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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bottle weaning

We have (what feels like) a very serious dilemma we're facing right now and I need help!

We're trying to wean Benjamin from the bottle and nothing seems to be working. He only takes a bottle before his nap and before bedtime. Part of the problem is that his bottle has a three-fold purpose: 1) drinking milk, 2) sucking on it after the milk is gone, like he would a pacifier (except that he has never taken a pacifier), and 3) using it as a teether.

He uses a sippy cup during meal times and throughout the day just fine, which is mainly filled with water. So, our first attempt at bottle-weaning was to feed him milk out of his sippy cup, when it came time for nap and bed time. He hated it. Screamed. Threw it on the floor. We were firm at first and would just put him down without any milk for the first couple of naps (we didn't dare try it at bed-time until we (and he) felt comfortable with the change). But, after a couple of days of just miserable nap-times, we caved and went back to the bottle.

Our next attempt was to gradually water down the milk in his bottle until he would just flat-out refuse the bottle on his own. That backfired. Turns out that Ben likes his bottle, even if it's filled with plain, pure water.

Then I went to the store and bought different types of sippy cups, thinking he might take milk from a different kind of sippy cup than what he usually uses during the day for meals. Approximately eight different sippy cup styles later and still no luck.

We're at a point now where his bottle nipples have been chewed so much that they're cracked and falling apart. Buying new nipples is not an option. This is the perfect opportunity to finally cut off the attachment to the bottle and throw out the nipples.

BUT, I don't know what to do! Is this something we should be patient about and let him decide when he's done with the bottle? Or do we need to just throw them out and not worry about whatever trauma results? Has anyone else had a child so attached to the bottle like this? What did you do to wean your child from it? Does anybody have any genius ideas that worked?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beach Bums

We spent the entire week last week at the beach. Some friends of ours were unfortunate enough to have to go to Spain for two weeks, and we were fortunate enough to get to house-sit for them for one of their weeks away. My parents spent a couple of days with us, and since Marc had work projects for the first part of the week, he joined us mid-week.

The days we were there were gorgeous and absolutely perfect - blue skies, warm air, cool ocean breeze.

We played in the sand...

we chased seagulls...

we tried to tackle waves (which never worked out in our favor!)...

we explored all the fun stuff on the beach (Hugh tasted every last object he could get his hands on)...

The waves were inviting - in fact, a little too inviting for my two little boys. If ever there was a question of their fearlessness, it has since been washed away along with any hopes of my sanity past the age of three. Maybe four. Are boys just born without fear?

It was the perfect time to spend a week at the ocean, just after passing the twins' birthday, with my thoughts turned a little more tenderly toward feelings and emotions in my heart. There is no place like the ocean to process some of those feelings, as those waves seem to know all too well the ebb and flow of the heart's emotions.

And, as I watched my boys run full-speed toward those impressive waves, with determination and unmatched courage, I realized how much I have to learn from these little guys. It was so clear to observe that there is a joy that comes when life is embraced and faced head-on, lived like it's meant to be lived. I left the beach last week with a new perspective and renewed desire to live life a little more fully and to not be so afraid of life's ebb and flow.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blanket of Peace

Earlier this week there were a few moments of great sadness that left my heart aching and me sobbing, but yesterday - on my girls' birthday - my heart felt comforted in a way it hasn't before.

Friday night I was feeling hesitant about my decision to start the day off with the 10K race I had signed up for. I had trained for it and was ready physically, but emotionally and mentally I wasn't sure if I was up to snuff, and I don't think I'm alone in my assessment that running requires just as much mental energy and discipline as physical. But, once I paid my twenty-six fifty, there was no turning back. So, I went and I did it. And, much to my surprise, I finished fourth among the women and first in my age division. But, even better than that was the hour and seven seconds I had completely to myself to think about my girls, about my first experience with motherhood, and what the last three years have taught me.

As I was approaching the final stretch and wrapping up my unfinished thoughts for later, it was like music to my ears to be brought back to my present reality with the sounds of Hugh's very loud and distinct crying at the finish line, which I first heard at least a block away. A smile stretched across my face and I couldn't help but feel full and complete with my life as it is. For it is just as it should be, at least for right now.

(Please, someone, reassure me that there is hope for un-awkward family photos in the foreseeable future. Ha!)

A little later in the day we released some balloons at the cemetery with my parents.

We decided to save the two that Ben and Hugh would have released to bring home for them to play with, which was probably a good decision once we saw the looks on their faces as they watched the other four balloons float out of sight.

And, the boys clearly thought the grave site with the flags and flamingos (just up from the twins) was the happenin' place to gather. It didn't convince me enough to change anything about our own little site, much to their dismay.

Before they did too much damage, we relocated to the lake, where we walked along the dam and watched the boats and some ducks doing their thing. And, later, after the boys were down for the night, Marc and I had some quiet time to reflect and remember. Overall it was a beautiful day blanketed with the warmest feeling of comfort and peace.

Three years ago I witnessed things I'm still trying to process and understand, but among those things the greatest by far is a mother's love in its purest form. That love has only grown with time and separation, and I am anxiously awaiting the chance to be with my sweet baby girls again someday.

And, before I close this down for the night, I have to add a note of gratitude to my blogging friends:

I have appreciated your thoughts, your prayers, your kindness in so many forms through so many things we've been through. I was re-reading some of the comments left for us, particularly after we first lost our twins, and was brought to tears by the sweet messages we received from so many of you - some of whom we've never met in person. To each of you, we thank you with all our hearts. Your love has eased our burdens on so many occasions and we are grateful. Surely your prayers and thoughts for us added to the blanket of peace we felt this past weekend. Thank you. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The calm before the storm?

In July 2009 when we marked the first year of losing the twins, I was a complete wreck. I was sad and scared and still so heartbroken and lost. We went camping. I needed some distraction. I needed alone time with Marc without the normal day to day distractions. It was nice and beautiful and relaxing and peaceful... until we returned home to find that the burden of grief was as heavy as ever hovering over our existence, waiting for our return.

Then, last July I had two cute boys that I thought would keep the sadness away. So, I just avoided thinking about anything related to the twins. Just for the record, avoidance didn't work. In some ways I think the sadness and grief came with even greater force when they did come.

So, this year I've been waiting and welcoming. And, I've been a little surprised to find that in some ways I feel like Grief has become my friend. I'm not afraid anymore - I've already overcome and survived the very worst it can do. And, I don't feel the need to avoid any of the related feelings - those feelings of sadness and loss actually make me feel even more alive. You can't have a heart that feels pain so intensely that it physically hurts and not be aware of how real that vital organ is.

Plus, now I'm much more aware of healthy outlets that work for me and bring me peace amid the storms. My morning running schedule has been a huge source of therapy. The cheapest therapy I've ever had. I signed myself up for a 10K on Saturday morning - six point two miles I'll run in memory of my girls. I'm looking forward to doing this with them in mind.

Another healthy outlet - a little creative therapy. I've been working on a painting. It's a painting I've wanted to do and have had the idea of it floating around in my head for some time. Monday night I finally threw all of my excuses out the window - no time, no space, not enough artistic talent, etc... - and set up my easel and canvas and just started painting. I've spent roughly three hours working on it and I think I'm actually done with it. And, I really love it. There is something about it that has really brought its own measure of healing to my heart and a new connection to the twins.

And, rather than avoiding the anniversary and the memories associated with it, we're planning out meaningful activities, with the emphasis being on spending time together as a family. And, the feelings of sadness feel much more manageable this time around. I know that could swiftly change, as the ugly side of Grief can be so merciless, but I hope being aware of that possibility will help me get through whatever is yet to come.

But, so far, I feel an incredible feeling of calm. And, even if it is just the calm before the storm, I'm still grateful for these moments of peace and the powerful reminder that comes with that peace of the reality of the eternal nature of the soul, and in my case the eternal nature of two souls that really matter to me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Waves of Grief

Last night as I laid in bed, I leaned into Marc telling him how no matter how hard I tried all day to not think about it, I couldn't avoid the memories from three years ago.

July tenth was the day I went in for the laser surgery with Dr. Lee as the head surgeon. I was nervous going in. I was awake for the entire procedure. There was a sheet blocking my view of what was happening, but there was a nurse (or maybe it was a doctor?) standing above my head, reassuring me through it all. I just remember watching my blood pressure numbers changing every minute or so on the monitor next to me.

The surgery didn't last very long and right away the surgeons were optimistic. So were we. There was no room in my mind for the possibility of anything bad happening. It's strange to think back to the celebratory ice cream we ate in my hospital room after surgery. We were happy. We were hopeful. We were sure the worst was behind us.

I know it's normal to relive these memories and I'd choose to relive them rather than ignore them. But, even though it's a choice I choose, it doesn't get any easier.

It's like standing at the ocean's edge, looking off into the distance and seeing a very large wave forming. It's approaching with such great force that I can't help but to stand in awe and watch every movement as it grows in size and power. It's coming and I can see it coming and I actually want it to come. I'm bracing for the impact. It could easily sweep me away just as similar waves have done in the past, but it might not. Some waves look much worse from the distance, but lose some of their force before reaching shore.

I'm not really sure what to expect from this week, but I find myself wanting to experience it all in the most authentic and honest way possible. I've never been one to seek to over-dramatize my life, but I'm also not going to minimize the feelings that are connected to my sweet babies.

So, I'll be keeping my eye on that wave, while also taking in all the emotions and experiences that come lapping at my feet. I'll pause to snuggle and chase the two miracles that now fill my arms, embracing them a little bit tighter than usual. The waves will come and I'll let them wash over me, and then they'll go again.

And, I'll soak up the love and the joy that I feel knowing I have two little girls, perhaps a bit nearer to me this week, reliving it all again, too.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Running Hat

A year ago I was recovering from my c-section and could barely walk without wincing with every step. I'd heard it was best to wait eight weeks before trying to start an exercise routine, but even after a few months I was still having a hard time doing much more than an easy walk around the neighborhood. I'd hear my friends talking about their morning runs and seriously doubted if my body would ever fully recover enough to do any kind of intense exercise again.

After a few attempts here and there to pick up running again, I finally decided to give myself a year to fully recover and focus all my energies on embracing my new mother-of-two-small-babies hat. I went on frequent walks with the boys in their stroller, but I put aside my running hat, certain I would know when the time was right to get it out again.

In May when my sister was visiting, I knew it was the perfect time to dust off the running shoes and jump back into a good routine. I was sure that having a running partner for nearly three weeks would make it much easier to get started and keeping going. And, it was. Now that it has been almost two months, we've both kept up with our morning runs, often calling each other before heading out the door to give each other that little motivational push.

Just this week I broke six miles and it feels so good. I've been realizing how much running has become my outlet. That might be part of the reason I haven't been blogging much - I leave the bulk of my thoughts out on the pavement to be swept away with the wind. Which is probably a healthy thing for me with it being July and all.

Putting on my running hat again has proved to be healthy on so many different levels - even to the point that I feel like it's helping me fit better into my mother-of-two-active-toddlers hat. And, I feel so grateful for a body that can function again like it did before having major abdominal surgery.

The other day when I returned home from a long run, as soon as I walked through the front door, Hugh walked toward me with his arms stretched high, reaching for my hat. That boy and hats, I tell you! I reluctantly gave in and right away he put it on his head. It was so cute (and gross at the same time) that I had to capture the cuteness. (I don't know what it is, I never used to sweat like I do now.)

It appears Hugh loves my running hat as much as I do. But, I hope my children will always know that there isn't a hat that I love wearing more than that of mother.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Road Trip Photos

How 'bout we start off with an awkward family photo? We seem to get a lot of those these days. Among other things, we need to work on all looking in the same direction, I guess.

Carson with Ben and Gemma with Hugh:

Ben sending Carson off to Brazil (in just a few more weeks!) with lots of cuddles:

Hugh and Brigitta saying good-bye:

Hugh doing his latest trick of pointing up at the "light":

Hugh had this thing with standing on Nana's rocking chair. Not just standing. Dancing! Crazy kid!

And, he thought it was so funny...

And thought he should stress me out just a bit more with some other tricks...

And, I can't quite tell what this expression says, but it's my typical serious-Hugh-look:

Here is some of the constant attention they were getting... I mean, who wouldn't love that?!

Ben found himself right at home with a car and a kitchen floor:

Hugh, after coming down the slide, the static making what little hair he has stand on end:

Playing at Nana's house was so much fun!

Bath time at Aunt Carol's:

Sunday morning photo opportunity:

Zac and Hugh, looking handsome:

Ben and Colton, showing off their striking blue eyes:

Both boys sleeping in the car - which actually happened more frequently than not, making our first road trip a rather pleasant one!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Our First Road Trip. Eek!

We just returned from our first official family road trip. Well, on Monday we returned. Is it already Friday? It's been a long week of getting settled and caught up with life. The big news is that we survived!

Anxiety was building in the days leading up to our day of departure. Trying to be prepared for every possible scenario in the car for long hours with two babies, with whom we aren't yet able to reason with... well, it's exhausting just thinking about. Clearly not an upside to my OCD tendencies.

Fortunately everything went far better than I could have hoped for. The boys did great! I like to think that my preparations helped with that, but I think the boys would have done just as great even without the three bags full of a dozen different types of snacks, especially since they seemed to prefer their ever-trusted goldfish over some of the newer, flashier snacks they've never had. I really was surprised that they weren't all over the fruit roll-ups.

It took us exactly 12 hours to make it to our first destination, leaving at 4am with a stop halfway to play at a park and then a stop for lunch at an IHOP. (Note to self: always order pancakes at a place that is known for their pancakes. The omelet I got was mediocre at best.) Our timing wasn't bad, considering that stretch would normally take roughly 10 hours.

But, after 12 hours of traveling, Ben and Hugh were sure happy to be freed from their car seats, and even more happy to become acquainted with family they hadn't yet met. We were welcomed with open arms and two bedrooms to settle in for a few days. We relaxed, we played in the most amazing backyard, we ate really good food, I had a running/tennis partner for a couple of days, we watched movies, we chatted and got caught up, wondering the whole time why so much time had passed between visits and vowing to not let that happen again.

After a few days we headed further north to see more family anxious to pinch our babies' cheeks and steal some cuddling time. The weather was cool, but we still managed to get in some play time at the park and running around in Nana's backyard. The bubble machine was a hit and Marc satisfied taste buds for food that he seems to crave every time we visit his old stomping grounds.

Another few days later, we headed even further north (not quite to Canada) for a day and a night with Marc's brother and his wife, with a dinner date with Aunt Carol. Dinner was followed by an impromtu bath (for Ben and Hugh) in her very big (which equals very fun) bath tub. It was the first bathing experience on the trip that didn't immediately result in frantic screaming. For some reason, my boys are very wary of unfamiliar bathtubs.

We headed down to central Oregon for the final few days of our trip. The oldest nephew between both of our families recently got married and we were happy to make it to their reception. Although, after getting lost and not having a good map to guide us and then not getting the best directions from a lady in line in front of me at Safeway, we were starting to wonder if we'd ever make it. I was a little suspicious of her navigating skills when, after looking at the map for a good minute, she said, "let's see... I'm just trying to figure out which way is north."

While there were long hours spent in the car, the time spent with family went way too fast. We didn't have nearly as much time to reconnect with everyone as we would have liked, but hopefully the next visit will make up for it. The boys had a great time! Rather than being the center of attention of two, there was a whole audience on any given day surrounding them with love and applause and kisses to last them a lifetime (or at least until the next visit).

I have yet to go through the photos from our trip, so they'll be coming soon!