TRAINING WHEELS

Last week we got the book “Training Wheels” in the mail, a book about embryo adoption. The twins were very excited to get a book in the mail so we sat down to read it. As I read it, I also related their story to it as we went through the book. I explained how the different characters in the book were also like, Mommy, Daddy, them and Patty and Jim Cassidy. After I finished reading the book I asked Julian what he thought about it and he replied, “I want to go back to Disney World and see the Cassidy family!” I decided I like how he thinks!

Last year at this time we were getting ready to go to Disney World and we wish that was the case this year too! But we are looking forward to seeing the Cassidy family this summer. Plans have not been completely made, but we do plan on seeing each other one way or another. The twins are talking so much more now and just say the cutest things.

Just this morning Natalie was praying before breakfast and while she was doing that Julian was reaching for money on the bar. When she got done she told Julian that he was not “being sensible.” That he needed to have his hands folded. She also told him today to stop pooping in his pants that she did not want to change poop anymore! He did not poop in his pants at that time, but later he did. Natalie knows him well. Just got to love her! Julian is very close to being potty trained and we are very proud of him and hope that it continues. Maybe by the time we see the Cassidy family this summer we will be able to celebrate being potty trained as well as all the wonderful changes in the twins this past year.

HOME SWEET HOME

My tenure in purgatory has ended. We finished contract negotiations Thursday evening and I made it home Friday afternoon. After spending 9 of the previous 12 nights gone, I was ready to be home. The babies were napping when I arrived, which provided a brief period of rest on the couch with my cat, who apparently also missed me as she was purring louder than the dog was snoring.

Jeremy and I decided to let him get them when they woke up and allow me to be a surprise in the living room. When he went in, he said “Guess who is home?” Maria excitedly said “Mommy?!” and I soon saw her turn the corner and she was in her best straight arm and leg run toward me. She didn’t slow down and wrapped herself around me. She got into nursing position, tugged on my shirt and said “HI!” with a huge grin on her face. Grant was right behind her and gave me his signature grin, but was distracted by my suitcase and needed to investigate. The bliss of my return home was short lived though. In no time, I was propelled back into the reality of two almost two-year-olds.

This is reality:

• Grant has a cold and was running a fever. He coughed so hard that he threw up all over both of us. He soon wanted nothing but my lap and did not want to share me with Maria, which doesn’t exactly go over well.

• Maria fell holding one of her puzzles and the corner of the puzzle skinned the area between her lips and nose.

• In order to try to bring down Grant’s fever, we ran a lukewarm bath for him. He screamed the whole time.

• While I was rocking Grant, Jeremy gave Maria a warmer bath. It must have been very relaxing as she took a massive dump chock full of blueberries. I would spend part of my time between getting them to bed and eating dinner cleaning the tub and toys.

• I managed to get two 10-minute trainer videos before dinner. These are a saving grace on days when I can’t get work in any other physical activity.

• Just as we were getting ready to enjoy a quiet dinner together, my cat threw up her dinner.

• No sooner did we finish eating and were getting ready to put our heads down on the couch, Grant coughed himself and Maria awake. We spent about 20 minutes returning the nursery to silence.

Admittedly, while I did not like being gone, having only myself to care for is much easier. However, I’m so thankful to be back at home reading Green Eggs and Ham and Hippos Go Berserk over and over and over again.

CELEBRATE EVERY DAY WE HAVE

This past Saturday was Brian’s brother’s memorial service. It was nice to hear so many stories about Evan and how he meant so much to so many. It is often the little things that we will miss about someone when they are gone. I want to take in and enjoy every day I have with my children because I know they go by so fast, but sometimes it is just hard to enjoy every minute.

This past Wednesday I fell stepping out of my sister’s door while holding Natalie. I went down on my knees ripping my corduroy pants, twisting my ankle and hitting Natalie’s head. Natalie was fine, I took most of the hit and I have to say it hurt really bad. The next day I was still in pain and I was short with the twins and moaned as I walked or got up and down from a sitting position.

Then Brian got sick the day of Evan’s service. He was coughing and throwing up. He was not in the best of moods besides the obvious circumstances and I was still in pain from the fall. Then Monday the kids were in bad moods because they were coughing, but thankfully not throwing up!

Some days, I just have to get through. But most days I really treasure. As more and more people I love die, I am reminded that when life is over all others will have is memories of us together. Today the twins and I took our first picnic outside for the New Year. After Julian’s karate class we came home and did an art project. Natalie just kissed me twice while I was coloring with her. She is not one to give kisses, so it was a real treat! She said she just loved for me to color with her. That is a moment I pray I will never forget. I too loved to color with my father and I see those days as some of the best memories I have of him, since he died when I was six. I know all too well how short life is and some days I do better than others trying to make the most of each second I have here. Many of my life circumstances (death of loved ones and infertility) cause me to treasure each day and my children. May we all take a moment to hug our loved ones more closely and celebrate every day we live.

A SHORT HOMECOMING

I managed to make it home last night for the first time since I left Monday morning. It was nice to be home, even if it was for only 12 hours. I made it in time to go to Music Together with Grant and Maria, which was my goal. When I arrived home, Maria was beside herself. She reached out, started crying and clung to me for dear life. I tried to put her down so I could go to the bathroom, but she came running after me and sat on my lap while I emptied my bladder; that is something only a mother would allow! Grant looked at me as if I was some sort of mirage for a few minutes. Once he realized it was really me, he gave me his best ladies’ man smile.

Both kids looked taller and Grant’s hair was noticeably longer. They both stuck pretty close to me during music and bedtime did take longer than normal, with an added wake-up an hour later. This morning I debated on going into their room or just leaving but I just couldn’t leave for another night and not lay my eyes on them. The door opening didn’t wake either one and I watched each sleep for a couple minutes and covered them up. But as I turned to leave their room, Maria popped up and asked to be held. I couldn’t deny her request. She nursed and rocked for few minutes and I just as I was getting ready to put her down, the furnace kicked on and Grant popped awake. Both took about 15 minutes to settle down, but it was nice to get some extra cuddle time with them.

My western Kentucky odyssey continues and I should make it home tomorrow night for two nights. Jeremy is managing well with some extra help from the Grands. I’m expecting that when this is all over, I will have two very clingy kiddos for some time. I’m looking forward to it.

MR. SUAVE

Tonight while I was cooking dinner my son said to me, “Mommy, you are so beautiful” that was added to when we were doing Yoga together and he said, “Mommy, your lips are so pretty, they are the same color as my shirt!” Yes, this is what I live with Mr. Suave. Brian said tonight, “I am going to have to kick Julian out of the house, because he makes me look so bad.” And let me tell you he does!

The other day, the twins were telling me a story Dad had told them the night before and it was about flowers. After the twins told all about it Julian looked up at me and said, “I want to get you and Natalie flowers!” How sweet is that! This was also the same day I was a little concerned when I heard Julian tell Natalie that he was pretending to be Dolly Parton, until I realized he was putting books in mailboxes. They are always so excited when they get a book in the mail each month from Dolly.

Julian has such a giving heart. I just pray it continues throughout his whole life. Of course he still has moments when he has to be reminded to share with his sister, but overall they both are very kind to each other and play quite nicely together. They also enjoy playing with their cousins. We are so thankful to have so many and around the same age on both mine and Brian’s side of the family.
They often talk about their cousins and name things after them as well. Julian wanted to make dinner for his cousin Will and have me set a place for him even though he was not coming to dinner. After the death of Brian’s brother, I have tried to soak in the times I spend with my brother and sister as well. At my niece’s birthday party, I was thankful to listen to them talk about old times and their old friends. They are both quite older than me, so when they talk about their childhood, I just listen.

I am so thankful Natalie and Julian will have such wonderful memories together. I was like an only child in many ways, so it is exciting for me to see them together. I am already praying for Natalie’s husband, that he will be able to hold a candle next to Julian. Julian not only tells me how beautiful I am, but he also compliments Natalie as well. Any man Natalie dates will have mighty big shoes to fill. She is not allowed to date until she is 21, according to Brian, but I am afraid that time will be here before we know it!

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

At my last company, I traveled about 50% of the time. I mainly went to Chicago and Cleveland and I became a proficient traveler. I always had my laptop and shoes ready for security and didn’t get mad when my Friday evening flights home were inevitably delayed. I would tell Jeremy my schedule, pack my bags and be on my way.

While I didn’t mind the travel, I switched jobs nearly five years ago and am glad I have managed to only have one overnight trip in two years. However, I will spend the better part of the next two weeks in union contract negotiations two hours away and I’m realizing how much more complicated work travel is with kids at home. Even though Jeremy stays at home with them, there’s still a lot to think about. I handle any early morning wake ups and bath and bedtime really requires two people to manage effectively. I think someone at work thought I was whining when I expressed my displeasure about being told we’ll also negotiating next Saturday, but it just adds another piece of stress. One, because it’s more time away from my family and two, Jeremy needs a break and on Saturdays he typically sleeps in and I have the mornings with Grant and Maria.

Even though it’s going to be a long two weeks, we have a plan. My mom will assist with evenings, and Jeremy’s mom will come over several mornings during the week so Jeremy can get to the gym without lugging them with him. As to not stress Jeremy further, I withheld possibility of my being gone on Saturday until I knew for sure, but had floated to my mom the idea of keeping them all day Saturday if needed. She was game if we needed. We’ve since introduced the concept of a sleep over and after finding a second pack and play to borrow, next Friday Grant and Maria will have their very first night away from home since coming home from the hospital. Jeremy is concerned they won’t sleep well in a place other than home, but I think they’ll do okay and if not, it’s only one night. Jeremy will get a good break and be ready for the next round of solo parenting.

I’m glad that this is not a normal thing for us and that in February life should return to normal. I give kudos to all those single parents and parents with spouses who travel regularly. Childrearing is a two-person job, at a minimum. I’m thankful that we have a village!

HERDING CATS

The best way to describe my life right now is “herding cats” and I’m not talking about the wine … although some days it includes a lot of whining. I’ve seen the debate on the twins club forum and among friends and family whether it’s harder to have twins or to have two close in age. There are advantages and disadvantages to both but the fact remains that both are hard. With one child, your attention is focused. With two, no matter how you slice it, your attention is split.

With twins, I can say the following:

• They often want the same thing at the same time and I often hear myself saying “one of me; two of you, please be patient.”

• When they aren’t wanting the same thing, they are going in opposite directions. Four hands can get into a lot in no time and I haven’t figured out how to be in two places at once.

• At this age, they will play together and entertain each other so I can get something done. However, peaceful play can go to hell in a hand basket in a hurry.

• Finding uninterrupted one-on-one time is difficult. They are on the same schedule, so I can’t play with one while the other is napping. The good thing is they are on the same schedule, so we can get a break.

• Having twins as our first born children, we do not have the advantage of hindsight. They are both in the same stages at the same time; we can’t apply lessons from the first child to the second.

• Our phases feel like they last a long time. One will start and the other follows…and then the first regresses and so on. Potty training should be interesting.

• People make a lot of assumptions about twins. Yes, they have a special bond that only twins can have. But, they are also two unique individuals that have unique needs and sometimes meeting those needs at the same time is a challenge.

I know I was meant to be a mother of twins. I had a feeling for many years that I would have twins. There were no surprises the day we saw two little heartbeats on our 6-week ultrasound. I welcomed the challenge and pray each day that God gives me the strength, wisdom, and endurance to not only survive as a twin mom, but thrive.

HELP FOR PARENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Hail friends:

After a year-long creative process NEDC is pleased to present the illustrated children’s book Training Wheels; How Did I get Here? I wrote it with the invaluable assistance of Dr. Sally Hunter (mother of two), and the illustrations are by Tyler Garrison.

It’s a pretty sweet little book. For his fifth birthday, Miles receives a special gift from a family far away. His parents help him comprehend his connection to this family, and the unusual way they helped contribute to his being born. The concepts of embryo donation and embryo adoption are explained in simple, rhyming verse. And Tyler’s delightful illustrations help remind parents and children how much we all have in common, no matter how arduous our struggles toward becoming a family may have once seemed.

It’s available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and of course through your favorite local bookseller. We’ve tried to make it as affordable as possible; most of the expense involved is printing and paper. We hope it’s useful to you and yours.

LEARNING TO DO HARD THINGS

This past week with all that has been going on, I think the twins have done exceptionally well. They were in the Grandparents’ house most of last week with a limited amount of toys. On one of the last days I decided to take them to play with inflatables to jump on with my friend Katina and her girls. Julian asked Grammy if she would come too and she replied, “I can’t we have so much to do here.” Julian then told her, “We buried that word in the yard!” Of course she wondered what on earth he is talking about and I told her that we buried the word “can’t” in the yard, so we are not to use that word. She just laughed and laughed. She then told him that she had lots to do at the house and that this was not the best time for her to leave. I got that idea from my preacher’s wife, Beth, about burying the word, to teach the twins that they can do hard things.

I think we all got a lesson in doing hard things this week. Natalie had told Brian that we all were going to die on Sunday and this was several days before Evan died. I even told Patty about this on Christmas Day, before her and the family left for Disney Land. I am not sure why she told Brian this, but I was happy to see it did not come to pass. She now has a better understanding of death and yes we all will die. So she wanted to know when we were going to die. I told her that only God knows that, but it is my hope that it will not be for a very long time.

Julian was very excited that he could open the refrigerator at his Grandparents house since he is not able to at our house, and even better that it had Capri Suns in it! Who knows how many he drank while we were there. He was also spoiled by Grammy putting his blanket in the dryer for warmth for him to cuddle with. Whenever I have washed their blankets they fuss that it is hot right out of the dryer, but at Grammy’s it was the best ever! They also enjoyed learning to color in the lines with their Grandparents as well as reading books about sharks and the “Coat of Many Colors.” One of the biggest hits was a small stuffed cat named Fuzz, that the twins pet and played hide and seek with. Gramps was great at hiding it, but they always found Fuzz. They would wake up every morning excited to see the Grandparents so it was sad when we had to leave after the funeral that went very well. It must have been very hard for Brian’s parents the whole week we were there. But they not only did well, they continued to make special memories with family.

Another hard time was the funeral when each brother got up and spoke about Evan. The pastor spoke and sang twice along with two other songs, one of which Brian sang, thanks to video. The twins sat quietly; I only had to threaten Natalie once. By the end of the service she was sleeping and snoring away. I was afraid, it would get so loud it would disrupt the service, but just a few people heard that were sitting close by. As hard as it may have been for the twins to sit quietly it must have been even more of a challenge getting up and trying to say in a few words just how much your brother meant to you.

At times we may all think that we cannot do something that seems hard or impossible. I think putting your son in the ground has to top the list of impossibilities. God gave them peace and comfort, just as he gave me during my time of going through the transfer, bed rest and living day to day not knowing if the twins would survive long enough to make it to the “viable” stage. I am very blessed that they did survive, but at times like this we are all reminded that our days are numbered. Most of all I am thankful to our God who gives comfort and peace and that Brian’s parents know where to put their cares.

BROTHERLY LOVE

This year was a wonderful Christmas. Seeing the sparkle in Natalie & Julian’s eyes as they saw what Santa had brought was delightful. The greater gift came when we were leaving for church shortly after walking down the stairs to see what Santa had left and not getting to open all the gifts. Not even the ones Patty’s sister, Cathy had sent. Neither one of them fussed at all to leave the house full of wonderful toys and packages left unopened to go and worship our King. I do not believe many children would have been so willing to go to church when such temptations were at hand to stay home. For me that was the best gift I received this Christmas, in addition to time spent with Brian’s brother Evan.

Our family spent time celebrating with my family the day after Christmas. My brother always complains about all the pictures I take. That day I told his sons that of all people, my brother, should know how important pictures are since he studies genealogy. Pictures are often all that is left when we leave this world. Little did I know how true those words would ring on December 29th.

I was getting ready to take the twins and my niece Caroline out skating and for lunch when I got the call from Brian that his youngest brother had passed away. At 33, Evan had gone to be with our Lord. I was reminded of my time in Haiti when I was walking the dirt path of the Mountains and came along a village where a woman was crying out in such terrible anguish. When I asked the translator what was going on they told us her child had died. We saw people on the road running toward the voodoo village we were passing. As we passed I prayed for that woman and her family.

And now that was what I was doing for my father-in-law and mother-in-law, praying. The difference is that we are not crying such tears of anguish because we know Evan is safe in the arms of Jesus. Evan will be missed and we will think of him daily, the missing spot in the family will never be replaced. The talented musician, golfer, and scholar that he was will always be remembered and loved. This past week we have traveled to be with Brian’s parents. It has been a healing time for us as we have cried, we have laughed at the memories we shared, but now we rejoice and celebrate the life he had, but most importantly the everlasting life he is living now.

Praise be to God for giving us Evan for 33 years and as Julian tells me one day God will give him back to us. I will end with Evan’s favorite Bible verse, Hebrews 13: 1-3 “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”