Monday, May 27, 2013

Spontaneous Outing

I knew we needed to get out of the house today. I could feel it creeping through my body. Not only do we have an out of town house guest that wants to go out into the world and see new things, we're raising five kids in a small house and we need to get them out. It was a long winter and I was hibernating for most of it. I've got ants in my pants and an awesome new stroller. I spent the better part of this morning online researching free or inexpensive activities to do in the Twin Cities with children. Today we ventured out for a stroll around the Sculpture Gardens at the Walker Art Center. I told the kids to get ready and grab a hoodie because we were going to be outside, but I did not tell them where we were going. The anticipation was hilarious and they all tried to guess all the way there.

DA planks

DJ running

No trip would be complete without the token Cherry on the Spoon picture

DA is cool

It felt good. DJ had never been there before and she thought it was very fun. I think it made an impression and I will definitely be taking her back. I read today that the Walker Art Center offers free gallery admission every first Saturday of the month and also on Thursday nights from 5 to 9 PM. We will be making use of this deal, for sure. My little sister from Louisiana enjoyed it, too. She piped up and said so and thanked me on the ride home. Big smiles all around. My heart is full. A great day to top off my good morning.

Good Morning

Babies awake and diapered.
Bottles in their swings.
Coffee in my hand.
The rest are all asleep.
It is peaceful and quiet.
The morning birds are chirping.
There's no agenda today, 
Just spending time with family.
Twins slept for ten hours last night.
Could this be my new routine?
I'm feeling content.
It's a good morning.
They have been few and far between.

Guess I'll go make breakfast.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes (from scratch) & Turkey Bacon

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Who's the Parent?!

I am. Not the media. Not the school. Not Disney or any other children's programming company. I am the parent. I take full responsibility for what goes into my childrens' brains. From what they see on the television to what they hear on the radio; the words I say and the things that I do. I am the example and the person who should help them interpret and understand the world around them as they grow. I am the one who is their advocate through constant vigilance. Does it get tiring? Of course it does. Is it hard to say no sometimes? Yes it is. As a parent, there is no other choice. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves, at the expense of the children.

I'm OK if this ruffles some feathers. So be it. I own my beliefs and opinions. I hope this is a trait that rubs off onto my children. This story in the news recently regarding the controversy of a new appearance for Merida, the princess from the Disney movie Brave, pissed me off. My gut reaction to her new look...who cares? Disney created her and they can do whatever they want to her image. My daughter is three years old and adores the movie Brave. She thinks that Merida is the Bee's Knees. She has already watched the movie more times than I can count and I am sure she will watch it many more. Will Merida's new image damage my young daughter's self esteem. Absolutely not. Why, you ask? Because I won't allow it. I am always willing to talk with my children about any topic and I will keep the conversation age appropriate. If we see a poster or a toy in the store with the new Merida, and my daughter notices or even cares, we will have a talk about it. That's my job.

To me, the comparison pictures look like Merida grew up. Before, she was a brave, confident, opinionated and active teenager. Awkward and beautiful. The after picture is as if Merida is all grown up. She looks like the queen she was destined to be. She had supportive parents that raised her right. She appears to have grown out of her gangley teen aged body and blossomed into a lovely woman. Why should this damage my daughter and her image of herself? If I were to sit around my house and say aloud how awful this new image is, how damaging it is, how against it I am, how Disney is giving off the wrong impression, my daughter would hear those words and like the little sponge that she is, take them as her own because I am her mother and as a child she respects what I have to say. She looks up to me and I won't take that for granted.

If an opportunity presents itself where I have to give little DJ my two cents on Merida's new picture, I will choose my words wisely. I may say things like "Merida has a pretty new dress" or "she is all grown up now". Maybe I could say "Merida is trying out a new conditioner and her hair looks shiny and full." It could be any number of things that come out of my mouth but I guarantee you that they will be positive words. Why shouldn't they be?

If the people out there hate Merida's before and after picture, than what would they say about me. Most days I sit around in my jammies or comfy house clothes. I rarely put on make-up and admittedly walk around with knots in my hair because I am too busy taking care of the house and the kids. My legs are stubbly because I haven't been able to shave in a while. But you better believe when I get an opportunity to go out with my girlfriends or on a date with my husband, I get all dolled up. I take a shower and wear perfume. I put on my make up and jewelry. I wear fun clothes, fancy clothes, maybe even sexy clothes. How dare I! I am my daughter's example of how a girl or a woman should appear. What I do personally is going to effect my daughter more than some cartoon will. That is the way it should be. I will not be ashamed, nor will I let my daughter be so, when I get dressed up or "better looking." My children love me and respect me no matter what I look like. That is how they will see the world because that is what I, as their parent, represent.

If I don't like or agree with something, than it is my job to make sure it doesn't enter my childrens' world. It is up to me how I express myself to my children. My daughter watched an episode of Baby Bratz about six months ago on Netflix. One episode was plenty for me and she knows that they are no longer welcome in our home. At her age, she does not understand why she can't watch that specific cartoon but she does know that it is a rule of mine. As she gets older, if she still wonders, I will have no problem telling her my reasoning. I could tell her now but at three years old she has no idea what "sexy" means and it would be pointless to try and make her understand. I told my daughter that I do not like that cartoon and that I thought it was inappropriate for her. Baby Bratz disturbed me because the little girl characters, still in diapers, were dressing up "sexy" on purpose. They put on elaborate make-up, wore tiny little shirts that exposed their belly buttons and walked in a way that flaunted their sexy little baby butts, complete with sultry leg poses. This was wrong on so many levels in my eyes and I chose to eliminate the cartoon from my home. I am not writing nasty letters to whoever created them. They are allowed to make what they want to. It is my right not to let my kids watch it and that is where it ends.

image is from

Not only is it my job to keep what I do not approve of out of my home, it is also up to me to make sure the other people in my childrens' lives know my wishes. A perfect example happened last Fall when my Mom and her partner took my oldest son out for his birthday present. They took him out for dinner, to the chocolate shop and then to the store to buy a new video game. My son was asking for games that my Mom was not 100% sure of. She was respectful enough to call me and my husband and ask permission. There are thousands of games out there and it is impossible to know about ever single one. It was not the most convenient time, but my husband and I took the time to step over to the computer and look up the video games in question. One was a definite 'no' because it contained 'rape' in the description. One of the games we could not find anything on at that particular moment so it was a 'no' until further investigation. I explained to my son that if he really wanted that particular game, he would have to take a rain check until we could get a better description. He, being fourteen years old, wanted his present right away and ended up picking one that could be a 'yes' right away. He understood and respected our decision even though he did not agree with or like it. He did question me later about the game that contained 'rape' in the description and I explained to him that I felt that playing a video game containing 'rape' was not necessary, that there are many other video games available that do not contain that subject matter and also that I know he is responsible and would never do anything like that but it still didn't need to be in our home at the time. He was fine. I say 'no' and my kids accept it. We are consistent and reasonable parents.

I can not be everywhere, all of the time. I am open with my children and they know where I stand. I ask questions and stay involved. If I am concerned with what will be done or watched somewhere when I can not be with them, I am not afraid to talk to the other parents or adults in charge. I am not afraid to tell my kids 'no' and explain myself when I do. They will continue to grow into confident individuals and respect me all the while. They are being raised by me, not MTV. They will not find their self worth from the media or the like. They get that from home.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Pushed & They Shoved (A Sequel)

* Content Warning * This post contains descriptions of child birth. Read at your own risk.

Rewind to August 18th, 2012. It was so hot out, record making hot. I was around thirty weeks pregnant and, unknown to me at the time, only six weeks away from giving birth to my twin bouncing baby boys; the little life changing, heart breaking, dream makers. I was mentally preparing for the birth experience and contemplating the possibility of natural childbirth, if the little bundles of joy cooperated. I was feeling very confident and strong. I made up my mind that day to have a conversation with my doctor and respectfully decline his recommended scheduled c-section. I would not evict the little buggers, no matter my level of discomfort. I knew they needed to grow inside of me however long their tiny bodies wished. I wanted to show up at the hospital in labor with all of my options open but also knew that I would have to be ready for surprises. Surprises, there were.

Me, pregnant with twins, at 31 weeks...Now imagine me at 36 weeks!

Did I mention I was huge? The last six weeks of my twin pregnancy were a bit rough. I was not bathing while home alone anymore, for fear of falling or being unable to lift myself out of the tub. It became very hard to wash myself properly and I had to take extra care getting under my belly and all the other hard to reach places and new creases so that I would not stink; remember it was the hottest summer in who knows how long. I could not lift my daughter in and out of the bath tub anymore. I would have to ask my husband or one of the boys to come in and lift her out when I was done. My maternity clothes barely fit me by then and I asked permission to wear slippers to work for the remainder of my employment due to severe ankle, feet and toe swelling. They allowed it. I took all stairs one at a time while holding on to the rails as tightly as possible, peeking past my giant belly with each step to check my aim. I was only sleeping for an hour or so at a time. I could only sleep on my sides and I would wake up to awful sharp pains in whichever hip I was laying on and would have to flip myself over to the other hip, back and forth, all night long. If you would ever like to experience this, strap a fifty pound weight tightly to your abdomen and then flip yourself over to the opposite hip every hour during your sleep. Then, strategically replace all of your pillows: one between your legs, one behind your back to prevent rolling and wedge one under the side of your belly so the skin does not stretch and hurt whilst trying to fall back asleep. Repeat this nightly for a few months. Always be mindful of your bed partner and try not to wake them up. Then get up and go to work in the morning. Fun!

I was very nervous of preterm labor. I had a couple scares that sent me to the hospital in the middle of the night there towards the end. I am not ashamed of this. I would rather be sent home knowing that everything was fine instead of sitting around at home guessing and possibly even harming the babies. If you get a crack in the amniotic sac and leak fluid, you are at risk of infection. This can harm the babies if bacteria becomes introduced into their environment. The babies were most likely putting too much pressure on my bladder and causing me to slowly and involuntarily wet myself. When you can't tell the difference, you have to go in and find out. I wasn't sleeping anyway, right? Field trip!

This brings us to September 27th, 2012. It was a Thursday morning. I had a super busy day scheduled at work and my last day was to be Friday. When I left for my 36 week appointment, I spoke to my boss because I was feeling a little ill and very uncomfortable. We agreed that I should take the rest of the day off in order to get some rest after my appointment; she would cover my work and I would be back the next morning for my last day. I was grateful. My health was great and the babies were doing wonderfully. I was never asked by my doctor to reduce my work hours. This was both a good thing and a bad thing. I did not want to be put on bed rest or reduced hours because we needed the money. I could have personally reduced my hours at any time I felt I should but unless it was recommended and signed off by my doctor, short term disability would not pick up the slack in any missed pay. So, I worked as much as I could and stepped out early here and there to get a nap or put my gigantic feet up. My boss was wonderful like that, so understanding.

My appointment went well. My Mom came along with me for extra support towards the end. My husband had an open invitation to all of my appointments, but we decided together that it was better for him to work, make money and save any paid time off for when the babies came and I needed him more. It is always good to have that second set of ears when things are overwhelming, though. My Mom is cool like that. I decided to ask the doctor to sweep my membrane that day. I had it done when I was pregnant with my daughter and researched the pros and cons in preparation for this appointment. Sometimes it works to bring on labor and sometimes it does not. I felt that if the babies and my body were ready, it would bring on labor but also knew that it very well could not work and no harm would be done to any of us. This is the only procedure I would allow them to do. The week leading up to this appointment had been so physically trying, I cried so much that week. My body was near it's limit of what it could take. The sweeping worked.

By dinner time that evening, real contractions began. We sent our daughter to sleep over at her Oma's house (German for Grandma) in preparation for a possible late night trip to the hospital. It was the right decision. At around 3:00 in the morning of September 28th, I woke up my husband and told him it was time to go in. I snuck up to my older sons' room and gave them the option to come along. They decided to keep sleeping and I told them to stay home from school, we would keep them posted and someone would come pick them up and bring them to the hospital when it was time to meet their new baby brothers. One call to my Mom and we were on our way. I got hooked up, ice chipped and as comfortable as possible. Then the waiting began.

I decided, at the advice of the hospital staff, to accept an epidural. Baby A was head down and ready to go but Baby B was still lying transverse (horizontal) up under my ribs. I would have to deliver in the operating room in case of an emergency c-section. Were I to decline the epidural and a c-section was needed, there would be a significant amount of pain involved and having it already in place was the wisest choice. It ended up being a VERY good choice.

The urge to push came on quick and strong. The staff moved fast and got me to the operating room swiftly, husband and Mom in tow. The operating room was white, bright and uninviting. I can't even begin to tell you how many people were in that room. They were everywhere, busy as bees, organized chaos. I could barely move from pain and pure size. Do this, do that, they all kept saying. Getting up on the operating table was most difficult, I felt like a beached whale. I was in so much pain. Commotion all around me. Close my eyes and try to focus on breathing. Poked, prodded, pushed and pulled. Please let this go fast. Please let them be OK. Please let me live to see them. My mind was in a tail spin. Focus damn it!

I had two doctors on me; one to catch and one to run the ultrasound. I pushed...and pushed...and pushed...Baby A was here! That wasn't so bad, my Eddie Love. But don't get distracted, I still had one more to go. The next 7 minutes were absolute hell. I am suddenly being attacked. Hands all over me, frantic, repeatedly pushing on my belly with all of their might to try and get Baby B down. It's not working. It hurts. I feel a bit violated. I scan the room: Eddie is doing OK, I can barely see him through his circle of nurses but I can hear him crying. Mom and Allen are still there, trying their best to stay out of the way of the crowd. They seem OK. I did not realize, at the time, that they were wearing their poker faces, just for me. The doctor's are scared and loud. The catcher is about to throw in the towel and cut me wide open. The other doctor is not about to give up and pushes her aside. Suddenly, I can barely stand it. He is determined and I am in excruciating pain, even through the epidural. I squeeze my eyes shut as tight as I can. I don't want to see this. I grab both sides of the table and hold on like I have never held on to anything before. My hands cramp up and I squeeze even harder, as though a tornado is trying to rip a child from my death grip. If I felt violated a few minutes prior, it was nothing compared to this. The doctor was elbow deep inside of me, reaching for my baby, trying to save him. It felt like forever...and ever...oh my God, I wanted them out!

I must tell you, while I am sitting here writing and remembering, my body has been covered in goosebumps and chills, tears have welled up in my eyes. I was so scared and the feelings still crush me. I'll continue.

The doctor finally has a grip on Baby B's little foot and the pulling resumes ten fold. He does not slide out easily, he is breech and gets wedged, they are rushing to get him free. When he comes out into the bright and sterile world, he is not well. He is not breathing. His feet are black and blue as if he has been in a fight. His arm might even be broken. He has to be resuscitated. I do not get to see him for hours and hours. I had no idea this was going on. I had to deliver another placenta and get cleaned up and stitched. I could barely bring myself to keep my eyes open. I had just been severely assaulted and could barely stay awake, but they made me. It was almost over.

Baby B made it. He had to stay in the special nursery for at least 4 hours to be monitored due to very low blood sugar levels, but he pulled through and nothing was broken, just really banged up. Baby A did pretty well at first and was in my room with me in no time. About 3 1/2 hours later, Baby A was rushed off to the special nursery too because his blood sugar began to drop rapidly. It is not like me to let my babies go off without me, I had never let the previous three out of my sight while we were in the hospital, but this time it was out of my hands and I knew it. I had to let go. I had to sit back and allow this to play out without argument. I had to keep faith that we would all be OK. I was all alone in my room. I did not have my babies with me. I was so scared and so sad. I still hadn't met Baby B. Family started to show up. Put on my happy face and play nice. Smile.

The room is now full. There are at least ten of our closest family members in there and no babies. They had all just missed Baby A by twenty minutes or so. We chat, we laugh, we wait. My husband is nearest the door when it begins to open. I perk up because I can see the wheels of a bassinet under the privacy curtain. Baby A must be back, good, they will get to meet him. My husband picks up the baby with an ear to ear smile, so sweetly and begins to show him around. Like a shock straight to my heart I hear him say that it is Baby B and I am instantly bawling, streaming tears down my face, my arms outstretched as far as I can because I can't get up and out of the bed. I blubber, "It's Baby B! Oh my God, I haven't got to meet him yet!!" I am reaching, crying, feeling like I am drowning in a rush of emotions! Please, my dear husband, turn around and give him to me, please! I can not stand this much longer and am about to explode from wanting and needing and loving my baby! A few people see my desperate face and hear my heartfelt pleas and step forward hesitantly to help get Allen's attention. This all takes place in a matter of seconds but to me it was an eternity. He turns full circle and realizes what is going on and hands Baby B to me as quickly as possible. Ah...instant sigh of relief. Sweet, sweet Baby B is in my arms and I am complete. I am still bawling but smiling about it now. I look up at the room full of people and say, "I am sorry, please feel free to step closer, I just hadn't got to meet him yet." They did not know this and I had made a scene. I was allowed. But he was mine to hold, for now. I saw a few tears in other's eyes. We had word that Baby A was doing great and would be back soon. All was well. We made it. Our family of seven.

April 2013 - 6 months old

Baby A:  6 lbs. 13 ozs., born 11:53 AM
Baby B:  6 lbs. 9 ozs., born 12:00 PM

That is nearly 13 1/2 lbs. of baby at 36 1/2 weeks. No wonder I felt so awful. Thank goodness I let them sweep!

* This post is the sequel to 'When Push Comes to Shove'

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Sweetest Thing

In life? Seeing your child smile out of pure joy. It could be the first smile from your tiny baby, bundled up in your arms and they're just beginning to realize that you are the nice mommy person that is always there to make everything all better. It could be the drippy drooling chocolate covered smile with wide surprised eyes when you give your toddler their first snack size Snickers bar and they suddenly know what they have missing for all of these years. There is always the first day of school, standing at the bus stop with ants in their pants grin, random teeth missing and stretched from ear to ear. So proud, so excited, feeling so big. Even the smile they try to hide but can't. Perhaps they just got home from hanging out with their favorite girl; cheeks flushed, twinkle in their eyes, lips twitching but taught, trying to conceal the surge of happiness coursing through their veins. Maybe he kissed her. Good for him. For me, this weekend, it was watching my son run around playing games with his friends and cousins, on a complete sugar high, chilled to the bone without a care. DA turned thirteen and his carnival themed birthday party was a success. His smiles were huge.

Luckily, it had stopped raining right before the party started. It was still quite chilly outside but all went well.  There was plenty of fun food. I always make too much. I am always worried that there won't be enough; I was sending bags of popcorn and mini donuts home with anyone who would accept them. I love to cook and bake. It is fun for me and it is also a way that I show my love. It was a lot of work but DA was more than worth all the time it took to prepare for this party. We do not always do a big party for the kids' birthdays. Some years it is a quiet dinner of their choice at home or a restaurant, sometimes we have family over for cake and ice cream. But, how many times in life do you officially become a teenager? We like to make that fun.

For both of my older children's thirteenth birthdays, my Ex and I have come together and thrown two great parties and included both sides of our families and friends. We do not always see eye to eye on things, but we make sure to keep our differences away from the boys. When our oldest, R, turned thirteen we gave him a baseball themed party out at the baseball field. We grilled out burgers and hot dogs, ate popcorn and a ridiculous number of cupcakes. We had two fields going and it was a whole lot of fun. These two parties made me feel very proud of both myself and their father. I can not even begin to express how important it is for the boys to see us working together from time to time. Just because we are no longer together does not mean that the boys should suffer some life experiences they could have. We do our best and so far I feel we have done so quite successfully.

Sugar and fat! That is a carnival. We all ate ourselves silly...or sillier. I had forgotten how truly delicious a caramel apple was. What a fun and nostalgic treat. Sticky fingers, sticky face; it was like being a little kid again. Candied Apples are a crowd pleaser, too. I found a fairly simple recipe but they took much longer to make than the recipe said. Maybe it was because it was my first time. It seemed like the cinnamon imperials took a very long time to melt. Other than that, very easy to make and very hard to eat, which is probably a good thing or we would eat them all the time.

Caramel & Candied Apples

I also found a recipe for baked mini donuts and they were a hit.
The only thing that I did differently was to omit the two tablespoons of butter for dunking at the end. The recipe said to allow the donuts to cool for five minutes and then to dunk them in butter followed by the cinnamon and sugar mixture. I knew that if I did not let them cool, that the moisture from the heat would allow the cinnamon and sugar to stick anyway. It worked and they were delicious. I didn't waste my money and purchase the mini donut pans I had been considering, $10 each on for a pan that makes twelve at a time. I already had two mini muffin pans at home and those worked out just fine; more donut hole style. I accomplished twenty five dozen.

25 Dozen Baked Mini Donuts

My husband and I decided not to buy microwave popcorn ever again at Christmas time last year. We had bought a jug of kernels from Costco for approximately $12 and made homemade caramel corn and popcorn balls as gifts last season. It was so easy and much tastier than microwavable. We still had the same giant jug of kernels so I used it and made home popped salted popcorn and homemade caramel corn for the party. I like to add dry roasted peanuts to our caramel corn. Then it reminds me of Crunch N' Munch. Yummy!

Popcorn Treats

I rented a cotton candy machine for the first time ever. It was quite a bit bigger than I expected and I had NO idea what I was doing or how to assemble it and start it up. Thank goodness for YouTube; my sons' father was able to look up a quick video and Voila, cotton candy! Cotton Candy is a child magnet, by the way. If you are ever looking to attract a pile of children, fire up the ol' cotton candy machine. Works like a charm.

I can figure this out...I hope!

All this along with corn dogs, giant pretzels and a crock pot of melted Velveeta, grilled corn on the cob and tons of fun flavored soda pop and bottled water to wash it all down. A fun menu for a kid friendly party. Sugar and fat, sugar and fat!

The Spread

Games, games and more games. The chilly weather didn't keep the kids from having a good time. Tug-O-War was a hoot to watch and the little ones loved the fishing game in particular. Lower an ice cream bucket tied to a fishing pole over the deck rail and repeatedly get cute little cheap plastic toys. Who knew? The face painter did a fantastic job, too. She was so sweet and dedicated to come and sit in the back yard, freezing her tushy off just to make my little guests happy. My daughter was set on getting a spider for days, and she did, right away. Cute! If you're ever in need of a face painter and/or crazy hair maker, please give Kristen's Kolorific Kids a try. She is great at what she does, the kids loved her.

Jamison the Juggler! What a great show. I lucked out when I happened to meet him last December. He won a talent show that my husband and I attended in Minneapolis and I knew he would be perfect for my son's party. Jamison actually travels all over the United States performing in Renaissance Festivals and such. He was so funny and entertaining. I am pretty sure he was my son's favorite part of his birthday party. DA could not stop smiling during the show; even the adults were laughing out loud. Magical!

And lets not forget those precious moments in life where you get to harmlessly embarrass your child, all in good fun. You may have noticed in some of the previous photos that I was dressed like a clown. I did not tell my son I was going to do that. I know that he likes clowns but hates all of the creepy make-up that they wear. I also know that DA and I are kindred spirits when it comes to silliness and our sense of humour. This was a good kind of embarrassment. We were surrounded by our family and closest friends, no harm done. I know where the lines are, for example, at his recent cast and crew party after the play he was in, Gulliver's Travels, wrapped up they had karaoke available. I asked DA if he would be embarrassed if I sang a song and he said yes he would. I respect that. He was at school with some friends and more acquaintances. I did not want to embarrass him in that way. But sometimes, a fun opportunity presents itself and you, as a parent, have to snatch it up. It is our right. Be silly and have fun. Show them that side of you whenever you get the chance.

Mission accomplished. I have almost ten years until my next child turns thirteen. I am such a dork; I already have ideas rolling around in my brain. I will keep them to myself for the time being. She will change a lot between now and then and I want her party to be completely "her." Just like this one was "DA." I love my kids so damn much!

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