Thursday, August 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 14: Newborn Twin Essentials

I thought it would be fun, in the spirit of my experiences this summer with Emily and Erin, to share a list of the things that helped us the most! I definitely looked for lists like this while I was pregnant, so hopefully this will help a twin mama-to-be or a new twin mama out there! We definitely loved more than just these seven, but these are the things that really helped us get through the most difficult weeks of this summer. Feel free to share what worked for you in the comments - I'd love to hear from you!

--- 1 ---

Lots of onesies and footie sleepers. These are essential. Babies are messy. Spitting up and diaper overflows are a given, and I definitely knew to expect those. What I didn't expect? That every time our girls drank a bottle or nursed, some of the milk would end up on their neck and the neck of their outfit. Bib or no bib, they are always damp after they eat. So we change their clothes pretty frequently. You'll do a lot of laundry as a new mom (at least someone will) but it's still helpful to have two to three days' worth of clothes for your twins as well as yourself (see below) just in case you get behind. And you will get behind, but that's okay.

--- 2 ---

Lots of shirts for Mom (and Dad!). I was really excited about not having to squeeze too-small maternity clothes over my giant belly anymore, but I hadn't thought much beyond that about what I'd wear post-baby. The first few weeks, while I adjusted to things like spit-up, diaper mishaps, and milk - everywhere - I felt like I was constantly changing my shirt. It obviously varies from person to person, but make sure you have a few different options on hand size-wise, even if it means you have something to return once things settle down a bit. I've decided my favorite tops are deep-v-neck cotton tees from Old Navy or Gap, worn with a cami underneath for modesty and nursing coverage. Shirt goes up, cami goes down when it's time to eat, and I'm all covered! I've also found them to be the most flattering to my post-baby body. I really need to find some more.

--- 3 ---

Boppy pillows. If you haven't seen these ingenious baby-snugglers, you really need to check them out! For the first couple of weeks I was home with Emily and Erin on my own, we really didn't leave the couch except for diaper changes. It was so nice to be able to prop the girls up and have them next to me, knowing they were comfortable and supported. Now that they are getting bigger, we aren't using the pillows quite as much for propping, but we've definitely gotten a lot of use out of them so far! They can also be used to nurse or bottle-feed more ergonomically, and we use them quite a bit for that.

--- 4 ---

LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of diapers. And a few more, while you're at it. And wipes. LOTS of wipes. I can only speak from the disposable diaper perspective, but if you have twins, you will find yourself changing a lot of diapers. Several hundred in the first few months, in fact. We were extremely blessed to have two very generous "diaper showers", where we received packages of diapers from everyone who attended the shower. We still haven't used them all, but we've gone through a lot! You'll want to make sure you have plenty of newborn size, of course, but unless your babies are pretty large at birth you'll probably use some preemie size as well. You can always return them if you don't need them, but both our 6- and 7-pound babies wore preemie for the first two weeks, as did my friend's 8-pounder. An added bonus of our diaper showers has been getting to try a bunch of different diaper brands and see which ones we like the best!

--- 5 ---

Grab and go food. No, I'm not talking McDonald's. I'm talking about cold cereal, PBJ fixings, cut-up veggies, granola bars, protein drinks and fruit. You will be awake off and on for 24 hours a day, and you will be hungry. Make sure there is plenty to eat on hand. Once you've gotten past the first couple of weeks at home, you'll get to eating more regular meals, and you will want to have freezer meals. Yep, this one's a two-fer. By freezer meals, I don't necessarily mean frozen dinners, although there are healthy ones of those. I'm talking about lasagna, various chicken dishes (stirfry, taco filling, etc.), chili, enchiladas, and really any other dinner that can be frozen. One thing we've used a lot of is frozen, pre-cooked brown rice. My mom and I cooked a huge batch of it and froze it in quart bags, which hold 3-4 servings. We just thaw as needed. It goes well with all of those chicken dishes. Some nights you will feel like cooking; others you won't. If you don't like to cook - I happen to enjoy it - you will need more of these meals.

This menu board is a really good nesting project, by the way, if you're reading this while pregnant. It really helps with planning to use all of those freezer meals!

--- 6 ---

A good breast pump. I was lucky enough to be given one of these by a friend who didn't want to have any more kids. I bought the parts that actually touch the milk and your skin new, but the pump itself is fine. I have gotten a ton of use out of it. Emily and Erin didn't nurse well until they were about 5-6 weeks old, so we primarily bottle-fed them pumped milk. Needless to say, the pump got quite a workout. Now that I will be working part-time, I will need to pump at work, so it will be getting another good workout. Even while I'm at home all day now, I'm still pumping twice a day, so the pump is definitely a heavy-use item. Mine is a Medela, and I really like it.

--- 7 ---

A good double stroller. In our case, we have two. One is a fold-up "Snap N'Go", which is a frame that infant car seats just drop into. The other is a really nice double jogging stroller, which also happens to accept the car seats via the cupholder trays. The difference is width. The "Snap N'Go" is an in=line stroller, where the car seats sit one in front of the other. The jogger is a side=by=side, which is much wider and doesn't always fit through a door. I much prefer pushing the jogging stroller, but the Snap N'Go definitely has its place. For example, the jogging stroller currently lives in our trunk due to its size and our apartment's lack of storage. I can take the girls down in the Snap N'Go to our car, load them up, fold the stroller flat, slide it into the front seat, and then have something to carry them and anything I've bought or acquired on our outing up to our apartment. It's really versatile. When we want to go out for a run or a walk, I definitely go for the jogger every time. It offers a lot more shock absorption, so the girls enjoy the outing a lot more. There are a ton of double stroller options, but do your homework. I spent one bout of bed rest researching strollers, and I'm very glad I did. We have exactly what we need for pretty much every situation.

What worked best for your twins? Or, if you don't have twins, what was your most-used baby item? Leave a comment and let me know!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Everyone should homeschool

Yep, it's almost September, and in addition to football (YAY!) the new school year is upon us! I read this blog post from "Simple Mom" this morning and it got me thinking. Everyone should homeschool.

Now, lest you think I'm advocating doing away with our school system, I will tell you I come from a family of teachers. My dad and mom are retired teachers, and my brother and sister-in-law are teachers. I am all for schools, and I think we are lucky to live in a country with truly free as well as mandatory education. Some parents choose, for a variety of reasons, to educate their children at home, and this is and should be their choice as long as their children can pass exams to show they are making adequate progress.

But homeschooling doesn't have to replace the standard school day. It can supplement it, as Megan points out in the post linked above. In fact, you're probably already doing it without realizing, if you have kids. Kids are learning all the time, whether we like it or not. Sometimes that's a great thing, like when you hear your younger brother or sister joining in the prayers at church without being prompted. Sometimes, when you've just closed your hand in a drawer or hammered your thumb - not such a great thing.

As parents, we play a unique role in the education of our children. We are their first teachers, able to tailor each lesson to their individual learning styles. We can teach math and science while fixing dinner or baking cookies. We can practice reading and object identification when grocery shopping. I'm willing to bet none of you readers learned how to mow the lawn or do the laundry in a classroom at school. Faith formation can and should begin in the home. There are a lot of things we will teach our children over the course of the time we have with them, many of them critical life skills, some to supplement the lessons learned during a day at school. "Homeschooling" doesn't have to mean pulling your kids out of regular school and undertaking their entire K-12 education yourself. It just means intentionally integrating teaching into your day, even if it's just a few minutes a day.

I'll be the first to admit, I'm still learning how to teach my kids. Granted, they are young yet, but we've learned a lot together so far. I learned how to nurse as they learned how to eat. I learned how to put a shirt on over their heads; they learned that getting dressed wasn't a cry-worthy occasion. They're learning how to fall back to sleep during naptime and at night; I'm learning to listen to the crying for five or ten minutes as they do so. I'm learning the difference between their cries of frustration and the insistent cries that indicate hunger or a wet diaper. We're learning together, and that's okay. Perfection is not a requirement for parenthood. The human race would not have persisted this long if it were.

In the article from "Simple Mom", there are some great ideas for how to supplement your child's school day. The first and probably most important is to READ. Reading is fun for even very young kids. Heck, my girls are 10 weeks old and they will stare at the same page of a book for half an hour! Keep books in the house. Visit the library together. Let your kids see you read. If you tell them to read and then you go watch TV for the rest of the evening, they think reading isn't something big people do.

I'll add my own suggestion, and that's to learn along with your kids. If they suddenly develop a fascination with hurricanes or dinosaurs, find out what you can on the subject (unless, of course, you happen to be a meteorologist or a paleontologist!) and share it with them. Or better yet, let them teach you what they know. Note: it can be helpful to read an encyclopedia article on the subject if you take this approach, just to refresh and update your own understanding.

Kids get really "into" one or two things at a time when they're young, and they will remember your encouragement of their interests well into their adult years. My husband and I still talk about our childhood obsessions with - you guessed it - hurricanes and dinosaurs, and we've been known to drink our morning coffee out of his twenty-some-year-old "Dinosaurs are cool" coffee mug. If you can instill in your kids that learning is fun, they will enjoy school more and get a better education because of it. And that, dear readers, is why everyone should homeschool!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Be subordinate to one another . . ."

Ephesians 5:21-32

Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

We heard this reading at Mass this past Sunday. I know this is an often-misunderstood passage when interpreted literally, but coupled with the Gospel reading (John 6:60-69) where Jesus has just told his disciples "Whoever eats my bread and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (John 6:57) and goes on to say "This saying is hard, who can accept it?" (John 6:61), it makes more sense. After all, as our priest reminded us in the homily, Jesus took the Church as his bride. He went on to say that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was like the consummation of this marriage, where the two became one.

This gives a different meaning to the idea of becoming subordinate to one's husband as a wife, doesn't it? Jesus gave himself in this marriage by dying for the sins of the world, so of course we as the Church are subordinate to Christ. But how does this translate into an everyday marriage?

There are two really important things that I took away from this reading, in the context of the Gospel of John. The first is that husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and wives are called to be subordinate to their husbands just as to God. "Subordinate" is the word here that is hard to accept, just as Jesus says about the Eucharistic mystery. But if you look at the first line, we are all called to be subordinate to each other out of reverence for Christ, not just wives to their husbands. Every time we receive the Eucharist, Christ is present in us; therefore, being subordinate to Christ's presence in one another makes sense. Perhaps the word "subordinate" is where the problem lies. Subordinate doesn't mean inferior, after all. Subordinate just means lower in the order. Since God should be first, no matter what, subordination to His presence in each other and in ourselves makes perfect sense. We, as wives, are called to recognize the presence of Christ in our husbands and be subordinate to this presence. Our husbands, in turn, are called to love us completely, as completely as Jesus loved the Church. I don't know about you, but this sounds like a very complete marriage to me!

The second thing I took away came from the Gospel reading, where Jesus said to his disciples "This saying is hard, who can accept it?" (John 6:61). He was speaking, of course, of the Eucharistic mystery - when we receive Christ's body and blood, He lives within us. Going back to marriage, it's easy to accept the idea of becoming completely one with your husband (or wife) - until suddenly, it isn't. We disagree. We argue. We resent one another. We begin to relate to each other as mere humans, forgetting that Christ is present in all of us. I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't snap "put the laundry in the dryer!" if Jesus were standing before me while I nursed one of my babies. But earlier this evening, I did just that, and forgot all about Christ's presence in Dan. How many times a week do I do that? I'm ashamed to start counting. I really need to work on this.

These two readings mesh beautifully. This is why I'm so glad I'm Catholic. Over the course of 3 years, we hear the entire Bible in the Mass readings, but we aren't called to figure it out ourselves. The readings are selected to best help us hear and apply the word of the Lord to our lives. They complement each other. During the Liturgy of the Word, we hear a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from the New Testament, and a reading from one of the four Gospels. The priest then discusses these in his homily. So the next time you hear someone say Catholics don't read the Bible, you will know they are mistaken!

Now that I tend to spend Mass rocking back and forth with one of our baby girls in the baby sling, I really have to concentrate to hear the readings since I'm not following along in the Missal. The beautiful thing is this means every word soaks in rather than me reading in my head at ten times the pace the lector is reading aloud. Then the homily can be extra meaningful. I do think I will make an effort to read the readings in advance, just like for a college lecture - it's best to come prepared for a discussion, especially knowing that it can be so difficult to really hear and accept the word of God. And the next time I want the laundry moved from washer to dryer, I'll remember to ask as nicely as I would if Jesus were standing in front of me - because He will be. p> I love sharing my Catholic faith with you! If you have questions, please leave a comment below. If I don't know the answer, I will gladly find it for you. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"The whole school was behind him . . ."

I know this video has made the rounds on YouTube for a few months, but I saw it for the first time on ESPN this morning. I couldn't help crying, so I'll recommend grabbing some Kleenex beforehand (it's the heartwarming type of crying, don't worry!).

This is such an inspiring example of what you can do when you really put your mind to something, as well as how we can stand behind our friends and family and encourage each other to do the hard things. When ESPN interviewed Matt's dad, he teared up as he recounted how "the whole school was behind him." Think about it. When was the last time you went to a sporting event and cheered on your favorite team? Even if sports really aren't your thing, I'm sure you watched an Olympic event or two and cheered for a particular athlete or country. What do you think would happen if we encouraged each other in the same way in all aspects of life? How much could we achieve if we felt empowered by the roar of a crowd when we stepped up to make a presentation at work or tossed the last pack of cigarettes into the trash?

Obviously, this type of public cheering is not always appropriate or welcome, but there are other ways we can encourage each other. It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of life and not notice that someone needs a pat on the back, a "you can do it." We are all called to bear a particular burden in life, and while these burdens may not be as evident as young Matt's struggle with cerebral palsy, we still need encouragement from those around us. Start with those closest to you. Leave a little note for your spouse that says "you can do it!" the next time he or she has a rough day coming up at work. Cheer for your kids - I mean really cheer, not chat with the other parents or get distracted by your smartphone - at their next soccer or basketball game. Let your family know you're behind them. Once you've tried that, branch out to your friends and co-workers. Your encouragement will be appreciated and most likely reciprocated, but even if it isn't, the satisfaction from cheering someone on and seeing them succeed is rewarding enough. I promise, it's even better than seeing your favorite team win the big game!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The early bird . . .

I'm writing this sitting on the couch in my pajamas, savoring the peace of a late-summer morning that's starting to smell faintly of fall. I am a morning person. I love getting up before everyone else and enjoying the quiet of the house. As a kid, I used to get up and fix my parents breakfast on the weekend. I would tiptoe around quietly so as not to wake anyone else up. I knew how to silently open every squeaky door and which floorboards might give my presence away.

I learned quickly that prolonged independence on these mornings depended heavily on making a pot of coffee first thing, just like my mom did, and taking a steaming cup to each of my parents while they were still sleeping. Then I was free to proceed without interruption for the next hour or so. Even as a young kid, I knew parents appreciated sleeping in, since my dad would take me out to breakfast some Saturdays so my mom could get a little extra sleep. So if I wanted to feel like I ran the whole house for a little while, this was the way to do it. I didn't make anything too fancy - biscuit dough cinnamon rolls were about as complicated as it got. Once it was ready, I would concede my silent morning and call everyone to the table, and the weekend would officially be underway.

I still love being up before anyone else. I'm at my best in the morning - well, after a cup of coffee, that is. What can I say? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I can get some writing done, re-read emails that didn't make sense on my phone, enjoy a little extra snuggle time with Erin (an early bird in training), and actually eat breakfast. I still tiptoe around the things that might wake Dan up. For instance, the door to our bathroom from the shower squeaks. I sneak around to the hall. As soon as I hear Erin's first cries, I slide out of bed and into the girls' room before the baby monitor wakes him. I don't turn on the TV, because I don't want him to know I'm up (although, I guess, if I'm not in bed where else would I be?!) I laugh silently at the little kid in me, sliding the bedroom door shut by pressing on the hinge edge so as to avoid the clatter of the doorknob. It's worth succumbing to wakefulness the first time I open my eyes, knowing that a delicious hour or so of peaceful morning awaits.

There's something rewarding about waking up early. I feel like I accomplished something, even if the only other thing I check off on my to-do list is "breathe." It doesn't matter how little sleep I get the night before; I will always be a morning person.

Are you a morning person? What's your favorite thing about waking up early? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 13: Two Months

 Thanks to Jen for hosting!
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First of all, I had to share this adorable picture of our little Emily. She and Erin love this duck my mom and dad bought for them! Right now, Ducky is almost as big as they are! 
Best pals for the moment: Emily and Ducky
We have two new little voices around our apartment now! Emily and Erin are two months old as of this past Sunday, and they are becoming more verbal every day. Emily coos more than Erin does, and sometimes she will try to make the same sound you do when you're talking to her. If you say "Emily" to her, she will make a gurgling coo that almost sounds right! It's really adorable. I've spent a fair amount of time this week doing that while playing with her or changing her diaper. Erin, on the other hand, shrieks or chirps rather than coos. I've heard a few coos, but her noises are more bird-like. Sometimes when we're not in our apartment, she will make a noise and I won't realize it's her right away!
Erin, loving her bath. I know I already shared this, but I can't get over this picture! 

--- 2 ---
I started off the week by taking the girls in for their two-month checkup. Read more about our day here.
--- 3 ---
August is almost over - next Saturday, it'll be September! This is especially significant in our home because 1) we are moving next weekend and 2) I will be returning to work. My maternity leave ends on September 11th. I know that everything will work out just fine, but I'm starting to feel very nervous about my transition from stay-at-home mama to working mama. As I said at the end of that post, any advice from working mamas is welcome! Let me know what works (and what doesn't work!)
--- 4 ---
I'm super excited about Duck football season starting soon! The first home game is September 1st against Arkansas State. I won't be going to that game, but I will get to go the next weekend. I can't wait! I love Autzen Stadium. It's insanely loud in there during games - like 127 decibels loud. Everyone loses their voice cheering, and my husband is no exception! Duck football is really important to Dan, something like the importance of water to a fish. I love going to games with him! If you aren't familiar, the Ducks are known for their flashy Nike uniforms. You can get a sneak peek here at this season's lineup!
--- 5 ---
The weather finally cooled off this week, and being outside is enjoyable once again. I'm really hoping that we will get back to the coast sometime before the rain really starts, but I don't know if it will happen soon with work starting for me and our move. I also want to take one last walk over to Prince Puckler's, a local ice cream shop in our neighborhood, before we move. I used to walk there with my parents as a little kid, so walking there with my own daughters would be pretty special. Of course, we'll go back when they're old enough to try the ice cream too!
--- 6 ---
I know I haven't blogged much about our move, but we're moving to a house! It's pretty exciting, since Dan and I have always lived in apartments. It will be so nice to be on the ground floor and have a garage. There are many aspects of taking Emily and Erin places that will be greatly simplified just by having a garage. I'll be sure to post some pictures once we get settled in! I may not post much over the next couple of weeks as we get everything packed up, moved, and unpacked, but I will do my best. This will be our third move in 14 months, so I'd like to think we're fairly experienced, but any moving advice is appreciated! Especially if you've transitioned from apartment living to a house, since we've never done that.
--- 7 ---
Finally, I wanted to share some really good news from this week - I won a blog redesign, a whole new website! I entered a giveaway over at Santa Clara Design last week, and I won! I'm super excited, and I will definitely keep you all updated. I think this is definitely God's way of saying I'm meant to take writing more seriously. I am going to try to post more regularly here (in all my spare time, ha!) so hold me to it! There's always something going on here to share - I am rarely lacking for words, I just need to put fingers to keyboard. As an aside, I've been very inspired lately by all the awesome blogs I follow - you ladies (and gentlemen!) are so talented.
I hope you all have a fabulous weekend! We'll spend most of ours packing, I'm sure, but we'll squeeze in some family fun too. What are your plans?
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

One day at a time

I really love fall. There's so much to enjoy, after all. Cool, crisp weather, beautiful fall leaves, football season, the beginning of a new school year (I still love it, even though it won't affect us for another 5 years) and the first cozy days leading up to the holidays. Normally, by this time in August, I'm counting down the days until September, savoring every foggy morning in hopes that the clouds will surprise us and hang around all day. I anticipate summer joyfully each year, probably because it takes so long to show up, but by this time, I'm ready for fall.

But this year is different. I really want the summer to last. I want to treasure every day I get to spend with my little girls, every moment that they are so small and precious and cuddly. And September is speeding towards me like a runaway train. This is significant because my maternity leave ends on September 11th. I know I can embrace my new role as part-time working mom, part-time stay-at-home mom. I've done the math, and there are 168 hours in a week. If I spend 20-25 of them working, I'm still spending the vast majority of my time being Emily and Erin's mom. I know that working will add variety to my life, spending time with Grandma and Daddy will add variety to their life, and the small amount of separation will make the time we do have together all the more special. I enjoy my job and like my co-workers, and it will be fun to be back at work.

Most of all, I'm sure my feelings of trepidation and anxiety about returning to the working world are normal. After all, between medical leave and bed rest before the girls were born and my maternity leave this summer, I've been gone nearly 5 months. I think it'd be strange not to be nervous, even if I wasn't leaving my babies. Worrying about what will happen and how everything will work isn't going to make any difference - all of this is in God's hands, as it always has been and always will be. All I need to do is savor every moment, every cuddle, every second of a little face staring up at me, thank God for all He has blessed our little family with, and know I am doing the best I can.

I know I'm not the only blogging mama who works away from home. How do you do it? Any advice? What to do, what not to do?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In which I'm reminded...

I had a heapin' helpin' of humility for dinner last night. Well, actually, I had McDonald's, but that's another story. This story actually began in the morning. The girls had their two-month checkup at the pediatrician yesterday, so we had an early start. After breakfast (once for me, twice for them) and a quick bath, we headed out. Both girls were hungry and fussy when we left, but I figured I could kill some time waiting in the exam room by nursing them. As it turned out, I was right. The doctor was running behind and I had ample time to feed them. For a solo trip to the pediatrician with two-month-old twins, it went splendidly. There were a few moments where I felt like I needed four more hands, but only a few.

It went so well, in fact, that I decided to follow through with the rest of my plan and run errands. As both girls dozed in their carseats, I snapped them into their stroller and pushed them through TJ Maax. We didn't find what we were looking for, and there were a few fussy moments, but it went well enough that we continued on to Safeway. This was a deviation from the original plan, which had called for driving out to Winco, but I felt nervous about adding so many complications. Besides being three times the size of your average grocery store, Winco requires that you bag your own groceries and doesn't offer any help loading them. I decided we'd be better off spending a bit more and having some service.
After a quick diaper change in the Safeway parking lot, I loaded Erin's carseat in the shopping cart and snuggled Emily in the baby sling. Emily really enjoys riding in the sling, so I figured this was the best arrangement. They really ought to make carts large enough for two carseats . . . but I digress.

I did make a critical error before I headed to the grocery store, and that was not making a list. I had an idea of what we really needed, and I improvised the rest. Not having the list, however, meant that we paused often. Every time we paused, the girls would stir, and I was reminded that we shopped on borrowed time. After about half an hour, they both started to fuss. I walked purposefully toward the far end of the store for the bread and coffee creamer, decided to pass on a gallon of milk (too much weight for the bottom of the stroller at home) and headed to the checkout line, fully expecting the worst.
But it didn't happen. Instead, I got pulled to a new checkout line and was out of the store and on my way home within ten minutes. By that time, both girls were howling, but I managed to soothe them somewhat while getting all of the groceries loaded in the bottom of their stroller. I sped up to our apartment as fast as I could, changed two diapers, and got them nursing on the twin pillow. Once they were done, I put them to nap in the swing and the chair so I could finish putting groceries away and get some chores done. They snoozed obligingly. I opened drawers and shut doors. They slept peacefully.
I felt like Supermom. I wanted to tell everyone. My Facebook status from a little while later read,

"Pretty productive day so far! Took the girls for their two-month checkup this morning, then to TJ Maax and Safeway. We even managed to get all the groceries upstairs in the bottom of the stroller! Now they are napping in the bouncy chair and the swing, watching me put groceries away and clean the kitchen. FTW!"

The feeling, alas, was fleeting. After about 15 minutes, just long enough for me to get most of the food put away, the girls had had enough of their naps. After all, they'd slept for almost two and a half hours earlier. They fussed and cried. I tried trading the chair for the swing, making the swings move, and adding toys. They would have none of it. We moved back to the couch and their pillows, and I spent the afternoon soothing one after the other. At nine pm, I still hadn't even eaten dinner. Dan picked up McDonald's for me on the way home from his softball game. I felt completely and utterly human.

Being reminded of our humanity is not a bad thing. It stung to go from feeling so perfect to feeling like a failure in just a few hours, but I found myself praying fervently for a moment of peace yesterday, just a moment. Did I pause to say a prayer of thanks in the morning? No. It's during the stormy moments that we're reminded of how much we need God, how we cannot live without him. We need His help, and He deserves our gratitude for his blessings. Sometimes, I have to be reminded of that. My heapin' helpin' of humility last night was like the proverbial bowl of canned spinach - it didn't taste good, but it was certainly good for me. The next time I'm cruising down the aisle with two sleeping babies, I'll remember to pause and say, "Thank you."

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 12: Eight Weeks

Hey everyone! Happy Friday! Hope you all had a great week. As always, thanks to Jen for hosting! By now, I figure you know what this is all about, so let's get to it, shall we?
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Ok, I have to start with the weather. It has been HOT this week! I know we don't really have anything to complain about, since the rest of the country has been baking since April, but the difference is that we aren't prepared for it here. A/C doesn't come standard in homes, and our bodies just aren't used to the heat. I own a pretty limited summer wardrobe, unless you count running clothes, so that's mostly what I have been wearing :) Mostly, I worry about the girls getting too hot. Our apartment is on the top floor, facing southwest. Nice and toasty in the winter (we moved in January 10th) but a little (ok, a lot) stuffy in the summer! It's been close to 100 for the majority of the last week, and before that we'd had only one or two days above 90 since May. We have a portable A/C unit in our living room, and we spend most of our time in front of it during the day, nursing, cuddling, and napping. Our friends gave us some fans this week, which really improved the A/C's performance, so at least one part of our apartment has been cool! It's supposed to cool down on Sunday, and we are all looking forward to that.
--- 2 ---
Emily and Erin are almost 2 months old now (as of Sunday) and they are really starting to develop personalities! Erin is my early bird. She wakes up around 5 every morning, so that's when we get up. She eats a little, and then naps while I clean up, make coffee, and get some writing done. Emily wakes up later, between 6:30 and 7, and she is not a morning person. In fact, she's a very cranky baby in the morning. I go to pick her up and change her diaper, and I cuddle her and say good morning. She screws up her face and howls. I mean, I'm sure I'm a sight at the hour of the morning, but really? that's how you greet your mama? We'll have to work on that. Erin, on the other hand, usually is pretty calm once I pick her up. She gets really warm when she sleeps, so most days she is awake because she's too hot rather than being hungry. They are doing pretty well sleeping, mostly because we aren't putting them to bed as early as we used to. We feed them around 10 pm and then they go to bed for the night. They nap before then, but when we had them in their cribs instead of in the living room with us, they always ended up out with us anyway. I know we need a better routine, but for now, especially with no A/C in their room, this is the best we can do. There's so much more to tell about them, but they'll have their own post soon!
Emily, grinning for the camera (she is afraid of the flash)

Erin, enjoying her bath (no flash needed!)

--- 3 ---
I started off the "Sally Saves!" series this week, and Stacy from Catholic and Crunchy! did a fantastic guest post on living off 50 percent of your income to prepare for being at home with kids. I wish I'd read her advice a couple of years ago - it would have come in handy this past year! If you missed it, be sure to check out the first post in the series here.
--- 4 ---
Two lovely blogger friends of mine, Kendra and Emily, just launched a fabulous new blog! They're writing about beauty, faith, and tying it all together over at Fine Linen and Purple. Check it out!
--- 5 ---
Speaking of beauty and faith, another blogger friend directed me to Hallie's post, "Get thee a daily uniform, woman!" over at Moxie Wife. It was exactly what I needed to read. As I shared last week, I just finished cleaning our closet to prepare for our move at the end of the month. The interesting thing about cleaning out your closet 7 weeks after having twins is . . . you aren't very well acquainted with its contents. Since I own more fall/winter/spring wear than summer clothes, I'm even less inclined to keep my clothes, since I can't imagine it ever being cool enough to wear a sweater again. Enter Hallie's words of wisdom. By a "daily uniform," she doesn't mean you have to wear the same thing every day. She is just pointing out that there are certain outfits we feel great in, and the "uniform" is just a way of making sure that you are wearing some version of that outfit every day. It doesn't mean you can't ever be creative or try new things, but on those days where you just wish you didn't ever have to get dressed, you know you have something to wear. Best of all, she says, is that you know you'll feel great when you put it on. She shares her own uniform - eeriely similar to what mine probably will be - jeans or a black skirt, a fitted tee, a cardigan, and Danskos - and her favorite brands. I was inspired to dig through my dresser and find some things that really don't make me feel good when I wear them, and don't really fit into my new image of mommy. I have a neat stack of Hollister graphic tees to sell this weekend, and perhaps I'll add some other things to the pile. Then I can get a few more pieces to add to my "uniform basics." I'm super excited to try her idea! Have you tried it? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!
--- 6 ---
We got our bill from the hospital this week. I'd had an idea of what to expect, but I hadn't anticipated as many complications as there ended up being, and the final bill was very high. We are so blessed to have such wonderful medical insurance. I really feel very lucky. Our total was much, much higher than I'd anticipated, but the share we owe was significantly lower than I expected. Thanks be to God!
--- 7 ---
Finally, I started using our new menu board this week. This was my second Pinterest project, and while I tweaked the design some to fit my budget and the materials I had, I stayed pretty true to the original design. So far, the only disadvantage I see to this system is that I do have to prepare everything on the menu. I love that the first thing Dan does when he walks in the door is go see what's for dinner- he doesn't even have to ask! And he has loved everything I've made so far. I love not having to think about it, other than shopping for needed ingredients. Right now, to ease the strain of moving the kitchen, I'm intentionally picking meals for which we already have the ingredients, so really all we need to buy is milk, coffee, coffee creamer, and bread each week. Hopefully, in two weeks our cupboards and freezer will be a bit more manageable to pack. I may or may not have overdone it with the freezer dinners I made while nesting . . .
Our menu board, nothing picked out for the week yet
This week's meals
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guest Post: Sally Saves! #2: Living on half of your income

I'm very excited to welcome Stacy from Catholic and Crunchy! today. She is going to share her money-saving journey with us!
Hello, and welcome to Sally Saves! In case you were wondering, Sally is my childhood nickname. Since I'm not the expert here - I'm just sharing our experiences - it seemed appropriate to give the advice a nickname too!
Since I started my blog last November, I've written quite a bit about being frugal and being on a budget. Though budgeting isn't always fun, and sometimes I would love to live more carefree like I used to, I actually get a lot of satisfaction from staying on budget and finding ways to save money. I really can't stand waste, and that applies to our finances, too! When I first moved to Raleigh, and until about a year before the wedding, I didn't really budget. I lived fairly smartly, but didn't keep track of purchases. And yes, that was freeing. But I also probably wasted a ton of money on stuff that I don't even know about, since I never tracked anything. I also had no accountability to my savings or any real financial goals besides a cushion of money I like to not dip below. We started budgeting to hardcore save for the wedding, and now it has turned into preparing for me to stay home one day. Since I make just about 50% of the income, it makes things a bit complicated. It would be SO much easier if I made less and we had less to figure out how to do without... BUT... it also gives us a wonderful opportunity to build our savings. Any bit of my money that we can quit depending on will go into savings until I stop getting a paycheck, so our savings should be pretty decent by that point. You have to look for the silver lining!

Here are some suggestions of living on half of your income, for others who may have similar goals. Keep in mind that we are not completely at that point. We have cut out about 65% of my income, but still have that pesky 35% or so left! So that means that any help you want to give in your comments will not only be appreciated by other readers, but by me, too! I can tell you this... it will take more than just a budget!

Tips for living on half of your income:

First and foremost, create a budget!  If you haven't, this is a must. Make a budget of all your bills, and use it for a month. After that, you should be able to tweak it so that it's fairly accurate. Figure out how often you will update it and keep up with it. We update ours every Monday (having a set day keeps us from forgetting!). Even if we go over on a given month, we still write everything down. That way, even if we go over budget two months in a row, we can still see if we improved or pinpoint specific line items that need work.

Start slowly! If you have the option, slowly cut back so you don't feel deprived and impoverished. We cut back a bit more each paycheck, instead of trying to cut out a huge amount all at once.

Leave a bit of wiggle room in your budget. You will ALWAYS have unforeseen expenses, so there should be a line item to account for that or else you will be discouraged by constantly breaking your budget. 

But on that note, your wiggle room money is not fun money! If it doesn't get used each month, pat yourself on the back and quickly transfer it to savings. If you high five your spouse and then head to Wendy's, you're doing it wrong (and not just because you chose Wendy's). 

On that note, you should transfer into savings the money from any line item that you DON'T use up that month. If you see a trend on a certain category after a few months, lessen the amount in that category! We had a few line items that had just a couple dollars left over each month. For a while, that would just get eaten up by other categories, but that was really just careless spending. The better option is to not even know that money exists, so you won't use it for frivolous things. If you consistently have $3-4 left in your grocery budget each month, lower that line item by $3. It may not sound like much, but any amount you stop spending is that much closer to your goal!

Pay off small debts (and big debts, if possible!). If you owe on a dental bill, for example, pay it off as quickly as possible. Then the money you allotted for that each month can now go to savings. Any time you pay something off, that money needs to be put in savings, not used for another category. And certainly don't start a new category unless you absolutely have to! If you use it for something else, you're not closer to your goal of cutting out 50% of your income.

Use coupons and deals! No, you don't have to become a crazy couponing lady (though you certainly can!), but using coupons and deals on things that you NEED and ALREADY USE will help. But remember: If you use coupons and deals to buy things you wouldn't have normally bought, then you're still spending money you wouldn't have spent! Whatever money you save should be put into savings! 

After a few months of strictly living on a budget and working on the above items, find 'creature comfort' line items and start making them smaller. Again, doing this in moderation, if you have the time, will make it easier to get used to. If you have x amount in entertainment or eating out, take 10 or 20% of that and switch it to savings. Do that every few weeks until you get down to a small, doable amount. Keep in mind that, depending on your income and goals, you may have to completely eliminate these creature comforts. At least doing it slowly will make it less painful. You really need to be a cheerleader for your spouse during this, and vice versa. You will both have times of being frustrated and you have to count on one another to give reminders about why you are working to accomplish this goal. Also, focus on free things to lift your mood, like going to the park, festivals, taking walks, free outdoor concerts, etc. You will feel less deprived if you and your spouse are still doing fun things together and not just sitting in the house wishing for more money! 

So what are your tips for going to one income/living on half your income? If this is something you have already done, please share in the comments anything that you found helpful!

Stacy is a newlywed Catholic blogger. Topics of interest are her faith, using NFP, living healthily with PCOS, and being frugal. You can visit her at Catholic and Crunchy!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sally Saves! #1: Keeping it Simple

Hello, and welcome to Sally Saves! In case you were wondering, Sally is my childhood nickname. Since I'm not the expert here - I'm just sharing our experiences - it seemed appropriate to give the advice a nickname too!
So as promised, here's the first installment of our money-saving series, in honor of our family's quest to save for a down payment. Each post in the series will cover a different way to save money or live more frugally. Some of them are things we've already started doing, and some ideas will be new to me in the form of some fabulous guest posts we've got coming! Now, I'm not an expert at sticking to a strict budget or living a completely frugal life - generally, I can make just one change at a time and actually make it last. I know I'm not the only one who works this way. If I was, no one would ever make the same New Year's resolutions, year after year! Our plan is to incorporate these ideas slowly, so we can make them work for our family. We're still pretty new to the money-saving journey, but from our experience thus far, I'd recommend this approach when possible. It's so much easier when you give yourself time to really try something for several days or a few weeks and learn to live your life with it (or without it, as the case may be!)
I came across this first money-saving method rather by accident. Over the past year, while pregnant with our twin daughters and adjusting to life at home as a new mom, I realized something. For years, I'd worked as much as possible, thinking that if only I made enough money, things would fall into place and we'd be able to be debt-free and save up for a down payment. It was like running on a hamster wheel, though - the more money we made, the more it seemed like we needed to spend. When I found out I was pregnant, the complications struck quickly. There were only about 15 weeks out of 40 that I was able to work my usual schedule. As my hours dropped, however, we noticed something - we spent less money when I was working fewer hours. I could take the extra time to prepare food and cook, because I was already there and had been there and it just seemed simpler than leaving the apartment. When I went shopping, I had time to think about what we really needed instead of just rushing in and filling my cart, and I made fewer impulse purchases because I needed to be intentional with the money I was spending.
Once our daughters were born, our life became even simpler. Going shopping is tricky with baby twins along for the ride, so a list became essential and impulse purchases are few and far between. While I once thought it was easier to just pick up a latte in the morning, I now know it's ten times simpler to start a pot of coffee when I get up and drink that. It's ten times cheaper, too! And there's no type of take-out that's as easy as eating cereal or PBJ for dinner! Best of all, I can set a budget and stay pretty much within my limits.
Obviously, not everyone will start living a simpler life because they are pregnant with twins, but the principle of saving with simplicity still applies. Think about the complicated seasons of your life - or is it one long complicated season? Do you go through the drive-through for dinner on the way home from one activity because you're rushing to get home and change clothes for another activity? Do you wish you could shop around for a good deal, but get stuck buying everything at the same store because you just don't have time? Working fewer hours may not be an option, but cutting down on outside activities might be, or even spending fewer hours mindlessly watching TV or using the computer. Two or three hours a day adds up to between 14 and 21 hours a week! Even five hours a week could be enough time to spend planning simple dinners, shopping for the food, and preparing the meals. You'll save money- and your days will go more smoothly, meaning you will have the mental clarity to incorporate other money-saving lifestyle changes! Ok, I'm still waiting for the mental clarity - it doesn't come standard with pregnancy or parenthood, but I promise, you'll notice a difference. :)
How will you simplify your life? What small change could you make with a little saved time that will save you money?

Coming tomorrow: Sally Saves! #2, Stacy from Catholic and Crunchy's post on saving 50 percent of your income to prepare for staying home with kids!

If you'd like to contribute to the Sally Saves! series, leave a comment below or email me with your ideas!

Sally Saves: New Series on Saving Money!

Welcome to the Sally Saves series! As I mentioned on Friday, I'm going to have a series of posts on saving money. This topic is near and dear to my heart for two reasons right now: because we are trying to save money for our very own house, and also because now that the twins are here I won't be working full-time anymore. I've got some great guest writers who will be sharing their expertise and thoughts on the subject along with me, and we're going to cover a variety of topics, from basics like budgeting, using coupons, meal planning, clothes shopping, do-it-yourself projects and saving money on entertainment to living on 50 percent of your family income so the wife can stay at home once kids come along. Please, let me know in the comments if you've got any topics you'd like to see covered or if you'd like to write a guest post! If you have a great idea for saving money but you don't want to write a whole post, I'd still love to see it. Email me and we can compile all of the great ideas into one (or more!) informative guest post(s)!
Check back later today for the first post!

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm Co-Hosting the GFC Blog Hop!

It's Tuesday again which means it's time for the GFC Blog Hop! I'm very excited to be co-hosting the hop this week with Melissa and some other fabulous bloggers! Head on over and check it out!
When I want to follow a blog the first thing I look for is GFC (Google Friend Connect), it's so easy and  nice to be able to go and see all of the blogs you follow in one spot. It's really a great tool to have. 
One side note- Did you know you can follow through GFC using your Twitter Account? TRUE, it's definitely an option!
If you are interested in co-hosting the next GFC Blog Hop send me an email at
Ok, so let's get to the party, shall we?
RULES are simple:
1. Follow your host via GFC
The First link below
2. Follow your co-hosts via GFC
The Next 8 links below
3. Link up below using your main blog url not a specific post.
4. Make sure to visit some of the blogs in the link up and follow them via GFC 
and if you want to leave them a comment, I'm sure they'd appreciate that as well.
5. Tweet about this blog hop
6. Share about this blog hop by grabbing a button and putting it on your sidebar!
Post Sponsor for July:

Friday, August 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 11: Six/Seven Weeks and Summer Bucket List Update!

Hey everyone! Hope your week went well! These quick takes cover two weeks, since I've been super busy with the girls and some other things too :) As always, thanks to Jen for hosting. Shall we begin?
--- 1 ---
This past week, Emily and Erin turned 6 weeks and I was officially 6 weeks post-partum and post-op. Remember those running shoes I was so excited about buying?

Well, I finally got to try them out! I got cleared to exercise (starting slowly of course) as of Tuesday, July 31. Wednesday evening, Emily, Erin and I went for a 3/4 mile run with our jogging stroller. The shoes felt great! The rest of my body . . . well, it's been 10 months since I went running, so I guess my sore knees and ankles are par for the course. I was pleasantly surprised that my muscles handled it so well. The jogging stroller, fully loaded with both girls, their carseats, and the diaper bag, is not light. I don't think I'll need any additional weight workouts if I take them along a few times a week ;)
--- 2 ---
Knowing I'm allowed to push myself has inspired me to get out and exercise with the girls every day this week so far, and I've got plans for tomorrow already! It's a really great feeling to break a sweat and be a little sore the next day - I love it! I was in the best shape of my life since running collegiate cross-country when I got pregnant, so I think that definitely helped my body to maintain a base even though I wasn't allowed to actually work out at any point during my pregnancy. (I actually was cleared to exercise between 16 and 23 weeks, but walking and standing all day at work was as much as my body could handle, so that's all I did). I'm glad to be able to take advantage of the nice weather, and it feels great to share something I enjoy so much with Emily and Erin. They don't seem too enthusiastic so far, but maybe they'll like it better when they can see where they're going. Right now, their car seats snap into our jogging stroller facing me, which is handy for soothing them on the go, but they can't see anything other than a partial view of where we've been!
--- 3 ---
I haven't really talked much about breastfeeding the girls on here, but I do get asked a lot what we're doing, so I decided to write a post about it! It's over at Karianna's blog, as part of a World Breastfeeding Week series that she did. I highly recommend checking out the series!
--- 4 ---
Since the girls were born (and towards the end of my pregnancy as well), we've been trying to stick to a better budget. This is partly because I'm not working right now, and will only be going back part-time this fall, but also because we are trying to save up to buy our own house! So I'm going to be doing some posts about budgeting and meal planning and using coupons and other ways of saving money - and I'm going to have some guest posts as well, since I can hardly pretend I'm actually good at any of this. Let me know if you'd like to contribute!
--- 5 ---
Some posts I've enjoyed over the past two weeks: Elizabeth's on vocation confirmation, Caitlin's about celebrating their first wedding anniversary, Trista's on being single, and Guggie's on why it's ok not to be perfect as a mom. I love reading my friends' inspiring words, and I know you'll enjoy them too!
--- 6 ---
Emily and Erin got baptized this past Sunday! It was really, really hot here over the weekend, so I think we have a new family joke: you can pretty much count on 90-degree plus weather when we receive a sacrament. When Dan and I got confirmed: hottest day of the year thus far! When we got married: it was 98. This past weekend: 101 on Saturday, 95 on Sunday. The girls did really, really well in spite of the heat - in fact, I think they did better because they were warm and drowsy. Emily didn't even wake up for the holy water! I kid you not, she slept right through the entire ceremony. Erin was awake, but did just fine. Afterwards, we had a little reception with food and cake, and got to celebrate with friends and family, some of whom had not met our babies yet. It was a very enjoyable day! We didn't get a lot of pictures of the girls in their gorgeous baptismal gowns (Emily wore her Aunt Rachel's and Erin wore mine) because of the heat - we took them off fairly soon after the ceremony. I was a little sad because there is a very nice picture of me with my parents and grandparents in front of our church after my baptism, and I was hoping to get one like that, but it was just too hot. We can always put the dresses on and recreate here in a month or so when it cools down a bit :)
Me (holding Emily), Dan (holding Erin), and Deacon Tom, in front of the baptismal font

--- 7 ---
Finally, an update on the Summer Bucket List: I've actually finished over half of the things on the list! I read a novel this week, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, while Erin was having a fussy spell and just wanted to snuggle on my shoulder. I was tired and didn't really want to move around, so reading snuggled up with the girls made for a perfect afternoon. It was a good book too: I'd resisted reading it for a long time because I just didn't think anything so popular could be good. Open mouth, insert foot. It is really well written. It reminded me, in a roundabout way, of Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada) by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. It was much less bloody, however, which made me happy!
As I said above, I went for a run with the jogging stroller, albeit a pretty short run. It was a lot of fun! I've also been going for walks with a friend who has baby twins, so I've given the stroller a pretty good workout thus far :)
We took a trip to the coast a couple of weeks ago, which went really well, and we're planning on going again soon - maybe this weekend, in fact. I love doing things like that as a family, because it feels very cozy and fun, like we've really opened up our life to include them.
A concrete dock that floated all the way from Japan to Oregon after the tsunami in 2011. We stopped at the nice, family-friendly beach park where the dock was located to get a closer look and walk on the sand with the girls. The dock has since been dismantled and removed.
In preparation for our upcoming move, I cleaned out our closet. Ok, I didn't really do anything about the top shelf, but I know what's up there, so I'm not too worried about it. I didn't take a before picture (bad blogger) but I did take an after picture, and I will describe what I did:
My clothes, organized by type, style, and color. Yes, it's easier than it sounds!

The whole closet (more or less), after the fact. Notice the drawers and bin on the bottom.
 I did spend quite a bit of time on my side of the closet, but I did that a couple of weeks ago, while I had help watching the girls. I sorted my clothes by type (tops, pants, skirts, dresses, belts), style (polo shirts, button-downs, sweaters, jeans vs pants, fun skirts vs church skirts) and then color (color wheel order). It takes a little bit of time, but when you want to put together an outfit it makes it so much faster. It also makes it really easy to put your clothes away! (Side note: yes, I know I have enough collared shirts to outfit a small army, but I have to wear them to work so there's my excuse!)
As for the bottom of the closet, we had drawers going across the whole bottom when we moved in. There were two of the smaller units (as on the right), one on each end, and then the four larger drawers in the middle. Shortly after we moved in, I got a dresser for my clothes, and Dan's clothes (well, mostly) were in the closet drawers. Yesterday, I finally took everything out of all the drawers, put most of my things in the dresser, and organized Dan's clothes by type in his drawers. I emptied a whole set of drawers - yay! I know we'll find something else to put in them, but for now I'm really grateful to have organized clothes to pack up when the time comes. I wish moving could be like packing for a trip, where you just know what you need to pack and why, instead of going through all of your things and wondering if they're essential or not. Why do we keep non-essential things anyway? I could go on, but it's going to be its own post later on, so I'll stop :)
I hope you all have a fantastic weekend - I know we definitely are planning one! See you all soon!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Twin breastfeeding guest post!

Hey everybody!
I'm excited to be over at Caffeinated Catholic Mama today, sharing our breastfeeding story in honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2012. Head on over and check it out, and while you're there, don't miss the rest of Karianna's WBW posts - they're fantastic!