WHEW!!!  Well, the holiday season is JUST ABOUT over, and we made it through basically unscathed.  I can also say that I was wrong when I thought that the girls would be more excited about the wrapping paper BUT they also have no idea what to do with all of the presents that they got!  We are so lucky and blessed to have such a big and generous family.

Please try not to get motion sickness from our awesome cinematography skills.
Cups from the $1 section at Target.

The holidays began on Tuesday when I started baking cookies.  I had invited my sister-in-law and her new hubs over for breakfast to see Jane and Emma, but I had an ulterior motive.  They were able to help Hershey occupy the girls long enough for me to get through FIVE batches of cookies.  Yes, FIVE.  Don't ask me how I did it without losing my mind.  Scratch that.  At one point it was me or the gingerbread dough, and I won.

Like my "Christmas mask"? (aka my no make up look)

That night was Jane and Emma's first Christmas Eve party.  They are pretty good about losing their shit at 6:53 on the dot no matter where we are, so, despite our best efforts to keep their bellies full and their minds on gifts, as soon as all of the family members got there, they started crying hysterically and we had to whisk them out of the room and put them to bed.  An hour and a half later, we were able to re-join the party, eat dinner, have a few cocktails, and open gifts before packing the girls up and heading out into the cold night to get them home to their cozy cribs.  I was sad that they only got to spend about 15 minutes in their party dresses, but we at least were able to snap some adorbs shots!

The next day was Christmas and we had a ton of fun making new Christmas traditions with Jane and Emma.  I snuck into their room to wake them up in their little Christmas pjs.  We brought them out into the living room and opened presents with them after their morning bottle.  

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to MY grandma's house, for another round of gift-giving and 7:00 crankiness.  Jane and Emma sat on our laps as we ate our annual Christmas lasagna, and Emma slept through our rendition of "Happy Birthday to you" as we sang to Hershey for his birthday (which falls on Christmas) and Jane partook in the eating of the cupcake frosting tradition (well, it's a tradition now, anyway).  

When we got home was when the real fun started.  We rolled the little twincesses right into their cribs and I began tackling the job of putting away toys and sorting everything out.  We had a truck-full of unopened gifts from Christmas Eve, and no toy box.  I didn't want the girls to wake up to a mess (even though 93% of the time my house is a mess!), so I stayed up until around midnight unpacking and unwrapping gifts.  Which, BT-DUBS, since when are Fisher Price toys such a hot theft item that they have to be soddered into the boxes that they come in?  I don't get that...

Can you spot the Janey doll?

This past weekend we took the trip out to Landisville, Pennsylvania, to visit Hershey's grandpa (also his namesake).  I'll write a post later this week on what to pack to survive a 4 hour car ride with multiples, because that's how long it took us to get home!  But it was worth it to get to see Emma play with Hershey's little cousins.  It's funny how their little personalities are coming out so much now.  Emma is so rough and tumble.  She wanted to be in the middle of all of the action, squealing at the top of her lungs playing with the boys.  Jane just wanted to sit back and snuggle with Grandpa and watch all of the action calmly from the sidelines.  Part of it may have been the stomach virus she seemed to be suffering from.  I was thrown up on 4 times within the first 20 minutes of arriving at Hershey's aunt's house.  Good stuff.

Next year, I'm hoping that we will be able to continue our family's holiday traditions, while infusing some new traditions of our own.  I love visiting family, but I have to admit, this year was a LOT to handle.  I am more exhausted now than I was before the break, and my vacation is over in 2 days!  WAH!

It's hard to believe that 2013 is almost over!  What an incredible year it has been for me and my family.  Tomorrow night we will bring in the New Year with our best friends as we always do, but this year there will be a house full of little kids!  We are so incredibly lucky to have friends with children the same age as us, and to be able to bring in a new year with people who we love so dearly.

How will you be spending your new year's?  What new holiday traditions did you come up with this year? 

I actually found a moment to buckle down and snap Jane and Emma's 7 month photos.  The perfect time to take their picture is first thing in the morning, when they have a fresh diaper, empty belly, and haven't seen us in 11 hours.  SO SUPER SMILEY!

In the meantime, enjoy this new way that I have found to entertain my children.  Well, at least one of them is entertained.

See you on the other side, in 2014!  Please don't forget to vote!

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Tossing My Cookies

I remember as a kid my mom spent countless hours in the kitchen in the weeks before the holidays baking cookies. If there was a party, I was at it with a beautiful tray of Mom's homemade cookies.  The kitchen would be covered in cookies. Sugar cookies, spritz cookies, meringue cookies, you name it - she made it! Kenny Rogers and Bing Crosby would go round and round on the record player, and Little Lisa would slowly go insane baking cookie after cookie.

In the years after I moved out, I slowly took over the cookie baking. First, my aunt in Texas handed her gingerbread recipe down to me. Then, I started making sugar cookies because Hershey loved them. Finally, when Stella D'oro stopped making pfefferneuse, I hunted down a recipe and started baking those, too, because they are my mom's favorite and I didn't want her to be disappointed.  I started to understand my mother's insanity in getting a cookie and a tray to look JUST RIGHT.

The year Hershey bought me my KitchenAid mixer was one for the books.  For years, I had either mixed the cookies by hand, or went to my mother's house to take over her kitchen for a night, where I would be there until 2 a.m. losing my marbles rolling gingerbread dough.  But that year, I got to make everything right in my apartment.  And it was AMAZING!  Until it was time to leave.  

I had meticulously baked and packaged about 7 trays of cookies.  Hershey stood by the door with 4 trays in his hands, waiting for me to gather up the rest.  I picked up the first tray and WHAM! - dropped it right on the floor.  And immediately started sobbing.  On Christmas.

Since then, I have slowly gotten OUT of cookie baking.  Space restrictions, electric ovens, and pregnancy have taken all of the gusto out of me.  This year, I swore it would be different.  I wanted Jane and Emma to have the same warm memories of Christmas as I had, of mom baking delicious smelling cookies while singing Christmas carols ad nauseum in the kitchen.

I have been collecting Christmas baking goods for WEEKS.  Red and green chocolate chips, Christmas themed cupcake decor, rolled oats and dried cranberries.  I was going to bake my little heart out.

Yes, this outfit really happened.

Saturday was the annual holiday party at our friends' house.  I promised cookies.  I was going to do it this year!  I dragged out the box of cookie trays, bought 2 dozen eggs, checked my sugar stock, and got to work.  At the suggestion of a fellow mommy blogger, I bought some packaged snickerdoodle dough, figuring it would be an easy way to beef up my baking with minimal prep. 

Boy, was I wrong.  

Saturday morning, I strapped Emma into the Baby K'tan and got to work.  I quickly realized that I had forgotten a.) butter and margarine, and b.) some of the cookies I was planning to bake had to be refrigerated for 2-4 hours.  I spent 10 minutes rolling snickerdoodle dough in cinnamon sugar.  When I put them in the oven to bake, I saw that I had rolled half of them into 1 1/2" balls, and the other half in 1 tspn balls.  I burned half of the cookies trying to get the other half to bake.  *F.M.L.*

A baby's eye view.

I then decided that I would just bake cupcakes, since those are usually my signature dessert, anyway.  I got them all ready and into the oven, and then Jane woke up from her nap.  In the process of changing Jane's diaper, getting her dressed, and letting her taste a cookie for the first time, I completely forgot about the cupcakes -- and overcooked them.  UGH.  This was not my day.

I said a little prayer of thanks that my friends are both understanding AND forgiving, finished the cupcakes anyway, and forged ahead.

This morning, I made a list of ingredients I needed in order to properly bake my Christmas cookies.  It looked like this. 

MAN was I unprepared.

So I'll be spending today trying to pretty-up.  I am going to go get my shaggy dog bangs trimmed, a mani/pedi, and take care of my eyebrows, which are starting to resemble this guy:

Not kidding.

Tomorrow I'll be in baking hell heaven.  Listening to Kenny Rogers.  On repeat.  I've posted my aunt's gingerbread cookie recipe here.  Be forewarned -- baking these is not for the weak of heart. 

I'm so excited to put Jane and Emma into their little Christmas outfits and see the looks on their faces when they see all of the presents for them.  They'll probably be more excited about the wrapping paper than the actual gifts, but I'm good with that.  We could probably just wrap up a BH&G magazine and let them go nuts.  Something about seeing their tiny, pudgy hands reaching for the colorful paper, slapping and ripping away at it, just warms my heart to the fullest.  And THAT'S what the holidays are all about, aren't they?

We are visiting 3 sets of grandparents and one set of best friends this year.  A LOT of traveling around, which I'm hoping will mean that the girls will be snug in their beds all night each night!  I'm going to need a vacation from this vacation this year.

What are you all doing for the holidays?  What are some of your favorite holiday recipes or holiday memories?

BTW, I was able to snap a few shots of Jane in the controversial onesie.  

Headband was made by Sweet Caroline Crafts, who, if I haven't already said it enough, I LOVE!!!!

It's a rainy, icky day here in Jersey, and the temperature is quickly dropping.  But I'm hoping for some snow!  I hope that you all have a wonderful, fun and family-filled holiday!

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Drop It Like a Bad Habit...

I've been thinking a lot lately about the parenting habits I have adopted, and wondering if I am instilling bad habits in Jane and Emma.  How does one really KNOW?

I read in The Happiest Baby on the Block that "During the first few months, trying to get your attention is the furthest thing from your crying baby's mind..." and that "Training your baby not to be manipulative will become an important lesson during the second six months of [her] life."  Well, crap.  I'm living that second six months, and I'm not sure that I've taken steps to start teaching them not to be manipulative.

Look into my will give me what I want....

Is this really something that parents need to worry about?  As the mother of twins, I find that when one baby cries, I pick her up (especially if it's Emma, with her cyanotic breath-holding spells).  I don't want one upsetting the other.  But is she just being manipulative?  REALLY?!  Is this where kids learn it???

As a high school teacher, I see a LOT of manipulation going on in the teen world.  Kids manipulate their parents, their teachers, their friends, to get them to bend and sway to their whims and wants.  And this is not a trend: I remember teens being manipulative when I was a teen a hundred years ago.  Is BabyDom where we teach this bad habit?

I bought an adorable onesie for the girls that says, "I'm not spoiled I just get what I want."  It's funny, but it's TRUE!  Here's my concern -- am I teaching them to get WHATEVER THEY WANT???  When Jane wants to be picked up, I pick her up.  When Emma cries her heart-wrenching AWAHAHAHAAA cry, I give her a toy, or a bottle, or a diaper change, or a nap, or whatever I decipher from her cries that she may be looking for (usually she just wants to be held -- bad news for my pregnancy-onset carpel tunnel).  

Really, Jane?  Want to cry?  Ok, here's every toy we own.  Have at it.

Furthermore, I worry daily that I'm not doing enough to stimulate them mentally and physically.  We live in a tiny apartment, and being that it's winter, we are limited to Exersaucers, activity mats, and galloping around the house until Mama feels like passing out.  We have a small repertoire of trinkets for them to play with, but really not enough space to accommodate a plethora of toys.  Many times, when they seem bored with the same old playthings and saucers, we end up sticking them in their bouncy seats for some "toony time".  NOW I'm worried that I'm teaching them to be couch potatoes.  

This is the moment that inspired me to buy a second Exersaucer.  My kids share as well as I do.

But I really don't know what else to do when I'm home alone with them, covered in puke, and can't walk away to change my clothes or go pee.  

M-I-C-K-E-Y...this song is on repeeeeeattt...

Here's my question:  How do you balance?!  How do you ensure that your children are not learning to be manipulative, but are manipulating enough to get smart and strong?  How do you put an end to the bad habits?  How do you know WHAT is a bad habit?

I'd really love to hear from you!  In the meantime, I'll be over here, picking up my kids and giving them whatever they want.

Happy Humpday!

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