Four stockings for us

Well, Christmas happened.  We had a pretty fantastic Christmas, though there was no winter wonderland surprise to make it extra-magical like last year.  Still, it was full of joy, laughter, family, food, chaos, and a few rare moments of peace...very near perfect, in my book.

A few times during the midst of celebration, I felt something that has been tugging at me for awhile.  I feel so incredibly satisfied with our little family--Jeremy, the girls, and me.

I have wavered back and forth on my feelings about more children since Addison and Mackenzie were a little over a year old.  During that first year, the idea of 'more' was unfathomable, as it often took everything I could give to get through the days.  Since then, though, the idea of more children has been discussed with varying degrees of interest and slightly less trepidation.

At times, I get carried away thinking about what it would be like to have another baby.  I would love to experience a singleton pregnancy and have the opportunity to do it all again.  I know the second time around would find me much more confident in myself and my parenting abilities, and it would be nice to have a baby and actually sort of know what we were doing.  And really, one baby?  How hard could it be after the experience of multiples??

On the other hand, there is absolutely no guarantee that we would not have another set of twins.  (A family in my town has two sets of identical twins, one set of girls and one set of boys, that are about two years apart--yikes!)  While I feel reasonably sure we could handle it with slightly more ease than the first time around, I still feel a bit overwhelmed just thinking about the idea.  FOUR kids?

Also, even if we had a single baby, I do already have the girls to think about.  It would still be quite the handful to manage on a daily basis.  (Just for the record--if we were to have more babies, hypothetically speaking, it would not be until the girls are at least four-ish and are getting ready to attend public school. This used to seem so far away, but in reality, they will be three in about three months, so we are only fifteen-ish months away from this hypothetical timeline.)

Then there are all the random imagined worries...What if we had a girl and she feels left out by her older sisters?  Four to five years is a big age difference when you're little, plus there's the fact of the older two being twins and probably being naturally closer.  What would we do about bedrooms?  We have a three-bedroom house that we intend to stay in for several more years, so Addison & Mackenzie would have no option but to share a room.  That feels a little unfair to them, like we are saying, "Well, since you're the twins you will have to share, while your younger sibling gets a room of his/her own."  We could never fold the third row down in my Expedition, because there would have to be a child's seat in the third row.  (Silly concern, I know, but still.)

And so on and so forth.

I know all those concerns are things that any family thinks about before adding another child, and I know that in the scheme of things, none of them are too worrisome.  I also know that if we were to add another child to our family, these little things would become even smaller in light of the love we would feel for him or her.  I know all this, so really, it is not these tangible concerns that make me say I doubt we will have more children.

Mostly, it's the lack of a feeling that anything is missing in our family.  On Christmas morning, I wasn't thinking about what it would be like to have another little one opening presents or another stocking hanging on the mantle.  I don't look longingly at the baby aisle in stores, wishing I had a reason to buy the tiny onesies or brightly colored rattles.  I watch my astonishingly big girls navigate the potty almost without my help and mother their baby dolls and make block towers as tall as they are, and I don't grieve for the babies they really aren't anymore.

I am proud of my sweet girls, who will always be my babies, no matter how big they get, and I love our family of four.  We are happy, but more than that, I increasingly feel that we are complete.  Naturally, we reserve the right to change our minds at any time and to be incredibly happy about that, if it were to happen, but for the time being, I just don't think it could get much better than this.

Merry Christmas


Notes to my future self

A few reminders for next year's holiday season:

---Don't buy Groupon or LivingSocial deals for events ahead of time.  This time of year is ridiculously busy, and all your family will want is a peaceful afternoon at home.

(We missed out on a second pre-paid deal this weekend, when nap only lasted 40 minutes and we decided to forgo Holiday Lights at the Zoo.)

(We saw Alvin and the Chipmunks at the theater instead...and had a pretty great time!)

---Book a photography session in October, instead of November, so you will have pictures back in plenty of time for holiday projects.

---Don't buy a movie your children loved last year...chances are, they will want nothing to do with it this year (ahem, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).

---Let Jeremy claim a good spot to stand along the wall for the girls' MDO Christmas program, so maybe you will have better pictures than this:

Christmas program
Can you spot my little angels?  One of them is yawning...  : )
---Do all the holiday decorating in one day.  You will NOT want to start over on a new project the next weekend, so just get it all done at the same time.  (This would explain why there are no topiary trees on my porch this year, as well as why the cute little snowflake decorations I bought for the girls' room are still in the bag from Target.)

---Clean out the closets in early fall to prepare for the onslaught of wrapping supplies, gifts, stocking stuffers, and craft materials...that stuff takes up a lot of room!

---Related:  do not buy any more red ribbon.  There are three nearly-full rolls left from previous years in the hall closet.  (If you clean out the closet as planned, you will know this already.)

---Find a better hiding spot for Addison & Mackenzie's presents.  They will be a little older and wiser in 2012, and might not accept that the Dora accessories set Mackenzie just found in the bottom of her mother's closet is a present for potty training and not part of Santa's stockpile.

(Yes, they got the Dora set this morning and I don't feel badly about it at all, because I have TWO POTTY-TRAINED CHILDREN!!  I think that deserves the caps-lock key, don't you?)


Rock-a-Bye, Baby

From the time I was pregnant with Addison & Mackenzie, I spent a lot of time thinking and talking about sleep habits.  Schedule and routine were the key words of our first few months with the girls, and creating a healthy and manageable sleep routine was a priority from the very beginning.

I knew for certain that I wanted to teach the girls to go to sleep on their own.  I would have to manage the bedtime routine by myself several nights a week, and I could not imagine trying to rock both girls to sleep every night and get them both in bed without waking either baby.  So it was very important to me to make sure they could go to bed awake and fall asleep without me holding, rocking, or otherwise assisting in the process.

Not that it was due to anything we did necessarily (because I realize some kids are just naturally better sleepers than others!), but we have been VERY lucky in the sleep department, so I can at least pretend that some of that worrying, planning, and stressing about sleep paid off, right?

For almost as long as I can remember, our routine has been the same:  dinner, bath, pajamas, then snuggling on the couch while reading books and/or watching part of a movie or tv show.  At bedtime, I carry both girls (and only me...Jeremy is not allowed to do it if I'm home!) to their beds, usually singing a song along the way.  I find all necessary blankets and stuffed animals, then turn out the lights and wish them both sweet dreams.

As the girls have grown, I have learned to savor the quiet moments of sitting down to read, sing, or just be together at night.  Still, rocking has never been a part of that routine...

Until the last few weeks, that is.

I don't even remember now how it started, but sometime in the last month or so, Addison & Mackenzie started requesting that I rock them before bed.  I enjoyed the quiet peacefulness of it for a couple of nights...then I started wondering what kind of new habits I might be encouraging.  The next night, I tried to convince the girls to forget about the rocking, but naturally, they were having none of it.  There were tears and pleas of "Rock me, mama!" that nearly broke my heart.

So, here we are, with a new nighttime routine.  We follow the same general pattern, but the reading and singing is now done in the girls' room, with the three of us snuggled up in the rocking chair.  I'm still working on the timing, since it takes a little longer to convince them to get in bed these days, but we will all adjust soon, I'm sure.

Back when the girls were tiny, it was hard to take full advantage of all the little baby-snuggling opportunities-- I was often too overwhelmed thinking about the next round of feeding and changing, or I was worried about creating bad habits by letting a baby sleep in my arms for too long.  In hindsight, I realize how fleeting those days were, and that makes it even sweeter to be able to enjoy these new opportunities to rock my girls before bed.

I must admit I am kind of enjoying this little change in the normal routine...at least on the nights when we are able to wrap it all up before the unheard-of hour of 9:00.  What happened to my girls that could barely hold their eyes open past 8:00??

Has your nighttime routine changed as your children have grown?  And I'm curious...what time is bedtime for your kids?


Parades, Parties, and a Weekend Milestone

This weekend was our busiest in a long time, with something planned for each day from Thursday to Sunday.  'Tis the season, I suppose.

Thursday evening, Addison & Mackenzie attended their first Christmas parade.  The past few years have been cold and rainy, and it just hasn't been ideal for us to take them out to it.  This year was pretty cold, but not unbearable, and the girls absolutely loved it!

My aunt lives very near the parade route, so as we did so many times during my own childhood, we hung out inside at her house until we heard the wail of the sirens approaching.  We walked down to the end of her street to take in the extravaganza.  A & M had lots of fun gathering candy, waving at the people on floats, and watching for Santa to come by.  Afterward, we made the short walk back to my aunt's and enjoyed a warm meal together.

First Christmas parade=success!

Christmas Parade

Friday, Jeremy and I had a "date" to finish our Christmas shopping.  We dropped the girls off with Jeremy's parents and had a very delicious dinner before heading to the most dreaded of all children's stores...Toys R Us.  I never go there, and actually I try not to shop there since a few bad experiences with Babies R Us when the girls were babies, but J was convinced we needed to go see what they had (translation:  he wanted to play with the toys himself!).

It was horribly crowded and took forever to check out (I was honestly in shock over the amount of toys some people were buying), but we survived.  We did find a wooden train set for the girls at a good price, as well as a play coffee pot, since they love to "make coffee" for us.

After that task was complete, we spent an hour or two wandering the shopping center, ending with coffee in the bookstore.  Just as we got in the car to leave, Jeremy's mom called and said Addison wanted to come home instead of spending the night at her house.  We weren't really surprised, since she has been very much a homebody lately, so we arranged to meet his mom and pick her up.

And thus, we accomplished the second "first" of the weekend:  Addison and Mackenzie spent their very first night apart from one another.

I will admit it...I was a little sentimental about the milestone.  My girls have spent each and every night under the same roof since birth (actually, since before birth, if you want to get technical about it!), so it was definitely a strange feeling to creep into their room and see only one bed occupied.

I think it was probably a good thing for both of them.  Addison got to spend some quality time with Jeremy and me, and Mackenzie got to have her NiNi all to herself.  The first thing Addison said on Saturday morning was, "Where's my sissy at?"  And when Jeremy brought Mackenzie home on Saturday afternoon, Addison was still asleep in her bed.  Mackenzie barged through the house, saying, "Where's my Addison?"

Ahhh, melts my heart!

I was originally supposed to attend The Nutcracker on Saturday evening, while Jeremy and the girls had a movie night at home.  Mackenzie was pretty attached to me once she got home, though, and she cried real tears and begged me not to go.  Who could deny a pitiful little girl asking, "Mama, will you stay home and watch a movie with us?"  Not this mama!  I decided time with baby was worth way more than the $30 I would be losing for the forfeited tickets, and we had a fun movie night at home.

Sunday was a flurry of church, baking, wrapping, and preparing for the Christmas party with our youth group.  It was a success, and I wound up with a dirty santa gift I actually wanted:

Jeremy, on the other hand, was not as lucky...though Addison & Mackenzie are having a ball with his gift!

Jeremy's new hat

How was YOUR weekend?  Is the holiday busy-ness in full effect for you too?


Confessions: Christmas Style

I tend to buy more things for myself at Christmas than at any other time of the year.  I think it's because I'm already in the "spending money" frame of mind...combine that with the holiday sales happening at every turn, and I am powerless to resist.  A few dollars here and there can add up after awhile.  Oops!

I have no idea what to get the girls for Christmas.  So far, I have bought them Candyland, a Play Doh tool set and gift pack, and nightgowns. What are your kids getting this year?

As hard as we are working to help the girls grasp the concept that Christmas is about more than Santa, Rudolph, and presents, I had a regrettable moment of my own when I realized Christmas is on Sunday this year.  I believe I actually said something along the lines of, "Oh great...we have to work a CHURCH SERVICE in the Christmas day schedule too?!"  Not my best moment, by far.  (As far as I know, we will be attending church on Christmas morning, and I will be happy about it.)

This time of year makes me want to take on ambitious cooking projects.  I want to make bread pudding for Christmas brunch with my family, but I fear I may be out of my league. 

One of my favorite holiday treats is homemade chex mix.  Simple, I know, but I just can't get enough.  Marcia talked about it recently, and I confessed that I have never made the homemade kind.  Maybe this is the year?  (Or maybe I'm feeling overly ambitious again...)

I am a sucker for Christmas movies, and I have already watched several of my favorites this year. The embarrassing part is, it's not the classics like It's a Wonderful Life that I love the most.  No...you're much more likely to find me watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas (either version!), The Santa Clause (any of the three, though the first and second are my favorite), and Home Alone

In related news:  I have the ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas schedule posted on my bulletin board at work.  (Home Alone 2 tonight!)

Your turn!  What are your Christmas confessions?  Am I alone in my preference for 90s holiday movies?  What's your can't-miss Christmas movie?


Reality Check

I have been the wife of a police officer for about five years now.  I am very proud of Jeremy and the job that he does.  Truthfully, on most days I don't think too much about it.  The job, the abnormal hours, and the fact that he carries a gun to work are just part of our lives.

Occasionally, something happens to remind me exactly what an important job Jeremy has and how dangerous it can be.

Monday night, I talked to Jeremy before bed as I usually do.  We talked a little longer than normal because we got into a conversation about Christmas and our plans for working around all of our family functions.  He called back shortly after we hung up to tell me an idea he had come up with for our busy Christmas Eve schedule.  We talked a few minutes, then I finally went to sleep.

About an hour later, around 12:30 a.m., the ringing of my phone pulled me out of sleep.  It was Jeremy again, calling to tell me that a deputy with his department had been shot.  He wanted me to know that it was not him, because he might not be home by the time I got up in the morning...he didn't want me to see it on the news and freak out.

My brain, numbed by sleep, jerked to attention immediately.  J gave me the brief details of what he knew, then said he and many, many (many) others were going to apprehend the offender.

Now honestly, I don't spend a great amount of time worrying about Jeremy at work.  I know what his job entails, but I also know that he is very good at what he does and that he does everything in his power to make sure that he comes home to us each and every night.  I also know, as does Jeremy, that our God is ultimately in control and if He has chosen for one of us to leave this earth... well, then, who am I to argue with the One who created us?  That's not to say I don't encourage him to take every possible precaution or that I don't tell him every single day to be careful, because I do.  But I don't spend hours sitting up at night, worrying what he might be doing, I don't call him every hour, and I don't listen to the news to see if anything bad is going on in his jurisdiction.  I never have, and I hope I never turn into that person.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, though, when my husband told me he was going to hunt down a man armed with at least one assault rifle who had already robbed a store, shot at the clerk, and by this time had shot two law enforcement officers... I think my alarm was quite warranted.

It is not a pleasant feeling to lay in bed, alone, trying desperately not to imagine the many possible scenarios your husband might be involved in at that very moment.  I was anxious, but also pretty helpless.  I did all I could do--prayed for God to protect Jeremy and his fellow officers, reminded myself that he is competent and careful and also very well-armed, and told my brain to shut it.  Amazingly enough, I did go back to sleep...deep enough that I didn't even hear my text message at 3:30 a.m. telling me that the suspect was in custody and everyone was fine.

When I woke at 6:15 the next morning, J was just crawling into bed.  He gave me a quick rundown of the night's events, which we were both still absorbing.  I hugged and kissed him, told him many times that I loved him and was glad he was home safely, and got ready for work.

And so, life goes on.  Jeremy and all his coworkers did their jobs on Tuesday, just as they always have...but likely with a little more caution, a little more thought.  Monday night was a reminder to everyone--the officers, their families, our community--just how quickly an evening can go from the same old boring routine to one that just might change your life.

Thankfully, the two officers that were shot are going to be alright, and the offender is in custody.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little more worried about Jeremy's job than I was at this time last week, but I am also full of pride for him and his fellow officers.  When everyone else runs away from the danger, they are facing it head-on and doing their best to protect the rest of us.

This week was a reminder for us not to take one single minute for granted.  I love you, Jeremy, and the girls and I are blessed to have you as a husband and father.  We are proud of all you do for our family and for our community!