Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I made something.

It gets, well, a bit depressing to read blog after blog of amazingly creative women who do things like whip up a summer wardrobe for their daughter in an evenings time, or make their own delicious bread and butter for a morning picnic on top of a hand made blanket. You get the picture. My hands have been longing to do a project of my own for a while, but what to do? First, I needed to learn a skill. So, my mom tried to teach me to embroider. I really liked it, but the project I started was a little ambitious and I soon grew weary of it and it is now with my mom in her basket of goodies that are waiting to be finished. Hmmm, what next? Something simple. Something for the babes. Ah ha! Something using pictures, which I have millions of and love to work with.

The result:

A board book. I like for the books they look at right now to have realistic pictures in it as they are learning about the world around them, and what is more realistic than pictures of things that they see every day? It isn't perfect, and I decided that that is okay. I have lots of plans for more. A grandparent book, an aunts/uncles book, an Africa book with Joelie's pictures, a feelings book, a colors book..... One thing at a time, though, and for now they are enjoying their "Favorite things" book and I am too. Should you like something easy to create for the little ones in your life, I found the blank books at Bare books. Enjoy! Jen

P.S. Amelia's obsession continues...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Our breast feeding Story:

I planned on breast feeding my children for as long as I can remember. My mom breast fed us and always talked about how much she loved it and how good it was for babes, and as I got older it just was further cemented into my mind as what would naturally happen. Kind of like natural childbirth, it became a passion of mine, but even more so than childbirth because there really was no question in my mind about breast feeding. No research needing to be done, etc. Well, you all know how my natural birth plan turned out (for those who don't know, you can read about it here)! My breast feeding plans could have easily gone the same route, and so it is with tremendous thankfulness and grace that I am able to write about the 16 month breast-feeding journey we were blessed to have.

The first night the babes lay in the NICU, a little over 2lbs each, a nurse brought me a form to sign saying that the babes could receive donated breast milk until mine came in. It brings tears to my eyes even now as I think about how thankful we were for this gift. If you ever have a chance to donate milk to a milk bank, please do! I was also brought a breast pump and after some brief instructions, I started my first of many, many pumping sessions. I know lots of women talk about how horrible pumping is and how you feel like a cow and so on. Obviously I understand these sentiments, but pumping truly was the only thing I felt I could do for Sam and Amelia in those early weeks. I felt awkward and in the way in the NICU, but when I came into their pod carrying container after container of milk from pumping I felt a sense of productiveness that nothing else brought. Still, as I write this, I see the faces of many of those mamas who were unable to produce enough milk because of stress or couldn't keep up with the pumping demands or just didn't have the energy to try. Oh how I wanted to just start handing out my extra milk to them. Anyway, thankfulness ruled the day in my heart for that milk, and I would never again take it for granted.

The actual breast feeding was such an enormous challenge in the beginning. We were supposed to start with non-nutritive feedings until they had practiced sucking enough to move onto sucking and swallowing and breathing (they were still only 33 weeks gestational age)! Well, even if I came straight from pumping, my milk would let down as soon as they latched on and they would choke, stop breathing, turn blue...all in a matter of seconds! It was so scary and frustrating and sad. Not surprisingly, Amelia had a very strong suck and would forget to breath whereas Sam didn't suck hard enough and would fall asleep or just stop sucking b/c he would tire out. I am telling you though, that boy's love language is words of encouragement and it was evident even in those early days! This may sound crazy, but he would stop sucking and I would whisper, "Sam, you are the best breast-feeder in the west! You can do this." and he would start again! I'll never forget that. Every feeding was supposed to be timed to the minute and that was also very stressful for me--I am just not a to the minute type of girl and was constantly forgetting to time them. All this while sitting in a rocking chair that we weren't supposed to rock in b/c it would be too much movement for the babes! Between watching the monitors to be aware of their heart rates, watching the clock hoping that they would feed for the required amount of time to be considered a full feeding, while trying not to rock in the rocking chairs I almost went coo-coo! Needless to say, it was not a picture perfect environment to start our journey.

Still, as the days and weeks went on both the babies and I grew more comfortable and determined. I learned to tune out the monitors, give my best educated guess on the time, and demand a non-rocking chair to sit in:)
By the end of their second month home, we stopped giving them bottles every other feeding with the teaspoon of formula to add calories and just breast fed them on demand. I had grown weary of pumping and it was just easier for me to nurse them instead of worrying about all of the bottle stuff. Though there were times of feeling like I was constantly nursing them (especially since I preferred nursing them one at a time) there were many, many treasured moments as well.

They became champion breast-feeders and the NICU days seemed like the distant past. The next challenge was mastitis, which was like a horrendous case of the flu, and my milk production went way down. Still, I really didn't even consider giving up as long as I felt they were getting enough to eat. What that meant was that for months afterwards they ate every two hours around the clock. It was exhausting but I don't even think I realized how tiring it was until it was over!

So, though I will always regard breast feeding as a beautiful thing, I definitely experienced the challenging sides of it as well. I don't want to ever come across as naive to the hardships that women encounter with nursing, because I'm not! This said, for our family, it was worth the struggle.

Things I never want to forget:
Staring into their eyes and wishing time could stop so that I could memorize every little part of their face. That super satisfied look after they would eat in those early months. Being able to comfort them, put them to sleep, fill their tummies and bond with them all through my body. Sam's huge smile after he would nurse during the later months. The way their little bodies felt snuggled up against mine as they nursed in the deep of the night when we co-slept and then in the rocking chair in the nursery. Tandem breast feeding and watching them play with each others hands., hair, feet, tummies, etc.
Hungry at the park? In the mountains? In the car? At a restaurant or friends house? Have breasts, will travel.
Most of all I think I'll remember the enormous healing that it brought from a rough, rough start. The deep attachment that it fostered is something I will be forever thankful for.

Our breast feeding journey is has come to an end. The babies are drinking whole milk at naps and bed time now to get some extra calories and that seemed to speed up the weaning process ( I seriously thought Amelia would breast feed for at least 2 years). In many ways, it makes life a bit more simple. Yet, the benefits that we all received will live on.

I have so much more in my heart to say. I guess I'll end, though, by posting a few of my favorite breast feeding pictures. After all, pictures are worth a thousand words right?

By a mountain lake nursing Sammy:

See, it wasn't always fun:)

And then other times were oh , so precious. (Sorry babes for blurring out your sweet faces.)

This is how I found time to blog in the early days:) Also, see how I have cheekbones in this picture? That's because I was I was pumping out a TON of calories nursing two babies every two hours around the clock. It was like dieting, but eating all of the food I wanted. It was my breast feeding diet. Have I mentioned that I've gained about 10lbs since the babes weaned themselves? Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

I have many more pictures, but don't feel like taking the time to blur out the rest of them. Thanks for reminicing with me about a part of our story that is very, very dear to me. Jen

Sunday, July 27, 2008

To the beat of her own drum...

Amelia and Sam both stopped taking a pacifier at around 5 months old. Just stopped. They stopped drinking bottles not long after that (mostly because it was just easier for me to breast feed them than to take the time to pump/warm up bottles etc.). They have never had "lovies", though Sam does like to have a soft blanket with him to sleep. I remember when Amelia was going through one of her rougher stages of transitioning to sleep, I went to our favorite local toy store desperate to find her something wonderful to sleep with. I have to admit that I wasn't very persistent with the whole " help her get attached to this lovely "lovey" thing and it failed miserably. She simply tossed whatever I tried to snuggle up against her out of her crib!

So, you can imagine my surprise when she has lately become VERY attached to an object other than her mama. Suddenly this object must go with her to the grocery store, be tucked next to her while she eats, and is at this moment clutched in her hand as she sleeps! Are you ready for this?

"The Beloved"

She has to have both the outfit and the clothes hanger. See, I had brought two of their preemie outfits out to hang up at their birthday party and they have been hanging on the outside of the hall closet since then. Amelia always thought it was fun to touch them as we walked by into the nursery, but about a week ago she started wanting to hold Sam's outfit. Well, that has progressed until today when she practically held it the entire day! Oh my. Maybe it will be a very short lived obsession! Today at the grocery store she dropped her "beloved" as I was checking out. One of the checkers came over to talk to the babes and she said, "Oops, you dropped your doll." She picked it up and said, "Or, your, um, outfit." I had no idea what to say, so I just smiled. Let's hope it's a short lived obsession! Excuse me while I go pry it out of her hands before she pokes her (already black--but that's another story) eye out in her sleep, Jen

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Togetherness Series--Part 7

"Wide open spaces" edition:

Our new routine includes a daily trip to this long stretch of open space at the park behind our house. It's perfect for us. Shady, nothing dangerous, room for the new rage (the babes pushing the stroller), trees to explore, cars to watch, dogs to hear bark, dirt to play in, flowers to pick, and today there was even a helicopter sighting! I usually catch up on my phone calls and let them roam. Together usually. Today was the first day that I thought to myself, "They make their own fun now!" Precious little ones, how wonderful it was to see your togetherness today!

Amelia eyeing the water and Sam saying, "Absolutely not."

Hard at play exploring the tree bark:)

Working together...

Kisses from sister!

Amazed at the helicopter...

We love this place:)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear Grammy...

This is Amelia! Guess what we got in the mail today? Our new kitchen that you ordered for us! I got to try it out first because I woke up from our nap before Sam did. I LOVE it. Seriously, I do. Mom said that people like specifics when you thank them for things and so here is a pictorial for you.
First, I was just amazed by the newness and grandness of it all.

Then, I fell in love with the Salt and Pepper shakers and wouldn't let them go for a long time. They make a rattle sound when you shake them--how clever is that?!

Finally, I started to explore more features like the lid that you can take on and off of the pot and frying pan--fun stuff!

Then things got a little silly...

Things got pretty serious after that because Sam got up and as soon as he came in and saw our beautiful new kitchen all he said was, " You're cooking mushrooms?! I thought I smelled something weird when I woke up. I don't think I like mushrooms." Hmmf. Typical male for you!

I'm just kidding. He really likes it too, especially opening and closing the oven door.
Anyway, I need to get back to playing but we love and miss you Super Grammy and can't wait for your next visit! Thanks again. Love, Amelia

Friday, July 18, 2008

Here comes the sun... (*Updated with link)

One thing I love about the summer sunshine is hanging the cloth diapers out to dry. The sun works magic on stains and makes them so fresh and yummy! Okay, maybe not yummy, but you get the picture. Here is a photo from today's batch of diapers...

It looks very,very similar to a batch from last summer. Oh, but wait! What is that on the left side of the picture?

Awwwww, it's a itty bitty Sam! I remember this day as if it were yesterday. Sammy just lying on that blanket staring at the sunflower above him. Amelia in our bed sleeping the day away with her first little cold. It was a good day. As was today.

Here is Amelia on that same day looking not so happy about being on top of the fresh, dry laundry:)

Here is to embracing all that we can about each season, Jen

p.s. I am aware that I'm a bit obsessed with the 1960's editing tool that I found. I'm going to try and ease myself out of it, but just be patient with me:) The rounded edges, the faded colors...sigh.

p.s.s Sorry that I didn't provide you with the link to the 1960's look before now--how dare I keep that goodness all to myself!! The photo program is called picnik. Once you get started here, go to the "create" tab and you'll find the 1960's look. Happy photo editing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Seriously Sam..

Could you have been any cuter today? Boy, we have had some rough ones lately and that made today even sweeter. First of all, you and sister slept from 7pm-6am! Maybe that's why you woke up in such a fabulous mood? I was practically giddy. Let's do that again!
The morning just got better as you clearly signed "eat" with no prompting from me! You better bet that I jumped up and sliced a banana as fast as I could! I'm hoping that being able to communicate your wants/needs will alleviate some of the frustrations you have been feeling. Anyway, seeing you sign "eat" this week has made me sooo happy!
Diaper changes today? No problemo. Yesterday, an all out war. But let's focus on today:) You and Amelia have been fake laughing back and forth all day, playing on your own in/around the "fireplace", did great on errands (even sitting in the car quietly reading your book and eating cheerios during a very long drive-thru bank transaction!), taking two two hour naps....could the day get any better?!?!
Oh Sammy, I love to see you happy and content. I hope you have many more rested, pain free (after 10 teeth coming in so quickly, I think it is time for us all to have a rest!) days in the near future. Love, Mama

Wishing you a splendid summer day,

Pictures by Anne. A few more of our visit to the park on her blog here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Togetherness Series--Part 6

Tandem breast feeding edition:

So, Sam and Amelia, I just have to mention this one because for almost a month now I have rarely, if ever, fed one of you at a time. This is not my choice. You see, I have always preferred to nurse you one at a time and have that little bit of time and space with just the two of us. We went through a couple of months of Amelia being jealous of Sam eating (remember the fake crying drama-rama?) but nothing compared to the current state of things. If I am nursing you Sam, Amelia will literally come and plop her self down on top of you until I position her in a way where you can both eat. Though you aren't quite so forceful, you make it known that you MUST eat when Amelia eats, and so we have adapted. Though I miss the ease of singleton nursing, it is pretty precious to see you guys hold each other's hands and so on while you eat. I'm sure you will thank me for sharing this with the blog world when you get older. What can I say? It's a big part of your togetherness right now--I just had to make it part of the series! In honor of breast feeding, and just in case you missed it the first go round, here is Big Bird him self learning about this "funny way of feeding a baby"

Friday, July 11, 2008

What a difference a year makes!

Click here to see my birthday post from last year--amazing! Still so thankful for my two little gifts, Jen

p.s. Funny story. This morning the babes and I were in the produce section of the grocery store at about 7:45am. Joel worked an all nighter last night and wasn't yet home. Feeling a bit sad that I wouldn't really get to see him on my b-day as he needed to come home and sleep to prepare for another 13 hour night shift, I was wandering around the store looking for a treat to make myself feel better (yes, I am turing 28 years old and not 8. Still, I like treats!) Anyway, all of the sudden I look up and see a bleary eyed Joel walking towards me with a balloon, cards, and flowers! He said he had been sitting in front of the store writing my cards whenever I walked past him with the babes and I didn't even see him! He rides his bike to the train and then takes it to work and so his hair was wild from his helmet, his eyes were red from working all night, he just looked pitiful and oh,so sweet! It was a great birthday surprise:)

p.s.s. Another great birthday surprise was hearing THIS great news from Courtney!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mountains in the early morning...a lovely place to be.

We started on the trail at about 7:30 am. It was a chilly 50 degrees but the sun soon warmed us up and it felt wonderfully refreshing. The kind of family time that just feels peaceful and right. I cherish mornings like this one with all of my heart.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

*Out of Africa...

He's home. Slowly the stories unfold as we merge back into our life--the time apart making us appreciate once again the peace that comes with togetherness. When he walked in late last night there was a flurry of his unpacking the thoughtful gifts he couldn't wait to unveil. It was like a wonderful Christmas morning dream full of wooden animals and dishes for the babes, wooden carvings of pregnant and baby wearing women for me, then a doll and dress for his baby girl , a soccer jersey and instrument for his boy. He's a gift giver, that Joelie. A very,very good one. We stayed up late and talked and looked a pictures, flipping back and forth between subjects of home and abroad. The conversation continued today as we took walks and giggled with Amelia and comforted Sam (still having major molar issues) and bathed them in the backyard baby pool, and on and on. Life continues, and as it does I get glimpses of his time in Ghana. So far it sounds like...
Friendships made...

Adventures had...

Lessons taught (and many learned)...

And a heart made a bit bigger by those he saw along the way...

He goes full steam ahead into his LAST rotation starting on Thursday. August 8,2008--graduation day folks, and it's right around the corner!So, while he may not have time for lengthy posts, I'll try and get a slide show together for ya because there are many, many wonderful pictures. All for now, a very happy Jen

*Thanks Shanny for this post title:) I hope the wait wasn't too excruciating!