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hello, colorado

After Yesterday was a long, crazy day, but we finally made it to Denver.  We are in the mile high city celebrating Jon’s 30th birthday!  We don’t always take 4 day vacations to celebrate birthdays, but we were in serious need of a getaway to just spend time together and forget about work.  A necessary thing from time to time.

We planned our flight to leave later in the afternoon yesterday, so Jon could spend half a day at work and I could finish getting us packed and ready.  It takes a little extra planning now than it used to for two very specific reasons.

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Our day of traveling couldn’t have gone better really.  The babies did amazing on the flight – getting it a short little nap and making friends with the people around us.  Once we landed, we picked up our rental car, and after having to turn around about 12 times to get on the right road, we were off!  It was fairly late and since the twins had had a long day, we picked up a pizza and headed to our hotel for baths, feeding and bed.

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Since we had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep the night before, I was praying the twins would sleep well last night and I was so thankful when they did!  Funny enough, the hour time change didn’t even affect them at all – they woke up at their normal time even though it was really an hour later than usual.  How did that happen??  I’m trying not to question it.

When we travel with the twins, we try to strike a balance between keeping them on their normal routine and also being flexible so we can enjoy where we are!  So this morning we did our usual morning cuddling and feeding and then headed down for the free hotel breakfast.  I could get really used to Colorado – lots of veggie options and even soy milk!    After we ate we played around in the lobby downstairs for a bit and then headed back up for morning naps.

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After they went down, we showered and got ready, so when they wake up we can head out for a day of exploring Denver.  Currently, they’re sleeping like the little angels that they are and the husband and I are watching Full House and blogging.  Two things perfect for this vacation – mindless TV and lounging around.

On the agenda for today – H&M, West Elm, staring at the mountains and snow (I can’t get enough!) and then hanging out with some friends who live her later tonight.

Colorado, you’ve been really good to us so far:)

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breastfeeding twins: our journey

 

Warning: this post will most definitely be extremely long and quite possibly very jumbled.  I know most of you probably don’t care about all the details of my breastfeeding journey, but my experience is very close to my heart and I want to record it for myself as much as anything.

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I’ve been wanting to share about my breastfeeding experience for several months, but it’s such a loaded topic for me that every time I sit down to write I just feel overwhelmed and end up putting it off.  Breastfeeding the twins really has been an experience that has required so much of my mind and body, and while the physical aspect has been very difficult at times, the mental part of it has been the most challenging.

When I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I felt really determined about it.  Hearing so many stories of how difficult it can be, I would have told you that I was open to the fact that it might not work for me, but when it came down to it I would have done literally anything to make it work.

Since Linc and Viv were almost 7 weeks early, when they were born I only got a quick glimpse of them before they were taken away to the NICU.  I had known for a few weeks that my dreams of skin to skin time and of nursing them right away were not going to happen, and while I mourned the loss of that dream, the babies being healthy was of course my biggest concern.  In the final weeks before bedrest, Jon and I took a class on breastfeeding and I read parts of a book or two, so I felt fairly confident about the basics (how to get baby to latch etc.).  I really wasn’t that worried about it.  What I didn’t research at all was how to have success nursing babies who were in the NICU.

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In the moments after they were born, I was taken back to my room and within minutes, the hospital’s lactation consultant was at my bedside with a pump and a schedule.  By the time she left I felt like I had a pretty good grip on how to work the pump and somewhat of an idea on how often/when to do it etc.  But I was so distracted by wanting to see my babies, that I didn’t really put a ton of thought into it.

In the hours and days following their birth I clung to pumping as a way to do something for my babies.  I could hold them for brief periods of time, change their diapers, feed them a bottle and sit beside their bed day and night, but otherwise the feeding tube and the nurses took care of their needs. Not only did pumping give me something I could do for them, but it gave me something to do.  Having babies in the NICU was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.  It just felt so wrong that they had to be down the hall from me (I was able to stay in the hospital for all but a few days of their NICU stay).  That I couldn’t run and pick them up and cuddle them anytime I wanted.  So, pumping was something I could focus on.  It kept me busy and on a schedule, which I think I needed.

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It took about 4 days for my milk to come in, and that was one of the best days.  I’ll never forget how it felt to see that white milk collecting in the bag, and even though it was probably less than an ounce, I felt on top of the world.  But within a few days after that, I began to worry that I just wasn’t producing enough.  The babies were being given formula and my breastmilk was being used as a supplement.  Although, the NICU was adamant that the formula was a necessary part of keeping them growing and it would have been a battle to have eliminated it anyway.  But I knew the twins would be coming home soon, and I was determined to be able to produce enough milk to exclusively nurse them.

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On the second day that we were in the NICU, a nurse named Winter who I will never forget, asked me if I wanted to try nursing them. Until that point, I was inexperienced enough that I didn’t think I was allowed to try and nurse them, and I had never realized I could ask to do it.  So, when Winter suggested I try I was elated.  I’ll never forget her or the first moment I ever got to try and nurse my babies.  I remember looking at Jon with the biggest smile plastered on my face.  I was speechless and so full of joy.  I had never felt anything so magical.

In the beginning, I was allowed to try and nurse them for a couple of feedings each day, but most of the time we’d end up finishing with a bottle or the feeding tube.  As the days went by and the babies got stronger, I was able to try and nurse them more and more.  They were so tiny and still not super strong, so it was very slow going.  Linc was a bit stronger and did a little better than Viv, but it was a rare feeding that I didn’t have to supplement.  But it didn’t really matter to me.  All I cared about was that we were trying.  And we were making progress….slowly but surely.

17 days after Linc and Viv came into our lives, we got to take them home.  It was one of the best days of our lives.  The following weeks found me still pumping like a mad woman.  Starting in our second week in the NICU and continuing once we came home, I was on a crazy rigorous pumping schedule to try and get my supply up.  I was pumping about every 2.5 hours throughout the day and night.  In addition, I was doing a cluster pumping for three hours in the morning and then again in the evening.  It was insane trying to stick to the pumping schedule and also trying to keep nursing the twins for at least part of every feeding.  Add in diaper changes and washing pump parts, and I literally had no existence outside of it all.  But I was so determined, and it was so worth it to me.

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The babies both steadily got better at nursing, but Vivian was just so small; so for a long time I would nurse them both, then pump, then feed Vivi a bottle.  I was nursing them one at a time at this point and they each would take about 45 minutes, so by the time I got done with the whole process it would be almost time to start it all over again.  It really did take a toll on me physically and mentally.  Just the lack of sleep alone was so difficult.  With the babies being preemies, it wasn’t until they were 4 months old that our doctor allowed us to let them sleep at night without waking up to eat.  I honestly don’t know how I lasted 4 months getting up around the clock, but I did it.

Finally, after weeks of this routine, I decided I just had to start feeding them together.  Vivian was getting stronger all the time, and while they were still taking 45 minutes to eat I was having to give her a bottle less and less often.  So, I set out one day to figure out how to feed them at the same time using my twin nursing pillow, and it literally revolutionized my day.  Instead of taking an hour and a half to feed them individually, it took me 45 minutes total.  And while I really missed that one-on-one time, there was no arguing that it was better for everyone for me to feed them together.

But the struggles didn’t end there.  From day one we were concerned about the babies weight gain.  It was painfully slow, and I was constantly worried about my supply.  We ended up getting our own scale,  and we would literally weigh them every single night to see whether or not they had gained (dumbest idea ever – I do NOT recommend this!).  While I enjoyed the process of nursing my babies very much, the stress of whether they were getting enough and whether they were growing quickly enough had me in an almost constant anxious state.  I would wake up worrying about it and go to bed worrying about it.

At our 2 month appointment, our pediatrician at the time told us that we needed to start supplementing because he really wanted to see them catching up to the average growth curve already.  And even though I was scared about whether or not they were growing quickly enough, I just wasn’t ready to give up.  I truly felt that if I started supplementing I would never regain the ability to nurse them exclusively.  I felt that breast milk was the best nourishment for them, but mostly I was enamored with the act of nursing them.  I didn’t want to lose that after having fought so hard to get to the place we were.  So, we got a second opinion.  Our next pediatrician seemed more supportive and understanding of my breastfeeding goals, and she didn’t think it was necessary to supplement yet.  I was so relieved and I left that appointment feeling on top of the world.  From that point on, every check-up went well.  Even though the twins weren’t catching up to the average curve yet, they were maintaining their own curve, which our pediatrician was satisfied with.  But despite her giving us her encouragement and approval, I still worried day and night.

Another major struggle we encountered was a case of thrush.  The lactation consultant and our pediatrician were never absolutely certain that we had it, but my symptoms pointed that way so they treated us for it regardless.  I was in so much pain every time I nursed for about 2 weeks.  Jon would have to sit beside me and let me squeeze his hand while the babies latched; the first few minutes were excruciating.  The lactation consultant had told me that the babies both had high arched palates, so I honestly didn’t think there was anything that could be done about the pain.  Finally, one day I admitted to myself that the pain was bad enough that I might have to stop nursing completely if something couldn’t be done.  It hurt during feedings, before feedings, after feedings….pretty much 24/7 I was in pain.  So I made another appt. with my lactation consultant.  Upon her recommendation, we treated both the babies for thrush, boiled everything that touched me or their mouths after every feeding for days, I took an antibiotic, and I also used a cream after every feeding.  The thrush (if it was ever there) cleared up within a few days, but to this day I still use the cream after every single feeding.  If I don’t, the pain comes back; it really is an absolute miracle cream.  After that appointment I also started doing everything imaginable for my supply.  I began drinking 4 cups of Mother’s Milk tea each day, taking 12 fenugreek capsules a day, took a liquid tincture called Mother Love More Milk Special Blend 4 times a day, and ate oatmeal every morning.  I did this for about 2 months, and just last week I quit it all cold turkey.  I wanted to see if it really was even helping anymore or if my body had just become immune to it.  So far I don’t think I really see a drop, but I’m watching it closely.  The only thing I’m doing now in addition to nursing is pumping after their morning feeding and hand expressing after every other feeding. I’ve found that hand expressing is the best way for me to get any extra milk at all.

I know without at doubt that the way we feed our babies is not the most important part of being a mom.  Even though science now says breast milk is technically best, breastfeeding is not necessarily the best route for every family.  There are so many other factors involved that are different to every mom and every baby.  Even though I don’t have any judgment or negative feelings toward moms who don’t breastfeed (I was a formula fed baby!), I personally was so attached to the idea of nursing the babies exclusively that I could barely see straight.  Any night that they had a loss I would get so upset and become so stressed out at the thought of having to start supplementing.  Part of my stress stemmed from the fact that I really believe breast milk is best form them, part of it was from how much money I knew formula would cost for both babies, but most of it was just the loss of something that I held so dear.

 

 

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Looking back over the last 8 months, I can see how in some ways nursing made life a lot harder.  For 8 months, I’ve rarely been able to go more than 3 hours without nursing or pumping, which means I can never get a break or get away.  I barely make enough milk for both babies, and I’m not able to pump any extra, so the small freezer stash that carried over from pumping in the NICU (replaced by new pumped milk when that milk was bottle fed) is just enough to be away for one feeding here and there.  For months I was sleep deprived beyond belief because I was the only one who could feed them (or I would have had to get up and pump anyway).

But I wouldn’t change anything.  Aside from the occasional concern about weight gain, nursing has gotten so easy.  The twins empty me in about 7 minutes flat now and those minutes are the best of my day.  I LOVE nursing.  I have given my body and my life to it since June 19th, and I would do it over again in a heartbeat.  I plan to nurse the twins until they are a year old, and I’m definitely considering continuing at least for awhile beyond that.  I do regret becoming so fixated on their weight gain.  If I could do it again, I would NOT have weighed them every night, and I would have just taken my doctor’s word for it when she said they were doing fine.  And while I have spent hours praying about the twins growth and eating, I would have tried a lot harder to really give my concerns to God and trust him and his plan for us.

If we are blessed with another baby, I will definitely plan to nurse again.  And I hope that I’ll be able to carry our next baby to full-term and have those precious first minutes nursing him/her in the delivery room.  And I hope that will make the rest of our nursing journey much easier than it has been with preemie twins.  In the same way that my delivery was not the delivery I had dreamed of, neither has our breastfeeding journey been.  But we’ve toughed it out, and it has made us stronger.  And even though our story is not what I envisioned it to be, it is our story.  I am so proud of myself for being committed and for sticking with it through the hard times.  I’m thankful that things are easier now, and I’m so grateful that I still get to spend time nursing my babies every day.  I don’t take one second of it for granted.

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a pizza recipe

I posted a picture on instagram this past week of the homemade pizza I made for the husband and I on Valentine’s night, and several of you said you would love to have the recipe.  Well, I highly recommend it!!

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First I want to say that this crust is super deep dish.  We wanted a deep dish crust, so we were super happy with it.  But I just have to warn you it was the deepest dished pizza I’ve ever seen.  You could always take out some of the dough to make it less thick, I suppose.  But I would advice against it if you’re a big crust person!  It was soft and sort of flaky, just like real deep dish pizza.

The recipe is by Bobby Flay, and I found it here.  I only used the crust part of the recipe and did my own thing with the toppings.  We made two pizzas.  One was a 10 inch pie pan and the other was 9 inch.  On one pizza I added olive oil, then mozzerella, feta, sundried tomatoes, and spinach.  The only thing I would do differently next time is I would wait until it is almost done cooking before adding the sundried tomatoes.  They were a bit charred this time:)

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For the other pizza, I spread store bought pizza sauce before adding mozzarella, feta, and grated Parmesan cheese.  I wouldn’t change a thing about this one!

Two other things I did differently from the recipe in the baking process – I didn’t use a pizza stone (because I don’t have one) and I only baked these for a total of 25 minutes rather than the recommend 40.  If I had left it in the full time, the whole thing would have been charred!

So, there ya go!  If you make it let me know what you think!  The process of making the dough was a bit lengthy, but most of the time was spent just letting it rise.  The hands on time was actually fairly minimal.  And it was so worth it!  We ate the leftovers today (3 days later), and they were just as good as the first time!

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Happy Eating!!

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dear linc and viv

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Dear Linc and Viv,

Yesterday was your first Valentine’s Day, and your daddy and I had so much fun loving on you extra much all day long.  You are the sweetest little parts of our lives, and we feel like the luckiest people alive to get to be your mama and daddy.

In the same way that we hope you feel loved beyond measure by us, we also always want you to know how much we adore each other too.  A long, long time ago before we even knew you would someday exist, I fell head over heels in love with your daddy.  I still remember the first time I ever met him and how I thought he was the cutest and funniest guy I had ever known.  It wasn’t long before I realized that he wasn’t just cute and funny, but also thoughtful, loyal, humble, sensitive and just plain cool.  It took him a little while to realize how amazing I was, but eventually he did;)  From that point on we knew that we never wanted to live without each other again.

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To celebrate your first Valentine’s Day with you, we all went out for a family lunch at Whole Foods, and then once daddy got home we spent the evening cuddling with your new zebra and tiger and feeding you lots of good food like sweet potatoes and avocado!IMG_7671

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Then after you went to bed, Daddy and I had our own little celebration.  We ate homemade pizza and cupcakes.  I gave daddy a new record and a print for the wall, and he gave me a new wallet and some fun polka dot shoes.  There was also lots of relaxing on the couch together and talking about how darn lucky we are to have each other and you.

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 In the past we might have gone out to a nice dinner or even stayed overnight at a hotel to celebrate, but this year was sheer perfection even though we never stepped out of the house.  The day you two were born, we discovered love for each other that we couldn’t even have imagined existed, all because we’re in awe of the fact that we created you together.

So, thank you sweet babies, for all the sweetness and depth you’ve brought by taking our family from 2 to 4.

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There’s a lullaby I’ve been singing to you lately….when we cuddle during the day or when I rock you to sleep at night.  I hope it will always help you remember how deep our love is for you.

I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap and I’m talkin’ in my sleep
About you, about you
‘Cause I love you a bushel and a peck
You bet your purdy neck I do

Love, Mama (and daddy too)

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over the weekend

VIV

While our tiny girl loves her stroller, she doesn’t necessarily love it when it’s cold outside.  The husband and I took the babies on a mini tour of downtown OKC Sunday afternoon.  By the time we were headed back to the car, me with a cranky Vivi in my arms, him with a cranky Linc bundled in the stroller we recognized that we might shouldn’t have ventured quite so far away.  Once that sun starts drifting downward, it gets cold quick!

But even in moments when I question decisions we make or things we do with the babies (okay, let’s face it, that would be most moments), I always come back to the idea that I want our babies to know adventure.  I want them to feel the coldness on their little fingers and see the sun streaming through downtown buildings as it sets.  I want Vivian to feel exhilarated as she grips my jacket, bouncing against my chest as I cuddle her and run through the downtown streets.  That’s the life I want for them, and we’re trying to build it for them one moment at a time.

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I often find myself hyper-analyzing the things we do, whether it involves the babies or not.  When we decided to move to Thailand 6 years ago, I analyzed everything from the impact on our careers to finances.  And while Jon might be further along in his career, and we probably would have more money if we had stayed here, I would do it one hundred times over again because it impacted the story of our life in the most amazing way.  I try to remember that in all the little decisions we make.

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Friday night my little cousin had a basketball game and our sunday school class was getting together a little later.  I was so nervous about going to both things because the babies would be missing their last nap and bedtime.  I didn’t know how they would react and if it would affect their nighttime sleep, etc. etc.  But I realized that I don’t give our little ones nearly enough credit.  They were so good, and even though there were a couple of brief instances where we had a pretty unhappy little Linc and Viv, seeing them being held and loved on by their aunt and cousin, grandmas, grandpas and church friends was worth so much.

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We try to stick to a regular routine most days, and it works for us.  Because we do that most of the time, I think it gives us more freedom to veer from it as well.  And we are always able to jump right back in.  But I do believe it’s when we wander away for a bit that we create the kind of memories that never ever fade.

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