These Are a Few of My Favorite Firsts (Plus a Giveaway!)

The first year of a child's life is FULL of excitement as your baby explores the world around them.  I'm lucky enough to have twice the enchantment as Jane and Emma bobble around, grabbing, touching, tasting, hearing, and seeing everything around them for the very first time.  

When the girls were born, they had a 6 week stay in the NICU.  The hospital that we stayed in used Pampers Swaddlers, the favorite first diaper of so many mommies.  Being a BRAND NEW mommy, I didn't know the difference between any brand of diapers, but I was thankful that they had such small and soft diapers to cover their little heinies!

That's why, when Double Duty Divas asked mommy bloggers to create a post all about their baby's firsts along with a review of Swaddlers diapers, I jumped right on the bandwagon.  The thing that I love most about Pampers Swaddlers is that they are soft AND impossibly thin.  My girls NEVER have badonkadonks when they where Swaddlers!

Swaddlers make it easy to forget about leaks and drips and explosions when you're trying to focus on all of your baby's firsts.  Jane and Emma have already had so many great firsts, from SMILING, to LAUGHING, to ROLLING OVER and EATING!

Here Janey rolls over for the first time.  I love the look of pride on her face as she realizes that she's now facing a totally different way than she started!

In this video, Emma uses a spoon for the first time.  She literally just grabbed it out of my hand and started feeding herself like a big girl!

As Jane and Emma grow and start to move around independently, Swaddlers now grow with them.  The diapers are available through size 5, which means that they get to wear the softest diapers made by Pampers through their first year of life.  And to celebrate Swaddlers sizes 4 & 5, Pampers has 30 days of incredible giveaways and a grand prize of FREE Swaddlers diapers & wipes for a year. Join the celebration and enter the 30 days of sweeps on the Pampers Facebook page where you can win daily prize bundles, plus the grand prize of free Swaddlers diapers & wipes for one year! 

Also, please join me for a #SwaddlersFirsts Twitter Party on Thursday, December 5 at 9:00 p.m. EST where we can all gush and boast about our babies' firsts!  Please RSVP using this link.  Put the kids to bed and come out to play with other mommies like you and me!  Prizes that night will include:

3- Celebrating Firsts Gift Packs, which include:
  • Baby’s First Friend Plush Doll
  • Baby’s First Tooth and First Curl Treasure Box
  • Baby’s First Words Book
  • Baby’s First Steps Push Toy
  • $50 Shutterfly Gift Card to celebrate all “firsts” moments
  • Baby’s First Bath Robe
  • Pampers Swaddlers
  • Grand Prize: Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR camera worth $450!
To participate, follow your hosts @DoubleDutyDivas, @BridgetteLA, @CeceliaMecca @AngieKcom @WhatMommiesNeed @RamblingChick, and our sponsor @Pampers.

The great news is, if you can't make it to the #SwaddlersFirsts Twitter Party, I've got a prize pack to giveaway to one lucky reader!  Please enter using the form below.  I will announce the winner next Sunday, December 8.  You can enter once a day!

Celebrate your baby's firsts with us here at Leading the Double Life and Pampers Swaddlers.  We're excited to take this first step with you!

This review was made possible by Double Duty Divas and Pampers. I was provided the featured product free of charge to facilitate my review, but all opinions are 100% mine.

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We Made It Through Another One (Thankfully)

Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday.  I mean, I love eating (check!), I love parties (check!), I love spending time with loved ones (check, check!), and I love eating (double-check!).  

Last year, Thanksgiving was ruined for me because I was newly pregnant and SICK as a dog.  It was fun, because Thanksgiving was when we announced we were pregnant to our family.  Well, Hershey did, in his most debonair way (Hey Aunt Nancy, I'm having twins! -- to which everyone looked at him funny and I had to swoop in and save him with, "Well, I'M pregnant with twins.").  But I couldn't eat much of anything, couldn't drink any wine, and was getting morning sickness at around 7:00 pm, at which point I had the privilege of playing DD and taking us home early.  Poop.

This year, our day went like this:

We got up and fed the girls at 6:00 a.m. after a full night of letting them CIO (at the suggestion of our pediatrician).  They then stayed awake ALLLLLLL day.  We packed half of our apartment, spent 20 minutes loading the car and dressing them, and drove the 20 minute ride to Hershey's aunt's house.  

When we got there, Emma immediately threw a temper tantrum, and about 13 minutes later I was stripping both girls of their adorable outfits that I had spent months picking out and trying to get them settled in their pack n' play for a nap.

Which went great.

Emma screamed bloody murder and Jane smiled and kicked her legs for 10 minutes.  

We spent the rest of the night feeding them their first turkey/mashed potatoes and listening to them howl as our VERY patient moms (aka the Grandma Squad) rocked them and walked them and tried to feed them bottles and let them sleep on their shoulders.  Hershey and I got to eat cold turkey and smelled like spit up from about 29 minutes into the night.  And we never even got a family picture.

Needless to say that after dessert we packed the girls up and ran out of there as fast as we could.  When we got home, we practically catapulted them into their cribs and collapsed onto our couch, wondering where our holiday kick-off day had gone!

I feel like for the last year we have been saying, "Just think, this time next year it will be better."  I'm ready for it to be better.  I hate to wish their babyhood away, but something's gotta give!

Amidst all of the hullabaloo, I did find some time to be thankful and to cook some noms.  

Here are the things that I am thankful for this year:

My husband.  His unending patience and fortitude have gotten me through this last year in times when I thought I would literally die.  It sounds cliche, but, without him, I'm not sure what I would do (besides probably cry a LOT).

My daughters.  They are a light at the end of this tunnel called life.  Even when they are cranky, screaming, drooling messes with diapers full of disgusting, they are the best thing that I have ever done in my life, and I am thankful that they are such happy, healthy little babies.

Family.  Even though we don't always see eye-to-eye and we don't always get along, I wouldn't be the person I am today without their love and support, and for that I am grateful.

Teaching.  There are days when I wonder how I will make it through, but my students breathe life and energy into me even when I feel like I have nothing left to give.

You all.  Thank you for continuing to read, comment, share, and encourage me in my journey.  The comments that I get from everyone keep me going, and I draw strength from knowing that there are others alongside me on this path, even if I can't reach out and physically touch you!

And here is a list of NOMS that I made:

For the grown-ups, I made homemade cranberry sauce.  Find the recipe here.

For the kiddies, I made sweet potatoes/broccoli, corn, corn/carrots, carrots, and cinnamon apple sauce.  I'll create a post later detailing how I make the girls their favorite baby foods.

How do you celebrate the kick off of the holiday season?  What do you find most fabulous/frustrating about this time of year?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thanksgiving outfits from Dreaming of Stitches.  Danica was so easy/wonderful to work with!

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found some time to slow down and be thankful.    See you next time! 

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The Lowdown on Lavender

In our quest for the perfect sleep cycle, we have purchased lavender everything.  Lavender shampoo.  Lavender lotion.  Lavender bubble bath.  Lavender washcloths.  If I could have dyed Jane and Emma's hair lavender, I would have.

So I was beside myself when a good friend of mine (let's call her Carol) emailed me to tell me that her pediatrician had STRONGLY warned against using anything with lavender in it.  Apparently, lavender brings on early puberty.  I rushed to the medicine cabinet and ripped out anything purple and stowed it away, pending a full investigation.  That was 2 months (aka many sleepless nights) ago.

Last night I finally got around to doing some research.  Turns out, Carol's pediatrician was half right.  According to WebMD, products containing tea tree or lavender oils may cause a condition called "gynecomastia" in boys.  The article defines gynecomastia as "overdevelopment of the male breast".  I can hear what you're thinking.  "Whaaaa the fuuuuuh????"  My thoughts exactly.

So I delved further, and I found this post on BabyCenter (which, if you remember, is one of my FAVE mommy sites).  I followed the comments, and they lead me to the SAFbaby website, which gave various case studies and testimonials from experts.  Blah blah blah.

Basically, here's what I've discovered:  The lavender and early-puberty link is INCONCLUSIVE in girls.  There is no evidence to suggest that lavender sends our little ladies hurtling towards puberty at a faster rate.  Furthermore, there are conflicting ideologies when it comes to the causes of the development of "breast buds" in little boys.

So where do we go from here?  IMHO, you find the products that make YOU feel the most comfortable for YOUR family, and invest in those.  Because there are no such things as "safe things" in baby world.  I mean it.  Just read the tags!

Hope this sheds some light on a foggy subject!  Have a GREAT Thanksgiving everyone!

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Weekly Round Up

I know I promised this last week, but between grades and lesson plans being due, parent meetings, Jane and Emma teething, and the holidays approaching, time ran away from me! So here's an Extra Special Big Fat Weekly Round Up. 

Emma's First - Discovery that she could bounce in her Exersaucer. The video is dark and Law and Order is blaring in the background, but you get the point. 

Jane's First - Day out with Mama! We took a little trip to Babies R Us to pick up some storage containers so that I can make their food ahead of time and freeze it. I've been obsessed with them and have been talking about them ad nauseum and they're finally mine! And Janey was such a good girl in the store, it made me super proud to be her mama. 

Hershey's Favorite - Meal planning has been going great! We stuck to the menus perfectly 2 weeks in a row! Hershey's fave dish was the Chicken Asparagus Roll-Ups that I made. Extra added bonus that I figured out is that our monthly grocery bill is lower when I shop weekly. And now that I have my handy baby food storage system, I won't have to waste that 5 lb. bag of carrots that I bought on Peapod by mistake! 

Mama's Realization - I have a love/hate relationship with the girls' choopies. They need them to fall asleep during nap time, and it helps them to fall asleep quickly, BUT, 13 seconds later it falls out and they start screaming. When will they be able to find it and put it back in their OWN mouths?! The 3:00 am choopie search party is the worst. 

(Yes, that's right, I drew devil horns on the choopie.  That's what it looks like when I think of it!)

High Point - The girls slept through the night last Friday AND Saturday night! I woke up Saturday and Sunday scared that they had somehow escaped their cribs, but we got 7 glorious hours of sleep in a row both nights! 

Low Point - Jane threw up so much on both me and her today that I had to strip us both and climb into the tub with her for some Mama-Janey bath time. I'm pretty sure that the Motrin we have been giving the girls for their teething has been upsetting their stomachs, so we backed off of Motrin AND solid foods for a few days. We have a check up with our pediatrician tomorrow, and I have lots of questions lined up! 

Teething much?

Favorite Moment - Visiting baby Ryan, watching the first snow fall on my best friends' back porch with all of our children gathered around us (4 between the 2 families), and realizing that 11:30 pm is too late for a mama of twins to go to bed! 

(Picture pending...)

Hershey, the twins, and I are all fighting off our first seasonal cold, so hopefully we will be able to get it together for Thanksgiving! 

What were some of your firsts, realizations, high points and low points from this week? I'd love to hear from you! 

This week I will be writing my very first sponsored blog post, and hosting my first giveaway on the site! Stay tuned for details! 

Have a great week! Xoxo

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Sometimes Bad Stuff Happens

When we decide to become parents, we subconsciously sign up for a whole slew of bad stuff.  Don't get me wrong, there are all of these amazing, wonderful moments that make being a parent the best job in the world.  However, every once in a while, something happens that makes you wonder if you are strong enough to handle this journey.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant, Hershey and I went in for a routine anatomy scan.  We found out that we were having a little Jane and a little Emma, and after an extremely long consultation with the doctor, the technician returned with the doctor to deliver some other news to us:  Our little Janey was presenting with something called a "double-bubble".  Basically, it looked like there was some kind of blockage preventing Jane from fully digesting the amniotic fluid that she was swallowing in utero.   

The doctor then went on to explain that there were many reasons why this must be happening.  The first possibility that she noted was "she may have Down Syndrome."  That was all I heard before I went into shock and started crying hysterically.  Luckily, my husband is very level-headed and asked all of the right questions, because I wasn't hearing anything else this doctor was saying.

When the girls were born, I had to wait in recovery for about an hour before having my hospital bed wheeled into the NICU so that I could hold them for the very first time.  As the neonatologist approached my bedside, the only words that I could muster were, "Is Jane ok?"  

"She's perfect."

I don't think I'll ever forget that moment for as long as I live.  I'm crying as I'm writing this.  The overwhelming sense of relief and joy is something that only a parent who hears that their child is healthy after worrying for 4 months that they are not would understand.

It turned out that Jane's pancreas had wrapped around her intestine and fused it shut.  Two days after she was born, I wheeled myself alongside her little incubator and sent her into surgery, the second scariest moment of my life.  Those four hours until the doctors came to my recovery room to tell me that they fixed the issue and that she was going to be alright were unbelievably difficult.  

I then had the heartache of watching her recover, looking up at us through the tubes and wires that were keeping her "comfortable" as if to say, "Mommy, why is this happening?  Why can't you just pick me up and hold me and tell me I'm going to be ok?"  There's nothing like feeling so helpless while your child is suffering.

Of course she's now a happy, healthy six-month old (who LOOOVES carrots!), but I remember feeling back then like this nightmare would never end.

When we brought the girls home, they had to remain on apnea monitors.  Because they were born so early, they sometimes forgot to breathe, and their heart rates would slow.  The monitors alerted us to when this was happening so that we would be able to revive them.  Hearing those alarms go off in the middle of the night, knowing that your child is not breathing...waiting for them to take a big breath...absolutely terrifying.

The girls came off of the monitors for good in October.  We were finally out of the woods!  Until this past Friday night.

We decided to give the girls a bath together.  They are very independent now, and love splashing in the bathtub.  Jane sat in a sling, as Emma stood up on a foam mat with me holding on to her.  She wiggled and splashed, and managed to swallow a little bit of water.  Hershey whisked her out of the tub and brought her into the nursery as I finished up with Jane.  I heard Emma crying, and figured she was just giving my husband a hard time (as the girls like to do on the changing table now). 

As I walked into the nursery with Jane, I realized that something was not right.  Hershey said that it was like she couldn't breathe, so I quickly grabbed the Nose Frida, handed Jane off to Hershey, and worked to clear out Emma's air passage.  Her lips began to turn blue, and her frantic, hysterical cries got caught in her throat.  I screamed for Hershey to call 9-11 as I stripped her jammies from her little body and blew into her face.  

By the time the police arrived, Emma's cries were dying down, and she was turning from bluish-purple to white, her eyes were slowly closing, and her hands, feet and cheeks were all cold.  The police officer gave her some oxygen, and she slowly came back around, smiling at the officer and looking curiously at the crowd of emergency responders gathering.

Her vitals were checked and she was back to normal, so we opted out of going to the hospital.  Hershey called the pediatrician, and we learned that "some kids just do that."  It's called a cyanotic breath-holding spell, and it can happen when a child becomes frustrated, upset, angry, or scared.  They cry and hold their breath until they pass out.  And Emma now does this.  Awesome.

Needless to say, we watched Emma like a hawk for the rest of the night.  As soon as we put her in her crib, I broke down and started crying.  I thought I was watching my child die on her changing table, as my other child looked on from under the teddy bear hood of her towel.  

I'm not telling these stories because I want you to feel bad for me.  I'm telling these stories today because I want other mommies (or daddies!) out there to know that you are not alone.  These terrifying moments will happen, and you will question your strength and fortitude.  But looking in your child's face, you will know that it is worth it.  1,000%.

What moments have you had to overcome as a parent?  When did you first realize that you're stronger than you could have ever imagined?

I hope that you all had a great weekend!  I promise that I will write our Weekly Wrap Up as soon as I can catch my breath.

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Disclaimer:  Blogger links are not working (again!).  Sorry for the obnoxious link (again!).

Remember when I wrote this (  What a throw back!  

How did you find out you were expecting little one(s)???  I'd love to hear your stories!

I'll be back tomorrow with our new Weekly Wrap Up.  Look for recipes, menu reviews, and all of our trials and tribulations of this week, the week when the girls not only turned 6 months old, but also started TEETHING (lucky us)!

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Is That for Pick Up or Delivery?

Hershey and I are chronic offenders.  If anything (and I mean ANYTHING) doesn't go our way in the course of our day, we order in.  

It all started when I was pregnant.  I lost my sense of taste, and everything made me nauseous.  So I stopped wanting to cook.  I distinctly remember one night early in my pregnancy when I was trying to cook a meal for us.  I realized that nothing tasted right, and I put WAYYY too much garlic salt on my green beans.  That was the breaking point.  I stood in the kitchen, crying, holding my bamboo spatula, screaming, "I CAN'T EVEN COOOOOOOOK!!"

Now, if you know me at all, you know I love to cook.  Cook, bake, you name it, I'm in the kitchen doing it.  Therefore, this moment in my pregnancy was quite traumatic for me, and from that point on, we ordered in.  

Fast forward to the birth of the little ladies.  Since we spent 6 weeks running to and from the NICU, who had TIME to cook?!  My mom, inlaws, and family members brought us tons and tons of food, and thank goodness for them!  But whenever we didn't have food dropped off, we had it delivered.  I mean, we are definitely putting some delivery guy's kid through college based on our delivery tips alone.

When I worked in Newark, I tried making us a weekly menu.  I sat down on Sunday nights, and I typed up the menu for the week.  Here's what it looked like:

Yes, I even had a fancy border and seasonal-themed watermark.  I hung it on the fridge every week, and it WORKED.  

I feel like the hardest part about cooking dinner every night when you have a super busy schedule is being creative -- coming up with something DIFFERENT to make to eat every night.  And when you can't come up with something to make, you just come up with a menu - to Chicken 'N Rib Crib, Sopranos, Panchos get the point.

In the interest of saving - time, money, my waistline - I have decided to come up with a weekly menu once again.  But I'm going to make it themed this year, in hopes that the routine will help (since we are now busier than EVER).

Here we go:

Meatless Mondays
Take Out Tuesdays (Can't give it up all together)
Wild Card Wednesdays (Spin the dinner spinner and take it where it lands)
Turkey Taco Thursdays
Fishy Fridays
Saucy Saturdays
Soupy Sundays

I'll post our weekly menu in the weekly round-up posts I'm planning to write, and I'll try to post at least one recipe a week on my recipes page.  Wish us luck!

We are also trying out different foods every 3 days with the girls now.  So far, they have had rice cereal, apples, sweet potatoes, and bananas.  Tomorrow they try carrots.  So far, nanas are their very VERY favorite food!

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