The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

School Valentine’s 2016

For whatever reason, I seem to go all out for the girls’ Valentines cards for school. I feel like I’ve learned my lesson over the years, and at least now we go with cute, but simple. This year we looked at designs from a few different websites, but ended up going with Tiny Prints. There are almost too many designs, it’s so hard to narrow it down!

We did our photo shoot back in January over MLK weekend. The light was great, and we had plenty of time to get set up. I chose a wall opposite the windows, and we cut out pink hearts that we taped to the wall around their heads. We don’t do many photo shoots like this, so it was hard getting natural smiles out of them. We did okay, but we’re definitely out of practice.

delaney vday

Delaney liked the glitter and the rainbows on her card. For her candy, we searched for rainbow candy, but that was difficult to find. We found these rainbow suckers, but every online review said they arrived busted. Instead I went to the local candy store and paid about 10x the price, but none were broken!

caden vday

Caden was all about the magical unicorn. When I asked what she wanted to put with her Valentine she said “Magical candy!” How about we search for unicorn candy? Unicorn poop for the win! They are little marshmallows from Oriental Trading and they are perfect.

vday package

I got smarter this year and bought cello bags that have the tape already on them for packaging. It took less than 30 minutes to address and package everything. Win!

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Tiny Bits

* Our weekend was boring, but also oddly … off? We ran errands to get ready for vacation, did two adoption events, and stayed home to watch the super bowl. We were all a bit cranky which made everything that much harder.

* Monday has really been no better. Possibly worse.

* Caden is in this mode where she rushes through everything because all she wants is to get to the next thing. It’s affecting her handwriting (atrocious), homework, and her piano practice. I’m trying to get her to slow down, but she has so much to do! I’m also trying not to rush her, since that probably contributes. Any suggestions are welcome.

* I was going to write a post about this, but I don’t think it’s worthy of it’s own post so … we watch a lot less tv in the new house. In the old house the tv was on all the time, mostly as background noise. I watched Castle while I cooked dinner, and HGTV all weekend. In the new house, not so much. I’m not someone who thinks the tv is the devil, but I am loving the peace and quiet and family together time! Not to mention I don’t have to deal with the awful shows on Nickelodeon anymore! It’s divine. Such an unexpected bonus!

* It’s going to be cold and windy this week and I am just not up for it. Embracing winter has really not worked out for me.

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Our 30 minute meals

During the week, dinner needs to be ready quickly. First, I have no desire to spend hours in the kitchen and second, none of us want to eat dinner late. This list definitely isn’t our definitive list of weeknight meals, but it covers everything that is in heavy rotation. I thought I would post them here in case they inspire anyone else, and to see if anyone has any we should add to our repertoire!

1. Tacos. With piano on Monday nights, I need something quick and easy. I usually brown the ground beef on Sunday, so all I have to do is reheat and put out the toppings. We are all hard shell fans, Delaney likes sour cream and I like guacamole. I like to pretend salsa is a vegetable. This is also a great use of leftover chicken if I roasted some on Sunday, or carnitas if we have those on hand.

2. Fried rice. We had this last night! I made a lemon honey chicken over rice Tuesday night, and then used the leftover rice to make fried rice last night. The girls like edamame and corn only, and we do either chicken or shrimp or a combo of both. This is a good one because it comes together quickly, everyone loves it, and I can reheat the next day for my own lunch.

3. Sausages plus veggies. I know a lot of people love the Aidell’s chicken apple sausages, but our family is loyal to the garlic chicken sausages from Trader Joe’s. In the summer I’ll grill them, but more often I cut them and saute with vegetables (they are lovely paired with the asparagus/onion/mushroom combo Trader Joe’s sells). This can also be chicken plus veggies, or even shrimp plus veggies. We do this a lot, and I’ve found that if I saute the protein first and remove it from the pan, saute the vegetables, then add the protein back in, it allows everything to cook quickly, but still lets the flavors meld together at the end.

4. Steak bites. This is an old Pioneer Woman recipe but basically, you cut up steak into bite size bites and season heavily with salt and pepper. Melt a lot of butter (or ghee) in a pan (2-3 tablespoons) until it starts to brown, then throw the steak in. The girls gobble this up! Their favorite part is the butter sauce.

5. Honey lime shrimp. Thaw the shrimp, marinate with some olive oil, lime, honey, and garlic powder, then saute. These are delightful! The second batch in the pan always turn out better, they get a nice caramelized crust.

6. Bacon wrapped chicken. Wrap a slice of bacon around a chicken tender and bake. Sometimes I get fancy and brush a little honey mustard sauce on top.

7. Breakfast for dinner. When we’re in a pinch and I’m looking for something out of the pantry, this is what we do. Either homemade pancakes, or pancetta scrambled eggs. We love the diced pancetta that Trader Joe’s sells.

8. Spaghetti. Obviously. I either do corn noodles, or if I’ve thought ahead, spaghetti squash for me and regular noodles for the girls.

We are clearly in need of easy vegetable dishes. I sometimes roast sweet potatoes if I have time. The girls love edamame and corn and those are easy to buy frozen and just throw in the microwave. We are not salad at dinner every night people although I always wish we were. When I’m thinking of dinner I focus on the protein, and sometimes that means I just pull out some fruit and hope for the best.

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It Snowed!


It’s snowed a few times this winter, but nothing major. They had been talking about this snowstorm for over a week, but the predictions kept changing. At one point they were saying three inches, then suddenly the day of it was 7-10 inches. I went into work that morning, but once we realized that the snow was going to hit hard, we made plans to do our last meeting of the day remotely. I’m so glad I left when I did! The roads weren’t bad then, but traffic was awful. Luckily the call ended a bit early and I was able to run over to school and pick the girls up. Good thing I did because the buses were running over an hour late.


Once home, we all headed outside. At this point we had gotten about six inches of snow. I shoveled the back patio and the girls made sure Annie had her path around the yard, then they cleared out an area so that other animals would have some shelter. The one really good thing about this snowstorm was that it wasn’t cold! It was so nice to be outside and not freezing my hands off.


Annie is the only one dog who doesn’t consider snow hot lava. She raced all around the yard, very excited for about 10 minutes. Then she wanted back inside. The snow was as deep as Midas, so he spent about 30 seconds outside before we shoveled.

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Tap Out

laney second

The girls were off from school on Friday, so I worked from home. The plan was to take my morning calls at home, then run into the office for a few hours for some in person meetings. As my last call was wrapping up I asked the girls to pack a bag of things to do at the office. There were arguments, I tried to quickly squash them, and then there were tears so loud I left the call to see who was hurt. Of course no one was hurt, Delaney was yelling and Caden was being dramatic but still, ugh.

Delaney has had a rough few months. She doesn’t want to do anything you tell her to do. Shower? Nope. Turn off her ipad? Nope. Go to bed? Nope. Pick up her room? Nope. It’s exhausting, and her tears and nonstop arguing have exhausted both Caden and me. After the latest dramarama I realized we needed a break from each other. My dad was coming up to watch their hitting clinic, and then we would all be at my brother’s on Saturday for a fish fry. Perfect. She could spend the night with my parents, and Caden and I could have some quality time together.

At our holiday party I talked with a coworker about the drama that goes along with girls. We agreed it was exasperating and she said her husband steps in to deal with their daughter. I don’t have that. There is no one to say “Your turn!” I mean, I guess I could ask Annabelle, maybe she could get through to her?

Her drama centers around two things. She either tries to prove that I don’t love her, or she tries to prove that I love Caden more. We’ve talked about how you can be mad at someone but still love them (no you can’t, according to her logic). I’ve told her just because I’m telling her something she doesn’t want to hear doesn’t mean I’m yelling at her (not true either according to her logic). At this point, I mostly remove myself from the situation because I know reasoning doesn’t work, and I know anything I say will only enrage her more. It’s a difficult balance. I want to be there for her because it’s clear she’s working through a lot of emotions, but I don’t want to add fuel to the fire and it seems like anything I say is wrong.

Friday evening Caden and I cuddled on the couch and ate chocolate chip cookies and watched our shows. Saturday morning we had a peaceful breakfast! Caden even commented on how nice it was without a crabby Laney. She got all sorts of attention from the cashier at Trader Joes, and we arrived at my brother’s house refreshed.

I’m trying some different tactics. Something has to work right? If nothing else, in a month when they turn eight I’m hoping for some sort of upswing. I’ve also realized I have to take better care of myself. My energy has been low all of January, which doesn’t help any of us. Hopefully some sunshine and maybe some exercise and some evenings out will bring about change in February.


No Spend January, the tally

While there are a few days left in January, I thought I would do a wrap up post on our no spend month. How did we do? We saved $1000 to put towards our Disney vacation next month! And that was with some spending that I hadn’t intended to do, so if we really had been able to stay no spend we could have added a few hundred more to that total.

How did we do on the rules?

No coffee shops. I went twice where I had to pay for my coffee (versus work or a free drink). Both times I had massive headaches, and a latte was my last option after trying water, taking advil, and drinking coffee at home. I did realize that lattes aren’t as special as they used to be, and for the most part I am happy just to drink the coffee at work. The harder part is weekends. It’s become a bit of our routine to hit Caribou before we get groceries, or to stop in while we’re out running errands. In fact, that was one thing I really realized, how often I reward the girls with a treat from the coffee shops.

No Amazon orders. I broke this rule almost immediately! There was a book on Disney World that I wanted for our trip. I had done my research on Amazon, but intended to buy the book at a local bookstore. It was $7 more expensive at the bookstore! So I ordered from Amazon. Our Subscribe and Save order also ships at the end of January, and I had a cart full of things for either our trip or Valentine’s Day this week so I pulled the trigger on those as well. At that point I knew we had saved $1000 which was more than I had hoped to save. The first half of the month is always tighter moneywise because of the way my bills shake out, so I bought when I knew I had the cushion to do so.

Two Target runs. Nailed it! I didn’t go to Target until January 19! That’s a new record. I spent $24 that trip, and another $24 earlier this week. We had a list and we stuck to it!

Eating out. I bought lunch twice? And we didn’t eat out at any restaurants. It made me realize that I can’t bring my lunch every day, it’s just not going to happen. But if I plan well, I can definitely bring it three days a week. Not eating out at restaurants was hard. That’s my sanity saver when I’m exhausted and don’t feel like cooking. But, we did it, and it helped that the girls rallied behind things as well.

Overall, I loved this month. It was good to really think through my finances and focus on them for an entire month. I thought maybe I would save a few hundred? I never thought we could have $1000 extra at the end of the month. I knew the little purchases over and over were killing us, but I had no idea by how much.

On the good side, there are a lot of things I want to save for. I have two big trips in mind to take the girls on – Hawaii and Europe. I also want to pay off the second mortgage, save for yearly trips, save for a new car, and save for a kitchen remodel. As I looked at our budget, I had no idea how I would make that happen. If we don’t eat out that saves $150? That’s not going to do it. But being able to throw $1000 per month at my savings account? That will make these things happen a lot sooner! Not every month will be like this month, but it made me think that if we can make this mindset our regular mindset, rather than a restrictive one month mindset, then we’ll be on our way. I was feeling like my goals were out of reach, but now I’m feeling hopeful.

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It’s only temporary

This is Marta. Before you think I’ve gone crazy no worries, we’re only taking care of her for the week while her foster parents are on vacation.

In case you’re interested, Marta is a 9-year-old yorkshire terrier, who weighs somewhere around 10 lbs? She’s a total sweetheart. Fairly shy and cautious, but you can tell she wants to know what’s going on. She spends much of her time under the kitchen table by the heat vent. It’s warm, and it gives her a bit of protection. She loves to snuggle on the couch, and she actually seems to like the snow! As a bonus, she’s great with kids! I think she likes my two more than she likes me.

I wanted to try out a fourth dog for a couple of reasons. First, could we foster a fourth dog? Either on a temporary or a more permanent basis? One of the reasons I’ve not adopted Midas is that I felt like if I did, we wouldn’t be able to foster any more dogs, and I love being involved with Underdog. Maybe a fourth dog wouldn’t be so bad?

Second, we used to find a dog sitter for our two pups while we’re on vacation. As I paid for their visit, I realized hey! This might be a relatively easy way to make some extra money. We already have three, what’s a few more?

The reality of a fourth dog was eye opening. Marta is sweet and calm, but the tenuous balance of our household was broken. We have routines and unspoken agreements and Marta isn’t in on any of those. She wants to eat everyone’s food, I have to figure out where to keep her during the day, and where she should sleep. Annabelle was not super happy about having another dog in the house either. She has expressed her displeasure in multiple ways, but it made me realize we really need to take a step back from fostering, and focus on the dogs we have. (Annie didn’t like her the first few days, but now of course loves her and wants to play with her all day. They even snuggled a bit in bed last night.)

It’s been good to know instead of wonder how we would do with a fourth dog. I will hand it to my fellow fosters out there, I know many who can have five or six or more dogs in their house and they handle it with ease. Hopefully we can find other ways to stay involved with the rescue. As far as Midas goes, I’ll give him a bit more time, but I’m leaning towards adopting him. Hopefully I can convince my parents to take him half the time!

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Winter Weekends

Even though I’m trying to embrace winter and our low key weekends, I’ve mostly realized I’m tired and bored and sick of the girls nonstop whining about having to clean the house. So much for that!

Overall, Saturday was a good day. We ran errands in the morning, the girls went sledding in the afternoon with friends, and I had my work holiday party that evening. They were super excited to see the babysitter, but ended up staying up too late. They always try to wait up for me and most of the time I don’t come home super late, but I didn’t get home until after 11, and Caden reported that she was still awake at 10:46.

Sunday morning we were all exhausted. The morning was rough, but we turned it around and headed to the art museum. Luckily it’s free, since I had no idea how long we would last. Since we were tired we looked at the map to decide where to focus our time. The girls loved the map. Loved it! I think they were more excited about the map than the art. I was at this museum with Delaney’s class last spring and there were a few galleries I wanted to spend more time in, but I couldn’t find them and the girls were cranky. Ultimately the exhaustion caught up to all of us and we decided to head home.

Funny story (I need to liven this post up somehow). We were trying to find parking around the museum and there was a lot half a block away. I started to pull in and Delaney said “Mom. It’s no spend January. That parking is $7, it’s too much.” So I backed out and we found free street parking!

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A welcome change

I have always been the parent who has been very involved with the caretakers of my children. When they were in daycare I loved chatting with their teachers at the end of the day and hearing about what they did. It seemed like almost daily we were working together through various issues – friends, eating, pooping, napping. Even in kindergarten and first grade I emailed their teachers at least once a month about something.

Second grade? Haven’t emailed once. I don’t even know what Caden’s teacher’s email is! There has been nothing to communicate about. It’s been lovely.

This year they really shook up the classrooms socially. Both girls’ best friend from kindergarten and first grade are in different classrooms. They see them at recess and gym, and for a while they still played together, but that happens less and less now. And yet, there has been zero drama about this. Delaney doesn’t really have a close girl friend in her class and yet, she’s been just fine. Actually, she’s flourished this year, and I wonder if it’s because of the lack of distractions. In the past there would have been drama about why so and so wouldn’t play with them, but this year both girls have just let it roll off their backs. They totally get that everyone has made new friends and that’s okay. They play with each other almost every day at recess which probably helps? But we’ve been dealing with mean girls and social drama since they were three, so I feel like at this point, they know how to handle it. That’s not to say that it won’t swing back around in the near future, but it at least gives me hope.

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Pioneer Girls


The girls’ current IB planner is “Where we are in place and time”. In other words, they’re studying the olden days. Like when phones used to hang on the wall. Part of this planner is a field trip to a one room school house and everyone is supposed to dress the part.

There didn’t seem to be wiggle room on the costume part, and I had no idea where to find a pioneer outfit. They suggested the thrift store, but I was not convinced we’d find petticoats and bloomers there! After texting a few people trying to get ideas, another mom said they ordered a costume from Amazon. Done and done! Luckily, Caden’s field trip was Wednesday and Delaney’s was today, so we could get by with just one costume.

The girls were so excited about this! We borrowed a tin pail from our old neighbor to put their lunch in, and pulled out a mason jar for their water. My sister in law had just given us the perfect boots that fit both girls, and their costume was complete!

Per Caden, they participated in a spelling bee, did a play about how Minnesota became a state, and ate lunch. Delaney didn’t think the bonnet fit her but we tried it on this morning with her braids and it’s perfect! They’ve also been watching Little House on the Prairie as part of this, which means it was time to get out our Little House books! Another series for them to dig into! Maybe we’ll do a Little House weekend trip this summer?

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