July 31, 2015

Happy First Birthday! Plus a Look at Our Celebration!

Yesterday was the big day and I really can't believe it's over already. We woke the girls up just in time to celebrate the exact minutes that they were born. We started a new family tradition of birthday banana chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Nova, Kurt, Aunt Kate and cousin Jillian came over for pizza and ice cream cake. Despite their lack of naps and nursing like newborns again the girls had a great day! They were up until 10:30 last night thanks to more sugar than they've had in their entire lives (we won't make that mistake again) but I was grateful for the extended time with them. It's hard to believe they're one!

Too much sugar, not enough hours in the day. Happy Birthday Baby Girls!

We also had a fantastic day celebrating last Saturday! All of their favorite people came, we had lots of good fun, fun and laughter and of course cake and presents! The girls did great, only crying when we tried to get them to eat their smash cakes and when they got a little overwhelmed towards the end. I was holding back tears most of the day and tried to keep busy so I wouldn't have a breakdown over them turning one. I still can't believe it.

It was hot out but the yard was well shaded and our only big issue was the bugs that wouldn't stay away from our food!

Our theme ended up being just the colors from their invitation that my awesome sister created for us. We took the colors and ran with the rainbowish theme and it ended up being perfect!

I wasn't going to do special first birthday outfits but we were at Buy Buy Baby last week picking up some things for our new friend Dominick and I spotted the perfect little tutu sets that matched our "theme" perfectly!

I chose a few special things to try and put together rather than a lot of little things to go with the theme and I'm happy with how everything turned out. My sister created pennant flags in the theme colors and we created banners for their high chairs. I wanted to do one of those chalkboard stats but after working on it for a bit my sister and I decided to do a white poster instead and hang it on the house above the gift table. It came out beautifully and everyone loved reading all about the girls. I also created collages from their monthly pictures with their names and birth stats. It's crazy seeing their transformation over the last year - from 4 pound peanuts to almost 18 pound toddlers! I also wrote a little poem for the guest book to make sure people left them a little note (people still forgot to do it though, grrrr...)!

We ordered our cake from the local grocery store and they did great matching our invites perfectly. They created adorable cupcake smash cakes that are super yummy even though the girls were totally freaked out by them! They ate plenty of good food (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, melon, kiwi, cheese, crackers) first but then wouldn't touch the smash cakes and when we tried to offer them some frosting they both lost it! We're going to try again on their real birthday this Thursday and hopefully it will go over better without a crowd!

I'm happy to say people really followed our wishes to limit they types of things they gifted us and we were so lucky to receive great presents that the girls will use for a long time! Lots of fun books, cute clothes and pajamas, wooden and manipulative toys and blocks, a climber from Papa T, a water table from Aunt Lisa, a tent from Aunt Jude and a great red wagon from Grandpa Charlie! They received their first earrings (ruby!) from GG and Jama and their starter pearls from Nova. Their Auntie Debz worked so hard updating her and Jama's childhood rocking chairs into beautiful keepsakes for them.

We set up their pool and filled it with balls and toys for them to enjoy when they weren't being passed around and held by everyone. Cousin Jillian had fun running around, blowing bubbles and playing in their tent too. She loved showing off her special shirt which served as the announcement that she is going to be a big sister!! So excited for my sister, Kate and her boyfriend Justin! I can't wait to be an Auntie again!
All in all it was an absolutely wonderful day, full of memories and good times. The only thing I managed to forget was music! I had put together a special playlist full of some of our favorite songs and all of my parenting love songs to play over with our speakstick but completely forgot about it until the very end. Oh well, we'll just listen to it all week this week! Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate and who helped me put it all together, our girls are so lucky to have such amazing and loving family and friends!

The first year was a wild ride and I learned so much about myself - most importantly that I am stronger than I ever could have imagined. They're not kidding when they say the first few months of twins lives' you are basically in survival mode - we definitely were, but we made it! I'm working on a post about the things that helped us make it through to help other twin parents. Every day brought new challenges and new rewards and it's hard to believe we're only just getting started!  Love you so so so much my little leos!


July 29, 2015

The Birth Story of Juliette and Vivienne

I'm an emotional wreck today, bursting into tears at some of the most inopportune moments (nursing, changing diapers, flipping pancakes, you know). It's a good thing I wrote this a long time ago because I'm struggling to even think about the fact that today is the last day of my babies' first year. It's hard to even imagine what my life was like before the birth of my girls and the last year has just flown by despite the days feeling like it would last forever. This is long but it's our story. Enjoy.

After finding out in February of 2014 that I was expecting mono-di twins I was referred to the fantastic Maternal Fetal Monitoring Specialist Dr. Franz Margono with St. Peter's Hospital. At that very first appointment he broke the news to us that my dreams of a water birth (originally at home but we nixed that at the mention of twins) attended by midwives were no longer a safe choice for us and that we would be scheduling an induction no later than 35 weeks. He cited research studies that claim fetal demise of one or both babies in a mono-di pregnancy could increase by as much as 50% in the weeks between 35 and 37. As part of his practice policy he highly recommends delivery in the 35th week. I say recommends but I didn't really feel like I was given a choice. It's something I still struggle with but I am ultimately at peace with the fact that we did what was recommended by someone who knew far better than we did.

Dr. Margono referred me to the Obstetrics office that he partners with, St. Peter's OB/Gyn group. I was not happy about giving up my midwives and birthing center and since I would be traveling to this office frequently anyway, I reluctantly made the switch. It ended up being a wonderful experience and the doctors who delivered the girls, Dr. Eric Kittle and Dr. Kenneth Baker were wonderful, warm and very informed about the unique aspects of a mono-di pregnancy. They assured me that I could deliver both naturally.

Then they warned me of the risks of emergency c-section or the dreaded "double-whammy" where baby A is delivered naturally and for whatever reason baby B must be delivered via c-section. The thought of this scared me enough to decide very early to just do a c-section. Someday I might regret this choice, especially if we don't have another, but when it came down to it I just wanted them out and safe!

We arrived at the hospital at 6am on July 30th. The wonderful nurse, Alyson, helped get me settled and did pre-op. Dr. Kittle stopped in and explained some things and at 7:45 we were brought down to the OR. CJ waited outside while I went in and got the spinal and situated on the table. I did not know ahead of time that my arms would be strapped down and almost made a fuss before realizing it wouldn't matter - it was protocol and I wasn't going to change it.

A few minutes later I heard a fuss and Dr. Kittle arguing with a woman. I later learned this was the neonatologist, Dr. Narkiwiecz. She had found our names on the OR board and was upset that the NICU was not notified there would be 35 weeker twins being delivered. Our last ultrasound showed the girls weighing over 5 lbs. each so Dr. Kittle did not think NICU would be necessary. Thankfully Dr. N knew different - even if they were over 5 lbs., at 35 weeks they should at least be brought down for observation. Turns out, Jules had apnea episodes almost immediately after birth and then they ended up staying for two weeks so it was a blessing that she discovered us.

I met the anesthesiologist and his assistant, Jamie, who was my angel during the procedure. She held my hand and described everything to me. They administered the spinal and she "caught" me and laid me down. At 8:10 CJ was brought in to stand by me and within seconds they were cutting me open. Dr. Kittle warned that I would feel pulling, pressure and some tightness but I would not feel pain. I do remember the pressure and tugging but it was altogether uneventful.

CJ and I were chatting with Jamie about the twins when all of a sudden Dr. Kittle announced the arrival of Baby A at 8:13:24 am. Just like that I was a mom. She cried almost instantly. It was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. Loud and full of gusto. Not one minute later at 8:14:05 Baby B made her entrance into the world, not quite as loud as her sister but just as beautiful of a sound. We handed our camera to Alyson and she snapped a few great shots of our girls before they were brought to us. I remember when someone shouted their weights to us and I said a quiet thank you to god that the neonatologist was there. Weighing in at only 4 lbs. 9 and 4 lbs. 2 oz. they would definitely be going to the NICU for a bit. My heart broke as I knew this would mean no holding them or even trying to nurse for a while but I also knew it was the best thing for them.

While they got cleaned and and Dr. K finished up, CJ and I cried and laughed and I noted to myself that I did not feel that rush of emotion that new moms talk about. I know that when you deliver vaginally your body releases a flood of hormones that are supposed to facilitate bonding but I always assumed the c-section moms would at least have some semblance of this. Nope. Nada. I expected to at least feel different, but I didn't. That is until I saw my baby A, Juliette, for the first time. There it was. I was overcome with emotion when I looked at her tiny face and heard her cry. Mom confession time: want to know the first thought that came into my head while gazing upon my newborn? "My god, she has my nose! And it's HUGE!"

Turns out it was just perspective as they were totally normal sized noses just a few hours later, but I still feel terribly guilty that at first sight this was my only thought! After CJ had his turn to meet her Jamie brought her over and shoved her up against my face (apparently this is the c-section moms version of skin to skin). They were pretty much hysterical but as soon as they touched and smelled me and heard my voice shushing them they calmed right down and nuzzled in. It was altogether the happiest and saddest moment of my life. My arms were literally itching to hold them but I was strapped down and forced to neglect my instinct. Each visit lasted only two minutes before they were whisked away to the NICU.

Let that sink in for a second. After carrying these loves for 35 weeks, nourishing and caring for them to the best of my ability, I was only able to see and smell them for a total of two minutes each before they were taken from me. It's wholly unnatural and if I had known how much it would hurt I may have fought harder for a later induction date despite the risks. I would give anything to go back and be able to hold them but I am slowly making peace with it.

After the girls were taken away they closed me up and tried to keep my spirit light. I began to experience some nausea and was given the med to counter-act that which worked almost immediately. Despite my broken heart I was on cloud nine. It was the strangest mix of emotions I have ever felt.

They were here. It was done. We did it and everyone seemed to be ok. Everyone kept reassuring me they were beautiful and fine. We found out they both scored a 9 on the APGAR scale and despite being itty bitties they were full of life and doing great. They kept telling me what an easy procedure it was and that I would see them again soon. I was wheeled into recovery where I started to feel reeeeal good thanks to the painkillers. We spent the next hour or so texting and calling everyone we know. Dr. Kittle came in and cleared me to go to my room. He called down to the NICU to tell them we'd be stopping by and my anxiety reached a whole new level not knowing what I was in for.

They wheeled me, hospital bed and all, into the NICU and we immediately noticed the tree decal on the wall - it was the same on we had in their room. I took this as a sign that all would be ok, this was where they were meant to be. Seeing them though. That was hard. I don't know what I expected but it wasn't for them to seem so small, so frail, hooked up to all those monitors and tubes. We visited Juliette first and were told she had had apnea spells and was on oxygen. I did not expect that so it was a blow to my heart. She was sleeping and looked like an angel. We talked to her and touched her and cried. We were not allowed to hold her for about 24 hours after her birth. I still struggle with this. My dream was for skin to skin and nursing right after birth. I know, I know, it was best for her, but I still feel like we missed out. Gah, I'm crying again.

The girls' first digs - Suite 2 of the St. Peter's NICU
Finally Vivienne was ready for us so we wheeled over to see her and she was awake and looking all around. Such personalities, already so evident at just 4 hours old. My heart broke and all I wanted to do was pick them up but I couldn't yet and before I knew it I was being wheeled up to my room. Family came and cheered me up, the lactation consultant brought me a pump, the doctors visited and four more hours later we were finally able to see them again. I swear time crawled that day. All I wanted was to eat real food, hold my babies, try to nurse and marvel over my new family. Nothing went like I had always dreamed it would but that was the hand we were dealt and I'm just happy to have them at all.

At around 5 that afternoon the nurse came in and told me I was able to hold and feed (with a bottle, she "couldn't" nurse yet) Vivienne. My dad was there with us and he got to hold her too before leaving for a trip. It was amazing and bittersweet with Jules just chillin in her isolette, unable to be held yet (for reasons I'm still not 100% sure of...). It was 2 more days before anyone asked me if I wanted to do skin to skin or hold them at the same time. It's my fault, I should have asked first, but my head was so foggy. And so began our 2 week stint in the NICU.

Not our first skin to skin but my favorite pic. And our first family photo.
Once I was discharged it was a 12 day whirlwind that also seemed to drag by. Every day with them went too fast and the nights seemed to last forever while we longed to have them home. But they were growing and getting stronger and we watched as they learned to breathe on their own, moderate their own temps, gain weight, tolerate increasing feed amounts until they were on bottles full time, moved into open beds, passed the car seat challenge, the hearing and heart disorder tests and finally got the clear to be discharged. I pumped and pumped and stayed with them from 8 am to 7 pm. We soaked in the NICU and all the nurses could teach us. Finally, on August 15, 2014, at exactly two weeks old our babies came home. And our family has been complete ever since.

Happy (almost) 1st Birthday to my Precious Little Leos. What a year it has been.


July 24, 2015

I'm on Twiniversity!

I started my first daycare position when I was 19 years old. I knew next to nothing about proper childcare, I just happened to like playing with little kids and thought they were so cute. I also needed an easy job that worked around my class schedule and didn't require weekends. I had no idea how much I would grow to love it and all that I would learn over that time! Today, I've got my first article up on Twiniversity and I'm sharing all that I learned over the last 10 years about what good day care facilities and programs look like, along with with some insider tips as well! I hope I can help parents of twins and singletons alike find great, quality day care!

Check it out!

The Ultimate Daycare Guide - Finding the Best Center for your Twins


July 22, 2015

What We Did Last Week (Week of 7/13/15)

We were a bit busy this week what with recovering from our vacation and unpacking and then of course party planning on top of it. We spent all day Thursday out shopping and on Friday and Saturday we helped my aunt with her garage sale - I swear some people bought things just to ogle the identical twins. But we still fit some fun in of course!

Nature and Outside Time

We took a few walks, had a picnic outside Thursday night with cousin Jillian, Aunt Kate and Abbie.

Sensory and Exploration

I've been moving things around and trying to keep them from getting bored with the same old stuff. Our play area is a MESS after last week with me not really caring about keeping it organized with all the chaos of getting ready to go. I finally got around to organizing it this weekend but I kept them out of it a lot last week. I moved their magnet letters to the front door and to a floor lamp where they could bang them and make different sounds.

We tried rolling balls down tubes but didn't have any that fit well so we settled for the car tunnel we were gifted. It worked but they couldn't figure out what happened to the ball after we dropped it in as it had too many drops and turns and they lost interest. I'm trying to get my hands on a bigger tube for more success soon. Instead we ended up just rolling the balls in the tunnel and then watching Willow swat them under the couch!

Music, Movement and Games

We listened to some stories this week on Spotify including Animal Stories playlist and the Once Upon a Time list too.  I also played the playlist my sister and I made for our road trips that's full of Glee, Rent and acoustic covers and mash-ups. I'm determined to make them like showtunes I guess.

We did tunnel time this week again and it's taken on a whole new element with both of them having mastered crawling! They now crawl in and out over and over, bumping into and crawling over each other, play peek-a-boo on either end and love it when I make it shake or lift it up over their heads. This is by far the most fun age yet!

We have a new favorite game in the house! It is called "Remove Every Item from Everywhere and Leave a Huge Mess." It's one of my favorite games... said no mother ever. Yeah, it's a pain, but they have a blast so I just let them do it and then have them "help" me clean it up. So far we've mastered emptying every toy bin I have stashed around the house, the lower cabinets in the kitchen and the drawers in all our rooms, our book basket and, most fun of all, the clean laundry basket.

Favorite Toys

Anything they can pull out of a basket, drawer or cabinet
Plastic Balls - banging, rolling and dropping them
Light switches - We never really got to explore these when they were littler but now I can hold one at a door and not worry about the other one crying and they've mastered the flip!

Favorite Books

We are loving the new Touch and Feel Wild Animals and Touch and Feel Jungle Animals books we got from the animal park while on vacation!

Viv stole my pizza, figured it was time they try their own!

New Foods

Pizza crust, tomatoes, cottage cheese

We're looking forward to their party this weekend and I'm sure this week will be another busy one planning and preparing for that but hopefully we'll have some fun too!


July 19, 2015

Our Journey with Hydronephrosis: It's Over (for good we hope)!

With all that's been going on lately I completely forgot to update with the best news we've received in a while: Juliette had her six month post op appointment last week after her surgery back in January and is officially in the clear (at least for a year)!!!

This is amazing news and we are so happy that this nearly 16 month journey is finally coming to a close.

Waaaay back in March of 2014 I was 4 months pregnant and sitting for what felt like my hundredth hour long ultrasound when my MFM made a comment that terrified me even more than finding out we were having twins: "We've talked about Baby A's distended kidney, right?"

Me: "Um, no. No, we have not. What (the eff) is a distended kidney?"

We wouldn't know anything for sure until after she was born and had her very own ultrasound. It might fix itself before birth, it might get worse, she might need surgery, it could mean a number of things, it could be nothing.

All I could think was, "Oh, ok, that's cool. As if being pregnant with identical twins wasn't scary enough, right?"

Fast forward to August 3, 2014, the babes are four days old and the Neonatologist on call comes rushing in apologizing to me. Apparently they just found out about her kidney and it should have been dealt with days ago. Someone left it out of my chart but thankfully my MFM mentioned it on a follow up call with them. I had completely forgotten about it too what with the whole c-section and NICU and twins. A rush ultrasound was ordered (THAT was fun to sit through with my brand new baby) and it was determined that Juliette had "moderately severe Hydronephrosis of the right kidney". She was immediately put on antibiotics for an indefinite amount of time and we were set up with a  Pediatric Urologist (Dr. Barry Kogan) for a follow up ultrasound and a Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG) to determine the severity. My girls weren't even home yet and we were already facing more doctor's appointments and possible surgery. Awesome.
The most basic definition of Hydronephrosis is swelling of the kidney due to a buildup of urine - that's the distension my MFM saw on the ultrasound. There are a number of conditions that can cause this to happen. Jules has a congenital blockage, meaning that the ureter that connects the kidney to the bladder grew twisted/kinked in a way that was not allowing proper drainage of urine. It can also be caused by kidney stones, UTIs, blood clots, scar tissue, enlarged prostate and even pregnancy. We don't know what caused Juliette's.

When they were four weeks old we left Viv with my mom and arrived at the hospital for the VCUG at 7am. They had no idea we were coming thanks to a miscommunication but managed to squeeze us in. My screaming, not yet supposed to be born, itty bitty baby was strapped to a table and weighted down with sandbags while a feeding tube (it was nice seeing one of those again) catheter was inserted. I was allowed to hold her hand and try to get her to take a pacifier while they filled her up with contrasting liquid and waited to see if her bladder was refluxing urine back into the kidney. She puked twice and peed all over everyone. Good news though: although the blockage was bad, it was not refluxing! Well, not exactly good news, it just meant further testing was needed.

At six weeks old we headed back to the hospital for a Nuclear Medicine MAG3 Renal Scan. This scan tests full on functionality of the kidney. We didn't have a babysitter so Mom, Dad and twin sis got to sit with Jules as she was again strapped and weighted down, this time with not only a catheter but an IV too! Thankfully she slept through the 1.5 hour long procedure. The scariest part about this day was hearing that she would technically be radioactive for 12 hours after the procedure and that we needed to keep Viv at least 3 feet away from her for that time. Read more about that adventure here.

A week later we went back to Dr. Kogan for another ultrasound and the results. We were hoping for good news but were told that her kidney was functioning at just 32% and likely to get worse. I asked Dr. Kogan what he would do if it were his child and he said he would definitely have surgery and sooner rather than later. So we scheduled it for a month later and prepared for yet another scary time in our girls' little lives.

On January 26, 2015 we arrived at the hospital bright and early and got our girl all set up for her Pyeloplasty. Dr. Kogan explained that he would simply make an incision, cut out the kinked part of her ureter, insert a stent to keep it straight and sew together the good parts. As scared as we were everyone was kind and gentle with her. Dr. Kogan has done hundreds of these surgeries with a 98% success rate so we were confident that all would be ok. The worst parts of that day were seeing her so puffy and miserable in the PACU after the surgery, dealing with the hospital stay and having to come home with a catheter and bag. Let me tell you, few things are worse than carrying around your sore infant and her bag of bloody piss praying to god you don't accidentally rip it out. Read more about that day here.

Juliette before and after surgery - note the IV in her head after they blew four veins in her arm and leg. Her industrial old-school hospital crib (actually made us miss the isolettes!) Her scar at 1 day and 3 months post op.
Four weeks later we were back at the hospital getting the stent removed. At this point Jules was just eight months old and had already spent more time in a hospital more than most people do in their entire lives. She's such a trooper though, handling it all with little more than a few tears.

Two weeks later I woke up to discover Jules had slept 12 hours straight through night for the first time ever. I knew it was too good to be true and sure enough she had a fever of 102. A visit to the Doctor and yet another catheter urinalysis confirmed she had her first UTI. Ugh. We started her on yet another course of antibiotics (heavy duty this time) and waited to see what Dr. Kogan wanted to do. We thought for sure that this was a major setback but her post-op ultrasound two weeks later revealed that all was well. Her kidney was healing! We learned that children are prone to these types of infections after surgery and stent removal and that we shouldn't be too concerned.

And finally, last week, we got the news we've waited 16 months to hear - her kidney looks better than it ever has. She may never regain full functionality but she's in the clear for at least a year pending no more UTIs. Her scar is healing nicely and should fade to a tiny line as she grows.

Before Juliette I had never even heard of any of this stuff so it was terrifying to say the least. Now that we've been through it I have some advice for families facing similar journeys:

If you're lucky enough to have an issue like this occur and surgery is deemed necessary - do it while they're still very young if it's an option. The difference between getting procedures and surgery done on an infant vs. a mobile older child is undeniable.

Having a good, gentle doctor is absolutely essential to feeling comfortable and safe when your child is being treated for something like this. Dr. Kogan is the best in the area and he is an absolute doll. He put me at ease from the moment we met him and did not push surgery until he found it was absolutely necessary. Juliette loves him and lights up when she sees him.

Educate yourself as much as you can on the actual condition and treatments but steer clear of the severe cases and personal anecdotal horror stories. I made that mistake and had myself so freaked out before the surgery, completely unnecessarily.

Whenever your child is put on an antibiotic discuss options for probiotics as soon as possible. I asked one of the NICU Doctors about this and was told they were unnecessary. Finally after battling her eczema with no relief I did my own research and discussed it with our actual ped and Dr. Kogan who both agreed she likely should have been on them all along, especially considering she was born via C-Section (read more about why that matters here). As soon as we started probiotics I noticed a change in her mood, sleep, bowel movements and her eczema completely disappeared. She started the antibiotics so young that we just thought she was a tough kid - turns out it was likely that her body was just a mess. Here's some more information and remember to always discuss anything you give your child with your pediatrician first!

There are many families that go through much worse health scares than this every day so I know how lucky we are. I am just so grateful that it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Thanks to the numerous ultrasounds I received it was caught early, monitored thoroughly and treated all before she was a year old. After the terrifying pregnancy, premature birth and NICU stay this was about as much as I could handle. We are very lucky.

And as much as I love Dr. Kogan I am very happy that we don't have to see him for another year. 

Thank you to everyone who prayed for us, sent us good, healing vibes and kept our girl in their thoughts through this whole ordeal! And fingers crossed the next time she has to have an ultrasound or set foot in a hospital it will be for her own baby!


July 16, 2015

First Vacation in the Books!
(Plus a review of our Chargios!)

What a weekend.

They. did. awesome.

I mean it. I knew I had great kids. They're just really cool and chill and sweet and don't really cause too much trouble (yet). But they were amazing this weekend. Despite being in the throes of teething and separation anxiety, they were so cute and funny and, well, calm.

I think I just have awesome taste in friends because they just love every single one of them. All their Aunties. Liz and Caitlin were the only ones they'd met but they sat with and played with everyone. Liz and Elisha even changed some diapers - that was fun to listen to! They were just so comfortable with them and by the end, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be bringing those babies home with me (don't worry, we did a head count before leaving).

First Pool!
They slept. I don't care if I'm jinxing myself for this week. I'm going to tell you that my damn babies slept while we were on vacation, our first one, far away from home. They napped like champs and slept through the night twice. We ran them ragged of course and thank God they aren't as cranky when they get tired anymore (and that I can just drop some food in front of them when they cry).  We all missed Daddy a lot but I never felt like I was on my own with them. Those are some good friends right there.

Our house was amazing and perfect except for the uncomfortable bunk beds (yay babies, I got to miss out on those)! So happy we went with airbnb and not cabins or a motel. Our community was so quiet and relaxed, I swear it rubbed off on the girls, along with that fresh mountain air. We went to the pool and they loved it! We visited the beach and they sat in the sand. They wanted nothing to do with that water but neither did I really. We went to a fabulous little animal park called Claws 'n' Paws. I don't think they really had any clue what was happening but they were super chill and just taking it all in. They struggled a bit at the restaurant when we went out but they were exhausted. If we end up in the Poconos again will definitely be going back to Overboards Restaurant though, delicious food and great people. And while the car ride down to PA was a little rocky the ride home I learned that actually stopping, getting out of the car and eating properly is the key to a good road trip. Sure it added 45 minutes to our trip but it paid in dividends with the lack of crying!

The girls with all their new Aunties - MoMo, LizzyBeth, Caitlin, Elisha and Sarah!
And of course, my friends. My incredible, sweet, hilarious and adoring friends. We are a unique bunch but when we get together it's always the absolute best. I wouldn't have changed a thing except maybe stayed a day or two more, and had our one missing bff there (she's 8.5 months pregnant, she's got an excuse). Other than that it was the best weekend I've had in a long time!

It's a good thing I was given the chance to review the Chargio 3-Port Car Charger in exchange for trying it out! I don't usually have more than 2 devices to charge at any time so this gave me a chance to really use it. Seriously because me being the brilliant person that I am packed my cell phone charger the night before and loaded it into the car. Great way to start a road trip with no phone! I just plugged it into the car and was able to charge my SpeakStick (which we used for bluetooth when we couldn't get either of our phones to connect to the car) and Liz's phone too, which had the podcasts while my phone navigated.  It was perfect!

My friends and I used the Chargio 3-Port Wall Charger too of course! We were always listening to music and taking tons of pictures with our phones so I just set it up in the living room or on the deck with some USBs and people could charge up if they needed. My only issue with the wall charger is that I can never get it into the wall without knocking down the prongs. No big deal, but I tend not to look at what I'm doing and never turn on the light when the girls are sleeping so it was a pain to plug in at night in my room! Both chargers work really well and are super fast so we never ran out of power despite using our phones all the time!

First beach and back together in one egg at the animal park!

I am loving that the last month of the girls' first year has been so full of firsts! Starting with their first road trip and fireworks and visits to two lakes, then their first vacation/girls weekend, first swim in a real pool, first sandy beach and first zoo. It's been an incredible couple of weeks and while I think about it, I am so happy and yet a little bit sad. Two weeks from today our babies turn one. I can't believe it, truly. The days have been long but man, that was the fastest year of my life. Now it's time to get down to planning the best first birthday for my chicas!


July 14, 2015

What We Did Last Week (Week of 7/6/15)

I spent a lot of this week getting ready for our trip and luckily Daddy was home Wednesday to keep the girls occupied! We still had a great week though!

Nature and Outside Time

So a few weeks ago we had a little incident while we were trying to figure out our bathtime situation (we don't have a tub) and we discovered they hate the shower. I was surprised to see this carried fear on into pool time - they flipped out when they saw the pool even though they've been in it like 6 times!  Luckily by just letting them explore and touch the water they slowly decided on their own to get in and had a blast both times we did it! Great way to beat the heat too!

Sensory and Exploration

They had about 40 minutes straight of fun this week with my scarves! They played peek-a-boo about a thousand times, traded, laid on them, pulled them and balled them up and more. I hung them from the bed and had them pull them down little by little then hid them under the bed and had them pull them out.

 They had their first spaghetti this week! They've had tons of pasta but we usually don't have spaghetti (we're partial to gemelli and rotini here) so this was a treat and they had a blast playing with it and of course eating it too!

I put out a bin of their animal toys this week for them to explore and have fun with. They seemed to enjoy taking them all out and chewing on them!

Music, Movement and Games 

Jules is dancing all over the place so I'm trying to pay attention to what she prefers to move to and so far she is not a fan of country (super sad face) but loves Hanson and Frozen so major mom win there. She also seems to have a thing for the random adult contemporary station we play in our kitchen for the cats. Sometimes I leave it on when we're in there and she's always bopping along in her high chair to Fleetwood Mac or Sheryl Crow. We also listened to our Parenting Love Songs playlist a bunch.

Movement this week was all about cruising around the tables and chairs so I've started placing objects that slide easily but they can also grab like cups, lids and books. They weren't so into it this week and preferred to just cruise and crawl so we'll try again next week.

Chase is quickly becoming a popular game in the house as well as escape - from everywhere! They're climbing up on their stools and pushing over gates, figuring out how to open and close doors and I feel like soon enough they're going to be using each other to get out of the cribs!

Favorite Toys 

Their picture book - They LOVE this thing. It was so easy to put together and they get so much fun out of it, just flipping through and chewing on it of course.
Stacking cups - ever the winner in our house! They still play with these things all the time.
Cabinet doors - open, close, open, close, open, empty, close, open, close, open, close and so on.
Anything that makes a sound when they shake it - rattles, shakers, peek a boo blocks, stuffed animals, bags, box of crayons, cards and game pieces etc.

Favorite books 

It's been all Peek-a-Boo all the time lately (it's seriously the only book they will sit for) with kisses galore for all those beautiful babies pictured. Don't ask me why the first people who get kisses from my kids are pictures of random stranger's babies but I like to think they're just really loving girls...

New Foods

Spaghetti, plums, cannelloni beans, watermelon, donuts (this past weekend on vacation and just a plain one! I'm not ready for the sugar high of a frosted or glazed donut yet)

I wrote most of this before I left for vacation and just wanted to update quick but I'm so beat. So I'll be back later this week with all the details of our fabulous weekend!


July 9, 2015

First Birthday Party Planning/Why I Might Go M.I.A. Soon...

Oh my. We are a little over 2 weeks out from the girls' first birthday and I'm quickly getting overwhelmed. I don't know how I managed to plan and DIY so much of a wedding with over 100 people just two years ago since the thought of planning a really simple kid's birthday party for 40 people is giving me such anxiety.

I decided awhile ago that in regards to modern first birthday parties we were not going to do much, at least according to Pinterest, Etsy and all my birth groups that is. No theme with elaborate decorations and props or themed food. No special customized outfits with their names or the number 1, no smash cake photo shoot (although they will have their own cakes at the party, mostly because I wanted to make a healthier one for them but who knows if that will happen), no goodie bags and no entertainment.

It's pretty much going to be 40 adults, my three year old niece and the girls just having a backyard summer party with some sandwiches and birthday cake. Maybe some bocce ball and a kiddie pool. Nothing like what you see when you google first birthday parties!

(oh and don't forget, I also put wishlists in my invitations. I know. Le gasp.)

It's not that I don't want to. Well, I guess that is part of it. I do think some of it is a little over the top. Especially since they aren't even really aware of what's happening and certainly won't remember it.
But really, I just wanted a small, fun, family get together with as little stress as possible. I remember the stress of planning my wedding. I kept cool on the outside (I didn't go Bridezilla like everyone expected me to) but on the inside I was pretty much freaking out. I do not want to do that to myself again.

The struggle is real though and the pressure to go big is immense. And now I'm starting to feel guilty that I'm not doing more, not making a bigger deal out of it, that I'm not even making anything. My sister made the invitations. I'm buying the decorations. Even the food will be catered because I really want us to be able to visit with our family and enjoy ourselves with our girls. I made everything for my wedding, I should at least try, right?

Vacation with Twins - definitely something I'll write about soon!
Grrr. I so didn't care about this a month ago but now it's starting to bug me. We're already at our max budget for food and I haven't even thought about the cake yet. The invitations only cost me $30 to print and mail shouldn't I at least take a stab at some cute decor? Maybe buy them an actual birthday present too? But then I still need to figure out how to provide seating and/or tables for all these people to eat at. Where am I going to get 40 chairs and some tables for less than $20? Here we go...

See, I have no idea what I'm doing. It doesn't help that I've spent the last week planning and preparing for our big Poconoes vacation this weekend. I am so excited to get away but kinda sorta wish it wasn't 2 weeks before the party.

I'm also realizing now that it will be too late if I want to order anything *special* like most people do. Like these chalk thingies I just found. Or these high chair tray banners. Or this photo collage. Or just about everything from this party. Damn you Pinterest! I'm not sure I'm crafty enough to make any of this. But I'm going to try something. Even if it's just for the cute pictures, since of course they're not going to remember it!

The good news is I have an incredible, supportive family that will help us both financially and creatively. Also, I work really well under pressure so I'm hoping next week as we get to crunch time I will really get down to it and get something, anything, done.

So tonight I am deciding to stop stressing about throwing the perfect party and instead focus on enjoying our vacation, catching up with my best friends from college and, sadly, taking a step back from blogging for a week or so (unless genius strikes of course).  When I get back I'll be throwing my heart into some special touches for my girls, making memory photobooks of the last year and, of course, spending every extra second that I have loving on my babies in the last weeks of their first year.

Don't go too far and be sure to check back soon for updates on how our vacation went, party planning and eventually our celebration!


July 7, 2015

What We Did Last Week (Week of 6/29/15)

More celebrations and family parties and our first First Birthday celebration!

What a week! Mom's exhausted. We had our anniversary lunch at Slidin' Dirty (they're amazing and they catered our wedding!) then Papa T's birthday party on Thursday and the 4th of July at Grandma's on Saturday!

Outside and Nature

It was a really rainy, yucky week so we didn't get outside much. Thankfully the weekend made up for it. We spent all day Friday and Saturday outside and the girls visited their first lake! We saw a heron and a duck and they thought the water was awesome.We had a great time celebrating the 4th and their birthday with family including GG and cousin Rick!


Right now they are loving dropping things inside one of the many containers we have and pulling it right back out so they played a lot with the buckets, yogurt containers, a big coffee container, even our heavy duty glass cups. I gave them letters, tops and links to drop in and pull out. Jules also learned that her voice sounds different when she talks into a cup and is doing it to everything!

They also had fun with exploring texture. This took no planning at all but they did it forever - I laid three blankets made of different materials out and put some small toys in the middle. They went right for the toys but then discovered the blankets and started touching them, balling them up and playing peek-a-boo with them. They even switched blankets so I think they recognized that they felt different. I came out of the kitchen at one point and they were just laying on them next to each other! So funny!

Music, Movement and Games

This week we listened to some Classic Disney, Mom's Glee mix and Pentatonix. I was feeling a lot of feelings this week so I needed to sing a lot. They don't seem to mind yet.

The only thing I have to do to facilitate movement these days is open the gate. They're off like race horses. I let them explore a ton now since the house is fully baby proofed except for one room we don't spend time in. We also do obstacle courses often now that they're interested in going over and under things. It's a blast as they love it but especially since when they're done and I'm exhausted they will go happily back into the play area and they sleep so great!

They are loving Pat-A-Cake and just started really looking when I point so we're doing lots of "What's That?" We're still not saying or signing real words but they understand cat, ball, Dad, Mom, book, milk, eat, more, peek-a-boo and bottle. Jules will sign more and milk when she feels like it, which is never in front of other people lol.

They're starting to interact so much more with each other and even developing their
 twin language! It's crazy sounding but it's clicks! They sit there in their cribs in the morning or while playing alone and we hear them clicking back and forth with their tongues or blowing raspberries.  Once we talk or they see us they stop! I tried to get it on video but they always know! They've also started hugging and kissing each other.

Favorite Toys: 

Containers and every thing you can drop in and take out of them!

The furniture - They're exploring every bit of furniture we have in every way - trying to lick and chew it, cruising on it over and over and trying to go over, under or around it. Nothing is safe anymore and the kitchen looks like poltergeist after they've been in there "helping" me cook.

Books - They love to go over to their book shelf, pull up and find their photo album, Peek-a-Boo or Farm Animal books (their faves!) Sometimes I'll just catch them flipping through the pages over and over and Jules is now giving kisses to all the babies in the peek-a-boo book!

Favorite Books:


See above!

Next week we hope to get in some pool time with the heat coming!


July 5, 2015

What We Learned On Our First Family Road Trip (with 1 Year Old Twins)!

We had two extended family gatherings this week! Papa T's Birthday and 4th of July at Grandma's which is 2.5 hours away. While neither of these were as hard as our extended trip will be in 2 weeks, it was great practice for me!

In just these two experiences I have learned so much about accommodating 1 year old twins when they are out of routine and on extended car rides. I also realized how it differs from when they were newborns like last summer. In case you were wondering - it's harder. I miss when I could just set them somewhere and not worry about them taking off or when they would actually want to go to "strangers"(ie: family they just haven't seen yet this week), so I could eat or get a drink or pee.

Happy Birthday Papa T!
Here's what I learned:


Plan to leave the house 1.5 hours before you actually need to leave. Don't forget add in time to stop and feed them if you need to - especially if you still feed on demand!

I thought I had timed it perfectly so they would eat when we got there. We planned to leave at 930 but didn't absolutely have to leave until 11. We left at 1035. It was perfect until they woke up early and got hungry when we were 15 minutes from Grandma's. Obviously you should not nurse in a moving car so we were glad we gave ourselves a little extra time.


Bring Portable Chairs for Them to Eat In

Most people don't just have extra have high chairs in their homes. It seems like no big deal, the kids can just eat on your lap, right? Wrong. First, have you ever tried to get two wild toddlers to sit on your lap at a table and eat? Maybe while you're trying to eat too? It's actually impossible. So lay a blanket on the floor or grass, you say. Nope, yet again. I've tried this several times since we started eating solids and the ratio of food offered to food eaten is like 100 to 5.  Especially when there are so many cool new things to see and people to talk to. The last thing these kids want to do is sit and eat their BBQ chicken or corn on the cob. Until we strap them in their chairs and they have no choice. We registered for and are in love with these Boppy Chairs (affiliate link). They fold up and travel well, are super easy to keep clean and have plenty of room to grow.

When you bring their portable high chairs make sure you bring the trays too.

Especially when you know you'll be eating outside (hello, it's a BBQ). This lovely lunch I packed for them ended up all over the blanket and living room floor because we grabbed the chairs but not the trays. Impromptu picnics are awesome, sometimes. This time it was a huge mess but worse they were starving on the way home because most of their food got sat on or thrown away. We will never forget those damn trays again!

You will forget something. Don't try to avoid it. 

I made lists. I counted everything and double checked. It was our first road trip, I was determined. We were good! See above.

Bring novel, open-ended toys that will keep their attention for when you want to eat. 

I actually did this one right finally and I'm glad I put some thought into it. They ate as soon as we got there so they weren't hungry by the time my food was ready. I put letters and tops in the puffs containers for them to find after they shook and rolled them. Once they got them open and dumped I gave them buckets to fill and empty. I put parchment paper and blocks in a wipes box but they didn't even get to those. They were occupied and happy for a while and I was able to eat quickly before they started crawling up me again.

Ask people if they want to hold your kids and don't forget to take pictures.

Once they relaxed a bit I was able to pass them off to some very eager relatives.  I got a lot of great pictures with their GG and cousins who we don't see very often. If they are happy, I take some pics then sneak away for some grown up conversation. I learned to take advantage of these crazy family parties where everyone just wants to love on the babies to capture memories and also have a little more fun myself! Bonus because it seems to be helping them get used to other people when they spend every single moment of their lives with mom.

If your kids are creatures of habit plan on being home before bedtime, staying the night or learning how to help them cope with a late(r) night. 

This was a rookie mistake I made at both family events this week. Nights are crazy if they don't sleep well during the day or miss their bedtime. We knew this and planned accordingly but things happen and again, we did not count on having to stop and feed them on the way home. Aside from trying to make sure we're home by 7:30 all summer I'm learning ways to handle it because I don't want them to be up all night when we can't control being home late.

Definitely try to not get home the exact moment when there's a billion fireworks going off on your street. 

Happy 4th everyone! I love fireworks. It was awesome to see them on the way home. It was less awesome to come home to every person on our block outside putting on their own personal show. Just getting into the house was like walking through a war zone with two overtired and hungry babies. Vivienne was absolutely losing her mind and CJ went into a rage over it and almost killed the neighbors (instead he cleaned the house while I got the girls "settled" - he is awesome). It was a rough hour or so but they're finally sleeping!

All in all it was a great week full of laughs and new memories. I'm so glad my girls are old enough to really enjoy their first real summer! And I'm super happy for the road trip trial run before our trip next weekend to the Pocono's! Here's hoping it all goes smoothly! I hope you all had a great 4th of July!


July 3, 2015

The Great Debate: Birthday Party Wishlists - Tacky or Helpful?

Since becoming a parent there have been a few things that have bothered me about modern parenting. I wrote about my crusade to change the way we talk about sleep training, my desire for us to stop comparing our babies to one another and my shock at the reaction to one family's wishlist for their child's birthday. I wrote then that I was making a wishlist for the girls' birthday and planned to distribute it in some way.

Well, I did it. I put a link to the girls' wishlist in their birthday invitations.

I know some people will judge me and say how awful it is. I know it's considered "tacky" and "inappropriate." Maybe one of my relatives will even post it on the interwebs and I'll become internet famous!  The difference between what I did and what that other family did is that I came up with a cute poem and a list of ideas rather than demands and parameters for people to follow, seemingly or else.  Maybe people will think it's still tacky. Maybe people will think it's genius and helpful.

I don't really care either way.

And I don't think other parents should either. I feel like if we all got together and broke it down we would realize that this is not the etiquette rule breaking fiasco that many think it is. But why do people think that way?

Is it really that rude to assume that some people might bring your child a gift at their birthday? Is it that bad to help guide them towards a gift that will be loved? Is it that wrong to try to limit the amount of unnecessary toys they get and instead ensure they receive things they really need or that you want for them?

I recognize that I hold the unpopular opinion here, what I'm trying to understand is why?

Why is it ok to make a list of things you want for your wedding and baby showers but it's super taboo to do it for a 1 year olds' birthday party?  Is it really that different?

Luckily in talking over my decision with a few people I've been able to see the light bulb click and the change in how they see it. Everyone's reaction is at first, "Oh god, how awful of her!" but then when they think about it, usually the response is, "Well, why not?"

Why not save your guests time and money by helping them know exactly what to buy?

Why not help people, many of whom haven't had young children in a long time, easily choose something without the hassle of the toy aisle at Target?

Why not be up front and honest about your parenting choices and wishes to limit the types of toys you children have, especially when it doesn't exactly fit into the mainstream idea?  I mean, my kids' favorite toys are bottle tops and old yogurt containers. Maybe they're weird but why let people waste their money on the new light-up moving doohickey that won't get played with?

My mother told me to just wait until people RSVP and they'll probably ask what they want so I can give them the wishlist then.

Why do we need the extra step?  And when your invitation states "RSVP with Regrets Only", as many do these days, how exactly do you go about doing this?  Should I have waited until people tracked me down, or I have the extra five minutes a day to e-mail or call everyone and explain the link or have a handful of ideas to dole out to people, along with where they can find them?

Maybe it's not supposed to be easy. Maybe the easy way is tacky?

I don't know. And like I said, I don't care.

Here's my argument:

I live in a shoebox and my kids have more than enough "typical" toys as it is.
Not everyone knows what to get a 1 year old so if I can guide them, why not?
I'm not demanding gifts, but not one person I've invited has ever shown up to one of the dozens of birthday parties my family has had over the years without a gift. Why would ours be the first?
We're broke and sometimes can't afford to buy them the things that they need, let alone want.  That's not anyone else's problem but it's my reality. And these days, it's more common than ever. One would think that as family who love and adore my children they would rather give us things we need and want over a bunch of toys that will get played with for a second.

So here's what I wrote, feel free to use it if you decide to be tacky/genius like me:

Your gracious presence is all we request
to help our party be the most fun
But we know that some we love, may bring
a gift in honor of us turning one

Our home and play space are very small
and gifts for babies can be hard to find
So please don't find this tacky, but helpful
Here's a list of ideas, should you be so kind:

I'm not expecting people to purchase everything specifically off the list, in fact I hope they don't. Just like I wrote, it's meant to give them ideas. Ideas of what kinds of toys I prefer for my kids, things that will last in the long run and the types of things that they really need. 

Maybe I'll be judged. Maybe someone will report me to Miss Manners and spread the word that I'm one of the "worst parents in the world". Don't worry, I'll be just fine.  And, on the off chance that one of my relatives is offended I hope they have the heart to tell me rather than put me on blast for all of the internet to judge. But so far the reception has been pretty good. I'll update in a few weeks and let you know how it went!