Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Year in Review

Somewhere, not long after Emily and Andrew were born, I saw a saying that has stuck with me:

"The days are long but the years are short."

When I look back on 2012, never has the truth of these words been seen so clearly.

While my 2012 began with tears of sorrow, I can say tonight that it ends with tears of thankfulness and of hope.

Here's a look back before we put 2012 in the books and forge ahead into 2013.


January was supposed to be a month of order but life had other plans. Through the storm, I used writing as a way to cope with our heartbreaking loss while continuing to record the blessings of our everyday lives.


In February, we sought a change of scenery to continue our process of grieving and healing. By the end of the month, we found some laughter (even if it was at Drew's expense) and some beauty.


In March, our babies turned 21 (months old). I had no problem finding 21 things to tell Emily and 21 things to tell Drew. It's not hard when you have kids as wise as mine.


Looking back at April reveals a preoccupation with time--time well-spent, time we wouldn't waste, and moments in time.


On the heels of twins behaving badly, May began with a much-needed weekend away and the month ended with me sharing our new favorite home away from home.


With only three posts in all of June, MaMe Musings' faithful were left wondering what happened to us. We had temporarily relocated to Sesame Street.


In July, MaMe turned two and I confessed about my absence in blog world.


In August, I resumed my incessant blogging about my Babies, and this month was Drew's turn to have his say. Then I dared people to unbaby me. But, really, who would want to unbaby me when I offer cuteness such as THIS??


In September, I kept it real: real messes, real parenting, and real reminders.


I confess...the highlight of October was Disney--first our trip then our Halloween costumes.


Gratitude was the value for November, and I had no shortage of things for which I was thankful.


Passion was December's value, and heaven knows, I needed to be reminded of the importance of well-spent energy. While I didn't achieve maximum operating efficiency, I did manage to have moments where all was right with the world (and when it wasn't, well-- I made the best of it). But, by far, my favorite posts were the ones, like this one, that I didn't write.

Happy New Year to each of you!
See you in 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Confessions

If you've grown accustomed to the series of warm fuzzy stories of our Christmas, this might not be the post for you.

You might want to revisit the warm and the fuzzy in Christmas: Parts I-IV.

This post is about the flip side of idyllic scenes such as this one:

This post is all about what I haven't yet said (at least publicly).

If you can relate, all the better. if you can't, well--just don't say anything, m'kay?

I confess:I still haven't picked up our Santa pictures. Or the Easter Bunny ones for that matter. Hey, at least they're paid for...

I confess: I am riding around with four packages to be mailed, packages containing holiday-related homemade gifts. Hey, at least they don't contain food, right?

I confess: I threw away two batches of cupcakes before finally getting it right. I should have known there would be a problem with any cupcake recipe that had "skinny" in the title.

I confess: Despite the cupcake challenges, I baked more for this year's Christmas party than I have ever baked in my entire life. And, none of it was healthy. In fact, my guests might sue me for elevated risk of heart disease if they knew how much butter and sugar was in some of that stuff.

I confess: I wasn't the best party host at our annual Christmas get together this year. I was distracted and it wasn't from the wine or the sugar.

I confess: While my hostess skills were lacking, I was a decent referee, janitor, and Christmas tree stander-back-upper, and intermittent conversationalist. While guests nibbling on Christmas Crack and other super-sweet concoctions,I often found myself just trying to keep the kids from injuring our guests as they chunked Christmas ornaments over the balcony.

I confess: I re-gifted--to my own kids. Last year, my mom gave Emily a stroller. Since it was a little big for her then, I put it up and forgot about it. This year, I wrapped it back it and let Santa take all the credit.

I confess: I refurbished a gift from last year and gave it to the kids--again. Last year's kiddie table and chairs from IKEA took quite a beating over the past year, including one attack where it lost a leg. With some wood glue, putty, and paint, the table and chairs looked almost new again. I then painted the top of the table with chalkboard paint.

I confess: I love chalkboards. Always have. Except now I love them for different reasons. Most of those reasons have to do with the ease of clean-up off of hard surfaces when compared to crayons.

I confess: my kids have too many toys, and I haven't helped the situation by naively opening another package. But...

I confess: all of these loose toys are exacerbating OCD my extreme organizational tendencies. I need the blocks back in the correct container, the books facing out on the shelf, all the baby doll stuff together, and all of the Little People in the correct domicile.

I confess: the biggest culprit is that %$#@ train set! We've completely reassembled it four times. We've ordered more Sure Track clips. Short of screwing that thing down, we've tried it. If we don't screw it down, mommy's screws are going to come loose.

I confess: I've even considered hiding the train table while they nap, but I knew it would break Drew's heart. the sacrifices we make for our children...

I confess: I have absolutely NO energy left to take down Christmas decorations, but I've already hidden every Christmas book I could find. No Jingle Bells in June this year.

I confess: I've experienced the elation of a clean house three times since Tuesday. I've also experienced the agony of defeat just as many times since Tuesday.

I confess: I ate brownies all day long on Thursday. I had to eat brownies because I ate all the chocolate- covered pretzels on Wednesday.

I confess: maybe I should have let Drew eat more of those M&Ms from his stocking after all. Maybe the chocolate would curb his predilection for, um...okay, even for a confessional post, this is hard to admit--boogers. Today, at nap time, I was doing my best to ignore him so he would go to sleep when he pipes up, "Mmmmm...that booger was good! I ate it all gone!" As I muffled my gut-wrteching laugh in a pillow, I thought, "Well, that's one way to get my attention, Drew."

I confess: Marty gave me real diamond earrings for Christmas/anniversary, but I am too afraid of losing them to wear them. Seriously, give me a good pair of CZs any day.

I confess: I might not want to wear the earrings, but I don't want to take off these pants my mom gave me. Tone my core with no exercise and a plate of brownies? Yes, please!

I confess: I bought into the American Girl marketing campaign hook, line, and overpriced outfits. During my recent trip to NYC, we visited American Girl twice. After observing the phenomenon firsthand, I decided we had to be a part of the madness.

I confess: I bought Emily the boy-girl Bitty Twin set. They look just like Em and Drew--right down to the blonde hair and pig tails!

I confess:the American Girl marketing team is genius! Want people to buy more? Make twin dolls! Duh. Anyone with twins knows twins= double the cost.

I confess: I could probably made Emily just as happy with one doll instead of two. Why do I say that? Since Christmas, she's only had interest in the girl doll. She takes the girl everywhere and leaves the poor boy home alone. Um, Emily. Sorry. As a twin mom, you have to take both babies with you...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas: Part IV

I thought we'd have another 14 years or so before Emily and Drew competed for garage space.

Apparently not.

As of December 25, 2012, they are the proud owners of a Jeep Wrangler and a convertible BMW. (...And to think my first car was a Mercury Lynx).

"Aunt Windy and Uncle Tom have a surprise for you in the garage!"

In a scene all too typical, they both head for the same car.

And, swap!

Seriously, I doubt they'll be this eager to car-share when it's time for the real thing!

After a very quick Driver's Ed class, they were off. Well, kind of. It took a while to get the hang of keeping their foot on the gas. (Again, we'll be lucky if we have this issue when they are sixteen!)

"Look, I go up!"

Once he figured out the gas pedal, it was all Aunt Windy could do to keep up!

"Emy, wait for me!

Okay, so what's left of the MaMe Christmas story?? Hmmm, well, I guess it's time for Christmas confessions. If I confess it all now, then maybe Santa will forget before next year. If I can dig out of the mountain of toys and don't go into a sugar coma from the copious amount of chocolate brownies I'm consuming, I might just get them up tomorrow.

Christmas: Part III

After the big-kid room reveal, our next Christmas morning stop was downstairs to see what Santa had left while the Babies slept (in Mommy and Daddy's bed).

Drew had a one-track mind (sorry for the bad pun)...

"Santa bring my train set??"

Emily lagged behind in her new room, still in awe of the Minnie Mouse pajamas that hung on her new dresser.

We tried to stall Drew on the stairs so he and Emily could come down together, but his patience grew thin. See how his mouth is open in this picture? He's yelling, "Come on, Emy!!"

Inching ever-closer...

He sees it! I love the way this picture captures him, mid-stride, his face gleaming with excitement!

"My train set!"

Well, actually the train set is for both you AND Emily...

You both have your very own conductor hats!

They were so taken by the train set, they didn't even notice the huge stack of presents Santa had left for each of them. They played happily with the train, stopping only to eat the big Christmas breakfast Marty had cooked. A little later in the morning, once Aunt Windy and Uncle Tom arrived, we finally pointed out the other gifts waiting to be opened. With a little encouragement, they put down the train and began tearing into the presents.

It was funny to watch them open the gifts and quickly set aside anything that wasn't a toy. Shirts? Hats? Socks? Big kid underpants? Boring.

Drew quickly picked up on the fact that the Chuggington train cars seemed to be wrapped in a square box. He went for all of those first. He looked a little disappointed when he opened the last one--only to find hat, gloves, and fuzzy socks.

Santa surprised Emily with not one, but two babies: American Girl boy-girl Bitty Twins! I was lucky enough to have the camera handy to capture this spontaneous hug while she squealed, "I love you little baby!"

It didn't take her long to pack the twins up, grab her diaper bag, and "go shopping!" I have no idea where she learned that from...

As you can tell, Emily and Drew must have been really good this year because Santa was really good to them. He really was.

But the surprises didn't stop there.

What did Aunt Windy and Uncle Tom have waiting in the garage?

To find out what was waiting in the garage, you'll have to tune back in for MaMe's Christmas: Part IV!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas: Part II

I love those extreme home makeover shows with their radical re-dos on an unreasonably short timetable. There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of a project completed just in time to "move that bus"!

Trust me when I say, it's better to watch it on TV than experience the pressure yourself.

Call me insane, but I attempted my own extreme makeover on Emily and Drew's nursery...right around the busiest time of year: Christmas!

We had known for a while that we had reached the end of the crib days. Both of them refused to sleep in them and were able to show their refusal by climbing out. Short of locks and chains, we weren't keeping them in any longer.

For the last month or so, they have been vagabonds...sleeping with us, on the crib mattresses in the floor of our room, and on their travel cots beside our bed.

During this time, we quietly began the process of disassembling the nursery, one crib at a time.

Surprisingly, I didn't get too emotional. Over the past year, I've come to terms with the nursery closing, both literally and figuratively. But, that's a story for another post and another time.

Today, I want to take you through the distraction excitement of re-doing their room!

Here's a reminder of how we started:

It took less time to break down the cribs than it did to assemble them, that's for sure--even with the extra hands!

After some Pinterest browsing, we decided on a dollhouse and a sailboat. I'll save you all of the details that took us from idea to implementation but it involved some Craigslist sales, Papa's construction skills, and Wal-Mart's Ship-to-Store.

Here's Drew's sailboat bed.

Notice the paintings above the bed? Those were done by yours truly! They might not be perfect, but they were painted with love (and a glass of merlot).

And Emily's dollhouse bed...

Aunt Kelly and Glitter Bug Antiques contributed to the room re-do by giving us the antique blue dresser. It couldn't have been more perfect.

I also made new initials to match their bed kid decor. Their old names from their nursery now hang in the playroom.

Drew's dresser isn't an antique (yet), but it is roomy (and grumpily lovingly assembled by Marty). I tried to make it a little more special by adding an real almost-real anchor.

Remember what I said in the beginning about a time crunch?

We finished around 3:00 am Christmas morning.

3:00 AM

Our plan was to slyly move the Babies into their new room and let them wake up there.

An hour later, the whimpering started. Marty caved first, bringing them both into the bed with us where we all happily slept and snuggled to almost 9:00!

So even though the reveal was delayed and not exactly as planned, it was exciting nonetheless.

The most common question we've been asked over the past two days is, "How did the Babies like sleeping in their new beds?"

The answer is, "We don't know. They've haven't slept in them yet."

Why they are awfully proud of the new decor ("I am going to show Aunt Kelly my new room!"), they aren't proud enough to want to sleep in there yet.

If only sleep training was as easy as buying a new bed...

Coming in Christmas: Part III

In Christmas: Part III, we'll finally make it downstairs where we discover why everybody's been talking about Santa this and Santa that.

Christmas: Part I

One of the neat parts of being a parent is creating our own set of holiday traditions. We are now on our third Christmas with Emily and Drew, and while it's hard to believe they're so big, it's also tough to imagine how Christmas was without them. (I do believe there was more sleeping involved in those pre-twins days).

I am not sure how many years it takes to create a "tradition," but now with 3 Christmases in the books, I can say that, with each passing year, our Christmas "actions" are taking on more detail, more solidity.

It's been interesting to see how Marty and I have meshed our individual ideas, born of our our own childhoods and dreams, together to create our unique "MaMe" Christmas.

Please join me as I record this most magical time of year. With so much to share, I'll be breaking the posts into parts.

Here's a look at Christmas Eve 2012- MaMe-style!

Our Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve Day was filled with last minute errands, which was not how I wanted to spend the day at all. I am still hoping for one year when all of the shopping and running around is completed before December 24.

By 6:00, we were finally on our way to my parents' house where we would celebrate and exchange gifts with the rest of my family. Going to my parents' house on Christmas Eve is a yearly tradition, but each year, we play around with the menu. This year, Daddy cooked soup and sandwiches, and the kids (and me) wore our pajamas.

With four little ones, it didn't take much hovering around the tree before the adults caved in and let the present opening begin!

It wasn't easy, but we finally convinced them to take a break from all the toys...

And then it was back to playing--not with all those new presents--but with the wrapping paper!

Marty enjoyed reading "T'was the Night Before Christmas" to an eager audience.

While we all received way too many presents, I can say that the gifts we gave and received did not overshadow the fun and family time that we shared. We were all aware of how blessed we are to have our parents and our children with us.

Coming up in Christmas: Part II

Part of Emily and Drew's Christmas this year was the gift of a room makeover. In Christmas: Part II, I'll share how we transitioned from cribs to toddler beds, from a nursery to a big kid room (sniff, sniff).

Monday, December 24, 2012

From our house to yours...

Emily: Let's go to Wal-Mart and see Santa.
Me: Santa's at Wal-Mart??
Emily: Yes, they have everything at Wal-Mart.

Marty: (singing his best version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town")
Drew: No! No, Daddy! No! Mommy sing it!
(Quite possibly the only time anyone has asked for me to sing)

Emily &
Deck the halls! Fa-la-la-la la-la-la-la! (singing as they run down the
hall, naked, chasing each other with a frying pan)

From MaMe's house to yours...
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Picture by Picture

Looking for MaMe Musings? Caving under the last-minute holiday pressure, we've skipped blogs and are hanging for the day over at Multiples and More where I am guest posting about Christmas Jars. Don't worry. I've left this space in good hands! The awesome Diana, of The Artist and the Mommy, is blog-sitting for us today, and she's sharing her family's Christmas card tradition. As you will see, not only is Diana talented with a colored pencil, she is insanely witty and hopelessly in love with her sweet family. Be forewarned. After reading this post, you may never want an ordinary Christmas card again!
MaMe Musings

When my husband and I shared our first Christmas together as husband and wife back in 2007, we knew that we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion.

“Why don’t we create our own Christmas cards to send out to family and friends?” he asked. “You can draw pictures of us for it,” he added.

Up until that point, I hadn’t thought much about art. Drawing pictures was something I used to spend my days doing as a child. As I grew up, I still liked art, but I lost my passion for it along the way. College, teaching, working – they all seemed to take precedence over something I used to enjoy so much. For whatever reason, once my husband posed the challenge to draw our own Christmas cards, it recreated the spark I once had for drawing.

After collaborating our ideas that year, we came up with these Christmas card designs: an imitation of Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano with a message reading “We hope your holiday season scores a perfect 10” and of a National Lampoon-ish Christmas Vacation remake that we did for our nieces and nephews with a message reading “Nothing says Christmas like chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, and your Uncle Jason at the emergency room. Merry Christmas! Be safe and happy!”

It wasn’t until I created these cards that I realized how much I missed drawing and creating. Every year since, we have put our heads together to come up with a theme or a concept for each card. Sometimes the cards reflect our interests in that moment in time; sometimes they reflect the things that are most influential in our lives at that moment.

In 2008, we recreated the infamous scene from the Christmas Story movie. The message on the card read, “’I hope that came with a receipt.’ Hoping you have a holiday devoid of deranged Easter bunnies and pink nightmares.” A Christmas Story is one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. There is something about the dysfunctionality and humor in it that we could relate to:

In 2009, it was all about mustaches. That year, my husband raised money for breast cancer research after learning that his sister was diagnosed with it that summer. He vowed to grow out his mustache – for every $5 donated, he would go one day without shaving... He didn’t shave for nearly eight months!

In 2010, I became pregnant with our first child. As much as I wanted to create a card that year, I just physically couldn’t bring myself to do it. (Pregnancy can wipe a woman out of her creative juices.) We skipped a hand drawn card that year and sent out a picture of my pregnant belly and ultrasound picture instead. (That has been the only year, so far, that we’ve skipped.)

In 2011, the tradition came back with a vengeance as we incorporated our daughter, Izzy, into the design with an ode to Elton John. (Each of us is wearing an iconic outfit from Elton John’s career.) The message on the card read, “Elton John’s ‘Step Into Christmas’ always kick starts the holiday season for the Patten family. After all, it was Tiny Tim who once said, ‘God bless us, Elton John.’” Ever since my husband was a boy, he has enjoyed Elton John’s music (a leftover influence from his older brother, I’m sure). And nothing says Christmas more to him than Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” and Elton John’s “Step into Christmas.” The first time he hears either song come on the radio, he officially declares it Christmas time.
And now, in 2012, the tradition continues with a play on the Christmas song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” The reworked song lyrics read: “Said little Izzy to her driving mom, ‘Do you hear what I hear? Way above our heads on top of the car. Do you hear what I hear? A howl… a cry… high above the car with a voice as familiar as my dad’s. With a voice as familiar as my… OH, DAD!” We chose this theme simply because Jason wanted a picture of himself tied to the hood of the car with the Christmas tree, and we thought it would be funny. It reminds me of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. (Did I mention that that’s my second favorite Christmas movie of all time? Well, it is.)
This little tradition of ours is my gift to unwrap every year for our friends and family. It’s a little piece of our family that I am able to share and take pride in. All of these Christmas cards are becoming a record of the family that Jason and I created when we said “I do.” I hope to one day pass these drawings on to my daughter so that she can see picture by picture the holiday history of our family.
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