Friday, June 29, 2012

A Hope

A brick from my school -- a special one, with the year 1916 on it.
This was the year the town started a four-room addition on the school,
an addition that would include my future kindergarten classroom.

Everyday for the past week, Big Girl has asked to go to the school.
My school.
The one they are tearing down ruthlessly to the ground.

It's not a pretty sight. In fact, it's quite a boring process to watch. But it is, in some odd way, not only a grieving process, but a healing process.

In the parking lot across the street from this old, worn-down school, a community is coming together. Residents, former students, former teachers and families are all flocking here, and parking, and watching. Taking photos of the destruction. Telling stories. Remembering.

Remembering is a good thing. Remembering is hopeful. Remembering means that the past will not go away when the building does. My little school will live on, in memories, and old pictures, and in a Facebook page, and now in the mind of my oldest daughter who will likely name the summer of 2012 as the "Summer They Tore Down Mom's School."

So every day, we park the car across the street and watch. And every day, people park their cars, cross the street from this parking lot, and stand outside the wire fence blocking off the school, and wait.

They wait for the de-construction worker to stop the crane and get within earshot, and the question is always the same:

"Can I have a brick? Please?"

And the man in the hard hat retreats into the dusty rubble, and returns with a stack of dirty bricks. And the people take the bricks and cross the street with a smile, mixed sometimes with tears.

The ritual repeats, over and over. All day long.

They just want something tangible, something physical of the school that is no more. Who knows what will happen to those bricks... They will likely end up as bookends, or doorstops, or stuffed in some basement or a garage. Hopefully someone will remember their history, down the line.

A wreath hung on the fence outside the school.
Despite the sadness of losing this building, it seems something good has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes of this school. People are connecting in a way I think few have connected in my community in  a long, long time. People of all generations, of all classes, are drawn to this place, sharing a common bond.

This moment, this connection, could be fleeting. But I am hopeful that it isn't. I am hopeful this moment is a springboard for change in my town, which needs to preserve its past in many ways. I am hopeful that all the children I have seen in the parking lot this week, eating Happy Meals and snacks in the back of SUVs while moms wistfully watch the school deconstruction or chat with neighbors, remember this, and their parents' stories, and learn from it.

I believe Big Girl will.
Yesterday, on the way home, she said: "I wish I went to your school."
"Why?" I asked.
"It seemed like fun," she said.
Clearly, she enjoyed all of stories she has heard this week, as well as those I've told her throughout her short life. We drive by the school practically daily on the way to my parents' house, so she is familiar with the building and her mother's childhood memories.
"I just wish you could have seen the inside, just once," I said, realizing that the school was shuttered before she was even born 10 years ago.
"Me too," she said, somewhat sadly.

She is seeing the inside now, just not the way I would have liked her too, as she peers through a building torn apart and zooms in with her little camera lens and tries to imagine what her mother was like at her age. I try to imagine too, as I peer into that building, classrooms sheared off by a big claw, the blackboard of my kindergarten classroom exposed to the world and the vintage wooden door to my second grade room flapping in the breeze.

It may have been many years ago, but memories are fresh, and flooding back. Milk cartons at snack time and May poles in the spring, kickball at recess, hopscotch and cat's cradle on the playground, school concerts and plays, learning to play the flute in a tiny closet, lining up on the painted line when the bell rang outside, sitting boy-girl-boy-girl in the hot lunchroom, Brownie Scout meetings in the basement, book fairs in the old hallways, baking cookies in a toaster oven, field days and gym shows, lining up for nurse lice checks and art class crammed in one end of the cold lunchroom.

I wouldn't have had it any other way, even today. That is my lesson that I have learned.

And I will keep sharing stories and telling tales and passing it on and fighting to preserve the past as much as I can.

I hope others do too. That is my hope.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Frugal Summer Fun!

Free outdoor movie in our local park!
When I made our summer bucket list, I made sure to include things that are free and frugal. It's amazing how you can find things to do for practically nothing if you look hard enough!

First on our list are free concerts. Our town hosts a free outdoor concerts in our local park every Wednesday. I might not make every one, but there are a few performers we will try to see. It's a great activity with the kids, who can run around, enjoy the playground, listen to music or picnic with friends.

Waiting for outdoor movie night in town -- we brought snacks from home, blanket, chairs and... bug spray!
Our town also started something new this year: Free outdoor movies! Once a month, the town will show a movie at dusk on a big screen at a local park. The first night was Saturday and Big Girl and I went by ourselves to see "The Secret World of Arietty." We enjoyed it very much and are grateful that our local Park & Rec department offered this free event.

And speaking of movies, one of our local movie theaters has free films for families two mornings per week. Admission is free, and they have special pricing for concessions. The movies are things you can already see on DVD, but some of them we haven't seen and who doesn't love seeing something on the big screen?

Several bowling centers are hosting Kids Bowl Free days this summer. The program offers 2 free games per day for each child. Click on the link to find out more information.

Our local library also has several passes to local attractions around our state. The passes are for free or discounted admission, and it can really help save some pennies. At our library, you are able to sign up for a date and you just bring it back at the end of your outing for the next person to pick it up.

And speaking of libraries, be sure to plan some visits to borrow books and DVDs. Some libraries, like ours, even have free programs for kids each summer. We have already planned to attend some of the special programming at our library this summer, including a program on bats and birds.

Museums often also have "free hours" or "free days" on their schedule each month. If there is a place you might want to visit but think you can't afford to take the whole family, visit their website to look for discount days. You might even find a coupon on the site as well.

Free fun can also come in the most unexpected places. A visit to the local pet store is great for little ones, who might like to see fish, birds, hamsters, etc. Think of it as a scaled-down zoo for tots! I always loved to do this with Big Girl when she was small, and I'm thinking the little ones might enjoy a trip to the pet store soon too.

Don't underestimate nature! A walk in the park or a simple hike can be a great way to expend some energy and enjoy the outdoors. To make it more fun, make a list of things to find -- a scavenger hunt or "nature bingo," where you search for things like a bird's nest, white rock, pinecone, etc. If you have a GPS, try your hand at geocaching. Just remember to leave something behind in the box!

Free doesn't have to be boring. Just look outside the box and you'll find excitement in the most unexpected places.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This MoM Can't Live Without: Bumkins Junior Bib

Buddy Twin in his new bib!
My twins are slobs when they eat. The food just seems to get everywhere. And they like sloppy stuff, like yogurt, and ketchup, and tomato sauce. I am constantly dealing with food on clothes, and stains. I insist that the twins wear bibs, but they like to pull them off, so I put them back on, and they pull them off, and it goes on and on. And even when they have them on, food lands on their lap, or anywhere that bib is not covering them.

So I decided I needed a new plan of attack for keeping our clothes stain-free and the slopfest at bay. I recently invested in new bibs for the kids: Bumkins Junior Bibs. They are not inexpensive ($10 ea. at Babies 'R Us) but they are worth it. (I did use a 20-percent-off coupon on one of them.)

The bibs have short sleeves, and velcro closure behind the neck. The sleeves seem to prohibit the kids from pulling them off their neck, which is such a blessing. And they are longer, covering their entire fronts, into their laps, catching drips and drops and crumbs.

Bunny Twin is smiling in her new bib!
I used these at every meal for more than a week, and they have made a huge difference. They are easy to clean. The kids don't seem to mind putting them on and keeping them on.

Needless to say, I'm throwing out all their old, worn-out bibs. I plan on getting another pair of these for them. Babies 'R Us only had pink and blue in stock, but the Bumkins web site has other patterns available.

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Lesson

In my hometown, it is a sad day.

My elementary school is being torn down. After years of sitting empty, a new business is going to replace the historic building.

Many of the residents are upset about this. Should they be? Of course, but there is a “but” to this whole thing. Although it pains me to see my beloved old school reduced to a pile of rubble, I get it. I get what is happening.

It is a total metaphor for the direction of my town, and many others. We, as a society, are in many ways, selfish. Turning a blind eye. Ignorant. Too quiet.

Where to start? My little school housed students in Kindergarten through grade 5 for many, many years. We had four K-5 neighborhood schools in this town as far back as I could remember. About 10 years ago, or so, our town decided to change it up a bit. Our schools were aging, so they decided to build a new school – a “primary” school, for PreK through grade 2. They closed two of the elementary schools, including mine, and left the remaining two neighborhood schools to house grades 3 to 5.

And that was the end of my school. The building sat, unused, for a quite a while. There was talk about putting our town offices in it, but that was squashed, primarily because this school sits in a certain part of my town which is... well, less privileged? A lower income demographic? I'm trying to put it nicely, I guess. I grew up in this part of town and I see nothing wrong with it, but for my entire life, this part of town has been considered just “less” than the other part. No Town Hall would every be located here.
The windows to my 4th grade classroom, with my absolute favorite teacher.
Many ideas for the little school were thrown out: Senior centers, community centers, teen centers, etc. But each and every one of those ideas costs money. And my town does not have money. Our taxes our low, and each spring, our residents are very reluctant to pass a increase in our town and school budgets. We just get by, and barely, and even now, with meager increases, our town roads need help. Each and every department in town could use some extra cash. So spending any amount the luxury of refurbishing an old drafty school into a community center is not exactly a wise use of tax dollars when there are potholes to be fixed.

Eventually the town decided that they needed to get rid of these excess, unused properties. So my little school went up for sale. A businessman bought it, and he wanted to turn it into senior apartments. However, parking requirements were an issue; he couldn't get the number of apartments he wanted out of the building; and finally, the economy tanked. And that was that.

The businessman got an offer from a chain pharmacy which had a location down the road and wanted to relocated. They applied to come to town, and that was that. A done deal.

And all the while, over the years, few, if any, came out to speak to save this building. There were a few history afficionados, but not enough. Not enough voices. There are voices now, today, as a wrecking ball tears through the side of the building, but where were they?

This whole situation is a metaphor, as I said. We are so wrapped up in our microcosms, our tiny worlds, not paying attention. This whole issue with the school played out for years in our local newspapers, but was anyone reading? Was anyone speaking out in public participation sessions in meetings? Was anyone writing letters? Not really. Now the visual is in front of them, and people are upset. Cursing the town. Cursing the pharmacy chain.

But they really have no one to blame but themselves.

There is something to be said for preserving the past – both physically and mentally. Last night, there was a gathering of former students and teachers at the school site, and many reminisced about the old days, and many realized how strong friendships were formed over the years at the school.

Today, in my town, children don't have the opportunity to be in the same building for 6 years of their lives, growing up around the same children, the same families, and their neighbors, walking to school in droves and stopping to buy penny candy on the way home. It's different. And I don't think it's better either. Those families all knew each other and each other's kids and when something was amiss, parents knew right away. And we had teachers watch us grow, physically and mentally, and our siblings as well. We had gym teachers and art teachers and principals who were with us for years. We had siblings in school with us. Today, in my town, we flit from school to school, and by the time you get your bearings in one building with one group of kids you are on to the next school. There is no foundation. Less of a sense of belonging. I doubt that people would turn out in droves in 40 years to see our primary school torn down. It's just not the same.

The building is a loss. We don't value the old, because the old is costly of both time and money. But today, while there is crying and moaning about “How did this happen?” -- I hope that my neighbors have learned a valuable lesson about preserving the past, preserving tradition, preserving a town and a community and a neighborhood, and most importantly, bonding together early to make a difference in the future by learning from days gone by.

Don't just sit back. Speak up.
Forget about what others may think about you.
If your convictions are strong enough, and right enough,
there are others out there who feel the same way.
And they will see your bravery and speak up too.
And together, you just might make a difference in the future.


I have come to realize that being a MoM of twins means that chaos is normal. It is not uncommon to walk into my house and just see toys EVERYWHERE and things piled in places away from small hands. It is hard, very hard to stay organized when two tiny tornados are at your feet all day long, reaching into a cabinet or closet where you are trying to put away something in its proper place.

It is often necessary to just shove something in a cabinet quickly to get it away from the curious duo. And the result is chaos. Everything may have an intended place, but the intention is lost when twins are around and you need to move quickly.

Time to keep things in place is relegated to the off-hours: naptime and after-bedtime. But if you are like me, then you work during naptime and are exhausted at bedtime. So things get out of hand.

The last month of school definitely sent my house into a tailspin, and it was neglected. So I have dedicated the first two months of summer break to sticking close to home and getting things in order. Although my first spot was originally the office, where Big Girl likes to hang out on the computer and sometimes I like to work on my laptop, I actually ended up in another spot:

The master bedroom.

(And let's keep it real. I'm saying master bedroom because it's where hubby and I sleep. But it's no "master bedroom." It's a bedroom, with a small closet, and we all share a bathroom. No illusions of grandeur at The Peapod. We love our small home and are grateful for it!)

The bedroom had become a dumping ground of clothes which needed to be put away, hand-me-downs that needed to be handed down and books intended to read. It felt cramped and messy and I hated that. It's no fun to go to bed every night and feel guilty about a room needing some attention. I once read something a fellow MoM said about the master bedroom: She said that she always made the bed and kept the room neat, because at least if everywhere else in the house was chaotic and crazy, she knew she could walk in there and feel some peace. This thought kept sticking in my head so I decided that this one place would be the place I tackled first.

So one recent afternoon, when the twins ACTUALLY NAPPED (Hallelujah!) I started picking up things and tidying the closet to get ready for cleaning and organizing the room. And suddenly I just went into crazy mode, moving furniture and dusting and vacuuming under things and on top of things and it ended up as an all-out insane project that lasted hours.

Luckily, my mother called in the midst of it all and volunteered to come over and feed the twins and Big Girl some dinner so I could continue on my mission. I moved the bed, the dressers, the nightstands, etc., vacuumed and vacuumed and cleaned and cleaned, changed the quilt on the bed to a more "summer" one and made a pile of things that need to be put elsewhere. I moved around pictures on the wall and changed out a few things with items I found when cleaning another closet -- the frugal "use what you have" decorating rule. By nightfall, I was done, and exhausted, but thrilled that I had accomplished one major thing.

It's not complete -- I still have some things to purge/organize, and the put-elsewhere pile is still there -- but it's a major improvement. And it feels good to walk in there and have cleanliness and order once again.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Big Girl, summer movie critic: Two thumbs up! Better thay "Toy Story 3," she said.
You know it's summer when the big movies start arriving in theaters. They are usually preceded by hype, and "Brave" was no exception. Big Girl has been waiting for this one for a very long time, and was prepping by reading "Brave" essentials for the past few weeks with this:

You can find the book at this Amazon link... Although we bought ours at our local Barnes & Noble.
Yes, she is a little obsessed... And I am OK with that. "Brave" is a movie for modern girls, with a "modern" princess living in ancient times who chooses her fate instead of accepting a fate. Merida is wild, adventurous, opinionated and headstrong -- everything a girl needs to be to survive in the world. And she's not tall and Barbie-perfect -- she's a little curvy with a round face and somewhat messy. Not perfect. Oh, and she loves her mother -- that's my favorite part.

Disney hit the nail on the head with a great message for girls. I won't spoil the story for you, but let's just say it was not what I expected. And maybe it was because I haven't read the book shown above. It was beautifully created, and there's scene near a river that looks so much like "real" phototography I can't imagine how they actually animated it.

MoMs with multiples will love the film for Merida's little triplet brothers -- multiples who are as spirited as my two, so much so that their antics had me chuckling inside.

And, true to Pixar tradition, there's a little cartoon short prior to the movie, giving you your money's worth.

Using my trusty Pinterest, I found a few fun Brave links:
Big Girl's birthday is coming up, and we're still figuring out what to do, but who knows? Maybe a "Brave" party is in her future?

Monday, June 18, 2012

School's Out!

Today is the last day of school!!! Woo hoo! I don't know who needs it more -- Big Girl or me... We have a whole 77 days off before she heads into 5th grade. This weekend I made a summer bucket list of 50 things to do this summer. The list has everything from programs for Big Girl and places to visit to skills to learn, crafts to make and recipes to bake. I thought 50 things was kind of crazy, but Big Girl wanted it every longer. I told her we needed to keep it manageable and that we probably wouldn't even do it all anyway, but it's fun to try. I'll be taking a break from this blog for a week, or possibly two, depending on how things go in this house. I have several work assignments to concentrate on, and I would like to get the house in order after all the end-of-school chaos. I also want to get on a schedule with having Big Girl home every day again. We need to distribute a few chores her way! And then there's the issue that we've been having some computer issues in this house. We need to clean up our desktop due to a nasty virus, and my laptop is not predictable, so I'm saving my computer time for paid work assignments right now. I've been enjoying blogging and I hope everyone enjoys reading. It is a good outlet for me. This past week has been a little weird, as hits to this blog spiked after my post on Kate Gosselin. I thought it was kind of odd how crazy everyone got after that post, between the comments and hits to that post. But clearly my statement about Kate being a polarizing figure was correct! I'll be back before you know it, and I have a lot to blog about this summer! See you soon!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Butterfly Release

Our local Visiting Nurses Association hosts a butterfly release each year to honor loved ones who have passed on. You can purchase a butterfly to release in honor of a loved one, and they have a special ceremony for the event.

My mom donated money for butterflies in honor of my grandparents this year, so we packed up the twins and Big Girl for the event at our local public golf course. (In case anyone is interested in this style of event, the butterflies came from Swallowtail Farms.) The program included remarks by a pastor, music, a raffle of a butterfly bush and a butterfly bracelet, refreshments, and the release.

The Monarch butterflies were so beautiful, and looked very healthy. Some of them stayed around for quite a while in the field to visit or linger. The whole event was very beautiful, so I will just let the pictures do the storytelling!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: "Bathtime for Twins" & "Playtime for Twins"

Two new twins books are out! And they're BOARD BOOKS! I was so excited to see these books when I searched on They were not out yet, so I requested review copies from Simon & Schuster to I can share them with you!

Why am I so excited for board books? Well, the twins are 2 and 1/2, so board books are something they can look at without destroying quickly. (I say quickly because if I leave them alone with board books in their cribs, they sometimes tear them apart :) These are even sturdier than most board books; they are made really well and solid and easy for little fingers to turn the pages.

The twins grabbed the books right out of my hands sat down to look at them!
Now, on to the books! Both books -- Playtime for Twins and Bathtime for Twins -- are written by Ellen Weiss and illustrated by Sam Williams. Both books have sing-song, rhyming text which is perfect to read to little ears. The words tell the mischievous side to multiples, as well as end with the bond a pair always shares.

From "Bathtime for Twins"
Williams' illustrations are very cute, and sort of gender generic -- I can't really tell if they are supposed to be two boys, or a boy and a girl. Weiss and Williams are experts with twins books -- the pair also teamed up for a few Ready-to-Read books about twins (one is Twins in the Park).

From "Playtime for Twins"

Both books are perfect for toddlers' bedtime stories or just to add to the book basket. This set would also be a great addition to a baby shower gift for a future MoM. They are already favorites in this house.

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!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Gr8 Kate

Image Detail

Celebrities or non-celebrities, reality TV stars can be polarizing figures. I have been following the Gosselin family for years, many years, since their original TV specials when the septuplets were infants. Big Girl and I always enjoyed watching the antics of the children, and marveled at the idea of what it would be like to have such a big family.

After all, at the time, Big Girl was an only child. the idea of multiple siblings fascinated and intrigued her. She laughed at those babies and loved their adorable faces. She related to the older twins. When the show was on TLC, she would ask "Was a new one on last night?" And usually, on hubby's golf night, we would plan a snack and watch the show.

Was I a big Kate Gosselin fan? Well, yes and no. I loved the show. I loved the kids. Did I sometimes think Kate was a little... well... harsh? Or crabby? Of course. But reality TV is not really reality TV, and we all know that. We know it's not totally scripted, a little tweaked, but we also know that the cameras only follow the "stars" on certain days, and the editing monkeys can have a field day with just one off-kilter moment.

In many ways, I knew that I shared many traits of Kate. I like order. I like "themes" and planning and special family moments and creating memories and outings and capturing it all on film. I get crazy sometimes over dirt and messes. I'm frugal and I try to use coupons and shop wisely and get cranky when it doesn't work out. And I've said things to my husband and daughter that I knew I maybe shouldn't have said, or reacted poorly in situations with them.

But I'm not on TV.

Kate Gosselin, that polarizing figure, attracts passionate arguments about why one loves or loathes her. It's about as crazy as a stay-at-home mom vs. working mom argument. Message boards are devoted to discussing Kate and her family. Psycho haters stalk her on Twitter. Paparazzi love catching her in an awkward moment. Rumors are spread about her family and anyone within 10 feet of her.

My opinion of Kate has changed in many ways over the years, starting with her public divorce. Her divorce was truly painful to watch, in my opinion. I felt truly sorry for her as we watched her marriage fall apart on TV.

And then, not long after her divorce, I had twins. And that really changed it all. Twins are HARD. Really hard, in my opinion, particulary when you already have an older child and your twins are active toddlers. Kate G. has come to my mind on many, many days in the two years -- I can't imagine having more than these two small beings in my house. Let alone twins first, and then sextuplets, and then single motherhood.

I get why she has help -- my mom helps me a lot and I couldn't do it without help. I get why the family took up the opportunity to be on TV with its paycheck. Having kids is expensive. I get why she sometimes griped over gum and markers and crumbs. I'm real enough to say I've had those moments too.

Again -- I'm not on TV.

There's a certain grace one must learn when one is thrust into the spotlight. Sometimes one handles it well, but most people have a very big learning curve, and the latter, I believe, is normal. I am not a celebrity, but where I live a few strangers know me for my writing in local publications and my support of certain local politicians and important local issues. I've had some awkward moments, and I understand, in a small way, what judgement is. It's not easy to handle those awkward moments, or the judgement that follows, trust me.

So that is why my opinion of Kate has changed. I see her a little bit differently today. She can't take back any of the past -- none of us can. She survived a painful and public divorce. She's got to provide for her children, but now she's a celebrity. And so are her children. She needs to keep them safe, and feed and house them. I personally don't believe it's possible for her to suddenly take a regular job and put them in public school and move to a three-bedroom cape. Some may not agree with this. But clearly this mom is trying to keep her children's lives "normal" when it's really not normal and trying to keep their routine the same despite their parents breaking up and losing major income and opportunity from a TV show all at the same time. I give her a tremendous amount of credit for trying to "keep on keepin' on." She's a strong lady in that respect.

Last weekend, my daughter and I returned from her Girl Scout camping trip to see that Kate was running in a local road race just 8 miles from my house on the very next day -- an annual, legendary race which some friends and family members were already running. Big Girl immediately said "Can we go??? Please??"

Other than dealing with the mound of camping equipment in the garage and the accompanying laundry, we didn't have anything planned. The hubby actually had to work the next day, so I figured maybe I would attempt a spontaneous outing on my own. We looked at a map, and chose a spot on the course where the runners passed by twice. Snacks and amusements and water packed, we headed to our chosen spot and parked out to cheer everyone on.

The crowd of runners in this race is huge (1,700!), and they all kind of blend together at certain points, but I was able to pick out Kate. God bless that woman for the sheer fact she has the stamina to do this race. It's on the top 10 list of hardest small town races in the country, with a killer hill at the end. She was holding her own in that race -- not just using her celebrity, she was using her muscles and sweat.
Kate waves to me & my twins-plus-one!
On her left is NYC marathon champ Rod Dixon, who invited her to the race.
Kate appeared at Dixon's KidsMarathon children's race event
on the previous day with her brood.
We cheered her on twice, on her way by and then later on her way back as she headed toward that final evil point called Gallows Hill. She didn't just blindly wave, but totally made a point to seek out our faces when she heard our cheering, and smiled and waved both times. And here in small town Connecticut where celebrities are commonplace and this race is really about running -- not reality TV -- those sitting nearby didn't even give her a second glance.

Big Girl was thrilled to see someone who she has watched on TV for a while, which made the adventure worth it. And I was inspired to see her run, believe it or not -- as someone who would like to get in shape, it's always good to find a little inspiration somewhere, especially from Kate, who once said that moms "get a pass" on their appearances until all their young children are in school. That one statement took a lot of my "the twins are 2 and I still have baby weight and feel unfashionable" guilt away when I read it last year. Thank you, Kate!

(And even though it was Big Girl's wish to see Kate at the race, it spurred us to go cheer on others we knew running, and it gave us the opportunity to see some really awesome atheletes from all over the world who came to run -- some you will see in the London Olympics later this year! It was very inspiring and truly amazing to see their grace and speed.)

It appears TLC isn't having Kate back for more programs in the near future, but I don't think she'll fade away. From watching Kate's recent Today show interview, I think Kate is shopping around for some reality show opportunity, and I know that I would watch her. I'm most interested in her tips on raising multiples and organization and shopping. Of course, like many viewers, I feel vested in seeing how the kids grow and what they do. I would read a book, if she wrote another one, and I do read her Coupon Cabin blog posts regularly. I would probably watch re-runs of "J&K Plus 8" if they were still on, with a different point of view now, and I've re-read Multiple Blessings just for some comfort in times when I needed it as a "Mom of Multiples."

I've always liked the phrase about walking a mile in someone's shoes. It has never been so true to me as it has after I had twins. Few understand what it's like to raise more than one baby at once. And few likely understand what it's like to be Kate Gosselin. I think we can all learn to try and walk -- or run :) -- a mile in other's shoes, whether it's Kate or some other stranger, before we totally judge what they face in their private lives. Try it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mom's Guide To.... Summer Reading

Summer is almost upon us, and Big Girl finishes school in less than a week. The big buzz word is always "summer reading," and our schools pass out reading logs to participate in our "Governor's Reading Challenge" each June. I can honestly saw I'm not sure what participating means, as we never hear the results of this "challenge." Last year, Big Girl's school gave an incentive for completing the log: The kids got to participate in a session of reading on blankets and beach towels, with a special snack, one September afternoon.

My oldest likes to read, so it's not hard to get her to pick up a book, or two. But like many kids, she sometimes gets distracted from the joy of reading, turning to a video game, or watching Disney Channel or playing Animal Jam online. This summer, I hope to find a better balance for her. To start, I'm going to treat her to some new books to get her started and hopefully inspired to read. I've asked her for some requests, but I'd also like to get her some classics she may like too.

And then there is the idea of incentives. I'm thinking of starting our own family incentive program for reading, including myself and reading to the babies. I'd like to finish a few books this summer. And although I read to the babies daily at bedtime, I'd like to squeeze in more reading time for them as well.

Of course, I need a plan and a goal, so I headed to Google to search for some ideas. I found this adorable reading log printable, which I'm considering adapting for my family summer reading plan:
Isn't this so happy and cute?

Tip Junkie also has a summer printable reading kit, and Brown Paper Packages has a great post on how to create a summer reading program for your family. The mom used little cardstock circles which said "I've read 20 minutes" or "I've read a book" which kids can put in a little bucket with their name on it. At the end of the week, mom counts the circles and offers rewards -- a simple as an ice cream cone or a coupon to stay up late or even a date night with mom and dad.

If you don't want to set up your own personal summer reading program, there are many incentive programs available to get kids to read. The first place to look is at your local library.

Barnes & Noble also has a summer reading program where kids who read and complete a form can earn a free book.

TD Bank will give $10 to kids for reading this summer as well. The money will be deposited into a new or existing TD bank account in the child's name.

The blog Living on the Cheap has a great compilation of summer reading programs available.

I think I'll participate in a few outside ones as well as trying to inspire my family to read more often this summer. Since I try for some quiet time every afternoon, I'm thinking that's a good time to try to start a reading routine in our house. On days we are home, I will try and set aside a time to sit down with the kids and some books. I will also try to get Big Girl to read to her siblings, possibly during dinner prep when the twins need some attention. That would be a great addition to our routine. As for myself? I think I should possibly hop back on the exercise bike regularly with a book, to strengthen both body and mind!

I'm also hoping to get Big Girl hooked on several great books this summer. She wants to read more of Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson" series, so that is definitely on the list. She really enjoyed one of the books in the "Mother-Daughter Book Club" series, by Heather Vogel Frederick, so adding a few more of those to our library will likely be an option as well.

And to keep the cost of books down, I'm sure we will visit the library a few times, as well as our library's used bookstore, where books are priced at practically pennies.

If you are not sure where to find ideas of books your children might like or should be reading at their level, there are a few places where you can check out reading lists online.

Reading Rockets has a summer reading list on this link, and has a great compilation of several lists at this link.

Good luck with your family summer reading plans!
Feel free to add ideas and links in the comments!

Monday, June 11, 2012


This my new hummingbird feeder, a gift from my husband and the kids for my birthday. He had gotten me a different one at Christmas, which we have in the backyard, but we recently saw this one at Walmart and I fell in love with its vintage cuteness, and he surprised me on my birthday. It's part of the Better Homes & Garden collection and is called the "Antique Glass" feeder.

We hung this one in the front of the house, right in front of the living room window. It's great to be able to see it so clearly, and quite often I have been doing something in the living when I notice a little hummingbird drinking out of it. I never seem to be able to catch one on camera -- those little sweet things are so very quick!

The little tag which came with this feeder lists perennials to attract hummingbirds. This list includes bee balm, butterfly bush, phlox, salvia, lupine, Rose of Sharon, hollyhocks, honeysuckle, columbine, trumpet vine and coralbells. We have quite a few of these in our yard, and I had seen a random hummingbird here and there in past years. It's nice to finally have a little spot to see them more clearly, and I'm hoping the kids will enjoy their view into nature.

With my Christmas hummingbird feeder, my husband bought a bag of dissolvable solution, which he put in this feeder. They are attracted to bright colored flowers, such as the color red, which is why hummingbird feeding solution is often dyed red. I have seen some controversy about the red dye online, but this is what we have in it for now. Apparently you can make your own clear-colored solution with one part clear cane sugar to four parts water. I have not tried that yet.

If you have a hummingbird feeder, clean it out before refilling it. Use very hot water to rinse out the feeder and do not use soap! A bottle brush will apparently help you reach any dirty spots inside the glass or plastic.

In the past, I had a feeder that attracted tiny ants, but I haven't had that problem yet this year. Apparently the ants add some protein to the hummingbird diet, so don't worry if you see some critters marching into your feeder!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Peapod Farm

The primitive-yet-functional veggie garden.
It's set way down in our backyard where we have room for it.
We planted the vegetable garden, a.k.a. Peapod Farm, a few weeks ago, on a very hot weekend. I hadn't touched the garden since the fall, and it required some attention.  A lot of raking and cleaning out was in order. After suffering tiny ant attacks, sweating gallons of sweat and raking my arms off, it was ready to plant. It took several hours to get it back to a reasonable shape, but so far, it's functional.

We planted our usual vegetable suspects in our four square plots. I follow, somewhat loosely, the "Square Foot Gardening" concept, with the goal to cut down on weeding and keeping everything compact. This year, we planted four types of tomatoes (can you tell we like tomatoes?): Better Boy and Celebrity varieties for larger tomatoes, and Sweet Olive and yellow grape tomatoes. (Big Girl is a tomato addict and loves little tomatoes.) We also planted Bush Pickle Cucumbers, Italian Large Leaf Basil, Zucchini Elite Summer Squash, Classic Eggplant, Red Night Sweet Pepper and Bush Green Beans. Yes, all that in those four boxes. I would plant more, but alas, I only have room for so much, right?

Off to the right side of the photo, you'll see big leaves -- that's rhubarb. It's actually rhubarb from my late grandparents' house, which actually originated at my grandfather's Pennsylvania farm where he grew up. I thought my husband killed it a few years ago, when it was planted where my former veggie garden was and he ran it down with his mower. But it sprung up again -- hubby, who loves rhubarb calls it a weed! -- and I moved it and here it is, surviving, a little piece of my family history. I love it for that.

Our little garden serves us well, and I jokingly now call it Peapod Farm, since in my dreamland I live on a farm. We get a suitable amount of produce from it, cutting down our vegetable costs each summer and allowing us to indulge in more produce than usual. I would love a larger garden, but that will come in time. Despite our prolific planting of tomatoes, we don't have any to can -- we eat every single one in this house.

I would like a "cute" garden, but right now we don't have much cuteness. We have a small net fence around it to keep out the deer, who like to visit for a midnight snack. And that white fence is front is actually an old thing my husband made for around our Christmas tree when Big Girl was little. It serves as a way to gate off the front. It's starting to get a little rotted, but it still works. Ideally, I would like a lovely little white fence around the whole thing with a charming gate and arch, but fences are an unnecessary expense in our grand scheme of things right now. Instead, I'm opting for function vs. fashion.

(But I do have a pig. Not a real one. A fake one. See the little statue in the middle of my garden? That's my pig. Petunia Pig of Peapod Farm. She's the guardian of the whole operation. I'd really like a sheep too. And another sheepdog -- a real one. And possible a chicken or two. Possibly fake or real. But I digress.)

As far as upgrading my garden "cute" factor? As I always say, a girl can dream, can't she? When it's time to afford some fashion to add to my function, I will. Here are some photos of veggie gardens in which I find inspiration, courtesy of my Pinterest board "In the Garden"....

Susan Branch's picket fence garden.
I love Susan Branch! Everything she does is cute.
Favorite move garden ever!
From "It's Complicated" with Meryl Streep....
I read somewhere that most of it was fake.
I still love it though, particularly it's pretty style and the teepee tomato cages.
I would love to work in this space. It's inviting!
A proper fence to keep out deer!
Source: via Kellie on Pinterest

This is so cute but not practical for my yard or to keep critters out!

The Posie Gets Cozy garden. Everything she does is adorable, including her first veggie garden.
I love following her adventures with this. She planted a lot from seed.
There are even better photos of the garden growing on her blog right now.

I hope your veggie gardens are coming along.
Thanks for visiting Peapod Farm!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Girl Scouts Celebrate!

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Girl Scouts, the Connecticut council celebrated with a special Jubilee event last month. The event was held at the Durham Fairgrounds and had many exhibits and activities. I went with Big Girl and we had so much fun. She was able to do many fun things, like drive a robot, milk a fake cow, pet marine life, try out her archery skills, do crafts, write with a quill pen, walk through a giant inflatable heart, slide down giant inflatable slides, see exhibits on Girl Scout history and much more.

Here are some scenes from that day.

 It's so much fun to be a Girl Scout this year, with all the extra centennial activities. I hope wherever you live that your Girl Scouts are able to enjoy all the pomp and circumstance of the scouting birthday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Naptime Routine

We all know how crucial routine is to children. Let's face it: Nearly every "Supernanny" episode focuses on establishing a routine, because usually insanity equals no routine, right?

Well, I crave routine. I crave it very much. When it was just Big Girl in our family, routine was normal and expected and almost too routine. I like to have a plan.

And then I had twins. And the need for routine grew three times that day, just like the Grinch's heart at the end of the Dr. Seuss story. Without routine, caring for twins can be bedlam. It's all about the routine, especially in the beginning. Feeding and changing and bathing is all routine, and the experts always say to keep twins on the same routine.

The problem is this: My twins don't seem to crave routine like I do. At least they don't crave a naptime routine. Which this MoM kind of needs.

Don't get me wrong. The twins do sleep. But often only at night. (Which is a major blessing, I know -- I really do know that is a huge blessing.) They don't seem to have the need to sleep in the afternoon most days. But I try. And I try. I put them up for a nap, whether I think it will happen or not. Unfortunately, most days it's "not." And naptime becomes playtime.

This is what I found the other day when I walked in the room:

Naptime = playtime = let's try to take off our clothes!
Usually they start out OK. Somewhat quiet, flipping through a board book. But then it the noise level escalates on the baby monitor. And I hear jumping and bouncing in the crib, throwing toys and blankets back and forth. Board books ripped to shreds. Screaming and laughing and giggling and bouncy bed springs and absolute insanity. Sometimes I go up and utter stern words and they will settle down. Other days, not so much.

And lately, Buddy Twin has been stripping his bed down to the mattress. (You might imagine, mothers of little ones, how repeatedly putting sheets and a mattress cover on a crib mattress can make me cranky. It's not an easy task.) One day I foiled his plan but putting four fitted sheets over the mattress cover. He still managed to remove a few sheets before I caught him.

I can't even imagine what they would do if I had already moved them to regular beds and they had freedom in the room.

When I've spoken with other twin moms, their advice is often to separate them. But unfortunately that doesn't work in our current house plan. I've considered getting them up earlier in the morning, but right now I like to get Big Girl on the school bus before they are wandering around wreaking havoc. They are not totally early risers (8-8:30 a.m.), which I know contributes to the napping issues, but I put them down later in the afternoon (2 p.m.) to make up for the later morning wake-up. They usually go to bed at night by 8 p.m.

Some suggest that the days of napping are definitely over. Not me. I don't expect them to nap 3 hours each afternoon, but a little respite would do them well most days, I think. When they nap, their mood is obviously better, so I still persist with the nap thing. Or at least some quiet time.

Even when Big Girl was approaching giving up her nap -- which was late in life, around 4 years old! -- I still insisted on quiet time in the afternoon. Quiet time was the time I worked at my part-time job when she was young. Now, with the twins, afternoons are when I not only work at my part-time job, but try to do the tasks I cannot tackle when they are awake. Ideally, it's also time where I can start dinner tasks without toddlers underfoot, pick up and put away clutter, possibly tend to and weed a neglected garden outside and have a cup of coffee, possibly. Of course, that's a long list, but I'd like a toddler-free hour each afternoon to at least get my work assignments partly done. The other things would just be a bonus.

We are just days away from the end of the school year, which means Big Girl will be home daily and in the mix. I am trying to formulate a plan to make this summer a successful one, where she can fit in the routine and we can still cram in a quiet time/naptime session for the little ones. Stand by to see if it works!!

Do you have any advice for keeping toddlers on a nap schedule?
Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This MoM Can't Live Without: Baby Trend Navigator

Our jogging stroller gets used regularly!
Twins and stroller sagas go hand in hand, don't they? I told you previously about our double stroller, the Graco Quattro Tour Duo, that we purchased for the infant carriers and beyond. It is still my "everyday" stroller more than 2 years later. We knew when the kids were quite small, however, that we would want something for outdoors, for walking, for events on the grass like fairs and picnics and farmer's markets, etc. We had a jogging stroller for Big Girl and I loved using it for walks outside.

Strollers are an important part of being a twin mom -- at least they were an important thing to me. I knew I needed the kids to sit in a stroller because holding them or letting them explore when I'm alone is practically impossible. So we began our search for an affordable "extra" stroller -- a jogger that we would get our use out of as they grew.

We settled on the Baby Trend Navigator from Toys 'R' Us/Babies 'R' Us and I am really happy with it! It cost under $200, which is definitely a plus. A lot of people I know covet the Bob Strollers but they have such a massive price tag that I question if it's worth it. I know that we have been perfectly happy with this one. (NOTE: I do not jog or run, however. But we do walk with it. And use it on grass often.)

The Navigator is great for many reasons:

1. It has a tray for each child! Great for snacks when you are at events and you want the kids to have their own little place for snacks and to put a drink.

2. It has single operating canopies -- each child gets their own shade if he or she wants it.

3. Two cupholders for Mom! (Or a place to hold a drink for each twin until you want to give it to them :)

4. iPod speakers built in the top! Great for walking if mom or kids want music.

5. Two front wheels makes it more stable.

6. Storage underneath (although the compartment is not one big one, but two big ones. Sometimes a pro and sometimes a con).

7. It is super light to push, even with two toddlers in it.

The only cons I can come up with for the stroller is that it is quite large, but what twin stroller isn't, right? It is supposed to be as wide as a standard wheelchair, which means it can fit through handicapped doors, but I question if it's wider than a wheelchair. We've had some close squeeze when we've had to go through doors, but it's worked so far. We mostly use it outdoors, but we often take it on vacation and we did visit an aquarium on vacation where it "just" fit in a door.

The stroller folds in half, but but the width remains the same when it's folded. I have no trouble fitting into my Honda Pilot's trunk, but I doubt it would fit into a sedan trunk easily. It's also awkward to pick up into the trunk but I can manage. When we go on vacation, we stand it on its side and take off the front wheels to fit in luggage and pack'n'plays, etc., in the trunk.

We are very grateful to have this stroller as a second option for our family, and I don't regret this purchase one bit!

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