our home and family was going to be a challenge as well as a blessing. The arrangement has worked well for us.

As we got ready for our new arrivals, painting and fixing up their room, I realized that Big Girl could likely use a little remodel in her room too. We hadn't painted her room in since she was born. The only real changes in her room included switching out her crib for a twin bed with twin bedding, and swapping a small bookcase for a bigger one. Most everything else remained the same, and it was clearly time for a change.

I knew she would embrace it, since she loved watching home decorating shows on TV with me. She saw the twins room come together. So we told her the next year, for her eighth birthday, she would get a "new room." She could help pick out the paint, etc. She chose blue, her favorite color, and we compromised on a shade of blue that resembled the sky.

She poured over catalogs and fell in love with a rather pricey Pottery Barn Kids quilt, so I watched for discount codes to get it and the matching sham. (We reused her simple eyelet lace bedskirt and a curtain valance on the window since they matched.)

And we also found a really cute wall decal that went with the "theme" of quilt: The Scroll Tree. It had owls, and Big Girl loves owls. It was super easy to put up, won't harm the paint if we take it down.

We rearranged the furniture, and added an IKEA Expedit shelving up on its side to hold American Girl things and LEGOs. A green "shag" throw rug from Target was her "grass" to match her blue sky walls.

Big Girl loved her new room, and two years later, it still suits her. We haven't changed much about it -- we added a new lamp on her bureau, and she has a bigger desk for homework/crafts/drawing, but that's pretty much it.

I know in a few years we will update it again for her teen years. Right now, however, I love the peaceful feeling from her room -- it's one of my favorite places in my house -- when it's neat and clean!

The twins room will need an update when we swap out the cribs for beds. I'll take you on a tour of their "nursery" sometime soon! Here's a tiny peek with a funny photo of Big Girl -- when we worked on her room we had her sleep in the twins' room with her mattress on the floor. She loved the big slumber party with her then-infant siblings. (And you can see her old quilt here -- a $20 Marshalls find! I haven't been so lucky to find something like that in a while.)

Crazy sibling slumber party! (2010)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Birthday Dreams

Today is my birthday. I actually forgot about it.

When my husband got up today, he said "Happy Birthday!" and I stopped. "Huh? Oh yeah. I forgot."

I'm getting shrubs for the yard for my birthday. Yes, shrubs. We are in desperate need of some form of privacy in our front yard, so we are planting some living things as a barrier.

Is this what happens when you get "old?" You forget your birthday and you get shrubs?

Life has been busy with spring things and necessities of life, so birthdays are second on the list, especially with a busy weekend of other things coming up. Tonight I will celebrate with some form of take-out for dinner and a watching a movie at home. No big celebrations because tomorrow is the 100th anniversary Girl Scout Jubiliee, which will be an all-day affair and I need to save up my energy. And eating at home at this point in life, with toddler twins, is actually easier than eating out.

What would the perfect birthday be for me? In my birthday dreams, I would be at Disney World with my family, strolling down Main Street in Magic Kingdom. Maybe enjoying a Mickey-shaped treat. and watching my kids run around with "ears" on their heads. Strolling through Fantasy Land. Watching Big Girl enjoy Splash Mountain. And walking around "the world" at Epcot at night. That would be the perfect birthday day.

I only went to Disney once -- while pregnant with the twins! -- and I was sold on its magic. I loved everything about that trip, and I would go there every year if I could.

A photo from my one -- and only -- Disney World trip, in 2009.
It was the best trip I've even taken with my family,
and I can't wait to go back. It was heaven on earth!
(Footnote: I don't like amusement parks. But I LOVED Disney!)
But another Disney trip is a little far in our future -- the twins are still a little young to keep up the pace. And I need to save up some cash to be able to shop on Main Street!

But a girl can dream, can't she? In the meantime, I'll just browse at :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Every day I wait for the quiet.

Most days, quiet never comes. I always hope quiet arrives around 2 p.m., but I rarely get my wish. Quiet is when the twins, up in their room for a nap, fall asleep, and the only sound over the baby monitor is the soothing sound of waves from their sound machine. And then I can settle in at this computer with a cup of coffee and work, or surf the web, or pick up toys and fold laundry and start dinner and not have to hear constant chatter of little voices. Most days, they don't nap -- they talk, talk, talk, play, play, play, bounce, bounce, bounce in their cribs. So I do what I can with the soundtrack playing until I think that I've accomplished something and that they've reached their afternoon break limit.

And if the quiet comes, I'm lucky that day. If not -- well, a girl can dream, can't she?

Don't get me wrong -- I love my children's chatter most of the time. But days are long with toddler twins plus one. The little voices... Mommy, mommy, mommy, they sometimes chant. Or the voices fight each other. Or cry, or whine, or escalate into maniacal laughter. Or the slightly older voice in the mix gets a little cranky attitude. Or begs to be on the computer to play Animal Jam or Webkinz World while I argue for piano practice. Or recounts every word of a conversation on the playground about the girl who is mean but cries for friends while a younger one is screaming. And the little voices have be drowned out by the Mom voice sometimes, or the little voices have to be shut out beyond the bathroom door so the Mom voice can communicate to an adult via telephone. Or the little voices mix with an episode of "Yo Gabba Gabba" which turns into inaudible moment of insanity not unlike what I imagine it could like Nick Jr. version of a pysch ward.

The little voices are around almost the entire day, until I collapse on the couch at 9 p.m. each night. And sometimes the 9 p.m. collapse isn't a complete collapse, if I'm folding laundry or picking up toys or writing for work. It's more a mental collapse, the sort of thing where my tired, overworked brain can only tollerate trashy reality television programs because watching anything of quality or reading a book will send me right to sleep and then I feel robbed of some relaxation with my eyes open. So therefore, I just turn to a vegetable, as they say. I try to disguise it as my pop culture research but clearly my tiny noggin can't function well once the sun goes down.

Every day, despite longing for those pockets of quiet, I try to focus on the big picture: Someday there will likely be nothing but quiet. In a few years, quiet will be available all day during the weekdays when the twins are in school. I know there will be a point when I don't want quiet. When the nest is empty, I'm sure I will long for chatter. It makes me sad just thinking about it. And it makes me want to stop the clock. Even if this two-year-old toddler phase can just about make me lose my mind, I know that it will be gone in the blink of an eye.

So even though I wait for the quiet, I only want the quiet for a short moment in time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This MoM Can't Live Without: Up & Up Diapers

Best diapers ever!

We all know that twins are a major expense, and clearly part of the financial burden is diapers.

With Big Girl, I was a Pampers Mom. I tried other brands, but nothing worked as well as Pampers for leaks. At the time, my local Costco carried the brand, so I was able to get them cheaper. And I thought I was saving money, but I now know I wasn't!

For the twins, Pampers were so expensive! When they were newborns, I started out buying them and I received many gifts of diapers. But when the gift diapers ran out, I knew I needed to find a cheaper solution to get through the next few years. I started testing out less expensive and store brands, and I fell in love with Target's Up & Up brand. The quality was really decent. They didn't leak. And they are patterned -- with giant dots on them -- which was kind of cool.

These diapers are sooooo much cheaper than Pampers, Huggies, etc., even with coupons. I am not an extreme couponer to get things like diapers for free, but I do coupon. (More on that in another post.) That said, I have found that Up & Up diapers are considerably cheaper than even buying boxes in warehouse stores. I recently compared diaper prices and found that a box of about 140 Up & Up diapers is $10 cheaper in Targer than a box of 140 Huggies diapers in Costco. When you have twins, that really adds up. (And if you have a Target Red Card, you save extra! I have the debit version, which is linked to a checking account, which means pay the same way you would with a debit card, but you get 5 percent off your final bill. Totally worth getting a Red Card!) often has coupons for Up & Up diapers as well, so be sure to check out their coupon link to print them before you go to the store.

To find other products which have saved my sanity
as a MoM (mom of multiples),

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Timely Things

Just some things running through my mind...

My town has its budget referendum today, when residents vote on the town and school budgets for the coming fiscal year... The outcome is so important for public education in our town... Crossing my fingers...

That TIME cover.
I have nothing against breastfeeding, but I'm not comfortable with that cover. Between the kid's age, the chair and the mother's pose, it definitely doesn't sit right with me.

Sister Wives.
Do you watch this show? The new season started on Sunday. I can't even fathom living in a polygamist marriage. But it is sort of fascinating and creepy at the same time.

Summer plans.
The calendar is filling up already, with trips and doctor's appointments and activities. Sometimes I would just rather lock the door and hibernate and pretend we went to Mars for eight weeks.

Toddler discipline.
The twins think "time out" is fun. Or funny. How do you engage a pair of two-year olds to understand punishment?

Yard work.
I have gardens to weed, gardens to edge, a sidewalk to also weed and a pile of mulch to spread. I need to buy some plants and create some privacy border. I need to move some rocks around. I need to fix up my veggie garden and plant it! Which brings me to...

Not enough hours in the day.
There are truly just not enough hours in the day lately. I always feel like I am fighting against the clock. I have a pile of books I want to read, but a pile of laundry to get done. I'm trying to teach the twins letters and colors, but I need to catch up on work assignments. And every day, the hour when Big Girl steps off the school bus seems to arrive faster and faster.

A new schedule.
Life needs a new "schedule." A new plan. I can't get more hours, but clearly I might need to rearrange the ones I have now!

Monday, May 14, 2012


The twins play with their new bubbles.
The twins got a little treat from a trip to WalMart recently -- mini "No Spill" bubble tumblers. The little bubble holders really don't spill, even when they tip over. The little wands are just the right size for their hands and mouths.


Even though they haven't really mastered the art of "blowing" the bubbles, they do love taking the little wand in and out of the slot, and they both have their own tumbler, which wards off any fighting.

I'm trying to find little things to pass the time outside to keep these two active toddlers busy, and this was a big hit. And they were affordable -- under $2 each -- and completely refillable to make hours of fun.

I'm sprucing up our deck to make it fun for the little ones. A water table is likely the next purchase. We still have Big Girl's little kiddie pool, which I will use here as well, and I'm thinking of bringing the ole' turtle sandbox back up here too. Our deck is gated, which means it's a confined area, it's shaded a lot during the day from the house, and it's pretty big. My husband just put another layer of stain on it, and I'm planning on adding a rug. Hopefully we can enjoy a lot of time out here this summer and keep the mess outside the house!

Friday, May 11, 2012

"New" Country Style

I do not like modern houses.

I am old school.

And I love old stuff.

My little house is actually a "contemporary" cape. But the contemporary stops there. When we looked at this house, we were attracted to the interior's open floor plan. My husband is tall, and every other house seemed somewhat claustrophic, while ours is airy and bright. Don't get me wrong -- our house is not large, it is definitely not fancy, and with our growing brood, it sometimes feels teensy-weensy. But it is affordable, which means I can be home with my kids. And we are comfortable and cozy here, and lucky to have a roof over our heads.

Filling up a house can be expensive, especially when it comes to furniture and furnishings. Luckily I am not someone who doesn't mind second-hand things. In fact, our little house is filled with second-hand things. And that is just my style. They used to call it "country," but somewhere along the way that got twisted. Country was dissected into different segments -- like primitive, shabby chic, French country, romantic country -- then the ecletic-vintage-shabby style was called cottage, and then the words "flea market" started appearing on magazine mastheads.

Now the buzz word is "prairie," as in "prairie style." (Which just sets me chuckling due to my obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder.).

Of course, I saw this magazine in Walmart recently and couldn't resist:

I am a total magazine junkie, but I have cut back on my magazine purchases in recent years. (Blogs, Pinterest and hand-me-downs of my mom's Country Living subscription have filled the need.) That said, I had to have this little treat. Happy Mother's Day to me. There is a lot of inspiration in its pages... Homey, cozy pictures.

My style is definitely a country style. I guess it's kind of farmhouse and '30s/'40s-style in my head, toss in a bit of prairie and shabbiness and you've got me. I still like a lot things at Ikea, my Keurig and the trappings of the modern world, but vintage goodies are treasured.

I used to love that show "Country Style" on HGTV. It hasn't been on in years, but I actually have some episodes saved on my DVR. (I need to get a new cable box due to our hi-def TV upgrade, but I'm trying to watch everything on the DVR first. And it will kill me to give up my "Country Style" for good!) Here's the only video I could find online of this old show:

Big Girl even likes to watch these old shows with me, and enjoys the coziness of our version of country style. I hope I inspire her to like vintage things as much as I do.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Garden: Tree Peonies

The tree peonies are blooming in my garden!
When we moved into our little house a dozen years ago, there were many existing flower gardens. One of them had this odd looking, scraggly bushes with old branches. Thankfully I just let them be, because these ugly stick bushes turned out to be tree peonies.

The tree peonies are often one of the first things to bloom each spring, usually around this time of year which just happens to be my birthday month. (I always think I am lucky to have a birthday that happens around the time of peonies, lilacs and lilies of the valley bloom in the garden.) After heavy snows during winter a few years ago, my poor tree peonies suffered some damage. Luckily, they have recovered nicely and rewarded me with many blooms again.

These flowers are so very, very fragrant! You don't have to stick your nose down into the flower to get their intoxicating scent -- just stand a few feet away and it's heaven. It's such a treat to wait for the school bus with my daughter each morning and be rewarded with the perfume in the air.

The blooms are really, really large -- pancake size -- and full of these delicate petals. Tree peonies are different than herbaceous peonies. Herbaceous peonies are plants that grow and die back each year on green stems, while tree peonies are just exactly what their name states -- trees, albeit more like a small shrub. You can think of it like a hydrangea.

Another tree peony from my garden -- a sweet shade of light pink.

In Connecticut, we are lucky enough to have a nursery that specializes in this wondrous plants. Cricket Hill Garden is also known as "peony heaven" and celebrates the blooming season by encouraging visitors to come see its many varieties in bloom. The tree peonies are planted on a small hillside and their blooms are protected from the sun by charming Chinese umbrellas. The plants have their roots in China, and the nursery is very knowledgeable about the history of tree peonies as well as its care. Tree peonies should be planted in your garden in the fall, so if you would like to add these gorgeous blooms to your yard, make note of the fall planting.

Many years ago, Martha Stewart visited Cricket Hill Garden and shot a magazine cover there. I can't find the image on the Web, but her website has many links to information on tree peonies as well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This MoM Can't Live Without: ALDI!!

Twins Clean Shopper
A few weeks ago, I told you about how I started saving money by grocery shopping at Aldi. I was back again recently for a trip, and I noticed something I had never noticed previously.

Their shopping carts have room for two kids in the seats!!! Let's have a Twin Mom Hallelujah!

(Why haven't I noticed this before? Because I've never brought the kids with me during my Aldi trips... Usually my mom would watch them, or I'd run on a weekend when my husband was home. This time, I had my mom with me so we were either going to use two carts or one of us would push the stroller. Imagine my surprise when we noticed this! I could have done a cartwheel in the parking lot.)

Twin Moms know what a dilemma shopping carts can be when you have more than one child in the toddler stage. (Here's another article on it here.)Your options for shopping are limited. You can either put them in a stroller and pull a cart behind you or carry a basket or just put your food under the stroller -- the latter two definite hinder how much you can purchase. Or you put one in the seat and one in the main part of the cart -- we all know how that can turn out.

The only other store that I've noticed with double shopping cart seats is Costco.

Just knowing I can go to Aldi without another adult and get the things I need whether or not a babysitter is available is such a relief. I felt idiotic for never noticing this, but now it makes my life so much easier to know I can run there with both of them and be able to handle the trip.

My recent trip yielded a lot of produce and frozen vegetables, since the "cupboard" was getting bare. A recent commenter remarked on the lack of fruit & veggies from the USA on Aldi shelves, so I took an informal inventory when I got home to see what is and what isn't from the U.S. Out of the produce I brought home, pears, corn on the cob, carrots, lettuce and frozen peas were all grown in the USA. Frozen beans are from the Netherlands. Grape tomatoes, seedless cukes, red/orange bell peppers and green/yellow squash are labeled from Mexico.

As I said to the commenter, I think Aldi is not alone in importing some fresh fruits and vegetables. Regular grocery stores also import fruits and veggies, but perhaps the difference is that they don't sell as many in packages so you don't have a label to read. Also, it has to do with availability -- you might not be able to grow something here in the U.S. at a certain time of the year. I worked with produce for a long time in my youth, and there were certain times of a year where things like a melon was imported and other times when we got them from a New Jersey farm. There are a lot of factors involved. But that said, it's what matters to you.

I also noticed really pretty fresh flowers at the store -- $3.99 for a bunch, making them a very inexpensive way to brighten someone's day.

So if you haven't checked Aldi out just yet, it's worth a trip to lighten up the grocery bill -- and shop with your twins at the same time!

To find other products which have saved my sanity
as a MoM (mom of multiples),

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: Hello Twins

When the babies were born, my cousin gave this book -- Hello Twins by Charlotte Voake -- to us. It definitely fills one of my twin picture books requirements: Boy/girl twins!

The book is perfect for parents of fraternal twins, particularly boy/girl fraternals, as it definitely addresses the fact that each twin is an individual. Each set of pages points out the differences between the siblings: Eating, playing, drawing, etc. are all tackled different by each twin. The author, who is a twin, wrote the book about when she and her brother were little.

"My mother has lots of stories about the naughty things we did. When people heard we were twins, they expected us to be very much alike... Nothing could be further from the truth!" the author wrote on the book jacket. I'm sure many parents of twins can relate to her statement!

But in the end, however, different, they still love each other just the way they are, and clearly have a bond not shared by singleton siblings.

The book does not have a lot of text, but it's easy to read. The simple illustrations of the mischievous twins are very cute. It's published by Candlewick Press, the same publishing house that released the book Take Two! which I reviewed a few weeks ago.

You can find more reviews on books about twins on this blog at this link. If you have any favorite twin books, please leave a comment!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mental Sweeping

After putting the twins up for a nap, I got to my daily "quick cleaning" session. When you have little ones underfoot -- especially active, curious little ones of the same age -- it is hard to keep up when they are up and underfoot. So I -- like many moms of multiple little ones, I'm sure -- have a routine of trying to keep up in short sessions.

The problem with this sort of mentality is that you never get down deep. You never deep clean. You rarely clean out. You clean up. You pick up. You put away. You make it all nice on the surface as much as you possibly can. Because you don't have time to do much more than that.

Life is somewhat the same. Mental clutter is like real clutter -- you clean up the surface, move it around, try to make space to hide it away. But there are times when you have to get down and do the dirty work. You need to go through it and clean it out.

I was sweeping my floors this morning -- a task I don't mind because it's quiet and productive. Unlike vacuuming, sweeping allows me to really think. I started thinking about how, in many ways, I have felt misunderstood lately. A lot of it is personal, and although I am really a person who wears her heart on her sleeve, it is still too personal to write about online because I don't like to make people upset or unhappy. That concept may come as unusual to those who don't really know me, as I am a very vocal person about standing up for what it is right, even it if sometimes offends people.

Believing in a greater good for this world -- and I say world, which can represent my community, or motherhood, or all women, or families, or children, etc. -- can come at a price. Clearly, like many of you who likely spend time reading blogs like this one, I spend more time than I probably should online. With small children, and friends who work and have children, there is not a lot of extra time to devote to discussing issues that really matter and the internet is a quick link to the outside world and information. It is not unlike to me research things via the Internet, to click around and gauge public opinion on something, whether it is a local issue, an education issue, a pop culture issue, a social issue, etc.

I click and click and click. I click on web pages and news articles and blogs and Facebook and Twitter... I like to read what people are saying and thinking. I'm curious. Is something a trend? Is an issue going a certain way? What are people -- people I know and don't know -- thinking? It's a sort of social anthropology, a way to sort through all those things swirling around in my head and figure out solutions.

I know I am not alone in doing this, as I know many other curious people who pursue solving a problem or changing something by doing the same thing. A local politician recently posted a photo of a blighted house in my community because he is trying to take care of this unsafe eyesore. He asked what people thought about it. He needed confirmation that his belief on this situation was heading in the right direction. He was curious if he would be supported.

I often do similar things. I ask my Facebook friends how they feel about things. Sometimes they answer and share opinions. Sometimes they don't. And sometimes situations explode. You never know what way it will go until you throw out the first pitch and wait to see where the ball will go. It can be a very unpredictable situation at times, but a very real representation of opinions as well, which is not a bad thing.

I have many things swirling around in my head lately, more than usual, many ideas and opinions and worries and concerns. Mostly, this things are the result of being a mother; sometimes, they are just greater issue. What future will my children have? Are I doing a good job? Will they get a good education? Does my community need to change? Do I need fight to harder for something? Should I step back from ideas, thoughts, responsibilities, callings for change? If I don't speak up, what will happen? If I do, what will happen? And why does this really matter in the end?

This is all mental clutter. And sometimes people misunderstand me because of it. I'm not an ostrich, sticking my head in the sand. Sometimes I think I would be better off if I could manage the ostrich trick. Sometimes I think I would not.

I have always thought I have been a pretty likeable person. I don't want that to come across as a conceited statement, but I honestly never had a problem with this. However, in recent years -- mostly since I've had children and stopped working full-time -- I'm not sure if people see me that way anymore, and I don't understand it. I'm not sure why, since becoming a mom has likely been the biggest gift in my life. I'm not sure if it's because having kids has brought out the "mama bear" in me -- I will do anything to make sure the future is a good place for them. I'm not sure if it's because I need to save my patience for my kids and not for the rest of the world. I'm not sure if it's because my time is limited and I'm distracted by little ones, so therefore I don't have the time to carefully work on communicating things sometimes and I need to focus and shift priorities.

Whatever it is, it's a feeling that needs to be cleaned up and cleared out. The clutter needs to be thrown out into the mental trash bin, and new thoughts -- positive ones -- need to end up in their place. It's an ongoing process, a daily battle, a constant pursuit to slow down my mind and put blinders on to ignore the ridiculousness. But I try. It will not happen overnight, but I will keep thinking of that broom sweeping away the unnecessary things that really, truthfully, don't matter, and focusing on the things that really do.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This MoM Can't Live Without: KidzPad Activity Table

Our version of a "train table" -- one that blends in with the decor,
even if the decor includes a giant ugly gate around the television.
 At Christmas, my parents wanted to buy the twins a bigger gift, like a train table. It was a good idea, but I decided to look for a table that is more versatile than a train table -- something that would be used longer than just the train stage. Plus I was concerned about space -- train tables can be pretty large, and I could put it in our downstairs playroom, but right now we spend a lot of time in a living room/kitchen area, and the twins could use a table to play. Did I want a brightly colored train table in the middle of my small living room? Not exactly. And Buddy Twin was obsessed with Lego Duplo blocks, so I knew I needed storage too.

Lots of storage!
After many trips to toy stores and a lot of flip-flopping in my head, a search online turned up the KidsPad Activity Table and I put in my request to my parents. (They ordered it from Costco, where they are members and found it online at a decent price. Lesson: Search around!) This table is really great, and it's now our "coffee table" replacement. It's low to the ground, which makes it easy for playing on, and it has a rolling trundle divided into two parts for storage. (I have yet to make little labels for each side of the drawer.) We mostly store the Legos in here, but there are some cars and Potato Head pieces. The two sides of the storage trundle are large, so I divided them up with fabric boxes. Yes, the fabric boxes get lifted out and dumped occassionally, and the twins can be found sitting in the drawer occassionally, but for the most part, it works. The dark color hides messes, but it does show knicks -- but nothing that a Sharpie couldn't fix. And we did put this little braided rug on top to pretect it as much as we can.

It's definitely a great solution for fitting into decor without making a living room feel overrun with toys. It can be used for trains -- which we do sometimes -- but it's not bright and gaudy looking either. You could put train pieces in the trundle, but instead we keep our train pieces in a basket in the corner of the room.

The train basket

And we still use the small, trusty Lego Duplo table that is a Big Girl hand-me-down. It doubles as an extra space to play upon, which multiple mamas know can be very helpful in certain situations.

The twins actually use this way more than Big Girl ever did.
Not sure if they make this one anymore, but it's great and I'm so glad we kept it. Except when Buddy Twin uses it as a step stool to pull salt shakers off the counter and sprinkle salt all over the living room. Ah, life with twins.

To find other products which have saved my sanity
as a MoM (mom of multiples),