Monday, November 25, 2013

Book giveaway winner

And the winner is...

Comment #3
Please contact me so I can get information to send you the books!!!

Congratulations!  and thanks to all who entered!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: Travels with Gannon and Wyatt

I feel so lucky to be a part of this Clever Girls Campaign.  Any one who knows Ryan and Evan, knows just how much they love to read.  Finding a new series that is age appropriate, and challenging enough is always a struggle, so finding The Travels with Gannon and Wyatt,  by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet, is like a little gold mine.

We started reading the first book, Botswana, the moment the books arrived.  Ryan and Evan were immediately excited to find that Wyatt and Gannon are twins, just like they are.  As a Mom of twins, I loved that the boys described themselves as totally different personalities.  I have often supported and encouraged the differences in my boys as it can be very difficult to be a twin.  As fraternal twins, Ryan and Evan have it somewhat easier, they look different, but to always share a birthday, or to always have someone almost the same as you around all the time, it can be difficult. Gannon and Wyatt are both incredibly smart and creative, yet they are such individuals, what we all want for our kids.

Gannon and Wyatt bicker like twins, but also have a undeniable love for each other.  That love is evident when Wyatt gets sick. Gannon sits by his bedside, cares for him and is very stricken with worry. I love the dynamic between the boys, they tease, fight, but ultimately, they love.

On the back cover, the age range on these books states 9-12, which is appropriate.  There are intense themes, like Wyatt's illness, and the constant threat of death by wild animal, but they are managed in a manner that is not too frightening for my boys who are only 7. I read the books with the boys the first time, just to make sure there was nothing too scary for them. There has been nothing better than them coming to me with books in hand begging for me to read more Wyatt and Gannon.

While Wyatt and Gannon experience many scary things, poachers, tomb robbers and wild animals, I loved the way the authors addressed these issues.  Wyatt and Gannon are thoughtful and bright young men and their journal entries address conservation, protection of ancient artifacts and understanding of native cultures. While some of these topics are a bit intense, especially from my sheltered kids who watch minimal television and play zero video games, it does give us moments for frank discussion.  Because of the need to discuss some of these topics more in depth, I feel reading these books with younger kids is a must.

By far Botswana was our favorite, because the first one is always your favorite! But we thoroughly enjoyed the adventures in the Great Bear Rainforest (October, 2013) and Egypt (January, 2014) , and we look forward to continued adventures with Gannon and Wyatt.

One problem arising from these books?  Ryan and Evan really want to travel to Botswana, Canada and Egypt!

Check out the Travels with Gannon and Wyatt Facebook page, where they will be giving away three Kindle Fires! If traditional books are more your speed,  I will be giving away a copy of the three books to one lucky reader! Leave a comment and one randomly picked comment will be drawn on Monday, November 25, 2013 at 7PM Pacific.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Proof of Post

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We've come so far!

It was not long ago, about a year, that I worried almost daily about Ryan and his reading. He loved being read to, he tried very hard to read himself, but good golly, it was a struggle.  It was frustrating for both of us, I couldn't understand how he did not know that "train" we had just sounded out was the same "train" one line down, as we sounded it out all over again. And then to have his brother, reading everything in sight, with ease, oh my his poor little heart. This time in our lives was very exhausting.  It was really hard on his self esteem and it was really worrisome to me.

At some point last year Evan needed a little extra help with hockey and we put him in private lessons.  He needed some one on one time to figure out what he was supposed to be doing in practice.  During the 45 minutes Evan was on the ice, Ryan and I were given private time to work on his reading.  Seriously, best $40 a week ever spent!!!! Evan's skating and focus was 100% improved, and Ryan was FINALLY able to make a breakthrough with his reading.  Without Evan correcting him from the other room, it was all Ryan and he HAD to figure it out. I admit it was a good thing we were doing this in an ice arena because some days I had trouble keeping my cool, but by the end of five or six lessons, I could see a dramatic improvement.

We've had another MAJOR breakthrough!

Yesterday Ryan started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and tonight he finished it. That is 309 pages in two days!!!  THREE HUNDRED AND NINE!!!! This kid, who last year could barely read nine words in two days just read three hundred and nine pages in two days.  He was SO proud of himself.  I am pretty proud too...

..oh and Evan, he's on page 380 in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stop, Look, Listen

Today I had one of those parenting moments.  One of the good ones, not one filled with regret, but thankfulness that I took a moment to listen.

The boys were going to spend the day with their old teacher, while I went to a cooking class.  They were so excited, I do not have the words for how much they love Ms. Erin.  They have been talking about it all week, looking forward to spending some time with her, seeing her house, telling her all about their summer.  Every day this summer one or both of the boys has said something to the effect of "you should send a picture of this to Ms. Erin" or "when I see Ms. Erin again..." So they love her and miss her.

This morning, I was in the shower. Now the shower is a wonderful place for me.  With the fan on and the water beating down on my head, I can barely hear what is going on in the living room with the kids.  I can hear yelling and screaming, but normal play, it is blissful silence.  By nature I only take about a 5 minute shower, and I don't think it is too much to ask to be left alone for those brief moments. At seven, I believe that the boys can function without me for those few minutes, but alas, it almost never happens, usually in those five minutes, someone has to visit me to tell me something very important. Usually I ask before they start talking too much, "Is this something that can wait until I get out of the shower in five minutes?!!!!" 99 times out of a hundred, the answer should be yes!

Today, like just most days, I was rudely interrupted while shampooing my hair by Ryan.  I could not hear him, as I started to be frustrated in my mind, I looked at his face.  It was full of joy and anticipation, almost like Christmas Morning.   He blurted out something about what he wanted to do with Ms. Erin's dog Huckleberry. He giggled, and went back to play.

I took a breath and spent the rest of the shower glad I did not make him wait to tell me that little bit of nothing,  because it was so important to him, and that is all that really matters.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Strange Dreams

I had a strange dream about the NICU the other night. 

I don't remember a lot about it, but I do remember that as a safety precaution, they had implemented an odd way of entering the NICU.  You sat on the end of a long bungee cord, and then let go.  You shot past multiple floors, again and again, eventually settling at the entrance to the NICU.  I remember feeling terror as I flung through what felt like a tiny hole between the floors.  I remember wondering how you would evacuate all the tiny babies in a system that required you holding on to a bungee for dear life. 

Reflecting on it now, the dream was much less about how to get in and out of the NICU, but how if feels when you are living in it. Great extremes.  Highs and lows. Bouncing from one end of the spectrum to the others. 

Even 7 years later, my subconscious is still processing the experience. 

(It may have something to do with the NICU picnic we just went to last weekend) =)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Evan at Seven

Evan my sweet, ball of fire, never ending source of entertainment. Evan my Joy. I cannot believe you are seven. Seven years ago you came bursting into my life.  How you were not Baby A I'll never know.  It is possible that you were pushing, kicking, and talking at Ryan so hard he just had to come out. 

Evan you wake up every morning and you are in fifth gear.  You don't slow down until you hit stop for the night and then you crash.  You still thrash and move in your sleep. The energy you have could power a small city.  If only I could harness it, I could reduce our electricity bills, and maybe even power my car! As much as sometimes I wish you would just sit still, I would never want to diminish the exuberance you attack everything with.

Evan you too are wicked smart.  It scares me sometimes!  You sat down the other day and read Tolkien.  Granted it was just the Hobbit, but seriously impressive man. When you are reading seems to be the only time you are quiet and still. Sometimes you hum, but usually you are quiet.  Your focus is amazing.  You have read entire chapter books, written for older kids, in a day. You never cease to amaze me. I am so glad you have been given the opportunity to flourish in school, and not be confined and disciplined to the point where you loose your joy.  I love that they embrace you for who you are!

Evan you still sing, but not like when you were younger.  You hum almost constantly.  You can hear a song/score once and it becomes part of your repertoire. We tried some music lessons, but you don't quite have the focus for the environment.  I want to find something for you this year to encourage your musical gene.

Evan, your vocabulary and your ability to formulate complex sentences always brings a smile to my face.  I recently likened you to Aaron Sorkin, an amazing writer of dialog for movies and television, one of my favorites. When you bust out a Sorkin Sentence, I wonder if your future holds writing, or the like.  I've always said you were my play by play man, but you've been talking about making movies a lot this year. I wonder.

Evan you are very sensitive, and I think you may get your feelings hurt often. You have lots of friends, but I am not sure they always know what to do with you.  With your vocabulary and your gift of gab you can overwhelm many. You are impatient and constantly need to be doing...I don't know where you got that!!! (I am sorry for that honey, I hope to teach you how to channel those attributes)

You are so strong, and determined.  You have wonderful opinions and you are not afraid to share them. You are fiercely loyal and passionate.

I love you my sweet, I love when you turn to me and say "I love you Mom" for no reason at all. I love that for a few weeks all you wanted was for me to cuddle you every night before bed. I know those moments will be fewer and fewer as you continue to grow older so I cherish every second.

Happy Birthday to my love bug.

Ryan at Seven

Ryan my loving boy.  You are seven today. How is that possible.  Seven years ago, I didn't know if you would live, let alone become the wonderful child you are today. Seven years ago today was the scariest, most wonderful day of my life because you and your brother made your grand entrance way too early.  I should have seen that as a foreshadowing of your constant early wake ups!

Ryan my heart.  You are so kind and generous.  This year it seems you are always trying to give things away, to me, to your father, to your brother.  I even caught you trying to slip Five Dollars into your Grandmother's Card.  You are so considerate of others and their feelings.  When Evan gets in trouble, I often find you crying for him.

You are so eager to help, and to do things on your own.  You still love to be in the kitchen, and you want to help when ever possible.  You can make your own breakfast, and you have gotten really good  at measuring, cracking eggs, and even chopping! You have such an affinity for the kitchen, I still think you may be a chef.

Ryan you are so incredibly smart, but you are less confident of your intelligence. Your memory is amazing.  You have such an eye for detail and with your memory, I have a tough time keeping up with you.  You struggled all year with your reading, but in the last few months you have really blossomed. You are reading easily things that had you frustrated only weeks ago.  I am so proud of your hard work and your tenacity.

You have so many friends, and you even have a "girlfriend".  Sorcha is super sweet and she talks about you to her mom all the time.  You must like her a lot as you named one of your Lego ships the Sorcha. She recently came over for a play date and the three of you ran around and had a blast for 7 hours.

You are so competitive, and such a perfectionist.  (I'm sorry about that sweetie, but you come by those attributes naturally. We will work on using that to your advantage)You remind me of your Daddy, not just in looks, but in your quick wit and one liners.  For someone so young, you have a very well developed sense of humor. 

I am so thankful that you still want to cuddle me.  All I need is a book and you are all over me!  You still spontaneously give me a hug, just because, and it melts me. I hope you never loose that loving, kind spirit of yours.

Happy Birthday my precious, sweet, loving boy!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I guess the healing begins around year seven

I was in Savasana in yoga today and I realized something.  It is March 30th! Two days and Seven years ago, my life was changed forever. 

For the past six years March 28th has been frought with angst, sadness and shortness of breath. This year, it seems to have passed without event.

I still don't watch the NCAA Tournament like I used to. At the start of it, I felt a bit angsty, I knew it was that time of year again, but not in the same way...

If I take the time to reflect I can work myself up into a tizzy, but it doesn't seem to to perccolate to the surface out of nowhere anymore...


Seven years ago,

I was in a hospital bed, convinced I would be there for another ten or twelve weeks at least! I was settling in for the long haul.  That long haul was only seven more days!

Seven years later,

I have two boys who are nearly seven years old.  Wow.  Just Wow.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sometimes the rules don't matter. (and, I need to remember that)

It is 2 o'clock in the morning and I am feeling pretty rotten.

In the past few weeks I have had a couple of incidents of bad parenting.  Today was a gigantic fail.  Epic.

Today I got so wrapped up in "the rules" that I forgot that my boys are only 6 (almost 7) and that they are enthusiastic and that they enjoy life to the fullest.

We were on a field trip today, first the aquarium and then the park at the beach.  The rule was no one was supposed to go in the water.  Of course, I knew better, I knew that my kids would not be able to resist.  I even said it to their teacher.  But instead of just being prepared, with extra clothes, I chose to be a hard ass.  To make them follow the rules. And when they broke the rules, I made them regret it.  And now I am the one up at 2 AM regretting it, unable to sleep because I turned what should have been a fun time into something totally opposite.

What really made me feel awful about making my boys sit out of all of the fun, because they broke the "rules" was a picture posted by one of the other moms on the field trip. I think it must have been taken moments before I found them in the water.

When I saw it, I saw clearly what I was missing today on the beach.  Their joy. You cannot even see their faces clearly, but it is their body language, I can feel their happiness. It looks as if Evan's feet are not even touching the ground.  (I apologize for the inelegant black boxes over the other kids faces, but it is nearly 2:30 now, and I don't want to go to my desktop to open photoshop, nor do I think I will be able to get permission from the other four parents at this hour.  As it is, I hope when the photographer wakes up in the morning she is okay with me using this photo)

Honestly, why didn't I just bring extra clothes, and embrace the moment?  Why did I have to take this moment of joy and turn it into anything but joy?  This is going to be one of those memories that I will never, never, never forget, it will make me sick forever. 

Now I wait until they wake up so I can apologize.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

PTSD and the Preemie Expreience

A friend, NICU mom times two posted this link on Facebook this week

The story states that parents who have experienced the NICU may suffer from PTSD like symptoms.

We. Absolutely. Do.

I remember the first time I walked back into the NICU after the boys had been released.  It had been close to a year I believe...I signed in, opened the door and then I suddenly grew shaky, I started to sweat, I was chilled, I was pale and clammy, and I started to cry.  It was like opening up the gates to a type of hell. The sounds, the sights, the smells. One of the nursed said, "that happens all the time".  If that isn't PTSD, I don't know what is.

Recently there have been several television shows that have featured premature baby story lines.  I find myself either sobbing or cursing at the unrealistic portrayal. I get a lump in my throat at commercials promoting the new and improved NICU in town.  I hold my breath and my tongue when I hear about pregnant friends. I worry until the baby reaches ~30 weeks gestation.  I breathe again after 37 weeks. I will never look at pregnancy as a happy event, and that is crazy!  But I can't stop worrying! If that isn't PTSD, I don't know what is.

My NICU friends and I have often discussed just how much the experience has affected us. We often ponder how the experience has changed our parenting styles. The way we look at our children. I see the big three potential areas things could be different if my kids were term babies.


Having to keep my babies away from people, worrying every day that they might get RSV,  and end up back in the hospital, for the first two cold and flu seasons, changed or rather exacerbated my germophobia. I think, don't quote me on this, that there is a statistic that says 4 out of 5 preemies end up back in the hospital in the first year.  That we escaped with both boys is nothing short of a miracle, or maybe it was the gallons and gallons of hand sanitizer and the hermits lifestyle we led.

I still to this day have gallons of sanitizer in the house.  I harp to wash, wash, wash.  We use sanitizer when we are out and about, double that during cold and flu season. Is that a carry over from our NICU experience? Maybe.  

Development and Education

Worrying about every single developmental milestone changed the way I look at education. I have the potential to be a Tiger Mom, I'll admit it.  My parents were Tiger-like.  I was a high achiever, my husband is a high achiever, we could want and expect that from our kids too.  But not knowing if you child would walk, or talk, or develop in any of the normal ways, changes everything.  Constantly adjusting for prematurity, changes you.

(from the March of Dimes- 

Babies who are born prematurely often have two ages:
  • Chronological age is the age of the baby from the day of birth—the number of days, weeks or years old the baby is.
  • Adjusted age is the age of the baby based on his due date. Health care providers may use this age when they evaluate the baby's growth and development. So, if a baby is 6 months old, but was born two months early, his adjusted age is 4 months.)
 It is only now (and not REALLY) that I am starting to believe that my kids are pretty normal in their development and that they have a shot at being pretty normal in the future.  SEVEN years later!  I would think, and correct me if I am wrong, that parents of non-preemies don't stress over every little developmental issue. Shouldn't he be holding a pencil better by now, shouldn't he be sitting up more stably now, walking? talking? Is there something wrong?????

I found that I was desperate for my kids to have an education that didn't pressure them into conforming to what a district thought was important.  I did not want to set them up for potential failure if their prematurity affected their ability to learn traditionally.

Trauma in general

This is a weird category, but I have these things, that I can only define as traumas, or worst case scenarios, morbid thoughts.

I think only a preemie parent wonders if their child is still breathing, if they should for a change (a rare, rare, change) sleep in in the morning. That's not a normal thing is it? I've always attributed that to the PTSD. The seeing my kids turn blue, purple and black because they forgot to breathe.

This might just be a twin mom thing, but I worry that one twin will die.  At first I wondered would the baby remember his twin? Now I wonder how the other will go on.  They love each other so much! I know we would be devastated, but what about the surviving twin? They are best friends, besties forever.

Do parents of non-preemies worry that their kids are going to die?  Is a preemie thing? or do I need help?

What kind of parent would I have been had my boys not been born at 26 weeks? Had they not spent five months in the hospital fighting for life? Would I be a germ loving, tiger mom, with stressed, over committed kids, achieving no matter what the cost? I wonder.

I realize all of the above sounds kind of crazy.  I know.  The experience of living in the NICU for FIVE MONTHS is something that not many people have had, if you have not lived it you cannot judge it. The trauma is something that will follow us forever. It is something that will always guide our decisions and actions, it is not something you can un-see.  I wish it was. I wish it was.

So yes, parents who have had an extensive NICU stay suffer from PTSD. I am living proof, along with all of the amazing moms and dads that were there in the trenches with us. We are living proof. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some Recent Funnies

These kids crack me up.

During sharing, early in the year, the boys had to share something about their heritage.  I wrote their middle names in Japanese for them and we talked about being Japanese and Norwegian.

During their sharing, one of their friends said, "I didn't know you were Japanese"  to which Evan responded, hands flung in the air, "I KNOW!!!!! We JUST found out!"

Their teacher Ms. Erin, laughed so hard she cried.

The other day, I made tried to make my Aunt's Fried Chicken.  It calls for an ice cold salt bath overnight, so I assumed brine. I cooked up the chicken, using the translated from Japanese instructions provided to me from another relative who watched once as she prepared the dish and asked some questions.  I have a few of these recipes from her, and well not always perfect, I have managed to recreate some of Auntie Masako's finest.  (her potato rolls are my crowning achievement)

I fried up the chicken, plated it up and served it to my boys.

Evan:  "What makes this chicken taste so much like salt, mom?"

Ryan:  "It's okay, as long as you don't eat too much of it."

Their kind and tactful words were very, very kind.

The chicken, it was inedible.

When I said this out loud.  Ryan said, "no, not really inedible, just hard to eat."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reading Ryan

So this transition into first grade has been seamless.  The boys LOVE their teacher, and I do as well.  She is thoughtful about her lessons, she is dedicated to her kids, she is funny, sarcastic, and an amazingly patient teacher. 

Evan has been reading for some time now.  It really clicked with him.  He is reading books at about a third grade level, but I find that he can sound out just about any word that follows traditional rules.  Scary, I now have to be very careful with what I leave laying about.

Ryan, has been slower on the uptake, and it was alarming.  I could not get him to read ANY thing to me.  He would tell me he couldn't or it was confusing.  So imagine my surprise when I went in for Parent Teacher conferences to learn that he was one of the best readers in the class.  "Ryan?" I asked, "No, you mean Evan"  No, she meant Ryan.  That little faker.

Ryan has always loved to be read to.  He was the kid that I read to for four straight hours one day when he was sick.  He is the kid that would choose having stories read to him over Legos...okay maybe not, but he loves to be read to.   So, I guess in his little brain, he decided that if he shows me he can read, he will not get stories read to him. 

Since that meeting, I have breathed a bit easier, not pushed him to read to me as much. However while on a cleaning binge, I found a set a books that I had picked up quite a while back, I gave them to Ryan, made a big fuss about how these were books I knew he could read and they could be his special books that he could keep in his room.  Within minutes, he was calling me to come see, he could read this whole page!!! Success!!!!