Halloween Link Up!

Happy Halloween from Thing 1 and Thing 2! We went to a family Halloween event at Google last Thursday where the boys enjoyed a petting zoo, were ohh-ed and aww-ed at, and then ate a whole mess of fresh kettle corn. (More pics to come.) 

Last night the boys "helped" carve a pumpkin. And by help I mean they flung pumpkin guts everywhere with spoons, tried to put everything back IN the pumpkin and then kept fake licking the spoons they were using and fake cough/gagging. Boys. 

I need to finish up my Cat in the Hat costume today and this evening we'll walk to a few houses in our neighborhood mostly so Chikezie and I can have some candy. The boys don't really get all this Halloween business yet, can't say "trick-or-treat" and have short attention spans, so it'll be short and sweet. Then we'll head home and let them help us pass out candy in their costumes. 

I invite all of you to share your Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating experience with us! Below is a link up for all of your Halloween posts. Next week I'll share some of my favorite costumes, so be sure to link up!

Happy Halloween! 

{vegan} boca chili recipe

This recipe is super easy and perfect for fall. Make sure you ALWAYS pair the chili with cinnamon rolls. It's kind of a must in my brain. My sister-in-law threw this together for us last weekend and it was SO awesome, I thought I'd share it with you!

1 red bell pepper
3 cloves of garlic
1 small onioin
3 celery stalks
2 carrots
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
28 oz diced tomatoes
14 oz pinto beans
14 oz kidney beans
14 oz vegetable broth
3 Morning Star Farms burgers

* Sautee red bell peppers, onion, garlic and boca patties (diced) together first, and add them in with all remaining ingredients in large pot.
* Let stew on medium heat for about 1 1/2 hrs.


You guys, we're about to go through some big changes here at Mama and the Dudes. First off, we're going to be getting a brand new look! Yay! I'm so excited to show you guys all the changes next week and in the process, things will probably be a little crazy around here this week. 

In addition to a new design, Mama and the Dudes will be getting a shiny new name. I've contemplated changing this for awhile and was just holding off until the time was right. Mama and the Dudes will now be Mama Mandolin. I decided to change names because I don't plan on writing about the dudes forever. And what happens if we ever have a little gal in this family? (Not planning on it...but what if!?) I wanted my shop and blog to be consistent, and Mama Mandolin just felt right. So...no more Mama and the Dudes. 

I'm going to be adding some holiday bow ties and stock to the etsy shop, along with some crochet cowls for mama AND lil guys. (Like the one I'm wearing above!) Yes, scarves and cowls for dudes. The cute factor is off the charts. So keep your eyes open for those. You can visit my shop HERE to check things out.

Another big change? Adding back our sponsor section! With the new design there will be a row of sponsors available on the right hand sidebar. There are two options available: HERE is some information on how to get a sponsor spot. The past 2 months, my blog stats have gone crazy. In September I almost TRIPLED my monthly unique page loads and have continued to grow steadily each month. We're going places over here, and I'd love for you to join along in the ride if you'd like the get the name out for your brand/business/blog. We're approaching the holidays and this is the best time of the year to get your name out!

Here's some stats I pulled from Google Analytics this morning from Sept 26-Oct 26:

To celebrate all these changes I'm offering a 20% discount to all sponsors. When you purchase your ad spot, use the discount code EARLYBIRD at check out to get 20% off your ads for the month!

Thank you all for sticking with us through this crazy summer and all of our moving. I appreciate all the support and love we've gotten through this blog and I hope you join us as we continue to grow!

back pain diagnosis and my plan to fix it.

So I got the results back from my MRI. You can kind of make out all the vertebrae and those little white spaces in between are discs. The discs are there to cushion your bones and provide a space for the nerves to come exit. They're supposed to be nice and big and healthy and white. Without knowing much about this picture, you can tell the bottom of those big discs before my back starts to arch is different. It spills out over the other two bones, out into that white space. The white space is my spinal fluid and the grey in there is my spinal cord. (I find this stuff extremely interesting! Even more so when it's on my own body. So that's what it looks like in there!)

A herniated L5 disc. That's what I've been told is up with my back, what has been causing me all this pain. I pretty much KNEW this was what was up, but it's nice to see the actual proof. The chiropractor I saw offered a plan for a super intensive therapy program that will not only cost a lot financially but a lot of time. Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy to be specific. While this therapy looks like it could be beneficial (and I have no doubt that it would probably help), it's not my only option. It can't be. 

In addition to seeing a few other doctors, I've decided I'm going to wage a war against this stupid disc that's been causing all my problems. I'm 28 and this shiz needs to go away. I've decided that this decompression therapy will be my last straw and if in a few months I can't fix this problem in other ways, I'll go for it. For now, here are some of the things I'm going to try:

- Weight loss. I'm going to lose the 15-20 lbs I've been holding on to since the boys were born. I've never made a whole hearted effort and stuck with it to lose this weight. Each extra pound I carry adds extra pressure on my spine. What better motivation to lose weight than to end my pain?
- Overall body strengthening, including core. I'm not going into some crazy work out plan ro going to be really tough on myself. I want this to feel natural and part of a healthy lifestyle; something I can keep up. I'll be doing yoga, going on more walks and jogs with the boys, working to strengthen my core (which supports my spine). 
- Massage and acupuncture. I haven't tried these methods as ways to heal my back but I've heard great things about these methods and am eager to give them a shot.
- Basic chiropractic adjustments as needed. 

If in a couple of months these things haven't helped any of the pain, I'll consider the decompression therapy. The main reason I'm not doing it straight off the bat is because it's looking to cost us a lot out of pocket and require an almost constant 6 week commitment. I want to see what I can do on my own in 6 weeks for a fraction of the price. 

Do you suffer from back pain? Have a herniated or bulging disc? What were the best ways you found to manage pain and live a normal life? I'd really love your advice!

Glitter Pumpkins: 3 Ways

Last week I experimented with three different ways to glitter paint pumpkins. I really like painting more than carving because the pumpkins last longer and it doesn't take any kind of artistic genius to make the pumpkins look amazing! 

What you need:
- Pumpkins (duh)
- craft glitter, any color will do.
- black paint 

{Monogram Glitter Pumpkin}

* Freehand draw or create a stencil for your initial on the pumpkin and trace with a pencil. I printed off a letter from photoshop in the font I liked best. 
* Paint the letter quickly without allowing it to fully dry.

* Before the paint dries, pour a generous amount of glitter over the letter, making sure to cover the entire painted area. 
* Allow 30 min-1 hr to dry.

* Once dry, tip the pumpkin upright and gently shake/wipe excess glitter from the pumpkin.  Make sure not to wipe the letter itself much as you don't want to rub off much glitter. 

{Gradient Glitter Pumpkin}

* With a paintbrush, cover the entire pumpkin with Mod Podge Gloss finish. 
* Pour glitter on on generously from the stem, and allowing glitter to fall down the sides of the pumpkin. 
* Fill in empty spaces on top. Allow 1 hour to dry. 

{Covered Glitter Pumpkin}
* In a bowl, mix 2 parts glitter, 1 part Mod Podge Gloss finish. 
* Cover the entire pumpkin with this mixture using a paintbrush. 
* Allow 1 hour to dry. 
* Add extra layers if you'd like, I just did it once because I liked some of the orange showing underneath.

Happy glittering!

Speech Therapy Update #1.

I've been waiting to do an update on the boys' speech therapy progress until we got further into actual therapy (we've only had 3 classes so far) but they've already made so many changes in what feels like no time at all. 

Testing and Placement
Before I tell you where we're going, I'll let you know we've been. We had the boys tested through San Andreas Regional Center (San Francisco Bay Area) in September. They tested behind in expressive speech, ending up at about a 10 month age level, a significant delay. Both speech and behavioral therapists assessed them on multiple levels, including comprehension, motor skills, etc. to see where they were in all areas of development.  We have a coordinator through the center who connected us with ALLS, who does the boys' speech therapy class. Because we went through the state for their evaluation and they qualified, their class is state funded. This isn't true in all cases, there has to be a significant delay to qualify. They'll have therapy class until they're 3, then will be re-evaluated through the school district to determine if they qualify for therapy through the district after that. I'm crossing my fingers that we don't!

Therapy Class
As for structure, the boys have class twice a week for 1 1/2 hrs with about 4-5 other kids their age, all with some sort of delay speech delay. The class is taught by speech and behavioral therapists and really is like a mini preschool. They start with circle time, usually do some arts and crafts, will go to the little gymnasium once a week for motor skill development, have snack time and sing songs. 

We were advised to have them in a class based setting because as twins, they get most of their socialization with each other and in group settings twins can tend to stick with each other more. It's also helpful for them to be in a group setting to get interaction with other kids and maybe a little peer pressure to vocalize more often. So far, this has been the most challenging part of school for them (and me). This is their first time being with someone they don't know, in a place they're not familiar with...and then mommy leaves. Needless to say, there are tears when mommy leaves and they can't get to the door fast enough when it's time to leave. 

After class starts they eventually calm down and enjoy themselves playing (for the most part). I'm told they love snack time and lots of learning and progress is made while they're stuffing their faces. They love going to the gymnasium to play and run around. They hate circle time. The teachers were a little confounded by this, as most kids like the structure it provides but I guess the boys just would rather do their own thing!

Just because there are tears at the door doesn't mean there isn't progress when we leave. When we get out of class, the boys are in full-on talk mode. They've learned you get responses from people when you say things to them. They are more willing to TRY. This is so huge. Last week, Isaiah was babbling something incoherent, not just ba-ba-ba-ba as usual but like he was speaking another language. This is also huge. 

One of the biggest changes is that they now talk about things and initiate conversation using words without us asking them to say things. They're learning how to talk! In the past 3 weeks (3 classes, no class last week) the boys have started saying the following new words:

-bubble "ba-buuu"
-apple "ba-buuu"
- hi/bye (to everyone they see)
- buddy (Isaiah's dog) oh "bud-da" is what Julian says.
- Joan  "dun" (their teacher)
- ni-night
- Angel "ee-ee"
- Obama "mama"
- go
- gobble (Isaiah has been babbling this a lot)

I feel like we're enjoying the boys on a whole new level. They're interacting with us in a way they never have and it's amazing to be able to see them TRY more often. The one main hurdle we're focusing on getting over in the coming weeks is getting them more comfortable with the schedule and with being away from me without being scared. This will be a huge benefit of therapy class in addition to speech improvements and will help prepare them for preschool. 

I look forward to posting in the coming months about how much progress the boys have made. If you're concerned about your child's speech or think they may have a delay, having them evaluated never hurts. Visit the American Speech Language Hearing Association for more information about what programs and evaluations are available in your area. 

If you have any questions about the process we went through or what we're doing with the boys please let me know-I'd be glad to answer!

model in training

Oh yeah, look at me. I'll take up your whole frame, lady.

You want some of this? You don't mess with THIS, bro.

I'm a sensitive guy. I'm glancing up at you with concern. Hey girl.

Classic looking off into the distance, deep in thought pose. 

Hands in pockets looking at the ground. Oldest pose in the book! This kid is a natural.

And BAM! Julian chimes in with an over the shoulder pose in puffy vest. 

Pumpkin Patch Encore {in black and white}

Sometimes life looks more magical in black and white. 

Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch - Half Moon Bay

I don't think the boys completely understand what's going on with all this pumpkin business but they sure had fun sprinting around the pumpkin patch like wild banshees, hoarding pumpkins and squealing in delight. We could have stayed there all night. I enjoy reliving my childhood through the eyes of my children. Everything seems newer, shinier, more fun. Why can't we just live like this all the time?

this job really matters

I've had these encroaching thoughts over the past two and half years that for some reason continuously threaten to lessen the amazing things happening in my home and in my heart. These feelings and thoughts take over when I'm doing mundane household chores; hanging laundry out to dry, straightening the boy's beds, unloading the dishwasher. These thoughts tell me that being a stay-at-home mom isn't really a job. That there are other people out there my age, single or married but without kids, who go to work, out for drinks, have lives. These thoughts tell me that the trivial problems I encounter on a daily basis aren't relevant. How to get the boys to stop throwing their shoes when they're angry, or how to organize my day so that my home is cleaned on a regular basis. Do these things really matter?

Sometimes I have thoughts that tell me what I do isn't important, and that everyone going out with their friends, traveling, living a free single life are the people really living. I think about what I would be doing if I didn't have kids, if Chikezie and I were just a married couple, who we'd be. On occasion I even feel *gasp* old and boring. I don't drink a beer or glass of wine at night because it makes me restless. I wake up early with the boys every. single. morning. and I'd like to avoid feeling any more tired than I already am. I wake up, I change diapers, I am a human napkin, I clean and clean some more, I cook, I organize, I shop for groceries...this is my life. 

I guess for some people, this could sound like some sort of hell. On some days, I believe it is some sort of hell. Scattered in these mundane moments, between the loads of laundry, after the late night baths, the breaking up of fights, in between this?  This is where I'm really living.

This job - being a mother - is the most important job I'll ever do. Raising these children, these boys into men, is the most challenging thing I'll ever face. Giving them the best parts of myself and trying to avoid passing on my flaws (all while I'm attempting to learn all of these things about myself), is such a huge task. The tedious chores and shuffling behind the scenes only adds to the challenge.

These encroaching thoughts of insignificance really push me to understand the importance of this life I'm living. These thoughts that tell me my life is small are overrun by daily moments of absolute joy I feel when I watch my children learn something new, feel pride in themselves, do something kind for one another. Being a mother, or a stay-at-home mother isn't glamorous or even very much fun at times, but it matters. This job matters more than almost any other job anyone has ever had. And I have two living, breathing testaments to its importance running around my living room giggling in their pajamas right now.

lunch at Half Moon Bay

We went to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin festival this weekend, which really was just a bunch of tents and people walking around. There may or may not have been a big pumpkin somewhere that they charged $15 a photo, which therein qualified it as a pumpkin festival. 

Navigating a double stroller through herds of sheep people is not my idea of a fun time. The boys got antsy in the stroller and decided to walk, and with my hands death gripped onto theirs, we walked. They didn't want anyone else, they didn't try to escape. They just walked at their own pace with me for the longest time. They're turning into kids you guys. They aren't babies that you can just push around in a stroller anymore, they're real-life kids. And it makes me happy slash sad all at the same time.

We stopped at a local deli and decided to ditch the crowds and head to the beach. It was windy and cool and I was so glad we'd worn actual fall clothes, although the weather inland failed to agree. We found some little picnic tables to all eat our lunch and enjoy the views. The bay is really much different here than in Southern California. More rocky and rough, the water seems a little colder and more unforgiving...more of something to look at than to be in.

Oh, wait...did I say it was a relaxing lunch on a beautiful beach? This is what lunch on a beach with toddlers REALLY looks like. Lots of wind, too much sun and squinting, and impatient seagulls just slowly boxing us off the table. Our picnic ended with being dive-bombed by about 15 psychotic seagulls while we yelled and quickly tried to pack everything up. Meanwhile, Isaiah stood by the stroller with a bag of chex-mix in hand, evil laughing and holding the bag up toward the birds. He thought the entire thing was hilarious. 

It was such a short picnic but this last photo is one of those I'd like to put in a photo album and remember forever. Someday when the boys are grown men looking through these old albums they'll ask me about it, about the day. What, at the time, seemed like a failed picture-perfect picnic will be a sweet memory of motherhood for me, and a chance to relive it with the boys. 

I'm 28!

Today I turned 28. I tend to not make a huge deal out of my birthday anymore, mainly out of just not wanting to be disappointed or jinx myself. I chose to enjoy the small things. Here are some things I'd like to say regarding the occasion:

* I ate my favorite cereal for breakfast. I also had Starbucks. Win, win.
* I got my hair cut and colored today, going for a bold red. I told the stylist I was going through a late 20's midlife crisis and wanted to go bold or go home. So there.
* I have the sweetest friends on earth. Jenn sent me such a special gift from GlassCast and it absolutely made my day.
* Another thing that made my day? My clothesline arrived in the mail. Yes, that's when you know you're old-when you're excited a clothesline shows up in the mail on your birthday. And when did hanging up your clothes turn into such a work out? 
* I get to have homemade (by my sister in law) red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles tonight. I love having family nearby ..and by nearby I mean living in our spare room :) She has been such a help watching the boys on occasion and cooking for us a few times a week while she says here and looks for job. I secretly hope she never finds a job so this little arrangement can continue indefinitely. 
* I purchased some kick-ass new boots and a couple of items for my fall/winter wardrobe. We've moved so much I have no idea what the weather will be like this winter here. Today though? 80's. This is when I'm missing Portland weather the most!
* My sweet husband took the afternoon off to hang out with us. The best gift he can give is him, just being here. He works so much and we miss him when he's gone.

As I take another swig of my diet coke, I cheers to 27. It was a very eventful year. We moved all over this damn coast, our little nomad family. I have one promise to make to myself for 28; to take better care of myself - my body, my mind, my spirit, my BACK. I promise to start focusing on me again. This body and I have been through a lot in our 28 years, I want to thank her for helping me get here. 

Cheers, friends! And thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes. You are all very loved.

Fun fact:
I share this birthday with Evel Knievel, Chris Kirkpatrick (from N'Sync), Eminem, Ziggy Marley, and Alan Jackson. 

doing stuff kids do outside.

One thing I've truly appreciated since moving into our home? So much outdoor space with full visual access from pretty much all of the living area. This means the boys can come and go inside and out without me having to be outside with them. The majority of our living space is glass, making it so easy for me to keep track of them while they gain a little independence and get into trouble outside on their own, like kids are supposed to do.

This is the first time they've had this kind of freedom, ever. We had a yard in Portland but it was behind the house, so I had to be back there to supervise and they weren't outside nearly as much as they are now. (The weather also had a little to do with it!) I grew up on a farm where I could roam around free for hours on end, not as a two year old, but you know what I mean. I 've always wanted the boys to love being outdoors, and get dirty and get into things outside. 

The boys' mornings, afternoons and evenings have been filled with digging in dirt, scooting on tricycles, throwing wood chips in the air (and getting scolded), killing my flowers, throwing rocks, and you know...just doing stuff kids do. 

perfect family photos.

Tried to get a couple of family photos at the pumpkin patch yesterday The boys were so excited about everything that they literally did not stop moving the whole time. This is as good as a family photo goes when you have two insanely pumped toddlers.

And I love every single one.