Eleven months

14 Jul

Written July 14, 2014

11 months

(Elise, left, Anna, right)

Likes: Crawling; pulling up to standing in their cribs or against furniture; unpacking their toy boxes and tossing toys about; playing with Dexter’s food and water bowls; playing with Mama and Daddy’s shoes; playing with Daddy’s cell phone; dancing; carrying around anything blue; eating finger foods; cuddling Dexter.

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(Anna, left, Elise, right)

Dislikes: Being taken away from their play space and/or toys, having their toys taken out of their hands, and being laid down for diaper changes.

Weights: Elise is about 16 pounds, 6 ounces, up about 2 pounds from last month, while Anna is about 16 lbs, 12 ounces, up almost 2 pounds from last month.

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(Anna, left, Elise, right)

Lengths: The girls are likely a wee bit longer, on account of the fact that their 6-month onesies are getting tough to button.

Milestones: On the communication front, both girls continue to babble like crazy. In fact, you could swear they are trying to tell you something with how emphatic and expressive they are with their syllables sometimes. They also mimic sounds and movements.

Tug-of-war collage

Both girls, all of a sudden last week, gave kisses and now do it without hesitation. They also are going through a bit of a sweet, cuddly phase; they will lay on your chest and nuzzle into you or lay on Dexter and nuzzle into his fur.

IMG_6081For gross motor skills, both girls still are crawling, fast and furious. They both are cruising – shuffling side to side against furniture – and are taking a few assisted steps. They are getting really strong.

Climbing collage Climbing collage 2 (We used to block off the rest of the house from the living room play area using two large body pillows. The girls quickly figured out how to scale those. We now use two long plastic storage tubs, stacked one on top of the other.)

Other developments? We have teeth! Anna popped out her first tooth June 18 and her second June 27. Elise popped out her first tooth July 9.

20140615_133620 (Anna, left, Elise, right, on Father’s Day)

Other “milestones” include celebrating their first Father’s Day and spectating Mama and Daddy in two 5Ks – the Pretzel City 5K on June 28 and the Reagan Run on July 5.

Eating: A combination of breast milk and formula, plus the usual lineup of purees (including yogurt) and a variety of finger foods. The girls have yet to turn up their noses at anything we feed them. They love their food!

IMG_6159Wearing: Some 6-month, some 6-9-month, and some 9-month clothing; pocket (cloth) diapers during the day and size 2 disposables at night.

Nicknames: Anna Banana, Anna Bear, Banana Pants, Elisey Bean, Elisio, Beanut, Peanut.

*     *     *     *     *

It seems that overnight our little peanuts turned into our little ladies.

Anna and Elise are such sweet girls. And so smart and strong. It’s incredible to just watch them interact with each other, with other people, with the dog, with their toys, with the world around them. They are so amazing.

Anna peekaboo collageThey are flexible and resilient. They are adventurous and curious. They are determined. They are charming, funny and sweet. They are smiley and giggly. They are social. They are particular. They are independent, yet totally connected to one another. They are smart.

IMG_6118Anna and Elise are simply awesome. We are so privileged to be their parents.

Race recap: Reagan Run 5K

10 Jul

Wow. Another weekend, another race. Another race, another post-partum personal best.

Christopher and I ran – for the second time – the Reagan Run 5K in Dixon on Saturday.

The race has a tough course, especially for the distance; it starts at the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan downtown, crosses the Rock River, winds through the woods and up some steep grades, and again crosses the river and ends in Haymarket Square downtown.

But the race truly is one not to miss. It attracts more than 1,500 runners and hundreds of spectators.

We decided to run separately, rather than together, as we had last weekend, for our first race of the season. Christopher headed up to the 8-minute-mile corral, while I remained in the 10-minute-mile corral.

I felt really good through almost all of the race. The weather was nearly perfect – slightly overcast, temperatures in the mid-60s, slightly breezy – unlike the weather two years ago.

I passed the first mile in less than 9:30 and the second mile in about 18:45. I jogged through the water stops and stopped to walk twice, once in the woods after ascending a hill and once near the high school, not to far from the 3-mile mark.

I crossed the Peoria Avenue bridge and, with only a few turns left before the straightaway to the finish line, I kicked with whatever was left in the tank.

I finished in about 30 minutes and felt, only momentarily, sick. I regained my composure, though, and discussed the likelihood of besting my time from last weekend. It was going to be close.

Christopher and I found our friend, Jen, a college sophomore home for the summer who offered to keep an eye on the girls while we ran the race. We reunited with the peanuts, then pulled them out of the stroller to give them sweaty hugs and kisses.

20140705_085005(0)We hung around only long enough to indulge in a scoop of Culver’s vanilla frozen custard; we had to get home to get the girls down for a nap. We waited most of the day for results.

Turns out, they were well worth the wait. Christopher and I killed it! He finished in 25:11, while I finished in 29:38 – 7 seconds faster than the Pretzel City 5K last weekend and good enough for 23rd (out of 69) in my age group.

Again, we were really, really happy with the race (which upgraded to chip timing!) and so, so glad we ran it.

And now, the details:

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 29:38 chip time (29:25 RunKeeper time)
Average pace: 9:45 per mile
Mile 1: 8:52
Mile 2: 10:45
Mile 3: 10:04

Our Insta-month: June

2 Jul

Some of these might be repeats from our vacation recap, but the rest are brand-spankin’ new!

Check out what we’ve been up to this past month…

IMG_20140607_093754Posing in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis – on their very first vacation!

IMG_20140607_135408Taking a brewery tour (Schlafly – The Saint Louis Brewery)

IMG_20140608_093518Getting up close and personal with a butterfly

IMG_20140608_122511Hanging with Daddy in the dugout at Busch Stadium

IMG_20140611_174614Elise attacking her sister

IMG_20140612_163219Showing some serious ‘tude

IMG_20140614_165532Anna teetering with Daddy

IMG_20140615_133756Celebrating Father’s Day

IMG_20140618_130033 IMG_20140618_130208

Elise, left, and Anna, right, playing with Dexter’s toys

IMG_20140620_170155Elise watching sports in her underwear with Daddy

IMG_20140626_121158Anna gnawing on a coaster

IMG_20140626_181401Playing their favorite game: pull all the DVDs off the shelf then toss them about

IMG_20140630_133951Spending the day in Madison

Race recap: Pretzel City 5K

1 Jul

I never thought I would say this, but I think I am in almost as good of shape after having two babies as I was at my “peak,” before having two babies.

Saturday marked my first post-partum race – and my first race in 19 months – and a near new personal best (because PRs made pre-babies are not the same as PRs set post-babies)!

We ran the Pretzel City 5K, put on by the Freeport Park District, which winds through beautiful Krape Park in Freeport, Ill., about 45 minutes north of Sterling.

Pretzel City 5K map

Our race morning routine now – which we should hardly dub a routine, as the process has been instituted all of once so far – is nothing like our routine of two years ago.

We didn’t set an alarm; we knew the girls would have us up at 6 a.m. at the latest. We didn’t set out clothes, or even really plan what to wear; we checked the weather on our phones and stepped outside, then selected outfits. We didn’t stretch or warm up; we changed diapers and clothes, fixed breakfast and loaded up the car for a day trip.

It was strange to be so hurried and yet so relaxed on the morning of a race.

We arrived at the park, picked up our packets and met up with Christopher’s editor (and my editor once upon a time) Jeff and his wife, Sarah, who were going to push the girls in the stroller while we ran the race.

We made our way to the very loosely organized starting line, leaving the girls, which we fretted would cause them to freak out, and took off with the shot of the starting gun.

The course wound through Krape Park, along Yellow Creek, past a waterfall, over two scenic bridges, out the tree-lined south entrance of the park and then back again. It was a relatively flat course and, coupled with only 133 runners, was quite peaceful.

I felt pretty darn good through the whole race, save for toward the end, when our speed and the humidity started to catch up with me. I walked only through the water stop(s), just past the 1-mile mark and then again on the return, just before the 2-mile mark.

We flew through the first mile at about 8:45, and then settled into a more reasonable, manageable pace; the second mile was 9:48, and the third was 10:14.

I struggled, but Christopher did a wonderful job of pacing me; he ran just far enough ahead of me to encourage me, rather than discourage me. I also got a jolt of energy every time we saw the girls, who Jeff and Sarah got to clap for us as we whizzed by.

Girls at 5KWe approached the finish line, and while a PR was out of reach, my main goal of coming in under 30 minutes still was within my grasp, so I finished strong. I came down the last straightaway and felt so hot and dizzy. I wanted to slow down, but I couldn’t. I had something to prove.

Christopher and I reunited with our girls, who were giggly and smiley, which was just the icing on the freaking cake.

I honestly cannot believe I did it. I finished a 5K in less than 30 minutes, less than a year after having twins. I even flirted with a personal best. Oh, and I came in third in my age division. Are you kidding me?

This was a nice race. The setting is lovely and truly what makes the race. And for such a small race, it had everything a runner could want, including technical shirts and chip timing.

As is customary, here are the details:

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 29:45 chip time (29:57 RunKeeper time)
Average pace: 9:35 per mile
Mile 1: 8:45
Mile 2: 9:48
Mile 3: 10:14

Ten months

13 Jun

Written Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ten months

(Elise, left, Anna, right)

Likes: Crawling; pulling up to standing in their cribs, on the couch or on the end table; pulling DVDs off the rack (or, similarly, pulling books off the shelf at the library); playing with Dexter’s food and water bowls; playing with Mama and Daddy’s shoes; playing with Daddy’s cell phone; eating finger foods; petting (aka pulling on) Dexter.

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IMG_5176IMG_5211Dislikes: Being taken away from their play space and/or toys, having their toys taken out of their hands, and being laid down for diaper changes.

Weights: Elise is about 14 lbs, 6 ounces, up about a half-pound from last month, while Anna is about 15 lbs, up a little more than a half-pound from last month.

Lengths: The girls are probably about the same as last month, if not a wee bit longer.

Crawling collageMilestones: As far as communication is concerned, both girls continue to babble like crazy. For Elise, it’s still mostly “ba ba ba” or “bop”, or, more recently, “ma ma ma.” For Anna, it’s occasionally “ba ba ba” or, more often, “dot dot dot.” And for both, when one of us says “ahhh”, they repeat it (with big smiles on their faces) as long as we keep doing it, so it’s like we’re all singing together!

20140525_140153Anna now claps her hands, too. Elise has started demonstrating some more strange behavior – shaking her head side to side, as if to say “no” – which might be a result of all the learning going on in her little peanut brain.

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IMG_5246For gross motor skills, both girls officially are crawling. They almost refuse to sit still or lie still. They will crawl to Christopher when he comes home from work. They will crawl to Dexter when he comes into the living room and lays down in their play space. And they will follow me from one room to the other.

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IMG_5190They also pull themselves up to standing on just about anything they can – their cribs, the couch, the end table.

And for fine motor skills, both girls pick up their finger foods with their pincer grasp and put the little pieces in their mouths with such ease. They both also drink out of a straw.

Swimming collageOther “milestones” include celebrating their first Mother’s Day, taking their first trip to the zoo, going swimming, and taking their first vacation, which entailed a 4 1/2-hour (one way) drive, sleeping in a crib in a hotel room, eating meals in public, sightseeing and napping in the car.

Sitting up collageEating: A combination of breast milk and formula, plus the usual lineup of purees (including yogurt) and, as of this month, a variety of finger foods. The girls have tried:

Fruits and veggies: apples, bananas, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, corn, green beans, peaches, peas, potatoes, strawberries, and watermelon

Proteins: Chicken breast, ground beef, and cheese

Beans and grains: Black beans, lentils, pasta, and rice. Also, homemade baby pancakes.

IMG_5168Wearing: Some 3-6-month and some 6-9 month, but mostly 6-month clothing; pocket (cloth) diapers during the day and size 2 disposables at night.

Peanut barrier collageNicknames: Anna Banana, Anna Bear, A-Bear, Elisey Bean, Elisio, Beanut, Peanut.

As I alluded to earlier, Christopher and I and the girls took our first family vacation this month. We went to St. Louis.

Christopher and I had some major concerns – well, one significant hang-up, really — leading up to our trip: The girls were not sleeping well. If they can’t sleep decently at home, in their own cribs, surrounded by their familiar room, then how could we expect them to sleep well in a hotel room, in a shoddy crib, surrounded by a strange environment?

We considered canceling our trip. But we pressed on. We needed to take the chance. We all so badly needed some time away, together – time to hit the “reset” button on our routine. We vowed to each other that we would roll with the punches, take whatever happened in stride and make the best of it.

God must have heard our pleas because He blessed us with an absolutely incredible vacation.

Some of the keys to a successful trip:

–We broke up the drive into two chunks – the first to coincide with the girls’ first nap and the second to coincide with their second nap. We stopped in Springfield, Ill., on the way down and Peoria, Ill., on the way back, to grab a bite to eat, see some sights and stretch our legs.

–We stayed in a suite that had its bedroom/bathroom and living area/kitchen separated by a door.

–We used the cribs provided by the hotel. (The hotel offered both traditional cribs and Pack N Plays, and we opted for the more traditional style because our girls do not sleep well in the portable version.)

–We tried not to follow a rigid schedule. When we’re at home, the girls go down for a nap around 9-ish and again around 2-ish, and then they go down for the night around 7:30 p.m. While in St. Louis, we let them nap in the car and drove around to get them a decent amount of sleep; sometimes, that meant some aimless driving, other times, it meant taking the roundabout way to our next destination. We tried not to stretch them too long between naps or between their last nap and bedtime, but we certainly pushed them (and tested our patience), and they were awesome. I think that actually contributed to them sleeping so well overnight: They were just so tuckered out and maybe a little short on sleep that they had no choice but to catch up overnight.

–We tried not to get impatient, stressed out or angry if things didn’t go well. We both had our moments, but the other one always was there for reassurance and a reality check.

So, what did we do?

20140607_071622Well, the first day, Saturday, we got out the door right away and checked out the historic Soulard Farmers Market, then made our way to the Gateway Arch.

20140607_08420620140607_131257Around middway, it was raining, so we took the Schlafly brewery tour, but by the late afternoon, it was sunny, so we headed to the St. Louis Zoo.

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Zoo collage

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Swinging collageAnd the next day, Sunday, we needed to kill a little time in the earlier morning, so we went to Faust Park in Chesterfield and played on the swings, then walked through the Butterfly House.

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Butterfly house collageLater, we toured Busch Stadium and took the Budweiser brewery tour. And in the evening, we went swimming.

20140608_121342Christopher and I could not have asked for a better little getaway.

It’s funny… So often, new parents are urged to take time for themselves, to go on dates, to go on little weekend getaways, to be away from their baby (or babies) for a bit, to rekindle their relationship and their feeling of being “just an adult,” and most of the time, many new parents take that time, at least here and there.

But for us…well, we really can’t, so we are with our girls 24/7. Yet, somehow, on this 4-day trip – vacation, getaway, whatever you want to call it – which we took with our 10-month-old daughters, we got that time away that we so desperately have needed since becoming parents last summer.

Our Insta-month: May

3 Jun

It’s that time again!

It might be tough to tell from these shots, but Anna and Elise have been very active this month – learning and practicing new skills, such as crawling; going out for daily (sometimes two daily) runs or walks (or both!); and eating finger foods.

Those milestones aside, here’s a hit of cuteness…

 

IMG_20140504_191110 IMG_20140505_191642

Being silly in just a diaper

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Hugging big brother Dexter

IMG_20140512_173132 Anna peering into the toy box

IMG_20140513_185003 Elise displaying her unique guitar-playing technique

IMG_20140515_150634 IMG_20140515_151000

Playing with their (very tolerant) big brother, Dexter

IMG_20140516_172830 Hanging out at Menards with Mama and Daddy

IMG_20140520_161422 Elise contemplating becoming a runner—for the sweet kicks, of course

IMG_20140525_140331 Adventuring at De Immigrant windmill in Fulton, Ill.

IMG_20140528_174848 Checking out the movie collection

IMG_20140530_140328 Soaking up time with Daddy

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Anna grinning after a long walk on a local trail

Spicy Pepper, Potato and Bacon Frittata

1 Jun

Breakfast in our house is a scramble.

(Ha! Get it? I’ll wait…)

We need to prepare food for two active, hungry little almost-10-month-olds, and two active, often post-morning run, and hungry adults.

We usually stick to the basics: a scrambled egg, a pancake and some fruit for the girls, and a fried egg and toast or a green smoothie for the adults.

But we sometimes, usually on weekends, make something more special for ourselves—what Christopher refers to as “big breakfast”. This morning, we took our big breakfast and stuffed it in a frittata.

Frittatas are great because they come together in a flash and completely customizable. (See my bacon, green bean and Gouda frittata or my onion, herb and Swiss frittata.) Got leftovers? Stuff it in a frittata. Got some on-their-last-legs veggies? Stuff ‘em in a frittata. Got a bountiful garden? Harvest those fruits of your labor and stuff ‘em in a freakin’ frittata!

Alright, enough dilly-dallying. Here’s the recipe…

20140601_101306 Spicy Pepper, Potato and Bacon Frittata

With hearty potatoes, sweet peppers and salty bacon, this scrumptious egg dish makes a filling and well-rounded breakfast, lunch or dinner! And really, what could be bad about eggs and potatoes covered in spicy, gooey pepper jack cheese?

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

2 large red potatoes, cut into quarter-inch cubes (We use this fancy schmancy chopper to get them perfectly uniform every time.)

1 medium bell pepper

1 small jalapeno, diced

5 eggs

4 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded and divided

6 strips bacon, pan-fried or baked and chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a nonstick, oven-safe skillet with nonstick cooking spray. In the pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the potatoes and cook until starting to brown, 5-7 minutes; then add the bell pepper and jalapeno and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender and browned and the peppers are soft and their bite has mellowed, another 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese (leave a few tablespoons for the top) and bacon.

Pour the egg mixture over the cooked potatoes and peppers, making sure to evenly distribute all the ingredients. Top with the remaining cheese, and place the pan in the oven. Bake the frittata for 15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked through and the cheese is starting to brown.

20140601_101431This incarnation of my favorite baked egg dish was the bomb! Just a little spicy, just a little sweet, just a little salty, just a little ooey-gooey, and 100 percent satisfying.

Give this one a try. It’s a winner.

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