Wednesday, August 29, 2012

weekend bash

When we moved to Indiana, one of the things I was most sad about was having the twins' first birthday party here.  I was afraid we would have no friends to invite and the weekend would pass nearly unnoticed, not special at all.  Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong.

Barnes & Frances the most fabulous weekend celebrating their big day!  Really, they celebrated all week, as the UPS man kept delivering packages filled with new and exciting things.  Friday, their actual birthday, consisted of special "1" waffles, lots of play time, the arrival of Nana & Papa, and a birthday cupcake to top off the day.  Frances wanted nothing to do with the cupcake...Barnes, on the other hand, shoved the ENTIRE thing in his mouth, then proceeded to crawl over and try to eat the one Frances had discarded as well.

On Saturday, we had a perfect party.  So many new friends came out to help us celebrate.  From the cake to the cotton candy to the water table to the yummy treats, we could not have imagined a more joyful occasion.  Barnes, once again, put on quite the show with his smash cake.  I have literally never seen a child pick up and attempt to eat that much of any food all at once!  I cannot wait to see the pictures and share them with all of you (which will hopefully be in the next few weeks).

Finally, on Sunday, we took Nana & Papa to Chicago, our new favorite city.  We had a lovely time at Millenium Park, and we went inside Wrigley Field for a bit (thought we didn't get to see baseball because of the rain).  By the time we got home, we had two exhausted, happy, healthy, and very loved ONE YEAR OLDS.

We've spent the last few days recovering and getting ready for all of the exciting new things that one year olds can do.  We had our first day of parent-infant-toddler class today, we got registered for MOPS, and we had our one-year doctor visits.  Barnes checked in at 21 pounds 4 ounces, 28 inches long; Frances trailed behind at 17 pounds 6 ounces, 27 inches long.  Physically, they are still small, but their personalities are getting bigger every day.

Thank you to everyone who helped make B&F's birthday weekend oh-so-special!  We are blessed to have each of you in our lives, and we are excited for all the new adventures this next year holds.
birthday playtime

loving it
not feeling the cake
i'll have hers too
birthday party preview

some festive attire

fountain fun

sweet  birthday boy

precious birthday girl

Saturday, August 25, 2012

to my sweet twins

Dear Barnes & Frances,

Today was your day.  Your birthday.  And not just any birthday...your very first birthday.  And despite spending the entire day celebrating and rejoicing in you, I cannot seem to grasp the meaning of this day.

One year ago, we anxiously welcomed you into the world.  At 3:21 a.m., we heard the sound that would change our lives forever--your two sweet cries.  I had dreamed of the day we would meet you.  I hoped it would be perfect; that we would cuddle and cry and laugh as we got to know one another.  Because you made your entrance a bit early, however, the day went differently than planned.  My arms ached to hold you, but I knew that you needed time.  Time to get bigger and stronger and healthier.  Three weeks later, on the best day of my life, we brought you home, and the days and weeks and months since then have been the craziest, most fun ride of our lives.

You are such a joy, both individually and as a pair.  Barnes, your enthusiasm and excitement are contagious.  You love to have fun, yet you are beautifully sensitive.  I hope you never outgrow your desire to cuddle.  Frances, your sweet spirit and determination are inspiring.  You are quite the thinker, and you love being held and tossed and tickled.  Together, the two of you are amazing.  You love each other so much, yet already antagonize and pester each other.  We often find you holding hands in your stroller or car seat.  Watching you learn and play and grow together has convinced me that every baby needs a twin.  I pray that you always recognize what a gift you are to each other, and my great desire is that you remain best friends throughout your lives.

Barnes and Frances, you will never understand how long and how deeply we have loved you.  Before you even existed, we prayed for you and dreamed of what you would be like.  You are our miracles.  When you arrived one year ago today, you made us a family.  You made us a mom and dad.  You brought joy beyond measure in your precious 3 and 4 pound packages.  Today, that joy has only grown, as we love you more and more with each passing moment.

Thank you for being our son and daughter.  Thank you for the kindness and goodness we can already see shaping your sweet souls.  We praise God for the precious year He has given us, and we pray He will watch over you all the days of your lives.

I am honored and humbled to be your mother.

I love you so much,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

one year wonders

It's birthday eve.  Tomorrow is the big, much anticipated day.  A year ago today I went to get an ultrasound, unable to shake an ominous feeling that something was wrong.  A few hours later, my water broke, and b&f made their way into the world.

So today our munchkins are one day shy of their big birthday...and what are they up to?

Barnes is a wild man, yet oh so tender.  He is crazy and physical and hilarious, then wants to be held and cuddled.  He makes the funniest faces.  He babbles all day, with words for dada, mama, book, and bye-bye.  He loves to clap  and climb stairs.  He has four adorable teeth, and we have to change his clothes every few hours from all the drool he produces.  His current favorite thing is to jump and dive on pillows on the floor.  Dad taught him this, and he finds it absolutely hilarious.  When we are in the car, he reaches for his sister's hand.  He loves his sister.  He stands all the time, and his balance is improving every day.  Yesterday, he took two steps.

Frances is still petite, but not to be underestimated.  She can still wear her 3-6 month pajamas, yet she can also stand up from the ground without holding on to anything, and her balance is incredible.  She sings and grunts and squeals all day, with words for dada and bye-bye.  She loves spaghetti and vegetables.  She is still sporting two sweet bottom teeth, and more hair on top than on the sides.  She loves her brother--she often follows him around--but she also has an independent streak.  She loves to sit alone and play, and upon waking from a nap is content to sing to herself in her crib for a bit.  She is so, so ticklish.  She loves to be upside down.  After every bath time, before we can get a diaper on her, she crawls over to the mirror naked to check herself out.

Both are obsessed with the dogs right now.  They chase them all day, and occasionally get a fist full of fur.  They love it when the dogs come in their nursery with me after a nap and lick their hands through the rails.  They are especially obsessed with Stella...maybe because she's almost as crazy as they are.  They play together a lot now.  The cabinets in the kitchen island open on both sides, and they love to get on each side and yell at each other.  The cabinets in the playroom do the same, and they have figured out how to make them into a tunnel.  They both love to wave.  When we go to a store, Frances waves as we go down the aisles.  Books and blocks are favorite toys, and they can make a push toy/walker out of almost anything.  They love, love their water table.

We are so proud of them and all they have learned in their 364 days.

Addendum: Not to be outdone, Frances took 3 steps shortly after this was posted!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Barnes Howard and Frances Katherine.  We've received lots of comments about the names we gave our twins.  They have been called strong, traditional, and southern.  To us, though, they are simply perfect.

Choosing a name for your child is quite difficult.  All expectant parents feel the weight of this decision. You are, after all, determining the title your child will use for his or her entire life.  But these names actually fell together easily.  There were no disagreements, no back and forth, no short lists.  These just fit.  Barnes Howard and Frances Katherine were always our twins' names.


My paternal grandmother, Lillian Barnes Hodge, had a kind and gentle soul.  She never raised her voice to anyone, and she gave people the benefit of the doubt, believing that everyone had a reason for their actions.  She was quick to defend others.  She loved to cook.  When my dad was 12, his father passed away, and Granny was left with her three sons.  No matter what the adversity, though, she pressed forward.  She had a difficult life, but she never complained and always found joy.

Granny with my grandfather, my dad (center), and his two brothers

Andrew's dad, Jeffrey Howard Shafer, is a caring, deep-hearted, hard working, motivated man.  His love for family and friends is unwavering, and he is passionate about helping others reach their best.  Known as "the Eating Man," you will never go hungry when Jeff is around.  In Andrew's words, "Never once have I doubted his level of dedication and love for me or our family, and because of that I can only hope that I can be the same for our family and children."  In short, Jeff taught Andrew how to be an incredible father...the most important lesson a father can pass to his son.

Barnes with his G


My mom's grandfather, Francis Oscar Anderson, was a man of strong-will.  He was gentle, but firm.  He was known as "Pop" to his grandchildren, and my mom loved spending time with him.  He liked watching soap operas and could often be found wearing overalls.  He was dearly loved by his children and grandchildren.

Francis with his wife, Maude Butler Anderson


Andrew's grandmother, Katherine Davis Coulter, exemplifies strength of character.  Nana was named for her own mother (Katherine Rose), but was always called Betty.  With 6 children, 21 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren, Nana has always made friends and family her priority.  Her life is centered around her God and her faith, and she has truly lived the life of a "good and faithful servant."

Frances checking out Nana Coulter

Special thanks to Andrew, my mom & dad, and Andrew's mom for the information they provided for this post!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

raising our children

As parents, we are tasked with raising our children.  To raise is to bring to maturity.  Raising our children means helping them grow and learn, guarding them as they pass from infancy to childhood to adulthood.  We raise our sons and daughters to become men and women...and then the raising is complete.

But to raise also means to set upright by lifting or building; to lift up; to place higher in rank or dignity.  While raising B&F in the traditional sense, I yearn to also raise them in this way.  I want to lift them, to set them higher.  I want to build up their spirits and souls and consciences.  And I know of no other way to do this than by lifting them up to God in prayer and thanksgiving.

I have a complicated, always evolving view of prayer.  Do I believe that if you pray for good things, they will happen?  No.  Do I believe in praying over what you should cook for dinner tonight?  No.  Do I believe that God always "answers" prayers?  No.  Yet I still find prayer essential.  In prayer, we are able to come before our God without guard or pretense.  We can honestly pour out our praise for all that is good, and our fear regarding all that is less good.  When we pray about our children, we can speak those things that never seem to find a voice...the joy that seems too prideful to admit...the anxieties that are too frightening to put into words.  We often pray seeking some change in circumstance.  But, more often than not, the act of praying, of standing before our Lord, results in a change in ourselves.  The circumstances remain the same, yet after viewing them through the lens of prayer, our attitude towards them is different.

Since the day we found out our bundle of joy was going to be a double blessing, I have often needed an attitude shift.  When anxiety creeps in, I try to remember to lift Barnes & Frances up in prayer.  To pray over their sweet souls, rejoicing in how far they have come.  When the days seem long, with double melt-downs and teething and food fights, I try to remember to pray for my twins.  To sing psalms of thanksgiving for the miracle they are, to thank God for blessing me so abundantly with this duo of biological children.  It's not easy.  It's not my natural response.  When I most need a perspective change is usually when I am least likely to lean towards prayer.  But in those rare moments when I remember to go to God--on the days I remember to carry on a conversation with the Divine about my sweet children--the bliss of parenthood seems to shine a little brighter.  When I pray for my children, when I speak to God about my hopes and dreams and fears for Barnes and Frances, I seem enabled to love them a little better.  To love them with God.  To love them through loving God.

At 23 weeks pregnant (almost to viability), I bought a rosary for B&F.  I use these to pray over my little ones, and I hope to pass these on to each child at some point in the very distant future.  For me, this tangible reminder sitting beside my bed helps me remember to take time from the bustle of life and sit still,  praying for my children.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

lessons in love

When my water broke 51 weeks ago today, I had no idea what I was doing.  I had no clue how to be a mother.  Today?  I still have no idea what I'm doing.  Every day is a guessing game.

There is no way to train to be a parent--it's a learn it in the field kind of job.  But over the past year, I have learned a few lessons that I wish I could have grasped earlier in this journey.

1. Release your grip on perfection.

Sometimes you have those perfect days...the baby is cuddly, your marriage is blissful, and your life feels like a walking Christmas card.  Most days, though, have a slightly less perfect flavor.

While I was pregnant, my twin visions involved lots of matching outfits and sibling love.  I spent hours poring over the babies' "coming home" outfits.  Then they arrived, and my perfect fantasy immediately crumbled.  I didn't get that iconic shot of dad holding both babies right after their birth.  I had to consent to my son being fed another woman's milk.  And when they were finally ready to come home, their perfect outfits looked like potato sacks on them, and I had to improvise with Wal-Mart onesies.

Life with children is full of stained clothes, dirty faces, and pushing each other down to get to what each one wants.  Life is no Norman Rockwell painting, and a perfectionist like me can have a hard time coming to terms with that.  But once you let go of your pristine fantasy and embrace the perfectly imperfect life you have been given, you will find true joy in the messy moments.  There is nothing more heartwarming than a baby with oatmeal smeared through his hair; a precious outfit ruined by a little one's diligent efforts to learn motion; a mom covered in drool from the loving embraces of her child; or a preemie finally making its way home, even if it is in a simple Wal-Mart onesie.

2. You are not doing it wrong.

Is your child breathing?  Is she relatively clean?  Is she happy (at least as happy as is within your control)?  Then you are not doing it wrong.  When we brought the twins home from the NICU, I was paralyzed with fear, so afraid that I wouldn't mother correctly.  After 11 months, I have finally learned that there is no "right."  Every parent has his or her own style.  Find the style that works best for your family, and don't feel the need to apologize when it differs from someone else's parenting beliefs.  We all do it differently, and we all do it good enough.  And good enough is right.

3. Have friends with kids.

Sometimes you need to talk about poop.  Or breast feeding.  Or pureed squash.  Unless a person has kids, I can guarantee you that they have no interest in these conversations.

4. Have friends without kids.  

Sometimes you want to talk about anything other than poop, breast feeding, or pureed squash.  Friends without kids can be a great respite from your baby-filled world.  Go out, have a glass of wine, and engage in a serious conversation about the latest celebrity gossip.  You will be a better mom for it.

5. Learn to smile and nod.

Whether you have one kid, two kids, or seven kids, people will inevitably say crazy things to you.  When are you having another?  Doesn't he look just like a girl?  I wonder why your twins are different sizes.  Are you sure they are twins?

Even more than crazy commenters, though, you will surely run into your fair share of "my life is so much harder than yours" moms.  While I wish I could say that this was a rare breed, these moms are all too common.  No matter what your circumstance or how hard your day has been, theirs has been worse.  Your newborn cries all night?  Theirs cries all day AND night.  You have infant twins?  They have an infant and a three year old, which is clearly much more difficult.

Smile, nod, and enjoy a laugh in your head.

6. Put down your phone.

And your computer.  And any other device on which you check your email, facebook, or blogs.  Purposefully disconnect with the world so that you can fully engage with your little one.  This is hard for all parents--especially me.  If you work outside the home, you may feel pressured to be constantly available.  If you stay at home, these outlets may feel like your only connection to the outside world.  But let them go.  Set a schedule, allowing yourself to be on the internet at pre-planned, specific times (nap, lunch, after bedtime).  You don't want your child's first drawing of you to include a phone in your hand.

7. Keep a camera handy.

Andrew and I have taken an embarrassingly huge number of pictures of our twins, and we've had more professional photo sessions than I care to admit.  But I don't regret a single one.  I've never heard a parent say, "You know, I really wish I had taken fewer pictures."  Pictures help us remember these sweet moments that may grow fuzzy over time.  They capture a story--the way Frances crawls, the way Barnes scrunches his face--when words are just inadequate.

8. Just go.

You really need to pick up your dry cleaning.  You realize that doing so will require packing the diaper bag, strapping the baby in the car seat, driving to the cleaners, removing the baby from the car seat so that you can go in the store for all of 3 minutes, then putting the baby back in his seat (most likely to protests from said child), and finally driving back home, during which time he may fall asleep and throw his nap completely off schedule.

Doing anything with a baby can seem daunting.  But the thinking about it is usually worse than the actual doing.  Plus, sometimes you have to get out of the house.  So just go.  Get up, get out, and take a little break from the ordinary.

9. Realize that it's okay to not enjoy every moment...or even every day.

I do not enjoy every second I spend with my sweet twins.  In fact, there are probably whole days that I would classify as hard.  Am I thankful for the twins every day?  Yes.  Would I ever trade them for anything?  Absolutely not.  But that doesn't make them less difficult.  This year has passed so quickly...but I would be lying if I said that the days weren't sometimes achingly slow.

A child is a miracle, the most abundant blessing.  But raising a child is work.  Luckily, most days are sprinkled with enough endearing moments to make me remember how blessed I truly am.  Relish in those moments--use them to propel you forward.  And remember that it's okay to admit that life with young kids is hard.  

10.  Ignore 90% of all advice you receive.

Everyone gives new parents advice.  Everyone thinks their way is the right way.  Truth is, though, your way is the right way for you.  While your neighbor/cousin/mailman imparts his parenting wisdom, employ your smile and nod tactic, then discard 90% of whatever you were just told.

Which means you can discard items 1-9 on this list.  #10 is really all that matters.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


These little ones are growing up.  It's hard for me to admit, but it's true.  Sure, neither of them has hit the 20 pound mark yet, but they are infants no more.  Despite my reluctance to admit their toddler status, the universe has hit me in the face with proof over the last few days:

  • The invitations for their first birthday party arrived in the mail yesterday.
  • On Monday morning, we had the Today show on in the background (as usual), and the screen panned to the waving crowd.  Sweet Frances, with no prompting whatsoever, waved back to her people.  
  • Barnes can say "dada" and "a-ma," yet reserves these words for when he really wants us to pick him up...and it just tugs at your heart so much that you have to stop what you're doing and comply.
  • At story hour for the past two weeks, Frances has crawled away from mom to the front of the class to sit by the teacher.  No lack of independence here.
  • While he was once content to play with the top of his activity table, Barnes now wants to flip it over.  He's always looking for a different way to play.
  • Not long ago, I was coaxing them to eat their solids.  Now I can't get their peas/carrots/bananas/peaches/bread on the trays quickly enough.
  • They love testing their limits, pushing their boundaries.  Upon hearing "no," they turn their sweet faces towards you to see if you really mean it.  Trouble, trouble, trouble.
While having two infants was difficult at times, I can only imagine the challenges that two toddlers will bring.  Ready or not....

Friday, August 3, 2012

busy bees

Hi bloggie friends!  We don't know if you've heard, but a few weeks ago we took a long road trip from Knoxville and never went back.  We wanted to give you an update on what we've been doing since we moved to Indiana.  Mom doesn't like it here very much yet, but we have found tons of fun things in our new home!

We celebrated our first Fourth of July with a trip to the local, free zoo.  We saw monkeys & otters & even baby goats!  And don't worry...we wore our red, white & blue smocked outfits to represent both the USA and our southern roots.  

We've also been helping with the whole unpacking process.  Mom says that we make her oh-so-much more efficient.

We turned 11 months old, which mom thought was a really big deal.  We're not sure why it mattered so much, but we love any day that ends with dad throwing us in the air.

We like Lafayette, but our favorite thing so far has been our trip to Chicago.  We loved the big city!  We got to see so many fun things...Michigan Avenue, the Hershey store, the American Girl store, the phone book in our hotel room.  Before we came home, we even found a giant magical bean that shows your reflection!  We were quite the spectacle playing underneath it--at one point, more than a dozen people had stopped to watch us! 

We love Tennessee, but we think this place is going to be pretty fun.  And hopefully some of our friends will head north for a visit soon!

Love you all,