Monday, April 23, 2012

March for Babies

RAMOM's Early Birds
Most of last week through Saturday was warm, sunny, and beautiful.  Sunday was rainy, cold, and dreary.  And on Sunday was Richmond's March of Dimes March for Babies walk.  Go figure.  But a few of us prevailed and stuck it out for all 4.77 miles despite lots of wind, rain, blown open umbrellas, and wet clothes.  The camaraderie was enjoyable, the conversation good.  The hot coffee and yummy breakfast sandwich that followed weren't too shabby either (same goes for the hot, hot shower) and the fact that I had the house to myself once I returned home I think made everything taste better.  

But what's really important about Sunday is the cause for which we walked: our babies.  Our sweetest, littlest ones, all born earlier than normal, are now thriving and growing like typical kiddos thanks to the phenomenal care and support of the amazing NICU staff and March of Dimes.  It's a little strange that I talk to so many moms and discussing babies born at 24, 27, 30, 32, 34 weeks and everything in between is normal.  Birth weights in the 2 pound range and lengths of 14 inches don't make us even stutter.  Talk of oxygen levels, feeding tubes, heart rates, PICC lines, caffeine doses, and apnea monitors roll off our tongues as easy as any new mom talks about schedules, poopy diapers, feedings, and sleep challenges.  Our starts as moms may have gotten off to rocky ones, but Sunday allowed us to swallow back the lump in our throats as we celebrated our growing, not-so-little-anymore babies.  It's quickly apparent among fellow walkers that not everyone has been so lucky.  God bless their angel babies.

A fellow twin mom/RAMOM member and I organized a walking team with our local Moms of Multiples group and together we raised $2,235 to support March of Dimes March for Babies!
 
Garrett
Garrett's little feet, Daddy's big hand
Garrett and Gavin's journey started at 32 weeks and their early delivery was planned.  I remember being shocked at how perfect they were at birth...the ultrasound pictures left me thinking I had aliens growing inside.  But they came out pink, perfect, and tiny.  Everything went as scheduled, their NICU and PCN stay was just under 6 weeks, and the enormity of it all was not traumatic like it is for many families whose early delivery comes as a shock or emergency.  While I was on bed rest I got to tour the NICU and meet with a neonatologist.  The unknown became far less scary and by 29 weeks I could finally walk by the newborn nursery without bursting into tears.  But those early weeks were hard.  And stressful.  And daunting.  And exhausting.  And painful, both physically and emotionally.  And despite tons of support and visits from family and friends, it was isolating and lonely. 

Gavin
But if you ever want perspective, spend some time in a NICU.  So with every visit, every book read, every song sung, every snuggle session had, every picture hung at their isolettes, every Kangaroo care gown donned, every pumping session survived, every bath given, and every specialist with whom we met, we were grateful.  The feeding tubes came out; our boys gained weight; the jaundice lessened; they learned to suck, swallow, and breathe; their bruises from IV lines faded; their heart rates finally started to stabilize during feedings; the episodes of turning gray and blue decreased; nasal cannulas were removed; and we even nursed. 

Gavin looking at Garrett, 1 month old
The boys came home Easter weekend and the first thing we did as a family of four was take a walk.  The weather was warm and I'd been waiting to parade around the neighborhood with our stroller.  In the following weeks and months the boys continued to grow, hit milestones, and close the prematurity gap by the time they were 18 months.  Today you'd never know they were born 8 weeks early and it's not something I even think about much anymore unless someone asks.  But Sunday's walk provided a good reminder to reflect upon how far they've come, we've come, and to count our blessings.  Twice.




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In the Kitchen: Black Bean Sloppy Joes (or not)

I found this recipe (slightly modified by me) in Parenting magazine recently, tore it out, and stashed it away until last night.  The nightly breaking point was near and I didn't have a thing ready for dinner.  Within ten minutes our meal was simmering on the stove and I returned to our front patio with four glasses of wine in hand to enjoy with the neighbors as the kids danced through a cloud of bubbles (thank you, new bubble machine).  Mom victory.

BLACK BEAN SLOPPY JOES
2 t olive oil
2-3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion, chopped
 2 cans black beans, drained
1 15oz. jar chunky salsa
1 T brown sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce or barbecue sauce
1 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t cumin
hamburger buns/bread
cheddar cheese (sliced or shredded, whatever you prefer)

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat.  Add black beans, salsa, brown sugar, Worcestire/barbecue sauce, mustard, and cumin.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Spoon onto bun and top with cheddar cheese.

I actually had some leftovers today for lunch and put the black bean mixture on top of brown rice, which I liked better.  Tomorrow I'll finish the last of the leftovers on rice again, but plan to add a squirt of lime and a little cilantro.  Corn would be an easy stir in too or a simple side dish to round out the meal.  Or forget the buns and rice altogether and serve as a dip with tortilla chips (my newest favorites are the Tostitos Artisan flavors)!

Fast.  Easy.  Yummy.  Score.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Happy Hoppin' Easter



My best laid plans for Easter Sunday were a wash when I failed to attend church service Easter morning; I failed to fill Easter baskets the night before; and I failed to do any in-advance cooking or cleaning before family arrived for the day.  Awesome.  But on top of having a friend's daughter over to play, attending a 2 year old's birthday party, and squeezing in a run and coffee with friends
IT ALL GOT DONE.  
AND IT WAS A LOVELY TIME.

First came egg painting, which doubled as pre-Easter toddler fun and table decorations for the next day.

 
 

Second was cookie making.  Thank you Amy for your Ooey Gooey Vanilla Cookie recipe.  We used strawberry cake batter for a festive pink color.


On Sunday we donned our Easter best (Well, kind of...minus the not showering and the pajama pants that stayed on the boys post-nap time and complete with their shoes of choice: rain boots.  Nonetheless, we pulled it together.); the great grandparents arrived, an egg hunt was had with neighbors, Nana and Pops came, good food was shared, the Easter bunny visited, and Bubba Watson won the Masters.

 

 

Our menu this year included honey baked ham, deviled eggs, baked potato salad, roasted asparagus with balsamic vinaigrette (a good alternative sauce is mustard vinaigrette), rolls, and fruit and nut wild rice salad, which was a welcomed new addition.  I'm a stickler for tradition, but I also like a little variation from time to time, which is why I take delight in adding new dishes to holiday meals. 


FRUIT AND NUT WILD RICE SALAD
(thank you to my running girlfriend, Amy, for this recipe!)
long grain wild rice
golden raisins
dried cherries
dried cranberries
unsalted cashews
pistachios
pecans
chopped green onion
walnut oil
salt and pepper

Cook rice according to package directions and cool slightly.  Add handfuls of next 6 ingredients until you think it's a good ratio.  Add green onions.  Add small amounts of walnut oil until everything is lightly coated.  Season as needed.  Serve room temperature.

A few notes:
-Give yourself plenty of time in advance to prepare this...the rice takes an hour (even a little more) to cook.

-Buying all those nuts is expensive!  I recently found Planters NUT-rition Heart Healthy Mix, which has the called for nuts and then some.  It was much more economical and any extra is fabulous for snacking (especially with the dried fruit and/or dark chocolate chips!)

-Instead of chopped green onions I used 1/4-1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion and was pleased.  Add gradually according to personal taste.

-I had a hard time finding a small amount of walnut oil and cringed at the price of a big bottle.  However, it's great on salads.

-Leftover dried fruit, especially the cherries and cranberries, are fabulous in oatmeal or in cookies with white chocolate chips!

And for dessert....oh dessert...


When Mom said she was bringing a Coconut Cake from Costco I was secretly bummed because I'm not a fan of store bought cakes.  I was looking forward to licking the batter making lemon squares, key lime bars, or some other decadent concoction my dad and I came up with.  But when I sampled it ahead of time OH MY GOSH.  It was moist, creamy, dreamy, and delicious.  It also happened to be HUGE, so I cut it in two, froze half, and will pull it out for round 2 on Mothers Day.  Seriously, a dessert that does double duty - ok!

And since we're talking about coconut, have you tried these?  They're coconut Hershey Kisses.  You should run to the seasonal section of Target before they're gone.  Seriously.


Hope your Easter was a hoppy one!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Balancing Act



1) Balance is forcing yourself to be productive during nap time and putting the freshly laundered sheets on the guest room bed, but flopping in the middle of it for a quick round of Words With Friends on the iPad.

2) Balance is frantically prepping for, hosting, and cleaning up after an enormous, zoo-like, super-fun cookout and enjoying the leftovers the following week, resulting in not having to cook for a WEEK.  Jumping in the bounce house with the kids was a big bonus too.  Giggles all around.

3) Balance is relishing in the moment when my kids rush to get their toy vacuums as I grab the broom and Dust Buster.  Joint chores or play time?  Either way, the floors are now dust/crumb/dirt free for the moment.

4) Balance is trying to get the kids in the car only having to chase after them two yards over, but their waddle and prance-like tip toe run  is pretty irresistible.  And when Gavin goes to get in his bubble car instead of coming inside to each lunch  it might be frustrating until he looks at me with a sheepish grin between rosy, cherub cheeks with his arm propped on the roof of his car.  I suddenly fast forward 15 years when he'll be getting in a real car giving me a casual wave goodbye as he drives away.  Gulp.  Ok, buddy, let's stay outside and play in your bubble car a little longer.  Lunch can wait.  So can the day you drive away.

5) Balance is splashing in the bathtub and blowing bubbles off the boys' hands as squeals and giggles fill the air.  Messy, wet floor?  Yep.  Past bedtime?  Yep.  But when a soapy Garrett looks at me with his arm outstretched and for the first time ever utters a two syllable word, "HAP-PY!"  I feel pretty happy too.

6) Balance is surviving another temper tantrum in public and then cherishing when my boys are NOT the crazy ones at story time, slamming the cabinets or grabbing the puppets from the librarian, but instead fall asleep in my lap or snuggle in close for a story (this is rare, of course).  It's also sweating through another head-butting, collar-grabbing, pinned-down wrestling match one day and enjoying the gorgeous springtime weather, watching ducks, chasing bumble bees, having a picnic, and feeling caterpillars tickle our arms at the gardens another day.

7) Balance is setting my alarm to wake before anyone else wakes up to have the house to myself.  Some days it means going for a run before sunrise, sometimes it means getting chores/errands done, sometimes it means drinking coffee and reading People magazine.  It's time to myself before catering to everyone else for the next 13 hours.

8) Balance is dropping the kids off at the gym's child care so I can break a sweat and lift some weights.  Ok so maybe the staff had to pull me out of spin class after just 20 minutes.  But then that's balanced with an impromptu coffee shop visit, time at the playground, and browsing the aisle at the discount toy/clothing/home goods shop while the boys 'test' out their favorite items play on the floor. 

9) Balance is realizing my efforts to get out of the house early to accomplish a few errands before the boys' check up were lost when we pulled up to the ATM to make a deposit and the machine was temporarily unavailable.  OF COURSE it was.  But how nice it is to have a pay check with MY name on it.  Ok, it's not much, but it's something.

10) Balance is totally contradicting #1 and sometimes crashing at nap time just like the boys do.  My body begged me to give in, to sleep.  My swollen glands, fiery throat, and achy limbs commanded it.  On Wednesday morning at 4am I awoke with dreadful symptoms, was at the doc when the doors opened, left with meds, and by 4pm was starting to feel a wee bit better.  Despite feeling awful, the boys were wonderful...content with walks around the block, exploring in the alley, throwing rocks and mulch, chasing inch worms, inspecting ants, riding trikes, and even watching TV for an hour (cringe).  Slow days are a necessity to our often busy days.  It's all part of the balancing act.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

THIS is what it's all about

There's a bumper sticker that reads, "What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about?"  There might be some truth to that if you think of the Hokey Pokey and associate it with fun, friends, and time well spent together.  It sums up our whirlwind weekend, anyway:)

Last Thursday night the Sheltons arrived with their sweet, angelic 7 month old, Emily.  I had visited Emily in October, but this was her big debut to our friends here in town.  Lori and I are friends from high school and have experienced every major milestone from age 14 and on together.  It was a real treat to have them as our guests for a few days and I took secret delight in pulling out all things baby for Emily to use!  We enjoyed dinner and playtime and each others company as we milled around the house doing our nightly routines with all the kiddos.  We were even on the same page when it came to vegging out for the evening...a little TV, a little chit chat, a little reading, and an early bedtime.  The comfort of good friends is pretty priceless.


On Friday everyone slept a little later than usual and we enjoyed time at the train table before heading to the race expo and lunch with Valerie and Jeremy.  That night Lori, Brian, and Emily headed to the Duggers for dinner and to meet the newest additions to their family, Clara and Maggie, who are almost 12 weeks old and absolutely beautiful.  In the meantime Joe and I kicked it into high gear to get ready for the next two days.

Saturday morning was race day!  I think it's deserving that these kick-a$$ runners deserve their own shout outs...


Niki (in red), wife to Dave (who I only knew as the bartender from my days at TOTS until I met Niki) and Mom to 2 year old Parker, is 37 weeks pregnant with Trip.  She's a fellow VT grad, stay at home mom, and fitness instructor at Mom's Treehouse.  Seriously, the woman never stops.


AC (in white), wife to Corey, fellow teacher friend, and mom to 8 month old triplets.  THAT, right there, is an accomplishment, and she and Corey haven't seemed to miss a beat!  This is her first race since the kids have been born. 


Missy (in black and pink), also a teacher friend, runs to enjoy good wine and good food.  A girl after my own heart.  No babies of her own because there are plenty to go around in this crowd!


Lori (not pictured below) and I ran track in high school.  Ok, we mainly just brought up the rear of the group and chatted each day at practice.  She called me in December 2010 saying she might be pregnant.  A few days later it was confirmed.  In August 2011 sweet Emily was born.  This race was her first one as a mommy too.

So we're pretty lucky that one of the largest 10K races in the country runs right by the two streets that sandwich our block and the people watching happens to be fantastic.  I had breakfast ready for the dads and bibs and t-shirts ready for the kids.  The runners said good bye to their biggest fans and Missy's husband, Chandler, kindly chauffeured us to the start line.  We got to see the elite runners and Brian, who still denies he's secretly a Kenyan, cross the finish line before even starting our race.  Just after mile 3 each of us spotted the dads, all 7 kiddos (Emily not pictured below), Nana, and other neighbors...a welcome sight at the halfway point! 
 
   
image from http://backlight.zenfolio.com/p475656132/e2a1d8ff5#h2a1d8ff5

Thank you, Corey, for the great shots!

Later that afternoon we hosted our annual Post 10K Cookout and I was certainly in over my head...the RSVP list indicated close to 30 adults and 25 kids...gulp.  Thankfully a gray sky kept people at bay and I was actually relieved.  Not to say that we didn't have quite a crowd, and even the 30 minute rain shower that forced everyone inside [our not so big house] didn't put a damper on our FABULOUS time!  Ever since I found out I was expecting I've envisioned large gatherings in our backyard.  When the boys were 10 months old Joe and I ripped out the ivy and trees in the back half of our yard, leveled the ground, and planted grass.  Today we have a fabulous play space for entertaining, enough to accommodate family, friends, a bounce house, corn hole, bocce, blankets for lounging, chairs for watching, and plenty of toys.  Bliss.  The boys were quite the entertainers, our last guests left at 11pm, it looked like a bomb had gone off in our house, and I didn't care.  We crashed hard, saw the Sheltons off early the next morning, and returned to bed for a couple hours before going on a cleaning frenzy Sunday morning.  By the size of the mess, the plethora of leftovers, and the great texts I received about a time well had, I'd say Saturday was 100% a success.





Sunday was not a day of rest.  There were errands, a meeting, and most importantly a baby shower to be had!  Niki is expecting baby #2, Trip, at the end of April, so a small brunch, girly chit chat, and cute gifts were in order at Cafe Mosaic


I have a frame that reads, "Friends are the family we choose on our own."  So the weekend was busy.  The days leading up to it were hectic.  But the time together was fun and meaningful.  And that's what it's all about.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Who's who?

Next to "Wow, you have your hands full!"  "Do twins run in your family?" and "I see double trouble." the comment I hear most often is, "How do you tell them apart?"  I think Garrett and Gavin look similar but not exactly alike even though mono mono twins are about as identical as they come.  They move differently, sound different, and make different expressions, but to most people they do indeed look the same.  Garrett's face is narrower, his eyes a little smaller; Gavin's cheek's are fuller, his forehead broader, his eyes rounder.  To avoid the 'hey you,' 'which one are you,' 'hey boy,' 'garrettgavin' (yes, one word), or 'the brothers' salutations I often dress them in certain colors.  Garrett gets lots of green, gray, red, and orange (the connection being a gr in Garrett and a gr in most of the listed colors) while Gavin gets lots of black, blue, brown, and yellow.  This doesn't mean I avoid matchy matchy outfits, though.  We mainly get by on hand-me-downs and gifts so I'm the least bit picky.  Most days they are coordinated (same outfit in different colors), occasionally they're just alike, and sometimes their attire is totally random.  When they start to voice an opinion about what they want to wear I'll let that daily choice be up to them.  A mom's gotta pick her battles.   Which is also why the boys don't have assigned high chairs or car seats.  It's first come, first serve around here.

So today I dressed them in matching overalls and different colored shirts: Garrett in gray and Gavin in blue.  Gavin chose to wear the blue Crocs and Garrett chose to wear the maroon and orange VT Crocs.  We had a busy morning around the house, at music class, and playing and picnicking at the park with some friends.  As usual, the boys fell asleep on the way home and thankfully they can be easily transferred to their cribs for naps.  I got Gavin out of the car, slipped off his shoes, carried him upstairs, and laid him down while fishing for his teddy bear that he loves only having to go retrieve it from his brother's crib.  He rolls over to settle in, but instead of tucking in his hands under his tummy and sticking his tush in the air to snooze for the afternoon, he gets on all fours and scrambles around asking for his dog.  Dog?!?!  Garrett loves the dog!  You're the bear kid!  Nope, Mom.  Ooops.  I'm Garrett.  And I go in the other bed.  And I like to sleep with the dog.  

Alas, for the first time since they were infants I mixed up my own kids.  Note, the first three months home from the hospital we painted Gavin's toe nail black (black for Baby B) so we could tell the boys apart even in our bleary eyed middle of the night zombie-like state.



Today aside, it's rare I confuse the boys.  I can usually tell who's crying in the other room and who ate what off their plate when I'm washing dishes at the sink even if it was Joe who sat with them at mealtime.  Maybe I need to be better about taking lots of pictures of them separately; maybe Joe and I need to increase our efforts of spending time with each child one on one; maybe it will be a dilemma come school time when we don't know whether or not to keep them together or send them to separate classrooms; and maybe friendships are going to get tricky; but for now our battles revolve around who sits in the green or blue tailgate chair and who gets the toy bus and who gets the toy recycling truck.  They might look the same and have matching DNA but they are indeed separate individuals.  It's rare I call them 'the twins;' it's usually 'the boys.'  And while I think self expression and honoring individuality is very important in the developmental process of identity and autonomy, one of my most favorite pieces of advice anyone has ever given me with regards to my children is, "Let them be twins."  They're brothers and they're in sync and even before the age of 2 they were thinking of each other when most kids are just thinking of themselves.  A great big sorry to my sweet Garrett, who could tell right away that he was in the wrong bed!  But there's no doubt that one day you and Gavin are going to love playing switcheroo tricks on anyone you can.  So have fun doing it.  And being boys.  And being brothers.  And being twins.

 



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