Dear Jackson and James: One Year Ago Today …

The J's

Jackson and James

Dear Jackson and James:

One year ago today I wrote — Yes, I Can Call You DumplingS.  I know I say it all the time, but I still can’t believe what a difference a year makes.  Especially this year.  One year ago today I found out there were officially two.  Two babies.

You are five and 1/2 months old and I am happy to report you are no longer eating anything after midnight.  We put you in your sleep suits sometime between 7:30-8:00 and you do not eat again until around 7:00am.

Is it perfect?  No.  But Mama is finally getting sleep, and if she works it right, she gets more than enough.  I am no longer running on empty.  Sometimes it’s only 1/4 tank, but it seems far from empty.

James, before this week you were fussing sometime around 4:00am and since you are the Worst. Pacifier. Baby. EVER — rather than risk having you wake up Jackson — I would just bring you to bed with us and coax you back to sleep while holding the pacifier in your mouth.  I have yet to pinpoint what your lack of pacifier skills means in the big picture, but in the little picture it means your Mama holds it in your mouth to keep you from sucking it so hard it flies across the room.  But this week we added fruit and vegetables at lunch and suddenly I don’t hear from you until around 6:00am.  You do not cry.  You do not fuss.  You wake up talking to your Where the Wild Things Are mobile and continue the conversation with the fan in the living room.

This is significant progress.

Jackson, you are a very easy pacifier baby — but this pacifier has to be on your terms.  If you are not in the mood for a pacifier, no amount of trying to shove it in your mouth is going to help.  You will let me put the pacifier in your mouth if you wake up between 3:30-5:00, but after that, you too come to bed with Mama and Daddy.  While your brother is in the next room cooing at his mobile, you are sound asleep between us with the smirk on your face like you know you have won.

You have.  At least for now.  Regardless, I am enjoying the sleep.

Your KK was in town this week, and it was a wonderful visit.  I love that you are starting to recognize names when I say them.  Both of you are trying to do raspberries — KK fully admits planting that seed and now when I say her name and do a raspberry, you laugh.  A useful skill, indeed.

James and KK

KK and James
First trip to Dupar’s

Jackson and KK

KK and Jackson

Tonight your Daddy is in Las Vegas for business, so your Granny came over and helped me to feed and bathe you.  It was another rousing course of multi-grain cereal, sweet potatoes and a bottle chaser.

Now I find myself sitting in the living room of my freshly cleaned, fairly organized house drinking a glass of wine and writing for the first time in what feels like weeks.  Relaxing alone for the first time in months.

I feel like my old self, only better.

The first night we brought you home I was convinced you had chosen the wrong mama.  I cried.  I wondered how in the world I was ever going to manage two babies.  Your Daddy tries, but in all honesty, if you had to rely on him full time to get fed and changed … I shudder at the thought.  He shudders at the thought.  This whole thing does not come naturally to very many men.

I think babies know this.

I am not sure if it is this way for all Mommies, but for me there was a definite shift into motherhood.  I spent weeks and months questioning every little thing and then one day (earlier this week) I woke up and my Mommy-pants fit.  They’re not very attractive pants, but they fit, nonetheless.

I finally understand what people are talking about when they say, “You’ll get to know your baby.  Every baby is different.”  Every baby is different.  The two of you are vastly different.  I promise I will never lose sight of that fact.

Tonight as I sit here sipping this glass of cabernet I can say without a doubt — I am Super Mom.  I am your Super Mom.  Seriously, I want to get myself a cape.  There is a part of me so relieved to finally be in this place, I might actually wear the thing if I ever came across one.

VD 2014

After weeks of doubt and questioning, I finally speak Jackson and James.  I don’t just speak it — I am fluent.  I understand all the colloquialisms and nuances.  I no longer feel like I am standing in the town center of a foreign city grasping for air — or the proper word for a fried egg arepa; not quail eggs covered in thousand island dressing … (long story for another time, your Mama once produced a circus in Caracas).

Now that we are getting into the swing of things with eating, my favorite part of meal time is our singing.  You don’t sing yet, but you both love to watch Mama sing.  For the first time, my voice can stop a dinnertime meltdown.  Willie. Guy Clark. Lyle Lovett.  Johnny Cash.  Emmylou Harris.  We’ve sung it all.  I even ordered some new music. Johnny Cash has a children’s album.  Nasty Dan is fast becoming one of our favorites at breakfast.



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The Recipe: Chicken N DUMPLINGS

Chicken n DUmplings

Chicken N’ Dumplings

For those of you following the blog, you’ll be well aware of my love for this southern comfort dish, and why I lovingly refer to our twins as, “The Dumplings.”  If not, well, you can read about it here.

This morning a friend of mine from college asked me to hook her up with the dumpling recipe — and with that, this post was born.

Last night I made Chicken N’ Dumplings for the first time in a very long time.  You have to understand, just because it has been my favorite dish for as long as I can remember — I never made it much because I associated it with my Mom.  My Mom makes chicken n’ dumplings, not me.  But now I am the Mom, and as a Mom we all have to have recipes our kids will crave and look upon as the ultimate creator of said version of any given dish.  This is not lost on me, especially with two boys.

Since the birth of the Dumplings, my own nesting gene sets in more every day — when I am awake enough to locate it.   I find myself calling my Mom or my Dad for recipes trying to recreate those tastes I loved as a child.  I suppose I do this in the hope I will one day make them for the Dumplings and perhaps, even Jonathan — though he is a tougher audience.  Yet, recently I have been batting a thousand even with him.  He even loved the chicken n’ dumplings.

On Monday we went to Costco and bought a rotisserie chicken on sale for $4.99.  I have a few recipes I make using the meat from one of these store bought sensations.  I know how to roast a chicken, I just don’t do it very often because the ones they make at the store (Sprouts, Costco, Vons, Whole Foods … a grocery store near year) are delicious.

I was not in the mood to make any of my usual rotisserie chicken dishes last night, so I shredded the chicken (mostly white meat — though I am a lover of dark meat — my husband is not) and decided to use that as the chicken for the dumplings.

I think the base chicken broth part of chicken n’ dumplings is a personal preference.  You can use white or dark meat, various types of broths (my Mom used to boil the chicken and use that broth), whatever vegetables and spices you like.  You are basically making the base for a chicken soup.

My Mom always made the dumpling recipe right off of the Bisquick box — and I thought it was awesome.  I still do.  However, last night I looked in the pantry and all I had was the heart healthy Bisquick, which I remember from a previous experiment tasted awful.  I mean awful, so I went in search of a dumpling recipe not using Bisquick.  After all, Bisquick is really just a doctored up flour.  I had flour, I had baking powder – I even had self-rising flour.

My first stop was The Pioneer Woman where I did find a recipe for Chicken N’ Dumplings.  I followed none of this recipe, except for the dumplings themselves.  However, my base is very similar to this one minus the cream.  I am not a fan of overly creamy chicken n’ dumplings.  My Mom never added cream to the broth when I was a kid, so my version is more like a hearty chicken soup with dumplings.  Personally, the creamier version belongs in a chicken pot pie, but this is personal preference.  If you like creamy — add the cream.

I was a little nervous about adding corn meal to the dumpling recipe, but I can officially attest it was great.  It gave the dumplings a little something extra, which I liked.

So here is “my recipe” —

Broth Ingredients:

1 Whole Rotisserie Chicken; shredded and save the juices

1 Medium Onion; Diced — my Mom used to add frozen pearl onions, but I did not have those on hand last night, so I just diced an onion.

2-3 Carrot Sticks; Diced

3-4 Celery Stalks; Diced

1 small bag of frozen peas

1/2 tsp. sage

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/4 tsp. tumeric — I added this for the first time last night when I read it in the PW recipe.  Tasty!

8-10 cups of chicken broth — last night I used a combination of chicken and vegetable broth because I had a couple of cups of veggie broth I needed to use

Dumpling Ingredients:

1.5 c. self-rise flour

1/2 c. yellow cornmeal

1.5 c. half-n-half

2 T. dried parsley

salt as needed; I added a pinch or two of kosher salt — the self-rise four has the right ratio of flour / baking powder /salt — but if you do not have that on hand use regular four, 1 T. of baking powder and 1 tsp. of kosher salt


Shred the chicken and set aside with juices.  I actually did this the night before and when I got ready to make it I dumped it in the pan with a T. of melted butter and warmed it up.

I then added the onions, carrots and celery.  Cooking everything together over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.  I then added the spices and broth and let it all simmer on low for 20-30 minutes.

I then mixed together the dumpling ingredients.  In the PW recipe she sifts all of the dry ingredients.  I did not do this

Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Add minced parsley if using. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check seasonings; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.


So there you have it.  And I can officially say it was a big hit — most especially with me.  I’ve been eating it all day.  So has Jonathan.  I can’t wait to make it for the two little boys crashed on the couch right next to me as I type this.

Boys in overalls

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Adventures In Motherhood: Don’t Forget Jackson, and Other Tales From the Trenches

photoI wake up every day and there is a monologue in my head.  I suppose we are all like that, but mine just goes and goes and goes.  Sometimes I find I’m talking to myself — but now that I have these two babies — I pretend I am talking to them.

I generally am talking to them.

Two babies.  Did I mention we have two babies?

I got the wine! Jonathan says as he locks the door.

Wait!, I said, as I strapped James into the stroller.

What?!? We have everything.  The diaper bag, the wine, your hat.

Yes, honey, but we don’t have Jackson.

Now CPS should know we were never really in danger of leaving one baby asleep in the crib while we walked to our regular Friday night dinner at Nicola’s — but sometimes you can get so far ahead of yourself you find you are twenty steps behind the sleeping baby.  It had been a long week and Daddy was excited to relax and open the bottle of wine.  I take comfort in the fact that had he actually LOOKED in the stroller, he would have seen only one baby.

Now whether he would have realized which baby was missing is another story …


This past month I have had to surrender fully to the fact that I will write when I can — and that has not been as often as I would like for it to be.  In theory I am writing all day long as I self-narrate my day as a form of entertainment for me (mostly) and the over thirty pounds of babies that have taken up residence in our life (occasionally).

Fortunately for me, they think I am quite hilarious.  Their amusement helps when I am sleep deprived.

After the ever popular question from strangers, Are they twins? — the number one question people who know me ask  — what are you going to do with the blog? You need to blog more.  

I smile, and say no, actually, what I need to do is sleep more.  When I am sleeping more, I will blog more.  When I am sleeping more I will eat more.  When I am sleeping more I will make baby food.  When I am sleeping more … I’ll rule the freaking world because what I am doing on very little sleep is effing extraordinary.

I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, but the Dumplings are eating solid food.  Am I making their food?  Please see the sentence that reads:  I need to sleep more.   After obtaining five consecutive hours of sleep (something that has not happened since September 2013), I will whip up some baby purees in my Boba Baby food maker — but right now, it’s all about Ella’s Kitchen and other “fine pouches.”

I had a cat that ate food from pouches once.  Not Boomer.  Not Raylan.  Buffy.

James and Jackson eat from pouches? Yes. But not cat food.  And not directly from the pouch.

There was a time when I would see some kids eating directly from these pouches and I think, how lazy is that?  What kind of mother would let their kid suck on a pouch for dinner?

I don’t judge anymore.  Whatever you need to get through the day, sister.

The fact that I know what Babies First TV is and that I let one watch while I change the other one after bath time every night will probably have my kids in therapy because they viewed a talking Toucan named VocubuLARRY before the age of two.  Do I really believe this?  No.  I can tell you first hand, any therapy I ever underwent had nothing to do with my viewing of Oscar the Grouch or other fine Muppets before the age of two.

To those judging me, I say, would you rather they watch Law & Order SVU or the age-appropriate talking Toucan?  My kids are more likely to have therapy from too much time spent interacting with ceiling fans than said VocabuLARRY wielding Toucan.

Last night with our oats, barley and spelt cereal we opened a pouch of spinach, apples and rutabagas.  This morning it was peaches, bananas and apricots.

Mealtime is quite a show in this house.

For those of you unaware that I majored in musical theater, well, I did.  I can now confirm that my entertaining nature was worth every penny because my kids love dinner time.

Why do they LOVE dinner time, you ask?

The Js and breakfast

It all started innocently enough.  I opened my iPad and placed it between the high chairs on the table and started singing each bite of food right into their mouths.  I did not pretend it was a train or a boat or a motor bike.  I just sang and they ate it all, especially dinner.

Earlier this week I was singing Princess of This Prairie, one of my favorite Carly Ritter songs, which I wrote about here.  As I would sing the chorus and get to the part the coyote howling, they would laugh and James would try to make the howl and sing with his lips.  He was mimicking me.

James breakfast

Jackson breakfast

Note to self, your every move is now being mimicked.

Eventually, I just played this song on a loop and every time it started they would both start dancing in their high chair.  This made a very strong case for me being able to dictate the things I had to listen to over and over and over and over again.  At least for now.  Luckily, I love this song.

Last night as James and Jackson were laughing these guttural belly laughs as I sang each verse, I realized how very far away I was from where I thought I would be when I was majoring in musical theater in Boston so long ago.  I have never performed for sold out Broadway shows — and no longer have the desire to — but now I perform countless shows a week for the only audience that has ever really mattered.

All the things I have done in my life, ultimately trained me to be flexible in these moments.  Not to get too worked up about all the things I should or shouldn’t be doing, and focus intently on raising happy, flexible kids.

Yes, I can stress out about the stomach sleeping, the vocabuLARRY watching, the pouch eating and the fact that sometimes I would rather put these kids in bed with me than sleep train on any given morning (guilty as charged) — but I don’t.

These kids will probably always be stomach sleepers, VocabuLARRY might teach them a thing or two (or they might have Toucan nightmares) and on those mornings (this morning) when I wake up and there are not one but TWO babies in my bed — I feel so much joy waking up next to their infectious smiles full of love for Mama and Daddy.  I know there might be some long nights of distressed crying in my future to break this 5-7am habit that is forming, but today it feels worth it.

As for scheduling (something I do, in fact, strive for) — I have read schedules for twins and triplets from one end of the internet to the other and all I have to say is this: THEY. ARE. LYING. (or kidding themselves)  I read one schedule that actually says they took their kids on a 15-minute stroll each morning and each afternoon.  Are you kidding me?  It takes me 15-minutes to get The Dumplings IN the stroller.  Once I get them in there we are strolling for at least 30 minutes, if not 45!

After I read that particular micro-managed schedule, I realized a lot of these posts Mommies write on their blogs are wishful thinking.  I have yet to find a schedule that allows for life to happen (not to mention breathing) between all of the activities.

That’s the one I am striving for.  The one that let’s real life in all the cracks, after all, that’s what we’re here for.  Real. Life.

P.S. for those of you Instagrammers, Terrilox is now on Instagram.

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