babies, developmental delay, first time mom, identical boys, military life, pregnancy, SAHM, twin pregnancy, twins

Our Journey with Speech and Occupational Therapy

I wanted to put that image I found because I realize how true it is after having kids. The boys were born early, as are many twins, but I didn’t think that was going to be a problem….for the most part it wasn’t. They didn’t have any major complications, had a fairly short NICU stay (2&3 weeks) and they were healthy. I was hopeful things would be good, they’d catch up on the growth curve and wouldn’t have any major delays. Of course as a mother you want your children to be perfect and as long as they were healthy they were, but I started noticing some things that made me question if I was overreacting or there was something there. Here is the journey we’ve been on for the past 4 years.

The beginning

When I first noticed something was wrong

Since the boys were babies they were pretty quiet. Everyone used to comment on how “well-behaved” they were. Really, they’re babies, how can they be well behaved at this age? I flew with them around 4 months old and everyone on the plane was so delighted at how quiet they were. Ok I get it, having babies on an airplane can suck sometimes with them being babies and all (crying, screaming, hours of just hearing annoying babies). I was so worried as it was traveling with twins, I was so paranoid they’d be THOSE babies on the plane screaming, crying…it just gave me anxiety thinking about it. Luckily they were fine, they were perfect angels and everyone else noticed and commented on down the aisle on the wait out. I was like “Hell yeah, I got me some great babies! *high-five*)

 

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First California tri

When we’d go out to restaurants we got the same thing. In th beginning I used to think wow, I lucked out! Quiet babies. Well behaved babies…but after a while it started to worry me. Around 6 months of age I started noticing how quiet they were and it seemed like it was too good to be true. I knew other moms with babies around the boys’ age and they weren’t doing anything like them in the “talking” department.

By 6 months of age babies should be babbling, they should be loud and they should be making their presence known.

Speech Sound Development for a 6-Month-Old:

At 6 months of age, children should be exploring their vocal systems.  They should begin playing with sounds and making noises.  According to the Liguisystems Guide to Communication Milestones, a 6-month old should do some of the following things:
  • Plays with voice and mouth by squealing, growling, yelling, and blowing raspberries
  • Produces vocalizations that vary weekly and daily
  • Produces a variety of vowel-sounds
  • Begins doing some experimenting with putting a consonant and vowel together, like “buh” or “gah”

But they weren’t doing a majority of those things.

 

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6 months old

 

Naturally, I ask Dr. Google things and start to worry, eventually I calm myself down and chalk it up to being premature. I asked my husband what he thought but since we were first time parents, we both were like “They were early, we have some time.” I brought it up to their Pediatrician and she said if they’re not doing more things by X months, we may have to look into options but let’s give them some time since they were premature.

Ok, yeah, that sounds good. Let’s wait. I’ll enjoy these quiet babies for a little while longer. Don’t panic, don’t panic.

Things weren’t getting any better

So as the months go by the boys were hitting some physical milestones, which made me feel better. I figured they were more focused on the physical aspects of growing vs verbal/communication so I wasn’t too worried. But they turned 9 months, so the worried mama came back. Since I was still friends with those moms, as moms tend to do, I did the good ole comparing my kid vs their kid. I would read all these things their kids were doing/saying and how their kid was communicating with them.

What? Our kid is supposed to communicate with us by now?

We were doing our part, we were talking to them, if they wanted something we’d say the words….we thought we were doing everything right. This was our first time but we didn’t talk to them like babies, no baby talk or anything like that, we talked to them like a normal person. I researched things and they said that’s what your supposed to do. Great. So, why aren’t they talking?! By this age they were getting into their little fits and boy were those fun to deal with. I just assumed they were regular tantrums but then they started tapping their heads on their crib for fun, well, really anywhere for fun. They’d do it sometimes until they’d nod off to sleep in their bed. Something just didn’t feel right about it all. It just felt like I needed to do something, almost 1 year olds should be saying more words besides just blowing raspberries and yelling.

We saw the pediatrician again and after their visit she basically tells us “They should be saying X amount of words by now and communicating with you. If you’d like, I can refer them to a speech pathologist.” That was such a hard thing to hear, that your kid may potentially have a delay and need help.

I don’t mean to sound high and mighty or come off like “How can MY kid need help?!” It was just such a punch in the gut feeling, it felt as if I failed. My first gig as a mother and I can’t get my kids to talk. What did I do? Where did we go wrong? I must be doing this wrong, or that, or……just going around and round the guilt carousel. I know it wasn’t the end of the world, but to me, it felt like it at that moment. I was so scared there was something else wrong with them.

Getting them help

The pediatrician put the referral in and after 2 weeks we were being seen at Early Intervention in Virginia, there it was called the Infant & Toddler Connection. We had one meeting with paperwork and then scheduled eval appointments. (as far as I know, all states have this program, if the child qualifies it’s free.)

We had their hearing checked to rule out any other problems along with their vision. I brought them in the room, one by one and they went through a series of questions for myself, asked the boys and played games to asses them. When you go to these things, even if your only concern is speech, they cover all bases and check everything to see if there are other things going on you might have missed. During their assessment I mentioned that they didn’t talk, they hardly babbled and if they did make sounds it was just two “ba” and “da”. They also had this weird thing where they liked to tap their head on things, their crib, the couches, the walls and floor. Nothing hard but I did mention it during our first meeting.

After that initial assessment they said that the boys were delayed. Speech they noticed they were at about a 4 month delay and were behind in other areas but nothing too severely. So, with those findings a speech therapist and an occupational therapist was sent to our house to do a more thorough screening. She needed to make her own assessment of what level they were at and the OT came to watch them from afar as they crawled and played. After looking at the boys I heard the words I was dreading:

Your boys have a pretty significant speech delay.

I thought hearing that kind of statement from the Dr was enough to prepare me but hearing it from ones who specialize in the field, it hit me hard in the feels. I started to choke up and cry a little.  It was just a feeling of defeat. I felt like I failed my children, my first time being a mom and I caused my kids to have a speech delay. Not just a regular one, a pretty significant one! Their receptive language was very behind as well as their cognitive, if I remember correctly she said they were more on the level of a 6 month old. When I say they were quiet, weren’t talking or communicating, I wasn’t kidding. Two words, “ba” and “da”.  As far as the head banging thing the OT said that it’s relatively normal for their age, and for boys but just to keep an eye on it and if they start hurting themselves, they may need to be seen.

Starting therapy

Some might be thinking these and I’ve also had people telling me:

“Some kids take longer to talk”

“My kid didn’t talk until __ and he/she’s fine”

“They’ll talk eventually”

“They were premature, they’ll catch up”

“Some kids don’t want to talk until they want to”

“Every kid talks eventually. Then you’ll want them to shut up!”

While that’s all true, being a first time mom I didn’t know what lies beyond their age and to me, I just wanted my kids to be normal. Again, they were TOO quiet and I knew if I didn’t try to help them now, I may have bigger problems later on. I’m also one of those people who over think things and sometimes my imagination can run wild with worst case scenarios. I figured what can the sessions hurt? I don’t know what I’m doing and they’ll know how to help.

Doing therapy sessions with 10 month old twin boys was a bit of a spectacle at first  . We tried doing them at the same time but then they quickly realized how fun it was to have two people chase them besides just mommy all the time. After the first few tries I decided it’d just be better to split their time up. That way they get one on one time with her and sh doesn’t have to chase/worry about the other one. While she was downstairs with Liam, I’d be in another room with Evan keeping him busy for 30 min. After a while I quiet enjoyed that time. It was really the only chance I got to get one on one time with the boys and it felt like they enjoyed it too. Having twins is hard on a mom, splitting your attention between the two and each one wants your undivided attention.

Some may be thinking “What? Speech therapy with a baby?!” It’s odd to hear, I mean yeah, they’re babies. Truth is you can’t really do too much with a baby so it was mainly play. She’d read some books, make sounds, play games, sing songs….just regular, everyday stuff. It all seemed like nothing special but I watched her and she gave me tips/tricks to try with them. Those  next few months I learned so much. I realized how important doing little things with your babies helps develop their speech. So many light bulbs went off during that time.

The middle

Ongoing therapy

As months went by and they got older, her approach would change and she’d note their progress. During these few months their behaviors changed. Their tantrums became more violent, their head banging became harder and it turned into a way to vent their frustrations. The boys had been in therapy for a few months now but hadn’t made much progress IMO. The therapist reassured me they were changing and pointed some things out but I just couldn’t see it. (Now I reflect and can remember the changes that were made but couldn’t at the time) I took them to an ENT (ear nose and throat doctor)  to ask about their lip ties effecting their speech. They had class IV lip ties but he said because they were still eating and gaining weight fine, it shouldn’t cause any problems. They just had some slow progress, progress nonetheless but it was still slow. These months were hard on me because of their behavior and tantrums. Once their head banging started getting worse we had the OT come back to look at them. She gave us some tricks to use and they seemed to work. Around this time the boys decided that they wanted to be mouth stuffers as well. They have always been big eaters but we had some gagging issues because they’d shove so much food in their mouths! I only gave them a couple of pieces at a time to help prevent it but they were angry when they didn’t have a constant flow of food. They never did choke, thank goodness, but would gag from all the food they’d shove in their mouths. They’d eat it all, but it was still a sight to see. Everyone used to comment on how much they ate. This kids were putting away a Denny’s Jr Slam within a few minutes!

It wasn’t only food either, these kids shoved EVERYTHING in their mouths! They were around 14 months and they were still shoving everything they could find into their mouths. Luckily they never swallowed anything but they’d just mouth everything. Seriously, I’m not joking when I say they’d shove everything in their mouths! (Picture petrified dog poop found in the backyard) It was such a hard time and it only continued from then on.. heck at 4 yrs old they still sometimes do it! (not the poop though ;))

I had the ST talk to the OT and she ended up giving me tricks to try with for their mouth stuffing, but she still said everything I mentioned fell into the norm for kids their age. WHAT?!

She WAS the expert after all and since they weren’t causing any harm to themselves, it wasn’t really an issue. Yet.

We continued with their therapy until we moved. By the time we finished up in Virginia they were starting to sign a bit and were saying a couple of words but it still wasn’t where we wanted them to be. They were 18 months when we left and still at the speech level of a 12-14 month old.

When we moved here to NC we transferred services. The boys were still eligible until the age of 3 so we saw Early Intervention here in NC. We took the boys in to be evaluated and I mentioned the mouth stuffing, head thing and all that jazz again. This time we had a separate eval for the boys with the OT and they were put into services. She noticed they had decreased muscle tone, she would work with them on mouth stuffing and spacial awareness to see if that’d help with other things. Each one had therapy twice a week for 30 minutes and OT once a week for one hour here at home. The schedule wasn’t too bad but with my daughter in the mix of things, it was starting to become a juggling act taking everyone out constantly.

Now, I’m lightly glazing over their tantrums and head banging because it was such a hard thing to go through but now I realize it was due to their speech. When I mention head banging, I mean they were starting to REALLY go at it with their tantrums. They went from tapping, to banging to slamming their heads on things. What I thought may just be a boy thing quickly went to an “Oh shit, wtf is going on with them?” thing.

We’re talking about head banging tantrums with blood dripping out of their noses. I lost count over how many times I’d go into their room to get them to stop hitting their heads, only to see them get up with blood soaked onto their clothes and into the carpet, as if it were nothing. On top of them still not really talking, they were now doing this to me.

During the next few months to a year the boys started to make a big change. I’m not sure if it was the age but they were now almost 3. They seemed to connect with their speech therapist and started to make progress! With that speech progress came improvement with their tantrums and other things. With their OT they were staring to do more physical things. Before they wouldn’t jump from certain heights, wouldn’t do any upper body movements, just normal things 2 year olds would do when they play. Now they were jumping off of ledges, doing spins, hanging from bars and lots of fun preschooler things. They were more confident in how their bodies moved, which has gotten them in some trouble heh but they were just happier. They were able to keep up with kids on the playground because of all the things she was working with them  on.

The end

After the boys turned 3 they were transferred from Early Intervention to the state. They qualified for a free pre-k program at the local school and were receiving speech there on top of seeing their regular therapists. This was both exciting and nerve wrecking for myself. The schedule of doing it all was one thing but I was worried about them still not talking and being in a school setting! Those first few drop offs tugged at my heart-strings but after that, I realized how great it was for them. During this time they made leaps and bounds of improvement. They were receiving speech once a week during school on top of the private therapies and it seemed to be making a difference.

As they started talking more their behavior started to improve. They stopped head banging, throwing wild tantrums and just make my life less miserable. I didn’t have to walk out of places with two kids thrown over my shoulder, I didn’t have to get the stares from strangers after Evan slammed his head into the wall repeatedly after he got mad at me, no more dealing with chimpanzee like children because of being non verbal and just throwing wild tantrums. They were talking now. THEY WERE TALKING! I think the first time they said a sentence to me, I cried. It took 3 years for my kids to actually talk to me and everything became worth it. The horrible guilt I felt, the anxiety I went through, the hours of crying, feeling inadequate and just feeling like a failure were all going away.

Because they were non verbal for so long, they really did develop that twin language I heard so much about. They still use some of it and they’ve become nick names for each other now. When they were first trying to say words, they’d call each other “atta” instead of brother because I’d always refer to the other one as brother. I hear them yelling at each other down the hall and they still call “ATTA!” but then usually one will correct the other and say “I’m not atta, i’m Liam! Don’t call me atta.” It’s crazy to hear that. I still love to hear them talk to me. It drives me nuts sometimes and yeah, it gets annoying (I remember what people used to tell me!) but I still love that they talk to me. I still look at Dan and say “I still can’t believe their having conversations with us.” When he came back from deployment he was blown away at how much they had changed during those 9 months. He left when they were just barely saying words and came home to them telling him stories. Those memories of the past 3 years still are very vivid in my head and even though they drive me nuts with some things, I still love to hear them talk to me.

They’re 4 now , 5 in August and they’ll continue speech at school and privately until we move.

Their speech therapist Laura said to me the other day, which I still can’t believe.

“You know, if they keep this up then they’ll transition out before you guys move.”

I get all sorts of emotions when I remember her say that but it’s still so weird to think about them not being in speech. As far as OT is concerned we’ll see how they do over the next couple of months but I think they’ll be ok from what their therapist tells me.

The future

Since the boys will be 5 this year and can technically start Kindergarten, I’m having an internal debate on what to do. If they are transitioned out that’d be great but I still need to have our IEP meeting with the school to see what her recommendation is for speech. If they are good I think I might keep them in pre-k for one more year. Even though their speech is leaps and bounds where it used to be, I still feel they need the social aspect of another year. The speech delay has prevented them from socializing, that I know. They’re still not like other kids when it comes to their social interaction but that’s a discussion I’ll have to have with Dan.

This whole speech and occupational experience has been a learning experience, for everyone. When I had twins I didn’t think we’d go down this path, but I’m glad we had the resources to be able to get help. Heck, these programs have been apart of our lives for 4+ years now and I’m so thankful I went with my gut. I remember while at a speech session for the boys I picked up a magazine and read an article similar to this. I told you guys about my internal guilt and that article right there just made me feel 1000 times better that morning.

My thoughts on this whole journey

I now know going through this experience the struggles of speech delayed moms. The boys aren’t autistic but I do have  cousin who is high functioning and I often remembered my cousin’s struggles with his speech and getting him diagnosed. I remember her going through the steps to get him help the help he needed and now I’ve had to go through a similar process for the boys. Having a child who can’t communicate with you properly is hard on everyone. I felt bad because they couldn’t communicate with us but I wanted to push them to try as well. There were countless hours of screaming, yelling, crying, frustrations and bad moods on both sides. It was such an exhausting time, especially that age from 2-3, that was the hardest year by far with everything going on. Since I’ve had the other two I’m really seeing how true that article is. Claire was full term and Jacob was as well. Claire has NO problems with speech, I was worried for  little bit when the boys were still learning but she didn’t have any issues. Jacob is still young and but he’s definitely more vocal than the boys were at his age. I’m more confident that theirs is a prematurity thing. Liam has an easier time with annunciation than Evan does, Evan still has a bit more trouble with his annunciation but they are coming along.

PLEASE if you think your child might have a delay, even if everyone is telling you to brush it off or giving reasons as to why not to worry, just go talk to someone. Talk to your Pediatrician. Get the evaluation through Early Intervention if your team of people suspects something or through the school district!

What’s it going to hurt? The evaluations are FREE! There is nothing better than a worried mama’s mind put at ease.

Please if you have any other useful information to add comment below to help anyone else out!

 

Resources:

ASHA- typical speech and language development

ASHA- speech pathology

What you need to know about speech therapy

KidsHealth- Occupational therapy

ASHA- early intervention resource links

U.S. Dept of Education- Early intervention Program

Center for Parent Information and Resources- Transition from early childhood services

Center for Parent Information and Resources- How to get services in your area

 

 

 

babies, birth, deployment birth, marine corps, military life, pregnancy, SAHM, Uncategorized, VBAC

Baby #4’s Story.

The test

 

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I wanted to be SURE

 

While finding out I was pregnant wasn’t a total shock, what made it a gut wrenching feeling for me was because I knew I would have him while Dan was deployed. Deep down inside I knew I wanted another one. It felt like Claire needed a sister/sibling to play with because I had been watching the boys play with each other for the last 3 years. As she got older they included her in some things but mainly they did their “twin thing” and stuck to themselves, would shut the door and tell her to go away because they were playing. My heart would hurt every time I saw them excluding her and it just didn’t feel right. I had always said that 4 was my magic number, the least amount of kids I wanted was 2 but  because I felt sort of robbed of the single baby experience, we went with 3. I used to joke with day “Hey, wouldn’t that be funny if I wanted another?” and then I’d laugh while he gave me the death stare. In my head I knew it was a crazy idea, things were already chaotic with 3 kids, how on earth could I manage 4?! Then I would get the idea out of my head, move on and just enjoy what I had. Then Dan would say things like “I want another little girl.” or “Claire needs a little sister or brother.” then we’d laugh and move on. That stuff went on for about a month before low and behold, I was pregnant! With the upcoming deployment I figured since after recruiting duty it’d be a breeze and for the most part, being pregnant would distract me from it all AND the bonus part would be that his birth would come at around the halfway point. I was thinking about the different positives about this. We told our families, were met with shock and awe and lots of “omg Stefanie, you’re going to be busy!” and “you’re a brave woman.”.

 

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Our announcement on FB

 

My birth plan

My birth plan with this one was pretty much identical to Claire’s. I wanted an all natural birth, little to no interventions, I would see a midwife again and hire a doula. For my other two births I saw civilian doctors because we were on recruiting duty so I was familiar with those practices but this time we were near a military base and I had to be seen at Naval. I was hesitant at first, I did my research about natural births and VBACs at local hospitals and at this particular hospital on base. I was able to see midwives again, I was so happy they had that option to see them for my care and quickly had one I loved. The odd thing i found was that you couldn’t be seen until you were at  least 8 weeks along. I wanted to get in early because I felt I was further along than I though. I wasn’t sure if it was because this was my third pregnancy OR I was further along because, I swear guys, I could feel this lil tadpole move around! I got in and it finds out I was further along by 2 weeks and was able to see a midwife a bit sooner. The pregnancy itself was another uneventful one but the main difference this time was that we were team green! I decided to go through with it this time because I had caved with Claire and with some hesitation from Dan, I added in that it would be motivation for me at birth because he’d be gone. That was the best decision I made because it really did get met through it all and it was a fun experience. Not knowing what sex your baby is a fun torture for everyone. Personally it was easier this time because I already had clothes for both sexes, so, why not? The whole pregnancy I was so sure it was a girl, SO SURE. Towards the end I had some 3D ultrasound photos taken to send to Dan as a surprise Christmas present. It was nice to see the baby but once I did, I started doubting my gender prediction.

As the months went by I hired a Doula, we had met a couple of times and we set up our plan. She knew Dan wouldn’t be there and it was a surprise gender birth so we added those things in the plan. Around that time I also decided, after much debate, to hire a birth photographer. Since Dan wasn’t going to be around, we didn’t have many pictures from the last two times, I was going to be alone and it was going to be the last thing on my mind, I though it would be a great thing to do. I had a mini maternity session included but decided to add in a lil family shoot as well to send him. They were difficult to wrangle but we were able to get in some shots.

I’m obsessed with how well the maternity photos turned out, especially the one of me in the gown. I was hesitant at first to wear it but I’m so glad I did!

The birth

As December approached I was hoping id be going early or on time. I went to the midwife and things were going great. I ballooned to over 200lbs and was anxiously waiting for labor pains. By the time 39 weeks hit I started to take the EPO, bounce on my birth ball and start to panic a bit about getting close to 42 weeks. Time was ticking, 40 weeks came and went, so did 41. I was done. So over being pregnant, wanting to meet my baby boy and worried about getting too close to 42 weeks so I made the decision to induce. I was scared but I had reassurance from the midwife about the procedure and I went ahead and scheduled it. On the 25th I went in and was started on a low dose of Pitocin while my mom stayed home with the kids (she came to stay for a couple of months).

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My doulas arrived after they started the drip at 8 and we started the waiting game. She ended up coming with another doula and boy am I glad she did. It made the whole day go by faster, we all clicked and just laughed the day away with conversations and jokes. I said I was going to laugh this baby out from laughing so hard. Seriously, if you’re on Pitocin just have a comedian come in during that time because it makes the whole process easier. I felt the contractions come, they got stronger and soon the laughs stopped and it became time to focus on the contractions. With Claire I had all back labor and was happy that this time I didn’t! Seriously guys, to me regular labor was NOTHING compared to back labor. Back labor is brutal, now I see the light, now I understand why and now I can fully sympathize with women who say they felt contractions down their legs. Seriously, it’s like a lightening bolt feeling but still, I’ll take that over a knife stabbing sensation in my back any day. If I could have regular labor with all my babies, I’d have more………JOKING!Transition hit around 6 I think, not sure but I stopped staring at the clock. Now, have you heard the saying “You don’t really need to push, your body will do it for you!”? Well let me tell you that’s true! I remember reading about it in an Ina May Gaskins book and was thinking that sounded crazy! I mean, your body, pushing a baby out by itself?! Yup, that’s what happened to me. During the last bit of the transition phase I felt the urge to push. My doula quickly was trying to get the midwife because she could hear me grunting. I thought it was just my body’s way of dealing with the contraction but she said “I think you’re pushing!” and yup, she was right. My body was pushing for me, it was like someone was squeezing my belly while simultaneously pushing down on it.

As soon as she came in I had 2 more pushes and he was out, so about a total of 4 pushes, she got there just in time.

IT WAS A BOY!!!

The next pictures I have are just of me making ugly cry faces Kim K. style haha. I seriously couldn’t believe I had another boy! So many emotions went through me at that moment. Sadness, joy, love, excitement, shock and loneliness. I knew Dan wasn’t there and even though the room was full of people, I was still alone. I got ahold of Dan and shared the news, he was so happy and then as is the lifestyle, we said goodbye and went back to our realities. I cut the cord, which wasn’t as tough as I though it’d be, I played with my placenta and everyone slowly cleared out of the room.

Jacob Henry was born at 8:28pm on 1/25/16 weighing 7lbs 14oz and 20 1/2in long. He was healthy, had a little kitten cry and was born with some pimples on his body. He had some slight bruising on his face from the fast delivery.

The feels

The photo below holds a special place in my heart. My nurse was checking on me but this was the moment when everything had hit me. There’s video of me crying after the birth, the feeling I had was just a feeling of OMG. I was really by myself, no family, no husband, just myself and my baby in the post partum room. So to the military wife out there about to give birth to their baby, with no family or husband around, no friends to visit you in the hospital, I am there with you in spirit. All of us who have been in your shoes are. It was the loneliest feeling I’ve ever had and I still feel it to this day. I cried in my PP room, I was exhausted and had no one to talk to besides on the phone. It’s a surreal feeling doing this on your own, it’s lonely but in the end it’s worth it.

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This little baby, this lil happy boy helped me get through the deployment, taking care of his older 3 brothers and sister and curb my post partum depression. He makes me smile everyday, love him more each day and thankful every moment I get to spend with him. Life with 4 kids is hectic but right now, in this moment of reflection, it’s all worth it.

marine corps, military life, recruiting duty, twins, Uncategorized

Update on our military life

Well ladies and gentleman, it’s been a chaotic last 2 years since I’ve updated this blog!

Our Marine life

We survived recruiting duty!

Yup, we are a success story out of the tons you hear about it being such a horrible duty. Yes it was lonely and it had it’s hardships but overall it wasn’t terrible. I’m not sure if it’s because of my attitude about it all or the fact that we just were civil with eachother heh. Anyhow, we did it. He did great on recruiting, he was able to pick up GySgt and got the Navy Commendation Medal because of recruiting! So to me, it was a successful, learning experience during our first 3 years of marriage and surviving with 3 kids. We learned a lot about each other and it strengthened our relationship. Would we go back to recruiting? NOPE, he says “No way in hell.” but we do know of many people who did go back and make a career out of it because picking up nowadays in the Marine Corps is pretty difficult. If you haven’t seen my older post you can read it here  about recruiting duty. So, if you’re just venturing out on your recruiting duty journey keep these 3 things in mind.

  1. Don’t take his being away from you personal, literally, it’s all business. They are essentially SUCKED IN this world and it takes a lot of their time so don’t think he doesn’t want to be with you. Trust me, they’d rather be home with you!
  2. Don’t dwell on the negativity of it all. There are LOTS of downsides to this duty but if you can survive recruiting duty, you can survive all sorts of things with your spouse or family.

The fleet

We got here and he was being bounced around a lot but finally settled into his new home/unit. BTW, he’s an Artilleryman so he loves to be outside and shoot his big guns. Anyways, once that was squared away they lay it on us that he’s deploying, GREAT! As a military wife, you brace yourself for the deployment, especially after coming off of RD, so that was no big surprise. When I met Dan he deployed shortly afterwards so I was familiar with the training that would take part before. He would be gone on and off training during the next year, then tack on the real thing after that’s all done. We tried to explain what was going on to the kids as much as possible but Claire was still fairly young, one years old. The boys did ok with him being gone, honestly it wasn’t too bad on them because they were so used to him being gone already with the RD schedule. In reality, he hadn’t been around much at all during those 3 years and now with him being around in between the work ups, that was the most he had been around the kids in general. The training was going smoothly, we were coming down to the end of things, starting to realize that reality was setting in and what happens? Yup, I found out I was pregnant!!! (that story will follow in another post)  Come October of 2016 he went on a MEU and we said goodbye to daddy and headed into the next 8+ months of our lives.

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For the most part the MEU was uneventful but knowing what I knew, I had my worries. Of course, he always calmed my fears and told me he wasn’t worried and everything was going to be ok! Military wives are prepared for these things, we know the dangers and the consequences of deploying but, we can’t help worrying about the “what if’s”.  My mom came to stay with me for a couple of months after the baby was born, I was just living life in our new routine.  March 2016, while washing dishes, I get the most gut wrenching call of my life.

I’m just calling to let you know I’m ok. I got to go. I love you.”

To me, that’s about the second worst call you can receive as a spouse. I was confused by the words but hearing his voice, I knew that something had happened. You don’t just get a call like that for fun, that’s the kind of call they tell you to make. Knowing that, I hopped on the computer and started looking up articles.

I had some other wives trying to get ahold of me when the news hit but they were unable to reach me. Being our first deployment as a family, as a spouse, I really understood why it’s so important to share phone numbers and information with other spouses your husband is deployed with. Looking back now, it was something I remember seeing on Army Wives, the way they came together, prayed and just comforted each other with words. We were all bonded at that moment, all waiting, talking and trying to get our minds off of it. Thank goodness Dan was safe, most of the Marines were safe but unfortunately there were injuries and a casualty. I didn’t have the pleasure to meet him in person but my husband knew him and it was an event that rocked our small arty family. RIP SSgt Cardin, you are loved and missed by many.

After that phone call the rest of the deployment dragged on but he made it home safe. We are so proud of our Marine. We are thankful everyday that we have with him and we thank god he granted us more time with him.

It has been 3 years since we’ve been here so that means our time is up and we’re moving back to California! I’m so happy we’ll be around family and for the kids to get to be around them as well. This move will be interesting and I’ll keep y’all updated on the traveling.

Our Family Life

So we made our move to NC from VA and wooooo, let me tell you that a drive with 3 young toddlers is a battle!!! What should have taken only a few hours took WAY longer because of tantrums and well, just having toddlers. No joke, we dealt with Claire screaming and crying for 5 hours because of the crying ping pong game. If you want to travel with toddlers, I highly advise otherwise! Unless of course, you’re drinking (not while YOU’RE driving 😉 ) but it’s definitely an experience for the books! Once we got here I realized that this base/town isn’t as family oriented as I though it would be. I mean, I haven’t seen this many strip clubs and bars so closely grouped together since Vegas haha. This place has grown on me a bit but I just wish this city would get with the program and please, FINISH PINEY GREEN!! If you’ve lived on Lejeune in the past 10 years, you know what I’m talking about!! So before Dan deployed I got pregnant. I literally, bawled when I took the test, even though I knew it was going to be positive. Not because I didn’t want another child (we had been tossing the idea back and forth for a while) but because I knew it was going to happen while he was gone. I found out in April 2016 and was due on Dan’s birthday so, there was another clumping of birthdays together right there because we have three in August and now three in January! Again, I’ll do another detailed post about baby #4 later. As if life wasn’t chaotic enough, we added on another and honestly, it hasn’t been too bad. The juggling part is the hardest, plus the no sleep and the lack of time for myself now but overall, it hasn’t been horrible. The kids adore him and I have to say it pulls at those heart strings of mine inside when I see them all play together and enjoy each other’s company. Having four kids under the age of five is crazy, tiring and just crazy but I love that they’ll all grow up together and they’re close in age.

 

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So that’s basically the last 2 years summed up!

 

babies, first time mom, identical boys, military life, multiples pregnancy, twin pregnancy, twins

I have survived my first year as a mother of twins!

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Well, I’ve survived! It has been one hell of a hectic, crazy, tiresome, tear filled, sleepless nights, mud butt filled, blur of a year. Since I was so busy attempting to plan this EPIC birthday party I had envisioned in my head, I didn’t fully get to sink into reality until I was sitting there, crying after their party. It was a bittersweet moment and a semi truck full of memories hit me at that moment. Even though the year has been hectic, I’ve loved every single moment of it because I’ve been able to do this, with the semi help of my husband, on my own and the thought of doing that years ago would have TERRIFIED me!

There have definitely been challenges in my journey of raising twins and I’m proud to say I’ve overcome those challenges by just winging it!! That’s the first piece of advice I can give a new mom of twins, just wing it and go with the flow!!! Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts, even if you’ve never had them before, your “motherly instincts” will kick in without you even realizing it. Sure, freaking out at the thought of breastfeeding twins, taking them out by yourself, how to put them to bed, how to feed them, do you change them at the same time, what’s if one wakes up the other and all the other MILLIONS of questions you have running through your mind will scare you but

YOU.CAN.DO.THIS.

Seriously, I’m not saying that to be some kind of motivational speaker, I’m telling you because I’ve done it. Having no family nearby, having a husband who I only see for 2 hours M-F and a total of 16 hours on the weekends, having friends who are 2+ hours away and really knowing no one in a new town, I’ve done it. The thoughts of it all are scarier than the actual reality. You work yourself up over what about this, or that, or what’s if this happens or that but you seldom get to just enjoy the experience.

So, here is my advice to you, pregnant twin mom or any new mom who finds themselves away from a support system.

1. Prepare as much as you can. For those pregnant with twins, I made this previous post about my personal preferences to twin necessities here.

2. Document your pregnancy with pictures. Now, nothing special, just plain old weekly pictures of your growing belly. At that moment you may not feel that nostalgic about pregnancy but trust me, you will look back on those pictures and cherish them. I honestly wish I had taken more weekly ones because I’m still amazed at how two fit in there!

3. Take parenting advice from BTDT (been there done that) moms with a grain of salt. Everyone’s experiences differ due to the type of person you are and what kind of baby you will have! I was lucky to have fairly easy guys but again, luck.

4. Don’t beat yourself up about your weight gain (if that’s something that bothers you). Being pregnant with twins, you’ll see the scale numbers jump to numbers you NEVER imagined possible. Yes, it’s very scary and it’s tempting to put back that piece of chocolate cake but seriously, you’re going to gain it no matter what. Granted, some don’t gain too much due to morning sickness but you’re going to gain a fair amount of weight AND it will take up to a year or more to lose all of it. I lost mine within that first month BUT it took almost a year for my body to shrink back down to size, even with moderate exercise.

5. If you have no one to lean on for support besides your husband, write it out or call family! Ok, so I’m a bit guilty of not calling my mom as much as I should have but seriously starting this blog has helped me. It’s been therapeutic and you don’t have to start a blog, write things down in a journal. It really helps to get your frustrations out there instead of holding it in.

7. Pictures, pictures, pictures. Whatever it is of them, take it, trust me.

6. TRY TO ENJOY THESE MOMENTS. I know, I know, people say it all the time, but as a freshly new mom, you don’t realize you haven’t until that year has passed.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, i’ll come and update if I do think of more since pregnancy brain has hit me hard this time around. For now, that’s what would be my top things to tell a new mom, especially one of twins.

So for their birthday party, remember that monster theme I was going for? Well, that’s, I guess, a rookie mistake I’ve made being a FTM haha, I planned to do too much and had no time to do anything really! I ran myself ragged trying to plan this Pinterest worthy birthday party, HAH! What a fool, to try to plan that while taking care of two babies and no help? Yea, that was a set up for failure kind of thing heh. I did manage to do a couple of touches but it was nowhere near what I wanted to accomplish. They didn’t seem to notice but the day went well and I was able to have some family and friends with us who have been there through this journey. Like I said, it didn’t hit me really until after everyone had left. I stood there, looking at the mess I needed to clean up, family was outside talking and Dan was inside with me while the boys were playing. I looked at them, looked at the mess, looked at Dan and just started crying. I can’t believe my babies, my babies who came 2 weeks earlier than expected, who were 6 weeks premature were finally 1. I just held Dan and cried, he asked me why I was crying and I just told him “I just can’t believe it’s been a year, a year of all this. A year I’ll never get back and I don’t feel like I got to enjoy it like I should have.”. He looks at me, touches my belly and says “Don’t worry, we’ll get to enjoy it all over again with this one!”. He said it with just the right tone and I just had to laugh, he was right. That first year was a blur, but you know what, it makes enjoying those moments that much more special because I get to appreciate them this time around, with her. Oh, did I forget to mention??

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We are completely blessed to have not only healthy baby boys, but now God has blessed us with our baby girl for our last. I am THRILLED and Dan is terrified hehe. Besides that good news I’ll take you down memory lane with some pictures of the boy’s first year of life.

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7 months- March

cook, food, kitchen, military life, recruiting duty, SAHM, Uncategorized

Pictures and tacos

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My almost 8 month handsome boys!

Last Friday we had their “6 month” (we did them late due to her schedule, but they are almost 8 months now) done! I’m so excited/anxious to see how they turned out, I hope they turned out ok. It was sunny, which was great, but it got colder towards sunset and then it was a bit windy. I had the cutest outfits for them to wear and was sort of bummed it was chilly/windy out so I didn’t get to put their shoes on because I didn’t want to make them more miserable. They were fine in the beginning but started getting cranky when their noses were red and runny, plus, they were cold. We had to take a couple breaks to keep them warm so everything was a bit rushed, I didn’t want to chance them getting sick since they haven’t been yet. This is the same photographer that we’ve been using and she is great. She is seriously sweet and we are going with her “baby’s first year” package she has so we did a maternity, newborn, 6 months and will do their 1 year later on. I’m so excited to put together a little collage with all the pictures we’ve gotten. If you’re in the northern Virginia area check her out! Her name is Marian Lozano and she does wonderful work, I love that she does simple photos and captures people wonderfully.

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One of the outfits for picture day

Gosh, I can’t believe they’ll be 8 months old already, the time has gone by at an ok pace but it’s really been a blur. I can hardly remember my pregnancy or the first 6 months really and that’s something to say because when I usually say things like that, i’m drunk ;). Overall they’ve been great an now that my BC pills are regulating my hormones now, I can really enjoy them which is fantastic.

So, speaking of feeling better, i’ve realized that I haven’t really cooked lately, which is odd because I love to cook and i’ve been wanting Mexican food. So while we shopped at a new supermarket, Food Lion (new to us since we’re new to the area) I saw some pork and decided that we haven’t had carnitas for a while. I picked up the ingredients: boston butt, cilantro, corn tortillas, jalapenos and we headed home. They’ve been kinda fussy the past couple of days so it was really a 2 day process to make. I cooked the carnitas on Monday night and put everything together today for dinner. I’ll post the recipe below on what I did with the carnitas. I went a little out for this because I didn’t like the flavor of the tortillas, they tasted a bit sweet and it just didn’t taste right to me. Now, i’ve been wanting to make corn tortillas for a while but usually forget or get lazy so this was a perfect opportunity to do it! So all in all, for dinner tonight it’s carnita tacos with homemade salsa roja and corn tortillas, oh, and also some flan since I haven’t had that for a while either. I gotta say too, that fresh corn tortillas make ALL the difference and now, will never go back to store bought corn tortillas! I also think next time, to get a prettier red color, i’ll toast a guajillo chile to add more umph to the redness.

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Carnitas braised in milk

3 1/2-4lb boston butt or pork shoulder

1 ceylon cinnamon stick (not as strong a flavor as regular) or cinnamon stick broken into small pieces

3 garlic whole garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 white onion cut into chunks

1/4 cup orange juice or juice of 1 orange

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tbsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2-1 tsp mexican oregano (1/2 if using regular oregano)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup water

  1. Cut the pork into big chunks and place into a bowl. Add all spices to the meat and toss to coat evenly. Brown pork in a pot and place into a large dish into one even layer.
  2. Place garlic, cinnamon and onion into the cracks of the meat.
  3. Pour liquids over meat.
  4. Drizzle a little oil over the tops of the meat that stick above the liquid to avoid drying it out then cover dish with foil.
  5. Place into a 350 degree oven and cook for 3-4 hours until tender then shred meat.
  6. Strain liquid and skim off the fat. Place 1/2 of the juice back into the dish, pour shredded meat into it and toss.
  7. Place into fridge overnight so the flavors can meld.
  8. Turn broiler on and place under until meat is heated through.
  9. When you’re ready to serve meat place a little bit of oil in a pan then fry meat until crispy, enjoy!

 

Salsa roja- Makes only a little, just enough for the tacos

3 roma tomatoes cut into chunks (I used 4 canned whole tomatoes)

3 garlic cloves

1 heaping handful of chile de arbol, remove stems

oil

1 tsp kosher salt

  1. Place about 1 tbsp of oil into a pan and fry garlic and chiles. Make sure to open a window or turn your vent on!!! Fry until golden and add to blender.
  2. Add in chopped tomatoes and fry for about 2 minutes, then add in 1/4 cup water and let boil for about 2 minutes.
  3. Place everything into blender, add water or if you’re using canned then add some of the juice until everything is combined. Add more salt if needed.
babies, baby gear, cloth diapers, first time mom, military life, SAHM, twins

DIY baby wipes

Have you really read the ingredient label on a box of wipes? How bout on a box of the “natural” wipes? If you haven’t go ahead and try to pronounce those ingredients without having to sound it out slowly, I know I can’t!

When I wanted to cloth diaper I also wanted to make my own wipes but in the beginning, we had a box of wipes because I wasn’t sure if i’d have time to make them. Well, after getting some diaper rashes when they were younger, I experimented with some wipes solution recipes to see what worked and came up with this simple one. Ever since I started making my own, there’s no more diaper rash and as a bonus, I can use these on myself to take off my makeup. They smell great and remind me of a that freshly showered smell. I make these with paper towels but you could totally use up some rags to use for cloth wipes, which I intend on doing as soon as this package of paper towels is used up. In the end, this is way cheaper to make on my own and I feel better that there are only 4 ingredients I can pronounce with no problems. I’ve had no problems with mold and the solution sat there in the bottle for a month while I was on vacation and nothing, not even the wipes I had in their diaper bag or upstairs in their room.

Anti fungal wipes solution

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  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp baby shampoo, preferably tear free ( for these I used the lavender and chamomile scented soap)
  • 1 tbsp apricot oil (you can use olive oil, coconut oil or any natural oil you want. Baby oil works too but it’s not CD safe.)
  • 3 drops tea tree oil
  • couple drops of your choice of essential oil (optional but not necessary)
  • funnel
  • 1 roll of paper towels  (I use the these Bounty ones)
  • Empty wipes container or wipe warmer case

1. Take the paper towel roll and cut in half.

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2. Grab a container that can hold at least a liter of liquid (I used a cleaned out glass whiskey bottle). Place the funnel in the opening of your bottle and pour all the ingredients in.

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3. Once all ingredients are in, place cap on bottle and shake to combine.

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4. Pour a 1/2 cup of the prepared solution into a container.

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5. Fold the towels in there to fit. After a few layers, press down so more will fit in. This old Huggies container held about half of the roll.

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6. Pour the another 1/2 cup over the top of the wipes, close the top and flip upside down for 10 minutes, then flip back over for another 10 minutes.

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7. Check to if wipes are saturated. If they are not, pour more solution where it is dry and let them sit again.
8. Once the wipes are saturated enough, thread them through the opening and use away!

They should be moist, but not overly damp or else, they will tear easily. These smelled amazing with the lavender/chamomile soap!

 

baking, cook, food, kitchen, military life, SAHM

Oatmeal quinoa breakfast muffins

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Life with twins is busy but I do find time to do the things that I love, which is baking. Since Dan and I are both busy, I like to make quick breakfasts so we can both grab a bite in the morning. Things like frozen breakfast sandwiches, overnight oats or muffins. I made these this morning and I thought I would share the recipe.

I’ve been wanting to cook more with quinoa so I used them in this breakfast muffin. If you haven’t tried quinoa or know what it is, it’s a South American grain that is protein packed. Here is some more info on it if you’re interested. My mom has a few recipes for it since in Bolivia, they’ve been cooking with it way before it became the newest diet fad and I need to get together with her so I can pick her brain about more quinoa recipes.

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These muffins are not exactly like fluffy, cake type muffin but more of a dense kind, but it is still delicious. There is no additional sugar besides the chocolate chips so it results in a muffin with just the perfect amount of sweetness so I feel better when I eat more than one!

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (sweetened for a slightly sweeter muffin)
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 3 tbsp mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas and the peanut butter. You’re almost going to cream them together.
  3. Once that is combined, whisk in the baking powder, milk, vanilla, eggs, oatmeal and cooked quinoa. Stir in the chips once everything is mixed together.
  4. Spray your muffin tin with oil/Pam and pour batter into pan, about 1/4 per cup. They’ll be filled almost all the way.
  5. Place on middle rack for 20 minutes. Once they’re done, they may feel a little spongey so don’t worry but if you’re unsure, stick a toothpick in the middle and if it’s done, it’ll come out clean.
  6. Let these cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before enjoying.

Makes 15 muffins.

102 calories per muffin with 1 tbsp peanut butter.