1st Year of Life Video Montage

This is something I've been working on for a very long time. Put my heart and soul into it and consider it my video masterpiece thus far. Better late than never, here it is, a video montage of the twins' first year of life!

20 Months Update

Twenty Months?! Whaaaat??? I'll still never get over how fast it's going. But here they are, 20 months and more lively than ever! To say that these two are a handful is certainly an understatement but at the same time are an absolute joy to be around. 

As time goes on, their personalities are definitely showing. Initially we thought Riv was going to be the nervous one and Riley would be our little dare devil but the more time goes on we are seeing the opposite is true. River loves to climb on everything, jumps into things head first without looking, smiling and laughing every step of the way. That's not to say Riley doesn't get into mischief, she's just a little more leery of new situations. When approaching people she hasn't met before she tends to hide behind our legs and giggle nervously while Riv is more likely to go to the person with open arms. Depending on the situation (and whichever one of us is closer to her) I've also seen her run and hold on to River for protection. It's so sweet.

They both have been mimicking Mommy more and more. It happens throughout the day, sometimes in the most surprising moments. For example, their latest thing is imitating me when I'm doing yoga or Pilates. The only chance I have to workout during the day is with them in the room so I'll pull out some toys next to my yoga mat and they play right next to me. However, that quickly turns into them trying to do the same motions as me OR they look at it as an invitation to climb all over me like a jungle gym. And it is not easy trying to workout with an extra 50 pounds on you... Especially when it's on your head! LOL. I have a toddler yoga book of poses I also do with them and they love it, especially Riley. I figure it's never too young to start! There's actually a place that does Storybook Yoga for toddlers that I'd like to get them involved with this Fall! And, in fact, I'm in the process of trying to find a good dance or tumbling class to enroll them in. I want to get them out doing more physical activity and with other children. There's a lot of options here in Orlando, I just have to test them out and see what's the best bang for the buck. Luckily, most places allow you to try out a class first before signing up. And once the twins turn two there's even more options, so I definitely plan on exploring what's out there to ensure they are involved in some fun activities to foster their development even further. :-)

Sadly, this month the twins have started fighting a bit. Well, it's actually more like Riley throws a fit if River takes something she has or wants to play with whatever she's playing with. She can be quite possessive with her things, which can be a challenge when everything is BOTH of theirs! River is so laid back, if Riley takes something of his he just moves on to something else but if she takes something of his? Forget it. Meltdown city! That is another thing that Riley started doing this month... throwing herself on the floor when she's upset. I could be over anything. Riv took a toy, I wouldn't let her play in the garage, not giving her orange slices fast enough, you name it. Luckily, I've read a ton on positive discipline so I'm packed with an arsenal of tricks and tips to handle these next few sensitive years. Whenever she goes into tantrum mode if G or I gets down to her level and talk calmly to her she picks herself up and calms right down. It helps to understand the part of their brain that processes emotion is under major construction (hence the "terrible twos") and their frustration is merely a lack of being able to express their emotions. So it takes a lot of patience and understanding on our part, but hey, that's what being a parent is all about!

And while we're on that subject, that is also something G and I have been working on lately ourselves. Being more patient and understanding. How we express ourselves. Learning to be Mindful. Practicing meditation to give our bodies and minds a break and to recharge. Setting our intentions each day to ignite positivity from within to spread outward. All things we want to make a part of our daily routine so that we can pass it on to the twins. Our journey to spiritual enlightenment, as we call it. It's really been great for us. It helps us connect in the evening after a busy day. Our goal is to make it a part of our daily lives and pass it on to the twins. And that's not something that has to wait until they are adults. As they grow and start understanding more I plan on using these learned techniques from the start so they'll grow up having the skills to handle their emotions and let go of negativity easily. It's truly a precious gift we will give to them, one that will last a lifetime.

When it comes to communication, they are both making strides in their own way. Riv is still behind and has actually been recommended for Speech Therapy in their most recent Early Steps evaluation. And we are totally fine with that, we figured as much. It's free so I am all for anything that will help with their development. He did add two new signs this month. He does the signs for "please" and "bird." He also started saying "RaRa" for we think both him AND Riley. It's not much but I'll take it! He'll communicate more in his own time so I'm really not worried about it. :-) Riley has added more words and signs as well. She now says "yummy" anytime she's hungry, which is just too cute. She also says "home" and for a while she was saying "ok guys," something Daddy always says to them but she hasn't said it in a couple weeks. Funny how they'll start staying something and then stop. 

So that's about it for now. Each month brings so many new exciting changes and while I'm looking forward to watching them flourish, I also don't want them to grow up too fast! But it's going to fly by whether I want it to or not, so I just have to soak up every last second!

Lots of Daddy pics... he's such a good man <3

 Reading to Riley at the Dr's office

Making flower arrangements
 Pool Fun!


                                                                    Our little blondie!

NICU Scrapbook

Finally finished the scrapbook of the twins' journey through the NICU. (It takes a looong time to put these together and I have a lot of catching up to do!) I had it printed like I usually do but here is the digital copy for those who'd like to see it. Hard to believe they were so tiny and fragile! Breaks my heart to see them like that... no wonder people would cry when they came to visit the NICU! Our little miracle babies...
(click the link and then I suggest changing the view to "Large" listed on the right side underneath the scrapbook)


Easy Dinner Prep Tips for busy Moms (and Dads!)

For those who struggle to find the time to cook, this crockpot prep ahead method has been an absolutely lifesaver!!! 

I don't know about you, but between taking care of two active toddlers, trying to keep the house clean and prepping food for the family, I am wiped out every day and still feeling like I couldn't get everything done that I intended to. With stress levels high, but still needing to remain happy-peppy-rah rah rah for the twins my therapist suggested I take 15-20 minutes out of my break each day (aka nap time) to meditate. I got a good laugh out of that suggestion at first, but once I actually did it and felt a WORLD of difference mentally, I decided I needed to make it a daily priority. But something had to give as I usually prep dinner during nap time. I thought "Mission: Impossible" until I learned of a handy trick  to minimize meal prep time and boom! Life just got a little easier.

Enter "dump" recipes. Now, at first glance it sounds gross, but I assure this will be your new best friend. You'll need a crockpot and some freezer bags and the world will be your oyster. 

The idea is that you can prep a whole bunch of meals at once, throw all the ingredients into freezer bags, pull out as needed, toss into crockpot in the morning and have a delicious meal at the end of the day! Sooo easy! 

What I do that makes is even easier for me is I label all the bags first and put the time and setting on the bag (6 hours-Low) then write ingredients for each on sticky notes and put them on the bags to make stuffing them easier. Roll them up and stick in the freezer! That's all there is to it!!

My suggestion for finding recipe ideas is to look up "dump" recipes on Pinterest (you can also look up "crockpot" or "slow cooker" recipes. I always look using a different search word each time to generate different results. The "dump" recipes are a good start because they are geared specifically for prepping and freezing ingredients). But you can make it even easier than that... If you're in a time crunch or short on ingredients (like I was tonight!) you can just throw some chicken breasts in each bag and dump a bottle of whatever dressing, soup, sauce, etc, you have in your cabinet and call it a day! Some examples that work are:

Caesar dressing
Cream of Mushroom soup
Cheese soup
Honey Mustard 
Virtually any salad dressing
BBQ Sauce (and cut up pineapple!)
Coconut Milk & Curry powder (stir together first) 

Get creative! The possibilities are endless! 

We don't eat a lot of meat in the house (as I'm a vegetarian) and G usually only likes chicken so I buy a large pack of chicken breasts (I've been getting it at the meat counter at Whole Foods) so that I can always make at least 3 chicken "dump" bags at a time, plus 1-2 vegetarian recipes at around 5 meals let food prep session. On days that I use a pre-made crockpot meal I prep something non-crockpot (like something I'd make in a skillet or oven) so it's ready to go for the next day! 

So if you keep sticking your freezer you'll always be ahead of the game, which is awesome if you ever have days where you don't have time to do anything!
This method has saved me SO much time and stress!!! Just wanted to share! 

River's Surgery

Since birth, River has had a blocked tear duct in his right eye. This means the eye wouldn't tear like normal, it would just get all gunked up instead. Every time we'd go outside (in allergen infested Florida) it would ooze yellow stuff. So gross! He was always rubbing his eye so it was constantly red and swollen. People often asked if he was sick or had pink eye. Some mornings he'd wake up with his eye completely crusted shut and we'd have to use our fingers to pry it open! Poor little guy. So the eye dr finally said the only option would be surgery since he didn't grow out of it by age 1. We decided it was the right thing to do since he was on finials suffering and uncomfortable. 

On June 5th he had the surgery and it was the best decision we could have made. The procedure was done at a surgery center and the anesthesiologist was from Arnold Palmer Hospital, which definitely have us peace of mind. The surgery was a balloon catheter dilation (DCP). In DCP, a balloon is inserted through an opening in the corner of the eye and into the tear duct, then inflated with a sterile solution to expand the tear duct. The balloon is then deflated and removed. Our biggest concern wasn't the procedure, as we had faith in the doctor. We were more worried about the whole fasting thing before the operation. Riv tends to have a royal meltdown when he's hungry, especially in the morning since it's so long between meals. Luckily, the surgery was in the morning and all the commotion kept him pretty happy and occupied. While waiting his turn for surgery he started to get a bit fussy so we walked him up and down the hall, which bought us a little more time. 

Once it was his turn the procedure took about 30 min. They reversed the anesthesia and we were able to go be with him in recovery. He had a rough time coming out of the anesthesia, which is apparently common. He fought and kicked and screamed for about a half hour. G walked him up and down the hallway again and he eventually calmed down and fell asleep in his arms. When we got him home, he was still tipsy from the anesthesia. And was walking around like a little drunk person. Too funny!

Click here to see a video of woozy River at home after surgery

It's been a few weeks and I'm happy to say his eye is better than ever! No crusting or oozing. The surgery worked! So glad we went through with it! :-D

19 Months Update

So here we are at 19 months already. River and Riley are still moving along developmentally at their adjusted age, which is now 16 months. They are getting more fun and more challenging with each passing month. They've gone from taking a few steps to practically running! They spend their days exploring the house and would much rather play with household items than their toys. One of their favorite things to do is stand on their Learning Tower and help Mommy prep food. (I'll be doing a separate post on that!). So I spend a lot of time with them working on practical life skills (putting on sunglasses, washing toys, prepping good, cleaning etc). And they just love doing activities like that. Especially Riley. She wants to do everything the adults do, particularly Mommy.

      Washing their animal figurines 

     Making pumpkin muffins in a mug         

This month has brought a language boom for the dynamic duo. For River it has been with understand and Riley it has been with signing and speaking. Riv is a bit behind his sister in the language department, but we're not too worried about it. (We all know women talk more anyway! LOL). He says Mama, Dada, Baba all the time. He knows G and I are Dada and Mama but he also uses it for different reasons- such as Mama when he wants something in general  and Dada when he points to objects and wants to know what it is. We have noticed he calls his cup and blanket baba, which I recently connected the dots that both items start with a B (Blanket and his <water>Bottle). So that's a step in the right direction! They are both still signing "more" "eat" "all done" and Riley also still signs "help" and "please" but has also added "potty" "book" "hat" and "bird." When it comes to speaking this girl is amazing us with new words all the time! She's up to about 25 words! Mind you, she's not making sentences or anything, but she can repeat the words we say and is JUST now starting to point to things and say things on her own. The words she added to her vocabulary this month are: water (wawa), hello, hi, owl, kick, cow, yes, potty, bow & okay. She also babbles and talks with her hands (hmmm that sounds a lot like Mommy ha!). So needless to say, we are pretty impressed with her. They both are understanding SO much though. We've always talked to them in complete sentences and explain everything we do around the house and apparently it's paying off! They totally surprised me recently when I asked them to throw something away in the garbage and they each individually walked over to the laundry room, lifted the garbage can lid and threw it out! They really do pay attention! 

Ever since being in swimming lessons the twins have been SO comfortable with the water. They LOVE going to the pool and swimming underwater between us. So we try to make it a point to go to the pool, or some other water activity, at least once each weekend. Some close friends of ours were visiting from Tallahassee this month and we got to visit with them at their hotel pool! It was a wade-in pool so the kids could just walk right in. Funny thing was, they would have kept right on going if we didn't stop them! They were so comfortable being in the water, they walked all the way in until the water was up to their necks! Such a brave little pair. :-)

This month we had a visit from their Aunt Kim (G's sister). She spent a long weekend with us and got to have some quality time with the twins. It was great seeing her and she was a huge help with keeping the twins occupied!

Other than that, not much else to report. Riley is still a book worm (although River really loves books as well!). You can frequently find her in the playroom surrounded by as many books as she can possibly pull down!

They love climbing into laundry baskets

Eating watermelon in their Adirondack chairs

Eating corn on the cob for the first time

Munching on some peppers & hummus

Someone stole Mommy's sun hat!

Besties <3

Click here to see River & Riley's 19 month montage video.

River's First Haircut

For weeks we've been deliberating what to do with River's hair. We LOVE his beautiful curls and the fact that it's got some length to it fits with our hippie-dippy lifestyle (and his hippie-dippy name). But it was starting to look straggly and, at times, like we found him on the street. We originally wanted to have his first haircut be at Magic Kingdom (since we've become the Disney family we never imagined now that G is an official "cast member" with the company's IT department). However, we envisioned it happening in the Fall when the weather is a little more tolerable. But since Riv was looking like the Shaggy Dog we realized it was time for a trim and there was NO WAY we were parking, walking and taking a ferry into Magic Kingdom in blazing 5,000 degree temps so we decided to find an alternative.

In comes "Pigtails and Crewcuts," a salon that caters to little people (and no I don't mean Peter Dinklage). I made sure to get there when it opened and as luck would have it we were their first customers of the day! This wound up being the first time going anywhere with them and not using a stroller (yeah I won't be doing THAT again!). I got to choose which chair River would sit in- we had a choice between a fire truck, airplane and train. The airplane struck me as the cutest so I went with that. There were plenty of fun toys around so Riley kept herself entertained throughout the haircut, although she spent most of the time staring at River with a puzzled look on her face as if to say, "what are you doing to my brother?" and "why don't I get to do it too?". 

I give the hairdresser a lot of credit. River was moving his head all over the place but she didn't miss a beat. I guess they are used to a moving target since they cater to toddlers and kids. But Riv was really great the whole time! Didn't fuss once! The whole process went smoothly, however once he was done and I was checking out the dynamic duo went running down the hall and into the break room (hence why I said I wouldn't go anywhere without a stroller for a while!). But all-in-all it was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be going back for future haircuts!

   This pic cracks me up!!
                          All Done!

To see a short Magisto montage of Ruver's haircut click here.

18 Months Update

Happy 18 months to the twins!! I can't believe they are a year and a half already! And while they are still developmentally at around 15 months, they are making leaps and bounds with each passing week. It's truly amazing how quickly they are learning things these days. From social skills to manners and communication, they are turning into little people!

We've had some fun times lately. For one, we've been taking them to a few local splash pads to play in the water and we've started swimming lessons (I'll be writing a separate post about that stuff!). But I'm thrilled we are getting them comfortable with being in the water at such a young age. Especially since A. We live in FL and B. They were born into a waterskiing family (Daddy's side... but Mommy has been learning these past few years!). And while it is crazy Africa hot in Florida, going to the pool and splash pad gives us something fun to do outdoors without melting into a puddle. ("what a world, what a world"). G's parents came down for a visit from northern New York (not upstate... way further up than that!), specifically to help me with the swimming lessons. It was really nice spending time with them and having the extra help is always a major bonus. G and I actually got to go out on a date, visit with some friends and go to the movies. All the simple things you take for granted before you have kids. We've been missing that stuff a bit (not that we'd trade our life for anything in the world) but it did us good to get out a few nights. :-)

   Riv loves his Grandpa

   Storytime with Grandma

   Swimming Lessons

Big smiles with Grandma

   Family photo at the Citrus Tower
    Date Night for Mommy & Daddy!

    It was a drive-by pouching! LOL

Anyway, as for the twins' development this month I'm proud to say they are officially out of their high chairs! (sniffle...)
We got them a cute little table from Ikea and for the past month they have been sitting at their for all their meals. Riley stays at the table the whole time (hey, she takes food very seriously) and uses a real glass plate, however, River gets up multiple times during a meal and is not quite ready for plates. He tends to use them as a Frisbee. But he's learning and doing better all the time.

Another noteworthy change is their new-found explosion of language skills. While before they were understanding more each day, now they are expressing themselves in many ways. For one, they are trying really hard lately to repeat words. Especially Riley. Communication is definitely her strong suit, but that's nothing new. She's just continually getting better at it. She's back to saying "baby" a lot, along with "mama" and "River" being the words she says the most. Funny they both can say "River" but neither can say "Riley." In fact, we are a bit concerned Riley thinks her name is " Good Girl," as when we point to her and say her name that is what she says rather than repeating "Riley." So we are working with her on that (and trying our best not to say "Good Girl" anymore because CLEARLY we were saying it too much! LOL). Here are the new words she has added to her vocabulary this month:

17 Months:      18 Months:(in addition to 17m)     
Mama                Brother (brubba)
Dada                 Grandma (gamma)
River ("Ribba")   MiMi - other grandma
Baby                  Hi
Duck                  Eye
Good Girl
Bubble (bubbo)

While River is a little behind her in saying words, he does say a few words (Mama, Dada, River, Duck and his new words this month are "baby" and "Grandpa" - which he says as "Gampaa" or "Pa"). This doesn't surprise us because he sure does love his Grandpa and was looking for him all the time while they were staying with us. 

One of the most exciting language skills they have learned this month is sign language. I have been working with them on a few basic signs this past year and they are finally doing them back! Riley is now signing "eat," "more," "please," "all done," and "help". According to the ASL baby-signing books I've read, you are only supposed to introduce new words once they've mastered two or three so I am just now adding some more to the mix for her. Riv can do "all done," "eat" and "more," which is a really big deal for him (since Riley is more of the talker between the two). The amazing thing is how they aren't just doing the signs to mimic us, they use them independently to communicate! For example, if I am feeding them a snack they will toddle over to me and sign "more" when they'd like more snack and then sign "all done" when they don't want any more. It blows us away! It's really great that they are able to communicate their needs before they are able to really talk. I would definitely recommend to anyone with a baby/toddler to incorporate sign language while communicating with their little ones!

The amount of words and phrases they are understanding is growing by the day. It's honestly too much for me to write, but some examples include: wipe the table, push in your chair, wash your hair, sit at your table, push in the drawer, play on the keyboard and so much more (of course always saying "please" when asking to cultivate a respectful environment). And oh. em. gee. they are now both blowing kisses, giving lots of hugs and doing Eskimo kisses with us... and each other! (You KNOW I'll have to get that on video ASAP!). In addition, Riley is giving real kisses as well and says, "muah!" when she does it. I think my head is going to explode from cuteness overload!
In other news, River has to undergo surgery on his eye June 5th for a blocked tear duct. They will push a super thin rod through the inner corner of his eye and open up a small balloon to create a passageway. I am not happy about it, but it is a necessary evil. His eye is always oozing and is sometimes completely stuck shut in the mornings. I really don't like the idea of him being under anesthesia but it's our only option. It is only a 20 minute procedure and has a quick recovery time, however, there is also a risk it doesn't work and they have to try a different type of surgery. Fingers and toes crossed it goes as planned. Poor little guy. :-(

That's about all for now. But I've got a few more posts coming soon. Until then...

To see the 18 Months Montage click here.

Amazing Underwater Pics of the Twins

We had a special surprise at one of our swimming lessons! The owner of the company was there, as he chose our class (they apparently choose one per session) to do underwater pictures! He had this huge contraption he took in the water to capture pics of the babies as they went under water! The photos turned out AMAZING!! Riv's hair looks SO red! And check out Miss Riley the swim queen blowing bubbles under water! So incredibly thrilled to have these special keepsakes! :-D

So glad I had River wear his Shark Beach rash guard, it goes perfectly with the pics! 

They made one of his black and white as well...

Rock Stars in the Making

These two are something else! They already love music so watching them play with this full-sized keyboard for the first time was awesome (especially since Mommy grew up playing!). It was hilarious to see how much they were rocking out! They absolutely love it!

Check out the twins getting into the preprogrammed music, it is too funny! Riley looks like a little composer/producer and Riv must have been a Rock Star in his past life. I especially love the part in the second half where the music stops and they get all concerned for a minute but then it restarts the song and they immediately start dancing again. LOL.


Fine Motor Activities for Toddlers

Some easy fine motor activities with everyday household items! Great for anytime but we also like to do them after their bath as a mellow activity to wind them down before bed...

1. Cards in and out of a wallet. I found them at Dollar Tree and let them play with old cards. I'm planning on getting a few family photos made in wallet size and laminating them to use instead, as I think the twins would love that!

2. Pipe cleaner and a colander. Pretty self-explanatory. :-) They can just stick the pipe cleaner into the holes.

3. Transferring dried pasta from one bowl to another. As they get a little older you can show them how to do it with little cups, pouring pasta, beans, rice or water from one cup to another (which serves as a Practical Life Skill!)

4. Stacking CDs! Using a spindle of old blank CDs just take them off and let them have at it sliding them over the stem.

5. Transferring Pom Poms. Start off with Pom Poms in a bowl and have them put them into mason jars, cups, or anything else you'd like. As they get older they can do this with tongs and older yet with chop sticks! Great hand-eye coordination practice!

6. Using Connect Four let them put the chips in the slot!

7. Painting with water! Super easy with no mess! (Unless your toddler likes the flip the water bowl like River does! LOL). The water makes lines on the paper. I used large art paper from Dollar Tree. 

*Note: if your toddler loves to mouth things like mine do just be sure to keep a close eye on them while they play. I have to constantly remove pieces from the twins' mouths but they also have periods of time where they are really focused and into it!

Here are some more fine motor activity ideas for you! (It's a great resource I like to use to get ideas for all types of activities- lots for older kids too!)