eight

On a beautiful Friday eight years ago today (9/19/03), Frank and I were married. It was the last Friday of summer – the kind of Friday that you wish lasted all year: sunny, warm and fragrant.

I remember feeling peaceful on my wedding day.  I remember being happy and content. Was it perfect? Not at all.  I believe that God uses the engagement and the wedding to prepare you for what is to come.  I think of the engagement as a boot camp of sorts – how to deal with the family, the friends, the job, etc – how to set precedents.  

Frank and I didn’t live together, which is how I prefer it.  As unpopular as it is to not live together these days, I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’ve had roommates before.  I know about globs of toothpaste in the sink, one tablespoon of milk left in the jug before it was put away (I mean, really? Just drink it!), missing food, too-long showers – etc, etc, etc. I was friends with Frank for four years before we started dating.  We dated for nine months before we were engaged. We were engaged for six months (almost exactly) before we were married.  If he was a jerk, living with him wasn’t going to expose anything I shouldn’t have already known.  And if leaving the toilet seat up (which he doesn’t really do anyway) was going to be a deal breaker, well, gee whiz, I need to examine my own heart first!

So really, our wedding was the beginning of a new era for us.  Our lives were about to radically change in very real, tangible ways. And there I was (as someone with major anxiety issues) feeling peaceful.

Peace, as I’ve learned over the past years, is precious.  Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, does not necessarily mean the absence of conflict.  Instead, it means fullness or completeness.

On our wedding day, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew it would always be worth it.

At last my love has come along, my lonely days are over and life is like a song

Oh, those were the words that were supposed to float over us while we danced our first dance as husband and wife.  But alas, our DJ, who swore he had five copies of the song, came up empty handed when we took to the dance floor.

Watching in slow motion, as you turn around and say, my love, take my breath away…

Instead, we danced to Take My Breath Away. You know, the hot, steamy, cheese-errific song from Top Gun (oh, the pilot cliches!). Also the title song for my junior prom, it was the only song we could come up with in the two minutes we had to come up with a new song.  Oh, the agony.  Through gritted teeth and pained smiles we hissed at each other on the dance floor through the entire first verse of the song.  But then we laughed, realizing that it was silly to get all worked up.  By the end of the song, our smiles were genuine and we knew we would laugh about the first dance mishap for years to come.

It was like God gave us our first lesson as husband and wife – gently telling us that life would not be perfect, but as long as we could laugh together through it, it would be so worth it in the end.

When we were first married, we would lie in bed, listening to the wind rustling through the vertical blinds in our apartment and the distant sound of train horns, and we would talk about our future.  Frank would hold my hand and say, “I just feel like we are on the launching pad – we’re getting ready for a great adventure – we just don’t know what it is yet.  I can’t wait to go on this adventure with you!”

And oh, what an adventure it has been!  It has not turned out the way we imagined it would – there have been curve balls and disappointments and challenges and victories – but it has been so worth it in the end.

So, to Frank, on the occasion of our eighth anniversary:

I love you. This much, always.

happy birthday, mom & dad!

My parents always seemed magical to me when I was growing up. I always believed in true love and fate and soul mates, not because I read about them in a book, but because I lived with them in real life.

My parents are less than 24 hours apart in age.  My mother was born at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston and my father was born at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria.

My parents both have O- blood types (guess what blood type I have??).

Both of their families had the same birth order – boy, girl, girl, boy.

My mom’s parents were both born in January, my dad’s parents were both born in October.

The night they went on their first date (September 20th, 1975), my mom came home and told her roommate that she was going to marry my father.

I’m not saying their marriage hasn’t involved a lot of work.  While it is cute and cliche to say “Opposites Attract”, the statement mitigates the amount of work it takes to understand someone so different from yourself.  While my mom loves to chat it up after church and stay out late, my dad enjoys a quiet evening at home and going to bed at 8 p.m.  Not 8:05.  Not 8:10.  8:00 p.m. Mom loves to “fly by the seat of her pants” while Dad loves a schedule, a plan and organized fun.  But because they love each other so much, they have worked to understand one another and appreciate their differences.

So for as much as they taught me about true love and fate and being soul mates, they also taught me how to argue, negotiate, forgive and move on. They taught me how to laugh at myself.  And they taught me that true love takes time and work and effort.

And that it is so worth it.

So to my mom and dad on the occasion of your 57th birthdays: Happy Birthday!

I love you both.  Teewinot. Caca Poo Poo.  Mecca Sicca.

Mom & Dad posing with Frank & I on our wedding day.

how to date like Frank and Emily

You might be asking (although, probably not) how Frank and Emily keep the love alive after nearly 8 years of wedded bliss.  Although, you are more likely asking yourself what is for lunch, dinner or when the next season of Mad Men will start (sometime in 2012, sorry folks).  While I can only answer one of your other pressing questions, and I can suggest a myriad of restaurants and delicious recipes for your first two questions, I am able to give you a glimpse into a romantic interlude between my Romeo (Frank) and me.

First, let’s describe the setting.  While many of you are probably used to having dates that take place in the fading light of a romantic sunset (read: best lighting for making everyone look attractive), Frank and I enjoy seeing each other in the stark, raw honesty of late morning sunshine.  We scoff at all of you who fight for reservations to a hot restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night.  Fools!  You can get any table you please on a Thursday morning, as long as your desired restaurant serves breakfast items.

Surrounded by men in business suits having important breakfast meetings, catty middle-aged women gossiping about their non-present friends and elderly couples, Frank and I feel that the mood is ripe for romance.  And, oh, is it!  In between bites of hash browns smothered in onions and cheese and over-sized egg-beater omelettes stuffed with jalapeño peppers, we both come to terms with the fact that our food selections suggest that there will be a pious good-bye kiss at the front door.

But it is between being seated and paying the bill that the real magic happens. Dates are not just about having delicious food and wearing clothes sans spit up stains.  Dates are about the meaningful heart-to-heart conversations that, deep down, we all desire.

Me: So, yeah.  Not such a bad night with the girls, right?  I think this acid reflux thing is behind us.

Frank: Yeah, I think so too.  Thank goodness, I was tired of wearing a rain coat during feedings.

Me: So.  There’s that.  Hey, did you hear about the new animal that was born that is like half giraffe and half zebra? It’s called an okopi.

Frank: Really?  (Gets out his cell phone to verify that I am not pulling his chain.  We have a long history of telling each other things that aren’t true, just to see if the other one repeats it.)  Well, how about that.

Me:  Yeah, it even has the tongue of a giraffe, which is blue.  And super long.

Frank: A giraffe’s tongue is blue?

Me: Yep!  See?  (Now my cell phone is out and I’m showing him pictures of giraffe tongues.  He is impressed.)

If you really want to get hot and bothered, keep reading because our discussions about the logistics of taking care of twins are practically rated PG-13.

Me: OK, so you’re going to go running at 11 and then I’ll pick up the girls at the sitters and then I’ll go running and then you’ll watch the girls and then you’ll go up to the airport for work and then I’ll watch the girls.  But I need $30 (conveniently, I know that is all the cash that Frank has in his wallet at the moment).

Frank: That’s all the cash I have at the moment.

Me: I know.  (Sly smile)

Frank: OK.

(Ten minutes later Frank tries to hand me the $10)

Me: Um, you’re about $20 short.  Wait, why are you giving me the money?  Aren’t you picking up the girls?

Frank: No, you’re picking up the girls.

Me: I am?

Frank: YES!

Me: Oh, yes, you’re right.  You’re still $20 short.

Frank: Grrr.

And lastly, because every moment can become a fun game that annoys your partner to no end, I use these tactics (among many others) to keep our marriage fresh and exciting.  But, brace yourself, we’re getting into NC-17 territory

Scene: Getting ready for a mid-morning nap sans kiddos after our hot brunch date.

Me: … and so then in my dream last night the hotel wasn’t really a hotel after all, it was the house I grew up in and then there was…

Frank: uh huh…..

Me: (not missing a beat) a big picnic set up in the backyard but it wasn’t really a picnic because there wasn’t food there were PICTURES of food and my first grade teacher was there, or, at least I think it was my first grade teacher but she looked like my 7th grade English teacher with shorter hair.  You know, a pixie-type cut but a little shaggier in the back – kind of like a mullet, but not.  So yeah, my first grade teacher was there and she was like, “Um, Emily, you still didn’t turn in your homework.  You can’t graduate from college.” And then I was like, “What?” and then my mom was there and she was mad and my sister pulled my homework out of her MOUTH…

Frank: uh huh… are we almost done?  I really wanted to take a nap.

Me:  Oh, OK.  Fine.

Frank: Great.  Shhhh.  Sleepies.

Me: SHHHH.

Frank: Shhh.

Me: Sh.

Frank: Sh.

Me: (waiting a few seconds) sh.

Frank: (waiting a few more seconds) sh.

Me: (very, very quietly) sh.

Frank: (trying to be even quieter) sh.

Me: (even quieter than Frank) sh.

Frank: (laughing) OK!  C’mon!  Sleepies!

Me: (giggling) OK… (waiting a few seconds) Shhh.

Frank: ARGH!

Me: And then my DAD was in my dream yelling at my sister for eating my homework.  But it wasn’t my sister any more, it was Gwenyth Paltrow…

Frank: I can’t win.

So yeah, in a nutshell, that’s how you keep the love alive.

Smooches!

mother’s day

When we were going through infertility treatments and struggling to get pregnant, this day was so bittersweet. I have a wonderful mom and a great mother-in-law. But the pain of feeling excluded from this day, because of the challenges we faced having a child, weighed on me.

This year is different for two obvious reasons and I am beyond grateful for our twin girls. They are smiling, cooing and starting to develop a little bit of personality.  It definitely helps make the long nights worthwhile.

But since I had the twins, a realization that had started to take shape when we struggled with infertility has continued to become more clear to me.

Motherhood does not happen to you, it happens in you.

Yes, it sounds totally cliché and trite, but bear with me. I did not magically become a mother on February 19th of this year. There was not a moment in the delivery room where a rush of hormones released a locked part of my brain, making me a mom.

Becoming a mom started a long time ago when I watched my own mom care for my sister and tried to imitate her with my doll I named Karen. It started in preschool when I pretended to be the mom when we played house. It continued to develop when I would babysit my siblings and neighbors. In my career, my instincts to mother grew as I learned how to nurture my coworkers and help those who reported to me achieve their goals. In volunteer work, I practiced and developed mothering skills with teenagers – one of the toughest and most rewarding groups to work with.

That being said, on February 19th when the doctors gave me my daughters to hold, I was filled with the requisite awe and wonder at our infant daughters. And while I loved them immediately, the moment was not transformative as I had previously imagined it would be. Sure, now I had the title, but it occurred to me that I had been doing the job, in one way or another, my whole life.

Am I saying that being a mother isn’t full of responsibility, challenges and difficulty? Certainly not. After being up most of the night with the twins, I have new appreciation for my own mother. I also have an even greater appreciation for my husband who was up with me, changing diapers, making bottles, rocking and burping.

But I also have a great appreciation for all the women in my life that have mothered me without having the official title. From teachers, bosses, mentors and friends, I have been fortunate enough to have a fantastic biological mother in addition to an army of women who have come alongside me and used their mothering skills to help me grow and flourish.

Mothering is encouraging, growing, nurturing, challenging, comforting, loving and caring for others, with little to no reward.  For the women out there who feel excluded from this day because they do not have children, I hope that this realization affirms the wonderful women that they are. It may not take away the pain and heartache of not having a child in your arms, but I want you to know that the amazing work you do in the lives of others is not, and will not be, forgotten.

And for everyone out there that has had the great fortune of having an army of mothers as I have had, I hope that you can take some time today to thank some of those outstanding women.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the women who mother – you are all a wonderful treasure!

wait, what?

Some of you may know that I am currently hanging out at the hospital, trying to keep my legs crossed and keep the babies from spraying out alien-style.  For those of you who do not know that – I am in the hospital on bed rest and trying NOT to give birth.

And here is how this came to be.

I’ve been warned against trying to find all of the things that I could’ve, would’ve or should’ve done to avoid finding myself in this current situation.  It’s hard, as the primary care giver for your little ones, to not go down that path.  So hopefully, without too much self-blame, I can relate the story of how I came to be sitting in the mother-baby unit, still attached to both of my babies.

Since last Sunday, I’d been getting up way more frequently in the middle of the night, noticing that my stomach was very hard.  A few times, I was even up every 30 to 45 minutes, which was kind of concerning.  I realized by Tuesday night that the reason I was waking up so much was not necessarily to use the facilities as much as it was because I was experiencing abdominal discomfort.

Wednesday at work was fine – I put my feet up at my desk and cranked on some projects.  By Wednesday night when I arrived home, I was noticing that same tightness in my abdomen.  I told Frank to feel my stomach and he noticed it was really tight too.  So we sat on the couch for an hour and counted about 4 or 5 “contractions”.  They didn’t hurt, so I figured it was normal – after all, my uterus was measuring full term for a singleton baby.

Wednesday night was horrible.  I was up very frequently and had a hard time sleeping.  I eventually gave up and took a shower at 4:30 ish in the morning, with the intent of going into work early.  The shower seemed to calm things down, though, and I took a little bit of a nap.  Considering the tightness and how much I was up, I decided it was probably appropriate to see the doctor just to be sure that everything was OK.

I called the doctor, expecting an afternoon appointment, but instead, they wanted to see me as soon as I could get in.  Completely believing that it was just the usual case of neurosis for me, I decided to wait until 10 a.m. to go in so that I could get a few things taken care of at work.

The visit to the doctor’s office was pretty uneventful.  They hooked me up to the monitors and naturally, I didn’t have any contractions while I was sitting there (not surprising – mornings have been pretty quiet for me) and the babies seemed to be having a grand old time bouncing around.  The doctor did a fetal fibronectin test which predicts with 99% accuracy whether or not a patient will go into pre-term labor within the next two weeks.  She also checked my cervix and noted that while it was still long, I was dilated to 1 cm.  Hrm, I thought.  That’s kind of surprising.

Back to work I went.  I decided earlier that week to do all of my maternity leave debriefs a bit early, just because I am having twins.  Who knew that Thursday afternoon would be my last day in the office??

While I was sitting in my office, I noticed a few more “hard stomach” moments, but nothing crazy.  I went home to Frank and had some dinner.  Then he went out to visit with a friend and I settled down on the couch to write thank-you notes and watch TV.

Within a few minutes of writing the notes, I noticed that my stomach was getting hard at regular intervals.  I logged on to contraction master and decided to just keep track of how many times I was contracting and for how long.  After two hours of writing thank-you notes and watching HGTV, I had a very consistent pattern of contractions/tightness every 4-5 minutes, with a few instances of less than 3 minutes.  The tightness was lasting 30-45 seconds, sometimes longer.  My doctor had told me if it went on for longer than an hour, to call… at two hours of contracting, I figured I finally had to face the music.

See, I hate calling my doctor.  Loathe it.  It seems like every time something like this happens, it’s after hours.  Blah.  I told the nurse about the situation and she said she would talk to the doctor and get back to me.

Thinking it would be a while, I called Frank to tell him the scoop and advise him that he should probably start coming home.  By the time I hung up with him, the nurse already called back and told me to head to Labor and Delivery immediately.

And of course, the only thing I hate more than calling my doctor is actually going to the hospital, especially when I’m not 100% sure that this “tightness” I was feeling was really “contractions” or just “typical twin pregnancy stuff.”  Ugh.  I mean, my uterus was measuring full term for just one baby – perhaps this was just all part of the joy of twins!

We didn’t pack anything because, really, I didn’t think I had to pack for an overnight stay.  I figured I’d go in, they’d tell me I was nuts, and we’d be home in time for the 10 p.m. news.

On the way to the hospital, I had a few more “tightness” situations.  We got to the hospital and of course, just like when you take your car to the mechanic, everything started feeling better.  By the time they sat me down in the bed in Labor in Delivery (in the ridiculous gown that opens in the back) and hooked me up to the fetal monitors, I was 100% sure that they were going to tell me not to come back until the babies were crowning.

I actually said that to Frank: “They aren’t going to let me come back until the babies are crowning.”

Funny story.

While I was sitting in the bed, feeling ridiculous, I was having contractions 3 minutes apart.  The OB on staff came in and did a cervical exam and announced that I was 3 cm dilated with a bulging sac.

I looked over at Frank and just said, “Well, that’s not very good.”  And Frank knew that wasn’t very good because we already took the class and because he’s a good husband, he remembered what effacement was and what dilation meant and well, a bulging sac just never sounds good.  So he looked back at me with wide eyes and nodded and we just sort of sat there, taking it in.

And then that’s when the craziness started.  IVs were brought in, I was unceremoniously turned over and given a steroid shot in my tush.  Then they started the magnesium and the contractions got worse.  They were, at some points less than 2 minutes apart.  The doctors wanted me to try to sleep and let the magnesium drip take affect, so they gave me an ambien, but the pain was pretty bad still and I definitely couldn’t sleep through it, so they gave me some pain medication.

I don’t remember sleeping a lot, but I think I got a few hours in.  At 7 a.m., the contractions were still 5 minutes apart.  We were getting nervous and still had four more hours until the next steroid shot could be administered to help mature the babies’ lungs.

Around 8 a.m., the contractions finally started to space out and we were able to breathe a sigh of relief for the moment.  They kept the magnesium going and finally, everything seemed to be moving in the right direction.

So let me tell you about magnesium sulfate.  It works because it relaxes your uterus – and everything else, too.  Also fondly referred to as “mag”, this delightful concoction makes it harder to breathe, blocks up your sinuses and generally makes you feel like a wet noodle.  Oh, and when mixed with Ambien, it causes hallucinations.

At 10 a.m., the perinatologist and OB came in to assess the damage.  They wanted to keep me on the mag drip until I had my second round of steroids to mature the babies’ lungs.  Then things kind of get foggy and blurry.  At some point, I tried to go to sleep for the night, but was having a hard time sleeping because I was so hot (another mag side effect) and I couldn’t breathe.  So they brought me a cool wash cloth and an Ambien.  Hello, hallucinations. I woke up several times that night trying to get out of my bed, unsure if I was pregnant and wondering if the monitors I was wearing were guns or … monitors?  I doused myself with a washcloth full of water, threw pillows on the floor and asked the nurse if I broke my water.  I also asked the nurse if I was having triplets.

The nurse thought I was hilarious.

On Saturday morning, the perinatologist and OB had a pow-wow and determined the side effects of the mag were far worse than going into pre-term labor and so they stopped the drip.  And then we started waiting again.  Over the course of the next few hours, the nurses slowly disconnected me from the catheter, IV drips, etc.  By Sunday, I was completely wireless and essentially contraction-free!

Since then, it’s just been a waiting game.  The doctors feel that we’ve cleared a major hurdle and probably have at least another week before the babies make their grand entrance.  This will let the babies’ mature further and spend less time in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU).

We’ve been so blessed with so many of our friends and family praying for us and thinking about us – it’s been such a boost!  While this whole situation isn’t ideal and has both of us a little bit ragged, we are both keeping positive attitudes.  Our doctors and nurses have been great and everyone has been very impressed with the babies’ activity levels and heart rates.  And if these babies miraculously stay in until 34 weeks, I’ll get to go home because the doctors will no longer try to stop labor if it starts again.

three things: my fabulous hubz (winter edition)

I’m sure some of you out there are saying, “Barf.  It’s going to be one of those blogs where you’re all like ‘I love Frank’ wah wah wah. I want dish on how freakishly huge your belly is and when those kids are going to burst forth out of your belly all Alien-like.”  The babies update will come in due time.

And a few of you are probably asking, “What’s a hubz?  Where do I get one?  Nordstrom’s?”

While many a fine item can be purchased at a Nordstrom’s (ie. super big girl sized shoes that are also somehow still a little stylish), a hubz cannot be purchased at a Nordstrom’s.  A hubz (aka, a husband) can usually be found sitting in front of a TV playing a video game or watching a football game.

But not this hubz.

1. thing one: the hubz that cooks

For realz.  My sweet hubz is downstairs making chicken in a red wine reduction, steamed spinach and cooked carrots. And he is a manly cook.  He uses lots of spice, lots of fire, and real ingredients (none of my mamby-pamby splenda  and low-fat sour cream cr@p).  Gentlemen, if you are still looking for a good woman, ask Frank to teach you a few of his cooking tricks and you’ll be hitched in no time.

2. thing two: the hubz that shovels

I’m sure a lot of you have hubzes that shovel.  But until you’ve had to shovel 6″+ of snow in Wisconsin by yourself after working a full day – with the tears that are streaming down your face freezing on the end of your nose – you simply cannot appreciate the amazingness that is having your hubz home from work when the slushiest, iciest, heaviest wintry mix coats your driveway, front walk and steps.  And then when your hubz goes outside for 40 minutes and valiantly tackles this wintry mix (both with shovel and snow plow) without saying a peep about it – that is hotness right there!

3. thing three: tumz

After casually mentioning to the hubz that pretty much every night I want to vomit when I lay down thanks to this thing called acid reflux (thanks baby a and baby b for parking your cute selves on my stomach!), it was a joy to come home to a container of TUMS! While Frank is thoughtful, this particular maneuver might also stem from self-preservation: after hearing all of the middle-of-the-night projectile vomiting stories from my parents (and there are many), I’m sure it’s occurred to Frank that he could be my next victim.  The Hubz is wise and knows his wife well.

100 joys (#62-70)

OK, this is going to be my epic joy post.  Grab a cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket – it’s all joy, all the time!

joy #62:

Last night, as I mentioned before, we went to church for the Christmas service.  It is one of our most FAVORITE Christmas traditions in the K-Fam.  Because our church has 12 Christmas Eve services over the course of 8 days, Frank and I are always able to find a service we can attend, no matter what Frank’s schedule looks like.  At the last minute, we were able to include Al, Rose and Rose’s sister, Sara.  Seated way up in the 3rd balcony at Willow Creek, I was a little bit concerned that we wouldn’t get a good view of the service.  It turns out, being seated way up high was the BEST view of the service.  It was awesome!  The service included a drama that was the modern telling of the story of Jesus’ birth.  It was absolutely amazing.  When the Angel was telling Mary that she found favor with God and would be giving birth to Jesus, the song in the above video played.  It was absolutely magical!  The whole story was told with the underlying theme of “Don’t be afraid.”  What a joy to go to that service!

joy #63:

After church, we went to Steak ‘n Shake.  Now, I have to say, if I owned a restaurant within a 5-10 mile radius of Willow Creek, I’d definitely find out when big events were happening and then get prepared!  Unfortunately, that was not the case at our friendly neighborhood Steak ‘n Shake and they were just a bit overwhelmed by the crowd that came through their doors last night.  After waiting a while to be seated, and then waiting even longer for someone to come to our table to get drink orders, etc., Frank jokingly told our waitress that it was free shake night at Steak ‘n Shake if you had to wait more than 5 minutes for your server.  She laughed and then said, “Really? OK.  Free shakes and drinks then.”  And the shakes WERE free!  It was a Christmas Miracle!

joys #64-70:

Oh, how my family does bring me joy!

Familial joy #64 was my sweet niece singing tonight at the Christmas Eve service at the church that Frank and I were married at.  With her white-blond hair and cherubic smile, she melts everyone’s hearts.  And of course #65 was my nephew who gets taller and cuter every time I see him.  He’s my first-ever nephew and has a special place in my heart.

#66 and #67 are my sister-in-law Kathryn (or K2; K1 is her sister Karen) and her husband Dave.  As the parents of my dear niece and nephew, of course they are a joy!

After church, we moved on to my Uncle Steve (#68) and Aunt Judy’s (#69) home for some delicious homemade corn chowder and general merriment.  My cousins Meghan (previously mentioned as joy #40) and David (#44) were also there, along with my siblings (Caitlin, Andy & Sarah – also previously mentioned joys in a variety of places).  While we were there, nearly everyone got to feel the babies kicking, which I would like to call joy #70.  It’s one thing for me to feel the babies moving around, but it’s such a delight when others get to experience it, too!