Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happily Ever After

Once upon a time, Tony and Heather VanHorn lived with their three beautiful daughters in Colorado.  

For three and a half years, this blog has chronicled our journey through pregnancies, births, hospital stays, parenting, milestones, and my own random thoughts.  It's been mostly about the twins -- bed rest, prematurity, NICU, watching them grow.  Then, it was about Marlowe -- excitement about a single, full-term baby, our third baby girl.  You've read as I grew from a wide-eyed first time parent into a seasoned veteran, and heard about some of my struggles in between.

I'm writing to tell you that I'm closing the blog.  For several months, other things have taken first priority, and I haven't had ideas for blog posts very often.  When I did sit down to write, sometimes it was only because I hadn't blogged in a while.  I also have some exciting new ventures that are just beginning, and I want to spend my time concentrating on those things.

There are some things that aren't "complete" in my mind.  I haven't shown recent pictures of the kids.  You haven't seen our new house and heard about how much we love it.  (We really do!)  I won't be able to show you all of my craftiness that is happening in the new house.  But, I do all of these things on Facebook, so please "friend" me there if you aren't a friend of mine already.

If you find yourself wondering how we're doing, just know that we plan on living happily ever after.

The End.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Leila's Life: 3 Years

Time to do a little celebrating of my second oldest 3-year-old -- the one known as "Leila Bean" around here lately.  (I'm realizing that Tony changes up his nicknames a few times a year!)

People are always asking for easy ways to tell the twins apart.  Tony's brother came up with this one, when the girls weren't more than a few months old: Leila is Loud.  And, wow, that was prophetic.  She is our extrovert, the queen of the roost.  But that's not bad -- it means that she is a great includer and loves to play with new playmates.

Leila currently spends a lot of her playtime using her imagination.  She likes to have tea parties with Hadley, but her favorite activity is playing with her babies.  She spends hours feeding her baby (breastfeeding, ha!), putting the baby in the jumper, and putting the baby down for naps.  It warms my heart.

Like I said in Hadley's post, Leila and Hadley have a special friendship.  Leila can make Hadley laugh harder than anybody else.  And Tony and I spend a lot of our evenings reminding them to settle into bed because they're having so much fun together.

Leila, my little mommy, notices everything I do with Marlowe.  She tells me when Marlowe is crying, and greets her with "good morning, Baby Marlowe!" after every nap.  However, she also resists not being a baby herself.  She often asks to "snuggle in the rocking chair with Mommy/Daddy" or wants to "be Baby Leila".  We always snuggle with her, of course.  Who wouldn't?

Like Hadley, Leila loves to sing.  And she's good at it, too!  Unlike Hadley, though, Leila doesn't stick to songs she's learned.  She often makes up her own lyrics and melodies.  (By the way, she's been asking us to sing something that sounds like "appernoon" or "abberdoon" lately ... anybody know what song she might be referring to?)

Happy 3rd Birthday, Leila Elaine!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hadley's Happenings: 3 Years

Three years old, already!  Let's do a little celebrating of "Haddie Pants", as Tony has started to call her ... I don't know why.  :)

Hadley has always been our introvert.  When there's a lot of activity, she usually ends up playing by herself in another room, or she'll find a blanket or towel to play under until the activity dies down.  Not weird, just Hadley!  

Hadley is our studious child.  She concentrates really hard on everything she does.  She still spends a lot of time coloring, which has progressed to trying to color in the lines ... and triangles!  That kind of precision blows me away.

Gotta watch out when she's coloring ... sometimes the markers double as lipstick!

Hadley and Leila have a very special relationship.  Leila calls her "Howie".  They're so different from each other, but together they're a perfect little blend.  Hadley lets Leila make most of their choices, so I have to deliberately encourage Hadley to think for herself sometimes.  On the flip side, when they roughhouse, Hadley is always the toughest, even though she's smaller.  (Not too much smaller ... half a pound and half an inch, I found out this week!)

Hadley and Marlowe have a special relationship, too.  Hadley sits next to Marlowe's high chair at the dining table, and she always holds hands with Marlowe and tries to make her smile.  Every once in a while, I'll catch her side-by-side with Marlowe under Marlowe's activity gym, too.  So sweet.

My very favorite thing about Hadley right now (both of the twins, actually) is her love of singing.  She can now carry a tune, and has at least 20 songs memorized.  She and Leila actively sing with us at mealtime and bedtime, and it makes my heart swell every time.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Hadley Luella!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cute As a Button: Third Birthday Party

We celebrated the twins' third birthday on Memorial Day, a week before their actual birthday.  We had a great time, with our traditional backyard barbecue.  The theme this year?  Cute as a button!  Because they are, you know.  :)

I had a lot of fun with the twins' outfits.  I made "3" shirts for them with a white t-shirt, polka dot fabric, and buttons, of course.  The adorable headbands were custom made by my sister, Becky -- check out her new business here and here.  

Marlowe even got in on the fun:

Aside from normal barbecue food, we had some special button-themed treats.  Becky (the same sister who made the headbands) made this gorgeous -- and delicious! -- cake.

(Blowing out the candles, yay!  They definitely didn't wait until the song was over.)  :)

In addition to the cake, we had the cutest cake balls you've ever seen, created by my sister Melissa.  Seriously, people -- those are individual, hand-made, edible buttons.  Wow.

And no party is complete without additions from Postscripts, my sister Paula's business.  She (and her hubby, Tex) made the banners that you see, the awesome wooden cake stand, and the paper straw flags.  Perfection.

Yes, I know.  You're thinking, "Heather, what did you do?"  Well, I took advantage of my sisters' creativity!  Honestly, I just bought the food and got everything ready.  And I already mentioned that I made the shirts.  But I'm pretty proud of this contribution: button-shaped strawberry ices for the lemonade.  With a homemade ice mold!  Go me!  :)

Here's a few more of my favorite shots from the day.  We were so happy to enjoy the day with our family, especially Tony's brother and his family, who were visiting from Kansas.

Three Years

1 birthday ...
2 little girls ...

Happy Birthday, Hadley and Leila.
We love watching you develop into lovely young ladies.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Unexpected Parent

A little taste of our chaos.  :)

A month or two ago, I helped my cousin assemble her wedding invitations.  While we chatted and glued, the topic of twins came up, as it often does in conversations with me.  I mentioned that I was thankful for having twins first, because it made me embrace parenthood in a way that I never would have anticipated (which I'll explain below).  She replied, "You're right -- I honestly didn't think you would ever have children!"

Now, to be fair, her statement comes from having known me when I shaved my head, and later, when I had five earrings in each ear, had my belly button pierced, and dated a new boy every month.  It was a short, hard phase, and not truly indicative of who I am on the inside.  I don't think my parents have ever been more relieved than when I attended a Christian college, took out my piercings, and started dating a boy named Tony VanHorn.  :)

But the statement itself still holds some truth.  I'm not the most maternal person.  I didn't dream of being a mother when I was a little girl.  When Tony and I got married, we knew that we wanted children, but maybe just two.  We didn't say it out loud, but the bottom line was that we didn't want to change our lives for children.

Then, we saw two little blobs on that first ultrasound.  Bed rest for five weeks.  Delivering twins, one vaginally and one by c-section, six weeks early.  The NICU for sixteen days.  Becoming a stay-at-home mom to premature twins who stayed on oxygen for eight weeks.  Exclusively breastfeeding.  Punching the mattress because both babies were crying and I couldn't make them stop.  Leaving dinner parties early because both of the babies were fussy.  Deciding to not leave the house during the day unless absolutely necessary for a few months, because it was just too hard.  Being the mom who couldn't sit down and chat with friends during play dates, because managing the twins took all of my time.  Watching my friends without children stare at us while we desperately tried to pull ourselves together.

Changing our lives for children was going to happen, whether we wanted it to or not.

If there was ever an excuse to stick to our "two children" resolve, twins was it.  It's the hardest thing I've ever done.  I spent the first year (or more) of the twins' lives feeling out of control almost all of the time.  By having twins first, changes in my life happened that I wouldn't have chosen and had no control over.    

Something else also happened.  The changes that I didn't choose, even resisted, made me a better person.  I had no choice but to give up my selfishness, my pride, my control.  In their place, instead of resentment, I've been given  love, patience, and enjoyment.  And, Tony and I reasoned, if we have all of these things with two children, why not have more?  And so, Miss Marlowe was born.  And all of those good things have multiplied.  In fact, believe it or not, life has gotten easier.

During my pregnancy with Marlowe, I swore that she would be our last.  Seeing her and falling completely in love with her made me take that statement back.  So, we don't know how many children we will have.  We may have three or thirty.  Our life is still chaos, and probably will be for a long time.  My enjoyment may not be obvious when you see me on the street.  :)  But I can tell you, honestly, that I love and enjoy being a mother to my three kiddos.  And that's something that even I didn't expect to see in myself.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Twins as Individuals (and Why I Can't Win)

The kids are napping, my house is a disaster zone, and I don't feel like cleaning it.  So, I'm going to blog.  :)

(Leila / Hadley.  I wish this picture were in focus, but I'll take what I can get.)  :)

Most of the time, I feel like a stay-at-home mother of three, sometimes forgetting that two of them were in my belly at the same time.  (Hadley and Leila actually aren't aware that they're twins.  They don't get the concept.)  Other times, I'm very aware that we have twins, and that we had three kids in 30 months.  It's usually triggered by going out in public.  At home, our "three under three" feels totally normal.  At the grocery store, or in restaurants, we get lots of smiles, stares, and "you've got your hands full!"  Right now, having been out in public a lot recently, I'm in a "twinny" phase.  So, bear with me while I write a little monologue about twins.

This is what I've been dwelling on recently: when it comes to telling our twins apart, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Hadley and Leila are identical.  Tony and I have been able to tell them apart since the moment they were born, but we're the only ones who can do that.  Our family and friends are awesome at making an effort, but we usually have to remind them which one has bangs or what shirts they are wearing that day or correct a mix-up.  And we're totally okay with that.  What drives me c-r-a-z-y is when people don't make an effort at all.  They've been called "HadleyorLeila".  I've been told, "yeah, I won't remember that."  I've been asked, "which one is that?"  (Which is sometimes okay, but the emphasis on "that" was odd.  Please call my child a "she", not a "that".)

It seems like I would be THRILLED if people could tell them apart, right?  Well, I'm a fickle, emotional female.  :)

The girls and I went to the mall the other day to run a quick errand.  Of course, before we left, we stopped by the play area and stayed for about half an hour.  Marlowe was sleeping, so I parked the stroller and sat down.  The mom sitting next to me said, "are those girls twins?"  I puffed up my chest with pride and prepared my answer, until I realized she was pointing at two little blonde babies playing near the slide.  I gave my best guess (I didn't think so), and we were silent for a few minutes.  Then, I couldn't handle it any longer.  "But MY girls are twins!" I announced, pointing them out so that the other mom could see them.  "Oh, yeah ... I guess they are," she said.  And that was it.  She wouldn't have noticed them.  And that made me sad.

You see what I mean?  I want people to tell them apart, but I also want people to not tell them apart.  I want people to see them as individuals, but also as twins.  I can't win.

So, if I can't have it all, I guess I'll "be thankful in all circumstances".  Lesson learned.  End rant.  :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rice, Rice, Baby!

I don't start solids early on with my kiddos.  I always feel like it's just one more thing to add to my day, so as long as they're not acting hungry after they've just nursed, I'm happy to delay solids.  I nursed the twins exclusively for seven months before starting solids, and Marlowe just turned six months old and hadn't eaten solids yet ... until yesterday!

Marlowe wasn't necessarily acting hungry, but she was eyeing our food at mealtimes, lunging forward, and grunting at it.  :)  Plus, her fine motor skills are developed enough that it's time for her to learn how to eat.  So, I pulled out the box of rice cereal yesterday.

Mom, I'm so hungry that I'm eating my bib! 

First bite ... what are you shoving into my mouth?

Hmm ... not sure ...

That was quite yummy, thank you! 

(I make 99% of my own baby food.  We just happened to have a box of rice cereal, and you know I'm not going to waste it.)  :)  Next up, sweet potatoes!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Six Months of Marlowe

I managed to write only one blog post during the month of April.  I haven't done that ... ever.  Not once since starting this blog.  I guess that's just the pattern of life.

Anyway, I'm not here to have deep thoughts today; I'm here to celebrate the six-month birthday of a certain little girl!  Six months ago today, we welcomed Marlowe Grace into our family, though she fits so naturally that it seems like she's been here all along.

Happy birthday to the happiest, sweetest, smiley-est baby in the world.  The baby who I will compare all other babies to for the rest of my life.  The baby who loves jumping in her exersaucer, stuffing anything she can grab into her mouth, and already sleeps 12 hours a night (and who achieved that milestone without any prompting on our part).

We love you, Miss Marlowe, and we love that God has given you to us.

By the way, our house is on the market -- check it out at http://215elmwood.com/!  It's turning out to be quite a dramatic story, but I'll save that until the story is complete.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Steps

Oh, boy ... it's been a while ... again.  I just thought I would pop in to say that we're all still alive and well.

Tony and I have been using every spare minute to prepare our house for sale.  It goes on the market next week!  I'd like to think that we're clean and organized people, so I can't imagine what this process is like for people who aren't clean and organized.  Although, having three kids under three definitely hinders those qualities.  :)

Hadley and Leila are still my little bundles of energy.  We converted their beds into bunk beds and they LOVE it.  It also means they can't pick on each other before they fall asleep.  :)  (By the way, I've had a few pictures of bedtime on here recently, and you'll notice the red on their faces.  We're using three different prescription creams on their eczema before bedtime, and hopefully we're getting closer to a long-term solution that doesn't involve prescriptions.)

Speaking of sleeping, Marlowe has been sleeping through the night for a few weeks now!  Sometimes she still needs a little TLC, but she's not nursing in the night anymore, and that's nice.  (Let's be honest ... nursing one baby in the middle of the night is nothing, compared to nursing two babies in the middle of the night.  So getting up with her usually didn't bother me.)  She's also >thisclose< to sitting up and rolling over back-to-front.  So much fun!

And just in case you're not on Facebook, here's our family at Easter.  I made the dresses for the girls, using this tutorial.  Aren't they adorable?  (The girls AND the dresses!)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Look Who's Potty Trained, Too!

Here's a glance at our other potty trained gal!

She's still not dry at night, and from what I hear, that can take a while, so I decided to celebrate her daytime success anyway.  She's been trained during the day nearly as long as Hadley.

Congratulations, Leila!

(This is her cheesy smile, by the way.  They both squint their eyes when they "fake smile".)  :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Once Upon A Lavender

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Leila, in the kingdom of VanHorn.  Leila was a happy girl, and spent most of her time playing with her twin sister, Princess Hadley.

In the winter of Leila's first year, she began to suck her thumb, like many babies.  But unlike many babies, Princess Leila discovered that her thumb-sucking happiness was complete only when she also held onto the cuff of her long-sleeved shirt.

Now, summer was quickly approaching, and Leila's mommy, Queen Heather, knew that short-sleeved shirts would bring great distress to the kingdom.  The Queen saw that the Princess liked to hold onto something while she sucked her thumb, so she sought to give her a gift that would replace her love of long-sleeved shirts.  Her search took her to the jungles of Amazon, where she found the perfect gift: a soft lavender bunny, with ears that were perfect for holding onto.

Princess Leila immediately loved the bunny, who was named Lavender.  She carried the bunny with her everywhere.  Several times, King Tony and Queen Heather had to retrace their steps after going shopping or going on a walk, in order to find the lost bunny.  But most importantly, Leila always had Lavender's ears to hold onto when she sucked her thumb.

Seasons came and went.  Lavender remained a faithful companion.  Princess Leila began talking, and renamed Lavender, "Na-narsh", then began calling her "Nanner".  The Princesses moved from their cribs into big girl beds.

And this is when a dark cloud began to descend for King Tony and Queen Heather.  You see, Nanner was quite flat.  When Princess Leila moved to a big girl bed, Nanner sometimes got misplaced in the sheets and blankets.  Princess Leila couldn't find Nanner in the dark, and called out for the King and Queen to come rescue Nanner.  Once ... twice ... sometimes even three times a night, the King or Queen would wake up to the wails only brought on by a lost bunny.

The Queen couldn't bear the idea of taking Nanner away from Princess Leila.  But the sleepless nights were taking a toll on the kingdom.  So, the Queen turned to her royal advisory board.  Many ideas were given and considered, but only one turned out to be the perfect solution.  Queen Heather fashioned a ribbon, with a clip on both ends.  One clip went onto Princess Leila's shirt, and the other clip went onto Nanner's tail.

Today, the whole kingdom is rejoicing, for Princess Leila no longer misplaces Nanner in the middle of the night.  Hurrah!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Four Month Comparison

Here's Hadley at four months.  According to the baby book, she weighed 12 lbs 10 oz.  Not too shabby for a preemie!

Here's Leila at four months.  According the the baby book, she weighed 12 lbs 9 oz.  Filling out nicely!

...And here's Marlowe at four months.  According to the scale, she's just reached 16 lbs.  Check out those rolls!  I laugh every time I look at this picture.  But she's got a huge amount of happy, too!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Baby "Must-Have" List

I'm not really much of a "brand loyal" person.  And when it comes to baby stuff (and considering the tiny house we live in), I'm very much of a "less is more" kind of person.  But, as I raise my third kiddo, I have found some things that I absolutely love.  Things that I think to myself, somebody should tell new moms to buy this instead of wasting their money on its competitors.

So, I'm doing just that.  Here's my list.  It doesn't include basic life necessities like food, clothing, a place to sleep, and a car seat.  It's not very long, because truthfully, most of the time, one thing is as good as the next.  But these stand out in the crowd.

*WubbaNubs.  I've blogged about this one before.  It's a pacifier, sewed to a stuffed animal.  The weight helps the baby keep it in her mouth.  The size makes it almost impossible to lose.  And the actual pacifier is the brand that hospitals use, so chances are good that if your baby is introduced to a pacifier, it's going to be this one.  (Of course, choosing whether or not to use a pacifier at all is your decision ...)

*Baby Bjorn Soft Bib.  This one was recommended to me by a friend.  It's durable, has a scoop bottom to catch drips and crumbs, and you can just throw it in the dishwasher.  Don't even bother with cloth bibs (they're only useful for drooly babies that need one all the time).  We've tried other ones that have a similar concept, and we were really disappointed.

*Hook-on High Chair.  Why are regular high chairs so huge, if they seat such a tiny person?  And why do you have to buy another, smaller one for when you're traveling or visiting another home?  We love our brand of hook-on high chairs, although I think the concept is more important than the brand.  Ours also had a tray, while many hook-ons don't.

*Johnson's Nursing Pads.  Okay, this one might be a little personal.  :)  But I've seriously tried them all, and this is the only brand I'll buy.

Here are a few things that I thought were worth mentioning, but they're probably not the ONLY brand out there that works.  Or they're not a brand name at all.  :)  (I like that I'm breaking my own rules...)

*Swaddling.  We are swaddle fanatics around here.  We swaddle until our babies can break out of the blanket with a He-Man-like strength.  I feel that our babies (all babies?) sleep better if they're wrapped up tight.  I know there are zillions of swaddle blankets out there, but my favorite is just a really big, light-weight blanket that my mom made when I was pregnant with the twins.

*Snack cups.  My sister gave me a package of 4-ounce snack cups when I was pregnant with the twins.  I thought it was an odd gift.  Now, I use them every day, for food and crafts, and I've even just given empty ones to the kids to play with.

*Moby Wrap.  The truth is, I'm borrowing the Moby that I use right now.  And I'm giving it an honorable mention because I didn't use one with the twins (although there is a "twin hold"!).  I love it because it doesn't hurt my back, it cradles the baby naturally, and there are tons of different holds that change as your baby grows.

*Ikea toddler utensils.  I like that these forks can actually spear food.  Most, if not all, of the other forks we have are so concerned about safety that they're useless.

Phew!  I think that's it.  What about you?  Have I neglected to mention something that you couldn't live without?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"March"ing Along

Hello again!  It's been a while.  We've been doing a lot of things!  The BIG thing is that we're getting our house ready to sell.  We're getting really close to meeting our financial goal, and we haven't even met with our realtor yet, but we've been finishing projects around the house and generally daydreaming.  :)  I'll keep you updated.

I've been busy doing some crafty projects, too.  I can't wait to show you the Easter dresses that I made for my girls!

And, it's been really nice outside lately.  Finally!  So, we've been emerging from hibernation as much as possible.  Lots of playdates and playing outside!

The kids are doing great.  We went through a rough patch with the twins (cabin fever?), but they are back to being their endearing little selves.

And Marlowe is always sweet.  Not sleeping through the night, but sweet.  :)  Having Marlowe in the exersaucer has really opened her up to interacting with the twins.  They gravitate toward her when she's in it, and like to bring her toys and make her smile.

...Speaking of Marlowe smiles, here's a good one.  Growing up so fast!