Heading to "School"

The girls have been going to Morning Out for a few weeks -- 3 to be exact. I take them on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they are there from 9:30 - 1:30. We all cried pretty hard the first day, but it has gotten better. I've been getting great "reports" from their teacher when I pick them up about how well they've played, and they seem to be getting more comfortable being there because they wave and say "hi" to everyone who walks by.

These little instances make my heart so happy and also help me reassure myself that this new adventure is good for them and will be beneficial for all of us in the weeks and months ahead. I'd like to share the reasons we decided to send Molly and Maddie to Morning out -- primarily socializing/development and time for me. I'd also like to share some recommendations on what to look for when you are considering a program. I was pretty thorough and asked an annoying number of questions (typical) during our search, but I think it paid off. When we send our kiddos somewhere for several hours each week, or more if they go to full-time daycare, we want to feel very comfortable and confident that they're in the best place possible to learn and be cared for when we're not there.

We decided to start looking into Morning Out programs last fall when the girls were almost 18 months. They were becoming very active, curious, and more social around other kids, and it was also becoming more and more difficult for me to get things done around the house, get my small amount of work done, and make time to do some fun activities as well. 

Our main goal with Morning Out is giving the girls a chance to be around other kids and become comfortable in an environment other than our house. They've been home full-time with me, Josh, and/or my parents their whole lives. I was afraid they were missing out on socializing and making friends and developing more speech and listening skills. I also wanted them to have a little structure so they are ready for some new activities like dance or soccer, or just story time at the library -- all of which have been pretty chaotic when we've gone because the girls just want to do their own thing. So far, I think they are getting those things, and they're getting to play with new toys, go outside with their classmates, and do some fun art projects. 

The other main purpose in looking into Morning Out programs was to give me some extended periods of time do, well, whatever I need to do. Cleaning, work, and errands are always at the top of the priority list, but I also wanted some time to just sit and read for a bit or run into one of my favorite stores and stay for longer than five minutes. It has become increasingly difficult to do a lot of things because the girls always want to be with us, which I love, but I started feeling like I wasn't giving them the best of me because I was always thinking about my To Do List. Not okay.

So, those feelings are what got us looking. Now, what exactly were we looking for? Here are the things we considered priorities in making this big decision:
  1. Reputation. Not in a fancy or snooty way, but which programs got great recommendations and reviews for being nurturing, fun, and challenging for the kiddos. I keep thinking about the episode of Modern Family when Mitch and Cam are interviewing at preschools for Lilly. Anyone seen that one?? I looked to my Moms of Multiples group because I trust their judgment and many have "been there done that" with these things. Find a friend or family member that has first-hand knowledge of the program.
  2. Location. I didn't want to drive 30 or 40 minutes to take the girls to school. I loved the idea of going somewhere close to home, and hopefully meeting friends who will eventually be in preschool and elementary school with our girls. That much driving also defeated my purpose of making the most of my time to be productive. I'd probably just stop and shop along the way!!
  3. Where to buy their backpacks and lunch boxes. Kidding...kind of...it's a tough choice.
Once we narrowed our choices down to 2, I was able to talk to the directors of each program and ask questions about curriculum, safety, class sizes, tuition, etc. We got on a waiting list for each (be prepared for a waiting list of  at least 6 months) and then I set up a tour at our first choice. I'm SO glad I did that tour because it answered so many questions and made me so excited for Molly and Maddie to have some fun new adventures. If you have the opportunity, try to visit maybe your top two or three choices. It would have been so hard to make the decision just based on a phone call.

We were on a waiting list from October - April. I called about once a month to check in and make sure they knew we wanted to start this summer. Most programs run like the school year and may or may not have a summer session, so ask about that. It's a little more laid back where we are, which I think is perfect to get the little ladies acclimated to everything. 

My biggest advice, whether you're like us going Morning Out, looking for full-time daycare, or maybe even school options, is to choose the place you're most comfortable leaving your littles. Knowing they're in good hands makes my time to myself worthwhile because I can actually focus rather than worry about them the whole time. 

I'm working on a list of "gear" that has been helpful as we've gotten started. I'm a rookie so it's taken a few weeks to figure out what the girls actually need. Stay tuned for that soon! 

If you're local and want some info about the various places we looked into, send me a message on Instagram. I'd be very happy to share! 

Toddler Trail Mix -- check my Instagram for recipe! @thespilledmilkmom

The Running Mom

I have jogged pretty consistently since high school. Initially, I did it to condition and improve for volleyball, and at the time I thought running was miserable. After high school sports were done for me, I kept at it to look a certain way, which continued through college. I didn't mind running, and I felt good after working up a sweat, but my reasons for getting out and hitting the pavement were pretty superficial. Early 20s, am I right?

Fast forward to now. Going for a run means something so much more to me these days. Sure, it helped me lost the almost 60 pounds I gained while pregnant with Molly and Maddie, and I am thankful to be at a healthy weight again, but that's not what keeps me going.

First, I have experienced what it's like to not be able to get out and move. I had bad morning (noon and night) sickness in my first trimester with the girls, and when we found out I was carrying twins, my doctor recommended cutting out running. At about 24 weeks I was put on bedrest, so at that points any form of activity was put on hold. I sat on our couch all day e v e r y d a y. It was rough, friends. During that time I often thought about how hard it would be to live my whole life with such difficulty and lack of movement. I gained such an appreciation for having a body that could move, and I vowed that as soon as I could after the babes arrived, I would get back to being active.

That newfound appreciation for physical movement gave way to a lot of emotional and mental movement that came along with becoming a parent of twins. Mommin' can be tough, and it's constant, and you have to be the best version of yourself to be the best mom you can be. Running helps me do that. I tend to be a little high strung and impatient, sometimes quick to snip, and often hard on myself. That's not a good combination for a happy mama! Running helps me keep those emotions and thoughts at bay.

On days when I am upset with myself for not keeping the house picked up, or anxious about whether the girls are developing on track as they should, or just replaying a conversation I had or comment I made that I regret or wish I could go back and do over, I work through it on my run. Many times, I like to pray during my run too. It's often the only time I can actually think in complete, coherent thoughts.

I tend to organize my feelings, thoughts, plans, and day dream during those 10-minute miles (9:45 on a good day). I just feel like me and have the opportunity to be grateful for my family, my health, and the wonderful chaos we live each day.

I hope all of you have something that frees your mind that way. Whether it's running like me, or yoga, or sewing, or writing, playing music, etc. -- whatever it is, keep doing it. We all need to share the things in our lives that make us feel great, strong, and capable. I feel strongest on the days that I push 50 pounds of toddler in a stroller for 4 miles. I LOVE looking down and seeing my best little buddies snacking on their animal crackers and kicking their feet in the breeze.

Now that I have shared (probably too much) about my motivation and gratitude for running, I'd like to share a few of the essentials that help me get out each week.

This section contains some affiliate links. I feel like it's important to note that all opinions and first-hand experiences are my own. These are things I've bought and use all the time!

I am pretty basic in the gear I use. I love these tank tops for warm days. I don't feel too exposed and they're super light and comfortable. I just got a couple of fun Nike tops that I like too.
My favorite bottoms are Lululemon running skirts and Nike tempo shorts (so many great colors!). No irritating, painful chafing with either, and they're great for errands too.

I have run in Asics shoes for as long as I can remember. These are my current ones, and I've been really happy with them because they are lightweight and have great cushioning.

My big ticket items are my running stroller and FitBit. I wear my FitBit Surge most of the time because I like to track steps and my heart rate, and this one has a GPS in it for distance.

The most crucial piece of the running puzzle is our Bob Duallie stroller. My mom bought gave me this at my baby shower, and it has been priceless. Once the little get the approval from your pediatrician, load them up and take off. The girls do really well in this stroller. I think they are comfortable, have freedom to kick their legs, can see where we're going, and have plenty of air flow. I also love the large canopies to keep them shaded, and there are storage options for snacks, drinks, and the occasional stuffed animal.

We often take this stroller on day trips because it's so easy to push and maneuver. I can't recommend this bad boy enough if you're a walker or runner. It's an investment, but they are high quality strollers that hold their value (good for eventual resale). Here is the singleton version of what I have.

As always, send any questions or comments my way. I'd be happy to share more details about anything I have talked about. Have a fabulous weekend -- cheers!

Simplify.Celebrate.Enjoy -- Second Birthday Recap

Our girls turned two about three weeks ago. We had a nice party for them at our house, and thankfully the weather cooperated and we got to spend the majority of the evening outside. It was a pretty run-of-the-mill party, simple, and full of love. It was perfect, and I use that word intentionally.

Do you want to know what the best part was this year? I actually got to be with my daughters and watched them enjoy their party. If that seems like a strange thing to say, let me run through a quick comparison of this year's party vs. their first birthday.

First Birthday

40 or so guests
catered food
made a smash cake from scratch (which turned out awful by the way)
had a cake made
made brownies
bought too many decorations
very specific "It's a Party" theme with all decorations coordinating
waited until the last minute to put up decorations
had a small army fanning out paper flowers (so sorry to some of my dearest friends!)
spent too much time perfecting dessert table, appetizer table, & drink table
ran around checking everything most of the evening
embarrassed myself ugly crying during "Happy Birthday" song
Maddie started running a fever during the party
didn't say good-bye to any guests
didn't open presents until the next day

I'm exhausted just remembering that weekend. My biggest lesson? SIMPLIFY and accept help.

Now let's fast forward.

Second Birthday

15 guests
Josh grilled burgers and hot dogs
no more cake baking for this mama
Picked up our cake from Sweet Betty's Bakery in Evansille. YUM!
simple chips, dip, & "cook out" food
no fancy cocktails
recycled paper flowers and lanterns from last year
loosely interpreted pink & gold theme
girls wore "princess" dresses I found on clearance at Target (so cute!) & tiaras from Lubberdubber's
chased the babes around and played
sat and had dinner with the birthday girls
got to actually catch up with some of my favorite people
still cried a little singing "Happy Birthday"
opened presents with everyone

Why am I sharing these silly lists? I hope you can see the difference between how I remember these celebrations. I know the first birthday is especially important, and it's a major milestone for both the kiddo and parents. My point is that the special day shouldn't be overshadowed by us mamas putting pressure on ourselves to make everything just right.

The best parts about those parties were the moments I saw Molly and Maddie smile, laugh, and run around our yard with a balloon having so much fun. I got to share a lot more of those this time around, and it was so special. I know someday our girls' birthday parties will revolve more around their friends, so I'm soaking up these moments for as long as possible.

Here's my point. Enjoy your babies and guests instead of trying to do too much like I did. This year's party was still lovely and festive, and most importantly I learned that balloons provide a lot of bang for your buck in terms of party decor. Seriously, go nuts...never too many.

Until next time, cheers to you, friends! 

Time is (Not) On My Side

I've been thinking about time a lot lately. Usually, I just think about not having enough time to do all the things I need to do throughout the day. I've been waking up earlier to start my day before the girls get up, and I've been using nap time more efficiently too (meaning I do dishes or laundry instead of scrolling Instagram). However, when we go to sleep at night I still feel like I got very little accomplished. I'm always rushing around, and yet, I have nothing to show for it.

Anyone else feel that way?

It's the pits...and it's also being really hard ourselves. Last night I was busting my own chops about not getting everything done as I had intended, and my husband told me to stop imposing so many expectations on myself and just slow down. He just said "do a little more tomorrow, or the next day." It hit me that I am the one creating all of this craziness in my mind, and better yet, why?

The Secret Life of Pets on repeat.
It boils down to this...for me at least. I need something to "show" for my day. I don't work full-time anymore, so I don't come home with a completed to-do list from the office or a successful meeting or presentation. Those kind of things used to be really important to me, kind of solidifying my worth.

My "worth" now is being the best mom possible to Molly and Maddie, and that doesn't always paint a pretty picture. At the end of the day, I don't always get the kitchen cleaned up and toys put away (especially if the little ladies decide to stay up and play until 10:00). I rarely wear makeup or fix my hair, and most days "getting dressed" means changing into my running clothes so I'll be ready when we decide to go.

We are now 2 years into this new normal, and that is another type of time I've had on my mind. How on Earth are our girls 2 years old?? I still remember the day they were born so vividly. They are growing and changing so quickly, I am reminded on a daily basis to slow down and just be with them. They don't care if the dishes are done, and they actually prefer to have their toys strewn about their playroom and our living room so they're all out and ready for action.

What they seem to care about is coloring or reading or building block towers together. They want me sitting right by them, and I'm so thankful for that. I'm going to try really hard to combat this idea of always being super productive and using my time efficiently, and I'm going to focus on spending time doing things that make me happy and fulfill me. That thought brought me back to this poor, neglected blog.

I hope to visit a bit more now because Molly and Maddie just started their Morning Out program a couple days each week, which I'm sure I'll write about soon. Mama is going to need to have something to look forward to while they're gone -- I can only clean so much.

In the meantime, go easy on yourself, mama. I will try to do the same. We're all in this rat race together and it's nice to know others can relate. This time in our families' lives is finite, and very precious, so soak it in.

Speaking of time -- I hear some little toddler feet running in here. Nap time is over. Thanks for stopping by!

The Cauliflower Comeback

I've been trying to branch out a little with our family's dinner options. We kind of got into a rut over the past year, short on time, short on sleep, and definitely short on creativity. I wasn't doing any sort of meal planning or trying new recipes, so our weekly dinners mainly consisted of a salad with chicken, pasta, takeout, or a frozen meal. We just bought the same items over and over because it was easy and quick -- that's the name of the game with littles running around and needing attention.

I got really bored with my cooking choices, and though he never said anything, I know my husband did too. So, that led to one of my goals for this year, organizing meals and trying new recipes. I have to give myself a little pat on the back, because the past few weeks have included at least 5 dinners I've never made before, and one veggie that has made a serious comeback -- cauliflower.

I was not on the cauliflower bandwagon. I know it was everywhere being roasted, mashed, used as rice, etc., but I just couldn't get past my memories of it in frozen form with broccoli, carrots, and cheese sauce. No thanks -- not a fan.

However, after having whipped cauliflower with gouda sauce (recipe below) at a cooking class recently, holy smokes my mind changed. It was SO GOOD! I even loved the bites without that rich sauce. Bonus? It was easy. We watched the chef prepare it that night, and we were able to recreate it at home in a cinch. My husband was actually the one who made the gouda sauce and thought it was super simple as well. The hardest part of the whole thing was finding the gouda in our grocery's deli. I got distracted looking at all the fancy cheeses.

So, I wondered if that meal was just a fluke. What else is cauliflower good for? I was flipping through my favorite cookbook last weekend as I planned our week and came across cauliflower fried rice (recipe below). I love fried rice and this was definitely a new recipe to try, so I put it on our list and made it Friday for dinner with some sauteed shrimp.

I had no idea how this dinner adventure was going to turn out, so it floored me how delicious it was, with all the flavors of amazing hibachi rice, but much more nutrition and much less fat and carbs. We gave the girls some little bites too, and they were big fans. Win win! We ate the leftovers last night and there's just a little bit left that I'm going to have to snack on this afternoon. Friends, this is a must-try that will probably become a regular in our house.

Here is the recipe from Skinnytaste. You won't be sorry! Just bear in mind your house will smell like Chinese food for a couple days.

As promised, here's the recipe from Chef Aimee Blume at Thyme in the Kitchen.

Creamy Whipped Cauliflower with Smoked Gouda Sauce
Serves 8-10 (we must eat big portions because I'd actually say 4-6)

1 large head of cauliflower, in florets
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
White pepper and nutmeg to taste

1. Preheat over to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil.
2. Place cauliflower florets on baking sheet, drizzle with butter and salt lightly.
3. Roast until edges are slightly brown, about 40 minutes.
4. Remove cauliflower from oven and add to food processor with cream. Blend 2-3 minutes until smooth.
5. Taste and add more salt if desired, add white pepper and nutmeg.

For the gouda sauce:

2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk, warmed in microwave (we used 2%)
1/2 cup smoke gouda cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste

1. In a small saucepan, melt butter and add flour. Stir until mixture bubbles and cooks for about 30 seconds.
2. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
3. Add the cheese, salt, and black pepper, stir until smooth.

Enjoy!! Hope you are able to try these.  I think both of these would be hits with kiddos too. Anything to incorporate some veggies, right?

Let me know what you think!!

Wait, I'm Supposed to be Here?

A version of this quote came across my Instagram feed earlier today, and it really stuck with me. I actually had another topic planned for today, but then after seeing this graphic I changed gears a bit, so I hope you'll stay with me here. I've been feeling a bit disappointed this week because a few professional blogging positions I was really excited about didn't pan out. Unfortunately, they were not interested in a remote candidate, and other than some real estate work here and there, working from home is my best option right now. It just doesn't make sense for our family to put the girls in full-time daycare, nor do we want to do that at this point. I love being able to have so much time with Molly and Maddie, but I also want to work and contribute to our family. I still want to use my skills and my college degree that I worked so hard for (and my parents spent so much money on!).

It's been a hard transition at times to go from working full time to staying home most of the time. I don't necessarily feel like anyone judges me, but in some ways I feel like it seems that I gave up on myself and my work to be a mom. I have friends who are still working full time and have kids and volunteer etc. and I don't know how they do it! Super powers, I guess?

Anyway, I was having a little pity party when I saw the words above, and they helped snap me out of that. I'm already writing weekly real estate blogs for two companies, plus trying to actually sell a few houses here and there. It doesn't seem like much, but that's just what I can devote to "work life" right now. Much of my time is spent taking care of our silly little ladies and trying to keep our house in order (never-ending task). That is enough right now, and I'm working to be content with that because I know this time is fleeting. Someday I'll have all the time I want to work on career goals, but that will mean our girls don't need me as much, and I can't even think about that because it will make me cry!

I hope you're able to feel content with where you are right now as well. Wherever your life or career is, try to trust that you're where you're supposed to be, if only for a short time. That's hard to do because I think we all want to move forward as quickly as possible. For me, I'm going to give my all to the work I have going at this point, and I'm going to hope that when the time is right, something else will come along and I'll be ready for it.

Good grief -- I didn't mean to go to such a sappy place! This is just something that has weighed on me, and if you've been in the same boat and can share some words of wisdom with me, I'm all ears! I promise that my next post will be a little more fun. Thinking something shopping or cooking related?

Hope y'all have a great weekend!

No Resolutions for this Girl

Happy New Year! I hope you've all had a great Sunday to start 2017, whether you are taking it easy after a little too much champagne last night (been there) or are doing chores around the house like me. We had a pretty low key NYE celebration. We ran errands and went out for an early family dinner date before everything got too crowded with the real party people. We came home and cuddled up for a bit, and yes, we were all asleep well before midnight. Toddler life, right?

We did NY date night Thursday for a cooking class -- so fun!!
I've been thinking a lot about the idea of resolutions for this year. I have always been a goal setter, and in the past I've actually written down very official resolutions in my planner or on post-its. I have to tell you, I've never really kept them. At least not to the degree which they were intended. For a long time I'd get really upset with myself if I hadn't met those resolutions after a few months and then just forgot about them. So, this year I'm not making any resolutions. Instead, I'm setting a few intentions to work on little by little throughout the year. I don't have any definitive goal in mind. It's all a work in progress.

Miss Molly has never met a basket she didn't sit in.
I think I mentioned in a previous post that I turned 30 this past July, and I made a decision to be better to myself. No more pressuring myself to look a certain way, no more scowling at my belly that has loose skin and stretch marks after carrying our girls, and no more feeling inadequate because I haven't reached a certain professional status yet. Have I perfected those things? No, but I'm trying.

Glamorous NYE selfie with Miss Maddie.
That decision around my birthday is what inspired me to toss out the idea of resolutions for this new year. If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share a few of my intentions.

  • Read more books. I can't tell you the last time I finished a book. It might have been when I was pregnant -- that's over a year and a half ago! I have at least 5 books that I look at on a daily basis that I am itching to dive into. There might have to be a few nap times during the week when I just sit and read rather than fold laundry or do dishes.
  • Become members at a church. This is something my husband and I talk about often. We haven't gone to church much with the girls because we're those people dropping snacks, taking peoples' prayer books, crawling under the pews, you get it. We would just like to establish ourselves somewhere to meet other families and get more involved, especially as Molly and Maddie get closer to school age.
  • Meal plan. Ugh, this is not one of my strengths. We spend so much money on food, and I get really annoyed with myself when we waste things because I just didn't know what to fix with them. I have hundreds of recipes saved on Pinterest, and I have close to 30 cookbooks filled with fun things to make for dinner, so I really want to try to get into a rhythm of jotting down what I'm going to fix each night, and how we can use the leftovers in other ways. 
  • Start an e-mail account for Molly and Maddie. I've heard of other moms setting up an account for their kids when they're babies and sending them funny stories, pictures, videos, and letters of advice or random thoughts. They give the kids the account information when they graduate high school and it's filled with everything from their childhood that is just for them. I've wanted to work on that for over a year now, and I'm just going to make the time to do it.
  • Just do it. I think that's going to be my theme for 2017. I'm done saying "I wish I could do this" or "I wonder if I could do this" -- I'm just going to try all those things I've been afraid to do and see how it goes. This blog is my first step in that. I've thought about all I want to talk about for years, but I've hesitated because I was afraid. Now, I'm just a little afraid, but that's okay because I am so enjoying this little creative outlet.
Words to live by, right? This guy now hangs in our house!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by. I'd love to hear what you've got planned for 2017 -- maybe you'll even consider making some intentions as well! Cheers, friends!