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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Picture Perfect



A good snapshot stops a moment from running away. ~ Eudora Welty

Would it be a blog post if I didn’t make excuses for how long it has been since I wrote last? Thank goodness that I have other records of the past month other than this written one. Like pictures!

I have wanted to record some musings on the topic of pictures for a while, and the proofs from Emily and Drew’s six month session are the best inspiration one could ask for.

Before the babies, I was awful about taking pictures. One, I hate myself in pictures, and two, I always seem to forget a camera. I am the person with lots of vacation pictures of scenery and strangers. I never needed a camera phone because I would either misplace the phone or forget it had a camera function altogether. Add in a husband who also hates getting his picture taken, and you have not so many pictures.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to find a photographer for the babies even before they were born. After searching around and asking for recommendations, I decided on Lifelong Impressions. I was drawn to the fun style of the photography and the way each picture seemed to tell a story and capture a moment. To seal the deal, Shannon, the owner of Lifelong Impressions, is a fellow twin mommy.

Around 28 weeks, we had maternity pictures taken with Shannon, and despite a pregnancy hormone-induced breakdown only minutes before the session, we had a wonderful session on a slightly chilly March day. She put us at ease and helped two photography-phobic people make the best of the situation. We love the picture of us by an early-blooming dogwood tree, with my still-manageable belly, and it now hangs in the babies’ nursery as a reminder of those breathless days and restless nights of pregnancy.

We must have been inspired because, after that, our picture- taking kicked into high gear. There are the shots we took the morning we left for the hospital for delivery and my last-ever preggo picture.







Or the first picture ever of my babies. I will always remember the tears I cried as I asked if each was okay or the lump in my throat that kept me from speaking when I first saw their sweet faces.





And then of my first armful of babies, so long awaited and delayed by a scary time in recovery. I still can’t believe these perfect babies are mine. Will the wonder ever fade?





I have pictures of their first visits by family and friends, their first car ride home, the welcome balloons on the mailbox from Grandma, their first night in the co-sleeper, their first…well, you name it, and we probably took a snapshot of it.

Some of my favorite pictures ever are from their newborn session. I love how the ones of them snuggling are exactly the image I hold of them in my heart and how I often imagined them even before they ever moved—best friends, protective and supportive. I love the ones where Marty and I look lovingly at our babies, smiling through the pee, the heat, and the fatigue from double duty—all night long. I marvel at how motherhood (and probably a bit of touch-up magic) make me look glowing, especially in the one where I am looking down at Emily. My daughter. I love the one of Drew, swaddled, with his blue eyes glowing, and his little lips in the shape of a perfect O. My son. And then there’s the picture of us on the floor with sweet, sleeping babies. Our family.





Our friend, Tamara, who also has her own photography business, took some sweet shots of some of my favorite baby parts—hands and feet. Hands down, I think baby toes are about the cutest thing ever. Thanks, Tamara, for capturing the moment.





There are so many snapshots of everyday wonderment. Emily looking like an angel in the towel, Drew’s bashful full- body smile, smiling babies on the changing table, tummy time, hammock time, twin time, and snuggle time. Each has the power to take me back to that experience, bring tears to my eyes, a smile to my face. Some days while I am on the road for work, I will open my phone and browse through pictures just so I can feel close to them. On lucky days, I get texts with pictures and video from Julie, showing me what they are doing that day. Emily squealing, Drew grabbing a toy intentionally, sitting up, taking a nap—in this way, pictures help me not feel so bad about being a working mom.

This week, giddy with anticipation, I opened the proofs from their six month session. Shannon asks in her email to let her know which are our favorites and why. With so many cute pictures, it is hard to say which I love the most.

http://lifelongimpressions.com/slideshow-hurst/

Sitting as they entered the world, naked and pure, they look back at the camera as if to say “hello world.” What is more inspiring than these images of innocent babies?

I smile when I see the picture of Drew leaning into Emily’s shoulder, holding her arm, and she grabs his foot while looking down. It captures perfectly the loving way Drew calms when he is close to Emily, and it will forever remind us of this time when they first starting noticing each other. And, the rolls—arm rolls, legs rolls, wrist rolls. Every meal seems to have paid off!

I love the hats and tutu shots because they also capture another memory of this age—the fun and interaction. Emily and Drew have such personalities. They laugh and squeal. They roll and grab. They can be so happy and so upset. They play contentedly all alone on the floor, but still want their individual snuggle and tickle time.
I will always look at the pictures of Drew and remember that it was his turn to be happy baby during picture time. Emily began melting down pretty quickly, so there are more pictures of Drew than her. Oh, sweet Drew Bear! Looking at his pictures, you can almost hear the giggles. Shannon had him going. Then, there’s the one where he’s looking off to the side. This picture captured an admiring glance of his daddy who was standing off to the side. I love the push-up pose where his little cutesy feet are sticking out, poised to take flight. Oh, the places he’ll go!

Thanks to a quick-shooting camera and a talented eye, we have a few Emily shots that are priceless. With her pink hat and tutu, she is absolutely charming as she smiles up at the camera with the same sweet wide smile that greets me every morning. In another, she chews on my necklace. When we weren’t fighting tears and cries, we were fighting Emily’s eating everything—hands, tutus…forget about art imitating life—this is classic Emily. So is the sweet snuggle so beautifully captured. Can I hold her like that forever?

Someone told me that I would love every stage. It’s true. I have loved every moment, and I have the pictures to prove it.

PS- If you are looking for some help capturing your moments, check out Shannon at www.lifelongimpressions.com and Tamara at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tamera-Parrish-Photography/110701585629723.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dear Drew



Dear Drew,
Today you are five months old, and oh, “Drew Bear, I love you true, Bear!” I love every bit of your finger-chewing, feet-eating self.

It’s been so fun to watch you grow and learn. It’s almost as if we can see your brain sparking as you take in all the new sights and sounds. Since Emily often sleeps when we put her in the stroller, we have started trying to give you the back seat of it because it gives you a better view of the action. When your hands aren’t in your mouth, they are likely rubbing, touching, and grabbing. You love different textures, especially the soft feel of your baby blanket. If you’re fussy, we will pick you up and put you where you can see, and often that does the trick. Drew Bear just wants to see what’s going on.

Speaking of crying, you have such distinct cries. There’s the sleepy bear cry—short cries that stop short. There’s the hungry bear cry—long, incessant cries that go on until you hungrily search out the bottle with your lips. Finally, there’s the needy bear cry, the one that goes on and on, with your face getting progressively redder, until we pick you up.

But, as hard as the needy bear can cry, you can smile and laugh just as much. Papa Ray got the first deep, real laugh from you, and it took me at least two weeks to get you to do it again. I was putting you to bed, and you were a little fussy. I started singing my made-up, out-of-tune Drew Bear Song. You smiled and gave me a deep, tickled laugh. So much for sleeping! We had a least of couple of minutes of back and forth laughing instead. Now, you laugh often, and I know you are ticklish, too. Looks like it’s time to pull out the Tickle Monster book!

Like Emily, you have found your voice, and while you don’t squeal as loud as she does, you can get quite loud. I wish we had video of our first visit to church with Grandma Vivian when you got quite vocal during the service. Aunt Windy had fun taking you to the nursery where you could squeal and play.

You’ve had so many firsts. The scariest was your first fall. Daddy had you sitting on the back porch couch when he decided to step out and turn the food on the grill. About the same time, you decided to lean forward and roll off. I was inside and heard the thump first, then Daddy’s yell, and next your loud wailing. While I was ready to rush you off to the emergency room, the nurse at the call center assured me you were most likely fine. It was a long night as we watched you, each of us filled with anxiety and guilt. It was ironic, when, the very next day, you learned to use your hands to make your toy steering wheel beep. Daddy joked that the bump on the head knocked things into place.

You went to your first NC State Fair, and although we saw you eyeing it, we wouldn’t let you have this year’s fair specialty—a hamburger between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And, no, you can never eat a deep fried Twinkie, either. Stick with organic.

For your first Halloween, you were a bear—of course. Daddy wanted you to be a milk vampire, but this year, I won. Soon enough, you will be telling me what you want to be. You went to your first Canes’ game, and, boy, were you cute! From your official NHL Carolina Hurricanes’ jogging suit to your black and red Nikes, you were 100% adorable. You had your first solid food, and you clearly are a baby who does not like rice cereal unless it is sweetened with a little organic banana baby food. This past Saturday marked another official first—the first time you seemed to really notice Emily. Until then, the extent of your interactions has been to hold or to chew each other’s hands. But Saturday, while out for lunch, you looked across the table at her and broke into the biggest grin. You were enthralled. You saw your first best friend.

You participated in your first election as your daddy and I held you and Emily on our laps and voted. Grandma Janice is already supporting your 2060 run for President. Be prepared, though, for the media to claim you had early right-wing leaning tendencies as evidenced by the picture of you wearing a “Vote Republican” sticker. The picture from our trip to the Hillsville Flea Market & Gun Show where you are wearing a sticker that says, “Guns Save Lives” will probably also surface. Depending on your ultimate political persuasion, you may have fun explaining that one. It was all in good fun.

Drew Bear, we have loved the last five months, and we love you.

Dear Emily




Dear Emily,

Today you are five months old, and I have no idea how I can even begin to capture all that you have done since I wrote to you last. You are changing faster than you can down a half a jar of sweet potatoes and a 5 ounce bottle. Two months is too long between letters, but I’ll do my best to record all the wonderfulness that is you.

You are a squealing machine. You shriek in absolute delight. You wake up in the morning so happy—talking, laughing, gurgling. One of my favorite parts of the day is saying, “Good morning, beautiful girl,” before I take you downstairs for a morning change and a bottle. I love the way you cling to my shoulder with your little baby arms. Some mornings we will walk around, talking—to the front door to look out or the back porch to hear the birds. You love being outside almost as much as you love being held.

While you wake up easily, you don’t go down quite so well. You fight sleep so hard. You are most curious, and it’s like you are afraid you will miss something. At night, I often sit on the floor beside your bassinet and rock you and sing along with your lullaby music. I can’t bear to leave you in there crying. The only time it seems you go to sleep easily is when we are out somewhere new. Then you sleep and sleep. You slept through the Caniac Carnival, the Arts Festival, the baby reunion at Marbles, most of the fair, the Farmer’s Market, and much of the voting line.

You have learned to tolerate tummy time a bit better, and your hard work has paid off. You rolled over for the first time on October 15. You started purposefully grabbing your car seat toy on October 22. Your car seat toy is a cute pink and green frog that jingles. You grab it and stick it in your mouth, and we jokingly say you are enjoying eating some frog legs.

The last two months have been full of other firsts. You had your first solid food at about 4 ½ months—first rice cereal, then green peas, and your favorite, sweet potatoes. You and Drew went to your first hockey game. Neither one of you did really well. By the second period, we were past your bed time, and despite our best efforts to block the noise, you just couldn’t fall asleep. Everyone was happy to see you both, though, and everyone agreed that you two were well worth all the huffing and puffing I endured last season. You had your first Halloween costume—a sweet little fairy outfit with a tutu and wings. Grandma Janice stayed up all night cutting down your tutu to make it fit. While you didn’t get any candy, we walked you around Grandma and Papa’s neighborhood, which you both loved. You also had your first bad cold, and I felt completely helpless as I nervously took your temperature and reluctantly gave you Tylenol for the first time.

We also have some great stories to tell when you are older to embarrass you. Just say, “Tell me about Grandma Nettie, the Mexican Restaurant, and the poo explosion.” No matter how old we get, we won’t forget that story. One day, when your friends are over, we will sing you the “The Emily Anne Song.” The second verse is the same as the first: “Emily Anne is a beautiful girl, the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world.” No matter how old and sophisticated you get, those words will still be true.

We love you, Emily Anne—the most beautiful 5 month old girl in the whole wide world.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yes. Yes. Yes.



“Did you know you were having twins?”
“Were you surprised to find out you were having twins?”
“Do twins run in your family?”


Yes. Yes. Yes.

People ask me all the time if we knew we were having twins. Yes, we actually knew we were having twins almost from the day we found out we were pregnant.
After two solid blood tests, I wasn’t scheduled to go in for an initial ultrasound until I was 6 weeks. Even then, it would be extremely early. Until then, I just had to have faith that there really was something going on inside my body.

It would have been a little easier to believe if I had some symptoms to prove it. As it was, I felt nothing. I felt great. Maybe a little tired, but nonetheless, great. Just when I thought I was having symptom, it would fade away. In a twisted way, I wished I would feel bad just so I would know I was pregnant.

I emailed my doctor and asked if he could run another blood test just to make sure things were still progressing since I had no symptoms to put my mind at ease. Surprisingly, he suggested we do a quick ultrasound instead. If all was well, at 5 weeks and 2 days, we should at least see gestational sacs.

I was already in tears before the first circle appeared. Through the tears of joy and amazement, I saw a blurry circle—my baby. The doctor continued moving across, stopping briefly, before saying nonchalantly, “There’s one, and there’s another one.” I saw the second blurry circle—also my baby.

He pointed out the speck inside the circle. We were seeing the gestational sac and the yolk sac. Both were right on track for 5 weeks and 2 days.

Were we surprised? Yes. In that moment, I was speechless. We knew there was a possibility of twins. We knew our numbers were on the high side, but for it to actually happen to us? Amazing. Marty claims he saw the doctor scan by both sacs before he even pointed out the first one. What was odd is that neither of us mentioned the word twins until we left the office. Honestly, to this day, I find myself saying, “Twins. Really??”

People want to know if twins run in my family. Yes. They do now. Actually, both of us have twins in our families, and there may be some genetic connection. But, I have come to be more open about the fact that we also used fertility medicine. I think many people who ask if twins run in our family are really wanting to ask that question anyway. Some want to know if the twins are “natural.” I would argue that all babies are natural. Asking if my babies are natural sort of implies that they might be unnatural, supernatural, or preternatural. Touch them. Hold them. Feed them. Play with them. They are 100% natural babies. They are a gift from God regardless of whether I took meds to juice up my ovaries or not. I have also learned that by being open about my struggles I have allowed others to be open about their struggles. Infertility can be such a lonely road, and if one woman can find understanding through me then why would I hide my story?

What’s the fourth most asked question? I’ll let you guess, but the answer to that question is also—yes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another October story




As promised, the October story continues. Today’s tale begins on October 8, 2009.

I tested that morning as I had done so many mornings before, fully expecting the same results as before. I even used a cheapo test since it hardly seemed worth wasting the money on the digital one.

I saw what I thought was second line. I called Marty upstairs to take a look, again expecting him to say I was imagining what I wanted to see. I think I stopped breathing when he agreed that he thought he saw a second line, too.

It was time to pull out the expensive digital.

I couldn’t look. I paced the floor as Marty waited for the answer to pop up. He said, “I think you want to take a look at this one.”

YES

I definitely stopped breathing. And then I started crying. And jumping up and down. And crying.

I nervously called my doctor’s office to ask for a blood test, not sure that they would agree since I technically wasn’t supposed to test for another three days.
Thankfully, they had me come in right away.

I was so nervous I couldn’t even take the call from the doctor’s office with the results. Marty answered when our doctor called later that morning to congratulate us personally. It was official. I was pregnant.

I was to come back on Monday for a repeat test. Since it was only Thursday, I had several days to obsess. Initially, my obsession took the form of taking all the left over pregnancy tests still in the house. I think I ended up taking five more tests, which all came out the same. I have pictures to prove it.

We decided that we wouldn’t tell anyone until we had another rising beta on Monday. Okay, so I did tell Jeanine. I knew she could keep my secret.

After a blood draw early Monday morning, I headed to Greensboro for work. I am not sure how I made it through that school visit because my mind was anywhere but on poetry plans and test scores.

I called Marty every thirty minutes or so to see if the doctor’s office had called back with my numbers. When the call finally came, we had numbers to celebrate. My beta had risen from 75 to 496 in four days. They didn’t need to see me again until 6 weeks when they would do my first ultrasound. Marty asked about the possibility of multiples, but the nurse said the numbers alone didn’t seem high enough to indicate more than one.

We decided to tell Marty’s mom first. Since Marty so rarely goes home, Windy, his sister, guessed something was up when we called to say we were coming to Roanoke Rapids on a Monday night. We surprised Vivian, nonetheless.

We told my family the next night. I pulled Tanner to the side and told him our secret and asked him not to say anything, fully expecting he would blurt it out the first chance he got. Nope. He was not telling anything. Finally, I asked him if he had something he needed to tell everyone. He said, “No, Essy. It’s a secret!” After I assured him he could spill the beans, he whispers, “Essy’s going to have a baby.”

Little did we know, Essy was going to have two babies. But that is another October story and another post.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An October to Remember



This is a story that will take the rest of October’s blog posts to tell. How appropriate, considering that this is a story that has a connection to the month of October at every turn.

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to record all the smaller stories that connect to the larger, most important story of my life—the story of me being a mom. The challenge, sometimes, is how to narrate a story in a way that is true (at least in my eyes), in a way that honors my love for family, and finally, in a way that passes along some important life lessons to my children.

So bear with me as I weave together a series of seemingly unrelated events that bring us to where we are today.

In my other life, I decided I wanted a baby. Of course, that’s all it takes, right? I had a husband, a job, an education, a house. Add one baby, and I’d be finished with my 2.5 kids by age 30. If we hurried, we could also add the white picket fence.

Instead, I learned that life doesn’t always operate according to my plans. Sometimes things get in the way. First, infertility. Then, infidelity. Enter incredulity.

This month, nine Octobers ago, my other life ended. Suddenly, I no longer had a husband. I changed jobs, finished another degree, and built a new house. Add a new attitude, and I was well on my way to finding out who Melissa was supposed to be. I traveled. I worked on my career. I spent some time alone and some time with people who helped me learn new things about me.

Five years ago, again around this same time of year, I met Marty. Something tells me he wouldn’t have recognized me from my other life. Truth is, I have a hard time recognizing that me.

When we got married, we both decided we wanted a baby. Of course, I now knew it takes a little more than a decision. But, this time, I had better ingredients. I had the right husband, a job that knows its place, an education in the school of hard knocks, and a house built on truth. Add one baby, and we’d be blessed. Add no babies, and we’d still be blessed. If we loved each other, talked to each other, and tried to understand one another, we could make it through this life together without building the fences that keep so many people apart--babies or no babies.

In this life, when, once again, getting pregnant wasn’t as easy as deciding on what color to paint the nursery, the story took a different turn. Infertility didn’t hurt any less the second time around, but having someone who was an honest partner in the process made all the difference. Marty held my hand after surgery, gave me shots in the tummy, and went along with my crazy diet, my acupuncture visits, and our daily vitamin regimen.

He was also there one year ago this week when we huddled together in the bathroom to read a pregnancy test that finally said YES.

That morning is another story that will get its own blog post--another story that ties into my baby story that started many Octobers ago.

When I think about the lessons in this story for Emily and Drew, I get choked up. I just don’t want to imagine my babies hurting. But, the truth is, one day, they both will learn that life doesn’t operate according to their plans. They will get their hearts broken at least once by someone who breaks a promise.They will face disappointment. They will one day believe that life will never be right again. They will find an old life passing away, only to give way to a new, different life.

What I want them to learn from this story is that God’s plans are always better than ours. Sometimes we have to give up what we think is best and trust that where we are, is where we are meant to be. Hearts break. People disappoint. Plans change. Dark, however, eventually gives way to light as long as we keep moving. When they doubt, they only have to look at each other. After all, they are living proof that God can take your prayers for one gift and give you two.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shopping Spree




This weekend marked the beginning of Emily and Drew's official "closet switch-out" where I started packing away summer clothes and bringing out the fall/winter stuff. Yes, there was so much they never even wore. As summer babies, Emily and Drew have spent most of their days either naked in a diaper or in a onesie. So many of those cute outfits were never even touched.

I decided to combat the sadness of seeing them grow right before my eyes by going to buy new cute stuff. I rationalized buying more for the winter by explaining to Marty that they will be going out more frequently now. And they don't have enough already since everyone buys newborn clothes in the beginning. And they need picture outfits. And they will look really cute. And they will only be this size once. And Mommy is having fun. And did I mention they look really cute?

Today's weather was perfect for Emily's new dress and sweater and for Drew's dress onesie and TH khaki pants. They were adorable as we surprised Granny V with a visit to church with her this morning.

Both babies were great during the service. Emily loved the hymns and eventually fell asleep on Marty's chest. Drew was as alert as ever and decided he wanted to talk during the sermon. He can get pretty vocal, so Aunt Windy took him to the nursery where he played.

Once home, they kicked back and seemed to be as interested in the Panther's game as Marty was.

The only time they seemed any happier was when we stripped them down to their diapers and played on the floor. Go figure!





Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fall and Fans



Fall is here, and my blogging has definitely fallen off. The full impact of being back at work is starting to hit, and as usual, we have been on the go. It's hard to believe Drew and Emily will soon be four months old. So much to record, so little free time!

With hockey season starting, we are about to have even less free time. Soon, Drew and Emily will go to their first Canes' game out of utero. My, it seems like only yesterday that I was huffing and puffing my way down the stairs to our seats:



Last Thursday Marty and I used our lunch hour to take the babies to their first official Canes' event. The Eye was opening at Crabtree, and one of our favorite Canes' players, Tuomo Ruutu, was signing autographs. Drew, ever curious, waited patiently on Marty's shoulder. Emily, always unpredictable, slept peacefully in the stroller. As we inched closer, I tried to wake her up so she would be alert for the picture. No luck. She didn't wake up until it was our turn. Ruutu said something that sounded like "two!" although we are not quite sure. He graciously signed their new onesies and let us snap a quick picture.





On Saturday, Emily and Drew were able to show off their new autographed onesies at the Caniac Carnival. They enjoyed the practice session, and I did surprisely well managing my anxiety. Drew was fascinated by the lights, and he watched intently until he fell asleep. Emily wasn't as interested in the players as she was in spitting up. Good thing the onesie set came with a bib.



Last night was a home pre-season game, and Marty was itching to take them. I bought them the only ear plugs I could find--some big orange hunting ones--and also some fleece jogging sets to go over their onesies. At the last minute, I decided I just wasn't ready. I decided, instead, to just take them to eat at the Brickhouse before the game, and save the experience of their first NHL game for another night. It looks like Drew loves anything related to hockey, including pre-game traditions like the Brickhouse. It looks like Emily prefers napping over pucks.







Assuming I can locate baby ear plugs and convince Marty to wear a baby carrier, I may concede to taking them to the free pre-season game next Friday. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dear Drew



September 8, 2010

Dear Drew,
You are three months old, and you are one beautiful, smiling baby! Over the last six weeks , you have transformed into this happy baby who will grin and coo and laugh. And, when Drew smiles, the whole world smiles with Drew!

Your road to wellness was bumpy. The crying that had grown increasingly more intense and shrill was eventually diagnosed as colic and reflux. Several episodes mimicked seizures, which led your panicky mom to take you to the neurologist for an EEG. We switched formulas and medicines. We added pricey probiotics. And then one day you woke up not screaming. You started smiling and you never stopped--not even when you lost your voice at 11 weeks when you got a bad case of thrush.

While you are generally happy anywhere, you do have what we call your “happy places.” You love, love, love the changing table. All smiles there, especially when you catch us unprepared with a surprise spray. You love being around your Grandmas…all of them. You soak up Granny love. You love your swing, and it’s a sure-fire winner when we need you to nap. You love your Bumbo seat, probably because you get a better view of everything. You love the front seat of the stroller, our shoulders, the back porch--pretty much any place where you can see the world.

Now that you are not in pain, you have so much more energy to devote to learning all kinds of new things. You coo all the time, and on my first day back to work, Julie heard you say something that sounded just like MAMA three times. Your head control is getting so much better, and your head lean is gone. Looks like our exercise plan paid off! You love to turn on your side when you are playing on the floor, and if you could just get your arm out of the way, you would turn right over. Well, you already have--with a little help. This week you were on the floor having “twin time” with Emily when you went on your side. Emily, being the helpful big sister that she is, gave you a kick in the butt. You went right on over!

Another milestone that was probably more important to Mommy and Daddy than it was to you was sleeping the night. As if you knew I was going back to work, you and Emily both slept through the night at 11 weeks. We put you both down for the night at 10pm and you both slept until 7:00! Just when you had us spoiled, you woke up at 5:30, then 4:30, and then 3:30. Seems like we are now back to 6:00. We’ll take it.

You and Emily earned your first money this week. Looks like your official first job is being cute. We took you both to Hillsville, VA to the Labor Day Flea Market with Grandma, Papa, and Great-Grandma Nettie. While we were taking a break at the local Burger King, an older gentleman stopped to admire the twin cuteness. You two always have a way of attracting a crowd. Mr. William from Danville was so taken by the two of you that he gave each of you a two dollar bill. How appropriate--two dollar bills for two babies. Your first job was being adorable.

You also did your first charity work. We had a Little Pink Houses of Hope photo shoot to promote our friend Jeanine’s foundation. Daddy wouldn’t let me dress you in all pink, but he did concede to a pink bow on a white onesie. You and Emily voted, and I am sure your cute smiles persuaded a few others to vote. Regardless, Mommy had fun playing with you both.

Drew Bear, we can’t wait to see how you will amaze us next.

Love,
Mommy

Dear Emily



September 8, 2010

Dear Emily,

Today you are three months old, and I am still amazed at your perfection. I still find myself staring at your beautiful face, especially when you are asleep, and I still have a good cry when I think of you growing up too fast.

And growing fast, you are. You cut your first tooth on August 29, just shy of 12 weeks old. You found your hands a couple of weeks before that, and they kept your mouth occupied as your little tooth struggled to pop through. At your two month well check appointment, you measured in the 95% percentile, which might explain why we moved you up to Size 2 diapers this week. You continue to be so strong. When we take the bottle out of your mouth to burp you, you will stand straight up in protest. Just yesterday we learned we can’t leave you in the Boppy seat without close supervision. You have figured out how to get your feet under you and kick up. You can almost kick yourself out the top of the seat. It looks like we’ll have to move you to your crib soon because, with a few more inches, I will worry that you will be able to kick yourself out the top of the bassinet.

You do the funniest things, and I can only hope we have captured them all through pictures and video because words simply do not do them justice. For example, you will bury your face in your daddy’s chest when you are asleep, and I will freak out wondering if you can still breathe. You are still so curious and will whip your head side-to-side, looking all around. You will hold your bottle once we get it in place. You still do the stretch where you arch your back and poke your behind out, just like you did when you were in my tummy. You have these sweet pink lips that look like you are wearing lipstick, and they are even cuter when you do that funny lip smacking thing after you finish your bottle. You make formula look so good!

We have several nicknames for you. Daddy has always called you his Emmy-Doll. Lately, you have been my Emmy-Bee. Cousin Kaelyn calls you Em-Ma-Me, and now I find myself using that name for you, too. The doctor calls you Sassy. You seem to like all of your names because you just smile when we talk to you.

Eating is still one of your favorite parts of the day, and it’s funny to see you perk up at the sound of a bottle shaking. You love the back porch, and sometimes when you are crying, I will walk you out there and you will magically get quiet. We listen to the birds, the wind, and the crickets. You also like to be cuddled. Right now, you are rocking with your Daddy in the recliner. You still don’t like the small bath tub we use downstairs, but you love the big tub upstairs. We have started watching you more closely on the changing table, since, like your brother, you seem to enjoy peeing on it when your diaper comes off. You and Drew still love the swings, and by far, you both like the one we got for free over the one we paid lots of money for.

You and Drew are playing so well these days. It’s funny to see you both kicking and squealing on the floor. You seem oblivious to Drew, except to kick him, but he quiets and smiles as soon as we put you beside him. You really don’t like tummy time or your Bumbo seat, but we can usually talk you through it. Lately, you have fought taking a nap. You will cry with your eyes closed as we rock you. But, at night, you will usually talk yourself to sleep. Just a few nights ago, you laughed yourself to sleep. I sat and laughed with you.

Another big milestone was that Mommy went back to work one day shy of your 12 week birthday. I spent the weekend before turning Daddy’s man cave into a baby cave. His poker table serves as a changing table. The Play Station is packed away, and the projection screen is obscured by the swings, boppy seats, play mats, and Pack N Play. We have also taken over the smaller bonus room. It’s now officially a playroom. All the shelves are full of toys, books, and assorted baby gear. While I cried and felt so guilty leaving you two that morning, I knew you were in good hands with Julie and Cousin Kaelyn. Not only did you have the perfect room, you had someone watching you who would love and care for you as her own while I was gone. You had such a good first day, and I have the video to prove it. I love getting texts with pictures and video of you two during the day, and we are all so lucky to have someone who loves you to watch you during the day.

Emmy-Bee, we can’t wait to see how you delight us next.

Love,
Mommy

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Little Pink Babies



I am beginning to think this weekend is called LABOR DAY weekend because I have about a million things to do. Even though I may never see the end of the to-do list this weekend, I have started each day by completing one simple, yet very important task: voting for Little Pink Houses. And even though I have other things I could be doing right now, including blogging about babies, I am going to spend time doing something more urgent: explaining Little Pink Houses.

If you know me, are friends with me on Facebook, or have run into me in the last couple of weeks, then you have seen or heard something about Little Pink Houses of Hope. What is Little Pink Houses, and why am I begging you to vote?

Last June, Jeanine Patten-Coble, one of my dear friends and colleagues, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39. I still remember the shock and sadness when Jeanine calmly told me the news. In typical Jeanine style, she spent most of that conversation comforting me and asking me how I was handling the news. That’s Jeanine--always sensing what others are feeling and asking how she can help.

Since the shocking diagnosis, Jeanine has weathered chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, along with the complications that such aggressive treatment entails. I remember going to visit Jeanine during one of her hospital stays at Duke. When we arrived, we learned Jeanine was in isolation due to a possible infection. As we peered at her through the glass window, we didn’t see a weak, depressed patient. No, Jeanine was smiling and laughing as we wrote messages on paper and held them up for each other to see. That’s Jeanine--always able to make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation.

She is a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend, and even though having cancer is a full-time job, she nurtures each of these relationships with a love that has only grown deeper since her diagnosis. She can be found at her son Jake’s basketball games, enjoying a laugh with one of her brothers and sisters, spending a quiet moment with her husband Terry, giving her mom and dad a hug, or bringing her friend who just had twins a bag full of her favorite foods. That’s Jeanine--always putting people, not things, first in her life.

Last summer, right after finding out she had cancer, Jeanine, Terry, and Jake left for their annual beach trip. This beach trip would be different, though. This year she would have to find the words to tell her 12 year old son that she had cancer. Not only did she find the words to tell Jake what no other parent ever wants to have to tell her child, she also found something else--inspiration. It was during this trip that Jeanine first had the idea of Little Pink Houses, an organization that could provide week-long beach retreats to breast cancer patients and their families. That’s Jeanine--always finding a way to give instead of take.

Jeanine envisioned a place where families could come together, and love deeper, laugh harder, and live stronger. What a great idea, and what a huge undertaking. There was money to be raised, houses to be secured, volunteers to recruit, advertising to design. The task would overwhelm most corporations, let alone a single person. Jeanine, though, is no ordinary person. She took the challenge, mobilized her resources, and put her talent where her heart is. That’s Jeanine--always redefining what is possible.

Little Pink Houses is now a recognized organization, and one of its first efforts is competing for $50,000 in the Pepsi Refresh Project. Pepsi is giving away over a million dollars each month to fund great ideas. Ten winners will be chosen each month based on the number of votes received. In order to win, Jeanine and Little Pink Houses of Hope need your help. How can you help? First, vote by text message and online each day during the month of September. Next, spread the word to your family, friends, co-workers, church, and neighbors. Finally, think of how you can use your own gifts to help Little Pink Houses of Hope.

For more information on Little Pink Houses of Hope, check out the website http://www.littlepinkhousesofhope.org/.

Vote online at http://www.refresheverything.com/littlepinkhousesofhope.

View cute Little Pink Babies promoting Little Pink Houses of Hope here...






Monday, August 30, 2010

Don't Blink




I blinked, and now my babies are here. Emily is cutting her first tooth at 12 weeks, Drew is trying to roll over, and I am going back to work in a few short hours.

I should be sleeping right now. After all, the babies are down, they are sleeping through the night, and I have to be up for work for the first time since May. Instead, I am running on nervous energy. You’d think I was nesting all over again. I have cleaned the house, made bottles, washed clothes, and even planned meals for the week. Do I think that if I don’t sleep I can prolong the inevitable? Or am I struggling with my own ambivalence about returning to work and leaving the babies?

I never seriously entertained the idea of being a stay-at-home mom. I always planned to go back to work for a variety of reasons, all of which you have probably heard before. But then Emily and Drew arrived.

Suddenly my days didn’t revolve travel, meetings, coaching, and emails. They revolved around feeding, diaper changing, rocking, playing, and loving the two most precious babies in the world. It was a never-ending, all-consuming job. Honestly, much of the last 12 weeks is a blur--an awesome blur--but a blur. Marty and I ran on no sleep and leaned on family and friends to prop us up when we felt we might fall down from exhaustion. I was up early every day, and I moved all day long. I think I felt I had to be super-mom because my time at home was limited. I always felt like I should have a baby in my arms, whether I was feeding, rocking, talking, or playing. If I left them in the swing to wash bottles or take a shower, I felt like I was misplacing my priorities. By the end of some days, I was in tears, not of happiness, but of exhaustion and frustration. I couldn’t wait for Marty to relieve me so I could nap even if it was just for a few minutes. Surely, this was the hardest job I have ever had.

People have told me that going back to work will make my time with the babies even more special. I’ll be so happy to see them, and they’ll be happy to see me. I will appreciate the opportunity to feed them instead of secretly groaning that it’s time to feed--again. I will benefit from the adult company, and my babies will benefit from a saner mom. The truth is I am torn.

There’s a small part of me that is ready to go back. Secretly, I long for a quiet car ride, an uninterrupted lunch, and a reason to take a shower. And, that small part of me makes me feel terribly GUILTY. What kind of mom wants to leave her babies?

There’s a bigger part of me that hates the thought of leaving my babies. I know once I am back at work, time will fly by. I saw a quote at the doctor’s office the other day that said, “The days are long, but the years are short.” How true it is. Despite all the hard work, we developed a routine and a flow to our days, and I am sad that our babymoon is over. How much will I miss while I am in a car, at a school, having lunch, or rushing around to balance having a career, running a house, and raising twins? And, this big part of me also makes me feel terribly GUILTY. What kind of mom would leave her babies?

I know the babies will be in good hands when I leave in seven hours, and for that, I am grateful. I am going to try not to call every hour, and I am going to try to have conversations that don’t revolve around how sad I am. However, I will come armed with 300 baby pictures on my I-Phone. People may wish me back to maternity leave.

As with so much recently, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out. As Kenny Chesney sings, I am going to try to slow it down and take it all in. In that spirit, here are two videos from this weekend that show our amazing babies.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

101 Things I Worried About...




"Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties
today of its strength."


For the longest time, this quote has been my email signature. If it is true, then I know why I have stayed exhausted since last October. I worried away my pregnancy, and now that Emily and Drew are here, I have found new anxieties. Small, big, serious, frivolous, common, bizarre, far-fetched, and plausible, my worries come in all sorts of packages.

Yes, I know I must get a handle on worry because motherhood is full of uncertainty and situations I can't control....blah, blah, blah. Just because I know you're right doesn't mean it makes it any easier to quit.

No, it wasn't hard to come up with 101 worries. Even Marty doubted I could list 101 different ones, but honestly, it was a pretty quick task.

Yes, I know this list will make me look neurotic, but I am fairly certain others will see some of their own worries that they've been too afraid to voice. Worriers unite!

Yes, creating this list was therapeutic, and at the very least, it kept my mind from moving on to worry 102...at least for a little while.


While pregnant

#1 miscarriage/ seeing the heartbeats/vanishing twins
#2 differences in baby sizes on those early ultrasounds
#3 differences in heart rates
#4 gaining too much weight while pregnant
#5 not having any morning sickness
#6 misshapen uterus
#7 bleeding from low-lying placenta
#8 overdoing it while on bed rest
#9 pre-eclampsia after one high blood pressure reading
#10 Baby B's head measurements ("Maybe he just has a big head like his dad?")
#11 toxoplasmosis from cats
#12 birth defects
#13 cord becoming entangled
#14 too little movement
#15 too much movement
#16 effect of anterior placentas
#17 Baby A always having hiccups
#18 safety of any medicine I was given during pregnancy
#19 gestational diabetes after I failed 1 hour test
#20 gall bladder
#21 flying while pregnant
#22 danger of smoke in casinos while in Vegas
#23 danger of too much laptop use
#24 drinking too much or too little water
#25 that deli meat turkey sandwich I had at Panera
#26 swollen feet, ankles, hands
#27 going into labor too soon
#28 ultrasound tech possibly being wrong about genders

As delivery day approached

#29 Baby B being breech
#30 c-section pain
#31 the spinal
#32 where babies would sleep when they came home
#33 whether I would be able to breastfeed
#34 if my babies would be healthy
#35 if my babies would be cute

At the hospital

#36 going back for my spinal all by myself
#37 the health of my babies
#38 losing my uterus if they couldn't stop my hemorrhage
#39 safety of the two pints of blood I received
#40 germs from hospital visitors
#41 sending the babies to the nursery for a few hours at night
#42 the nursery mixing up my babies
#43 not having any milk for breastfeeding
#44 Drew after his circumcision
#45 Emily losing weight due to her jaundice
#46 the safety of the Hep B vaccine
#47 the lady taking them away for their hearing test

Now that they are here

#48 giving up on breastfeeding too soon
#49 bonding
#50 safety of the water I used to mix their formula
#51 BPA in formula cans
#52 germs in public places
#53 swaddling them too tight
#54 cutting their fingernails
#55 driving them alone for the first time
#56 other people holding my babies
#57 color of poop
#58 number of poops
#59 Drew losing his hair
#60 safety of their bassinets
#61 SIDS
#62 reflux
#63 seizures
#64 Emily gaining too much weight
#65 Drew gaining too little weight
#66 their IQ
#67 their future social skills
#68 Drew's neck that leaned to the right
#69 cat hair on the babies' stuff ("Are my babies getting a hair ball?")
#70 painful gas...Drew, not me.
#71 my mental health
#72 potential neurological problems
#73 dying before seeing my babies grow up
#74 gas fumes in the car
#75 Drew not doing the same things at the same time Emily did
#76 spending too much time with one baby and not enough with the other
#77 room being too hot, too cold, too windy, too dark, too light
#78 taking their temperature "there"
#79 going to the pediatrician too much and being that mom
#80 flat heads
#81 Drew's hoarse cry
#82 not enough tummy time
#83 too much swing time ("We're going to swing them stupid.")
#84 safety of vaccines...is it bad I decided not to stagger??
#85 whooping cough...it's making a comeback, you know!
#86 napping too much
#87 napping too little
#88 rashes...just heat? allergic to detergent? a reaction to the formula?
#89 holding too much or too little
#90 babies forgetting me when I go back to work
#91 time passing too quickly
#92 thumb sucking
#93 temperature of bath water
#94 thinking about if I will ever feel like my old self again
#95 endocrine disruptors...yes, I spent a day reading about it.
#96 falling down the stairs while carrying a baby
#97 possibility of long-term subconscious damage to babies from hearing Marty and I yell at each other
#98 neighborhood schools? private school?
#99 the national debt my children will inherit
#100 our financial future...two cars, two college funds
#101 worrying too much

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

11 places in 11 weeks


Getting ready for their first car ride ever

My how time flies when you are always on the go! Emily and Drew were 11 weeks old yesterday, and in the last 11 weeks, we have managed to squeeze in quite a few stops. This blog post is not only a chronicle of their adventures, it is also a tribute to my triumph over fear--fear of germs in public places infecting my babies. Grab your hand sanitizer, and hold on to your diaper bags and pacis as we take a tour of our recent stops.


#1 Doctor Appointments

On our first day on home from the hospital, Emily and Drew had their first pediatrician appointment. Due to Emily's jaundice and my lactation consultant appointment, we had two more appointments in the first week. My dad, Papa Ray, helped me during those appointments so Marty could work. We then had well check appointment at 2 weeks, 1 month, and 2 months. Drew had a few more appointments as we worked to diagnose and treat his reflux. With insurance co-pays at $50 per visit, let's just say we could have taken a really nice vacation for what we have paid our loving pediatricians.

#2 Pottery Place
For Marty's first Father's Day, I wanted to have the babies' foot prints made. We wanted until late in the afternoon to take them to a local pottery shop. I went in first to scope out the place to make sure it wasn't full of germy kids. Thankfully, the place was pretty empty, and we were able to get their tiny prints on a ceramic plate. That reminds me--I must get back there sometime to finish it. Still apprehensive about taking them out in public, we decided to get take-out from Outback on our way home that evening instead of actually going in the restaurant.



#3 Grandma and Papa's House
My mom has a crib just for them, although I often find them in the bed with Grandma and Papa. Too young for the playhouse out back, they play on the floor or lay on someone's chest. Their first night away from us was with Grandma and Papa, and they also stayed there when we went away for a much-needed weekend away. Even though I knew they were in good hands, I called at least every 3 hours. Guess I was missing those every-three hour-feedings.





#4 Restaurants
I do believe the first restaurant trip was to Andy's. Again, we went late in the afternoon, and we were the only people in the place. I made Marty keep their car seats covered with blankets, and we turned them to face the wall so if people came in, they wouldn't try to gawk at them or touch them. From there, we increasingly took them out more and more. Tonight we counted at least 12 different restaurants we have visited with the babies. So far, we haven't had to leave due to a fussy baby. They must love eating out as much as we do. Uh oh.

#5 The beach
Well, almost. The week after July 4th, we went to my parent's camper at the beach. We never saw the beach, and I only left the camper once, and that was to buy more formula. We enjoyed the time with family, and the babies loved the car ride. They slept all the way there and all the way back.


#6 Roanoke Rapids
Always up for a good car ride, the babies cooed at the chance to ride with Marty to take Grandma Vivian home. We have been lucky to have Marty's mom here Sunday-Tuesday to help. Driving her home is the least we can do. The babies slept all the way there, and after a quick feed and change, we headed back home.

#7 Wal-Mart and Target
These trips were the hardest for me. I guess Emily and Drew were somewhere around 6-7 weeks when I finally gave in. Unable to find a bubble big enough to put them in, I instead rigged their double stroller to keep out as many air-borne germs and curious onlookers as possible. While people couldn't touch, it didn't stop them from stopping us to ask how many babies we had in there or if our boy/girl twins are identical.


#8 Great-Grandma Nettie's House
Nobody spoils babies like a great-grandma! We spent the night with my grandma, and Emily and Drew loved being the center of attention. We ended the visit with a Sunday lunch at a local restaurant before packing up and heading to Babies R Us and then home.



#9 Downtown Festival
Getting a bit bored with our social calendar consisting of doctor visits, restaurant, and big box store trips, we decided to pack up the kids and head to Raleigh Wide Open, a downtown street festival. Although it was July 31 in NC, it was surprisingly cool, probably because of the rain that fell off and on all day. Emily and Drew slept well thanks to the rumble of the stroller wheels over the pavement. Other parents of multiples must have had the same idea because we saw at least 5 sets of twins and 1 set of triplets. Guess we all needed the fresh air!

#10 My Office
Now a pro at taking the babies out on my own, I ventured to my office in early August to show off the babies. It was a change to see adult faces, and it's always nice to get a break for a few minutes when people eagerly want to hold the babies. They didn't even mind when Emily and Drew did their customary spit-up on their nice, clean shirts.

#11 Mall
We have visited 3 malls. We like to go just to walk around, especially at Triangle where they have an outdoor concert area. During one trip, we introduced them to Barnes and Noble and bought them each a book to commemorate their visit. Of course, no trip to the mall would be complete with a trip to Gymboree or Crazy 8. These kids have WAY more clothes than they will ever wear, but Mommy sure is having a good time!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love...Twin Style


A few years back, I read Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. I remember relating to the need to escape after a messy divorce and the search to find truth and fulfillment in the face of uncertainty. Of course, I couldn't relate to having my trip of a lifetime paid for with a nice book advance, but, overall, the book was a satisfying summer snack. This summer, women who don't have 11 week old twins to feed can slip off to the movies to see Julia Roberts eat, pray, and love her way to self-actualization.

At our house, we are engaged in eating, praying, and loving of a different sort.

It recently occurred to me how much of our life revolves around eating. A family member is taking a psychology course and is studying the different theories of human behavior, including Maslow's hierarchy. Seeing her notes reminded me how far down the pyramid we exist these days. Maslow says that, as humans, we must attend first to our most basic needs, such as eating, breathing, and sleeping. When these needs are met, we can then move up the hierarchy to other needs: safety, social, esteem, and finally, self-actualization. While having children has provided me priceless moments of self-actualization, it has also provided me with the profound responsibility of being the provider of all things essential for two brand-new human beings.

No one could have prepared us for how all-consuming feeding twins would be. We tried to be prepared. We took a breastfeeding class, bought the twin breastfeeding pillow, and arranged for a pump rental. I made Marty promise he would be my cheerleader when I was ready to quit. During those days in the hospital, I gave it my all. The lactation consultants were great, but unfortunately, they couldn't provide the one thing I needed: milk. I persevered, but the babies needed more. Mentally, I was breaking down...fast. I had two babies who each needed to eat at least every three hours. It was taking me at least an hour and a half to feed them both. Then I needed to pump. By the time I finished, it was time to do it all again. Everyone wanted to help, but no one could do what I needed them to do the most: feed. Finally, I succumbed to the call of formula, and from there, breastfeeding eventually gave way to exclusive formula feeding by 6-7 weeks. Certainly, convenience wasn't the only factor that ended my career as a breast-feeder. My own health issues made breast feeding not always the best choice. Ultimately, it is what it is. Yes, I feel guilty, but I also know that my babies are growing just fine, and they have benefited from a mom who is slightly less frazzled.

Make no mistake. Bottle feeding didn't make things easy-peasy. At 11 weeks, we are still feeding around every 3 hours during the day and averaging around 15 dirty bottles a day. Both are eating between 4-6 ounces at a time. At night we do our last feeding around 10. On a good night, they don't wake again until 5. Sometimes we still get the joy of a 3 am feed.

Andrew is now on Nutramigen, the ultra-pricey lactose-free formula, which has helped tremendously with his reflux. At $20 for a small can, it should also sing a lullaby to him at night. Emily is eating Premium Lipil or the AR, which is the "added rice" version. On the pediatrician's recommendation, both babies get a bit of rice cereal in each bottle to help with reflux. We are happy to be wooed by the big formula manufacturer who hooks us with free samples, coupons, and rebate checks. I will say it is a bit embarrassing to have Marty poor-mouth to the pediatrician in order to get more free samples, though. The last time we were there, he made it sound like we were on the verge of me selling my body to feed them! We may not have pride, but we have 4 more cans of Nutramigen.

At their two month well check, Drew weighed in at 12lbs, 2.5 oz, and Emily tipped the scales at 13lbs, 4 oz. While we have battled reflux and spit-up, both babies are gaining well, and Emily routinely gives her feedings an approving lip-smack.

Feeding twins is only part of our food story. Between feeding babies, we must also make time to feed ourselves. Unfortunately, we didn't have the best eating habits before the twins arrived. We have always eaten out too much and cooked too little. We spend too much money on food that is not good for us, while using eating out as our primary social activity. Despite having very little time, we can't ignore the truth any longer. Neither of us is getting any younger or lighter or wealthier. I still have almost 10 pounds of baby weight to lose, not to mention the 10-15 pounds I wanted to shed before I got pregnant. I also learned on Friday that I might have some gall bladder issues. I am a bit scared of my upcoming physical and the updated cholesterol numbers. Since Andrew and Emily were born, I have become so much more aware of the importance of good health. I need to feel better so I can take care of them, and quite selfishly, I want to live a really long time so I can watch them grow into the beautiful people I know they will become.

We are trying to make some changes to our own eating habits that will hopefully save us money and make us healthier. Last week, I ordered Body by Vi shakes and vitamins. My sister-in-law, Windy, sells them and highly recommends them both for weight loss and good health. Our plan is to try the shakes for breakfast, which has to be better than skipping breakfast, consuming too much coffee, or grabbing a fast food fix. I am currently guilty of all of the above. In addition to giving up fast food for a least one month, we signed up for E-mealz, a meal planning service recommended by Dave Ramsey. We printed our first week's plan and bought our groceries last night. We are hoping the plan will solve two of our biggest obstacles to cooking: what to buy and what to cook. Stayed tuned for updates on our progress.

So how about praying and loving twin-style? Well, having our twins is definitely an answer to many prayers. Now that they are here, I find myself praying for the wisdom and strength to raise these babies to be compassionate, responsible, happy, God-loving individuals. I pray for their health and protection, and I pray for a world, scary and fallen, that Emily and Drew face.

The loving part is easy. I loved them before they were ever conceived, and I love them more now than I ever believed possible. With twins, it's double everything except for love. My love is for them is infinite, and I didn't have to go Italy, India, or Indonesia to find it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CAT-tastrophe


Free to ANY home: 3 cats who will systematically and methodically destroy your home; will deliver with full month's supply of prescription food, expensive litter, and a fancy water bowl. Will throw in hair on your sofa and hairballs on your floor for free. No returns allowed.

I hate Marty's cats. Yes, I know hate is a strong word, and what kind of person really hates cute, furry cats? ME.

As Marty so often reminds me, I knew the cats were part of the deal when I married him. True. But, at the time, I didn't have 2 babies to take care of or to worry about.

Yesterday, I was released on good behavior to go outside to do the trimming. After throwing the weed eater across the yard because it wouldn't start, I decided to come inside to cool off before going to the store to buy a trimmer I can actually start on my own.

Marty was in his office, attempting to vacuum a week's worth of cat litter and hair off the rug. I decided to take over because at least I knew I could operate the vacuum. I sent him to deal with the evil weed eater. Bad idea.

I should have left him in there to deal with the mess. Calling the room an "office" is a misnomer. It is a cat house--an expensive, oversized cat house. Maybe not even a house--more like a cat poop room because it holds their 3 litter boxes. A house would imply that they stay in there, but no, they sleep anywhere but in there--usually on my couch or my rug or my pillows. No, in their posh bathroom, they kick out litter all over what was once a nice rug. Yes, I have tried bigger litter boxes. If the things were any bigger they would need steps. Then there's the food bowl they knock over, sending little kibbles all over the place, most commonly under a desk or cabinet, making it twice as hard to use the vacuum attachment to clean it up. Oh, I almost forgot the dust. Even though we use the expensive litter that is supposed to attract them to the boxes (since one of them likes to pee in other places), it still isn't dustless. Add another chore to the list. Note to self--Add a dust mask to the TO BUY list.

You may be thinking that this is really Marty's problem. After all, he's the one who has to work in there. Well, yes and no. First, I am convinced he's going to catch some nasty cat-bourne disease. I need him healthy to feed and provide for babies. Furthermore, I do use the closet in that room for my work stuff as well as the desktop computer for printing. I shouldn't have to done a protective suit and mask to enter a room in my own home. And, their nastiness extends beyond their palatial bathroom that I resentfully work to pay for.

Outside of the office, they leave their calling cards everywhere. Hair on the furniture, on the floor, on the rugs, on my clothes, and now on the baby stuff... I should own stock in those sticky roller thingees and Swiffer cloths. Adding to the stress is the fact that I am mildly OCD, so now I obsessively try to hide and cover all things that the babies use that the cats might contaminate. I can't leave their playmat out or their bobby pillows unsupervised. These cats are drawn to the forbidden. Like a radar-driven missile, they will hone in on the one thing I don't want them to lay on.

Since someone reading this blog might be eating, I won't go into great detail about the hairballs that I have to clean up. Let's just say it adds another chore to my list, and it strikes fear in my heart as I think about my babies eventually crawling around on the floor.

While I was pregnant, I went to war against the cats, and I made some strides. I was in the middle of nesting, fueled by raging hormones, when I came downstairs to find that one of them had peed on my new recliner and my canvas bag. Yes, it was not lost on me that they chose MY things. Then, unprovoked, one of them bit my foot. Sure, my foot did look like a sausage, but that doesn't give a cat the right to chomp on it. I threatened to hire a housekeeper. I looked up the numbers for no-kill shelters. I bought a baby gate to keep them from going upstairs. I've been meaning to buy a gun-- a water gun-- to shoot them when I catch them on a counter. I've just been using the closest thing I can find to throw at them for now. Before you call Animal Protection, no cats have been hurt--yet.

Judge me if you will. But, first, walk a mile in my cat-hair covered shoes. I am trying to take care of two babies and all that entails while keeping the house sanitary enough for human habitation. I am also a new mom, wary of any toxin that might harm my children. I am weak from the cat fight, yet I keep going, because like a lioness protecting her cubs, I must protect my babies.

As an added insult and challenge, I will put on my cat-hair covered black dress pants and return to work in a week. I work so we can afford to keep the cats in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. I will drive away from the hair balls, worrying not only if my children will forget me while I am gone, but also if they will accidentally ingest some cat by-product or be eaten by some over-zealous cat. And when I get home from a long day's work, after loving on my babies, I will begin cleaning again.

That is, unless someone wants to take me up on the "free to any home" offer...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sleeping like a baby




Once upon another lifetime ago, I was a great sleeper. I could get my straight 8 or 10 and then turn around and take a nap that afternoon. Some may call it laziness; I call it talent. I regularly listed napping as a hobby. Since Andrew and Emily arrived 10 weeks ago today, I have become a sleep dropout.

While in the hospital, I reluctantly sent the babies to the nursery for just a couple of hours a night so I could get a little sleep. I remember feeling so guilty. Everyone told me to take advantage of the sleep because I would wish I had it once I got home. Unfortunately, there is no way to bank sleep, and even if you could, our account would have been depleted the first night home.

As we put Em and Drew in the co-sleeper that first night, we naively climbed into bed thinking we may get 30 minutes or so of sleep at a time. Then the crying started. I can't even remember who started first. Maybe they were hungry. Still trying to breastfeed without a milk supply, I hooked up the complicated SNS system and fed. And fed. And fed. Marty even tried to help by syringe feeding. The crying continued. Maybe they were hot, or cold, or wet. We swaddled, unswaddled, and changed diapers all through the night. We put them in bouncy seats in the co-sleeper because we thought they may not like the co-sleeper. We took them out of the bouncy seats because I worried about them being able to breathe. We dug through the nursery to find pacifers that we thought we would never use. We would get one of them quiet and the other would start. All. night. long. Finally, at 7:00 am, we gave up the charade of "sleeping" and eagerly began getting ready for our first pediatrician appointment. Surely, they would have an answer.

We learned at the appointment that the most likely culprit for the night of endless screaming was hunger. Our babies needed and wanted more than the meager amount we were instructed to use in SNS system. I still didn't have milk, which is sort of important if you want to breastfeed twins. I began to think milk coming in was some sort of myth. I took the formula and sent family to buy more bottles. By the second night home, with the help of bottles and family, we did get a couple of hours of sleep.

We joked before the twins were born that if they took after me, they would have no problem sleeping. As I look back over the last 10 weeks, I have to say they have slept relatively well. We don't have those super sleepers who slept through the night the first month. We have, however, made progress. In the beginning, they were up every hour and a half to eat. Until about 6 weeks, we were doing two middle of the night feedings. Now, we give baths, put on jammies, get a bedtime bottle and are down by 10, and they aren't getting up until 3, 4, and sometimes even 5. We abandoned the co-sleeper and haven't been able to transition to the cribs yet. For now, we are still using the best baby item ever-- the Fisher Price rocker bassinet. I will be so sad when they finally outgrow those things! We each take a baby for the night, and whenever my baby wakes, I get up for the feeding. This system has been a lifesaver, as we both are able to get back to sleep faster than when I was trying to do it all.

Our days have also become more regular, too. After an early morning bottle, they usually go back to sleep until 9. From there, we have play time then another nap. We eat again. We play again. We sleep again. Most daytime naps are in the swings, but occasionally, they will let me put them both down together for a "twin time" napping.

As for mommy and daddy, we are getting by on less. Surprisingly, though, I don't miss the sleep like I thought I would. Despite the well-meaning advice, I don't nap when the babies nap. When the babies nap, I wash bottles, baby clothes, or mommy. I get the best sleep on the weekends when Marty keeps the babies downstairs, and I go to bed around 9:00. He gets the bedtime feedings and sometimes the overnight ones. Family has also been a big help. Marty's sister and mom come down almost every week, and they help with feedings, cleaning, and cooking, which has allowed me to get rest. My parents even kept the twins for the weekend so we could have a romantic get-away to the beach. Napping is the new romantic.

All in all, I feel like I am running on mommy adrenaline. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I need rest. Yes, I complain. And, yes, I love it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tummy Troubles


Yes, I realize that I am not being the timely blogger that I had hoped to be. Who has time to blog when you have doctor visits to keep you busy? Together, the babies and I have racked up seven doctor visits in the past week. After one of the scariest weeks of my life, I think I can finally breathe and blog.



Our drama started over a month ago when I took Drew to the pediatrician for suspected reflux. Inconsolable crying for no apparent reason, painful face when taking his bottle, avoiding the bottle, kicking and stiffening his legs...I had one unhappy baby. Reluctantly, we started Zantac, and for a while, my baby was a bit better. He still cried--a lot. Then, last Monday, things seemed to take a turn for the worse. I'll spare the details of his vomiting. Let's just say mommy was a mess--physically and emotionally. So back to the pediatrician we go. This time we get Prilosec and hear the dreaded "c" word--colic.



While we wait for the magic 3-4 month mark when the colic supposedly disappears, we try to get him to take the Prilosec to no avail. He vacillates between a sweet, playful baby and a screaming, miserable baby. Mommy tetters on the edge of sanity. I feel inadequate as I attempt to console him and feel guilty as I once again put him in the swing to silence him.



On Thursday, after an unusually good tummy time session, Drew begins to scream violently and reacts in a way that looked way too much like what a seizure might look like in a baby. With my tummy in knots, I call the pediatrician who believes I witnessed a reaction to the acid reflux since he really hadn't had a full dose of medicine all week. We get a third change in medicine- this time to Previcid. Nervously, I watch my baby, fearing every twitch and stare. I call in reinforcements because, by this point, I am a wreck. Thank goodness for family.

Friday brings three more "episodes." Finally, someone other than me sees one of them. And, we're off to an emergency ped visit. The doctor is patient and thorough, and while she doubts Drew is having seizures, she believes it warrants a neurological evaulation. It was going to be a long weekend...

At this point, I am doubting my gut instincts. Maybe my mommy intuition is all off. After all, I am a classic worry wart who spent her entire pregnancy suffering from one imagined medical crisis after another. Sick to my stomach with worry, I ask everyone around me to be my personal Tums--watch my baby and tell me if you see anything weird. Surrounding myself with support soothes me through the weekend.

We also do our best to sooth Drew. We change his formula to a lactose-free version. We continue the Previcid. We use our newly-acquired baby massage skills. We shoosh and sway and swing. Maybe the best thing we did was give him a triple dose of Grandma loving. In one weekend, he was loved on by both grandmas and his Great-Grandma Nettie. Oh, how I love how thet make him smile!

Monday brought two more doctor visits. We started the day with 2 month well checks. Both babies are gaining well. Emily got her shots while we waited on Drew's. With one cranky, mildly feverish baby at home, I set off alone with Drew to the neurologist.

After an exam, the neurologist explained the difficulty in diagnosing infant seizures. Tummy troubles can mimic seizures, and without an EEG, he couldn't rule out my fears. Before sending us over to the lab, he gave me a sample of probiotics to try since, according to him, most babies are lacking the good bacteria they need, and thus can end up with painful tummies.

While Drew slept through most of the EEG, Mommy cried. While I rocked him and prayed, I wished someone was there to hold me. I felt helpless and alone as I waited for the all the wires and tape to come off. I felt crushed by the weight of my love for him, the force of fear of sickness, the magnitude of responsibility for two babies, and the burden of guilt for not being at home with Emily.

Tuesday brought good news. Drew's EEG was clear. We are to continue the probiotics and follow up in two weeks.

Right now, I am celebrating by holding two happy, sleeping babies in my arms, while typing with one hand. I am going to wrap up thus entry, though, so I can enjoy a few minutes of quiet time with them before they wake and want their tummies filled--again.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What's with the letters?


“A Letter is a Joy of Earth”
~Emily Dickinson

I love Emily. Of course, I mean Emily Anne first, but I also love Emily, as in Dickinson, the poet. Most know Emily Dickinson for her slant rhyme poetry or for her eccentric reclusiveness. What is less known is the fact that Emily was a prolific letter writer. She wrote hundreds and hundreds of letters to family and friends, letters that not only sustained relationships during her years of seclusion but letters that also revealed much about Emily’s life and thoughts.

Like Emily, I love letters. How special it is to go to the mailbox and have a personal letter, written just for you. How special it is to be able to go back to the words written by a loved one long after the memory of a fleeting conversation has faded.

When Marty and I were discussing whether or not we should write our own wedding vows, I suggested that we write letters instead, letters we could privately exchange on our wedding day. As I sat on the balcony all alone the night before our wedding writing my letter to Marty, I realized that putting words to why I love him was harder than I expected. Cliches just wouldn’t do. By the time I finished, I also realized that writing my letter had clarified my thinking, taken me back through precious memories, and made me fall in love all over again. So now, in the daily hustle of life, when we are frustrated and exhausted, if we can find a minute, we can go back to those letters for a gentle reminder of our love for each other.

In the epistolary tradition, I commemorated Emily and Drew’s first six weeks with personal letters to each of them. As I read back through the letters, I realized the letters speak to each child’s unique self while introducing the beginning of a love story. Quite unexpectedly, though, I found they also reveal much about me, the writer—a proud, super-emotional new mom.

So now you know what's with the letters :-) Maybe I have inspired you to consider a little letter writing. I know we're all busy. Shoot, I typed most of Emily and Drew's letters with one hand while holding one of them in the other! But I am glad I did it because I bet I won't have anymore time in the weeks and months to come. So I leave you with a few questions to get you thinking...Have you written a letter lately? Do you have someone in your life that would love to have a special note written just for him/her? Do you have a moment in time that you want to capture? Maybe start with a short note? Regardless of the length or subject matter, I bet that both you and the lucky recipient will find a bit of joy in it.
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