Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas 2014

We had such a nice Christmas this year.  Money being super tight, I wasn't sure how it would go.  Then a kind family member gave us some cash, and with some little bits of money from things like credit card rewards and car insurance rebates we had enough to get everyone a couple of modestly priced presents.  I was worried that the kids would be disappointed since the presents weren't as fancy as usual, but I needn't have worried.  They were thrilled with everything and Christmas was just as magical and wonderful as it always has been.  

Christmas Eve the Badger cooked a turkey and we had a nice family dinner.  


There were several traditional expenditures that I cut out this year since money was limited, such as Schleich plastic figures in everyone's stockings.  New pajamas was something I considered cutting out, but most of the kids needed new pajamas anyway.  I got really lucky: on the one brief shopping trip I was able to go on in between twin feedings I was able to find really nice pajamas for all the kids for a really good price.  I made a quick stop at Gymboree because I like their quality and styles but they are usually too expensive.  I just thought I would look-- maybe they had something on clearance-- and they had all their pajamas on sale for $10, which was my budgeted amount.  So my little kids got adorable Gymboree pajamas, which made me so happy.  I love kids in cute new pajamas on Christmas Eve:


Christmas morning brought many surprises.  My sister Pineapple had our name from my extended family (we take turns) and she found all these adorable plush dolls and animals at Ikea for everyone, including a badger for the Badger!  It was his favorite present.   


Peanut got a Little Red Riding Hood doll from Ikea.


This was one of the sweetest moments Christmas morning.  I had bought Peanut a ballerina doll, which is not something she had ever seen before or even been aware of to my knowledge.  When she opened it, she said softly, "ohhhh... it's my ballet doll!  I dreamed about my ballet doll."  She was so happy with her ballet doll and I was happy too.


Bean got the book he wanted (thanks, Pineapple!)


Here's happy Roo.


Here's happy Prince Charming.  You can see we had a lot of food items-- we evened wrapped a box of cold cereal for each kid so they would have more to open.



Here's Fish with all his presents except his Nerf gun.


Both boys got Nerf guns.  They have been wanting them for years, so they forgot all about the expensive electronic items they had been wanting and were just happy.  They have been having a great time with those guns.


And the last present to appear was the dollhouses.  I bought these used--cheap-- from ksl.com's online classifieds.  


Six years ago, when we were living in Kansas, a friend of mine gave me all her daughter's old Fisher Price dollhouse stuff: two big dollhouses and a huge box of dolls and furniture.  We gave it to Roo for Christmas that year.  For years afterwards it was the girls' favorite toy-- they played dollhouse for untold hours.  When we left Oklahoma two years ago we had to get rid of the two big dollhouses because we didn't have room and they were pretty beat up at that point.  We kept all the dolls and furniture, but it just wasn't the same.  So I was very happy to find these dollhouses, one of which is just like one of the old ones we had.  And the kids were pretty happy too.  


Oh, and in the corner of that last picture you can see the beautiful blue and white blanket that my sister found for me.  I was utterly delighted with it.  My other two presents were blue as well:  a pair of socks from my in-laws and a blue stoneware casserole dish from the Badger.  I was thrilled with all of my Christmas presents-- I wasn't really expecting much for myself, so I was surprised and pleased.  

It really was a wonderful Christmas.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Self Improvement

A few years ago my mom and dad wrote extensive personal histories, which they then printed and gave to us children for Christmas.   What a treasure these have been to me.  I learned so much as I read about what the years of my young life were like from their experience.   So much was going on that as a child I had no idea of-- for instance there was a great deal of stress for my dad at his job that I was not aware of and could not have understood as a child.  Reading about it as an adult really helped me understand my dad better and put things in perspective.   
The biggest epiphany I had while reading these histories was about my mother.  She wrote about how during her 30's she had an interest in self-improvement.   She made a list of 12 qualities she wanted to develop, with some details about how she wanted them to manifest in her life as well as specific goals for how to work on them.  I loved that she put all this in her personal history!
What blew me away though was that as  I read this list I said to myself,  "this totally describes my mom!"  I was born when my mom was 39, so my memories of her are when she was in her 40's and 50's.  And she was practically perfect.  It had never occurred to me that the reason she was practically perfect was that she had deliberately worked on her character before I came along, setting goals and achieving them.  I had been looking at myself and saying "I am nowhere near the caliber of mother to my children that my mom was to me," well, when my mom was my age she was probably a lot more like me.  But she made herself better.  I can do that too.
Here's the odd thing:  one day five years ago when we were living here at my inlaws I told my visiting teachers this little story about my mom.  It really left an impression on one of them, Heidi.   Two years later we were visiting Utah and the one Sunday we happened to be at church here Heidi happened to be speaking in Sacrament Meeting and she told about my mom and her self-improvement and the effect it had on me and on her.  I thought that was a pretty amazing (not) coincidence that I just happened to be there when she gave that talk.  I am sure God had some reason for that, though I am not sure I fully understand it.  Maybe it was just to see more clearly the ripple effect our positive actions have.  And maybe it was also to keep this all more often on my mind. 
I do think about it a lot, especially at this goal-focused time of year. 
I am especially excited about goals and self-improvement this year because for most of last year I was just trying to survive.  I am so excited to be able to be proactive about my life again.  I am working on a vision statement,  some positive affirmations,  and some goals to start with.   I've got a lot to work on, but I am my mother's daughter,  so I have a lot of hope!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Leaf and Twig


The twins now have official blog nicknames.  I would like to introduce you to Leaf (on the right, formerly Baby A) and Twig (on the left, formerly Baby B.)  

Thanks to my sister Pineapple for coming up with what I think are the perfect names.  

Double Snuggles



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Eight

My sister took this picture in the hospital the day after the twins were born.  I cried the first time I saw it; a picture of all eight of my children together.  


I worked so hard to get them here, completely losing myself in the process, and now I have all of them with me at last.  

This is why I have had a hard time wrapping my brain around the details of Christmas this year: because presents and decorations and stuff don't hold a candle to the precious gift of my beautiful family.  They are my dream come true-- what else could I possibly want?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Weight Check

I am pleased to report the results of the twins' weight check at the doctor today:

Little A weighed in at 2 oz over her birth weight.  Yaaaay!

Little B came up just one ounce short of birth weight, but that was close enough that the doctor says we don't need to do any more weight checks.  Yaaaaaay!

I have been supplementing them with some of my own milk I froze early this year.  They started out taking an extra 5-6 oz a day (both together) but are now down to maybe 2-3 oz extra each day, which isn't much.  Just a little boost in the evening when they get really hungry before bedtime and I don't seem to have quite enough.  The frozen milk is just about gone now, and as soon as it is I am hoping we can just stop supplementing.  I bought a can of formula but maybe I won't even have to open it.

Before they were born I never doubted at all that I would be able to produce enough milk to feed two babies.  Then at their 2 week check when they had lost so much weight I seriously doubted myself.  I'd like to thank all the people who have been encouraging me during these last few weeks, especially Aunt Tofu and my lactation expert friend Michele.  It's amazing what a lifeline it can be when you hear someone say "you're doing fine, you can do this, don't worry."

And taking fenugreek capsules makes you smell like maple syrup.  Who knew?


Rocking Babies

We had to get rid of a lot of things when we moved, but I requested we bring both glider rockers.  It seemed a bit of an extravagance at the time, but it has been so wonderful with the twins.  Two people can rock two babies in two chairs.  And there are plenty of potential baby-rockers around here.






Rabbit Braids


This is how Grandma does the girls' hair (and I sure appreciate it!)  Isn't my little Rabbit darling?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

First Bath

It's time to try to get caught up on pictures.

It is our family tradition that Dad gives the babies their first bath.  And as our family has grown, every baby bath attracts a crowd of adoring onlookers.  I don't know what it is, but there's just something about watching a little one get a bath.  (Please make special note of Prince Charming in these pictures.)  This is Baby B's first bath, which she seemed to rather enjoy.  



So then I took Baby B to get her dressed while the Badger started on Baby A.  But I wanted to weigh her first and I was having trouble with the scale.  Finally I was done and I came over to take a picture of Baby A in the tub, but the Badger had just barely taken her out and wrapped her in a towel.  

Well, I could just see her at about age 11:  "how come we have pictures of everyone's first bath except mine?  Don't you loooooove me as much as the others?"  That's the kind of silly thing I said when I was 11.  I am sure you and every other normal person never said things like that, but kids tend to take after their parents so I have to think of these things.  So I asked the Badger to please put her back in the tub long enough for a photograph.  

She was not very excited about that.  



Sorry, A.  But now I do have first bath pictures of everyone.  You'll thank me in about 11 years.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Changing Faces

The babies' faces seem to change a little every day.  They look more and more different from each other as well.  And they also get more alert all the time, which is very cute.  I have resolved to take more pictures of them.  However, with twins, one tends to want to take pictures of the two of them together, and it is rare that they are both in the mood to be photographed.  

Today when I got out my camera after a feeding session baby A was was happy and alert, but B decided it was time to suck on her binky and doze off.  


I told B she could be binky-less and make a pleasant face for me for just a few moments but she didn't believe me.  


So I gave her back the binky, but those big green binkies really detract from a photo, you know?


So I decided to take some pictures of just A.  Isn't she beautiful?  She really does have quite a bit more hair than B, just like the ultrasound tech predicted.  It didn't look like it when they were first born, for some reason, but it sure is obvious now.  



Then B decided maybe she was game for a couple of photos, so we tried again.



And here is a picture I took of B by herself later.  


(I have not yet come up with good nicknames for them... so they will have to be A and B for awhile.)

Postpartum Homeschool

My kids were lucky-- they got two weeks off school for Thanksgiving because of the twins being born.  However, to make up for that they aren't going to get much of a Christmas break. 

After two weeks I knew we needed to get back into homeschool, but I haven't been up to carrying the full load, or even anywhere near it.  So I decided we would start very small and then add things as we could. 

The first week all I asked them to do was math, scriptures, and reading.  Reading wasn't a big deal because they all read all the time anyway.  For scriptures, we are using the Discover the Scriptures curricula and although I like to be involved, they can do it completely independently.  And same with math: there is very little I need to do with math. 

Bean and Fish have been using Teaching Textbooks levels 7 and 5 respectively.  I love Teaching Textbooks.  It is done on the computer, but they also have a paper workbook to be able to write in.  The computer teaches them the lessons and then they enter their answers and it does all the grading.  All I have to do is log in and check their grades... I require at least 80% on every assignment, so if they got less than that I can reassign problems and easily change their grade when they correct them.  Both the boys understand math really well, and the computer lessons have been sufficient for them to understand the concepts.  Fish almost never needs to bring his scores up.  Bean understands the concepts but because details do not come easy to him he tends to make little mistakes with the numbers.  But he has improved drastically in his ability to focus and follow through on the corrections so we can usually get his scores where I want them with minimal fuss.  (Well do I remember the days when requiring correction of a math problem brought on a screaming fit that sometimes lasted for hours...we've come so far!)  All in all there is minimum effort required for me with the boys' math.  

Roo is doing Horizons math.  I did not buy the full curriculum, just the workbook.  Roo is very good at math, though, in addition to being a diligent and independent worker, so this has not been a problem.  Horizons is known for being rigorous and somewhat advanced, but at the same time the workbooks are colorful and interesting.  Each assignment has problems of many different types (a spiral approach, in homeschool lingo) which review and gradually build on past concepts learned.  So most of it Roo can do on her own, but if there's something new she can bring it to me and I will teach her how to do it.  It suits Roo perfectly.  I used to check all her assignments, but she does so well that now I just grade her tests. 

I was also going to do Horizons with the Rabbit, but I decided to try the Critical Thinking Company's Mathematical Reasoning workbook instead.  It is similar in that it is colorful and interesting, with a spiral approach.  It's been a good choice for the Rabbit.  She needs more instruction than the others though, because she is just learning basic concepts, so I have to pretty much sit with her while she does her math.  So if I am having a bad day, math with the Rabbit doesn't happen.  But she is only six years old and I don't think there is any need to be on a strict educational schedule at that age.  When we do math we enjoy it and she is learning a lot. 

Math, scriptures, and reading was perfect at first since it covered the basics yet they could work almost completely independently.  Now I have added in their language/grammar workbooks.  This requires a little bit more from me but I am starting to get some sleep so it hasn't been overwhelming.  We will probably leave it at that until after Christmas.

Maybe it sounds kind of insane to be homeschooling with newborn twins, but right now I am so grateful I don't have to be dealing with a school schedule.  I don't have to worry about making sure the kids are properly dressed and out the door on time every morning with all the right papers in their backpack.  I don't have to worry about homework or reading logs or special projects.  All that would be far more difficult for me to handle right now than homeschooling. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Full Term

Yesterday was my original due date and today the twins are three weeks old.  (Okay, technically one is three weeks old today and one is three weeks old tomorrow...)

Most of my other babies were born more or less on their due dates, so three weeks early was definitely different for me.  I didn't think it was going to matter so much since 37 weeks is considered "term."  However, during those first few days when I was a nearly hysterical from having two babies that wouldn't eat or sleep well,  I had a conversation with my sister in law Aunt Lovely and she said something that really intrigued me.   Most of her babies were born by scheduled c-section at 39 weeks and she said she noticed a difference in them about a week later when they reached "full term:" they ate and slept better. 

So I began hoping that at three weeks old we would see an improvement with the twins (I also hoped fervently that I would survive until then...)  And I am happy to report that not only am I still alive, but that my sweet babies are getting easier to manage.  They are now behaving like my other newborns and I am beginning to get some sleep! 

However, we still have one big concern: their weight.  I realized last week that they were looking kind of scrawny and at their two week checkup last Thursday their weight was way down: one of them was down nearly a whole pound. 

I have been worried and obsessing about my milk supply.  I spent all weekend trying to both fatten them up and increase my supply.  We went in yesterday and they had both gained some but we are not out of the woods yet.  I have seen some evidence of supply increase, but not as much as I would like.  

So things are getting easier in some ways, but the twins are still taking most of my time and attention.   I am so grateful for the support I have which has allowed me to focus on them.  And I enjoy having such cute, sweet little people to monopolize my time!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas is Coming

I am still in a post-partum sleep-deprived fog.  Every once in awhile it occurs to me that Christmas is coming.  It's hard for me to wrap my brain around that, especially with my own Christmas decorations in storage.  But luckily there are others around to help my children have a joyful Christmas season.  The other night Grandma Badger helped the kids decorate the tree.  They had such a good time!




I am also very grateful to my sister and others who have taken my kids to some Christmas concerts and things recently.  I am glad that even though I am mostly home-bound they don't have to be, and that they are having some fun this December.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Middle Big Siblings


Two

Prince Charming is now officially Two.  We had ice cream and cookies to celebrate.  We gave him a jack in the box.  We actually had one of these for years and years up until a couple of years ago-- they are well-made and practically indestructible, but someone decided to try to take it apart at one point and that did it in.  And we have missed it.  So we bought a new one for Prince Charming.  You should have seen him jump the first time it popped!  He loves it.  And we love our charming little boy!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Walk

A few days ago I went on a walk. 

This may sound like a very mundane thing, but I had not been On A Walk since July.  And I have hardly been able to walk for quite some time. 

It was a beautiful mild sunny afternoon.   First I meandered around the yard for a little bit while I waited for the Badger to put his shoes on.  My in-laws have a beautiful, beautiful yard and since I got here in September I have hardly been out in it at all. 

Now it was like I was seeing everything for the first time.  Everything was achingly beautiful: the brown grass, the bare trees, the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the gibbous moon rising in the December-blue sky. 

We started down the street.  I was sore, but I could walk.  I didn't feel faint or nauseous.  There weren't two babies pressing down on my hips.  There was just me and I was overwhelmed with how it felt to be myself again, with a body that could do what I wanted it to do.  

I began to think about how this was how it would be from here on out, about all the things that I was going to be able to do again in time, starting with simply caring for my family and working my way up to physical recreation like hiking and biking and snowshoeing.  I will be getting stronger and stronger every day instead of weaker.  

I cried all the way down to the end of the road.  I felt like I had finally come alive again and it felt so overwhelmingly marvelous.  Just to be me-- Birrd-- with a body that is rapidly becoming whole and well is such a glorious and amazing gift and one which I will cherish from here on out in a way I never have before. 

But I do not regret for an instant what I went through, hard as it was.  We needed and wanted these sweet girls in our family.  We chose to bring them here.  We knew it would be really tough, though it was far tougher than we imagined.  But there is absolutely no question of it being worth every sacrifice. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Birth Story

On Tuesday afternoon, November 25, I went for a routine non-stress test at the maternal fetal medicine office at the hospital.   At this visit my blood pressure was still up and Baby B's heart rate indicated possible distress.  The specialist talked to the Badger and I and recommended I be induced that evening.  My OB and I had decided the day before that we could probably put off induction another week, but as the specialist was talking to us the Badger and I looked at each other and both felt strongly that this was what we needed to do. 

We checked into the hospital about an hour and a half later.  I had been holding out a little hope that I could somehow go through this whole process in my usual unmedicated way, but at this point I realized it was all or nothing and it was time to let the hospital team's well-oiled machine do their thing for the best good of both myself and the twins.  So at 7:45 they started pitocin and shortly after that I got my first ever epidural.   At 10:15 the doctor came and broke my water. 

At 11:45 they were wheeling me into the operating room... babies were imminent.   (It is standard procedure most places to deliver twins in the OR just in case an emergency c-section is needed, especially with Baby B, who is usually trickier and often does have problems.  This is also why they really really like you to have an epidural when you deliver twins.  I got this same story from both the clinics I was with before I moved, as well.)

My doctor was someone who really had a lot of upbeat,  positive vibes.  And there was an almost festive feeling among the medical team.   So when I said "I wonder if I could deliver one before and one after midnight so they have different birthdays" he and the entire team of nurses etc. latched on to this idea and said "I bet we can do that!"

So, Baby A was born smoothly at 11:54 pm.  Baby B moved right into place.  The nurses watched the clock and the doctor held off breaking B's water and having me push until just before midnight.  She was born at 12:01 am.  Everyone was tickled that we pulled it off. 

Baby B did need a little bit of help from the respiratory specialist, but they quickly got her all fixed up.  We can't help but wonder if she was running out of time.  Perhaps if we had waited longer to induce she might have had significant difficulties.   We will never know for sure, but we do know that we felt the hand of the Lord guiding all of us and we are so grateful for how everything turned out!

Angel Coaching

The first few days with the twins were not easy.  Their first few nights I got little to no sleep, and I am not someone who deals with sleep deprivation well.  (In fact, just the thought of sleep deprivation makes me panic, and I am rarely prone to panic.)  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights the girls took turns fussing all night long, in between having difficulty feeding.  Just when I would get one settled and start to doze, the other one would stir and a shot of adrenaline would go through me to prepare me to be up for probably at least another hour trying to get a proper meal into my little one.  All my experienced mom tricks for getting some sleep with a newborn didn't work.  I felt like a first-time mom again.

During those long nights, however, I had some help. 

I have found that the veil that separates heaven and earth is very thin when a new baby comes.  Angels seem very close, and sometimes sweet messages are received in your heart that could only have come from heaven. 

As I sat up hour after hour with my fussy babies, I would start to have thoughts of frustration or despair or other negative emotions.  But then would come other thoughts into my mind.   Peaceful, encouraging thoughts.  "It's okay.  You're okay right now.  I know you thought you'd for sure be asleep by 4 am and now you're not, but you are okay and you can handle this one step at a time.  You're doing fine.  Just look at those sweet, beautiful babies and enjoy them.  Don't worry.  It won't always be this hard."   

It was really like I had a personal coach sitting next to me talking me through the whole ordeal.  Those thoughts were definitely not coming from me.  I am so grateful for whatever heavenly being was talking me through those long nights.  I am sure the help was a result of many prayers on my behalf.   Thank you to all of you who have been praying for me.   I believe in prayer. 

Still, things were getting worse and not better.  It was a downward spiral.  Here I was trying to establish a good milk supply and good feeding patterns.   The more I didn't sleep the harder that was.  The harder that was, the less I slept.  

Sunday was the low point.  I had a plan worked out so I could take a long nap that morning with the babies out of the room.  Everything worked out, but I could not sleep.   There was so much adrenaline in me I felt like I was on fire.  So now I couldn't even sleep when I had a rare, precious chance.  I did not know how I was going to get through this.   I was going to crash and burn. 

Often, when I pray for the help of angels, someone close to me in this mortal world feels inspired to step in and help.  Such was the case on Sunday.  My sister in law, Aunt Tofu, heard of my plight and volunteered to drive down and spend all night with me.  I told her she would be up all night and she came anyway.

It ended up being the pivotal thing for me and the babies.   When she arrived late in the evening we had a long talk and she helped me see how tense and worried I was and how it wasn't helping the babies with their feeding problems.  So I started working on relaxing, which helped immensely.  Meanwhile Aunt Tofu walked the floor all night long with either one or two fussy infants so I could try to sleep when I didn't have to be feeding.   It took the whole night for the adrenaline to gradually leave my body but somewhere near morning we all slept for a couple of hours.   When I woke up Monday morning I felt hope. 

Along the way, there were many more bits of help and inspiration from other seen and unseen angels.  When I hit that wall on Sunday and my prayers were a desperate, sobbing "what can I do?" answers came bit by bit.  Conversations with and encouragement from family members such as Aunt Meadow gave me ideas and insight.  As I have implemented these ideas things have gradually gotten better and better. 

Now it's Friday night and I would say things are going well.  I still am not getting a lot of sleep but I am getting some.  The girls are eating better and they don't fuss much at night.  I am enjoying them so much.  And I am healing and recovering bit by bit, hopeful that soon I can start pulling a little more of the load around here. 

I am so grateful for the angel coaching I have had to help me through those first rough days. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

More Before and After

This is me (and my awesome cousin Michelle) at my Aunt's funeral at 35 weeks pregnant:


This is me at 37 weeks right before I went in to be induced:


Here are the 14 lbs 6 oz of baby that were hanging out in there:


Baby A was 7 lbs 4 oz and Baby B was 7 lbs 2 oz.  Both were 18 inches long.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Before and After

Before:


After:


That's all I can share right now, except just to say that all is well and they are so sweet and beautiful.  I am in a sleep-deprived fog, so it might be awhile before I get more on here.