Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Memories of Splits

I recently read the happy news of a friend who is expecting triplets. Triplets! Hooray! Reading his blog about how they found out they needed to upgrade to the triplet stroller brought misty memories for me in terms of my own Discovery Appointment. I think we've all had a moment of daydreaming of what the might be like, wondering how we'd find out, what the doctor would say, if it would be a surprise.....

Could it really be 7 years ago already? How is that possible when I feel like I just left that shocking appointment...

I didn't expect to be pregnant. At all. Due to Poly Cystic Ovarian Disease, my doctor had squashed any dreams of spontaneous conception for me. (Ever get a phone call from your doc telling you it was okay to "engage in sexual relations? It's just as sexy as you'd dream it could be). We had just gone through our first 6 months of unsuccessful treatment and were taking a much needed breather before starting the more intense Injectables phase of our pregnancy plan.

That's when I started to feel kinda funny.

But I couldn't be. Could I? I mean, I wasn't supposed to be. Was I?

March 18, 2004: I woke up and took that first pregancy test. Positve. I stared at it in disbelief. How is it that we had just dug ourselves $5,000 in debt when I had just achieved it without meds? For free?

My doctor was equally leary of my proclaimation of pregnancy and hauled me in for a blood test. Several nerve-wracking hours later they called to tell me "I was very pregnant" and "could I please come in immediately for an ultrasound". Very pregnant? What did that mean, exactly? I didn't know there were gradations of it, like hues of colors. It sounded odd.

First thing the the next morning found me in the office again, undergoing a very in depth (and uncomfortable) internal ultrasound. I was too nervous to look at the screen, but in all honesty that little grain of rice seemed non-human to me. It just sat there at 6 weeks. But my doctor was interested in something, hemming and hawing over what he wasn't seeing.

As I came to find out, my hormone levels were really high. Hence the "Really Pregnant" diagnosis. I have since learned this can mean one of 3 things: either I was a. further along than we thought, b. having multiples, or c. there was something wrong with the pregnancy.

Initial measurements correlated with my 6 week estimation, so we knew a. was ruled out. My doctor was now looking to answer b. Thing was, he could only find one sac. And only one baby inside that one sac. One baby. One sac. Couldn't be multiples. He kept mumbling this through the ultrasound: "There's only one sac here, and only one fetal pole", and I grew more and more annoyed at his apparent disregard to the fact that I was okay with that. One baby was fine with me. Heck, any baby was fine with me. Geesh doc, show some love. 

At the end of the scan, he retold me about the whole one sac/one baby thing (really annoyed by that point), and added that the heartbeat was much brighter than they expect to see at 6 weeks. "But that's probably a good thing". Wow, thanks for that encouragement. I left with a diagnosis sheet that had a single check mark on it: Fetal Abnormality.

I didn't realize it at the time, but my doctor was already writing this one off. This ultrasound was a test, and I had failed; I wasn't further along than expected and try as he might he couldn't find another sac or baby. Option C seemed to be the likely culprit. Something had gone wrong in the many divisions of cells.

He scheduled me for another ultrasound in 7 days. "Just to check". In the meantime (and since he already had a thought that we were facing problems), he suggested that I not tell anyone I was pregnant. He clearly did not know me. I told everyone who stood long enough to listen, and even a few people who didn't.

7 days later I marched back into the office, this time with Dan in tow. As with before, I found myself unable to look at the screen, afraid of what I'd see. Or what I wouldn't see. I was waiting for news, but there was silence. Both doctor and Dan were staring at the screen. The doctor, with a furrowed brown; Dan with an open mouth.

"What did I see before?" my doctor inquired.

"" was my meek response. Was this a trick question?

"Well, you're having twins."


 (Remember that extra bright heartbeat? It was baby B stacked against A.)

"Make that....(moving the scan around a bit)...identical twins."

Hot damn!

".....and....(there's more?)...It appears they may be conjoined."

Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.

The rest of the appointment was kinda a blur after that. Statistically, I wasn't having conjoined twins, my doctor assured us. But that scan. Looking at it, it sure was hard to tell for certain, and the fact that when one moved left, the other tugged that way too truly didn't set anyone's mind at ease. There were "things to consider", I was told by my now doom-and-gloom doctor.

This was not the way you would dream of being told about your multiples. I had only just found out about them, and now I faced losing them. I wasn't sure how to take it. Or what to think. To be happy? To be scared?

Both. Overwhelmingly, both.

Long story short (I think I've blogged about this before anyway), I was hooked up with a specialist who deals with obtuse pregnancies like this; we outliers who breed potentially connected kids. There were still more tense weeks ahead before our fears were put to rest, more scans of "not sure" before seeing a definite separate movement between them. But we did see it. Eventually. Turns out our kids decided to hold off on the whole egg-splitting thing until later in the "Splitting Phase".

Science Lesson!:
 If an egg is going to split, it will do so between days 8-12. If it splits on the early side, identical twins can have separate sacs and separate placentas, and appear to be fraternal on ultrasounds.
If they split on the later side, as ours did, they run the risk of being conjoined due to being too close together when the head/spinal cords/abdominal walls form. Ours weren't conjoined, but they are a really nifty side effect of being late splitters: Mirror Twins. They are symetrically opposite of each other.

Of course, after the worry of "Were They Or Weren't They" was removed from the table, we were on to other twin issues that took up space in our Worry Jar. Lots of 'em. Keeping me planted firmly on the High Risk group.

It's hard to believe it all turned out, though. But it did. I have two (presently) sniffling, feverish  and truly delightful sprites dancing around me right now as proof. They're here. They're healthy.

 I give them props; they fought like hell to get here, running a gestational obstacle course worthy of any athlete.

It's all worth it. Every bit of it. And seeing their smiles everyday, I have to think they agree.

Starting Grounds

After much thinking and considering, Dan and I have decided to enroll the girls in an on-line school for next year. (Ohio Virtual Academy) This will be an experiment of sorts, to see how it goes.

I know what you may be thinking: as a teacher, aren't I supposed to want my kids IN a classroom? Isn't that what's better for them?

Yes and no.

As a teacher, I certainly appreciate the benefits of a classroom and the learning environment there. I do. I also love being in a classroom and working with students. That being said, I don't necessarily agree that a classroom environment is the only way for kids to learn. There. I've said it.

So we're going to give OHVA a shot and see how it goes. See if it works for us. If not, they'll be heading straight back to their current school. End of story.

And can I just say, I am pretty excited about the adventure of doing this. I can't wait. Oh the work...oh the frustrations..oh the blogging moments! But imagine the possible successes? The achievements? The new experiences, even. One my great joys on this journey of education has been in watching these two unfold into their own selves; seeing them take those first steps towards true independence as they each gain information and knowledge and make it her own. And I cannot wait to see what they'll do with this at-home experience. I truly cannot.

When we tell people our plans to do OHVA, I get one of two responses: supportive or skeptical. Hey, I'm not judging here. Everyone is entitled to his or her personal opinion.

But so are we.

This is our opinion right now. We're going to try this, give it all we've got, every day. Could it be a spectacular flop? Sure, but so could oh-so-many things that people strive for in life. On the other hand, it could be a complete and smashing success. It just might.

But it takes a first step. And this is ours.

I'm filling out the paperwork, submitting everything. Getting started.

And feeling the excitement in it. The "New" of it.

And smiling.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Which The Van Wouldn't Start...

First off, I am not a car person. I drive them, but that's about it. I depend upon them and trust that when I turn the key, it will start; push the gas, it will go; press the brake, it will stop. As to the magic behind the scenes that allows all this to happen, well ,that's the wizard behind the curtain. The Dodge version of "Great And Powerful Oz". And today I almost caught a glimpse of his elusive person...

This morning I dropped the ladies off as usual, waiting in the playground until their class was called in. Returning to my car at a run (brrrrrr, it was cold), I hopped in to start her up. Sadly, "tickticktickticktickticktick" was all I heard.

(What the?)



I began firing phone calls off in rapid succession: Husband. Mom. Dad. Brother. (Everyone needed to be in on this).

I've never really been in a non-starting car before; my aforementioned trust has never been tested, you see. I called AAA (so this is why you join every year? Miraculous!). They were very kind and helpful, and got a tow truck out to me faster than I would have thought possible.

Hello, Roy.

With a smile, Roy attached cable-thingies (the technical term for "Jumper Cables"), and got my stubborn van started again. He left after giving me instructions to let the van run for 10 minutes and then go straight to Auto Zone (the closest place) to get a new battery.

Bye, Roy. Thanks.

My 2 mile drive to the auto store was fraught with nerves for me. I was now officially wary of my once faithful companion: my car. Every light, every stop sign, I wondered, "Is this it? Will it stall? What will it do?" (It clearly couldn't be trusted, after all.)

The folks at Auto zone were all smiles and joy when I walked into the store. (I have that effect on people wherever I go, you see). They tested and affirmed Tow Truck Roy's diagnosis of a bad battery and got me hooked up with a brand spanking new one. (Oooohhhh! New battery!)

So now the van is "fixed" and should be "okay". But I admit that I hesitate and whisper a prayer every time I go to start it. "Please start. Please, please start." Exhaling with gratitude as the engine catches and sparks to life.

As I said before, I'm not a car person. I just trust that whatever the mechanics are that make the thing go are all lined up and in place when I need them. A magic-machine. That's what it is. And when the magic falters, even if only due to a dead battery, some of the sheen of that is scuffed up a bit.

Here's to auto clubs, tow trucks, auto stores, friendly people with smiles, and new batteries.

And may the remainder of this Monday be just a bit less eventful.

Friday, March 25, 2011

When the girls were born, the first thing my husband did was look for some difference between them. Some identifying mark that would help us tell one from the other.


He didn't have to look long before finding one. Ashlyn, our precious Baby B, had a small freckle on her right cheek. Tiny. Discreet. But there.

We were told later that it's somewhat unusual for a baby to have a freckle of that type straight out of the womb. We smiled. It was God's little cheat sheet for us.

And how we used it! The thing about babies, is that they look alike, no matter if their identical or not. Put 2 or more balding, red, squalling things side by side, and you'll be confused as to which is which. And as they grew, the confusion only got worse. Now we had two baldies on the move, scooting here, toddling there.

I've lost count of how many times I've uttered the phrase: "Thank Goodness For That Freckle".

And I think Ashlyn liked it. It has become her symbol, of sorts; part of her identity. She's always been fine with it. Never seemed to bother it or be upset about it. And she understood that we looked at cheeks when talking to both of them, sorting out who had the freckle and who didn't before assigning a name. If that bothered her, she never let on.

So you can imagine my surprise when I wake her up yesterday to find that she's effectively picked the freckle off. First off, I cannot imagine how uncomfortable that process had to have been; and second, I'm not sure why she did it.

But she did.

And I can't say the results are very good. Nails being what they are, it's not quite as nicely done as a doctor would do, you see.

So I took her the doctor to check out the sore on her face. Is it okay? Will it get infected? A thorough check of it and a prescription for anti-fungal cream. 3x a day. Don't forget. (I won't). We also were given an appointment for a bona fide plastic surgeon to have it done the right way; to undo any damage she did.

And what about that freckle? Ashlyn has already expressed a sadness that it will be coming off. She probably should have thought of that before digging it off with her fingernails. Hind sight, right?

She despaired that she wouldn't be Ashlyn anymore.
I explained that her freckle is not what makes her Ashlyn. She'll still be Ash.

She despaired that it would hurt.
I told her it won't.

She delighted that they won't use anything sharp to cut it off. Just round things.
I'm letting her go with that one.

We'll see how this turns out.

How life is without That Freckle.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Without Compare...

Happy or sad.

Smart or dumb.

Pretty or ugly.

Good or bad.

Up or down.

I suppose these groupings are best categorized as being opposites. But on another level, they're also comparisons. Don't you think?  It can be so easy to look at something and quickly assess its worth or quality based on opposites like this. When faced with a choice between this or that, how many of us don't fall back on our ingrained classification system to make the choice? I know I do.

It's scary how easy it can be to do this with the girls. Frightening, really. I know any parent of more than one child can face the impulse to assign a quick comparison onto their children. It's so easy. So quick. And so socially acceptable.

Often I'm asked to compare my girls. People will come up to us in the store and begin asking me, "Which one is smarter? Whose the nicer one? Which one is the good one?" My heart breaks a little at each of these, not because of the words they are using, but because of the words not said: Dumb. Mean. Bad.

How can I possibly answer a question like that? About my children? My precious, amazing, indescribable children?

My response is always this: "They are both amazing kids. Full of personality. Full of talent. Full of beauty. Full of potential. We cannot wait to see what they use all their gifts for in life, and are blessed to have front row seats to the show." End of statement.

I consider my number one job as their mother to be their advocate; their main cheerleader. That's me. I don't have a "favorite", and I don't think one is "better" than the other.

 God made them each exactly perfect.

Caedance. Ashlyn. Each girl is a unique bundle of wonder. Each has her strengths, her weaknesses. Within each resides the potential to do great things in her life, with her life. I can only begin to imagine the successes they'll achieve. The greatness they'll strive for, and the fumbles along the way.

And I'll be right there, cheering each one on. Through the good or the bad, I'll be there. Hands held high, smile on my face, my eyes filled with the beauty of these two creatures who have entered my life and made it purposeful. My heart's song is one of thanks for my girls.

 Exactly as they are.

 No comparisons needed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shrinking The Fun

Hallelujah, the girls are finally at an age where we can proceed with a project and I don't feel like pulling my hair out. It's a blessed thing when they realize that every piece of the craft does not need to be thrown on the floor, smeared on their person or the table, or catapulted across the room.

Hooray for new phases!

In celebration of their new crafting trustworthiness, today we made Shrinky-Dinks.

Do you remember Shrinky-Dinks? I think the bulk of my childhood is wrapped around them, somehow. I simply cannot begin to explain how much I liked them.

Nor am I able to explain exactly why.

What is it about coloring, cutting, baking, and observing that could possibly be so exciting? It doesn't seem like very much, but somehow it endlessly amazed me.

I'd color; always careful to do my best. I'd cut; aware of each line and curve. I'd bake; face pressed against the little window on the oven, waiting for that miraculous moment when my creations would begin the magic dance of curling, bending, and shrinking.

It all happened so fast! You'd have to be right there to witness it. Blink and it would be over.

Smurfs. Rainbow Brite. He-Man. Transformers. Scooby Doo. All colored and shrunk out of obligation and whim.

I, being the youngest (and only girl), always got stuck with the ones no one wanted. The uncool He-Man dude. Thelma. Brainy Smurf. A Decepticon. But Rainbow Brite was all mine.  I took my time coloring each form and baking them one at a time, hoping to make the joy last.

Then of course came the dilemma of what to do with these now shrunken, slightly useless, not quite so much fun items. I remember they came with a few stands to put them in , so I recall shuffling them about on a table, creating some manner of play with them. And then.......well.....who knows. I came across Rainbow Brite not too long ago, shoved in some forgotten box I'd opened. My memories were stirred.

Thus our project today.

The girls dutifully colored their forms; now on paper that you have trace out yourself on the shrinking paper. (Gone are the days of branded Shrinky-Dinks, and aren't we the poorer for it?) I did the honor of cutting, partly due to the difficulty of cutting the paper, but mostly out of the selfish desire to relive my youth. Cookie sheet in the oven, we waited for the magic to start, faces pressed against the oven window. Well, face pressed against the window. The girls were not nearly as excited as I was about what was going to occur, and had skipped away, returning only in response to my squeals of girlish delight and calls of, "They're shrinking! They're shrinking!" (I'm not proud of my zealous response, nor am I ashamed. I also jump and clap at the mere sight of a Hot Air Balloon. Love me despite the faults.)

I may have gotten more out of today's craft than they did. That's okay. There is something indescribably perfect about sharing something cherished from my childhood with them. Even if all they ever do is roll their eyes and think I'm slightly mental, I'm sharing a piece of myself with them. Reaching out from across the span of time,  from my childhood to theirs. They may never latch onto any of it, but the connection is made and the circle made full when we do it together.

Monday, March 21, 2011


The other day, Ashlyn was excited to tell me about a new word she'd learned.

"Mommy! Guess what? I know a new word!"

"Do you? And which word might that be, my love?"


"Oh my. That's quite a mouthful, isn't it? And a good word to know."
(I suspect I have "Aladdin" to thank for it too. They've been watching it lately and I know this vocabulary-stunner is used in the song, 'A Whole New World'.)

"Mommy, what does Indescribable mean?"

I hesitated before answering, envisioning the word and gathering its meaning; thinking of the plainest way to present it to my curious 6 year old. "Something is indescribable when there are just no other words for it. When other words are just not big enough. Not good enough for it.  If something is really really good, it's indescribable, but bad things can be too."

"Oh. I see."

A few minutes of quiet lapsed, during which I could almost hear the wheels of her brain turning.


"Yes, love?"

"Am I Indescribable in the good way?"

(Oh). "Yes. Yes you are, Ashlyn. You truly are."

In the best way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Surprising Spring Supper (Hooray!)

It's the first day of Spring. Real, honest to goodness, Equinox-making SPRING.
Oh, how I missed it.

I can't speak for you, but the first thing I wanted to do today was throw all vestiges of Winter out on its rear and really roll out the welcome mat for my pastel, Easter-egg studded friend.
And what says welcome Spring more than a casserole? Can anything, really?

Okay, I know you may be prudently reminded of the great Tuna Noodle Casserole debacle of a few weeks ago. Rightfully so. Such a tragedy that oddessy turned out to be. An utter waste, I tell you.
But one can never move forward if one's foot is planted in the past. On the heels of that wisdom, I found myself pulling out my Casserole Cookbook. (Imagine! A WHOLE book devoted to the creation of casseroles. Wowie-zowie.)

Searching through it, my eyes alighted on one "Linguine With Ham & Swiss" beauty that looked promising. A quick scan of the ingredients assured me this meal was already at our house, just not put together yet. And so I began.

The thing about making a new recipe (which I love to do, incidentally), is the element of unknown that surrounds it. Maybe it's just me, but whenever I make something new, I find myself tripping all over myself in apologies to everyone who will be eating it. Because it may not be good. At all.

You just never know.

To my absolute delight and shock (there was a "Cream Of" in this gem, and you know how I feel about THAT), this was good. Really good. As in, "Holy cow I could make this again". As in, "Add it to the Go To list of weeknight meals".

As in, "Even the kids cleaned their plates." Need I say more?

But as LeVar Burton so wisely said, "You don't have to take MY word for it"....

Linguine With Ham & Swiss Cheese
The Stuffs:
8oz linguine, broken in half & cooked according to directions (and drained, don't forget that too).
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham (oink oink oink)
1 can Cream Of Mushroom soup, undiluted ("Look ma! I'm cooking with a Cream Of!")
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream (The Light variety was great, allowing for less guilt)
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (replaces the guilt eased by the use of Light sour cream)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 TBS butter, melted (Hey, you got away with Light sour cream. Gotta pay the piper somehow, right?)

How it Works:
In a large bowl, combine the cooked noodles, ham, soup, sour cream, 1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, onion, pepper, and butter. Mix it all up just a good as you can. Transfer to a greased 9 x 13. Cover and bake the glorious thing for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Then, uncover it. Take a moment to admire the smell........(isn't that nice? It's the little things, really), and top it with the remaining 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese. Bake (uncovered) for another 10-15 until cheese melts.
Scoop. Bite. Chew. Swallow. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat......

Friday, March 18, 2011

Anyone For Coffee?

Ever wonder what $159.00 of K-Cups ordered via a coffee club looks like?

                     Well wonder no more.

4 glorious boxes. Each awaiting the scissors, wanting to be let out! Waiting to be opened and enjoyed.

Ahhh, there you all are my Lovelies. You are all welcome here. Very welcome indeed.

              Before you ask, no these are not all mine.    
         But I truly wish they could be.

Sharing a little bit of love...

I honestly am not sure what I did before I started blogging. How did I survive day in and day out with nary a venting outlet in sight?

The frustrations!

The joys!

The chaos!

The diaper changes that never, ever ended. One after another after another..etc. etc. etc.

Let it be said that my posts here are a way for me to disseminate the ramblings in my brain; from the mega to the minutiae. It's all there. Or rather, it's all here.

And thank you for reading it. After all, if a rant is made and no one reads it, was it ever really ranted at all?? Hmmm?

The fact that people read my ramblings at all is near and dear to my heart. It truly is. I've been asked if it's okay to share certain posts or to pass on the blog to others, and let me very clearly answer that with a resounding "Absolutely!" and a "Please do." I'd love for this simple page to be shared and shared again, so feel free to share a post or recommend it.  It's out there to be consumed. (I confess to experiencing a moment of sheer child-like joy whenever the "Follower" number goes up on it too).

And another thing....

My purpose in this blog is to share a bit of what I've experienced with our twins; the ups and downs of parenting multiples. Most of the time my posts are a reflection of what I need to write at that moment, or what I want to share; however, if you have any questions you've always wondered about, let me know. I'll try to answer it for you, or spin it into something fanciful. ;)

So there it is. My invitation to you to sit back and enjoy a few rambles today. Or everyday. Thanks for stopping by, I love having you here.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Infertility & Little Old Me

March 18th has special meaning for me. Very special. 7 years ago on this date I found out I was pregnant. It's a day I personally celebrate with almost as much joy as my girls' actual birthday. (Not quite, but almost).I still have the tests, framed and on display, and I still remember that moment of reading that first positive test. Perhaps that seems odd, but the truth is, it's a miracle that it even happened.

I didn't plan on motherhood, really. My childhood play involved creating construction- paper text books (always MATH, my worst subject, of all things), and dressing Barbie up in her most work friendly fashion garb. Even my pretend kitchen dished out bagged lunches for all my invisible working-woman customers. It's not that I didn't like kids, it was more that I thought I'd be a great career woman instead. (NOT that one can't be both).

Flash forward a dozen years and something changed. At some point my husband and I went from thinking, "Whew!" every month to "Why aren't we preggers yet?" After 2 uneventful years of "Trying", we sucked it up and went to a doctor to figure it out.

Walking into a fertility specialist appointment for the first time can be a jarring event. I felt completely broken inside, so much a failure. It seemed like every female around me was at some stage of gestation; many of whom were muttering things like, "Gosh! We weren't even TRYING! Can you believe it?" or "Not again. Ugh. I hate this." And  then there was us: in some odd procreational limbo; unable to move forward or to understand why we were stuck.

Several appointments and too many "mildly uncomfortable-to-downright painful" tests later, we had our answer. Poly cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Ahhh, yes. There it is folks. My ovaries were filled with cysts and I was shooting out testerone at a downright manly rate. Try googling PCOS or PCOD and you'll find a nifty list of side effects that includes excess facial hair. I was in despair at the thought that I was going to morph into a bearded lady.

(I didn't).

While it was nice to have a name to put to the problem, it didn't bring much comfort. PCOS is notoriously tricky to treat; working well on certain meds and not even trying to abate on others. Given my own levels, my doctor put my odds of conceiving "without intervention" at about 5%. Minds geared for the battle ahead, we were ready to fight.

We were so hopeful as we began the regimen; it felt encouraging to be finally doing something. I took hormone pills that made me see fire and want to smack every person I saw in the face; I went to weekly ultrasounds to determine just how much (or how little) my stubborn ovaries were responding; and we "celebrated" the viable follicles with a nasty shot in my derriere to force ovulation. Sounds fun, right?

After 6 unsuccessful and draining months on that treatment, we were told we would have to move on to the next tier of treatment: the injectibles. I was game for it, but as anyone who's walked that path can tell you, it takes serious dedication and commitment. More appointments, precise schedules, and tons of follow ups that are worked at the clinic's schedule, not the patent's. We decided we would do it, but would hold off till the summer when I would be off work and have the ability to commit. We went along for the next few months in a holding pattern; however, both of us were silently relieved to have a break from the appointments, the pills (oh-thank-you-Lord-no-more-pills!), and phone calls from the doctor informing me that my levels were acceptable to "engage in physical relations with hopes of conception" (although that was always super romantic").

So you can see why I was amazed as I stared at the test indicating that somehow, beyond all reason, without any help, it had happened. I called my doctor that very morning and he was wary to believe it, reminding me of the low odds and telling me not to get to excited. Not get excited? No way in HELL that was happening. I was elated. They did a blood test and confirmed it. I was pregnant. I thought that my doctor would be too; he had put so much time into orchestrating the event for so long, even if the attempts hadn't worked. Instead he said, "I don't know how this happened. You shouldn't be pregnant."

Thanks, doc. God had other plans.

I was in bliss.

2 weeks later we found out that our single miracle had split into 2 miracles, further dumbfounding my still unbelieving doctor.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I know so many people who are struggling with infertility now or who have in the past. My heart hurts for them each as they walk this journey. Compared to many of them, we've had it easy. We conceived. Against all odds. Somehow. (By God's amazing grace).

I'm not ashamed to say that we were infertile. That I have PCOS. It doesn't define me, but it's played a part in who I am. Since pregnancy, many of my symptoms have been well managed. And (thankfully), I still haven't become a bearded wonder and am hoping in earnest I never do.

Every moment with these two "inconceivables" is filled with joy for me. True heartfelt joy. Because I know the hurt of want, the pain of empty arms, and the true promise of hope.

And I am grateful.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On being "It"

The girls are on the stairwell waiting. Judging by the sounds of their shuffling feet, I'd wager they're starting to get pretty impatient right about now. Willing me to leave; perhaps attempting to use their twin ESP to mentally coax me away.

But I'm not going anywhere, thank you very much.

Approximately 15 minutes ago I decided to take a breather from being "Mom" and to have a seat on the couch. Trusty laptop in hand, I began the mundane and yet relaxing chore of checking email. It just so happens that my perch here in the living room allows for an uncanny ability to hear whatever is being said in the stairwell and hallway above me. Imagine my surprise when, typing away, I overheard the phrase, "No, we'll have to wait till 'It' leaves to do that."

It? What's that? Who's that? Looking around, I caught the fleeting glimpse of two curly heads ducking away. Oh. I see. Apparently I'M the 'It' in that sentence. I'm not sure when I became an 'It', actually. I was 'Mom' before lunch, still 'Mom' at rest time, and then again at snack. I guess I've been demoted.

More interestingly was the continued conversation that ensued between them, as they were blissfully unaware of my super ears (and the helpful acoustics) that allowed me to hear every single word.

"When she leaves, THEN we'll do it."

"See? She's still there. We can't do it now."

"Hey mom?" (Oh, I'm mom again, am I?) "Could you please go make dinner?"

No. I cannot. Thanks for asking.

"Look at her! She didn't go away yet. We STILL can't do it!!"

"Maybe we shouldn't do it?" (Atta Girl!) "We're not supposed to...but.....if she's not looking..." (Ugh. Foiled again.)

Their conversation volleyed back and forth for several minutes, stopping only to check to see if I was still there. Eventually they figured out that I wasn't leaving. And that revelation then lead to the next epiphany that whatever mischief they were plotting would have to be put on hold. And that maybe their time would be better spent doing something else instead.

They are now safely in the family room. Where I can watch them. Openly.


Taco Soup for all!

I'm a fan of Taco Soup. I am. But I've found it difficult to find one that I can really love. What follows is the rather polygamous marriage of several recipes that I've found. It represents my favorite parts of Taco Soup. (My definition of Taco Soup is "A substance which is more like a taco and less like chili").

Why am I blogging this? Heck, I don't know. Maybe because I happen to be thinking about it at this moment and in lieu of anything else, it's what is flying to the tips of my fingers. Whatever the reason, I hope that if you feel inclined to try it, you'll like it too.

Taco Soup

2 cans of beans, drained.
(I LOVE Pinto & Black beans for this, so I use one of each.)
1 can golden hominy, drained.
 (This is quintessential. Whatever you think you know about hominy, if you don't like it, put it in anyway. THIS is what makes Taco Soup, I tell you. Think taco shell, or corn tortilla.)
2 cans diced tomatoes, in juice.
 (I use a fire roasted type and a regular type.)
1-2 cans of water.
(I use the tomato cans.)
1 cup salsa.
 (You decide the heat factor on this one; I'm a wimp and stick with mild.)
1 pk. Taco Seasoning
1 pk. Ranch Dressing Mix.
(Weird, right? But it works. Put it in; you'll see).
1 # ground beef, browned OR 1 # diced chicken.
 (I kinda like chicken in this more than beef. Very tasty.)
1 small can diced green chilies, optional.
 (This is if you REALLY want heat in it. I don't usually add it, or will only add a small amount. You won't miss it if you don't, but it's your call).

The How To:
Cook your meat, be it cow or cluck. (Drain off the fat if your meat used to moo). Now add the drained beans & hominy. Add both cans of tomatoes with juice. Give the concoction a stir. Add the salsa, taco and ranch dressing packs. Add 1 can of water. Still too thick for you? Add another can. If you're adding the chilies, get those in too. Stir it some more and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Do you really NEED to wait that long? Nah. But I highly recommend it so that it can integrate all those lovely flavors.

Serve It In Style:
Ladle it into a bowl, top it with cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro. Yum. And don't forget the corn chips. Don't you do it; that would be a sin. You must have corn chips with this. 
Now, put on some mariachi music, sit back, and enjoy. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just The Way They Are...

The thing about having twins is that it's an entirely new experience in an unknown realm for me. I grew up with older brothers who did not have time for me, their annoying little sister. (In hindsight, I can't really blame them as I did suffer from a bad case of "Dork".) I never had a close relationship with them, so I don't know what that's like. And of course, I have no idea what having a sister is like.

I have two children who are the very embodiment of "close" and "sisters". Heck, at one point they were one egg, one baby; can't get much closer than that. There are a million ways in which our two are not like the singletons around them, and nothing has shown us that (for better or worse) more than their being in school.

As many of you may know, they are each on 2 IEPs this year. One is for OT (Occupational Therapy) to help their handwriting get smoother, easier, and to come more naturally for them. The second IEP is for Speech & Language, but more specifically, for socialization. We've struggled with them in this area since their birth, and we went into the whole Twin parenting thing knowing it might happen. Twins (or any tier of multiples) can be very attached to their co-multiples, sometimes to the point of excluding all others outside their unique bond.

Ashlyn and Caedance share a bond which I can only begin to imagine and will never fully comprehend. They are the stereotype you think of when someone says "Identical Twins". They shared language for several years, they communicate without speaking, finish each other's sentences, and like to be near enough to one another to be touching. When they were younger, people thought this was cute. Now that they are school age, I've had a few people voice concern about their closeness, and it leads me to ask the question: Why?

Since they've been in school, they've blossomed academically and socially. We thought that perhaps being in a classroom would change their relationship, removing some of the dependence that they place on one another. But if anything, it has strengthened their bond. They've each expanded their individual worlds to let new people in, yet somehow that has allowed their own unique bond to grow even stronger. I look at them and see two little girls who are each independent on her own, and more united when together. It's truly a beautiful thing; a happy progression.

Complete strangers may look at them and wonder if they're "Too Close" and should be "Separated" to become more "Individualized", but Dan and I are confident they are doing just fine. This is their journey, after all. Their relationship is something that they must continue to grow into and figure out, and while I can guide them, I certainly cannot direct them. Not in this. For me to tell them how to relate to one another, how to feel about each other, would be like having some outsider who has never been married tell me how my marriage should function. It just doesn't work. I may "know" they are close, but I can't fully understand the extent of that, the complexities it creates. But that's okay. I'm all right with that. And I hope everyone else can be too.

For now the truth is this: They are evolving. They have friends. They enjoy being together and are learning to be apart. They are growing up, yet still seem to want Dan and I very near the center of their world. And most important of all, they love each other with an intensity that defies explanation, with a bond that is innate to them, born with them, and stronger than any bond I've seen. And it will stay with them, grow with them, and be a part of them all through their lives.

And the fact that we get to watch this happening is pretty awesome indeed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mm, mm, gross: A Dinner Disaster

Tonight I have experienced a rarity for me: a culinary flop. I'm not bragging about being a great chef or anything, it's just that I love to cook and so long as I'm mentally in a good place, my efforts generally pay off with happy success. There are, however, a few things that elude me: jello, any sort of jello salad (which happens to be a different beast altogether than just plain jello), and now it would seem, tuna noodle casserole.

Growing up in the '80s felt like living through a revival of The Art Of Making Casseroles. It was as if a woman was judged upon her ability (or inability) to toss a minimal amount of ingredients into a dish, stir in a magical "Cream Of" soup, top it off with some crunched up Lay's and serve it at the table a mere 20-30 minutes later. I don't know about how it was at your house, but I know it felt like we had a new casserole for every day of the week around ours. To this day I hate eating leftovers because at our house, "Leftovers" were delivered to us disguised in soup and a casserole dish, sporting  a crunchy topping.

Not that I fault my mom for this culinary craze, of course. She was mearly living out the times, my friends. A victim of the countless commercials which were a conspiracy set forth by the Campbell's Soup people, who were bent on making us all think their product belonged on the family table. Every night.

I've long since forgotten about the lowly casserole, opting instead for my own brand of culinary cuisine: coordination without combination. No hidden "Cream Of's" in most of my menu items. However, every once in a while an urge will strike and I find myself returning to the casseroles of my youth.

Tonight I had a moment of nostalgia in which I thought it might be nice to make a Tuna Noodle Casserole. I had all the ingredients on hand (because, in all honesty, who really doesn't?), and I found the "Original" recipe from the Casserole Culprit itself: Campbell's Soup. I followed the recipe to the letter, and then happily slid it into the oven with expectations of culinary time travel; sitting around the table reminiscing about Banana Clips, leg warmers, and Alf.

Oh, but the results defy the imagination indeed. A sub par experience that was anything but "Mmm, Mmm Good." It all seemed to be okay until I tried just a bit in anticipation. In a word? Nasty. Thinking I was being irrational, I had Dan check it out. He had to agree, there was an unexplainable and sightly unpalatable oddness to it that could not be pinned down. I rechecked the few ingredients I had used and they were all "In Date", so I know I hadn't inadvertently tried to give us all food poisoning. But still that flavor. Yuck. Into the rubbish it went, along with my hopes for an '80s themed dinner; the Journey CD went back in its case.

And so it was a Ramen Noodle night for us instead, which is, in fact, a sad fall from grace for me. How is it that I have no trouble mixing up a Ratatouille Tart or Risotto, yet a 1-2-3 dinner fell to despair in my hands? It made me think of how much the culinary climate has changed in my own life, and I found myself wondering if we'd ever see a return to those classic "Can Do" meals.

For the record, I hope not.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Motherhood: The Wild Wild Frontier

Motherhood is so many things, but "Dull" is certainly not on the list.
Some days (well, most days really) I marvel at how very little I can predict what my two will do. Feeding off one another, there is always something afoot around our house.

Whether it's Ashlyn tossing armloads of her favorite (large) stuffed animals into the filled bathtub so they can take a bubble bath with her, or Caedance tossing in all the cat toys she could round up just so Ashlyn's bathing stuffed cats could have toys to play with too; we never really can anticipate just what they're planning "next".

Today Caedance is hauling around 10 hardcover books. Her treasures. These are her "choices" today, which means she must have them wherever she goes. It may not seem like a burden, but let me tell you that when you are 10 minutes late and needing to get out the door, having to wait for a little girl who must put each book (each of 10!) in the correct order (did you KNOW there was a correct order? Because I did not) is a true lesson in Patience and Calm. So far today, other than being a bit delayed this morning, Caedance's Book Bonanza hasn't really hurt us too much. And she's doing a fine job keeping them in the order they "Must" be in at all times. Impressive.

Still channeling her heroine Ruby (of Max & Ruby fame), Ashlyn, on the other hand, is spending her day eating fruit and lettuce. Declaring herself more like the bunny Ruby than the little girl Ashlyn, she's eaten her way through a handful of blueberries, one banana, a small apple, and a bowlful of romaine. Because this is what rabbits do, I've been informed. They sit and eat "rawfage" (roughage).

At the moment they are watching some episodes of Max & Ruby, acting out various scenes and switching off and on between who will be Max and who will be Ruby. There is no prize role; both are equally esteemed for such experienced and acclaimed actresses. So I listen. And I learn. And what I hear fills my heart with some of that calm that I was lacking this morning while Caedance the Librarian catalogued her inventory. These two are truly best friends; truly accepting of each other just as they are; completely open and wearing their very selves on their sleeves.

And I don't want it any other way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pass The Salt, Please.

Hold on kids, we're pulling to the side of the road and I'm shutting this ride down; I've been driving myself crazy. Going in circles over something that should not in anyway be anything worth even giving a second thought about. Something so ridiculous that I hesitate to even mention it, but am going to only because my frustration has turned to annoyance over the fact that I ever worried at all.

Four words: Salt and Pepper shakers.

See, I told you. Not a worthy candidate for the Nagging Worry Club, are they? I know it. And yet it's been bothering me just the same.

I've been in the habit of keeping a salt grinder and a pepper mill for our house, enjoying the culinary joy (and ooh-la-la isn't that fancy factor) that is grinding your own spices. Deciding which mill to put what spice in is not hard at all. No worries. I've got it handled.

Recently though, I've taken to finding those cutesy seasonal shakers and quickly falling in love with them. Not as fancy, but they do carry a "Look at how coordinated she is!" factor to them, which I like. Yet each time I get a new set, I am faced with the same indecision: which spice goes into the shaker with more holes?

As I pondered this, salt ready to pour, I realized that I really didn't KNOW which one went where. Salt comes out faster, does it go with fewer holes? But those fewer holes look bigger than the shaker with more holes, so should the pepper go in there? Which one is right??? I ended up Googling for the answer.

This is where my frustration came in: Why can't I just put the salt in whichever shaker I want? Why am I obsessed with the idea that there is a right and a wrong answer here? At which point did I become such a fastidious follower of rules that I felt the need to get the correct practice for table spices? A low point, really.

It was a wake up call for me and I've created a new rule for myself: I shall not worry about stupid things that don't matter. There. We'll see how that works. From now on, I'm putting the salt wherever I want to put it and no one will stop me. I may even mix things up and put salt in BOTH shakers just to watch the confusion spread with a knowing smile on my face.

Watch out, world. You tried to hold me down, but I'm back.

(Incidentally and in case I've piqued your curiosity, there is no true answer to the shaker debate. Many have asked, some have answered. It depends on your preference of Flow over Flavor.)

That being said, please pass the salt.