A blog for all that goes on in our family.

John & Sara

Photo Shoot

A few weeks ago, just before the boys’ due date (August 1), our friend Jessica came to our home and took some photos for us. The boys weren’t super cooperative, but she did get some good shots.

As you might be able to tell, Elias and Jude are¬†quickly putting on some baby fat. They had their two month check up this week and are over 9 and a half pounds, and still only one ounce apart. They apparently grew over three pounds in just four and a half weeks. Yikes! We’re so thankful for our healthy, growing baby boys.

Our favorite photos are below (click on one to be able to see larger, more complete versions of the photos). Thank you again, Jess!


Winter ’13-’14

When I say “winter,” I mean the time of year when there is snow on the ground here. And this year that lasted quite a long time. I may be starting a bit early with a Thanksgiving picture (I can’t remember now), but it definitely lasted past Easter.

These are just a few of the events from our lives this past winter, and I wanted to make sure I hit most of the highlights. Unfortunately I’m sure we’re missing a lot, but still, it was a pretty fun winter… even if we did have to stay indoors almost the entire time.


Twinshock and Onward

(I realize most people reading this already know most of this story, but I’m using it like we use the rest of the site – mainly as a way to document what’s going on in our lives. And since I haven’t posted anything about this pregnancy yet, this will be very long!)

Waaaay back on Thursday, November 21, 2013, two little lines appeared and we celebrated that we were pregnant again! We were really excited and started sharing the news with family and close friends. Only about one week later (just short of 5 weeks pregnant), I remember mentioning to John that I wasn’t feeling great, and hoped it wasn’t a stomach bug. Yes, I knew I was pregnant, but with both girls I didn’t start feeling sick until around 9 or 10 weeks, so I didn’t really think it could be “morning” sickness. Of course, I was wrong – I didn’t feel great for a long time after that, although it did seem to get quite a bit worse around 9 or 10 weeks. Thankfully, although it was rough at the time, it wasn’t substantially worse than what I experienced with either Anna or Josie.

Although the nausea wasn’t¬†much worse, I did feel much, much more tired than I ever remember feeling in any of my previous pregnancies. Most of you know that I am not usually much of a napper, but it was almost impossible for me to not nap when the girls went down in the afternoon, and I remember feeling guilty that I could barely drag myself off the couch, even in the mornings, when the girls wanted to play. Again, thankfully, this has not lasted the entire pregnancy and wore off around week 16 (at least to some extent… the naps did continue!).

And then came the BIG NEWS. We went in for an early ultrasound (after the miscarriages, we always have at least one around 7 or 8 weeks). John and even the girls were all in the tiny room as the technician started to look around my belly. Now, my first instinct in every single ultrasound (even now, late in pregnancy) is to look for the heartbeat. In fact, I get really anxious before every ultrasound and don’t¬†relax until I see that the baby has a heartbeat or is moving around. I remember lying there during this particular ultrasound on December 17, 7.5¬† weeks pregnant, and when the image showed up on the screen, all I could think was, “I don’t know where to look.” Usually it’s pretty simple; there’s a little oval-ish shape that is the baby, and around the middle of it you can see the heartbeat. But this time, nothing registered in my mind. In about the span of two seconds, the sonographer said, “Do you see what I see?” And John said, “Uh… there are¬†two.” And then I figured out why I didn’t understand what I was looking at – there were twins!

While I think John spent the rest of the ultrasound in shock, I kept alternating between tears and giggling. It was wonderful and terrifying at the exact same time. And this pretty much sums up the next few weeks of the pregnancy. I tend to think of it as pre-twins and post-twins; everything seemed to change when we found out there were two little munchkins in there. We were ready and wanting to have a third¬†child running around… but a fourth, too??? This brought on a whole new world for us. We were excited, scared, nervous, happy; “overwhelmed” has never described anything better in my life. I heard later of the term “twinshock” and found it very appropriate, since the end of December and start of January all seems to be a big blur to me. It¬†was odd to feel so excited and yet¬†so worried at the same time.¬†(For a hilarious version of another woman’s experience finding out she’s pregnant with twins, see this. I can relate, although I am glad I’m maybe not as outspoken!)

We spent that night and the next week calling our family and close friends to tell them the news. At this point, we weren’t doing it so much for their benefit as for ours; everyone else gets SO excited when they find out you’re expecting twins! That was what we needed at the time – our loved ones telling us that we could handle it and showing the enthusiasm that we wished we could display. Part of me really hates mentioning our feelings during this time, because it seems that we were ungrateful, when in reality we were just worried. John was worried more about the practical aspects, like finances and fitting two babies in our house and the stuff we’d need to get, and I was able to try to calm his fears about a lot of that while he also found some solace in a few blogs of parents of twins. On the other hand, I was terrified of the implications of carrying two babies for an entire pregnancy. Not only was I worried about miscarrying one baby, but now I was worried about the possibility of losing two. I was also nervous about what might happen later in pregnancy, when I’d already had two pretty small, relatively early babies. And of course it didn’t help that my hormones were already wreaking havoc on my emotions, and that didn’t seem to subside (somewhat)¬†until around the third trimester. Thankfully, John was always so supportive and encouraging in these areas, like he always has been. It’s so great to see how God has worked in our marriage, balancing each other out!

During my thirteenth week of pregnancy I saw some spotting for over a week. While it pretty much drove me crazy, I did get to have another ultrasound and see that everything was going well. We also confirmed that the babies shared a placenta (which they had also done at the earlier ultrasound, but we weren’t sure we remembered correctly – twinshock!), which means they are most likely identical.

Somewhere around week 16 I started to lose some of the nausea and the exhaustion, which helped my nerves. John and I had also been able to sit down and hash out what kinds of things we’d need or want, and what the next year or two might look like for us. By now we were both really excited, even if the worry and nervousness never completely goes away. At my ultrasound that week we found out we were having BOYS. (Wait. What? Is that possible in¬†our family? Are you SURE they are boys?) We are thrilled that we get to experience parenting boys, even¬†if it means a lot more clothes are needed! And yes, the boy parts have been confirmed in¬†at least¬†six more ultrasounds since then, so they are definitely boys.

Everything between week 16 and 20 went really well for the babies and me, at least physically (I was still having a hard time emotionally). I do remember already being pretty uncomfortable and thinking that I had a looooong way to go! I had a few extra cervical ultrasounds to make sure nothing was changing there, since I had started noticing contractions pretty early on, and it looked great – still over 3 cm long at just shy of 20 weeks.

At 20 weeks and 6 days, on March 21, I had another full growth ultrasound as well as all the level II details (stomach, kidneys, etc.) that are normally done at this point in pregnancy. My sister Traci had joined me for this appointment, and it was so great to share it with her! Unfortunately, although the boys looked to be doing really well, my cervix had started to shorten (from 3 cm the week before to 2.1 cm during contractions). I was put on modified bed rest: no watching my nieces or doing any unnecessary lifting, but could still work because I sat at work and could lie down every so often.

I went back one week later, on March 28, and my cervix had shortened further (down to 1.6 cm, if I remember correctly). According to our doctors, if the cervix gets to be less than 1.5 cm, there are higher risks of infection getting in to the uterus, and therefore causing water to break, babies to get sick, or – most likely – labor to progress. However, they don’t like to do a cerclage (stitch the cervix shut) after 23 weeks, and I was getting very close to that. So I was put on full bed rest (only up for the bathroom and meals), and¬†we set up an appointment for the following Tuesday, April 1,¬†with the hopes that nothing would change.

Unfortunately, my cervix continued to shorten to 1.2 cm and had also started thinning on both ends; up to this point it had only been on the uterus side that things were changing. In other words, my cervix was now less than 1 cm thick. It had shortened over 2 centimeters in less than two weeks. That morning was rough; John and I had to decide whether the cerclage was worth it to be put in place. While discussing it with our doctor (who did not pressure us one way or the other, which in fact made it harder for me to make a decision), we learned that if I had been carrying one baby, the benefits of a cerclage are clear in this case, due to the amount of research and data available. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of a twin pregnancy. Some studies show that it makes a good difference, some show a negative difference, and some show no difference at all on the length of the pregnancy. Ultimately, for us, it came down to the fact that we wanted to know we had been proactive and tried our options. If I had not had the cerclage and had gone into labor in one week, I would still not have been even 24 weeks along, which is the point at which babies have a 50 percent chance of surviving. If I had the cerclage and then had gone into labor, I would have less guilt over whether or not we had tried our best. As for the cerclage itself, the risks were minimal, and the doctor performing the procedure explained everything very carefully so we knew exactly what they do at this particular hospital to minimize any potential hazards.

That afternoon I was started on magnesium sulfate to¬†help reduce the¬†number of contractions I was having, and that¬†evening around 6 pm I had the procedure to place the cerclage. I was totally awake and had just a spinal for anesthesia, and let me tell you, being awake for something like that is a really weird experience! Thankfully everything went really well. The only¬†downsides of the whole experience were the discomfort that night (Tylenol, and apparently even Percocet with it’s extra oxycodone, doesn’t really work for me – at all) and the nauseousness and weakness I experienced after being on the magnesium sulfate for around 24 hours. They kept me on it, but they reduced the amount going into my IV, which helped me feel like a whole new person!

That Thursday afternoon I was able to come home, just in time for Josie’s birthday the next day. I was kept on bed rest and scheduled to come in the following week for a follow-up. I went in on April 10 and 18 for ultrasounds, and the babies continued to look good while my cervix stayed at roughly 2 cm thick. Contractions were still happening around one every 10 to 20 minutes.

Early on the morning of Thursday, April 24, I woke up because of my contractions. It was about 3:30 am. I took the nifedipine that my original doctor had prescribed to me to take only when I felt the contractions getting more frequent or stronger. And then I waited for about an hour and a half… with no change. I was having contractions around five minutes apart, pretty consistently, and something told me that I should call the office and see what the on-call doctor thought. I was told to come to labor and delivery immediately, where they checked me and found that I was dilated 2 cm. (This is when the tears started – I did not want these babies delivered at 26 weeks!) They started me on the magnesium sulfate again, and a NICU fellow came to discuss what it would be like if I were to deliver early. That night I was transferred from L&D to a floor designated mainly for bed rest pregnancies, and throughout the next week I was switched between a few different medications to help limit the contractions. That Tuesday I was put on magnesium yet again, this time just for 12 hours, which is how long it takes to get the babies’ what they need (magnesium sulfate, if given close to birth, can reduce the chances of neurological disorders – and it also has the added benefit of relaxing the mama’s body to hopefully stop contractions). I was put on the highest dose possible of nifedipine that Friday, and for some reason that has managed to keep my contractions in check for the last few weeks.

Being apart from John and the girls for two weeks was hard. It was much harder on me than I expected it to be at first, but it was made somewhat easier knowing that they had a lot of help at home, even though they were getting the short end of the stick (I could watch TV all day, if I wanted to!). Thankfully it was only two weeks (15 days, to be exact), and not longer.

May 9 was a big day for us! I had another growth ultrasound that showed the boys were right around 2.5 pounds each, which meant I was carrying more weight than I did with either girl. It also meant they were right on track for development and were staying healthy, which was WONDERFUL news. I was 28 weeks, which was a great milestone to hit (much fewer developmental delays and a higher survival rate for babies born at this point). And when they checked my cervix, they found that it had not dilated any further! Yippee! This meant it was time to go home!

Being home has been wonderful, with the¬†minor exception that I had a strain in part of my lung that caused a ridiculous amount of pain the first few days I was home… ask me about it and I’ll tell you more. ūüôā It is so good to be together with my husband so we can support each other, and of course being around the girls is so great. Their snuggles and “I love you’s” and “I’m glad you’re home, Mommy’s” are the best thing in the world right now. Not to mention that the highlight of this pregnancy has been Anna feeling the babies’ kicks; watching her face light up is priceless!

I still have between 4 to 8 contractions an hour, and sometimes they’re even more frequent, but not strong enough (at least not consistently) to make me think I’m actually in labor. I’ve made it to 30 weeks, so we’ll see if I can make it to 37!

We are so, so beyond grateful by all of the generosity people have shown to us, especially our parents, siblings, and friends who have helped us with child care for the past 8 weeks, and all of the meals we have received. God has truly shown us that He provides when we need it. This whole pregnancy has increased our reliance on Him and our trust in His providence, no matter what happens now. We are thankful for every person He’s put in our lives, especially these two little boys, who we hope to meet face-to-face in a few more weeks! We are so excited!


The Best Things in Life

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Alternate title: Why I don’t blog as often as I’d like

  • ¬†Josephine’s smooth, soft, warm cheeks when she wakes up from her nap.
  • Anna’s slow breathing, angelic face, and arm around Pooh Bear as she sleeps through my kisses when I get home from work at night.
  • Josie’s squeals of delight and “dah dee!” when she hears our side screen door open, signaling Daddy’s return home.
  • Anna’s sweet wording of simple phrases, such as, “I think I would like to sit next by you.”
  • Walking onto the sunlit porch and finding Josie giving her baby a bottle and some snuggles and kisses.
  • Anna enthusiastically saying “Peace be wif you!” at Mass, then systematically shaking everyone’s – everyone’s – hand.
  • Super tight little-girl hugs around my legs and “I love you, Mommy” when I least expect it – and most need it.
  • Watching two half-naked toddlers “dance crazy” around the bathroom as we finish up bath time.
  • Little fingers intertwined with mine or John’s as we walk down to the park together.
  • Shrieks of joy as they bounce and tumble together on Anna’s bed before nap time each day.
  • Watching them learn, imagine, question, and explore. Everything.
  • Deep belly toddler giggles and laughs while their daddy lets them climb and jump on him. (Really, any time they’re playing with their daddy!)
  • Quiet time with my sweet, loving husband at night in our little upstairs “apartment.”
I know that I do my share of complaining. But when it comes down to it, I know I am right where I am supposed to be. And it is so, so good.

December 2012

With the season of Advent last month, our family tried really hard to make it more meaningful and, particularly, to take it at a slower pace than in past years. I have to say, looking back, we were actually – very surprisingly – successful!

With the holiday season, December is full of preparations: putting up a tree and other decorations, buying and wrapping gifts, and making delicious, only-eaten-for-one-month-of-the-year treats. Although that is all fun too, Advent is meant to be a different kind of preparation: getting ourselves ready to meet Jesus someday. Somehow, only by the grace of God, we managed to get most of the typical Christmas to-do’s done by early December, leaving much more time this season for family, friends, and faith. Just a few high points of our joy-filled month:

Anna loved playing with her Nativity set and was visited by St. Nicholas on December 6.

We spent an entire day with John’s family: after attending Mass together for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the girls (including the four little girls under 2 1/2) baked Christmas goodies while the men brewed beer, then we all dressed up and went out for our yearly dinner at the Oak Grill in downtown Minneapolis. John’s parents started this tradition over 30 years ago, and this year had two new attendees (yay babies!). Also, we’d like to point out that even with all the little ones, we were able to enjoy a nice sit-down dinner: good conversation, great food, and not a single tantrum or even minor meltdown. It was beyond wonderful! Thank you, Rob and Kay!

John and I had a nice date night which included lots of Christmas lights; some of the best we’ve seen in years, actually!¬†We also fit in a few fun, glamorous (for us) Christmas parties and dinners.

And now, the moments when we actually remembered to take pictures:

Josie turned 8 months old…

Josie 8 months

 

…and became much, much more mobile. (Please ignore the spit-up on her sleeve… editing photos is not something I made time for last month!)

Josie 8 months WATCH OUT!

 

Anna helped decorate our Christmas tree for the first time.

Anna decorating

 

We had a huge snowstorm and it was just nice enough to go out and play in the snow for the first time this year. She loves it, like a true Minnesotan!

In the snow!

 

After playing outside, we decided we needed something to warm us up, so we devoured a cup of hot chocolate together.

Hot Chocolate

 

Josie really wanted to play outside too, but those mean parents of hers just haven’t gotten around to finding a water-resistant snowsuit yet.

Josie at the window

 

In early December we had the chance to explore the Children’s Museum for free (free parking, even!) as a benefit of being part of the National Children’s Study. It was AMAZING! There were maybe 20 other families there, tops, and Anna could play with whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. We even got to enjoy the night as a little date with just our Sweetest Pea, as Kay and Rob came over to babysit Josie.

Anna at the Children's Museum

As we start the new year, we hope you were able to relax a bit during the busy holiday season and enjoy time with your family and friends as well!

Anna and Daddy at the Children's Museum

 


Our 2012 Christmas Letter to You

 

We hope our Christmas letter finds you both happy and healthy. It has been another busy year in our family, one of many blessings.

 

Perhaps no blessing has been greater than the birth of our second child, Josephine Immaculata, born on 4/4 and weighing in at an even 4 pounds. After a brief stay in the special care nursery as she learned how to eat, Josie came home with us, packed on the pounds, and began crawling around Thanksgiving. She is a happy-go-lucky baby and gets along very well with her sister. Her interests include trying new foods, grabbing Anna’s hair, and exploring everything on the floor that intrigues her (think cords, fireplace grates, and Anna’s beloved Pooh Bear; pretty much anything but her own toys).

 

Anna turned two at the end of August and is as¬†rambunctious¬†as ever. Her favorite activities include reading, exploring with her best buddy Pooh Bear, hanging out with her sister “Gosie,” and learning about music and astronomy. This past summer she took swimming lessons at the local pool, and is very excited about the first snowfall of the season! Currently her favorite book is¬†The Adventures of Ladybug Girl¬†by Jacky Davis and David Soman. It’s a lot of fun watching her grow up and navigate the world; she may be the big sister, but she’s still our Sweetest Pea.

 

Sara is still working as the community life coordinator at the Church of Saint Peter in Mendota, the oldest church in MN. She’s a part time employee,¬†full time¬†mom, and helps to keep her women’s book club running (almost six years and counting!). In addition, she continues to teach the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning and transcribe for Marketing Roundtables occasionally.

 

I’ve made the move from English to theology teacher, though I’m still at Saint Thomas Academy. In addition, I coach the mock trial team and moderate the yearbook. In my little spare time, I still do a bit of blogging, brewing, and board gaming. This update is brought you by the¬†letter¬†“B.”

 

With two little girls in tow, we didn’t do as much traveling as last year, but still made it to the North Shore in October and made several trips to Rochester to visit Sara’s parents. Anna and Josie are both very good travelers, and we’re looking forward to taking them camping in the coming summer.

 

As we draw nearer to Christmas, please know that you are in our prayers this season. May God abundantly bless you and draw you closer to Himself in the coming year!

 

With love,

 

John, Sara, Anna, and Josephine

Five Years and Then Some

John and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this summer by taking the girls to Grandpa and Grandma’s for the weekend (thank you again, Kay and Rob!). We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend reenactment of the newlywed stage, complete with being able to eat all of our own food (as in, not having to share it with a little one) and sleeping in. Dear sleep, how we adore you!

Although we didn’t head far out of town, we did travel a few places. Our first stop was a great (and free!) brewery tour in Stillwater at Lift Bridge Brewing Company. We both appreciated the samples they gave as well as the free popcorn in their tap room, where we bought a few beers to drink as we waited for the tour to begin. We liked it so much we went back over Labor Day weekend with my family.

Yum… Farm Girl, my new favorite beer.

 

You can see how high the St. Croix River was behind me (where the walkway is supposed to be).

After Lift Bridge we headed all the way over to St. Michael, where we said goodbye to one of my former Apex coworkers whose family is moving to Idaho. It was nice to see them and since John and I enjoy traveling in the car together, it was an afternoon well spent. Afterwards we dined at Emily’s Lebanese Deli in Northeast Minneapolis, one of our favorite dinner destinations. (If you haven’t been there, you should check it out.)

As many times as we’ve been to Emily’s, we’re pretty sure this was our first photo there.

To top off the evening, we went to Cold Stone Creamery in Mendota Heights after we picked out a movie from Redbox. I love ice cream, and we’ve had a gift card for Cold Stone sitting around for months – I was so excited to use it! We really loved sitting outside on a bench, taking in the beautiful twilight and a fountain that was all lit up… at least until the bugs came out.

We love our girls and we know that God has made our family into a beautiful image of Christ and His Church (one that we try to live up to, though we often fall short). But it’s still nice to have some time to spend as just a couple again; it rejuvenates you and reminds you of how it all started. Sometimes our wedding seems like it was just yesterday. But most of the time now it seems like we got married so long ago; so much has changed in only a few years! We paid off our student loans, traveled when we could, and bought a house. We drove two cars into the ground and purchased new (to us) ones for our growing family. Most importantly, we have been blessed by the laughter of two little girls in our arms and the prayers of two children in heaven. I am so excited to see what the next five years, and many more after that, hold in store for us!

I am so thankful that God put John in my life. He has given me a beautiful five years (and counting) to remember!


Five Years

THEN…

 

 

 

…and NOW.

 

I thank God every day for the blessing you are in my life. It only keeps getting better.

Thank you for a beautiful five years, Love! May I be lucky enough to spend many, many more with you.

(HT to Traci for the idea of what to post today!)