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  • Fri, February 05, 2021 9:20 AM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    When I found out I was having twins I immediately knew two things: 1. It was gonna be hard and 2. My laziness was going to rear its ugly head.  Here’s the thing; I’m not that lazy, I’m definitely just more of a procrastinator.  But when the time comes, I get things done.  Anyway, I immediately thought, “I’ve got to have meals ready to go because I assume cooking is now a thing of the past.”  Right after bed rest ensued (procrastination!) I started prepping!  I scoured my recipes from home and Pinterest for freezer-friendly meals.  I found 6-7 that I love and made a grocery list, at a minimum doubling each recipe.  I also got foil loaf pans and smaller square pans (it was just me and John, I’m not feeding a crowd). All the groceries got delivered (because bed rest) and I spent about a week cooking and resting.  I did have my mom come for the week and help and y’all, she brought pound cake for the freezer!  That’s a thing and it was a life saver!  So, on the blog for the next couple of months I’m going to share my favorite freezer recipes, tips for freezer meals, and how to make them work for your family. This week I’m sharing four of my favorite recipes that I’ve made for years and how I made them freezer friendly for life with newborn multiples. All of these are frozen in ziplock bags because they stack nicely if you lay them flat to freeze! These meals will give you easily 20-30 suppers, depending on how much you need for each bag.  All you’ll have to do the night you use it is to heat the contents of a thawed bag and cook rice or noodles. Done.  (You can even have the hubs or the mother-in-law do it!)

     

    1. My Mom’s Meatballs 

    2. Meal in a Pot

    3. Taco Soup

    4. Red Beans and Rice

     

    Meatballs

    So, my mom’s meatballs are probably my most favorite meal ever and if I ever had to have a “last meal,” this would be it. I’m giving you the meatball recipe but do yourselves a favor and double it. On the second batch, leave out the egg and breadcrumbs and just combine the rest of the meatball ingredients and add the sauce ingredients to make a meat sauce.  

     

    2 pounds ground beef

    1pound Italian sausag

    4 eggs, beaten

    1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

    Bread crumbs made from 6 slices of bread 

    5 cloves of garlic, chopped

    1 tsp salt

    2 tsp Tony’s cajun seasoning

    1/4 tsp pepper

    1/2 tsp oregano

    Mix everything well. Form into meatballs. Size is totally up to you. To cook, either fry in olive oil, turning carefully until browned all over or bake in the oven at 350 until brown. 

     

    Sauce:

    1-2 onions, chopped

    ½ pound mushrooms (optional)

    5 cloves of garlic, chopped

    4 6oz cans of tomato paste (24oz total)

    1 Tbsp sugar

    1 ½ tsp salt

    ¼ - ½ tsp pepper

    2 tsp Italian seasoning

    8-10 cups hot water (or more for desired consistency)

     

    Sauté onion and mushrooms until lightly browned (in the oil used to fry the meatballs if you did that), add garlic. Add tomato paste, mixing well and stirring until heated. Add seasonings. Slowly add water and combine well. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 2-3 hours, occasionally stirring. 

    Serve over cooked pasta. 

    If you don’t want to make the sauce, just buy several jars of your favorite, pour over cooked meatballs, and simmer away.  Just add a little extra garlic and seasoning and no one will know!

    To freeze: I divide into ziplock bags; however many meatballs I think my family will eat, plus sauce. I can usually get 4-5 bags of meatballs and sauce. When ready to eat, thaw the bag, thenjust heat the meatballs in a pot on the stovetop.

     

    Meal in a pot:

    Don’t knock this until you try it! 

    Cut 1 pound of bacon into bite sized pieces and fry in a pan over medium heat

    Remove bacon and brown 2 pounds of ground meat with 2-3 chopped onions in bacon drippings; drain.

    Add 2 cans pork and beans, 2 cans ranch style beans, 2 cans Lima beans

    Add 1 ½ cups ketchup, 1 ½  cup brown sugar, 4 Tbsp white vinegar, 4 Tbsp liquid smoke.

    Mix well

    Refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, pour into a crockpotand cook on low all day.  Serve over rice. 

    To freeze: add to ziplock bags and lay flat. Do this before cooking all day in the crockpot. Thaw when you want to eat, then cook in the crockpot.  Makes several family servings.

     

    Taco soup

    2pounds hamburger meat, browned and drained

    2 onions, chopped

    1 can yellow hominy, drained

    2 cans ranch style beans

    2 cans whole kernel corn, drained

    1 can mexican style stewed tomatoes

    2 cans Rotel tomatoes

    1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

    1 ranch seasoning packet

    1 taco seasoning packet

    ½ tsp cumin

    1 tsp garlic powder

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Combine all ingredients and heat on the stovetop.

     

    To freeze: portion intziplock bags and lay flat to freeze. 

     

    Red beans and rice:

    1 pound dried red beans

    1-2 pounds andouille sausage

    1 chopped onion

    1 chopped green bell pepper 

    1-2 chopped celery stalks

    Garlic to taste

    Salt, pepper, Tony’s cajun seasoning to taste

    Soak beans overnight. The next day, sauté veggies in butter or oil, add beans, sausage, seasoning, enough water to cover. Simmer until beans are done, adding more water if needed. Serve over rice. 

     

    To freeze: Divide into ziplock bags and lay flat to freeze. When ready to use, thaw a bag, heat the contents of the bag in a pan on the stovetop, and serve over rice! 

     

    For all of these, make sure it’s all cooked down before putting into bags. Stack the bags in the freezer. The beauty of ziplocks is how many meals you can fit into the freezer because of how flat they lay! Make sure you label each back with the name of themeal, what to serve it with, and the date. Freezer meals generally need to be eaten in about 3 months, but I’ve gone much longer! 

     

    Much love! 

    Jenny


    Jenny Juneau has been a member of FWMOM since 2016, she currently serves the board as co-VP of membership. She’s a family nurse practitioner currently living and working in Louisiana. She is married and has 3.5 year old twin boys Elijah and Landis. 

  • Sun, January 31, 2021 6:27 PM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    Is it just because I’m getting older, or is the world growing more complex and absolutely crazy? Clearly we have had a couple of crazy years in our nation, our world, and in our homes. Many of us have welcomed more babes home than we planned for, have changed careers mid-pandemic, or shifted into full time home-making/home-working/home-schooling. Through almost all of this we have had seemingly little control. Yet somehow, we still stand and continue to plug away, making sure all little people at our feet are towing the line behind us with ease. MOMs are resilient. If there is a will, we can get it done. We find a way to make it work, to shift on a dime, pick up the groceries and correct the spelling and warm the bottle... all before 9:00.

    I count it a win to make it out the door in time, with clean clothing on the children and something in their stomach. Oh yeah, and hopefully a hug.

    It makes me wonder, is there more to life than just making it through? At one point or another we have all been overwhelmed at the tasks and weight of managing life. How do we live Extraordinary when we are barely living day to day? Truth is we do not have to barely live. We can thrive and our families can thrive and excel no matter what is going on around us. 2020 and 2021 have shown us that nothing in the world can truly be counted on. Amid the chaos that was the last 14 months, there are a few things that stand out as the priority to living an extraordinary life. Faith, Family, and Friendship. We are wired for these connections. As mothers, we need these connections to the people and beliefs we love the most to thrive. These, I believe, are the keys to thriving daily. They are the keys to living extraordinary lives.

    Friendship. I had the opportunity to see a friend from Oregon who comes to Texas only every once in a while. We have been in each other’s lives since 2002, walked through some pressing times, and some joyous ones too! To me, living an extraordinary life is taking moments in time, like dinner with Amy, that are priceless, and celebrating them. Do this in your life. Celebrate the small and big moments with friends. However you like to honor those memories and moments... do it!


    “ Sweet friendship refreshes the soul and awakens our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence.” Proverbs 27:9

    Family. So... this one is tricky. Many of us have great extended families who support and encourage us every step of the way with our growing families and endeavors. Others of us are not as blessed and navigate much of life as a single-family unit. Whatever the case for you, endeavor to make family a big priority for your little ones. My one tip: do not complicate it. Just be present with them. Talk to them. Impart your heart and wisdom to them with tangible and intangible actions. We do not need Pinterest-worthy parties to do so (although I have thrown them and enjoy), but they do need to know that no matter the flavor of crazy the world is offering at the moment, your family is the most secure and steady relationships in their life. I know writing this that you all rock this, you’re literally the best mothers I have ever met! Take into consideration what it may look like for you in the years ahead. I never imagined an hour long nerf war in an empty house when I was changing diapers!


    Faith. One thing I love about our FWMoMs is our diversity. This includes religious beliefs. It is no secret that I am a Christian and that my faith in Jesus is the foundation for my life. If that is the same for you, then I implore to live in a way that is authentic and true to what you profess. Build yourself up in the Word and always put your relationship with God in first place above all other priorities. If you are in another belief system, (my apologies for not knowing all the practices of all religions represented in our group) then I admonish you to do the same. The world is wild and our belief systems will guide, secure, and keep us. Holding firmly is the key to an extraordinary life. When we let go, we are easily tossed by the chaos that surrounds us.

    “He is like a man who chooses the right place to build a house and then lays a deep and secure foundation. When the storms come and the floods rage against

    that house, it continues to stand strong and unshaken through the tempest, for

    it has been wisely built on the right foundation.” Luke 6:48
    If you have a community where you worship with others, lean into those connections. Right now, more than ever before, it is essential to have this area solid in your life. The last year has proven how much this is true, and how much we need a community of like-minded individuals surrounding us, becoming an extended family of faith. I share a photo of mine here.


    Friends. Family. Faith. The one thread that runs through all three is connection. Foster and cultivate the relationships around you. Isn’t that what this group is all about?!

    Simple. Yet extraordinarily powerful priorities for our extraordinary lives.

    Much love,
    Tonya

    Tonya Flowers is a mother to Lucas, and twins Wyatt and Timothy. She is a wife, nurse, minister and currently serves FWMOM as our Chaplain. 

  • Fri, January 22, 2021 7:25 PM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    The day I found out about my pregnancy, one of the first things that popped in my head was all the cute things that I could buy for my littles. I had decided to wait a couple weeks before beginning our baby registry. However, once I actually started working on it I felt completely overwhelmed. There were so many items of different brands to choose from, and then on top of that I had no idea if I needed one or two (or more) of everything. Choosing baby items should be fun and exciting; here are some of my and my family’s favorites to hopefully make it easier for you to decide which items work best for your family.

    To start off I had to decide where I would be creating my registry. I picked Target for people who like going into a physical store to look for presents and I also used Amazon for those who preferred to shop and ship straight to us. (A little fun fact: both of these companies give you welcome packets with lots of awesome samples!)

    Next, I decided to pick the big ticket items. For us that was car seats and cribs. Amazon was the one that I really liked using when it came to high priced items because they allow your friends and family to “pitch in” towards that item, without forcing someone to pay for the whole thing. With this feature we were able to get enough funds to fully cover all of the more expensive items.

    We were blessed enough to be given an Uppababy Vista stroller from another multiples mom. Since we already had this stroller we tried to look for car seats that would fit it. Our top choice for infant car seats was the Maxi Cosi brand. They are very lightweight (remember you may be carrying two or more at the same time from time to time!) and very easy to take apart for those unexpected (but bound to happen) poopy blow outs. However, as our littles got longer and heavier we switched over to Graco 4EVER ExtendToFit car seats. My husband is 6’4” and my boys are following in his footsteps!  It was really important to me that my boys stayed rear-facing for as long as they could, which is made possible with these seats.


    While I loved the Uppababy stroller it was a bit heavy, and the accessories are kind of pricey. I personally wish we had gone with a wagon instead of a stroller.

    After putting the bigger items on the list, we decided to add the necessities. For us, those were:

    • Diapers - our favorites are Pampers. Swaddlers and Baby Dry are usually our go-to for this brand. I was hesitant at first to buy or ask for diapers because I wasn’t sure if one would be allergic (my husband has sensitive skin) to a specific brand. However, I found a “mom hack” that Target and Walmart will let you exchange diapers for different brands or provide store credit for a future purchase as long as the barcode on the diaper bag/box is scannable in their system. I would recommend downloading their apps and trying their scanners before making the drive up to one of these stores. Another Amazon tip: they allow you to add a diaper fund to your registry. This means people will input money into the “fund” and you spend it as needed.  This is helpful for keeping your house uncluttered since you don’t have to keep a big stock. 
    • Wipes - Pampers or Walmart brand have been our favorites.

    • Burp cloths - my twins had acid reflux which means LOTS and LOTS of spit up. Burp cloths became our best friend. We actually had over 40 burp cloths at one point. We used so many a day and bibs just did not clean up like we needed them to. Even though my kids are now almost two years old, the burp cloths are still very functional as we use them to wipe their hands or faces after dinner or play time.
    • Nose Frida - okay, I know what you’re thinking… “sucking my kids boogers!? No way.” I felt the same way,  but after so many people recommending it to me we finally decided to try it out. IT IS AMAZING! It sucks up all the boogies, it is cleaner and works better than the sucking bulb (in my opinion), and it has a filter so there’s zero risk that you will ever be ingesting any of those boogies.
    • Twin Z pillow - this was such a life saver for us. We used it all the time from the day we came home from the hospital until about 1.5 years old. It is great for laying while you bottle feed them, nursing (especially if you want to tandem nurse), it helps keep them in place to assist with sitting up and then it becomes a pillow that they can lay on to read or watch tv.
    • Swings - the swings for us were also another lifesaver. Most days it helped in rocking them to sleep, or at least kept them moving so mommy and daddy could sit, breathe, and maybe get one or two warm sips of coffee. We used the DuetSoothe Graco Swings and liked it because it vibrated, rocked 3 different ways, it was easy to detach from the motor if you just wanted to use the rocking feature, and it played music.

    • Lastly, clothes. I will say that while baby clothes are sooo cute and it is so easy to want to buy all the outfits you see, I really recommend looking into secondhand items. (Psssst… check out our FWMOM *members only* buy, sell, trade page on Facebook!) As much as we don’t want to admit it, our kids will grow quickly and there’s no point in spending a ton of money on clothes that they will wear a handful of times before they’re too small.

    A couple of other items we added to the list, in case you need more ideas, were:

    Baby bottles, a baby first aid kit, wubbanub pacifiers, baby monitor, baby gates, books, sit me up seats, bath essentials, and swaddle blankets.

    While I know what worked for my family may not necessarily work for others, I hope this blog is able to give you some assistance in choosing your own top favorites!

    Valerie Hines currently serves FWMoM as co-chair VP of programs. She has identical boys, Oliver and Dexter, 1. 

  • Wed, January 13, 2021 3:46 PM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    Since graduating college, my husband and I have moved a total of seven times and lived in a total of four states.  You may be thinking, ahh a military family but alas, we are just two crazy kids trying to find our place in this world; that journey ultimately led us to the state of Texas and we are so grateful that it did!

    With both sides of our family still mainly rooted in the Northeast, Rich and I have had to quickly learn how to do most things on our own.  Granted there is always facetime but let’s be honest, nothing beats that in person connection, am I right!?

    Fast forward to our third year in the Lone Star State, we had been trying to start a family for four years and N O T H I N G was working.  You name it, we tried it.  If there was a diet that promised to boost fertility or a food that you just H A D to eat, I ate it.  I tracked my cycle using traditional trackers as well as ovulation watches (something about your pulse while you’re sleeping?).  We had several losses along the way which were soooo hard; but “at least we knew it was working, right?!”  Um, sure?

    Outside of traveling to the heights of the Himalayas and seeking out a shaman, I feel like we tried everything, everything but medical assistance.  Nothing like taking the fun out of procreation, haha.  After 5 failed IUIs at two different doctors, we decided to take a leap of faith and investigate IVF. 

    Before this, literally no one knew of the depth of our struggles because we just didn’t share.  It was not until I sat down and had a discussion with my husband about sharing our journey with others and setting up a Go Fund Me account that we even thought about letting others into our bubble.  People we didn’t even know helped us put together enough money for our down payment and then our family was able to co-sign with us for a loan to take the next big step.

    Here’s how our IVF journey looks simply based on numbers:

    Day 0: 28 Eggs Retrieved (no wonder I felt like a blimp!)

    Day 1: 17 Fertilized

    Day 3: 14 Meeting Cellular Stage

    Day 5: 5 Blastocysts

    Genetic Testing: 3 Passed (with so many losses we decided this last step was crucial for our success)

     

    Waiting for that call every day to see “who was left” was one of the hardest things about this process for which NO ONE can really prepare you.  We shared our ENTIRE journey via Facebook so our family and friends could take each step with us.  We also shared our journey to bring to light just how many families deal with infertility across the world.  I had several friends reach out to me in private messages sharing that they too had gone through IVF!  This topic is so taboo, which bothers me so much!

    All in all, we were VERY lucky, our first attempt via IVF was successful!  My pregnancy and delivery may not have been by the books and uneventful but in the end, we were blessed with two healthy babies who are now two years old!  In about a month’s time, we will actually be implanting that last embryo retrieved at the same time as Lincoln and Remington.  God willing, by the end of October 2021, our family will have grown by one more!


    Kacie  currently serves FWMoM as Co-chair of VP of Programs. She has Lincoln and Remington, 2, with her husband Rich. 

  • Fri, December 25, 2020 7:08 PM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    This year, this crazy year has given us so many new challenges. Holidays are upon us and we have had to find new ways to visit Santa, pick up gifts, we’ve missed out on parties and family visits. I know we have felt the strain between keeping traditions alive and the health and safety of our loved ones. Finances have changed for many, making us evaluate what Christmas morning looks like. Many families this year are missing someone special around the table, and our hearts and prayers surround them as they mourn. As we walk with our tribe through this extraordinary holiday season, we are presented with an opportunity to focus on what truly matters. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s taught us to value what is most important.

    If I threw all the traditions, festive treats, black Friday deals, religious services, and family activities into a pot and boiled it down to the most important during the holidays, what would come to the surface would be these three: family, faith, and giving. All the extras are fun, but without these three as the main dish, the holiday season would not really have much significance. In a year where we have had to evaluate all our priorities and creatively pivot on a dime with plans and celebrations, keeping the main thing the main thing is vital. Let’s not make this too “pie in the sky;” because the kids are out of school and real life is still moving forward, we need it to be practical, attainable, and simple. A Simply Extraordinary Christmas. What does choosing family, faith, and giving as priorities this Christmas season really look like for us?

    Family

    This one hits close to home. I’ve watched over the last 9 months many people lose their lives in this pandemic. Absolutely heart wrenching at times. It causes me to hug my kiddos a little tighter for sure. It has changed my perspective for the better though, a deep desire to stay well connected to those most important to me. With the littles in our household... how do we engage them this holiday season?

    • 1.       Be Present. We have been present in the home much more than in years past. However being physically in the same space does not equate to quality presence. Put down social media, emails, and housework and play! This Christmas, make your children’s hearts overflow with affection and attention by engaging simply with your attention. You know what I don’t care much about... Star Wars. My oldest, however, loves all things Star Wars and wants nothing more than for me to listen to him talk about every detail. So... I do. Endeavor to do more listening. The twins are five now and eager to play and participate. Pull out those card games, cookie mix, kid-friendly minute to win it games and go to town. Make a mess. Laugh and joke. Make it memorable, because they will remember those times more than anything wrapped under the tree. Being present doesn’t have to cost a lot, just your willing heart to connect.

    Faith

    If you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or straight up Santa and reindeer, what you believe about the holidays is the center of your celebration. There is meaning found in our traditions, and for some reason they have more significance now than in years past. For my family, celebrating the birth of Jesus is more than having a tree and presents; it’s about promises fulfilled and compelling love. Our world and our kids’ world has been turned upside down this year. When there is uncertainty in us about the future, they, no doubt, have felt it. Now is a great time to return and rekindle the faith we hold so dear. Our family needs the stability of Truth in a world of chaos. The 2020 dumpster fire is still burning. Our homes can and should be an oasis of peace for our family.

    • ·       Everything may not be perfect this year. Peace is not the cessation of stressful situations, but the internal position of our hearts. For me, I look for ways to first settle my heart in peace, then set an atmosphere in my home that facilitates it. At the beginning of Christmas break, we sat our boys down and talked to them about how special these next few days would be. There may be many moving parts, and what blesses our family most is if they make every effort to be kind and compassionate to each other. Holidays are great training ground for little hearts on how to handle stress. If your kids are old enough, take some time to let them know about the special reasons you do things, and ask them to participate in heart and in action. Relax, cuddle, let things go undone if necessary.
    • ·       Love is the driving force behind the birth of Jesus. If your family is celebrating Christmas for this reason, then one fun way to make it real is to read together from the Bible the Christmas Story. Find a version that your kids can connect to. Even if it’s not in your practice to read the Bible routinely, make it a point to read this every year. You may be surprised just how much peace it brings you internally, which will flow to others around you.

    Giving

    Often when we talk about giving, we immediately think financial giving. That is not what I mean when I say giving is a priority during the holidays. Giving can be of our time, our energy, a phone call, a handmade gift, a help running errands, anything that you can do to the benefit of others counts! We have talked before about how giving truly blesses you as much as the receiver, and during the holidays it’s a perfect time to do so. Without generosity during the holidays, many people would go without. What I know about the FWMoMs is that giving is part of your nature! I’ve not known a more compassionate and giving group of people in my life. So, let’s make giving practical and creative for 2020.

    • ·       Start with family. Give generously to the ones in your household, extended family, and to friends who call you family. Make it simple, make it thoughtful and you can’t go wrong! Second, look for creative ways to give outside your circle. My husband loves to look for opportunities at the grocery store to surprise families by covering their grocery order. He never wants credit, just witnesses a need and meets it. As a family we love to pick an angel tree child and help our kiddos participate in choosing the gifts. We create an open flow of communication with our kids to notice others in need, and look for a way to meet it. We have a family across the street from us that we can see struggles financially. At the end of our moving sale, my oldest asked to give them the toys and bedding that remained. A lifestyle of giving can begin during the holidays. Consider serving a meal at a shelter, or bringing Christmas dinner to a widow, writing letters to seniors... whatever is in your hands to do, then DO!

    As we embark on Christmas and the holidays, I implore you, friends, to focus on what matters most. Just because Christmas may look and feel different, when the key elements are there it will be a Christmas to never forget. Family, Faith and Giving. Merry Christmas, tribe!


    “Then the angel said to them, do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy       which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is           Christ the Lord.” -Luke 2:10-11

    Tonya Flowers is a mother to Lucas, and twins Wyatt and Timothy. She is a wife, nurse, minister and currently serves FWMOM as our Chaplain.

  • Wed, December 16, 2020 8:30 AM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    My littles are NOT fans of animatronic dinosaurs, but I knew my dinosaur obsessed two year olds would love the dinosaur exhibit at the Heard Museum if they would just give it a chance! Feeling bold one morning, I decided that I would load us up and give it a go. I was optimistic!

    Upon our arrival, their excitement quickly turned to apprehension even though we had discussed where we were going in the car. For them, it was real now. As soon as we started down the dinosaur path my little Lincoln started to back away and immediately wanted to be carried. I asked him how he was feeling, and he so confidently told me “I’m feeling apprehensive, because the dinosaurs.” I was floored.  My little guy just told me exactly how he was feeling and there wasn’t a meltdown in sight! Mind: blown and it was only 9 am! I remember giving my husband the biggest smile in the world! I was so proud of Lincoln. 

    We continued our walk, while I explained that the animatronics were not real, they cannot walk, and that dinosaurs are extinct! I repeated these facts for every single dinosaur and with each passing dinosaur Lincoln relaxed. By the end, both boys were ready to go again! They asked to walk through three more times. Each time they were a little more confident, and by the end we had to pull them away! On the ride home we discussed how they felt fearful in the beginning, but after we walked through the exhibit they felt calm and soooo excited! The day was even more successful than I had hoped. The boys had tackled their fear, and what could have been BIG emotions for toddlers turned out to be quite the opposite! #winning

    I promise I didn’t share this picture perfect moment to make you think I don’t deal with BIG emotions, but I wanted to share a moment where I saw light at the end of the tunnel. Where I noticed all of my hard work was finally paying off. I was reaping my reward, just like you will if you, too, have been on the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with toddlers. 


    There's a book for that!

    I knew big emotions were something every parent had to survive, and I wanted to be prepared. For me personally, I’ve always found my answers come from a book. Whether it is a book to teach me how to parent better, or a children’s book that leads little minds to understand and cope, books give me a starting point for conversations, language to use when BIG emotions happen, and a window into other perspectives and future situations. 

    I started using books that talk about emotions as soon as my babies were able to focus their little eyes. We started with simple books that showed those first emotions we teach like happy and sad. As they got older we have moved past the simple emotions and on to discussing things like selfish, confident, and apprehensive. The more specific, the better! Books have given my littles the language to use when they are feeling those BIG emotions. I used to read Llama Llama Bully Goat to my kids before they were able to talk. We read it repeatedly because they loved it so much. This book would give my kids their first words to describe when the other twin was being mean:”bully goat!” I would hear this phrase on what seemed like repeat. While we have clarified over time how to communicate what’s happening instead of shouting “bully goat”, that phrase gave my kids language to use when they were upset. I knew exactly what they were feeling even though they had a limited vocabulary at the time. 

    Books have been a key in helping my kids identify their emotions as well as how to handle situations that are upsetting. Below are just a few that have helped my boys. Whenever I hear a parent struggling with a situation, I'm always thinking, “There's a book for that!” 


    Children’s Books

    Amazing Feelings by: Anna Bardaus 

    Peekaboo Feelings by: Wynnie Thom

    How Does Baby Feel? by: Karen Katz

    Duck & Goose How are You Feeling? by: Tad Hills

    The Color Monster by: Anna Llenas

    Roaring Mad Riley by: Allison Szczecinski 

    Llama Llama Time to Share by: Anna Dewdney

    I Will Try by: Laurie Wright 


    Parenting Books

    No-Drama Discipline by: Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

    The Whole-Brain Child by: Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson


    I don’t know about you, but I can easily get overwhelmed by all of the strategies a book has to offer when handling emotional situations. My plan is always to focus on a few strategies that I can realistically make a habit. I usually look to see how I can pull a few together and create a routine conversation when issues arise. It really helps me internalize the strategies I want to use. I figure using a few is better than being overwhelmed by all of the great ideas but using none in real life. This is the dialogue I use based on strategies from The Whole-Brain Child. 


    1. Get down on their level & connect
    1. This could look like hugging, holding, hand on their back. Something that lets your child know you’re there for them. 

    2.   Validation

    1. “I understand your feelings...” and, ”It can be frustrating when…” Use appropriate emotions and be as specific as possible. 
    2. Listen to their view without interruption, even if you watched it happen. It can be very eye-opening to hear why something is upsetting your child or why they did what they did.

    3.   Problem Solve 

    1. Simply ask, “What’s your plan?” The solution can look like fixing what needs to be fixed, like rebuilding a tower, or plans for how to handle the problem next time. This is assuming the child is in a place to hear this. If they are still too upset, leave the problem solving for later when they’ve calmed. 
    2. This is also an opportunity to bring it back to a book if possible. My littles are a bit young, and cannot always problem solve independently. If they need help, I remind them of a book with a similar situation. Then they can tell me how the character dealt with the problem. Our discussion can move from there.


    **For moments I get to quickly I put my hand on my little’s chest and say “Take a breath and say what you’re feeling.” This has worked wonders and prevented big emotions from taking over. 


    Proactive is better than reactive!

    Another strategy I use to help keep the peace is to look for situations that consistently cause big emotions. Is there a routine that needs to be in place or adjusted to help prevent this behavior? What can I do to help?

    For me, it’s the dreaded S-word...sharing! I noticed most of my boys’ emotional outbursts happened around playtime when there are toys the other twin might also want to use. I was feeling a bit defeated. I had tried talking it out as well as using a timer, but it worked for about a week. I didn’t know what to do. I felt awful asking one twin to give up their toy, so the other would calm down. What was that teaching? 

    Then a few weeks ago, I discovered a podcast titled Shelf Help. I have never listened to a podcast, but I thought I would give it a shot. Well turns out I found my perfect podcast! I listened to Shelf Help Ep. 33 - Why We Don't Make Our Children Share, and it was everything! If you don’t have an hour to listen to it, all you need is the line “It’s not available right now.” That’s it- the magical sentence to get your kids to understand when they can’t have a toy they want at that moment. That sentence took minutes to become a hit. 

    Now my kids walk away without a fuss or give back something they picked up that wasn’t available. I also added “Can you let me know when it’s available?” when I notice the other child really wants to play with a toy. Sometimes with this line the twin with the toy will give it up on his own and “show kindness” (another book lesson)! It’s incredible to watch the boys play and use this language with one another. Those big emotions have cut down immensely. I also feel like they have a better understanding of sharing, and choose to share on their own. They are learning to respect the other child and respect boundaries during playtime. 

    Hopefully there is something here that will help you and your sweet toddlers find a way to ease those BIG emotional moments. If all else fails, let it go and try again tomorrow! 

  • Thu, December 10, 2020 9:00 AM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    Our lives are busy these days; trying to wrestle our kids out the door, pick up the house and wash the dishes, balance work and home life, drive the carpool - sometimes even just getting in the shower seems like a feat.  

    So the thought of adding another task onto our plate might not sound very appealing at the moment; however, today I want to talk about the importance of writing a thank you note. 

    Many of us remember our mothers sitting us down after an event and strongly encouraging (if not bribing and potentially threatening) us to write out thank you notes to each of the friends and family members who gave us a gift for our birthdays or graduation.  This tedious task was miserable when you were the one doing the writing, but our mothers knew of the necessity.  

    Thank you notes are such an important correspondence in life, whether to say thank you for a gift from a dear friend, gratitude for an interview opportunity, to thank someone for a business referral, or to give a teacher our appreciation for shaping the minds of our children.  A written thank you note is a timeless gesture many times overlooked these days.  

    In your personal life...

    A good thank you note can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but the most important thing is to make it personal and sincere.  A thank you note needs to include an opening followed by the name of the recipient  - a simple Dear Sally or Dear Mrs. Taylor (if you are addressing a teacher or woman older than yourself) will do.  Next you need to mention the name of the gift or good deed that the recipient has given, followed by a little something more specific about the gift such as how you look forward to using it or displaying it in your home.  The final step is to simply close the note and sign your name.  Easy as that!

    Thank you notes should always be written when:

    1.  You receive a gift

    2. A friend or family throws you a party or gathering

    3. A person does something special for you (ie. finds your lost dog, brings you a meal when you are under the weather)

    In the business world...

    Thank you notes in business are just as important as they are in our personal life.  With the advancement of technology, the written word is becoming extinct it seems, so when a neat and nicely written note shows up on your supervisor’s desk, they will most assuredly take notice. 

    It is always good practice to write a thank you note following an interview.  This gesture might make you the stand-out if your resume looks similar to all of the other candidates.  It is certainly not a guarantee to land you the job, but it might put you in good standing for the next opening or even lead to a referral from the interviewer for a different job.  

    You may also want to send a thank you note following a business dinner, cocktail party, and most certainly when you are invited to a business function in someone’s home.

    Let's not forget about our children...

    "The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any." - Fred Astaire

    If we are going to work on writing thank you notes more regularly in our personal life we must talk about getting our kids started on it as early as possible.  

    You might be reading this and saying to yourself - "my kids are too young for thank you notes, they can't even write their name."  Trust me they are never too young to send a thank you note.  If your children fall in the younger category mentioned above, how about tearing a page from one of their coloring books and having them color it?  Mom can add the words thank you at the top and their name at the bottom and viola you have a thank you note! 

    As they grow a little older you can consider a fill-in-the-blank thank you postcard.  These are a great way to teach our kids to get into the good habit of sending a thank you note when they receive a gift. 

    Once they learn how to actually write an entire letter you will have cemented in their minds the importance of the thank you.  Plus, you will be sending out your own notes and they will take notice.

    Showing our gratitude is important and there is just nothing more special than getting a sincere, handwritten note from a family member or friend.

    I encourage you to continue your good work with writing thank you notes or to start a new habit today.

    Take the time and send a note.

    Janae Huffman is a mother of twin girls, she has served FWMoM's as VP of Special Events and she is a Certified etiquette consultant. 


  • Thu, December 03, 2020 11:38 AM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    Typically, November is the month we think about gratitude the most each year. But this year, 2020, has not been the most typical year. The thing about gratitude though, is that even when we cannot see anything to be grateful for, we can decide to look for it. Then it will show itself, and usually in abundance. We have the opportunity to take literally anything that looks hopeless and use gratitude to flip our attitude about it.

    When our attitude changes, everything around us changes as well. In addition, our own mood, especially as mothers, affects everything in our household. Everyone has heard the saying that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and it is so true that we, as mothers, set the tone for the home. Keeping our positivity level high is of utmost importance.

    Honestly, I do not have time to do all the self-care needed each day to keep that positive energy cup filled. But what I do have is a very valuable tool that helps keep my attitude positive by focusing on gratitude; it’s also a great tool if you’re not trying to maintain a positive attitude, but to find one (I know I lose mine on occasion). Gratitude can help turn us from a quick bad attitude or from a deeper depressive one.

    A very simple tool I know is a Gratitude Journal. For this, you write down five things that you’re grateful for. This accomplishes a few things. First, it slows us down and focuses our thoughts. Second, it brings us into the present, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Last, it really makes us feel grateful, which, in turn, makes us actually become grateful.

    Gratitude gives us the most bang for our buck, so to speak. It fills us up so that we can do:

    1.       What we need to do, such as in Isaiah 66:13, which says “As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you…;”

    2.       What we want to do like the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:16, “she considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard,” and

    3.       What we are called by God to do like in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

    In our society today we are dominated by social media and that can cause all types of problems if we let it consume us. The most common problem is comparison. What is the opposite of comparison? Gratitude! If we are focused on what we are grateful for, then we aren’t worried about what everyone else is doing. And it just frees us from this lie that what we are doing is not good enough. Because if you are doing what you are called to be doing, it is enough. Period.

    One of my favorite authors and motivational speakers was Zig Ziglar and he said that, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” This is especially true at this time of year, when we have a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. When President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, he called it “a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” In all his wisdom, he knew that a time when our country was the most divided was when we needed to celebrate giving thanks to God. An attitude of gratitude is always needed and what we are always called to have. Even when things seem darkest, we should give thanks because it says in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “All this is for your benefit, so that grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow the glory of God.” It all starts with us, as individuals and as mothers. We wield so much power and influence, we sometimes don’t even realize it. If we are grateful, our children see it and they are grateful…it causes a ripple effect and we just have to start one day with five little things in a Gratitude Journal, that’s it; so simple! So I would encourage you to start today, get a cute notebook or legal pad or an old electric bill envelope you find under your car seat (ask me how I know). My point is just to start and see the impact it has. I hope and pray everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week and you enjoy this season with the ones that mean the most to you.


  • Fri, November 27, 2020 8:05 AM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    Being a mother was something I had always dreamed about; I loved children and could not wait to start a family of my own. Unfortunately, it didn’t come as easily for us as it does for some. After much loss and years of heartache, on our fifth round of IVF we conceived our twins! This is also where my love for serving mothers started to really bloom. Here’s my story! 

    I have always had extremely irregular cycles.  However, my doctor was very optimistic this would not have any impact on getting pregnant on my own. After a year of trying without success, we sought out the help of a fertility specialist. Funny enough, he was also just as optimistic. Unfortunately after months of testing and multiple failed medicated/IUI cycles, he suggested we try IVF.

    Our first IVF cycle was pretty uneventful. We decided to transfer two embryos, and were ecstatic when we found out it worked! Our first ultrasound was at 6 weeks gestation, and we were shocked to find three little heartbeats. I couldn’t believe it really, it took a little while to set in! Our next ultrasound showed only a very faint heartbeat in the fraternal triplet and we were cautioned that the baby was measuring on the “smaller” side. Sure enough, at our next appointment it was confirmed that there were only two heartbeats & the fraternal triplet was vanishing. I had prepared myself for this loss ahead of time but was still very thankful for two healthy babies. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was what happened at our next appointment. I was completely blindsided. We had spent years trying to get pregnant, and now that we were I was certain these were the babies we had been praying for all along.

    Our next ultrasound appointment would be our last appointment at our fertility clinic, or so we thought. I was almost 12 weeks along by this point. My husband worked out of town and was so excited to hear the heartbeats for the first time. It was the day or so before Thanksgiving, so we were planning to announce our pregnancy to the family that Thursday. Our doctor came in and started the ultrasound. Having so many ultrasounds up to this point, I know immediately something was wrong when she kept going back and forth, sac to sac. No noise. Nothing. She kept looking, and even apologized it was taking so long. We had built such a great relationship with our doctors at the fertility clinic, but I still to this day cannot believe how she took the news. She looked up, and apologized once again. “I am terribly sorry, I wish I was better prepared for this. I was not expecting this at all, but I am not finding either heartbeat.” She gave me a hug, with tears in her eyes, told me how sorry she was, and stepped out of the room. I’ll never forget the compassion she showed me that day.

    Being nearly 12 weeks along, I opted to have a D&C which couldn’t be scheduled until the week after Thanksgiving. That weekend was brutal. Thanksgiving was brutal. I knew the three babies I had longed for were no longer alive, and yet I had to wait for almost an entire week to have surgery to remove their tiny bodies from mine. 

    I had always heard of friends miscarrying, but I figured an “I’m so sorry” would suffice. I never really could imagine what that would feel like. I thought the same things most people do, I suppose. “Well maybe you could just try again. You’re young. You already have the perfect family, a boy and a girl, what more could you want?” It never really occurred to me that it could be ‘that’  painful.

    After I recovered from my D&C we were back in the doctor’s office hoping he could answer my “WHY”. Why did this happen to me? What could we do to prevent this from happening again? All of the questions, we really didn’t get any answers to. I was hopeful that since it worked the first time, maybe we’d just try one more time and it would stick. 

    Our second cycle was uneventful. I was really optimistic it would work, and my only worry was staying pregnant. Unfortunately, when it came time to take my pregnancy test, it was negative. This really threw me for a loop. I wasn’t worried about it working; I was worried about staying pregnant. 

    Between cycles 2 and 3, we did a lot of preventative testing. We even went as far as seeing an immunologist out of Chicago doing a study on natural killer cells, and how having high levels, your body can attack the normal/healthy fetus. I did IV infusions at home, several procedures in-office to check the lining for optimal implantation period, you name it…we did it. Looking back now, I was only doing what I thought at the time would increase my chances of it working.

    Cycle 3 and cycle 4 did not work. I started to have a lot of self doubt, thinking my body was not capable of carrying a child that I had desperately longed for. What if I wasn’t ever going to be a mother? What if this never worked? We even started the process to have a surrogate carry our last two embryos, but yet again, came to another road block with her & my husband’s blood types not being compatible. 

    We decided it would be best to take a break. This journey can get so overwhelming, we had become somewhat obsessive, and it had just taken over our lives. Over the next year we just decided to not think about anything fertility related & just take this much needed break. 

    A year later, we decided to get a different opinion from another doctor in our area. He too didn’t see anything out of the ordinary that we could do differently, but assured us he would be upfront and honest the entire process. These were our last two embryos.

    This last and final cycle, our fifth, worked! I delivered McKenzie and Jaxon at 30 weeks, 5 days due to some complications, but after a 6 week NICU stay, we had our babies home and in our arms! Our family was complete (or so I thought)!

    I had always heard of others naturally getting pregnant after suffering infertility and loss, but always thought that would never happen to me. Surprisingly, and shockingly, when the twins were 11 months old, we found out we were expecting AGAIN! I couldn’t believe it, really. After all of those years, and here we were, about to have three babies under 18 months old. Scared was an understatement. After hiring Sleep Wise Consulting with the twins, I knew having a predictable schedule would be a lifeline for me. Once Madelyn was born, I hired them for a second time to help me set a great foundation from the very beginning. It was life changing for me to have this predictability, so when the opportunity to join the team at Sleep Wise came up, I couldn’t say no! It’s been such a blessing to me to help other mamas through the depths of exhaustion, and came at just the right time because shortly after I joined the team, I received even more shocking news. Although I was on birth control, and tracking my cycles to avoid becoming pregnant, I found out in March of 2020 (maybe it’s a 2020 thing) that I was expecting our fourth and FINAL baby. I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant with our second baby boy, and cannot wait to watch our little ones become big siblings again!

    Melina Moses is a member of FWMOM and a certified pediatric sleep consultant with Sleep Wise Consulting. She is married & has 3 children, twins McKenzie & Jaxon (4), Madelyn (2). They are also expecting their second little boy in the next coming weeks.


  • Thu, November 19, 2020 6:08 PM | Valerie Hines (Administrator)

    How many apples are in one apple? Sounds like a weird question, but it’s not a trick. You see, one apple has approximately eight seeds. Each seed can be planted to grow another apple tree, and that tree can produce anywhere from 80-1200 apples in one season, depending on its maturity. In each of those hundreds of apples, there are 8 more seeds... Producing more trees and more apples! So, the number of apples in one apple is literally innumerable! We are accustomed to multiplying things though; in our houses, toys, shoes, and children just keep multiplying! 

    Sometimes though, finances do not multiply at the same speed. Time does not. Energy does not. This has never been truer than it is in 2020. This year has taxed us in so many ways as families. The 2020 EXTRA demand on the resources of our households, our club, our community can hardly be measured. The human cost has been great. Businesses we love have paid the price. Families have faced hardship in ways that we cannot even begin to understand.

    So, what’s the answer to depleting resources? Generosity. 

    Let me elaborate. As counterintuitive as it sounds on the surface, hear me out on this. When times are tight, giving is the first thing we should think to do! Living generously does two things (besides blessing the socks off the receiver, that’s a given!). Whether we are giving our time, money, or energy, it does something on the inside of us. It’s like liquid sunlight to the soul. Giving brightens our hearts in a way nothing else really does. Secondly, it also opens the door for our lack of resources to be met. Like planting an apple seed, provision for our need is built into the results!

    Let’s talk first about what generosity does inside our hearts. It’s hard to be generous and continue thinking about our own needs. Generosity is anti-selfishness. Giving puts our need in perspective, and allows us to see beyond our lack. There is ALWAYS someone who is worse off, so to speak, than we are.  Taking our eye off our own struggle is the best thing we can do in moments when we don’t have what we need to meet our lack. It is a mental reset button. The act of giving, whatever it is, causes this inner shift in our perspective.

    COVID has made work crazy this summer. On top of that, our nanny quit. I had no earthly idea how childcare and distance learning would take place with my work schedule. Around the same time, my dear friend Lisa passed away suddenly. On July 24th, I’ll never forget that day, she left behind her three daughters and husband. Lisa and I had planned for our kids (my oldest and her youngest) to go to the same school come fall. She and I were excited to share the pick-ups, school lunches, and events as families. We just had the type of friendship that I deeply cherish. When she passed away, her husband, now a single working father, was left with a dilemma... getting Little Jubilee to school and back. I was in need, yet I knew I wanted to make the commitment to help with their transportation needs. I didn’t know how it was going to work out, I only knew it was a gift I could give. You know what, it all worked out. By the time schools opened, we had a plan. It is a JOY to give to this family my time. Liquid sunshine every time Jubilee gets in my car.

     

    Secondly and just as important, is that generosity opens the door for our needs to be met. I’ve shared in our group before about our family’s journey with pregnancies and loss. Between Lucas, our oldest, and the twins, we suffered four miscarriages. A tough three years is an understatement! In the midst of these times, we were also working through some financial struggles. This had a compounding effect on our stress and really caused us focus in on ourselves. Also, doesn’t it always seem like everyone else around you are getting what you want when you lack it?! Everyone seemed to be having babies, getting promotions, building homes. We made an intentional choice in that season. Every baby shower, every family we could, we gave generously. We gave our best. We would budget and skip out on other things if it meant being able to bless someone else. Sometimes all we had to give felt so insignificant, like a single apple. I heard a saying though once: “If what is in your hand does not meet your need, then it’s seed.” 

    Fast forward to our twins. I cannot even put into words how blessed we are to have our twins! And with the twins’ birth came every provision we needed. So many people blessed us generously, we didn’t buy diapers the entire first year! Looking back, we had been given baby wipes that lasted for over 6 months. This was a huge financial miracle in our books, but that was just the start. We were given almost every high-priced baby item we needed! I had chosen one of the most expensive strollers out there, and wasn’t going to buy one until we saved for it. It was given to us, and the car seats, the feeding pillow... all the things! Not used either, all new!


    Living generously opened the door for us to blessed in return! This has been true in so many areas of our life, I just bring out this one financial example because 2020 has been a hit to so many families’ bottom line. The same principle is true for our time and energy as well. A favorite Proverb of mine says, “Generosity brings prosperity, but withholding from charity brings poverty. Those who live to bless others will have blessings heaped upon them, and the one who pours out his life to pour out blessings will be saturated with favor.” (Proverbs 11:24-25) 

    Thinking back about the apple tree and 2020. Although there seemingly is lack all around, by living generously we can significantly impact others and ourselves. What would this year look like if we had a blooming apple orchard to give generously to everyone around us? What would it look like if we gave that one apple? What would it do on the inside of our hearts?

    "This generous God who supplies abundant seed for the farmer, which becomes bread for our meals, is even more extravagant toward you. First, he supplies every need, plus more. Then he multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow. You will be abundantly enriched in every way as you give generously on every occasion, for when we take your gifts to those in need, it causes many to give thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:10-12

    As we enter into the holiday season, perhaps it will look much different than we planned. Remember the apple. When the opportunity arises, give. As much as 2020’s dark cloud has tried to penetrate our lives, let’s give it some of our own sunshine! Generosity is the key, friends! 

    Tonya Flowers is a mother to Lucas, and twins Wyatt and Timothy. She is a wife, nurse, minister and currently serves FWMOM as our Chaplain.

Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples

P.O. Box 123874

Fort Worth, Texas 76121

Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.


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