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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Now That's Cheesy!

I know, I know. I've already posted once today, and I'm getting a little out of control. But alas - I just wanted to share this little video from snack time earlier! Here's my thought process behind posting this particular video here on the blog: My voice is just WAY too embarrassing to share this thing on Facebook to the public at large, but I figure if you've bothered to click over and see this on the blog, you're OK in my books. ;) And if you're already subscribing, then of course you've passed security clearance. 

Ah, vulnerability.

(But really. It's not like I haven't embarrassed myself thousands of times on this thing already - ha!)

On with the video! Apparently, string cheese is HILARIOUS, as we learned today.
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Thanksgiving, Mississippi Style!

There's something about heading down to Mississippi following a Thanksgiving celebration at my Grandma's house in Bartlett that just feels right. Growing up, we'd always make the trek down to Mississippi to see my dad's side of the family following the big feast at Grandma's house. This year, T&E were also able to head down to Mississippi after spending Thanksgiving at my Grandma's so they could see their dad's side of the family!
One of the highlights of the trip for the girls was getting to watch the Florida State game with not one, but TWO, hardcore fans: their dad AND their Uncle Alex! Here, Alex is trying his best to teach Evangelyn the virtues of loyalty to the Noles, even when they break the hearts of their fans. By the way, we were SO happy to have Alex with us all the way from Chattanooga! Last year, he had to work over Thanksgiving break, so it was extra-nice to have him home again this year! :)

Alex did his best to instill in the girls an early love for sports over the weekend. Alas, I am their mother, so they're much more likely to develop a love for shopping. At least he tries. 

Tamsie became obsessed with the neighbors' dogs this weekend. Here she's probably woofing like one of them to show off for her YaYa. She hasn't stopped talking about those dogs since, and now she has developed a whole new appreciation for her Doggies book. She woofed along as I read it to her this morning! 
Mrs. DeeDee's tree... so pretty! I love that her Christmas decorations were already up and in place for our visit!

Evangelyn soaks in YaYa time while biting on the ribbons on her dress. Apparently they double as excellent teethers - who knew?

Tamsie cuddles up with YaYa. Here we have caught her in the act of kicking her feet out from under her blanket. Homegirl hates having her feet covered up and always has. Even in her NICU days, her nurses couldn't get her to keep her feet tucked inside her swaddle blankets. In one of her most impressive feats (har!) yet, she actually removed her boots in her sleep on Saturday night! Tamsie decided to debut this little trick while Chris and I were visiting with my cousin Keri and her husband Bryan, who live near Chris's family.
And speaking of visiting with Keri and Bryan, I completely failed to get a picture of us hanging out, so instead I thought I'd just post this retro photo of Keri and me at Meemaw's house from a few years ago -- back when Keri wore Care Bear shirts and my hair stuck straight up. OK, maybe this was more like 28ish years ago... but we decided that 1998 was only a couple of years ago, so this can't be too far removed from that, right?

Uncle Alex and his protege in Noles fandom, Evie.
Evie loves the lights and Christmas decorations at YaYa and Papa Herbie's house!

Tamsie's first visit with Santa! ;) Love that little toothy smile!

So this wasn't taken in MS, but I thought it was funny regardless: Evie thinks it never hurts to have a back-up Wubbanub, ...

... and Tamsie agrees wholeheartedly.

On a sad note, apparently I am no bueno at caring for more than two living things at a time. This is the unfortunate end that all plants of mine have been meeting lately. And now, a moment of silence for the mums...
Video time! 
In this video, Tamsie takes some steps before collapsing. The best part is that Uncle Alex takes full responsibility for her fall, even though he really had nothing to do with it! :) He sure does love those girls, and they're pretty fond of him too.
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One word: giggles!
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I made this little video while Chris and Alex were watching the game. Herbie had just come by and given them each a new visor, which is what Alex has on top of his hat and what Chris puts around E's neck. This is just typical of gametime playtime of the weekend! :)
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Tamsie giggles at Evie:
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That's it for today! We had a WONDERFUL time with our Mississippi family over the break, and we can't wait to see them all again soon! We missed Noah, who was on a church youth trip to Dallas, and Jennifer and Tyler, who had to get back to Memphis for work and school, but other than that it was perfect. Jennifer and Tyler will be getting married December 23rd, so we'll all be reunited very soon - can't wait!! :) Once again, there is just so much to be thankful for this year.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good!

* Be forewarned: there's lots of writing in this one! But I didn't have this blog until January, so I'm updating you a little bit here! :) *

I don't really remember when it made sense to us to start thinking about moving back to Memphis, but I think last Thanksgiving probably had a lot to do with it. It started small -- like I think it's something we were both feeling but weren't ready to verbalize -- after all, we had left Memphis and hadn't been looking to move back anytime soon. We had made Louisville our home, right? We'd had SO many conversations about how much we loved being out of Memphis, and even though we doubted that Louisville would be our forever home, we had no plans of moving anywhere anytime soon. After all, we'd bought a house. I still had three classes of seminary left. Even though Chris was basically taking seminary classes for fun at that point, not because he was planning a full-time ministerial career, he still loved his job at Humana and had no plans to uproot himself from his budding career there. 

And then the feeling grew and grew. By springtime, it was overwhelming -- suffocatingly so. I vividly remember taking a walk with Chris and pushing the girls in their stroller around our little mid-century ranch-house neighborhood in Louisville, crying because Tamsie and Evie wouldn't take their bottles without a blood-pressure-raising fuss, crying because no one could relate to this at all, crying because I wanted so badly to be back near family and didn't see it happening any time in the near future... and then having to wipe away my tears awkwardly and answer the standard questions as we walked past neighbors we'd never met: "Yes, they're twins. Five months old. I know they're small -- they were early. 11 weeks early. But they're doing great! No, we don't have family here. I don't know how we're doing it....," etc. 

And God was definitely faithful to give us the grace to get through it... but, as I remember my college roommate Jane once saying, He gives us just enough grace to get us through the situation He wants us to get through. Then, when it's time for us to make a move, the grace runs out! The grace was basically on empty by the time Chris got the job offer in Memphis. 

But back to last Thanksgiving. On my mom's side of the family, Thanksgiving is and has always been a very special annual affair. Each year, we gather together with my Aunt Lauren, Uncle Myron and cousin Chris over at my grandmother's house for the same traditional Thanksgiving meal, served roughly around 11:30 am. Each year, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is on in the background while everyone arrives and bustles around, trying to get everything ready. Each year, someone asks my uncle if he would like any rolls, and each year, he dismisses the notion as absurd, claiming that rolls are merely "filler." Each year, Mom tries to serve me some piddling amount of green bean casserole (she is the green bean casserole server, you see), and each year I give her the evil eye until she loads my plate up with the fabulous stuff. Each year, my uncle serves the dressing, knowing which parts (the sides) are specially reserved for Mom and me. Each year, we tease my cousin about the year he ate practically all the olives off the deviled egg tray. Each year, my grandma has a special cup full of plain egg whites just for me, since I abhor deviled eggs but love egg whites, food purist that I am, you know. Each year, my cousin makes the world's greatest pumpkin pie, my aunt makes a pecan pie, and my mom savors the fact that I don't like pecan pie -- leaving more for her, while I'm bewildered at the fact that my mom doesn't touch the pumpkin pie. Each year, we play games all afternoon while my dad and Uncle Myron watch football on TV... or sleep through football on TV. You get the idea -- Thanksgiving is a very special, traditional family event that we look forward to all year every year.

Last year, my girls were still in the NICU, so of course there was no way we were leaving town to be a part of the festivity. Instead, it went on without us. We called and said hi to everyone. Thankfully, my in-laws (minus Alex, who had to work) came up to Louisville to see us and the babies, and we had Thanksgiving dinner at our house. And our time with them was wonderful and very memorable, even though I missed my babies like crazy and missed the normalcy of what I had come to expect from Thanksgiving. Nothing was normal. It was a good reminder to be thankful regardless of the circumstances, and even so, we had so very much to be thankful for: after all, the girls and I had survived a very dangerous pregnancy and delivery! But in the background of the day's celebrations was the knowledge that my in-laws had driven at least 9 hours to come be with us, and they would have to leave earlier than we'd like them to and earlier than they'd like to leave in order to take the 9-hour-plus trip back home to Mississippi. They couldn't do this every holiday, and we couldn't expect them to. And we sure couldn't be taking the babies on a trip that long anytime soon. By living this far away from family, we were missing out on my family's celebrations, and we knew we wouldn't get to see my other family (Chris's family) very often AT ALL. This was NOT sustainable, and in the back of our minds, we knew it. 

This year has been one of the most joyful Thanksgivings I can recall, for many, many reasons. It has given us an amazing opportunity to look back on how far God has brought us in the past year. For starters, we woke up yesterday in our new house in Memphis, back near my family. We packed up enough stuff to keep the girls happy away from home for an entire day, and then we headed over to my 85-year-old Grandma's house for our annual feast. It was wonderful. The girls were so happy, and they were able to eat pretty much everything we were eating! Their favorite was the cranberry sauce! Later in the afternoon, Melissa came over with her mom, Mrs. Kathy, for the big Chicken Foot tournament. Last year, Mrs. Kathy was still fighting her battle with breast cancer. This year, she is cancer-free, praise the Lord, and she looks absolutely fabulous, too! Having Mrs. Kathy there at the table with us, laughing and playing Chicken Foot and feeling great, and having the girls there, giggling constantly while being passed around and then playing in their little play yard, my heart was so full it was about to burst. So many answered prayers, so much to be thankful for!

Today, when Chris gets home, we're going to Mississippi to visit his family. This is such an incredible answer to prayer too! While we wish that we all lived in the same place, it is so wonderful to be able to drive down and see them in less than 3 hours! This is a totally doable trip for T&E, and we can't wait to see Mrs. DeeDee, Mr. Herbie, Alex, and Noah! (Sad to be missing Jennifer and Tyler, but that just means we'll need to hang out again soon!) We're so thankful to be able to take the trip to stay with them and spend time with them over the next couple of days. I'll be updating about that part of our Thanksgiving once we get back. 

Here are the pictures I managed to get over the past few days. I really failed to get too many yesterday, but I'm OK with that because I was having so much fun with everyone! I didn't want to be behind my phone the entire time; I wanted to be fully present now that I have that luxury! :)
Tamsie Pearl a few days ago, having Mommy time while Evie was still napping

Evangelyn Rose rocking some serious bed head upon waking up from her nap

At Babies 'R' Us, restocking on some T&E essentials. They started out with socks and a hat apiece, but you can see Tamsie made sure that didn't last long. Not only does she rip off her own accessories, but she also doesn't mind helping Evie out of hers!

At my Grandma's house: Tamsie, my Dad, and some leaves

Melissa and Evie during the great Thanksgiving Chicken Foot Tournament '12

At home that night with Evie

Feeding time back at the Vafi house

Making a silly kissy face while feeding T&E... notice the books all over the table! It's chaos over here, folks - but the good kind of chaos. The kind to be very thankful for! :)

Mrs. DeeDee gave us this gorgeous frame for Christmas last year, and we finally got to hang it up in our entry hall with a canvas from Melissa!

Context! You see it right when you come in the front door!

I've been playing around with Instagram lately, so here's my requisite emo self-portrait. Ha!

Watching Sesame Street while waiting on their morning bottles. Notice the PIANO in the background, which one of Chris's bosses gave to us for free! What a blessing!!! :)
On that note, I am off to go pack for a fun-filled weekend with my Madison fam! Much love to all of you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some Facts That I'm Loving...

* the fact that today is my fabulous mother-in-law's birthday!
The girls and their beloved YaYa, whom they love talking about all the time ("YaYaYaYaYa") and can't wait to see this weekend! ;)
* the fact that my good friend Jennifer just had a sweet and absolutely adorable baby boy named Ryan yesterday! All are healthy and doing well! :)

* the fact that Thanksgiving is TWO days away!!! I can't tell you how much I love this special holiday!

* the fact that when I pat Evie's back to burp her, she pats mine too. It's like she thinks we're taking a break in the middle of her bottle just to pat each other's backs. :)

* the fact that when Tamsie drops her duck paci from her crib, she doesn't wail like she did in the olden days - instead, she says, "Uh oh! Duck!" We hear it on the monitor, and then we go in and rescue the duck. It's wonderful that she can communicate at that level without screaming nowadays! (But don't be fooled - there's still plenty she finds to scream about when the need arises!)

* the fact that at Cracker Barrel Sunday night, while waiting for a table, I left the girls with Chris and my parents and wandered over to look at the baby section of the store (shocker, I know!)... and then I heard someone walking past me and saying to whomever they were with, "Did you see those cute little twins over there?" Proud mama moment! :)

* the fact that I'm finally getting around to reading this fascinating book I've been trying to get around to reading for like a year and a half! And it is hard to put down, too! :)

* the fact that Melissa was off work last Friday and came over and helped me make these AMAZINGLY delicious strawberry cupcakes:
OK, more accurately, I helped her make these things. I was kind of preoccupied with the business of keeping T and E happy, but I did what I could! ;)

 * the fact that this incredibly hard-working man -- seen crashing here on the couch (while his night-owl wife is still wide awake) after a long day of working at his office and then coming home and working hard around the house and playing with twins and then running errands -- this wonderful man is my husband. I love him.

* the fact that the blog has its first winner of its first giveaway EVER (going to random.org now to select the winner):
Congratulations to JENNIFER ALLEN, who entered via facebook!!
Yay to my friend who just had a baby! I'll be sending you your coupon code to get your gift card. Thanks to all who entered! Oh, and the picture was of Evangelyn - y'all are too good at properly identifying the girls! I'm majorly impressed.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone! :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy 13-Month Birthday, T&E!!!

*Hey, friends! Don't forget to enter the giveaway... I'll be drawing a winner sometime tomorrow or Wednesday - whenever time permits! :) *

"Sure, we're letting you take our picture - but that doesn't mean we're happy about it."
Dear Tamsie and Evangelyn,
I promise you're not typically as ticked off as these pictures make you look. It was totally my fault for waiting til late in the day to get around to taking pictures of you, but your OCD mother just had to have pictures from your actual 13-month birthday - even if your afternoon nap was a total flop and it was very much inconvenient for you to take the time to pose for them! You're actually happy little girls most of the time!
"And we're not promising to keep our headbands on, either."
So you're 13 months. In response to the question we're most frequently asked about you (in addition to "are they twins?" "how old are they?" "how do you tell them apart?" etc.), "are they walking?" No, you're not - not fully, anyway. Of course you were early, so you really shouldn't be walking full-out yet anyway. However, you're constantly walking and hanging onto things or pushing things around. This past week, both of you took your first step or two before crashing down. Evangelyn, you were the first to take this monumental step - sorry, couldn't resist! I know I'm embarrassing you already! ;)
"Don't even think about taking either one of our NICU bears away from us. They're ours."
So you may not yet be walking, but you are certainly doing a lot of talking. Sometimes both of you will get in this mode where you repeat pretty much anything we say to you when we're pointing things out to you and telling you their names. On your own, you can properly identify a duck (although sometimes you call all pacis "duck"), a bear, a ball, a door. You say "upstairs," which sounds a lot like "upstehs," when we take you upstairs. (In addition to talking about them, you also love climbing up the stairs.) You LOVE books, and some of your current favorites are Baby Faces and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? When we read Baby Faces to you, BOTH of you like to say the next word before I get to it! With Brown Bear, you try to growl like the brown bear, and you say "duck" when we get to the page with the yellow duck! Another favorite is Ten Little Ladybugs. Both of you smile great big smiles when we get to the last page, and then you fight over who gets to play with the book! :) Tamsie, your personal favorite book right now is Hop on Pop, which you refer to as "Hop Pop" -- you love saying "up pup" and "uh oh" when they fall off the wall. Of course, both of you sing a little duet whenever we get to the page with the thing that can sing!
They are one tough-looking, sleepy set. (What Evie's doing here means she is just about to crash. And I'm pretty sure she did when I finally left her alone!)
 A fun thing we've started over the past couple of weeks is baby signs. Your speech pathologist taught several of them to me, and you've already picked up on the sign for jump -- which is fitting, since both of you love jumping all the time. You hang onto the sides of your cribs and jump like a couple of monkeys, you hang onto your gate and jump, you jump when we hold you. And of course the jumping is accompanied by lots of silly giggles! Y'all are too much fun.
"Put the camera down NOW, Mom."
Both of you are getting much better at staying in the nursery at church without completely breaking down when we leave. Your teachers tell us you're having lots of fun. Last time, one of them told us that Tamsie, you're definitely the social one. In fact, you have a certain friend whom you find each week to play with, and you two have lots of fun together! This reaffirms what I've always thought about you two: Tamsie's the extravert, and Evie's the introvert.
Tamsie still rocks the "ooo" face on a regular basis. You can see two of their favorite books in this picture!
You LOVE playing with each other - so much that it's sometimes hard to get you to stop playing and go to sleep at naptime these days (like right now, actually). I hear you giggling over the monitor, and when I go in to see what's so funny, both of you are jumping up and down and making silly noises in your cribs. Knowing how much you need your rest, sometimes I get frustrated when this happens -- and then I have to step back and realize just how precious it is that you're already friends. Actually, this is how I'm finding it to be with so many of the frustrations that come along with parenting: they're only frustrations until you realize that they're actually blessings. Pretty amazing.
"Give me that camera, Mom."
Both of you are just about 17 lbs apiece right now. The other night I managed to carry both of you around for a minute, but it wasn't easy! That's why I usually have to stick with one at a time. You're in size 6-9 month clothes, although you're about 28" long - so you're kind of getting to be too long for 6-9 month clothes but not nearly big enough around for 12 month clothes. In fact, some of your 9 month pants may be getting a little short, but they still fall off your waist - I have to keep pulling them up for you! You're in size 3 diapers during the day and 4 at night.
It seems a baby (or two) is always trying to climb on me. 
You're expanding your dining horizons these days, but Tamsie, you're a little bit picky. You refuse to eat eggs, for example. When we give you scrambled eggs, you try to drop them off the side of your tray very delicately when you think we're not looking. If we sprinkle cheese on top, you'll pick out the cheese and eat that, but leave the eggs untouched. Evie, you're our adventurous eater. Whether you've had it a hundred times or never seen it before in your life, you'll pretty much eat anything. But this makes sense, because in general, we've found you tend to be our more compliant child, while Tamsie has the stronger will!
Looking through last year's calendar and came across this. The 7th looks particularly special because that is the day we were finally able to bring the girls home from the hospital!!!! Two other reasons this calendar shot is interesting: it's weird to see the events that had been on the calendar for a while, like the party at church Wednesday night, that I clearly had to skip... and you can also see the way that doctor's appointments (for the girls and for me) were dominating our lives in that crazy era. That was a special time, but I can't tell you how glad I am that we're a year removed from it now. I get all thankful and weepy just thinking about it all.
You still attract all kinds of attention whenever we're out, much of it sweet and cute, and some of it obnoxious. I'm trying to get Chris to write a post about that particular aspect of being a twin parent. I'm way nicer than he is about it - ha! If someone says something odd to us, I tend to smile and humor them, while Chris either ignores them or answers them but looks at them like they're crazy. :) He's such a good protective daddy!
Out on the town (OK, in a dressing room) with my shopping buddies

Once recently, Chris was playing with them while I was trying things on. Whenever I'd emerge from the dressing room with a different outfit on, he had them clapping for me. So silly!

This exemplifies why I can't throw out last year's calendar: too many memories! :) (I know I put this on facebook, but I also have readers who aren't on facebook - hello, Uncle Alex! :) - so here it is!)
 This past month you've both been pretty sickly - no fever but coughing at night but acting mostly fine and normal during the day. It's been hard knowing whether to get you out or keep you home. Yesterday, we took you to the doctor to settle the matter once and for all and to figure out what's been going on, since you don't seem to be getting worse but also don't seem to be getting better - and we found out you're fine. You've just been picking up colds, probably because we kept you so sheltered for so long. But it's a necessary part of childhood, and you'll be OK - and in fact, you're only contagious the first three days of contracting one of them! This information is life-changing! :) Here are some pictures from our visit yesterday while we were waiting:
While we wait, I entertain myself by taking pictures of Chris playing with the girls - in this case, Tamsie. 

The girls had been destroying the paper on the table and getting into all sorts of mischief, so we wound up holding them. When they got too heavy, we put them in their carriers in front of the mirror. We forgot most of their toys in the car, and they threw the rest on the floor - so at this point they were playing with the paper they had torn all kinds of up! I have to suspend my inner germaphobe at times like this, for my own sanity!

Silliness!

And seriousness!

Peekaboo!

I was just getting ready to take some pictures of Chris and Evie when the doctor came in, so this is all I got!
Girls, every day with you just gets better and better. You're so much fun, and I love watching your adorable little personalities unfold! Each night, your dad and I pray that you grow up to love Jesus, brighten the lives of all who come into contact with you, and continue to grow healthy and strong. We can't wait to watch the plans God has for you as they unfold! :) WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!

Love,
Mama

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Giveaway Day!

The girls have been sickly (again, I KNOW), so since I'm having to stay home and miss the Moms Bible study I'm loving so much, I figured I may as well do something fun on the blog. I've often thought it would be lots of fun to do a giveaway, and now I finally have the chance to! 

The prize: a $25 gift card to Light Gives Heat
Some of the best kinds of gifts to give at Christmas are the ones that give back to others, which is why Light Gives Heat is so cool! This organization helps create consistent incomes for Ugandan artisans by selling their handmade products in America. You can read about their work here. Here are some of the fabulous things you can buy from them:
Bags, like this one:

Bead necklaces, like this one:
 and scarves like this one:
It's wonderful to know that by purchasing any of the cute things you can find on their website, you're actually helping real women in Uganda to have sustainable sources of income for their families.

How to enter: 
All you have to do is leave a comment telling me whether you think this cupcake-covered baby is Tamsie or Evangelyn:
thanks to Melissa for this picture, of course!
I will use random.org to pick a number, and the first commenter it picks who properly identifies this baby face wins! :) It's that easy! I'll announce the winner sometime next week, so stay tuned!

Ready, set, GO!