Friday, September 30, 2011

From the core of who I am, thank you.

It seems so insignificant to simply say thank you...or to somehow find the words to express my gratitude for the outpouring of love and support that came from this post. And for someone who NEVER is at a loss for words, I'm not so sure what to do next.

I wrote the post about our tWIPs for me. It wasn't for you. It wasn't for families suffering similar losses, or for other mothers who have lost babies. It wasn't even for Joey. It was totally, selifshly for me. It was for me to let it out, speak my mind and begin to heal.

But then I published it, and it did so much more than I ever thought possible. Over the last week, I've received more emails, texts, Facebook posts and notes than I could probably count, and each one was so significant. So impactful. So needed.

The Internet is a crazy, creepy place. But it's also an amazing place. A place where perfect strangers hidden behind an IP address and what may or may not actually be your real profile picture can band together in solidatarity. United in pain, happiness, fear, joy, pride, love...and motherhood.

So as simple and insignificant as it may seem, I thank all of you. Those I know, those I don't know and those who don't know me.The tWIPs and I are better and stronger because you exist.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Word association.

Sleeping. PINK Sweatpants.

Makeup. MAC.

Shopping. Target.

Sundays. Football.

Fall. Chili. (Also cider & donuts but that's a story for another day.)

Ahhhh, yes. It's that time of year. The leaves begin to change and I start buying Jiffy Cornbread mix in bulk while my crockpot works overtime on yummy soups and other things that smack of fall, crisp weather and snuggling.

Last night I whipped up my second seasonal batch of award winning white chicken chili. I'm not even bragging, really has won awards! I've topped the charts twice at the annual chili cook-off at work. I may or may not also be the chair of that particular committee...

Anyway, here's the recipe. It's VERY yum. You can play with the chili/cayenne and hot sauce if you're a wussy on the hotness. Enjoy!

White Chicken Chili
Combine over low heat:
1 lb. chicken breast, poached and cut into bite size pieces
2 - 14 oz. cans of chicken broth
1 large glass jar of white navy beans w/ liquid

Meanwhile, sauté:
2 cups finely chopped onions (make your husband do this, as it is a sucky job)
2 tablespoons minced garlic(get a garlic press so your fingers aren't all sticky and stinky)
1 small can of minced green chilies
3 (heaping) teaspoons cumin
2 (level) teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients and heat to serve. (And obviously, bake some cornbread while you wait!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Photographic happiness.

Remember what I said about Alex being the best medicine? The proof is in the pudding, mah dear.

 He's had a recent obsession with giraffes.
I don't get it, either.
So guess what is happening for Halloween?

Arts and crafts time with Grammi!

Monday, September 26, 2011

One Week.

Time is such a funny thing, isn't it? It just comes and goes, without permission or hesitation. And it just keeps going, no matter how hard you want to slam on the brakes.

The last week has been a big one for our family. Consider yourself warned: this particular blog entry will be long. And it will be emotional. And it will probably be more information than most of you need to know. But this is my outlet. It's my therapy. Because here, I can talk through my fingers and be happy or sad, angry or hysterical, joyful or sorrowful...and just be. So here goes nothing.

Sometime in late August, I peed on a stick (which is where this little blogeroo began 3 or so years ago...) and saw those incredible, amazing two pink lines. I took the test earlier than I probably should have, but there they were - in all their striped glory.

We kept it our own little secret for a little over a month, then got around to telling family. We went round and round about fun ways to let the cat out of the bag, but ultimately decided that Alex would be the best possible little deliverer of the news:

On Friday, Sept. 16, we had our first ultrasound. Gosh, I love that visit. The first time you hear that little tumpthumpthump. There's nothing like it.

Joey came with me, and we saw a beautiful, healthy baby on the monitor. One strong, thumper of a heartbeat. When the ultrasound tech was nearly done, Joey laughed and said, "You're sure there's only one in there, right?" He was half joking, half serious, since he had a strong conviction from the very beginning that I was having twins.

The tech looked at him and said, "Well, you know, I did see two heartbeats when I first turned on my monitor, but I couldn't find a second when I went in. But now that you are saying that, I want to go back in and make sure."

And she did. And she found that second, incredible heartbeat. At this point, I started laughing and crying. I didn't know what to do with myself. TWO babies! Twice the blessing...but also twice the diapers. Twice the formula. Twice the love. Twice the everything.

As we were waiting to meet with the doctor, Joe and I were both laughing and crying - frantically trying to plan the next few years of our lives. We would have to move. We would have to get a bigger car (my own worst nightmare - a mini-van!). We would need one more of everything. We had a 6-month "to-do" checklist in our head longer than Santa's naughty list. We were overwhelmed with joy. And fear...just to keep it real!

When our doctor came in, she shared our joy. But she also let us know that what they thought they were seeing on the monitor were mono-chorionic twins, meaning that we had two babies, but they shared a sac and a placenta. This is a very rare form of twin (the egg separates too late for the babies to each have their own placenta) and is a very high-risk pregnancy due to the likelihood of the umbilical cords getting tangled and the babies losing their blood supply. She scheduled an appointment for us to have a super high tech ultrasound at the hospital the following Tuesday to learn more.

What a weekend that was...waiting for Tuesday. We knew since the babies were in the same sac that they were identical. So we either had 2 boys or 2 girls. Eeeeee!!! We started looking at houses. At mini-vans (gag me). At double strollers. And I won't lie, I totally started looking at matchy-matchy outfits for their newborn pics. Etsy is a very dangerous place for me.

I even started thinking about how I would tell you guys. I came up with a million ideas, but in the end I thought I would do this:

I know, right? So fun and so clever. I patted myself on the back for that little bit of brilliance. I really am an artist when it comes to Microsoft Paint. And I dubbed them our little tWIPs. You know, like WIP, but twins!

Tuesday took about a year to arrive, but it finally did. The ultrasound tech at the hospital did her thing...and didn't say a word the entire time. After about ten minutes, she switched off the monitor and said she needed to go talk to the doctor to see if what she found was enough or if he wanted to run further tests.

I knew the second she left the room that something was wrong. Call it mother's instinct, call it reading between the lines...I just knew.

The doctor, a jolly man with a kind face, entered the room and washed his hands. "You're here for twins?" he asked.

I just sort of looked stupidly at him and said, "Yes."

"Well, we're only finding one heartbeat, so let's run some more tests, ok?"

And he did. He did a belly ultrasound and poked around on my painfully full bladder for what felt like an eternity. He pointed everything out to us as he saw it - the pregnancy sac, the yolk sac, the placenta, the heartbeat. All single. Not plural.

He asked to do a vaginal ultrasound, since he could see more with that. We obviously agreed, and in he went.

After what felt like another eternity, he said the words I never thought I would hear. He actually had to say them twice because I thought I went deaf for a split second and misunderstood him.

"You have conjoined twins."

No. Not possible. This is not how things work. Babies are healthy. Babies grow separately. Girls who grew up in the cornfields of Michigan in a normal, healthy family and went to a normal college and got a normal job and married a normal man (well, that's relative I suppose) do not have conjoined twins. This just doesn't happen. Not to me, at least. This happens on TV. And in the movies. And in books. But not in real life. Not in my real life.

It is virtually impossible for me to explain to you what I felt and thought in those moments that followed. Looking back, it's a dark, cold, paralyzing blur. I remember the doctor was so kind and gentle with his words. I remember falling as a weeping, hysterical mess into Joe's strong, solid arms. I remember my hands trembling as I dailed my Mom - the only other person I wanted at that moment other than Joe - and somehow getting out the words, "The babies are conjoined. I need you here now."

The phone in the room rang, and in what seemed like magic, our OB was on the other end. She, too, was kind and gentle, and said we could come straight to her office to talk and learn more.

We walked out of the hospital holding each other up and stopping every 50 feet to cry and hold each other. My head was spinning in a daze of thoughts - but the one that kept surfacing was that this wasn't real. I would wake up soon in my own comfy, stylish bed and hit reset on this day.

Reset never came, and the next thing I knew, we were sitting in a tiny, bland room at the OB office. We saw a different doctor in the practice - actually my regular OB's husband, Dr. Long - and looking back, he was on call that afternoon for a reason. For us.

He walked in the room silently and just sat on his short, swively stool and placed his hand firmly on my leg. That gesture said more than any words ever could. He looked at both Joe and me and I will never, ever for as long as I live, forget the words he said to us next.

"I don't have a lot of answers for you today. I'm just here to be sad with you. And to listen."

Honestly, I didn't have the brain function at that moment to ask any logical or thoughtful questions. All I wanted to know was why. And there really is no good answer for that. Identical twins (of any kind) are not hereditary. They're not genetic. Only fraternal twins are. And the first type of twins they thought we had (mono-chorionic) are super rare. But conjoined are even more so. And there is no medical explanation for it. It just happens.

We also learned that it is very rare for conjoined twins to make it full term. Our babies had 2 heads and 2 heartbeats, which was very reassuring, but it was too soon to tell where exactly they were conjoined, or what the future would hold as far as the possibility of being surgically separated or even making it to full term.

Wednesday and Thursday were a blur. I didn't go to work. I did a lot of research. I did a lot of praying. I did a lot of cleaning (idle hands and all that - ha).

Alex, bless his little heart, had the biggest burden to bear in all of this and didn't even know it. He was our medicine - our healing. When I would hit that valley of despair (which came around about once an hour), I would just look at his little face and listen to his sweet, sing-songy voice and my heart would heal just a little more.

Fast forward to very early Friday morning. Exactly one week from our very first ultrasound. I woke up about 4:30 am with painful cramping and bleeding. We called Jane and left Alex with her (good thing her husband is a super early riser!) and headed to the hospital.

Our babies are in heaven now. They were blessed by a Chaplain before I was put under anesthesia, in what was one of the most beautiful, from the soul, direct-from-God prayers that has ever been prayed over my body.

So Friday to Friday. That's one week. We went from one baby to two babies to one baby to two babies to two connected babies. And somehow, I'm still standing.

The healing has started, and probably won't ever end. I find peace in knowing that they will never be alone. They will always be together, connected in an eternal hug.

I know for many of you, your first instinct will be to comment here or to send me a text or an email telling me you're sorry. And while I appreciate and am so thankful to have such a strong and sweet network of friends, family, and perfect strangers of the Internet, forgive me for being so bold as to say I don't want your sorry. So don't give it to me.

Instead, I want (and need) your joy, your happiness, your smiles, your hugs and your prayers. I will never forget my sweet tWIPs, and they will live on in this blog and through Alex, Joey and whatever baby or babies our family is blessed with in the future.

Their lives were short and sweet. They will know no sorrow, no pain and nothing of this Earth. In a way, they're the lucky ones. They got to have 8 sweet weeks in my belly full of naps, nachos, Cheez-its, Crystal Light, and double chocolate chip cookies from Panera. And then they got a ticket straight to Heaven.

I think that's two incredibly awesome lives worth living and worth celebrating. Enjoy the party in Heaven my sweet tWIPs. Save me a seat - Daddy and I will hold you soon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dear insurance company: please kindly suck it.

Today I spent wasted 40 minutes on the phone with my insurance company, who, for the most part, is good. We have great coverage and I rarely have problems. But when I do have problems, they go balls out and make it the worst experience of my life.

Take when Alex was born, for example. I don't remember blogging about it in detail, but as a synopsis--we continued to get bills from the hospital over a year after he was born. I fought every single one tooth and nail, because what they were asking me to pay for was fully covered in my plan. I won.

Take when Joey got his shoulder surgery. Same story, though the timing was a little closer to the actual event. I won that one, too.

Or take when Alex went for his 2 year checkup and insurance billed me for his immunizations--which, SHOCKER--are covered 100%. I was victorious in this scenario, as well, obviously.

And then, today, when I got my FIFTH bill for my annual girly bits appointment--a fully covered visit--and I completely lost my beans and went bananas on the incompetent customer service representative. And her supervisor. And her supervisor. No one should have to call FIVE times over the course of three months to have something so simple resolved. I'm a one and done kind of girl. For the record, I won this one, too.

The moral of the story is to know your insurance plan like the crack of your baby's behind. It's your money - be smart about it! Know what's covered, what's not. What your deductible is. What your max out of pocket is. Otherwise, you're going to get screwed...and it's not if, it's when. If I just shrugged my shoulders and stupidly paid every bill that came my way we'd probably be out $10,000+ over the course of the last 4 years...and I'm not kidding. That's like a super nice vacation.

Speaking of which...Joey? I would like to go on vacation. I think I've earned it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My 12 year old self just peed my pants in excitement.

Seriously, guys! This is like, BIG! Cue Leally Blonde Soundtrack... "Oh my God, oh my God you guys!"

JTT (for my oldish readers, we're talking Jonathan Taylor Thomas, here) IS ALIVE!, my go-to source for all relevant, current and breaking news, proves it here and also here. And as far as link #2 is concerned, why does little brother Mark look like he's about to stab someone? And forgive me for asking the obvious, but where is Wilson?

Le sigh. No matter how old I get, JTT will always have a special place in my heart. He was so dreamy...and my 12 year old self maybe still doodles his name with hearts all around it in my notebook. No? Too much? Creepy stalker vibes?
Whatever. If you are a female reader between the ages of like 25-35, you can't deny it. You loved him, too. Unless you loved Mark. In which case, ewwww. Just ewww.

UPDATE: Apparently Wilson died in 2003. Obviously, did not cover this news.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Obligatory cuteness.

Riding the dinosaurs with Aunt Jill at "Poppi's car-ni-bal."

Riding a firetruck with his pal, Ernie @ BRU.

And my favorite story of the week: we were riding in the car and had the A/C on. Alex said he was cold, so Joey turned around to cover him up. The only thing back there was my denim jacket circa 1992, so he threw it over Alex's lap in a pinch. Alex was silent for about 30 seconds, and then said, "Daddy, it's a pants blanket!" Gosh he is so funny.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weekend fun!

Every summer, the company my Dad works for does a HUGE "Family Day." It's kind of like employee appreciation meets summer carnival. And boy, do they do it right.

Monster trucks. Midway rides. Fire trucks. Clowns. Tractor rides. Food. Music. Games. Crafts. And a parade!

This year, Alex got to be IN the parade. He thought it was pretty much the cat's PJs that he was the "caboose" on one of those barrel trains pulled by a lawn mower. He kept singing "Little Red Caboose" (even though it was green...details) and waving to all the people. "I'm in Poppi's car-ni-bal parade, Mommy!"

And then, if that weren't enough mind-blowing fun for one weekend, Alex learned to pedal his bike all by himself on Sunday! Pardon my super annoying and loud squeals in the video (and the quality; it's a cell video), but I was so jazzed for him. He's been working so hard on it and something just finally clicked. I think he went up and down the sidewalk no less than 50 times that afternoon, racing his Daddy with the lawnmower. Sigh. My little boy is getting so big!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Support local businesses!

Well, this particular reference is "local" to like, 2% of you - but still. Stick with me, mmkay?

The newspaper from my hometown is running its annual "Five Star Favorites" campaign and I need YOU to help one of MY fave local businesses win. The business is called "Tri City Furniture," and its (duh) a family-owned furniture and interior design store. Kathy and Lee, the owners, have been long-time family friends and I want to help them win!

Click the image above (or here) and go to the "Nominate Here" tab. Enter all your info and then in the list, type "Tri City Furniture" in the "Furniture Store" AND the "Interior Design Store" categories under "Goods and Services." Oh, and if you're feeling frisky, enter "La Pizza" in the "Pizza" category. Yum!

You can vote once a day through Sept. 15, but even if you can only do it today that will help!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Things I cannot explain. Even my Mom powers are null and void.

I realize this is going to sound strange: Alex has taken a recent liking to fans. Yes, literally fans. Fans on a stand. Fans on the ceiling. Box fans. Clip-on fans. The Dyson bladeless fan confuses him, but he still loves it.

I don't know where it came from, honestly. One day, he just got really excited to go in the basement to "see the little fan." The "medium fan" is upstairs. The "big fan" equates to ceiling fans. He's an equal opportunity fan lover, but if he can reach the buttons to turn it on and off himself, he loves it even more.

It's so weird. And I love him for it. While most little boys are fascinated by trucks and trains and planes, my kid is obsessed with fans. FANS!

And so, last week when Daddy went fishing, Alex and I went on an adventure. Most Moms might have taken the opportunity to visit the zoo. Or a playground. Or Chuck-E-Cheese. Or something else totally normal and kid-centric.

But us? We went to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Specifically, the fan aisle. No, I'm not kidding.

His mind was blown. Pun intended.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The one time I was filmed for the Food Network.

Joey and I recently spent the weekend in Cleveland as part of our Anniversary getaway. On said trip, we had many adventures...front row seats at an Indians game, tickets to the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame, and many, many delicious restaurants to try. Most of them were on wheels.

She said whaaaaat?

You see, Cleveland has a pretty spectacular variety of Food Trucks - and they've grown in popularity recently due to Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race." Detroit doesn't have any food trucks (tear), and since I have a soft spot in my heart for street vendors I was SUPER keen on trying as many as we could in our 3 days there.

So keen, in fact, that I decided to start a new quest, dubbed "30 B4 30," that is, to eat at 30 different food trucks before I'm 30. It's a lofty (and somewhat silly) goal, especially considering I will have to travel far and wide to meet this quota.

Anyway, word got out as we were waiting in line for some grub at a food truck by the name of JiBARO, and LO AND BEHOLD, the Food Network just happened to be there filming for a show on the Cooking Channel Called "Street Eats."

They were fascinated by my story - and intrigued that we had driven all the way from the Dirty D just to enjoy their meals on wheels. And so, they asked to interview us.

OBVIOUSLY, we said yes. Despite the fact that it was seventy trillion degrees out and I was sweating like a hooker in Sunday Mass, we totally rocked it. Joey threw out culinary descriptors that Bobby Flay himself would have envied. We laughed; we played to the camera; we were coy; we were foodies. We were brilliant.

So brilliant that the producer said the whole segment will be about us. FOR REAL. This is where I die and start signing autographs faster than Kate Gosselin in her hooker heels and too-short skirts.

The show airs on the Cooking Channel and we will be part of Season 3 which will start in April. I promise that I will shamelessly promote myself like the dude with the "Cash for Gold" sign on the street corner in Anytown, USA as soon as I know the exact air date.

Oh yes, I'm a famewhore.

As photographed by Food Network camera man.