TAKING STOCK

I’ve been thinking a lot about what has happened this past year, and how much life has changed not only for myself, but for others as well. It is amazing how quickly your life can change, for the better or for worse. I’m referring to my brother in-law and his dealing with cancer. Last year this time he had just been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he has successfully undergone treatment and was given a clean bill of health in the Spring. This scare caused him to take stock of his life; he proposed to his girlfriend, and I now have a new sister in law.

I may have gained a sister in-law, but I also lost someone that I had grown very close to, especially after my mother had died. Auntie’s death in June was unexpected, and it really hit home this holiday season. She had a tradition of baking everyone’s favorite Christmas cookies and distributing platters of them just in time for Christmas. She would start baking just after Thanksgiving, and continue until the last week before Christmas. I had asked if I could have her Pizzelle maker, and a friend of mine tried to help me make them, but they were flops. We had a great time, but they weren’t edible. I later looked for my recipe from Auntie for my favorite cookie, but couldn’t find it. I’m going to ask my cousin if I can go through her cookie recipes because I’m really missing the “Cookie Lady” as Chad would call her.

As the holiday season winds to a close, I am starting to recount the events that have occurred this year, and think of the many people that I’ve re-established relationships with, from relatives to friends. I’ve said before that I believe everything happens for a reason. I think it is also true that good can come from something bad. My cousin is about 15 years older than I, so I hadn’t grown up with her per se. Now I have my chance.

YEAR IN REVIEW

2010 has no doubt been an eventful year for my entire family. Through birth, death, unexpected surgeries and moves, we’ve had our fair share of laughter and tears. My dad kicked off the year by spending his 58th birthday in the hospital with a bowel obstruction, which ended up resulting in surgery to repair a congenital hole in his gut. He terrorized the nurses and aids and I think they were happy, as was he, to see him go home.

On Groundhog Day I said goodbye to my 20s and also in February we bade final farewell to my Great Mama Brown who, at the age of 104 ½ (she started counting halves again in her late 90s), went to heaven and was reunited with her husband and three of her sons. She lived an amazing life and I’m sure was laughing as a group of us got hopelessly lost in Garmin Hell on the way to her burial in rural Kentucky. I know she and Papa had an even bigger laugh when the burial was delayed further as we waited on one of my cousins to make a beer stop. A case of cold beer was popped open as we had a final celebration of Great Mama’s amazing life. I think of her often, and love the fact that Maria takes after Mama with her loud belly, that gurgles, gulps, and pops while she eats.

April was a surprising month with the early, scary and joyous arrival of Grant and Maria. I unknowingly spent a day in labor and the next time my doctor tells me I just need to relax to go to the bathroom, I’ll tell him to check and make sure a baby isn’t blocking all my exits. Jeremy and I learned what it was like to be NICU parents and what a rollercoaster than can be, but also picked up some helpful tips and tricks from the nurses.

In May, after a four-week tour of duty in the NICU, we finally got to take Grant and Maria home. At some point during the first night home, we wondered if it was really a good idea to let us have them! Could we really do this without all the monitors and nurses at our side?

June came, Jeremy turned thirty and we finally started to feel like we were getting the hang of things. July kicked off another journey as I returned to work and Jeremy officially started as full time stay-at-home dad. I would become proficient and creative in when and where I would pump while at work and Jeremy would establish a routine that allowed him to get in his workouts and afternoon nap.

August would bring the announcement from my brother that he’d accepted a new job and he and his family would be moving to Germany. Nick left for training and ended up being gone for seven long weeks before his first trip back home.
In September, we celebrated my nephew, Jake’s, first birthday and my brother watched Jake blow out his candle via Skype. We also celebrated the anniversary of our embryo transfer and the first time we saw Grant and Maria as tiny embryos.
Grant and Maria were dedicated to the Lord at our church in October and my brother’s dog would have a brush with death a few short days before they were all moving to Germany. Max is well known for eating anything and everything, including soap, socks, underwear and any type of yard debris. He finally met his match in the form of a very large acorn and would end up being the third member of our family to have his belly slit open this year. Max recovered and Nick, Meredith, and Jake set out for their big adventure.

In November, we celebrated all the many blessings we’ve been given on Grant and Maria’s first Thanksgiving and soon enough December was on our doorstep. Maria cut her first two teeth and my parents enjoyed a two-week vacation to Cancun and subsequent withdrawals from the babies. Through periodic emailed pictures and video, they survived. Mom nearly melted when Maria joyously smiled and flapped her arms when she came over for a baby fix. Grant perfected his skills sitting up by himself and we celebrated our first Christmas with the babies. I was bummed that we didn’t get to be with Nick, Meredith or Jake but was glad to see them via Skype on Christmas day. I’m enjoying my last week of the year spending some extra time with the babies and fully anticipate ringing in the New Year fast asleep.

This has been an incredible start to the decade and I can only imagine what’s in store for us in 2011. May you all have a healthy, happy, safe, and joyful New Year.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

I get two different reactions when I tell people “nothing” when they ask question “What are you getting the babies for Christmas?” One reaction is of shock and seeming sadness at how we could deprive our children of gifts. The other reaction is one of approval…”you are very smart, they won’t remember anyway.” Yes, the babies won’t remember; they can’t comprehend what is going on, and they are more interested in the paper and ribbons than anything else. Plus, they are going to get their fair share of goodies from the grandparents. I also haven’t subjected them to Santa’s lap. This has more to do with my hatred for the malls this time of year than a fear of Santa, but in all honesty, he’s kind of creepy and I can’t see Maria taking too kindly to sitting on a hairy stranger’s lap.

Last Christmas, I was 16 weeks along, finally looking pregnant and enjoying the wonderful simplicity of elastic waistbands. I was waking no less than 3 times a night to pee and ravenously hungry starting at 5:00 in the morning. This year, I’m only up when the babies wake, which varies, but is generally only once a night and I’m still hungry all the time due to the caloric demands of nursing. I still fall asleep around 8:30 or 9:00, but this year, I’m up again at 10:00 to top off the babies’ tanks for the night.
Last year, my wish list included cute maternity clothes to get me through the winter months. This year, next to having Nick, Meredith and Jake home for Christmas (which isn’t happening), there’s a theme of pampering on my list … gift cards for pedicures, massages, highlights, etc. top my wish list. And while any of those things would be wonderful, I can honestly say, there’s nothing that we truly need. We have two perfect babies who make us laugh everyday and we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who is the best gift of all.

From our family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas!

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BUSY WEEKEND

We have had a very busy weekend. On Friday we went to the University of Tennessee to their train exhibit with the Thomas family. We had such a great time. The twins love trains and the Thomas twins do also. It is such a blessing to have such good friends.

Then on Saturday, Brian had to practice for our church cantata and then we went to a celebration dinner. After that my brother’s youngest two children came back to our house to stay the night. They were all excited to be together. That night we went to bed late, so they could play a bit before bed. We all played musical beds. Dad put Natalie in Julian’s bed to put her to sleep, so Will, Julianna, and Julian were in Natalie’s bed. Julian was in the middle and put his head on Julianna’s shoulder. It was so sweet. They all just love each other so much. Before the night was over we were all in different beds with different bed partners. And I use night very loosely, since Julianna got up at 4:30 am! I guess she was just so excited to be here. I could hear her through the monitor talking with Natalie and trying to get her up. They were soon in my room and so Will, Julianna, and Natalie were all in bed with me. Julianna said she could not sleep and wanted to play. I told her it was still night time, but that did not help. I soon took Natalie to her bed and tried to sleep with her, but then Julianna was in our room wanting something else, so I took Natalie to sleep in bed with Julian and Dad in his twin bed. I put a movie in for Will and Julianna and then went back to bed. They were not use to video tapes, so they did not know you had to rewind the movie, so they were back in my room by 5:30am. I finally just got up to keep them company, but I have to say the dogs did not. It was too early for them, I think they were happy to have the bed to themselves! At 6am I decided to make breakfast and then they took a bath. They had so much fun with the jets and all the bubbles. I should have taken pictures of that, but I was not thinking about pictures at that time.

By 7am they were ready for church, even though it does not start till 10:45am. When I saw Will’s sweater, I thought it looked familiar. Then I went into Julian’s closet and realized why it looked like I had seen it before, Julian had one too. Then Julianna had a dress like one of mine, but poor Natalie did not have an outfit that matched. We all still looked very cute together. So we took pictures by the Christmas tree at church.

After church I took Natalie and Julian to meet the Thomas family at “A Walk Through Bethlehem,” at a church in Knoxville. My twins were a bit scared at first since it had low lighting and strange looking people. It was very exhausting for me and I am sure it was for the Thomas family too, since they were helping me with the twins and theirs as well! The experience was amazing. It was breath-taking and I am glad I went even though I was ready for a nap. The children did nap on the way home, but I never got one, instead I got ready for our church cantata.

Brian and my sister-in-law Tracy sang that night. It was just beautiful, I think it was the best one the church has ever done. It was a wonderful way to end a very long day. What a blessing it was that we had so many wonderful things to do all in one day!