GIVING MY HEART

As my family and I were getting ready for a trip to visit family, Julian announced that it was Christmas Eve. He declared, “This Christmas Eve I want to give my heart to Jesus.” I replied back, “What does that mean to you Julian, how exactly are you going to do that?” He looked at me with his big green eyes and long lashes, and said “I will serve others.” Yes, I said, that is what giving your heart to Jesus means. What a blessing it is for me to see God at work in my children.

This Christmas I strive to give my whole heart to Jesus as well. For me, giving my whole heart means to consider other people, remember those in hardships, honor marriages, be content with the things I have, be faithful to God’s teachings and submit to authority. (Thanks to the classes I am taking at Bible Study Fellowship I can list all these.) It is my prayer that with God’s help I can accomplish this over my lifetime and that my children will also. So as my children open gifts and announce that they already have this toy, that I will remember that becoming like Christ does not happen overnight.

Our family visit includes visiting Brian’s grandmother who is a young 100. She is a Godly woman who always has scripture to share with you that she has memorized since she is now blind. I pray that as we visit Brian’s family and my own that we will “serve others” as Julian reminded me we really need to give to Jesus for His birthday!

JULIAN SINGS

Julian loves to sing and most of the time will now sing when we ask him to. Natalie is too shy to sing for other people, but does enjoy singing at home. It is truly a blessing to see how Julian puts his whole self into the song and just sings his heart out. May this video put you in the Christmas spirit and remind you what Christmas is about.

THINGS DONE OUT OF LOVE

What people do out of love includes all sorts of things. This week it included my aunt, uncle, cousins, nieces, nephew, brother-in-law as well as my mom’s two dear friends sitting through several very long performances before seeing the ballerina they came to support. It was so kind of them to come and it meant so much to Natalie that they all came to see her. She was so excited about her performance the next day she wore her tutu all day long.

The day of her performance, I came home from a doctor’s appointment and she was wearing the tutu I had for my first recital. She looked absolutely adorable! It was a bit big since I was six when I wore it, but still so sweet. That day I put make-up on her, just like my Mom had done for me for my recital many years ago as well. It reminded me of when my friend Judy and I had ours and what happy times those were. Now I am living those happy times with my daughter. What a delight. Every day I thank God for my children and pray blessings over them. It is my prayer that they will be blessings for others as well as for me. As you watch the video may it remind you of the blessings God has given to you or the promise of what is to come.

Lily’s Ballet Recital from Ryan Bridges on Vimeo.

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A DOG NAMED TRAUMA

I’m getting in the Christmas spirit. Admittedly, last year I was a bit bummed not to have my whole family together for Grant and Maria’s first Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, it was still fun even though my brother and his family were living in Germany, but I think this year is going to have a whole different feel.

I gave Grant and Maria their first gift on Friday. It’s a singing and pouncing dog that I got in a silly Christmas gift exchange at work. I thought they, especially Maria, would be exceptionally pumped about this dog. She might have been had it not been for the initial trauma inflicted on her by said dog. The thought never occurred to me that it might accidentally get turned on during opening and forever terrorize her against mechanical animals. As she lifted the dog from the bag, he started his rendition of Deck the Halls and Maria freaked out. Grant stood beside watching and smiling as I filmed the terror. Jeremy was across the house and heard the situation unfold and started cracking up. Does laughing at her sheer terror make us bad parents? She continued to scream and back away from the dog, now named Trauma. I stopped filming and she ran to me and climbed up my body to get away from the ferocious beast. She stayed glued to me for some time and when Trauma was sitting out she’d take a wide berth around him. We’ve spent the weekend trying to get Maria to warm up to Trauma but to no avail. She was brave enough to hold him, but dropped him and bolted when she pressed his “on” button. Grant thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread and will play with him for hours on end if we let him.

In addition to traumatizing Maria, we put the Christmas tree up for the first time since 2004. The first year we didn’t put it up we had a legitimate reason. We were getting ready to move and didn’t need to be taking anything out of boxes. The subsequent years were really just laziness and a lack of desire to deal with the cats’ tree antics. I limited our Christmas decorations to my nativity scene and a brushed metal art deco tree that I got at a local art fair. But, this year it was time to pull the ole Charlie Brown tree back out of the box. Grant and Maria were super excited and “helped” me with the lights and ornaments. After the tree was decorated, it proved to be much too tempting for both the cats and the kids and it is now in protective custody behind the baby cage. You do what you’ve got to do.

Christmas is right around the corner and I’m working on focusing on its real meaning, rather than getting caught up in the commercialism that is everywhere. It’s not about Santa Clause and parties and presents. Yes, we might laugh about a Christmas dog named Trauma for years to come but the season is about birth of Christ and we’ll work to ensure that Grant and Maria don’t forget the reason for this season.

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WHERE’S THE LINE TO SEE JESUS?

The twins just started taking choir this year and have loved it for 30 minutes every Wednesday night. This Sunday was the Christmas play they had been working on. We have listened to it in the car for months and months. Our church joined with the Baptist church down the road from our church to do the play. Our church performed a small portion of the play and Julian just sang his heart out! Natalie looked a little preoccupied at times with her outfit and all the people around, but she too sang with enthusiasm. I was very proud of them both. After the night performance I asked Natalie how it made her feel to perform the play and she said hungry! When I asked Julian the same question he told me he felt happy, but Natalie told me it made her sad. I asked her why and she said because Julian was singing so much and she was not beside him. Julian said, “I was doing what my teacher told me to. She told me to sing loud!” The twins sang two of the many songs in the play, which was Away in a Manger and Joy, Joy, Joy. Where’s the Line to see Jesus, was one of my favorite songs which was a performed as a solo. Both the performances were just a blessing to see. All the children did an awesome job and the work that was put into it was shown.

The twins loved listening to the play and have learned so much from it. They both have a better understanding that it is better to give than to receive. Julian also knows that instead of giving material things he should just give his heart. They both have only asked for a few toys for Christmas and I think if it had not been for this play they would have rattled off more and more, Julian wants a train and a dump truck and Natalie wants a Tangled Castle. Julian particularly is very interested in what others want for Christmas and had such excitement in giving his teachers gifts. They have both taken such joy in wrapping gifts and putting them under the tree. After placing them under the tree, Natalie gave me the biggest hug and said “You are the best Mommy in the world!” That felt so good, since I had not given her a gift or even wrapped any for her, these were all for others. Those words were not from a child who just got what they wanted, but a child who really is beginning to understand that it really does make the heart feel good when you give. That for me was the best gift in the world!

 

 

MY PLAYLIST

Throughout our entire journey to have children, music has been a huge comfort to me. I can name five songs that really brought me through our adoption decision and process.

The lyrics in Aaron Shust’s “My Savior My God” got me through the early days after we had a diagnosis concerning our inability to conceive. “I am not skilled to understand what God has willed what God has planned” spoke directly to my heart. Ok, God, I get it, I’m going to trust Your will and Your plan in this…even if I don’t understand or even like it.

The next song on my playlist represents my acceptance of the situation and my new motivation to adopt. “He Reigns” by the Newsboys states “all God’s children sing glory, glory, halleluiah He reigns.” I realized that there was a child or children somewhere in this world for Jeremy and me.

I’ve previously written about “Overcome” by the Desperation Band in our selection of special consideration embryos. This is the only time I’ve ever had what I will call a clear “vision” from God. As I stood singing this song in church on that fateful Saturday evening, I saw their profile as plain as day. There was no question about it. This was the profile we were to choose.

“Desert Song” by Hillsong was my “results day” song. I listened to it over and over again while I waited seven and a half hours for Jennifer to call with our positive results. The drumbeat was comforting and the lyrics reminded me that we would praise God, no matter what the results.

Finally, the song that I can call my “embryo adoption theme song” is “Walk on the Water” by Britt Nicole. Really, I think it’s a great song for anyone pursuing adoption. Adoption takes faith and courage and unless we step out, we will never have the opportunities for the blessings that adoption can bring.

THE SIMPLE THINGS

My babies are 18-months old today. Hard to believe that we’re starting the downhill slide towards their second birthday. It truly doesn’t seem possible. I was going through pictures from this time last year and it is amazing how much they have changed. Grant still looks like Grant, but he looks so much more like a little boy than a baby. I think he’ll look the same when he’s six. Maria looks like a different child. She’s no longer all cheeks and her toothy grin and longer hair really makes a difference. When compared to their peers, they are still on the smaller end of the scale or else other children their age are huge. Whichever it is, 12-month clothes still fit nicely, especially on Maria; she even has some 9-month things that fit. When looking at her compared to other girls her age, you can really see how tiny her frame is and that she’s going to be petite, much like her genetic mom who comes in at a whooping 5’3” and 105 pounds.

Last year, they weren’t even sitting up yet. Now, they are running and climbing on everything. Grant has figured out how to climb into the chairs on the front porch. It’s only a matter of days before he can climb on the couch, which will bring a whole new set of hazards. Maria “talks” nonstop. We’re not always sure what she’s saying, but she sure knows what she’s talking about. A few things are pretty clear though: cat, dog, HI, ball, who’s that? what’s that?, and uh-oh are common words and phrases for her. Grant has a couple of key phrases as well, including “odeyodeyo”. Your guess is as good as mine. They both have a version of “thank you” and I think are starting to say “drink,” which is an improvement over squealing and pointing to their cups.

This year, they have established a love for the outdoors, which is fine by me. Just mention going outside and Maria is running to get her socks and shoes. We’re taking advantage of the nice weather after an oppressively hot summer and spending as much time outside as possible. What this is proving to me is that kids don’t need toys. Sticks, leaves, and flowers are so much more fun than any toy we have. Plus, watching people do things like sweep their driveways and mow grass is thoroughly entertaining. Grant was watching a neighbor sweep when he abruptly turned and ran to our porch. He moved the chair, grabbed the broom, and began to drag it around our driveway. They love to point at airplanes, wave at cars and talk to the neighbors. Their innocence is precious to me and I think their amazement at these ordinary things is a reminder to the rest of us to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life.

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BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO BE

People often tell comment on how cute Grant and Maria are. I agree, they are very cute, but do you know why? It’s because they have to be. God designed babies, puppies, kittens, etc. to be cute to ensure their survival. After all, without some level of cuteness, would we really put up with the screaming, pooping, sleep interruptions, and general life upheaval that comes with children? Some might be mildly offended by my assessment, but I think that most people, if truly honest, would agree with me.

We love Grant and Maria and wouldn’t change a thing in our quest to have them. As they get older and strive for more independence, though, things do get a little more trying and we both have to dig deep to find the patience and endurance to get through some days. The good news is that in addition to their cute appearances, they also have some entertaining behaviors that can disarm us at just the right time.

• Maria knows when she’s on Jeremy’s “list” so she comes after him and says “HI!” (pronounced hi-ee) and scrunches her face. Jeremy tries to maintain his stern face, but I can see a softening around his eyes.

• Grant has a mischievous and shy grin where he lowers his chin, looks at you out of the top of his eyes and purses his lips showing off a dimple. It’s impossible not to smile at him when he does this.

• Maria talks to EVERYONE when we are out on our walks. She assaults them with her “HI!” until they respond. One night a man had his back to the street while he was getting something from his trunk. Maria said “HI!” and he looked straight to the sky with a perplexed look; it was like he was thinking, “God, is that you? I didn’t expect you to sound like a little girl.” Then he saw us and appeared relieved.

• Grant has been very cautious of the step off our porch after a nasty fall about a month ago. He holds onto the rail and won’t step off unless you give him a hand. I was at the end of the driveway with Maria and he wanted help. I encouraged him to step down and after a few minutes, he finally gently let his foot down. When it touched the ground and he realized he was okay, he let out the most satisfied smile. He was so proud!

• After hearing us say “awwww” when they would hug the pets or us, Maria now lets out her own “awwww” as she leans in for a hug.

• Grant gets extra ticklish when he’s sleepy. When we’re going to put him down for bedtime, he will look straight in your face, place his hands on your cheeks then lean back with an open mouthed smile just begging you to nuzzle and tickle his neck. He laughs hysterically as we drain the last little bit of energy from him.

• They have an old remote control with no batteries in their toy box. They also know they aren’t supposed to have the “good” TV remote. When left in their reach one of them grabs it and says “Daddy” as they bring the remote to you. I guess Jeremy has trained them that the remote is his. My dad will be proud.

• Ask Maria what a dog says and she growls … I’m assuming she’s imitating Charlie’s snoring.

• When it’s Maria’s turn to nurse before bed, she smacks her lips together, smiles and says “num num.” Mama’s milk is the perfect end to a busy day.

Yes, they are cute and do cute things to make us laugh. For that, I am grateful.

I’M ALRIGHT

As mentioned in a previous post, we relinquished our 10 remaining embryos a couple of weeks ago. Part of what solidified this decision were my feelings after visiting a good friend in the hospital after the birth of her first child. Little Emma was precious and perfect and I thought I might get that stir inside me longing to have another, but I had nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. In fact, I felt relief that we were beyond the helpless newborn stage and even felt mild panic at the thought of a third child.

Other than more than one newborn at a time, I can think of very little that is more tiring than a newborn. Not only is your body recovering from expelling a human, said human is extremely demanding. Plus, you don’t know this new person, so you have to figure out what they need/want/like while your hormones are going crazy, your boobs and other body parts hurt, and you’ve reached the edge of complete and total exhaustion. Can I just have two, maybe even three hours of interrupted sleep, please? Who cares that I’m walking around with bags under my eyes the size of Texas and my shirt is crusty with milk that leaks uncontrollably? Meanwhile, laundry and dishes pile up, and well-meaning friends and family want to come and meet this new beautiful creation. Our NICU experience shielded us from the onslaught of visitors and we kept their homecoming somewhat low key so we could adjust to this new and crazy life without juggling too many visitors. I’m also not afraid to say “no” and did so on more than one occasion when a visit would have been more stress for me than it was worth.

I’ve come a long way from three years ago, when visiting a new baby would bring the mixed emotions of happy for them sad for me. I’ve also come a long way in the face of a pregnancy epidemic that seems to be running amok around me. With my friend’s new baby and the impending arrival of a new niece or nephew, currently known as K2, I have no less than five people in my circle and countless friends on FaceBook who are pregnant or recently delivered. Anyone who has been down the infertility road knows how hard this can be when pregnant bellies are seemingly coming out of the woodwork. Thankfully, through the blessing of embryo adoption I’ve been able to move beyond that longing and wondering “why not me?” To quote Kenny Loggins… I’m alright.

SIBLING RIVALRY

The most recent issue of the National Mother of Twins Club magazine had a study published on sibling rivalry. Based on its survey, most parents of twins reported sibling rivalry being most prevalent among twins from ages 2-5. Often it was shown in the form of fighting, jealousy, hitting, shoving, and biting. I can say we already have seen all of those. Most common is fighting over toys or Jeremy or me. If you are attempting one-on-one with one baby it’s not uncommon for the other to throw themselves at you or, if we’re up in a chair, to try to climb in the chair or sit in the floor and throw a tantrum. It’s frustrating, but also makes me realize we do have to work to spend dedicated time with each baby.

On Monday, Grant wasn’t feeling well and went to bed extra early. I closed myself in the nursery with him while we rocked and I could hear Maria happily playing out in the hall with Jeremy. She was cackling and pushing a toy up and down the hall. I was worried she would keep him awake, but he wasn’t disturbed and quickly crashed.

I sat on the couch with Jeremy, enjoying a few minutes of not having to do anything while watching Maria. I figured it would go on for a couple of minutes and she would move on to something else. But I was wrong. For the next 35 minutes she ran laps up and down the hall, laughing and talking all the way. She didn’t get frustrated when she got stuck and never once threw her toy. She just went back and forth, back and forth. Jeremy commented that she never has this opportunity to just have something all to herself. Normally, Grant would interject himself, either by stealing said toy or by just stopping forward momentum by being in the way. But not now; she had it all to herself….and she was thrilled! She eventually tired and was ready for bed, but not without breaking a sweat. Baby Girl might have logged a mile if we had a pedometer on her.

More than anything, this was a reminder that they both need some alone time and while that isn’t always easy to accomplish, we’re going to have to make it a point to give each one time alone, even at this young of an age. They will enjoy it and appreciate each other more when they are reunited. Maybe it’s a special trip to the store with only one or taking advantage of an early bedtime for the other. Whatever it may be, they need to enjoy time as an individual and not always as a twin. While, I can’t imagine life with only one, sometimes each needs to be treated as if they are the only one in the world.