Friday, December 27, 2013

Announcing



Clara Gabriele and Dorothy Eva
born on December 26th at 1:30 AM and 4:00 AM
weighing 7 lbs 4 oz and 7 lbs respectively

details to follow, but everyone is doing well and enjoying our most special Christmas gift!

Thank you all for your many prayers, which no doubt helped these babies make such a peaceful entrance into the world, and of course Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Week Before Christmas This and That


How did it get to be the Friday before Christmas just like that?  Weeks ago I put Lily's preschool Christmas show on the calendar *sure* that I would not be able to attend, given the fact that I would be at home with newborn twins.  Well, guess where I got to go this morning?  It was adorable and wonderful to be surrounded by so many beloved friends and family members to hear the story of Jesus' birth.  An unexpected gift, and one that I gladly accepted, and I even convinced Ben to put on his Christmas bowtie.

And speaking of beloved family members, will you just look at adorable baby Grace?  One of the cutest babies ever, not that I am biased or anything.  We all adore her.  Irene and I overheard Hugo leaning into her and saying "Love you, baby Grace." over and over again.  There's nothing like a cousin's love (except maybe a sibling's love), and this girl has a lot of it and more on the way.

Babies are doing great and still hanging out in-utero.  Having spent the past many months saying "If only we get to 37 weeks!" we are both thrilled to be here, and now scratching our heads a little bit and wondering what, exactly, to do.  And, despite the fact that I am daily getting more and more eager (read: impatient) to meet these babies, we know that the answer is to relax and let them come on their own time, whenever that may be.  I wish I was as chill about it in real life as I come across sounding in that last sentence. Let's just say that being almost 38 weeks pregnant with twins is quite the physical endeavor.  But, one day at a time we're hanging in there... guesses for an arrival date welcome!  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

36 Weeks Pregnant With Twins



36 Weeks!  Huzzah, we are here!  This feels like a pretty big week (no pun intended), because all through this pregnancy we have been saying, "Well, we really need to get to thirty six weeks."  And here we are!  While it would be optimal to keep the babies in for a couple more days (37 weeks or bust!), they are essentially good to go.  Anytime now, they can arrive and will likely be healthy, full-term babies ready to come straight home with us.

We had a midwife appointment on Monday, and everything looks great: the babies are growing like weeds, and I was told that I can stop worrying about going into labor.  The babies are ready.  Which means that I am allowed (encouraged, even!) to do anything that I feel like doing, anything that I have energy for, anything that I would normally do.  Oh, this is a huge relief.  Anyone who has severely restricted their activity over a sustained period of time knows what a relief this is.  So I have been bustling around the house, getting things ready for the babies, doing laundry, stocking up the freezer.  It has felt great to be more active these past few days, which gives me the tiniest glimpse into what I imagine I will feel like in the coming weeks once these babies arrive!

Of course these final days of pregnancy pose their own challenges, such as my poor swollen feet, my hands which keep falling asleep (carpel tunnel's syndrome, anyone?) and my complete inability to stand up from a sitting position.  Have you ever seen a pregnant woman balance a glass on her belly?  I could balance a tower of glasses, no problem.  Ben and I got a snack after the midwife appointment and the sweet woman checking us out looked at my belly and, concerned, uttered in her broken English, "Too big!  Twins?"  Yes!  I am officially past looking really pregnant with a single baby and into the realm of looking really pregnant with twins.  I love it.

A couple of times people have asked something to the effect of, "Twin pregnancy is hard, but do you really think that it will be much easier when the babies arrive?"  To which I respond a resounding, "Yes!"  Oh, yes.  There's the fact that we love newborns around here (and have experience keeping them happy and healthy).  There's the fact that I am usually the one in the family with a surplus of energy, and have been needing to take it very easy for the last several months due to the demands of this pregnancy.  And of course there's the fact that we're thrilled to meet these two new people who are about to join our family.  There are parents who gripe and groan about having a newborn around, and I am simply not one of them.  It is thrilling, and challenging, and tiring, and a wonderful adventure.  It is a precious gift, and I look forward to it wholeheartedly. 

Speaking of looking forward to things, my big sister comes home today with her unbelievably adorable bundle of a baby!  Oh, I am so excited!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You Know, Still Waiting


Pardon my silence in this space!  We live in a wonderful but power-outage prone neighborhood, and have just returned home after a two day exile due to a power outage for... wind?  Snow?  Rain?  Ice?    Not really sure what caused it, but we definitely (as always) lost power.

Power outages are so fun for the first couple of hours, until you realize that the interior of your house is 55 degrees, and you are out of gas for your grill, which is the only way you can heat food.  It's times like this that Ben and I dream of equipping our home to be off the grid with a wood pellet stove, a gas range, and a small gas generator.  But I doubt we'll do this anytime soon.  We are very lucky to have family in the area, and so whenever one of these outages is upon us, we load up into the van and head over to grandma's house.  Many members of my family, including me, think this is the best.  Delicious food, great company, and an inviting home.  Then this morning, when the real snow arrived, the big girls had a wonderful sledding companion (my mom) and I actually sat down and quietly enjoyed a cup of coffee in silence.  The absolute best, I tell you.

I'm still here with two babies in my tummy!  Or, as Hugo seems to hope, three brothers?  We've tried explaining the facts, to no avail.  St. Nicholas visited the house with new slippers filled with candy for the littles, we are working through the advent calendars one day at a time, and we assembled gingerbread houses over the weekend.  Bit by bit we are working through this Advent, and we are getting to be such good and patient waiters!  I am learning more than ever that this waiting business is not passive in the least.  It is active, hard work, even amid silence and stillness.

Ben and I went to see the midwife yesterday and everything looks fabulous.  But I'm getting ahead of myself: I'll fill you in on all of that tomorrow.

Thanks for the many prayers, thoughts, and love you've been sending our way!  It is such an encouragement, and really keeps us going.

(look!  Two stockings on the mantle!  Only five (or six, if you count the dog) to go.  I think we need a bigger mantle).

I hope wherever you are, you are warm, dry, and enjoying your Advent, too!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Homestretch


Is it just me or are all my kiddos looking so grown up?  I thought that was supposed to happen after the babies are born.  Yikes, I can't even imagine how I'll feel in a couple of weeks.  Seriously, though, Hugo is killing me with his little blazer.  Too cute.  Work it, little man, you look good.

Truth be told, the last couple of weeks, our energy level can most aptly described as.... hibernation?  Thirty five weeks pregnant with twins, I hand it to you, you win.  Partly, we are battling a little cold.  Partly, we are *so excited* to meet the babies.  Partly, Ben has an ear infection and our dog Selma has been very sick, and ick.  

Luckily, our kids are awesome and ebullient and sort of have their own little (fairly civilized) society going on in the household.  And we have been receiving help from many outlets.  And we are just taking things one single day at a time, because we are so close.  My body feels like it's slowly getting ready for the labor, which is great, and we remain optimistic about being able to keep these little babies inside for just a week and a half more (at least) so they're at least 37 weeks before they make their grand entrance.  

Looking at the sweet faces of our three already born babies makes me realize that this is all so incredibly worth it. Swollen feet, sore wrists (what?  weirdest pregnancy related ache yet), tired out husband and all.  This is the homestretch, and we are doing it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Wreath and a Nativity





(pictures from last year, because we're in the process of decorating!)

Did you know that tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent?  It is among my favorite times of year (maybe even my favorite time of all!), and I truly believe it is among the easiest season to teach a child about the wonder of God's incarnation here on earth.  The amazing thing is that even very small children get it with a minimum of effort on your part.  We love Advent so much that we have developed our own set of traditions to celebrate the season, rich with warmth and good food and anticipation.  The richness of the Advent season make secular attempts at "celebrating the season" (ahem... elf on a shelf... ahem) seem quite empty and trite in comparison (because the underlying message of Advent is much more miraculous and incredible than some little man who sits on your shelf and makes sure you've been good.  It's about God loving us fully and unconditionally regardless of how naughty we've been.  It is about love as a free gift.)

So, even if you've never celebrated Advent before, I invite you to do two things this Advent season.  Two things that will capture the imaginations of your children (along with yours!) and make it a meaningful and memorable season.  Make an Advent wreath and buy a nativity set.  Your wreath can be as simple as a few evergreen branches and four candles, or even four candles themselves on your dining room table or mantle.  And your nativity can be fancy, silly, playful, or very simple.  We have gathered a few over the years because I love them so, but you could even make one out of wooden peg people and paints, or print one out and make a shoebox house.  In the age of pinterest, there are a million ideas about how to be crafty!  Start with what you have.  

These two items can help you develop your own Advent rhythm.  Ours always, at the least, consists of gathering around the wreath every night, lighting it while we sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel," saying a few prayers together and singing a few Christmas songs.  Over the years, our tradition has come to include a special treat, like a cookie or hot chocolate, an Advent calendar, and an ornament taken from a bag and placed on the (at first) sparsely decorated tree. We now have a custom of often including family and friends in our Sunday celebration, and doing something even more elaborate and special (and tasty!).  But all of these things are extra.  All you really need is the magic of coming together and awaiting the arrival of Jesus in our midst.

The children are free to play with the pieces of the nativity throughout Advent.  We do remove the baby Jesus until Christmas proper, but that doesn't stop the kids from making their own babies, so I'm not really sure how important that part is.  :-)

Oh, and then tell the Christmas story again and again and again.  You can say it in your own words, read it from your Bible (or, better yet, for small children, from this bible), or read one of the many wonderful Christmas books available.  There are many at the library, and I have found that the single best place for children's Christmas books is the thrift store.  Here are some of our favorites (I'm just pulling out books, so I'll add more as I remember them!)

Praying for Christmas (this one is a great "devotion book" for the littlest members of your family)

And one of the amazing things about celebrating Advent together as a family is that you, as the Adult, are also preparing to welcome Jesus into our midst.  Ben and my favorite book to use together is this one by Henri Nouwen.  We might need to switch books this year, because I believe we've used this book for eight years straight and can recite most of the passages by heart.

Have a joyous Advent season!  And if you get a chance will you please prayer for my friends Meg, Rosie, and their mom Melissa, who just lost their father/ husband yesterday?  My heart and thoughts are with them today.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Some Thanksgiving Ideas



Are you staying put for Thanksgiving and looking for a few activities to occupy the kiddos while you do some cooking?  It's been cold and rainy for a couple of days now, and we've been in full-on Thanksgiving mode.  Here are a few activities we've enjoyed (which basically only require things that are already lying around your house!).

We made these pilgrim hats for the kiddos, and at least one of my children has not taken hers off since (can you tell which one based on the pictures?).

Are you looking for a good book for kids 4-8 or so that explains the Pilgrim's journey and the first Thanksgiving?  Ben, the kids and I loved reading through this book, and I think we all learned something.  We found it at the library, and I imagine you could, too.

We happened to receive an Amazon shipment in the morning, which means hours of blissful cardboard box play.  We fashioned a Mayflower of our own, complete with a separate boat (read, another cardboard box) for the livestock, which, apparently, was how it actually transpired.  A cardboard box must go down in history as one of the best children's toys invented.

Each of the kids was also rationed a small jar with a few seeds for the new world, and then proceeded to "plant" their crop and use their jars to create "medicine," (aka: water) to help save the ailing pilgrims and Indians.

And if you're looking for a good educational video, there's a great Charlie Brown video available for streaming on Netflix called "The Mayflower Voyagers," which presents a great outline of the story!

Happy cooking, safe travels, and enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

34 Weeks Pregnant With Twins


(two pictures, because I never know what to do with my hands in these!  Hugging the belly?  At my side?  Oh, I make a hopeless model).

We are at 34 weeks, friends!  It is hard to believe, because in truth, I could never really imagine being this far along with twins.  In my lack of experience, twin pregnancy just seemed so incredible and extreme and impossible, really.  It almost seemed like I would turn into a pumpkin at 30 weeks or something.  But in the end?  Being 34 weeks pregnant with twins is really just like being really pregnant with a single baby.  True, I've been idling here for a while (the last few weeks I've just sort of remained really pregnant, and I imagine I will remain here for the next few weeks too).  There are no fireworks, no magical transformations, no exponentially growing belly.  Even more so than with a singleton pregnancy, growth slows way down at the end here, and so I'm just hanging out with two little babies kicking around.  And I've actually found my groove in this, and am pretty comfortable rounding the bend of our final lap.

Blessings of this stage of pregnancy include that I have been sleeping really well, that my appetite has decreased and a normal amount of food feels sufficient, and that since I'm home, I can adjust my activity level if I'm feeling burned out (which, let's face it, is often!).  We saw the babies in an ultrasound last week (with Zosia, my midwife in training), and they are doing wonderfully.  Both nice and big for twins, and just the same size as one another.  And the sonographer predicted that they will both have full heads of hair, which made us all smile (Does anyone remember when Hugo was born?  Our first baby with hair!).  It's so wonderful to think about such concrete things about the babies.

We have been shifting things around in the house (which I'll share as soon as I've taken pictures!), and as of this weekend, I can say that were the babies to come, we would be ready.  They have a crib to sleep in, washed and folded clothing waiting for them, and two carseats ready to take them home from the hospital.  Of course even though we are ready in theory, I would still be utterly shocked for the babies to come anytime soon.  In my mind, we have a few good weeks left of this pregnancy, and we are all occupying ourselves with the Advent in our own family along with the beginning of our liturgical Advent, both of which feel so intertwined this year.

I am focusing in on mentally and emotionally preparing for this birth.  More so than with any of my other births, I am going to need to create a calm and peaceful space for these babies.  That takes breathing, prayer, and a lot of relaxation.  These next few weeks are my time to go deeper into my own birthing body and start preparing for something wonderful.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Midwives and Babies


Our imaginary play can be categorized into one overarching category these days: playing midwives.  There's the fact that these children's mama is a birth instructor, that they have been around for a couple of homebirths, and that they routinely accompany me to the midwife.  And of course midwives tend to be amazingly kind and sweet, and always make sure to invite the children to help measure my belly or listen for the babies' heart beats.  On top of it all, I really believe that children intuit when something is incredible and sacred and just magical.  So playing midwives it is, with my three children cast in three roles: Zosia, the midwife; Lily, the pregnant mother; and Hugo, the baby.

I giggle so much listening to snippets of the conversation.  "I have three babies in my belly!"  Lily might say.  Or "This is a beautiful placenta.  The umbilical cord is attached very strongly," from Zosia.  Hugo seems to be tickled to play the baby, as always, and has taken to calling Lily "Mama" just any old time of day.

Who knows, maybe we have a future midwife in the family?  It would make me thrilled.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Polish Turkey Recipe For You

Just a quick wave hello to say we're still here!  Please picture me crawling along at a snail's pace, with a hugely pregnant belly and three lively children hopping around me.  That is pretty much true to life.  Whew, I am slow these days, but everything is going smoothly, the kids are great, and the babies are thriving, and we are so thankful for that.  I can do slow for a few weeks.  This weekend, I'm looking forward to sorting through some pictures and thoughts from the last two weeks and sharing them in this space.

In the mean time, if your plans for the weekend look anything like mine, you will probably be shopping for Thanksgiving.  And perhaps you're an adventurous cook, or looking for a delicious new way to prepare a turkey.  I wrote up my mom's turkey recipe last Thanksgiving so that I will remember it, and, surprise, surprise, I will be searching my own blog for "turkey" on Wednesday to find the recipe once again (we are actually going over to my parent's house for Thanksgiving, but this recipe is so good that I make one every year, even if we're out of the house for the holiday).  Seriously, this turkey is amazing.  We have tried many recipes, have tried deep frying, etc, but nothing else comes close!  It is just the best.  So, without further ado, here is a delicious turkey recipe for you to enjoy, as written up by me last Thanksgiving!



Happy Thanksgiving!  Just in case any of you are standing in your kitchen staring at a large bird and scratching your heads wondering how to exactly to cook this thing (Or more realistically, so I don't have to call my mom next Thanksgiving morning, as I do every year, to ask for her turkey recipe), this is our family's beloved turkey recipe, handed down from my Babcia Zosia to my mother, down to me and hopefully down many more generations.  In Poland, poultry is often served with apples (duck and apples is a regional specialty), and this recipe creates absolutely the most delicious dark, salty, and slightly sweet sauce that will make you rethink turkey entirely.  The result is incredibly juicy and moist and not even a deep fried turkey will come close.  We like to use a brined bird, which we have found is juicier and more flavorful.  And I usually try to choose the smallest turkey that is available (ours is 14 pounds or so), if necessary cooking two turkeys rather than one larger one (but we are fans of dark meat around here).  Okay, so here it is!


For this recipe you will need:
one small to medium sized brined turkey
10 small apples (my favorite for baking are granny smith)
two cups of pitted prunes
ground sea salt (about a tablespoon)
a few teaspoons of soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons dried marjoram
a few pats of butter (about a quarter cup, or half a stick)

That's it!


Once you have the ingredients, assembling the turkey is simple.  Wash your turkey and pat it dry, placing it breast up in the pan, and making sure to remove the giblets and save the liver to fry with some onion for a snack for lunch (there is nothing like liver to keep your iron levels up, especially for women, so eat up!). Slice the apples (unpeeled) and if you like, cut out the seeds (my mom never does this, and it doesn't really matter in the end).  Scatter the apples and prunes around the turkey.  Place the pats of butter around the turkey, sprinkle a few teaspoons of salt and the marjoram all around the bird.  Finally, pour the soy sauce on the bird, and that's it.  Place the bird in an oven heated to 325 and now wait, which, by the way, is exactly what I am doing at the moment.  Your turkey should read a minimum of 165 internally, which should take about 3 and a half hours for a 14 lb bird.   You will probably want to cover the turkey about half way through, and baste every 20 minutes or so!

Once complete, you can either strain the sauce through a sieve making sure to get as much of the cooked fruit as possible, place it in a food processor, or simply serve with whole chunks of fruit, which is usually how we do it.

I am actually making an extra turkey, as we're going to my parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner, but once you make this turkey you will understand why!



Here it is!  I just went back and made a few changes (decreasing the salt slightly due to the fact we used a brined turkey, noting that the turkey should be covered half way through).  I know it is cheating to try the turkey before the actual dinner, but I am never good at waiting, and it is delicious!  Have a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cultivating Gratitude


This weekend we set up our little gratitude tree: a bunch of branches in a vase, with a basket of "leaves" on which to write things for which we are thankful.  It's one of those pinterest ideas I've always intended to put into practice, and this year the stars aligned.

And we do have so much to be grateful for.  Ranging from Hugo's "Jumping!  Jumping!  Outside!" to Lily's very serious and theological "I am thankful that God died on the cross," we have many more things to be grateful for than we could possibly count.  So it seems fitting to expand the thanksgiving from a single day on the cusp of Advent to a full month of remembering God's goodness in our lives.

Today, we have colds, the kids are a little stir crazy, and even amid the little aches and pains of the final weeks of pregnancy, I can think of dozens of gratitudes off of the top of my head.  A kind family member who offered to pick up groceries.  The sound of Ben bundling the kids up to send them out to the yard to run off some energy.  A six year old who asked for a nap, and then was utterly surprised by how refreshed and rested she felt afterwards.

I am so thankful for it all.