Wednesday, February 11, 2015

30 Things We've Learned in 30 Days or Less

We love/hate this about living overseas: learning. Always. Every day feels like a extended teachable moment. Life as a roller coaster learning curve. We sometimes/often/always feel like we don't know how to do ANYTHING.

(This morning's learning opportunities: the twins are supposed to wear specific navy shorts as a part of their preschool uniform, and I don't know where to buy them. TJ has a group of doctors arriving in a few weeks, and the health department has added new layers to their clearance process. I want to buy 5 gallon bottles of water, but I don't know where to exchange the empty ones.)

It's exciting, getting to know a new people and a different part of the world. It's also draining, to be in a constant posture of learning. This past month, we've often thought, "If only this were happening a year from now. We would totally know how to navigate this." But the only way to make it to the experience and knowledge on the other side of  'a year from now' is to work our way through the not-knowing of now.

We've been in Nicaragua for exactly one month today. We don't know as much about life here as we will a year from now, but we know more than we did a month ago. In honor of 30 days in-country, here are 30 things we didn't know before we arrived (but now we do!). 

  1. Our utility bills are hand-delivered to our door via motorcycle.
  2. Nicaragua is home to one of the largest species of ants in the world. (Thanks a lot, PMI. You could have mentioned that in the interview process.)
  3. Milk is sold in plastic bags, not cartons.

  4. The weather is lovely (so far). Sunny, upper 80's, not humid, and breezy.
  5. Nicaraguans prefer small red beans to black beans.
  6. When writing a check, the number 'two hundred' MUST be written as 'doscientos' and not 'dos cientos." 
  7. You can withdraw US dollars or Nicaraguan cordobas from an ATM.
  8. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, about the same size as New York state.
  9. Managua's giant yellow metal tree sculptures are based off of Gustav Klimt's 1909 work 'The Tree of Life.' (Actually, didn't even know there were giant yellow tree sculptures everywhere.)
  10. If you're even a day late paying your electric bill, the power company will come out and literally cut your power line. Without mentioning it to you.
  11. Didn't know our landlord hadn't been paying the electric bill before we moved in. Which is how we found out about #10 above.
  12. It's free to text between the US and Nicaragua. (Technically iMessage, not text.)
  13. So many trees. In our yard alone we have: mango, avocado, papaya, banana, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and palm trees. Very surreal.
  14. Mountains and old volcanoes and lakes - spectacular vistas are everywhere, even in the city.
  15. The tap water in Managua is considered safe to drink. We still don't drink it, but it's nice to know it's in the realm.
  16. You can pay all of your bills at the bank - rent, utility bills, internet, even traffic tickets.
  17. They're digging (or planning to dig?) a 2nd 'Panama Canal' through Nicaragua. 
  18. Our neighborhood has cobblestone streets.
  19. Our house has red clay (tile) floors. That means our feet and our kids and our beds our rugs and our furniture are always covered in red.
  20. Diet Coke (or Coca Lite) is almost non-existent here. Lots of Coke and Coke Zero, though.
  21. Bath night for the kids is every night, and can never be skipped. (See #19.) They are covered in dust and dirt at the end of every day. We used to do bath night maybe 2-3 times per week in the winter. This is a big adjustment, because we are all tiiiiiired at the end of the day.
  22. There are swan tiles in the twins' bathroom, and I kind of like it.
  23. Netflix streaming works here, and the selection is awesome. Think: every Disney and Pixar movie ever made.
  24. The president of Nicaragua is Daniel Ortega.
  25. The wood beam ceilings in our house are mahogany.
  26. The geckos on our windows make a loud chirping sound - almost like a woodpecker. (All night long.)
  27. The wind sets off our neighbor's car alarm. (All night long.)
  28. How isolating and disempowering adult illiteracy can be, especially in a world that increasingly communicates via text and social media.
  29. That there would be Publix-esque grocery store less than a minute from our neighborhood. Seriously, I don't even have time to shift the car into third gear before I'm in the parking lot.
  30. How very at home and well-welcomed we would already feel here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

FAQ: the Nicaragüense Version

Questions. We get asked a ton of questions. Questions about having twins, and questions about living in the developing world. The thing is: we don't mind. We really enjoy talking with people about some of our favorite things in the world - our almost-always-delightful children, and a desire to live/serve outside of our comfort zones.

We're used to the questions people usually ask us in the States (FAQ: Stateside Edition post to follow!), but it's been fun getting just as many (different) questions from Nicaraguans. Below are the top 5 most common questions we're asked here.

1. ¿Qué te pareció Chinandega? A Uds. les gusta? (How do you like Chinandega?) We actually don't live in Chinandega, which is a rural area on the northern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. We live in the capital city of Managua, but our car license plate is still registered to Chinandega. It's somewhat rare to encounter expats who live in Chinandega, and Nicaraguans are ALWAYS asking us if we like it there. They usually also say something like, "How do you like Chinandega? Your little ones are going to like it so much there, they're never going to want to leave Nicaragua." In the beginning, we would explain that we live in Managua, but haven't changed the car tag. Now that we answer this question several times a day, we usually just say, "We really like Chinandega, and the children love it, too!" This question, and #2 below, are far and away the ones we are asked most often.

2. ¿Son gemelos? Quien nació primero? (Are they twins? Which one was born first?) Nicaraguan culture values children highly, and Nicaraguans especially love twins. Everyone is a little starstruck when I confirm that Ian and Isla are indeed, twins. Sometimes people are surprised when I say that Ian was born first, since Isla is a little bit taller. Sometimes I just agree that Isla was born first. They were born within the same minute, and Ian and Isla can't yet understand what I'm saying, so... Nicaraguans have never asked us if the twins are identical, which is almost always the first question we get in the States. (Yes- even though they're boy/girl twins. Unbelievably, we've had medical professionals ask us that. And, they don't even look that much alike. It's just an instinctive question Americans ask about twins.)

3. ¿Ustedes son de aquí? (Are you from here?) Holly gets asked this pretty often, perhaps due to her dark haired, dark-eyed, super-exotic Mediterranean looks (Romanian, actually)?! No one asks TJ where he's from. He pretty much looks like an Okie from (just north of) Muskogee.  We answer that we aren't from Nicaragua, but are from the United States. Nicaraguans usually want to know what part of the US, which has proven to be hard to explain. We've learned to say that we're from the state of Tennessee, which is located in the middle, between New York and Miami. We try not to say that we are "Americans", because Nicaraguans are, too! U.S. citizens and Canadians are instead referred to as North Americans (norteamericanos), even though The Google says Mexico and Central America are technically part of North America, too.

4.  ¿Como es que aprendieron espanol? (How do you already know how to speak Spanish?) The long answer is: we both enjoy learning other languages, and Spanish has been a part of our lives for a long time. We both studied Spanish in high school - Holly for 5 years, and TJ for 2. TJ improved his conversational Spanish while working landscaping in high school. Holly went on mission trips to Mexico, studied abroad in Spain, and double majored in Spanish at ACU. We were both summer interns in the Dominican Republic. We later attended language school for several months in Antigua, Guatemala before moving to the Dominican Republic. The short answer (and what we usually say) is: we lived in the Dominican Republic for a few years. Nicaraguans, some of whom are about as bad at geography as most (North)Americans, are often interested to learn that Spanish also is spoken the Dominican Republic (sort of).

At our 'graduation' from language school in Guatemala. Our experience at CSA was simultaneously intense and idyllic.

5. ¿Que típo de trabajo están haciendo aquí? (What brings you to Nicaragua, or what type of work are you doing here?) This is also a question that we are often asked when we are in the States. We answer that TJ works for an organization that builds medical clinics in smaller cities without good health care access. The organization makes the initial investment in the construction of the clinic, but then, through hard work, great church partnerships and small, accessible patient fees, the clinics start to quickly pay for their own operation. Each clinic is 100% run by Nicaraguan administrative staff, doctors and nurses. That's something that resonates with everyone that we talk to - that the clinics are low cost, high quality, sustainable and completely Nicaraguan (although there are some great Cuban doctors around here...).

We're continuing to settle in here, and will post again soon with the top 5 questions we get from friends and family and complete strangers in the States.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Rest of the Story

We love staying connected through social media, but so much is happening so quickly - it's hard to capture it all in snapshots. I feel like I've been posting things out of order, or not at all. Last week was our first 'normal' week in Nicaragua - it was awesome to settle into our new rhythm of life here.

It was TJ's first week back in the office, and the twins started school. They're going to a Spanish-speaking preschool a few mornings a week, and they really love it. They haven't noticed that Spanish is different than English, which is a fun surprise! We also got a dining table, placed an order for a couch, hung curtains, and organized closets. 'House-is-feeling-more-like-home' type things. Awesome.

But also: it was a roller coaster of a week.

$4,000 mysteriously disappeared from our bank account, the twins picked up a little back-to-school virus, our car needed a major repair. Our kitchen sink clogged, our bathroom toilet overflowed. Ants ate a small hole in our roof. We got pulled over while on our way to the twins' doctor appointment, and the police wanted to impound the car. Almost all of those things happened within 24 hours, on what was supposed to be TJ's first travel day to one of PMI's medical clinics.

The end of all of those stories is: we are fine, everything is fine, it all worked out. Laura Essner (our friend and banker-extraordinaire) helped us track down the missing money, and got it restored to our account. It was an international banking mishap that we now know how to avoid!

The twins are completely well now, and never had any symptoms other than fever. We were able to go ahead and get established with a great pediatrician here, which is something we'd been meaning to do, anyway. Dr. Mora was great with Ian and Isla (Isla loooooves all things medical). He was so excited to hear we were from Tennessee - he did part of his residency in Knoxville, and fell in love with the Volunteer State.

Getting a little creative to help our feverish little ones cool off in the tropics. Packing totes fit the bill!

We were pulled over by the transit authority on our way to the doctor, but they ended up letting us go. It's a normal thing to get pulled over here - often just to check paperwork. There was a problem with the car's registration, but we were able to find the paper we needed and avoid a detour to the impound lot. On our way home from the doctor, the car had a major problem. (But it ended up being a minor repair.) Our friend, Fabricio, recommended a mechanic to us, and he did SUCH a great job. He repaired the car within a few hours, and delivered the car back to our house.

The sink, toilet, and ant issues are still... ongoing. No big deal.

We are thankful to be here. TJ absolutely loves the work he's doing with PMI. It's funny to think of TJ working in "health care administration", but the truth is... if you care about people and want to make a substantive difference in the life of a community, health care is a pretty great way to go. Being part of a team with the goal of improving access to healthcare is exciting and really challenging, and much-needed in this country (and many others).

Our family is also remembering what it's like to buckle up our seat belts (figuratively, though we try to do so literally, when possible), and be along for the ride. We are thankful for our years of life and ministry in the Dominican Republic - we learned a rhythm of celebrating the good, and trying not to dwell on the bad. That experience helps us step back and look at the big picture, and not get too caught up in the day-to-day dilemmas.

Thankful for your love and prayers. Hopeful for a more 'normal' normal first week here. We are very much enjoying getting to know the people and places of Nicaragua - we are surrounded by great beauty.

Much love,

Monday, October 06, 2014

Nica News & Details!

So, exciting news:

I (TJ) have recently accepted a position with an organization called Palmetto Medical Initiative as the Regional Director for Central America, and will be moving with Holly and the kiddos to Managua, Nicaragua in the coming months! I know… crazy, right?!

But, then again, you’re probably not too surprised… ‘cause you know us better than that.

Many of you will know that I’ve just finished a Master’s in International Development from Eastern University. It was a great experience and prepared me well to be involved in lots of different kinds of developing-world ministries. The organization I will be working for, PMI (Palmetto Medical Initiative), is an innovative, faith-based non-profit dedicated to developing excellent, sustainable primary medical care in impoverished communities all over the world. Though I’m no doctor or nurse, I have seen countless times how access to medical care changes the life of a person and the future of an entire community. My role with PMI will be to oversee the establishment, sustainability, and expansion of their programs and medical clinics in Nicaragua and eventually, into the rest of Central America.

I have really enjoyed my work coordinating mission teams and teaching with Lipscomb University in Nashville. Although Holly and I will really, really miss our friends and family, this new position is a great opportunity to use our passion for Latin America and experience in developing communities to help PMI achieve a lasting impact for the Kingdom of God.

As for the family, we are thrilled about jumping into this new adventure together. Holly has already investigated the availability of Dr. Pepper in Managua, and TJ is pumped to try the Nicaraguan version of Cheetos. The kids are learning to say NIC-A-WAGWA, and are giddy at the idea that everyone there will talk like Dora and Diego.

OK. Here’s the timeline: I will move down November 5th to get set up. During that time, Holly and the kids will have a blast in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Both sets of grandparents live there, and with so many hands eager to help with the kiddos, it's Holly's personal version of Disneyland. I will come back for the holidays, then we'll all move to Nicaragua in January. 

We’ll have a guest room at our house in Managua, and Nicaragua has awesome beaches just a short drive from us. Come on down and learn how to surf with me! Or, just be there to laugh at/with me as I try. PMI has regular volunteer medical/mission trips to supplement the clinic’s work in community outreach, and I’d love for some of you to join up and serve with us at some point. You don't even have to fly. You just drive south… and keep on going. And going.

It's really tough to leave Nashville after nine great years of being surrounded by friends and family. But this is exactly the type of opportunity and ministry we have been preparing and praying for. And we will stay in touch. We can FaceTime! Skype! Viber! (Or, whatever the cool kids are into these days.)

Anyway - love you guys. How many breakfasts and coffees and lunches and dinners and church services and memories can we fit into the next 30 days? Let’s see.


TJ and Holly

Monday, August 08, 2011

Welcome, Ian Thomas! Welcome, Isla Jane!

{begin note from 2014} We are currently in the process of moving from Nashville to Nicaragua, and it's going really well. I started to post an update about that, but... it totally bugs me that the previous blog post was a few days before the twins were born, in 2011. I feel like I can't tell this story without telling that story, first. And the story of the day they were born - how do you capture something so... everything, all at once? So I've never written it out, and it kind of became this blog-juggernaut. So without further ado, I'll just write what I remember. {end note from 2014}
Ian & Isla's original due date was October 6th. On July 28th, at my 28 week ultrasound, my doctor noticed that Ian's umbilical cord might be decreasing in function. He sent me over to the maternal-fetal specialists for their opinion, and they agreed that it was worth keeping a close eye on. So I was admitted to the hospital, but not on bedrest or in labor - they just monitored the babies' heartbeats twice a day, and did an ultrasound every 3-4 days. 

The day I was admitted to the hospital, we also bought a house and sold a house and started a two week kitchen/bath remodel on our new house. TJ had just started working in the missions department at Lipscomb, and he came to the hospital every day after work. We would eat dinner together, and look at pictures of how the remodel was going, and listen to the babies heartbeats, and enjoy our view of downtown Nashville, and chat with the awesome staff at Baptist Hospital - it was just a really sweet time. TJ had a place to stay, since our house was under construction, and we rested much easier knowing that I was in the hospital, and help was right there if we needed it. I had a blast during the days, going through lots of lovely baby gifts, and watching Glee on Netflix, and writing thank you notes, and planning for our new life in our new home with our new babies. 

When I was admitted to the hospital, they gave me steroid shots to help the babies' lungs develop in case they came early. Then our goal was to make it to 30 weeks. Once we made it 30 weeks, our next goal was 32 weeks, and then 34. At 34 weeks, they were definitely going to go ahead and deliver the babies. All of the babies' tests and monitoring were going so well, the doctors began to wonder if the problem with Ian's umbilical cord was actually there, or just something they couldn't see clearly with the machines. So we were sort of in this Baptist Hospital induced bliss, where we never really expected the babies to arrive for several more weeks.

On Monday morning, August 8th, Dr. Bellardo came in for his rounds at 7am. (HOW are doctors so awesome and dedicated? I had no idea they did hospital rounds before office hours.) He said I was at 31 weeks, everything was going well, and we were hopefully on track to deliver the babies at 34 weeks - towards the end of August. I usually went right back to sleep until 9 or 10 am, then showered around noon - basically just did whatever I wanted. But for some reason, I decided to go ahead and start my day. I took a shower, put on clean clothes (read: pajamas), and waited for them to take me for my scheduled ultrasound that morning.

My ultrasound went really well. I loved talking with the ultrasound techs, and seeing the babies move around. We could see that Isla had hair, but they couldn't tell if Ian had any (spoiler alert: he did not). I remember the ultrasound tech saying she was going to let the maternal-fetal specialist know about one of the measurements she was taking, but that it shouldn't be a big deal. She wheeled me back down to my room, and I started working on my thank you notes again. I had missed a call from TJ - he was in an off-campus meeting all day, and his phone didn't get good reception in the room he was in. I texted him to let him know that the ultrasound went well, and they weren't seeing signs of low function in Ian's umbilical cord. I texted him at 10:53am. (Spoiler alert #2: the babies would be born about an hour later.)

As soon as I sent the text, a nurse walked back into my room and said the doctor wanted to have a look at the ultrasound herself. The wheeled me back down to ultrasound, and Dr. Graves (my very favorite of the maternal-fetal specialists) rechecked the readings. She said that it was nothing to be alarmed or concerned about, but she did feel like Ian's umbilical cord function was truly beginning to decrease. She thought it best to deliver the babies that day, even though I was only at 31 weeks, 4 days. I had a hard time processing what she was saying - I think she said, "Today's the day you're going to become a mom," or something like that. All I could think to ask was, "What day is it?" I knew it was around my brother's birthday - August 9th - and I was wondering if the twins would be born the same day. When they said it was August 8th, I just remember thinking, "I guess they won't have the same birthday as Bret." I have noooooo idea why these were the thoughts that popped into my head.

I remember Dr. Graves saying that the babies would be born that day, but it was not an emergency - it would probably be later that afternoon, or early evening. So I should let TJ know to be on his way, but to be sure and tell him not to speed. They wheeled me back down to my room, and told the nurses the big news. I remember wanting to ask if the babies would be okay, but I was afraid they would only be able to give me a vague answer, and I just couldn't stand to hear that.

I called TJ once or twice, and he didn't answer. I think I put on some makeup (???) while I waited for him to call me back. I didn't hear back from TJ right away - he was at that all day meeting, so it didn't concern me too much. I gave Moriah Farmer a call, since she was on campus at Lipscomb, and near where TJ's meeting was being held. I didn't get ahold of her either, so I called Julie Woodroof, the admin for the missions department. (And dear friend, and wife of Tim, whom I'd worked on staff with at Otter Creek.) I told her the babies were going to be born that day, and asked if she could phone the message to TJ. Julie said she'd drive over and let TJ know right away. I said that absolutely was not necessary. She said it absolutely was.

As I hung up the phone, a literal swarm of people streamed into my room. At least 8 nurses and techs and anesthesiologists and I have no idea who else. They said that they were taking me to deliver the babies right away. I said, "Oh, no - Dr. Graves said it wouldn't be for several hours." And they said, "It's happening now." I was maybe a little bit confused about why it was all happening so quickly, but... it was all happening so quickly I didn't have time to think about it! The medical team was absolutely amazing, and they worked together all at once. They got me into an OR gown, started an IV in one hand, explained procedures and had me sign consents with the other hand, tugged compression stockings onto my legs, and wheeled me out of my room in a matter of minutes. They kept asking where my husband was, which I thought was weird. I kept thinking... "He's on his way. He'll be here. They would never deliver the babies without the father being here - that only happens in the movies." Just as we rolled up to the OR, and it really started to sink in that this was really happening now, I sent a quick text to TJ. I had a second of panic where I thought, "Ohmygosh what if he doesn't make it in time"? And then I saw him running down the hallway towards me, and I knew everything was going to be okay.

Except I had not read one THING about pregnancy or delivering babies or C-sections. I know most people read a ton about all of that stuff, but it just felt really overwhelming to me. There is just so much information out there, and I didn't want to go down a lot of worst-case-scenario routes. So it made more sense to me to take everything a day at a time. And I thought I had a LOT more time before the babies were born. (And probably I was in a teeny-tiny bit of denial that two tiny humans were about to join our family. From the moment we found out we were expecting twins, everything felt very surreal.)

I was really afraid they would start the C-section while I could still feel everything, because they seemed in such a hurry to get the babies out. They did whatever procedure they do numb you for a C-section. I was afraid that it would hurt, but it really didn't. And then all of the sudden I was on the operating table, and TJ was in scrubs, standing right beside me. Dr. Bellardo was there, and rolled something across my belly to see if I was numb yet. I'm pretty sure I said very emphatically that I could still feel it - I have NO idea why I was so scared that they were going to start before I was numb. Dr. Bellardo told me a little bit about what they were going to do, but mostly I just remember him directing the nurses. 

I still wanted to ask if the babies would be okay, but I was too afraid I would hear a vague answer. So I just tried to prepare myself that maybe they wouldn't cry right away, but that necessarily didn't mean that they wouldn't grow to be healthy. We knew the babies were about 3lbs each, which is not micropreemie, but is still 2 months early. We had done a tour of the NICU with a Baptist multiples class a few weeks before, so I felt great about the care they were about to receive.

The babies were delivered very quickly - Baby A, Ian, at 12:04pm. He cried - a tiny, loud, absolutely infuriated and pathetic cry. Baby B, Isla, born in the same minute - 12:04pm. She cried - a tiny, loud, absolutely infuriated and pathetic cry. They were here, and breathing, and our world shifted around us. So fast and surreal and beautiful and absolute, I think we're still trying to wrap our heads around it.

The nurses held Ian up to my face so I could see him for a second, and a quick kiss. Same thing for Isla - a quick peek, and a quick kiss. We don't have any pictures of those first moments, just a video.


TJ went with the babies to the NICU, and he said it was an incredible thing, to watch the teams of doctors and nurses assess and care for these brand-new beings. I went to recovery for a few hours, and TJ would come in and show me pictures and videos of the twins. I was absolutely reeling from what had just happened, and trying to process that I wasn't going to finish season 2 of Glee that day, after all. I was still numb, and shaking. And there was someone else in recovery, on the other side of the curtain from me. She had her baby with her, and I remember thinking, "I know I should probably feel jealous that she's getting to hold her baby, and I don't know when I'll get to hold mine. But I'm shaking uncontrollably, and I don't feel that great, so I'm really glad someone else is taking good care of them right now. I'll just focus on trying to stop shaking, and moving to my room, when it comes time."

After a few hours, they moved me to my room, and wheeled the bed into the NICU so I could see the babies on the way. There were so many people around, and I felt so out of it. And the babies were so tiny, with lots of tubes and wires. I didn't really feel scared - by now we knew the babies were stable. I just felt sort of disconnected from it all. The nurses told me I could reach over and touch the babies, and I did. I remember thinking it should feel very momentous, but I just felt sooooo out of it. They wheeled me up to my room, and I slept for about 12 hours. 

Around midnight, TJ and I were able to go back down to the NICU, and see the babies again. It was really calm, and sweet. We knew the twins' nurse, Meggie Bumpus - she had been a part of the college group at Otter Creek while TJ was the young adults minister there. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see Ian & Isla sleeping peacefully in the NICU, and to know that someone we knew was going to take extra-extra special care of them. It was a lovely first visit with our marvelous son and captivating daughter.

Our families arrived around midnight, as well - they drove in from Oklahoma as soon as they heard the babies were on the way. I think they stopped in to see me, but I don't remember it clearly. I remember thinking, "I know who these people are, and I know they are important to me, and something important has just happened, but I reallllly need to go back to sleep. I think our families got to see the babies that night, but I'm not sure.

TJ's sister, Mickey, was also there when the babies were born. And Blake and Moriah. And Janet Crothers. They were in the waiting room, and (I think) they decorated our room with "Happy Birthday" banners for the twins. I never got to seem them that day, but TJ did. And I think they were able to see the babies, too.

The next morning - Tuesday, August 9th - I felt MUCH better. I was still in a wheelchair most of the day, but was able to take a shower and get dressed. We celebrated with our families, and visited the babies several times. And I tried to wrap my mind around our new normal. I remember a lactation consultant stopped by, and briefly showed me how to use the pump, and said I would need to pump every 3 hours. I remember thinking, "There is no way I will have time for that. I have way too much to do. That is crazy to think that someone could do that every 3 hours." Little did I know... I would indeed have to make time for that! And I was about to start factoring the eating/sleeping needs of two tiny humans in to allllll of my minutes, not just every 3 hours. I definitely couldn't have imagined how much I would enjoy that. The constancy is relentless, but... mostly, I revelled in the newborn days/daze.

It was about a week before we were able to hold the babies, but that never felt super-devastating to me. It all just felt very gradual and right, and we learned to care for them well from the beginning. The NICU nurses NEVER made us feel like we didn't know what we were doing. And we could visit as often and as long as we wanted, which was wonderful. Knowing that Ian and Isla were doing well, and healthy, and just needed a few weeks to grow stronger was a great joy. I'd heard so many people talk about how difficult it can be to have a baby in the NICU, but we had a wonderful experience. We were so very thankful that Ian and Isla were with us, and healthy, and had access to such great care - there just wasn't any room for sadness. It was also awesome for me to have a few weeks to recover, and get moved in to our house before we brought them home.

We loved getting to know Ian & Isla as they grew stronger in the NICU - holding them, and changing their diapers, and giving them baths - learning to swaddle them, and doing bottle feeds, and eventually even dressing them in real clothes. We loved visits from friends, and the special blankets from Carol Reese, and the name banner above their beds from Moriah. Every little milestone was sweet and somehow a surprise. And then one day... it was time to take them home

We walked out of the doors of Baptist Hospital on Friday, September 2, 2011 as a family of four. (They had tried to tell me earlier that week that the twins were almost ready to go home, but it was Labor Day weekend. And I thought, "Oh, there's no way they'll send them home over the weekend - it's a holiday weekend." I just... had no idea.) We strapped our tiny kiddos into their carseats, and drove down West End to Panera. TJ got me a cinnamon crunch bagel with hazelnut cream cheese, and a Dr. Pepper. And we toasted the safe arrival and homecoming of our favorite-people-ever. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011


Oh, no. Amanda Mankin, what have you done?! Now we REALLY can't wait to meet these baby twins. Is this really what life looks like as we wait for Ian & Isla to join our family?!

(Thanks to TJ McCloud for the sweet surprise-happy-2nd-trimester-Twins-shirt. And Summer Millican for the super-hot maternity capris. Oh! And Linda Zelnik for the manicure/pedicure gift card! And Kara Graves for hanging out at their pool while I worked on my tan! And Elijah Norman for coining the phrase "baby twins!" And Ian & Isla for being so cute! And most of all, to Amanda Mankin, for making a pregnant-with-twins gal look glamorous.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Hotel Baptist

So what have the cutest yet-to-be-born babies on the planet been up to this week? Just hanging out at the hospital, kicking away, passing all their tests with flying colors and showing off their sweet profiles in ultrasounds.

We've been at Baptist for a week, and everything is going better than expected. I'm 31 weeks along, and showing no signs of preterm labor. The doctors continue to monitor the twins' growth, and keep a close eye on Ian's umbilical cord function. They didn't expect it to improve, but it has, and the doctors are very pleased. We'll still be in the hospital until delivery, which will likely be between Aug 11-25. The babies will need some time in the NICU - maybe 2-4 weeks.

The thing is... we can't help feeling thrilled and incredibly grateful. We are so thankful the doctors caught this umbilical cord issue. And we couldn't be in a more comfortable, competent hospital. I keep thinking I'm on a cruise (minus the laying out by the pool, plus fetal heartrate monitors and consults from excellent doctors). I can't believe how very dedicated the doctors and nurses are to caring for us, and monitoring the babies closely so they have time to mature in utero. Access to this level of healthcare is truly humbling.

We're also amassing quite a library of ultrasound pics, and we love looking at them. I'll see if I can post a few from the hospital... (You are not even going to be able to stand it. They are so cute!)