March 30, 2011

Happy Homecoming Day, Allie!

2 years ago on this day, exactly 3 weeks after she was born, Allie came home from the NICU!! This day, like Ryan's, I secretly celebrate with great joy and much reminiscence.

All ready for her first ride. Too bad we couldn't get a picture that wasn't blurry!

Brother and sister re-united! The days that Allie was still in the NICU (2 full days and 2 half days) were a form of torture. The first visit after Ryan came home, I went by myself. I got there and discovered that they had completely cleaned out everything from his side. It was wide open. And then I looked and saw little Allie, wide awake, looking at the big empty room. She had never once been awake when I visited, and it broke my heart because I knew that she knew. I knelt by her isolette and cried. The next day, I missed one of my usual visits because Lucas was away longer than expected. Lucas still remembers that being one of the most emotional confrontations with him being in big trouble. I was so thrilled when she got a roommate the next day. Sure she didn't know him, and that meant strangers were there when we came to visit, but at least she wasn't so completely alone.

Our family just outside the NICU. Going home!! When we got to the hospital there were tons of fire trucks and police cars at the main entrance. We couldn't even park at the main garage. I was afraid that they wouldn't let me get to the NICU, or worse, take my baby home that day. We parked in the far garage, and I practically ran (carrying Ryan in his car seat, and dragging my mom behind me) through the entire hospital to get to the NICU. Thankfully, no one there even knew anything was going on. Her discharge was still on (and couldn't happen fast enough!). Leaving, however, was unexpectedly bittersweet. I was so happy to finally have both my babies home, but everyone in the NICU (a few nurses especially) had come to feel like friends, and even a little like family. They were the substitute mommies when, for the twins health and safety, I couldn't be. I had begun to look forward to seeing them, and it was sad to say goodbye. We still keep in touch with our favorite of the NICU nurses, and I sometimes can't wait for the twins to really know who she is and build and appreciate that bond.

WE'RE HOME!!!!! Peanut, when we got home we laid you and your brother in your side-by-side bassinets, and you both turned toward the side that separated you and put your hands up. And your brother suddenly started sleeping better. I could tell that he missed you just as much as you missed him. You were both so happy to be back together! And I was so happy to finally have you home, and hold you and feed you and love on you. You came home still having occasional spells when you ate(feeding is an overwhelming task to preemies, and Allie's heart rate would often drop and she would sort of sputter). The doctors felt confident in my ability to handle these spells, but it was literally weeks before I would let anyone else feed you. And even then, it was rare that I let anyone else feed you for months (long after you were finished having spells). I would take out the bottle and pat your back and talk softly to you until everything was right again and you were ready to finish your bottle. It just happened that the first week they were both home was Lucas' busiest week of the month. He had evening meetings and ministry events 5 of the nights! I called friends who had offered help, and enjoyed being able to finally show off my babies. My memories of that first week are all of dimmed lights, soft voices, warm snuggles, and constant, unspeakable joy. 2 years later our days are no less busy (although in a different way), but much more noisy! I did not spend the whole day holding you (like I did your brother - he taught me my lesson!), but you make up for it most mornings when you crawl into my bed and snuggle close to me. You and your brother get on each others' nerves plenty, but I can tell that you ultimately LOVE being together, and miss each other when you are apart. If you wake up from nap time before your brother you always try to open his door, and if I won't let you go in and wake him up you scream in the hallway (knowing that your screams will wake him up and you'll get to go in and see him!). You still have a bad habit of over-filling your mouth when you eat, and I have to remind you to stop, chew, and swallow before moving on (or before you give up and spit everything out...) And even though I get frustrated and sometimes (more often than I'd like) yell, my days with you are still filled with unspeakable joy. Happy Homecoming day, Baby Girl!!

March 27, 2011

Happy Homecoming Day, Ryan!!

2 years ago today, Ryan came home from the NICU. I will confess that I celebrate this day, in my heart, as much as their birthday. Because, on March 9th my beautiful boy was born, but on March 27th I finally got to actively BE his mom.

Ryan preparing for his first ride. Isn't he tiny??!!

This day was the first time - with the exception of a brief minute after he was born, before they whisked him away to the NICU - that I held my little man without a tangle of wires attaching us to the monitor. This was the first time, since he was born, that I was able to hold him outside of feeding (because preemies need so much rest, and they don't rest as well when held, when they were finished eating they were returned to their isolettes. If I stayed I just sat and watched them). It was the first time that my time with one of my children wasn't just a visit, but that I could look at him, hold him, hear him whenever I wanted. It felt for so long that this day would never come, but it did!

Our family before we left. Can you tell I cried all morning?

It was also on this day that I sobbed almost as much as the day I left the hospital and they stayed. I was afraid - as nurses, residents, and doctors started to come in to question me - that they were going to commit me for post-partum depression. I was SO happy to take Ryan home, but I was SO sad to be leaving Allie there. I felt like we would be a family, and she would be there, getting the usual short visits. Before they had each other. Now she would be alone. My emotions that day swung violently between incredible elation and a broken heart. I was so torn. To comfort me, one of the doctors told me that they had talked that morning and thought she might be discharged Sunday (it is almost unheard of for the doctors to even half-heartedly commit to a discharge date. You generally get around 24 hours notice, and even then you call the morning of to make sure nothing changed). Knowing she would be home soon was the only way we didn't end up camping out as a family in her room!

He's HOME!!!!!

Buddy, I held you the entire day. I held you when you slept, I held you when I ate, I held you when I talked on the phone about how you were home. The only time I didn't hold you was when I went to the bathroom (unsanitary) and when I went to visit your sister (she needed my arms), and then Gigi held you! It felt so good to finally be able to hold you as much as I wanted that I literally could not let you go. I learned my lesson that night, however, when I wanted to sleep and you (very quickly assimilating to living in my arms) weren't into sleeping without being held. I slept on the floor in your room (and caught a cold in our drafty house) because the monitor wasn't working, and we spent a lot of time awake as I tried to get you to stop crying and sleep. That first night was a long night! But I was so happy to have you there that the sleep deprivation was a joy (that didn't last forever, but it was true for a while)! While you will never remember it, you did get the experience of being an "only child" (with the exception of our visits to your sister) for 2 full days. Your sister will probably hold this over you someday...

2 years later, I could still hold you all day. I love BEING your mom, and holding you when you sleep (which doesn't happen often, but I love when it does), and eating with you, and helping you call people to say hi. You cried when you thought I was leaving you in the nursery today. You didn't want me to go, and on the anniversary of the day that I finally got to be with you as much as I wanted after 18 days apart (3 of them where I was sick and didn't even get to see you at all), I was happy to stay and play. I have treasured every minute of having you home.

Happy Homecoming Day, Little Man!

March 18, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

Lucas and I recently realized that we hadn't had a free weekend (no company, events, or travel) since mid-October. It's been a busy couple of months, and exhausted from all of the events, and the special things we had done to celebrate them, I told a friend "I am NOT celebrating St. Patrick's Day. I'm not doing anything special. I'm too exhausted." She replied "I don't think that's a bad thing. Do people celebrate St. Patrick's Day anyways?" In my head I thought "Activity Directors do." I should have known right then that we would do something.
Because not only am I an Activity Director to the core, but I have a rich Irish heritage of which I am very proud...and I always feel it more strongly near St. Patrick's Day. So when my mom told me she bought them special shirts, at first I was annoyed (We were NOT supposed to do anything special!), but then I was excited - a way to celebrate without me really having to DO anything.
And then, one morning, Ryan was clearly looking for something to do. When I asked him, it turned out he wanted to paint...and so we painted St. Patrick's Day decorations...

And then the twins got to put the decorations wherever they wanted. And THEN, as Lucas and I did our meal planning for the week, I decided it might be fun to make a traditional Irish meal. So I bought the supplies to make corned beef and colcannon (I was also going to have the twins help me make some shortbread cookies, but we ended up not having time so THAT was the thing I let go).
Who was I kidding? Of course we were going to celebrate!
Did I mention that Gigi also bought hats?
Cutest Leprechauns EVER!
Pretty soon Ryan (ALL boy) was playing with a big stick!
Then Allie borrowed it.
Then Ryan got it back and refused to take any pictures without it in his hands!
I can't help myself. The Activity Director in me is too strong. Holidays must be celebrated!
And the holiday Lucas celebrated? Only his favorite holiday of the entire year - Opening Day of March Madness! He chose to forgo the green and wore his NCAA basketball t-shirt instead. Teams have been chosen, brackets created (and posted on our wall to make keeping track easier), and now the games have started and our brackets are getting marked with wins and losses. Thank goodness this holiday spans a significant amount of time so I have a chance to celebrate both holidays on separate days!

March 15, 2011

Warmer Days!!

The days are getting warmer, and we couldn't be more excited!! For 3 days in a row we've spent at least an hour playing outside (Sunday there were snowflakes flying while we were out, but it FELT warmer...)!! Here are some of the twins' favorite things to do.
Play ball. Specifically, throw the ball in the shady are so they have to retrieve them (they are not supposed to go there because the shade has kept it muddy and mushy).
Kick the ball!!

Ryan has been trying for a while to pick up 2 balls at once. The 3rd day he succeeded!
Ride our bikes!
(note: they are still riding them "flinstone" style!)

Take a break to re-gather the balls.
Lately, if Allie falls she immediately picks her hands up (and sometimes her feet whic is even more comical), and WILL NOT touch the ground. Here she is trying to get up without using her hands.
She eventually decided it wasn't worth trying, and just picked at leaves and sticks instead.

We are all loving being out in the fresh air, enjoying the sunshine, running around! So great to finally have some nice days!

March 14, 2011

Messy, Messy, Messy!

Somewhat inspired by a book I recently read on parenting, and armed with adorable aprons they were given for their birthday, I tried baking with the twins. They have "helped" me bake before. But they were really just in the room, occasionally pouring something for me, but mostly just observing (or playing a beautiful drum solo on the pots and pans). This time they actively did everything possible. Not realizing the camera was 5 feet away, I didn't get any pictures of the twins in action (I'm so bummed. It was adorable). But here are some pictures of the aftermath.
There was one portion of time where I needed to take over (the mixing wasn't going well), and the twins filled that free time by emptying the spice drawer and making towers out of the spice containers. I thought that was a brilliant idea (and sort of wished I had been the one to come up with it)!
They very much enjoyed scooping and pouring flour. So much so that each of them (while I was working with the other) scooped and poured extra flour - on the counter, floor, each other, etc. It was a mess :) Lesson learned - always bake with the twins when the kitchen needs a good cleaning!
We made bread and a shortbread tart thing (I sort of made it up based on cookie recipes the twins could actually eat). They got so excited when we had this for dessert that night and they knew they had made it (and daddy was pleasantly surprised by how yummy it was)!
The best thing was that evening, in the shower, when they both were "pouring" various shampoo bottles into bowls and mixing the ingredients. LOVE it :)

The other big mess, from the last few days, was unintentional. Birthday cards have been an incredible source of excitement as they have come daily in the mail. Birthday cards with money have been even more exciting since we have let them put the money in the banks themselves! Allie was joyfully running her bank to the living room to get the money while Ryan was gleefully running the money to their room to get to the banks. The two met in the hallway and this was the result:
Allie was clearly distressed at the destruction of her beloved bank. She was comforted when they got the opportunity to put ALL of that money into the remaining bank! That fun activity kept them busy for quite a while. Long enough for Daddy to clean up the mess.
I always tell people they are welcome to drop in any time as long as they don't mind if my house happens to be a complete disaster when they arrive. Thank goodness I have learned not to be stressed by toddler mess, since we've had quite a few since they turned 2!!!

Ryan & Allie's Birthday

Like last year, I wanted to do something fun as a family on the day of the twins' birthday. This year we decided to go to the Hands On Museum, and we invited Cousin Cuppycake, Baby D, Uncle Logi & Auntie Min to go with us (since Cuppycake had been the only one who could make it to their birthday party). We had such a fun day with our cousins!
The first thing we tried was the water table. A BIG hit with all the kids!
Allie making a fishy face.
Ryan LOVED fishing. I almost couldn't get him to leave!
Cuppycake, so intent!
We tempted them away with the giant, foam stacking blocks. Cuppycake did a great job of stacking towers.
The twins preferred jumping into the giant pile of cushy blocks!
There was a display that made a tornado on a lighted platform (with fog). Allie loved being on this platform (I think she thought it was a stage).
Pretty soon Ryan joined her and I got a rare picture of the two together (a little blurry because I was rushing to catch it before someone moved away with lightning speed)!
Even more illusive - a picture of the 3 cousins together! Notice that 2 are on the move...
There was an ambulance to explore. The twins are in love with all forms of transportation, and Ryan is especially taken with ambulances and fire trucks. I managed to catch them each driving. Cuppycake didn't get to drive because some students on a field trip descended on the ambulance like locusts, and took over the cab just as I was lifting her in. Frustrated and overwhelmed by this group of kids more than twice her size pushing her away from everything sent poor Cuppycake into a fit and she and her daddy left us for a while. It was not long before the rest of us searched out a place to get away from the "locusts" who took over every area we moved in to get away from them!

Obsessed with "cool cars," Ryan spent a good amount of time playing with this.
Allie enjoyed the laser harp. All you had to do was stick your hands where strings would be and it played.
Their favorite thing might have been this little machine. When they pressed the button it activated a mechanism that moved a penguin up the stairs. When he reached the top he would slide to to the bottom to repeat the process. They have seen this toy on Baby Einstein, and were so excited to run it in person!
I almost didn't get Allie to leave...
They had one of those giant, floor keyboards like on Big! Ryan thought it was pretty cool, but only liked to play with one foot.
Unfortunately, I saw she was in the giant bubble thing after the giant bubble surrounding her was gone :(
I got in some quality time with Baby D!
We ended up escaping into the preschool lounge (which I knew was there and had been looking for - it was it's own separate floor in a different part of the museum...). This wonderful, enclosed room had everything they loved in the museum, and was only for kids age 4 and under! It was perfect and so much fun!
A smaller water table WITH aprons to keep them dry! Ryan & Cuppycake spent a lot of the time here. Allie was in the playhouse making lunch with a little friend she made.
Uncle Logi helped Ry-guy dress up to drive the fire truck!
We had such a fun day and were so excited to share it with out cousins! What a wonderful way to celebrate turning 2!!