Mama K’s sneaky Mother’s Day surprise project

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I just got back from another work trip to NYC this afternoon. Since it was the second trip, we all went into it with a tad more confidence that we could get through it, but that didn’t make leaving easy. I was eager to get back to my family, and I knew coming home that today was going to be a little bit hectic because I’d be taking Jonah to a bouncy-house birthday party almost as soon as we left the airport. He fell asleep in the car on the way to pick me up, and I let him stay there and sleep while I ran into the house to quickly put on a clean shirt and throw my hair into a ponytail. At some point I stepped towards the great room and Kristin told me that I wasn’t allowed to go near the backyard because there was a surprise, but Jonah wanted to show me.

I took him to the birthday party and when we got back I mentioned that there was some sort of surprise. He remembered, and took me to the windows to show me two pretty blue planters (a hand-me-down we’d claimed from my parents old house when they sold it) full of flowers. Kristin knows how excited I’ve been to get our backyard and patio ready for a season of outdoor living, one of the most significant reasons that we moved back to Michigan in the first place, so she took it upon herself to do a planting project with the kids this morning as an early Mother’s Day gift for me. I got teary when she told me that they all participated and that she even made sure to take photos of the process because she knew how meaningful that would be for me. She was right. There’s nothing better.

I can’t narrate this project for you because I wasn’t here, but I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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See that table? It’s going to get its own post sometime soon. It’s my contribution to the patio-beautification effort and while I’m hating nearly every second of the actual process, I’m hopeful about the results. More to come when I finally finish.

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Naturally there were construction vehicles involved in the transferring of soil.

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There aren’t as many photos of Jude because, as K tells it, this project went the way most projects go: everyone started strong, and Vivienne was by far the most dedicated (although I feel like the photos show a pretty strong effort from Jonah as well). Jude was on his scooter for much of the planting, it seems.

Kristin even told me that now she feels energized to do lots more of this and really dig into gardening (see what I did there?). I hated yard work as a kid but I too have been feeling somewhat inspired and interested in figuring out what’s out in our yard and trying to make it beautiful. We’re total amateurs and right now the garden portion of the yard is about 80% weeds (we think – we honestly have no idea) but this Mother’s Day project is so inspiring and full of love, I can’t wait to do more with the kids. K knows me so well, and the photos put the love right over the top.

Easter Fun

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For the last couple of years we’ve spent Easter morning with friends, complete with an egg hunt for our kids and a handful of others in a park near their home. I knew that we would miss that this year, and honestly we didn’t have much in the way of plans until some things fell into place at the last minute. It turned out to be a surprisingly lovely holiday weekend, both because the rain we’d expected turned into beautiful weather both days, and because we squeezed in plenty of Easter activities with people we love.

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On Saturday morning we dyed eggs with the kids, the kind of craft project I always visualize idyllically, but which always ends up somewhat marred by my anxiety and control-freak tendencies. It’s not that I really care what their eggs end up looking like (OK, I sort of do, but only in that I want them to stay in the dye long enough to have visible color and to end up with a variety by the end). This is actually the first year Jude and Vivi have dyed eggs. I’d forgotten that last year we did it while they were asleep (good move). They totally enjoyed it, but Jude really wanted to dunk his eggs aggressively, splashing dye everywhere, and Vivi wanted to dunk her hands in the dye because she’s really into hand-print art lately. We did end up spilling an entire cup of yellow dye on the wood floor (no stain, fortunately), and Jude did manage to stain a chair seat (our mistake for not putting him on a metal stool), and I was way less relaxed than I’d hoped to be, but I do think that they all had fun.

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One of K’s colleagues also gave the kids a set of foam eggs with stickers to decorate, so we also did a little bit of that before nap time.

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Some good friends invited us over for dinner and an egg hunt that evening, which was perfect because the weather was gorgeous and they have the most incredible yard for an egg hunt. The kids had a blast.

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We left much later than we’d planned, well after the sun had set, but the kids were still going strong out in the yard. Vivi and her friend Kate were busy building a tiny house out of sticks and mud, and she was not happy to leave her project to head home. I told Kristin that it’s exactly the sort of childhood I want them to have: out playing in nature for as long as we’ll let them. I’m so glad they have that now.

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On Easter Sunday we started the day with Easter baskets filled with tiny toys they seemed thrilled with, and drove out to Canton to have lunch with K’s family. I’d been dreading more time in the car, not yet having fully recovered from the drive back from Charleston last weekend, but I’m glad that we went. It was important to K and the kids had fun with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

We have way more candy in the house than we ought to, and it took the kids hours to fall asleep tonight surely due in part to all of the jellybeans and marshmallows their grandmother fed to them this afternoon (well, that and the car nap on the way home). But I’m trying to let that all go and be thankful for their delight.

More moments from Charleston spring break

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Returning home from vacation is always a little bit sad. I spend so much time looking forward to upcoming vacations that once they end I feel a little bit lost and unsure of what to focus on going forward. That’s not to say that there aren’t many moments of beauty in the everyday (and being more mindful and present in those moments is something that I’m working on) but having that uninterrupted time as a family for ten days and then heading back to work and school always feels sad.

We’ve been to Charleston many times over the years, but going back now always feels a bit different in a fun way because the kids are getting older so we are able to engage with the city in ways we didn’t before they were born and when they were babies. On a couple of days I think that we attempted to do too much, and ended up tired and grouchy by dinnertime. Still, some of my favorite parts of a visiting-family-in-a-familiar-place vacation are just being in a beautiful place, not doing anything in particular. My parents live on a busy road surrounded by beautiful marshes, and being out on their porch is lovely.

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In addition to that little terrarium, my mom has a tiny hedgehog that sits inside a tiny basket in another plant on the porch, and Vivi and Jude loved it so much. She kept taking it out and carrying it around and kissing it.

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The kids could not get enough of the hammock, and Vivi and Jonah in particular spent a lot of time there.

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The kids also loved being around the dog and cat of the house. They just adore those sweet creatures so much. Hunter (the dog) was much easier to track down (although Jude could throw a ball all day and Hunter would never go fetch it), but Lucy is elusive (and very old and eager to evade tiny grabby hands), so they spent a lot of time searching for her and hunkering down near her hiding spots once they located her. Jude only got bitten once.

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At one point I discovered that they’d put the hedgehog inside of Lucy’s house, presumably just to share it with her in the hopes of making friends and coaxing her out.

Even indoors we had lots of sweet moments of reading and cuddling and resting, as one should on vacation.

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Gigi got out some crafts one afternoon with Maris and Jonah, and they made paper chains followed by pipe cleaner crowns. Jonah was excited about his but didn’t feel like wearing it for the picture.

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One morning Maris stayed home from school and joined us for doughnuts at the best little doughnut shop (Glazed on King St.) followed by the SC aquarium, which is always a worthwhile trip. The kids had a lot of fun together.

I can’t get enough of Jude’s face in this one.

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That morning V brought him a headband, and while that one didn’t come with us in the car, she took off one of hers (she’d put on two) and insisted that it was his, and he refused to go into the shop until I put it on him. Those two, they make me smile a million times a day.

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On Wednesday we had family photos taken by a wonderful photographer and friend of my sister and brother-in-law, and we followed that up with dinner out at a casual Mexican place we’ve been to before. I don’t have any photos from dinner, but sitting around that long table with all of the noise and the pitchers of margaritas and the kids eventually running laps around the patio…it reminded me how nice it is to be with family even when it isn’t always relaxing.

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Photo credit Andrew Cebulka

The drive home to Michigan felt even longer than the drive down (surely because we weren’t headed towards a week of vacation at that point) and it took us a half-day longer (but that just means one extra waffle breakfast for the kids at a hotel, so they certainly weren’t complaining). Once again we made a couple of playground stops along the way, just to get everyone out of the car and into the sun. It slows the trip down for sure, but it always feels worth it.

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Despite the sadness of vacation ending, I have to say that coming home to this home actually felt rather sweet. I felt a sense of relief pulling into the driveway, and walking through the door felt comfortable and happy. Surely that had something to do with getting out of the car already, but it’s also nice to see how different it feels from each time we returned home in New York, when we’d groan at the ugliness of the highways and feel stifled by our apartment. This time there were purple flowers blooming by the lamppost in our front yard, and today I noticed buds on the apple tree out back. The first week in April is a good time to get away to the south because often when we return home, spring is finally showing up and it’s lovely.

Charleston spring break 2017 – days 1 & 2

We made it to Charleston, SC for spring break, despite some tears and frustration the night before we began the drive when I was tempted to call the whole thing off. Packing and preparing for family travel is always unbearably stressful for me, despite the fact that I’ve gotten pretty good at packing lists and mental prep. We got through the two-day drive, and although it was rough at times, the kids did remarkably well overall. It rained the whole first day, which gave us little opportunity to take a real break. Fortunately day two was nicer, and about four hours out from Charleston we stopped at a playground to give the kids a chance to run around. It was such a beautiful park, and that was the first moment that it really felt like we were on vacation.

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On our first full-day in Charleston we’d planned to head to Folly Beach with my parents and my sister and her whole family, but it turned out to be rather chilly and incredibly windy. We spent a portion of the morning at a great little playground and planned to have the kids nap before going to the beach.

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The naps didn’t end up happening, and we debated about skipping the beach, but we’re in Charleston and we weren’t sure we’d get in another beach day (as it turned out, we did) so we went anyway, despite ridiculous wind. We got there and the kids were all freezing. We layered on every item of clothing that we had, Jonah whimpered and begged to be cuddled under a blanket. It was really pretty ridiculous, but we were all able to laugh about it and before long all of the kids were playing in the sand as if it were a normal day at the beach.

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Today it was a good bit warmer and less windy, and Jonah begged to go back to the beach (it’s really just a giant sandbox) so we packed up to head that way. My parents live about two miles from the beach, and since it was a Monday there wasn’t much traffic (it can be a surprisingly long drive on a busy beach day). My dad offered to drive Jonah in the Willy’s, this fun 1948 vehicle that my parents got specifically to take to the beach.

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Jonah was pretty psyched about it, but after about a block he decided that it was “too fast” and wanted to get in our minivan (we were trailing them with Jude and Vivi). I traded places with him and thought that it was a lot of fun, but with no doors or roof (and they had the windshield down), I can understand Jonah’s hesitation. I’m glad he gave it a try, though.

The beach was a lot more fun today, much more comfortable. Jonah announced that he loves Charleston and calls it “warm world.” We had a couple of wardrobe changes when our kids (none of whom were in swimsuits) ended up falling into the water when the tide came in (only a few inches of water, but enough to soak them and leave them yelling from the shock and cold), but it was all part of the experience. My dad went back to get my mom and they came out to build sandcastles with the kids for a bit before lunch. It was a short beach day, which is all our pale-skinned family can handle.

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By the way, he’s bounced back beautifully from his dental work. When we arrived and my dad asked him what happened to his teeth, he said, very matter-of-factly, “they were dead so the dentist had to pull them out.” I’m used to his new smile and I still think he’s adorable.

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I don’t have too many great pictures of Jonah and Maris together so far,  but even without capturing it on film, seeing the two of them having fun together is always one of my top highlights of these trips. They just enjoy each other’s company SO much. This afternoon we went downtown (where my sister lives) and took the kids out for ice cream and then played at their house for a bit before heading back to Gigi and Papa Doc’s house for dinner. It was barely raining, but Maris really wanted to use her umbrella, and I just snapped one photo of the two of them sharing it (they actually walked together under it for quite awhile).

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More to come in the next couple of days, I’m sure.

 

The pre-vacation scramble

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If we can keep everyone reasonably healthy, and ensure that neither of these mamas decides to deliver on her threat of “turning this car around” so to speak, we’re leaving on Friday to drive to Charleston, SC for spring break.

I generally enjoy our drives. Our kids are pretty good road trippers because they’ve all done the New York-to-Michigan round-trip a number of times in their short lives. Kristin and I listen to a lot of podcasts and music, Jonah watches movies, and all of the kids sleep a lot on the road. Michigan to Charleston is a few hours longer each way, however (15 hours total), and we’ve never driven before, and since the twins are two and in that stage of childhood where even a few months can change a kid dramatically, we’re not entirely sure how Jude and Vivi will feel about being on the road for that long. Our last major road trip was our move, and they were about 17 months old. We didn’t bother to rig up any sort of screen for them and they seemed to do fine without it. I had my doubts about that being the case this time around so I invested in a headrest mounted tablet holder that they can both see from their rear facing car seats (we have a DVD player in the minivan, but only Jonah is forward-facing so he’s the only one who can see it). They each picked out headphones (green for Jude, purple for Vivi) and hopefully it will keep them engaged for a number of hours.

Despite the fact that I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for some time, I’ve been overwhelmed by anxiety about it lately. This is probably due to a few things. First, whenever we travel as a family I do the majority of the planning and packing. Kristin is awesome as launch coordinator – she loads the car like a boss, takes out the trash and generally gets the house ready to be left for awhile, and she’s a great driver while we’re on the road. She tends to log way more driving hours than I do. But if I asked her to pack the kids or even weigh in on their outfits, she’d wait until midnight the night before shove-off to do it (which is when she packs her own things). So I end up packing myself and all three kids, which also includes any shopping that has to be done for the four of us. In this case a lot of shopping was involved, because none of the kids had much in the way of warm-weather clothing that fit.

A second contributor to my anxiety is that we’re having family pictures taken while we’re down there, so what we bring is actually somewhat consequential. And the third stress factor is that any vacation that involves staying with family isn’t always relaxing. See additional (hilarious) opinions here and here supporting that claim.

I’ve had actual nightmares about this trip for two nights in a row. The first night I dreamed that we were all going on a very long international flight, but for some reason Jonah and I were checking in separately from Kristin and the twins and we were going to have to meet up in the airport somewhere. Shortly after checking in I realized that I’d accidentally left everything that I’d intended to have in my carryon in my checked bag. I ran through the airport searching for my suitcase because I needed those things for the plane, and my phone was checked so I couldn’t find Kristin.

Last night I dreamed that I’d arrived at the setting for our family photos, only to realize that I was wearing shorts and some sort of undershirt, and that I hadn’t shaved my legs in weeks. I panicked and tried to rush home quickly to change my clothes and shave, but the photographer was already there and everyone was waiting and it was too late.

Obviously I’m holding onto some stress about planning for this trip and having everything go well. I have a packing checklist and three piles of clothes for the kids, but I need to actually narrow those items down and get them into bags, and then figure out what on earth I’m bringing and wearing in pictures, and just hope that Kristin has what she needs in a bag by the time we pull out of the driveway. As stressed as I am, I love Charleston and I love seeing the kids with their cousins, so I really am looking forward to this vacation. I hope to get some cute pictures of them in some new scenery, and hopefully have a lot of laughs with my family.

The twins turn two

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Our babies turned two yesterday and, in predictably trite fashion, I can hardly believe it. K and I stayed up late the night before to bake and frost cookies for them me to take to school to share with their class, and K painted them some sweet little happy birthday notes while I baked, but we didn’t have too much else planned for the big day. We didn’t even buy them birthday presents because a. they don’t really need much, especially with a birthday that follows Christmas so closely and b. we knew that they’d be receiving a few things from extended family already. This Saturday Kristin’s family is coming out to celebrate with us and to see the house for the first time, which I’m really looking forward to. It gives me a lot of pride to share our space with others, and while that might be a novelty I hope the feeling doesn’t wear off for awhile.

Kristin decided to pick up a few slices of pizza and some store-bought cupcakes and candles just to make the evening a bit more Jude and Vivi’s style. I swear Jude talks about pizza from the moment he wakes up.

Jude wolfed down his mini cupcake in about four seconds, and then attempted to steal crumbs off of Vivi’s plate while she slowly ate hers one tiny bite at a time.

In honor of their birthday, and in a public apology for the fact that I still haven’t even begun their baby book even though I diligently worked on Jonah’s month by month from the time he was born and had it printed by the time he was 18 months old, I figured I’d share their birth story here. At least I did write it, it’s just been living on my Mac for quite awhile. Someday I’ll get all of their baby pictures into a book, I promise!


On Thursday evening, February 26th, Kristin went to prenatal yoga. She usually went on Tuesdays, and two nights earlier Beth had mentioned to Kristin when she left that she didn’t think she’d see her again before the babies were born, so she was surprised to see her on Thursday. Looking back, I think that Beth did sense that Kristin would give birth before the following Tuesday class, she just didn’t know to expect her on Thursday. Her due date was March 2nd, so we were all pretty surprised that Kristin was still pregnant.

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I think that we’d planned to cook Indian food for dinner, but it had taken me longer than anticipated to get Jonah to bed. So by the time Kristin returned I suggested that we just order sushi instead. I’m glad that we did, since we would have had lots of uneaten leftovers going to waste over the next week. In a move that was completely out of character even when Kristin wasn’t pregnant, but especially at this stage, Kristin said that she wanted to walk downtown to pick up the take-out order. Mind you, she was 38 weeks pregnant with twins, and it was well after dark in February. In recent weeks she’d hardly wanted to move at all, so this sudden burst of energy raised my antennae a bit.

I’d done laundry earlier in the day, so that night before bed we put clean sheets on the bed. We joked about how it would be just our luck that her water would break overnight simply because we’d just washed the sheets. Sure enough, she woke up at about 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning because she felt her water break. We were excited, but also concerned because nothing else seemed to be happening: no contractions, and no movement from the babies. Kristin called the on-call number for the midwives and Robin suggested that she walk around and drink some fluids to see if they would start moving again. She said that the sensation of the water breaking can sometimes be shocking to the babies, and that might be the reason for the stillness. Although I don’t recall, they must have begun moving again because we didn’t call back for a number of hours.

We decided not to go back to bed, and instead got things ready to go. We let Jonah sleep while we showered, straightened up, made sure the bags were ready, and let the Frost and Rynders families know the plan since they would be caring for Jonah while we were at the hospital. When we spoke to Robin again, she told us that because labor hadn’t begun but Kristin’s water had broken, we had to go to the hospital for her to be induced. We knew that we would be stuck there once we arrived, and we were still hoping that Kristin’s labor would begin on its own, so I dragged my feet and encouraged Kristin to drag hers, despite Robin’s insistence that we come right in. We drove Jonah to Gladys’s house and dropped him off sometime after 9:00 a.m. It was a beautiful, sunny day, especially for February, and I remember us talking about what a good day it was to be born. Kristin called her mom from the car on the way to the hospital, and her mom booked her flight out for the following Monday.

We parked the car in the ramp and went to the non-emergency entrance of the hospital. Everything felt so different from our arrival there when I was in labor with Jonah (when we went to the emergency room, with me suffering through active labor all the way). We made our way upstairs in a rather leisurely way and were shown to our room. The room had a tub (which we wouldn’t be using) and was quite large, lots of natural light from windows running all along one wall with a view of trees outside. It was lovely. I was excited, and took a selfie of Mama K and I in the room before she changed into a hospital gown.

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Robin met us there (she’d actually beaten us there by quite a bit, since we’d dragged our feet). And told us that Kristin had to be started on Pitocin. Kristin was understandably disappointed; it wasn’t what she wanted. It seemed to take them a long time to arrive and get the Pitocin going, I think it finally happened around noon. To my surprise, the Pitocin didn’t seem to bother K for a number of hours; she was just hanging out, talking and being herself, but eventually the pain kicked in. She was frustrated that the nurses wouldn’t allow her to get out of bed and move or change positions because of the two fetal monitors wrapped around her belly. Every time she moved, they stopped picking up the heartbeats, so she wasn’t able to manage her pain at all. Somewhere between 6:00-8:00 p.m. she asked for an epidural because she’d realized that if she wasn’t going to be allowed to actively manage her pain, she didn’t really have any options. She was frustrated and disappointed, but knew that it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist who administered the epidural had a horrible bedside manner, and caused K incredible, unexpected pain. She struggled to hold still and couldn’t sit up the way he asked because the contractions were so debilitating. He eventually allowed her to lie on her side, but at some point in the procedure she shrieked with pain in such a startling, awful way, that I began to cry out of fear and anger. I said to Michelle (the midwife on call at that point) that someone should have warned us that the procedure would be so excruciating, and she seemed as shocked as I was. The anesthesiologist had the gall to brag about his skills and speed when I criticized him; he was entirely lacking in compassion, and I told him so.

Fortunately, once the epidural began to work, Kristin declared that it had been a good decision. She felt much better, and at some point soon after we were left alone to get some sleep. They gave me some sheets and I was able to get some sleep on a sofa-like piece of furniture in the room. K also tried to sleep, but struggled because she wasn’t able to turn or move and because her legs were numb and she was hooked up to so many wires, cords, and a catheter. We were both surprised that the twins hadn’t been born yet. Everyone we knew who had been induced had given birth very quickly. Our families had expected news by now, but I think that I’d gotten a bit lax with the text updates because not much had changed. By the time she had the epidural she was around 5 or 6 cm dilated, so she still had a ways to go.

In the morning, maybe around 7:45 a.m., Michelle came back to check on Kristin and said that she was at about 9.5 cm dilation and could start pushing soon. We were excited and thought that things would get moving any minute. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and everything felt full of promise and anticipation. Then all hell broke loose at the hospital. A number of women arrived to the small delivery ward ready to give birth. Two of those women were also Full Circle patients, which meant that Michelle, our midwife, found herself moving between three different rooms at once. Hours went by while the doctors and nurses clearly scrambled to keep up. Finally, around 11:00 a.m., Michelle returned and told Kristin that she could start pushing. We were surprised that they had her begin to push in our room, because we’d been told that she would be required to deliver in the operating room just in case of emergency, since it was a twin birth. I assumed that they expected her pushing to take awhile, and wanted to get her started where she was already comfortable.

While we were relieved to finally get some attention and to get the process moving, it was clear that the delivery ward was still understaffed given the rush of women that had arrived. At times, it was just a nurse and me in the room while Kristin pushed (in contrast to my birth experience when there were probably five or more people in the room at any given time). Michelle came and went periodically, and was helpful when she was there, but in other moments I think that both Kristin and I felt a little bit lost. Even so, we were able to see just a tiny circle of Jude’s fuzzy head moving when she pushed, so we knew that she was making progress. After about two hours of pushing, Kristin started to bleed. Michelle dabbed at the blood and wiped it up, saying that hopefully it was just from a small cut of some sort, but it kept coming. I began to worry, because it seemed like too much blood to be a simple tear or cut. Michelle worried too, and said that she thought we ought to have the attending OB take a look and decide what to do. I was already in scrubs because I knew that at some point we’d be moving to the OR, and everyone else prepared themselves and Kristin for the trip down the hallway.

As the nurses wheeled Kristin down the hallway and I walked beside her, she turned to me and said “do whatever you have to do.” In that moment, I knew that she was giving her consent to the cesarean birth that she didn’t want, because she was worried about the babies and was willing to sacrifice anything to make sure that they were OK. She seemed exhausted, but unafraid and fiercely determined to keep her little ones safe. She’d been fighting hard her entire pregnancy to give them the best possible start, but that moment was perhaps the one in which her maternal instincts stood out most prominently for the first time.

After taking a look at the bleeding, the doctor told us that he felt it was best to perform the cesarean and just get the babies out quickly. As they prepped her for surgery, they told me that I had to wait outside. A nurse found a chair for me and I sat in the hallway and cried, and texted family to ask them to pray, letting them know that she was bleeding and that I was scared. I wanted to be beside her, and was scared because I couldn’t hear her voice or see her. In those early moments, I truly feared that she might die. During that time, a wonderful nurse who had been called in due to the mad rush approached me. She introduced herself with a smile, told me that Kristin was going to be just fine, and told me to be sure to have my camera ready because we would be meeting our babies soon and we would want to have pictures. She told me that she would let me know when to stand up with the camera, as the doctor would lift the babies into the air for me to see as he pulled them each out. Finally, she brought my chair in beside Kristin’s head. She looked tired and pale and was complaining of thirst, but wasn’t allowed to have any water. It seemed like only a few moments before Jude was born, and I stood to take a photograph of him. He wailed and wailed and my fear turned into joy immediately. I was so excited to finally see what he looked like. One minute later, Vivienne was born. I remember telling Kristin that she was cute, and she screamed ferociously. After they cleaned them up and weighed them and wrapped them in blankets, they brought them around and held them down by Kristin’s face so that she could see them, and then handed them each to me. The nurses were wonderful and took photos for us. I was so relieved that everyone was OK.

As it turned out, the placenta had begun to detach from Kristin’s uterus, causing the bleeding. Without the surgery the babies could have died; it was the only way for them to come into the world. In the days to come, the challenge of recovering from a cesarean birth and the blood loss of the placental abruption (which required two units of blood for K) while learning to nurse and care for Jude and Vivienne would require everything that Kristin had left to give, but she gave it with love and generosity and slowly began to heal. Kristin’s mom arrived to meet her new grandbabies, we brought big brother Jonah to the hospital to meet his brother and sister, and we were surrounded by love from the Rynders, Frost, and Thompson families. We spent four days and nights in the hospital, but eventually we made it home and began our new life as a family of five. It certainly does take a village.

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Valentine craftiness

 

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I have to admit, a couple of weeks ago when I began to wonder whether the kids’ preschool would suggest that they bring and exchange valentine cards, I was feeling a little bit grinchy about it. I pictured the entire classroom buying boxes of character cards and handing them out completely at random (since none of the kids can really read or write anyway). It felt completely devoid of any sentiment, and for some reason I tend to be really character-averse when it comes to things like…well, almost anything really, but mostly things like clothing, backpacks or other items that aren’t specifically a toy that allows some imaginary play; it feels like free advertising. We have a billion Octonauts toys (see our most recent Halloween for evidence of my own hypocrisy), so it’s not as if we don’t do characters at all, but I’ve never loved those valentines. I was sort of hoping to skip it, but then a blogger I enjoy posted something on Instagram about her plans to do all sorts of fun, over-the-top things throughout the month of February, and I realized that there was joy to be found if I made some effort. Not everything has to be so utilitarian, and sometimes I need a reminder. So what if exchanging Valentines doesn’t do anything; it’s a reason to do crafts and bake cookies.

I spent Thursday night, all day Friday, and all day Saturday at a super intense anti-racism workshop (which was powerful and necessary and gave me a lot of hope for Kalamazoo because of all of the wonderful people representing local organizations who were there making commitments to real change) and knowing that I was losing a lot of precious weekend time with the kids made me want to pack even more special moments into Sunday. Now before you start down the “I’m not a Pinterest mom…” or “I wish I could do things like this with my kids…” path, know that at one point early in the day, Kristin stopped me and gently asked “Is this the most relaxing way for you to spend the day?” which was a poorly disguised way of saying “This seems to be causing you a great deal of stress, do we need to do this?” But it was important to me, and by then I was committed and nothing was going to get me to back down. She later apologized for calling me out and pointed out that she did observe many moments of real joy. I’m still glad that we did it.

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We didn’t attempt one of those adorable, candy/valentine combos that usually involves some sort of clever play on words. I just bought a crapload (it was actually a “party platter” if you must know) of foam hearts and a bunch of additional stickers, along with some markers and glue sticks. It was WAY more than we needed, but the kids were honestly really into it! So I’m glad we had extras.

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Even after we took a break to bake cookies Vivi said that she wanted to do more art, and went back for more.

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The wardrobe change is because it was post-cookie-mess, and they were completely covered in flour.

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It’s so funny and wonderful, Jonah is at this age now where he takes on crafts and activities with so much more independence than ever before. He was just cranking through the valentines totally on his own, and the same was true for the cookies. While Jude just wanted to roll everything flat and poke a variety of toy kitchen implements into the dough, Jonah was busy cutting out hearts and dutifully carrying them over to the cookie sheets. Vivi actually tends to be the same way which is somewhat surprising given the age difference, but her over-the-top independent streak is probably the explanation.

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It was so cute watching them watch the cookies bake. They could hardly wait.

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Unfortunately the afternoon got away from us and K and I ended up doing all of the decorating solo after the kids were asleep, but I did decorate one for Jonah before he went off to bed and we saved a few more for tomorrow. The rest are going to the kids’ teachers because I cannot have this many butter-frosted sugar cookies in the house or I’ll eat myself sick.

Bathtub art

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K and I left for a wedding late this morning and didn’t return till around dinnertime, so I was bummed to miss a Saturday with the kids (even though we were glad to be there for our friends today). Fortunately we got a little time in before bed, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching this girl create art in the tub. We had bath crayons back in New York, but Jonah was always funny about them. He’d use them occasionally, but most of the time he would request drawings from K or I (we got a little competitive about it from time to time: who could draw the best Scoop from Bob the Builder, for example). Vivi, on the other hand, loves to take the reins (or the crayons, as the case may be). I may have mentioned before that she’s been in a writing phase for awhile; she doesn’t really draw pictures so much as pretend to write things. Tonight she was writing everyone’s names (or so she told me): Jonah, Jude, Mama D, Mama K, Gigi, Papa Doc. When she ran out of people I suggested others, and pets, and she kept going. She seemed to be very proud of her work.

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Feeling the end of the holidays

Today is the final day of our holiday week (really ten days) at home together as a family, and I’m feeling a bit sad about it. Another mom in my Facebook mom group mentioned recently that she’d foolishly forgotten how un-relaxing it is to have a vacation at home with three children, and while I don’t disagree, I really love having this time with them and wouldn’t trade it. Kristin is off for two weeks in this school district, so she actually has this whole week off as well (so I imagine she will get some recuperation time) and I took tomorrow off so that she and I could have one day together, but the kids return to school tomorrow. Their school was actually open for most of last week, so we could have sent them Tuesday through Friday if we’d chosen to. We knew that we would pay for the days either way, but we chose to keep them home because we both remembered the excitement of holiday breaks at home with family, and wanted to share that with them.

Originally we’d planned to get out of the house a whole lot more than we did, but never-ending illness really put a crimp in our intentions (I can’t call them plans really, since we only talked about all of the places we might go). The pink eye that showed up on Christmas day made its way through the house until we ended up at urgent care on New Year’s day. The cold that we all had a couple of weeks ago seemed to return for both K and I, and in spurts for the kids, and I ended up with a painful ear infection that almost had me driving myself to the ER on NYE. As a result, we ended up with almost zero social interactions, save for a couple of drop-bys earlier in the week, and we decided that it was best to quarantine ourselves at home for the most part. Thankfully the kids had new toys to amuse themselves, and there’s always the bounce house in the great room to burn off some energy. While a part of me wishes that we’d done more novel things, another part of me knows that sometimes all the kids want is to play at home and have our attention.

This morning I checked the weather and told Kristin that we really ought to get outside in the morning because it was going to rain in the afternoon, and suggested a walk at The Nature Center. We got everyone dressed and headed out (a pretty significant drive considering it’s Kalamazoo) only to realize when we arrived that we’d forgotten to bring the twins’ coats. Since we don’t let the kids wear puffy coats in their car seats, it’s actually somewhat astonishing that this is the first time we’ve forgotten them. I was super bummed, but K was optimistic and felt that we’d dressed them warm enough (since they were both layered on top and had snowpants on the bottom) to give it a go. We gave them our scarves and off we went.

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It wasn’t a long hike, but we foolishly failed to consider the fact that Jonah had a crappy breakfast of two orange rolls and nothing else (our kids are all huge breakfast eaters, but Jonah slept late and then we decided to head out without a more significant meal) and was probably starving by the time we got going. He cried and yelled almost the entire walk, and I can’t even remember why at this point. The photo above was pre-meltdown.

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I think that one of the reasons I find this post-holiday period to be so emotionally challenging is because I spend so much time looking forward to Christmas, and when it’s over there are fewer traditions to fall back on and just a lot of cold, grey weather and the usual grind. I usually get through the transition by finding something else to look forward to on the horizon, and much of the time that’s some sort of spring break trip. This year we’re planning to drive down to Charleston to visit my parents and my sister and brother and law and their kids, and I love seeing the cousins together so I’m certainly looking forward to that. I don’t want to give up on the months in between like I may have in the past, however. I’m curious to know what others do in order to get through the winter once the holidays have passed.

Family sledding

Despite having bought sleds a few weeks back when the huge snowstorm came through, we hadn’t done much more with them than pull the kids up and down the street in front of the house. We’ve asked Jonah if he wanted to go sledding, but he’s never been very keen. His preschool has a hill with sleds and even snowboards that the kids are welcome to use, and we know that he’s been doing some sledding there (we watched him through the window when we came for his mid-year parent/teacher conference) so maybe he’s built up a bit more confidence and enthusiasm for it since the first time we asked. At any rate, we asked again today and everyone was game (now that I think about it, even Jude shouted “yeah!” which is hilarious considering how much he hated it once we got out there). We drove the kids over to Gigi and Papa Doc’s condo property because they have a lovely little bowl right out in front of their house that’s perfect for little ones – not too steep/fast, and not too tough to climb back up again.

Vivi was the first to go down, and she wanted to go down solo again and again. She’s fearless and sometimes it terrifies me. Jonah loved it too, and would have stayed out all night. Jude, on the other hand, thought that everything about it was terrible. He sat in a pile of snow or on someone’s lap the whole time, trying to avoid the sleds. The one or two times Kristin forced him to go down with her, he sobbed in terror. Oh well, he’ll find his thing.

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