Thursday, December 5, 2013

Long Overdue Update

So yeah, I used to do this thing called 'blogging' a lot. And then somethings happened and well, some sacrifices had to be made and things got neglected. This blog being one of them. I doubt I'll ever stop blogging completely but the fact of the matter is will come in waves, as it always has. Now that we got that out of the way, lets talk about those two little kiddos that I know ya'll adore.

You might remember me saying awhile back that sometime in Nov. Miss Addison would have to sit for an evaluation to determine if she qualified for the transition into Early Intervention's Preschool Program (not the same preschool that she's been attending once a week with Blake). Well we had that eval and ... SHE NO LONGER QUALIFIES FOR ANY EARLY INTERVENTION SERVICES!!!! After 2.5 years of therapy anywhere from once to three or more times a week, we are done. That chapter is closed.

The evaluators could not say enough positive things about her development. We've once again been reminded that we are one of the lucky ones. Addison falls developmental in line with the average peers her age! This is so huge for us. They told us that it is nothing short of remarkable given her history that she is doing so well. They would have never expected it. A miracle indeed.

I admit it. I teared up. It's bittersweet and a very proud moment.

They are both talking up a storm and I gotta admit, I am a whole lot scared that my children are going to be way smarter then I am. Don't get me wrong, that's a great thing and honestly I can only hope they are, but it worries me. Because of the fact that they will (and maybe already have) out smart me and always have one up on me. The things that come out of their mouths have left me very speechless on a number of occasions.

We're also still in the terrible 2's or almost 3's, but we're hanging in there. Naps are scarce, when it happens it's either in the car or they pass out on the couch while watching Mickey.

Look forward to some Christmas festivities coming up soon, and more on what's been going on with us. <3

Sunday, November 17, 2013

World Prematurity Awareness Day

I have not forgotten. I will never forget.

We are 1 in 8. 

By now if you know me, the hubs, have met the twins, our family or read this blog; you know I am the proud mommy of 26 weekers who are nearly 3 years old. 

Our story really began 3 years ago this month when just days before my birthday I had a terrible bleeding scare that earned my first bed rest stint. Gradually nearest was lifted to just moderate activities, things were going great and then my water broke with Lady A at just 20 weeks gestation. Thankfully we got 6 more weeks of bed rest before my preemies entered the world. 

The past three years have been a lot of things. I've met a lot of other moms who have "been there" and shared our story a million times. I will never forget how prematurity has impacted our life.

I encourage you to help raise awareness by sharing this blog, sharing any of the March of Dimes data and most of all, educating yourself and others about preemies. Together we can all make a difference. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sleep...of Lack There Of

When the twins were newly home from the NICU we went through a pretty rough patch of sleepless nights. At that time there were a lot of factors that played in to this, one of which being the space that wasn't quiet their own "room". Our bathroom was practically IN their room and well when Daddy came home from work late at night (or had to get up for work super early) inadvertently they'd wake. They also would often actually give me a run for my money when it would come to just getting them down to sleep at the beginning of the night. I tried a lot of different things to make it better. Keep in mind I also had one baby tied to a feeding pump all night too, which was a challenge in itself.

I remember being so torn because as I sat and rocked Blake she might cry out yet the power cord and the tubing wouldn't reach to the rocker so I could rock them both at once. Or I'd be rocking her and Blake would wake up. (It's actually quiet challenging trying to get one baby asleep while the other screams their head off. Add to that that most nights I was flying solo.) And I had these big dreams of rocking babies to sleep every night while we cuddled close as they drank their bedtime bottle. It was nothing like I envisioned at all.

Oh how I remember these late night parties that Blake used to have every night at midnight. He'd babble and coo and smile for what seemed like hours. As long as he wasn't in his crib. Then he'd scream.

In the end we decided to sleep train, in a very relaxed way. It worked after just a few nights, and we never looked back. Since then we've moved (twice but who's counting), and even those first few nights in a new place did not make a darn bit of difference. Heck they even slept in hotels like it was their home! During those early days we had bought a sound machine which helped them sleep through the night, and when it broke or someone forgot to turn it on they didn't notice.

And then... we transitioned to toddler beds. Aside from a few night terrors up until this point at almost 2.5 years old, they literally slept through the night and willingly went to bed/nap. Now all bets were off. Since the toddler bed transition, I'd say that 3 out of 7 nights a week we end up with someone in our bed, usually Addison. We've tried being firm, putting her back in her bed over and over, rocking, cuddles, massages, offering water, anything else we think of at 2 am. Sometimes it works, other times she'll sleep with us for a bit and then we can get her back in her bed, and then sometimes, she stays in our bed until it's time to wake up.

It's in those moments when she's laying cuddled flush against me, I am sweating bullets, and she kicks me in her sleep again; that I am reminded that there once was a time when she didn't want to be held. Or when Blake is making this noise he makes when he sleeps (sounds like "round and round and round" with his fingers in his mouth) and I cannot sleep, I remember all the nights he slept in the hospital "alone". And well - I am ok with it. Because ya know what? In the end there will one day be a day when they won't want to cuddle anymore. And for each night of sleeplessness, there are mornings filled with footsteps down the hall and an excited "Good Morning Mommy" followed by cuddles and a cartoon or two. It's worth it.But boy oh boy do I miss consistent sleep.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Preschool Part 2

Today Addison and Blake started preschool through the program I briefly mentioned in my last post about what we'd be doing here. We decided that it would probably be very beneficial to get them into preschool now so that IF Addison qualifies or come time for the next phase of preschool it won't be such a shock for them both. So - they are now going to preschool one day a week for two hours. Probably doesn't seem like much, but it's the structure that they both need and will benefit from as well as the interaction with other children. It's a 'non exclusive' preschool meaning while it is affiliated with the Early Intervention system it's not only for EI kids. (AKA Blake can be there too). Eventually they will increase to two days a week (or more) though that won't be until closer to age 3.

Their morning started promptly at 8 am with breakfast in bed.
Blake was so excited that he wanted his "jacket on NOW" and didn't care that he was still in pjs.

Finally we are all ready. (They wouldn't hold the sign for me though - stinkers!) And Blake was less then amused.
They thought they were so funny, haha. Determined I wouldn't get a good picture for this big occasion.

Mommy & Us.

Daddy & Us. So glad he was able to see them off on their first day. (Addison wanted to kneel down like he was).
We lost the jacket vests. It was a little warm - waiting to go in to school.

Another funny shot for mommy!
Her smile here kills me. Seriously. I love these two.

They came home from preschool, requested some yogurt to eat and then promptly said "Nap now". Off to nap they went and slept from 12:10 to 3:00pm! WHOA! Apparently they were worn out from their big day.

Yogurt mess. LOL.

And then the afternoon shenanigans began.

All in all they did fabulous. They had never so much as stepped foot inside this place until today, but they walked right in to their classroom and began playing. No goodbyes, no tears, not so much as a look back at us. Just like that - they were off. Really I couldn't be more proud, but I admit; I choked back some tears several times after I dropped them off. I still cannot believe that here we are. A moment we weren't sure we'd get to have.

I felt foolish because really this isn't nearly as big of a deal as what 3 y/o preschool will be, or kindergarten - you name it. But for us it IS a big deal. It's a big leap. A moment we won't take for granted. I cannot wait to see how much they grow with this new experience. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mommy Guilt

Tuesday I got the opportunity to take some time out for myself and spend the day at the county fair, followed by a concert at the fair grounds that evening. I was pretty excited, not only to be spending the day with one of my closest friends (J) but also to be seeing Florida Georgia Line live.

(Never heard of them? Try checking out their smash hit Cruise, personally I prefer the remix with Nelly, but the original is pretty good too. Or even Get Your Shine On a song written about actually drinking moonshine, if you haven't figured it out yet - their a mostly country "crossover" band.)

Their opening act was Colt Ford
Who I admit I hadn't heard a whole lot of. But turns out that he's actually wrote and demo-ed some pretty big hits for some big stars. (Ever heard of Dirt Road Anthem? Yeah he wrote that.) 

He was pretty good too, think a mix of Hank Williams meets Kid Rock with a large side of redneck and chicken & biscuits (yes he actually wrote a song called Chicken & Biscuits). 

So anyway I imagine you are thinking "what does this have to do with Mommy guilt?" Well here's the thing. I left before nap time on Tuesday, and by the time I got home they were in bed. For the very first time since they came home from the NICU - I spent nearly twelve whole hours away from them. It was also the first time that hubby had to fly solo for that long. I wasn't worried about how he'd handle it, though I did feel a little sorry for him when this - 
happened just before I left. To be honest she was in rare form from the time she woke up. I knew hubby would have his hands full! 

I also worried about how A & B would react once I actually left and the realized I wasn't going to be gone for just a few minutes. I imagined based on their track record that they would be fine until nap time when they woke up and I wasn't there, I was concerned they would be upset. I was right. I got a call just after nap time from a distraught Addison who just needed to hear mommy's voice. But hubby handled it like a pro. She got to talk to me and then he distracted them and they soon forgot all about me again. 

In the meantime, here I am sort of "living it up" at the fair and all I could think every time we'd pass a kiddie ride was "oh Addison would have loved that" and "would Blake get on the helicopter ride?" Needless to say I think I'll be taking my favorite boy and girl to the fair before the weekend so they can enjoy it too! 

I had fleeting moments where I felt like I should still be at home with the kiddos. But overall - it was so nice to have some time to myself and get to be ME for awhile, instead of mommy and (J) did a great job of making me enjoy myself. Haha. She had me on nearly every ride you could think of, it was a blast.

And then, I came home. I was just cuddling into bed when Addison woke up crying. She was actually crying for her daddy but since he was asleep and had to return to work the next day, I went I get her. The minute she laid eyes on me she sobbed about "I love you momma, I missed you. I need you momma" and my heart nearly broke in two. Me thinks she has learned how to play the guilt card early.

I do think its important for us moms to take some time for ourselves though. Not just for our own sanity, but for the sake of our children. I think this is especially important if you are a stay at home mom and you little ones aren't used to being left in anyone else's care. Speaking from experience here - my mom was a working mom and other then spending time with my grandmother while she worked, I rarely spent any time away from my mom and dad. And when I did, I had a terrible time adjusting. (Just ask my Godmommy who had to cope with a sobbing "way to old to be crying like a baby" kid.) 

And not just time for ourselves but time as husband and wife as well. To nurture that relationship too, which is probably one of the hardest things to remember to do, especially as "new" parents. 

For now though, I am going to go back to cuddling with my babies who are making up for lost time by sticking to be like glue. 

What do you do to make time for you and/or your relationship with your spouse/partner?

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own. I have not been compensated in anyway. I even had to pay for my own ticket to both the fair and the concert. It was however, money well spent.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering September 11 2001

I haven't forgotten where I was on that fateful day. It was my sophomore year of high school, I walked in to my science class and sat down when my classmate who sat in front of me turned around to tell me what had happened. It made no sense and none of us could wrap our heads around it. There were a lot of reports about other events besides just the plans hitting the towers. Threats that made me wonder if my own parents were safe. 

My mom works for a state department and my dad often traveled to DC and VA for work, could he have been caught in this mess? 

Absolute terror was all I felt. 

Eventually I was able to get to the office and get a hold of my mom, she was ok. I don't believe we knew where my dad was at that point. The rest of the events from that point until we were all home together were a blur. 

I remember watching the news and footage over and over. Unsure if these was "the end" of the what we learned were terrorist attacks or just the beginning. Watching the President declaring war against whoever had done this. 

We all slept in the living room together for several days. My mom and dad, didn't go to work for a few days as job sites were locked down. We were grateful to just be together. Alive. So many others were not. 

Later my dad told us he was doing repairs at our areas largest newspaper building. He recapped the mass chaos, people running around, newspaper prints flying it sounded almost as if it were something out of a cartoon - except it wasn't. It was real.

Our nation pulled together strangers helped strangers. We were all changed. So many lost their lives. So many signed up to fight for our country, our freedom, and against these terrorists. So many of those people died in this war. Classmates, neighbors, friends of friends, "kids" my age. 

Several years later, as an adult, I had a chance to visit NY. It was about the time they had just began to break ground on the memorial. The skyline looked so empty, still. A gaping hole where the towers once stood. Standing on that sacred ground, you could feel the emotions, it was like you could see the blood shed and feel the connection who those who never left there.

And now today, 12 years late, I wonder if my children will ever understand the gravity of what happened this day. I never far thought that there may have been an event in my lifetime that would make it to history books. Something they will learn about in school and come how and ask me if I remember. 

I just hope I can do them justice in explaining it in a way they truly understand. I hope they understand the sacrifice that our armed forces make to ensure this won't happen again. But reality is, I can't promise it won't happen again. Chances are they may very well experience something as catastrophic as the events that day. And if heaven forbid they do, I pray I can help them understand and cope.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

Does It Get Easier?

Does being a preemie/NICU/special needs parent ever get easier?

I had to ask myself this today after reading a comment on a FB support group for past/present NICU parents. There was a very heart wrenching question posted by a family member concerning a very ill preemie with a lot of similarities to my sweet lady Addison. I held off on saying anything initially because even giving all the similarities the situation was different and I wasn't sure how to go about this delicate situation. I did follow the thread while I thought of how I could explain Addison's story and offer some resources for this person. It was the response before mine that shook me to the core. 

Another twin mom lost one of her sons at 10.5 months old. TEN AND A HALF MONTHS OLD! He never left the NICU, it was the only home he ever knew. My heartaches for the mom and her family. And in an instant I was taken right back to our time in the NICU making tough choices for Addison. 

I had to ask myself, if it ever gets easier. Does it get better? Will I ever "get over it"? And by "it" I mean the experience itself, the having babies 14 weeks early, watching them fight for their life and all that a came after; that "IT". I don't know that I will ever "get over it" in the sense that I'll forget what happened or certain things won't remind me of some of/any of those moments. But I do know, time has helped me heal - a little.

Day to day is easier. The worry lessens just a little. But the fact is, I cannot erase history. It's our story. I cannot imagine forgetting where Addison and Blake started or how far they have come. As days go on though my focus has changed from focusing on how close we've come to loosing them both to focusing on just how amazing of a miracle we've witnessed. The thought of another pregnancy or NICU experience still scares me - my scars run deep there - likely as deep as my physical scars from my c-section. And sure there are things that can take me back and unleash those raw emotions, and sometimes I need to cry it out. Other times, I may just need a deep breath and cover A & B in hugs and kisses to know "it's all ok".

I can say that even though their birth was one of the scariest moments in my life, it was also the greatest. And perhaps the happiest (though that might have been all the pain meds talking).

Sometimes I wish I knew why we were one of the "lucky" ones and why so many others had to endure such pain. (Sometimes I often wonder if we'd get so lucky again.) I pray one day that "why" can be replaced with life and hope. The hope that one day we can end prematurity and save more of these amazing little heroes - that those survivors live a full life after the NICU. For me, part of healing has been found in advocating, raising awareness and supporting others.

So to those families still in the thick of the NICU, the days are long (and hard). It's worth it no doubt. And it does get just a little easier as time goes on. Reach out to those around you, those that have went before you and when you're ready - support those who will no doubt come after you. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Being a Preemie Mom

Did it change me? Would I be any different (as a mom) then I am today?

I don't know for sure. In my heart I feel like I would have always remembered to live in the moment and cherish their childhood. Perhaps it was the solemn vow I took as a women battling Infertility in my early 20's, who watched countless parents neglect their children, that changed me.

I'll never know because this is the only life I've known. I don't have older children that weren't preemies to say I parented them differently before A & B came along. What I do know is that I am giving this my very best shot.

And perhaps for me there are things that seem HUGE that well frankly aren't HUGE to anyone else. Yes some of that I do know comes from the preemie mom in me. Watching a little one pounder in an incubator fight for life and wonder "will they or walk or talk, go to school or ride a bike". We knew the statistics, we
were aware of how different things could be. So to see them do "simple" things just blows me away.

In the last two weeks alone I have been reminded a thousand times over of the two miracles we have been trusted with. From Blake totally acing a developmental eval. To the simply amazing growth, development wise, that Addison has shown. It wasn't all that long ago that we had concerns about her attention span (or lack there of) and her "safety awareness" (otherwise known as "I shouldn't jump from the top of the playground with no one to catch me). And now? Well she sat through an entire movie in a movie theater, she will sit through a short book and stick with a puzzle or craft for more then 2 seconds and is easily drawn back in.

For lack of a better phrase, she seems to be acting more and more age appropriate. Which is what the hope was for her, hence why we are still in 3 different therapies 1-2 times a week. She is becoming more and more determined to accomplish difficult tasks instead of just walking away like she has been known to do in the past. 

I stood in amazement at the park while she climbed a ladder to reach the top of the structure and swung from monkey bars. She walked a balance beam and chased after her PT like you wouldn't believe. Just a few short months ago we had concerns about her balance and she couldn't take many steps without stumbling and falling.

We've been in speech/special instruction for nearly a year. Sometimes we have to consciously encourage Addison to use her "big girl words" and use more then two word phrases. Then nights like tonight, she tells me "Goodnight. Love you to moon and back." I know we're moving in the right direction.

She has her "big girl" eval coming up in October and I am interested to see how the gap between her developmental skills and age has narrowed. This might actually be the first one that I walk away from without feeling completely defeated or hopeless. 

And Blake, well he proves to be a great role model for his sister. She loves to do the things he does and he encourages her (always has) to "aim high". Though sometimes this gets them into a little mischief. I love how helpful he is, and how much he enjoys doing "chores". Now I just hope he remembers how much he loves to do laundry when he is oh say about 13 ;)

All of this just blows me away and overwhelms my heart (in a positive way) daily. There is always a constant reminder that we are blessed beyond measure. And I couldn't be more proud.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

It's been awhile but I thought our adoring fans would appreciate a glimpse at these cuties again... 
Addison loves making faces in my camera phone. I usually end up laughing at her selfies.

She also likes to encourage me to do leg lifts "Up, Down" she tells me. 
Blake has taken over my iPad. He enjoys playing Bloons and looking thru the pictures. Clearly it makes him very happy.
Again with the funny faces. I love this one.
Daddy teaching Blake to hit a baseball. He caught on quick. "Put the ball on the t and swing."
He's been so smiley lately. 
Mommy's boy.
She thinks she is just so adorable (because she is!) But here she was singing.

We're all still here and doing well. Summer is coming to a close and life should be returning to the cool weather usual.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fitness Friday

I am super duper tired tonight, so this is gonna be short and then I am going to curl up and enjoy this cool fall like night air. If you notice drool on the screen, its mine, just wipe it off :p

Weigh in this morning and I am down 2.6 this week. So excited about that and I was super worried because this week hasn't been all that great. I've been trying to be super careful about what I am eating but haven't made it to the gym. I have, however, managed to keep busy around the house as well as getting out and enjoying this taste of cooler weather we are having. I still just didn't feel like I was truly working for it, but I did something right I apparently.

Looking forward to getting back to the gym on Sunday. (Maybe even tomorrow if I can sneak away from the kiddos while my mom is in town.)

And with that - I am off to bed at 10pm on a Friday. Living the dream right here. Goodnight and happy Friday night.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bragging About Blake

If you follow us on Facebook then chances are you saw the above update earlier today. And I couldn't be more proud.

We decided to have the eval because we are coming up on their 3rd birthday and the transition to Preschool from Early Intervention (or Infants and Toddlers). To us, we saw no real concerns or issues (minus a minor apprehension about sticking things touching his hands or feet - think paint or sticky foods) with his development but we put so much focus on helping Addison succeed, we wanted to be sure. And because he was a preemie and had NICU time, he automatically qualifies for monitoring and evaluations through our county.

During the evaluation, they mentioned to us several times that he has a great attention span and he is very determined to accomplish tasks. And, we knew his speech was advanced but I didn't expect to hear that he is so far ahead. A 3 year old level?? THREE YEAR OLD???? Who knew! Plus he has some "emerging" 3.5 to 4 year old skills in speech. I guess that gives me a whole new perspective on his little attitude and some of the snippy things he says. ;) 

They still highly encourage us to find more opportunities to expose Blake (well both of them) to situations and children their age in a more structured environment and feel they will benefit greatly from a pre-school program twice a week. She thinks Blake and Addison might even be ready for library story time! I'll keep you posted on that.

Here's the smarty pants himself admiring his milk at breakfast.

That pretty much wraps that up, and I owe all our adoring fans a post about all the cool things we've been getting into lately, I promise that's coming. (Think trains, movies, water and rollercoasters - and not the NICU kind). So stay tuned!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fitness Friday

I have officially hit 20 pounds LOST. Super excited about that and feeling really proud, because I know I've earned every single ounce of that lost.

I bought a fat analyzer finally! If you are looking for one, THIS one came highly recommended to me and it's what I ended up going with. So far I love it. Why a fat analyzer you ask? Because for me it's one more way to see my progress. I wish I had made this purchase sooner though so I could see where I started. As I gain muscle, the body fat % will decrease, and as I loose weight the BMI will go down. It's an even better judge then the scale especially with all the strength training I am doing now.

I am still loosing an inch to half and inch all over which is pretty awesome too. I am really starting to see a difference in my body shape and the way my clothes are fitting, and I am noticing some muscle and toning going on. The hubby actually laughed at me last night because I felt something weird on my mid section and it "flexed" as I moved in certain directions. Yeah those things are called muscles. There might just be hope for a six pack after all :)

Last Friday I mentioned how I felt like I finally had a grip on things, found a better "routine" and was really digging in and focused. It felt great. And this week feels even better. My diet has improved dramatically over the last week and I've seen more gym days this week. I was very proud that I took time to make it to the gym this past Sunday and got in Cardio and then did Strength Training on my own because I knew I wouldn't be able to make it to my usual Monday night BodyWorks class.

Monday I spent all day on my feet walking around/chasing two littles at an amusement park with one of my BFF's and her little family. I expected to be completely exhausted by the time we left but I felt really good still. We packed lunches and then ended up having to get a small meal there too since it was getting later. Lunch was a super healthy salad with chicken and veggies and I felt very full. Plus I carried a huge water bottle and filled it when needed. I am not sure if I was still running on all the excitement from that day or if I've finally reached that place where I am starting to have more energy and feel better about myself. (I'll go with BOTH. ;) )

The rest of the week, I hit up not ONE but TWO BodyWorks classes, mowed the lawn (which is an exercise in itself) and then my hubby so graciously sent me on my way to the gym tonight for some Cardio. I burned 436 calories and walked/ran 2.59 miles in 45 minutes, which seriously is a record for me on the treadmill. So yeah I feel like I am back on track and really in deep this time. Committed. Hoping that feeling stays. I think I've finally found some motivation deep down inside and I really like the way I am feeling about it all.

How are you doing with your goals & progress? I'd love to cheer you on!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Preemies and the Life After

Chances are you might have seen this article from the New York Times by now. I read it, and sat on it for a few because I really didn't know what to say. My mind when back to a few days ago when we had the honor of attending our first NICU reunion, and heard one of our own Neo's said something similar. Something to the effect of  "Sometimes the hardest part of my job is to save these tiny babies. Because when we do all that we do, we have no clue what kind of life we are saving them for. Many go on to a lifetime of severe disabilities, so to see two 26 weekers doing so well - it makes it a little easier."

Not too much more far fetched then what the NYT author had to say. BUT - the author also says parents lack the appropriate education in these situations and need to be better educated. And further seems to make it seem as if saving a child so premature is almost torturous and inhuman. She also mentions about using steroids to help the child come of the ventilator and that it can cause Cerebral Palsy, and how risky it can be. Yeah we had that same conversation about Addison, but guess what? BEING BORN PREMATURELY INCREASES THE RISK, not to mention many full term children have CP too! The data claiming the steroids "cause" CP is inconclusive, because there is no way to tell if a child would have developed CP without the steroids. So if we are talking education, she miss informed his patient's parents right there. It also makes me wonder why she chose such a profession if she disagrees with much of the treatment? To all of that I have many many thoughts. Some which I can't even put in to words.

Somewhere along my news feed today I saw a blog post from Life with Jack  in response to the NYT article that probably said it better then I ever could.

Is there truth to much of what the author is saying? Absolutely. Statistics don't lie, and parents do need to be well informed. Reality is that that conversation shouldn't happen just once. It should happen often throughout the care of the mom and later after the care of the preemie. Our hospital was good about doing NICU consults every week/stage so we knew what to expect should we deliver on this day or that day. But the very bottom line is that there is no sure way to know what the outcome will be. If you didn't know Blake or Addison's story - chances are you wouldn't guess they were preemies (aside from being a little tinier then their peers), that's even with Addison's very mild delays. And every day I am reminded that some of this could just be Addison and not a preemie thing we are just likely more aware and have been working on it because she was born early.

Please understand this - I am NOT in any way criticizing the parent who chooses not to sustain life in a child born at 26 weeks (or any gestational age). But I do want these parents to see what life with a 26 weeker (or two) is like. That's what this blog has been about. Sharing our experience. Sure we talk about lots of things here, but at that end of the day - raising awareness and knowledge will always be where my heart is. If we knew back then when I was on bedrest what we know now - you can bet your bottom dollar that we'd make the same choice. After all we were given the choice more then once about how to proceed with Addison. And you know what? Even with all she has been through and all the heartache I've felt as her mother, I cannot imagine my life without her and Blake. No way no how.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What's for Dinner - Tuesday Edition

I have been wanting to try this dish called Italian Wonderpot that I found on Budget Bytes for about a week now. And I finally got around to it tonight.

Just starting to boil

To make it you'll need:
  • 4 cups vegetable broth 
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil 
  • 12 oz. fettuccine 
  • 8 oz. frozen chopped spinach 
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes 
  • 1 medium onion 
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • ½ Tbsp dried basil 
  • ½ Tbsp dried oregano 
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes 
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste 
  • 2 oz. feta cheese 
Ingredients List source: Budget Bytes

Only changes I made was to us a whole box of fettuccine (16 ozs vas 12 ozs), minced garlic instead of cloves (2 tsp = 4 cloves) and a pinch of shredded mozzarella on top instead of feta. For the full recipe and instructions click here.

It was super simple, smelled wonderful and tasted absolutely amazing. I admit though I typically prefer a thicker sauce and was worried I wouldn't be into this since it isn't very saucy. Boy was I wrong. The flavor was packed into the pasta and tomatoes. Even the kiddos who have been stubbing there noses at spaghetti lately LOVED it. Blake even asked for seconds.

The Finished Product

It cost me less then $7 to make, serves 6 and was only 453 calories according to My Fitness Pal.

So... Go ahead. Try it. And come back and tell me how much you loved it too.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fitness Friday

So it's been awhile since I've done one of these. And well the truth is, I've avoided it because - I've been struggling with the same pound and a half for a few weeks now, and I won't lie, I've really felt discouraged by it. Yeah there is that whole "muscle weighs more then fat" theory, and I am not questioning it. And my clothes are fitting different, but - the scale isn't moving.

Ok well that's a lie. Last week it moved down, and I was so excited. Then I started going to BodyWorks class (think cardio and weights all in one) and it went back up, and then it didn't budge. Yeah I really shouldn't let my mood hinder on the scale, but what woman doesn't? I am working on it. And I've switched my focus and changed some things up. Truth is I haven't had a really good weight lifting/strength training routine. So far I've made it to ONE BodyWorks class a week, then I usually do Zumba one or two days and two more days of strength/weights on my own.

I will say this. This week alone, I have felt like I have done better at the gym then any other week thus far. I think I really have a good grip on working out now so that's a plus. I do want to hit up more then one BodyWorks class a week, but the times are all funky and that's the biggest reason why I've not been able to make it to more then one. But for the first time in a long time, I feel ACTIVE, and that's pretty huge for me. After today I'd say I am feeling much much much better.

Currently I am down 19 pounds - 6 pounds from my pre baby weight, which I've now made my next goal. And I need some new workout pants. I can make due with the shirts, but the pants are getting a little too baggy and/or I can't keep them up. That's progress!

I did think this was worth sharing though. Right is March, Left is today.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

NICU Reunion

Today we attended our very first NICU Reunion. The nurses did an amazing job pulling this all together for the families that were there. We got to see lots of our nurses who took such great care of our babies way back when, and we even ran into another family that was in the NICU the same time we were. To be in that room today was an honor and blessing. Surrounded by miracles.

Here's the photos from today - There's us in front of the model of the hospital.
Bottom left is Dr. K (I call him Addison's lifesaver)
Above that is Dr. D (she was in the OR with me and gave Addison her first breaths)
Top left corner is Nurse M - She always kept it real and kept a smile on my face
Top right corner are some of the night nurses L & T - L prayed over Addison one of the very first nights and we'll forever be grateful for that.
And last but not least Sister C - She was sent to pray with us before my csection and visited the NICU often to pray over Addison and Blake. She was also an amazing support and comfort.

I am so glad we got the opportunity to attend today and see everyone. Dr. K kept saying how remarkable it was to see Addi and Blake and how well they are doing. He also said that sometimes the toughest part of his job is to save these babies as small as they were and then learn that they live with a lifetime of disabilities, but you never know going into it what the future might hold. So for him to see such a positive outcome it was rewarding for him. He gave us a great reminder of just how fortunate we are to have Addison and Blake and the strides they are making. I will never ever forget meeting him for the first time, the night they were born. He rushed into our room to tell us that Addison may not make it and ask just how far we wanted him to go. Dr. K remained by her side that night and was still there the next morning. He did all he could for her, and the next morning all he could say to explain was "she is still here and we will take it minute by minute". Minute by minute is how many of our NICU days went - and the fact that he was there made a huge impact.

Next to Dr. D - Dr. K probably spent the most time with Addison (and Blake) in the NICU, so much time that I am will to bet A & B recognize his voice. He also became a huge support and insight later down the road and I will forever be grateful. Not just for Dr. K but for Dr. D too. As well as all of their support staff. 

If any of my Mercy "family" is reading this - let me say it again. We love you all, for all that you did for us - and all that you continue to do for those families who need it most. We'll never be able to repay you for the amazing gift of life that you gave to our children and cared for them in the most precious ways. Thank you just doesn't seem like enough. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you knows how much you mean to us. (UMMS family this goes for you all too - you all played a BIG hand in Addison's care during the end of our NICU stay as well.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Preschool Part 1

Today was our big "phone interview" about Addison, Early Intervention (EI) and (gulp) Preschool. In PA, EI goes from birth to 5, but at age 3 it transitions from "in home" to "on site". Currently Addison gets OT, PT and SI (Special Instruction) a few times a month at home - or the park, at a restaurant, or any other setting she may struggle with. At age 3 it will then become an educational setting and look more like prepping her for what will be expected when she starts Kindergarten with a side of any PT/OT/Etc., provided that she qualifies for it. Or it could become on site where I'd just take her in for appointments for PT/OT/Etc. Just because she qualifies now, does not mean she'll qualify for preschool. Different assessment and rules. And yes I realize it makes no sense whatsoever as to why if she doesn't qualify for preschool but does qualify for PT & OT still that I would then have to take her in for her appointments vs her coming here. (And I know some places actually do on site therapy from birth, but that's not ever been the case for us. I am greatful for that.)

So today we talked about what I should expect in the coming months as they prepare for this change. And we scheduled her formal preschool eval. That will happen in Nov (when she is 2yrs 9mths). I will find out that day if she qualifies for anything further and how that will be handled. I cried at the end of this phone call because um, yeah...I am not ready for my babies to go off to preschool these two are not ready for preschool.

Now - some of you maybe wondering about Blake. As for now we have a few options. Currently he receives no EI services (he was discharged shortly after his first birthday). He part of what they call their monitoring program here in PA, where I fill out questionnaires periodically in regards to his development and if they see concerns they will offer an eval or if I have a concern in the interim I can request an eval. To date, he has had no developmental concerns. At age 3 we will have him evaluated under the preschool guidelines to see if he qualifies for services at that point (unless we have a concern sooner). 

If he does not qualify (and Addison does) then we have a few options. This all really depends on Addison though and what parts she is eligible for. A.) He could be allowed to partake in the same preschool/class as Addison and be the "class model". B.) They would go to separate preschools. C.) We can opt to forgo EI Preschool and enroll them both in a different preschool that is still a part of EI but also allows for community kids with/or without delays. Now should Addison NOT qualify for any services, we'll be looking into preschool at the same preschool as mentioned in option C or elsewhere.

So that's where we currently stand with all that. Did I confuse you? Because I am still scratching my head about some of this.

If you have experience with EI in a different state - how does it vary?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

After feeling like we were having the same meals over and over and getting bored with dinner I decided it was time to spice it up and try some new things. So off to Pinterest I went and came up with a stack of dinners that sounded yummy and I thought we'd love.

Stuffed peppers is a huge favorite in this house, but one that doesn't happen often. (I prefer my Grandmother's and if she doesn't cook them, I don't eat them lol.) So when I found this gem, I was very excited to try it because I also love cheesesteak.

And this was the end result:

I did change things up a little though instead of thinly sliced roast beef I used SteakUms (in the package there is two slices of meat per paper, I used 6 of those so 12 slices total) and I don't like mushrooms so I left those out. I also added a little bit of mayo on top of the first layer of cheese and omited the garlic, butter and olive oil.

8 oz. Thinly Sliced Roast Beef  12 slices of SteakUms
8 Slices Provolone Cheese
2 Large Green Bell Peppers
1 Medium Sweet Onion
6 oz. Baby Bella Mushrooms
2 Tbs. Butter
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 Tbs. Garlic – Minced
Salt and Pepper – to taste
2 Tsp Mayo
Slice peppers in half lengthwise, remove ribs and seeds.
Slice onions. Saute over medium heat with meat and a little salt and pepper.  Saute until onions are tender and meat is no longer pink.
Preheat oven to 400* ( I stuck the peppers in the oven while it preheated because the first batch I made before Hubby got home, weren't as tender as I like and I didn't want to burn or over cook them by adding longer cook time once stuffed. Once the meat was done I took them out and stuffed them).
Line the inside of each pepper with a slice of provolone cheese.  
Fill each pepper with meat mixture until they are nearly overflowing. 
Top each pepper with another slice of provolone cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese on top is golden brown. 
They turned out delicious. Hubby said, "It's filling and tastes better then a cheesesteak sub, unless we are talking a REAL Philly Cheesesteak", which if you know my husband, that's saying alot. He likes his carbs/breads. One kiddo (Blake) did not love the peppers but ate the filling - by golly I think I found ONE thing this kid doesn't eat. Addison on the other hand ate almost all of hers. 
I am also looking for meals that can freeze or cook in the crockpot - these stuffed peppers do not fall into that category but they seriously were so simple to make that I think we'll be seeing more of in this house. My goal with all of this is to eat out less even when our schedules get busy or things get a little complicated with the kiddos, because let me be really honest... some nights trying to cook and entertain them can get interesting.
Follow along as I will be posting more recipes that we're trying hopefully we all won't be disappointed. And PLEASE feel free to share some of your favs too!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Best Day of My Life

No it's not the day I got married (though that comes pretty close). No it's not the day we found out we were pregnant (probably a close second or third). IT'S THE DAY WE BROUGHT ADDISON HOME!!! That day happened two years ago today!

After a long grueling 153 days in the NICU when we wondered and worried about things no parent should ever have to face, we walked out the door with not one baby but TWO.

Bringing Blake home on May 26th 2011 was by far a great day as well, but this day stands alone in it's own right. It was THE MOMENT we waited and fought for since seeing two pink lines and two heartbeats. Our family was finally together all under one roof. I'll never forget laying down that night and staring at a monitor screen this time not one with beeps and numbers, but the video monitor showing two babies in their cribs sleeping. I didn't sleep much but it was worth it. We were both in all our glory. Knowing the next morning we wouldn't have to get dressed and drive anywhere to see our babies. They were home, together, where they belonged. As Hubby often says, "Our world hasn't been the same since."

In the last two years we've laughed, cried, worried even more. But more then that we've continued to watch miracles unfold. We brought home a baby girl with a feeding tube, a feeding pump, a Cleft Palate, and major sensory issues. Today we've got a happy two year old girl who rules our world (with the help of her brother), one who can on any given day eat any teenage boy to shame. No more "bells and whistles". She's conquered surgery after surgery and came out on top. I don't think there is anything she cannot/won't do.

Last year this day for me was a new beginning of sorts. Many talk about first birthdays post NICU being the turning point, where you can breath that sigh of relief. The emotions of it all lifts just a little once you get past all the recaps and flashbacks. And it's true their first birthday did bring a lot of closure. But it wasn't until this day that I felt like we had really "made" it. It was the day that marked the end of all the "firsts" where special days were concerned. This was in a way where happiness began. I still have moments where it can be hard or I'll look back and get overwhelmed. But it does get better. This year, my feelings are so different then they were this time last year. We've come so far since then. And I am thankful for that.

Each year we planned to celebrate their "Happy Homecoming Days" in some way. A way to remember how far they've come and celebrate the life we've been given, and this year is no different. We'll smother her with love and thanks for all that she is and all that she will be. Happy Homecoming Day my sweet princess.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beach Babies

One of the many things we can be thankful for is being close to the beach (well sort of). We'd been planning a week long vacation before September but decided when we had the chance to take off for the weekend. It's not often we get a few days together and we wanted to make the most of it. So off to the beach we headed (again) and this time we stayed over night.

I am not sure why but the littles were up til TWO am!!! 2 AM - do you hear me? Shew! They did enjoy it all though.
Mr. Blake is ready for the beach and the sand, just keep him from the water.

We drove thru a place called Assateauge Island were the horses run wild. They come right up to the cars. The kiddos loved it. Addison wanted to bring them home.

I love this one of Addi girl. We were crossing the bridge to the salt air and sand. 

My whole world.

Building Sand Castles

More horses

Breakfast at Daddy's Favorite Buffet

What's your summer been like? And cool vacations or stay cations? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back to Blogging

The thing about blogging is that - well sometimes life happens and somethings get pushed to the side. I won't promise it won't happen again. But for now, lets catch up!

Since I last posted one toddler decided to attempt a climb out of her crib. And almost made it. So this happened...I cried a little. They did not. I also took it as an opportunity to create a toddler/big kid room for them since we never really got to have an official nursery and when we moved here we just worked with what was already going on in their room. I am happy with it and they are in their Disney glory.

Its rained or been gloomy here for a few days off and on. I snapped this one of Blake after he got huffy that he couldn't go play in the pool in the rain. Poor kiddo.

This one might also be a fav... EYE <3 U! ;)

And ofcourse Princess Addison enjoying the kiddie pool on 4th of July. She cracks me up!

In a nutshell... We've all been super busy. I've even missed some gym time (and still debating what to do about that situation as I mentioned in my previous post) but it's super busy and I've still stayed pretty active. We'll see how this next week goes!

Coming up on the blog : Our mini vacation to the beach. Check back soon because you won't want to miss this!