Here are the Top Ten Things I Love About Thanksgiving in no particular order:
1. Family Drama-Rama
We're not the type to scream and yell and throw fists full of mashed potatoes and grandma's cranberry relish at each other, but once all 20 or so of us have gathered around the table, it's only a matter of time before one of my very right-leaning relatives makes a political or social comment that incenses the very few of us on the left and then any tryptophan hangover evaporates. These "discussions" are the highlight of my day, as I'm always in the mood for a good argument. Just ask my husband.
2. Pumpkin Pie
Longtime readers might remember that I don't eat many vegetables. I'm a hugely picky eater, and while Thanksgiving is obviously all about the food, I eat only turkey, mashed potatoes, bread (at an Italian Thanksgiving, there's always bread), and of course, dessert. I make the pumpkin pies every year from a kick-ass Epicurious recipe. If you try it, let me know how the pies turn out.
3. No Commercialism
Despite the fact that my numerous tv viewing sessions have been bombarded with Black Friday ads for weeks now, the main reason I love Thanksgiving is that it's a holiday that doesn't come with a gift-buying obligation. The holiday celebrates food, gratitude, and family togetherness. In my world, it doesn't get any better than that.
4. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
I've been watching this every year since I was a kid. Love it! The hubs was anti-parade for many years, but recently became consumed by parade love. Was it the lip-synching teen stars? The ultra-cheesy, D-List-Star-Laden floats? We'll never know. Although, I suspect it might have something to do with an excuse for sitting on the couch in his pajamas for 3 hours eating...
5. Cinnamon Rolls!
Another tradition held over from my childhood. Watching the parade without cinnamon rolls is like eating a peanut butter sandwich without the jelly. Like macaroni without the sauce. Like cookies without the milk. You get the idea.
6. The Colors of the Season
Thanksgiving is a fall holiday, and I love the fall. It's my favorite time of year. Winter doesn't technically begin until December 21, and yet we've had snow on the ground here for weeks. It's still fall, dammit, and fall means orange and red leaves and ample excuses to buy Isabella more brown dresses.
7. Cookie-Baking Season Begins
Thanksgiving weekend marks the beginning of my great aunt's cookie factory. She transforms her small kitchen into a veritable bakery. She makes well over 3,000 cookies in dozens of varieties each year, and mails them to relatives all over the country. Of course, most of them stay within 10 miles of my house and make an appearance at each and every family holiday gathering. This is a good thing. A very, very good thing.
8. A Reason to Reflect on Life's Blessings
My life has been a chaotic mess since the twins came home. Most days, I'm lucky if I get a shower, remember to pay bills, and don't take off for the nearest border crossing after three solid hours of hearing two babies cry in unison. Today, though, I will remember all that I have to be grateful for: the children I once thought I would never have, the extended family who have been my saving grace these last six weeks, all of you who so faithfully read my ramblings on this blog, and Paul Rudd. I am really, really grateful for Paul Rudd.
9. Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
I seem to remember eating pumpkin pie ice cream, complete with pie crust pieces, at my grandma's house last Thanksgiving. Hopefully, we'll have it again this year, or else a gallon will soon make a brief appearance at my house in the next few days.
10. Thanksgiving II
Every Sunday we have dinner at my great aunt's house. She feeds 11 or 12 of us on Sunday, and purposefully cooks enough to then send us all home with leftovers for one-to-two meals during the week. Thanksgiving at my grandma's house is no different. Friday night, you'll find my family re-gathering at grandma's to eat Thanksgiving leftovers. This, in addition to the leftovers we all will have taken home with us tonight.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful blog friends in the States!
The twins need the most care in the evenings, when fortunately there are three adults in the house. Most often, the hubs does Isabella's bedtime routine and endures the sometimes hours-long process of getting her to sleep. My mom and I each care for a twin, both of whom have decided that the hours of 6pm-12am don't suit them very well. We're both dealing with clean, fed, burped, and yet inconsolable babies during these hours. It is extremely unfun. I can't imagine what we're going to do when we're down one person next week.
I have a feeling I'm going to be crying. A lot.
While having my mom here has been a blessing, it hasn't all been a bowl of cherries. Like most adults, I haven't lived with my mom for any significant length of time since I was an 18 year old HS student. When I graduated from college, I moved to London, and then six months later, I did move home for five months until I found my full-time job and could make a speedy exit. It hasn't been difficult living with my mom as a full-fledged quasi-grownup with kids, but we've had our moments.For example, Mamacita will often get Isabella up and dressed in the morning, and when she does, she always dresses Isabella in clothes my grandma (her mother) has purchased for her. And my grandma and I have vastly different taste in children's clothes. My daughter would be wearing a purple sweatsuit with the words "Born to be Spoiled" on it every single day of the week if I hadn't told my mom last week that while it was very sweet of grandma to purchase this outfit for Isabella, I hated it with a fiery passion. When I asked her why she never dressed Isabella in the clothes I've bought her (which comprise 98% of her wardrobe), my mother (who is a high school art teacher, mind you) said, "I don't know what shirts to put together with which bottoms."
Ahem. Moving on.
We've also been having fridge wars. A few weeks ago, I noticed the milk in my cereal was warm, as was my lunchtime yogurt. I checked my fridge thermometer and noticed someone had cranked down the temperature (the hubs likes things very cold as well and denied touching it). When confronted with the act, my mother said, "Yes, I turned it down, the lettuce was getting frostbite!" (it wasn't).
Isabella has developed an annoying habit of begging for food all day long. Lest you think I'm denying my child nutrition during a growth spurt, Isabella has three meals a day, plus two snacks. And yet, when I returned home from my week's stay in the hospital where Isabella was cared for by my mom, I found the little darling with some form of food in her mighty grip virtually 24/7. I quickly put an end to round-the-clock snacking, but routine is everything with a toddler. Isabella is now running to her grammy asking for snacks all the time. Grammy tells her, "Mommy said no."
Mommy = The Devil.
And, of course, I've had numerous comments concerning the use of formula. Did you know that the twins would sleep through the night if I would only give them a bottle of formula before they went to sleep at night? Despite proven medical evidence to the contrary and the numerous documented benefits of breastfeeding, Mamacita shares my grandma's belief in the Power of Formula. Of all the difficulties I've had with my mom during her stay, these comments piss me off the most. Breastfeeding twins is no cake walk. It is hard. It is time-consuming. It is exhausting. I don't want a medal for doing it. I just want support. Luckily, when I told her I was feeling unsupported by her comments, she reduced her remarks from 50 a day down to 25.
Despite all of these relatively minor issues, it's truly been great having my mom here. When you bring home a newborn, all your care, concern, and worry is directed away from yourself and your own recovery toward your new baby, and rightfully so. But with my mom here, she's been taking care of me in addition to helping with the twins and Isabella.
For her help following the births of my children, I will always be grateful.
Over the last month, she's started telling us that the most random things scare her. My grandma bought her an Elmo chair. She said, "It scares me." Ditto with loud car noises (although oddly enough, she's not afraid of the loud, eardrum-shattering noises she herself generates on a minute-by-minute basis), the sight of post-Halloween pumpkins sitting in a pile of leaves at the curb, and squirrels. The sight of my sleep-deprived mug every morning doesn't make her bat an eye, however.
She still can't jump. Ordinarily, this wouldn't bother me, but it was on the two-year-old checklist the nurse ran through during her appointment back in August. Apparently, by age two, kids should be able to jump. She can't. She completes all the motions of jumping except for the actual jump. Someone reassure me that she's not going to have a hard time getting into college because of this.
Did I ever mention that another one of grandma's rules is that little girls should never, ever wear brown? And did I ever mention that because of her frequent vocalization of this rule, I am now prone to buying more brown-and-pink clothes for Isabella (incidentally, my favorite color combination for her) than I normally would, just to incense grandma?
Here she is making Playdoh gnocchi, as every good little Italian housewife should, sporting a ponytail that only required a five-animal-cracker bribe to achieve.
Initially, I thought the photos of this man with the gigantic pregnant belly bursting forth from a hairy chest were disconcerting and just plain weird. In a lot of ways, I still do. The image goes against everything our brains are wired to expect of what a pregnant individual looks like. I get the curiosity and the fascination many of us have with Thomas Beatie.
What I cannot understand is the vitriolic hate directed at this man and his wife from individuals hell-bent (ha) on casting judgment and condemnation at the couple's harmless pursuit of happiness. They have received death threats, terrifying middle-of-the-night phone calls, and they've been the target of on-air bigotry from Faux News.
Why does it matter so much to some people that Thomas Beatie's family looks differently than theirs?Thomas Beatie's wife suffers from infertility. She couldn't bear the couple's children. I would guess that should it be physiologically possible, a great number of husbands would agree to carry their babies if their wives could not. The desire to have children is innate in many, although not all, of us. Speaking as someone who has experienced infertility and who has gone to great (and painful) lengths to have her children, I find it maddening that anyone would judge this couple's means of becoming parents, no matter how unorthodox the method.
The Beatie's daughter has two parents who love her. Their unborn child will no doubt experience the same kind of love. Does it really matter that it was the children's father who gave birth to them because their mother could not? Perhaps initially, as Thomas and his wife explain the circumstances of their births to their children. But after that initial conversation? I'm guessing no. Unconditional love is what matters to children, and from everything I've seen and heard from this couple, they seem like they are providing exactly that.
The treatment of the Beaties and the passage of Prop 8 in California demonstrate that despite the election of this country's first African-American president, we still have a long way to go in our tolerance and acceptance of people whose lives don't fit a preconceived notion of what "normal" looks like to some. California's gay couples and the Beaties are seeking two fundamental and ubiquitous pursuits: marriage and children, which in many ways are the cornerstones upon which this society is built. They want love and they want happiness. Nothing more and nothing less.
Who are we to deny another fellow human being either?
I really do have three kids, and the huge responsibility of keeping them safe as well.
We had a really nice time at dinner. 13 of us crammed into my great aunt's small kitchen enjoying macaroni as we do each Sunday. Plenty of people ready and willing to help with the babies and play with Isabella who runs around my aunt's house as if it's her own private playhouse.
My great aunt was holding Luci on the couch after dinner when she started to sneeze and turn red. Some gross milk-spitup hybrid came out of her nose (which has happened many times before with both Luci and Nicholas) but this time Luci was arching her back and gagging and was having a hard time catching her breath. This part was definitely not normal. My great aunt immediately handed her to me. My grandma, aunts, and cousin were also in the room at the time, and were obviously really worried about what was going on. I remained calm so they would remain calm (my family members like to whip eachother into a frenzy), but I was scared. I didn't know what was happening, and I hated the feeling of not being able to help my daughter.
It was terrifying watching her fight through this attack, and while she eventually settled down after a few minutes (I think her attack was caused by a milk backup somewhere in her system), the horrible feeling of powerlessness didn't go away. It was awful.
Later that night when we arrived home from my aunt's house, the hubs took Isabella upstairs to her room. He put her in her crib, and then went upstairs to the attic whose access door is in Isabella's room, to retrieve the swing for the twins. I was downstairs unpacking the bags of leftovers my aunt sent home with us when I heard a deafening thud followed by Isabella's screams. I raced up the stairs and found Isabella in my husband's arms. Her mouth was full of blood. He told me she slipped and fell in her room.
It wasn't until we had her calmed down and munching on a piece of cheese, which she requested to "make me feel better," that he told me what had really happened.
Isabella had fallen out of her crib.
Apparently, the hubs thought me too hysterical in my response to the news of a run-of-the-mill fall to initially tell me the truth about an incident whose injuries could have been much, much worse.
The hubs saw it all happen as he was coming down the stairs from the attic. Despite the fact that the mattress is at its lowest setting and that when she's standing, the crib bar reaches to armpit level, Isabella managed to flip herself head over heels over the bar. Her feet hit the ground first, thank GOD, followed by her back, and then her head. She has a bump at the back of her head, and a few tiny cuts on her tongue where she bit it (which accounts for the blood in her mouth), but that's it.
I cannot even put into words how terrified I was when I heard what had happened.
We wanted to keep her awake for awhile to ensure she didn't have a concussion, so we brought her downstairs and let her watch an episode of Clifford, her current favorite. We gave her more cheese. A popsicle. Water in a big-girl glass with ice cubes. And while she sat and watched and laughed at the tv, the hubs and I looked at eachother and realized how lucky we were that she was there, sitting between us.
It could have been so much worse.
This morning, the crib bumpers came out (even though we doubt she used them to boost herself up) and the toddler bed conversion kit for her crib was ordered. I'll transition her to a bed as soon as it arrives.
These two events, which happened just hours apart, made me realize that despite all best intentions, it's impossible to protect your children all of the time. Luci or Isabella might get picked on in school. Nicholas might one day break his arm. One of my kids (God forbid) might develop a serious illness. These things might happen.
But as a mother, how am I supposed to reconcile the fact that there are going to be certain circumstances occurring in my children's lives where I won't be able to stop the pain or prevent something terrible from happening?
As someone who feels most comfortable controlling all aspects of her life and those of her children, how can I accept that my babies, who are the most important things to me in the world, will get hurt in this life, and probably often, and that there's not a damn thing I can do about it?
That said, nursing twins is a whole different beast altogether. Given my completely rational denial that I was indeed carrying twins and not a singleton, I didn't do much twin nursing research, which as it turns out was a gigantic mistake because I'm sure some kind BTDT twin mother out there would have warned me about how incredibly hard it is.
There is no shortage of encouraging reading on the web about breastfeeding twins. Apparently, it's entirely possible and even enjoyable! It's rewarding for both mother and children! And it doesn't have to take you all day!
Unless you have one regular boob and one freakishly small mini-boob, I can't see how this position would work. And also? Ow.
Would you want to be the baby at the bottom in this position? This might work when the babies are little, but who wants their 9-month-old twin's 20-pound cranium crushing their rib cage 10 times a day?
Um, yeah. Doesn't it look like the twin in the dark onesie performed a wrestling move on the other baby and has him pinned in a death grip? I see years of therapy in the bottom twin's future.
Again with the hunching. The babies look pretty damn comfortable. Where are mommy's pillows, dammit?
You'll notice that the illustrator chose not to give the mother in the images a face. Know why? Because it would be contorted in pain and also possibly frothing at the mouth. Breastfeeding twins ain't for sissies.
Here's the story of why they showed up six weeks early.
The hubs sped to the hospital as I writhed in pain and told him to drive through red lights during the 10-minute drive. I knew I wasn't in labor because I wasn't having any contractions, but I was just desperate for drugs (street or otherwise) to help me feel better.
We made the mistake of heading to the emergency room instead of Labor and Delivery Triage. Instead of some hot orderly pushing the screaming hugely pregnant lady through the halls of the hospital and into the arms of an equally hot doctor who could take away her pain with a wink of his eye, we were told we'd have to make our way to Triage ourselves, and it was no short distance away. The hubs pushed me in a wheelchair while I chose a few expletives to mutter over and over as he hit every bump in every hallway.
Once we finally got to Triage, a doctor examined me, immediately hooked me up to a monitor to check on the babies (they were fine), started an IV, and shot me up with some pain killers. I promptly vomited up the dinner I had eaten hours before in between sieges. The doctor then added some anti-nausea medication to my cocktail, and that seemed to do the trick. She did an internal exam to make sure I wasn't dilated (I wasn't). She thought a kidney stone was the cause of the pain, and therefore began pumping me full of IV fluids to "flush it out." Um, ow?
I slept and the hubs counted ceiling tiles in our tiny Triage room until the doctor ordered a renal ultrasound to check on my kidneys. Given my back pain, she thought the problem was either a kidney stone or hydronephrosis of the kidney, which basically means that fluid collects in the kidneys because the expanding uterus is pressing on it (or something like that), and it's very common in pregnant women, and especially women pregnant with multiples. So, around 3am, I received the ultrasound, and the tech said I did indeed have the condition. However, the condition explained my back pain, but not the nausea or the belly pain.
Shortly after the ultrasound, the Triage doctor decided to admit me. It was now the wee hours of the morning on Monday. Doped up on massive amounts of drugs and anti-nausea medication, I slept awhile and awoke sometime on Monday. It was around this time when I got my first glimpse of the lower half of my body. I had been receiving IV fluids this entire time to flush out the kidney stone I supposedly had and I was massively bloated from my waist to my toes. I didn't even recognize my body. My legs looked like tree trunks and my feet looked about three times the size they were here.
I stayed in the hospital until Tuesday afternoon. The doctor then sent me home with a handful of prescriptions for an arsenal of heavy drugs (Vicodin, Percocet, etc.) because the cure for hydronephrosis of the kidney was delivery, and they didn't want to take the twins because I was under 36 weeks. Apparently, I was to just pop pills to numb the pain for another two weeks. I had some very real concerns about giving birth to narcotic-addicted infants, but I was told none of the medications I was prescribed would harm them. Interesting.
I went home Tuesday feeling fine, but that didn't last long. By the early evening I was in bad shape again, and this time I was vomiting and couldn't stop. We went back to Triage late Tuesday night where I had another renal ultrasound (kidney problem still there), more IV fluids (because they still thought I had a kidney stone), and once I was admitted again, they finally did a battery of bloodwork. Early Wednesday morning, an OB from my practice told me she was running more bloodwork to check for a rare condition called acute fatty liver of pregnancy. She told me she didn't think I had this, since in all her years as an OB she had only seen one other case, but she wanted to rule it out. A few hours later, she came back and told me that yes, I did have it, and that because it was serious, I had to have a c-section that day.
Needless to say, I freaked. I feared for my babies' lung development. I knew that NICU time was now an inevitability, and this really made me upset. The hubs made the relevant phone calls (my mom had come in on Monday after one of my aunts called her about what was going on), and my family members started to trickle in. We were first told the c-section would happen at 11am. Then it was 1pm. Finally, a nurse wheeled me down close to 3pm. They had had a bit of a problem assembling the relevant medical teams needed for a premature twin delivery.
My regular OB, the one whom I really had wanted to do my c-section, had returned to work following her own surgical leave, the previous Monday, however, she was only doing one c-section a day to ease back into her position. She didn't do mine, but another doctor from her practice did. Luciana emerged first. I saw her tiny squealing and kicking little body for only an instant above the tarp and then they took her away to be worked on by her team. Due to my complications, I didn't get hold her until the Friday after she was born. Nicholas arrived a minute later. The nurses wrapped him and brought him over to us and gave him to the hubs to hold. I'm not sure why they didn't do the same for Luci before they took her away. Perhaps her breathing was worse than her brother's.
Later that night, I saw my babies in the NICU for the first time. I'm not sure what I expected, but I didn't expect this.
I broke down in tears (which I later learned is a big no-no in the NICU), but I couldn't help it. I felt as if I had failed them. They weren't supposed to have arrived so early, and I felt like it was my fault that they were now suffering.
Fortunately, the next day they were off the breathing machines, and were on their way to recovering. Unfortunately, I was not. I spent the next four days in utter hell. The kidney issue, the liver issue, and trapped air in my abdomen from the c-section caused me near constant pain and nausea. I was popping narcotics and throwing up because I was taking them on an empty stomach (I had absolutely no appetite and the mere thought of food made me sick). I was totally out of it, and have no recollection of certain visitors or whole chunks of days as a result. My dad visited the twins last weekend and asked me how I liked the books he had brought me in the hospital. Um, what books? The hubs and my dad then filled me in about the gifts he had given me while he and my stepmom were visiting me in the hospital one night. I was so drugged and sleepy, I didn't remember a thing about it.
The hubs spent time in the NIUC with the twins while I puked into the trash, the toilet, and water pitchers in my hospital room. I pumped as much as I was able, but the twins were receiving mainly formula for their first few days of life.
By the following Monday, I was much better and my OB discharged me. The twins came home three days later.
And although their arrival was completely unexpected and out of my control (never a good thing for a Type A like myself), I still feel so completely blessed that they are home and healthy. We saw so many babies in the NICU who had been there for months. I can't even imagine what their parents go through on a daily basis.
One last interesting bit: The twins were born at 3:09pm and 3:10pm on Wednesday, October 15th, my aunt's birthday. Isabella was born on my uncle's birthday. My grandma (she of all the rules) and I have twice given birth on the same day.
I really, really wanted to post yesterday, especially considering the post would have been hopeful and positive and all the things I am not lately. Given what happened on Tuesday night, I was actually in a rare good mood yesterday. But alas, a defiant toddler and two very needy infants ate away my day (and my good mood) and it didn't happen. So, this normally verbose blogger will just say, YAY. Maybe the world will begin to like and respect us again.