Photo Challenge - Day 1

Hi Peeps! Long time no . . . blog?

I've been pretty busy getting the It's Mamalicious shop up and running. If any of you out there are thinking of starting a work -at-home type business, I'm here to tell you, PROMOTE YOURSELF ON FACEBOOK!

It's Mamalicious

Promote your Page too

My friends inside the computer have been very helpful ;)

I've got a longer post brewing about the ins and outs of starting a business, but I want to marinate on that for a little bit longer. (Try to contain your suspense!)

Instead, I'm here today with pictures.

I'm sure you guys have seen people on Facebook or on other blogs doing the 30 day photo challenge, or some version thereof. Right?

I decided I want to play too! So here's Day 1's assignment - a photo of myself with 10 facts.

Note to self - get picture taken with actual camera, not phone.

 Ok, there's me. Annnnnnnnd . . . here's some facts.

1. I have two "dream jobs". One is a professor of Feminist Literature and Ancient Mythology at a pretty college near a beach. The other is to be the person who chooses songs that go on movie soundtracks. Not the score, the soundtrack. I'm sure these two choices say something about me, but I'm not sure what.

2. I am a mom of preemies. They're 9 now, but it still counts. This may seem more like a fact about them than a fact about me, but if you're a preemie mom, or know any preemie moms, you understand that "Preemie Mom" is now as much a fundamental part of my make up as my eye color or sense of smell.

3. I'm an avid doodler. (Wow, was THAT a random sentence or what?) Do not pen and paper unattended around me. I will scribble, draw boxes, write my name repeatedly, draw flowers and kindergarten houses. I'm still paying attention to what's going on around me. (Maybe) But there will be doodling.

4. It's really hard to think of facts that might be vaguely interesting to other people. Go ahead,  you try it.

5. I have trouble being "fake nice". That sounds like a good thing, sort of. But it's not. See, you need fake nice. You need it EVERY.DAY. At the grocery store, at the bus stop, around the neighborhood. I'm pretty sure my "fake smile" looks like I'm constipated.

6. I like to create. In any way. I write, I sing, I dance (not necessarily well). I draw, I paint, I build. (Again, not necessarily well). I sew, I knit, I crochet. (Ok, those I do well.) (Well-ish). I am particularly fascinated by the idea of a finished product made my my hands - something that can be useful or just fun to look at.

7. I am a spiritual person, but my spirituality is definitely a journey. I don't have it all figured out, and I tend to be wary of people who think they do. But I am constantly striving, working, thinking, praying, hoping for a better understanding. And yes, I do believe in God.

8. On a lighter note, I think peanut butter and chocolate should grow together on the same tree. Really, why should they ever be separated? Oh, wait. Jelly.

9. I'm nauseatingly in love with my husband. Like high-school crush infatuated, cheesy Hollywood love story swoony, kinda sorta obsessive but not in a creepy way LOVE. It's ok, I think he likes it.

10. I only watch about an hour of television a week. I never used to watch at all, but then I discovered How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. If you have not seen these shows GO NOW and watch them all. Hurry hurry!

Ok, so that's it for me. I wonder if anyone will come back tomorrow for Day 2 of the photo challenge. What will it be? Have my facts scared everyone off? Will I even remember to blog tomorrow?

You'll have to tune in to find out.



Snow, Snow, Snow!

It's snowing in the south! The Atlanta metro area is pretty much locked down right now due to snow. All you northerners are probably laughing at us if you've caught news stories about empty store shelves . . .

But snow is a pretty big deal this far south. It hardly EVER snows here, and those rare times it does, it's usually just a tiny dusting that you can still see grass through.
This was a pretty big deal.
We still go out to play in it though . . .
Kinda sad, isn't it?
So, yeah, snow is a pretty big deal around here. Whenever the weatherfolks start telling us to watch out for snow, there's a mixed reaction from southerners. Half of us scoff at the weather reports and go about our business, trying not to get our hopes up. The other half of us panic, rush out to "stock up", and buy a bunch of milk, bread and toilet paper.

This weekend the weather reports were all saying 100% chance of snow starting Sunday night, so we were hopeful. The fam & I went out to do our normal grocery shopping,  and of course the stores were packed with frantic Georgians prepping for disaster. Other people I know that went shopping on Sunday told me that stores were completely sold out of bread products - not just loaf bread, but hot dog buns, bagels, english muffins, etc - and milk, and chicken. Our priorities are slightly different from the rest of the world, so we did alright. Nobody had sold out of coffee, oatmeal, and grapes yet.

And I might be the only person in Georgia that made a last minute, pre-blizzard thread purchase. Hey, a girl's gotta have priorities.

Pictured: Priorities (source)
 It started snowing around 9 Sunday night, but most metro area counties had already closed school by late afternoon. And boy did it ever snow! After about half an hour everything outside was covered with a blanket of white - I couldn't see the road, the driveway, at all. This southern flower was very excited. I kept getting up throughout the night to look out the window. My poor husband, who is from Chicago, and couldn't care less about snow, kept being woken up and urged to "Come look, there's more!"

And when we got up the next morning, this is what waited for us.
ooooohhh, pretty.
You guys! Lots n' lots o' snow! Remember how I said Georgia only gets a few flakes? Not this time! We had 5 inches at our house, and some places further up into the mountains got as much as 9!

All this snow is lovely and fun, but there's one small problem. We live in Georgia. We are not prepared for snow and ice. Not really. Everything shuts down. Everything. Not just schools, but banks, stores, restaurants. Everything. Misterlicious works for the CDC, and even it shut down due to inclement weather. So don't get any strange diseases this week, people, the Centers for Disease Control is iced over. Heck, even the mail hasn't been running. So much for "No rain, no sleet, no dark of night . . ." or whatever the motto is.

All my northern friends and family have been making fun of the south because everything comes to a grinding halt for a few inches of snow. But I keep reminding them that northern cities have something that we don't.

Snow plows. Ice trucks. Salt.

Nope, not here.(source)
Now, it's not that Georgia doesn't have any snow plows, it's just that we don't have enough. I heard on the news yesterday that we have only 600 trucks to cover the entire northern half of the state. That's not very many when you consider that some northern counties have that many.

You can see why we're all stuck. There are a few brave (or stupid) souls that venture out, and most of them get stranded in a ditch. My father-in-law drives a wrecker, and he loves the snow. He tells me "When you see white, I see green."

So, my northern friends, it isn't just that we're too scared to go out, or that we don't know how to drive in snow - the problem is that it's really not safe out there. So we're stuck. Still.
At least it still looks pretty

It's all my fault, really. That's what Misterlicious tells me, anyway. When we were out shopping I was laughing at all the panicked shoppers and the empty shelves. Believe me when I say, I'm a huge fan of being prepared, but I thought people were taking it a little too far. I figured we'd have a little snow, spend the day throwing snowballs and drinking hot chocolate, and then the snow would melt and everything would go back to normal on Tuesday. So I thought the people buying 5 gallons of milk and 10 loaves of bread were overdoing it a little. I kept saying "These people are nutty, it's not as if we'll be confined to our homes for days on end."

Oops. My bad, guys. We kind of are.

People are calling it "Snowmageddon" and "Snowpocalypse". Yesterday afternoon the snow changed to freezing rain. Now the interstates are covered with what the news channels tell me is "hockey-rink thick" sheets of ice. And it doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon. Some of the ice melted today, but it's already started getting colder again, so the standing puddles on the roads will be even more ice by morning. The mail didn't come again today. They've already cancelled school for tomorrow. The weather folks are saying it won't warm up until the weekend, so there's every possibility that we'll be home all week.

My nemesis.

My pretty little idea of a fun snow day, a little extra weekend, some light winter fun, and then back to normal life - yeah, not so much. Looks like we'll be staying at home for a few more days yet.

Good thing I stocked up on thread.


Etsy shop is up

After much hard work and a long fight with my computer my etsy shop is finally up and running.

Check it out here . I've got cute little felt hair clips, bib and burp cloth sets, and a couple of hats.

Like this Christmas tree clip - perfect stocking stuffer!

And this - I love it so much I wish I had a baby to wear it!

More items will be coming soon! I'm working on more bib sets, as well as some key fob wristlets and badge straps. Check back frequently!

Also - be sure to go "like" my Facebook page .

And recommend me to your friends - I'm offering prizes and discounts to people who have a lot of friends "like" me.
(This is making me nervous, begging people to like me)

I'm so excited about this shop - it's a new venture for me and I hope people like my stuff. It would be absolutely AWESOME if I could make a little money doing something I love.


My new obsession

This time of year is chaotic for our family. Yes, I realize that the holidays are busy for everyone, but the entire fall season leading into the holidays is crazy for us, which makes December even tougher. SO MANY birthdays in September, and in October, then Halloween costumes to purchase/design/make/alter, then November family birthdays, multiple Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends, and our sons' birthday - which entails no fewer than four parties, in order to celebrate with my family, my husband's (local) family, the party for friends, and the nuclear family celebration on their actual birthday.

That's me. Except I don't have time to put makeup on.

Now, my husband's birthday is on Monday, so we will celebrate that with my family tomorrow, the nuclear family celebration on Monday, party with the neighbors maybe next weekend, and a birthday dinner with the Hub's local family that has yet to be scheduled.

And Christmas. We haven't even gotten all the Christmas decorations out of the attic yet, but decorating alone is a huge project. We are Christmas-aholics in this family.  My husband aspires to be Clark Griswald when he grows up, and I constantly have to rein him in when it comes to lighting choices.

Our neighbors would LOVE us

 But I'm no better - we have four, yes FOUR, Christmas trees. And close to 40 nutcrackers. And a Christmas village. And a Christmas train. And about a bajillion (super precise mathematical term right there) Christmas-themed tchotchkes scattered throughout the house.

Not quite like this, but I'm getting there

Oh, and let's not forget the Christmas dishes, and the Christmas books (A Christmas Carol , The Night Before Christmas ,a gorgeous pop-up Night Before Christmas ,The Nativity Story ,How The Grinch Stole Christmas , and The Polar Express )that must be displayed.

And gifts. We're going a little bit lighter on gifts this year, for a number of reasons that would necessitate another blog post altogether. So that helps, both with the frantic pace and with the clutter. But, we still have some gifts to give. This year, I had the brilliant idea that, with a few exceptions like books and games for the dudes, all our gifts would be handmade this year. Which is fine, except that I'm the one hand-making everything. Again, this would be fine, except that the majority of Babe's family lives in Chicago, so their presents have to be shipped, which means I have even less time to work on them . . .

All this to say, my life is super hectic right now. Probably not the best time to delve into a new obsession right now.

But I have.

Folks, I taught myself to crochet. I taught myself to knit last year, and had planned on giving a couple scarves as Christmas gifts this year, but I'm not the world's greatest knitter, so the scarves were taking FOR.EV.ER.
So I thought to myself, "Self, there's got to be a quicker way." (What, you don't talk to yourself like this?) And I decided to learn to crochet, figuring it would be faster and I'd be able to get my gifts completed in time. And it is. And that's wonderful.

Except now I'm obsessed. It's all I think about. In the week since I finally figured out what I'm doing, I've made:
  • Four scarves
  • Three hats
  • 2 goldfish appliques (which are a-freaking-dorable)
  • and a partridge in a pear tree
Ok, maybe not that last one. Although . . . . now that I think of it, I bet I could crochet a partridge in a pear tree.

I've also spent hours at the bookstore poring over crochet guides and ideas, as well as several trips to Michael's and Joann's looking at patterns and poking at yarn.

I even unravelled a scarf that I've been knitting, which was about half done, so I could re-do the whole thing in crochet.

I've taken my yarn and worked on crochet projects (Babe calls it "crotchet-ing") at the doctor's office, the barber shop, last night's trip to the ER, and to a family dinner.

I'd provide photographic proof that my new obsession is taking over our lives, but my camera hates me, so I'll save that for another time. For now, you'll just have to trust me on this - OBSESSION.

Off to go crochet!


My Preemie Story

Today is Prematurity Awareness Day. In fact, November is Prematurity Awareness Month. I know I haven't posted in months, and the last post I wrote was also about my sons, but in light of the cause, I'm going to tell you the whole story.

When I tell people my sons were premature, I often get this response: "Well isn't it normal for twins to come early?" The short answer is yes, but not as early as mine did. Twins don't have a lot of room in there, but they still need the same amount of time to develop. So, just because it's "normal" for twins to come early, that doesn't mean mine were ready to show up when they did.

I had a fairly easy pregnancy, as pregancies go. By that I mean I only had the more common pregancy complaints - I got tired easily, my back hurt some, I had heartburn. I was nauseated most of the time, but never anything too bad. My first trimester (or semester, as I like to call it) I was exhausted ALL of the time, but by my second trimester (semester), I felt better and had started nesting like crazy. My house has never been that clean since.

So I had it pretty easy, if you consider being single and working three jobs easy. But no major problems, no pain, in other words - no WARNING.

November 17, 2001 - a Saturday - I was on my way out the door to go to work, and I had to pee (again). But when I went to the bathroom, I found blood. I called my mother, sobbing, and told her I would meet her at the hospital.

I didn't really get the seriousness of what was going on. I mean, sure, I knew bleeding was bad, and I was plenty scared, but I still drove myself to the hospital and stood around at the desk talking to the receptionist. They kept offering me a wheelchair but I was too full of nervous energy to take it. Then my mom showed up, and . . . well, I sat down.

I spent the night in the hospital on fetal monitors - two, of course, which was less than comfortable. The doctor came in to see me and was comforting. I was 80% effaced but not even a centimeter dialated. I explained that I'd had gas a lot that week, at which point he chuckled and said it wasn't gas, it was small contractions. He put me on Brethine to stop the contractions, and the next evening I was released. I was told to stay on strict bedrest. I went to stay at my mom's house. My mother and my grandparents all live together, so at their house I would have plenty of help and wouldn't have to do anything. The doctor said I would be on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy, but if I stayed in bed like I was told, there was a decent chance I'd be able to spend the rest of my pregnancy at home rather than in the hospital.

So I stayed in bed. I was allowed to get out of bed for meals and to use the bathroom. My mom got me a seat for the shower and walkie-talkies so I could call her from the guest room downstairs to her room upstairs if I needed her at night.

I was there for 9 days. It was pretty boring, but my cousin brought me his TV and DVD player so I could watch movies. I read a lot. Things seemed to be going well. I got to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family. things were going so well, in fact, that my mother encouraged my grandparents to go on the mini-vacation they had planned, to our cabin in the Tennessee mountains. She assured them that she could handle everything at home.

The morning they were supposed to come home, I woke up around 4 in the morning with blood everywhere. I called my mom on the walkie talkie and she drove me to the hospital. She later confessed that she'd been secretly been studying the "emergency birth" section in What to Expect and that she spent the whole drive to the hospital going over procedures in her head in case she had to deliver my babies on the side of the road. I teased her, but I'm still glad that my mom believes in being prepared for anything, even though we didn't need it.

Once I was settled in at the hospital  she went home to clean up the blood so it wouldn't scare my grandparents when they got home.

This time, I found out I was 100% effaced and 2 centimeters dialated. They put me on a magnesium sulfate drip to stop contractions, because the Breathine just wasn't cutting it. The doctor told me i'd have to spend the rest of my pregnancy in the hospital. No more "light" bedrest. I wasn't allowed to get up to use the bathroom, instead I had a catheter put in - very high on my list of least favorite experiences. They adjusted my bed so my feet were above my head - to get gravity working for me, too. And I waited.

The next day when the doctor came in to check on me I was doing ok. The day was pretty uneventful, and in the evening the doctor came to say goodnight. He'd been at the hospital 24 hours and delivered 2 babies that day. He joked "Just try and keep your legs crossed," to which I replied, "If I could do that we wouldn't be here!"

My mom was about to leave, but then I felt it. "I'm leaking, am I bleeding again?" I asked the nurse. The doctor came back, they'd caught him on the way out to his car, and told me that no, this time my water had broken, and we would have to deliver. I apologized for making him have to stay, but he just squeezed my hand and said, "Don't you even worry about me."

Then it was time to make some decisions. A quick ultrasound showed that Baby A was in the right position for a vaginal birth - I still joke sometimes that it was all his idea to be born early because he couldn't wait to see what was out there. But Baby B was breech. The doctor explained my options. I could deliver Baby A vaginally and hope that, once things got a little less crowded in there, Baby B would shift into the right position. But, he explained, if the baby didn't shift positions, he was too small for the doctor to safely reach in and turn him around. So if he didn't shift on his own, I'd have to have the second baby by cesearean. I ended up deciding just to have the C-section. It didn't seem like a good plan for me to do both, because then I'd be healing from both a vaginal birth and a c-section, and that didn't seem like a whole lot of fun to me. So they went off to get everything ready.

A nurse came in and explained that my OR would be very crowded. In addition to the doctor and nurses that would be there for me, each baby would have his own "team" - a nurse, a respiratory specialist, and a neonatologist came in to be there for both babies.

There's stuff I remember, and stuff I was told later. I remember my mom trying to find a priest to come in to pray for me, but I didn't understand why. I realized later that she wanted him to be there to give the babies Last Rites if it was necessary. I don't remember the priest being there. My mom says he came. But I still swear I remember a Rabbi being there instead - and I remember thinking "Well at least God's got somebody in here with me, it doesn't matter what team he's on."

So I don't remember the priest, but my mom says he was there. I do remember my mother giving me a small wooden icon, a religious painting ofJesus, that my grandmother - who is Russian Orthodox - sent. I know I had it in my hand when they wheeled me into the OR, but I don't remember if they let me keep it.

The epidural wasn't pretty. It wasn't actually an epidural either, but a spinal block, which numbed me from the neck down. It's administered in the same manner as an epidural, though - a big ol' needle in the back. For some reason, they kicked my mom out of the OR for the spinal block portion of the festivities. But she said she heard me from the hallway. It took 8 or 9 attempts. He stuck me 8 or 9 times. I'll let that sink in.

I can't remember exactly what the problem was. After the first couple of tries, he switched to a smaller needle. He asked me curve my spine more. I pointed out the HUGE pregancy belly that was preventing me from hunching forward any further. He stuck me a couple of more times. I swore a lot. I begged him to just hit me over the head with something, and promised not to sue if he did. He stuck me a couple of more times. I swore at him and called him names. He stuck me again. I yelled some more. He told me to be perfectly still, at which point I yelled "Hey! I've been still for TEN F**ING DAYS! I've been doing MY job, how 'bout you do YOURS, chief?" (I was pretty cranky at that point) Then he stuck me again, but this time it worked. The anesthesia started taking effect almost immediately, at which point I turned to him, stroked his arm and cooed, "I'm reeeeally sorry I yelled at you. You're not a f**er. You're a really greeeeaaat guy. Let's be friends." I stopped wanting to be his friend a couple days later when I discovered that my entire back was one GIANT bruise from all the needle sticks. But oh well, bygones.

Unfortunately, being numb from the neck down didn't mix well with the nausea caused by the magnesium sulfate. I kept feeling like I was going to puke, but could move the muscles in my neck, so I started freaking out just a teeeeeeeny bit. So they sedated me. It was only a little sedation, supposed to last 10 minutes, just enough to let the doctor get started without me wigging out. I was still pretty loopy, but I do remember bits and pieces. I remember the important stuff.

I remember when they pulled my oldest son out, and he cried this strange little quacky-honky cry, like a tiny duckling. I remember being thrilled that he was crying, because that meant he was breathing, all by himself. Then his "team" whisked him away to go check him out.

I remember that my younger son came out and immediately let everyone know what he thought about the whole situations. I heard one of the nurses yell "He's peeing!" - my mom told me later he got quite a few of them.

On November 27, 2001, my beautiful, strong, stubborn, amazing boys were born - at 7:27 and 7:29 pm.

I don't remember a whole lot about that night and much of the next day. I was, of course, on morphine, and I was pushing that little button for all I was worth. At some point I asked to see my sons, but they told me I couldn't go down to the NICU just yet. Someone came in and told me that the babies were doing as well as could be expected. I'm sure they gave me more details, but I was pretty loopy, and don't really remember much.

I got to go see them the next day, wheeled down in my chair. I washed my hands for the required 3 minutes at the door and then went to see me sons for the very first time. They were in isolettes, and under bilirubin lights for jaundice.  I wasn't allowed to touch them yet, but my nurse timed my visit just right - because it was time for their diapers to be changed and all their needles and wires to be checked, so I got to be there when they opened up the isolette.

They were so, so, heartbreakingly tiny. My oldest, Phoenix, weighed 2 lbs 7 oz and was 14 inches long. My youngest, Dorien, weighed 2 lbs 6 oz and was 15 inches long. That's really small, but they were actually pretty big for their gestational age. My doctor had told me that I was 26 weeks pregnant when I delivered. But the neonatologist said it was probably only 25, based on their development - for instance, their eyes were still fused shut for the first couple of days.

They were both on respirators, had all kinds of monitors around them and leads taped to their chests, and gavage tubes in their mouths to feed them. But they were beautiful. I loved them so much it was an actual physical sensation, a weight in my chest.

I still didn't really understand, even then. I knew they were small. I knew they weren't done cooking yet and that they needed machines to breath for them, and feed them, and monitor their oxygen levels and their heart rates. But I didn't really grasp the seriousness of everything. I didn't really have a lot of concrete ideas about what to expect, but I had a vague notion that they'd be in the hospital for maybe a couple weeks and then they'd come home. They'd be small, sure, but they'd be just like "normal" babies in every other respect.

Boy did I have a lot to learn.

When they were about 4 days old, I came to the hospital to see them and to have what I called "my first parent-teacher conference". I met with one of the neonatologists and the head NICU nurse, and they spent the next hour and a half telling me everything that could possible go wrong. It was probably the worst hour and a half of my life. My mother came with me, and thank God she took notes because there was so much to take in that I would never have remembered it. It's pretty hard to retain stuff like that when every part of you is silently screaming No No No!

They said that my babies were very sick, and had only about a 20% chance of survival. I've seen figures recently,here , that chances of survival at 25 weeks are somewhere between 50 and 80%. I don't know if the odds have just improved that much in the last nine years or if I heard wrong. The doctor told me that they couldn't breathe on their own and they'd be on respirators for a while, then graduate up to supplemental oxygen and eventually plain old room air. He explained that they wore event monitors that set off alarms if they didn't breathe for 30 seconds or if their heart rate dropped below a certain number. He said they'd probably stay in the NICU at least until their due date, probably longer.

Then he explained the risks. They'd be scanned  periodically to check for cerebral hemorrhages - bleeding in the brain. Bleeding could result in cerebral palsy, retardation, or death. I learned that many of the issues of prematurity can be treated with medicines, but that often, these medicines can pose new dangers. For example, both of them had PDA, a valve in their heart that should have closed after birth but didn't (find out more here ). There's a medicine, Indocin, that helps treat PDA, but the doctor said that they could only have three rounds of it. Any more, and they ran the risk of liver damage. At that point, if the valve still wasn't closed, they'd undergo surgery, which is extremely dangerous for micropreemies due to the weakness of their bodies and their underdeveloped immune systems. I also learned that babies who spend a long time on extra oxygen can develop Retinopathy , a condition in which the blood vessels grow out of control and can cause the retina to detach from the eyeball.

It seemed to me that caring for preemies is like walking a tightrope, requiring perfect balance. The very things that helped them could also hurt them, it all seemed a matter of timing, and detail, and, most of all, luck.

There were a host of other potential issues that I won't go into here. It all boiled down to a pretty bad outlook. They had a very small chance of survival, and even if they survived, there was a pretty good chance they'd be sick or handicapped - limited in some way. The doctor warned me that once they got through all the scary stuff at the beginning, they would still be behind developmentally. I should expect them to meet milestones like sitting up and crawling closer to their adjusted age than their actual age, and most likely a little later than that. He said I needed to come to terms with the fact that, for the first couple of years, they would always be a little bit behind. He also said that they might always be a little bit below average - not just smaller, but also slower to walk, slower to talk, and maybe a little bit below average academically when they reached school age.

The first couple of months were a rough time for me. Their father wasn't in the picture, and despite the love and support of my family and friends, I felt very alone. I spent a lot of time on the phone with a very good friend of mine. Her husband later told me about a conversation they'd had one night after she got of the phone with me. "I refuse to believe those babies won't make it," she told him. "They have to make it," she said,"because if they don't make it, Nik won't either."

But they made it. They've beaten all the odds.

We had our fair share of problems. They both had to have Indocin for PDA, but luckily it worked on the very last round, and they didn't have to have surgery. Phoenix had to have spinal taps on two separate occasions, because he developed a fever, and since babies that small can't localize infection, we needed to be sure it didn't become meningitis.(It didn't) He did develop Retinopathy, but a month after leaving the NICU, the problem self corrected. Phoenix came home on February 2, 2002 - 27 days before he should have been born.

Dorien had a harder time. He just couldn't get the hang of breathing. He was on the respirator for a lot longer than his brother. I wasn't able to hold him until he was 6 weeks old. He was very sensitive and any kind of disturbance - even someone walking to close to his bed - had him in distress. They were reluctant to let me hold him because they were worried it would freak him out too much to be touched and disturbed. But finally insisted, and they let me hold him. Our NICU was big on kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact), so I wrapped him right up in my shirt, against my chest, and held him. For TWO HOURS. And in that time, not a single monitor beeped, not a single alarm went off. He came off the respirator the NEXT DAY. All he needed was his mommy.

Dorien stayed in the NICU a couple of weeks longer than his brother, he came home on February 20 - 9 days before his due date. He did have to come home on supplemental oxygen, which was scary, but we got through it. He stayed on that until around 7 months old.

They were always small - they didn't even get on "The Chart" for a long time. They wore 0-3 months clothes for the entire first year. And yes, they were slow on developmental milestones - it took them longer to roll over, sit up, and walk. But once they started walking, there was no stopping them. They started talking about the same time as other kids their age, and haven't stopped yet.

And they're brilliant. Brilliant. I know every parent thinks their kids are geniuses, but these kids are. They are in the 3rd grade now, with 7th grade vocabularies. They think and reason on a level that baffles me. They are in the 99th percentile on pretty much every standardized test they've ever taken. Last year, Phoenix got a perfect score on one of their standardized tests, while Dorien only missed 3 questions - in four days of testing.

My sons are miracles. Sometimes, when people hear about everything they've overcome, they say "They are lucky to have such a strong Mama." But those people are wrong. I'm lucky to have such strong sons. They never gave up, they never stopped fighting. They were- and are - so very, very brave. I'm the one that's lucky.

I've gone on long enough, but I want to say one last thing. We owe a lot to March of Dimes for the research that leads to new treatments and better chances for every preemie. But I owe even more to the parents that came before me. The ones who were willing to try a new medicine, or an experimental procedure, so that not just their babies, but all the babies after could get stronger, better, healthier. I don't know if I could take those chances. So thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, for taking those risks.

We might not be here today if you hadn't.


My boys . . . sniff sniff

This week, my boys started third grade. Third grade! How is this possible? How are they old enough for third grade?

It makes me weepy.

I know this isn't unusual, a lot of moms get weepy and snuffly at back-to-school time. But for me, it goes a little deeper than "My babies are growing up". For me, there is a whole lot of  "Thank you, God, for their health" thrown in too.

See, my dudes were born early. Waaaaaaaaaay  early. They were born at 25 or 26 weeks, depending on whether you ask my obstetrician or the neo-natologist. Either way, they were born too early. Like, eyes still fused shut, lungs not completely ready, teeny tiny, not-done-cooking EARLY.

Here's what they looked like then:

Please do not adust your monitor. This is Thing 2, a couple of days old, under the bilirubin lights.
Thing 1, a day old.
The first couple of months were rocky, but when they improved enough to be in a bed together, they really began to thrive.

1 and a half months old - still a lot of tubes and wires.
They were very brave, and stubborn. I'm so proud of my little fighters. They ended up coming home about the time they should have been born. Thing 2 still needed supplemental oxygen, until he was about 7 months old. Thing 1 was on room air. They both wore heart and apnea monitors.

I look like I'm 12 years old in this picture.
They were always a little smaller than other babies, and they were slower to meet developmental milestones like sitting up, crawling, walking etc. But they were beautiful, and so sweet.

And they were almost always happy.

About a year and a half old.

As they grew older they started catching up. The gaps between their development and "normal" (how I hate that word) development grew smaller. They started looking a lot more like other kids their own age. More importantly, they were happy, curious, amazing boys.

Thing 1
Thing 2
When they started kindergarten, I sat and looked at old pictures, and remembered how small and fragile and sick they'd been. I remembered how scared I was when the doctors told me everything that could go wrong: blindness, deafness, brain bleeds, cerebral palsey, retardation. Death.

But they beat the odds. They're amazing, wonderful, perfect. Every mother thinks her children are miracles. But mine are. We had a rough couple of years, but none of the things that were supposed to go wrong did. Now, you'd never know by looking at them that they were born so very early, and were so very sick, and had so many factors working against them.

Here they are now:

Third graders!
Thing 1. A little more serious than his brother, and he doesn't particularly enjoy photo shoots.
Thing 2. Always, always, this happy. My little ray of sunshine.
I'm so lucky. Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere, the realization of just how lucky I am. It takes my breath away sometimes.

My sons are awesome. Friendly, helpful, and so smart it's scary. People stop me in public to say how smart and amazing they are but they don't even know. They have no idea how truly amazing these kids are, and how far they've come.

Now, I'm watching a dear friend go through a similar situation with her teeny tiny son. I'm so proud of her, and so sad for her, and so scared for her that I'm surprised I'm not dizzy with it. I wish for ways to help, for something I can do, because I know what she's going through. I've sat in the NICU and stared at my tiny baby through plastic and not been able to touch. I've watched machines breathe for them. And I've had to face the same worries that she and her husband are facing now - worries about what's to come.

But I've also seen pictures of her little guy, and I can tell already that he is every bit as stubborn as my boys. And she and her husband are just as determined as I was.

So I'm pretty sure he's gonna be just fine.

Wow. I need to go blow my nose now.



A rocky relationship

I have a rocky relationship.

Sometimes we get along swimmingly. We take care of each other. We listen to each other, and value each other's input. We meet one another's needs. It's lovely and wonderful.

Sometimes things are slightly less lovely and wonderful. Sometimes, I expect certain things. Nothing crazy, just the stuff that we agreed upon at the beginning of our relationship. I don't want anything extra or special, I just want things to work the way they're supposed to. I have needs, and sometimes these needs don't get met.

No, I'm not talking about my husband. Babe is amazing, and more than willing to see to all my needs.

I'm talking about Blogger.

Blogger is withholding, and fickle, and cantankerous, and sometimes just plain mean. Blogger likes to toy with my emotions. Blogger makes big promises but just keeps letting me down.

In moments of self doubt, I wonder "Is it really Blogger's fault? Maybe it's something I'm doing wrong." I do, after all, seem to be surrounded by a magnetic forcefield that tends to cause any and all electronic equipment - but most especially computers- to malfunction whenever I am near. "What if I'm the problem?" I wonder. I spend countless hours loathing myself and my technological inadequacies.

Then, in the midst of my self-flagellation, my inner bitch speaks up and says "No way. It's all Blogger's fault." And my inner bitch is right (she usually is). I'm not doing this incorrectly, because sometimes it works. But some days, I push the same buttons and type the same codes and do not achieve the desired results. Blogger refuses to perform.

Yesterday was one of those days. As is today. I've tried to make nice - I've whispered sweet compliments, sent flowers and candy. I've tried bribery, and threats. To no avail.

Blogger still refuses to let me post pictures.

I'm thinking the next step might be couples counseling.


Please, bear with me as I try to repair this relationship, try to recapture the magic that has been lost.

Wish me luck.