Smells of the Season

I tried to get away with not making cutout cookies this year.


I had plans to make other cookies, but not those. I mean, gosh, they’re so time-consuming. And messy. You roll out the dough onto a flour-covered mat, press, unveil, scoop, repeat. Plus, with counter-space being a rare commodity these days, I justified we’d go without. Instead, I’d fill our cookie trays with other favorites. Even with two busy 19-month olds, I’ve been able to use their sleep time to create three other kinds!

But when I asked my husband which cookies he’d like, those were the only ones he mentioned. So guess what’s in the oven right now?

You know what, though? I’m so glad I did!

Rolling out the dough brought back so many memories of Christmases past. My two sisters and I would roll up our pajama sleeves and sit at the kitchen table where my mom had prepped a great spread of flour, cookie cutters and dough. We’d play with the chilled dough, adding flour like a pro, and prepped our trays, picking out our favorite cookie cutters and puzzling them together so there was little waste. When we finished a tray, we’d proudly parade our masterpiece to the oven and Mom would excitedly lift the oven door open after admiring our work. We’d go back to our station and continue the process, each time becoming better and better at lifting the frail dough without it falling into a million pieces.

As we’d bake, we’d sample our work, laugh, tell stories and talk about how excited we were for Christmas. We peeked into the oven to see if each batch was ready, getting hints from our mom to know when they’re just perfect. We decorated each cookie with painstaking effort (and sometimes, put a few aside to save for ourselves.) It was the only time we could throw flour into our sister’s hair without getting in trouble! Looking back, I know why so many of my friends wanted to come to my house, especially around the holidays. “Maybe your mom would let us make cookies!” Gee, whose friend are you anyway? But those were memories specific to my house. My kitchen. My mom.

So Mom, as I pull my first tray of cutouts out of the oven – with a touch of brown on the bottom, just how they’re supposed to be – this one’s for you. (Well, you and Andy :) Thanks for teaching me how to create the smells and magic of home.

It is going to be a very Merry Christmas.


Perspective in a Photo

And suddenly it's all worth it.
Jack and Ben, 19 months old

Being a (Godly) Boy

One of the reasons parenting is so exhausting is the fact that our little ones are learning. They're experimenting. They're seeing how things work and how they fit in. And in order to learn, they need to hear it, experience and DO it over and over and over and over again.

Because my boys are so active, I treasure the moments where it's quiet. When they're both sitting on my lap and reading a book. Thank God, they enjoy books! We do this every day before naptime and bedtime. One of our favorite books recently is "A Little Boy After God's Own Heart," by Jim & Elizabeth George. They also have one for girls. It was a baby shower gift from a dear friend with two little boys of her own. Andy and I love the emphasis on character traits and the pictures are beautiful (my boys love pointing out the dog, birds and teddy bear on each page!) But the boys seem to especially enjoy the rhyme. The book focuses on the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are two of my favorites: 

"I'm tired of waiting. Speed up! Come  on!"
Are the words of a boy whose patience is gone.
How can a guy wait when he's raring to go?
He asks God for patience and help to go slow.

When you're in a hurry, don't think of yourself.
Instead ask the question, "How can I help?"
Let God give you the patience for the needs of others,
Including your parents, sisters, and brothers.
Loud, rough, and rowdy describes most little boys.
They run, and they jump, and they scatter their toys.
But God's little boy is way different from these-
He's gentle and calm and puts people at ease.

Gentleness seems strange to an active young guy,
Who thinks being gentle shows weakness inside.
But gentleness is part of God's wonderful plan,
As boys use their strength to help where they can.
I want my boys know that it's okay to act like a boy. I want them to know that it's healthy to be active, adventurous and curious. But I also want them to know what it means to be a child of God. God's little boys can practice self-control and restraint as they mature and grow in Him.

Yes, I will probably go insane in the process - hiding my valuables, covering the hardwood floor with protective matts and keeping plenty of soft balls around the house - but I suppose I'll be in good company. Because as my husband teases me, there are some things that girls just can't understand :)


Testing the Limits

This age has got to be the most draining yet.

The boys are 19.5 months old and into eeeevvveeerrryyyttthhhiiinnnggg. And they're testing the limits. And they're experimenting with their abilities. And they're seeing just how much I'll let them get away with. Both of them. Simultaneously.

If Benjamin is going for the computer plug, I'll say, "No Benjamin, don't touch." Jack's head immediately turns - even if he's across the room - and he runs to the plug. Because, of course, he's got to see if the same rule applies to him. This is even MORE annoying when it involves something physical. If Jack is standing on my computer desk chair with the weight of his body pressed against the back, he knows he'll get reprimanded. I mean, that thing can just tip backward at any moment! But the second I say, "Jonathan, sit down please," Ben's little legs carry him as fast as they can to the chair so he can test it too. Ugh. Then I'm manhandling two toddlers off of the computer chair who are both trying to nose-dive onto the floor.

And they're using this against me, too.

If I'm doing something in the kitchen - blocked off and separate from them - they obviously don't like that. So they'll do something bad just because they know it will get my attention. They'll cry for a while. Sob. Real tears and everything, trying to get me to stop what I'm doing and hold them both so they can see what I'm doing. You all know how impossible this is (especially when I've got to be at MOPS in an hour and these cookies need to be put in a container and their juice packaged into their cooler.) You simply cannot hold two toddlers and get much of ANYthing done, so I continue to ignore them. Two more minutes, I tell myself, then they'll have my attention. But when this is taking too long, they take matters into their own hands. They grab something they know not to touch, bite their brother in the arm or begin to climb onto the dining room table.

When I run to discipline them, comfort their brother or get them back to safe grounds, I can't help but notice that little grin on their face as if to say, Well, at least I got your attention.

And don't underestimate them either. They may not be able to say more than 20 words, but they understand SOOOO much more. Tonight at dinner, Jack wanted my water bottle. Now he had been given his own water bottle - a smaller, fatter water bottle more suited to his needs. But he wanted mine. If this was a battle of wills, I. will. win. So I refused, offering him his bottle yet keeping it far enough away for him to swat at it to show his disapproval. I knew what he wanted, but I would not comply. I was determined for him to understand so I tried to identify the different bottles. "Jonathan, this is mommy's water," I said, pointing to my water bottle. "This one is Jonathan's," pointing to his. "You can have Jonathan's water bottle or you're all done. You can't have mommy's." I kept offering it to him with the same results. So I put them both on the table, away from his reach.

A few minutes later, he came to sit on my lap and pointed at my water bottle saying, "peez, peez, peez." I identified each of the bottles again and he still refused to drink his. I thought I might test him to see if and how much he was understanding. "Jack, which one is mommy's water bottle?" He pointed to mine. I looked at Andy - both of us were amazed. "And which one is Jonathan's water bottle?" He pointed to his. I did this a few times and each time, he idenfied the correct bottle. He understood that one was mine and one was his. He eventually gave in and drank from his bottle, but not until he was completely sure I wasn't giving in.

That little stinker.

I suppose this is all developmental. But geez, can it be over yet? Thank God they're only awake 9 hours of the day... I need the other 13 to summon enough energy to do it all again tomorrow!


A Myriad of Facebook Statuses

Perhaps this is just me.

I do know that I am weird. But I write about a 834 Facebook statuses every day. In my mind. All throughout the day. It's like I'm publishing a story in my head. Every single day. And I might publish one of them.

Perhaps this is just me.

Today has been a hectic day. A day that involved not going to our MOPS Christmas party because of the weather and then having my husband having to rescue us to take our boys to the pediatrician for what turned out to be a normal diaper rash. Crazy. Exhausting. And emotional.

Here are a few of the statuses that weren't written that might help describe a little of the drama from our day.
Mindy Sauer would have hoped for another hour in bed today.
Mindy Sauer is sorry we had to miss the MOPS Christmas party this morning. But on the bright side, she's got ten egg salad sandwiches already made for lunch!
Mindy Sauer is wondering when the appeal for these ornaments is going to wear off.

Mindy Sauer can't believe her boys like egg salad!

Mindy Sauer wishes she could take a nap. Perhaps she will. In just two... more... hours...

Mindy Sauer has never been more excited for nap time.

Mindy Sauer probably should call the pediatrician. Jack's rash seems to be getting worse.

Mindy Sauer is hoping Jack's rash is not infected.

Mindy Sauer was not excited about the conversation with the pediatrician. What do you mean you want me to come in? TODAY? In this weather? You've got to be kidding me.

Mindy Sauer is getting things packed up for a trip to the doctor. That means shoveling the driveway, stocking the van with everything we'd need if we got stranded and then waking up the boys for the dreaded trip.

Mindy Sauer is exhausted. Am I too old for naps?

Mindy Sauer is THRILLED! Andy is leaving work to take us to the pediatrician! And he's going to shovel! And he's going to drive! My hero.

Mindy Sauer is really wishing this would have happened another day.

Mindy Sauer is honestly amazed at her boys' taste for egg salad.

Mindy Sauer is on her way! We're going slow, but at least we're moving!

Mindy Sauer can't believe it took us 45 minutes to make a 20 minute commute.

Mindy Sauer is soooo relieved that Jack's rash isn't infected. On our way to buy more Desitin to help the healing!

Mindy Sauer really wishes she could take the rest of the day off.

Mindy Sauer is loving this egg salad!

Mindy Sauer is glad to be home, but wishing Andy didn't have to go back out again.

Mindy Sauer should probably start dinner.

Mindy Sauer is so much more aware of the "uh ohs" she hears when one of her sons is streaking, running loose around the house.

Mindy Sauer wonders when her boys will get sick of her carrying them around on her hip.

Mindy Sauer never realized she gave birth to monkeys. Two monkeys. Climbing, crawling and clawing their way up everything, including up to mommy.

Mindy Sauer is counting down the hours until bedtime.

Mindy Sauer wishes she hadn't sent the rest of that egg salad with Andy. I bet the boys would have cleaned that up!

Mindy Sauer really wishes her husband would have chosen a different night to work late. Of all days.

Mindy Sauer hates having to prepare a separate meal for her boys. Anyone else feel like they could get so much more done if they didn't have to prepare food for everyone everyday?

Mindy Sauer is relieved that Andy's home! Time for baths!
Mindy Sauer is so in love with her husband.
Mindy Sauer is going to blog, prepare tomorrow's lunch, shower and then it's bedtime!
Mindy Sauer should really start wrapping presents. But not tonight. No baking cookies either.

Mindy Sauer wonders why I don't get more sleep when the boys are sleeping more than 11 hours? Isn't there something wrong with this picture?
Mindy Sauer is sore. My arms. My back. My knees. Perhaps I should have started having kids a little sooner. These toddlers are literally wearing me out!
Mindy Sauer is going to bed. G'night!
Now, for those of you that are my Facebook friend, aren't you glad I'm selective in my postings? ;) And thank God for Facebook, the only chance we've got to talk about ourselves in the third person!


Top Ten Signs There's a Toddler in Your House around Christmas

10. The bottom half of your Christmas tree is bare and all of the ornaments are scattered throughout the living room. You found two of them hiding in the Diaper Champ.

9. You made your kids scrambled eggs, toast and strawberries for breakfast. You had Diet Coke.

8. Your tree is shedding and it’s not even real!

7. You wonder if other families have Little People hidden in their Christmas tree branches, too.

6. You walked right by your toddlers throwing their grapes on the floor because you saw it as a solid 5-minute Facebook break.

5. While you normally make ten different kinds of elaborate Christmas cookies, you’re thinking of scaling it down a bit. Perhaps you’ll make a bowl of Jello. But only if you find some time.

4. When someone calls to see what your toddlers want for Christmas, you look at all of the toys spewed through the house as well as the one you just stepped on and respond, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

3. All morning, you look forward to their naptime so you could get work done. Then when they finally go down and it’s time to work, you’re too exhausted to do anything.

2. You just finish cleaning up from breakfast and begin to look through your Christmas cookie recipes and you realize it’s time to make lunch.

1. You wish there really was a Santa Claus... because he would be the one responsible for buying and wrapping all of the presents!


No Rest for the Weary

While reading "Toddlerwise" by Gary Ezzo tonight, I found these truths and thought they were worth sharing.
During the one-year span between 12 and 24 months, the walking, talking, exploring toddler multiplies the demands of mother's time, energy and patience more than any other period in his life (page 22.)
and then
There is no question that a toddler's mom is a tired mom, and for good reason. The emotional and physical energy needed to supervise an energy-packed tot can take down the most physically fit mom. If your toddler happens to be a boy, add fifty percent more energy. Never so beautiful does this child look to his weary mom as he does when he closes his eyes in sleep (page 23.)
And I've got two. Boys. Toddler twin boys.

Well, no wonder I sleep so well!


How I'm Saving Money on Gas

Did I find a new gas rewards program? No.

Did I get a new "in" with a fuel distributor? No.

Did I tap into a gold mine? No.

I'm not driving around while the boys nap!

While this may not seem like a big deal, allow me to explain what I've been doing for the past year (plus.) Every other Tuesday during the schoolyear, I go to my Mothers of Preschoolers group at my church. I love MOPS. In that first year, it was the ONLY time I was getting out on my own. To spend time with other moms. Even as the boys are 19 months old, I still love it. So it was always worth the extra effort of bundling and packing for two little boys as well as getting my butt out of the house.

The biggest challenge was their nap. They used to nap at 10am, then it was extended to 11am and now it's around 12pm. But because MOPS goes from 9:30-11:30am, they would always fall asleep in the van on the way home. Sigh. I didn't have a chance to keep them awake with a 25-minute commute. And if I woke them up when we got home (after carrying them upstairs to our apartment) they were done with their nap. Or they'd want to sleep again later that afternoon, ruining their bedtime... but it was worth going to MOPS, so I rationalized driving around with them in the van for an hour and a half while they slept. It was worth trying to keep their schedule intact.

Fast-forward the last two meetings. Now that my boys are soothing themselves to sleep during their afternoon nap (can I get an AMEN!?) I knew I could make the next transition. Plus, the snow was coming and I knew it would be a good time to get off the roads. So when my boys fell asleep on the way home, I let them. When we got home, though, I carried them up to their cribs (one at a time,) took off their coats and set them in their cribs. Yesterday, they were awake and sitting up. But I gave them a kiss and closed the door. They knew what they had to do. They fussed a little, but not for long. They gave up and allowed themselves to fall back asleep. Yesterday I had to wake them up because they were still asleep three hours later!

So, not only am I saving myself some aggravation, but I am allowing myself to get stuff done around the house while they sleep and saving some gas money. And as I prepare for Christmas while still trying to manage some sense of sanity, that's huge.

I'm taking one step at a time. And making some progress!


Breathe In, Breathe Out

I had my first panic attack last night.

Well, at least I think it was a panic attack.

I have been going in a million directions, prepping things for the holidays while also trying to maintain regular life. I'm sure you have, too. Yesterday was crazy. I woke up knowing I had to be productive (and I prayed my boys would comply!) Things went well and I got everything done on my list that I "had" to get done yesterday. But at the end of the night, I was increasingly overwhelmed by everything more I had to do.

But the more I thought about what I had to do, the more overwhelmed I became. I shut down the computer and decided it was better for me to turn off my brain and just go to bed.

Yeah, like I've ever been able to do that.

So instead, I sat on the bed (I was too wound up to even lie down) and verbally went through my exhaused list of things I had to do. Andy listened. Poor guy, he's been here many times before. As my list grew, I kept making up things. Things that I hadn't thought of for a while but all of a sudden, I decided they had to get done! And this week, of all times!

The more I went on, the more excited I got and the harder it was to breathe. I literally felt like someone was sitting on my chest, cutting off my air. I couldn't get a good breath. I stood up and tried to increase my air flow. No luck. It felt like I was going to suffocate. My husband noticed something wasn't quite right, so he encouraged me to sit down against the wall and breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out... Breathe in. Breathe out.

So not only do I have a gazillion things floating around in my head - a million loose ends that feel like they are unraveling before my eyes - but I'm getting a lesson how to breathe. Rather than snapping his head off, I decided to listen. I tried to yawn, knowing it would give me a deep breath. "No Mindy," Andy kept saying. "Just breathe."

Well, as it turns out, he was right. I tried to regulate my breathing and asked him to talk. "Just talk to me," I said. "Tell me anything. What else is going on at work." Andy complied - still visibly concerned about his wife's inability to control the air around her - but told me more about his day. And do you know what happened? The moment I started thinking about something other than myself and everything I had to do, I could breathe. I was fine. Competely fine.

Today, I still feel a tightness in my chest that I can only imagine has to do with the weight of things I still have to do. But it doesn't take me long to get back to normal. I'm much better than how I felt for those few minutes last night. Here's what I learned: this has less to do with breathing and more to do with me being overly concerned with ME.

I got myself so wound up thinking about everything I had to do that my body couldn't even take it. It was as if that was my subconscious attempt to say, "Listen to yourself! There are other people to think about than YOU!" How interesting, that I could breathe when I started feeling empathetic for my husband's day rather than exaggerating my agenda.

I am now going to make a renewed mission to take it easy this holiday season. I'll still work hard to see that everything that reeeeeally has to get done, get's done, but I'm not going to make myself sick about it. Because literally, I've been there. And I don't want to go there again.

So, I'm going to breathe in, breathe out... breathe in, breathe out... ;)


The Value of Venting

Do you ever vent - full of frustration - with your husband and then turn around and just DO the thing you were complaining about? It could be the silliest thing: having to buy Christmas gifts, not knowing how you're going to organize your house (EVER) or what you're going to make for dinner this week. But once you actually sit down and actually DO the thing you were trying to postpone, it wasn't that bad. At all. I always do that and then wonder why I made such a big deal about it.

Remember my post about not knowing what I'm doing? I vented to the blog world about my lack of toddler knowledge, especially how to transition my boys to taking their afternoon nap IN their cribs and then transitioning away from their bottles. Both issues seemed too large for me to tackle. It took me a while to get to a place where I feel more confident. More in control. Why in the world would I want to mess all of that up in order to "correct" something? Well, I still don't know exactly what I'm doing. But I stopped to make a plan and therefore, have been seeing results!

I tried to remind myself about the "take one thing at a time" concept I've been learning during the past few months in order to correct some of the bad habits I've fallen into.

Three weeks after that post, I am PROUD to say that the boys now soothe themselves to sleep in their cribs (and have for the past two weeks) and they have had one bottle a day for the past three days!!! I'm telling you, folks. This is huge.

I could say that I won't vent any more in the future. But I already know that's a lie. I actually think venting is therapeutic for me. Getting it all out there, talking with someone that knows me (and knows that I am, in fact, very capable) and trusts me enough not to give me advice. I'm able to leave those venting sessions more aware of the mountain that lies ahead of me and confident of what steps I need to make in order to conquer it. Because we ARE capable. We CAN do it. Just not all at once.

We are soo much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

I think it was Elenor Roosevelt that said, "A woman is like a tea bag. You never know her strength until you put her in hot water."

Couldn't have said it better myself.


Disney World in a Bowl

My sister called this dessert "Disney World in a Bowl." I thought it was so clever I had to steal it for myself! We also call it "Ribbon Jello" or "Layered Jello" or even "Seven Layer (or Seven Hour) Jello." No matter how you say it, it looks and tastes wonderful!

My mom has made this dessert for years. I'm not even sure where it originated, but as of yesterday, it has been established (by my husband) as part of our Thanksgiving tradition now. No more boring Jello mold for us. This one takes a little time - seven hours, in fact. That's because there are 14 layers, each taking around 30 minutes to gel. But I'll tell you, there won't be a prettier thing on your table. My eight-year-old niece already requested this as her birthday dessert (and her birthday is in July!) Here's how you do it:

Ribbon Jello
7 boxes Jello
1-32 oz. container sour cream*
14 ice cubes
Pour one box of Jello into the first of TWO small bowls. Add 1 cup of hot water and stir until mixed. Then pour about half of the liquid into the other small bowl. Each bowl will contain your first two layers. In the first bowl, add two ice cubes and stir until they melt. Pour the contents of that bowl into your 9x13" glass pan and keep in refrigerator for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, add 1/3 cup of sour cream to the second bowl of Jello mixture and stir until smooth. After the first layer has gelled, add the second sour cream mixture and let sit in the refrigerator to gell for another 30 minutes. Repeat this same process for each color. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. *You won't use the whole container of sour cream, but my Ribbon Jello used a little more than a 16 oz. container.
I apologize if my directions sound confusing. This was a recipe passed down to me by word of mouth, so I had to describe the process in my own words. But I'm already thinking of different ways to use this same concept all through the year. For Christmas, I may do a combination of red, green and yellows... for Valentine's, reds and pinks... for the boys' birthday, blues and greens. Oh, the possibilities!! :)

Mommy's Lap

Sometimes, only mommy's lap will do.


Joy in Simplification

You know how cute it is when you see a little girl dancing on her daddy's toes? Her head is raised as she gazes into his big eyes and his eyes sparkle back. Adorable, right? Or how about that little boy, grasping onto his daddy's leg and is laughing as his dad pulls him through the ktichen. It's beautiful, isn't it? Now, picture TWO toddlers. On two legs. Of the same person. But rather than enjoying the fact that you're dragging sixty pounds of toddler, you're seeing it as an obstacle of getting from one end of the room to the other.

Yup. Well, that's me.

Jack and Ben have been sooo clingy lately. They've always loved their mommy, but lately, their obsession has reached a new level. A new peak. They tell me this is normal. Molars are growing in. They're irritable and just want mommy. Not even daddy will do, no matter how hard he tries to distract them. It's age-appropriate, they tell me. Healthy. And not to worry, that they'll grow out of it. I have to be honest: this is one stage I'm more than anxious to be over!

It is for this reason that I have come to treasure my times in the evening even more. Working a minimum of just fifteen minutes after we put them down, I find so much peace in being able to start and finish one whole project without four little hands begging to be scooped up. And the progress is inspiring!

I'm taking one thing at a time. Two or three, if I feel especially motivated. But my rule is that I won't start a new project unless I know I can finish it that night. It's a pet peeve of mine. Otherwise, it becomes a huge mess everyone has to step over; eventually, it's thrown into a corner - out of the way - and never to be attempted for as long as we both shall live. Perhaps this is why I've always been a night owl: I hate waking up and knowing there was still more to do! So I've been firm on this. And I've been so pleased with the results.

The other day, I organized my spice cupboard in the kitchen during the boys' nap. Let me tell you: it's beautiful. It was helpful looking through my inventory, finding any doubles and preparing myself for the holiday baking season. Love it. Two nights ago, I organized three cupboards in the bathroom, including our medicine cabinets. Tonight, I cleaned out both cupboards underneath the sink. You don't even want to know how much stuff I threw out. Medicine, creams, tablets... all expired. Rather than think about how much money I was literally pouring down the drain, I tried to be thankful for all of the medicine we never needed!

In addition to cupboards, I also cleared my countertops. I took off anything that I didn't use on a daily basis or that was just 'clutter.' I feel like I've got so much more room to work now! My new nightly goal is to go to bed with a clean countertop (and sink) because I love waking up with a sigh of relief, rather than a dreaded "Uh, this mess is still waiting for me" kinda thought. It has drastically improved the quality of my day.

My utensil drawer will be next. And then perhaps I'll work on my computer desk drawer, whatever I feel like in that moment. But it feels so good to be able to do things like when I can find some time! Especially since "productive" is not a word I've been able to use about my days since the boys were born :)

One step at a time. I'll get this whole mommy thing down yet.


Myriad of Confessions

I have a confession to make. Well, three actually.

My boys are eighteen months old and still drink from a bottle.

Ah, there. I said it. The first step to healing is confession, right? Okay, here I go again: The boys sleep in my living room rather than their cribs during their afternoon nap.

Okay, that felt pretty good. Just getting it out there in the open is going to help me on the road to recovery!

But honestly, these are the last two "habits" I've had a hard time breaking. It's just so difficult trying to make strides when you're the one that spends the most time with them during the day. Ya know? It's as if any change you are able to make it only because you were willing to suffer through all of the kicking and screaming to get them to see that they didn't really need it in the first place! That is, if you didn't go insane before. I'm working on it. I've got a renewed plan of where I'd like to start this week. I'm dreading it, though. It's. Just. So. Hard.

But I told you I actually had three confessions. The last one (or perhaps I should have mentioned this one first) is:

I have absolutely NO idea what I'm doing.

I know I give the impression that I have everything under control. I don't.

I know it seems like things move pretty smoothly around my house all of the time. Hmmm, not really.

I'm sure you'd think that I had my act together and this mothering thing actually came very naturally. Well, that's partly true.

The truth is, most times, I struggle to know what I do. What's the best way to react when your kids throw food on the floor? Do you discipline them or ignore it? How are you supposed to know? I never seem to make the right decision before his brother decides that's a fun activity for HIM to try, too! How do you know how to respond when your son throws a toy at you? Do you punish him or take it as a sign he just wants to play with you? How do I respond when they laugh at my reprimand? Or how about when he bites his brother for stealing his toy? Do you bite him back, give him time-out, or just remove him from the situation?

I honestly have NO idea.

The only guidance we have as parents is in the long-range. If we did something and stuck with it for a while, we may be able to see the outcome. "I'm sooo glad we finally let the boys just cry it out," we told ourselves a few months ago. "Why didn't we do this sooner?" We could have kicked ourselves for not starting months earlier. But honestly, we were just getting by, day by day! How were we supposed to know exactly which method would work for our boys in our circumstance!?

My husband and I took the boys to an Italian restaurant for dinner tonight. I suppose this is where these thoughts stemmed from tonight. They did pretty well through the meal, so I decided to take them to look at the fish in the fish tank during the last few minutes so my husband could finish his last few bites in peace (he was the one to feed them the majority of their food.) The boys loooooove animals. So the fish tank was a very welcomed surprise. They tapped on the glass, made fish faces and screamed with delight. The other people in the room seemed to be happily entertained by Jack and Ben along with their new friends. When Andy paid the bill, he brought our big bags into the room and the boys had the time of their life sharing their new experiences with their daddy. After a few minutes, we started saying our goodbyes to the fishes and started packing up to leave. One problem. The boys did NOT want to go. If they could, they would have spent ALL DAY in front of that fish tank (except it would have only been an hour before they learned how to take the lid off and climb in there themselves!!) So here's Andy and I at a nice restaurant, carrying our screaming boys all the way to the car. I'll tell ya. Didn't feel like our proudest parenting moment.

What could I have done differently? We let them play, gave them each their own chair to stand on, and plenty of time to watch. We gave them time to transition and tried to be gentle in our commands. But when push came to shove, we HAD to leave! The thanks we got for doing the right thing? The embarrassment of carrying two screaming toddlers out of the restaurant and having all of those people glare at you, wondering if you are taking someone else's child.

There are no manuals. There's not always ONE right way to do things. We get guidance from other people (some welcome, some not-so-welcome) but all we have is our own judgment. We get encouragement from the Bible with a solid example of how Jesus would treat the children He came into contact with, but He never said what to do about letting your kids play with fish behind a glass!

But He did say things like "Let the little children come unto Me" and "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." I feel like He's leaving me clues. I just have to put them together.

That's the hardest part about discipline. It's difficult in the moment. Horrible, in fact. There will be tears, screams, kicking. It's an all-out battle of wills. Discipline is never enjoyable. For the parent OR the child. But I also remember Jesus saying in the Bible that it also harvests a great reward for those who were trained by it. There's a payout. But it doesn't come right away.

So, here's where I am at the end of my confession. I'm tired. Humbled. And yet encouraged if not just in the smallest way. I'm not alone. I'm not the first one to experience this. I have a feeling that other moms have struggled with transitioning their kids from bottles to sippy cups before, some even beyond eighteen months. And I think we could be doing a lot worse than letting them nap on the living room floor. I'll get there. One step at a time.


Turkey a la King

I made this for dinner tonight, though I used chicken instead. It was fantastic - even my toddlers enjoyed it! The recipe suggests serving it over rice, noodles, biscuits or toast. I used a little trick my mom used to do: toasting bread inside muffin tins! I also added a whole bag of frozen vegetables (with lima beans, green beans, corn, carrots and peas) rather than just the frozen peas. It made for a more colorful and nutritious meal. Next time, I would need to add more chicken broth to the mixture (because of my increase in vegetables) so it will be a little more creamy. It's a perfect meal for all of those Thanksgiving leftovers, too!

Turkey a la King

1-3/4 c. mushrooms, sliced
1 celery rib, chopped
¼ c. onion, chopped
¼ c. green pepper, chopped
4 T. butter
¼ c. flour
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
2 c. turkey breast, cooked and cubed*
1 c. frozen peas
½ tsp. salt
8 slices of bread

In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the mushrooms, celery, onion and pepper in 2 tablespoons of butter until tender. Combine the flour and broth until smooth; stir into vegetable mixture. Stir in milk. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add the turkey, peas and salt; heat through. Meanwhile, butter the bread on one side. Tuck inside a cupcake tin and bake at 350˚ for about 15 minutes. Serve the mixture inside the toasted bread, which will come out in the shape of a cup.
* Again, I used chicken in my recipe. I cooked the chicken breasts in the CrockPot on low for about 6 hours today; I sliced a small onion and sprinkled some salt and pepper as well as a little bit of water. Then I discarded the onions before I chopped it up for my dinner. Easy! (This recipe was taken from Taste of Home's Thanksgiving 2010 issue, page 69.)

Baby Steps

I remember being back in the classroom. I would see my sixth-graders spill something (in the classroom or in the lunch room.) With growing bodies and hormones they don't know what to do with, they would just freeze. They'd panic and then move five feet backward. They didn't do a THING. Someone else would see their situation, run to their rescue and clean up the spill. Perhaps they were embarassed - there are a lot of social issues at that age - but I wondered if that's all they had to do at home. Just move away and someone else will get it.

Or how about the toddler that makes a HUGE mess - intentionally, out of anger or frustration - and then the mom puts him in time-out. Then SHE'S the one that cleans it up! That kid gets off scott-free! Not a bad system: I make a mess, I get a break and Mom cleans it up.

Nope. Not this mom.

I was determined to teach my boys the best way to respond when they make a mess. Granted, the majority of messes they make are accidental. They're still babies! They're 18 months old and not as coordinated as they like to think they are. They misjudge the depth of water in the cup and spill. They miss their mouth and it drips all of the way down their shirt. They tried to get that spoon of Cheerios and milk into their little mouths but it slipped on its way. They're trying. They really are. We cannot punish them for things they do on accident. That's just wrong. This is all developmental - they're get it eventually, but in the mean time, they will continue to get it wrong. We can't hurry that process. But we CAN teach them how to respond when they make a mistake.

And let me tell you, the answer is NOT running away and letting Mom clean up the mess. With two boys and the hope of more in the future, I just won't do it. I want them to know what it means to be personally responsible for their messes.

So here's what I've been trying to do. For the past six months (starting when they were about a year old,) we started having them clean up their toys at the end of the night. It was part of our night-time routine. Andy and I would shuffle all of their toys toward the toy bin, then we would give them one toy at a time and ask them to put it in the bin. When they complied, we praised them up and down. We did this with our bath toys as well. "Wow, what a good helper you are! You just put the toy in the bin!" The boys would be so proud and would be eager to show us how well they could do it.

After a time, we didn't have to do as much shuffling and handing them each toy. Now, we say, "Alright, let's put our toys in the bin! It's time to clean up!" and they understand the concept enough to grab a few toys and put them away.

Now, let me encourage you. They say we should expect a 60% accuracy at this age. That's just a little more than half the time. So when the boys are being too difficult, I let it go. It's not that big of a deal. I do what I can with what I have. It's not worth a power struggle every time. I just want them to understand the concept.

But this is transferring to other parts of our day. If they spill some Cheerios onto the table (because they were dumping their bowl when they shouldn't have been,) I calmly say, "Uh oh. Let's put the Cheerios back in the bowl." And they usually will do just that. When they used to do this, I would panic and let a fast experated "Uhhhhhhh!! Oh, no!!!" I found that the boys would smear the mess with their hands in a panic. This, obviously, created three times the initial mess. So what I've been trying to do is stay calm. Acknowledge the spill. And then teach them how to react appropriately.
I always have wipes handy, so when something spills (because it usually is an accident - c'mon, they're 18 months old!) I give them a wipe and ask them to clean the table. And do you know what? They love it. It's a fun activity for them! I don't mind when I see the boys with a clean tissue or a clean wipe, ready to rip it into shreds. I let them. That's 15 minutes of pure quiet for me and entertainment for them! Talk about cause and effect! But when they're done, they know what it means when mommy says, "Jonathan, can you put those pieces into the bowl?" He grabs the bowl and begins his routine of putting them IN the bowl, dumping it and retrieving them all and putting them back inside. It's a game. (In all honesty, this activity usually lasts for about 3-4 rounds and finishes with mommy picking up all of the pieces. But hey, he got the concept! We just have to work on when he's finished with the cycle ;)

Jonathan had the time of his life ripping up the papertowel and throwing them around the kitchen yesterday. 

But when it was time to clean up, I gave him a bowl and he entered the next part of the activity: cleaning it up. (Note: this process usually works easier and for longer periods of time with Jonathan than Benjamin ;) I'm thinking it has a lot to do with temperment and personality.

I've already seen hints of power struggles, battles of will and clashes of determination. Ben has a few tantrums every day (and 90% of them are when I won't let him touch the computer keyboard, have my cell phone or play with my camera!) I don't want to frustrate my boys into feeling like they have no control over their world. There are so many things that ARE out of their control... where we go, when we leave, what they're allowed to touch, getting their diaper changed... so I try and give them areas that really aren't a big deal so they can have a certain amount of power and control.

Having kids is a lot of work. Diapers, making meals, and coming up with fun activities while also trying to keep our house in order? Not easy. So I think it makes perfect sense to help teach my boys where they can help. After all, they're usually the ones who messed it up in the first place! :) We're a work in progress. But I believe this is a step in the right direction (if not just for my own sanity!)


Pork Chops with Pears

And thus begins another week of new recipes in the Sauer household. My husband is in HEAVEN!

This recipe caught my eye because of how simple it was. And it really was. The brown sugar and pears really gave it a nice flavor. My picture doesn't look half as nice as the one in the Taste of Home magazine (Thanksgiving 2010 holiday issue, page 5,) mostly because I had forgotten to take a picture ahead of time. My poor husband had to transfer his half-eaten pork chop to another dish to spoon a new one into his, then make his spinach and carrots look like he hadn't touched them. What a guy.
Pork Chops with Pears
1-15 oz. can pear halves
6 bone-in pork chops (3/4” thick)
3 T. butter
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. prepared mustard
Drain pears, reserving the juice; cut pears into slices and set aside. In a large skillet, brown the pork chops in butter. Transfer to a greased 9x13” baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and reserved pear juice. Pour over chops; top with pear slices. Bake, uncovered, at 350˚ for 40-45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160˚. Yield: 6 servings.


Smokin' Filled Chicken Breasts

Okay, this has been my absolute FAVORITE one this week. You wouldn't believe the flavor in the cream cheese mixture! The Adobo seasoning plus the scallions give it such a rich taste. I like it even more than Chicken Cordon Bleu! I served it with asparagus, making it one of my favorite meals yet. The original recipe called for "1 tablespoon of minched chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce" but I replaced it with the Adobo seasoning and some pepper since I didn't have any. They also called for "1 cup panko - Japanese bread crumbs" but I simply used regular seasoned bread crumbs. Lastly, it called for cooked ham, but I just used 5 slices of deli ham that I chopped into little squares. Delicious! (Taken from the Taste of Home magazine, August/September 2010, page 24.)

Smokin’-Philled Chicken Breasts

1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ c. smoked ham, cooked and finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 T. Adobo seasoning
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. paprika
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 oz. each)
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
¼ c. canola oil

In a small bowl, combine the first six ingredients; set aside. Cut a pocket in the thickest part of each chicken breast; fill with cream cheese mixture. Secure with toothpicks. Place the flour, egg and bread crumbs in three separate shallow bowls. Coat chicken with flour, the dip in egg mixture and coat with crumbs. In a large skillet, brown chicken in oil; transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400˚ for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 170˚. Discard toothpicks before serving.

Fire Island Ziti

Another great one from the Taste of Home (August/September 2010 issue, page 46.) The secret is in those roasted tomatoes... absolutely delicious! You'll notice that I used penne pasta rather than ziti, just because that's my husband's favorite and that's what I had in my cupboard :) I thought my husband would get a speeding ticket on the way home when I heard I was making this! Don't worry. He didn't.

Fire Island Ziti

2 lbs. plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1# ziti
2 c. fresh broccoli florets
1# Italian sausage links, cut into ½” slices
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 c. grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Toss the tomatoes with 2 T. oil, garlic and salt. Place cut side down in a 15x10” baking pan. Bake at 450˚ for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Chop when cool enough to handle (keep the skins.) Cook ziti according to package directions, adding broccoli during the last 4 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage in remaining oil until no longer pink. Add pepper flakes; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in tomatoes and heat through. Drain ziti mixture and add a little salt; toss with sausage mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

This was another new recipe I tried this week and with success! I did make some minor adjustments to the original recipe, though. The original called for FOUR cans of kidney beans, which just proved to be too much; they also called for just one package of turkey sausage but next time, I'll be adding two. It's a lot like jambalaya. A great fast and delicious meal! I just cut it all up and throw it in the CrockPot. That's it! (Taken from the Taste of Home magazine, August/September 2010, page 59.)

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

2-16 oz. cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
2-14 oz. pkgs. smoked turkey sausage, sliced
1 c. chicken broth
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 green onions, chopped
Hot cooked brown rice (about 4 cups)

In a 4-qt. slow cooker, combine the first 11 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until heated through. Stir before serving. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle each serving with onions. Serve with rice.


An Unexpected Reunion

It was November 6, 2008. Andy and I had just shared the news of our pregnancy with our families three weeks before and were anxious for the sonogram to be sure everything was alright to announce it to everyone! We arrived for our appointment early with the hopes that we would be able to get in and out within a good amount of time. We both took a half-day at work and were planning on returning by 12pm.

And I am sooo grateful Andy was with me.

My OB told me to drink a lot of water and not to empty my bladder before they my appointment, to ensure as much movement as possible. Sounds easy enough. Except when you're pregnant, you've got to empty your bladder every 15 minutes anyway... plug into that all of that extra water and you've got ONE FULL BLADDER! We sat in the chairs and I could have sworn that I was seeing stars. I really had to go to the bathroom.

There was another couple waiting in the seats next to us. It was their first pregnancy as well. We chatted for a few minutes (or as much as I could even concentrate, thinking only of holding it in!) and became excited about their parenting journey as well. The other couple went inside for their ultrasound and we waited outside. A few minutes later, we heard some very excitable screams coming from the other room. A few moments later, they called my OB in and there were more "Oh my gosh"es and "I can't believe it"s. They were having twins.

We congratulated the happy couple on their way out, still in complete shock. They had absolutely NO idea. "Maybe YOU'RE having twins, too!" the secretary teased. "Haha," we laughed, "wouldn't that be funny? No, we only heard one heartbeat three weeks ago. It's just one." Still, we all laughed in the excitement of their news and wondered if not just for a moment what it would have been like if we were to have two babies.

Thankfully, I forgot about my bladder in all of the confusion and I gratefully stepped up on the table for my sonogram. We were soooo excited! We knew it would have been too early to tell the sex at 12 weeks, but we secretly hoped that it miiiight have been even the tiniest bit possible. The girl took the cold jelly and rubbed it over my abdomen with her little wand. Not too hard, I thought, or I'm not gonna be able to hold it! I braced myself for my first look at this little one growing inside of me. I blinked at the screen above me and saw a tiny white peanut against the black background. Then all of a sudden, the sonographer pulled back the wand in a panic.

Oh, no. What's wrong? This is NOT something you want to see when you're the one on the table.

I looked at my husband, who seemed to have frozen. Andy's eyes opened wide. He looked at her, at the screen and then me. Oh, gosh. What are they seeing that I'm not? "Is everything okay?" I asked, very scared and nervous for the reply.

"Did you see that?" she asked.

I didn't know who she was talking to, but I definitely had no idea what she was talking about! "What?" I asked. And then remembering the little episode earlier, I joked, "What, are there two?" The sarcasm in my voice was pretty thick, but my smile quickly faded as I saw her blank look stare at me in disbelief and shake her head. Yes.

What? TWINS?

She brought the wand back to my belly and began scanning back and forth. "At first I thought it was stuck on the images from the mom before you!" she laughed. We were all in shock. I don't think I said anything for the first few seconds. I just froze in time, my jaw had fallen to the ground and I think I lost a little control of my bladder. Andy, of course, was jumping up and down. Never had he felt so masculine :)

Benjamin David (L) and Jonathan Andrew (R) in utero, 12 weeks gestation, 11/6/08

What followed then was a whirlwind of activity. I cried, I laughed, I pictured myself huge and pregnant. Thank God, I didn't faint. My OB came running in, the receptionists congratulated us, wanting to see the images for themselves and then we heard words like "high risk" and "not working after 20 weeks." My mind was spinning.

Wait. We're having TWO?

The sonographer joked that, in retrospect, she thought my belly looked a little big for 12 weeks when I first came in. Gosh, how was I supposed to know? I had never been pregnant before! :)

As we left the office, I made a wooooonderful trip to the bathroom and we laughed with the other nurses. We wanted them to be sure to tell that other couple and letting them know that we, in fact, WERE having twins as well! (I do feel a little sorry for the couple that came in after us. I think everyone scared them into believing they were having two too!)

It's been almost two years and we never tire of telling that story. Such a great story, with so much drama and excitement. I wish I would have gotten my parent's reaction on camera when we told them we were having twins. I still get the chills, just thinking about it, allowing them to read the labels "Baby A" and "Baby B" in utter confusion... and then sheer JOY when they got it. A day I'll never forget.

My OB said he told that other couple our story, but I always wondered how she made out. I didn't know her name, her due date or anything about them. I never thought I ever would.

Fast forward almost two years. October 24, 2010. My boys are almost 18 months old.

I joined the Mothers of Twins Club of Buffalo this spring and went to my first gettogether this past weekend. It was a Halloween party at Sue O's house about 15 minutes from ours. I dressed the boys up in costumes (they were monkeys - Jack is "Monkey See" and Ben is "Monkey Do" ;) and Andy came with me to help manage all of the food and fun.

Andy with Ben (and his notorious 'cheesy face')

Me and Jack, my pensive and thoughtful toddler. He really was having a good time! Perhaps I should have waited a few more minutes for them to get situated before snapping the photo :)

We visited with the other parents for a while before Andy said, "Min, I remember why that couple looks so familiar. They're the couple that found out they were having twins the same day as us!"

Oh, my gosh. Sue looked familiar to me when I had first met her a few weeks ago, but I would have NEVER put it together if Andy hadn't remembered it himself! I called Sue over and we laughed about the story, retelling it to anyone that would listen, and then compared notes. Her twin girls were born May 12th, exactly one week after Jack and Ben. No. Way.

I had to take a picture of the family to commemorate the day. It seriously was the highlight of my weekend.

Sue and Danny with their little penguins :)

What a small world.

Who would have ever thought? We serve a good, good God. Praise the Lord!

Hamburger Noodle Bake

Here's another good one! I got it from my Taste of Home magazine, August/September 2010 issue, page 43. I'm making some minor adjustments to the recipe, but it's still essentially the same thing. I doubled it to suit our needs and thought it would be better with more green peppers. I also forgot to take a picture, but I'm sure I'll be making it again in the near future! If you get super curious, I could scan the photo from my magazine; I'm just feeling a little too tired at the moment ;)

Hamburger Noodle Bake

1 bag egg noodles
1# lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 medium onion, chopped
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. cream-style cottage cheese
4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef, onion and green pepper until meat is no longer pink; drain. Remove from the heat; stir in the tomato sauce, sugar, salt, garlic salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the cottage cheese, green onion and sour cream. Drain noodles; place half of the noodles in a greased baking pan. Spoon half of beef mixture over the top. Layer with cottage cheese mixture and remaining noodles. Top with remaining beef mixture; sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese. Cover and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.
I'm making a few other new recipes this week from that same issue, so I'll be sure to keep you posted. My husband is LOVING this!


Mexican Lasagna

It's been more than a week that Andy and I have foregone fast food. And do you know what? We're doing great!

This has forced me to be more intentional about meals. I have to pack my husband's lunch the night before. I have to set out our breakfast. I have to bring a sandwich with me when I'm on the road. I have to know what I'm making for dinner the night before. And I have to start our dinner during the boys' nap. That's a lot of have tos, I know. But I cannot even begin to explain how much easier it is when it's all planned out!

Now that we're not snacking as much as before, we're HUNGRY when it's time for supper! So I like to have it (mostly) ready when Andy comes home. Doing it while the boys nap is the easiest solution for me. My toddlers love to watch me cook, but it's not always realistic to have four little arms grabbing at the stove or the large butcher knife when you're trying to put it all together. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather relax, blog, or do crafts during their nap. But we've decided that eating well is a priority for our family, so this is what I've decided to do. I prep it in the afternoon, then set it aside. If it's a CrockPot meal, it's a no-brainer. But if it's something that goes in the oven, I just watch the time and it only takes a moment to preheat the oven and pop my ready-to-go dish inside. When Andy comes home, I finish working on the sides and dinner's on the table 15 minutes later!

Here's a favorite I made last night. A real winner. Andy's eating the leftovers for lunch today.

Mexican Lasagna

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. can petite-cut diced tomatoes
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
1-4 oz. can diced mild green chilies
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
*8 oz. sour cream
*1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
*flour tortillas, large package
Brown beef and onion in pan, then drain grease. Add all but starred ingredients. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Place ¼ cup of meat mixture in 9x13” pan. Reserve ½ cup of meat mixture. Cover with tortillas, then meat, then cheese. Repeat until finished (about three layers). Before adding last layer of tortillas, spread with sour cream. Put on last layer of tortillas and place reserved sauce of tortillas. Bake at 350* for 25-35 minutes.
I also made peas and green beans with it and my boys seemed to enjoy that along with the cooked tortillas!

Now, if I can only lay off the Halloween candy, I might be losing a little more weight... ;)


Goodbye, McDonalds. We're No Longer Friends.

I love watching my screensaver since I programmed it to go through my picture album. I just love pictures. Especially of my boys' first year! I hardly recognize those small little bodies we took home from the hospital a year and a half ago. And those photos of their first taste of baby food, teeth and steps are so precious.

I melted in front of the computer watching these photos on Saturday when a photo of my husband and I flashed on the screen. We were dating. We looked fantastic. Honestly, it was only four years ago, but there was something completely different about us.  

Andy and I at the Labor Day Fair in September 2006 (that's Diet Coke in his hand ;)

Oh, yeah. We were THIN.

When I met Andy, I was working full-time, eating well and working out three times a week. My hair was super long and I hadn't bitten my fingernails in almost a year. After all, I had to be ready for when Mr. Right came my way! And thankfully, I was!

I showed my husband the photo when he got home and we agreed. It was time to do something about our weight.

We have been doing well with our little 15-minute focus cleaning time. Now we were ready to add something else to our plate. We decided that we would make ONE change together. Focus on that change for a week and if we were ready, add something else the next week. This philosophy had worked well with getting our house back in order, so we knew we could do it. The fact that we would be doing it together would help give us the motivation we needed to keep on going. We talked about our biggest downfall. For both of us, it was fast-food.

It has become sooo easy for me to stop by Tim Hortons on the way to the grocery store for some root beer and (aw, what the heck,) I'll get three Timbits, too. Or how about those afternoons after MOPS where I drive around while the boys sleep? Want some McDonald's? Don't mind if I do! Add this to the fact that it's all within reach of a comfortable drive-up window while the boys are in the back seat and you've got a recipe for disaster! Or at least that little pack I've been sporting on my tummy. I can't blame it on the c-section or even those extra 1,000 calories I can no longer consume because of breast feeding. That little pack was from my fast-food obsession.

My husband said he is so lethargic at the end of the day because he would have to stop for quick lunch during work. I was too lazy to make his lunch the night before, leaving him to fend for himself. Now that we were being productive for a little bit each evening, I was making him lunches. This seemed managable.

We started on Sunday after having this conversation on Saturday night. We weighed ourselves in the morning to give us a starting point (just because I knew I'd lose weight by not getting McDonalds every few days!) Monday was the first real test, though.

Now, in order to give up our quick lunches, we had to plan ahead. Have breakfast at home - cereal or a bagel - and then have a bagged lunch ready to go. I do that for him at night and also make myself a sandwich for that next day. Then I also have to have a plan ready (or already begun) for dinner because by the time he comes home, we're both hungry! For those days when I have MOPS, I have to pack a sandwich for myself so I'm not tempted to stop.

And do you want to know what? It's making a difference!

I haven't weighed myself since Sunday morning, but I feel lighter. My tummy is shrinking and that little pack isn't as noticeable! We have more energy throughout the day, rather than feeling sluggish and tired. It's only been FIVE DAYS and we're already seeing a difference!

Just goes to show you. If you take ONE thing at a time and don't bite off more than you can chew (pun intended ;) you really can make BIG changes! Good thing we started this week, too. McDonalds just started playing Monopology again!! That would have packed on an additional five pounds, no problem! :)


Monte Cristos

I know, I've been posting a lot of recipes lately. But with the busyness of the autumn season as well as preparations for upcoming holidays, I thought this was a perfect one to share! Well, that and I made it for dinner last night :)

Monte Cristos are the perfect breakfast-dinner. It's French toast with a kick: Swiss cheese, turkey, bologna and ham. My mom used to make these all the time on the weekends and now I enjoy making it for my family in a pinch. It's a hearty sandwich where you can add as much or as little as you'd like. Here's how...

Monte Cristos
8 slices of bread
8 slices of Swiss cheese
4 slices of bologna, turkey and/or ham
3 eggs
2 T. milk
maple syrup
Build your sandwich with the cold cuts. I like putting a piece of Swiss cheese at each end so it holds the sandwich together: bread, cheese, ham, turkey, bologna, cheese and bread. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together eggs, milk and a few sprinkles of cinnamon. Add salt and pepper to taste. When your griddle is warm and greased, drop each sandwich in the egg batter - both sides - and then put on the griddle. Flip when the side is lightly browned. Serve warm and with maple syrup. Makes 4 sandwiches.


Many Hands Make Light Work

When Daddy comes home from work, it's a whirlwind of activity until it's time to put the boys down. Having only two hours a night with them, my husband treasures that time and seeks to put as much energy into his kids as he possibly can. I love it. Watching those three wrestle and hear their giggles makes my heart weld up with pride. They play while I make dinner, then we eat, clean up, give baths, read books, say our prayers and then it's off to bed!

I work hard all day - Andy does, too - but somehow, those last two hours seem the most taxing. For both of us. By the time we lay them in their cribs, all my husband and I want to do is fall on our bed in complete exhaustion and do nothing for the rest of the night. And that's exactly what we had been doing for quite some time. We'd go numb in front of the television and feel guilty for not doing something more productive.

This became a problem. You see, our boys go down at 7:30pm. That's a whole lot of time we're wasting by simply relaxing night after night after night. It's difficult to get much of anything done during the day while caring for my two busy toddlers. By choosing to relax the entire 11 hours while they slept through the night, my house got more and more messy, more chaotic, and I didn't even know where to start in getting it back together. My mood changed. I ate a lot of chocolate. I felt overwhelmed, discouraged and that I had gotten myself in too deep to recover.

So I did what any good wife does. I vented to my husband.

Now, girls. When you vent to your husband, be prepared to receive a solution. That's how our men were built: to solve problems. They don't enjoy seeing you suffer. They are wired to help. And thank God, my husband delivered when I needed it most.

We came up with a plan that involved both of us working together to help keep our house under control. Doing a little bit each day. And it's making a HUGE difference!

I am so grateful for a supportive husband! Here he is sharing a gentle moment with Ben (foreground) and Jack (on his shoulder.) I just love my boys!

When we put the boys down, my husband and I each work for about 10-15 minutes on anything constructive in the house. We're waiting for the boys to soothe themselves to sleep, so we try not to make a lot of noise by walking through our small two-bedroom apartment. But it's not difficult finding quiet things to do on that side of the house! We'll put some clothes away, open the mail, organize some papers in our bedroom, fold a pile of laundry or clean up the bathroom. We found that the progress we were making was intoxicating. Motivating. We'd finish a project and then look to find something else. We felt proud to have completed TWO things and so we searched out another. Night after night, we'd conquer a tiny piece of our world within that small amount of time and in turn, we wanted to be more productive again during the day. Now, I can get small projects ready when the boys are awake, knowing I will have some time to finish it in the evening. And the best part of this plan? My husband and I are working together!

It's so much more motivating to see progress happening when there are two people working on it!

"Many hands make light work," is a theme resonating with me after Mindy Mancuso spoke at our MOPS meeting this past week about that exact thing. It doesn't take a huge commitment. Start small. Do what you can. Talk to your spouse when you get overwhelmed and then take his suggestions. And trust me, those little things will make a HUGE difference.


Pasta con Broccoli

This is another very easy dish we enjoy any time of year! I make it when I didn't thaw out any meat ahead of time and I only have about 15 minutes before I'd like to have dinner on the table. It's sooo easy!
Pasta con Broccoli
1" pasta (penne and spaghetti are my favorites)
1 large bag of frozen broccoli
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
olive oil

Boil pasta according to package instructions. When it's finished, add the frozen broccoli to the water and let it cook a little longer (3-4 minutes) until tender. Then strain the pasta along with the broccoli. Put it in a larger bowl, tossing with some parmesan cheese and a few sprinkles of olive oil. Add salt to season, if you desire.
If you have some extra time, you could try adding chicken, sausage, or even sun-dried tomatoes. But this is just how my boys like it. So simple and so delicious.


Adventures in Vacationing

My husband and I just returned with our boys from our first ever family vacation. The destination? Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was absolutely wonderful. The weather was beautiful, the boys were fantastic and everything went exactly as planned.

Welllllll, almost.

Being a former teacher, I like to plan. Perhaps over-plan. I can't help it! I believe it's my way of subconsciously compensating for the fact that I canNOT think on my toes. When an emergency arrises, I can respond rationally only if I am the only one expected to have an answer. Otherwise, my mind goes blank. I admire the fact that my husband can do this and does it extremely well. We make a good team. I plan it all, then he fixes it when it doesn't go that way ;)

I really wish we didn't need to test our ability to work as a team on the first day of vacation, though.

We arrived at the resort about 7:30pm. The boys did pretty well on the airplane, but were beginning to give us a countdown of their good behavior after getting the rental car, picking up some baby gear from a friend, driving more than an hour and then picking up some take-out from an Italian restaurant. We got to the front of the gated community with our rental car packed high with luggage and Italian food, and gave the woman our name. "Hi, we're the Sauers," we told her. We even spelled it. Our friend had reserved everything for us to stay for ten days. We just give them our name, they give us our ticket and it's off to paradise. But as the girl looked through the reserved tickets, she seemed confused. "S'cuse me," she said, "what was the name?" We spelled it again. She sorted through the reserved tags a few times and shook her head no. "Maybe it's under my maiden name," I suggested. My family had rented this villa for years from a friend; perhaps she forgot and saved it under that name. No. It wasn't there.

Perhaps we should have turned around then.

Thankfully, I had our friend's number in my cell phone and thankfully, she answered. "Ohmygosh," she belched, "I forgot to make the reservation! I'm so sorry!" You just can't be mad at someone who apologizes to you in a sweet southern accent. I handed the phone to the female guard who emerged from the door a few moments later with a tag that read our name. Phew. Problem averted. Relieved, we continued toward the house, anxious to eat our Italian then give the boys a bath and usher them off to bed.

Ben in front of our villa, the one on the left - paradise!

The boys were exhausted. And hungry. So we decided that I would begin to feed them their dinner while Andy brought all of the luggage into the house. The boys were excited about their new surroundings, so I'd load bites of spaghetti into their mouths as they continued to run throughout the house, room to room, exploring their new digs for the week. Andy made about four trips bringing everything into the house. Suitcases, two playpens, two umbrella strollers and all of our carryons. He unloaded the fresh milk we had bought in the refrigerator and our ice packs in the freezer. The poor guy was exhausted.

We sat down to eat together when Andy started itching his ankles. Between bites, he'd itch. Then he went white. "Min, did you see that?" he asked, with a panicked look. I looked at his ankles and noticed these tiny, black bugs that appeared to jump when you got close. No. It can't be. But could it? Then, there was no denying it.

They were fleas.

It was 8:30pm at this point, an hour past the boys' normal bedtime. My only thought was getting these boys to bed. "We can't stay here," Andy said. "We're gonna get eaten alive!" I still couldn't wrap my mind about what was happening or what we should do from there. We were going to be here for ten days. We were going to go swimming. Sit at the beach. Go out for dinner every night. Fleas were not part of the plan! Where's that easy button? The one where we push it and everything just falls into place? This is NOT what I had pictured. This is NOT how it was supposed to go down.

Once Andy was confident they were fleas (and after I noticed some of them on my babies' NECKS,) I was on board to leave. Thank GOD my husband could think clearly and sprung into action. We called our friend - who was completely humiliated over something she had no control over - and plugged in the nearest hotel into our GPS. I made a few calls and tried to keep the boys off the floor while Andy lugged eeeeeeeverything back into the car. Ten minutes later, we were on our way to the Holiday Inn Express. We gladly put $89.95 room fee on our credit card and hoped this was the last bit of excitement for the day.

Apparently, our friend's daughter stayed in the villa all summer. She and her boyfriend's dog. They hadn't realized he had fleas, but I guess our timing was perfect to come and discover all of the newly hatched babies. Lucky for us.

I'll spare you the ugly details about how Andy and I were at eachother's throats, trying to manage in our own ways. He wanted to go to Home Depot to get an extermination bomb-kit for fleas and I wanted to go straight to the hotel... boys were screaming... yeah, it got a little ugly. But thank God, we made it.

The boys didn't go down until after 10pm that night (where we used another mattress to shield their playpens from our bed so they wouldn't see us and go down on their own) but at least we had a comfortable bed to sleep in. The room even had a refrigerator for the boys' milk! After a good night's rest, we took showers and felt a lot better. We unplugged the phone for Ben while Jack occupied himself with the remote. They never knew this wasn't part of the plan. They were having the time of their lives! Our stay even included a nice breakfast in the morning and the boys enjoyed their food as well as mingling (or flirting) with the southern locals.

Andy met the Orkin man there around noon. We were soooo grateful our friend acted quickly in getting someone to exterminate the place and verify that they were, in fact, fleas. So after the boys woke up from their nap and we made a trip to the grocery store, we were back in the villa by dinnertime that same day.

Me, Ben, Jack and Andy for our traditional tree portrait (thanks for the self-timer and a steady branch!)

All in all, everything worked out just fine. But man, what a way to start your vacation! It just goes to show you... it's good to plan, when it doesn't work out, be sure you have a quick-thinking husband, a GPS, a cell phone and a credit card to dig yourself out of trouble!

Thankfully, that was all the drama we had during our stay. We relaxed, enjoyed the time with the boys, and soaked up all the sun we could. It really was my favorite vacation yet. Well, if don't count the first two days, of course ;)