A week with the girls: Views from above

I’ve never thought of myself as a super creative parent, kind of feeling like I’ve given my kids the shaft because I’m totally not a Pinterest mom.  My clients may think I’m creative, in that I’m always coming up with new and interesting activities they can do with their kids.  Do I apply these to my own life? Hell, no! Why? Because I’m so exhausted most of the time that it just doesn’t happen.  

Well, a few weeks ago, my husband and son went on a ski trip for a few days and I was home by myself with the girls.  I decided to put my Birth to Three activity-creating skills to the test and use whatever we had laying around to use in our play.  After a day or so, I figured I should start documenting it, and since I don’t typically share my kids’ faces on a public forum, such as this, I took all pictures from above.  So, here is our week, in pictures, from above.

Creativity doesn’t have to be all that creative, after all.

Happy Friday,

Charity 

Making it to 21 Months: Part II, Birth Story

Part II:

I got situated on the stretcher, got my legs up where they needed to be, and took a good look around.  Besides there being A LOT of people in the room (Two full NICU teams including nurses and neonatologists, respiratory therapists, and other staff, my two nurses, my OB, the two residents, the med student, and probably a few random people who happened to be walking down the hall at the time), this OR was like the storage room for what seemed like all the supplies on the floor.  I knew the main OR on the labor and delivery floor was under construction, but this OR was pretty hilarious…shelves of supplies and instruments, only partially draped, like they were in a rush to cover it up before I rolled on in.  The clock was also directly above my OB’s head, so right in front of me (This will be important later).

We waited for the next contraction, and I started pushing.  The amazing thing about an epidural was that although I felt no pain, I felt exactly the right amount of pressure I needed and in the exact right place to know where to push.  With my first delivery with my son 4 ½ years earlier, I was in such excruciating pain that I couldn’t even pay attention to where I needed to push in order to get him out.  This was completely different.  I was focused and calm.  And after only a few pushes, 13 minutes later, my first little girl was out!  I was so excited and it had been SO quick!  (I pushed over two hours with my son).  They held her up for me to see and I wanted to hold her so bad, but my contractions were right on top of one another for the second twin, and in the same second I was so excited to have her out, I had the realization that I had to do this all over again, and right now!  I didn’t feel I could safely hold her and get through my next contractions.  I also figured it wouldn’t be that long until I could hold both of them together.  My husband could be with Twin A, and I could focus on getting Twin B out.  I wasn’t exactly right about that.  My OB broke Twin B’s water and the pushing began.

After pushing for another 30 minutes, it was 11:45pm and I could tell this wasn’t the same as pushing out the first twin.  I wasn’t really sure what was going on.  The resident was not able to give me the counter-pressure I needed in order to push out Twin B, and although I was giving it all my might, she just wasn’t budging.  My OB, who had been over the resident’s shoulder the whole time, took over when he realized I needed more help.  He tried turning the baby a little, but she was in a difficult position, forehead first.  Twin B was on my right side for the entire pregnancy, and pretty high up.  After Twin A came out, Twin B had all this room that she didn’t know what to do with, had to move to the left side, and then make her way down into the birth canal.  When she was coming down, her forehead went first instead of her crown, which made it virtually impossible for me to get her out on my own.  My OB suggested using the vacuum, which I told him I wanted to avoid if possible.  He asked me if I wanted the girls to have different birthdays, as a joke, and I replied, “No!,” wanting to get them both out before midnight and get this thing over with.  Well, that wasn’t exactly in the plan.  At 12:25am, we made the decision to use the vacuum because after over an hour of pushing, they could see her head at every push, but she would go right back up into the birth canal as soon as I stopped.  I was getting a little frustrated.  My OB attached the suction to her head and at 12:26am told me to push on the next contraction.  My next contraction came, I pushed, he suctioned, and Twin B was out!  They held her up for me to see and immediately placed her on my chest.  She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and snuggled right into me.  I sobbed.  It was the absolute best feeling I’ve ever had and, after three children, I finally got to experience what so many friends and family have told me about.  The feeling of holding your child after you give birth is the most unique experience in the world.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

When they were cleaning me up, I asked how many stitches I needed…they said one.  One stitch.  I just delivered twins and needed one stitch.  Crazy (Thanks, Young Living Claraderm spray)!  It wouldn’t be too long until I got to hold both of my babies at once.  That feeling was surreal.  Two babies. Identical DNA.  And after 21 months, I am still amazed by them and what my body did.  Identical DNA, yes.  Identical girls, no…

One is shorter; one is taller.  One is bigger; one is smaller.  Both are feisty; both are goofy.  They are brilliant and gorgeous in their own ways.  They have their own talents and their own challenges.  But they are both ours.  I can’t imagine what our lives would be without them.  But I know one thing…our lives certainly aren’t boring.  21 months down…a lifetime to go.

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Want to read up on my thoughts about being 24 weeks pregnant with identical twins and why it was an important day for me?  Link to that post here:

https://coldfoodandcarpools.wordpress.com/?s=Making+it+to+24+weeks

 

Making it to 21 Months: Part I

Two years ago, I wrote one of my very first blog posts, chatting with you about my thoughts on making it to 24 weeks pregnant with my identical twin girls.  Today, they are officially 21 months old, and I’m kind of flabbergasted that there are two full-on toddlers in my home (along with a very active 6-year-old).  Two years ago, I wasn’t sure how long my pregnancy would last, if I’d eventually be put on bed rest and have to stop working, if I’d have to have a c-section, if my babies would be healthy, if they’d be in the NICU, etc.  I was hopeful at that point, but still nervous about the coming weeks of my pregnancy.  I figured now would be a good time to chat a little about my birth story, since there is a very large gap in between my “Making it to 24 Weeks post” and my next post when the twins were 3 months old.  I’m going to share my entire birth story, so if you’re squeamish at all, it might be a good time to stop reading.  😉

 

At around 30 weeks, I made the decision to stop working in a month, at 34 weeks, unless anything medical happened sooner that would make me stop working.  34 weeks was the end of March, which for work, made the most sense.  I would have ample time to re-assign my caseload to another speech pathologist, and tie up any other loose ends.  At almost 34 weeks, I started noticing my stomach was looking a bit bruised under my belly button, was kind of itchy, and I had lost some feeling.  I went to the doctor for a normal appointment and they said everything looked fine.  I also noticed little bumps, one of the front of each of my shoulders and one on each of my thighs.  I asked the doctor about them and he said it was “odd,” but didn’t see any reason for concern.  The next week, I started getting itchy all over, and the rash started spreading on my stomach.  I figured it was PUPPS, a commonly-occurring rash that occurs in pregnancy (Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of it…literally, it’s from RD: https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/pupps-pregnancy-rash/).  Typically it occurs in the third trimester and causes pretty intense itching on the belly.  I had had it during my first pregnancy.  It was bothersome and pretty uncomfortable, but not overly concerning.  When I went to my OB again, he thought it was PUPPs, but we also wanted to confirm it wasn’t cholestasis.  That’s a another condition that causes itching pregnancy (usually on hands and feet) where there’s an issue with the liver, usually resulting in inducing delivery at 37 weeks.  I was going to be induced at 37 weeks regardless, since that’s the “eviction” date for identical twins, so it wouldn’t have meant all that much for me.  Anyway, after a negative blood test for cholestasis, we confirmed it was PUPPs.

At that point, the rash had spread up my entire torso to my chest, my shoulders, both arms, my entire back, and up my legs including my thighs and hips.  It spared my hands, feet, neck, and face.  But it was literally EVERYWHERE else.  It was almost unbearable and looked absolutely disgusting.  I took cold showers because that was supposed to help.  It didn’t.  I would get in the shower, hit the rash over and over (because I knew if I itched it, I would scar), and sobbed.  I put lotion all over my body several times a day.  It was unrelenting.  I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.  I was getting tired, I couldn’t really get comfortable, and I felt like I wanted to rip my skin off.  And then the sinus and ear infections began.  I just kept getting sick, and I’m rarely sick.  I woke up one night and thought my left ear drum was going to rupture.  I went downstairs at 2am, cut open a piece of garlic, wrapped it in a tissue and placed it in my ear (not in the canal, just inside).  Then I rubbed lavender essential oil around the outside of my ear and down my neck.  I swallowed and swallowed and about an hour later, my ear finally popped.  At least I knew it wouldn’t rupture that night and I got myself to the doctor the next day.  As soon as I finished my antibiotics 10 days later, I could feel the infection coming back.  The PUPPs rash continued to get worse.  I was having ultrasounds every other week to make sure the babies each still had enough fluid (we had to rule out Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome over and over) , as well as weekly non-stress tests and weekly OB visits.  So many appointments; thank goodness I had finished up at work.  I was 36 weeks pregnant.   I wasn’t yet dilated.  The babies were doing fine.  But my body was just done.

I had a day scheduled to be induced, April 18th, 2017.  I would be 37 weeks pregnant.  My parents came into town and I was told that I would be called to come in “after dinner.”  Well, “after dinner” happened, and hours “after dinner” happened, and still no call.  So, being antsy and anxious, I said good night to my 4-year-old, reminded him that I was going to the hospital to have the babies while he was sleeping, and called the hospital about 8pm.  The nurse told me they literally had no space for me and they would call me when they did. There’s no word for all the emotions that came over me at that point, and where my brain went.  My high risk OB said I had to be induced that week and the only OB I really trusted to deliver these babies started his 24 hour shift soon.  I NEEDED him to deliver those babies, and since I wasn’t even dilated and tend to have longer labors, I NEEDED to get into that hospital to get started.  By 9pm, I still hadn’t received a call, and I was getting pretty upset.  I know they had no room and I wasn’t technically an emergency case, but I had gotten myself all revved up to be induced that night and someone was telling me it wasn’t going to happen.  When I called again, the nurse said there probably wouldn’t be space tonight.  I almost went off the deep end.  She asked if there was a cutoff time when I wouldn’t want to be called to come in.  I told her, “Not a chance.  If it’s 2am and you have room, you need to call me to come in.”  Well, someone was looking out for me that night and about 30 minutes later, they told me to come in for 11pm.  THANK GOODNESS!  I sent my husband to go take a nap and told him I’d wake him in an hour so that we could go.  I got myself mentally prepared, hung out with my parents, and an hour later got my husband up.  We drove to the hospital and I checked in.  It’s funny.  I’ve had two pregnancies and never once had the experience of rushing to the hospital like all my friends have told me about.  I guess that’s a good thing?

When I got to my room, the nurse and the resident explained to me what was going to happen in order to induce me.  They checked the babies and found both of them in the head-down position.  Thank goodness, because Twin B enjoyed flipping breach several times over the past few weeks.   I allowed the med student to do the ultrasound and the dude had no clue what he was doing.  Both the resident and I had to tell him to push down harder.  I almost grabbed his hand and showed him what to do.  It was a bit of comic relief on an otherwise stressful night.  There are many different ways to be induced, but I had the type where they insert a big long tape-like thing into the cervix (it’s called Cervadil) to dilate it.  They explained that it stays inserted for 12 hours and if my body hasn’t gone into labor I would be given Pitocin.  I’d had Pitocin with no epidural with my son and that medicine is kind of evil.  Labor is so intense with Pitocin, and if I could avoid it this time around, I would like to.  Around midnight, the doctor inserted the Cervadil (man that’s a weird feeling!), and once that was done, I set up my diffuser (with Eucalypus and Thieves to help me breathe better amidst my sinus and ear infections that had returned), settled in for the night and told my husband it was ok to go and be home with our son for the night.  He had school the next day and it was important for my husband to be there with him, especially when he woke up in the morning.

That was a long night.  I was having fairly intense cramps that did not let up the entire night.  I felt like they were labor pains, but because they didn’t stop and it was constant pain, I was unable to fall asleep.  Around 9am, I texted my husband to see when he was coming back.  He arrived a bit later and the doctors removed the Cervadil around noon.  When the Cervadil was removed, I was able get up, get in the shower, and walk around a bit without the monitors on.  My labor had started and was progressing, so we got to hold off on the Pitocin for a while.  I was able to take the monitors off for a few minutes at a time, which was great because I had three of them on…one for each baby and one for me.

A lot of the day is a little blurry, but several hours later, a nurse came in and asked me if I would be wanting any pain medication.  I didn’t have any pain meds with my son, and wasn’t totally opposed to pain medication with the twins because I’d had the med-free labor already, and also I was about to push out TWO BABIES.  That’s two babies, out of a tiny hole, one after the other.  Nothing to shake a stick at.  When I said I was on the fence about the epidural, she told me that if I delivered the first baby and then it happened that an emergency c-section had to be done to get the second baby out, if I didn’t have an epidural that I would need to be put under general anesthesia.  I would be asleep and my husband would have to leave the room while they delivered Twin B.  I wasn’t about to have the potential of missing my second baby born, so I decided to go with the epidural.  I was still confident that I would be able to deliver both of my babies vaginally, but I didn’t want to take the risk of missing it.  And not only me missing it, but not having any of her parents there when she was born was not something I wanted to have happen.

A little while later, the anesthesiologist came in.  I sat on the edge of the bed, and leaned on the nurse.  She made my husband sit behind her so as not to pass out from watching the procedure.  He did say he caught a glimpse of the needle though, and told me (much later) how big it had been.  The procedure was relatively easy and it is absolutely amazing how well it worked.  My OB came in a little later and said that since the epidural was in place, that he wanted to break Twin A’s water.  My labor was progressing, but I was halted at about 4-5cm for the past few hours.  It was after 8pm by then and none of us thought I’d be delivering these babies that night.  I’d never had my water artificially broken before (my water had broken at home when I went into labor with my son before I was even having any contractions).  He took out a long hook-like gadget, verified Twin A was on the left, and I heard that all too familiar pop that I remembered so well from 4.5 years earlier.  I hadn’t had any sleep (or even meaningful rest) for over 24 hours, since the nap I took the afternoon I knew I would be going to the hospital.  I was able to lay down for a couple of hours and just had some quiet time.  I may have even fallen asleep.  When I opened my eyes and looked at the monitor, I was astonished.  I was having frequent contractions and from what it looked like on the monitor, I was in transition.  How glad I was that I had accepted that epidural! My doctor also must have seen what was going on on the monitor, because he came in shortly thereafter and wanted to check me.  I was 9cm!  I had progressed a full 5 cm over two hours…all because I could finally get some rest!  He said he’d be back in in about 30 minutes and we’d move to the operating room.

For the past few hours, hospital staff had been coming into my labor room and taking out equipment to bring to the OR: baby warmers, bassinets, etc.  Is anyone wondering why I’m talking about going to the OR to deliver the twins when I was planning on having them vaginally?  It’s standard protocol that when delivering multiples, even if they are most likely going to be delivered vaginally, that they be delivered in the operating room in case there needs to be an emergency c-section for one or both of the babies.

About 10 minutes after my OB left the room saying he would be back in 30 minutes, I realized I wasn’t going to make it another 30 minutes.  I told my husband he had to go find the OB right now, that I could pretty much feel the baby’s head and I needed to push.  The OB came in right away and they wheeled me into the OR.  Then came the fun part.  They said, “Ok, scoot on over to the stretcher.”  WHAT?!?  I had to move myself from my labor bed to the OR bed pregnant with twins, in very active labor, also trying to hold in the first baby so she didn’t shoot out of me and onto the floor?  Sure, I’ll get right on that.  Truth be told, they did help me a little, but it was pretty much all me…3 monitors, bag of fluids, bag of Pitocin, bag of antibiotics (because oh yeah, I also was diagnosed with Group B strep at 8 weeks pregnant so I had to be on 4 rounds of antibiotics throughout my labor), and the cords from the epidural. And yeah, the epidural had left my left side pretty much completely numb…made it super easy to move over under my own power.  It was almost 11pm by this point.  Maybe I would have these babies tonight after all!

(Stay tuned for Part II!)

Learning to Chill

As many of you, my followers, family, and friends, know, I’m an Early Intervention speech-language pathologist.  I see children at all different stages of development.  Part of my job is to compare a child’s development to the norms to see if they need intervention.

In my head, I know all children are different and grow and develop at their own pace.  But, as a mom in 2018, it’s super hard to know this in my head, but still not compare my children to others.  I’m not sure there are too many moms out there now who don’t compare their children to others, or who don’t compare themselves to other parents.  So, lately I’ve been noticing children around my twins’ age and younger who have been walking for months, are running, are climbing, are using silverware, etc., but also may not be talking much.   My girls just started to walk; one just started to climb.  And although they’re probably up to around 100 words each (which is fantastic!), they weren’t really interested in silverware…until today.  Today, as I was attempting to give them some yogurt, my littlest twin reached for the spoon and said “hands hands?”  She wanted to hold the spoon!  She let me help her get the spoon into her mouth.  Then my older twin said, “Turn turn?”  She wanted a turn!  So I ran and grabbed a second spoon, and helped her scoop the yogurt onto the spoon and she put it in her own mouth!  I was so proud of them!  They then proceeded to eat the entire container of yogurt, which they never do.  They have been so resistant to using utensils, even up until yesterday, and today it just happened.  I need to remember that children really do develop at their own pace.  Do we keep trying to teach them?  Of course.  But knowing that they will also let us know when they are ready makes me relax just a bit.  They will get there…I just need to chill…and wipe the yogurt out of their hair!

Have questions about your little one’s development?  Feel free to reach out.

Have an amazing Friday,

Charity

Commencement

Milk

Today is the first real day I’ve been able to “see” my last day of pumping is nearing.  My girls are really taking to the straw cup that we have been working so hard on to master, and tonight before bed, they drank more “cow milk” downstairs than they have in past evenings.  As they sat their chugging their new favorite drink, I saw both my past 13 months of pumping and my future ahead.  It may sound strange that I’m sad to give up pumping.  I mean, who actually likes it?  I can tell you no one likes pumping…but for me, although I’m glad I will be done, it’s been such a huge part of my life.  I’ve spent my last 13 months with basically a one-track mind…where am I pumping?  What time am I pumping?  Will the girls sleep long enough for me to pump?  Will I have to go get my son from school and then there won’t be time?  Oh, my babies have a sniffle…good thing I’m pumping so I can make what my son calls “medicine milk” for them and help them get over their colds a million times faster.  And of course, my most selfish reason…that I can eat basically whatever I want and not have to worry about the scale because I’m burning hundreds of calories a day by making this milk.

How much brain space have I used just thinking about making milk and when I’m going to pump it out?  Seriously…do all nursing/pumping mamas feel like this?  I don’t remember with my first…probably because my head was so damn full of thoughts about nursing.  Oh yeah, and grad school.  Because grad school was the best possible time to plan to start a family!

But really, why am I so sad?  I know I’ll be glad to give up pumping…eventually.  But that also means my tiny girls really aren’t so tiny anymore.  I put 18 month pajamas on my bigger twin tonight (the smaller one is still in 9 month).  I turned my back to grab their milk and she was suddenly standing at the cubbies in our playroom.   That girl looked like a toddler.

I had the busiest, craziest, most fun, most meaningful, most life-changing year and I’m sad to see it go.  I’m sad my babies aren’t tiny.  I’m sad I missed my chance to nurse them.  I’m sad I won’t get this year back.  Not that I would change a thing.  I’d just love to live the whole thing again.  I’m sad the baby stage is ending.  But you know what?  Their whole lives are ahead of them.  They get to grow.  They get to play.  They get to live.  And I get to know that I grew them.

Instant Pot Beef Stew

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It’s supposed to be spring, but with four Nor’Easters already in March, it’s feeling like winter will never end!   However, the good thing about being cooped up in the house on a snowy day is that there is plenty of time to make stew.  One of my absolute favorite foods my mom makes is her beef stew.  It has a distinct taste, which is so yummy, and no one else’s quite compares.  So when I moved into my own apartment over 12 years ago, I had to have her send me the recipe.  And then I lost it.  And I had her send it to me again.  This cycle went on every year for a few years until I finally figured I should write it down.  So now I make it every time I see meat on sale.

When I got my Instant Pot from my hubby and kids for my first Mother’s Day after the twins were born, I let it sit in the box for probably the first 8 months! I finally cracked it open several weeks ago, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since.  The one thing about my mom’s beef stew that I could never quite get “down” was how she got the meat so tender.  But with my Instant Pot, I could take the same amount of time of prep (because, let’s face it, the Instant Pot is great, but it does not cut down on your prep time), less cook time, and tender meat in, well, an “instant!”  So here it is, my mom’s beef stew, updated to 2018 by making it in the Instant Pot.  You can thank me later!

First, I cut up all of my veggies.  Root vegetables are great in beef stew, and I use potatoes and carrots, and medium (or half of a large) onion and a couple of fat cloves of garlic for my aromatics.  You will also need a container of beef stock, a can of stewed tomatoes, and plenty of seasonings (salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, dried thyme, bay leaves, and allspice).

If your eyes tend to water when cutting onions and/or garlic (my eyes are super sensitive!), open up a bottle of Thieves essential oil blend (leave a comment if you don’t have that and I’ll hook you up! J) and leave it on the cutting board, close enough so you can smell it.  Your eyes won’t water!

Put the carrots, onions, and garlic in separate bowls.  They have different cook times, so you need to add them into the pot separately.  Cut up your potatoes (I don’t bother peeling them.  I just scrub them really well) and place them in a bowl of cold water so they don’t turn black while you’re doing other things.

When you’re looking for meat, make sure you’re looking for a cut that says it’s good for “stewing” or “braising.”  You can buy pre-cut “stew beef,” but it’s typically more expensive than buying a larger cut and cutting it up yourself.  Get whatever has the better price per pound.  If you’re cutting your own, grab a sharp chef knife and cut up into about one inch pieces.

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Get a pan (or 2!) super hot on your stove and add a little oil.  Sear the meat on all sides.  Make sure to brown the meat in batches (or split into two pans, which is what I did to save on time) because too much of anything in a pan will drop the temperature and you don’t want to boil your meat.  Brown food is tasty food!  Those of you who have already used your Instant Pots know you can technically sear meat in the pot itself; however, I’ve found that the temp drops way too fast and doesn’t come up enough to actually produce a hard sear on the meat, so I find it easier, faster, and better tasting to just do it ahead of time on the stove.  When the meat is done, take it out of the pan, place it on a paper towel on a plate, and salt and pepper it.

Your prep work is now complete!  Turn your Instant Pot on to the Saute function and let it come up to temperature.  When the display reads “Hot,” put a little oil in the bottom and add your onions.  Cook the onions down until translucent and add the garlic and carrots.  Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the garlic doesn’t burn.  Drain the potatoes and add them into the pot.  Add some salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, being sure to pull the vegetables up from the bottom of the pot.

Add the beef broth and the meat into the Instant Pot.  Stir completely so the liquid reaches the bottom of the pot.  Add stewed tomatoes, bay leaves, and spices.  Stir thoroughly to combine.

Put the top on the Instant Pot and make sure the steam vent is set to “Sealing.”  Press the “Manual” button on the display and set to high pressure for 30 minutes.  When the timer sounds, let it naturally release for 10 minutes and then do a quick release.  The quick release will actually take several minutes because of the amount of liquid in the pot.  Carefully remove the lid and add frozen green beans, if desired (I forgot this step!).  Taste the stew and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Make a quick slurry by combining a few tablespoons of water with a tablespoon or so of corn starch.  Whisk out the lumps, add to the stew, and stir until the white is gone.  Turn the Instant Pot to Saute and the stew will start to thicken as it boils.  Boil until the desired consistency.  I don’t mind a thinner stew/soup (and we were HUNGRY), so it took about 5 minutes for me.

Turn off the Instant Pot and ladel into bowls.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Chuck Roast/Bottom Round Roast (or pre-cut stew beef)
  • High heat Cooking oil (I used grape seed)
  • 1 Medium (or 1/2 large) Onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5-10 Whole carrots, peeled
  • 5-6 Potatoes, washed and scrubbed (you can peel if you desire)
  • Beef stock (or chicken stock, or combination)
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes (15oz)
  • Dried thyme (approx 1 tsp)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch and water
  • Frozen green beans (if desired)

Instructions:

  1. Peel carrots and wash potatoes really well.
  2. Cut carrots and potatoes into bite-sized pieces.  Set carrots aside.  Place potatoes in a bowl of cold water so they do not turn black.
  3. Chop onion and garlic (remember your Thieves oil!), set aside in separate bowls.
  4. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Heat skillet on stove, add cooking oil
  6. Brown meat in batches (or use two skillets).  Keep the temperature high enough so you don’t “boil” your meat.
  7. Once browned, take out and place on paper towel.  Add salt and pepper.
  8. Turn Instant Pot to Saute.  Once the display says “Hot,” add oil and onions.
  9. Cook onions until transluscent, and then add garlic and carrots.  Cook approximately 2 minutes, stirring frequently so as to not burn the garlic.
  10. Drain potatoes and add to pot.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir thoroughly.  Cook 5 minutes.
  11. Add broth/stock and meat to the pot.  Stir thoroughly so that the liquid reaches the bottom of the pot.
  12. Add stewed tomatoes, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, thyme, and allspice.  Stir to combine.
  13. Put lid on Instant Pot and make sure the steam vent is set to “Sealing.”
  14. Press the “Manual” button and set to 30 minutes.
  15. When timer sounds, let it naturally release for 10 minutes; then follow with a quick release.
  16. Carefully remove the lid and add a couple of handful of frozen green beans (if desired).
  17. Taste stew and adjust seasoning accordingly.
  18. Make a quick slurry by combining water and cornstarch.  Whisk out any lumps, and add to stew.
  19. Turn Instant Pot to Saute and the stew will start to thicken as it boils, about 5-10 minutes.
  20. Turn off the Instant Pot and ladel into bowls.  Enjoy!

Raising Twins: Some thoughts

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In this day and age, it seems like having multiples, especially twins, shouldn’t be all that weird.  Especially in CT where there is a lot of access to fertility services for people who are having difficulty having children, I feel like if I hear of someone having twins I think it’s super cool (it’s kind of like we have our own little club), but I also think it happens so much that it shouldn’t really be surprising anymore.  When I was pregnant, I was asked my fair share of times if I had had fertility treatments. It’s absolutely amazing what people think they have the right to ask of someone they don’t even know.  I usually set people straight.  No, my twins are not the result of IVF, IUI, or any other fertility treatment.  They were completely spontaneous.  And, yes, my twins are identical.  I like to joke that one was planned and the other wasn’t!

Now that I’m not pregnant anymore, I feel like I cause even more of a scene when I leave the house with my girls.  I used to be invisible, and now I feel like a spectacle.  I LOVE having twins, don’t get me wrong.  I feel like I’m just one of those people who was made for it…super organized (almost to a fault), love a list, love a schedule.  I couldn’t imagine my life being any different, but what I wasn’t ready for was the amount of questions I get when I actually do get myself and my girls out of the house (never mind when I have all three kids in tow!).  I’d rather just stay home since it’s quite a process leaving.  It’s also a process being anywhere…I kind of have to move in wherever I go.  I’ve become pretty efficient, but I’d still rather that people come to me!

So what I wasn’t prepared for was all of the questions, the lack of grace, the lack of tact, and even my own ignorance about how difficult (or how not difficult, lol!) it was to have just one child.  Heck, even having “only two” children seems easy to me now.  Before anyone goes all crazy on me, I’m not saying that being a parent isn’t hard, no matter if you have one child or 10 children (because goodness knows my first child threw me for a loop!), but it’s crazy how just the simple split of an egg can really change your perspective on this whole parenting gig.

As a twin mom (and a relatively new twin mom at that), even though I’m completely baffled by some people’s reactions to me, I do find a lot of things quite funny.  Although I do sometimes get a little sick of the constant stares, questions, and attention, I try to understand that some people just weren’t taught how to properly address new people and situations.  So although everything below is all true, I write this post with a bit of sarcasm.  I hope you will read it as such.

If I could give awards based on the top four questions/comments I get on a daily basis pretty much anytime I’m out in public, this is what would win:

Most asked question:

Stranger: Twins?

Me: Yup.

Stranger: Boy and a girl?

Me: Nope, two girls.

I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve been asked this.  Someone please tell me…why is it assumed that when you say you have twins that you have a boy and a girl?

 

Most used statement:

Stranger: Twins?

Me: Yup.

Stranger: It’s a lot of work, huh?

Me: It’s not bad.

Ok, what I want to say here is…”Duh!  Of course it’s a lot of work!  I have TWO infants!  Way to state the obvious.”

 

Funniest encounter:

I was at my PCP for a month-long head cold and the resident working with my PCP and I engaged in this conversation:

Resident: How old are they?

Me: 8 months

Resident: Oh! They’re TWINS?

Me: Yup.  They’re actually identical.

What I wanted to say: “Are you serious?  I have two babies here that I dragged out of the house during their nap time who are the same size and look IDENTICAL and you didn’t automatically assume they were twins?  Maybe I should be seeing my actual doctor now.”

 

Most ignorant statement:

Stranger: Twins?

Me: Yup.

Stranger: My two are 13 months apart.  I think that’s probably EXACTLY what it would be like to have twins!

Me: [Smile and walk away]

Actually, having two children 13 months apart is absolutely nothing like having twins.  I mean, maybe when they are a few years older and potty trained and possibly sleeping through the night, maybe it’s a little like having twins, but in the first few years, it just couldn’t be more different.  Is it hard having two children close in age?  I’m sure it is.  Is it a lot of work having two (or more) children close in age? I don’t doubt it.  But it is NOT like having twins.

You know that “newborn” schedule?  Multiply it.  These people haven’t had more than one kid growing in their belly for however many months.  They haven’t had the pressure of being pretty certain their children would be for sure born early, and possibly even in the NICU.  They haven’t had to stress about learning to breastfeed/feed two infants at the same time.  They haven’t had to learn two personalities and needs of two brand new babies at the same time.  They haven’t had to stress about one baby sleeping while the other one is awake screaming because if they aren’t on the exact same schedule you might actually die from sleep deprivation.  They haven’t had to figure out how to still raise their older child when they have TWO helpless babies in the house.   They haven’t had to push out two babies in the same labor and delivery process.  They haven’t had to worry about possibly not being able to tell their new babies apart.  They haven’t had to agonize about how they would produce enough milk for two babies.  They haven’t had to worry about making sure they are hitting the same basic milestones at about the same time.  They haven’t had to have enough clothes and diapers on hand for the same size baby at the same time.  And so many other things that only parents of twins would understand.  It’s hard for people to fathom having more than one baby at the same time.  And it’s not double the work, it’s exponentially more work.  But it’s worth it.

Moms of twins (or higher order multiples for that matter) do NOT want to hear what you think having twins is like.  I absolutely LOVE having twins.  I honestly cannot imagine my life without them, but please give us twin moms some grace and don’t compare your children who are not multiples to mine who are.  It is a completely different experience.  Just like I don’t understand what it must be like to have children close in age (like 13, or 18, or 24 months apart) since my son is 4.5 years older than my twins, you cannot understand what it’s like to have twins.  That’s two infants…At. The. Same. Time.   And to those moms of higher order multiples…I salute you.  I have two babies and two hands.  I don’t even know how you handle more than two infants at once!

If you also have a singleton along with your twins, you realize how insanely easy it feels to only have one child (or baby) to worry about.  I’ve actually gotten jealous of some of my friends and family for only having one infant to worry about at a time (even if they also have older children).  They just get to snuggle one.  They just get to nurse one.  If the baby wakes in the middle of the night, they can just focus on that baby.  They aren’t constantly being pulled in two directions by two babies who need the exact same thing at the exact same time.  They aren’t constantly worrying if they are giving equal attention to both babies because both babies have the exact same developmental needs.   They don’t have to feel like they are running a daycare out of their own home…well, I’ll concede to all stay-at-home parents on that one.  😉

So if you see a parent of multiples in your travels, please don’t make her feel like a spectacle.  Please don’t ask inappropriate questions, even if they are just your general curiosity.  Think before you speak.  Give her a smile and if you feel you need to say something, here are some good options:

“Your babies are so cute!”

“You’re doing a great job!”

“Can I reach that box on the top shelf for you?”

“I’ll hold that door for you.”

“Have a great day!”

 

Please give us parents of multiples some grace.  Go out of your way to help us out…it can really turn our day around!

Peace and love on your parenting journey,

Charity

5 Years

Today, I sent my 5 year old off to school, just like I do every weekday.  He has never known school the way I remember it.  Where we had fire drills, he has lockdown drills.  It makes me sick every time the email comes home saying the school participated in one.  Because they shouldn’t have to.

Five years ago, I sat with my then almost two-month old at his pediatrician appointment.  It was a normal sleep-deprived morning.  The news report was strange that morning.  It looked like something was going on in Newtown, but no one knew really what it was.  I went into the appointment and came home.  By that point, the news was reporting a shooting.  We all know the rest of the story.

Five years ago, we all woke up on a normal morning and went to bed in a world where it has been shown now that it’s ok to kill babies in the place they should feel safest.  I hugged my baby boy tight that night, and snuggled him through his entire night of waking up.  I snuggled him for all of the parents who couldn’t snuggle their babies.  And even though he was driving me bonkers with a school delay this morning, I snuggled him before he went off to school.  Because it’s too important.  We send our children off into a world where we don’t know what could happen to them.  We have to trust that they will be safe, but that’s a really hard thing to do when you lived through what happened five years ago.

Those precious angels would be in middle school now; their teachers, principal, and school psychologist I’m sure would still be supporting and educating a new group of first graders.  I had the pleasure of visiting the new Sandy Hook elementary last year for work.  It is a beautiful school, full of laughter and bright smiles of children.  But I couldn’t help the weird pit in my stomach I had when I was there.  

Things changed that day.  Newtown changed that day.  I changed that day.  We hug a little tighter, think a little longer, work a little harder.  There is not one day that I don’t think about those angels and their families.

I spent the day home with my twins today. They too will never know a world without a lockdown drill. And I hope and pray that something can change so all it ever is is a drill.  I hugged them, played with them, fed them, and was WITH them.  And one day, I’m going to have to send them out into the world and pray they will be safe.  We can’t control the world, but we can raise children who will change it.

DIY: Essential Oil-Infused Soy Wax Candles


I used to be that person who would stock up on fragrance-laden scented candles this time of year.  Because who doesn’t want a yummy-smelling home around the holidays?  Little did I know that those things were literally making me sick.  I’m a little afraid of fire, so I wasn’t big into actually lighting them often, but used them mostly for decoration and kept them open so you could still smell them.  I had headaches almost daily for years, but when I decided to kick all synthetic fragrances to the curb almost two years ago, within a day or two, my headaches were gone!  (I actually chucked everything we had with a synthetic frangrance–candles, cleaners, personal care products, etc).  I very rarely get a headache now, and when I do, it’s either weather-related or dehydration.  

Synthetic fragrances are everywhere and are some of the most prevalent types of indoor pollution you will find.  But I still want a yummy-smelling home.  My solution?  Diffuse essential oils from Young Living, of course.  (See my previous blog post–just scroll down to click on it–on Why I Love Essential Oils).

So when I was asked to do a vendor fair a few weeks ago (the actual event was this past weekend), I knew I wanted to make something super easy that people could take home with them that day.  Even though I’m personally no longer a candle person (and like I said, I really don’t burn them, I just liked the smell), I know people are.  And they are going to buy them.  And if they’re going to buy them, and maybe aren’t totally sold on just diffusing essential oils, why not give a little bit of a healthier option?  Enter soy wax candles infused with essential oils!  These do take a little bit of time the first time out, but they are super easy.  And if you don’t have three kids breathing down your neck as you’re trying to make them, it will be even easier! 😉

Here’s what you need to make 11-12 4oz soy wax candles:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 – 4oz candle containers or glass canning jars (with lids)
  • 2 pounds white soy wax flakes
  • Essential oils of your choice (I ONLY trust Young Living essential oils).
  • Candle wicks

SUPPLIES:

  • Shallow pot filled halfway with water
  • Pyrex measuring cup or bowl (something you can use for a double boiler)
  • Wooden spoon (or I use a clean paint stirrer!)
  • Scissors (to cut wicks)
  • Pencils/skewers (to hold wicks in place)
  • Tape
  • Your stove/cooktop 


(I also covered my big wooden bread board with aluminum foil in case I dripped, which I did!)
INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Fill pot halfway with water and bring to a gentle simmer
  • Add about 1-2 cups of the wax flakes into the glass bowl/measuring cup and place into pot to create a double boiler
  • Stir every few minutes and watch to make sure the wax doesn’t burn or bubble.  (Make sure to watch it constantly because you don’t want the water at a full boil and any explosions happening!)

  • The wax will change to a yellowish color as it melts.  Don’t worry, it will still dry white!


  • While the wax is melting, get your containers ready with the wicks.
  • To “glue” them down, take a little of the melting wax and put it in the bottom center of your containers and press the wick in.  This will only hold them in place initially, as once you pour the hot wax in, it will re-melt the “glue” wax.  This is just to get them in place so you can secure them.

    • To hold them in place, it was a bit of trial and error.  What I found that worked best was to wrap the extra wick around a colored pencil and tape down.  Here’s what it looked like:

    • When the wax is completely melted, remove from the heat and add your essential oils.
    • I used approximately 20-30 drops of 3 oils (so 60-90 drops overall).  Like I said earlier, I will only use Young Living oils for this because of the research I’ve done.  They are 100% pure and the only ones I trust around my family and kids.  (I don’t advocate using other oils, but of course I can’t stop you, lol!)

    • Stir with your wooden spoon (or paint stirrer!)
    • Then (VERY slowly and carefully!) pour the hot wax into your containers.  Fill as desired.  My containers had a line, so I filled to that.
    • Leave to dry.  You will know when they are mostly set, because the wax will turn back to white.  But they need a full 24 hours to set before you can light them.
    • Once they turn back to white, you can remove the colored pencil/skewer.
    • Either trim the wick or leave as a little curly-cue for a cute, decorative effect (just make sure to trim before you light it!)

    (This was my first attempt, before I realized if I wrapped the wick around the pencil, it worked a lot better and kept the wick upright and in place )

    (I like these better!)

    • Wait at least 24 hours, trim the wick, and light!

    I decided to name my candles Warm Holiday and Sleigh Ride.  I also made little hand-written labels.  You don’t have to do this of course, but I found it fun!

      Enjoy your candles!

      Charity

      How do you know?

      “Mama, is that a party? Why are all those people parked on the street?”

      “That’s a yard sale, honey.”

      “What’s a yard sale?”

      “That’s when people put all the stuff they don’t need anymore out on their lawns and other people come and buy it.”

      “Mama, can we ever have a yard sale?”

      “Sure honey. When the babies are older, we are going to have one to get rid of all of the baby stuff we won’t need anymore.”

      “But why are we getting rid of all the baby stuff?”

      “Because we’re not having any more babies.”

      “We aren’t having any more babies? Why? I want to have more sisters…” [he starts to cry].
      This was an actual conversation my now 5-year-old and I had on our way to swim class a few weeks ago. When I told him we weren’t going to have more babies, I actually wasn’t sure if that was true. How do we know when we are done?

      When I was pregnant with the girls and so sick all day the first trimester, I was sure this was my last pregnancy. When I had the most horrible PUPPS rash and thought I would rip all my skin off in my third trimester, I was sure this was my last pregnancy. When I was so sore from pushing out two babies, I was sure this was my last pregnancy. But then, as the days went on, and I was enjoying having the girls here, I wasn’t sure all of a sudden! How weird! Logically, I knew we should be done. We are in our mid thirties. Our house is pretty much at capacity. Our finances are ok right now. Another child would most definitely throw that all off; yet it’s weird that I found myself seriously considering it. But yesterday I got my answer. I always thought the decision to have more children or not would come as more of a feeling rather than as a logical thought.  

      And as I laid in bed yesterday getting the girls down for a nap, my son came in and snuggled in behind me. All four of us were all comfy under the blankets, girls almost asleep in their little angel sleep suits, my son curled up next to me, me rubbing his head, and I knew. This was it. This was our family. Two parents, three children (two cats and a dog). We are just where we need to be: In this home, in this place, with these children. Our three. And we are complete.

      And I think my husband will be happy to hear that!
      Wishing you peace in finding just where you need to be too,

      Charity