Monday, November 29, 2010

Three Weeks of Thankfulness

Just a note before I begin. I began giving thanks on my blog once a week (mostly) after I began following the blog of a fellow twin mom, who has been a great encouragement to me over the past  months. To truly give credit, where credit is due, the origin of counting blessings comes from this lovely lady over here. I should have been citing her all along, but my blog illiteracy kept me from understanding how to do that until now--thank you, Melissa!

Becoming Brynne and Hadley's mother was the most overwhelming thing I've ever gone through. I counted down each day--minutes until I needed to nurse the girls again, hours until Brad would walk in the door, days until the weekend. I would even verbalize that I couldn't wait until the girls were older and things were easier. Instead of enjoying the moment, the spot where God had me right then and there, I was living for whatever was next, whatever was easier, whatever was down the road. Precious moments were slipping away from me, and I wasn't acknowledging them. Ugh--it makes me cry to write that!

Counting my blessings, things to be thankful for, is and has been a delight for me--I love when I find a moment, and now consciously make a note to remember it, to cherish it, and write it down. I would encourage each of you to try this. It has been such a great blessing to see the gifts in my marriage, my children, my family and my friendships--to live life in the here and now.

And now--three weeks worth of blessings:

167. Great nine month check-up for the girls.

168. Healthy weight gain; Hadley is 16 lbs 8 oz and Brynne is 18 lbs even.

169. 75 degrees for a week in November.

170. Laying on the deck with Brad listening to music and looking up at the stars.

171. Seeing two shooting stars in one night.

172. Scooting.

173. Hanging out with Laila before baby Nori gets here.

174. Laila playing with the twins, so that I could pack and make babyfood for our weekend travel.

175. Having a small enough butt to fit between the twins' carseats in the backseat.

176. Surviving the first holiday travel of the season.

177. Surviving 24 hours by myself with the twins.

178. Holding sweet baby Noria.

179. Playdate with Rashell and Max.

180. Max lending the girls one of his toys to play with.

181. Orange noses from too much carrots/pumpkin/squash.

182. Rearranging our furniture in the living room.

183. Walk and playing with the Becca and the twins in the warm Monday before Thanksgiving.

184. Becca loaning us her pack n' play for our Thanksgiving travels.

185. Safe travels to my parents' home in the rain.

186. Brynne falling asleep as soon as we arrived.

187. Hadley's snuggles as she figured out how to sleep in a strange place.

188. Great napping away from home.

189. Driving around to let the girls nap a bit longer.

190. The lady at the store who thought my sisters and I were triplets.

191. Brisk walks with my sisters.

192. Watching the girls play with their aunts and uncles and grandparents.

193. Brynne and Hadley's resilience and adaptability away from home.

194. Thanksgiving feast with Brad.

195. By doing this I remember to be thankful in all circumstances in my everyday, not just on Thanksgiving.

196. Putting up Christmas decorations while watching Love Actually with Brad.

197. Two new stockings hanging over our fireplace.

holy experience

Monday, November 22, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

This year has been abounding in change for me--my life's biggest transition by far. When Brad and I decided to begin trying to conceive two years ago, I had no idea how drastically my life would change. 

I am blessed beyond measure.

There are times when I struggle to see the blessing--I get in the way of myself. When Brynne's nap is only 30 minutes instead of 90 minutes, because she is struggling with teething--I get frustrated. When Hadley won't eat what I've prepared for her for dinner--I'm frustrated.

What are my frustrations really about anyway? The answer is resounding--yup, it's me!

Brynne didn't allow me to that 90 minutes of her naptime to clean, cook, rest, relax. Hadley doesn't appreciate the work that went into preparing that meal for her. How dare those girls inconvenience their mama like that! I wish my brain and my heart would automatically turn to the positive, the blessings, the gift, but it doesn't always go there until later, when I have time to process.

I had a whole hour with Brynne one-on-one. We snuggled and read stories, we did some hand claps, and she got my full attention when we played with toys on the floor. That is precious time when you have twins; I don't often get one-on-one time with my girls.

Hadley cautiously and curiously tastes everything that goes into her mouth before deciding whether she'd like to eat more of it or not. She is developing a sense of taste, and exercising her own unique personality, willful as it might be. Praise God that I am able to watch her become an individual!

All through the past year there have been frustrations. What a blessing to recognize them for the gifts they have become. I want so share a few of them with you. I am humbled when I look back to see the way God watched over us, even when I wasn't asking for it, even when I was complaining.

On December 8th, I went into preterm labor.

I had no idea I was in labor. I was at the hospital for a routine non-stress test; they discovered this because I was hooked up to all the monitors.

Brad was in town. He works about 30 minutes from home, but we were scheduled to close on refinancing our house. The office where we were supposed to sign was literally five minutes from the hospital.

They caught the preterm labor early enough that they were able to successfully stop it, without it causing me to dialate.

Pre-term labor = two months of bedrest.

There were many wonderful friends who came to fellowship with me.

My husband loved me by cooking meals, cleaning the house, and otherwise cared for me.

I was able to rest, and  let my babies grow. While they were born at 35 weeks, Hadley weighed 5 lbs 9 oz and Brynne was a whopping 6 lbs and 13 oz.

Brynne's NICU stay.

We were able to get a diagnosis on her heart murmur (VSD).

I was connected with extra support from the lactation consultants there.

Brynne was able to go home after only an 18 hour stay.

Brynne, and subsequently Hadley too, received services from a home health nurse for two weeks after discharge.

Twinfants are hard work.

Family stayed with us to hold babies, encourage me in the early days of breastfeeding, and to help us keep our house clean.

Church family organized meals for us for over three weeks, and visited to love on our daughters, and to give us breaks.

Friends came to visit with us, meet and hold the girls, and brought us meals.

I was able to work on and succeed at getting the girls to nurse at the same time.

Two ladies from our small group at church loved us by pulling an all-nighter, so that we could sleep. All I had to do was nurse the girls--they took care of the rest. A blessed respite for me and my exhausted husband!

We had such a beautiful spring! I was able to get the girls out for long drives or walks.

Brad's several business trips.

Our church family took shifts bringing me meals and helping out with the girls while he was away.

My mom was able to come stay.

He is able to provide for our family, so that I'm able to stay home to raise our daughters.

Struggle with sleep issues.

We learned a lot about infant sleep, and better understand our daughters' sleep needs.

We were taught how to help our daughters learn to put themselves to sleep.

The girls take two naps a day, and sleep through the night.

We have been able to share information from the sleep nurse with lots of our friends and family.

There are so many small things I am thankful for, and while I'm not always thankful for them at the time--they are worth noting.

When the girls cry, I am thankful they have healthy lungs.

When they cling to me and fuss in unfamiliar situations, I am thankful that they have have formed healthy attachments.

We have recently begun babyproofing our house, I am so thankful they are growing, becoming mobile and learning new skills--I love our monkey girls!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eat Your Veggies!

I recently read an interview with the author of a baby food making website I frequent. In the interview, she admonished parents for trying to sneak vegetables into their children's food. Instead, she challenges parents to get their kids excited about vegetables by discovering new, tasty ways to prepare them. I don't know if I agree or disagree with this. With twins, I often put myself in the "whatever works" camp--it's just easier sometimes. And--I'm not quite certain how to get nine month old twins excited about vegetables short of dressing up like a carrot and dancing a jig.

I'm still pureeing the majority of the girls' food, so I mix protein, fruits and vegetables together and turn on the food processor. They eat some finger foods after their puree for "dessert". The girls have surprised me on more than one occasion with what they will eat, both pureed and non. I thought I'd share a few of our non-puree successes.

Kale Chips

Probably the most surprising was the kale chip. My husband came home from work one day talking about kale chips. It just so happens that I know to make kale chips. For those who don't know, there are three different varieties of kale--curly, tuscan and red. We used red, but tuscan would probably work the best. The recipe is super easy. Kale chips just sorta melt in your mouth--the girls, Hadley especially, loved them!

1 bunch of kale, washed with the ribbing cut out
Olive oil--about a tablespoon, give or take (enough to coat the leaves)

Mix the kale and olive oil with your hands then take the individual kale leaves and lay them out on a baking sheet. At this point, you can sprinkle them with sea salt and/or pepper if you want. They have sort of a peppery flavor on their own. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes if you're using tuscan kale, and about 33 minutes if you're using red or curly kale. Aren't they pretty?

Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets

This recipe I adapted from here. I used fresh broccoli instead of frozen, and whole grain baby food rather than bread crumbs for added iron. I make a bunch of these, freeze them, and defrost a few at a time for the girls as needed. Yes, the girls do love their broccoli. Who knew?

1 big bunch of broccoli--steamed and then pureed
1 cup whole grain baby cereal
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp fresh chopped oregano (1 tsp dried )

Mix ingredients together, and shape into nuggets on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, flip them, and continue baking for another 10 minutes.

Zucchini Pancakes

The pancake has become my friend around here. It makes a quick, easy finger food for the girls. I can make them ahead of time, freeze between pieces of wax paper, and thaw individually as needed. Then, in a flash, I can use a pizza cutter to quickly cut them into bite-sized pieces.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground savory
1 tsp marjoram
2 eggs
1/2 cup pureed winter squash or carrot
1/2  cup shredded zucchini (I leave part of the peel on)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (we use cheddar or mozzarella)
2 cups milk
3 tbsp butter

Mix ingredients together and cook in the skillet. Make sure to use olive oil or cooking spray to coat the pan between cakes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If You're Thankful and You Know It--Clap Your Hands!

152. Smooth sleep transition with Daylight Savings Time for the girls (and Mama too).

153. Playing in the leaves.

154. Eating the leaves.

155. Fellowship at church.

156. Brynne's two new teeth.

157. Pictures!

158. Hadley loving kale chips.

159. Devouring an entire roast duck with my husband.

160. Hadley kisses.

161. Playing outside in November.

162. Playing with blocks outside on a blanket.

163. Watching Brynne learn how to clap.

164. Hand clapping Pease Porridge with Brynne.

165. Exploring faces.

166. Brad getting to be the first one to see Hadley pull herself up to standing. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kissy, Kissy

Hadley loves to give kisses. And, as you can see, when she decides that she wants to give a kiss, she is determined to get it done, even as her sister scoots away from her. Just a bit about my oldest's personality--she is cautious, discerning and intentional. When I consider this in the context of her giving kisses, it means just that much more. Hadley has decided that giving kisses is the way that she is going to love and show affection, and she does it--very intentionally. I love this about my daughter; it is precious, especially when I'm on the receiving end of one of those slobbery expressions of affection.

In a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago, we were discussing the importance of receiving love from our children in the way they want to give it. I love that! And it makes complete sense. Adults are free to express love in the manner of their choosing, and so should our children!

If we all try hard enough, we can think of that friend who knows just the right words to say to encourage us. Or the sister who comes up with the most thoughtful gifts to give that are completely "you". Or the husband who cleans up the kitchen before you can even think about getting to it. Or the friend who warmly touches your arm as she's speaking to you, putting you totally at ease. You get the idea--people love differently. And it is such a privilege to be on the receiving end of those acts of love, isn't it?

I want to encourage, and foster that freedom in both of my children, whether they love by giving kisses, giving away pictures they've drawn, or simply by saying so. Taking this a step further, I will never force my children to give affection to me or anyone else, nor will I tolerate other people manipulating them to do the same. Love and affection should be expressed on their terms, not ours. As much as I love Hadley's kisses, I don't force her to give me kisses, nor will I ever tell her to give someone else a kiss. If she wants to give her aunt, grandparent, or even her papa a kiss, she will, and if not, that is completely okay, maybe next time she will. How meaningful would a "Hadley kiss" be, anyway, if is not given of her own volition?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cool Weather Thankfulness

146. Bright red maple out my living room window.

147. Roses saved from the frost.

148. Breaking in the snow suits.

149. Winter hats.

150. Sweaters with hoods.

151. Still being able to get out for walks.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Schedule Nazi

I admit it, unabashedly so, I am a schedule nazi.

Call me a control freak, I don't care. Mothering them is my job and my mission, and scheduling them, I believe, is loving them best.

So...I have a confession to make.

I am not looking forward to the schedule disruption of the upcoming holiday travel.

There--I said it.

I am giddy about sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas with our girls--I bought them a Christmas present the other day, and wanted to give it to them as soon as I got home (my husband made me put it away). I am also looking forward to spending time with family--with all the quirks and dysfunction that comes along with family, I do love the witty banter, laughs and precious conversations that are had. It's been over a year since I've been to my parents' house, between bedrest and the girls being born; I'm eager to visit them. This whole napping and sleeping on the road thing, though, is going to be intense, and I fear the worst.

Maybe my reservations would be better understood if you readers knew our sleeping nightmare journey. From a very early age, our routine with putting the girls down at night was to nurse them to sleep on the nursing pillow. I would then text my husband when they were good and asleep, and he would pick them up one by one off the pillow, and lay them down in their crib. Seemed like a pretty great system. The girls were never great nappers, but that was okay with me, because they were sleeping pretty well at night.

Then the four month sleep regression hit. The girls would wake up multiple times a night, and they had a very hard time going back down each time. I would spend an hour nursing them back to sleep, only to have one or both of them wake when Brad would lay them down in their crib. I remember the sinking feeling I would get in the pit of my stomach each time I would hear on of them cry, only moments after my head had hit the pillow. If I only had one baby, I would have gladly nursed it while sleeping on my side. With two, it was just not possible, and I was exhausted.

Finally, when the girls were six months, Brad and I walked, bleary-eyed into a sleep nurse's office, in desperate need of some answers, and some sleep. She gave us a plan to gently guide our daughters to putting themselves to sleep, and getting them on a napping schedule. Brilliant! Fast forward three months later, our daughters sleep through the night (most of the time), and take two naps a day. For the most part, everyone is happy and well-rested, as long as we stick to our schedule.

So, perhaps our history explains my vigilance with keeping their routine in tact. We schedule walks, playdates and errand running around naps and feeding times. Events that interfere with our schedule have been taken off the calendar. We have watched, amazed, at how well easily our daughters drift off to sleep with an ordered and predictable bedtime routine.

Over the next two months, I'm trepidacious, and a little curious, to see how the girls will adapt to makeshift bedtime routines in strange, new places. And, too, how they sleep away from the comfort of their own crib with all the familiar sounds and smells.

Anyone with any helpful advice to put this schedule nazi's heart at ease, do share!