Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

  • Two Two-Year-Olds

    Date: 2017.04.13 | Category: Birthday, Family, Home, Love, Luke, Mark, Me, Twins, Vera | Response: 10

    Sometimes, even now that you are both two-years-old, Mark and I look at each other and say with a touch of disbelief, “We have TWO babies.” Though I guess you’re not truly babies anymore.

    As I was making your birthday video (below), I realized that at this time a year ago, neither one of you were walking. And now? Not only are the two of you tearing through our house at top speed, but you dance, hop like bunnies and climb anything and everything.

    Having twins is so fascinating. You are each your own separate and truly beautiful and unique person, but there is a part of each of you that belongs to the other. If one of you wakes up before the other, the first thing you do is inquire where the other is. And if I don’t immediately go to your room when you first wake up, when I do finally wander in, I discover the two of you hopping like little rabbits, laughing at all the pillows and blankets you’ve thrown across the room at one another.

    At two, Vera, you have an amazing command of language. I’m constantly shocked by your ability to speak in full and (usually) understandable sentences, and your responses to things make me laugh. I asked you what you wanted for Easter, and without missing a beat you declared, “a chocolate bunny!”

    Meanwhile Luke is completely fascinated by anything and everything with wheels. The first word you really grasped after “mama” and “dada” was a loud and resounding version of “CAR!” You have since come to fully appreciate trucks, vans, planes and trains, zooming all of them over the floor, the couch and your sisters.

    I love to watch the two of you interact. If someone falls or gets hurt, the other runs over and says, “You ok?” while offering a kiss or pat on the back. In the tub, both of you delight in dumping water on the other’s head. Vera, you love to play with your sisters, dress up and color alongside Sarah, while Luke would much rather snuggle up on the couch with daddy and watch the most dull videos imaginable on everything from remote control 18-wheelers to squirrel hunting.

    I laugh all the time when I look up and see the three girls delighting in some game, while Luke is halfway across the room in his own world playing with cars. Though, Luke and Norah do so love to beat up on each other.

    Both of you love to dance, sing and play outside. Vera is ever my little social butterfly, going to anyone and everyone and rambling on about everything from “bo bo’s” to “bumble bee bites” and “lady bugs.” Luke, on the other hand, would much rather stick to mommy and daddy like glue and hide his head.

    Luke is such a Daddy’s boy, constantly hanging on his legs and going to him for comfort. I laugh a little and tell Daddy that he finally gets to see what it’s like to be the one who has to stop everything to take care of one tiny tyrant. Vera usually prefers Mommy and especially loves poking me in the eyes, ears, etc, while confidently identifying all said body parts.

    This past year has been one of so much growth, one of watching the two of you become your own person. It makes me both sad and proud to see you putting on your own shoes, pushing my hands out the way because “I do it.”

    People still tell me all the time that they don’t know how we do it. But you guys are the best and such wonderful little two-year-olds. Having a built in buddy, even with the occasional fight over a toy, makes all the difference. Yes, we have TWO babies, two toddlers. And while I still marvel at it, I am so glad I get to experience having both of you as my children and watching how you both find yourselves and help one another.

    Happy Second Birthday my little loves!

    Here’s a video of their past year!

    Vera and Luke's 2nd Birthday from Jessica Rinaudo on Vimeo.

  • Celebrating 9 Years

    Date: 2016.10.20 | Category: Family, Home, Life, Love, Mark, Me | Response: 0

    The night Mark asked me to be his wife.

    When Mark and I got engaged 10 years ago, it was at a very transitional point in our lives. He had recently quit his job and started his own business, complete with its financial burdens and uncertainty. I was working part time and trying to plan a wedding on a super tight budget. I remember saying to Mark, if we can survive starting a business and planning a wedding in the same year, then we can survive anything.

    I think God must have laughed to Himself then, and said, “Ah, but this is just the groundwork.”

    That year of planning and start-up was difficult, as were the two to three years following it. Committing your life to someone and living with them, sharing your time, your space, your life, can be challenging. We learned to communicate and learned some very hard lessons about money and budgeting. We grew up and we grew together.

    So, of course, when we finally started coming out of financial hardship, we decided it was time to move out of the townhouse, invest in a real home and grow our family. That, in itself, came with its own set of fears and anxieties. Not only the financial concerns and the usual fears that come along with being responsible for a tiny person, but because I had a long history of women’s health issues that, I was told, would make conceiving a child “a challenge.”

    Before we were married, I remember after a difficult appointment at the OB’s where I was told I would likely “need assistance conceiving,” that I sat on the ground next to my bookshelf and bawled my eyes out. I had always wanted many children, and I worried my future husband wouldn’t be happy if children weren’t an option. Mark sat beside me, wrapped his arms around me, looked at me in the eyes and said, “I want YOU. If we can have children, great. If we can’t, I’m ok with that. It’s not going to change me wanting to marry you.”

    And through it all, even when things have been tough between the two of us, or difficult in our lives, we have always kept that same mentality, that same love in our marriage.

    Of course we did go on to miraculously conceive our first child, fought through my post partum depression and his depression simultaneously (oy), and came out of it stronger, more aware of the other person. We experienced secondary infertility and I’m pretty sure my insanity and obsession during that time nearly drove him out the door (or at the very least into hiding in the garage, tinkering with tools). And then when our second child was finally conceived and born, we were tested with colic and sleep deprivation beyond what any new parent should have to endure. We established a support system that involved “tapping out” and a lot of tears on my part.

    Then, once again, when our lives finally seemed to be smoothing out, when we were blessed with two beautiful girls beyond all hope and through abundant grace, the good Lord laughed again and said, “I know you fought through all that fear and infertility and now you think your body won’t give you any more children, so, SURPRISE! Here’s TWO babies for you even though you’re still nursing that second one you prayed so ardently for.”

    That was a test of enduring real and honest shock – of scrambling to figure out how in the world we would financially and mentally survive. There was bed rest and a shift in household responsibilities. There was a re-commitment to our faith and trust in God and in one another. And then, of course, when the twins arrived, we had to learn to reshape our lives once again.

    This morning one of the twins’ teachers told me they have no idea how we all get out the door so early in the morning and even manage to eat breakfast. I told her that Mark and I do it together, we’re a team. We have it down to a point now where everyone has their own tasks they have to complete in the morning. We’re a machine. But now the struggle can be moving out of that “machine” mentality.

    It can be so difficult to find time for just the two of us. It’s almost impossible to find a babysitter to keep all four children. I feel like we burn our families out by asking for help during the work week when sitters fall through, and every good sitter we know has either moved or recently had a baby. When people tell us to “make sure we get a date night,” we look at each other and shake our heads. But the thing is, we both know. We both know what it takes to keep things going, to support one another, to love one another when so many other people are constantly demanding our love and attention.

    Mark and I joke that we never do things the easy way, but maybe there’s a reason for that. We have endured trials and tests, but the end result of each of them has been greater sacrifice and, as a result, greater love. Mark always says that the first time he saw me, God told him that I was the one. And it didn’t take much longer for me to figure out the same thing. Life is not perfect or even remotely easy, but we stand by one another, we love one another and even when things get stressful, or tough, or frustrating, we will always be the other’s rock, cheerleader and best friend.

    I love you Mark, and I’m so grateful that we found and have one another.

    Happy 9th anniversary.

    P.S. This is the anniversary card he gave me. Perfection.

  • Happy Third Birthday to My Norah Bean

    Date: 2016.09.22 | Category: Birthday, Family, Home, Life, Love, Norah | Response: 0

    The fact that I’m making this birthday post two days after her actual birthday because her baby sister has been super sick and consuming my days, is so quintessentially “Happy Birthday Middle Child.” Sigh, I swear, we do try our best. And despite the fact that I spent most of Norah’s birthday at the pediatrician’s office, Mark did make her very favorite dinner – potato soup, which requires a lot of prep work – while keeping an eye on the other kids. AND, I did go have lunch at school with Norah, even though she freaked out because we were sitting separately from her class and she thought I was going to leave her at the “trouble table” alone. But we pulled through it. She also got the Stitch toy she’s been begging me for and she and her little mischievous alien friend are now inseparable. Also – Lilo and Stitch luau party this weekend!

    Now, onto Norah’s birthday post.

    ***

    Last night as I watched my girls play in the bathtub, I marveled at Norah laughing, singing and using her imagination, remembering the day she was born. She, ever the child with her own agenda, came three days before her scheduled c-section. I remember holding her and thinking how very different she looked from Sarah, rubbing her head full of hair against my cheek, and staring at her laying on the hospital bed with the sunlight filtering through the windows onto her chubby little cheeks.

    That was three years ago, and honestly it feels like so much longer than that. I worry sometimes, that I somehow robbed Norah of her “babyhood” by having the twins while she was still an 18-month-old baby herself, but she impresses me. I think there is a reason that she is exactly where she is in our family dynamic.

    Even at 18 months, she was smart and resourceful and had an amazing vocabulary. When I tell people it’s her birthday, people often say, “Oh, is she four?” To which I respond, “Nope, she’s three. All those crazy things she’s been saying and doing have been coming from the mouth and imagination of a two-year-old.”

    At three, Norah is really coming into her own. It’s one of my most favorite things about this age. And while she holds definite opinions about things (a big NO to pizza, for instance), she does love to follow her big sister’s lead in playing make believe. Together they will line up the My Little Ponies and play school with them, or put on costumes and dance through the house, or play mermaids in the bathtub.

    At three, Norah is always a source of entertainment and frustration in our house. One minute she’ll be physically kicking someone out of “her spot” on the couch and I have to go running in to rescue the screaming victim, and then in the next moment she’ll be sharing her beloved “kiki” blanket with her crying baby sister. I can’t pretend to understand her thought process or reasoning – but what’s life without a little guesswork?

    At three Norah is charming and knows how to get people to do what she wants. I’m sometimes kind of horrified by this quality, but I know it will likely serve her well as she grows into the leader she’s destined to be. Out of all my children, people comment the most that Norah makes them laugh or smile. Her fierceness combined with her mischievousness and devilish grin make her a bottomless well of great story material. Even now her former teachers and babysitters will tell me Norah stories that make me laugh and often embarrass me, but she takes it all in confident stride.

    At 3, her ability to process and understand things also amazes me. In the weeks leading up to her birthday, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her response was, “You mommy.” To which I replied, “No, what do you want for a present?” Norah said, “To spend the day with you.”

    It broke my heart and made it melt at the same time. And due to the logistics of things in our lives, we couldn’t get exactly that, but I did have a day with just me, Norah and Sarah,” and together we had lunch, got ice cream and got to pick out a My Little Pony from the store. Both girls told me it was the “best day ever.”

    Our house and appliances have been broken, painted with various lotions and sunscreen, colored on and had holes punched through them more times in the past three years than I thought possible. We’ve made far too many ER trips and learned what a papoose board is, to my great dismay. Norah truly embodies her favorite movie character, Stitch, but like Stitch, she also has a heart of gold and places all of her trust, love and joy in her “ohana,” her family.

    Mark likes to say that God must think a lot of us for giving us Norah, and yes, she challenges us daily, but somehow, even in the midst of her worst disasters, we often find ourselves trying not to laugh. I am so grateful for the chaos, the joy, the laughter and the love that Norah has brought into our lives over the past three years.
    Happy third birthday, my girl. We love you.

  • Singing for Joy

    Date: 2016.03.14 | Category: Family, Life, Love, Norah, Sarah, School | Response: 0

    Around the time the twins were born, Sarah started asking me to let her take dance classes. She seemed to have an aptitude for it and I was excited about letting her try. Then the reality of life with two new babies set in. It was tough just to get out of the house, never mind the juggling to get everyone to school and back each day. Throwing another place to be, especially in the evenings, on our plates was starting to look grim. I know we can’t give our children everything they want, but I knew she wanted this badly and I wished I could do it for her.

    The deadline for registration was approaching when we got a note from school saying that K4 could sign up for Angel Choir if they so desired. It would require staying after school one day a week and several performances over the course of the school year. Ever the performer, I wondered if she might be interested. We sat down and talked about dance and what it would involve and we talked about choir and what it was. I let her make the choice. She could choose one. And to my utter surprise and relief, she chose choir.

    Angel Choir has been one of her greatest joys these past few months. On Thursdays, Sarah will wake up and say, “Mama! What day is it?” When I say, “Thursday,” she cheers and says “Yay! I have Angel Choir today!” and then tells me all about her teacher’s beautiful voice. She skips through our house singing songs and constantly asks me about her next performance.

    One of the most fun parts of Angel Choir is that performances are not just for parents. They regularly sing at church, for special lunches and, my favorite, for nursing home residents.

    Yesterday was performance day at a local nursing home. The kids, ages K4-2nd grade, put on their best green “Irish” clothes and prepared for their St. Patrick’s Day themed singing. We all crowded into the common room and took our seat next to the residents. The choir was fantastic. There were hand motions, scarf waving, show tunes and even Irish dancing.

    The kids had a blast, performing with enthusiasm.  I was impressed with how many songs they had learned and even a little teary as they belted out songs from The Sound of Music. And while I loved watching my daughter truly enjoy her performance, my gaze kept wandering to the elderly guests in attendance. Together they leaned forward, hands clapping, smiling brightly and singing along with familiar tunes. They cheered with gusto after the kids finished a song and even offered up a few of their own takes on some of the songs. Mom and Norah came with us, and Norah enjoyed dancing right along with the choir to the delight of the many guests there. I can honestly say that watching the glowing faces of the old people there was one of the purest forms of joy I’ve ever seen.

    When the children finished performing, one resident stood up, cheered and said, “Oh please do come back!” Another ran off (and I do mean ran – she was quite spry) to grab a basket of St. Patrick’s day goodies they had made for the children and they invited them to stay for juice and cookies (some of the gooeyest and softest I’ve ever had).

    My girls didn’t want to leave! When one old lady asked for a hug, Norah joyfully ran into her embrace. The same lady insisted on high fives and had stuffed her pockets full of quarters to hand out to the kids. If ever there was a more appreciative and captive audience, I don’t know one.

    And while I hope that Sarah can still do dance one day if she wants to, I am so grateful that Angel Choir has turned out to be such a joy and blessing for Sarah, for the audience and for myself.

  • Why It’s an Ordeal

    Date: 2016.02.26 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Love, Luke, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, Toddler Time, Twins, Vera | Response: 0

    Our lives are super crazy. Of course they are – you can’t manage four children four and under without some chaos. And in the 10+months Mark and I have been juggling it all, things have gotten better and, in some ways, easier.

    I have very sweet people tell me all the time that I “make it look easy,” but most of the time it’s really not.

    I also have so many very sweet and well meaning friends and family who want me to occasionally “do things” outside the house – to get away or be present for some event. And while the intention is always good, I find myself clenching internally at the prospect. How do I explain to them why this is a big deal without sounding whiny?

    Most kids have a “witching hour,” that time in the evening where they sort or lose their minds in some form or fashion and it makes everything a little more difficult. That time usually falls around dinner/bath/bed, at least in our home. Everyone starts to get hungry and reacts in different ways. At our house, the babies start getting fussy. They scream, crawl to wherever I am, pull up on my legs and scream some more. Norah makes trouble. She steals toys, dumps out bags of pretzels on the floor, dumps dog food into the water bowl, colors all over herself with markers, etc. Sarah, for the most part is pretty good. But when she’s really tired and hungry, she will start crying over things like, “I don’t ever want to move out of this house,” or “Mama, you said four days ago that I could wear my pink jacket and you didn’t let me.”

    And then there are the physical mechanics of getting everyone to use the bathroom, changing diapers, washing hands, cooking dinner, cutting it up, serving it up, getting drinks, bibs, spoons, baby food and everyone into their seats and eating. It’s tough with one kid, but with four it’s a juggling act. At least the babies can’t crawl out of their high chairs yet, right?

    Anyway, then there is the feeding of babies while we try to scarf down our food between screaming and ordering the big girls not to leave their seats or that they need at least TRY what they’ve been served. Then, when it’s all over, there’s the dishes and putting up of things and getting pajamas out and towels, wash cloths, diapers, etc. while four very mobile children continue to be very tired and run amok. There is bathing (we’ve finally figured out to get them on alternating schedules so only two are bathed any given night), the dressing, the teeth brushing, the nursing, the book reading, and the “DO NOT GET OUT OF THAT BED AGAIN” routine that starts.

    When all that is finally over sometime around 8:15, we move onto finishing the dishes, prepping bottles, stuffing diapers, signing folders and trying to get extra work done before we crash into bed and end up staying up until 11pm to cram in some much needed self and couple time.

    What I’m saying is, that evenings at our house are very much a two-person job. Mark and I have a pact not to leave the other alone during that time of the day without recruiting an extra set of helping hands.  Now I know some parents have to do this alone all the time and they have my UTMOST respect, but there is a reason we have a pact on this, and it’s mostly so that if one of us crumbles under the pressure, the other person can pick up the pieces and keep everyone moving. Or, someone can tame the babies while they scream and the other gets bed things out. Or, someone can clean up whatever mess Norah has made while the other keeps everyone “out of it, get out!”

    And so one of us just leaving the house between 5-8 is not possible without help. It’s just not. I know that we have to take care of ourselves (no lecture needed there), but that usually happens between 9pm and 11pm. I would love to throw my hands up some nights and say, “Sorry! Not tonight! Mommy is taking her wine to the back porch,” but Mark would cut me with the daggers he threw from his eyes, and honestly I would do the same to him if he tried such a move.

    All this to say, I’m sorry, really I am, that I can’t hang out in the evenings right now (or really do anything until after 8:30p.m., including talk on the phone). And unless I can bring at least two kids with me, even daytime breakaways are tough. Eventually things will get better as everyone grows up and becomes more self-reliant, but right now we all need each other most of the time, especially in the evenings. The babies are still nursing and Norah and Sarah need that extra little bit of mom and dad time after they go to bed. I love my family and I’ve learned to embrace the chaos in a way my mostly-introverted self never thought possible. I’m so grateful for their sweet faces and nighttime hugs and kisses, but there is always a whirlwind of chaos and Mark and I are in together. So really, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s us. And I’m ok with that.

  • Saying Goodbye to Paw Paw

    Date: 2015.07.02 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Love, Me, Nostalgia | Response: 7

    Today is a surreal and sad day. My grandfather, one of the most important and formative people in my life, passed away today. I immediately felt two strong emotions well up inside of me: the sadness, of course. How can I not be sad that my Paw Paw is no longer available for a goofy grin or a silly joke, or to ask me where I’m traveling to next and take pride in my achievements? But another part of me was instantly relieved. He has fought a long and hard battle with Parkinson’s disease that grew especially difficult and frustrating for him over the past two years. I know he was ready to go.

    On Monday, fearing the end was near, the six of us loaded up the van and drove over to see him. Having lost control over most of his ability to communicate, I didn’t know what to expect. But I watched amazed as he perked up when I brought the twins to see him, smiled at Mark and me, and even managed a small wave as Norah boisterously shouted “Paw Paw” and wiggled her little hand at him.

    That was my Paw Paw, always a man who loved children.

    Over the course of today, I’ve been thinking about the huge role he played in my life and the lives of my sisters and cousins.

    He led a big life. He was the Louisiana Secretary of Commerce, the grandson of a construction company dynasty, sat on numerous boards, co-founded a school and even climbed to the very top of Amway. But he was also “Paw Paw,” a man who dropped everything to spend time with his grandchildren, who he loved fiercely.

    “Paw Paw! Let’s ride the airplane!” we’d cry, and he would load us all up in his Caddy and drive his car through the front yard in circles, narrowly avoiding magnolia and pine trees, bushes and ditches. We would squeal in delight and he would giggle right along with us. He would take us to his office after hours, and let us decorate white boards, dig through office supplies, use the old typewriter and raid the company snacks.

    At the infamous family annual Christmas party, Paw Paw would don his well worn Santa suit and load up his sack with presents as we each begged for the chance to be his helper elf (which usually involved putting on a very tight white and green striped onesie with curled green shoes).

    Our family has always loved to play games together, and he was always eager to jump in. Party Lines was a favorite and he was great and coming up with lines that got the whole family laughing with tears pouring out of our eyes.

    Ever the sports fan, Paw Paw kept diligent notes about sporting stats and encouraged us all to take up a sport. I remember many a summer spent at LA Techsters basketball camp while Paw Paw rubbed elbows with the coach and visited with everyone – after all he knew everyone who lived in Ruston.

    One day, my grandfather and I sat talking when I was 16. He asked me if I could travel to anywhere, where would I choose. New York City was at the top of my list. A couple weeks later my parents received a phone call. My grandfather had a business trip that would be taking him to NYC and would I like to go with them? Together we sat down and made a list of all the things and places we wanted to see and go to. When the time arrived, he took that list with us to New York and made sure we did every single item on the list, crossing each off as we accomplished them.

    Together, my grandparents and I traversed the entire city, eating at Tavern on the Green and Sardi’s, going to the top of the Empire State Building and visiting FAO Schwartz. We saw The Lion King and Les Mis on Broadway, and I even remember venturing out to Hard Rock Cafe late at night with them just to cross it off the list.

    My grandfather lived to bring joy to others. Each year he would foot the bill for all four of his children and their families to go to the beach together. Inevitably the kids would get tired of just sitting outside, and he and my uncle Mix would load all the children up and take us to the Big Kahuna water park while the other adults enjoyed the peace and quiet. Another day, they would take us down to the Holiday Inn where we would sneak in through the side door to use their swimming pool and enjoy the arcade. He certainly encouraged a us to have fun, even if it meant a little mischief.

    My sisters and I went to visit him and introduce him to the twins a couple of weeks ago. In a rare moment of clarity, he looked up when we came into his hospital room and said, “Let me see that baby,” and grinned when I brought Luke over. He also spoke my name. I’m so glad that we got to see him at the end, and even introduce the twins to him.

    Dear Paw Paw, I’m so glad you’ve found peace, but so sad my children will never know the way your face lights up when you see your children and great grandchildren, how you always have a funny joke or well-timed wit, or how much and unselfishly you loved with your whole heart. I am so thankful that you always encouraged me to be a better person, and to travel and be successful. I am so blessed and so grateful that I had 30 years with you. Thirty years to love you and bask in the glow of your smile, to hug you and kiss your cheeks.

    Going through some old things tonight, I found this letter he wrote to me after our trip to New York. This was everything he was to me in a nutshell.

    I love you Paw Paw, and I miss you terribly. I look forward to the day we meet again on the other side.

  • Third Time’s the Charm

    Date: 2015.06.11 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Love, Luke, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, Toddler Time, Vera | Response: 4

    I remember being pregnant with Sarah, my first baby, and anxiously anticipating maternity leave: an imagined heavenly time off where I would snuggle with my baby and have plenty of time to do things like paint my house, clean, cook and lounge around. You can imagine my shock after I delivered her when, after hours upon end of nursing, changing diapers, burping and soothing, all I wanted to do was spend any spare moment I had in bed and asleep. And then there was the terrible post partum anxiety that made it nearly impossible to leave my own house or get much of that sleep I so desperately wanted. Before I knew it the 12 weeks had slipped by and I was sobbing as I dropped my first born off at daycare and headed back into work.

    With my second baby, I knew better. I was prepared to rest and heal, nurse constantly and attempt to parent two small children. I thought that I knew what to expect after Sarah. Wrong again. Hello that evil word that we longer speak in our house lest, like Voldemort, it decides to resurface from the dead and drive us to a mental institution.  (hint: it begins with a “c” and ends with “olic”). Night after night our second baby screamed from 9pm to 3am, keeping Mark and I awake with her constant fussing. We would finally get her to sleep, only to lay her down and have her wake up screaming again… over and over and over. Fortunately we were able to continue to send Sarah to daycare so I could get a couple hours of sleep during the day. Despite that I still hobbled along on a total of 3-4 hours of sleep per night/day while I continued to work while I was on “leave” from the house. The colic finally finally went away one week prior to me going back to work full time and by that time I was so sleep deprived I’m kind of amazed I was able to accomplish anything.

    This time, I was again steeling myself. I know better than to expect anything, especially with twins, but I did pray every day that lightning wouldn’t strike twice and we could at least avoid that evil c-word. Twins are hard, of course they are. One infant is tough, two infants… well let’s just say I’m constantly juggling their needs, the needs of my two other children, and time with my husband, all while trying to keep my head on straight. My days pass by so quickly in a haze of nursing two babies, patting, burping, easing the cries and trying to entertain my 4-year-old who is out of school for the summer.

    And while we had a scare with night time screams, it turned out to be something we could manage with gripe water and I heaved a huge sigh of relief. However, getting up with two babies at night means I’m up twice as long during a nursing session, and when both babies won’t go back to sleep it’s enough to make me run and hide my head under the pillow, or shake my husband awake so we can spend hours together patting fussy babies while we watch re-runs of yard crashers while saying, “Want to switch babies?” It’s no wonder the days and weeks are absolutely flying by.

    People often ask me how we’re doing these days, and without hesitation, I say, “Exhausted, but it’s getting better.” The big girls are struggling to get our attention in all different ways, both good and bad. Norah has taken to attacking the babies if we aren’t paying attention to her, and when she gets in trouble she immediately tries to kiss them or us to make up for bad behavior. Sarah, while usually fantastic with them, is constantly in their faces, waking them up and decorating them with costumes.

    Mark and I have become expert jugglers. We often laugh about the two of us bathing Sarah together back when she was an only child. Now we ask, “which two do you want to bathe tonight?” We are experts at loading all four of them into the van and getting back out again. And the twins, even though they are little, just have to go along for the ride wherever we go. They have already been to two of Sarah’s school performances and a bunch of birthday parties. They don’t seem to mind too much though.

    Our lives are all about efficiency and balance and love. Each night we do take time, individually, with Sarah and with Norah to read books and snuggle and let them know how very special they are to us and how much we love them.

    I’m not going to lie, our rough days are really rough. My sister came over to help one night and I think we scared her away from ever wanting children of her own. But our good moments are really good too. Just today when both babies were screaming, Sarah asked to hold Vera and rocked her to sleep while I managed Luke. And, I have to say, it was one of the sweetest moments of my life.

    So yes, we’re surviving, we’re exhausted, but we’re doing ok at this family of six thing.

  • One Month

    Date: 2015.05.14 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Life, Love, Luke, Mark, Me, Norah, Twins, Vera | Response: 2

    One month is truly a celebration for all of us. We have survived! We have thrived! We are exhausted.

    One thing I didn’t experience with my single pregnancies was how worrisome and difficult it would be to get our babies back up to birth weight after their initial normal weight loss. This month has been a struggle and put my strength of will and determination to breastfeed to the test. Breastfeeding is hard with a single baby, but with twins the word hard doesn’t quite cut it. Toss in premature babies, one of whom is a lazy eater and the other who wouldn’t latch for a while, and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it.

    But, guess what? Together, the three of us are doing very well with it now at the one month mark! Vera is latching and Luke is slowly being weaned off his supplement and getting everything he needs from nursing!

    At one month out, we are very nearly back at birth weight, shy by just a few ounces each (Vera was 5lbs 10oz and Luke was 7lbs 60z at birth). And both babies are getting very long.

    As we round out the end of this month, both Luke and Vera are starting to hold their heads up.

    Luke, ever my lazy boy, takes things at a snail’s pace, but we are learning how he works. He has to get really grumpy and angry before he will eat well, for example.

    Vera is a determined little thing and has much more patience than her brother, who gets angry and red when he is not being held or sleeping.

    Vera also loves to look around and take in the world around her. Both babies enjoy looking at lights and are starting to be awake more in the day time hours.

    Sleep is another battle we are continuing to fight. I think, perhaps, the best piece of advice I’ve been given as a multiple mama is that when one wakes up at night, wake the other one up. Over the course of the past few days, the babies are finally starting to sync and get on a nighttime schedule, allowing me to sleep 2-3 hours in a stretch. I’m still exhausted of course, but the predictability is easier on my body and makes for better days and nights.

    Luke struggles with hiccups after feedings, which can make nights miserable when they keep him from falling back asleep. Without fail he’s always my first to wake and demand to eat and takes the longest to eat and get full.

    At this point we think Luke looks just like a boy Sarah and Vera is favoring my husband’s side of the family strongly, especially Mark’s sister.

    While both babies enjoy napping together sometimes during the day, due to reflux problems, we have them sleeping in separate Rock and Plays to keep their heads elevated. Both babies love their beds though and seem to sleep the most soundly when they are there.

    We have been working hard on establishing a schedule and routine with cues so babies know when it’s night and when it’s day. I think sometimes following the routine is tougher on me than them, but like all things that take hard work and persistence, it seems to be paying off.

    The big girls are slowly adjusting, Sarah much more quickly than Norah, but I think that whole topic deserves a post to itself.

    Really, I’m just so proud and yet so humbled by this past month. We are so happy, but so tired. I can’t believe a month has blown by already.

    People often tell us they don’t know how we’re doing it, and truthfully I don’t really know how we are either. We have had such an amazing village of people helping us, praying for us and feeding us, and I think that has been our biggest blessing. We are in survival mode, but we do still have small slices of time to take a breath and smile. We are making it.

    Happy one month Vera and Luke!

  • The Twins: A Birth Story

    Date: 2015.04.22 | Category: Baby, Birthday, Family, Health, Life, Love, Mark, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Pregnancy, Sarah, Twins | Response: 2

    Most twins don’t make it to term for delivery. The mother’s body runs out of room, or her uterus gets too big and gets confused and labors early, or or or… So many things in twin pregnancies mean an early delivery, which is why when we found out we were expecting two babies, we immediately had to start seeing a high risk OB in addition to our regular OB.

    I quickly learned that I was one of the lucky ones. I was tall, relatively young and in good health and my babies were fraternal, not sharing a placenta. We monitored them as the weeks went on and watched as our Baby B got bigger and bigger. He was above average in size, while his sister paced along hitting her slightly below average milestones. Baby B was also awash in fluid, swimming in what Mark dubbed his “pent house.” As the time grew closer, they recommended that we deliver between 36 and 37 weeks.

    I was huge, very uncomfortable and often in a lot of pain, but I really wanted to make it to 37 weeks for the health of the babies. My regular OB agreed that we could try for 37 weeks and we tentatively scheduled their delivery date for April 13, right on the nose of 37 weeks. I hoped and prayed we would make it. My OB was going out of town the whole week before and she and I have been through a lot together. I really wanted her to be the one who delivered them.

    My body though, started to get other ideas. At 36 weeks I started having regular contractions. I was monitored and eventually put on medicine to slow the contractions. Over the course of the week I battled the contractions and several times we nearly went to the hospital when they got strong and regular. But, by a lot of prayers and miracles, we made it to 37 weeks and showed up for our scheduled c-section. When they hooked me up to the monitors upon our arrival at the hospital, I was having contractions every 5-7 minutes. It was baby day whether we wanted it to be or not, which eased my guilt about scheduling their delivery too soon.

    I was nervous about the c-section, despite my previous one. There’s something so creepy about being awake during surgery. I had a great anesthesiologist though, and he really attended to me and how I felt. Because there was so much weight and pressure on my body with two near-term babies, their placentas and all the extra fluid in my body, when I was on the operating table, they had to keep rotating the table side to side to keep me from passing out. The spinal block was particularly tough this time. It made me feel so sick and I just wanted to quit and not do it once it was started, but, as these things go, I had no choice. I tried to control the shakes and nausea and was so happy when Mark was finally allowed into the OR.

    The surgery itself was quick. The same doctor team who delivered Norah was there to deliver our twins. Mark even video recorded this delivery (and without much gore!) so I could watch our babies be delivered later.

    Our girl, Vera Margaret, was head down and delivered first. She arrived into the world with a squeaky little scream and weighed in at 5 pounds and 10 ounces. Her brother, Luke Anthony, was not so accommodating. He was lodged up high in the right side of my ribs and breech. It took one doctor pulling on his feet and another shoving him from the top of my ribs to get him out. My doctor knocked the breath out of me in the process, but as soon as he was out, I could breathe again. His cry was much more gurgly, and I barely got to see him before they whisked him away. Mark followed and recorded them being weighed and cleaned up for me while I was being stitched up. Luke weighed in at a whopping 7lbs and 6oz – huge for a twin or even a singleton, especially at 37 weeks! As my pediatrician said, he was stealing all her groceries.

    They quickly discovered that Luke was having trouble “transitioning.” They put both babies skin-to-skin on me, but when Luke’s oxygen levels wouldn’t regulate, he had to be whisked away to the nursery and put under an oxygen hood.

    My tiny Vera was right as rain though, and got to stay with me.

    It was hard not having my son with me that first day. It was very surreal – after all it had always just been me and one baby girl after delivery before and there I was again in the same situation. I missed him though, bone deep. I don’t know what I would have done without his sister to hold on to and keep me stable. The nursery was great though and called down every hour or so to give me updates. My family and husband went to the nursery regularly to check on him, and bring me pictures and updates. Our pediatrician even texted me photos of him.

    We went through a “wait and see” period with him all day. Finally and miraculously, that evening they were able to bring him to me.

    Vera is a petite little pixie with huge eyes. We got to spend a whole day bonding together, just the two of us, mostly skin to skin.

    Luke was a big boy who seemed to favor his mother in looks and was (and still is) most content in his mama’s arms.

    The thing that was most spectacular about having twins was watching them together. They shared a bassinet in the hospital, and when one would get inconsolable, we could lay them next to the other and they would immediately quiet down.

    And Sarah was so keen on meeting her new siblings that she faked an ear infection and pain at school, had the front office call me in the hospital and got out of after school play practice. When mom picked her up and asked her about her ear, she informed mom that it really didn’t hurt that bad after all, it was just was a little warm. When she got to the hospital, I still only had Vera with me, and Sarah was so concerned and kept asking me where her brother was. She was (and still is) so so so good to her siblings. She climbed into bed with Vera and me, snuggled up to her sister and said, “Oh, you’re so cute like an itty bitty unicorn.”

    And she immediately did the same with her brother when we finally got to have him in our room.

    Norah, however, did not know what to think about mom holding a new baby. She wouldn’t come anywhere near me until I handed Vera off to someone else, then she immediately climbed into bed with me and held on for dear life.

    Mark was a champ throughout the whole day. He stayed strong, watched after our Luke man and took care of all of us despite battling off a sinus infection and having to sleep on that awful hospital couch.

    And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how amazing the hospital staff was that day and every day we were there. Everyone from the doctors and nurses to the team who worked and checked on Luke to the lactation consultants made everything so much easier and less stressful.

    The rest of our hospital stay was kind of crazy, especially as Vera started to run into her own set of troubles, but that’s a story for another post.

    Their birthday was eventful, and sometimes scary, but beautiful in its own right. I am so very thankful that we were able to make it to 37 weeks, a milestone most twin moms don’t get to reach, and that we got to have them with us in our hospital room most of the time. Happy birthday my sweet sweet Vera and Luke.

  • The Night Before

    Date: 2015.04.13 | Category: Family, Food, Friends, Health, Home, Life, Love, Mark, Me, Norah, Pregnancy, Sarah, Twins | Response: 6

    This is it: the last day before our twins arrive.

    I am a huge whirl of emotions that range from extremely excited to positively terrified. How am I going to do this?

    Today was not what I imagined it would be. In my head, I pictured my last day as a family of four, snuggled up with my kids, playing games with them, sitting outside while they played as the four of us basked in our last calm and peaceful day together before the babies arrived.

    The reality was… well it wasn’t that.

    The girls know something is up and they were acting out. Sarah literally clung to my body all day. If I dozed off on the couch, she would jump on my legs or back immediately to get my attention. If I tried to maneuver myself off the couch, she would clutch onto my arm with a death grip and hold me down. I love to snuggle with my kids, but this all consuming clingy thing was overstimulating. Everything on my body hurts, from my hips and back to my skin and hair. Just touching me was enough to make me want to scream.

    Norah woke up in a terror. She was screaming for “”PANCAKE! PANCAKE!” from the moment she woke up. She clung to her daddy, hovering between his legs while he attempted to make the requested pancakes, our traditional weekend breakfast. She did cheer up some after she ate, but was still into everything: yanking cups full of water off tables, throwing her cup and smashing her sister’s toe, crying over having her diaper changed. Time out, our go-to miracle worker, had absolutely no effect on her today.

    Oh, and did I mention that Mark has a sinus infection on top of all of this? He had to go to Quick Care with fever yesterday morning, where they promptly gave him antibiotic and steroid shots, the latter of which kept him up all night last night. And of course I don’t really sleep anymore either. So we were both exhausted and cranky and generally feeling bad.

    By 10am, I was frazzled. We were all sitting on the floor in Sarah’s room and I was trying to pack the girls’ bags for their grandparents’ houses. The girls were more interested in ignoring everything I said and making their big mess into a giant mess. It was overwhelming. How could I possibly handle four children when I was barely keeping it together with two? I had to leave the room freak out and ugly cry for about 30 minutes.

    Shortly after that, my friend Kelly came over and brought communion. I don’t think she was expecting to walk in and see me in tears, but she hugged me and immediately started consoling me. By the grace of God, the girls let the three adults pray together and receive the host without interuption. Immediately I relaxed and so did Mark. It was truly what we needed in that moment.

    After Kelly left, we fed the kids, got Norah down for a nap and Mark got a chance to rest while Sarah and I colored My Little Ponies together, just the two of us, for almost an hour. Then Mark and I traded out and he got to spend the next 45 minutes building Legos with her, enjoying the one-on-one time. About the time Norah woke up from a nap, Nana showed up to get Sarah. We said our goodbyes to her, then got to spend some quality and happy one-on-one time with Norah. She loved dancing and clapping with us. My mom came to collect her a short time later, and she was thrilled to go with her Mimi.

    My sisters came over around 4:30 and put in a solid two hours of cleaning my house for me and provided some much needed conversation and distraction. My friend Stephanie showed up with two lasagnas for our freezer and big hugs and well wishes.

    After they left, Mark and I decided Mexican food sounded excellent, so we picked it up, brought it home and got to have an entire conversation uninterrupted in a quiet house – an unexpected date night that we desperately needed.

    And now here we are. It’s 9pm and we have to be at the hospital at 5am. I didn’t know if we’d make it to goal day. I had three days this past week with regular contractions that had to be stopped by medication. It’s had me on pins and needles, adding an additional level of anxiety. But, by the grace of God, we have somehow made it to goal day.

    I have had so many people call, text and message me to check on me today and tell me they are praying for and thinking about us tomorrow, and that has meant more to me than anything. I’ve done this c-section thing before, but I’m still extremely anxious about it. I worry about the babies and hope their lungs are developed enough and we don’t have to go to the NICU. I pray that everything will be perfect. How many twin moms are lucky enough to make it to 37 weeks? Most are not. Even at the OB’s office I started getting cheers and proud congratulations every time I made it to another appointment.

    We are here. We are at the finish line. It doesn’t seem real, but my body says otherwise.

    I am so excited. I am so worried. I am so happy. I am so anxious.

    We can do this. We will do this. This is it. Whew.

    We appreciate all your love and support throughout this whole pregnancy, especially through delivery tomorrow. Please pray for the three of us, or really the six of us. We all need your love and positive support now and over the coming months. It’s going to be wild and it’s going to be wonderful.