Gramps

 There have been a lot of tears in our home this past week.

The world has lost a very good, kind, compassionate man; and heaven has gained a valiant angel.

It came quite unexpectedly as Gramps was young, healthy, active and vibrant at the beginning of summer.  Even once the doctors found cancer they said it was slow-growing and treatable.  Then each additional update was more concerning. D was leaving for the airport to fly from Korea to Canada to visit Gramps when we heard he had died.

I didn’t grow up spending summers with Gramps on the farm like my husband did; but from the moment I first met Gramps, I was his family.  He was a protector and a nurturer.  He would bend over backwards to be able to help or support us in anyway.  We always felt loved and cared for by Gramps.

Last summer we went to “the farm” in Canada to visit Grams & Gramps and for our kids to experience all the things my husband enjoyed there as a child.

We flew into (Great Falls, MT), an airport about 3 hours from the farm.  And we arrived in the middle of the night.  Guess who was parked at the curb in his suburban waiting for us when we arrived?  Yep.  Gramps.  He had brought pillows, blankets, snacks and a DVD for the kids to be comfortable on the long drive.  He was worried about D and I being tired, so he drove the whole way.  I think we arrived at the farm around 4 am.

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Often there are quite a few family members at the farm, but it was just us, D’s mum and Grams & Gramps.  This was pretty special because it meant our kids spent all their time interacting and making memories with Grams & Gramps.

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21 Weeks Pregnant with the Twins

Gramps was the first person on D’s side that we told about the pregnancy.  We were outside the stable, readying the horses to ride and Gramps offered to saddle one up for me.  D said, “she can’t ride because she’s pregnant.”  Then Gramps stopped what he was doing and looked at me with a big grin declaring, “well is that so.”  He was doubly pleased to hear it was twins.  I told Gramps, “I’m sure you could tell just by looking at me.”  He generously said something along the lines of, “No, you just look like you’ve been enjoying a little ice cream after dinner….like we all should.”  (Gramps is a huge proponent of ice cream.  He had a deep freezer dedicated to it.  When you are around Gramps you always have delicious “double churned” chocolate ice creams. He also will make you a green smoothie every morning, with a huge straw so you can slurp up all the goodies like mini chocolate chips and sun flower seeds or pine nuts.)

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She was scared to feed the horse but Gramps gently, tenderly, patiently showed her how fun it could be.

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Eating Gram’s famous dough babies

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See that sad little girl in the above picture.  Normally she loves dirt in any form so her dad pelted her relentlessly with mudballs. She was not a fan (although surprisingly her brother who abhors getting dirty had a grand old time.)  While daddy and brother were laughing and rolling in the mud; Gramps put his arm around this little lady. led her into the water, and while she continued WAILING he pulled off her muddy shirt, rinsed it in the water, and with the utmost care and tenderness, gently wiped all the mud off her while telling her a story.  (Look at the splash in the right corner, D is still firing…)

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Every day at the farm, Gramps and Bradshaw would go out horseback riding for several hours.  They’d come in around lunch time, get some water and within minutes Bradshaw would be begging Gramps to go out and ride the horses with him “just a little more.”  Gramps usually would sit in his comfy recliner with the massage pad, take a quick nap, and they’d be back out on the horses.  Gramps sure made a cowboy out of Bradshaw!river bottom

the farm

Tonight B was crying that he will never see Gramps again.  He is so sad that he will never get to ride horses with him again.

We told B to not forget how he feels.  It’s hard when you love someone so much because then when you are away from them you miss them so much.  When we think of how VERY BADLY we want to see them again and be with them again we are motivated to work hard to get to heaven.

B:  but that’s SOOOO much work.  It’s too hard.  What if I can’t do it?  …then I will never see him again (he begins crying harder.)

US:  Yeah, It is hard.  It is work.  But it is totally doable. You CAN do it!  Jesus made it so that everyone CAN do it. Jesus made it possible.

B: I know.  …..you know if Jesus didn’t [make it possible], no one would be able to go there.  We’re pretty lucky he did that for us.

Twins: 7 Months

for post[Better a little reflection, than none at all.]

Right around the twins 7-month birthday, we took the family to Hong Kong and Bali.  As we passed through customs in the Hong Kong airport, one of the airport staff took a scanner gun and from a few feet away pointed at each of the children.  It beeped while aimed at their heads, then she said, “no fever, you may pass through.”  We had never come across this health precaution in any airport before.  Then I began hearing murmurs about Avian Flu and seeing dozens of huge signs stating the symptoms to watch for.  Long story short, we were in HK 24 hours and by the time we leave Bonnie had all the symptoms (raging fever, cold, etc.) we debated going on to Bali.  She was sicker there.  Then it blew up and the next morning she bit me really hard while nursing.  Voila.  Her first tooth had popped through!  I had a good cry over saying goodbye to her gummy smile of babyhood.

Colt has the beginning of his first tooth in the same spot.

While nursing, Bonnie loves to explore my face–Helen Keller style.  She will grab a fistful of my cheek, pull on my bottom lip, hook a finger inside my cheek, stick her fingers up my nostrils.  But she is also really sweet.  Tracing my face and patting me with her soft little hands.

Every day, strangers make faces and silly sounds and wave excitedly at the babies. The babies stare back blankly without moving a muscle.  Then one day, Colt extended his little chubby arm and very slow twisted his wrist back and forth in a wave.  {I love these first discoveries!}  He has practiced a lot since then and Bonnie has begun waving as well.  We cheer when they do it and they seem to be aware and proud of themselves.

Colt is more verbal than Bonnie.  Long ago he said “da-da.”  Several weeks ago he began cooing, “Ma-ma.”  I know it’s babbling but the way he look at me so intently with his face full of light makes my heart rocket up into the galaxies.

Mobility:  Bonnie seems to be on the cusp of crawling.  She comfortable rolls either directions and can push-up and rock back and forth.  Colt still hates tummy time and screams into the rug after a few minutes.  He cannot roll either direction.  At the end of the day his neck always seems to hurt him and he can’t hold his head upright (he’ll be hunched over with his chin in his chest.)  It’s sad.  I hope it’s okay developmentally.

Random memories of the Twins 2nd Month of Life…

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Sometime in early December, Baby Colt woke from his sleep ravenously hungry and cried.  A real, loud cry.  This was the first time (around 5 or 6 weeks) that we had ever heard him really cry.  WE WERE OVERJOYED!  From birth he had been weak, sluggish, languid.  But that first cry in early December we thought, “yep.  This boy is going to be just fine.”

Around 6 or 7 weeks, their eyelashes began sprouting.

Also around 6 or 7 weeks, baby Colt became a flirting machine.  If he is awake, he is normally giving you million-dollar smiles and is very conversational.  Baby Bonnie’s smiles are a little harder to earn (stomach pain) but every bit as delightful.

At 1.5 months, Colt was 14 lbs and baby Bonnie was 13 pounds.  I was very happy because I work hard and sleep little to feed them.  Then I got food poisoning.  I didn’t realize what it was until I was very sick and had been nursing the babies all along.  In the following days, the babies had awful vomiting and diarrhea and lost weight.  At 2 months, they weighed just less than they had at 1.5 months.  It was an awful blow for me.  It seems silly, but I work so hard to nurse twins between recurrent mastitis, blebs, very short windows of sleep between night feedings, and constant milk supply issues (almost every day, I wonder if I will have any milk to nurse the following day.)  Anyway, so to hear that they hadn’t gained ANY weight in half a month was very discouraging.

Baby Colt still is an extremely chill kid.  He has a natural schedule that goes like this: he eats, then he smiles and coos at us for a while (when the twins are in the right mood they chortle and sing arias back-n-forth to each other) and then I lay him in his crib and he’ll fuss for a minute or two and then he’s out for the next 1.5-2 hours until I wake him to eat.  However, the babies rarely do the same thing at the same time.  Haha!  Bonnie-belle (the most common nickname for her these days) sleeps very little and wakes easily.  She also has become a very agitated nurser, rarely nursing for more than 2 minutes without going stiff and beet red and screaming.  We’re trying to figure it out and in the meantime I’m pumping.  She takes bottles very well.  She has always been the teeny one and the FIREBALL! She has never given us reason to worry health-wise until just recently.  We took the babies in for routine immunizations at the beginning of January, the doctor sent us to the ER of a larger hospital.  Baby Bonnie had a lot of unpleasant tests and home heart monitoring.  She has premature ventricular contractions.  Sometimes the AV Node sends it’s electrical impulse and sometimes it doesn’t. She is asymptomatic and only requires continued monitoring to make sure the frequency doesn’t increase.  It was a big scare and put things in perspective for us.  We are very relieved that she is going to be fine.

As I write this (January 23rd, 2014) the babies are 2.5 months old.  In their lives thus far, I have been deliciously indulgent as a mom.  I have held them while they sleep. and slept cuddled up with them in my bed.  We’ve had little-to-no schedule. I haven’t gone grocery shopping or to church.  They’ve rarely been more than an arms reach away from me.  I nurse on demand (which I love) and use nursing also to comfort them.  I’ve never let them cry except a handful of times when one twin is waiting for the other twin to finish nursing (and it was awful!)  I rarely get out of my pajamas and wear the same clothes for days.  I eat as much as I want of whatever I want.  (I’ve never dieted or restricted myself with food but right now I am straight-up gluttonous.)  We have dessert every night, sometimes 3 or 4 kinds. Anyway, I wish this life of being centered on my babies and spending my days staring at them could go on and on forever; but for their sake, I know we need to have a bit more of consistency and scheduling.  The most crucial part is sleep training (ie learning to fall asleep on their own, in their own crib) before they get old enough to really fight it.  I don’t like this part…but I love them enough to think a little more long term.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

What’s going on?

baby girl

All of their clothes are shrinking…

baby boy

their skinny frog-legs have disappeared…

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MY BABIES ARE GROWING!!

At one month old, Baby Girl weighs 9.5 lbs and Baby Boy weighs 10 lbs.!!!! Baby Boy’s weight gain is especially celebratory considering he started with a feeding tube and could only handle a teaspoon of milk at a time.  In the 3 weeks he’s been nursing, he has gained a pound a week.  Hooray!!

Although they are twins they are very different from each other in developmental age, appearance and personality.  

Developmental Age:

We brought them home from the hospital on November 11th; they were 6 days old.  The day we brought them home was also our first day with Baby Boy.  (Prior to that, he had been in an isolette with machines and wires attached to him.  We could watch him through the glass during visiting hours–a 30 minute window each afternoon.)  Baby boy  had low muscle-tone and lacked reflexes.  He couldn’t suck and swallow to nurse.  His digestive system was immature.  He had no vision and stared right through our faces (I cried several times worrying that he had been blinded by the oxygen concentration in the NICU.)  Whereas, Baby Girl seemed to be half his size but she was an fierce nurser, held her head up, gave us sustained eye contact and even traced movement from the day we met her.

Baby Girl’s Appearance & Personality

She reminds me of a toy baby doll because she has a stiff little body and small features with large glassy eyes.  Her facial features, head size and even bone structure are petite.  She is incredibly beautiful to me.  Between the two babies, she is the squeaky wheel.  She is awesome at exercising her lungs and vocal chords.  She’s very alert.  The kids and I all imitate the face she makes when nursing because it’s hilarious.  (She scrunches up her nose and furrows her eyebrows and narrows her eyes like she’s challenging a toro.)  She does clever things like patting me on the back when I’m burping her.  She has a teeny little rosebud mouth and I usually say “AHHHH” to get her to open her mouth bigger.  Now, she has started saying, “AH AH AH” when she wants to eat.

Baby Boy’s Appearance & Personality

Baby boy is a cuddle bug!  He used to whimper in his sleep when we first brought him home from the NICU.  But the ratio of whimpers to smiles gradually reversed.  Now he gives us lots of big, goofy open-mouthed grins.  When I burp him he roots and ends up giving me wet, sucky kisses on my cheek and neck. My sweet boy.  He is chill as a cucumber.  He rarely cries.  If he’s awake at night, he just lays in crib, wide-eyed looking around.  For anyone, who feels intimidated by babies, this is definitely the one to start with.  Plus, something about holding him is extremely therapeutic.

It’s been a sleepless month as comes with the territory.  It’s also been one of the best months of our lives.

Tofu Talk

before a photo shoot with Skärbarn

[I had seen a mosquito and told the kids to smush it so it wouldn’t bite the babies.] Tofu scrunches up her nose in determination and growls, “Come ‘ere mosquito I’m gonna slap yer face.”

[Praying] “Bless the sun to be happy if it wants to…”

She’s heard me say things to the babies like “Momma’s boy” and “Momma’s Girl” and Tofu’ll rush to the babies side cooing, “Hello my little girl!  How’s Sister’s girl doing?”

“My baby brother can’t breathe yet. Maybe when he’s older.”

Tofu recently began signing her name with my maiden name. It really ruffles her daddy’s feathers.

The babies helped us realize that Tofu is not good at recognizing body language/emotions.  Baby Girl gets stomach pain and will often go red, rigid, grimace and cry out.  Tofu sees that grimace and cheerfully exclaims, “Oh, she’s smiling!!!!”

Tofu’s go-to phrase: “Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.”

Tofu begged our neighbor for some of their American brand (commisary) yogurt and the neighbor gave her a couple to take home.  She took one bite and promptly decided she disliked cherry flavor and refused to have another bite.  I couldn’t find the yogurts in the fridge and asked her about it. “Um I saw one of the babies throw them all in the trash…”  (She’s really embracing all the benefits of being a big sister. 🙂 )