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.

Update: Read about my first year as a twin mom and check out their donut-themed first birthday party!

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. Certain cities even have Amazon Prime Now that can deliver essentials like groceries and diapers within two hours!

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 double 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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Fall Home Tour 2016

Last week my best friend and I went on a floral adventure to celebrate her 30th birthday. We took a class to learn how to create a preserved pumpkin flower arrangement. We had a lot of fun, and we came home with gorgeous flowers.

It was just the kick in the pants I needed to lug the fall decor down from the attic and make the house feel a bit more seasonal. I actually thought about not decorating for this season at all since we are so busy with the babies, but the husband told me he really liked it when I bring out the fall decor. Who knew he would actually care?! I bet her secretly loves all of my throw pillows, too. :)

Using my new pumpkin as a jumping off point, I injected some orange into the formal dining room. All of this decorating took about 20 minutes. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you think your babies are going to wake up from there nap at any minute!

I use the same pumpkins and gourds every year but just change up how I display them. It's like autumn in a box. It's both easy and affordable, two of my favorite things.

Just a few feet away, I snuck a few tiny pumpkins into the formal living room. 

You may remember that a couple months ago I simplified the shelves in the den to make the color scheme really calm and neutral. In keeping with that theme, I added a bunch of white and beige pumpkins and gourds to the mantel.

And just for fun, I asked my mom to send me a few photos from her house. She always does a great job making her house feel more autumnal by bringing in more texture and warmer colors.

Wondering how I used the exact same pumpkins (minus the pretty floral arrangement, since that's new) in past years? Here are some of my previous fall home tours. I LOVE fall so much. Now if only our weather would actually feel like the seasons are shifting, I'd be in heaven.

2015  •  2014  •   2013

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Reflections on Motherhood: My First 6 Months as a Twin Mom

I've been planning to write this post for a few weeks now, but there is just so much to say. I'm going to attempt to narrow it down to the important stuff, but if you have any questions, please let me know. You probably figured out by now that I'm an open book!

It's hard to believe the twins are six months old already. I feel like I've been in a bizarre time continuum every since the babies were born. When I was grinding through the newborn days I had many friends tell me, "The days are long, but the years are short." I'm only halfway through a year in this mommy club, but that certainly rings true for me.

Fresh out of the c-section, I was so out of it when they took this photo. It was the definition of an out of body experience because I still couldn't feel my body! And I couldn't believe those were OUR babies.
I already wrote about their first week of life, so I'll just pick up where I left off. When we came home from the hospital, I was running on an incredible adrenaline high. Part of it was the true joy of finally welcoming our miracle babies into the world. I think the other contributing factor was my time spent on bed rest. After 8 weeks of not being allowed to do much of anything other than lay down or sit at a steep recline, I was just so happy to be able to walk around freely again. I had been in so much physical discomfort at the end of my pregnancy, both from the load of carrying twins and the constant back pain from laying down all day, that the physical recovery from the c-section felt like a minor blip on my radar. I was able to ignore it pretty easily most of the time, although I remember trying to get up in the middle of the night to tend to the babies was painful for a week, at least. I didn't realize that you're not supposed to drive after a c-section (oops) so I drove myself all over the place and that felt great after being confined to the house or the hospital for so long. I had regained my independence! I didn't even mind that my new independence included two new passengers in the car at all times, both of whom really disliked stopping at traffic lights.

After the first couple of weeks, the honeymoon period was over and exhaustion set in. I would say weeks 3-8 were very, very hard. Evan was struggling with tummy problems, so he was fussy for a lot of his waking hours. And that boy has some serious lungs, let me tell you. It hurt my heart when he would wail. I had to take deep breaths and give myself pep talks, especially during the evening "witching hour." My mantra: "Babies will be babies. Babies cry. It will be OK."

My mom could see very early on that I was not sleeping enough to stay sane (one time I stayed up for 24 hours straight and I do not recommend it!) so she started coming over at nights so I could get 5-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. That was a godsend. I was never able to take any naps during the day, so that nighttime sleep would power me through 19 hours straight with newborn twins. That and my new Ninja coffee maker and a 4 p.m. can of Coke. Ha! Whatever you have to do, right?

So I'm wondering, did this happen to anyone else? For the first several weeks I kept having the same situation in the middle of the night. I'd wake up in a panic during my nightly stretch of sleep, thinking I had accidentally fallen asleep in bed with the babies. I would frantically feel around the covers looking for the babies, but of course I never found them because they were in another room with my mom. But man did it ruin my little sleep stretch every night. It always took me a few minutes to calm down and go back to sleep. UGH. 

One of the hardest parts was trying to keep up with feeding the babies. At first I was tandem breastfeeding, but when Scott went back to work it became so hard for me to do. I decided to pump and bottle feed instead. I was blessed with a good supply, but making enough milk for two growing babies was still a full time job. As soon as I could get them down to nap, I would sit down at the pump. I felt like that was all that I did. It was a beating, to be honest. I reminded myself often that the babies were benefiting from the nutrition of the breast milk. Not only that, but I was saving money on formula and helping myself lose weight. That helped, but it was still one of the hardest parts about the first five months, which is when I stopped breastfeeding and switched to formula.

I feel like the turning point for us happened at their 8 week doctor appointment. We put Evan on acid reflux medicine and switched his last bottle of the day to a sensitive formula. He started to be less fussy, and things started to slowly get easier. The babies also started sleeping longer stretches.

Let me back track a little bit. One of the things I did while I was pregnant was research sleep schedules for babies. Many twin moms told me that the schedule was so important because if you didn't get both babies sleeping and eating at the same time, you would never, ever get a break during the day. I ended up choosing the Moms on Call (MOC) book for scheduling and parenting tips, and it was (and still is) so helpful.

I started trying to get them on a napping and nighttime sleep schedule at 5 weeks. It was really hard work, but we used the MOC schedules to get them fairly sleep trained by three months. We slowly transitioned them from the Rock 'n Plays in the living room to their own cribs in the nursery. They slept 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. for five nights straight, and we were so surprised/relieved/happy. PHEW.

From three months on, it has been getting more and more fun. I'm overwhelmed with how much I love those two miracle babies. I think about them constantly. I went back to work full-time at 12 weeks, and I'm always texting my mom to see how they are doing during the day. She watches them half the time, and the rest of the time they are in a part-time daycare at a local church.

The first smiles? Amazing. The first laughs? The best. Of course we've had some harrowing moments in the last three months as well (teething!), but the babies are so sweet and fun. It's fascinating to watch their personalities emerge and see how fast they pick up new skills. It feels so slow and so fast at the same time. The hardest part about this season of life is the other season we are dealing with - football season! Scott is working 7 days a week (long days, too) so that's hard. In an ideal world, caring for twins is a 2-person job. But we've established systems that work for us and help us care for them by ourselves, so we're surviving.

Motherhood has changed me in some ways that completely caught me off guard. I'm so much more organized now, but that's out of necessity. There are so many things to juggle. I have systems for laundry and dishes and cleaning the play area, and I get upset when the dishwasher isn't loaded properly. You guys, that is so NOT me. But I have changed, and all of these systems are part of my survival as a twin mom. Suddenly the dishwasher setup is important. It's so weird.

I have a lot more anxiety than I ever did before. Actually, my motherhood anxiety gets better and better every day as I gain more confidence in my motherly instincts. But I was very anxious in the early months as I tried to get into a groove as a mom. I'm not used to the lack of control you have as the mom of a newborn (or two). I channeled my need for control and structure into mastering my homemaker skills, frenetically writing thank you notes and doing laundry and washing bottles and just trying to earn an A+ for my stay-at-home life. Again, that caught me very off guard.

I remember sitting on the floor at the end of the day, exhausted, holding a pacifier in each baby's mouth, thinking that motherhood was teaching me a lot about myself. Now I'm sitting here on my couch after wrestling a fussy, feverish baby to sleep, and I know the lessons are only just beginning.

Here's a list of my twin mom baby registry essentials. I hope it helps a fellow new mom!

Thanks again for reading this humble blog. I really enjoy having a place to dump my thoughts, and I hope you get something out of it. :)

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