Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We Survived! Happy Halloween!

When I did the chalkboard on Sunday,
had to put our Monday/Tuesday plans on it!
 Bye bye, Sandy! It was nice knowing you.

We were lucky this time around -- we didn't lose power. The lights flickered a few times, and the cable went out around 10 p.m. Monday night, but that was the worst of it. Many, many others in Connecticut were not so lucky, especially those on the shoreline. My heart and prayers go out to them. I hope wherever you are, you made it through OK. I know here, at my house, the wind was incredible and scary and loud and menacing. My normally creaky house was creakier than normal and made me have visions of "Wizard of Oz." But it's all over now.

Happy Halloween!
My trio had a Halloween party over the weekend.
I'm glad they got to wear their costumes.
As I type this, it's Tuesday a.m. and I have no idea what is in store for Wednesday. I'm hoping the kids have school, and that our Halloween night trick-or-treating is still on! (We want to wear costumes again! That's a princess, a farmer and a fox, above. And may I repeat: I am so happy I didn't spent a fortune costumes after two years of major storms in a row for Halloween!)

There are trick-or-treaters at the Little People House!
Don't you just love their fall decorations?
I think the scarecrow, corn stalk and pumpkin are a nice touch.
Buddy Twin thinks the pumpkin needs to go inside so the squirrels don't eat it.
There are about 8 percent of residents in my town without power, likely from downed tree lines. That seems to be the biggest issue in my area -- the winds toppled trees and big branches. But in a nice twist, the winds also gave me a blessing -- they blew a lot of my leaves away from my front yard. Yay! Less raking for me!

And my fridge is still full of food, which makes my life easier right now. I stocked up pre-storm, as everyone, did. A $50 trip to Aldi yielded tons of food. Here is a pic of just some of the yummy food -- REAL FOOD, real fruits and veggies and dairy and bread -- that I brought home:

Real food from Aldi.
Just in case anyone thinks you can't get "real" healthy food there...
(And yes, that's hormone-free milk.)
Aldi continues to be a blessing to my food budget. We are eating more fruits and veggies all around. (And yes, that is coffee creamer in the middle of that picture. It's my morning splurge. I don't need fancy coffee anymore at all. Right now Aldi has two special flavors: Pumpkin Spice and Peppermint Mocha. Both as really good, as good as International Coffee or Coffeemate brand versions and much, much cheaper! I use them in place of sugar/half-and-half.)

I got a lot done on my Monday of storm-waiting. Caught up on all the laundry. Clipped and organized Box Tops for Education for Big Girl's school. Cleaned out my coupon organizer and clipped new coupons and filed them. Read magazines from my ever-growing magazine pile that I need to purge. Made a nice meatball and pasta dinner for the family. Went to bed early! (Although I web-surfed for far too long in bed and should have turned off the computer earlier!)

Now I'm off to enjoy another day off with Big Girl and the little ones. Nothing special planned. It's still windy and dark here, so we are staying home again. It's funny to read Facebook statuses where people are moaning and carrying on like they have been snowbound with their kids for a week. It was one day! Winter is still yet to come, and I'm sure it will bring many at-home days. I don't think that's a bad thing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TWINS TUESDAYS: Boy/Girl Bedrooms!

One of the major dilemas of my twin mom-ness has been the bedroom issue. Mainly, how to make it work with boy/girl twins!

We live in a small three-bedroom house and we are not moving or adding on anytime soon. Big Girl has her own room, and will continue to for a while, because she is older and has her own "things" that I know Bunny Twin would destroy. Plus, I think that Bunny Twin and Buddy Twin enjoy being together. I think if I separated them, it would be very difficult for them and they would be pining for each other. So they will remain together for now.

I know it will not last as they get older, but I believe they can be together for quite a while, quite possibly into elementary school. I have a friend with four children -- three girls, two of whom are teens, and one boy -- and the youngest girl and boy share a room. They are 10 and 9, and it still works for them in their situation right now.

Of course, every family is different. We may eventually add on to our home. Or create a bedroom suite in our basement when our oldest is in high school, a la Disney's "Good Luck Charlie." But that's far in the future.

In the meantime, I needed a solution to create a cute boy/girl bedroom for the twins as we transition them into regular beds. And hopefully one that didn't require a new paint job. One of the most popular posts on this blog is one about Decorating for Boy/Girl Twins so I know I am not alone! Today's post will share some updates on decisions I am working on.

I had been gathering ideas for what seems like ages on a special Twins Room Pinterest board, pinning bedding, furniture, accessories and inspiration rooms.

I have finally solved the "bedding" question, with the help of my mother, who offered to purchase the twins' new quilts for their December birthday. I am eternally grateful because (a) I love them! (b) I could not afford them myself and (c) they will be something I can use forever, even after they possibly switch rooms, etc. I have very vintage taste, and these are just my style.

Here's a pic:



I think they work well for both little boys and girls. The pinwheel design is whimsical to me, I can use different colors of bedding for each kid and accessories on each bed to make it personal. And the light green color matches the color of the walls. (The quilts are from Country Curtains, which is a local store here but also has a popular catalog.) Whew! This is big sense of relief to me to have this one decision made. I know that seems crazy, but I had been looking for something not-too-boyish or not-too-girlie or something coordinating (hard for boy/girl) for so long. Pottery Barn Kids used to offer some great boy/girl options but they seem to have scaled back that in recent catalogs.

Intially we will be using mattresses on the floor. It will easier for the kids to adjust to not falling out of bed. We have to purchases twin mattresses, and the next decision I have to make is deciding if we will need box springs or not. It will depend on the future beds we purchase, and in my dreams I would like beds with storage underneath. Most of these types of beds do not use box springs. I know this sounds crazy to be worrying about this right now, but mattresses, box springs and beds are a big expense. If we don't need box springs, I don't want to buy them.

One of the great pins I found includes plans to make this bed:



This would be so ideal for my little ones! We could store things underneath (you can make drawers or use baskets) and I believe it would be a good layout for their room. You can also store long-term items in the corner cubby. I also like that the twins would have their own space, and that I could put a little lamp in the corner if they want to read in bed. I don't know how much it would cost to make, and I haven't presented this idea to my husband yet, but I believe it would be much cheaper than purchasing beds, which cost at least $700-$1,000 each. These units can also be separated and made into little daybeds. It's also very, very similar to a Pottery Barn Kids bed that I really liked.

I'm thinking of using a few "farm" accessories in the room, since both kids love farm stuff, and Buddy Twin loves tractors and Bunny Twin loves animals. I used a large decal in Big Girl's room, and I loved how easy it was to dress up the wall. Here's one from the same brand that I love:



It is very cute, and an affordable way to make a impact on the wall space. They also are removable, which is a nice option to change out the look of the room without much effort. (Let's just hope the twins don't decide to try and remove them on their own!)

I also know that I want a pair of these:
Source: ikea.com via Kellie on Pinterest


I have a similar one in Big Girl's room, and a tall bookcase has been a lifesaver. Although the twins' room is very small, I plan to have two tall bookcases so there is room to store the incredible amount of children's books we have, and also for each child to have their own space for special collectibles on the top two shelves. I believe when we remove the changing table and the existing short bookcase, there would easily be room for two of these and the small bureau. Ideally, I would love to add a taller bureau from Ikea but that's another added expense and not necessary right now.

I'm hoping to tackle this project and the bed transition after the holidays. Until then I will keep gathering ideas and keeping an eye out for bargains! Stay tuned!

Are you having your own boy/girl decorating dilemas? 
Share your thoughts, concerns and ideas in the comments!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Bring It On

I don't know whether to be scared or not scared, but the storm is coming. The house is ready. School is canceled Monday and Tuesday. I've filled empty containers with water, although it's just a precaution -- we don't have a well, but it's in case our water gets dirty. I've made extra ice. The freezer is pretty full right now, which is kind of good and kind of bad -- if the power goes out for days, it will be bad, but if it's just a little while then it will stay cold from being so full. We have underground utilities in my neighborhood, so our issue is if a main line goes down on the main road somewhere.

I'm charging everything that can be charged: my camp lanterns, my cell phone, the portable DVD player, the Nook, Big Girl's DS, the camera. My laptop is useless to charge because my battery doesn't hold a charge anymore. I actually did my two assignments for my job already and sent them off, just to be safe. I don't have to worry much about the cell phone being charged -- it's not a smart phone, and we have a land line that works when the power goes out as long as I hook up our non-cordless phone to it.

I always laugh when the weather gets bad and we are forced to go back to old ways: Land lines. Using cash -- imagine that! No TV and battery operated radios for FM and -- gasp! -- AM stations! In some ways I find it refreshing to rely on the things that we once used to, things that are fading away in some ways. Mother Nature always provides a good reminder that electric gadgets will not save us.

I spent most of Sunday "nesting" -- made chili and chocolate chip cookies and did several loads of laundry. Today I hope to cram in one more load of laundry, and get the house picked up some, although it's not terrible. I found, however, that during last year's storm, that it was easier when the sun went down if stuff was put away as much as possible.

I'm just hoping that we get to trick-or-treat on Wednesday, and carve a pumpkin. Our pumpkins were eaten by squirrels -- all 3 of them! -- but my parents have one left we can carve. Hopefully we can get it before the holiday!


I'm off to brave the one they call "Sandy." Stay safe, dear readers, and see you all when it's over. Not sure when I'll be back -- I have a post scheduled to go up tomorrow, and hopefully we will still have power and I'll be back on this blog by the end of the week!

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's French Toast Time!

 
Last year's "Snow-alloween."
There's a storm a-coming! Time to run out for bread, milk & eggs! (Get it? French toast time?)

Ha ha. Actually I'm not laughing. After last year's Halloween ice storm, which canceled the holiday and kept us without power for a week and without school for even longer, was kind of a downer. Does this look like a Halloween house picture below? I think not:

It was a year without a Halloween.
Hurricane Sandy is heading to New England, and it promises (as of today) to be a whopper! I'm not sure what's going to happen. Or if the weather men are being crazy insane and making everyone crazy insane, but I guess I need to get ready. I'm most worried about power outages. Last year, I had to put my freezer/fridge food in a cooler with snow:

Saving food!
We don't have a generator, but we do have a camp stove and grill with propane, and natural gas to heat our hot water, which means we can have warm food and warm showers. We have camp lanterns. I need to check my battery supply, my canned goods (easy to heat on a camp stove) and my dry goods. I probably should also get some instant coffee. I hate the stuff, but I need my caffeine. I wish I had an old-fashioned stovetop perculator -- need to get one to have for camping with the Girl Scouts anyway.

My father said our town's hardware store was already buzzing with people buying loads of batteries yesterday. Yippee! It's storm crazy time. I hate storm crazy time. People are nuts.

Eating dinner by candlelight last October.
I'm thinking as I type this that I should be digging out the sleeping bags and putting them more accessible in our storage closet. They are a good warm layer to sleep in when we don't have heat! Last year, Big Girl was scared to sleep in her room when we didn't have power because it was so very dark, so she had a very warm "nest" of a bed on the floor of my room with her sleeping bag and a lot of blankets on top. And I need to dig out the very warm pajamas for all the kids.

I'm hoping to write a few blog posts in advance for next week, so if you don't see any storm-related stuff, that's why. It should be interesting to see what happens early next week. I do know one thing... I'm not ready for this weather just yet! I like fall. I like snow too, but in the winter -- not October!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stretching a Rotisserie Chicken


The beginning of chicken soup...
Rotisserie chickens from the supermarket make my life so easy sometimes. At my local Costco, the chickens are generously sized and priced right, so it's very easy when I'm there to come home with a chicken for dinner that night. With some stuffing or potatoes and a salad, it makes an easy meal.

But the best part of the chicken is trying to stretch through several meals. There's always a sandwich or two to make, and then I use the rest of it for as many meals as I can get out of it. I shred the chicken and heat with barbecue sauce for sandwiches. Make quesadillas. Chicken casseroles.

I whip up a batch of soup, just throwing anything in my fridge that seems like it would be healthy, some potatoes or pasta, and chicken stock.



The last time I even made a stir-fry with the rotisserie leftovers: frozen veggies, a can of water chestnuts, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and terriyaki sauce. Added the chicken last to warm up and get the flavors, then put it over rice and topped with chow mein noodles. Yum. Even my husband said it was good.

You can do the same thing by cooking a whole chicken and using the leftovers, which I do as well, but in a pinch, a rotisserie chicken can be a good deal for several meals.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ramona


Ramona and Beezus Poster

In the past few days, the 2010 movie Ramona and Beezus has been in our DVD player several times. We all love this move! We hadn't watched it in a while, a long while, so I pulled it out and popped it in the DVD player on Saturday. Much to my amusement, the twins were intrigued and laughed often at Ramona and her "imagination" and antics. (I have learned that anything with kids seems to draw them in!)

"Ramona and Beezus" was based on the Beverly Cleary books about Ramona, including this one:


Big Girl has read her way through most, if not all, of them. They are very cute, and funny, and I think the movie did a great job of translating the stories to the big screen in an entertaining way. I originally saw it in the theaters with Big Girl, and it quickly became a favorite flick.


There are so many reasons why I love this movie. Let's start with this one:

Family! It is truly a family movie, about a loving family who encounters struggles. Actor John Corbett is great as the father, so great that I think this would be a great movie to watch for Father's Day since it really is a father/daughter film in so many ways.

I love that the family is portrayed as normal -- meaning they live in a small house, nothing fancy. This is so different than so many movies today, when families live in McMansions on perfect little streets. I loved Ramona's little house; just look at the pic above in the tiny living room with a window seat and cozy seating and sweet stairs. It's portrayed as cramped, but that's what makes it normal! The sisters even share a room, which is so unusual in today's real world and movie world, isn't it?

The normal tone continues with the family facing some financially tough times. I always think this is a good lesson for kids to see, especially in our uncertain economy. (This is also one of the reasons I adore the American Girl movie "Kit Kitteridge." I smell a post on this flick in the future!)

The music in the film is so divinely perfect too, from "Walking on Sunshine" to "Hey You/I Love You." My kids were dancing every time we watched it. The wedding/reception scenes are total eye candy too.

Of course, one of our favorite scenes is when Ramona and her dad make the "world's longest drawing." It's Big Girl's absolute favorite part. I love it too, and I love watching her unroll it and seeing how bright and happy the mural is. I searched and searched for a photo of it but could not find one!

And, oh yeah, I also love the movie for this:

Ramona and Beezus

Ginnifer Goodwin. Possibly one of my favorite celebrities/actresses EVER. Especially since I am so "Once" obsessed right now.

If you are in need of a flick for family movie night, try "Ramona & Beezus."


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TWINS TUESDAYS: Twins Are Expensive!


When it comes to twins, double blessings also mean a double drain on the family bank account. I remember when we were first told we were having twins, and one of my first thoughts was "How can we afford this?"

Now, they turned pretty cute -- see above pic! -- but it is a financial struggle. I was home with Big Girl, but she was just one person to feed, clothe, etc. I was able to continue a decent work schedule when she was a little girl. I have found it hard to work as much with the twins around, which puts a dent in my part-time earnings. But I know that our choice to have me continue to stay at home is a wise one, since day care expenses and after-school care for the oldest would eat up most of the earnings I could make.

Twins do not require two of every single thing, but clearly more is needed. The most affordable way to acquire necessary gear and clothing is through the generosity of others: hand-me-downs! I have sometimes struggled with this, but it is a blessing to have things given to you for free, or have things already in your midst. I saved some of Big Girl's clothing in the hopes of having another little girl, so I am trying to make the most of those items, even if sometimes they run a little big. Big Girl was born in July; Bunny Twin in December. Sometimes the size for the season is not exactly right; however, as Bunny Twin grows it doesn't matter as much. We are lucky to have a bunch of winter coats, fancy dresses and holiday-themed outfits to get us through the next few years. When it comes to hand-me-down clothing, I believe it can be just as cute as new stuff -- just add a sweet matching hair accessory and it cheers up any outfit.


Last Christmas I felt very bad that Bunny Twin didn't have anything "new" to wear for Christmas Eve; somehow that seemed that less special since Big Girl and Buddy Twin were sporting new outfits. But that said, she looked just as cute in her big sister's hand-me-downs, especially with a set of new fancy striped tights. I know that it is me feeling bad, not her; however, I do not want her to grow up resenting hand-me-downs! (That said, her grandmother spoils her often with adorable outfits. She is not lacking for fashionable clothing!) Buddy Twin is also lucky to have some hand-me-downs from his cousin, who is only 6 months older, as well as some moms of boys who have passed things on to me. I have been able to acquire some great new things for him this way. (A post talking about "Dressing a Little Boy" can be found here.)

Of course, second-hand shops and consignment shops offer a bunch of gently used gear at lower price tags. You can even consign things you don't need anymore to get some cash for newer items.

I also am a big believer in shopping clearance and sale racks for new things. One year after Christmas, I bought a bunch of Christmas shirts for both twins at Kohl's for just a few dollars each. I bought size 4 tops, figuring eventually they would wear them! This year, we are now happy to have a closet full of things with tags on from that sale two years ago! I also shop Gymboree sales racks with coupons when it is worth it. Last year, after the holidays, I was able to get a cute dress for Bunny Twin for this winter, as well as a few tops and a new sweater for Buddy Twin. The sweater is perfect for the holidays this year, which means I don't need to find a holiday outfit for him. I also try to buy things slightly big with the hopes they can get two seasons out of them; I just roll up the sleeves. Last year's sweaters will hopefully fit Buddy Twin again this winter.

Don't feel pressured to push through milestones to get to new gear with twins. My kids are still eating in high chairs; not booster seats. It works for us. And believe it or not, they will be 3 in December yet still are in their cribs! I know big kid beds are in our future, but that said, the cribs are working fine for us. Yes, they can climb in and out of them, but they also have plenty of room to sleep. The cribs take up less room in their room. And it  is saving us money, slightly, when you consider we are going to avoid toddler beds and go straight to twin beds, probably sometime after Christmas. And even then, we won't use beds -- likely just mattresses on the floor until we make decisions on furniture and/or find hand-me-down furniture. Big Girl transitioned to a mattress on the floor initially, and it worked well with the adjustment so I have no problem repeating this plan.

Which brings me to this: Ask for what you need for the kids for their birthdays and Christmas when the kids are small. My toddlers have so many toys; we really don't need another thing. But grandparents like to spoil, right? My suggestion, if this can be done in your family, is to tell grandparents to gift money, gift cards to be spent at another time or ask for specific needed items for birthdays and Christmas. Since my little ones are December babies, you can imagine the chaos of two birthdays and two Christmas gift hauls. Luckily my mother offered to buy the twins' new twin bed quilts for their big birthday gift (whew! one expense handled!) and for Christmas, I'm thinking money to contribute to the purchases of mattresses might be a good gift.

As for now, one of the largest expenses in my babies' lives was this: formula, and diapers. We used generic for both. After a lengthy conversation with my pediatrician, we settled on using Kirkland brand formula (from  Costco), which cost less than half the cost of Similac/Enfamil. It was a necessity, and my pediatrician assured us that it was all made in the same factories and regulated by the government. Of course, breast milk is free, but that was not my decision for my babies who ate around the clock as it was.

As for diapers, everyone has likely read my love affair with Up & Up diapers from Target. They are the best deal around!

As for the holidays and birthdays, so far we try to keep it simple. The tots are only just going to be 3. The simplest things make them happy and excited. No iPads for our twins just yet. They are too young to have a wish list, so Santa has been shopping early to get good deals. I try to tell myself that when it gets out of control with the presents, who is it to please? You? Or the children? Of course, as they get older, they want more specific, and often more expensive things. But I have always told Big Girl that Santa does not get everything on the list; he tries to pick what will suit you best, and that usually only includes one "big" -- a.k.a. costlier -- gift. Everything else are less expensive items.

And as the kids grow, it's good it be honest that money does not grow on trees. Especially when you are expecting your twins to head to college some day!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday, Monday...


Welcome, Monday! It's good to see you!

It's been such a long weekend. We all have been battling colds, illness and miscellaneous other ailments. My husband was bitten by the stomach bug Saturday, so we have basically laid low, with lots of Jello, saltines, Gatorade, disinfectant and prayers. He spent the weekend in our basement family room/playroom, where he holes up when having to do work anyway. Luckily it struck him down there, so he kept his germs down there while life went on (mostly) as usual for us upstairs. We are lucky to have a full bathroom in our basement as well as a futon and a big TV. It often becomes his quarantined sick quarters when he is ill, and no one bothers him AND he doesn't infect the rest of the house.

With all the illness floating around, it has reminded me that (a) we need our flu shots; and (b) we need to restock our sick supplies. Two quick runs to the store this week cost me $60 that I wasn't expected to spend this week, on things like extra cleaning supplies, Pedialyte for the twins and Gatorade for my husband (out of both!) as well as normal sick things that seemed to be missing from our house: Jello, saltines, white bread, ginger ale, etc. I was reminded that whenever there is a good deal on these I need to squirrel some away for the next bout of icky sickness. We also could use an extra bottle or two of Nyquil in our medicine cabinet, some cough drops, and Kleenex. We are running low now!

Last week, I mentioned heading over to a very special link that would put life in perspective: www.superty.org. Ty Louis Campbell was a beautiful, sweet, five-year-old boy who succumbed to brain cancer last week. I did not personally know him, but this little boy has so touched my heart. Maybe it's because I have a little boy now and I can totally relate to his mother's blog, as she shares her heart on her sleeve regarding his struggle and the accompanying treatment during the past two years. She shared both little joys and major disappointments, and beautiful pictures of his "smile of the day." I do not believe this little angel's life was in vain, as I read the countless comments on Facebook or on the blog from strangers who are as touched as I am. Ty's parents are trying to spread the word, and raise money, for pediatric cancer research, which is sorely underfunded.

Photo: Thank you, Chris Evans.  The REAL Captain America!  We wish you could have shaken his hand, too.  It was so special to our entire family to know that you heard about Ty and were compelled enough to post about him.  Thank you so much!  

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/entertainment/celebrity/chris-evans-honors-young-cancer-patient_70922621
www.SuperTy.org
And through Ty's mother's blog, she also has always encouraged families to appreciate their children, relish every moment instead of worrying about the silly things moms worry about daily. Instead of always worrying about the mess in your house, spend a day making a mess and enjoy it. Or, as her famous advice goes, let your child jump in muddy puddles. The other day, when it was raining, I actually told my little boy to jump in a puddle. I brought him over and stomped him right through it. And he laughed and laughed. He thought that was the best thing in the whole wide world. Since I have been reading this blog, I am trying to appreciate the little things, or crazy dance in the living room, or give them candy treats, and just sit and play with my kids. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to point out how lucky we all are. We don't have to be wealthy or privileged to enjoy our children, do we? Or appreciate their gift of health -- which is a great, great gift.

In the spirit of honoring this very special little boy, and countless others like him, I'd like to encourage every one to think about supporting pediatric cancer in any small way this holiday season: Spread the word through your blogs, donate to St. Jude's through the campaigns in your local stores, or even send in a small donation to a childhood cancer charity, like the Ty's foundation at www.superty.org. (You can also follow information about Ty's foundation via Facebook at the Ty Louis Campbell community page or on Twitter @SuperTyCampbell.) Also, St. Jude will be kicking off their annual Thanks and Giving campaign on Nov. 1, with special items you can purchase to raise money for their ongoing research. It would likely be a lovely way to shop for the holidays. Or download the Taylor Swift song "Ronan," written about Rockstar Ronan, whose mom has a blog as well and wrote a post about corresponding with Ty's mom here.



If we all use our voices, perhaps we can find a way to help more children -- did you know that there really hasn't been major inroads in treating childhood cancer in 30 years? That we often go by adult protocols for treatment? These poor children need our help. I know there are so many charities from which to choose, but perhaps just a little bit of attention can help less children suffer.

Now for some great, good news! Let's all send some love out to the West Coast because the talented Alicia of Posie Gets Cozy and her husband have adopted a beautiful little girl. This is such a gigantic blessing. Last year, Alicia and her husband were on the road to an adoption which ended in devastating heartbreak. Reading her new post with photos of a brand-new baby, fills my heart with joy. I read her blog regularly to see all her beautiful creations, and I feel as if I know her. I have been pulling for her to find a new little angel, and she has. And I can't wait to see all the lovely things she will create for this little sweetheart.

So, that's a lot to say for a Monday, right? But it's all on my mind. Today, continuing to get my own life in order is on the menu. We had such a busy week last week, with much happiness shining through our sniffly noses and sore throats. Big Girl had her Student Council election on Friday, so she needed to prepare posters and a speech; she came in second in her class for representative. She was happy with this result, since she is the alternate for the winner. Frankly, the entire process is always a bit of an annoyance for me, since it's really just an overblown popularity contest. But that's for another post on another day.

But the much bigger news is that she was named Musician of the Month at her school -- the first-ever Musician of the Month! We have a new principal this year, and this is a new award, and it is so sweet that her music teacher chose her for this honor. The school had a "town meeting" on Friday for several character awards and other announcements. Her music teacher, who is at another school on Fridays, could not be there to announce the award, so he taped a special video to say why she deserved it. It was so nice, with such wonderful things said about her not only as a student but as a person. (Yes, I cried!) And he didn't announce her name until the end, so it was such a nice surprise for her. I am so proud of her and her accomplishments. I know what a good girl she is and it is so nice for others to notice too.

I'm actually writing this on Sunday night, and I need to sign off to get ready for dinner, make a meal plan for the week, and start night-before-school preparations. I like to have lunch boxes stocked with snacks, clothes decisions made, and the backpack ready. I'm not a great morning person so these little steps just make life easier -- especially on Mondays!

Have a great Monday, and enjoy your life's rainbows!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Waxing Poetic about a Bargain


I have a thing for apple-scented candles. I like things that smell like apple pie -- it's very "homey" to me. Especially in the fall.

I was in Walmart over the weekend and just happened to pass through the candle section. I remember reading on someone's blog out there in Internet land that there was a great apple-scented candle in Walmart for a bargain price. And I found it! It's "Mulled Cider." It smells fantastic, as good as a more expensive candle.

And guess how much this 20-ounce jar candle cost? A mere $5. Can you believe that?

It smells far better than this over-priced mistake:


I bought this candle from my daughter's school fundraiser. The catch was that the wooden wick emits a crackling sound when burning, which made me think "Oh! Like a fireplace!" But that was ridiculous to expect. The crackle is only audible if you get close enough to set your hair on fire. I'm embarrassed to even tell you how much I paid for this. And the scent is just OK.

For now, I'm sticking with the Walmart candle.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Life, and Death

I'm not really posting today. I had a tiny post scheduled to go up yesterday, but it didn't for some reason, so I'll hold it off. We are currently battling some bug -- it's a nasty weird cold that is affecting every member of my family differently, between sore throats, runny noses, fevers, stomach issues, and one vomiting moment. Couple that with my obligations to job and volunteering and it's been one hell of a week.

But that said, it can't compare to the sadness felt by the family in my link below. If you go back and read this blog, your heart with break into a million pieces. Say a prayer for them and hold that little boy in your heart.

http://www.superty.org/

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TWINS TUESDAYS: First School


Two weeks ago, I posted about trying to fit in more activities with the twins, as well as trying to fit in some little bits of "homeschooling" (although we are not homeschoolers in the true sense, the toddlers are "home" with me right now!) into their lives. I truly believe that being a stay-at-home mom involves schooling your little ones and getting them ready for real school. And that means learning letters, numbers, colors, shapes, counting, coloring, etc. The twins will go to preschool eventually, but not just yet.

They turn 3 in December, and likely will not step foot in Kindergarten until they are officially 5-turning-6. So preschool will come the year prior to that, which is two years away. In the meantime, I want to make sure they have the same opportunity, however difficult it may be, as Big Girl. And that means this MoM has to get her act in gear and get some schoolin' and learnin' going for them!

I have made a strong effort in that recently, and it's going OK. We have been sitting down to work on things like colors and letters. They know most of their letters by sight, but can be stubborn in playing the "identify" game. I really want to keep pushing the letters thing since reading is very important to me. I already know they are pretty smart cookies, but I also know that working with them will give them a greater chance to shine brighter.


One website has been so helpful to me with them and I wanted to share it with you. It's called "First School," and it has really awesome little worksheets to print out. I have been trying to do things with random letters that go with something from this time of the year, like A for apple, P for pumpkin, B for bat, L for leaf, and -- coming soon! -- T for turkey. Just all that seasonal stuff that they can grasp. I hang up their little coloring pictures and letters, just like their older sister's artwork, and I prompt them to show visitors and grandparents their work so they are proud of what they have done. And several times a day, I might ask them what letter is for "apple" or "pumpkin" and give them a chance to remember and use their little brains.

It is definitely different taking on this toddler "homeschooling" thing with twins. When the crayons come out, it has to be a highly monitored and directed situation or else I will live in a Crayola world. Reading books is even a challenge, as they disagree over which one they want to hear. If I ask one a question, one is more likely to answer faster than the other.

And what I've also found out in my mothering years is that teaching kids happens when you are just in the moment (although having a few ideas up your sleeve definitely helps -- especially with more than one little one). Money Saving Mom had a two-part series titled "Teaching Your Tot Without Breaking the Bank" that I thought was really helpful: Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. Be sure to read through the comments, which have some great ideas too.

I hope that, as I muddle through this twin toddler thing, that someone out there finds a kernel of inspiration somewhere in my posts! We are all in this together, right?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lincoln Logs


Every now and then I try and pull out a different toy. Something to keep the twins busy for --oh, I don't know -- five minutes? (Just kidding.)

They do seem to need constant stimulation, and switching out toys can switch things up a bit. The other day I started thinking about some toys I had put away and remembered Lincoln Logs. The twins are possibly a little young for them, but I figured that if I built something with them, they might get intrigued by them. Buddy Twin is a LEGO/Thomas train builder-kind-of-kid, so I knew it might appeal to him especially.

Well, it went over... OK. We have a giant Lincoln Log set that has all the traditional wooden pieces, as well as a newer set that has some plastic pieces and is intended to build a schoolhouse. The schoolhouse has a plastic slide, and that was the coveted piece by both children. And then Buddy Twin tried to build a track for his Matchbox cars out of the logs and roof pieces, which is fine with me, since he was hard at work on a project, even if it wasn't a log cabin.

Later that day, as I was putting the twins in bed, I could hear wooden pieces being sorted through downstairs, click clack click... (And Bunny Twin heard it above the bedtime stories: "Lincoln blocks, Lincoln blocks!" she said with one ear in the air.)

When I finally got the tots tucked in, I came downstairs and I found this:


Ah, Big Girl. "I knew exactly what I going to do when they went to bed!" she said.

Lincoln Logs are such a classic, classic toy. They have been around since 1916, and interestingly, were invented by architect Frank Lloyd Wright's son, John Lloyd Wright. The idea came to him when he was watching the building of Tokyo's Imperial Palace Hotel, which was created with "earthquake proof" interlocking pieces. He named the toy after Abraham Lincoln, who began his life in a log cabin. Apparently they reached the height of popularity during the 1950s during the Davy Crockett era.

The package says they are for ages 3 years and up, and clearly we know that the process of building with blocks is a great activity for little minds. It's about creating, problem solving, thinking things through -- that sort of thing. All positive exercises for toddlers.

I'd like to add to our "log" collection. If I had my wish, Santa will bring this for Christmas:


I love this one because of its Laura Ingalls Wilder cuteness. It's even called the "Little Prairie Farmhouse!" I swear they pick these names on purpose to match Laura Ingalls Wilder: The schoolhouse set we have its called the "Walnut Woods Schoolhouse." Um, Walnut Woods? How about "Walnut Grove," right people?

Speaking of girls playing with Lincoln logs, they don't have to be pink for little girls to love them. The plain old logs clearly inspired my oldest, and yesterday I was looking at this 1926 advertisement:


The ad says that girls like to play with them too, to build houses as well as furniture for their dolls. I loved the thought of log picnic tables and stump stools for dolls tea parties.

I'm hoping the Lincoln Logs continue to get a workout in our house, along with the LEGOs and trains, and American Girl dolls.

And in case you are feeling inspired (like I am!) here's a great party idea based on Lincoln Logs:



This party was so cute and original. I even love the food ideas -- lumberjack breakfast, anyone? Future birthday party for twins? Possibly!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Squirreling Away Nuts


It's inevitable. Winter's coming. I can feel it in my bones.

And then I woke up yesterday to this headline in the morning newspaper:


Cold, they say. And costly. Break out your sweaters, your sweatshirts, your blankets, your extra socks and your boots. I guess soon it will be time to put on the layers.

I haven't turned the heat on just yet. Luckily, we've been able to manage the little chills here and there with the help of my little faux fireplace. Hopefully it won't drive up the electric bill to have it on low in the early mornings or at night while I'm watching TV. My electric bill from the last humid heatwave was astronomical. I'm so mentally done with high electricity bills. I'm even considering convincing my husband to scale back the outdoor Christmas display.

We have natural gas heat, which also powers our hot water heater. Luckily the news article reported that gas prices will remain stable, although it will be cooler so we will need to use more gas to keep the temperature consistent. Only a 15 percent increase is expected! Yay, said Sarcastic Me.

In the meantime, I have this inner urge to act like a squirrel. Fill the cabinets and the freezer and get out all the winter gear. Big Girl and I already have the boots, courtesy of finding them at Marshall's earlier this year. Big Girl had a similar pair last year and wore them constantly and outgrew them. She's the new owner of the purple pair, which is very fitting for a tween.

I have the black pair, which is very practical for me. For a very long time I have wanted a pair of UGGs, like everyone else seems to have everywhere I look. Fashion peer pressure! But frankly, when it comes down to it, they are kind of pricey for my budget. I can't justify spending $100 or much more on a pair of boots when that could buy groceries for a week or two, or several outfits for my closet when needed. I've tried to scout out some at Marshall's, but the ones I've seen don't seem worth the price tag -- why pay so much for boots that look like a sweater? How will that keep my feet dry and warm? So I never buy them. And for Big Girl? Well, her feet grow like crazy so it's not necessary to spend major bucks on shoes right now. If she was a teen, and put it on her Christmas list? Well, then, maybe...

Instead, our boots are the Bear Paw brand. They are decently made, and comfortable, and affordable ($30-$40 at Marshall's). As soon as we got them, I headed over to our local KMart and picked up a can of this:


I figured it's good to protect our affordable investment during the upcoming months. I know Big Girl will likely be sporting these every day except gym day, so I'm putting a little effort into keeping them in shape ahead of time. Yesterday, I broke out the new boots and gave them two coats of this stuff.

My next job is to take inventory of the winter jackets, gloves, hats, snow pants, etc. I've got a bunch of hand-me-downs that should fit the twins' needs. Big Girl will hopefully still fit in the large snow pants and snow boots I bought last year. My husband and I will likely muddle through another season in our winter gear, and he got new boots last year so he should be all set.

So, are you ready for winter? Although I've got Christmas on the brain, I still think I could relish not having a spot of snow before the holidays. Not after last year's Halloween ice storm.

Mother Nature? Please be kind for a little while. Send Jack Frost on a vacation somewhere else!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More "Me" on Yahoo! Voices

I've been writing more things for Yahoo! Voices. The latest two articles are The Balancing Act of Work, Family and Activities and Choosing Clothing for a Family Portrait.

You can find all my articles via my profile page. My views are picking up, which is totally great for me since I am trying to make this work as a writing outlet for me -- it's something I can really do while staying home with my little ones. It's fitting that the one article that has boosted my clout so much on this site is my Laura Ingalls Wilder piece. That is so symbolic for me, as she is one of my favorite writers ever. I feel there is some deeper meaning in this; it's encouragement to continue doing what I'm doing.

It's interesting that a few things have happened via my Yahoo! Voices contributions this week: I actually got three comments on my articles -- the first comments I have ever gotten, all within one day's span. I had an e-mail from Aldi wanting to use comments from an article. I actually got paid -- finally! -- because my views reached a certain number. And this week, after submitting the two articles above, I actually had really nice feedback from the editor who checked my work.

It may seem small, but these little things matter so much when you are a writer. Writing is a very solitary job -- sometimes too solitary. The littlest feedback telling you that you are on track, or doing well with your work, or helping a reader out, or making someone feel good, is like a ray of sunshine.

And now on to another talent in my family for which I still need to share the love: My husband co-produced and filmed this awesome "Call Me Maybe" video (link here or click below). I know I mentioned late last week in a post, but it's worth mentioning again! It features employees from Connecticut manufacturing companies lip-synching and dancing and working in their industries. The video was created in honor of Manufacturing Day/Month, and I think it is so incredibly fun and wonderful! It celebrates several "Made in CT" businesses, and that is a great thing: These companies are part of our national economy, and provide jobs in a time when that is a much-needed thing to cherish.

Everyone in this video is such a good sport. I hope it brings a smile to your face. (If the window below appears restricted to you, please take the time to click over to YouTube and view it!)





Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Once" Obsessed


There's a new Sunday night ritual in our house. It involves Big Girl, me, a bowl of popcorn, and a little TV show called Once Upon A Time.

We are obsessed. Offically obsessed with a capital "O."

What used to be "Mad Men" night for me and hubby is now "Once" night for me and Big Girl. And I really like it! It's fun to have something to look forward to at the end of the weekend, sort of like how it was years ago when "The Wonderful World of Disney" was on.

(Funny thing: "Once" is basically Disney show! How cool is that?)

Do you watch it? It's hard to describe, other than it's about fairy tale characters who are cursed and sent to live in Maine and don't remember their fairy tale lives. It's so much more than that, however; telling stories in present and the past, with quirky characters that remind me of past favorite shows like "Northern Exposure" and "Twin Peaks." Apparently, some of the writers were writers on "Lost," and that is fitting for how the show plays out.

The show is currently in its second season, but the first season was recently released on DVD -- in fact, it's on sale at Target this week! ($29.99 for 22 hour-long episodes, plus extras!) The DVD was a special treat for us this week and we are slowly making our way through past missed episodes. Even though we know what will happen, the old episodes are still enjoyable to watch because the fairytale back stories are so rich and beautiful to watch.

My daughter has declared this her favorite new show, and I'm so pleased to have something to share with her. There's not much on TV lately that we can both enjoy -- the days of "Full House" and "The Cosby Show" and "Facts of Life" and "Happy Days" and "The Brady Bunch" are long gone. We sometimes watch Disney Channel shows, but they can wear on my nerves sometimes.

"Once" is also one of those eye candy shows for me -- entertainment that inspires with cool clothes and decorating. I'm really obsessed with the character of Mary Margaret, a.k.a. Snow White (I knew she was always my favorite Disney princess!), who is played by actress Ginnifer Goodwin. (Goodwin was a favorite of mine in the series "Big Love" on HBO, which is now long gone. That was such an interesting drama.)



Mary Margaret has the coolest Shabby Chic apartment, and dresses in adorable preppy clothing that I want to magically appear in my closet. Where is a good spell when you need one?


I have now added this necklace to my wishlist, although I just might have to get it for Big Girl. Or maybe one for both of us? :)

Source: etsy.com via Kellie on Pinterest


If you want to join our obsession, you can watch Season 2 episodes at this link. Start with "Magic is Coming" to catch up on back stories of the characters (then go out on buy Season 1 to see them all in their full glory!). But the current three episodes online can get you caught up enough to watch Sunday, at 8 p.m., on the ABC network. Don't forget the popcorn!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

TWINS TUESDAYS: Sick Days


When one twin gets sick, it's usually inevitable that the other will fall to whatever germ is in the house. I've given up trying to keep one from transmitting whatever it is to the other, for the most part.

My twins share everything: a room, sippy cups, toys, utensils, food. No matter how hard I try, it's impossible to keep them from sharing unless they are strapped down for hours which is just not possible.

Last week, Bunny Twin had a cold with a runny nose and sneezing. Buddy Twin had a milder version, but now he has an intestinal thing. I'm just waiting for the intestinal ax to fall on Bunny.

So how do you handle sick twins? Prepare for both to be sick. Keep medicines and supplies on hand because its even harder to drag two tots to the store. When you have coupons at the beginning of "sick season" -- which is right now! -- stock your medicine cabinet with pain reliever, Benadryl, saline nasal spray, etc. I actually used a Pediatelyte coupon earlier this year to buy powdered Pedialyte -- little packets that you mix with water. It was a very thoughtful choice as I had tried to keep Pedialyte on hand but it always expired before I could use it! The powdered stuff lasts longer, takes up less space, and today, I was very glad to have that on hand!

It's also good to try and have bland crackers like Saltines, as well as applesauce, jello and rice on hand. If you have a little one who needs nourishment but is having stomach issues, these are good things to feed them.  (Or you, for that matter, if you come down with it too!) Stock up when there are coupons and sales.

Also, be sure to stock up on disenfectant. Keep the house cleaner than normal to try and keep the illness at bay, particularly for yourself! Don't forget little spots like lightswitches, doorknobs, cabinet handles, etc. Wash bedding, blankets, comfort toys, throw blankets, etc. often to keep them clean and germ free. And wash your own hands often.

Here's a decent article on when twins are sick.

And now, I'm off to bed! I need to take care of me, too!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Christmas Shopping


Great blog post by Money Saving Mom on shopping early for Christmas.


Yes, you read that right. Christmas shopping.

I've been Christmas shopping for months now. I already have gifts for the piano teacher, bus driver and religion teacher; and I've picked up things here and there for the kids. (Some of the "kid" things may be for the twins' birthday, which is in December. Not sure yet.)

I know it sounds crazy to be so focused on the holidays when Halloween hasn't even arrived yet, but the things I've gotten have been appropriate and priced just right. Some of them I even purchased with leftover gift cards from my birthday. I hold on to gift cards like gold. They come in handy when I need a little something, for me or someone else. And this case it was a few Christmas gifts that I spotted when my cash reserves were low!

I have a special place to keep my gift stash, but very soon I need to pull it out and organize it and make a master list so I can keep track of everything I have and everything I need.

There are so many decent deals out there right now on certain things. LEGO sets have been on sale at Toy R'Us and Target. Also, now is the time to pick up a "hot toy" before its gone! Some stores are even offering layaway plans so you can pay it off without a credit card little by little.

I'm also starting to make my own wish list of little thing I see, here and there, to pass along to my husband. I have a Pinterest board of cute holiday stuff to possibly make, bake or craft.

How cute is this little village?



It's all dollar store stuff. The great thing about this is that if you have little ones like me, and they break it, it didn't cost a fortune. You can just run out and get another house, spray it, and add it in the mix.

I'm ready to dig out the Christmas CDs and start listening.
Are you planning for the holidays yet? 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Made in CT

My husband has been working crazy amounts of hours at his job, and the reason for his excessive hours away from home is the new video I'm sharing below!

The video was made in honor of Manufacturer's Month, and it celebrates Connecticut manufacturing companies. It's silly and fun, but it also showcases just a few of the businesses which contribute to the economy in our state and provide jobs -- in this election season we all know how that is a hot button issue! I'm proud that these business are still in our state (especially Munson's Chocolates -- let's just say "Yummy!" with a capital "Y!" The "samples" from that video shoot were so delicious!).

Take a minute to watch it and I'm sure it will put a smile on your face. I think my husband did a fantastic job, but then again, I'm biased :)

"Practical Magic" Style



Every fall, I have the urge to watch "Practical Magic." The movie is just perfect for the Halloween season, with its witch-centered plot.

I am not a horror movie fan at all. I don't like to be scared, or the idea of horrible things happening. "Practical Magic" is a little bit different -- it's got its slightly scary parts. And it's not the best movie on the face of the earth, but it is entertaining. And it's beautifu -- so beautiful: Beautiful scenes, house, etc. Lots of movie eye candy. It's right up there with movies like "You've Got Mail," "The Holiday," "It's Complicated," etc. -- movies where you watch as much to see gorgeous cute home decor as much as to take in the familiar plot.

With "Practical Magic," it's good to know that the book -- by awesome author Alice Hoffman -- is way better than the movie. But every single one of Alice Hoffman's books are just so deeply mesmerizing. She is one of my absolute favorite writers ever, and if her name is on it, I will read it. "Practical Magic" is a great read and the movie can't compare to the greatness of the book. In my mind, it's actually almost a totally different thing.

But that doesn't mean I'm not drawn to watch the movie over and over. So let's return to that film eye candy. Check out this kitchen:



I could post so many beautiful pics of the film's garden, conservatory, and the little seaside town, but I'll let you see it in the movie.

I must say although the movie is old now, I love the fashion too. Sandra Bullock's lily-of-the-valley cardigan has always been a favorite:



There is actually an entire blog, "Amas Veritas," about "Practical Magic." The blog has been around for a while, but if you are looking for more information on the movie, it's worth clicking over and checking it out.

Another blog has a great post on the Practical Magic house and sets, with a lot of great photos.

If you haven't seen the movie, the DVD is quite affordable now. You can find it places like Walmart and Target in the $5 selections. But make a promise to yourself to read the book too!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Family Portrait: Choosing a "Look"

I spent hours and hours last week trying to pick out clothes for a family photo. For our anniversary, my husband purchased a session with a portrait photographer so we could finally get a nice family photo. It was definitely something I always wanted to do.

The photographer forwarded instructions on how to dress: Don't match. Coordinate, but don't wear the same things. She sent a link to a Pinterest board of ideas.

And off I went, shopping, to find something for each family member. It cost a small fortune. I was shopping on a deadline -- our photo session was scheduled for Sunday -- and I was also shopping unlike I normally shop. Shopping for me is a sport: One that involves sales, clearance racks, coupons and mark-downs. I have to be frugal, as you know!

But not this time. This time I was driven by having to find outfits for five family members of different genders and ages that somehow would not look like we fell off the turnip truck. And I had little time to do it. I have a new appreciation for photo stylists after this whole experience.

I started at the Gap, for Big Girl. Now, I do not normally shop there because it's beyond my regular budget, I was looking for something that did not contain graphics, words, cartoon characters. She got a new pair of jeans and a plain pink top. I always like Big Girl in pink, especially in pictures. And I thought she would be the most difficult subject, which is why she became my immediate focus.

After Gap, I headed into Gymboree, where I fell in love with a red-checked button-down shirt for Buddy Twin. With that, and a new pair of jeans with red cuffs, and I was set. It seemed to go with Big Girl's pink focus. And I just know this shirt will be worn long after this picture: It's perfect for Christmas, for Valentine's Day. And it's just downright adorable. I think I'm saving it forever.

Since denim was going to link us in the picture, I had my heart set on Bunny Twin wearing a new denim dress we already owned. I picked up a pair of leggings in Gymboree to match Buddy Twin's shirt, and some cute little hairbows for her pigtails.

Three down!

Now me. I figured I would wear a new black cardigan sweater and jeans; I just needed something to go under the sweater. Dress Barn had a decent red, black and rouge-ish fancy tank that worked, and bridged the red/pink of the kids. And I can wear it at the holidays too.

My husband was last, but I figured he could wear something he already had. But the day before our picture, I realized he had no decent pants! A trip to Marshall's at 8 p.m. solved that problem, when I got extremely lucky and found two pairs in his size and headed to the register. ($19.99 each, a good price for pants he will wear to work until they wear out! I love Marshall's.) He already had a cranberry plaid shirt that would go with either pair, and he matched our "red/pink/denim" theme.



Done! (An extra expense, indeed, but done.)

Except for one problem: Our photo session got rained out.

We'll try again this weekend. And at least our clothes are already picked out, right?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Twin "Wednesday" and Happy October!


Hello, again, hello! I realize I neglected to post yesterday, and that it was "Twin Tuesdays" day, but sometimes my days are so filled with twin stuff, so much so that I don't have time to write a post! It was a Twin Tuesday, indeed. So today will be just a little stream-of-consciousness bit about twins, albeit on Wednesday.

My two littlest ones have been keeping me busy and on my toes. I can't let them out of my sight. They are climbers. (Have you had one of those? Or possibly two?) And they are challengers -- as in they will challenge any gate or obstacle purposely put in their way. And Buddy Twin is sort of "crafty," as in he will craft anything into a step stool to climb to anything he wants. I have to make sure they are occupied often, and if I need to run upstairs or downstairs to fetch something or do something, I have to make sure they do not see me, because I will soon have one climbing a gate to follow me. They are my shadows.

I have started finding activities where they can get out of the house and start to be like "normal" kids. I say "normal" because I have definitely been more house-bound with these two than my older singleton daughter ever was. Part of it is logistics -- it's hard to go anywhere with two active kids of the same age -- and part of it is financial -- it's expensive to do most any activity when you multiply fees by two, sibling discount or not.

I just recently happened to find two free activities with a week of each other. The first was a playgroup. A fellow Girl Scout leader mentioned that she meets with other moms and their kids at her church every week, and she invited us to come along. So I did! We've gone twice: The first week was great; the second week was more challenging as they were more familiar with their surroundings. Since twins have a built-in playmate, it's not as if they don't have someone with whom to play. It's slightly hard, however, to teach them to play with children who are not their rough-and-tumble siblings. Especially with a bunch of new toys around.

The second free activity was at a local daycare/nursery school. The daycare put an ad in our local paper offering free classes in art, books and music weekly through December. The half-hour classes are available to the first 12 kids who sign up. We've been to two "Music and Movement" sessions, and while they are not the best kids' classes I've ever attended, they are free, and with other kids, and with an adult who is not Mommy leading the fun. The only unfortunate part is that Buddy Twin is enticed by all the climbing structures and balls in the room and does not want to sit on the round circle where he is supposed to be! And of course he figured out pretty quick where the teacher stores the parachute, which means he wants to try to get that thing out whether she wants to use it or not.

My next future challenge will hopefully be story time at the library, which is also free and "drop-in," meaning you don't have to sign up. I'm slightly hesitant because I'm not sure if Buddy Twin will be able to sit and pay attention just yet. I am sure that once he is "comfortable" in his surroundings, meaning by class no. 2, he will be enticed to grab books off the shelves instead of listening to the story of the "Three Little Pigs!"

On Monday, the twins were a little stir-crazy, so once I got a few daily chores done, I rounded up the troops and went for a ride in the car. Now, this isn't practical with the price of gas lately, but I just needed a break. I went through the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru and got a Pumpkin coffee with an old gift card, and then just took a country drive for 20 minutes. I needed just a few moments of peace, and the little ones love riding in the car. After our drive, I decided to pick up some paint samples at Home Depot in the next city.

The Home Depot happens to have a pet store across the parking lot, so we walked over for some free fun. The store doesn't have dogs (it does have rescued cats for adoption). However, it has zillions of fish tanks, birds, reptiles and rodents like rats, hamsters, guinea pigs and mice. It was definitely free entertainment -- I think Buddy Twin could have watched the hamster go "round and round and round!!!" on the hamster wheel for hours if I let him. I was able to finish my coffee without any conflict and all was well. And then I had the thought that maybe I need a toddler-sized hamster wheel in my house!

Today, I got out the crayons -- a monitored activity in our house which needs to happen more often -- and let them scribble on paper plates to make "pumpkins." I hung them up in the kitchen so they would be proud of their artwork. I'm planning on trying to work a few tiny, easy art projects into our lives so that they get used to doing little things like this. I am having a little Mommy guilt about all I used to do with my oldest when she was their age, but life was just completely different then in so many ways -- less busy overall, more napping (!) on her part, less work on my part, and just one child in my care. That said, it's all changing now. We need books to be read more than just at bedtime, we need arts and crafts, we need focus and structure that has somehow gone by the wayside in the past few months.

That is my goal for the coming months! (And, oh yeah, to get my Christmas shopping done early too :)

I thought I would share a few links that might help other Moms and MoMs find some inspiration for adding a little learning, teaching, crafts and projects into your day.



I love this handprint fall tree art from Kaboose. I want to attempt this with the twins!

There are a wealth of themed printables at Oopsey Daisy's Mommy School. Although some of them might be a little old for my tots right now, there is definitely inspiration in these!

A Mom With a Lesson Plan is also a great blog with so many great ideas for little ones.

No Time for Flash Cards is also an awesome site for ideas when you have very little ones. And if you "like" their Facebook page you will be reminded to check it out often!

The site "For Tots" has lots for tots! Click around to see what might work for you.




Monday, October 1, 2012

A Bloom!


My garden is definitely taking its last breaths of 2012, but I woke up one rainy morning last week to find a beautiful surprise: A moonflower had bloomed on my trellis!

In the spring, I planted my morning glory seeds, as well as some moonflower seeds. The plants' vines are similar, so I didn't even think a moonflower seed had taken, but I guess it did. This garden gets a lot of sun and is drier, so my morning glories seem to take longer to grow and bloom, but I try year after year, anyway, and by the end of summer I usually have beautiful blue flowers greeting me each morning.

And despite trying to grow a moonflower in the past, this was the first year I was successful.


The bloom wasn't even completely open, but I made sure to snap a photo -- and run outside to sniff its heavenly fragrance! It smells so incredibly lovely. The bloom is so much larger than a morning glory, and so angelic looking.

Despite being late in the season, and having some cold nights, this little bloom managed to open and surprise me. But better late than never, right?

This moonflower sighting inspired me to do some research. Here's a link to 10 plants which only bloom at night, including the moonflower. You'll notice many of them are white -- how nice would it be to plant an all-white "moon" garden? The white flowers would glow in the moonlight. One of the popular garden centers near my home has always had a white garden -- this link has information on its garden and plants to buy for your very own white garden. I've always wanted to stroll on that property at dusk and see if the garden does indeed glow.

Apparently moon gardens are growing in popularity, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. (It's interesting what you can find out when you start Googling for a blog post!) Perhaps I need to start my own little moon garden in my backyard. I would definitely add little solar lights, a few white statues and a bench, to sit under the moon and watch the fireflies in the summer. Maybe next year? :)