Thursday, May 22, 2014

CA vs. UT

Eight months ago we moved from SoCal to Utah, where we are originally from. We had lived the previous 3 years in California and we absolutely loved it, but with the twins coming and me needing to quit my job to be home with them, we felt the need to be back in Utah close to our families and where the cost of living was a little more reasonable. Though both Forrest and I grew up in Utah, we've lived half of our married lives in California, and half in Utah (with a short stint in Vegas, but we don't really count that). After experiencing life in CA and then coming back to life in UT, there are certain things about both states that I LOVE, and also things about both that I really don't like. This is CA vs. UT, the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Note: CA is coming first solely because it comes first in the alphabet.)

California                                             Utah
The good: clean air                                         The good: four seasons
                  the beach                                                        UT ghetto = nothing compared to CA ghetto
                  Disneyland                                                      not expected to work on Sundays
                  mild weather                                                   traffic = bliss
                  excellent Mexican food and produce               cost of living
                  fantastic entertainment                                    DMV 
                  great shopping                                                wide open spaces (Dixie Chicks anyone?)
The bad:    people aren't very friendly                              really friendly people
                   so many people                             The bad:   long way from Disneyland and the beach
                   takes forever to get anywhere                       hot summers
The ugly:    the DMV                                        The ugly:   post-Christmas winter
                   the cost of living                                               inversion

If I were to make this more personal, I would add awesome friends and extended family to the CA good side and immediate family and "home" to the UT good side. Truthfully, I couldn't say that we like living in Utah more that we liked it in California, or vice versa. Each state was right for us during that time of our lives. And right now, what we need is to be close to our family, and be somewhere with a low cost of living. Utah is my home and it always will be, regardless of where we live. But we absolutely LOVED our time in CA and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Being able to ride my bike or run to the beach anytime I wanted was something amazing. And we made friends and grew close to family that will always be close to my heart. So which state wins? Neither. Or both. However you want to look at it. 

PS - This post is coming now because tomorrow we are taking a vacation back to California to visit family and friends, go to Disneyland and compete in a triathlon. So excited! Three adults and three kids on a six day adventure.. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This is Life

A few months ago a had a friend come over to visit. It was one of those mornings where we were all still in our pajamas and the house was a mess. When she got here, I apologized for the condition that we were in, and she responded, "Oh Holly, this is life."

Then I had a little bit of a paradigm shift. Before having children, I couldn't handle our house being cluttered/dirty/messy. I mean, of course there were days that it was that way.. but I tried really hard to minimize that. But babies come with a lot of stuff. And I mean A LOT. Especially when you have two. And you live in a small apartment. In our living room we have an exersaucer, three baskets of toys, a bouncer, a bookshelf, and Charlie's large toys from the vision specialist. That's in addition to all our furniture/decor that was already there. Then add to the kitchen two swings, two high chairs, two bumbo's.. you get my point. There's no helping the clutter now. I still try to keep it clean, but my friend's comment made me realize that my life has changed. So now I'm trying to adjust to my new life and the mess that often accompanies it. But it's a beautiful and wonderful mess, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Sometimes I think people feel sorry for me. Like last week when I completely forgot that the twins had their 9 month checkup. I remembered just in time to get there, but not in time to find someone to come with me. Just a tip: never EVER take twins to get shots by yourself. Check-ups are doable. But shots? No. Bad bad bad idea. The first part of the appointment went fine. But by the end they were getting tired and hungry. And then getting shots.. one baby screams after their shots and I'm trying to comfort them while the other baby is crawling all over getting into everything on the floor. Then I put baby #1 down while baby #2 gets shots. Putting baby 1 down brings many many tears. Then I have two screaming babies. And the poor nurse just looks at me and says, "I'm sorry." I can see the look of pity in her eyes. And of course this is hard for me, but it's just life. I'm used to having two crying babies. But other people aren't used to seeing women with two crying babies. So I just shrug and say, "This is life." And then I try to clean up as quickly as possible, get my two babes dressed and get out of there before I get any more pitying stares.

So when things like that happen, I just take it in stride. When I'm at the grocery store and one baby (or both) is just so sad, I try to continue my shopping trip if at all possible. Because if I bagged it and came home every time one cried, I'd never make it to checkout. And when someone stops by for a quick visit and my house is a mess, I try not to let it bother me. Because I can only do so much. And I think most people understand that. This is life. My crazy, hectic, beautiful and wonderful life.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why I Sometimes Choose Ignorance

We've all heard the saying "ignorance is bliss." I'm just beginning to understand what that means. It seems like the more I watch the news, check my Facebook newsfeed, and listen to the radio, the more evil and sadness in the world becomes apparent to me.

I'm watching the news and I hear a story of a woman who has murdered 7 babies inside of her own home. Then I hear stories of a family who lost their father due to an affair or cancer or drugs. Then of a grieving family who lost their sweet and precious little one to pneumonia. Then of hundreds of girls being kidnapped by terrorist groups in war-torn countries. 

Becoming a mother has certainly made me more sensitive and emotional. When the twins were just a few days old, I was up feeding them in the middle of the night and reading a story of a girl I knew in high school. I didn't know her very well, but her story left me sobbing for hours. Her baby was born quite prematurely and was in the NICU. About the same time as my sweet little infants were placed in my arms, her precious little one passed beyond the veil to the other side. It still brings me to tears, thinking of losing a child. I can't imagine the pain and sorrow that accompanies such a horrific loss. And then I'm left to wonder why I am so blessed that I still have my two little miracles. Why me, and not her? I know everyone experiences different challenges in this life. And that our Father in Heaven would never ask us to endure anything that we were not capable of. And of course there is life after death. What a blessing to know that families can be together forever, even when they are only together for a short time here on this earth. 

Sometimes when I see a headline of a sad story, I turn off the television. Or I don't follow the online link to read the story at all. Because I feel like my heart can't handle it. Most of the time I feel like I would honestly rather not know what is going on. And then I struggle with myself because I know it's not good to be ignorant.

Last year when I was working at the high school, a group of college students came and put on an assembly on ignorance. They spoke about how when we hear about something sad we say, "Oh, that is so sad." And maybe shed a tear of two. And then go on with our life like nothing ever really happened. 

I know that's exactly what I do. It's so much easier to pretend like the evil and sorrowful things aren't really there. And more than that, even if I fully face it and acknowledge all these bad things that happen, what am I to do about it? Hold my family a little closer. Hug my kids a bit tighter. Be grateful for what I have every single day because there are those who go without. Live every day to it's fullest.

In truth I'm completely conflicted between turning a blind eye and pretending the bad doesn't exist, and becoming totally overwhelmed by it all and not knowing what I can actually do about it. I'm not at all comfortable with choosing ignorance, but nor am I comfortable with facing reality. I'm hoping to find a better way to cope, and am wide open to suggestions.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Charlie's Eyes

The last time Charlie went to the Opthalmologist, he was 5 months old. He had just barely started to show signs that he could see. He would follow my lit up cell phone and open his mouth for the spoon. Occasionally it seemed like he could see our faces. But that was about it. The doctor diagnosed him with albinism, and estimated that he was legally blind. We were hopeful that his vision would improve, but there were no guarantees. We were referred to Early Intervention through the Utah School of Deaf and Blind, and Charlie began receiving vision and developmental therapy 3 times a month. 

The vision specialist that comes is awesome! She teaches me a lot of things that I can do with Charlie to help improve his vision and to help him learn to function with low vision. She brings something new everytime she comes and Charlie absolutely loves the toys she brings for him to play with (So does Caroline!). These are some of the toys she has brought.

Now he is 9 months old, and his vision has improved more than we could have hoped for. The first time he cried when I left the room made me so extremely happy! Because I knew he could see me leave. Funny thing to be excited about, I know. But it was so exciting. Now he looks at me and gets excited when I walk into his room, because he can see me from his crib. We'd worried that he would be delayed in crawling because of his low vision, but he has had no problems whatsoever. From his bedroom, he army crawls all the way down the hall to get the vent on the wall in the living room. It is so rewarding to see him have so much motivation to crawl. His high chair tray is tan. And I put tan colored puffs on his tray. He can see them and he chases down each individual tiny little puff with his pudgy little fingers. It's adorable.

We knew he was doing well. So last week when we took him back to the Opthalmologist, we expected to hear good news. But I didn't expect to hear everything the doctor told us. He told us that Charlie had improved so much that there was no reason for him to be in therapy. He said that in the past 4 months his vision has improved from about 20/200 to about 20/80. No longer legally blind. He told us that Charlie's eyes looked fantastic and that he didn't forsee any serious vision problems in the future. That Charlie would be able to grow up just like his sister (except for the light sensitivity). He did prescribe a second pair of glasses with a lighter tint so that he can wear them inside too. But wow. Words cannot describe the joy, relief and excitement that we felt to hear how well he was doing. Of course we already knew he had improved. But hearing good news from a doctor when you are so used to hearing not-so-good-news. Now that is wonderful. 

We are so grateful fo the improvements that our little Charlie has made. He is so smart and is such a happy little boy. I could never imagine my life without him. And without his beautiful little eyes.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

To Women Everywhere

Maybe you're a teacher. Or perhaps an aunt. Possibly a neighbor, and probably a friend. Somehow, someway, you have influenced a child's life. As women we have an innate ability to love and to nurture. It might come more naturally to some than to others, but it's inside of you. And those around you can sense it. Particularly those precious little souls you interact with. They love you, they look up to and admire you, and they want to be like you.

As we celebrate Mothers Day this week, there's something we all need to realize. Motherhood is a divine calling that does not begin with bearing children. In fact it begins far before that. It begins when a young girl picks up your dolly for the first time. It begins when she watches her own mother, her teachers, her aunts, grandmas, neigbors and friends as they mother her and the other children around them. It begins when she helps to dry the tears of a friend who is hurt. And it continues to grow with her as she gets older. She may never get married. She may never have children. But she still has the noble and divine calling of a mother.

To all women, everywhere: whether you are married, single, or divorced; whether you have ten children or you have none, today we celebrate you. Happy Mothers Day. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

How I Survive as a Stay at Home Mom

When we were going through infertility, I resented every single day that I had to go to work. Of course I was grateful that I had a job, but every time I walked out the door and drove to work I wished that I could stay home. Because going to work meant that I didn't have kids to stay home with. 

Now that I have children and I'm able to be home with them, I absolutely love it. It's wonderful and exciting and joyful. But it's also really hard. There are days that I feel stretched beyond what I thought possible (that's most days, actually). Some days I probably shed as many tears, if not more, than the babies. I often want to pull my hair out (particularly during meal times) and scream at the top of my lungs.

Every day is different. But now that the twins are getting a little older I feel like I've settled into a bit of a groove. They have their routine, and I have mine. One of my good friends refers to the things that get her through as her "Diet Coke." So the following are my Diet Cokes.

TV shows - It's not like I sit and spend all day in front of the television. And I have a personal rule that I don't turn on the TV/iPad etc. when the twins are awake. But when they nap, I almost always sit down on the couch with my breakfast/lunch and watch my shows. Some of my favorites are Psych, White Collar, Modern Family, Dancing with the Stars, Duck Dynasty, and Once Upon a TIme (I know.. I can't believe I actually like that show. It's so nerdy! But I love it). After hours of reading stories, rolling around on the ground with the babes, holding and feeding them, watching TV helps me unwind and relax a little.

Setting realistic goals - Right before the twins were born, Forrest and I were talking about his paternity leave (he took 6 weeks) and what he was going to do while he was off of work. He rattled off a lengthy list of all the things he planned to do each day. After Charlie and Caroline came we both quickly realized how unrealistic that was. Some days it just seems impossible to do anything but survive. I hated feeling like I didn't do a single thing all day long (even though I know that taking care of two babies is actually doing a lot), so I set a goal for myself to do one thing a day. Whether that one thing is laundry, cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, or vacuuming, I still try to stick to that. Some days I get a lot more than one thing done. Other days I struggle to even do that one thing. But setting a reasonable goal for myself everyday helps me to feel accomplished and boosts my self-esteem.

Getting dressed - I know this seems really silly. But there seriously are days (a lot more than I would like to admit) when I don't ever change out of my pajamas. And if I don't change out of my pajamas, I probably haven't brushed my hair or teeth either. Getting dressed and then going through my morning routine of doing my hair, brushing my teeth, and putting on makeup (even if I do all this quickly) makes me feel a lot better about myself. Then I don't go through a panic when someone unexpectedly knocks on the door, because I'm presentable. Much better that way.

Exercising - This one is really important for me, because exercise is something I really enjoy. It makes me feel like a normal person. It was really hard for a few months because Forrest would work so late that I couldn't exercise in the evenings, and I was too tired (I prefer not to think of it as lazy) to wake up and run before he left in the mornings. And it was far too cold to take the kids outside for a walk. But now I am able to go much more frequently. I get together with a few friends and go running on Wednesday evenings after the kids are in bed. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to get out of the house, have some girl time, and get some exercise.

Doing things - Like getting dressed, this seems silly too. But seriously. It is so easy to just stay home and do nothing, because it's far easier when the twins can nap in their beds, I don't have to pack up any food etc. But going out makes a huge difference in my sanity. Sometimes I take trips to the grocery store even if I don't really need anything just because I need to get out of the house. Now that it's warming up I try to take the kids on walks and outside to sit in the courtyard and play with the neighbor kids. Sometimes I even go out and sit in the sun when they're napping, just because I need to be outside! And going to family events, friends houses etc. is so helpful too. Even when it's not convenient, I try to make it work. I need to stay sane.

Serving others - Whether it's something simple like getting up early to make Forrest's lunch, or making dinner for a friend who just had a baby, forgetting myself and doing something for someone else is wonderful. It's easy to think that I'm too busy, that my hands are too full, that I don't have time to do service. But finding even small ways to serve makes a big difference in my happiness. 

Blogging - Seriously, it helps me so much just to be able to write down my thoughts and emotions. It helps me sort through what I'm feeling, and it makes me feel good when others enjoy reading what I write. 

I'm sure as time passes I will find other things to add to my list. But for now, these things really help me love my new job as a full time mom! I love the term "play at home mom." That's what I feel like I do, I play at home with my beautiful children. And it's wonderful! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Witching Hour

You know what I'm talking about. That time of night when your baby is so tired, but they won't sleep. When all they can do is cry. And all you can do is cry. The Witching Hour.

It hit us especially hard once the twins were about 8 weeks old. Forrest would come home from work and I'd be a mess. And so would the house. The kids would be either in their beds crying or in their swimgs screaming. I didn't know what else to do. Sometimes I would put one in a pack on my belly and try and rock them while I cooked/cleaned. That rarely worked. I moved the bouncer into the kitchen and put them in there while I cooked/cleaned. That didn't work either. Finally I got to the point of just putting them in their beds and shutting the door. Because I couldn't hold them both (not that holding them really helped anyway) and just listening to them cry was torture. So I would shut their door and turn on some music. Sometimes if I got lucky they would actually fall asleep. Usually they didn't. But whatever was going on, things always got better when daddy walked through the door. I remember many nights calling him in tears hoping he would be home soon to help me. 

I don't know what changed. They just got older I guess. But finally when they were about 3 months old things got far better. I borrowed a second swing from my mom and set both swings up in the kitchen. Then every night when the kids got fussy (usually arond 4:30 or 5:00) I would put them in the swings, turn on some quiet music for them, and turn on Netflix for me. (Psych. The. Best. Show. Ever.) They would swing happily for an hour or two and usually took a little nap. And I could cook, clean, do laundry.. whatever I needed to do. It was amazing. We still have the same ritual, though it is changing a little bit. Caroline isn't content to just sit in her swing anymore. She sits up, throws her binky, and tries desperately to escape so she can go get it again. So now I often just let her crawl around on the floor while Charlie swings. One of their favorite activities involves Caroline sitting on the floor in front of Charlie's swing, waving her hands and singing/squealing while he watches her intently and laughs histerically at her show. It's completely adorable. Those swings transformed my evenings. No more witching hour for us, hallelujiah! Those early evening hours are now some of the best of my day. Moral of the story, swings = awesome.