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Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorable Memorial Day

The weekend didn't have the greatest start - mainly highlighted by a meal of Thai food on Saturday that didn't agree with me and ended with me awkwardly hunched over the toilet violently throwing up in the middle of the night. I tried to use the toilet paper roll dispenser to steady myself and ended up breaking it and cutting my wrist in the process, which I didn't realize until after the heaving was over and I was brushing my teeth. Yeah, 34 weeks pregnant and throwing up turns out is not very fun, or easy.

I tried to take it easy on Sunday and then today arrived and with it some unexpected motivation to invite guests for dinner and spend a good part of the day preparing a fun Memorial Day spread. The boys had a blast with me in the kitchen, though, which made it so much more fun. They pulled chairs up to the counter and each took turns helping me stir the strawberry jello, mixing up a batch of whole wheat bread, cutting up the hard-boiled eggs for the potato salad and the best part - taste-testing everything! After tasting the potato salad I asked Hugh if he liked it, which made him say over and over "liked it."

Then, later after naps were over we gathered around the same counter and did the prep work for homemade ice cream. Once we were to the point of putting the ice and rock salt in the bucket, we sat on the kitchen floor and the boys put ice cubes in one-by-one. They were so happy to be helping and it was fun to watch them get so excited. The excitement got even more palpable as we moved the ice cream maker out to the back porch and the churning began. It was nearly impossible to pry them away with any other distractions.

Even when I was able to get them playing in the backyard, that ice cream maker kept calling for attention and we'd end up huddled around it, watching it churn away. After about 20 minutes, I decided to check it. The boys were so thrilled to get the first taste and weren't too happy when that was all they got. After another 20 minutes we brought it inside and they both ran to the kitchen table, calling out "bowl" and "spoon", making it very clear they were ready for more than a taste. And, even though I wasn't planning on giving them any until after dinner, I just couldn't resist.

We had delicious hamburgers to go with the salads that had all day to chill in the fridge and some good company to make it a fun night. The boys are starting to get more social with people they don't know and it was so cute to watch them bring their race cars and fire trucks and hot wheels to share with our guests, with big smiles and pleased with their willingness to share. I know how hard it is for them to share at their age, so I make sure they know in those moments how happy I am with them.

As we were cleaning up from dinner, I realized it had been such a busy day that we hadn't even talked about plans to visit the cemetery. Since Marc had just been there a couple of days ago while out on a bike ride, he offered to stay home with the boys while I went alone. But, I thought it'd be more fun to all go together, so we hurried through the dishes and then piled into the car with flowers in hand to take with us to visit the twins' site.

I don't know exactly how we'll talk about the twins with our children and what exactly we'll share with them, but I really want moments like this to just be a normal part of our life. Not in an overly-emotional way or like we're making a big production about anything... just that they'll know our family started with two girls who we loved and still love dearly and who still have their place in our family. And, I hope that in doing so they will find those moments to be just as special as they are to us. Of course, for now (and maybe for a few years more), the part the boys love most is seeing the deer gathered in little groups throughout the grounds, which I have to admit is a pretty cool thing to witness!

Visiting the cemetery continues to be a place of clarity and puts life back into its proper perspective and I feel so grateful for that gift. It was the perfect way to bring the day to a close. And, it was such a fun, memorable day spent with my two big helpers who, even with all their terrible-two moments, bring me so much joy!

And, if all goes as planned for tomorrow, we will hopefully finally finalize the purchase of our first big family vehicle. Fingers crossed!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A week of birthdays

At my prenatal appointment last Friday the midwife made a comment about my weight gain being a little higher than what it usually is between my appointments. My excuse? Four birthdays in five days. I think that's a pretty good excuse. Marc and I had ours, then three days later was my dad's, then two days after his was Hugh's #2. And, actually, I just made one cake for Marc and me to share. Maybe next year we'll have our cake be whatever Hugh has for his cake. It is kind of a lot of cake and ice cream crammed into a short few days. Or figure out some other celebratory treat. Like, maybe this.

Here's the triple-layered chocolate cake with a Nutella-based frosting that I made for Marc and me. Notice the little hands trying to reach for the cake...

Just a few minutes later, after I had left the kitchen, thinking I had pushed the cake far enough away from the edge for those little reaching fingers. Our clue that something was up? Ben appeared from around the kitchen counter, with fingers in mouth and eyes glittering with pride/joy/mischief. I was just grateful he didn't pull the entire cake down to the floor. Funny boy!

I didn't get any photos of it, but we made mini Nutella cheesecakes for his birthday. For as active and energetic as he is, it was really hard to grasp that this birthday was his 75th. If I didn't know better, I'd guess he was at least ten years younger.

For the last few months I've been showing Hugh, the lover of trains, this picture of a Thomas cake that I found on some website a while back. (Wish I could remember where to give proper credit.)

I had decided it'd be fun to make it into an ice cream cake. The one thing I failed to take into consideration was the time limits for decorating an ice cream cake, without having it melt into a runny mess. It didn't help at all that as I was doing the first stage of layering the cake and ice cream, then rushing it into the freezer that the freezer would decide to not turn on for more than 20 minutes. I turned the temperature down to its very coldest, but nothing would budge that darn freezer to blow its freezing air onto my Thomas masterpiece. In that time, Hugh's poor cake was turning into a very sorry-looking sight.

It was all very sad and I felt incredibly disappointed at my inability to take the perfect cake from my imagination and turn into the perfect cake for my newest two-year old. But, I laughed it off and just felt relief that Hugh is too young to care and would love it in all of its ugliness. The good news is he blew out his two candles with perfect precision and was clearly pleased with his efforts!

I love this photo of Hugh, with his little hand ready to catch any cake or ice cream that might fall off his spoon.

The funniest part of Hugh's birthday was while we were eating his cake. Both boys were so busy eating that neither was really aware of the mess that blue frosting was making on their hands and faces. At one point, Hugh looked up at Ben and saw this:

Then, with a giggle, Hugh said, "Ben's face!" and then laughed some more.

What made it particularly funny was that Hugh had no idea he looked as ridiculous as Ben. So, Marc took a photo of Hugh's face and then showed him the photo. Realization is starting to sink in.

After having ice cream cake, we took the boys outside for birthday gifts - tricycles and lawnmowers. We got them each their own, to eliminate as much discontent as possible between the two boys.

A big happy birthday to my little Hugh! He is such a spunky little guy, with enviable dance moves and the most adorable raspy voice. He brings a contagious joy to our family and I feel so blessed and lucky to be his Mama.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Feeling blessed

This weekend, with my birthday and Mother's Day and spending it with my two little boys and a very squirmy little girl rolling around inside me, has made a lot of tender emotions come floating to the surface.

I've been thinking of my Mom and wishing I could remember the moment I entered the world. And, now expecting the arrival of a new little baby girl and feeling what she may have been feeling 34 years ago. Thinking about my birth and the celebration of Mother's Day back-to-back has made my heart fill to overflowing with love for my mother and all the love and sacrifice that has come with being her daughter.

Then, in a talk my Dad gave in church today on mothers, he briefly mentioned the sorrow and pain that followed the loss of our little twins and the indescribable joy we now feel with the miracles that have since filled our life. Sitting there, even while trying to keep the boys from hitting each other with their trucks, my heart filled with joyful emotion at the truth of that statement.

And, I was reminded of just three Mother's Days ago, the first after our loss, when the pain was so intense still that I begged Marc to escape for the whole weekend. I couldn't bare the thought of showing my tear-stained face to people at church who were there celebrating motherhood and not wanting to hear all the well-intended comments about how I really was a mother, too. In an eternal sense I knew I was, but it was much too overwhelming to have to face anyone who knew what we'd gone through and were still going through.

I'm honestly in awe, like completely-left-without-any-words awe, at how we've gone from that painful weekend away three years ago to being where we are today.

Just the thought of close friends who are still in that painful place I was in not too long ago makes me shudder at the thought of re-visiting those painful places in my heart. I am not without hope that miracles and healing will follow every pain and sorrow that we each experience, and I am anxious to see those dear friends a few years down the road with the same joy we've been so blessed to enjoy.

I will be the first to admit it - I've blessed far beyond what I deserve. Blessed to have joined a family headed by a father and a mother who have loved each other for the last 50 years. Blessed to have been promised the eventual raising of the twin daughters I first loved with a mother's love. Blessed by the selfless sacrifice of a courageous birthmother to receive the gift of our sweet Benjamin. Blessed by the miracle arrival of our feisty Hugh, who was so clearly meant to come so soon after Ben. And, now blessed with another unexpected miracle that just adds to the feeling that I've been blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

Clearly the deep valleys of sorrow that were carved in my heart from the tears and disappointments of past experiences, have now been filled with overflowing joy that cannot ever be adequately expressed with words alone. Truly I am blessed. And, I hope I can live a life that constantly reflects the gratitude and awe I feel for these precious blessings.

The Latest

I can't believe three weeks have passed since I last updated. My time has been consumed by a few different things that have required more of my full attention during my few moments of down-time.

There was preparing (and stressing over) a talk I gave at a women's conference for church about a week ago. While I definitely learned a lot and gained some new perspectives from my studying and preparations, I'm so relieved it's now behind me. Thankfully the nightmares of showing up without a talk prepared have also ended, too!

Then, there's the car-searching. Marc jokingly commented today that I've roughly spent $2000 worth of my time in searching for our next car. Not sure where that figure comes from exactly, but I think I have to agree! We've been really close to sealing the deal with three different cars and three different sellers, but for one reason or another all three have fallen through.

The most recent was just this weekend. And, it was the closest we've been to finalizing everything. We found a car we really liked and we got the price down to something we felt more comfortable with. We got a loan approved and got all the other necessary paperwork prepared from our credit union to take with us to the dealer yesterday. As of Friday night at 10:30pm we were all set to have our new car home with us the next day.

Then, just before coming to bed Marc did some searching online about the most common complaints/problems with the specific year of the car we were about to buy and found that the number one problem was a very expensive one (like $7000 expensive) and one that, according to other owners' experiences, could possibly happen with this particular car within the next three thousand miles.

Our discussion led to other concerns about the car in general and its ability to meet our family's needs, lasting until sometime around midnight-thirty. In the end we decided we didn't feel good about buying the specific car we were set to buy, nor about buying that make/model of car in general. So, the search has started over from step one, but we feel so much better about the direction we're headed in and feel like we gained some real clarity from our almost-buy. I'm just hoping the real deal will happen in the next few weeks, so the nightmares will cease of not having a car big enough to bring my baby home from the hospital.

Since we had made plans to have my parents watch our boys yesterday while we bought our car, we decided to keep that in the plans and spend the morning together. It kind of just happened to work out nicely that it was also our birthday. We drove an hour away to the next biggest city where we visited a friend in the hospital, enjoyed some retail therapy at some of our favorite stores, and found a cute little Italian place that served us some of the best pizza we've had in a while.

And, if that doesn't sound like the perfect way to spend a birthday, it gets even better. We ended the day with dinner out with my parents, where the boys thought we had possibly died and gone to food heaven. Ben was so thrilled to have his pick of eating whatever he wanted off any of the plates sitting in front of him, while Hugh couldn't get enough of my pasta and Marc's fries.

With over-stuffed tummies we still ended the night with a three-layered chocolate cake with a nutella-based frosting that I made the night before. Although, between the six of us, we barely ate the equivalent of a single slice, which means lots of cake for tonight and the next few nights to come!

All of that to say, life is busy. Life is good. And, life will be even better when we have our new family-sized car found and bought and ready to hold three precious bundles of joy we get to call our children.