• Interview with the Big Sister

    Date: 2015.03.30 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Me, Pregnancy, Sarah, Twins | Response: 2

    I recently sat down with my almost 4-year-old to get her take on the impending arrival of her twin siblings.  She says all kinds of crazy things to me on any given day, as most all almost-four-year-olds do, so I couldn’t wait to pick her brain. She was also very excited about our little chat, despite the fact that she insisted on drinking chocolate milk the whole time and staring off into space.

    She took it upon herself to start our chat by telling me all the things that big sisters do.

    Sarah: “Big sisters change the diaper and they help take a baby down for a nap. And they help grownups feed them and rock them to sleep.”

    Me: “That’s right! Are you going to do all those things when your baby brother and baby sister get here?”

    Sarah: “Uh huh, I am. It’s so beautiful.”

    Me: “Are you excited about having a new brother and a new sister? Two babies?”

    Sarah: “Uh huh.”

    Me: “What are they going to look like?”

    Sarah: “Maybe their hair is going to grow when they get out of your tummy. I think brother’s eyes are going to be brown and sister’s eyes are going to be blue.”

    Me: “Oh that’s a good guess! When do you think they’re going to be born?”

    Sarah: “In spring!”

    Me: “Do you have a day picked out?”

    Sarah: “Uh huh.”

    Me: “What day do you think?”

    Sarah: “Um, I don’t know.”

    Me: “What do you think Norah is going to do when they get here?”

    Sarah: “I think she’s going to play with them.”

    Me: “Are you going to come to the hospital to meet them?”

    Sarah: “Uh huh.”

    Me: “What are you going to do when you get to the hospital?”

    Sarah: “Just be quiet.”

    Me: “Are you going to say anything to them?”

    Sarah: “I’m going to tell them a secret.”

    Me: “What kind of secret?”

    Sarah: “A princess secret. And it’s going to be aiwehriauwbfiwubefaiww. That’s what I’m going to say.”

    Me: “I couldn’t hear you, that was very quiet.”

    Sarah: “No, it’s secret talk like this (very quietly) ‘Do you want to have a tea party.. that’s what I’m whispering. (Regular voice) That’s a secret talk.”

    Me: “What are you going to do when mommy and daddy bring them home to our house and they start crying?”

    Sarah: “Take them down for a nap.”

    Me:  “Yea? How are you going to get them down for a nap?”

    Sarah: “Just rock them in the blue rocking chair. And I’m going to put them in that bed. Well I’m just going to climb up those things, and when they go to sleep I’m going to climb down those things.” [I’m guessing she’s referring to the step ladder I now have to use to get in and out of bed].

    Me: “What are you going to do when they cry in the middle of the night and they’re sleeping?”

    Sarah: “Um, I’m just going to stay in bed and just let you do that.”

    Me: “Oh, ok because that’s what mommies and daddies do?”

    Sarah: “Uh huh.”

    Me: “What do you think Leela and Bonnie are going to do when we bring them home?”

    Sarah: “I think they’re going to bark when they’re taking a nap.”

    Me: “Oh no, I hope not, that’s going to wake them up, huh?”

    Sarah: “Yea, they’re going to bark really loud.”

    Me: “What are you most excited about having a new brother and sister?”

    Sarah: “Um, changing their diaper.”

    Me: “That makes you excited?”

    Sarah: “Yep.”

    Me: “Alright, I’m glad I’m going to have such a good helper. Are you going to help me give them baths?”

    Sarah: “Yep…. but we need rags for them.”

    Me: “Are they going to have little bitty feet?”

    Sarah: “Yep! (holds hand up with fingers the size of a quarter) Like this tiny. And that’s what a big sister is for! I was a big sister when Bean [Norah] was little. When Bean was little like this, when she was this little (grape sized according to her hand).”

    Me: “You’re still her big sister, huh? And now you’re going to have another little sister and a little brother.”

    Sarah: “But can I be both their sisters? Can I be both their big sisters? But I can be their sis, too.”

    Me: “Yea, you can. Are you going to give them sweet, gentle hugs and kisses?”

    Sarah: “Uh huh, they’re going to be teenie weenie just like Teenie.” [I think the Teenie she is referring to is Nana's cat].

    And there you have it. Words of wisdom from a soon-to-be big sis of twins. I would have interviewed Norah too, but I have a feeling hers would have gone something like this:

    Norah: “Mama! Cracker! Cup! More! Dada!” The end.

  • Entertaining Children from a Seated Position

    Date: 2015.03.16 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Pregnancy, Sarah, Toddler Time, Twins | Response: 2

    Ok, here’s the thing, I could gripe and complain some more about modified bed rest, but I’m going to try to stay away from that negative state of mind and be thankful that I’m not on full bed rest, still pregnant and able to drive to work and back every day.

    In that spirit of positivity, I’ve figured out, over the past few weeks, a few ways to entertain my young children without driving them all over town, keeping pace with them as they run, or attempting to jump on the trampoline. It’s been a learning curve for all of us. Sarah’s request of, “Mama, come see the tea party I set up,” isn’t met with much enthusiasm or energy when it takes Mama three solid minutes to go from laying to standing to walking into another room (which I probably don’t need to be doing anyway).

    So here’s what we’ve come up with in an attempt to make everyone (mostly) happy.

    First, let’s get real, Mama needs coffee. I know you’re not supposed to drink caffeine when you’re pregnant, this ain’t my first rodeo, but I warm up a glass ¾ full of milk and add some real coffee anyway. I’ve asked, it’s fine and it makes everyone in the house happier. So after Daddy makes coffee and I pour up a small cup, we can choose our activity.

    Option 1: Outside is always the first option. It’s the perfect opportunity to sit and observe while they run all of their energy out. And while Sarah was disappointed that I refused to get on the trampoline a few times, she has now taken it upon herself to design and set up an obstacle course around the perimeter of the yard which involves jumping over multiple stools and a torn up inflatable pool, dashing through leaves, making circles around the tire swing and avoiding stepping in dog poop. She runs this course at top speed multiple times around the yard while I cheer, “Bravo!” from my perch and help Norah throw the ball for the dogs, thus effectively entertaining and exhausting two kids and two dogs at the same time.

    However, it has been awfully rainy out lately, so we have a few inside options as well.

    Option 2: Crafts. Now, this one requires a little more stamina on my part and Norah either needs to be napping or out on an errand with daddy because I quickly discovered that I cannot bend to the floor to clean up the paint that Norah so wishes to paint our tile with. I really like doing this with Sarah. First we get the iPad and go to Pinterest. She picks the theme of the craft and then we search until we land on something that she both likes and we have all the supplies for. This past weekend the theme was “Easter” and all we needed was some paper, paint, crayons, glue and scissors. It was quite the success and allowed Daddy to get away with only taking Norah to the grocery store while we played at home.

    Option 3: The Performance. My kids love to dance and sing and perform. We’ve cleared off the fireplace hearth, tune Pandora into their choice of music (usually the Disney station), let them dress themselves in costume and perform to their hearts’ content. Both kiddos actively participate in this one and wear themselves out.

    Option 4: Bring the game to Mama.  We moved our kids’ picnic table back into the living room, thus providing the perfect setting to play tea party / restaurant / birthday party, all while Mama gets served up a variety of delicious Lego foods from my perch. It’s almost like breakfast in bed!

    Option 5: The Van. I love my new minivan so much. And when the days started to get super rainy and dreary and the kids couldn’t go out,  Mark suggested loading everyone up in the car and just driving. Sometimes we put on a DVD (we just bought 101 Dalmatians!), sometimes we listen to music, and sometimes we just stare out the window. We go and pick up lunch, or just drive and hang out. Norah always gets excited about this particular activity and loudly screams, “GO! GO!” and runs to the door if we even mention the word car.

    Option 6: Let them go to their grandparents’ if their grandparents are willing and available. I think this one’s self explanatory.

    Now, here’s to hoping this Spring weather is here to stay, or we are going to be in for a lot of long car rides with four little ones in the van in about a month or so.

  • 32 Weeks

    Date: 2015.03.09 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Life, Me, Pregnancy, Twins | Response: 5

    “How are you doing? How are you holding up?” are the two questions I get most these days while people eyeball my growing belly.

    “Really good all things considered,” is my usual response.

    And it’s true. By 32 weeks, many women with multiples are already on bed rest and in so much misery that moving or breathing is a task. My OB always tells me how lucky I am – how being tall makes things so much better. And she’s right. I asked her last time what short women with multiples do, and she quickly replied, “Get put on bed rest and sometimes in the hospital.”

    So luck, if that’s what you want to call it, has been with me.

    This morning I went to visit my high risk OB. I love their office. The doctors are so great and laid back and they get you in and out so quickly. I see them so often now that I feel like I’m getting to know them pretty well.

    Dr. B came in to see me this morning and picked up the ultrasound wand. “Let’s take a look at all that extra fluid around Baby B.” Baby B, it seems, has double the amount of room to swim around in than his sister and is outpacing her in size by a pound or so. That’s not a bad thing for the babies though, they are both are getting plenty of nutrition and are well within the sizes they should be, but Baby B is just a big boy.

    The problem is all that extra fluid. It doesn’t hurt the baby in any way, but instead of feeling like I’m 32 weeks pregnant with twins, it feels more like I’m 35 or 36 weeks pregnant with twins – therein lies the risk. When my uterus hits a certain size, it may think it’s “go time,” even if we’re not quite there yet.  Not to mention the fact that my ribs, hips, lower back and bladder are all paying the consequences as well. Sleeping has become a joke, as the dark circles under my eyes can attest, and this limited mobility thing is so hard for me to abide by.

    At any rate, I got myself landed with an elevated risk diagnosis this morning and I now get to visit my friends at both OB offices once a week now: aka, I’ll be at the doctors’ offices at least twice a week from here on out.

    I don’t want to sound ungrateful or unhappy – I’m not, just worried. I know so far we have been abundantly blessed and, despite the elevated risk, there is still a good chance that we can make it to that longed-for 36 week mark. Please keep our entire family in your prayers as we soldier on into the end of this pregnancy. I know the NICU here is an amazing and great place, but if we can avoid it or spend minimal time there, that would be my ultimate wish. I already love these two little ones so much and want them to be as healthy as possible. I can fight through the discomfort, after all it’s Mark’s job to sit there and listen to me complain without judging me, just as long as we are all ok in the end.

  • Snow Days, Rest Days

    Date: 2015.03.04 | Category: Dogs, Family, Health, Home, Life, Love, Mark, Me, Norah, Pregnancy, Sarah | Response: 1

    Snow in Louisiana is a rare and funny thing – especially when A) the forecasters are actually right and it happens and B) it lasts more than one day. Both of those things happened last week and I noticed that people’s reactions were something like this:

    Day 1: SNOW! SNOW! SNOW! (ok, so it’s mostly ice) but cancel all the things and let’s stay home and party. No school! Yay! Also let’s take a million pictures and go outside in inappropriate clothing because none of us are prepared for this! Also, let’s update everyone and let them know where it’s snowing!

    Day 2: A much more muted celebration, yay – no work, no school, but really I’m tired of being stuck inside with my kids, can’t we all get back to normal tomorrow?

    Day 3: Real snow! It’s beautiful! But seriously, I’m over it. Please melt and go away and bring me 75-degree weather. Grumble grumble, complain, complain.

    My take? I loved it – all three days of it from ice, to slush to real snow. I loved being at home with my family. Yes, it had its trying moments, but there is something so wonderful about an unplanned vacation. Perhaps it’s the homebody in me, or maybe getting outside long enough to watch Mark and Sarah pelt each other with snowballs and build a giant snowman satiated my need to get out of the house, but I was in heaven.

    The stay at home gave me some much needed time to move Norah’s things into Sarah’s closet and get the twins’ things set up in a closet together – a big task that I had had no clue when I’d be able to accomplish. (And don’t worry, I mostly stayed off my feet, sitting in the closet organizing, folding, stacking and yelling for Mark to come move heavy boxes for me). We also cleaned bedrooms (in the same sitting and directing fashion).

    But, most importantly, whenever I felt tired or worn out, I could crawl onto a couch and put my feet up. And guess what? I had very minimal contractions and physically felt so much better.

    The girls played church, put on elaborate dancing and singing performances and generally enjoyed the heck out of themselves. I lounged on the couch and drank coffee while I watched them perform.

    Of course it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but the unexpected break was a blessing. And when Sarah told me Thursday morning that she was ready to get up, get dressed and go see her friends that day, I applauded her good attitude.

  • Stay Off Your Feet!

    Date: 2015.02.16 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Pregnancy, Sarah, Toddler Time, Work | Response: 1

    “Stay off your feet as much as possible.”

    Those are words you might think would be wonderful to hear – and perhaps they would be if it were vacation and I had a handy dandy foot servant to tend to my needs, but the reality is something much harder.

    A few weeks ago I started experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions – not something unfamiliar to me. I recognized the cramping and tightness for what it was, but it still made me uneasy with my high risk for premature labor. I asked both my high risk OB and my regular OB about them. Good news is that they aren’t active contractions – my cervix is just fine – which is great! The bad news is that they are triggered when I’m on my feet or bending too often and lots of contractions still aren’t a great thing to be experiencing when we are hoping to make it at least seven more weeks before we deliver.

    My regular OB told me she didn’t want to put me on bed rest for a number of reasons, but the primary one was how stressful something like that is for a family: loss of income, the burden of everything falling on one partner and the kids without easy and constant access to Mama creates chaos. So, she didn’t put me on bed rest – yet. However, I have been threatened with it if I don’t “stop and sit down already.”

    I am very fortunate that my job allows me to sit most of the time, and the parts of my job that require me to be on my feet – namely photography – are slowly being handed off to other capable hands for now. In fact work has proven to be the best thing for me right now. I can arrive, sit at my desk and work, slowly meander to the bathroom across the hall on occasion (or really LOTS of occasions), and just be.

    Home life, however, has proven to be much more difficult. Having two children, ages 3 and 16 months who are still very dependent on their parents makes staying off my feet extremely difficult and nearly impossible. There are so many things I have taken for granted that are now an obstacle to overcome. My husband has risen to the occasion valiantly. Where we once both shared cooking responsibilities, he has taken over almost all of them (though I still offer to sit and peel and chop veggies!) The grocery shopping, which has always been my chore, has had to be passed off to Mark as well. I can still fold laundry, but not rotate it.

    Oh, that must be so nice, you think, having someone take care of all that for you. Well, here’s the problem, I like things done the way and on the time frame I’m used to doing them on, and I feel bad nagging my husband once he finally sits down to get up and rotate laundry. Not to mention there are so many things I want to do that are no longer an option. I really wanted to go to the Mardi Gras parades this past weekend, but my OB said, “If you’re thinking about going, just don’t.”

    My girls want me to get up and play. Sarah is always begging me to dance with her or go to another room to see her latest creation. My 16-month-old is constantly digging into and climbing on things she shouldn’t be, and when daddy is trying to man the cooking and dishes, it falls to me to try to keep an eye on her ever-busy body. And that little toot has figured out that she can run from me and I can’t give chase! She will scoop up a penny or an ink pen and take off, laughing as she watches me try to hurry after her.

    Just last week Mark was sick in bed with a 103 fever and Norah was super sick, too. In the process of trying to take care of everyone, I had a round of regular, scary contractions. Any time I think, “Oh, I’ve got this, just a short amount of time on my feet,” it backfires.

    I know complaints from pregnant women can be annoying, and I am so very thrilled and blessed to meet these twins, but man, oh man, never did I think “taking it easy” would prove to be so hard.

  • Pregnancy Survival Kit

    Date: 2015.01.21 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Me, Pregnancy, Style | Response: 5

    This is my third pregnancy, which means I may finally be starting to fall into that “experienced” category. This time with twins has been a little different though. 18 solid weeks of morning sickness made me think I’d never happily eat food again, but for once in my life I was encouraged to eat anything I thought I could keep down. After fighting NOT to gain too much weight with Norah, I’ve been amazed that everything I eat this time seems to go straight to the babies – though it also probably helps that, for the most part, I’ve been eating much healthier this time (please ignore that Ben & Jerry’s Greek frozen yogurt that stays in stock in my freezer).

    I’ve also been getting much bigger much, much faster this time around (duh).

    I’m going to say something that may make you want to punch me. I don’t show my pregnancies quickly and I don’t usually get very big. I’m tall and there is a lot of room for those babies to expand before they push outward. With Sarah I was extremely disappointed that I didn’t actually look pregnant until I was 8 months along. With Norah it happened much faster and I got much rounder, but I never got gigantic. Even with the twins, I was about 22 weeks before I had a bump that made people start to wonder. But then, for Christmas this year, I got a real, live, round baby bump – and I was really excited about it.

    But, as these things generally go, with two babies I’ve started expanding very quickly. It’s a good thing! After all it means they are both big and healthy and growing like they should. They are weighing in at nearly two pounds a piece now and tightly snuggled up together, lovingly kicking each other in the heads.

    What I didn’t realize was what this would mean for me. My skin started to hurt! I would get home in the evenings and alternate between wanting to scratch it off and wanting to put ice packs on it. My pelvis felt heavy and walking around for more than 15 minutes slowly started to become uncomfortable. Old scar tissue from past surgeries suddenly started to burn. My sciatic nerve started to rage, leg and foot cramps set in every night and, worst of all, being on my feet for more than 30 minutes started to mean dizziness and near black outs.  I had three close scrapes with nearly passing out after grocery trips followed by sessions of standing and cooking.

    I had some of those problems with my past pregnancies, but never until the third trimester. When I mentioned this to the high-risk doctor, he told me the combined weight of the twins was equivalent to a third trimester pregnancy of a single baby. So it made sense, but that didn’t make it any easier.

    So, what to do? Well, after talking to several friends and doing some research, I found some things that have helped me tremendously.

    1. My friend Kate makes and sells body butter locally. Coven is made from all natural products, including the all-important coconut oil. Plus, it smells like heaven. I started putting it on my belly every night after my shower, paying special attention to the spots where my skin really hurt. And wouldn’t you know it, within two days most of the stretching pain was gone. It also smells like blood oranges, one of my husband’s and my favorite scents. He loves it when I put it on and climb in bed. ($18 You can buy it locally in Shreveport at Agora Borealis, or it’s available by emailing Kate at zombeecandle@gmail.com)
    2. Leg and foot cramps have been especially rough this time. I hear they make oral medication to help with this, and in the past I’ve even gotten on oral magnesium supplements to help ease the pain. Recently though, my friend Cassie introduced me to magnesium spray that you apply to the cramping area and rub into your skin. My only complaint is that it stings a little when you first apply it, but when it gets into the muscle, all cramping stops. Say hello to a night of sleep uninterrupted by leg cramps (now if only something like that would work on my bladder…) (Dr. Barbara Hendel’s Magnesium Oil From the Ancient Zechstein Sea 8 fl oz $12.79 available at amazon.com).
    3. Support. Why am I always so stubborn about wearing this? They make what is essentially a bra for your belly and back and it relieves almost all of my pelvic and sciatic pain. I take it off to eat so I can expand comfortably, then put that sucker back on. It’s amazing. ($38.99 at motherhood.com)
    4. Shoes. I’ve taken to wearing what I affectionately dub as my “old lady shoes” almost every day. I have had these things forever and they have the most comfortable, thick soles on the planet. I have them in black so I can wear them to work and my pants mostly cover them up so they don’t stick out like sore thumbs. These combined with the belly support have made being on my feet with the kids constantly much better. (Saucony Originals  Jazz Sneaker $40 at amazon.com) I’ll take a pair in every color, please.

    Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot I can do for that lightheaded business except chug water and sit down every so often. I’m lucky I can mostly sit at work, but chasing two kids at home makes that whole sitting thing tough. My husband has been a great help, switching laundry loads out (after all, I’ve lost my ability to bend at the middle), cooking dinner, carrying kiddos and generally being a great reminder to sit down and rest already – after all, I don’t want to get landed on bed rest.

    We still have about 11 or so weeks to go (hopefully!) with lots more belly expansion on the way, but we can do it!

  • The Retreat

    Date: 2015.01.12 | Category: Family, Health, Holidays, Life, Love, Mark, Me, OMG YAY!, Travel | Response: 2

    My husband is notoriously difficult to shop for.  He likes tools… none of which I could even begin to pick out.

    Leading up to Christmas this year, we were beginning to prepare our three bedroom house for the addition of two more people. We have been cleaning out and purging what we can to make room. Everything has been attacked: from the girls’ rooms, to our closet, to our garage and office. We still have a way to go, but we are making room.

    So, for Christmas this year, I decided to do a little something different for Mark. I had read several blog posts and talked to a few people about the importance of setting aside time specifically for you and your spouse. It’s so incredibly hard to do with small children. Their needs always come first, and with both of us working full time, we feel like we should spend all of our free time with our children. And by the time bedtime rolls around, we are either both working some more, or retreating to our own selfish creature comforts.

    So, this year for Christmas, I decided to give Mark a retreat: a night away from everything dedicated to just the two of us. I made sure the girls would have a place to stay overnight with their Nana, then I booked a night at a Bed and Breakfast in Natchitoches. It was far enough out of town where we would be going away, but close enough that we could easily get back home if we needed to.

    I put a lot of research into where we would stay and eat during our short getaway, and even wrote and illustrated (with crayons!) a poem to give to him on Christmas Eve.

    This past Friday was the big day. After a week back of trying to get the girls back into their post-Christmas routine, we were ready. We counted down the days, then the hours.

    At go time, we drove down to Natchitoches to Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast.

    This place was AMAZING. It was an old house owned by a Civil War veteran. After being handed down to family members through the years, the couple who own it now bought it and completely renovated it. There are several gorgeous rooms to stay in, each with their own unique and beautiful features. I opted for the Garden Room with the giant bed and jacuzzi tub (of course). Because it was their off season, we were the only ones there, and we had the whole place to ourselves.

    After bringing our bag in, we headed out to dinner. I polled Facebook, and learned that one of the newer restaurants, Maglieaux’s on the Cane, was supposed to be delicious. Mark put all the planning in my hands, and we were both so pleased with our candlelit Louisiana seafood dinner. We had crawfish cornbread, Caesar salads, seafood stuffed mushrooms and chicken, and white chocolate bread pudding. Every single course was perfect. And, best of all, we got to sit and eat without having to feed anyone else or cut anyone’s food up. Win!

    Being the old homebodies that we are, we left dinner and went straight back to our room (after stopping by their kitchen for a couple of complimentary drinks). You know how most of the time staying in a bed besides your own isn’t all that great? Well this bed was lush. King-sized, pillow-topped, with tons of pillows. And that jacuzzi tub! I don’t think I would have gotten out of it ever if we didn’t have a check out time.

    I was so thrilled that I could stay up as late as I wanted with no repercussions… but fell asleep at 10:30 anyway, because that bed.

    We slept until 7:30 the next morning and got to wake up, lounge around and talk without anyone crawling in between us or digging their cold little toenails into our legs.

    Breakfast was served in the dining room at 8:30, and we wandered down to the kindest lady who was prepping a huge breakfast just for the two of us. The china was finely set, the coffee and juice were amazing, and oh. that. food.


    Raspberry croissant bread pudding for first course breakfast? Yes, please!

    The second course was Southwestern style and included eggs, grits, tomatoes and an English muffin. Later, when I asked Mark what his favorite part of the getaway was, he immediately and without hesitation said BREAKFAST.

    Following breakfast we checked out and strolled a little down by the Cane River and through downtown before heading back.

    That trip was more than I hoped it would be. We (mostly) put away technology, and just spent time completely relaxing and enjoying ourselves together as a married couple. We talked and laughed and sat in comfortable silence. We felt recharged and rested. It was good for our souls and our sanity.

    Immediately we started talking about when we could do it again. Who knows? Maybe we can divide up our four children for our anniversary and slip away in the fall. If not, I already know what I want Santa to put in my stocking next year – and next time it will be for two nights.

    If you live in the area, I can not recommend Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast enough. It’s extremely affordable and beautiful. The food is delicious and the hospitality exquisite. And even if you’re not in the area, I can’t recommend taking a retreat for you and your spouse enough. We love our children with all our hearts, but sometimes it is best to put one another first.

  • The Biloxi Adventure

    Date: 2015.01.04 | Category: Baby, Family, Food, Friends, Holidays, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Pregnancy, Sarah, Travel | Response: 2

    Adulthood friendships are unique. Chances are if we are friends as adults, then we have common values. With our friendship time limited due to family and work, it takes a special bond and sometimes quite an effort to keep a strong friendship alive. I am so blessed to have several women in my life who I count among my close friends, who keep me sane in times of stress and who blow me away with their generosity.

    So for me, the part of the holidays I was looking forward to the most was the opportunity to spend four days with my very best friend in Biloxi. Susan and I were roommates for three years in college, and when we hang out there are no obligations or expectations. We eat what we feel like, watch our girls play and no one complains when we wind down for bed at 8:00 p.m.

    This trip was especially important, because due to life and work circumstances, we likely won’t see each other again until a couple months after the twins arrive. I’m not going to dwell on that right now because it makes me too sad. So, on with the happy!

    Our trip to Biloxi was perfect (well mostly perfect – the four of us did have mild colds, but we pushed through them).

    Susan’s daughter was forced to share all of her new Christmas toys with my girls, and, for the most part, did pretty well with it. They all wanted to be in costume the whole time, which was fun.

    Our first full day there, Susan and I got to spend the morning together, kid-free. We were mostly running errands, but then we stopped at a local coffee shop and got to just sit and catch up without anyone demanding our attention. It was so cathartic, and I think we both needed it.

    We ate a lot of delicious food and had a great time taking the girls on a “nature walk” and to the park. It was just a little “froggy” out, as Sarah would say.

    The great thing about having a friend who lives on the Gulf Coast is the proximity to beaches and the nice temperature increase. It was about 10 degrees warmer than home, with temps in the low 70’s most of the time. That meant getting our feet wet wasn’t out of the question.

    And building sand castles is always fun.

    Though Norah did get royally pissed off after she made a break for the ocean, face-planted into the cold water and was forced to get out despite the fact she thought she could swim just fine by herself.

    Oh, and Mark was there, too.  We had to tag team chasing down the baby.

    Our last night there, the three grown ups went to The Half Shell, a nice New Orleans style restaurant, and enjoyed ourselves so much. I, of course, couldn’t drink, so I volunteered to be DD. The seafood was outstanding and the key lime pie some of the best I’ve ever had (it’s not good, after all, unless it makes your mouth clench up a little from the tartness).

    And while we had our share of mishaps on the trip with the kids (Susan’s daughter stole my toothbrush and ate Mark’s toothpaste at one point and Norah decided the toilet was an excellent place to play), overall the trip was so nice and so much fun. I’m so thankful we got to do it before it gets too uncomfortable for me to travel.

    And I think it’s safe to say the girls had a great time, too. You know they did when at least one of them does this as soon as we hit the road to drive home.

  • Annual Book Report

    Date: 2014.12.31 | Category: Books | Response: 0

    2014 was a productive year for reading. I have a healthy  (or maybe obsessively unhealthy) appetite for reading and audiobooks and, according to my Shelfari account, I read 88 books in 2014. I think that may be a new record. I have a feeling that number will dramatically decrease next year after the twins come, but I’ve got to enjoy it while I can, right? Too many books to review, so I’m going to pull some of my stand outs and highlight them here.

    YA Book Trilogy That I Thought Would Be Cheesy But Actually Turned Out to Be Kind of Creepy and Good



    The Immortal Rules
    The Eternity Cure
    The Forever Song

    by Julie Kagawa

    I think with the content of these books, they definitely lean toward more adult than young adult. But these books are what vampires should be. They are creepy, insane, cut throat and blood thirsty, while still managing to find their human side (at least some of them anyway). The setting was well done, and while the story sometimes lagged (especially at the beginning of the third one), all three books were well done and drew to a satisfying conclusion.

    Book That Made Me Nostalgic for My Own Marriage

    Landline by Rainbow Rowell

    Have you been in a relationship for a long time? Please read this book. Yes, it starts sad and the premise is kind of weird and a downer, but it made me remember the warmth of beginning a relationship and the joy of building it through the years. One of my favorite reads in 2014.

    Trilogy That Reminded Me of Lost in a Good Way

    The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

    Liked Lost? Loved the creepy and mysterious aspects of it, but weren’t crazy about the show’s ending? Even if you liked the show’s ending, or haven’t seen the show, just read these. They are so mysterious and creepy and good.

    Favorite New Fantasy Sub-Genre Book (Psychics)

    The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

    Slow start, but great story about a group of people with psychic powers persecuted by the government and rounded up in to an alien controlled penal colony. Sounds weird and far-fetched. It is, but it’s great, complete with excellent world building.

    Page Turner That Made Me Scared of Social Media

    The Circle by David Eggers

    If you ever feel like social media is a bit too invasive and you sort of want to run and hide in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods, this book might push you over the edge. It’s a little too prescient and spooky and will probably make you question everything you share and like online. Read it.

    Best Anthropologically Oriented Book

    Toss up between The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Euphoria by Lily King

    One is a tome with great insight into overzealous missionary mentality and stubbornness, the other a short fictionalized take on the life of Margaret Mead. Both are worth reading and both make me want to find more books in this genre. The Poisonwood Bible, in particular, really stuck with me.

    Book that I Closed and Said, “Wow.”

    Red Rising by Pierce Brown

    This book was sort of like Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games. It is intense and violent, but the story is gripping (after about the first 1/4 of it anyway) and I found myself absolutely engrossed in every moment of it. I enjoyed it so much that I contacted the author via social media to tell him so, and he wrote back to me, which of course made me even more smitten with the series (if you can be smitten with a book about a brilliant, brokenhearted young man going undercover and staging an uprising against a controlling elite society) . The second book in the series, Golden Son, comes out next week and I am counting down the days.

    The Pulitzer Prize Winner

    The Known World by Edward P. Jones

    I admit, in general, I have not liked books that have won big awards. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m hesitant to pick them up. This was picked for my book club, and while it was heavy (the topic was southern slavery), it was beautiful and moving and incredibly well written. One that will stick with me.

    Favorite YA Read

    Paper Towns by John Green

    I read a lot of young adult literature, and John Green is certainly the rock star author of YA right now, especially after The Fault in Our Stars book and movie were mega hits. I love that book, but Paper Towns may be my favorite of his. I love mysteries, and this book has a great mystery surrounded by a hilarious and determined set of characters on a quest. Parts of this book  made me laugh until tears rolled down my face and the plot was paced well and kept me guessing until the end. They just finished filming the movie of this one, so take it from me, now’s the time to read it so you know what everyone’s talking about when it comes out in theatres next year.

    Best Non-Fiction Reading

    Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill

    If you’re like me, then you’ve probably just written Scientology off as some celebrity fad religion hyped up to draw attention and bring publicity (any publicity) into the life of Tom Cruise. This book will change your perspective on that. Jenna Miscavige is the niece of the man who runs the Scientology religion across the globe.  This book is just crazy. I picked it up expecting it to be crazy, but like, laugh at the crazy people kind of crazy, not be appalled by the way they treat people crazy. This book was utterly horrifying and fascinating – like a train wreck. If you’re curious about Scientology, this one is worth reading.

    ***

    I just realized when I was making this list that I was hooked on books that creeped me out this year. I’m not sure what that’s about, but take it from someone who is generally a scaredy cat that these are worth digging into all the same. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Happy reading!

  • A Plague Upon Us

    Date: 2014.12.31 | Category: Family, Health, Holidays, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Sarah, School | Response: 1

    I get really excited about doing stuff with the kids during the holidays. This year was particularly overwhelming though, with work and events planned every weekend for nearly three months in a row. It made it hard to take time out and do things especially for and with them. So I was very excited that Sarah’s school was having a Christmas program, complete with required shepherd costume made by her aunt MC and months of song practice.

    As the anticipated week approached though, something started to go very wrong. It started with my brother-in-law, and then my sister, and then my nephew: the stomach bug was rearing its very ugly head. Still though, about three days had passed since we had been around them and I held out hope… until Wednesday when Mark went down hard. We confined him to the bedroom and stayed away. But by Thursday afternoon, I started to feel really bad.

    Thursday night was miserable. I didn’t think having the stomach bug could get worse, but I had never had it with two one pound babies inside my body, laying on my stomach and sucking up all calories and nutrition I managed to conserve. Needless to say, there was no way I could make it to the Christmas program Friday morning, despite my weak effort to get up and put my shoes on. I was heartbroken. I helped Sarah get into costume, and we both cried as daddy pulled out of the driveway to take her to school. Mark was still feeling bad, so he had to drop her off and come back home, too.

    Thanks to Team Grandma though, Sarah had a loyal fan base in attendance. Both of her grandmothers were there to witness her star performance as one of many tiny shepherds singing Christmas songs and acting out scenes from the songs.

    Right before the performance was due to start, I remembered that the Cathedral where the performance was to be held, had a webcam. Thank goodness it was up and going! We got to watch Sarah on the front row, performing her little heart out in her shepherd (or according to her, “Mary shepherd”) costume from the quarantined safety of our home office. It was amazing. I was so proud of her and she enthusiastically waved to her grandmothers when she walked past them.

    And perhaps, best of all, the school’s development director and I know each other very well, and she snapped some beautiful pictures of my girl’s performance.

    So while neither Mark, nor I could be there in person, the webcast, the pictures and the grandma fan club certainly went a long way towards making the day special.

    I’m glad she had a great Friday, because on Saturday evening she and Mimi both had their short, but fierce, turn with the stomach bug. Ah well, at least we got that nastiness out of the way in time for Christmas to still be healthy and special.

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