A New Year, A New Emphasis

For the past several years I've been on board with the "word of the year" trend, which is when you choose a word to represent your hopes, dreams or point of emphasis for the coming year instead of a traditional New Years resolution. I think it's a helpful exercise because it prompts you to reflect on what you've experienced and what you see ahead.

When I began thinking about my word for 2017, I started reflecting on the past few years and the words I chose back then. They each reflected where I was at that point in my life. I think that's what I love about choosing a word of the year -- if you really take it seriously, those words become part of you. They become interwoven with your daily thoughts and prayers and provide positive reinforcement during the trials and tribulations of life.

The words I've chosen in the past -- thankful, focus, grateful, hope -- are still so important to me. And each year when I choose a new word, I don't throw away my old choices. I keep them and add to my list, and they become the words I fall back on when I need a pep talk. These words are so habitual to me that every day when I shower, I write "thankful" in the condensation on one glass panel, and I write "hopeful" on the other one with a little heart in the corner. It's my daily ritual, and it grounds me.

Our past few years have been filled with highs and lows. I remember feeling about 2015 the way that most people feel about 2016 -- I couldn't wait to see that year end. It was tinted deep blue by the sudden loss of my dad, and the sunshine didn't really return until this year with the birth of our twins. Throughout the hardships I kept reminding myself to be hopeful, so much so that the name choice for our daughter was a no-brainer. Every day, sweet Hope and her brother, Evan, remind us what's good in the world. They exude so much joy over the simplest things, and those smiles are contagious.

When I think about the year ahead, I picture all of the milestones we're hoping to witness: first steps, first words, first birthdays and more. My main goal is to soak it all in, to freeze time as often as I can so that the memories are stored in my head, ready to spring to the surface whenever I want to remember a precious moment. With that in mind, my word choice for 2017 was easy: present. 

Present is defined as "occurring now," and being present is "being of a particular place." That makes it sound so simple. We all know that you can be in a particular place without really being present. And that's what I want to avoid in 2017.

It's easier said than done, right? I've been trying to think of practical ways to be more present in everyday life.

Step 1: Start saying No. Lean out of all unnecessary commitments and lean in to more time with the people who matter.

Step 2. Put the phone down. Now this one is hard for me because I love to capture the moment with my phone camera. I think that's relatively harmless, but being on my phone reading Twitter when I could be laying on the ground playing with the twins is just not a good use of my time. That's the dumb stuff I can get rid of to be more present.

Step 3. Enjoy the now. For me, this means soaking up each stage that the babies are in as opposed to wishing myself forward. I remember saying, "I can't wait until they can hold their own bottles!" Now that they can, I feel a little sad about it. I'm trying to be present in each phase of their development because we don't plan to have more children, so I want to remember as much of this part of their precious little lives as I can.

If you've been a longtime reader, you know I don't blog very often anymore. That's because I simply can't do it all, and I'm OK with that. My personal life if more demanding, my day job is more demanding, and sometimes the optional hobbies have to take a backseat. But I still love this blog and will be here sharing projects and other fun stuff when I can. If you'd like more daily updates, I invite you to follow me on Instagram (@JordanG106) where I share scenes from our home and our life on a daily basis.

Do you choose a word of the year? What's your choice for 2017?

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Home for the Holidays

We have our house decked out for the holidays this year, but I admit that we didn't go as "all out" as years past because it's harder to find time with the twins. Every year I enjoy opening up my Christmas stuff and trying to think of new ways to use the same decor. I always try to put things in different spots and mix it up without buying new decorations.

This year I tried to do more colorful jewel tones in the formal living room. I kept my pink and blue pillows on the sofa and added a few pink ornaments to our tree that really make it more playful and youthful than our normal gold-silver-blue-green combo.

We didn't have a tree skirt for this tree, so I was planning to use a throw blanket. Then I remembered I had this big puffy rug wadded up in our garage waiting to be thrown away and decided it would be a perfect tree skirt. You may remember that we bought this rug for the twins' nursery. The husband warned me that a white rug was a bad idea, and he was right. That rug looked dirty and dingy in no time flat, especially since the dogs were smitten with its soft, fluffy texture. Anyway, somehow the dingy-ness is less visible as a tree skirt. I actually cut a slit from the side of the rug to the center and wrapped it around the tree. I absolutely love the way it looks and I love that I'm not totally wasting this rug anymore. (My advice to anyone who wants to have a white rug: Become one of those families who takes their shoes off when they walk in the house and don't let your dogs sleep on the white rug. Oops.)

We tried to take a cute photo in front of the tree one night, but one twin pulled the other twin over. I know this is just the beginning of the refereeing we'll be doing for the next 18+ years!

From the formal dining room you can see straight through the living room into the play room. I thought I would include this view for those of you who are unfamiliar with the layout of our house.

Across from the sofa is a huge cabinet where we kept the decor pretty simple. The light shines on our nativity scene.

Our fireplace mantel is looking a bit more full this year with the addition of two adorable stockings for our two adorable babies. Thank you to my Aunt Cindy for buying us these sweet (and humongous) stockings that our kids will love for years and years to come.

Next to the sofa we snuck a few ornaments on the side table to add a bit of festive cheer to that adorable baby shoe shrine.

In the formal dining room I wanted it to feel a little bit cozy and bring in the colorful tones from the living room, so I busted out this blanket scarf to add a little pattern to the table. My oversized ornaments from Wisteria were placed on top of the shelves to add a little sparkle next to one of my many thrifted wreaths.

The centerpiece is just a thrifted tray filled with apple green ornaments (one of my favorite colors ever) and some fresh eucalyptus from Trader Joe's. I had no idea there were so many different types of eucalyptus, but the good news is they all smell delicious.

We hung a few more wreaths near the front of the house, including a homemade wreath made from vintage ornaments (a cherished gift) on the nursery door.

Note how the room has no rug now that I got rid of the white one. I hope to find something more shoe-friendly in the near future!

In the playroom we hung up a string of lights decorated with ribbons that I made a few years back. It adds even more color to what was already a bright, colorful hangout for the babies. I even hung my disco balls from it to make the room even more sparkly when the sun is shining in. I'm using the string of lights to display our Christmas cards and it makes me smile to see all of my friends and their families hanging in our windows. 

Over in the den, everything is super cozy. This is where we have what I like to call our "sentimental tree." The formal living room tree is pretty, with coordinated colors and sparkly ornaments. This tree is filled with ornaments that might be mismatched but have special meaning to us. For example, we buy an ornament on all of our vacations, so those are all displayed on this tree. Plus we have some of our childhood favorites and "baby's first Christmas" baubles on display. 

Unfortunately I don't have great photos of this room, but you can see most of the tree here. I didn't have a tree-topper for this one so I bunched together some faux flowers and tied them with a red ribbon, Voila, instant tree topper!

Our mantel is more full this year with the addition of two adorable stockings for our two precious babies. My Aunt Cindy was kind enough to gift us these knit stockings from Pottery Barn that Hope and Evan will enjoy for years and years to come. They are colorful, fun and tie in so well with our simple red and white stockings we already had (also from Pottery Barn). Plus they are huge so you know the kids will LOVE that once they are old enough to get excited about opening gifts!

I know it's not the best photo, but we kept the mantel the same as usual except for adding more fresh eucalyptus from Trader Joe's. Don't you love how I "styled" that blanket on the hearth by wadding it up so quickly and shoving it in? Ha! I'm sorry, but that's how it normally looks. Our reality is a little bit more wadded up than artfully draped, you know?

Our outdoor decor is extremely simple, but my favorite part (as always) is the wreath on the front door. I took my usual green berry wreath from our wedding and made it more festive by adding my flea market ice skates and some jingle bells tied up with some buffalo check ribbon. 

If you follow me on Instagram you can see that I'm obsessed with making the twins wear these gnome hats. I bought them on a whim during Black Friday, figuring I would take a picture of the babies wearing them and that would be it. However, they are both adorable and functional. It's been really cold here lately so I've been having the twins wear them on our outings to the grocery store, on walks around the neighborhood, etc. They are so adorable in those gnome hats; I just can't stand it! 

Those are all the photos from my house, but I thought I would share this picture from my mom's house. She has her living room decorated in such a fun and colorful way. I think we were both inspired by the twins to do our decor a bit more playful and less sophisticated than years past. My mom went from having one grandbaby to having four grandbabies in 2016, so she has babies on the brain this holiday! She picked up those cute fleece stockings for each baby at Target and plans to get them embroidered with each child's name. And seeing her decor makes me really want a flocked tree. (Don't tell Scott. He'll kill me if I talk about buying another Christmas tree. Maybe I can get a tiny one. He he he.) 

I know I'm not blogging very frequently these days, but I am so grateful for those of you who still read these posts. If you'd like to follow along with our family more closely, I post almost daily to Instagram (@JordanG106). I still love taking photos and sharing inspiration (not to mention a million pictures of the twins!), but it's hard to find the time to type up posts. I'm finding Instagram is an easy outlet to share what's going on in our world in between blog posts.

I'd like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This is the Christmas card we sent out this year, and the sentiment is what I'm praying for after what can only be described as a very tumultuous and divisive 2016. May we go out of our way to bring peace, love and joy to those around us in the coming year. 

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My Twin Registry Essentials

A month ago I wrote about my first six months as a twin mom -- basically, how we survived. I promised that I would share the baby products that proved essential to us during our first six months. When I was pregnant, I devoured other blogs about how to manage the first few months of motherhood, especially if those were written by moms of multiples. It's my hope that this list helps other new moms and twin moms get ready for their precious arrivals.

First, our babies are 7 months old! Their cheeks get bigger every single day. It's the best. To any new mom who is about three weeks in to the motherhood gig and is thinking her life is officially over, it does get easier. In fact, it gets fun. I promise! (I didn't believe it either, so I don't blame you if you're shaking your head.)

OK, let's talk baby stuff. We have certain pieces of equipment that have proven themselves absolutely essential. These are the items we used (and are still using) all the time.

First of all, I love Amazon Prime. It has been a lifesaver. It can be hard to run errands, especially if you are a working mom who doesn't have a lot of time in her day between getting home from work and bedtime. The ability to order basically anything and everything and have it delivered to your doorstep within two days will lower your stress as a new mom. 

My second "secret weapon" that isn't on this visual is my Moms on Call book. We used a lot of the recommendations in this book to institute a sleep schedule for the twins starting at 5 weeks (2 weeks adjusted). By three months they had a really great daily nap routine and were sleeping through the night, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. They aren't robots and they sometimes fuss in the middle of the night, but for the most part they are fantastic sleepers and I attribute that to this book, which gives sleeping tips and schedules to follow. I highly recommend if you want to get your baby or babies on a schedule. My experience is that a schedule is probably optional with a singleton, but I can't imagine not having one with twins. You really need them to nap and eat at the same time or you'll never have time to do anything else!

  • First, our stroller, the Baby Jogger City Select Double Stroller. This stroller came highly recommended by other twin moms. It is not cheap, but it is our most-used piece of baby equipment. During my maternity leave, I took the twins on walks 3-6 times per day. It calmed all of us down. Now I still take walks everyday, but I also use this at the store, for daycare pickup, etc. It does get marked down to $500 on Amazon on a regular basis, so I recommend keeping an eye on the price and waiting for a good deal!  Note: You will need car seat adapters if you plan to use this with your car seat. We had both this stroller w/ the Graco adapters, which my husband preferred using, and the Snap 'N Go, which I preferred when I was alone because it was lightweight. Both are good to have if you can manage it, but you can get by with just the Snap 'N Go when you're still lugging them around in the car seats.
  • I highly recommend getting two baby carriers. We had the original Ergos, and we started using them on a daily basis at about 6 weeks with the infant inserts. Having them on our chest would calm them down when they were fussy while simultaneously freeing up our hands to get stuff done, like washing bottles or cleaning pump parts. Plus it's nice to have them snuggled up on you because with twins, you never feel like you get to hold each baby enough. I recommend getting two so each person can carry a baby. This is how we grocery shopped when they were really small, and it was nice to avoid bringing the stroller in the store. 
  •  Here are my sleeping essentials for the newborn to 3 months phase. First, swaddling! I never could get the hang of swaddling, so I loved these velcro swaddles. We swaddled for naps and bedtime. From 0-8 weeks, they slept in the Rock N Plays. Then we moved them to their cribs
    •  For both naps and bedtime, we would use the white noise machine on full blast. It seems really loud, but it does two things: It reminds them of the womb, which is apparently super loud, and it drowns out the sound of the other twin fussing if you have them in the same room. It triggers a Pavlovian response. Our kids know it is sleepytime whenever we turn that machine on. We'll be bringing it on all vacations!
  • We got the twins used to the pacifiers right away. At first we used Soothies on a clip to their swaddle or car seat, and when they were about 4 months we moved to the Wubbanub pacifiers. Now they can grab them and put their own pacifier in, which is AMAZING. I was getting tired of being the pacifier fairy in the middle of the night!
  • Let's talk feeding supplies
    • At first I was tandem breastfeeding, and this Twin Z pillow was incredibly helpful. Scott even used it at the hospital as his pillow after they were born. After a few weeks I started exclusively pumping and giving the babies bottles because I couldn't manage the tandem feeding by myself, but I still used this pillow for every feeding. I propped them inside each hole and held the bottles for them. Then we turned them on their tummies and propped them in each hole for tummy time. This pillow is a winner!
    • Once the babies started outpacing my milk production, I started supplementing with formula. I thought about getting the Baby Brezza, but I knew I would hate cleaning it like I hated cleaning my Keurig. So instead, I bought two of these Dr. Brown's formula mixing pitchers. Every night, Scott mixes one pitcher of formula for each baby. (They get different types of formula because of Evan's sensitive tummy.) The next morning, I pour the day's bottles. We wash them daily in the dishwasher. It works perfectly for us. 
  • Time to stock your medicine cabinet!
    • Get a humidifier. Babies get congested and fussy if you can't clear the congestion. The humidifier helps. 
    • You'll also want a Nose Frida to clear the congestion. It sounds disgusting, but it's not. There is a filter so you'll never inhale snot, I promise. The hardest part is wrangling your baby to sit still so you can do it! In my experience, those nose bulbs the hospital sends you home with are completely useless. Get a Frida; we use our multiple times per day.
    • Evan had tummy problems until 2 months old, so we helped ease his gas pain with Mylicon and Gripe Water. We still use the Gripe Water for hiccups. I remember laughing because it seemed like everyone at our baby shower gave us gas drops, and it seemed like overkill. It wasn't! We went through these medicines so fast the first few months. 
    • Once the babies started teething, the Infant Tylenol became really important. It's also useful for low fevers after immunizations. It's definitely an essential item for us.
    • Diaper rash is the worst. Poor Hope had some pretty bad rashes, and I tried all of the different diaper creams. They worked OK, but not great. For us, the best thing has been Aquafor. It cleared up her rash right away, and now I use a layer of it after every diaper change as a preventative measure. The best part for me is that I really hated the texture and smell of the white diaper creams, plus they were so hard to clean off when bathing the babies. They were really drying on my hands, too. The Aquafor is unscented and doesn't leave any residue on my hands. I'll never go back to the regular diaper creams!
    • Another diaper rash weapon for sensitive bums is Water Wipes. They are super gentle and don't irritate sensitive skin. One time I used a regular baby wipe to clean Hope's face, and she immediately turned bright red where the wipe hit her skin. That's when we switched to these wipes, and we haven't had any reactions since.
  • I didn't touch that much on toys here, since they aren't that essential. But I do really love this Baby Care Play Mat. It's soft, it's reversible, it's cute and it's easy to clean. If you have a designated space for babies to play on the ground, you need something like this. Bonus: I love the soft blue polka dot pattern, and it makes a great background for my monthly photos of the twins! It comes in a bunch of patterns and styles, so there is something for everyone.
  •  Lastly, we really like the Angelcare bath support. We actually give our babies a shower every night as part of our bedtime routine. We have a pull-down shower head in the guest bath, so we put this support seat in the bathtub and spray them with the shower nozzle. They have loved this method from day one. I love that the drain is always open and the water doesn't collect in the bathtub, so it's safer. This can be so comforting when you are trying to bathe one by yourself while the other is next to you in the bouncer. You can turn your head for a second to tend to the other one without worrying about any drowning risk. 
Full disclosure: These are Amazon affiliate links, so we get a small percentage of money to spend at Amazon if you click through and purchase something. Thank you in advance for helping us with our never-ending diaper costs. If you're not an Amazon shopper, they sell this stuff at Target, Walmart, Babies 'R Us, Buy Buy Baby, etc.

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