THE WONDERS OF WINTER

Last week during one of our snow days, I had decided Joel and I should spend at least one of the days cleaning his room. One day turned into two, because he had such a mess! The first day we spent clearing out from under his double bed (all the items he had “stored” there after the last time he “cleaned” his room). It didn’t even look like we had done a thing, which was very discouraging. We finished up on Saturday, about an hour before I had to leave for work. Joel very nicely offered to make me lunch, because I had spent so much time helping him, and he wanted to show he appreciated it. Here I’m thinking he finally gets it, and is learning a lesson. I go into the kitchen to get the sandwich he’s made for me, and it was all I could do not to laugh. He had sliced 2 pieces of Italian bread off the loaf, which is fine. When he made the sandwich, he didn’t lay the bread flat on the cut side to make it, but rather he left them standing upright on the bottom part. The funny thing is that he had placed pieces of salami, slicing pepperoni and Provolone cheese on the bread, so it hung out on both sides of the bread by an inch or so! It was delicious despite the presentation, which is what counts most, aside from the thought.

Yesterday, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, we had the day off from school. I had decided it would be a good idea to tackle Chad’s room. It took about 6 hours, and I was in a wicked mood by time we finished. I couldn’t believe it; the mess was worst than Joel’s. Let me just say we found the Halloween candy that had disappeared and no one knew anything about. I told both boys that this was the last time I’d help clean their rooms if they didn’t take care of them. They were told to keep them picked up, and if they didn’t, the next time I helped would be much quicker, because I would have a black trash bag in hand.

This morning, believe it or not, we had yet ANOTHER snow day! This storm started as snow, turning to freezing rain, and is expected to return to snow again. Since it started at 2 AM, I was pretty confident that school would be canceled. We got our wake up call to inform us, and about 2 hours later, both Chad and Joel come into my room to tell me I had to go downstairs to see something. This is usually never good, so I wasn’t thrilled when they called me. To my surprise, there was breakfast waiting for me, courtesy of Chef Chad and Chef Joel. They wanted to do something nice because I had spent so much time helping them both. After hugs and kisses, we sat down to a Pistachio muffin with clementines. To drink, we had coffee with sugar and three flavored creamers. Apparently, when Joel asked Chad which was my favorite, he said they all were, so they mixed them together. It sounds disgusting, but it actually was quite good.

This is the way I like to spend my snow days, relaxing and enjoying the unexpected time off. It was nice to wake up to breakfast already made for me, and even nicer when the mess has been cleaned up as well. As I sipped my coffee, I was admiring the handiwork of the storm. It is a mess to travel in, but quite beautiful to see the trees with any icy coating. It’s even more enjoyable if you don’t lose power from ice on the lines. I’m pleased to have such wonderful boys who have learned a life lesson. Will wonders never cease.

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PREPARATION

Last night while I was rocking Maria, Jeremy was getting ready to pick my parents up at the airport who were returning home from visiting Nick, Meredith and Jake in Germany. It made me think about all the time I spent traveling with my last company and the scene I saw replayed over and over again as I would return home from Cleveland or Chicago on many a late Friday night. Coming through the terminal, welcome banners and excited family and friends would be waiting to meet a child who had been adopted from a foreign country and was finally home. Sometimes the children were toddlers, other times, a little older, but all were clinging to their new moms. I always loved this scene and without fail, it brought tears to my eyes as I marveled at how awesome adoption is and often wondered about their story. I also envisioned us in a very similar situation some day. At the time, adopting embryos wasn’t even on my radar and I was convinced that one day, Jeremy and I would be bringing a little girl home from China. As I thought a little more, I see how I was being prepared at a very young age for adoption. I distinctly remember a little girl being adopted from Korea by a family my brother played soccer with when I was only 4 or 5 years old. I was intrigued by her and even then thought it was pretty awesome. A few years later, when I was around middle school age, my mom was involved in community theatre with a woman who also adopted a little girl from Korea. Again, I was intrigued.

When I was 21, I went on a short-term mission trip to Romania and worked with children in two different orphanages. It was in the state orphanage in Braila where my desire to adopt was solidified when I met a set of twins, Mihaela and Sarah. Twins are not an uncommon occurrence in Romanian orphanages due to the financial implications of two babies. I was instantly attached to these little girls who were 16 months old. My first day there Sarah was a bit hesitant, but my second day, she reached up for me and my heart melted. Again, I think this was early preparation for what lay ahead for Jeremy and me. I eventually learned that adopting from Romania was nearly impossible due to many of their rules and government corruption, so I started researching other countries and was drawn to China. I remember Jeremy calling one night while he was at work and I excitedly started telling all about Chinese adoption and how I thought we should pursue this avenue one day. He said he wasn’t opposed, but in typical Jeremy fashion, he asked if we actually had to go to China, to which I replied “yes.” He followed up by asking if they could just mail her to us…you know…UPS or FedEx? We laughed about this and put China on the back burner because at the time we weren’t yet 30 years old, which is a requirement for China adoptions.

Now look at us. I never could have drawn up our life like this. I do know, though, that I was being prepared for adoption for many years. I don’t know what our future holds with regards to international adoption and know that God will either open or close that door. We just have to listen. I’m thankful that embryo adoption has allowed us to experience the fears and joys of adoption, while also getting to experience the ups and downs of pregnancy and beyond.

WINTER WONDERLAND

Yesterday we experienced a Nor’easter like the storms I remember from my childhood. I can remember being around Joel’s age (9 years), and walking with my father to a check on a building that he rented out to a business which was located about a half mile from our house. We were walking on the sidewalk, and the snow banks were well over my head. I was more amazed at the fact that the snow banks were up past my father’s waist, for he was over 6 feet tall. Oftentimes I remember all the fun I had as a kid as I watch my boys and dog Harley play in the snow from my toasty kitchen. I have a great view of them as they slide down the hill or make snow forts to hold snowball fights.

This morning shortly after I awoke Marti called to check on us. She had called the night before (I had been working), and the boys were telling me she had called to see how we were doing with the impending Nor’easter. She had heard on the news that the Hartford area (our State capitol) was expecting 12 to 18 inches. We of course can expect more because we are situated at the very beginning of the Northwest Hills. I talked to her for our usual 45 minutes or so, comparing notes on our kids and families. Chad even had to talk with Natalie, which was quite interesting to listen to. We eventually ended the call, and I braved the elements to get my youngest dog, as well as the boys, into the house. Overall we ended up with a total accumulation of 18 inches.

I had to work tonight as well, and there were lots of employees that had called for Hospital Security to come get them because their vehicles were stuck. Many employees had also opted to spend the night at the hospital so they wouldn’t have to deal with the snowy commute. Although the roads weren’t great around my house, they were passable with my Durango and I didn’t experience any problems.

As I was driving home tonight, I was reminded of the year I had started my first IVF cycle under the care of Dr. Benadiva. That had been in January of 1996. That winter season we had a total accumulation of 106 inches. We were expecting yet another significant snowfall mid-January of that year, and both Jim and I were scheduled to have our initial blood work done at the hospital. We made it there just fine, for the previous autumn we had purchased a Jeep Grand Cherokee. While we were waiting for our turn for our blood to be drawn, somehow Jim learned that non-hospital employees can volunteer to help out Security by picking up hospital employees and dialysis patients for their appointments. Once he heard this, he had keys in hand and was on the road! I can remember tracking him down between runs, reminding him why we were really there, and telling him he couldn’t go anywhere until he had his blood drawn first!

During the course of that entire IVF cycle, we dealt with major snow storms. Luckily, I was successful in conceiving Ryan, and eventually I was able to lesson the frequency of my appointments for blood draws to check my hormone levels. It wasn’t so much the fact that I had to drive in the snow that was at issue, but rather the time frame that appointments had to be kept within for various reasons. For example, if I remember correctly, you have a window of 24hrs to 36 hours after taking hCG prior to a retrieval. Mother Nature doesn’t always co-operate by providing optimal travel conditions. Oftentimes the only vehicles we would pass to our early morning appointments would be plow trucks.

While we are still shoveling out of our most recent snowstorm, I overheard someone talking about another storm we are expecting this weekend. Marti and I were talking about how we are both looking forward to our trip to WDW in February. I told her even though it was very cold there last year, at least it isn’t likely to snow. After hearing a prediction of yet more snow, I really can’t wait. Only 36 more days, but who’s keeping track?

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EAR LOBES

We get told so often that Grant and Maria look like us, I’ve sometimes wondered if the Lupron didn’t work, I dropped an egg or two and perhaps through some strange series of events one or both of the babies is actually genetically ours. Now, I know for a fact, this isn’t the case. No, it’s not Grant’s tan that assures me because my dad takes his tan to a whole new level each year. It’s their ear lobes. Jeremy and I have very attached ear lobes…in fact, Jeremy has almost freakishly small ears. Grant and Maria have big, unattached ear lobes. If I remember correctly from my sixth grade science class, two sets of attached ear lobes will not likely create two sets of unattached ear lobes. Additionally, Jeremy and I have ears that are pinned back nicely to our heads. Grant, however, has a stray ear. One of his ears sticks out a bit and when you look at him from the back, his ears don’t even look like they belong on the same person and it makes me laugh. He might not always find this so humorous, but I think it’s rather endearing. There are other things that I can point to that tell me that Grant and Maria are not genetically related to Jeremy or me, but no matter what, they are definitely the babies that God picked to be ours.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS

A few days after Christmas, the twins and I went on a trip to Nashville to visit family and friends. Our first stop was to stay the night with my childhood friend, Temple and her family. The next day we went to the Frist Art Museum in Nashville and met my cousin Janet as well as her two girls. The Frist was having a special exhibit on Impressionism that traveled from France and has not been to the US since the 1920’s. I was very excited to be able to go and bring the twins with me. Julian wore the headphones and listened to the descriptions about the paintings for part of the time while Natalie was running around. It was an awesome experience to see “Whistlers Mother” in person. I just wish I could have spent a longer amount of time studying the exhibit and not just running through it. It was a privilege to go even if it was at a faster pace than I would have liked. The Frist has an awesome “hands on” art studio for children. They all loved becoming little artists and did not want to leave.

After enjoying the Frist, the twins and I headed to Janet’s house for a visit. Julian was fascinated with the toy vacuum while Natalie was pulling out every toy to examine it. We then headed off to the ice exhibit at the Opryland hotel to visit with another cousin of mine (Heather). The twins and I never made it in because we could not find a parking place. We ended up meeting them at the Red Robin for dinner and headed back to my Aunt’s house for the night. Unfortunately, we left Julian’s most treasured possession at Temple’s house, his blanket Moon. The closer we got to Aunt Wendy’s house the more Julian cried for his blanket and his daddy. I tried to tell him that Moon was on an adventure and we would pick up Moon the next night. Until then, I told Julian he could sleep with me and we could cuddle together. Julian was still crying this whole time and Natalie told Julian that she would hold him too. When we arrived to Aunt Wendy’s, all was well, since her house was a museum of toys. They played for a while and then fell asleep.

For me the most important part about Christmas is sharing God’s love with others. Part of sharing that love includes making time for friends and family. Since the death of my mother, I have tried to make it a point to be a servant to others. This Christmas that included making fudge for almost everyone I knew. Brian and I made at least 8 different kinds of fudge and enjoyed sharing it with so many. I was blessed to share the fudge with my friend Katina who was in town from Missouri. We got to spend two days together and one day was a shopping day all to ourselves. One of the most important things I’ve learned through infertility and all the losses I have endured is to keep my eyes focused to God and remember there are others in the world hurting too. Once you learn to serve others a new world of love is opened up to you. I pray that in this New Year I will love and serve others as Jesus did for us.

HUNGRY HIPPOS

“I’m lactating.” That’s my rationale for the seemingly bottomless pit that is my belly. Providing enough milk for two growing babies is a lot of work… today I achieved a new personal best during my morning pump at work… 11 ounces! Just call me Bessie… mooooooo. I’m hungry most of the time now and, admittedly, I also have a problem with self-control. I enjoy the experience of eating and portion control is something with which I struggle. Jeremy has found a solution for me. Whenever we’re eating something like pizza, he cuts up a normal slice into two or three slices. This way, I get the experience of eating 3, 4, or 5 pieces, but the caloric intake of only 2. This type of strategy is going to be the only way I don’t swell up like a balloon once the babies wean. I’m also working to reduce my sugar intake. Prior to pregnancy, I was in the habit of eating no sweets during the week and indulged only on the weekends. This went out the door when I was early in my pregnancy because sugar was one of the only things that was palatable. Ever since, I’ve been a sugar hog. I know where all the candy and chocolate hidey-holes are on my floor at work and visit them frequently. Additionally, when at home, I can’t seem to finish a snack or meal without a sweet treat at the end. This is just not good for me and is not setting a good example for Grant and Maria. I’m now in the process of weaning myself off the sugar. It’s day 4 back to work from my vacation and I haven’t indulged in any of the sweet treats that are constantly around. Once the wonderful carrot cake cupcakes are gone from my house (I have three left), I’m going to work on limiting evening treats. I want to get back to my old habit of only indulging on the weekends, but I know I’ll fail if I go cold turkey.

I’m not the only hungry one in the house. The babies are eating like crazy. We’ve increased the amount of milk in the bottles they get while I’m gone and Grant longingly watches every piece of food that you eat, claps his feet together and opens wide. When I give them their dinnertime veggies, I can’t shovel the food in his face fast enough. Maria’s interest has increased and she’s starting to open wide. Previously, she’d only take the tip of the spoon and make faces at whatever she was tasting. Each week we’ve been trying something new and are venturing into finger foods. This is good because it keeps them occupied and we have a fighting chance of getting the kitchen cleaned up or laundry folded. Our dog is finally realizing some benefit to the babies and is capitalizing on their new diet. He readily offers to clean up the floor and would clean their faces if we let him.

Jeremy just sits back and shakes his head and I’m thankful that he does a wonderful job of grocery shopping. Hell hath no fury like a hungry wife and babies.

OUT OF THE FREEZER

This is the first week back to school after our Holiday Vacation, and I think the getting up early is starting to catch up with us all. It is quite dark and cold at 5:30am when the alarm goes off, and everyone would rather be rolling over instead of out of bed. I usually drive Ryan to the end of our driveway to wait for the bus. Sometimes we still see animals going into the woods, and I don’t like to walk that early in the morning.

We are the only ones at the bus stop, because none of our neighbors have children in high school. On occasion in the past, we have had had some parents drop their kids off at our stop, because they have either missed the bus at theirs, or the parents need to leave early. This seems to be true of one family in particular.

This morning we had not one vehicle pull up to wait in the driveway across the street, but two, for a total of 3 extra kids waiting for the bus. When the bus arrived, the kids all piled out, Ryan included. You could see from their height that they were upper classman (Ryan is a Freshman). There definitely was a pecking order getting on the bus this morning, Ryan being low man on the totem pole, regardless of the fact that this was his bus stop.

Later in the morning when our bus driver came to pick up the boys for elementary school, she was teasing me about the extra kids from the earlier run. She was joking that I had finally “let them out of the closet I’ve had them locked in.” I told her I keep them in the freezer where they originally came from (eluding to their once being frozen embryos), and that I thought our cold temperatures of late would make them feel at home. We joked about the fact that they just had on T-shirts with flannel shirts (unbuttoned of course) over them, because why would you wear a jacket it January when the temperature is in the 20’s? That is NOT cool. (Please note, I make Ryan wear a jacket, cool or not. That’s probably why he was last getting on the bus!)

I started to ponder what life would have been like for him if he hadn’t been the first born, and what it might have been like if I had some success with the first infertility doctor we saw prior to Dr Benadiva. I have oftentimes wondered how my life would be different, but haven’t really thought about how it would affect my kids. I don’t even think I would have Joel or Chad, and I’m certain Marti wouldn’t have Natalie & Julian. They all are here because of the length of time and the number of cycles we underwent. As Jessica alluded to in her blog entry yesterday, it is difficult to know when it is God’s will and how you might be tempting Fate. One of the most difficult decisions to make is whether or not your family is complete. This can be especially true when undergoing infertility treatments. The next is what to do with the remaining embryos. The option of embryo donation through NEDC now provides couples with yet another option. I’m not even sure if this would have been available 15 years ago. Once again, I find it is true that everything happens for a reason.