Book Review: Eat, Nap, Play

I am happy to be hosting the very first (official) book review on my blog!  I recently received a copy of the book Eat, Nap, Play to review here as a part of TLC Book Tours.  Co-authored by Robyn Spizman and Evelyn Sacks, Eat, Nap, Play promises to show readers "how to get even more out of your child's day for less."

I was intrigued by the book's claim to show creative ways to find fun in day-to-day life.  Although most of our days still revolve around a predictable schedule right now, I realize there will come a day when we can loosen the daily routine and begin to shake things up a little.  Reflecting on this book reminded me that some of my favorite childhood memories are of the times when we did things on the spur-of-the-moment (once, it was so spur-of-the-moment that we got to an amusement park an hour and a half away before my mom realized I didn't have on shoes!).  My mom is not the creative, crafty-type, but she did come up with some fun activities...and it's the unexpected, yet not extravagant moments that stand out the most.  That's what I want for my girls as well...having fun and making memories together all the time, not just on the weekends or while we're on vacation.

At times, it felt as though this book was a little scattered, perhaps trying to include too many different things, and they don't all clearly tie into the main premise of getting more out of your child's day.  For example, there are some good tips on the sections about budgeting at the grocery store and swapping/bartering, but these topics don't really seem to fit with the overall theme of maximizing your child's day while spending less.

On the other hand, though, I do see the value in this statement from the first chapter:  "By teaching children that the lasting value is in the time we spend, not the money, we are teaching skills for a lifetime."  That, I can agree with wholeheartedly.

If I were to pick up Eat, Nap, Play in the store, it would be for the tips on how to find fun in the daily activities, where we sometimes find ourselves just going through the motions.  In that area, this book did provide some good suggestions.  There are ideas for games to play in the car, suggestions to make a regular weeknight dinner more special, and cheap and easy activities for parents to share with our kids.  There is a good section on creative and inexpensive birthday parties, and a section on how to give gifts without necessarily spending money out of pocket.  Most of the suggestions apply to older children, but I will certainly be bookmarking some for future use.  Eat, Nap, Play also includes a long list of online resources, many of which I am eager to check out.

A couple of my favorite suggestions from the book...
--Have an indoor picnic.  Growing up, my sister and I often ate in the living room.  But how much more fun would it be to throw down a blanket, pack a basket of food, and have a picnic in the living room, the hallway, or even the front porch?
--Instead of investing lots of money in extracurricular lessons, think about a high school or college student who can teach your child new skills.  There are so many options for this scenario:  sports, music, art, dance, etc.  A lot of high school students I know would be thrilled to earn a few extra bucks a week for teaching little ones to dribble a basketball or perform a school cheer.  Cheap entertainment is always a plus!

Best of all, this book reminded me to think outside the box when it comes to entertaining my girls in the upcoming years. It's not about the money you spend or the places you go; it's about making your time together special and having fun in whatever the day brings.

What are some of your favorite ways to make an ordinary day a little more fun? Any related childhood memories?  I'm always interested in new ideas for activities to do together as my girls grow!


Dear Avent, It's Over

Dear Avent,

This is a difficult thing to say (it's not...I'm totally lying), but our time together has come to an end.  It's been a lovely twelve-and-a-half months, and except for the occasional leakage, you have served us well. 

Avent, we have spent a lot of time together over this last year.  You've been right there when we needed you, eight times a day in the beginning, through all the late nights and early mornings.  I'm sure you noticed we've gradually spent less and less time together, but that's just a part of life. 

I hope you weren't too hurt that I cheered on the day Addison and Mackenzie learned to hold you and feed themselves.  It's not that I wanted to get away from you, it was just nice to have a hand free every once in awhile.  As much as we loved you, it sure was hard to hold two bottles at once!

As important as you've been in our day-to-day lives, the time has come for us to go our separate ways.  Don't bother begging me to take you back; I'm ready to reclaim my counter space.  If it's any comfort--it's not you, Avent; it's me. 

Someone else has come into our lives.  His name is Nuby, and he comes with a straw.  I figured it was better to tell you now, before you heard it from someone else.

Thanks for the memories, Avent.  I'm sure there's another baby out there waiting for you somewhere. 

The H. Family


Friday Five

Some bits of randomness for Friday morning...
  1. I think I've mentioned before that one of the awesome perks of my job is a conference at the beach every year.  Usually, I attend the conference in late October (a recap of last year's trip is here).  This year, though, we have switched things around, and it seems we will be going in mid-May.  As in, next month!  This was just decided last week, so surprise!  Nealy last-minute vacation for us!  I am very excited, and enjoying a few weeks of pre-vacation dreaming.  We booked a condo at an amazing new resort, and we're finalizing the other details quickly.  I know the girls won't hold out for laying on the beach or by the pool all day, but I'm looking forward to a nice, relaxing week away.
  2. Tickets to our first Braves game of the year are on their way!  Turns out, we will be going to Atlanta for the game the Saturday before we go to the beach.  That might just be the best week ever.
  3. Addison and Mackenzie will likely be spending that Saturday night with their grandparents (Jeremy's parents).  The Braves game doesn't start until late, then we will have a 3-hour drive home when it's over.  So.....I guess my girlies will be spending their first official night away from home (they spent one night at my mom's while we were moving, but that almost doesn't count because we stayed there a lot during that time).  I don't know how to feel about that yet, but I'm handling it.  The upside is that we will get to sleep LATE on Sunday morning.  Maybe even until 9 o'clock, if I can last that long!  : )  After that, the plan is to let the girls spend the afternoon with my family while we pack for our trip.  We are planning to leave sometime after midnight like we did last time, in hopes that A & M will sleep like little angels until we get there.
  4. Enough about vacation.  Hypothetically, if I were to dream about bloggers, would it mean I'm spending too much time online?  Because, hypothetically, I might have dreamed that Marcia came to the U.S. for a visit.  It was pretty random, but hey, I'm ready to meet all of you blog-friends, so bring it on!
  5. We are expecting a major round of thunderstorms and severe weather to move through our area tomorrow.  I can't help thinking that before my girls were born, I would be spending tomorrow curled up on the couch with a good book and a few movies to watch.  I probably wouldn't even change out of my pajamas.  I can sometimes get a little wistful for those relaxing days of no responsibility, no worrying about anyone's needs but my own.  Why didn't I slow down and enjoy those days a little more?  Oh, wait, it's because before you have kids, you can't fully grasp how much they will change your life.  Yes, we all knew life would change once we were responsible for another human being (or two, three, etc.)...but there's really no way to get it until it happens!  Ah, but on the bright side, I get to watch my babies laugh, climb, crawl, and tackle their dad all day tomorrow...that's what really makes life sweet, not being lazy on the couch.  Maybe, if I'm lucky, Addison or Mackenzie will snuggle up with me for a long afternoon nap.
Happy Friday!

(Check out A & M's one-year pictures on my photographer-friend Ashley's website!  Aren't they great?)



When we decided to use our tax refund to buy stainless appliances for the new house, I knew going in that the fingerprints would probably drive me insane.  I told myself I wouldn't let it bother me too much, and when I got too crazy over it, I'd just pull out the Windex and wipe it down.  (Ha!  Who has time to do that 15 times a day?)

To be honest, I thought Jeremy would be the one leaving prints all over...every time he opened the refrigerator or the dishwashwer, I just knew there would be new smudges everywhere.  Men don't usually pay a whole lot of attention to things like not wiping their fingers across the refrigerator door,  you know!

What I didn't consider was the smudges these two little-bitty girls would leave ALL OVER the bottom of all three appliances.  They love to sit in the kitchen floor and play, and they can't resist kissing their reflections in the surface of the fridge.  And you know what?  It just doesn't bother me all that much that my dishwasher looks like this:


All too soon, those smudges will begin to move higher up, as they learn to stand, then open the fridge or the dishwasher to find what they're looking for.  Then, I can teach them how to Windex away their own fingerprints! 

I have many, many things to focus on that are so much more important than the streaks on my kitchen appliances.  For now, I find this little handprint kind of endearing.  I might even think it's sort of cute.



The Skirt

Do y'all ever shop at thrift stores?  My family has a serious thrifting habit.  My mom can't pass up a secondhand store without seeing what they might have to offer...it's always something we "need," of course!  I like to look for name-brand clothes in thrift stores.  At regular retail prices, Gap is about as "designer" as I can afford to buy.  In a thrift store, though, I can sometimes get lucky and find some pretty upscale pieces in good condition. 

About an hour away, just over the Tennessee state line, is the best Goodwill store I have ever found.  I don't know why it's different, but it is.  It's huge and they have lots of high-quality, name-brand clothes for CHEAP.  About two years ago, I lucked up one day and found several pieces at this Goodwill.  One item was a black and white paisley-print skirt that I loved at first sight.  I don't know the label offhand, but it was a well-made piece, you could tell.  It was my size-though I can vary greatly between about 3 sizes, depending on the way clothes are made.  Of course, I snapped up the skirt.  I think I paid $3.00 for it.

When I tried on the skirt at home, it would not button.  Darn those "designer" clothes that run smaller than the brands I normally wear!  (Also, I have NO waist or hips whatsoever...I'm straight from the ribs down to my thighs, so that doesn't help matters any.)  I just loved the skirt though, and at the time, I knew I could stand to lose a few pounds.  I held onto it, telling myself that one of these days I'd fit in that skirt. 

It has come with me to all three houses we've lived in over the past two years, taking up space in my closet, waiting for me to be ready for it.  I purged a lot of clothes from my extensive collection during our move in December, but not the skirt.  I just couldn't give it away.

Tuesday morning, I didn't want to waste my freshly-shaved legs, so I started looking for a skirt or spring dress to wear to work.  I pulled out the black and white, paisley-print skirt and tried it on, just for fun.

Behold, the results....

The skirt that finally fits

Tuesday was a really good day.


The "B" Word

Oh, hello there!  Yes, I DO still have a blog!  I've been distracted by all the birthday hoopla, party preparations, and soaking up some extra family time.  The birthday was wonderful; everything turned out perfectly-great weather, good food, decorations that actually got put together...  It was definitely a success!  I can't wait to share pictures, but it will be a couple of weeks.  I hired a photographer to shoot at the party, so I wouldn't have to worry about getting pictures while trying to mingle and take care of things. 

Thanks for all the sweet birthday wishes for my girls, by the way!  I will have to show them one day how people from all over the world wished them a happy first birthday.  : )

Now, on to this "B" word.  No, it's not the one you might be thinking of, but it can be just as bad.  The "B" word on my mind right now is...Budget.  Budgeting happens to be one of my least favorite topics.  Just saying the word implies restrictions, cutbacks, and all sorts of not-fun things. 

One might think that we had to do some major number-crunching when we found out we were expecting twins.  While we did worry a little, especially at first, money actually hasn't been a huge factor up to this point.  Sure, we had the added cost of diapers and formula, clothes, toys, etc., which adds up quickly, but we were in a pretty comfortable position money-wise, so the added expenses didn't hurt too much.  (Some things that did help in this area, though, were Costco-brand formula and Luvs diapers...we saved big by only buying name-brand when they were on a major sale.)

When we decided to move, we knew we wanted a house that we could easily see ourselves in for a long time.  We realized that requirement might mean spending a little more than we had on our last house, but we felt we could comfortably manage it and that the extra cost would be worth it in the long run (especially if it means I don't have to move again for a loooooong time!).  We came up with a price range, and the house we ended up buying was at the top of that range.

A higher house payment combined with the loss of some part-time income for Jeremy means it's time to face that "B" word! 

Don't misunderstand...we are not in any way hurting for money or finding it difficult to pay our bills.  We were able to build up our savings account quite nicely with the income from the part-time job Jeremy had, and we have a rule against touching that money.  However, we realize that we waste A LOT of money each month, and in order to continue to build our savings the way we'd like, we need to get it under control. 

(Appropriately enough, our online bank account access has started keeping track of our spending on the main account page.  So when you log in, there is a big banner across the top, saying "Deanna, you have spent $_____ in the last sixty days."  Let me just tell you, between paying closing costs, new house expenses, and the purchases we made for the house while we didn't have a payment, that number has been plain SCARY!  Hopefully, it's on the way down.)

I have to admit, I'm actually kind of looking forward to working on our budget.  It's like a game, and this time I'm taking it seriously and challenging myself to find little changes that make a big difference.  It's silly, but in a way, thinking about budgeting and saving money makes me feel like I'm really a grown up!  (I know, shouldn't being a PARENT to two children do that??) 

I do use coupons and try to shop sales, but in all actuality I don't have the big time commitment that major couponing takes.  Plus, I'm limited on grocery stores here (Publix, how I miss you!!), so there aren't great sales most weeks.  So tell me, what are your best budgeting tips? What are the least-painful areas to cut expenses?



Dear Addison & Mackenzie,

This past Friday you turned a year old.  I spent a lot of time this year being emotional about how quickly the time was going by.  You are growing so fast, and time is passing faster than I ever knew was possible.  Each new milestone has been celebrated, but at the same time I have mourned that my tiny little babies are so quickly turning into big (little) girls.  Your actual birthday turned out to be not nearly as emotional as I thought it would be.  Instead of being sad about the loss of little-bitty, helpless newborns, I am now excited about my funny, sweet, and smart BIG GIRLS!  (Although I will remind you again, as I do every day, you will always be my babies, no matter how big you are.  That's just the way it works.)

Parents of multiples often say in retrospect that the first year is just about surviving.  That was absolutely true for about the first six months.  Those were hard months, full of lots of hard work and few rewards.  After that, though, it became more about enjoying you, watching you grow, and helping you learn new things.  Don't get me wrong...you two are still quite a handful and some days still count as a major success just because we all survived intact and relatively clean and well-fed.

You are both changing so quickly that it's hard to keep up sometimes.  At a year old, you are developing such funny little personalities, and we spend a lot of time thinking about what you might be like as you grow up.  Addison, you love to do things to make us laugh, then wrinkle up your nose and laugh along with us.  Your sweet, sweet smile never fails to melt my heart...and your daddy's too (you might want to keep that in mind for future use)!  You can't get enough of pat-a-cake, and you are always "loving" your babies or your sissy, giving them the sweetest hugs.  Your kisses for me and your daddy are much fewer, but when you do consent to offer a quick kiss, it's one of the best feelings ever.  You love to swing outside in our new backyard, and you have recently learned to point, which you think is the funniest thing ever.  Your teeth coming in cause you to chew your lips a lot, and when you show your tongue, you make the cutest little "monkey face."  More and more often lately, I catch you sitting quietly, holding an open book and studying the pictures.  As much as I love books, the sight of you beginning to notice yours absolutely thrills me, and I hope you and Mackenzie will develop a love for the written word like I did.


Mackenzie, you can be the most serious, solemn-looking baby one second, then break into an irresistable laugh in the next breath.  Your laugh is contagious and unrestrained, and it can heal even the worst day in an instant.  Your kisses flow freely, and you now love to "share" your paci with your daddy and me.  You love to play peek-a-boo, especially with your daddy, and you scream with delight when he hides his head under your towel after the bath.  Right now, we are working on teaching you not to hide your face when we say, "Where's Addison?".  You never hesitate to show us your tongue, and you have some pretty rockin' dance moves when you play your musical toys.  You love to play ball, and I swear you understand the concept of rolling it back and forth to us already.  Your sports-fanatic daddy is very excited by your early athletic abilities, and he's hoping we might possibly have a future ball player on our hands.


You each have three teeth on bottom, and you're working on five top ones as well.  Watching you use those teeth to actually chew your food, like the real little people you are becoming, still cracks me up.  You both pull up to stand with ease, and this month you have started cruising along the furniture.  You are getting fast at scooting along, and that's making me a little nervous for the day you let go and really begin to move! 

Somewhere along the way through this first year, we all caught on to this whole family thing.  It took a long time for me to begin to really feel like a mom, instead of an imposter pretending I knew what to do with these two little people who had taken over my life.  Tonight, as I sat in the rocking chair in your bedroom, my lap full of 36 lbs. of snuggly, sleeping babies, I realized again that being your mom is absolutely the coolest, best, and most rewarding thing I will ever do.  I love watching you grow and laugh and learn, and I can't wait to see what amazing thing you are going to do next...and to see what amazing people you will become.

I hope you always know that your daddy and I love you unconditionally, with an intensity that you won't fully understand until you become mothers yourselves.  And girls, just so you know, this mom thing--it's pretty wonderful.

All my love, 

Easter Sunday


Busy Little Bees

Thanks to the glorious spring weather, our house heated up quite nicely during the day yesterday (I'm too cheap to turn on the air just to have to switch back to heat at night!).  Since it was unusually warm in the house, I stripped the girls down to their diapers before they ate their dinner.

Is there anything cuter than soft, sweet baby skin?

serious faces

Serious faces.

Addison's sweet little smile.

This little girl is ALWAYS in motion.  (That would be Mackenzie, by the way...)

Drama Queen
My little drama queen. (Addison) 

practicing gymnastics
Practicing her stretches...I hope at least one of them likes gymnastics!

I love that where one goes, her sister soon follows.  Together from the start.

Silly girls

Tired Addison
Someone is getting sleepy.

Hard to believe my sweet girls will be a year old tomorrow!!  We plan to spend the day enjoying the sunshine and loving on our babies--who, despite their age, will continue to be "babies" for a long time to come!  : )