LITTLE SWIMMERS

The babies had their very first swim lessons yesterday. We signed them up for a six week “water adjustment” class aimed for ages 6 months – 2 years. Meredith and Jake and another friend of mine and her twin girls have joined us. We thought 30 minute class seemed pretty short, but once we were in the water, we realized any more than 30 minutes would have been WAY too much.

Both babies were skeptical, especially Maria. While we were waiting for class to start I dipped her feet in the water and she was not pleased. I thought we were going to have to endure 30 minutes of shrieking. Grant wasn’t too sure about having his feet dipped either, but I eased into the water with him and he started to relax. Maria cried whenever we got her near the pool.

Once class started she was nervous, cried, and tried to climb up my body. To start, each parent was instructed to bring our shoulders under the water, place the babies on their stomachs and wrap their arms around our necks. We would then grab their legs and start kicking them. We did several passes across the pool like this. Maria was still not enthused, but Grant was starting to get into it despite taking in a few mouthfuls of water.

Next came the intense part…babies under water. We started by sprinkling water on their faces, so they could get used to how the water would feel when they came up. Maria HATES this; I always have to lean her back to get her hair wet when we bathe rather than squeezing a wash cloth over her head like I do for Grant. Once we finished water torture, we were instructed to count to three, blow in their faces and take them under water. The instructor had us do one baby at a time so she could work with each family. To my surprise, both babies did quite well. This eventually graduated to walking backward and taking each baby under water and allowing them to “swim” towards us before we brought them out. At this point, some others in the class started to express their displeasure. Jake went under twice and when Meredith asked if he wanted to go again he definitively said NO. Maria, who was now with Jeremy, seemed a bit uncomfortable, but got relief in the form of a HUGE burp…nothing like trying to drink the entire pool.

We worked on paddling their hands, holding onto the side, floating on their backs and more under water tricks. Finally, we got rubber duckies and Maria smiled. Baby water torture was over. Neither baby cried the whole time and nobody pooped. In my book that’s success.

KEEPING FAITH

The twins and I just got back from Kingsport, Tennessee to help my friend Katina unpack from her move from Missouri. I think I may have done more damage than good. I managed to break one item, find two other broken items (one may have been from one of the twins), lose two shower hooks and give her a stress attack from the twins’ falls!

The twins had a wonderful time and did not want to go back home. They loved playing with her two girls, ages 10 & 5. Natalie enjoyed running around the house chasing them as well as the cat. It was a delightful time even though we were hard at work.

Katina and I have been friends since 1999 when we met on the job. She was also married in 1998, so we were both newlyweds. The four of us would often go to dinner and a movie over the course of many years. We have stayed close friends with all our moves and I am thrilled to have her and her family back in Tennessee especially after all the tornadoes in Missouri.

I have been watching the news, like I am sure many of you have as well. One news report that has stuck with me is when a father and son were traveling back home after the son’s graduation and the tornado swept up the car and took the son out of the sun roof while the dad was holding on to him. The father was found in a ditch, and transferred to a hospital, while the family was still looking for the son. Wow! What pain and suffering so many people are enduring, it is just mindboggling.

Some people find it helpful knowing that other people have experienced the same type of suffering and find comfort in knowing they are not alone. I remember the first time I went to an infertility support meeting after my surgery, when my tubes were removed, and I was overwhelmed with how many infertile women there were and all the mental pain. I was still healing from surgery, and so I was in shock that I was now infertile and felt such pain as well. But when I looked around the room, it made me sadder, knowing there were other people in such pain. I did not want anyone to have to endure such pain. It did not make me feel better knowing others were suffering like me, but at the time it made me hurt worse, since I was hurting for them as well as myself. I just have to wonder if that is what the tornado victims are going through.

Now that I am stronger, I do not hurt as bad for the infertile people that I see in the meetings. I still feel their pain, but now I know something that I did not know at the time. God’s plan is always perfect even if you are in such pain. If you just give it to Him, He will make it beautiful. Knowing He has a master plan and knowing it is to better you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11) requires faith. Be strong in the word and God will give you the faith you need.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed, Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

SIGNS OF THE CHANGING TIMES

Today was a day full of surprises, fortunately all good. As the school year quickly draws to an end, I’m once again reminded that as the seasons change, so do my children, and how this will impact my life.

The principal at the elementary school that Joel and Chad attend had announced his retirement at the end of the school year. This announcement was made a few months back, so the initial shock has worn off, but I’ve often wondered how this will impact Chad’s experience attending this school. Next year Joel will be in his first year of middle school, which I know will have a big impact on all our lives. Today we attended a surprise breakfast in honor of the principal, and I think this made it more of a reality for some of the students, especially the younger ones. Oftentimes those in the younger grades don’t realize how life will impact them from one year to the next as events unfold in the facility members’ lives, such as marriages, births, etc.

I’ve been busy organizing the class end of the year present for both boys grades, and had had a little trouble coming up with ideas for one of the teachers. I talked with one of her co-workers at the breakfast this morning, and she was able to help me come up with some ideas. After we left the school, I decided I would pick up a few items we are gathering for the gift, so Chad and I set off to Kohl’s to pick up those items. When I returned home, the answering machine light was flashing, and there was a pleasant surprise waiting for me. My best friend Tracey had called me to see if I was available to get together today. I have lost touch with her over the course of the last ten years, because during this time period so much had happened in our lives. We did keep in touch, but not like before. We would go years at times between visits or phone calls. It was during this time period that I was dealing with infertility, but the real cause of our relationship becoming distant was my losing multiple pregnancies. Instead of turning to friends for support, I withdrew for a period of a couple of years, and as time passed, everyone else went on with their lives while mine seemed to be at a standstill.

Tracey is a few years older than I am, and her two boys are the ages of my nieces. During this time period that I was having such a difficult time, her life wasn’t exactly a picnic either as I now see being the mother of a teenager can be trying to say the least. There are now a whole new set of worries that you must deal with, the worst part of this being that most of them are beyond your control. For instance, the influence of friends in their lives becomes a huge factor. I am only now starting to understand some of the things she was dealing with.

We met for lunch, and although it was only an hour, we were able to catch up on the latest happenings with our families. The best part about seeing her was realizing that although a lot of time has passed since I’d last seen or spoken to her, we were able to pick up were we left off, just like it was yesterday. Although the passing of times brings lots of changes to your life, it is nice to know that some things never change.

IN THE MONTH OF MAY WE HAVE BEEN VERY BUSY

In the month of May we have been very busy. I was blessed to see Patty and have some time with her as well as a bit of alone time in New York. We have got to see two newborn baby girls, go to three graduations and have lots of family time! What a wonderful month this has been. I have also gotten helpful advice about potty training and today I think we may have made some headway.

I was told to make the potty time fun, so we got candy to try again. Last summer I tried it and it was a disaster. But it has helped as of today. But what has made the most difference for Natalie is that she told me she did not have an Ariel princess dress and how we have to go to the mall and get one. So I told her if she would go potty for a month without pull-ups then she could get it. Of course she has no idea how long a month is since she asked me tonight if we could go to the mall and get it since she has been going to the potty. I told her it had not been a month and I reminded her she pooped in the floor today and not in the potty! So as you can tell we still have a long ways to go. This has been a very long process for us and not an easy one at that! At least now Natalie wants to sit on the potty and I think Julian will too since he can get candy!

Time will tell if this candy trick works and the big reward at the end of the month. I am now looking forward to the big dinner auction I have been working on for the Haiti mission trip on June 11 as well as the big trip June 16-26! Then our church has vacation Bible school, what a blessed time this will be. I am excited to see what God has in store for me and the rest of my family next month. Until then back to the potty training!

WHAT WORDS COME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH

Words are always coming out of my mouth. I talk a lot! Occasionally, I have wonderful things to say and other times, it is just stuff. I try and watch what I say, but sometimes I am disappointed in myself especially when my words hurt someone else. This is an area, where I struggle, but feel I have made progress over the years. I pray for God’s words, but that is not always the case. Now that I have kids I can say, what comes out of your mouth now comes out of theirs. “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Matthew 15:11

Here are some things that Natalie and Julian have said.

Natalie:

“Bye, Bye Princess Mommy, I love you!” (We call her Princess Natalie)

“Mommy, Mommy, I have an issue,” it was poop in her panties. (When she calls for me and I cannot come I tell her I have an issue I am dealing with.)

“You’re my Prince, JK.” (Disney Movies)

“Bye, Bye Daddy, be careful and don’t get a boo-boo.” (We tell her to be careful.)

“Ah, you are just so cute,” as she pets our dog Snickers. (We tell her she is cute.)

“Julian you are so beautiful, just like me,” after they put on their new outfits from Aunt Kim & Uncle Eric. (We may tell her too much!)

Julian

“Grandma (my Mom who died last year) was here, but she has gone back to her Castle,” as he looks out the window. “But she is going to join us downstairs for breakfast.” (Now that is a God thing!)

“I’m Natalie’s Prince.” (Disney)

“Please put some candy on my bread.” I then reply, “Do you mean butter?” Julian then says, “It’s the same thing.” (Mommy thinks of candy too much too!)

“I love your shirt, Natalie.”

“Go deep, Mommy go deep,” when he is throwing his balls. (Daddy has taught him this)

Julian declares, “I do not want to share my brownies with my friends!” Natalie replies, “That makes Jesus sad!” (Thanks to her teachers at Church!)

A FEW FUNNY THINGS

Funny thing happened last night. Well, at the time more disgusting than funny, but now that I’m no longer gagging, I can laugh. It was inevitable and we’re surprised it took thirteen months. Yes, I’m talking about a good old fashion bath tub poop. My precious baby daughter felt that a nice warm bath was the perfect toilet. It happened fast and thankfully it was at the end of bath time and I had just wrestled Grant from the tub. (Had my handsy little man been in there, things could have been much worse.) I looked at Maria and with horror saw what just happened. “YUCK, Maria! Don’t poop in the tub! Jeremy! Get in here!” I plucked her out of the water, washed her off in the faucet and started my sanitation efforts. Jeremy starts asking about the size and texture of said bath tub poo. “Was it a turd? Was it runny?” “Jer, it was in water…whatever it started as is no longer.” The only thing I can definitively say is that she doesn’t fully chew her carrots. Jeremy got the babies ready for bed and I disinfected the tub and any toys that were floating at the time of the incident. I gagged. I usually have a pretty strong stomach, but something about water poo got to me. Surely, you understand.

Another funny thing happened yesterday. Grant, aka Houdini, opened the nursery door from his crib when he woke up from his nap. Jeremy said all was quiet when he suddenly heard the door pop and swing open. He looked down the hall to see Grant squatting so he was hiding behind the crib rail only to pop up and smile with pride once Jeremy saw his cool new trick. Really, this is more scary than funny. I think this kid is going to end up on top of the refrigerator one day. He’s too coordinated for his own good and is the reason I bought the extra tall gate for the kitchen. The reviews stated it was good for climbers. I anticipate he’ll be a climber. We either need to move the crib further from the door or put on a childproof knob.

Houdini also managed to get nearly naked one morning recently. I received a text from Jeremy with a photo of Grant asking “Any reason why G is naked?” He got out of his sleep gown and sleep blanket without unzipping the blanket. We suspect he was going to stand up when his PJs were stepped on and pulled off one shoulder. Stripping ensued from there. Thankfully, he left his diaper on. Its times like this I wish we had a camera in the room.

One last little funny thing for now… I bought a “play yard,” which is the politically correct term for “baby cage”, from another twin mom. Jeremy wanted one so he could corral the kids with their toys if he needed to do something like take a shower. Turns out it’s a Jeremy cage, not a baby cage. He said he got in so he could do crunches without getting mauled by the babies or cats. Worked quite well, he said. Didn’t know I lived with Erma Bombeck. “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” — Erma Bombeck

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ADVENTURES IN CARDIOLOGY

We took the babies for a follow-up cardiology visit on Tuesday. I was hoping we would find that their PFOs had closed and we would have closure on all things preemie related. No such luck. First of all, Maria WAS NOT HAPPY about the appointment. Shocking, I know. Each baby was to have an EKG and echocardiogram. Maria started screaming when we stripped her to be weighed and measured. It only got worse as the nurse started to put all the stickers on her for the EKG. I was supposed to hold a screaming and flailing 1 year old and prevent no less than 1000 electrodes from being pulled off. Maria was trying to turn around and bury herself in my chest, and when I wouldn’t let her, she looked betrayed. Her shrieking could be heard blocks away, I’m sure, and soon reinforcements were brought in and offered just enough distraction to get the EKG completed. Once that torture was completed, they took her blood pressure, which was that of an adult due to her protest. I intervened with raisins and she calmed enough to bring the blood pressure down to an appropriate level. Meanwhile, Grant is chilled out. He thinks the EKG is pretty cool. His hands are fast and he wants to grab EVERYTHING, but he was cool, calm and collected. What’s the big deal, Maria?

Second phase of the appointment was the echocardiogram. The technician came to get us and was wary…she had heard the shrieking and was fearful. Maria was okay until I laid her down to start the scan. I tried putting her on my lap, but it was too late. She knew we were up to no good. I tried tracing her face with my finger, which will generally calm her down. No dice. I tried giving her a bottle. Nope. We were not going to outsmart her with the bottle like the last time she had an echocardiogram. The technician proceeded to put cotton in her own ears to protect from any lasting hearing damage. Maria was not amused. I suggested that if she gave me a few minutes that I could calm her down by nursing her, as nursing always works. Not this time.
Time to back up and punt.

The cardiologist came in and decided to go ahead and talk with us and to do her exam. Maria allowed this, but was still not happy. Dr. Wright decided that we would try to get Grant’s echo complete and Maria would get a pass for the day. “We call this being a one year old,” was Dr. Wright’s summation of the situation. Since Maria’s VSD had previously closed and there are no other heart issues, she was comfortable with allowing Maria a two-year reprieve.

Grant was up for his echo and he played along beautifully. He had his pacifier and all kinds of cool buttons to look at. He tried to help with the scan, but I was able to prevent him from getting his hands in the gel. Once we were finished, Jeremy took Grant outside to our car to keep us from getting a parking ticket on the meter that was about to expire and Maria and I made up from the earlier betrayal. The technician walked by us and Maria recoiled into me. She wanted to be nowhere near the lady. Then the little turkey started smiling shyly at another doctor while we waited for Grant’s results.

Soon enough, we got Grant’s results and he still has a tiny pinhole of a PFO, which she said is not uncommon for his age. He also gets to come back in two years. While I didn’t get the closure I was looking for, I can rest assured that both babies are healthy. Maria wasn’t even out of breath after her tirade. Pretty safe to say the ole ticker is working well.

DEFINING A MOTHER

I was surprised on this trip how much I missed my Mom. When traveling for the NEDC, I would always call my Mom and tell her I had safely arrived at my destination. With the heightened security alert, I was more aware of my surroundings and was sure this would have been a time that my Mother would have been concerned about my safety. The Bible tells us that when God closes one door he opens another, so it was Patty who told me to make sure and call her when I safely arrived back home in Knoxville.

Mothers are very special people who do not always have to be your biological or even a live-in parent to hold the place of “Mother” in our heart. I am blessed to say that I have had many “Mothers” in my life. My neighbor growing up, Mary, has always taken me in and mothered me when my father was sick with cancer and after he died when I was six. Then my Aunt Nancy was also a special woman in my life who often took care of me on weekends when my Mother worked as a nurse in CCU. My sister, being several years older, also mothered me quite a bit. I am happy to say that Natalie and Julian have many special women in their lives as well. I am sure as they get older many other women will surface who will teach them so much as well. God did not intend for us to parent alone and I am happy to report that I am not alone in parenting my twins.

Patty and I went shopping and out to eat and had a delightful time talking about our children! We did talk about other things as well, but mostly the children! We had such a wonderful time, we hated to say goodbye. We are blessed to have each other and I know God has given me such a beautiful gift, not only my children, but their whole family.

When I was at the conference, I told a few people about my own story and one lady told me that mine and Patty’s story is so wonderful that I need to keep on telling it! Adoption is a beautiful thing and more people need to know how wonderful open relationships can be. The conference was a great success and so many people had never heard of embryo donation/adoption that I know the NEDC made a great impact. They were so thankful we were there and that such an option exists.

There are so many women that are “Mothers” that do not match the traditional definition of motherhood and I want to thank them all! Today I want to challenge you to tell someone thank you who was or is like a mother to you, then think about all the people who you may be like a mother to as well. Giving birth does not make you a mother nor does rearing a child in your home. What makes you a mother is the love you give a child. Thank you to all the women in my life who have shown me and taught me what love really means.

A MOTHER’S DAY MESSAGE

This Mother’s Day is much different for me than the last. Last year, we were knee deep in NICU and my babies got their NG tubes out for the last time. It was a big milestone, but the daily uncertainty of NICU life remained and weighed heavily upon me. We’ve come a long way since that weekend. My little peanuts are nearly five times their size from last year and are both VERY active and mobile. Watching them both crawl down the hall side by side is a joyous sight. Jeremy and I agree that we are in a much better place this year.

While I have the joy of spending this Mother’s Day weekend with my babies at home, there are many who are left with empty arms and broken hearts. For those who are grieving the loss of a baby no matter how small, there is hope that one day you will see him or her again. The Bible assures us that God’s grace extends to the smallest among us and that they are rejoicing with Him in heaven. For those who have yet to realize your own dream of motherhood, I wish you peace and comfort today. You are not forgotten. “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

WONDERFUL WAYS TO SPEND AN EVENING

Last night was the Big Band Bash (BBB) which is an opportunity for all of the schools from elementary to high school in our school district to gather for a competition. Ryan had participated while in elementary and middle school, but had decided he didn’t want to continue on to play in the high school band. I was upset with this decision, put didn’t push the issue. He needs to find his own way in life, and I have to learn the very hard lesson that as his mother, if have to know when to step aside and let him do so. I was very concerned that he would later regret this decision, but when Jim asked him last night at dinner if he missed it, he said he didn’t really. He has pursued other interests, such as the play put on by the Drama Club and he presently is a member of the Crew Team.

This was the first year that Ryan wouldn’t be in the BBB, yet it was Joel’s first year playing the Alto Sax in the elementary school band. He was very excited, and the kid who thinks that time stands still for him was repeatedly asking me what time it was so we wouldn’t be late. He was dressed and ready to go without being told well before we needed to leave. It amazes me how this happens when they really want something. This was also the first BBB that Auntie wasn’t here to attend. She was a great music lover, and would come to many of the events my boys participated in, from Scouts to sports. In fact, last year I think she was the only one at the track meet Ryan was participating in that was wearing heels and pearls, because she was dressed up for the BBB later that same evening. I would pick her up once the kids were out of school, she would have dinner with us, and attend the event. As I prepared dinner last night, it was hard not to think about her absence in my life. There have been so many times in the last year that I’ve thought I needed to call her about something. In the end, the BBB was quite a success, and Joel was talking about how much he enjoyed performing on the ride home. I asked him if he planned to continue on with the band next year when he is in middle school, and he said yes.

Yesterday afternoon while we were getting ready, Marti called to say she had arrived in NY, and we chatted for a few minutes. I’m very excited to have a Girl’s Night, and how ironic is it that it is at the beginning of Mother’s Day weekend? After all, it was our desire to become mother’s that caused us to meet. Another ironic fact, it was NEDC that brought us together in the end, and we’ll be meeting up at their conference, which once again will draw us together. It never ceases to amaze me how life takes such twists and turns. Now on to more important things, like what to wear for our big night on the town!