Monthly Archives: July 2014

What Is It Like Having Twins, You Ask?

photo- coffee- okayest-mom

As a mom with two sets of twins, I’m constantly being asked what it’s like having twins.  The best analogy I can think of to describe it is this:  Having twins is like sprinting a marathon– a never-ending, cross-country, up-hill both ways in ten feet of snow – marathon where stopping to rest isn’t an option.  (Heck, moms with newborn twins are lucky if they get a shower or a bathroom break.)  Of course I don’t really tell people that, because I don’t want to seem like I’m whining or complaining but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Usually, when a mom with one baby asks me what it’s like having twins, I say something like, “It’s probably just like having one baby.  I do all the same things you do, I just do them twice in a row”.  I don’t know that I actually believe that, by the way.  There’s a secret element to twins that most people don’t ever think about unless they have them.  Life with twins almost demands adhering to strict schedules, hyper-organization, forward thinking and planning for practically everything, super-human multi-tasking abilities, complete selflessness, and a strong immunity for the need to sleep. Whew.  Yeah, it’s takes all that, and coffee.  Disturbing amounts of coffee.  *Note:  Moms with infant twins who are breastfeeding have to settle for cold, decaffeinated coffee that we made 4 hours ago and never had a chance to drink.  See?  I really wasn’t kidding about complete selflessness!

Photo- Keep Going you're doing great!I’m going to state the obvious and follow it up with some less obvious observations.  Twins are a lot of work.  Remember the marathon analogy?  I’ve never actually ran a marathon, but I’ve seen them and what really stands out to me is the number of people positioned throughout the route that are there supporting and encouraging the runners.  There are people holding signs that say things like “Keep Going”.  There are people standing by with water and protein bars to help re-fuel the runners when their energy is low.  That’s like having twins, too.  Twins draw attention because, well, they’re awesome.  People will run to hold a door for you while you’re carrying two babies around.  Complete strangers will sing your praises.   You instantly turn into a super-mom in other people’s eyes.  I suspect you don’t even have to be a really great mom to earn that title with twins.  I think just surviving earns you an honorary cape.  I’m not sure if moms of singletons get to experience that level of support in quite the same way.  I get reminded everyday of how special my children are and how blessed I am as a mother – by people who don’t even know me!  Having twins is like running a marathon in the way that people are lined up, cheering for you, encouraging you, offering you nourishment (sometimes literally in the form of food!) and holding up “Keep Going” signs.  And just like completing a marathon, having twins is a badge of honor.  (It kind of rocks.)

Moms with twins have two excellent reasons to lose sleep and two beautiful faces to adore.  Sure, the work load is double, but so are the rewards.  Even when things are bad (picture two screaming, colicky babies and a husband deployed overseas) they’re good.  Better than good.

So, what is it like having twins?  It’s probably just like having one child.  I do all the same things you do.  I look on in amazement at how incredible my little one is, overwhelmed with the purest, unconditional love for this precious gift that God has blessed me with.  I just do it twice.

 

Get Organized, One Puzzle Piece at a Time

Quick Tip to Organize and Store Puzzle Pieces

We’ve all been there.  You’re cleaning up toys and you find one, lone, renegade puzzle piece.  It’s staring at you, challenging you to make the next move.

You consider your options.  You can:

  • use your super powers to decipher which puzzle it belongs to and return it to the correct box.
  • solve all the puzzles you own and see which one is missing a piece.
  • set it “aside” for now, silently vowing to find its rightful place later.
  • chuck it and then pretend to be sad when your little puzzle-making mastermind discovers that Mickey’s left ear is missing.

Here’s quick and simple tip to keep all those puzzle pieces organized and easily identifiable. This is especially helpful if you have more than one child doing puzzles together.  Bonus?  It turns clean up time into a sorting game that even little bitty guys can help with.

0161.  The first time your little genius solves a new puzzle, flip it over and write a number on each piece (or let your little one color the backside of the puzzle with a marker).  As long as all the pieces have the same marking on the back, it really doesn’t matter what you use.

2.  Decide how you want to store the puzzle (in the box it came in, in a plastic baggie, etc.) and mark the container with the same number or color that you used on the back of the puzzle pieces.

3.  Done.  Save your super powers for more important matters.

 

 

 

 

One Pan Ziti

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This is an incredibly tasty pasta dish that makes clean-up a breeze because it’s all cooked in one pan.   It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s kid friendly and it’s delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust according to personal taste of course, but even my little guys loved this)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 12 oz Ziti pasta
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves finely chopped (optional)

To Make:

  • Brown sausage in a large skillet. (I used my Rachel Ray 3-quart, covered sauté  pan and it was exactly the right size!)  Add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and cook, for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Add in the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in the uncooked Ziti pasta along with the water.  Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to low and simmer until the pasta is cooked through, approximately 12- 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.  Stir in the Parmesan and heavy cream.  Sprinkle with Pile on the mozzarella.  I zapped mine under the broiler for just a few minutes until the cheese was brown and bubbly, but if you don’t want to mess with the broiler, you can just stick the lid back on the pan for a few minutes.
  • Garnish with basil, if desired.

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You can serve this with a green salad on the side or some delicious crusty Italian bread.  Even alone, it’s sure to be a success!

Buon appetite!”

 

 

 

 

 

Twins and the Law of Attraction

You know when you’re looking to buy a new car and then suddenly every place you go there’s somebody driving the same make and model as the one you’ve been looking at? That’s the Law of Attraction at work. Here’s something useful and interesting to know. The Law of Attraction applies to twins, too.

Before having twins, I knew maybe 5 sets of twins- total- in my whole entire life. Now? Every single day I meet (a) somebody with twins (b) somebody who is a twin (c) somebody with twins in their family or (d) somebody who knows somebody with twins. It’s fascinating. It’s a blessing. It’s a curse. It’s how I’ve met some of my dearest friends. (Shout out to all my twin mommy friends!)  And, it always starts with the same phrase.  “Are they twins?”

Just be prepared to graciously acknowledge and patiently listen to every person whose dear old grandmother had twins…or was a twin. Commonalities connect people. Connecting with people is good.  Getting stopped repeatedly while out with your little angelic twins can turn getting milk and diapers into what feels like a hostage situation.  Here are a few perfectly acceptable phrases to keep on hand for when your time and patience are running low:

  • Twins are a blessing!  It certainly sounds like (you/ your great grand-mammy/ your neighbor’s cat) have been blessed.
  • Looks like we could have a twin convention in aisle 4!
  • Thank you for sharing about your twins- it’s always encouraging to hear from another twin parent/ grandparent/ 3rd cousin twice removed).

And, if all else fails, you can rely on the one phrase that makes most moms of multiples cringe:  “I’d love to stay and chat but as you can see…I’ve really got my hands full!”

I’d love for you to share your experiences about being stopped by people who are excited “talk twin” with you.  Please comment!

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake from Williams-Sonoma

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I needed a cake for our annual church cake raffle.  I knew that not just any old cake would do.  I committed myself to the mission of seeking out and baking the most decadent, chocolaty, melt-in-your-mouth, sinfully blissful cake that ever existed.  Enter the Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake from Williams- Sonoma.  The result?  Well, I don’t want to brag, but I know call this my $100 cake.  Cha-ching!

032This cake is not for the faint of heart. Ohh the chocolate!  It requires a certain amount of dedication.  It requires a large colossal bundt cake pan (15 cups!)  *I don’t actually own a bundt pan that size, so I used the largest one I had a made a few cupcakes with the left over batter.  We’ll talk about those cupcakes later. 

 

For the cake:

  • 1 cup cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting pan
  • 7 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 20 Tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

For the ganache:

  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

 Directions:

036Start with all of your ingredients at room temperature. Don’t skip this step, it really does matter.  Nerd alert!  Want some science to back that up?  Cold ingredients like eggs, butter and milk don’t completely incorporate together the way that room temperature ingredients do.  You need your ingredients to fully incorporate and bond together to form an emulsion…because that’s how air gets trapped making your baked goods light and airy instead of dense and clumpy.  Nobody likes dense and clumpy.  Set those ingredients out 30 minutes to 1 hour ahead of time and make yourself a cup of coffee.  Patience is a virtue, so is light and airy chocolate cake.

Pre-heat an oven to 325 degrees F. Grease your bundt cake pan and dust with cocoa powder; tap out the excess.

To make the cake:

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, repeating until well blended.  Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the 1 cup of cocoa powder and the finely chopped chocolate.  Carefully pour in the boiling water and whisk until the chocolates combine into a smooth, velvety river of chocolate heaven.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter for a good 30 to 45 seconds.  Reduce the speed to low and add the brown sugar, beating until well blended.  Now it’s time to add air because air = light and fluffy cake!  Beat at a medium speed for about 5 minutes, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add eggs, one at a time until blended.  You want everything to really have a change to incorporate before adding more, so beat and scrape and beat and add and beat some more.  Add the vanilla extract and beat for 1 more minute.

Time to fold in the dry flour mixture that’s been patiently waiting on your waxed paper.  To prevent a heavy, dense cake, you will reduce your mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture 1/3 at a time and alternating with the addition of the sour cream.  This sounds more complicated than it actually is.  It looks like this, or something similar.  Add 1/3 flour, beat just until blended, add 1/2 sour cream, beat just until blended, add 1/3 flour, beat just until blended, add the rest of the sour cream, beat just until blended, add the last of the flour mixture and beat just until blended.  Scrape sides of bowl as needed.

Pour in the chocolate-cocoa mixture and beat until full incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Fold in the chocolate chips by hand using a rubber spatula.

That sounds eerily like a step-aerobic sequence…add, beat, add, beat, scrape, add, beat…and then reward yourself with chocolate.

Your batter is ready!  Grab your greased and cocoa-ed  bundt cake pan and start pouring.  Using your rubber spatula, spread your batter until the sides are about 1 inch higher than the center of the cake.  Do not overfill your cake pan.  If you have left over batter, I suggest making cupcakes. Ohhh, the delicious cupcakes.   

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and let the cake cool upright in the pan for 10- 15 minutes.  Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and lift off the pan.  Let the cake cool completely for at least 1 hour.

To make the ganache:

Combine the chocolate and butter in a medium size glass (or other heat proof) bowl.  Set aside but keep handy- you’ll be adding hot cream in just a minute!  In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream just to a boil, being careful to not scorch it. Pour the hot cream into the chocolate and butter and whisk until melted.

Slide a waxed paper lined baking sheet under your wire cooling rack (to catch the drips).  Pour the warm glaze over the top of the cake, watching with pride as it drips down the sides and middle of the cake.  Let the cake cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes and swear vengeance on anybody who sticks their finger in the ganache to taste it.

*That’s where the cupcakes come back into play!  They are small, they cool faster, they are single servings, they are your golden ticket to tasting the heaven on Earth you’ve just created without having to cut into the masterpiece that is now cooling on the wire rack.  Do it.  You’ve earned it.

Option: You could be a real show-off and coat with more chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles or you could wait until it’s cool and dust with powdered sugar.

Serves 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esau’s Stew

crossRemember the story of Esau and Jacob from Genesis 25:29-34?  Over the years, I’ve read this story several different times, always thinking how absurd and foolish Esau was.  It seems unfathomable that somebody would trade their entire inheritance for a bowl of stew.  I have always thought that Esau was so different from me and different from most everybody else I know.  I mean, truly, this man must have been out of his mind to trade his birthright as the first-born son of Isaac for one lousy meal.  Nobody I know has ever been this hungry.  I have always had a hard time relating to Esau and it never even occurred to me that there was a deeper meaning behind this story that might apply to my life.  To me, this had always been a story about an impulsive, foolish, hungry guy who got played by his jealous brother.

Then one morning, I was thinking about this story and it was almost as if a curtain had been lifted that allowed my eyes to see it in a way that I had never been able to before.  You can call this what you like, but I believe that God reveals things to us in His perfect time.  Maybe my heart wasn’t ready to learn a deeper meaning to this story about Esau before that morning.  Maybe my pride and quick judgment of Esau prevented me from learning anything from his story.  I don’t know exactly why on that particular morning my heart was ready for more, but I’m thankful for the insight and it’s been on my heart since then to write this…so, months later, here I am.  Maybe what I’m about to write has been obvious to everybody else and I’m just late catching on, and that’s ok.  All the same, I feel compelled to write this so I’m going to.   I’m smiling right at this moment as I type because I know that I can be stubborn.  What has taken me so long?  The truth is, I didn’t want people speculating about my life.  I guess I’ll chance that because God already knows my heart.

I am not all that different from Esau.  Maybe nobody is.  Esau chose something right in front of him, that he really really wanted. He knew it would give him instant gratification. He traded that for the inheritance he was promised to receive at a later date.   I think Esau’s is a story that we can all relate to: weakness of the flesh.  It’s hard to deny our flesh and follow God every day.  I’m not just talking about stew here, people.  I’m talking about any sin that we know we have but we refuse to give up because it’s our “one thing”.  We’ve all heard it, I know I’ve said it.  But what, really, is our sin costing us?  It’s not like we’re trading our birthright the way Esau willingly did, right?  (I just want to take a minute here, because this was my train of thought that morning and it took a few moments for that lightbulb to come on, so  we’ll wait just a minute or two…LIGHTBULB MOMENT!)  As a child of God, a Christian believing that Jesus is the son of God who died and rose again, I have an inheritance far greater than what Isaac was leaving to Esau.  It’s mine even though I did nothing to deserve it or earn it.  It’s a gift, God’s grace to me, and all I have to do is claim it.  Part of that inheritance is eternity in heaven, which of course we have to wait until we’re dead to experience, but there’s more.  Jesus’s blood made it possible for us to have a whole and right relationship right now- with God.  Because of Jesus, we can stand in the presence of God because we are cleansed by His blood.  We don’t have to wait until we die for that.  It’s ours, now.  That closeness with God is part of our birthright when we are born again.  When I give into my flesh, act or think in a way that is outside of God’s will for my life, am I trading that thing or thought for my inheritance from my Father?  Maybe, if not for Jesus’ blood being shed for me.  I get to ask for forgiveness and even better, I am forgiven.  Score!

What about those sins, or maybe just that one sin, that one thing that I just don’t want to do without?  That temptation that seems to always be stronger than I am?  That sin that I repeat, knowing that I’m outside of God’s will- what happens with that?  What is my one thing that I am possibly trading my inheritance for?  (I bet you’re wondering too by now, but let me encourage you to do better than that.  What is that one thing that you are possibly trading your inheritance for?)  To be forgiven we need to repent and walk away from our sin and when we do God removes that sin from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12)  If we return to that sin, should we then be forgiven?  How many times do we get?  Is there a limit?  Peter asked Jesus himself this same question. “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  Up to seven times?”  (Matthew 18:21)   The answer?  “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22 NIV)  or “Seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22 KJ).  Forgiveness is ours, as many times as we need it.  We don’t have to lose our inheritance because we give into temptation.  The warning here is to never feel like our sin is so great that we no longer deserve God’s forgiveness and stop seeking it.  We never deserved it in the first place.  We didn’t earn it and we can’t “un-earn” it.   It’s a gift of grace.  This is not a free pass to hold onto our sins and give into those temptations.  “What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2)  Why would we want to live a sinful life when Jesus has made it possible to be right with God?   Who in their right mind would choose to eat stew when they could feast at a table with the Almighty God?  Only a crazy person like Esau?  I used to think so.

What is my ‘stew’?  What do I let come between God and I?  What am I trading my birthright of standing in God’s presence for?  It can come in so many forms.  Gossip, holding grudges, lying, criticizing others, bad attitude or rudeness, jealousy, pride, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth- those seem like the small ones compared to adultery and murder and worshipping false Gods,  but all sin is the same to God, right?  What about that sin that I keep returning to?  My “one vice”?   It better be pretty good because every time I indulge in it, I’m separating myself from my God.

Esau was foolish.  I am more foolish.  We have more in common than I would have thought.  We both are tempted by sins of the flesh but Esau’s giving into his temptation lost him great wealth.  I have much more at stake.  Does this mean I will never choose sin over God again?  Of course not, but I will never look at stew the same way again.