Thursday, August 30, 2012

To the Doctor

Monday morning, Nathan and I loaded the kids up and drove two hours to Spokane. Ezra and Elliott had an appointment with a pediatric urologist--an appointment I have been anxiously anticipating for the past 9 months.

The boys are wonderful. Everything about their birth was a miracle. However, when I told their birth story back in November, I did leave out a minor detail. I considered not sharing it even now, but two upcoming surgeries are weighing heavily on my mind, and I find the entire situation impossible not to talk about.


As I was laying on the operating room table and feeling each contraction, I had two prominent thoughts:  I knew I had control of my body, but I also knew I had no control regarding the health of by unborn babies. I prayed they would be breathing, I asked for their forgiveness for not making it to a larger hospital, and I reassured myself that everything would be alright if I forced myself not to freak out.

A couple of pushes later, Elliott was born. He softly cried, and I knew he was breathing. I was instantly relieved. I called out to the doctors and nurses in the room, "Is he okay?"

The response from one doctor was, "We'll talk about it later."

My heart dropped. What in the world did that mean? I still had to deliver Ezra, but was obsessing over Elliott possibly having some huge issue. I imagined the worst and thought for sure he was being prepared to be sent to Sacred Heart in Spokane via helicopter. These thoughts happened in just a couple of seconds.

A nurse suddenly called out: "He's fine! He's fine! He's perfect!"

I felt better, but I worried if she was lying to me. 

Eight minutes later, Ezra was born. I tried to sit up, but they made me stay down on the cold, hard operating room table. I just wanted to see the babies. I looked over and could tell Ezra was smaller. I watched two nurses monitor his breathing while a doctor examined him. Together, all three women looked at something on one part of his body. The doctor pointed and the nurses both exchanged a curious look and stared at little Ezra.

I knew Ezra and Elliott were going to be fine, but I also knew that something was going on. The rest is a blur, but I remember being sent up to my hospital room and getting into a wheelchair. Before I was taken to the nursery, Nathan came into the room. He gently put his hands on my shoulders and looked at me right in the eyes. My stomach dropped again. I thought I was going to throw up. I was bracing myself for the worst.

"So...," he paused, "there is something wrong with the babies." He quickly went on to say, "But don't worry. It can be easily fixed and they are perfectly fine. They...have a little condition with their penis."

I felt my entire body go limp with relief for the second time that day. I immediately said, "Oh gosh. I can handle that!" 

The nurse wheeled me into the little nursery and formally introduced me to my two sons. As I looked at them breathing in unison, I was overwhelmed with immense gratitude. They were two amazing miracles. Their minor birth defect was just that--minor.


Both boys have a condition called hypospadias. For your own sake, I advise not Googling the phrase. Basically, hypospadias is a condition where the opening of the urethra is on the underside, rather than at the end, of the penis. Additionally, the boys do not urinate through the urethra, but instead from a tiny hole a few millimeters below the actual opening.  Obviously, this can cause a number of complications--especially as they grow older.

As with most birth abnormalities, there are mild to very severe cases. Fortunately, Ezra and Elliott have very mild cases of the condition. The pediatric urologist let Nathan and I know that their hypospadias could be easily repaired.  She also let us know that they would only need one surgery rather than two like we originally thought. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to do the surgeries on the same day. 

I asked the pediatric urologist how many identical twins she had seen with the condition, and she said there had only been a couple of cases that she remembered. I then went on to tell her how several nurses at the local clinic had said, "It's so weird that they both have it!" Considering that they are identical twins and sharing the same DNA, it didn't seem too weird to me. The urologist then said, "What is really weird is seeing cases where one identical twin has it and the other doesn't. I've seen that happen at least twice." She also explained how based on information like this, scientists have tried to determine if the condition is environmental or genetic. As of now, there is no conclusive evidence pointing to either theory.

What I do know is that I am grateful for the power of modern medicine. I am glad that this minor issue can be corrected and that our sons can live a normal life. While at the urologist's office, we met another set of identical twins. They were 13 years old and had two H names (they loved that the boys had two E names). One girl was in a wheelchair with spina bifida and the other girl, who loved talking to us about our babies and about being a twin, had Asperger's syndrome. She kindly asked, "Do your twins have disabilities like us?" It was such a simple, yet honest question.

I wasn't sure what to say. I explained that the boys had a small disability, but that it could be fixed. I said they were really lucky to have such a little problem. I also let them know that my father was in a wheelchair, so I grew up thinking anyone in a wheelchair must be amazing. They both smiled at that response.  These girls had a wonderfully kind mother, and I felt somewhat embarrassed to be parading around two perfectly healthy boys. Their mother asked about my delivery and the NICU, and again, I felt guilty telling her that they had no NICU time and that the entire delivery went great. Her story was incredibly different than mine. She had had miracles of her own, but she and her daughters have been through a lot after months in the NICU and countless surgeries. It was a gentle reminder that although this surgery seems overwhelmingly huge at the moment, it is nothing in the grand scheme of life. What a miracle it is to have healthy children! 

I still think the nurse was right the day E and E were born: They are perfect. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Times Are Changing

Ok well, maybe times aren't, but my mind is. About life, career, home. . . you know, everything. (This is, by the way, Nathan, doing my annual post). We were supposed to move to Portland next month, but warning sign after warning sign kept popping up to make us reevaluate our decision. And so we did. Several times. But we kept coming up with the same thing. . . keep doing what you're doing.

Then last week happened.

Wait, you know what? It's a boring story, no matter how I try to tell it so let's just do this.

I'm going to do this:

To change this:

So people don't end up like this:

Well,  it's not actually that simple. Or that boring. I'm going back to school to get a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy. After praying and going to the temple, two impressions came to me: 1) The most important work I could ever do is to heal/save/strengthen families and 2) I'm better at that than anything else I'm good at, or like doing.

So I'm going to incorporate everything I know into my own approach to therapy. It's going to be something like "Health, Relationship, and Behavioral Therapy." I'm going to use personality types and Sex Types* (TM and ©, suckers!) to heal relationships and body symbolism/diet/natural/holistic stuff to heal bodies and minds.

Ok I lied. Still boring. But only for now! Once my (best super duper ever) friend Ben and I finish our book and I start counseling with it, you are all going to say, "Whoa, hey that stuff that was boring three years ago is not so boring now!" And I will be there, laughing and yelling, "I told you so." And then I'll help you heal from the humiliation and guilt. For a hefty fee.

I can't wait.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Our Instagram August

I really love Instagram. The filters are great and sharing photos with friends is incredibly fun. Additionally, it's nice to have a little photographic journal of your days.

Here are some pictures to help us remember August 2012:
Baby faux-hawks
This is how we run errands
My children will be future superheroes. Yard sale success!
Breakfast with her loyal steed.
"I broke it because it was blue...and ugly."
Ezra, the toy thief!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just a Friendly Reminder

The past few days have been difficult.

I woke up on Monday with a sore throat that has not gone away. I have been coughing, sneezing, and feeling sick to my stomach all week long. Basically, I have been no fun to be around. When I woke up this morning, I was convinced I had strep throat. Unfortunately, for many parents, there are no days off. Although Nathan does work from home in the mornings, he cannot tend to three children while he teaches students. Fortunately, work was incredibly (and strangely) slow this morning, so I had plenty of assistance with feeding the babies, changing diapers, and entertaining Eliza.

After a few days of trying to entertain Eliza at home, I decided I would gather the energy to take her out to the library. As soon as the babies were down for their nap, we hurried out on our date. Eliza loves the library and choosing books to read, so I knew she would have a great time. We left with an armful of books and noticed the local thrift store, which is conveniently located next door the library, was opened. I love looking for old books, so we went straight to the children's literature section.

I scanned through the various book titles, and my heart skipped in excitement when I read a single word: "Frederick." I immediately pulled the book off the shelf and nearly clapped my hands when I saw it was the book I had in mind. It was a childhood favorite and in perfect condition.
Feeling victorious, I continued to scan every book title, searching for another treasure. Four books later, I found the winner of all winners. In fact, I told Cheryl only yesterday that I needed this book for Eliza: 

I cannot put into words how much I adored this book as a little girl. I haven't seen the pages in about 15 years, but I remembered every single one of them. Coincidentally enough, I had actually considered buying this book on Amazon last night because I wanted it so badly. Ten dollars was much too much for our budget, though. I paid ten cents for it today.

The connection between these books I found at the little store was incredibly meaningful to me. These are two books my grandmother introduced me to. She worked for the school system in North Carolina and was a connoisseur of children's literature. She would go to literary conventions and come back with autographed books for my siblings and me. It was heaven for a little girl who loved to read.

When I went to her house, she would always have a new book waiting. However, she knew my favorites were Chrysanthemum, Frederick (the Mouse,we called it), Ferdinand the Bull, and Thomas's Snowsuit (which I did buy last night on Amazon for $2.00!). To unexpectedly find two of my favorite books (after searching at many yard sales and many used book stores) felt ridiculously amazing. I couldn't stop smiling, and I had the emotional boost I needed to get through the rest of the day.

If my grandmother were still alive, I would have called her to tell her about this seemingly petty news; it wouldn't mean that much to anyone other than her. What could be a seen as a coincidence, though, was a much needed reminder that we are surrounded by positivity daily and remain close to loved ones we have lost--even if it simply through our memories. For five minutes today, as I looked read through these books inside of the thrift store, I felt like I was 8 years old again in my grandmother's bed.

And when I read the stories to Eliza tonight, I knew my grandmother would be proud of me. I also knew she was close by. 

I can't say it was a bad day at all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Babies. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

Beets were a definite success. Ezra and Elliott couldn't stop smiling as they ate this afternoon.
I found it strange that they enjoyed beets so much...and even stranger that they refused peaches and pears as a follow up meal. No dessert for these babies.

More beets, please!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Definitely an Extrovert

Today has been a little too quiet.

For the past month, we have had a constant stream of guests come in and out of our house. First, my niece and nephew, MaKenna and Miles, came from Portland to stay for a few days. Their visit was followed by the arrival of the entire Robbins family. 28 people, 15 being children (including 4 babies), stayed under one roof for five days.
And just this past week, Hayden and Ellie, another niece and nephew, visited for several days. After they left yesterday afternoon, the house felt strangely empty. Eliza loves playing with her cousins, so she has been in heaven this month. Now, she is back to being the oldest child in the house and definitely missing her playmates.

I'm amazed at how sociable and extroverted our daughter is. She comes to life when she is around other children and cannot wait to be part of the fun. She laughs louder, runs around with a constant smile on her face, and even tells jokes. She loves watching her big cousins, and I hear her picking up new words and phrases like, "Totally" and "I'm gonna freak out!" (wasn't too happy about that one!)

I love that she is our performer. She wants to be the life of the party and around as much energy as possible. If I want a happy little girl on our hands, I need to schedule as many play dates as possible. She was in a horrible mood this morning until our friends, Natalie and her two sons, came over to jump on the trampoline. It changed the entire feeling of the day. Eliza had a playmate again and was happy. I guess Nathan and I aren't cool enough to entertain her these days; she knows all of our best tricks!
Eliza's extroversion means I cannot be a slacker when it comes to making friends in Portland. I am going to have to step it up and start planning play dates with moms in the neighborhood.

I'm an extrovert, too, so why does the idea of making new friends seem so daunting? Maybe because making friends as an adult is a million times harder than making friends as a child.

(Thanks for the great photos, Brittany!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Conversations Like This Happen

A couple of weeks ago, Nathan and I went to the grocery store in order to load up on various baby essentials. We purchased the usual: wipes, fruits and vegetables to make baby food, jars of premade baby food, bibs, and baby powder. As we went to check out, I noticed the cashier taking in all of the baby paraphernalia. She jokingly said, "Do you have a baby?"

 The following conversation then occurred:

Me: "We actually have two babies. Twins. It's pretty awesome."
Cashier: "Oh twins? Really? That's cool. Are they boys or girls?"
Me: "Identical boys."
Cashier: "Oh neat."
Me: "Yep. It's pretty great."

----- 5 minutes pass as the cashier continues to scan all of our items-----

She then very casually states, "So...I'm a twin."
Me (laughingly): "Really!? Wow. That is so cool. Why didn't you say so sooner!?"
Cashier: "I don't know. I guess I don't really think about it much."
Me: "Oh."
Cashier: "Yeah. My brother and I are identical twins, too."


Me (somewhat awkwardly): "Oh. That's really cool."
Cashier: "Yeah. We look so much alike. We love all the same things and used to do everything together."
Me: "That's so awesome. Maybe you'll have twins one day! You actually have a higher chance of having them then most people."
Cashier: "Oh no. That'd be awful....and I'm pretty sure that if you are a twin that there is no chance you can have twins. Twins don't really run in families."
Me: "Actually, they do. I know a few women who have a twin sibling that have twins themselves. With fraternal twins, there is a higher probability because releasing more than one egg is genetic. Identical twins are a random thing, but my husband's great grandmother, grandmother and aunt also have identical twins, so who knows really? Maybe some identical twins are genetic, too."
Cashier: "I really hope not. That'd be so horrible."
Me (wishing I could leave): "Yeah. I guess it isn't for everyone, but we really love having twins."
Cashier: "Yeah. Glad someone enjoys them. I bet you're so glad you didn't have triplets."

Conversation ends.

We finally get to leave.

So yes. Conversations like this do happen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rub A Dub Dub

Bathing two 8 month old babies at the same time is tricky business. For the past few months, bath time has either been a two person job or occurred in shifts. With Nathan returning to school in a few weeks, I really wanted to find a way for me to bathe both babies at the same time without any help. I tried putting one baby in a mesh baby bath and the other in a typical, plastic baby bath, but I didn't feel like it was safe with two squirming little ones. Ezra and Elliott did their best to roll out of the baths and wanted to sit up, rather than recline.

Then, one of my amazing twin mom friends posted a picture of her two sons in these bath seats. Genius! 
I went to Amazon to check the pricing and noticed there were none in stock. In fact, the seats are no longer sold in most stores. I was pretty disappointed. 

A few weeks later, Nathan and I went to Seattle. While there, we went to a garage sale where I found one of the Safety First seats for only $1.00. It was a steal! Bath time became easier with one baby sitting in the chair, but I felt bad for the other boy who had to watch his brother play and splash while he was held in the water. I needed another one.

I checked Craigslist and called consignment stores, but found nothing. And then last week, when I had almost given up, my sister-in-law went to a children's store and found a second bath seat. It felt like Christmas. I really was that excited.

Ezra and Elliott love the bath chairs. They enjoy sitting up and happily splash around in the tub. I can bathe them alone and enjoy watching them play, rather than feeling stressed out. 
It is apparent that I am no longer fun to play with during bath time. Water is much more exciting. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby Food Making

I never thought we would make our own baby food. When Eliza first started solids, Nathan and I were both working full time, so we didn't even entertain the thought of adding another item to our "to do" list. I assumed it would be too difficult and time consuming. This time around, though, we both have the luxury of working from home (until Nathan returns to school).  And after our experience with Eliza refusing all baby food and now being the world's pickiest eater, we thought we would give baby food making a try.

We started with bananas and avocados. These are the easiest to prepare because all you do is simply mash the fruit with a fork. Simple, right? We then tried butternut squash and sweet potatoes, which you simply put in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. After the veggies have been baked, you add a little water (or breastmilk) and blend them. Sweet potatoes were hugely successful with Ezra and Elliott. The boys loved them so much that I actually tried sweet potatoes for the first time ever--and I liked it!

After we saw how it easy it was to make batches of veggies and fruit, we decided to take an evening and stock up on our baby food. We began our adventure by choosing a selection of fruits and veggies to prepare.
(Bananas and avocados are not pictured, but are regular staples that require no real preparation.)
The carrots, pears, broccoli and beets are diced, steamed, and then puréed . The zucchini and apples are diced, boiled, and blended to perfection. 
The mangoes, plums, and apricots are peeled and then blended with other fruits or vegetables. We also buy frozen peas and blend them, as there are never fresh peas available at our grocery stores. After everything has been cooked and puréed, we put the blended food into ice cube trays and allow them to freeze. 
We then pop the cubes out the next day, place them in a gallon sized Ziploc bag, and take cubes out when needed. We like to blend veggies and fruits, so we often take a couple of different foods and warm them up together in the microwave for a few seconds.

As for the strawberries and blueberries, we add those to bananas for a smoothie-like dessert. Lastly, watermelon and cantaloupe have been huge hits with the boys. We put them inside these nifty mesh feeders, and they chew away. Elliott can eat several pieces of melon in one sitting!
The babies seem to really enjoy our creations. Nathan is the the master of great baby food inventions. He tastes the food before giving it to the boys (which I never do) and always insists he is feeding them something good.
The most recent hit was blended black beans and mangoes. They loved it!

I'm pretty proud about my delicious blend of bananas, plums, and strawberries yesterday. Nathan says that it's hard to go wrong with fruit, but I still feel successful.

Don't they look happy?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Practically An Adult

Eliza hasn't been feeling well the past couple of days. She woke up coughing last night and couldn't stay asleep due to congestion. The lack of sleep made for a tired and somewhat grumpy Eliza this morning. She still wasn't feeling like herself and wanted to be right beside Nathan or me constantly. She spent the day following us around and refused to play alone for even a minute.

As I went downstairs to do laundry, she called out, "I'm behind you, Mama! I'm walking behind you!" When I went to put the babies down for a nap, she was there and ready to sing "You Are My Sunshine." When I sat on the couch to feed the babies, she sat right beside me. She required constant attention. Although this isn't unusual behavior, Eliza typically spends an hour or so playing alone during the day. She is fairly independent and enjoys dressing her Barbies, doing puzzles, or coloring by herself.  Today, she could do nothing alone and wanted to be held as much as possible (that never happens). Having a constant shadow throughout the day was tiring, so I felt somewhat relieved when Eliza decided to "help" Cheryl go through family pictures.

She was fascinated. She loved looking at the pictures of her cousins and particularly enjoyed seeing "baby Eliza." She would point to herself and say, "It's me! I was so adorable!" Nathan and I were cooking in the kitchen and enjoyed hearing her cute comments. She ran over and showed me a couple of pictures taken last year and said, "I'm such a big girl now. I was just a baby then, but I'm a big girl now."

And she's right! I keep thinking, "She's not even three yet. She's still my baby," but this is photographic evidence that she is a big girl (or bigger girl, at least). In a very short time, she will be even more independent than she already is. She will be going to school and unable to spend all day by my side. My time with Eliza is so special, and I need to remind myself never to begrudge a minute with her, thinking I need   "just a minute" alone.

Sometimes, it's nice to have a shadow.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Crab Puffs and Lava Cakes

Today is our anniversary.

With three young children, we didn't plan the most extravagant evening together. We decided dinner at our favorite local restaurant would be the quickest, cheapest, and most enjoyable option for the night.  We left right before the children went to bed (thank you, Cheryl and Rex!) and headed off to Chen's Chinese Restaurant.

We were seated and soon presented with a couple of gifts. Eric, our friend and the owner of the restaurant, greeted us with a platter of crab puffs and a bouquet of daisies.
Cheryl had dropped the flowers off earlier in the day, and Eric decided we needed some complimentary appetizers. We enjoyed the rest of our meal together and we surprised again when Eric placed two plates with hot, chocolate-filled lava cakes in front of us.

The only downside to the evening was my fortune at the end of the night.
I get the hint, universe...but I don't plan on exercising for at least a couple of more months.

It was a perfect night. It's always nice to have a date with your best friend.

Sitting Up

Ezra and Elliott are finally able to sit up on their own. They hated their Bumbos and never seem interested in sitting at all. We have been helping them practice sitting and saw they were getting better at balancing themselves. Just a couple of nights ago, we decided to see how long they could sit on their own. We stayed close by and were excited with the results. Ezra lasted for a couple of minutes, and Elliott managed to stay upright for a minute longer.

Last night, we resumed the experiment. I could hardly believe it when they sat with no problems at all. We left them sitting on the play-mat with some toys while we prepared dinner. A few minutes later, Elliott was crying. He was still sitting up, so I wasn't sure why he was upset. As soon as he saw me, he reached up for me with both hands and his face said, "Mommy, help me!" He was stuck! Poor Elliott couldn't figure out how to stop sitting. Both boys love crawling all over the living room and into the kitchen, so he did not appreciate his mobility being limited.

Also, this was the first time either baby has reached for me with both hands (they usually look at me and cry for me), so it completely melted my heart. He knows me! He loves me!

Maybe figuring out how to move from sitting to crawling is the next milestone?

(And Ezra has two teeth, as of yesterday!)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Eating Habits

Before we sleep trained the boys, Ezra and Elliott both preferred to nurse all night. They loved to snuggle as close to me as possible and although I was tired, I enjoyed being close to my babies. Now that they are sleeping in their cribs all night, a portion of my bonding time with them has been taken away. I am certainly grateful for the restful sleep, but it is sad to know that they'll never be tiny babies again.

The past couple of weeks, Ezra has made it abundantly clear that he no longer wants to nurse. I have tried every trick I can think of to coax him back into the habit, but he will lock his arms and push away from me as hard as possible. It's hard not to get the memo (and to feel a little rejected). Elliott, on the other hand, is still a happy long as there are absolutely no distractions. Our recent routine consists of me nursing Elliott and then pumping for Ezra.

And I am so tired of pumping.

It wasn't too long ago that I remember a friend telling me she lasted nearly a year of pumping for her baby. After pumping for six months with Eliza, I couldn't believe her endurance and determination. It takes time to actually pump and then feed the baby and then wash the bottles...and then you do it again three hours later. I really thought I could never last that long.

The twins are 8 months old, and I have pumped every 2-4 hours every day of their lives. Even when they nursed, I would pump afterwards to build my supply and add to my stockpile. At this point, waking up in the middle of the night to pump and washing bottles 7-8 times a day has become a regular part of  my life. I keep hoping Ezra will change his mind and decide he is ready to be nursed again, but I don't see that happening due to adamant protests. 

Four more months until I reach my new goal of a year. If I make it, I will be extremely proud of myself. If I decide to give up a little sooner than planned, I don't think I will feel guilty. As long as we are all happy, that is all that really matters (to me, at least). In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy my time nursing Elliott and rocking Ezra with his bottle.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

One of A Kind

Yesterday, my mom sent a box full of presents for Eliza and the boys. She found the cutest outfits on mega clearance and knew all of our children were quickly outgrowing their clothes. It felt like Christmas as we emptied the contents of the small box (which had been expertly packed to capacity by my brother).

Eliza clapped her hands in delight as I unfolded a couple of pink dresses and colorful shirts. She "oohhhed" and "ahhhhed" when I handed her a headband and bracelets.  I let her know the clothes were an early birthday present and she kept saying, "Happy Birthday to me!" She couldn't wait to try on an outfit. She put on a dress and accessories and ran outside.

Living in Othello, it has been extremely hard finding clothes for our growing kids. Walmart is the only place to buy anything, so the clothing options are extremely limited and often cleared out (there are currently no 4T clothes for girls all). These clothes were cheaper than Walmart prices and infinitely more adorable. Eliza has reached the age where she cares about what she is wearing, so it was exciting to see her happy about her clothing options.

Today, she tried on everything. Most of the afternoon, she wore two shirts at the same time because she couldn't decide which one she wanted to keep on.

As I watched her parade around the backyard and definitively display her charismatic personality, I was reminded that Eliza is her own little person. She is unique, and she is wonderful. She surprises me daily with her independence, spontaneity, and intelligence. There is no one else like her.

Although Ezra and Elliott are identical twins, they too are one of a kind. There is only one baby who laughs like Elliott or giggles with a scrunched up face like Ezra. Although we adore having twins, we treasure the individuality of our boys.  Despite appearances, they are unique and loved singly. For this reason, I couldn't stop smiling when I pulled matching "one of a kind" shirts out of the box of clothes. My mother knows me so well.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

No Longer Toothless

Elliott's first tooth made its appearance yesterday. He has been making this face pretty often.
The boys do many things together, but it seems like each little guy struggles on opposite nights with teething. The past couple of nights have been rough with each boy taking turns waking up. It's amazing how quickly I forgot what not sleeping was like. I have been spoiled the past few weeks!

In other news, there are currently 26 people at our house. Nathan's five brothers and their families are here for the Robbins Reunion. 15 children in one house makes for a crazy week!