Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Steven Sr. and Stephen Jr.

My husband and our youngest son share so much more than their names and birthdays (separated by 31 years and 15 minutes). They are so much alike it's almost comical. They have the same likes and dislikes, mannerisms, and personality traits. They both sleep in the exact same position: flat on their back, legs crossed at the ankles, hands under their head and elbows out. 

The other day, we were all lounging in the living room before getting ready for church. My husband was standing by the piano, talking animatedly about something or other. If you know my husband, you know he doesn't ever just talk - he pretty much preaches all the time, even if it's just about the weather. I looked over and saw baby Stephen assume the same exact pose and facial expression. It was so funny, because he was not even doing it intentionally - he just imitated what he saw without giving it any thought. 

Thankfully, my camera happened to be right next to me on the sofa, and I was able to capture this cute moment. 

These two crack my up! They are our original pair of twins.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter 2014

For breakfast, I had made hot cross buns and cinnamon rolls the night before. Most of the cinnamon rolls went in the freezer for after the baby comes. The buns were so good fresh out of the oven that I called the kids back out of bed late at night just to share the goodness with them fresh. But yes, they were still really good on Sunday morning, too! :)

In lieu of Easter baskets, I continued our new tradition of Easter dresses for the girls, and new swim clothes for the boys. This year, I sewed the girls' dresses myself. Even though I started months ago, I did not finish the last dress until 11 pm on Saturday night - ha! I was literally falling asleep at the sewing machine. 

This year, I also gave each of the kids their own beach blanket. They go swimming every single day in the summer, and often mix up their towels. When that happens, they just toss all of them in the dirty laundry. To prevent that from happening this year, I figured different towels for each of them would help cut down on the unnecessary laundry. Plus, we needed new towels anyway, so this was a good way to combine the necessary with some gift-giving ;)
Of course, the boys wanted to try out their new swim clothes right that morning. Even though daytime temps are getting into the 90s here, the pool is still only in the 70s, so I only let them have a quick dip before getting ready for church.

We got ready early enough to snap about 50 pictures of the kids, of which this is the only one that came out with most of them mostly smiling at the camera and mostly keeping their eyes open. Getting a good picture becomes exponentially harder the more people there are in it.

Stephen was being really sweet, and happily posing for pictures.

At church, we broke our previous Sunday morning attendance record of 111, with 118 in attendance. Which means there was ice cream for all after the service! You can listen to the sermon here or view it on YouTube here.

After church, we enjoyed a wonderful ham dinner at home. 

A great day overall. We will be doing more professional pictures of the whole family once the new baby is born.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kneaders Shmeaders (My first-ever Google review)

This place was so horrific, I actually spent a half hour of my time telling everyone in Google-land about "their newest store in Ahwatukee." And here I am, sharing it with you all, in hopes of sparing my readers the same experience. 

I have been to this "Kneaders Bakery and Cafe" twice, and both experiences were terrible.

The first time I went was not too long after they opened, during a more busy time of day (about 11 am). Since I had never been there before, I parked and walked in so as to be able to look at the food rather than ordering off their drive-through menu. However, since the line went all the way to the entrance, and didn't seem to be moving, I changed my mind and decided to do the drive-through, after all. Sure enough, it moved much faster.

Ordering off their complicated menu, however, proved to be nothing but a major source of frustration. I will not include all the boring details of why sandwich X cannot be combined with combo Y, until your server is trying to sell you anything but the sandwich you originally wanted, but the interaction ended in me becoming so frustrated that I told the girl taking my order to just cancel it altogether, and that I'd be back after I had a chance to study their menu and earn my PhD in ordering off of it.

Normally, one such negative experience would have been enough for me never to go back to a restaurant a second time, but I figured the place is new and these were growing pains, plus there was that long line out the door so maybe the food was worth the trouble.

My second time around, I chose a more off time (very late morning, but not too close to lunch) and headed straight for the drive-through, after having already completely familiarized myself with the breakfast options and making my selection ahead of time. Such careful preparation paid off, and I was able to get my order in without my head spinning.

The moment I looked at the food, I regretted coming back a second time. I had ordered the "American omelet" (eggs, broccoli, ham, cheese), but without trying to be graphic or offensive,  I must say it looked and smelled like something that had been previously eaten and then regurgitated. Clearly, the "eggs" were egg product of the lowest quality, the omelet was a big sloppy mess with discolored cheese product oozing fat puddles all over it. Even the broccoli tasted awful (really? how do you do that??). On the side, the "omelet" was served with toast, which was basically bread that was toasted on one side only, and overly soggy with some fake "buttery" spread on the other. It must be an art form to create overdone toast on one side, and soggy, greasy bread on the other - but the taste was disgusting. As the visual enhancement, the meal was further accompanied by 2 slices of orange, one of which was only orange peel, with zero actual orange in it. I guess they figured to freshen your palate after such an array of fake and distasteful foods, chewing on an orange rind would be the only thing to freshen your palate.

In addition to the omelet, I had also ordered a hot chocolate, as well as a half dozen chocolate croissants for the kids. The croissants were so stale and dry that I am almost certain they were day-old. The hot chocolate was simply disgusting (again, how can you mess up chocolate milk???). I tried to choke it down, remembering how much I'd just paid for it, but just couldn't.

If this had been IHOP, Denny's, or Waffle House, I wouldn't have been surprised. Heck, if it had been McDonald's, the food would have been just as fake, but at least it would have tasted better (not that I eat there). But for a place that passes itself off as a European style bakery, something more along the lines of Panera Bread or Wildflower Bread Company, and charges prices accordingly, this was simply ridiculous.

 "We love great European bread!" - Too bad you don't serve it, not by a very long shot!
Image source

Just to emphasize how terrible I think this place is, let me add that as far as I can remember, this is the first review I have ever left on Google. I want to spare others the experience. If I could give it zero stars, I would.

Thank you for listening. I do feel so much better now that I have this off my chest. For my go-to recipe for true, classic, fail-safe croissants that taste just like the ones I had on an early morning stroll in Paris during a vacation many years ago, follow this link

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pregnancy Update

Today, we went back to the specialist for the first time since the end of January, 10 weeks ago. Going even just seven days between appointments used to seem like an eternity, and as the week wore on, I would be more and more anxious. We are so very thankful that after all the complications we have endured with this pregnancy, things have now turned so incredibly normal that ten weeks went by in little more than the blink of an eye. 

He was clearly smiling during the ultrasound - can't blame that on gas! He's a happy little boy :)

Our little baby boy once again appeared perfectly healthy today. At 35 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy based on my LMP, he measured exactly the same, 35w5d as per ultrasound, too. His weight right now is estimated at 5 lbs 13 oz, which puts him at about 50% percentile. In other words, he is perfectly average - and what a blessing that is! He passed the biophysical profile with flying colors, performing the prescribed number of movements, and showing lots of "practice breathing." Baby is head down (vertex), and has been for about 8 weeks now, which is good.

See those white stringy things in the middle of the screen? Evidently, that's the baby's hair - and the u/s tech said he has lots of it! Looks like a mullet to me.

As far as things on my end, everything was perfect, too. The placenta is healthy, fluid levels are great, and my cervix is holding like a fort - very long, and completely closed. There are no indications at all that anything is amiss, or that baby will even come soon. The doctor assured me there was no danger in letting baby continue to "bake", something I wanted to make sure of because some moms in similar situations to ours choose to deliver baby as early as possible after losing one twin. The doctor said that was more indicated in cases where it is unknown what caused the passing of one baby, in case it could affect the survivor as well. We know our twin's death was caused by issues that do not affect our survivor, so going full term until labor starts naturally is not a problem. My biggest complaint at this point is the fact that my internal "thermostat" does not work when I am pregnant, meaning I do not regulate heat and cold well. I am either freezing cold, or burning up. Well, the temperatures this week have just pushed into the 90's, and just like that, I feel like I am roasting alive - even though thanks to air conditioning, the temperature in our house has gone up by no more than a degree or two.

The doctor also said there were no contraindications for a home birth, which I always find particularly reassuring seeing as he is used to dealing with high-risk, highly-managed pregnancies. We are thankful for his care and perspective through all this. This Saturday marks the 36-week threshold for being eligible to have a home birth, and it doesn't look like we have to worry about baby coming before then. 

At this point, I am seeing my midwife for weekly prenatal appointments. I am seeing my chiropractor as often as the midwife. I have used the same chiropractor for my last four pregnancies, and she truly is gifted at what she does. The regular adjustments help position the baby perfectly for birth, and also alleviate my various aches and pains at this stage. The OB I was seeing no longer wanted to also care for me when she found out last month that I had not ruled out home birth, granted everything continued to look perfect, and the specialist did not have any contraindications for a home delivery. I was a bit disappointed by such a "turf war" mentality, but it did not surprise me. She could not point to any one specific issue that she thought would put me at additional risk, she just doesn't think home birth is safe in general. Obviously, or she wouldn't be an OB. She said it's like performing on the high wire without a safety net. I have to wonder, though, if 1 in 3 acrobats performing the stunt of "birth" at the hospital winds up in the "net", how well they have their act down, or if the safety net is really more of a trap that tangles them. If I were at a circus and that happened, I'd want my money back.
I asked her if she had ever been to a home birth, and she said she had not, nor would she ever want to because she could not imagine just sitting back and watching without doing anything. She said the surgeon in her would come out, and she would want to do something, especially since she said she would be the most experienced person there. That in spite of the fact that by her own account, both of her births (one of which was "natural") were bad experiences. She also said that the reason I would not be able to deliver in the birthing tub is because for sanitary reasons, she couldn't get into the tub with me. I agree, but then again, I don't want or need anyone in the tub with me when I deliver - not like the baby needs to be pulled out. Besides, my midwife has always been able to access my belly as necessary from the side of the pool - and that in spite of how "short" she is.
Anyhow - I didn't feel the need to try and change her mind or part on unfriendly terms - I am thankful for doctors who can provide high-level hospital care - when necessary. It may not sound like it, but she is actually considered one of the more naturally minded OBs in the area. She said if I did end up going to the hospital, she would still be willing to take the call and do the birth unless it was some catastrophic home birth transfer, so it's really a win-win for me. At least this way I don't have to do double the prenatal appointments. With the OB, it was always: wait in the waiting room for 45 minutes, pee in a cup, be seen for 1 minute, repeat next time. More of a technicality and a waste of time, than a necessity. 

A little foot

In other news, I am busy winding up the final preparations for the baby's arrival. My birthing room is ready, the tub has been test run and the liner for it ordered, I am collecting the necessary birth supplies, filling the freezer with lots of meals, and pushing hard to finish the last of the big kids' school work (you should hear their groans - but I doubt there will be any complaints from them about a 3 or 4-month summer break). 

Thank you for your prayers, cards, packages, words of encouragement, and all the other outpourings of love and support. We are excited to almost be to the finish line!! I am shooting for giving birth on Mother's Day, which is only one day past my due date. We'll just have to wait and see :)