Speech Therapy Update #2

Welp. We're 2 months into our speech therapy journey and I know we're making progress. The first MAJOR milestone we reached came with the boys' fear of being somewhere new with new people and without mom. I'm happy to report that when I drop them off for class, they don't even look back at me. There's not a single second of hesitation or fear and they're excited to go play with their teachers and new friends. (There's a boy in their class who is part of a set of boy/girl twins who were born 2 days after the dudes! And another boy only a couple of weeks younger.)

New words this month:
- Google goo-guh
- Answer (aunt) yo-yo
- help hop
- pop
- up/down 
- me! (when it's their turn or they want something)
- milk muk
- home 
- Ozzie ahh-yee (Jen's son)
- backpack bok-bok
- baby (they've been able to say this but now say it on their own when they want their strollers or see an actual baby)
- Mommy (instead of mama)
- See ya ee-ya
- Clean up ee-yuh
- Papa bah-bah
- naughty nah-nah

There's probably more that I'm forgetting to keep track. But it IS important for me to keep a list of the words they're learning, to have some proof (maybe just for myself) that they're improving. Isaiah seems to be using words a lot more than Julian but with lots of praise and encouragement, Julian is more willing to try. This is the case for a lot of things, I think he's just a more laid back kid.

Another big accomplishment is that Julian has said on occasion, two words together. (Neither one of them is really doing that right now). He'll ask "Dada?" and respond to his own question with "Google". I know it's only one small phrase but in our world two words said even remotely in the same breath is considered an advancement.

So, in just under two months of therapy they've essentially doubled their vocabulary and definitely   have been trying so much more. You can read more about our speech therapy journey here.

half off your order! #cybermonday

I hope you all had an awesome Thanksgiving weekend! We had lots of good food and quality family time. I've been busy working off my little buns filling all of my Black Friday etsy orders. (If you ordered, it'll be out in the next couple of days!)

I also wanted to remind you guys of my Cyber Monday sale, once again 50% off your entire purchase.

Don't forget there are plenty of holiday options:

Cowls for both lil ones (boys AND girls) and even for you! (These cowls will only be offered for a limited time so if you've been thinking about them, now's the best time to get them!)

Kids cowls come in a variety of colors:

Adult cowls come in mostly the same colors:

And of course there are lots of ties for other occasions (upcoming birthdays, family photos, weddings, for use as a photography prop, etc.)
See all bow ties HERE.

OH and if you REALLY want a deal, this 2 for 25 special is pretty much on going....except today you'd get half off THAT. 

This 50% off deal ends tonight at midnight so....GET GOING! 

black friday sale!

HUGE sale going on today over at Mama Mandolin etsy shop. 50% your purchase. YES...50% off. 

Enter the code MAMAMANDOLIN50 at check out.

Oh, and if you spread the word via facebook/twitter/blog/whatever, leave a comment here telling me you did so (and the link) and you'll be entered into a drawing to win some goodies from my shop!

ok, NOW Go!

today I am thankful

Today I am thankful for the little struggles we face each day. I know my problems are small compared to those who are really struggling all over the world. 

Today I am thankful for the University of Iowa, because that's where I made some lifelong friends, made so many happy memories and that's where I found my husband. Oh, and my education, can't forget about that one.

Today I'm thankful for modern technology like cell phones, skype, email, this blog. With these things I'm able to keep my family and friends so far away updated on our lives. They get to watch the boys grow, see what we do each day, be a part of our lives in some small way...and that makes the distance not seem so great.

Today I am so, so thankful to be a stay at home mom. Not many people have this opportunity, I get to be here first hand to witness my babies grow each and every day. This is the best time of my life. 

Today I am thankful for Chikezie. We've been on so many adventures together this year. I seriously wouldn't have gotten on this roller coaster with anyone else.

nutrisystem weight loss update: week 1

Well, one week of this weight loss journey down in the books. I've been eating Nutrisystem for one week and am down 3 lbs! As much as I want to lose mass amounts of weight immediately, I know slow and steady wins the race, right? 

The temptations have been coming out in full force, starting on day 1. I made brownies the day before I started, thought I could resist all day and definitely could not. I ate 2 and found myself going back for more until I mentally bitch-slapped myself back into reality. I have a serious sugar addiction. I threw the entire pan out. Problem solved. You don't need temptations on the first day of a diet. 

Later on in the week my sister in law made cupcakes, my husband ordered pizza. I resisted them ALL. I like that Nutrisystem has it's own deserts so I don't feel deprived of those things, I just need to eat my own version until I can get my sugar obsessed brain under control.

The food tastes good, I'm having trouble fitting in all of the veggies in each day along with the provided meals but I'm working on it. Also drinking tons of water and trying to be active around the house. Next week at some point I plan on getting out more for some structured exercise but for now I'll be as active as I can.

I've only made one small slip up, well...am currently making one. Yesterday at the movie theatre I allowed myself a bag of candy because, hey it's the movies! But that one dose of sugar was enough to make me want a cake pop at the Target Starbucks this morning (along with a latte I probably shouldn't be having). So, once I finish this latte I'll work on making better choices throughout the day. That's one thing I've learned this week: when you mess up that doesn't mean you have to "re-start" everything or start over. Just means you'll be more aware of your next choice. 

Right now, I'm living my food life one meal at a time, trying to keep on track and make realistic choices. I look forward to seeing what week 2 brings!

Nutrisystem Start: 11/9/12
Week 1: -3lbs

Disclaimer: I'm not being compensated by Nutrisystem for these posts, just trying in on my own and letting you guys know how it goes!

importance of taking care of your eyes! #SeeMoreVSP

I started wearing glasses in the 2nd grade. My mom knew I needed a check up when I was having trouble reading things on the board at school and was getting headaches. I mean, check out this awesomeness:
And every year since 1992 I've been going back to the eye doctor, getting a new and stronger prescription and another new pair of glasses. As my eyes get worse, the glasses get more expensive! (I really am sorry to my parents for the bad eyes. But it's kind of their fault.) I fully expect the boys to need glasses as well. 

Now that I'm a big kid, we have to pay for glasses ourselves and as you can imagine with both my husband and I wearing glasses, it really does get expensive. BUT, I've learned the hard way, it's super important to take care of yourself with yearly eye exams and not just go in when you are having a problem. I've pushed it off in the past and regretted it. I have very strong astigmatisms in both eyes and have very dry eyes in general. These things combined make it really difficult for me to wear contacts. Glasses it is!

We had VSP Vision Insurance for a few years (before Chikezie switched jobs) and it just had such awesome money saving benefits. VSP Vision Care really helps you save money, keep your eyes healthy and look great! You can save an average of $320 a year with a VSP Vision Care. (Suh-weet!)

Yes, my glasses got even bigger.

Insurance plans like VSP Vision Care provide you with a frame allowance as well as fully cover the cost of basic lenses.  They also provide discounts on lens options including progressive lenses,Transitions® lenses, anti-reflective coating, scratch-resistant coating and UV protection. So each year when I purchased my new glasses, I actually had an allowance (or I like to think of it as a credit) just sitting there, waiting for me to spend on glasses. It really helped put a dent in the price of the glasses as a whole.

So why am I telling you guys all about this? Because it's important. Your style is an extension of your personality and your glasses can help accentuate this. I went through a phase wearing only contacts but have throughly embraced my glasses in all their geeky glory. 

**Visit SeeMuchMore for more information about VSP and vision care benefits. This post is sponsored by VSP. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

an ode to my clothesline.

Does anybody use a clothesline to dry their clothes anymore? I know the time of year requires a certain geographic location to dry clothes in mid-November, but generally, do people use clotheslines? When I talked with Chikezie about using the built in pole holder in the backyard for a clothesline, he cringed. It wasn't exactly aesthetically pleasing which is as important as breathing air for a designer, I've learned and would we actually use it? We have a dryer. 

I held strong on my position and ordered this umbrella clothesline online. It arrived on my birthday of all days and I was so excited. this, my friends, is a true sign that you're old and lame  Like a giddy idiot, I put immediately erected it in the backyard and felt triumphant  I'd always wanted a clothesline. 

I grew up with clotheslines. We had one at our small house in Sioux City, right behind my swingset. We had one at the farm; a huge one. It felt like 30 feet long with multiple rows. My mom taught me how to hand her clothespins handle out and I sat in the warm sun helping her hang the delicious smelling clean laundry. I liked the crisp, stiff feeling of the clothes when we took them off the line. I especially loved the days she washed sheets, and my cousins and I would chase each other between the rows of fresh linens.

When we moved to town when I was in high school, we got an umbrella line just like this. I didn't particularly enjoy doing the laundry but welcomed the escape outdoors. And now I have my own line.

Why is something so insignificant bring so much happiness to me? I don't know, maybe it just makes me feel at home. It brings me back home, takes me to the farm, takes me to my grandma's house, to good things in my memory. It makes me appreciate our modern conveniences a little bit more. I still enjoy the 10 minutes it takes me to hang the clothes, watching the boys run around the yard occasionally handing me clothespins. 

Although it may not be the most beautiful piece of art to gawk at in our yard, it has special meaning for me. As you grow older you start to appreciate those little happy pieces of childhood you still hold dear and long for them once more, even if it's something as silly and simple as a clothesline. 

anatomy of a {toddler} play space: a tour of where the dudes play

Before you read this post, please know that this play area is rarely all in order. (It's usually only this clean when the boys are asleep.) So no, we're not some freakizoid family with constantly organized rooms, I just made it look pretty for you. Plus, half the fun of picking up is making a mess again anyways! 

The boys' play area is one of my favorite places in our home, mainly because of how much time we spend here. This area is actually "technically" where our dining table is intended be but we're lucky enough to have room in our open kitchen (from where this picture is taken) to put our dining table. 

One huge advantage of having this play area is that it keeps all of their toys generally in one place, and it's out where we spend most of our time/where I can see them. Having toys in their room would be pointless because I'm never in there so by default neither are they. Plus, we've given the boys the impression that bedrooms are for sleeping, not playing (otherwise they'd never sleep). So their bedroom is pretty basic.

I put a lot of thought into this space and think it's payed off. Here's a closer look:
These are some of the things I thought through while arranging the room. The shelves have been the single best purchase we've made recently. We bought them from Ikea for around $70 each but you could get lots of different cheaper versions like this or this (although I'd keep baskets off the upper shelves). The point of these shelves is that they display all of the toys, instead of burying them in a toy box. The boys have played with ALL of their toys more with this set up than they ever did. They seriously play with almost all of their toys each day, which makes buying toys actually worth the money. The shelves also help keep everything organized, which is a big deal for me. 

Some details on this area: 
* Rug - Target
* Shelves and baskets - Ikea
* table and chairs - Ikea (I chalkboard painted the top)
* work bench - Toys 'r Us
* hanging art display: made with clothes pins, a piece of yarn and 2 thumb tacks. easy peasy.

The toys I'd like them to focus are kept out and visible. Books, wooden toys and blocks, that little farm ($1 at Goodwill!) To be honest, we don't have hardly any toys that make noise, mainly because they annoy me but also because we want to encourage the boys to use their imaginations. Also, toys without batteries really help encourage interaction and speech, which is something we are really working on. When putting the area together I really tried to put myself in the boys' shoes and see what they see, it is THEIR play area after all.

The bottom rows have baskets that house the smaller toys. Baskets on the top shelves would be a little dangerous (these are pretty big/heavy) plus, not easy for little bodies to lift. The toys I want them to play with most are at eye level or displayed on top because all toddlers like to reach up high for things!

Even HOW I arrange things on shelves makes a difference. I set up that drawing board so they look directly at it when they walk by and you'd be surprised with how many times they'll chose that over something else. The legos are in a clear tub (with wheels), we even have flashlights for fun at night. If you've never given your toddler a flashlight in the dark, you're missing out. The dudes could play with them for hours!

Thanks for touring our play area! Hope some of this was helpful or maybe gave you a few ideas on how to set things up for your own kids. You don't need a huge area like this, even lining their toys up on one wall would work! For toddlers with short attention spans, visibility is key. If you have any suggestions or questions I'm here!

painting with cars {toddler activity}

My friend Summer once posted about doing toddler art with cars and paint and I've always wanted to try it with the boys. (Because, hello? They're ob.sessed. with cars.) 

One chilly fall afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I busted out the fall color paints, let them bring their cars to the table and just let them have at it. Paint is such a great sensory activity for toddlers. They sat down and painted for at least 30 minutes (which in toddler time is about 3 hours.)

Isaiah really enjoyed painting the wheels themselves instead of just running the cars through the paint. It was great practice with his hand/eye coordination as well. 

Afterwards we had some very interesting art work to display in their play area (and bonus! some fall colored decor!) I plan on doing this again during the holidays with some holiday colored paint and then cutting the paper into like, Christmas tree shape. See? Even though there's a mess to clean up, this can be a crafty opportunity for moms, too!

NEW holiday bow ties!

I've been working my little holiday hiney off to have these ready for you in the Mama Mandolin etsy shop! These are the new holiday bow ties I've been working on and really hope you all go grab one. Or seventeen. No really. 

And of course I had the boys model:

These aren't the only bowties that would work for the holidays, here are a couple of other options:

Anyways, you guys get the picture! There are a lot of options there, I've had a lot of people purchase bow ties for holiday family photos, for Thanksgiving dinner, for just to wear in general because let's face it, a kid in a bow tie is a pretty awesome kid.

GO HERE to see all of these ties and more. If you have any special requests please let me know.

weight loss attempt number 900

For some reason it's really hard for me to admit that I've been a failure at losing the weight I gained while pregnant. I gained a little over 50 lbs and after all the swelling and whatnot went down after I came home from the hospital, I had about 25lbs to lose. I thought it wouldn't be too hard. I'd lost 20lbs before the boys were born and was in the best shape of my life. I just had to watch what I ate and work out. 

3 months after the boys were born I ran a 5k without really much training. Since that point, I've been up and down over the last three years. I've never been so wishy-washy with taking care of myself before. Things that used to work for me no longer work. I used to be religious about hitting the gym, going for a run. I've given losing weight so many attempts over the past 2 1/2 years and I've actually managed to gain 5lbs in the proces. (Moving all summer didn't help.)

I kept thinking, "what the heck is wrong with me? why can't I do this?" Well the answer is simple, I kept comparing new mom-self to my former single self. For some people, it's all the same but not for me. I changed a lot after having kids, physically and mentally. I picked up a lot of bad eating habits while pregnant that were so hard to break. (Let this be a lesson for any potential future pregnancies to not go hog wild with the sweets but holy cows I craved them and turned into a raging beast if I didn't have them. Sorry, husband.)

The worst part of all of this is that I KNOW exactly what I need to do. I KNOW how to be healthy. I know portion sizes, I know fats, starches, protein, fiber and how much I need to be getting and when to eat it. I know what work outs I should do, I know when I should do them. I know everything I need to know to lose weight. I was/have been an athlete my whole life and have a degree in Health and Sport Studies. But for some reason, none of this is really registering in my brain. And it sucks. And it's embarrassing. 

No matter how much I hate looking in the mirror, no matter how tight my clothes feel, nothing was keeping me from those cookies in the cupboard. It also doesn't help to be married to someone with a crazy appetite who can eat an entire cow and be fine. I've just felt like a total failure. 

So I chose Nutrisystem to help me. I've heard success stories, the food didn't look half bad and it's convenient (which is a big one for me because I never make time to cook for myself). Yes, it's all processed and packaged foods but if it's going to help me reprogram my brain into eating the correct portion sizes, to maintain some control over myself, to get my veggies in, to drink more water; then it's ok with me. It's not forever, just until I reach my goal and can transition back into real life without being a crazy sugar addict.

In case you're curious, I chose the Women's Select Plan which is pre-packaged breakfast, lunch, dinner and deserts. You add in 4 servings of veggies, and 2 snacks on your own each day. You get a diary that tells you what to eat at each meal, you just check it all off. All packages are color coded for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you get to chose exactly what you eat at each meal, though. You're also encouraged to add in 30 min. of activity daily any way you can, even if it's in 3 10 min increments. It does seem expensive at first but it's the bulk of your meals for 28 days and I think it pretty much evens out with any other food you'd eat in a month (including eating out). 

I'm on day 3 and doing great. The food tastes good, I'm not hungry in between meals, and have been eating more veggies and drinking more water than I have in awhile. I'll be weighing myself once a week because daily weight fluctuations can seriously drive a person crazy and I have far more important things to worry about each day than a number looming over my head. My goal is to lose around 30lbs over the next few months, hopefully by the boy's birthday in March. 

I want to keep you all updated on this new endeavor and if you have any questions I'll do my best to answer. I haven't been compensated at all by Nutrisystem, they don't even know who I am probably haha! Just want to share this journey with you! 

so have you noticed yet?

Well, if you read this post in a Google Reader, you probably haven't seen the awesome new design and blog name! I'm still working on getting some things changed over (facebook fan page, instagram, twitter, etc.) but we have a design for now and I'm loving it.

It was designed by Brooke over at Smitten Blog Designs and she was just so great to work with. If you want a quality blog design, they really try their hardest to work with you to make what you were envisioning come to life.
Head over to their site and check out their great portfolio!

Key Ring Photo Cards DIY

A couple of weeks ago the boys were just starting out their speech therapy class and there was always so much crying when I dropped them off. Going somewhere unfamiliar and then being left there is scary when you're 2 years old. 

I decided to to take pictures (just basic iphone pictures) of their classroom, their teachers, each little detail and toy in the classroom, the building to put on a little key ring for them to carry around. I kept this key ring in my purse, in the car, pretty much kept it with us all the time and asked them to find things/people. They'd constantly flip to the picture of their teacher and smile. Slowly they got more comfortable with the routine and I believe these flash cards really helped them retain the memory and make the faces/places more familiar. Here's how I made it:

Pretty simple! Those self-laminating pouches are amazing and so easy to use. You can pick them up at Target for cheap and I've used them for multiple projects. I also plan on making a key ring like this with pictures of family who live far away. 

confession time: I get jealous.

I have a confession to make, I get jealous. I get a little twinge of jealousy when I hear stories about how great it is for moms to have conversations with their 2 year olds. How their kids can say all these sentences, can tell what they're thinking and feeling. I get jealous. 

This speech therapy process is very slow. We're so far behind that each small advancement that seems huge to us, in the grand scheme of things still has a ways to go. The boys are still learning speech like most children learned before they turned one. They're working on saying one single word at a time. Two words together? Not yet. An entire sentence? I can't even imagine what that'll be like.

I want to have conversations with my children. I want to listen to all of the things they have to talk about, what they're thinking. I feel sad thinking about all of these conversations we're missing out on right now. I wish I could talk with them. People tell me soon they'll be talking so much, I'll want them to shut up. I can't see myself ever wanting them to stop talking to me. 

With this jealousy comes an important lesson, a lesson in patience and strength. With this jealousy I cherish our journey a little bit more. Going through these challenges always results in growth and a renewal of strength. And the struggles I face as a mom aren't anything compared to the frustration I know the boys feel at times when they can't tell me something. 

I know in time, this will all be a closed chapter and it will be hard to remember what it was like before they talked with us. Until then, we'll communicate together in our own way, mostly in Mommy asking questions that are smiled at instead of answered. Conversations where we speak slowly and in simple words, always hoping for a mimicking response. And of course, love can be communicated without words and we'll always find a way to communicate that. 

I'm blogging every day this month in honor of National Blog Post Month. Maybe you should, too.
NaBloPoMo November 2012

Bay Area Adventures with my dad.

(Us amazed by the Golden Gate Bridge)
If you've been following me on Instagram, you already know my dad came to visit us last weekend. We won't be going to Iowa for the holidays this year so it was nice to see him before the end of the year. On Sunday just he and I set out on a day of touristy things in San Francisco and had a blast. It was the most one-on-one time I've spent with my dad in years and it'll be a memory I hold dear forever. 

Here are some photos of our adventures:

He was really excited about Alcatraz. Next time he's here we're going to take a boat over there and tour the island. 

We drove down Lombard Street.
And I found this quote (about Lombard Street) from Bill Cosby particularly hilarious:
"They built a street up there called Lombard Street that goes straight down, and they're not satisfied with you killing yourself that way—they put grooves and curves and everything in it, and they put flowers there where they've buried the people that have killed themselves. Lombard Street, wonderful street." 
We saw The Painted Ladies. Or as most people know them: http://youtu.be/Ul2QTLpasDs

Went on an actual 1800's cargo ship, giant steam ferry and an old steam tug named Hercules on the Hyde St. Pier. My inner history geek was in heaven. Only $5 for access to all 3! If you're in the Bay Area and looking for good day outing-this was so much fun. I felt like I was walking back in time. I love touring historic locations. I like to imagine myself in the place and time of the people who were once there, you're walking through history in so many places in San Francisco. *end nerdy history freak out* But really!

We walked around Fisherman's Wharf , ate chocolate in Ghirardelli Square, drove by AT&T Park as the Giants were playing the final game of the World Series in Detroit. (There were people everywhere.) And then drove by the sad and unkempt Candlestick Park. 

You guys, it was the best day. And if you're ever in the Bay Area, I'm serious, go see the boats! 

I'm blogging every day this month for National Blog Post Month. Maybe you should, too.
NaBloPoMo November 2012