MEANWHILE … DAY 2

We were excited to get going and found ourselves up, ready and out the door by 8:30AM. (It helped that it was Pacific time!). Jim said he wanted to pick up a camera, and that he had packed the wrong pants for the rehearsal dinner that night. They weren’t a great match to the shirt he had, and since we knew there would be lots of picture taking, we decided to find a Target, Kohl’s or some such store to take care of both things at once. We drove around for a while looking ourselves, and finally stopped to ask for directions. We were told there was a mall a couple of blocks away. It was nice to see some of the area. I really enjoy driving and walking through residential areas while vacationing to see how people live in other areas.

We found the mall, and I hit the Lego store first with the boys so Jim could go into Filene’s. He was shocked that the least expensive pair of pants he could find were $50.00. I told him this is what happens when you don’t hit the sales and wait until you need something. He next experienced sticker shock when he went to the shoe department and found that the least expensive pair of boat shoes was $75.00. I told him not to pack the night before anymore, make his purchases and let’s hit the road. He bought the pants, and decided he would look for shoes in a few shoe stores we had seen listed on the directory. While he did this, I wandered around the mall with the boys. Jim didn’t have any luck in the shoe stores, so we ended up looking in Sears. He found shoes for $40, (just what he wanted), and I suggested we see what they had for pants. We found a pair he liked on sale for $25.00. He was thrilled with his bargain. We made our way back through the mall to buy the camera. While he did this, he made his return at Filene’s, and the boys’ and I picked up lunch for us all. We ate while he bought the camera, and FINALLY, four hours later, we were ready to have a few hours of fun.

I had suggested we take all our belongings we would need for the rehearsal dinner with us so we would be able to stay in the city. (It was about an hour commute, depending on traffic, which there always was no matter the time of day or night. We think it was from being in close proximity to the airport). We headed into San Fran, taking the scenic route along the Embarcedero past Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, and because it was close to the time we would have to meet everyone in Sausalito, went directly to Cavallo Point. Cavallo Point is part of Fort Baker, and it is my understanding that this was an old Army base which has been transformed into a recreational center. The Officer’s housing has been transformed into rooms for guests, and there is a restaurant, and banquet facility on the premises. This is the location for the wedding and reception. The rehearsal dinner was to be held here, but there was a conflict with scheduling at the last minute, so it was moved off sight. Many guests opted to rent some of the afore mentioned rooms, which made it nice that they could walk (or stumble?) back to their rooms instead of drive.

We changed our clothes and meet Brian and Karen for the rehearsal. It went smoothly, and afterwards we all gathered in the bar, and all of the extended family from out of town meet us there. It was a great opportunity to meet and mingle with Jim’s family. Many of them I had never met because everyone lives so far away from the East Coast. After a few cocktails, we headed into Sausalito for the rehearsal dinner. I knew some family would be there, but what I hadn’t realize was that Brian and Karen had invited all of her family and the entire Cassidy clan. We must have had 40 people gathered. It was a great time, and it had the festive atmosphere of a wedding. After 4 hours, Chad had had enough, and once he finished his dessert announced it was time to leave. We headed out, ready for a good nights sleep in preparation for the BIG DAY!

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DIFFERENT STROKES

Even though Grant and Maria are genetic siblings and spent seven years frozen in a straw together and seven months in my uterus side by side, they are very different. Besides the obvious differences in the way they the look, they have many other different traits.

Eating: Maria is more finicky. She was adamant awhile back that she didn’t like bottles. Only when we switched to a faster flow nipple did she stop protesting. Additionally, if she’s too tired or overly stimulated she won’t take her bottle. This is one reason why I try to work my schedule so they only get two bottles a day. It’s also not uncommon for her to leave an ounce or two. Grant will eat whenever, wherever. He also works under the same premise that our dog does, which is he’ll eat as much as you give him because if it’s too much, he can always throw it up later. Lately Maria has been too busy “talking” to focus on nursing and often nurses for half the time as Grant. She looks up and tells me all about her day whereas Grant focuses on filling his ever-expanding Buddha belly.

Sleeping: Grant goes to sleep easier, but has more trouble staying asleep. Maria fights bedtime tooth and nail, but once asleep she doesn’t readily wake up during the night except once to eat. Grant is more likely to stir and not be able to settle himself back down without a pacifier, rocking or nursing; Maria will sometimes talk and coo while she falls back to sleep after nursing. The one area where they are the same is the need to be swaddled to sleep. Both cannot sleep for any length of time if they aren’t snugly wrapped. I’m encouraging Jeremy to help them wean off the swaddle, but he says he’s not opposed to using bed sheets, if necessary.

Physical Milestones: Grant is ahead of Maria in physical development. He can readily hang out on his tummy and lift his head and has rolled over. Maria despises tummy time and has not rolled yet, even though she’s close. She prefers to spin herself in circles while on her back. Grant has found his feet and is super pumped about this. Maria has found one foot, but isn’t all that impressed with this achievement. Grant prefers his bouncy seat to the Bumbo seat because he can grab his feet. He also has an impressive arch, which he uses to try to propel himself backward off the changing table making diaper changes a bit challenging. I think he’s going to be the first to crawl and walk. Maria is going to observe first and make sure it’s worth doing, which is a lot like my personality.
People: Maria doesn’t like people, or rather, only likes a few people. This trait will one day make her a good Human Resources professional like her mother. (Side bar note: if you are ever interviewing for an HR job and they ask why you want to be in HR, don’t say it’s because you like people. It’s a huge turn off.) Maria’s very smiley and friendly with those she knows well, but is wary of new situations and strangers; again a trait that I embody. Grant just loves people and is a total ham. If he’s unhappy with a lot of people around it’s only because he’s hungry or tired. Otherwise, he’s going to easily make friends and thinks that everyone is great. Jeremy always made friends easily. When we were in college we could walk across campus together and he knew tons of people, where I only knew one or two people.

It’ll be interesting to see how their differences play out as they get older. Hopefully, they don’t pool their resources and use their different strengths to conspire against us.

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THE BROKENHEARTED

On Thursday nights I attend Sheltering Tree Fertility Support Group Bible study. We are studying Stepping Up by Beth Moore. One of the topics was about being real which the group discussed in detail.

I shared how hard it was for me at times to attend church and see all the families with their beautiful children that I so wanted as well. One lady shared that even though she now has two children, she still does not attend church on Mother’s Day; it is just too painful. Then another woman shared that she had written a note to her pastor to let him know to include those who had lost children as well as Mother’s whose children are still here on earth.

I thought that was a great idea and that as infertile women we should educate others on how painful and left out we can feel even at church. This is why it is important for those who have been on the infertility journey and are on the other side to speak up and let people know they are not alone. Going through infertility can also make one feel distant from God, but I would like for people to take the challenge to hold on tight to his word during such a difficult time.

This week in my Bible study the following passage came up and then again in church, so I thought it was fitting that I share it with you as well. “The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous face many troubles, but the LORD rescues them from each and every one.” Psalm 34:17-19 (NLT). And since October is the Campaign for Healthier Babies Month, I think it is important to remember all the babies who were lost, especially our own!

OUT AND ABOUT

Grant and Maria have been pretty busy lately. They went to their first football game last weekend, which Jeremy and I deemed a successful outing. We tailgated for several hours and made it through the first half of the game. This game is an annual tradition for my family. Two of the local all boy Catholic schools, St. X and Trinity, have one of the largest rivalry’s in the country, with nearly 40,000 people coming out every year to watch. My dad and brother are graduates of St. X; so naturally, we’re there to root for the Tigers. Unfortunately this year, they didn’t really show up to play and were way down at half time. In an effort to prevent any major meltdowns, we decided to go on home and get them in bed. I think they were both a bit shell shocked by all the noise and people. Grant’s eyes were bigger than normal as we left the game and Maria would doze on and off only to wake and stare wide eyed at her surroundings. Jeremy hoped that this would make them appreciate the nice calm and quiet environment we try to create for them most evenings.

This weekend my mom was out of town, so we took them to the church nursery while we went to service. This was a failed outing. We dropped them off about 15 minutes before service began and I didn’t have a good feeling. Maria was a bit grumpy and if you aren’t familiar with her proclivities, she can be a tough nut to crack when it comes to getting her settled. You have to find the right combination of position, bouncing and patting, and sometimes she changes it up as soon as you think you’ve got it. Less than fifteen minutes into the service I saw one of our numbers come up on the screen. I figured it was Maria and upon arrival into the nursery, found that I was right. The team leader asked what they could do for her and I knew that she probably needed a quiet room and one on one time, which they can’t do. I took her to nurse hoping she would calm enough to go back into the nursery. She quickly calmed down and I thought I would return her and hoped to hear most of the sermon. Upon my arrival back to the nursery, Grant was now crying. I attempted to hand Maria back over, but she immediately started screaming. At that point, I took her back, and then said I would take Grant, too. He was sleepy and we had inadvertently left his pacifier in the car, so it was unlikely that he would easily settle. I made my way back to the sanctuary carrying both babies. I thought I would get Jeremy and we could go to the cry room. There must have been something in the air because the cry room was nearly full and Maria was doing her best to disturb everyone. It’s the cry room, so why not? At this point I missed communion and the first part of the sermon and the situation was rapidly deteriorating. We made the executive decision to go home. Once we went outside both babies were quiet and by the time we made it home they were both smiling and happy. Total turkeys!

Next weekend we’ll take them back to church for Baby Dedication. My only hope is that they got their fussing out this weekend and we’ll have a non-eventful trip in front of the congregation. Nonetheless, I will not be surprised if Grant decides to spew his entire stomach contents and Maria belts out a blood curdling scream when it’s our turn to be introduced. What precious gifts from God. Pray for us!

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WHIRLWIND WEDDING WEEKEND; DAY 1

I would say our day started out bright and early, but the bright part would be a lie. We had a 6am flight (EST), so the alarm started going off around 3am. We left for the airport a little after 4am, and it is quite dark at that hour. We were fortunate to be early enough to miss the rush hour traffic that Hartford is notorious for, parked our vehicle with ease at one of the shuttle services, and found ourselves checking in with the airlines ahead of schedule. That all changed once we hit the lines for the security check. We had decided to take our suitcases as carry-ons, because we were traveling light, and didn’t want to run the risk of having a suit or dress for the wedding go missing. That meant that we would have liquids, and I thought I had packed them in a quart size sealable bag, but it was a gallon, and TSA had a field day. They sent Jim on a wild goose chase for a bag at any one of the airline counters, but there weren’t any. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them there at security, even if you had to pay for it? Needless to say, I argued that you could clearly see the amount of items would fit in a smaller bag (2 travel size cans of shaving cream, a tube of acne cream, a lip gloss, bottle of nail polish and one travel size body wash). No dice, it was pitched.

After that aggravation, I thought we would be all set. The weather wasn’t great (it had been pouring for a day or so and was still raining), but the flight wasn’t delayed. That is until we were all boarded, than an announcement was made that we would be delayed 20 – 30 minutes due to the inclement weather. We had a small plane for the flight to Cleveland, and we were warned to expect turbulence. The pilot wasn’t kidding; a few minutes into the flight it felt like we had taken a drop on a roller coaster! I thought for sure I was going to be sick, but after we leveled out and it became smoother I was fine. All the turbulence was a result of bad weather, and these conditions complicated matters by delaying our arrival. Our connecting flight was scheduled for 9:25am, and our ETA was 9:30am. We had never been in this airport, so the layout was unfamiliar. We knew we had to go from Concourse A to Concourse C, and we decided I would take all our small carryon bags we had stowed under the seats, along with Joel and Chad in the stroller. Jim and Ryan were waiting to collect the bags from the overhead compartments, and literally ran to the Concourse with them in tow. Needless to say, we were the last ones to board, but we were just happy we had made it. What I forgot to mention earlier was that the sampler I had cross stitched for a wedding present was part of the carry on items. Once framed, it was approximately 22″ square, in a protective cardboard box.

We somehow managed to arrive in SF ahead of schedule, and after collecting our rental car, we were off on our adventure. We decided to check into our hotel in San Bruno and drop off our bags first. Afterwards we met up with my in-laws at Brian’s old condo on Union Street. We actually passed Karen on our way there, she was running a couple of last minute errands, so we just said a quick hello. We went out to grab some lunch at Pier 39 with Mr. C and Marianne, check out the sea lions and do a little shopping. We dropped them off after a couple of hours and headed back to our hotel in San Bruno. We decided we would stop at a Rite Aid drug store which was right near our hotel, so we could replace the items that TSA had confiscated. I also wanted to look for some kind of fancy hair clip to pin my hair up with incase I couldn’t manage a French Twist that was neat. This took about an hour. That store had everything from groceries to fishing gear to knitting and cross stitch items (which I had to take a peek at) to a full 2 aisles of liquor, the hard stuff, not just beer and wine (that was in a separate aisle). I had trouble finding the acne cream of all things, because the aisles were so long, I didn’t see it in the middle. After 2 calls on my cell phone to find out were I was (really, did Jim think I had left through the back door?), we went to the hotel to crash. We had the better part of the next day to ourselves until we had to meet for rehearsal at Cavallo Point in Sausalito at 4pm with the rehearsal dinner to follow. We were looking forward to this, because all of the relatives from both in Town as well as out would be gathering for the meal. This was going to be the first time I would meet about two thirds of Jim’s extended family. All of the Cassidy Clan is spread out across the US, and the other third I had met at our wedding 20 yrs prior.

OUR HOT AIR BALLOON FUN

This past weekend we went to Pellissippi State Hot Air Balloon Festival with the Thomas Family. They have identical twin boys around the same age as Julian and Natalie. We arrived around 4:30pm to listen to the Pellissippi State choir and then a local bluegrass band. Julian and Natalie loved dancing around and clapping their hands to the music.

Once the Thomas family arrived we decided to get something to eat. All Natalie wanted was popcorn and we would not get that for her. I had brought fresh veggies for them, but that was back at our seat, so they ended up eating the food my friend Susan had brought for her boys, also veggies and fruit. I enjoyed a hot dog with chili and we all helped dad eat his nachos.

After eating we went to the children’s area to do crafts with the kids. Natalie got to make a caterpillar, then they both made bracelets and Julian made a butterfly. We could have done many other activities with them, but then the hot air balloons started being blown up and we all wanted to go and watch the action. As we got closer and closer Natalie started getting frightened, so Daddy held her tightly to him while the rest of us sat on a blanket and watched people take tethered hot air balloon rides as we ate popcorn that Stan purchased.

As it began to get dark we headed to the few shops that had been set up by local vendors in the area. I was holding Natalie and she liked the necklaces and such, but we did not see one that was appropriate for her. Then Dad headed back to our seats while Julian and I finished shopping. He was getting a bit heavy so I put him in the wagon that the Thomas family brought. They got so many questions about that wagon that we joked that if they had brought extra they could have sold them all.

Julian sat in the wagon the rest of the night eating popcorn and as soon as we got to our blanket Natalie joined him as well. They were much more interested in the popcorn then they were in the beautiful colorful balloons that were lit up in front of us. I thought they would be sick that night, but surprisingly they were not, just a bit gassy.

We had a great time and did not get home until around 11pm. To say the least, it had been a long night. The twins stayed in bed with us for a while, but would not settle down, so we had to put them in their own beds. While they were in bed with us they laughed and laughed until I was laughing so hard as well. As I was lying there laughing, I thought all those years we had tried so hard to have children and the heartache it brought, but now look at us!

DON’T LOSE HOPE

I’ve been reading some of the other embryo adoption blogs that are out there and realize just how little Jeremy and I really went through to have children and how thankful I am for such an “easy” road. We chose not to go through any treatments prior to applying for embryo adoption and I think we saved ourselves a lot of stress and heartache because of that decision. The entire process, from application to home study to transfer was very smooth. Our journey from the time we started trying to have children to the time Grant and Maria were born was less than three years — which in the land of infertility is pretty short. It didn’t seem fast and easy at the time, but looking back, it wasn’t bad at all. Many stories that I’ve read tell about the years of failed treatments, miscarriages, and the emotional roller coaster that goes along with that. Some talk about feeling as if they don’t fit in with their peers who are having children left and right. Others share of getting positive pregnancy tests only to be unable to find a heartbeat upon initial ultrasounds. When we were in the early days of trying, I remember feeling like everyone around me was pregnant. Everywhere I turned, it seemed like there was a baby belly coming at me. I remember praying that we would have children and for our embryo transfer to work, but at the same time prayed for God’s will. What if God’s will was different from our desire for children? How would I be at peace with that? When would we know to stop trying?

When I was 15 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding and I remember the desperation that I felt when the doctor told me that if I was starting to lose the babies there was nothing they could do. I had taken myself to the hospital from work that day and a guardian angel was sent in the form of a woman in the ultrasound waiting room. She prayed for me right there and said she felt strongly that everything was going to be okay. She was right; everything was fine and even though they never figured out why I was bleeding, I realize how easily things could have gone the other way. While Grant and Maria were in the NICU another twin mom who had been through an extended NICU stay sent me this verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11. It was extremely comforting and a verse upon which I came to rely. Grant and Maria were the plan for us. We had to be patient and wait for them. When you are in the trenches, you feel like you may never get out; but don’t lose hope. For all those who are in the embryo adoption process — there is a plan and one day you will look back and realize how wonderfully it all came together; even if it looks nothing like you imagined.