0.0 I am Not a Runner.

As spring is in the air I see more and more runners out. My fitness magazines are filled with articles on running, how to achieve your best time, what to wear while running, what are the best running shoes and what to eat before and after running. It appears the rest of the world is running but 0.0 I am not a runner.

I am not a runner nor do I pretend to like running. However, I do have respect for runners and those who go beyond just running to completing marathons. In fact my best friend is a runner and even completed an Ironman, though I love her I do not love her hobby.

0.0 I am not a runner.

Even though my boobs may be the size of misquito bites I still hate the bouncing and tugging of my skin I feel as I scamper along the sidewalk or treadmill. While running my mind always seems to match the speed of my feet, racing with thoughts that never seem to come full circle. Did I mention I am also not a huge fan of sweating? What produces more sweat than running? I am not sure, but count me out. I also managed to find, date and marry a man that also despises the act of running. I’ve actually witnessed my husband saying the words, “If there were a hell and I was doomed to be there, it would be running on a treadmill for me.”

0.0 I am not a runner.

My thighs would probably be smaller, my stamina might be stronger if I were a runner. I would probably have one of those really awesome runner bodies but woe is me that is never meant to be.  Those triumphant selfies with marathon numbers and stats are tempting but it’s just not for me. I’d probably have more in common at dinner parties if I liked running but that is so not me.

0.0 I am not a runner.

Runners don’t get all crazy on my non-running ass, because I get where you are coming from. Runners talk about a runners high, your high just comes in a different form for me … a yogi high.

0.0 I am not a runner BUT I am a Yogi.

Yoga is my running. My high comes not in the form of my feet pounding pavement but in the lengthening of my hamstrings through a Downward Facing Dog. Or in the tightening of my shoulder blades through a Swan Dive. Or in the expansion of my chest as I concentrate on my breath as it fills my belly. Or in the stretch of my mind. Or in the spread of my toes against the mat in a Warrior stance. This high overtakes my being, renewing the person I am and bringing every feeling and thought to peace.

0.0 I am not a runner BUT I am a Yogi.

Yoga has come to be the most grounding part of my life, I take refuge in the energy and comfort it brings me. My mat is where 75% of my writing begins as my thoughts, ideas, emotions and experiences all reach clarity and align with one another. The mat to me is what the trail is to a runner. Instead of working towards a new PR number I am in pursuit of a new pose or level of difficulty. Rather than working on form I am working on my pose.

0.0 I am not a runner BUT I am a Yogi.

No need for drooling over the latest shoes when my bare feet love the slightly sticky grip of my mat. I love reading about yoga and get all warm and fuzzy when my Yoga Journal arrives in the mailbox. I look forward to my yoga classes with as much zeal as if they were vacations in a tropical utopia. I am a much better human being when I get to do my yoga.

0.0 I am not a runner BUT I am a Yogi.

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I am man.

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I saw a speaker 3 weeks ago. I entered a raffle there. I won a book. The book states 100% of men are visual creatures. On the other hand only 25% of women are visual creatures. After mindful reflecting: I am deep in the middle of that 25%.

I am okay with being part of that 25%. The other 75% claim they do not understand the man’s preoccupation with “pretty things”. I on the other hand do … so says the book.

I highly enjoy looking at pretty things. I love beautiful fabrics and clear skin. I obsess over organization not out of any type of OCD but rather because it is esthetically pleasing to my eyes. I am passionate about make-up, enjoy hair products, matching bedding, color schemes of rooms and our dog being groomed. I enjoy makeover shows for everything from houses to people to landscaping. I have been a faithful viewer of Project Runway since its first season in 2004, because I love looking at pretty things. I am attracted to them. I am man.

I enjoy Adam Levine not because of his voice but mostly for his looks. I didn’t turn off The Great Gatsby because Leonardo DiCaprio’s smile and blue eyes were enough to make me sit through three hours.  Thelma and Louise  was a good movie but what made it for me are two words: Brad Pitt.  I enjoy these men because, as the book states, I am man.

I was first attracted to my husband not by his humor or ability to carry on a conversation but rather what he looked like. Proof of this can be seen in the simplicity of our meeting: I saw a photograph of him, claimed my conquering of the 21 year-old man and set out to do so with no intention of having a relationship with him let alone marrying him and having three children with the person he was. After all, visual is all about the look rather than what lies beneath the exterior. Shallow? No, just honest, just following the animal instinct within. I am man.

No baby doll here.

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I didn’t want kids. True story.

I went from not wanting kids to spending my days as a high-powered “pro-bono” mommy with three little ankle bitters shadowing my every move.

I listen to other mothers and feel out-of-place when they talk about wanting nothing more their whole entire life than to be a mother. That their rooms were filled with baby dolls and their go to game as a child was house. I on the other hand spent my fondest memories in Army Navy Surplus, climbing trees, playing office or author in make shift “cubicles” and even throughout college claimed a no baby policy for my future. No baby dolls here.

On my windowsill there were Jem dolls with wild hair and risqué outfits leading jet setting lives but no baby dolls.

I struggled and still struggle with this. Am I to lie and say I always wanted to be a mommy? I think if I did, the jig would be up because I would roll my eyes as I said it. Am I a mistake? Do I suck at being a mommy because I didn’t spend my childhood dreaming of changing diapers or avoided little rolly polly babies like the plague throughout high school and college? I have to give myself credit and say no. Though there were no baby dolls in my past, my present and future hold real babies that consume my heart.

I don’t take lightly to other mommies who belittle other women on having dreams or living out their passions. I don’t approve of females that look down upon little girls that pass the baby doll up or refuse the tutu and ballet slippers. Even though their were no baby dolls in my past I do not criticize or judge those who did, I celebrate them. My daughter may even be one some day (though right now she passes up baby dolls for anything with fur rather than skin). I also envy them because they now have completed their dreams where I have just started.

For me being a mommy is just a fraction of what my childhood dreams conjured up long, long ago while just a kid in Indiana. I feel I have so much more to complete. As a kid there were imaginary novels to be published and author recognition to be sought, but there were no baby dolls. The thing is, I am 100% okay with that. I embrace not feeling complete with where I am.  Though I would kill and be killed for my children that I love unconditionally and full heartedly I have yet to feel complete.  I also encourage other mommies to embrace that feeling, the ones who do not know that “baby doll past.”  It’s okay to feel not yet complete even though society says a good mommy should feel this once blessed with children. But if you don’t and feel restless inside, it would mean denying your dreams and your children of a role model that is meeting their true potential. So embrace your version of that baby doll from your childhood dreams, whether it comes in the form of writing, photography, sports, singing, dancing and the many other wonders of the world.

“Why did the baby leave his mommy?”

As a stay at home mom of three, my days sometimes feel repetitive and I can’t help but wonder if I am cut out for this job. Am I affecting anyone or making an impact when it comes to the bigger picture or am I just wasting a hidden calling as I mop up spills, breakup fights, wipe tears and noses, fold an endless pit of laundry and bathe others before I even brush my hair. These feelings of doubt are even more magnified as my husband walks through the door and my kids squeal with delight and forget my existence until their tummies rumble and it’s time to eat. Was I living up to what my life was meant to be? In one moment and breath my question was answered with YES. In this same instant passion in what I do as a mom of three little ones came bubbling over almost causing my heart to burst. Eureka.

This eureka moment came in the late hours of a Friday night. My husband, Erik, and I had recently started a weekly “sleepover” ritual with our four-year-old, Braxton, one night of the weekend. We put our toddler twins to sleep and dragged blankets and pillows down the stairs to the living room on the main floor. After creating a cozy sleeping den out of the floor, couches and cushions we settled into our pajamas and started the movie carefully chosen from our local library. When deciding on the Friday night “feature film,” Erik and I discussed movies we had seen as children, what would be okay for a four year old to see and understand. Jumanji? Yes. Wizard of Oz? No, flying monkeys too scary. This particular Friday night we decided on a Robin Williams film from the 90’s, Hook. Braxton was into Disney’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates as well as Peter pan. It would be perfect!

Making it through the movie with one bathroom break and a hefty bowl of cereal, the movie was nearing the last half hour when a flashback of Pan’s entire life was depicted on the screen for the audience.  Beginning with a depiction of Peter Pan as just a beautiful baby in carriage next to his mother. As the movie rolled on the carriage slipped down a hill taking Pan from his mother. As I sat nestled between my husband and sweet Braxton I turned to look at my eldest baby.  Looking at my little boy, I could see he was distraught and asked if he was okay. With tears in his eyes and a quivering lip my eldest son asked, “Why did the baby leave his mommy?” My husband now realizing something wasn’t right and also asked what was wrong. Braxton fell into my arms and chest and began to cry as he said again “Why did the baby leave his mommy?” I instantly tried to reassure him that the baby would find his mommy again. His little arms tightened their grip around my neck as he burrowed his tiny face into my neck. Erik asked if Brax wanted the movie off, he quickly responded with a yes and asked me again about the baby and the mommy. I told him not to worry, holding him close and running my hand across his delicate brow.

As my first born lay in my arms and his breath began to rise and fall with my own, as if we were one rather than two, a sense of calm, love and gratefulness engulfed my inner self. A feeling that can only be described as if seeing something so incredibly beautiful for the first time, your breath is literally taken away by the magnitude of intensity. Eureka indeed.  As my own eyes filled with tears I realized IT was all worth it, this WAS what I was put on this earth to do, I WAS making an impact and FULFILLNG my divine calling. I DID matter and so did my work as a mommy.  Here was this enormous and impactful lesson given by my small child. Not only was he reassuring me that I was doing the job I was meant for, but I was beyond proud that this little man of just four years old had the compassion and such a loving heart that he was moved to tears, worried about a baby that he hadn’t even met.

I think back to that night if I find myself even remotely stressed with daily life. I breathe in remembering the feel and smell of Braxton’s skin as he had burrowed into my arms. Doing so causes my heart to swell again, bringing my mind and soul to a calmer place.  It was a moment on just an ordinary Friday but one that I will remember for my entire life, for it answered the question that some search their whole lives for, what is the purpose of MY life.

Mommy’s 12 Rules to Simplifying Spending.

moneySimple Plan: Part 4 of The Year of Simplicity.

We find ourselves with excess when we end up spending our money purchasing it. Here’s my 12 step program to stop the spending that’s resulting in the excess.

Budget and Track ~ Meaning simply know your income, know your expenses. I do this through utilizing Mint.com. When I set up my Mint account I went through our past bank statements via online and tallied up costs. I took those costs and divided them into the following categories with sub categories when devising our budget: Auto & Transport Bills & Utilities, Education, Food & Dining, Home and Kids. Subcategories consisted of examples such as Gas & Fuel, Babysitting, Mortgage, Nicor Gas and so on. Every other day I log on to review our transactions checking that our budgets are in line with where we are spending. Mint offers a wide array of uses for managing your funds as well as providing information on ways to save and achieve money goals. Once you are aware of your budget and spending, stay accountable through the habit of reviewing your transactions on a regular basis.

A.B.P.A (Always Be Planning Ahead) ~We all know the birth dates of our loved ones and the holidays that require gift giving and entertaining. To avoid spending excess amounts of money on guests and entertainment, plan ahead. Buy candy on clearance after Valentine’s Day for Easter baskets. Hit the after Halloween sales for stocking stuffers. School supplies are always needed in the month of September it’s just a matter of A.B.P.A in order to not spend a load of cash on pencils and paper. Think ahead to what you’ll need throughout the year, always planning leaves you prepared to save cash. I knew I would be doing a Mickey and Minnie birthday cake for my twins, when Aldi had black cake frosting on clearance after Halloween for $0.49 it was the perfect buy. Always be planning ahead to save money but also be reminded to not get carried away and buy EXCESS of an item, think simple not extravagant.

C.Y.D.I.M. When going through your expenses ask yourself “Can I do it myself?” ~Rather than paying someone to mow our lawn or tend to our landscaping we do it ourselves. Instead of taking our vehicles to the car wash we make it a family event and wash them in the driveway. Rather than paying someone to clean your carpets head over to Loews or Menards and rent a Rug Doctor and burn some calories doing it yourself. Though I love a good manicure and pedicure, it’s something that I now treat as a special outing since I’m pretty good at doing these myself. These are just a few examples of C.Y.D.I.M, each is different for each family depending on your talents and abilities. I know that coloring my hair lays in the hands of a professional so I spend the money on it but hemming pants is something that I can handle rather than paying an outsider. Local libraries also provide speakers, answers and assistance for issues dealing with government, tax, health, business and automotive, just to name a few. Pinpoint what you can do and what you NEED to spend money on, adjust your spending to match.

Unknown Benefits ~ many savings can be hidden right in your wallet and home. Take a look at what your credit companies offer in regards to partnerships with retail and restaurants for savings on your spending.  Check your memberships as well, I discovered discounts unknown on our AAA membership for all sorts of items and entertainment just by logging on to the website and taking a peek. A subcategory of unknown benefits is Loyalty Programs ~ almost every company seems to have a loyalty program, it’s just a matter of signing up for them, utilizing them and then cashing in on your rewards. As I shared in Trick or Treat,Whatdaya Know Joe? Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have reward programs that offer free coffee, the same applies to Walgreens, CVS, grocery stores and other service providers giving away money and goods for just swiping a tiny card when checking out. Even my massage therapist offers a reward program where when you receive 10 punches on your visit card a free massage is rewarded. The same goes for hair salons, many offer a loyalty program for free or discounted services. Often “loyalty programs” go beyond what is advertised, sometimes building a relationship with a provider or retailer will result in savings in the long run so be sure to smile at, bake up some holiday cookies for or refer to them by name when visiting your favorite establishment.

The Three F’s, Fun For Free ~ Get imaginative and informative. Having fun doesn’t need to cost money. Start using your biggest expense, your home, as the ground center for fun and experiences with your family. Pinterest offers an endless black hole of craft ideas and DIY projects to do at home with your kids or just your honey. I’m a huge fan of the library. Look into your local library for story times, craft hours, speakers and the endless amount of free books, ebooks, music, DVDs and other media at your fingertips. My library also offers the Museum Adventure Pass, using your library card to receive admission or a special discount at participating area cultural destinations. Start thinking not only out of the box but also back to the basics. Just last night we had a picnic in front of the fireplace with the kids, checked out a free movie from the library and popped a bowl of popcorn for our own personal family night entertainment.

Coupons and Groupons ~ Coupons save a ton of cash. Clip them and file them in a coupon envelope or any other easy to grab holder when menu planning and thinking about outings. Manufacturers, restaurants and many retailers send free money to our door steps through newspaper, mail inserts and online clipping. To avoid excess buys focus your couponing on items you need and buy on a regular basis, for example the items your children consume ungodly amounts of. Whenever Erik and I are planning a date night out we search sites such as Groupon, Livingsocial and Amazon Local for deals where we can save some cash since we are already paying a fortune for someone to sit on our couch while our three little spawns are fast asleep. It also gets us to try new restaurants and entertainment venues that we wouldn’t have thought of.

Amenities and Utilities ~ Figure out what you need and what may be excess. One giant leap of simplicity we have yet to make is dumping the cable provider and opting for online streaming (through Hulu Plus and Netflix) or other methods of watching the few television shows we watch regularly. I’m just trying to figure a plan to slowly wean myself off Food Network and HGTV.  Once you know what you need, it may take a little work but shop around to make sure you are getting the lowest price from providers. Once you identify the lowest provider check out their customer programs. For example, Nicor is our provider of gas, going into the winter we knew that we are lovers of fireplaces and would be using ours a lot. We made a call to Nicor to educate ourselves with their programs and which offered the best incentive where we received the most but spent the least. Through some calculating we found that it would be best to sign up for a fixed rate for the year, this way we could run our fireplace all day and night not worrying about the excess costs that it might incur. We found that our cable provider has a partnership with AAA that offers a discount on service and our cell phone provider has a partnership with my husband’s employer that also offers a discount.

Grocery Shopping ~ As I touched upon in our plan for Simple Eating, first check your pantry and fridge for what you have, then build a weekly menu plan around those items, then head over to your grocer ads and coupons for which deals you can pair with manufacturer/store coupons that match items needed for your weekly menu plan. A little puzzle solving results in spending the least amount of money on your store total for what you NEED. Service providers and retailers aren’t the only companies with loyalty programs, many brands offer the same. Both Pampers and Huggies offer points for purchasing their diapers that you can later exchange for other goods such as toys, magazines and gift cards.

Think Before You Buy ~ Anything over $50 is required a week think over period. If after a week of thought and the item is still needed then the money can be spent. A week not only diminishes impulse buys but also allows for shopping around to find a better price if the item ends up being purchased. Which leads to the next rule …

Buy used or discounted when able ~ Search sites such as Craigslist, Ebay and Facebook garage sale sites for large ticket items like snow blowers, large toys and appliances. Children’s consignment sales are not only good for selling items but also for buying items.  Kids run through toys and clothes like Kleenex, buying previously used keeps the spending and excess in check for little ones. Many household needs and decor can be found new or slightly used at Goodwill and local thrift/resale stores.

Use and Abuse Wisely ~ We are really bad at the common sense stuff so I’m going to go over this rule (even if you are rolling your eyes as you read it) in order to remind myself to practice what I preach. Turn the lights off in rooms you aren’t in. Don’t leave cell phone chargers plugged in when not in use. Turn off ceiling fans when not needed. Run your dryer, oven and dishwasher during the day during cold seasons while running them during the night during the warm seasons to counteract the amount of air conditioning and heat needed, which results in saving on spending. Wait till the dishwasher is completely full before running, same goes for the washer. Unplug vampire appliances that in reality don’t need to be plugged in 24/7 – like toasters, coffee makers, humidifiers,treadmills, guest room televisions or infant sound machines.

Memberships or Sneaky Money Stealers?  ~ Take a long look at your memberships/subscriptions such as gym, Crossfit, food of the month clubs, online courses, food co-ops and those clever box subscriptions (such as Conscious Box, Birch Box and Stitchfix). Are you using them to their full potential? Are you and your family benefiting from them or are they just costing you more money? For example, right now a gym membership doesn’t make sense for me. I have a treadmill, an elliptical, yoga mat and plenty of workout DVDs at home and through the library as well as streamed via online. All this is for free and I don’t have to pay $50 a month to benefit from it. Plus I know the work it takes to get all three kids and myself to the gym is more stress than pleasure. We once belonged to a food co-op but it made more sense for us to head to the farmer’s market on Saturdays to pick out our own choice of fresh foods. Another fun but excess spending was my subscription to Conscious Box. Though  I liked receiving it in the mail monthly, I couldn’t use most of the items that were in the box due to my Paleo lifestyle and sensitive skin … so we cancelled it. All of this stuff that we sign up for becomes excess when we don’t use it or truly benefit from it. GET BACK TO THE BASICS. I have to remind myself that the human race has survived without having groceries delivered to our doorstep, an online personal stylist that sends pricey clothing pieces or forgotten online courses that we swore we would use to better our children.

Simple Plan: Part 1

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The feedback about the Year of Simplicity is an inspiring one. It turns out that there are a lot of other crazy ass mommies and daddies besides myself and Erik ready for the simple life too. For those apprehensive about making the leap, just remember that this isn’t about deprivation it’s about all the excess that comes after our needs are met. It’s not about leaving ourselves yearning it’s about becoming more fulfilled through our relationships with others and our inner selves. Stuff is just stuff.

I figured dividing our action plan into a number of different posts would be best for me and for readers. After the final post of the action plan I’ll share some pictures to document the simple household that we are now striving for.

On today’s list: Purchases, Stuff and Toys.

Purchases: If we have all this crap how do we stop acquiring more of it? Simple … stop buying it.  All the stuff we have is in great shape, there’s nothing we are in need of. We have clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and a loving household. There’s been so many times and things that while out and about we have mindlessly bought. A sale here, a deal here, a coupon redeemed or an opportunity to stockpile, it all adds up. Erik and I are guilty of just buying because of the money we believe we are saving. We are also guilty of purchasing toys and more stuff for our kids randomly and aimlessly.  Eventually all this stuff becomes forgotten. Rather what isn’t forgotten are the experiences and bonding our family comes to encounter through interacting with one another and not through the stuff we acquire. Moving forward we are looking at each purchase in regards to how it will benefit our family or individually and not on how much money we’ll save by the deal we think we are getting.

Stuff: So much stuff.

I’ve made my way through every closet and room.

The laundry room is now a laundry room holding only cleaning products.

Counters have been wiped clean and decorative pieces minimized. Kitchen cabinets and drawers have been purged of any items that are no use to our family and donated to Goodwill. We were this couple that constantly bought all these gadgets to cook with. After taking a cooking class this summer we found the only items we really need are a pair of tongs, a peeler, a sharp knife and a good spatula. Goodbye to garlic smashers, veggie dicers and meat slicers. The insane amount of Tupperware, pots and pans we own is just that, insane. Also purged and donated. How many coffee mugs does a household need where only one of the five humans living within drinks coffee? According to our count, over 20. Needless to say some of these mugs will be finding a new home.

Linen closets full of sheets, towels and blankets. I figure we have three beds so we need one pair of sheets on each bed and one for changing purposes. Right now the twins are in cribs, I’m not sure what bed size they will have in the future, but more than likely it will be full size so I’ve kept the full sets and donated the rest. We have about two thousand bath towels and wash cloths, these too were purged and donated, I mean does one family really need 17 baby wash cloths??? I think not.

I took a look around the house, I mean I really TOOK IN the view. I took in every knickknack, picture frame, decoration and child craft made and decided what needed to go and what made sense to stay. What needed to go went and what made sense to stay was cleaned and placed in a thoughtful spot.

I’m not sure if I thought at some point I was going to be opening my own drugstore/beauty counter out of my home but the amount of makeup and beauty products I found stashed away in my bathroom was revolting. It was purged and thrown out. What was old, a bad color or poor quality was pitched. What was new and higher quality was kept and organized into drawers and containers. In the year 2015 I refuse to buy any product that I can just derive from coconut oil. If any of you need some tips on my favorite beauty go to here’s a link to an article that I had published on my beloved coconut oil. Medicines, vitamins and essential oils were also checked  for dates and quality then purged and thrown out.

Toys: So far I’ve managed to sort through it ALL prior to Christmas donating a large amount to our church and boxing up the rest to be sold during the twins children consignment spring sale. I’ve also stored some away in order to change it up once in a while as the twins get older. I’ve organized it all into different sized containers and cubby holes.

We’ve also been working on the “put one toy away before dragging another out” with the kids to keep the chaos to a minimum. We have also decided to limit any toy purchases to holidays and birthdays to keep the number down and to make current and future toys “special.”

Many toys have also been replaced with a new focus on our craft cabinet filled with everything under the sun in order to execute an idea thought up by the small mind. The craft cabinet is made up of crayons, markers, paints, stickers, glue, glitter, play-doh, cookie cutters, paper, old cereal boxes and paper towel rolls, felt, scissors, coloring books, chalk, puffy paint, noodles, food coloring, pom poms, old fabric/shirts and pipe cleaner.  Another toy replacement is the library corner where there are books of our own stored and where the kids keep the books they pick out on our weekly library trips. I still read books I can hold in my hands and I believe my kids should too. There’s nothing like having a little one sit in your lap as you read them a story and they turn the pages with their little fingers. It creates a bond and fattens the imagination.

After learning our lesson of 4 years of birthday parties we have come to the conclusion that birthday parties past the age of one can be budget and energy depleting. The sheer cost of finding a venue to facilitate the celebration and hold a number of little energy bursting bodies is a small fortune. Then there is all the toys and stuff your kids receive through the kind act of gift giving. We’ve decided that birthdays will be better spent experiencing things, like a day trip to the city with special visits to museums, favorite restaurants or exciting attractions. I’ve read over and over that from the time we are young we remember and benefit the most from the interactions and relationships we experience with others and not the toys that we receive. The money saved??? Throw it into a college fund, your little ones will be more grateful for that than the latest Paw Patrol toy.

That’s today’s simple learning lesson. Hopefully it sparked a fire under your ass to get moving in the direction of simple.

Look for future “2015 Year of Simplicity” posts relaying more of our action plan. Subjects will include Time, Technology, Clothes, Spending, Food and Self.

The Gift of Complete

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On Christmas day 2012 we brought our newborn twins home from the hospital, making that day the most memorable gift I’ve ever received.

To begin, I’ve always had fertility issues so the fact that I’ve even been able to get pregnant with my three beautiful children is a gift from God in itself. I went through fertility treatments with my first son and with our twins I endured a series of three treatment rounds before conceiving my little bundles of joy.

We always knew that because of my situation and age that it was highly likely that we may have a multiple pregnancy. When we found out that we were pregnant after a successful injection and IUI round. An ultrasound was performed at 5 weeks showing two strong heartbeats. We were going to be a family of five!

In preparation for our twosome I scoured the internet for books and information on twin pregnancies, births and parenting. To my dismay, the twin books were filled with scary stories and cautionary tales of preterm labor, emergency cesareans and newborns spending several days, if not weeks, in NICU. My husband and I prepared as well as we could for the unthinkable.

On December 23rd, at a little over 38 weeks, I was admitted to the hospital and after three hours of labor I gave birth naturally to both Travis and Hailey. Each baby was perfectly healthy, I was able to hold their fresh little bodies and kiss their delicate heads within moments of their birth. No low birth weight, no delivery complications and no NICU stay. Cleared by my OB and the hospital pediatrician, we would be able to bring home the twins on Christmas Day to meet their big brother.

By Christmas Day Texas hadn’t seen snow yet that year but as we loaded the minivan with our precious double cargo, sheets of white fluff began to fall around us. Having grown up in the Midwest, both my husband and I missed the seasons, especially the white sparkles of snow. We couldn’t believe our eyes.  My husband drove our own personal “sleigh” through the empty streets toward our home where our first born was waiting in anticipation of Christmas and his new siblings.

We made the awe inspiring drive home with success and as I opened the door my little man jumped into my arms. We brought the babies in and nestled down into the cushions of the couch under the glow of the Christmas tree. Here we were, a family of five, after a long three years of infertility disappointments and a delicate pregnancy. We were all together, healthy and surrounded by love. At that moment I felt complete. That feeling was the best gift I have ever received and I thank god every day for that Christmas Day.