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.

the girls: four month update

I am amazed at how quickly time flies since the girls were born! I am sure that time feels like it has passed quickly because of the lack of sleep and mind-numbing schedule of feeding the twins every three hours.  I am happy to say that as the girls hit their fourth month of life, their puking has subsided to only a “special” occasion occurrence (Carrie puked “Happy Father’s Day” in vomit all over her daddy – how sweet!).

Their laughing and smiling has evolved into cooed conversations where both girls try very hard to tell us very important things.  I try to imagine what they are saying, “Mommy, stop breathing on me – your breath is horrible” or “You will never guess what I just did in my diaper!”

At their four month appointment, the doctor was very pleased with their muscle tone, shapes of their heads and neck strength.  While they are still a bit “bobbly”, they are getting stronger and stronger every day.

Since the girls are still not sleeping through the night (love me some Starbucks), our doctor suggested that now would be an appropriate time to start feeding them oat cereal (rice would give them even worse constipation than they already have).  Enthusiastically Frank went out and bought organic oat cereal with probiotics and we went about the business of learning how to feed our girls.

Oh heavens.  It was a mess!  We don’t have high chairs yet, so we set them up in their bouncy seats.  While you or I might know how to use our tongues to swallow food, our girls are more interested in pushing food around their mouth.  The result is more food caked around their lips than actually makes it into their tummies.  Every feeding gets a little bit better, though.

We are also trying to work on a sleep schedule.  We had been letting the girls sort of settle into a natural sleeping routine, but now we are becoming more intentional about it.  We have a bedtime routine and we have been slowly moving their bedtime forward so that we are getting them ready for bed closer to 8:30 or 9 p.m.

All about Ellie:

Ellie wearing a special Father's Day bib for daddy!

Ellie’s red hair seems to be here to stay!  I love to snuggle Ellie and tell her how luscious she is.  She has the most beautiful, healthy-looking cheeks and perfect little lips.  She wants to be entertained when she is awake and loves to play on her activity mat.  When I lay her down on the mat, she kicks her feet wildly and swats and grabs for toys.  She especially enjoys the activity mat with the blinking lights.  Ellie is a great sleeper and is now officially sleeping in her crib and not in her car seat.  I love going into her room in the middle of the night to see what position she has worked herself into.  Ellie seems to have a very sweet disposition and loves to have mommy and daddy time so that she can babble away.  At Ellie’s four month doctor’s appointment she weighed 14 1/2 lbs and was 24 inches long (approximately 50th percentile for four month old full term babies, and 95th percentile for two month pre-term babies).  Miss Ellie is certainly thriving!

All about Carrie:

Carrie in her matching "Chicks dig pilots" bib!

Carrie loves to laugh and smile!  Even in the middle of the night, she often grins when we walk in the room and giggles at us.  She is very chatty and will talk to anyone who will listen.  She does not like to sit still and is working very hard on rolling over.  Like her sister, she is also sleeping in her crib and travels from one end to the other throughout the night.  Carrie is also very amused by her activity mat.  She especially loves bright toys that she can hold and study.  Carrie is very strong and when held up with her feet on the ground, she will stand as straight as an arrow.  She is certainly a lively baby and makes her likes AND dislikes well-known.  We are fortunate that for now, her likes seem to outweigh her dislikes.

Father’s Day

This year was Frank’s first father’s day!  To honor him, the girls (via me) made matching bibs that said “chicks dig pilots”.  When Frank was in college, he was quoted in the collegiate newspaper as having said, “chicks dig pilots” in response to the age-old question, “why did you get into aviation in the first place?”  The reporter used that particular quote as a call out for her story on the aviation school.  Frank never lived it down and was tickled when he saw his own chicks wearing these matching bibs.  The girls also gave Frank extra-long neckties, a sports massage at a local spa and brag book full of pictures that he can share with flight crews wherever he goes.  As an added bonus, the girls and I also had the car washed inside and out – nothing says “Happy Father’s Day” like a tidy baby-mobile!

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!

the twins’ birthday: a day in pictures

About a week before the twins were born, Frank snapped my last pregnancy pictures in my super fancy, extra-large hospital gown.  What can I say?  I’m a trend setter!  For anyone wondering why most of my smiles look so pained, all you need to know is that I had a scary cervix.  A very, very scary cervix.

 

 

Then there was the morning of the twins’ birth.  The first picture is of my mom and me and the second is of my mother-in-law and me.

Grandma Mary Kay and me

Grandma Sandy and me

Then, after wondering if Frank was going to make it to the birth – he arrived!!  Hurrah! (note to self: pictures of me lying down are not the most flattering…)

Baby Daddy and me

After sitting around for about 90 minutes, the doctor determined that it was go-time!

Ready to have some bebez!

After pushing for about 20-30 minutes, sweet baby Elliana was born:

Baby Ellie

And then just three or four short minutes later, sweet little Carrigan made her way into the world:

Dad and Carrigan

In just under an hour, our little family of two became a family of four!  Mom holding Elliana and Dad holding Carrigan:

Our first family photo!

 

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 (58-61)

So much joy, so little time!

Today I will go in chronological order:

joy #58:

What to you may be just an innocent bottle of concentrated orange drink is, in fact, one of my least favorite beverages.  Sure, it has undertones of the McDonald’s orange drink I remember from my youth, but unfortunately they do not serve it with chicken nuggets and french fries that I would prefer.  I will know in a few days if I passed or failed the dreaded gestational diabetes test.  But, I count it as a joy because we made it to 24 1/2 weeks with the twins and I get to take the test.

 

joy #59:

I am not the world’s best story teller.  I think ALL of the facts are important and sometimes I forget the order in which things occur.  So I often find myself backtracking mid-story to share what I think might be an important part of the story so that the punchline makes sense.  Frank is often victim of my long, winding, nonsensical stories.  He tries really hard to stay with me when I’m telling the story, but then, after about 5 minutes of meandering, he finally can’t take it any more.  He nods, gestures and generally tries to cue me to wrap it up.  Unfortunately, that only derails the story further as I cannot multi-task while story telling.  The result is that I eventually slow down the story and forget where I am at while I’m trying to read his physical cues.  The result?  A great many Emily stories that end with, “So, uh, yeah, I just thought you’d want to know or something.”

 

joys #60 & 61:

Mr. Al and Ms. Rosie went with us to church tonight.  It was a wonderful service and it was great to go with friends.  It’s awesome to see how much they love each other and I really enjoy seeing their marriage in action.  They are truly a sweet couple!