December 17, 2015

Christmas Time With Toddler Twins!

I am so looking forward to Christmas with two 17 month olds. It's going to be insane and it's obviously so different from how we used to do things, but it's also so much fun!

We went to my Dad's this weekend to help decorate his tree. The girls helped a bit when we did ours at home but I gave them bead necklaces to hang while I completed our "toddler tree". All ornaments of any sentimental value go on the top 3rd, paper and cloth go in the middle and the bottom is bare, since the beads they put up were pulled down in like ten seconds. They had a blast doing it and instead of barricading the tree all the time I let them play with it when they want to. They tend to leave it alone most of the time or just stare at it (except for when I want to take a picture of them in front of it, of course)!

This was not the case at my Dad's. My saint of a niece (who is 4) was having so much fun decorating and the girls got a kick out of following her around taking them all down. J was being so patient and I was trying to help, giving them their own ornaments to hang or look at, but hooks and glass balls and toddlers do not mix very well. Thankfully they got distracted after a bit by the cats and pictures and books and had their own fun exploring and we were able to finish the tree.

One big difference between life before the twins and after is how I decorate. I used to go all out for Halloween and Christmas. Now, Halloween was some paper jack o'lanterns and painted pumpkins and our Christmas decor consists of the toddler tree, some kid-safe decorations they can play with and explore placed at their level and a few figurines smushed together on a table that are out of reach most of the time until I can sit with them and let them explore.

At least I'm OK with the minimalist yet cluttered look at this point. They love playing with the Santa nesting dolls I got from my grandmother and the ancient Styrofoam snow girl that my mother may or may not have knit clothes for 25 years ago (I seriously don't know who made it but we had it in my house growing up and I just can't get rid of her). 

I've also put together some fun Chrstimassy activities for them to enjoy. So far the favorite was the Christmas sensory bin filled with bead necklaces, jingle bells, pom-poms, pine branches and cones, ornaments and Christmas tree shapes.

They also love their Christmas tree discovery bottles (spice bottles filled with pine branches, cones and jingle bells - they can open the top and smell them without getting needles everywhere!) We have a ton of Christmas books that I kept hidden until now, including four copies of The Night Before Christmas - my favorite holiday story (and not just because the author, Clement C. Moore, wrote it in my hometown of Troy, NY).

They can really participate in activities now so we've had fun painting with Christmas colors and they loved the gingerbread play-dough we made last week.

I've started clearing out our playroom in preparation for Christmas and since the girls dropped down to one nap last week (completely without issue or major disruption to anyone's sleep, I have to add) I don't really have a lot of time to get things done without them in tow. I'm using it to my advantage though and having them test toys before deciding if they stay or go. They still love their cups and caps but they are also really into baby dolls, dressing up with hats and scarves and carrying around bags or backpacks. They are loving their stacking blocks and tool box too.

I packed up four boxes of toys that they just don't use and so far they haven't missed them. I'm hoping to clean them up and donate them to a local family on one of my swap groups. Someone did that for me last year when I was looking for toys for the girls (not for Christmas but just to have) but I didn't have much money to spend. She showed up here with the toys and wouldn't take payment for them. In coming years I would love for that to be a part of our holiday tradition so I'm starting it now. We're far from where we'd like to be financially (really, we're technically poor and getting more in debt every day, just keepin' it real) but it is so important to me that they know the true meaning of giving to others, especially at Christmas. If there is one thing about this whole time of year that I want to stick with them it's that we give, to show love and because we want to.

Speaking of of giving, did you send a card to Sa'fyre Terry this year? We did! This precious girl is local to us (only 15 minutes away) and as soon as I heard her story I had to make sure we created some homemade cards for her.  We used a golf ball or fingers to paint over Christmas shapes, I cut them out and we glued them onto cards and wrote messages to her. I used the extra to make the ornaments above. I know with receiving 195,000 cards a day it's likely Sa'fyre won't even see them but I'm so glad we could be part of something so amazing!

As for the girls, I am sticking with my theme for gifts that I did for their birthday and last Christmas only I've added a category this time. For any gift giving holiday they each get a maximum of 4-5 gifts from us - something they need, want, to read, to wear and, new this Christmas, something to do. So far we've budgeted $100 each but it varies based on what we buy, and it's not always all included in presents - their outfits for their birthdays were their "wear" gift, for example.

This year we got them each two pairs of leggings, two of Gerda Muller's Seasons books, a magnet puzzle from Melissa and Doug, a winter coat and a small wooden block set. We've spent just under $60 each as most were on sale and some were bought with gift cards. I am not doing stockings until next year since CJ and I never really did them before and when I was a kid Santa did the stockings anyway!

Speaking of Santa, I'm so thankful I don't have to deal with the headache of figuring him out until at least next year. I had two blogs going all about my feelings on Santa and his elf buddies (and baby Jesus too for that matter) but I haven't even figured out what I want to say or do yet, let alone how it goes over, so I don't feel right writing about it yet. That said, many other people have so check them out if you want an idea of why I am actually having a moral fit over introducing Santa to my kids. Also, CJ thinks I'm a grinch for not going all-in, just so you know.

I did take them to have breakfast with Santa. Aside from them freaking out when we got up to see him and them being called boys not once, not twice, but three times, it went great. I loved that no one had to sat on his lap, they had a chair for the kids to sit in front of him. It was fun and part of the tradition of experiencing what our community has to offer this time of year.

Last weekend we went to the Victorian Stroll in my hometown of Troy, NY, which again is the very place where Clement C. Moore wrote The Night Before Christmas (can you tell I'm proud of that fact?). We stayed for the Christmas tree lighting and heard my high school choir sing (still directed by the amazing Mrs. Mack, one of my favorite teachers ever). It was so awesome having the girls there to see that - I can't wait until next year.

The absolute best part of Christmas this year: I'm happy.

I can vividly recall so so many Christmases (far too many really) that I was miserable, sad and desperate to feel the way I did when I was a kid. Years of being alone during the holidays, always missing someone or not feeling comfortable with my own people took a toll on me and at times I dreaded the holidays. Not anymore. I'm finding it's near impossible to feel lonely, worried or sad when you've got two 16 month olds to keep you laughing.

Their wonder and joy at all the sights, sounds and music of this time of year is enough to keep me happy. They are in love with Pentatonix's Christmas album and we listen to it all day long. Add to that the fact that they are the MOST fun ever right now, the memories we're making and the start of new traditions, I am almost scaring myself with how wonderful I feel. Clearly good enough to never have time to blog, but it was time for an update, so I hope you enjoyed the glimpse into Christmas with the #beaulieutwins.

I hope you and yours have a happy, healthy and joy-filled holiday season!


December 1, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had our first big holiday away from home this week, taking a road trip to Syracuse for Thanksgiving at GG's house. The last time we took any sort of extended drive was back in July and we learned enough then to make sure we were prepared but this time. However, it was so much easier in general, thanks to them being toddlers now (and not nursing for their main source of food). Aside from Viv's fear of the dark that kicked in at 45 minutes from home, it was a totally stress free and fun trip. It's a different ballgame with toddlers versus a baby so here are the things that got us through our road trip and holiday visit this time around:

Entertainment for the car

I know a lot of toys are no-nos for car seat safety so I made sure to pack soft things that will keep the girls entertained. We're trying not to use DVD players or tablets in the backseat until they're old enough to ask for it so some hands-on entertainment on long car rides is a must. I packed them each a taggy stuffed animal or blanket, soft and crinkly books, a sensory ball and some rings and links for them to play with if they woke up on the drive. I'd transition them out from the front seat diaper bag if they got bored. Everything worked great until the last hour of our ride home when we needed...

A cell phone for when those fail

Viv woke up screaming on our way home and despite 20 minutes of singing songs and sitting rather unsafely in my seat trying to touch and calm her I gave in and handed her my phone. Thanks to Dad using this neat little trick during diaper changes, it almost always calms them down. I really don't like doing it (for a number of reasons) and we always say, "This is so bad, we don't want them relying on screens for anything..." but we know now that you'll do just about anything to stop that screaming in the car when you're still 45 minutes from home. I need them to know that my phone is mine so I have zero kids games on it but the game Little Things Forever is awesome for toddler distraction in those much needed situations.

Boppy or other Booster Chairs for eating at the table

When I was a kid my grandmother had one of those restaurant wooden high chairs for the grandkids to sit at and eat. It worked well and we always put it at the head of the kids table in the kitchen, which usually meant that Mom or Dad of the baby had to sit there too. Coming from a huge family I JUST got the chance to sit at the grown-up table a few years ago and I hated the idea of having to go back to the kid's table with the girls. Thankfully CJ's family is smaller and when we were discussing Thanksgiving a few weeks ago I told GG and Jama that I wanted the girls to sit with us - right at the table, on real chairs with their boosters. While we did need an extra table for the first time ever, the girls fit comfortably and we were able to enjoy our meal together without babies on our laps or being segregated to another room! Big win! We'll see how it goes next year with my side of the family!

Fun stuff to keep them entertained in a new (not babyproofed) place

A lot of the things they enjoy these days are not so easy to transport: boxes, musical instruments, push and pull toys and their climber. I needed things that would keep them occupied and wouldn't bore them. I packed a big bag with two stuffed animals, our thanksgiving books, plastic balls, our caps and homemade drop-in containers, peg dolls and wooden bowls. I packed their backpacks with tool-kit bolts, foam blocks and a few "home" items, such as keys, our toy phone and binoculars and scarves. I made sure to pick things they weren't playing with a ton at home for the novelty aspect which helped get me some more adult conversation time in. I would only introduce a toy if they were needing a distraction/redirection or if they were melting down and needed to reconnect and feel secure. Although they entertained themselves just fine with GG's little rocking chair and a few stairs to climb on!

Baby Led Weaning

I have no idea what they would be doing if we had done baby food but I swear, they did so great at the table for dinner, I myself was impressed with them. I got to enjoy a full meal, lots of adult conversation and dessert without any sort if issue with my 16 month old twins. They sat right next to us, laughing and playing and, best of all, eating what we were eating, with no problem. I admit I was terrified going into it as I didn't want either one of them to end up on my lap but I also didn't bring any other snacks or food for them so I was hoping they wouldn't be too freaked out or bored with the food. They did awesome! I loved not having to have a separate meal for them either - they ate the turkey, corn, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, squash and fresh vegs from the salad!  Again, I really don't know for sure if not doing BLW would have made a huge difference at this point but I can't help but feel like it
 contributed to how well it went!

All in all it was such a great day. We also celebrated Daddy's Birthday (tomorrow he turns the big 3-0)! Although we are seeing a bit of anxiety when we get to new places and in large groups, they warm up quickly and love having the freedom to explore.

We followed it up with a fantastic family filled weekend of trips to Great Nana's and Papa T's houses and a visit from our friends Josh, Maddi and Chris and baby Dominick.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!