Tag Archives: adventure

Double Double Toil and Trouble

When my mama said they’ll be days like this, she was not screwing around.

I remember having a conversation about motherhood with her months ago when she said, with a shudder: “Just wait until you’re sick.  You will not believe you ever thought you knew misery before that day.”

I trusted her, but by that point the babies were six months old and we’d never been sick, not one of us.  So I put it on a shelf and forgot about it.

Then a month ago Henry got croup.  His first illness (at nine months, which I was pretty proud of).  Like the gentleman he is, he graciously passed it to each of us, so we shared colds for a week.  Mike and I swam in a sea of tissues, comforting babies, low on energy.  But it didn’t bring us to our knees.

Then last weekend, Arden got her first fever.  She had no accompanying symptoms, so I called the pediatrician who advised I do nothing but monitor her and keep her comfortable.  Her fever raised and lowered over the next two days, and then Henry caught it.  I took them both to the doctor because it was strange to have fevers and literally no other issues.  She did a thorough exam and said it was a virus, and that many babies had been in with the same experience.  She said it would be gone in the next day or two.

Since they were nearly healthy again the next day, I decided to go on our first run since the cold I’d had several weeks before.  I felt great, and was doing my best time post-birth.  I got back to the house and put the babies in their highchairs for a snack — and suddenly, I felt wrong.  My skin hurt and every single joint ached.  At first I thought I’d pushed myself too hard during the run, but the feeling wasn’t going away as I recovered from that effort.  I prepared the babies’ food and felt worse with every passing minute.

After half an hour I called Mike and told him something was wrong with me, but I had no idea what, as I’d just been healthy enough to push 65 pounds over hills in the neighborhood.  Fifteen minutes later it occurred to me: take your temperature, genius.  Bingo: 100 degrees.

From then on it was like being run over by a train.  I had to say out loud, “Just get me to the next thing, Jesus,” as I washed dishes or moved the kids to a different area.  I felt so weak and aching that I physically couldn’t play with them.  I went limp and laid on the floor, holding up a book and whisper-reading it to the babies.  I realized I would be laughing out loud at myself if only I had the strength.

It was soon obvious that Jesus had heard my pathetic wimper because the babies were chubby-thighed angels for the next forty-five minutes.  They just sat quietly playing next to the woman heroically auditioning for the role of a starfish washed ashore: arms and legs splayed, eyes closed.

In a moment of grace I will never forget, Arden looked at me, leaned over, and put her head on my arm, right in the crook by my shoulder.  She stared at me with her enormous eyes and just laid beside me, radiating empathy.  I felt so impossibly in love with her I thought it would be enough to heal me on the spot.  I also remembered she had felt this sick over the last five days, and maybe still did a little, and my heart broke.

I kept my hands on each of them so I knew they were safe, and then I pretended this all wasn’t happening, because I knew I didn’t have an out.  My mom was out of the country, my mother-in-love was working, my husband was working.  Okay — my husband was working and then had a four o’clock tee time, but I still felt guilty asking for help.  As soon as that became a conscious thought — “I feel so guilty asking him not to golf to come take care of the babies because I can’t move,” I realized how absurd it was, and I called him.

He immediately offered to come home before I had to beg, which helped me to remember this was the first such call I’d ever made.  He was understandably bummed about his plans, but made it home within an hour.  At his insistence I went to bed, announcing as I walked up the stairs that I’d sleep probably half an hour (because what kind of a mother takes a longer break than that? I berated myself)…and then didn’t regain consciousness for more than two.

Thank God this happened on a Thursday, because on Fridays my mother-in-love comes to help (alternating Fridays with my sister) so I knew I wouldn’t be alone the next day.  I felt much better through that day, but the fever spiked again as evening approached and I went to bed early, sleeping like the dead.

That Saturday we didn’t have plans, which is always cause for celebration in our house, and I told myself I was ruining it by being sick.  How could we do anything fun if I was sick?  How could we leave the house?  I had to rally!  This was Mike’s day off and the kids’ chance to get out and do something new and exciting; I had to pull it together.  But every ounce of my 101 degree temperature body was saying, Abby, move to the couch.  Do not move off of it.  So, logically, I forced myself to get dressed and put on accessories.

What is with this mother guilt?  Did I drink from a vial concocted by a gaggle of evil raccoons stirring a pot of poison in the woods labeled “Mother Guilt”?  Have I forgotten this disturbingly detailed memory?  Why do I not allow myself to get physically ill?

Mike walked into the room and saw me sitting next to the children, fully dressed and ready to go, but staring into the distance like one of the rubber giraffes they were playing with.

“Babe, I think you should stay home,” he admitted.  “You look like…babe, you need to sleep.  I’m taking the babies, we’re going walking along the water and getting lunch and you will sleep.”

He was so sincere, and so earnest about having a daddy-twins day that I finally caved.  I crawled to the couch and shouted last instructions.

“Take a bottle for each,” I moaned.  “Do you have wipes?”

As he left I burrowed under a blanket, freezing despite the heat radiating off my skin.  I was just about to fall asleep when I remembered: “Be sure to cover their legs with the thin blankets in the back of the car so they don’t get sunburned,” I texted him.

And with that motherly duty complete, I fell into a blissful two and a half hour coma.  When I woke up, my fever was gone and never returned.  Mike had a fabulous time with the babies on an afternoon adventure — perfectly happy, and not sunburned, without me.  Evil raccoon mother guilt be damned!

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Because It’s Really Their First Car

There were a ton (okay, two tons) of items acquired to prepare for the babies, but none that I anticipated more than the purchase of our stroller.  I am a member of an unusual species, one that looks at strollers like cars, and did so long before my own children entered the picture.  I can’t really explain it, because I had no interest in any other baby paraphernalia, but before I had the babies I could pass six strollers on the street and tell you the make and model of each one, along with which was used by a celebrity for their spawn.  File under: useless information recall.

You won’t know this stroller, or care, but before I had babies I always thought I’d buy the Orbit.  The Orbit is genius, and cool, and looks like a spaceship.  The seat twists on and off the base and then twists on and off a matching base in your car.  I probably would have purchased it, too, if it hadn’t been for the little double surprise we encountered.  Because just look at the locomotive that is the double-version:

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Six wheels?  The thing is about eight feet long.  How do you turn?  Or fold it up?  Forget about it.

Next I thought I wanted the Bugaboo Donkey Twin stroller, but I test drove one and it felt forty feet wide and I knew it wouldn’t fit through standard door frames, no matter what they told me.  Fitting through doors, I’d say, is kind of essential.

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Easily the most popular stroller in Seattle is the BOB, and it’s popular for good reason.  I just couldn’t go with it because it didn’t fit two car seats, and it was beastly to collapse and store in the back of the car.

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Where to turn?  What to do?  After an embarrassing number of hours of research, a fellow twin mom told me she was going with the Baby Jogger City Select, which I had never heard of.  At first I naturally thought, “amateur” but after further intense research, I dragged Mike to the store and we fell in love with it.  I also asked for stroller recommendations at the next EMOMs meeting, and was met with a chorus of advice to get the City Select.

I insisted on adding the bassinets, because one of my long-held stroller fantasies was to push a baby in a bassinet.  It’s so classic, so British, so splendidly posh.  If I was going to be falling asleep at the wheel, I was going to do so behind a bassinet.  Or two, as the case may be.

After ten months with our little red SUV, I can now report that it was a wise purchase.  Speaking of purchase, I haven’t listed the prices of any of the strollers here intentionally; those who care will look it up, and those who don’t I won’t horrify.  Just remember: Judgy Wudgy Was a Bear.

What makes the City Select so choice, as Ferris Bueller would say?  The versatility.  It can be configured to hold two bassinets, two car seats, two seats, or some combination of those if you have children of different ages.  We can even add a glider board once we have another baby so all three are riding (which sounds ridiculous, but we’ll see when we get there).

Our first use of it was to take Arden in for our daily visit to Henry in the NICU:

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This only required one bassinet, obviously, and it worked well.

During subsequent outings I would choose bassinets or car seats based on whether they were sleeping, or likely to.

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2013-09-11 15.06.32

It sounds complicated to configure, but the bassinets just click in and out, and then we click little frames in to hold the car seats.

bassinet view

As the babies were able to sit up, I would let them ride perched in the bassinets.  This was adorable, but unsafe, as they could arch their backs and fall out (theoretically…it didn’t actually happen).

bassinet sitting

It took me a very long time to switch to the big kid seats because I was so attached to the bassinets.  Also it was winter, so it made sense to keep them in their little traveling sleeping bags.

bassinet foxes

 

bassinet foxes sitting 2

But a couple of weeks after they turned eight months in late March, it was time to make the switch.  We ran into our friend Matt soon after, and he summed it up perfectly: “First stop: five-point harness, second stop: college.”  This was EXACTLY why I didn’t want to move out of the bassinets.  It was like admitting they were ready to have email addresses.

big seats

The glimmering silver lining was that they instantly loved it.  Their faces looked like, “WHAT?  I can sit up fully supported!?  AND touch all the things?!”

stroller reach

(Also please note their gender differences even in seated positions.  Arden always sits ankles crossed like the lady she is, and Henry’s legs are always swinging high in the air, toes wiggling.)

We can have the seats face front, back, or each other.  We always have them facing each other because then neither of them is staring at the back of a seat.  Plus they interact, which is just as adorable as it sounds.

full view

On rare occasions one of them will fall asleep in the car and one will still be awake, in which case we rock the different seating combo.

stroller two seats

One of the key requirements in our stroller search was that it be easily collapsible, as I’d be doing it myself the majority of the time.  The City Select has two knobs on either side and when I pull them at the same time they collapse the whole thing.  It’s really easy, but it’s still a little awkward to load into the car since it’s not a featherweight umbrella stroller.

The name makes this obvious, but we use it to go on runs and it does just fine.

At this point Baby Jogger should be sending me a check, but since they’re not, I’ll conclude with its drawbacks.  There isn’t a safety connection from my wrist to the stroller, which I think of every time we go running, as I imagine myself tripping and sending the twins into oncoming traffic.  It’s not “recommended” for jogging like their sportier strollers are, so I’m sure there’s a better running experience out there, but the ride is smooth and works for us.

I’m hoping to do a post soon about other top products I haven’t been able to live without, but for now I had to start with the mothership.  I’m reminded of it everywhere we go, because sometimes it gets more attention than the twins do.

I don’t like to say I love inanimate objects, so let’s just say that I deeply like this stroller.

stroller toes

 

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May 31, 2014 · 9:29 PM

A Little Tangle with the Law

I got a speeding ticket a few weeks ago.

I was driving near our home on a Wednesday morning, heading to the grocery store with the babies.  We never, ever run errands in the morning because it messes with their first nap, but I had plans later in the day so I decided to be ultra-efficient.  I was also doing something we never do: I was headed to the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market.  I thought: I’m a stay-at-home-mom on a single income.  This is a smart-savvy-savings ninja move that moms everywhere have discovered before me.  Look at me go!

And then a cop stepped into the road and waved me over.

I was completely bewildered.  I was not speeding.  What the?

“Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, officer, I genuinely don’t.”

He showed me the read on his radar gun: 35 miles per hour.

“Yes, but…this is a 35 zone,” I replied, still baffled.

“Yes it is,” he answered.  “But it’s 9:15 on a school day.”

A tiny brain bomb exploded.

“I…I had no idea.  I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know…” I stammered pathetically.  I glanced in my rearview mirror looking for the twins to back me up, or cry at least.  Isn’t this what babies are for in a pinch?

He walked away and promptly wrote me a ticket.  My giant Precious Moments eyes did nothing to garner a sympathetic let-off.  I should’ve worn more makeup.  Well, I should’ve worn makeup.

He handed me the ticket, I rolled up my window and promptly burst into tears.  I felt royally ripped off, also like a fool, and worse, I glanced down at the ticket to see a colossal $271 staring back at me and cried even harder.  The brutal irony was not lost on me of getting hit with a nearly $300 fine on my way to save nickels and dimes.

Naturally, I decided to check the little box for “mitigation hearing” so I could hopefully lower the fine.

Three weeks later I packed the kids in the car and drove across town for my hearing.  More than a few people said I was insane to bring them; I said I’d be insane not to.  They failed me in front of the cop but I was confident they’d do much better in front of a judge.  This was nothing if not parenting at its finest.

We rolled through the door in our locomotive of a stroller, causing the security guards to react with such glee I knew their jobs involved slower policing than Mayberry.  We made it through the metal detector and I got a full body wanding, just for good measure.  The security guards made all kinds of exclamations about how I got around with that thing, and how full my hands must be, and how it’s a wonder I’m out of the house at all.  I smiled and faked laughed as they tried to escort me down the hall to my courtroom.  I told them I was fine, and they just shook their heads and chided each other about this wild twin mom in their midst.

I sat in the back row of the courtroom and quietly talked to the babies and gave them the toys I had packed.  There were only five or six other people (defendants?) in the room, and it was so, so quiet.  Every squeak the twins made sounded like a holler through a bullhorn.

Suddenly the security guard walked in the door at the back of the room and started talking to the judicial assistant.  I paid no attention until I realized they were talking about me.

“Can you imagine?  Two at once?  Boy oh boy you’d never sleep!”

“I have two five years apart and it was so exhausting.”

“She said it’s a boy and a girl!”

“Well I’d be done. I wish that had been me I would’ve only had to be pregnant one time.”

They were speaking so loudly it became awkward for me not to respond.  Again I fake-laughed good-naturedly, and they started to openly include me in the conversation.  In front of the defendants.

“How old are they?  Is it hard?  Oh my gosh!”

I answered and then occupied myself with Henry who was starting to fuss.  Too soon, Hank!  I need you to cry when Her Honor is here!

Finally, ten minutes late (which is about thirty in twin time), the judge entered the room.  She made a quick announcement about our options for dealing with our tickets, stating that we could get them reduced if there were appropriate circumstances.  I felt so hopeful and then she added, “unless it’s a ticket that cannot be reduced by law, like speeding in a school zone, for instance.”

Womp womp.

My crime would be too obvious if I left immediately.  I was crossing my fingers that she’d call me last and I could plead in the privacy of my own patheticness.

Before she began the proceedings, she asked if anyone wanted to defer — to pay $150 to keep the ticket off record, and if you’re ticket-free for a year it never shows up on your record at all.  I got my hopes up again, but then started mentally calculating when my last ticket was…since you can only have a deferral every seven years, it would be close.

Henry was fussing, louder and louder.  I picked him up knowing that he would never go back in without crying.  Of course that’s when it was also time to decide to defer.

After several others took her up on her offer, I raised my hand.  She looked up my name to see if I qualified — bingo.

“Please step forward,” she told me.

I balanced Henry on my hip and pushed the stroller forward with one hand, careening around slightly and smiling sheepishly, because, remember, that’s why I brought them: sympathy points.

“Do you understand the terms of the deferral?” she asked me.

“Yes, your honor,” I replied, bouncing Henry.

“Alright, as long as you don’t get a ticket for the next year, this will be wiped from your record.  So don’t speed in any more school zones,” she added.

I was offended by this, mostly because she said it like I did it as a hobby.  Here I was toting two babies and she thought I was a reckless driver out to mow down the schoolchildren of America.

That comment aside, I considered this a victory.  A one hundred and twenty-one dollar victory, to be exact.  Provided I don’t break the law for the next twelve months.  In which case, it would be not a victory at all, but rather a $321 defeat, plus the cost of the new ticket.

Ergo, the next time you see a sloth-like vehicle with two carseats in the right lane of the freeway, just give me a wave and try not to judge.  At least I’m not snowplowing elementary school children.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

Sweet and Sour

Weekends away are supposed to be rejuvenating and fun, not make you want to get your tubes tied.

Over Valentine’s Day weekend we had our first family getaway to Whidbey Island for my 30th birthday.  We rented a house on the beach, Mike took two days off of work, and we hopped aboard a ferry for the short trip across the sound to the island.

Packing took hours.  It’s not the baby clothes that slow you down, it’s the, “oh, we’ll need another pack and play so they each have somewhere to sleep.  Oh and did you grab their bouncers?  Otherwise they’ll have nowhere to sit.  How many diapers do you think we’ll need for four days?  Do you think their baby food will stay frozen for the 90 minute drive?  Did you get the stroller?”

I finished all of that, feeling like an Olympian, and pronounced, “We’re ready to go!”  And then immediately realized I hadn’t actually packed myself.  Cue another 30 minute delay of departure.

When we arrived we soaked in the fresh feeling of being somewhere new and unfamiliar.   The view of the water and mountains was gorgeous from every window and we felt our lungs expand from the vast amount of visual space.  I’m big on visual space.  I get a little suffocated when my eyes have nothing to gaze upon but the four walls around me.   Beach houses are the perfect remedy.

We strapped the babies onto our chests for a walk on the beach.  It was perfect — sunny, brisk, and nobody else in sight.  The babies cuddled against us and we beamed at each other, proud that our trip was proving to be family-of-four fun.

beach

mike beach

We had brought along several bags of food, knowing that going out to dinner wouldn’t be an option with two six-month-olds.  But I told Mike I was getting a little panicky at our lack of adequate post-dinner sweets, plus we didn’t even have popcorn, which in our family is an aberration.

In true Mike fashion, he agreed to buy a handful of snacks and instead returned with three bottles of wine, chips and salsa, popcorn, half a dozen types of candy, ice cream, potato chips and beer.  I almost had a stroke, but then reminded myself that this is a significant portion of our fun these days; the theory being, we can’t leave the house at night, so let’s pig out and watch movies like fatties.

At this point, we were still buoyantly optimistic about our getaway.  We knew traveling with children could be a double-edged sword, we just didn’t realize quite how sharp.  For the remainder of this post, I’m going to slice and dice.

Sweet

The first night was the night of my 30th birthday, so we had a fabulous home-style happy hour on the deck while the kids napped.  Mike gave me a few presents, and then he made dinner.  The kids went to bed without issue and slept well all night.

Sour

Nothing!  It was an early win.

Sweet

The next day we explored Langley, an adorable seaside town with lots of shops, cafes and art studios.  We walked the babies around happily in their strollers and then decided to have lunch at a popular pizzeria.

Sour

Just as the waitress approached while we were waiting for a table, the babies were like, “Oh you wanted to have lunch?  Perfect timing, because we want to get out of here.”  We sighed and left, knowing we were no match for babies who want to nap but can’t fall asleep.

Hunger caused our good-naturedness to hit a snag.  We got in the car to head home for lunch but realized we were too hungry to make a meal from scratch.  Mike stopped at the corner market while I ran inside for a frozen pizza, which, after smelling gourmet pizza moments ago, was torture.  By the time I was back in the car the babies had fallen asleep, so we decided to return to the restaurant to salvage our afternoon.

Sweet

We got a table with a gorgeous view and quickly ordered a pizza and two beers.

“How long do you think we have?” I asked Mike.

“Twenty minutes?  How do we get the food out here faster without looking like jerks?”  he said.

“She just saw us leave earlier because of them, so let’s hope she can figure it out,” I replied.

The babies woke up not long after the pizza arrived, but I already had their bottles ready so we each fed one while feeding ourselves.  It was a stroke of genius to choose pizza because it can be eaten with one hand.

We took another great walk on the beach when we got back to the house and put the kids down to sleep without issue.  They woke up once or twice overnight but it wasn’t earth-shattering.

Sweet

On Saturday we drove to Coupeville, the other charming town on Whidbey, and explored shops and drank coffee and wore the babies on our chests.  We had a great time, and our positive pizza experience gave us the confidence to try for lunch a second time.

pier

mike pier

This time we chose what appeared to be the most popular bakery/restaurant in town, Knead and Feed, which had a dining room the size of our living room at home.  We sat at a two-person table, which was bold considering we were each wearing an extra person.  The people were so disarmingly welcoming we actually began to relax, rather than spend the entire hour stressing over everyone’s disapproving stares.  Several people came by to interact with the babies and we were so happy it was a little ridiculous.  We ordered big meals, Mike even going so far as to order mussels, which later proved to be as impossible as it sounds while holding a baby.

Sour

As we were finishing our meals, the babies were tapping their watches and motioning toward the door.  We scrambled to stuff the last few bites in our mouths while cooing at them and sing-songing our way through waiting for the bill.  We stood up to put our coats back on, as well as our baby carriers, and the entire room turned to watch.  Putting a baby in a Baby Bjorn is difficult enough with two people.  Putting a baby in one with only a baby-holding person to help is like juggling bowling balls with one hand.  We wrestled everything into position and then burst out laughing when we couldn’t get one strap buttoned into another.  Everyone was staring, we were sweating from the effort, and we tumbled out the door of that pressure cooker.

Sweet

Sarah and Casey met us back at the house to spend half a day with us, and we were thrilled to have great company as well as extra hands to hold babies.  We ventured out to a winery nearby for some wine tasting, and then had dinner together back at the house after the babies went to sleep.

wine tasting

So, So Sour

Except that they didn’t, not really.  Arden cried for half an hour before falling asleep, and then woke up around 10:30PM, never to return to real sleep ever, ever again.  The Bullers left around 9PM, so thankfully they were spared the screaming.  We’re not sure what changed between the other nights and this night, but we assume it was just her weariness at not being in her own bed, because she’s never cried that much in her entire life.

We took turns walking her around, pacing the room and silently begging her to go to sleep.  We soothed, we sang, we kissed, we participated in a parenting ritual as old as parenting itself.  Henry slept through it, miraculously, so at least a quarter of us was getting some rest.  We kept moaning to each other, incredulous that we dared to think this would be relaxing.

She would quiet temporarily, and then the second we’d put her in her crib she’d scream like her life depended on it.  A few rounds of that game of battleship and she sunk us, so we brought her into our bed.  She fell asleep after awhile and we collapsed on our pillows in relief.

I started to relax and then noticed something.  There were two skylights directly above our bed.  On our first two nights these were appealing — we had great lighting during the day and could see the moon as clear as day during the night.  As I looked up on this night, however, I saw the moon approaching the skylight directly over Arden’s little body.  I whisper-yelled to Mike, “The moon!  The light is going to wake her up!  What do we do!?”  I put my hand between her face and the light.  His bleary eyes looked back at me like, really?  Now we’re battling space to get our kid to sleep?

The spotlight shot down on us like a cannon, illuminating the entire bed.  She startled awake and the long charade began again, this time with Henry chiming in.  He wasn’t crying from restlessness so much as a general complaint to management.  I couldn’t blame him; these living conditions were entirely unacceptable.

Mike carried Henry around the room, and I counted up the hours left until morning, which only brought me right to the brink of losing my mind.  So this, I thought, is why people refuse to have more than two.  It’s making perfect sense to me now.

Just then Mike walked back into the room with Henry still crying and announced, “We’re not having any more kids!”

“I’m way ahead of you,” was all I could mutter in reply.

We nestled the two crying babies between us in the bed and cuddled them as best one can cuddle a screaming infant.  We looked at each other and sighed as they finally fell asleep.

The Sweetest

The next morning, if you can call a morning “next” when you have all but ushered it in, we groaned as the light filled the room and the babies started their day.  I fed each of them and we said a holier-than-thou “We forgive you” as they stared at us with their eyes full of love.  And that’s what always gets us — no matter what happens overnight, no matter how enraged and beleaguered we feel, those cherub cheeks and happy squawks pierce through the misery and we’re hopelessly in love again.

morning after

“So,” I said to Mike as we looked at the water with our happy babies, “we’re back on track for four kids, right?”

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Disaster Baby Class Reunion

I always knew there were bound to be some disasters in going out with the twins.  And now I’ve encountered them and lived to tell the tale.  Of course I’ve encountered several, but will only tell one tale.

About a month ago, Evergreen Hospital invited us to return for a class reunion to see the people with whom we took our twin birthing class — to meet each other’s babies and learn how everyone was doing.  This was really appealing to us because we don’t know any other twin parents (apart from acquaintances in EMOMs and one friend in the city I don’t see nearly enough) so we decided to attend.  There were just two little hiccups: Mike had class on the night it was held, and it was planned for 6:30PM, otherwise known as Baby Unhappy Hour (no booze included).  Not a problem, I thought.  I’ve gone out with the babies by myself countless times, and I really want to see the two other couples from our class.  Onward!

I arrived on time (!) and made my way down the hall.  I saw a large group of parents in one room, but noticed they all held one baby, so I assumed there was another room for the parents of multiples.  I went room to room — no luck.  I pushed the stroller back to the main room and asked the woman in charge if there was another meeting for the multiples group.

“Oh, no, we just plan one big reunion a month and anyone who can come, does!”  she said cheerfully.

I tried to mask my disappointment, but probably failed.  Not only would I not be able to “relate” to these parents, but I didn’t know any of them so had no vested interest in their new babies.  The entire point of a reunion is that you know the people prior to being reunited…am I right?

I took a seat and felt twenty pairs of eyes staring at me as I wheeled the twin stroller to park it next to my chair.  I heard Arden stir, just as I knew she would, because it was their dinner time.  I looked at the clock; there was no sight of either of the set of parents I was waiting for, and it was already twenty minutes past the class start time.  After debating for a moment, I decided I’d already made the effort so I should stay and try to redeem the situation.

I pulled Arden out of her seat and fed her a bottle, and just as I did Henry woke up.  I did my best casual “hahaha” to the parents around me who were watching closely to see what I would do.  I was suddenly very aware of the fact that I was the only single parent in the room, and the only one with more than one baby.  I said ten silent thank-yous to God that I had brought two bottles, instead of my usual routine of breastfeeding one while bottle feeding the other.  The image of that happening in this room was so unimaginable I physically shuddered.

I grabbed bottle number two and plunked it in Henry’s mouth, keeping him in his car-seat since I couldn’t hold them both.  I held Arden in the crook of my right arm, with my hand wrapped around her holding the bottle in her mouth, and used my left hand to hold Henry’s bottle in his.  Trying to play it cool to the audience before me only had the effect of making me break out in a sweat.  I was a little duck: calm on the surface, paddling like crazy under the water.

Feeling like something of a baby master at this point, I noticed that Henry was fussing, and he never fusses when eating.  I talked to him and tried to soothe him, but it wasn’t working.  Oh Lord, I prayed, please just get me through this and get me out of here.  I will never again display the absurd audacity it took to attempt this, I promise, just get me through the next ten minutes.

I pulled the bottle out of Henry’s mouth and as soon as I did I knew — I hadn’t removed the spill-proof top to his bottle.  He had been sucking on an empty nipple for five minutes.  This realization sent a stab through my heart, the kind that accuses oneself of being a monster of a mother.  However, I was still holding and feeding Arden, so I had to put her bottle between my knees, which made her cry, and then unscrew Henry’s bottle to remove the stopper without spilling it — all while everyone watched.   Perspiration collected under my arms.  I mentally grimaced at the twin moms who had not shown up.

I finally got Henry’s bottle set and continued feeding both babies until burp time.  This went about as well as can be expected, as Arden cried when I put her back in her seat and Henry took about a year to burp.  I told myself “that’s it, I’m out of here,” but then realized we were only two people away from me “introducing myself and my baby.”  One would logically think: who cares?  You don’t know these people and will never see them again.  Despite that sound reasoning, I forced myself to stay in my seat to avoid looking like a failure.

The insanity of that decision is clear to me now, but in the moment I tortured myself to prove I could do double the work with half the help.  Now I see it just proved what a prideful asshat I really am.

I rocked Arden with my foot and held Henry in my arms and smiled broadly to the class, “Hi, I’m Abby, and this is my son Henry and this is my daughter Arden, and they’re three months old and she weighed 7 lbs 14 oz at birth and he weighed 5 lbs 13 oz.”  There was an audible gasp in the room because most of the other babies weighed less than Arden at birth.  I responded with my fun fake laugh and answered the usual round of questions.

Just then one of the twin couples walked in the door…beam of light, ray of sunshine.  We quickly huddled and began comparing notes, and as we did I felt the sting of realization that my road had been smoothly paved and hers had been straight through the woods with no clearing.  Shortly after recovering from a near-death cesarean section, she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer — cancer! — and was in recovery.  She’d had surgery, and the follow-up rounds of treatment had forced her to quit breastfeeding.  I wanted to swallow my head for the dramatic pity-party I’d been throwing myself.  To put me right over the edge of self-hatred, she handed me a gift for the twins.  She might as well have handed me a grenade, because my heart was splattered across the floor in awe.  Almost bleeding to death?  A cancer diagnosis?  And you went shopping for my babies?  It was beyond my understanding of selflessness.

At that moment the evening shifted.  I put crying Arden in her car-seat, covered her up, and pushed her around the hallway where she fell asleep instantly.  Henry was pleasant and content, and I spent the rest of the reunion getting to know the darling twin girls of the woman who no longer felt like a classmate, but a friend.

I left the building forty-five minutes later knowing that I wasn’t the one who had survived a disaster.  As I passed the nervous and hopeful-looking pregnant couples walking in for their birth class, I smiled at them with the special knowledge of all that lay ahead of them.  One woman whispered to her husband “Oh my gosh she has TWINS” and I thought…it doesn’t matter.  You’ll have your own challenges, as I’ve had mine.  And regardless of their severity, you’ll come through it.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Spectacular!

I have no ability to play it cool about this, so I’m just going to say it:

I’m pregnant!

WITH TWINS!

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This is far and away the most spectacular thing ever to happen in my and Mike’s life, and we’re completely astounded that God would give us two.  TWO!

I have never talked about it on this blog, but I have wanted twins for many years.  Not just wanted, craved.  I’ve never really fantasized about having a baby, but twins consistently made me feel overcome with desire.  This cannot be logically explained beyond the fact of what my mother said to me upon finding out I was having them.

“This isn’t like God granted your wish to have twins.  You were always going to have twins because He wanted you to — so He gave you the desire in your heart to have them long before you did.”

She’s absolutely right.  There’s just no other explanation.

But let’s back up, shall we?  Let’s replay the scene of Mike and Abby finding out this little tidbit of information.

We found out we were pregnant shortly after Thanksgiving, and we went into the doctor for our eight-week ultrasound about three weeks later.  We answered the nurse’s  standard questions of our medical history and that of our families, I got checked out for overall health, and then the OB-GYN came in.

She looked exactly like Elizabeth Banks, which made me like her right away because nothing proves you’re already a good mother than judging your doctor’s professional abilities solely on youthful good looks.

She talked to us for a little bit and then opened our chart and said, “OK, looks like you don’t have twins on either side of the family, so we’ll rule that out…”

I interrupted, “Oh but I would LOVE twins!”

“It’s true, she always has,” Mike chimed in.

She blinked at me.  “Why?  Oh my gosh, are you serious?  Well, I won’t go into all the reasons you don’t want twins, because what if you have them and then you hate me?”

She lead us down the hall to the ultrasound room and we were clearly excited, but also nervous.  As I changed into the tent-like gown, Mike held my hand and told me that if there was nothing in the ultrasound, it would be OK, and we could try again, and not to worry.  I agreed completely, but told him if nothing was there I would cry a little bit, but then I’d be fine.  With that healthy communication out of the way, in walked the doctor.

She turned on the monitor and proceeded to move the wand around, and said, “OK there it is,” but before she could even finish that thought she gasped and said, “OH MY GOSH THERE’S TWO.”  Her eyes were enormous and she pointed to the screen where we saw two tiny glowworms with hearts that fluttered like confetti.

My mind went white hot with a rising hope so intense my only way to cope was to confirm, again, and again, and again.

“Are you serious?  Are you joking?  Are you serious?  Are you serious?  Are you kidding?  Are you kidding?”  I said this to her in an absolute blur, talking as fast as I could while I watched her face and the screen, back and forth looking for this to be real, because if it was, my whole life just got made.

She shook her head in disbelief and said very calmly, “I’m not kidding, I’m not kidding, look right here, those are two hearts and two babies.”

I believed, but the happiness was so extreme that my heart and brain couldn’t function on a rational level, so I started laughing, laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, laughing with the most outrageous joy I’ve ever felt in my life.

Finally I crawled out of myself enough to think…Mike.  What does he think?  He didn’t want twins the way I did…and I turned to him and saw the biggest smile I have ever seen on my husband’s face.  His eyes were the size of sand dollars, but it’s that smile I will always remember.

We hugged in a way that conveyed everything our overwhelmed souls couldn’t express.  It was the fiercest hug we’ve ever shared.

It was as if the entire night sky had exploded in that room, every twinkling star, the wide full moon.  Everything in our lives was instantly transformed, instantly ruptured into a creation more beautiful than we knew possible.  My uncontrollable laughter (that was still going on) was the only way I could function as I realized my most absurd, least attainable, out-of-my-control dream was coming to life.  Two lives, actually.

“You’ll have to stop laughing for a second,” the doctor said while laughing herself, “or I can’t get a photo of them.”  Every time she snapped a picture, one of the twins disappeared because my stomach muscles were all over the place with belly laughs.

“I will,” I said, trying to breathe, “Just one second.  You are witnessing the most surreal moment of my entire life…” and I burst out laughing again, feeling exactly like the second grader who tries to hold in laughter at the most inappropriate moment.  I took stuttered breaths so she could get some good shots, and then she said she couldn’t tell yet if they were identical or fraternal, but that we’d likely know at the next appointment.

When we got back to the exam room, we were on a kind of high that happens only a handful of times in a person’s lifetime.  The doctor wanted to get right down to business (“I need you to understand that breastfeeding will be your full-time job”) but Mike and I kept interrupting with new revelations.

“Oh my gosh now we really need to find out the sex — there’s two!” Mike exclaimed.  “And look at her hands, she’s shaking!”

I was, I couldn’t stop.  I tried to listen as she told me to add 600 calories to my daily diet, but the sheer joy in my body was crowding everything else out.  I couldn’t stop thinking what that must have been like for the Lord to see us — He always knew there were two, and on this day He finally got to see us be let in on the secret.  It still blows my mind.

A nurse poked her head in the room after the doctor left and said, “So!  You and the Duchess!”  Which was like a kiss, it was so sweet of her.  She couldn’t possibly know my obsession with Kate, and yet she reminded me we were pregnant together.

We went to lunch to celebrate and couldn’t even order food, due to shock.  The waitress came by four times to take our orders and we hadn’t stopped gaping at each other long enough to look at the menus.  Finally Mike blurted out, “I’m sorry, but we can’t order because we just found out we’re having TWINS!”  She shrieked and congratulated us and then came running back five minutes later to tell us she’d told the whole staff.  We just laughed.

So here we are — 21 weeks in:

21 Weeks

The doctor told me I would measure about four weeks ahead of a woman pregnant with a singleton (can you believe doctors have this robotic word for babies who aren’t twins?), and the bump is not disappointing.

More to come…much, much more.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events), The WORD (Faith), UpWORD (Beauty)

Rubies, Emeralds, Aquamarines

The region along Italy’s west coast is so spectacular, so stunningly beautiful and exceptional that when asked what it’s like, it’s hard not to sound like your IQ is dangerously nearing single digits.

“So it’s a beach town,” the skeptic says.

“Right, except it’s built into a hillside!” you exclaim.  “There are century-old buildings and houses on cliffs!”

“So it’s crowded?” they continue.

“There’s no cars!  You can’t access it except by train or boat!  And you can walk between the five towns!”

“So it’s a beach you can’t get to, it’s overcrowded, and I have to walk everywhere?” they say, turning away.

“…….(sigh in defeat),” say you.

This was a little of our dynamic the day we took the train to Cinque Terre from Lucca — it was Kelly, Amy and Brian’s first time, and the rest of us were trying to describe the majesty of the place, but failing miserably.  Finally we decided to let it speak for itself and we settled back in our seats to read on our Kindles, or in Brian’s case, rescue the princess on his Gameboy Color.

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The train ride there is largely uninteresting, with slightly shabby towns pockmarked across stretches of fields.  There is no evidence that soon one will be on the Mediterranean, much less in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We switched trains in La Spezia and rumbled through tunnels, the last of which ended with a split-second view of the water making everyone gasp and dive toward the window.  We knew we were close and became giddy at the thought of the day ahead.

After getting off the train and purchasing our return tickets, we walked down the stairs from the station into the first town — Monterosso.  The sight stopped us in our tracks.

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It was even more spectacular than I remembered — rich colors filling every inch of the landscape, enormous emerald hillsides reaching out of cobalt waters like cathedral ramparts, tanned Europeans lounging under brightly striped umbrellas, relaxed tourists sipping wine and licking gelato before noon.  It was paradise.

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We were so overwhelmed we didn’t know what to do first.  Erin and I walked around to re-familiarize ourselves with the place, while Brian lead Amy, Mike, and Kelly  to the nearest tropical drink shack to celebrate our arrival.  Soon we all had handmade smoothies, some with booze, some without.  I made a quick pronouncement.

“Let’s make every effort to eat and drink in every town.  Yes?”

I got signed contracts from everyone in the form of happy grins.

Erin, Mike and I had extremely fond memories of a particular bruschetta restaurant in Monterosso, and we were determined to return.  After exploring the town a bit more, we headed off in search of the perfectly toasted bread, tomatoes drenched in olive oil and basil, and the perfectly proportioned dusting of sea salt.

When we found it, right where we’d left it three years earlier, we shouted a little for joy.  When it was even better than we remembered, we felt appropriately validated.

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Kelly, who avoids gluten, was beside herself at being able to savor this treat with abandon.  It turns out that Italians don’t modify their wheat the same way we do stateside, so even those who can’t eat gluten can eat it in Italy.  As if Italy weren’t perfect enough?

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Next we hopped on the train for village number two, also known as Mike’s favorite: Vernazza.

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As we walked through the quaint town of small shops, we saw a large poster commemorating the disastrous mudslide that rocked the town a year ago.  It was hard to believe that 18 feet of mud covered where we now stood.

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When we reached the center of town lining the beach, it was like stepping onto a movie set.  It was so colorfully radiant, so decadent in leisure, and so unaffected by tourism; if this place were almost anywhere else, there’d be cheap carts set up everywhere with key chains and towels and hats with I’VE BEEN TO CINQUE TERRE printed garishly across the front.  Instead, it seemed perfectly untouched, as if we were the first to discover this European heaven.

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We wandered off to take pictures, enjoy the view, and walk along the rocks in the water.  Before I knew it, Amy came up behind me and made a little announcement.

“Brian went swimming,”  she said.

“Wha — he didn’t bring a suit!” I replied.

“Apparently that’s not a problem for our Bri Bri,” she said.

And it wasn’t.  Up walked Brian, dripping wet in the 90 degree weather, wearing the expression of a child with a free unlimited tickets to Disneyland.

It took about two seconds for Mike to light up like a rocket, a bigger explosion of excitement than if he’d seen a dozen puppies.

“I’m going in, too!  YES!  THIS IS AWESOME!” he hollered.  At first I was aghast at the idea of my husband running around in public in his underwear, but then I remembered I was in the Italian riviera, and people were changing in and out of swimsuits in broad daylight.

Amy wasn’t far behind, having made the wise decision that morning to select undergarments that were both black and very swimsuit-like.  Kelly, Erin and I were not as lucky, so we agreed to hold clothes and take photos.

The joy radiating from their faces in the water was contagious.  It was a moment that made us stop and recognize what was happening: we were all together in Italy, swimming in the Mediterranean, living a day most people can only dream of.  We were so, so grateful.

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The good people of Vernazza kindly provided a hose to rinse off the salt, and the swimmers rinsed while we found a table for a glass of wine and refreshing Pellegrino.

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We stopped at the next train station, for Corniglia, but when we were told it was a 400 stair climb to the town, we immediately got back in line for the next train.  It was blazing hot, we had two towns to go, and hiking up a hillside sounded laughably unappealing.

When we arrived in the fourth town, Manarola, we split up to explore and take photos.  The girls combed the town, pointing out buttercream yellow buildings and hundreds-year-old churches.  We posed for pictures by terraced vineyards so steep we marveled that the grapes were able to be harvested.

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We eventually found the boys exactly where we’d expected: having a cold lager on an outdoor deck.

We walked to the water’s edge and saw dozens of people swimming among the rocks, some climbing dangerously high to free-fall into the aquamarine waters below.  We couldn’t believe how high the cliffs were, and it made my palms sweat to watch them stand at the edge and dither about whether to jump.

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It wasn’t two minutes before Brian was again casting off clothing and descending the stairs into the water.  We all watched nervously as he disappeared behind the black rock, with Amy calling for him not to kill himself.

When he finally appeared at the top we held our breath, laughing nervously as he hollered words in English that were thankfully lost in translation, like “Here goes the salt water enema!”

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He flew through the air and we cheered when his head bobbed back up to the surface.  His earlier prediction hadn’t been far off, for the landing ripped his shorts in half.  Luckily he still had his clothes to throw on, so all was well.

Our last destination was Riomaggiore, or as we nicknamed it, Rigamortis.  The path along the hillside to walk there is called Via dell’Amore, or The Way of Love.  It’s a famous place for lovers to walk the kilometer-long road and take in the spectacular view and dedicate their love by putting a lock into the fence (Sam and Aaron did this on their walk with Dave and Nancy).  Mike and I took a photo there in 2009 and decided to recreate the moment in 2012.

2009:

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2012:

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We semi-forced Amy and Brian into the same thing, which they only found mildly cheesy.

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In our final quest for food we were hoping for a real meal, but truly came up short in ways we couldn’t have thought possible.  We found the most stunning location, a restaurant high on the hill built into the rock, overlooking the ocean so forcefully it was hard to look away.

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But the food.  My word, the food.

To say it was appallingly bad would be like saying Honey Boo Boo is a little tacky.  It was inedible.  We quickly discovered how bad it was going to be when we saw little asterisks on items of the menu that signified “frozen meal.”

We ordered as best we could, and made up for it with glasses of white wine, but there was little that could be redeemed.  It was completely obvious that there was no kitchen in the establishment, just a bar down a steep flight of stairs that presumably held a freezer full of frozen entrees and a good stock of booze.  The entirety of the restaurant’s appeal was its location.

But honestly, there would be no true complaining from any of us.  We knew we were sitting on top of the world on one of the best days any of us would have as long as we lived, and a thawed panini wasn’t going to shave an inch off our ecstasy.

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I could tell you that our day in paradise ended with missing a train connection in La Spezia and having to spend 100 euro on taxis to get us all home.  I could, but I won’t.  With a day like that, even with an ending that makes a tightwad like me want to light my hair on fire, I will never regret a second.  Doing so creates a person who wins the lottery only to whine about the taxes.

Le Cinque Terre, a place so magical you’ll be filled with envy on behalf of every other place in the world that calls itself beautiful.

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