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Monday, December 27, 2010


My baby boy is one year old. I can't believe how fast this year has gone by. I remember getting the phone call in the middle of the night - it was Tracey letting us know that little Benjamin had arrived, two weeks early. I made phone calls myself once morning had come and couldn't hold back the tears of joy and gratitude. 

Ben's big day was a fun one. He was a bit overwhelmed by all the people who came to celebrate with us - Grandma & Grandpa, Aunt Dawnie, Uncle John, six cousins, his birth mother and birth grandmother.

I made him a snake cake that he really enjoyed squeezing through his fingers but refused to eat. Just like his Mama, he preferred to have ice cream instead. (Pictures to come later.)

He received some pretty cool presents that made his eyes light up and kept him busy for the rest of the day - a Toy Story push & ride car, a busy ball popper (the non-pink version, though), a toy with musical buttons that light up, a Barney movie, a book, and an adventure play tent and tunnel tube. His toy selection has double in the last two days.

Some things that make up Benjamin's personality - 

 - he's a brave little soul (aka: a bit of a daredevil) - climbing on things, pulling himself out of things

 - he uses his pacifier as a chew toy

 - he's already kicking balls, like a little soccer player in training

 - he would much rather be running around than sitting still

 - he's very affectionate when you sing to him (or, lately, if you ring these particular wind chimes at my parents' house) and has started giving kisses

 - he's very observant and often tries to figure out how things work

 - he'll notice his shadow on the floor and do a little dance with it, trying to catch it

 - he's becoming very independent

To say that Benjamin is a joy wouldn't even come close to describing how we feel about having him in our family. He adds light and love to our life. I can't even remember what life was like without him. We feel so blessed and humbled to be the ones chosen to raise him. I feel like I can finally rest easy, knowing we have found our boy that was trying to make it to our family. We love him so much.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. Ben and Hugh are tucked in for the night. Marc is wrapping some last minute gifts. I'm trying to stay away from the pies until my stomach has recovered from our Christmas Eve dinner of the most delicious Maple-glazed ham. It has been a wonderful day, going back and forth from my parents' house to ours, trying to stick closely to our nap time routines but still be a part of the fun traditions and activities.

One of the highlights was acting out the story of the birth of Jesus, with my dad narrating from Luke 2 and other verses of scripture. It should be fun to go back and watch the recording we got of it. Since Hugh is the youngest member of the family here, he played the part of baby Jesus, which meant that Marc and I were Joseph and Mary. Ben was the lone lamb who was more interested in wandering than sitting calmly in our imaginary manger. Then we had three shephards - mom, Malachi and McKayla. The three wise men - John, JB, and Denison. And two angels - Dawnette and Talea, who had the cutest lines to repeat. (We had a sick Truman laying down in the other room, who wasn't able to play his part.)

Later, as I was feeding Hugh just before putting him down for the night I thought back to his birth and reflected on many of the feelings that came with his arrival - the fear, the panic, then the relief. I still find myself thanking God for his life that was preserved. I was so honored today to finally get the part in the nativity story that I've always coveted.

I thought of Tracey, who just a year ago was so close to bringing Benjamin into the world. What was it like to be in her shoes? What would it be like to carry a child for nine months and then place him in the arms of another mother? How does it feel to make a sacrifice like that, even if you know it's the right choice for you and your baby?

I don't know how Tracey did what she did. She gave us the greatest gift. Our little Benjamin. I'll never fully understand what it takes to make that kind of selfless choice, but I'll spend the rest of my life making sure Benjamin knows the unconditional love it takes to do what she did. 

Then, I thought of Mary, the mother of the Son of God. As I looked down on my little Hugh, so peacefully cuddled against my chest, I wondered what feelings she might have had as she welcomed her son into the world. Was she overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy? Was she afraid of the sacrifices that would be required of her and/or her son? Did she wonder if she'd fulfill her responsibilities well enough to raise her son in the right way?

I don't know how Mary accomplished what she did to raise and nurture the baby boy who would become the Savior of the world. I can't imagine the burden that she must have felt at times, fully aware of her own inadequacies and weaknesses.

I feel so indebted tonight to some great mothers, my own included, who have fulfilled roles and accomplished great things that have directly blessed my life. I feel a bit overwhelmed at my own responsibilities to be the kind of mother that my boys need me to be. I'm grateful, at least, to have so many good examples to follow after. 

It is really a wonderful time of year. A time of reflection. A time of gratitude for blessings. A time of renewed determination to be a bit better. A time to spend with family, making memories and strengthening bonds. 

Speaking of, I should go and do just that. Marc is snuggled comfortably on the couch, saving a spot just for me. 

Merry Christmas! I sincerely hope this season is one filled with love and hope for good things to come for all of you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grocery store drama

After the morning nap yesterday, I loaded Ben and Hugh into their double stroller and the three of us headed around the corner and down the street to the grocery store. I had a short list of items I needed to make a few pies and our Christmas ham. I purposely planned our shopping trip just before the noon rush would hit so that we would be in and out in no time.

Since these quick shopping trips are a common outing the three of us do together, I was confident that the boys would do just fine, like they always do. I was prepared with toys and blankets and crackers. Not two minutes down the first isle and Hugh was screaming, which then made Ben start crying very large tears, which then made Hugh cry harder, which then made Ben more upset - you get the picture. Usually Ben isn't bothered by Hugh when he cries, but for some reason they were feeding off of each other in a new way that I wasn't prepared for.

My attempts to calm them down weren't working. Nothing was working. I was about to abandon my little hand-held basket and make a beeline straight for home. But, I was determined to just get the few items I needed. So I pulled Hugh out and carried him in my right arm, balancing the basket on the stroller head cover thingy, and pushed the stroller with my left hand. I was totally okay with the arrangements because both boys immediately calmed right down... and that was all that mattered.

I got some interesting looks, a couple of double takes, and at least a dozen shoppers who muttered something along the lines of - you sure have your hands full. I was so focused on getting myself out of there that I didn't pay much attention to any of it. As I put the last item in my basket, I also buckled Hugh back into the stroller and headed for the check-out.

Everything was going just fine until I was waiting for my groceries to be bagged. Something set the boys off again and both were crying so loud I wasn't able to concentrate on anything except getting out of there. I started to leave as soon as I had the groceries loaded in the stroller, when the cashier lady stopped me. The transaction hadn't gone through yet because I forgot to push the "No" button for cash back. As the boys continued to scream, people in every direction were staring. I let out a bit of nervous laughter and avoided making eye contact with anyone.

Somehow over the screaming I overheard the woman behind me in line comment to the cashier - "that doesn't sound fun at all." The cashier handed me my receipt and out the door we went. Two steps out the door and both boys were suddenly calm again. I'm sure the fresh air helped, as well as the movement.

I laughed to myself the whole way home and filled Marc in on our adventure as soon as we got home. Our quick trips to the store have never turned out like that, so it came totally unexpectedly. I honestly wasn't bothered by the looks or the comments... it really must have been quite the sight. 

But I did find myself wishing people could see a true picture of these boys in a 24-hour period, rather than a brief ten minutes of uncharacteristic fussiness. Our days are filled with Ben's happy squeals while he scurries around his floor of toys, and Hugh's grunt-like giggle when he's being tickled. While I agree it isn't fun to have them both screaming at the same time, I'm just relieved that it very rarely happens. 

But, even if it did, I would still take these two boys at their very worst over those lonely days with empty arms. I've been remembering past Christmas events that pierced my heart with pain and sadness, and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude this year for our two greatest blessings.

Marc is feeling it, too. The other night as I was wrapping presents and Marc was filling out the gift tags, I handed Marc Ben's first gift and said "this one goes to Ben, from Mom and Dad." He couldn't seem to resist asking me to repeat it one more time. 

We feel so blessed and so grateful for our happy, healthy, and screaming boys.

But, I think I might just go grocery shopping alone from now on.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sleep and Bells

Have I mentioned how much better Ben and Hugh are sleeping these days? I read the book - Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child - and was totally skeptical. I was convinced that the examples in the book of babies that improved their sleep habits were just naturally good sleepers. Mine clearly were not and never would be.

We were desperate, though. So, we decided to give it a try and to stay the course for at least a week before giving up. Little did we know that we'd see dramatic improvements within just a couple of days. It definitely took some determination on our part to be consistent and some will power to stay focused on the ultimate goal of helping them to sleep better.

We now put them down to bed by 6pm. Ben is now sleeping in his crib, through the night, for 12 hours. Hugh still wakes usually just once during the night for a feeding, but he's getting 11-12 hours of sleep at night, too. And, maybe the biggest change is that now we're able to just lay them down and have them go right to sleep without rocking them to sleep. That would sometimes take hours to do and was just wearing us both out. It has been really amazing to see the changes. I was so sure that we just had bad sleepers. Turns out we were doing things wrong, without even knowing it. It's such a relief to have our sleep back!

That said, Hugh woke up at 3am this morning and after his feeding just wouldn't go back to sleep. He'd had a bit of a fever last night, so I'm sure that's what was bothering him. After the morning nap, Hugh was still fussing and Ben was screaming, so I took the boys out on a walk. The sun was shining today and the temperature was in the 60s. Plus it's been a while since we've been up to their favorite fountain. 

After our quick stop at the fountain we walked down to the post office to mail a couple of things. On our way the bell tower of one of the churches near downtown rang, signally noontime. I love the sound of church bells ringing. It feels so quaint, so old, and reminds me so much of my fond memories of Italy. And, after the twelve dongs of the bell, it played a Christmas song that at the time I couldn't quite put my finger on its name. (I later discovered it was God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.) 

There was something about the feel in the air, the leaves chasing down the sidewalk, Christmas bells ringing through the streets, being with my two little boys who were happily enjoying our little outing. Everything about the moment made my heart feel light. This is the feeling I'd been wanting to feel. The calm, the joy. It came in the most unexpected of ways, in a completely unexpected moment.

On a day that started much too early with a baby who was too miserable for words, I felt especially grateful for this little moment. We'll have to follow our same route and schedule in the coming days to find out if the church bells ring out a Christmas carol every day at noon or if there was something special about today. I wouldn't mind hearing those bells again and again and again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the season...

The Christmas season this year has brought with it a new magic and excitement. It's a new feeling - something I've never quite felt, not like this. At the same time I've also been feeling a bit weighed down, though I've had a hard time pin-pointing exactly why. 

The other day I was reminded of some thoughts about Christmas I shared two years ago, just after we lost our girls. As I read it again, I realized that I still feel the same struggle. The struggle to celebrate the season for all the right reasons without getting caught up in the tangle of commercialism. It is difficult to find the right balance. 

We've tried to create traditions that will keep us centered, but every year there comes the stress and frantic rush of making everything just perfect - the gifts, the decorations, the meals, the activities and celebrations. And, while all of those things are great they still seem to distract from the calm that I really want to be feeling. I don't know how to do all the fun traditional things without getting completely sucked into the chaos. Plus, with how packed my days are there is no way I'll ever find the time to do all I need to do.

*Heavy sigh*

So on that less than cheery note (ha!), here's a cute song that I'm listening to these days whenever I get too overwhelmed:

By the way, if you go here, you can download the song for free!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our expressive Hugh

For some time I've been meaning to show the many expressions of Hugh. Since the day he was born, it has been a marked trait. When I'm taking photos of him, in a matter of seconds he can go through at least a dozen completely different expressions. Here are just a few, not all taken on the same day, though.

The spaced-out look:


The happy look:

The EXTRA happy look (always consists of a scrunched up nose, an open mouth, and partial tongue):

The playful look:

The serious look:

The talkative look (this is usually his expression when he gets really verbal):

And, here are a few of Benjamin, too, just for fun:

This is actually one of Ben's most consistent expressions - just content and even-tempered...

... and a little goofy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Looking like Christmas

I think this is the first moment today when I've sat down to relax all day. It's just been one of those very busy Saturdays. Even though it was busy, it feels good to have accomplished a lot of things I was hoping to get done.

We had some free time this afternoon when both boys decided to just take a 20-minute nap. Rather than trying to force them back to sleep for longer naps, we opened the curtains and blinds and dug out our Christmas decorations. We got the tree up. (Which also involved clearing a particular space that has been collecting clutter for some time now and getting more and more on my nerves.) It feels so warm and comforting to have the Christmas lights glowing. The excitement and curiosity reflected in the eyes of our boys seemed to be extremely contagious and I enjoyed the process even more than usual.

The weather has been on the gloomy side for most of the last week, and the forecast predicts more of the same. Amid the clouds and the threat of rain, we bundled up and headed out to the cemetery. When we purchased the plot, it was actually a third of a plot with the other two sections being reserved for other babies. It was a little unexpected to see today that one of the other sections has now been claimed. I couldn't help but wonder about the story of little Oleta, while sending a quiet prayer heavenward for her family still mourning their separation.

I'm still not really sure how we'll tell Ben and Hugh about Elliana and Emmaline. I don't know what we'll tell them or how we'll celebrate or remember them as a family. Marc and I were talking the other night about how we'll talk about Santa Claus with our kids. Maybe talking about the twins will just come naturally like any other special person or holiday that we celebrate with special traditions. We still have a couple of years to figure it all out, I guess.

I have a feeling this is going to be one of our more memorable holiday seasons and I'm looking forward to every aspect of it. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2nd

For a week I've been meaning to visit the cemetery. We have the Christmas poinsettias to put in the vase at the girls' graveside. I planned on going on Thanksgiving day, but the day was packed with activity and there was no time. Every day since then has seemed to be equally packed with things - just the daily things that take up nearly every spare minute of the day.

But, today I really wanted to go. While I was getting Hugh settled for his morning nap, I had a perfect plan of how my day would go so that I could squeeze in a little time at the cemetery. Almost immediately my plans went completely different than how I hoped. 

Hugh never did really go down for his morning nap (though I gave him an hour to try) and Ben initially only went down for thirty minutes. While playing quietly with Ben (& Grandpa), he kept crawling into my lap, so I finally took his hint for wanting more sleep and cuddled him until he fell asleep again, this time for an extra 75 minutes.

So, then I played with Hugh (after his failed attempt to nap), while Ben slept. And by the time Ben woke up it was lunch time. As soon as lunch was finished, diapers were changed and then I played with the boys on the floor for a bit. 

(There was a little scare at that point, just after Marc left for a meeting, when a homeless-looking man banged loudly on our door. I'm not sure what he wanted, since I didn't dare answer the door. It gave my heart a good race, though.) 

At that point it was afternoon nap time and I was determined to help Hugh get in a good nap. (Partly so that I could also squeeze in a nap myself - going on day four of stuffy-head-cold-flu-like symptoms.) Fortunately Hugh did cooperate and, with help from my Mom, Ben went down for a second nap. As dreaded fate would have it, though, Hugh was waking up just as Ben was going down - thwarting my plans for the umpteenth time today.

By this point, I started to realize that my trip to the cemetery wasn't going to happen. I tried to not feel guilty. Thinking of the girls all day has to count for something. My thoughts were reflective more than sad, and grateful more than mournful. No matter what, I'll always associate today's date with what would have been the twins' anticipated due date. As much as I wish they could be here now, I was reminded today that sometimes our plans just don't work out like we hope and plan for. 

And, in the end, it's all okay.

In my case, I would say things have worked out far better than anything I ever could have hoped for. Maybe life is just as much about making plans as it is about being open to changes in those plans.

(I'm still determined to get those poinsettias to the cemetery before the week's end.)