A Beautiful Mess

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hey all!

Wanted to touch on something that seems to always be a part of our lives: messes.

Toddlers are messy.  And to no real fault of their own.  They are figuring out what every single thing in this world is and their ferocious effort to figure all of the things out is both exhausting and incredible to watch.  I guess I would have that much energy if I slept 12 hours every night... I don't know.
My friend Olivia took the following pictures with her Dad's old camera that uses film.. i know... FILM!  What is this?! They are the most beautiful pictures and I love her like crazy for helping document these two crazies!

I've always been a pretty tidy person.  Keeping things picked up, clean and organized keeps me calm and content.  So you can imagine the change in my life when I found out we were having twins and now, twins that are on the move.  They definitely provide a challenge for a tidy home, to say the very least.   But we somehow manage, for the most part.  I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks for keeping things tidy and making sure your home doesn't resemble a daycare center.  If that's the look you're going for, then have at it.  But I like to still have some resemblance of our "style" and plan to keep it that way... even when we add more kiddos.

1.  Less is more.  Cue the eye-roll, as all moms probably know this but know how hard it can be to uphold it.  From the get-go, we were blessed to have very generous friends and family that gave clothing, toys, etc. and we were loaded down with everything plus the kitchen sink for twin babies.  As they have grown and are 20 months now, (whaaaa) we have been shedding "things".  For example, as soon as we could, we moved the babies to booster seats at the table and put the high chairs in the basement.  That change was not only good for our poor tiny dining area, but good for the babies to be at the table and to make meals family time!  Another area we have downsized a bit is the toy department.  At one point in time, we had enough toys to keep a dozen kids busy, but thanks to my mom, she sorted through them and pulled out all the "baby toys" including teething rings, rattles, etc... things toddlers don't need or use anymore.  I also went through the MOUNTAIN of books we had in the basement and kept the durable, loved ones while donating some of the repeated and unused books.  Keep tip here: clean out and get rid of the toys/ books that are no longer relevant, played with and used frequently.  This will keep the clutter to a minimum.  I do it about every 6 months.

***I have to call out a tool I used earlier this summer, that really may have helped me with this restructuring of our house.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is nothing short of brilliance.  I read this in less than 2 days (which is saying a lot for me) and got to work, starting in our bedroom.  Her methods of keeping a tidy home are fool proof, if you follow her advice to a T.  I'm still working at it, as having E&B makes it a little more challenging.  But.  Her methods have really helped me in deciding what is excess and what is necessary, what to discard and what to store away.  I HIGHLY recommend it.  

2. Change up the space of play.  Our living room used to look like a bomb went off daily (and still some days does).  We used to have a box of toys under the TV and almost every day it would be spread across our upstairs, in the couch cushions, under the table, pretty much resembling a daycare.  I decided to move all the toys downstairs in one confined area.  That's not to say the twins don't bring toys upstairs and spread things around the house, BUT there's a play area and its specifically for their toys and everything has a spot down there... away from the main living space.  It also will help us as we teach them to put things away.  Someday.  Maybe.  That will be the day.

In the basket under the TV are diapers and wipes... that shelf used to be overflowing with toys, books, stuffed animals...  
The other view... crayon explosion!
One side of our basement is basically La Petite.  This is actually pretty tame and considered "picked-up" 
The other side is the adult oasis of relaxation!  Jk. But we try to keep it toy free... that happens like 20% of the time.
3.  Creative storage.  I was handed down an old chest built by my Great-Great-Grandfather....  It has been painted more times than we can count and can hold tons of storage.  I think it's pretty easy to find these old chests, antiquing, garage sales, and if you can, I think they are AWESOME for just throwing a bunch of toys in and hiding them away.  Plus it's a great one to help with the first tip:  weeding out the un-played with toys.

4.  Life is but a beautiful mess.  My husband has helped me with this one and I don't even think he knows it.  Growing up, I was the kid that wouldn't go outside without shoes, a food fight at school terrified me and the thought of voluntarily getting messy didn't seem like fun (ahem, finger painting).  I know.  Kind-of a wet blanket.  But as I became a wife and mother, I think I've lightened up a little.  Every mess can be cleaned.  Eventually.  It might mean an extra bath or shower, or a good scrub with the magic eraser.  But most messes (with food or crafts) can be cleaned.  Most.  I'll update when I've come across something otherwise.  So end-all-be-all here is, live life and don't be afraid of the mess.  Once I changed that, I have been living a bit more at ease.   Look at how much fun your kids are having and (within reason) let them explore, make a mess, dump the crayon box out and put each one back in one at a time (Bennett).

90's day at the park... not really.. just for us...

We've been parkin' a lot lately and I don't hate it in this nicer weather!

Hope everyone is ready for FALL!  We definitely are.  My favorite season!  Tomorrow is September and I have a feeling we are closer than we think.  More updates this fall :)

See ya'll soon!

Lauren, E&B

Buddy and his rock collection... guys. I have no clue how this started. But its so cute how protective he is over them.

Just tryin it on for size... 
Kinda big...
Neighbor play date!  We have the BEST neighbors and we love how much our kiddos look up to them! 

Italia: Pt. 2

Friday, August 11, 2017

If you're tuning in for the first time, WELCOME to Keithing Up With The Twins!  We are in part 2 of our trip to Italy (just my husband and I) and it's continued below.  If you are here for just sweet babies pics and updates, scroll to the bottom of this post... and the next post will be a big one with more updates on all things babies...

Firenze (Florence)

We left Rome the morning of our 5th day in Italy and took the fast train to get there in time for lunch.  The views from the train were unreal.  We were getting into Tuscany and I could tell.  Alex got some much needed sleep on the train but I couldn't stop looking out the window.  I couldn't believe people called this place home.

Leaving Rome!  The train stations there were unreal.  So many people and so many languages.
From the train window!  Hello wine country!

Florence Walking Tour

We got to our hotel, it was a much larger room than in Rome, but still 2 twin beds pushed together for one bed.  We were energized to get out and see the city by this point.  Grabbed lunch at a place right by our hotel and paired it with red wine.  I tell ya what... a girl could get used to wine with every meal.  But I guess that's crazy talk right?  Yeah.  Alex told me when in Florence, red wine and when we get to Venice, white wine.  And that advice held so true.  Every glass/ bottle we had was perfect.

We started out walking tour of Florence!  Alex knew where to go first.  We started walking and all of a sudden this beauty popped out in front of me.  The Duomo, also known as The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

It's one of the biggest sights to see in Florence, and one of the most beautiful.  I was absolutely taken aback from this church, it was unlike anything we saw in Rome.  We started our Rick Steeves walking tour here and continued on through the city.

There.  Were.  A.  Ton.  Of.  People.
Apparently we were here during the busiest season for tourists and it definitely showed.  Still, we were warned and so we ignored the mobs of people and still saw everything we wanted to see.  Along with like 100,000 other people.
Doors to the Baptistry, across from the Duomo.
At this point, it started raining, for the first time on our trip.  We grabbed some gelato and popped a squat under an awning.  People watching was hilarious.  Some people ignored the rain and kept going, and other people ran like a bat out of hell.  I guess fashion is everything in Italia?
Beautiful church that used to be a granary.
My love, by the Arno River.

The Ponte Vecchio, one of the oldest bridges, drapes across the Arno connecting 2 sides of Florence.  It has shops all up and down it, and was flooded with people.  Fun fact, courtesy of my cute, personal tour guide:  Bridges along the Arno were knocked down during WWII per Hitler's orders but when they got to this bridge, they didn't destroy it, only blocked it off because it's historical and beautiful richness.  

Water, water, water.  It was pretty hot this day so we kept finding the water spikets and staying hydrated.  God I wish we had this here.  I never felt more hydrated in my life.

We wanted to rent a Vespa so bad in Florence but we didn't bring our driver's license's!  So remember to grab yours if you do.  Literally everyone drove these.  And we had serious FOMO.


After getting lost trying to get back to our hotel, we showered, cooled off, bought a bottle of red wine and sat outside our hotel.  We were heading to Settignano, the town Alex studied abroad at in 2011 with Benedictine.  We jumped on the #10 bus (my now favorite bus) and headed about 20 minutes north of where our hotel sat.
I have a problem.  I love wine and I have a problem.  We drank about 14 bottles total on our 9 day trip.  And that doesn't include the glasses of wine at meals.    
And the views in Settignano were heavenly.

The Villa where he lived.

It ended up being locked and we think people were on their break in between the summer program and fall start.  So we grabbed some pictures and walked around.  I cannot believe he called this place home for 3 months.  It was beyond words, beautiful.

All.  The.  Feels.  
After walking around in this quiet, tourist free town, Alex remembered the little restaurant he knew and would frequent during his stay.  We decided right then and there: fancy dinner.  Outside.  With wine.  And boom.  My favorite night of the trip commenced.  It was like a dream.  We sat, enjoyed the stillness, remembered and savored each flavorful bite of the 3 course meal and reconnected with how blessed we were.  Feeling a fluttery, warm feeling after finishing off the bottle of wine, we jumped back on the bus, headed down the hill and home for the night.

The owner of the restaurant, MichaelĂ©, was a fantastic host.  He even remembered Alex and treated us like family coming to visit.  His little place was adorable, well kept, had an extensive wine list and even better food.

The food here was out of this world.  What we wouldn't give for this little place to be in Shawnee.  We started the meal with cold cuts and cheese.  My absolute favorite. 
The Basilica de Santa Croce

The morning of our next day we jetted out on the bus again, hoping to end up at the next basilica to see in Florence:  Santa Croce.

We jumped on the #23 bus (my least favorite bus ever) and ended up riding it out of town 30 minutes, only to realize that we were on the wrong bus.  After an hour on public transit that we didn't need or want to see, we jumped off... right where we started.  And decided to walk for the rest of the day... and that worked out just fine.

Michelangelo's tomb
Galileo's tomb

The Basilica was incredible.  I couldn't believe how many people were buried inside one church!  The floor was painted with various people of the church marking their graves.  Very surreal.
Again with the doors.  They were massive, yet welcoming.  
After the beautiful walk around the basilica, it was time to get our shop on.  We jetted out to the leather market in search of a purse.  We ended up finding some pretty great things and the people watching was incredible.  Every kind of person you could imagine was in that market.

We found ourselves walking across the Ponte Vecchio and found an awesome little sandwich shop for lunch.  Amazing meat and cheese sandwiches on fresh foccacia bread.  And wine to pair, for lunch... a dream.  And of course, gelato afterwards.  After a slow walk around the Pitti Palace, we set out back home, showered and geared up for another fun night.

Piazzale Michelangelo

After another (successful) bus ride, we found ourselves at the best outlook in Florence: the Piazzale Michelangelo.  We shared a bottle of wine and overlooked the city, permanently etching the picturesque view into our heads to never forget it.

We left our lock here... seemed fitting as this would be a place we would definitely come back to.
Aaaaannnnnd we probably weren't supposed to but we chucked the keys in the Arno.

Best.  Ever.

Great doors.

We slowly walked down the hill back into town and found ourselves at one of the bars Alex and his friends would go to.  There's this amazing thing called apertivo in Italy that I thought was too good to be true.  You go to a bar, buy a drink and there's food out for you for free!  Like good food too.  Not like Chex Mix.  No offense to Chex Mix but this food was like substantial.  Like it was our dinner that night!  So great.  

We made our way through Florence, no plan and ended up at an Irish bar.  We love all the wine but needed a beer in between.  Like I said on our honeymoon, beer grounds me.  Keeps me settled and not sloppy. We ordered some fries because you can't not have greasy food with beer, and hung out for a bit before slowly heading home.

The next morning, we met up with Alex's family!  They had been on a trip throughout Europe and happened to be coming to Florence the last day we were there!  It was perfect.  We gave them a mini tour of the city after picking them up from the train station.  After taking them back to the little sandwich shop, we split ways and Alex and I headed to our meeting point for our wine tour!

Chianti Wine Tasting

One of the best ideas for our trip was to prebook a wine tasting in Tuscany before we left.  We left Florence on a charter bus around 1:15 pm with a group of about 50 people.  Driving into the Tuscan Hills was am experience, and kind-of nerve racking on that big of a bus.  Once we got to the first winery, we were ready for some drinks!

Ready for some wine!
Our tour guide spoke 5 languages.  5.  I have never felt more inadequate in my life.  

Winery #1:  We tried red and white wine, balsamic and extra virgin olive oil.

The love of my life.
Olive Trees!  They were so beautiful- the picture doesn't even do it justice.

Stop #2 was to a small village in between the wineries.  It was so quiet, set apart from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Very serene.

Winery #2 was our favorite of the two we saw.  We tried more wine, mostly reds and sampled their oils too.  Even a truffle oil (which was absolute bomb of course).

The views from this winery were amazing.  These are like the images that come up when you google Tuscany.

The snacks at this place = best.  I am a weak person when it comes to meats and cheeses.

We were back in Florence by 8 pm and grabbed some dinner at a local little place close to our hotel.  Amazing pasta and chicken and as the Italians do, dinner at 9 pm.

We woke up and had a slow morning of packing and decided to take our time, as the active trip was getting to us.  Grabbed a cappuccino and waited for our transfer to take us to the train station.  We were headed to Venice!

Venezia (Venice)

The train ride to Venice was... interesting.  And less "Harry Potter-esk" than the last train, if ya feel me.  Long story short... I sat next to a very sick lady who didn't speak Italian, or English.  Let's just say it was a longer ride and I sat with my scarf over my face.  But once we got there we were pumped!

The transfer met us right outside the train station and told us we had a boat transfer to our hotel!  When she looked at the hotel, she laughed.  We were directly across the Grand Canal from the train station.  See below for our journey (by boat!) to our hotel!

We really loved the boat ride and wished it was a bit longer but they literally crossed the canal and dropped us off.  We really loved our hotel... right on the Grand Canal and perfect size for us. 
Venice: the city on water!  I don't think I could get used to not having a car!  But I guess the people that live here never really know that lifestyle.
Exploring the city!
We dropped our bags off, changed clothes and ventured out to see Venice for the first time!  I'll admit, by this point, I was pretty sore, tired and exhausted from the trip, but seeing this unique city was definitely something I wasn't going to miss.

We walked all over, getting used to no "roads" and small "streets", and crossing many of the city's 500+ bridges.

The buildings seems to glow against the water and sun.  It was so beautiful.
These were the streets!  They were SO small!  Crazy cool, slightly claustrophobic and insanely easy to get lost in.

The leaning tower of.... Venice?
Another awesome bridge: The Realto!  When in doubt, look for signs here.  It always reoriented us to where our hotel was!  Beautiful bridge with shops along it, just like the Ponte Vecchio.

V nice doors in Venice
We walked around the block of our hotel and found another apertivo that drew us in from the second we walked up.  The owner was running around and serving piping hot plates of fresh mussels to patrons out front.  Me, being the seafood lover I am, I'm immediately drawn in.  Give me all the mussels.  We ended up getting quite a few drinks here and the mussels were on the HOUSE.  God I could get used to that.  We easily polished off 6 plates of mussels and 3 drinks a piece and left paying about €30.  Also, I've never had better Prosecco in my life.  I was in white wine heaven.  We went back to the hotel tipsy, full and ready for a good nights sleep.

Our final day of the trip had arrived.  We were longing to hug our babies but still had more to see.  We set out to San Marco square.
San Marco Basilica--- Pretty amazing church where Saint Mark in buried.  This church was so different from anything we had seen previous and was darker and filled with mosaics to keep the eye busy for hours.  Rick Steeves kept us informed all throughout our morning here.

Venice and it's tiny "streets"
Perspective, me on one of the less crowded streets.
We finished walking around and exploring little shops and realized we were starving.  With all the good food there, we sometimes forgot to eat at normal hours.  We grabbed a large, fresh pizza and took it back to our hotel.  We could barely get there before whipping up the top and diving into the cheesey goodness.  I don't know if it's because we were so hungry or because it was the best pizza ever, but it was amazing and all of my pizza dreams were instantly reality.

After shoveling the pizza in our tummies, we were full and happy and decided to take a nap... hell, we were on vacation and if we wanted to nap, we would nap!  After, we felt refreshed and we jetted out in search of some good seafood for our last meal in Venice.
The best meal on the last night.  We never had a plan for restaurants and really just stopped at one that looked welcoming, full of people and a menu with something that looked yummy.  This was a seafood pasta with tons of mussels.  Paired with, you guessed it, Prosecco it was amazing.

The last gelato.  Pistachio.
We had no qulams with being home early the last night and getting a good night's sleep, especially since we were getting picked up for the airport at 3:30 AM!  Yikes, we didn't even leave home that early for our 6 AM flight in KC.  

Our transfer arrived on the Grand Canal at exactly 3:30 AM and we were the only ones out.  Two guys in the texi boat confirmed our transfer to the airport.  I thought this would be a short ride across the canal and we would get a cab to the airport.  Nope.  We took the dang boat across the Adratic Sea.  There was a small moment where Alex and I actually thought, "if these guys decided to like murder us and throw us over... who would know or see?"  JK but really... it was so eeiry being out that early and on a boat, no less, in the middle of a sea.  Everything turned out great though... and they dropped us off 2.5 hours early for our flight.  

Amsterdam was our first layover.  We changed planes and flew to Atlanta.  We had a few hours to kill there and then it was home sweet Kansas City!

Returning Home

The flights home were all on time, and even early.  We didn't get upgraded but we didn't care.  We were happily exhausted and ready to see our babies.  10 days seemed short when planning the trip but became longer than we imagined being away from Emmy and Bennett.  I watched like 6 movies on the way home to pass the time.  If you haven't yet seen the movie Arrival with Amy Adams, you need to.  Really good.  #notanad

We were greeted by the babies when we got off the plane, along with Alex's parents.  They passed the torch and we were headed home!  It was strange driving again and things looked different.  Being in such a different culture for that amount of time gets you used to it a bit.  The babies looked like teenagers.  We were gone for 10 days and that equates to like 5 years in toddler growth scales.  They looked so grown up!  And Bennett has hair, finally!  And it's reddish- just like his mama had.  My sweet Emmy was so excited to see us and ran up to me right away.  Bennett was a little freaked out.  After all, we had only been faces in the phone for over a week and to see us up close was probably a weird sensation for him.

Going to collect our bags, we checked one on the way back to bring back a bottle of wine!  Saving it for our 25th wedding anniversary.  We'll see if we hold out that long.
One of our morning walks on an unusually cool August morning!
They are so big!  Still wearing size 5 diapers, sleeping well, napping twice a day, no is their favorite word and they're still "learning" how to share.

Bennett and Carl, my best friend's pup.  He was so proud of walking him all by himself.  

Thanks for reading about our trip!  The next post will be a good one... hope to have it posted by September...

Until next time,

The Keith's

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