Apr 30, 2014

Boys, Girls, and Kindergarten

Blog entry inspired by an article posted in the NYTimes on 4/29.

My dissertation research looks at financial literacy, particularly focusing on the near poor. I'm really interested in issues of the near poor as they relate to education, both financial and otherwise. It is fairly common knowledge that lower income families enter Kindergarten already at a disadvantage compared to their not poor counterparts. Many theories exist for why this is. And most existing research points to early education (preschool!) as the biggest way to fix this. Public policy is already shifting to make early intervention through preschool more accessible to the near poor.
What isn't spoken about as much (and what I didn't know until reading this article in the NYTimes yesterday) is the gaps between girls and boys are also huge. In fact, the gap between boys and girls is LARGER than the gap between poor and near poor and larger than any of the racial gaps. The biggest discrepancy in Kindergarten readiness is between boys and girls! Why isn't this being researched more? Talked about more?
The gaps are huge by Kindergarten and persist all the way through school. So while it might be a maturity thing, it is a difference that persists.
What does this mean?
At a broader macro level, as the article alludes, you need to look at the workforce implications. I'm not sure what the consequences of this are and I think it would need to be shown that this is a change and not a persistent trend. But it is clear that sexism is still alive and well in industry with girls being overlooked for promotions and workplaces not adapting to a growing female workforce with motherhood friendly practices. Workplace equality doesn't exist yet. So what does an education gap showing boys are behind say for the future? If this a change, it could imply our future workforce has a lot of adapting to do. Contrarily, if this is a trend that has existed and just never been statistically laid out before, it lends to questions about our education system. Perhaps those same qualities that make boys seem less socially and behaviorally prepared are qualities that employers like in their workforce.
While the macro trends are interesting and my ABD status (all but dissertation - common language in PhD/academic circles) means I obviously consider these angles, my mom brain is more interested in the implications for my sons.
As a mom of two (soon to be three!) boys, I'm concerned! I want my boys to get the best possible start they can get. Research showing boys are not emotionally, socially, and behaviorally ready for kindergarten and then never catch up is disturbing. What can I as a parent do to better prepare my boys? What steps can be taken to aid them? I know I need to read to them and talk to them and prepare them academically. But I had never spent much time thinking about how I parent to prepare my boys for school socially and behaviorally.
So the big question: can I work to better prepare my boys? Or do the parents who choose to have their boys do a victory lap in preschool have it right? (For more on this, read this great post by Andrea at Momfessionals
Articles like this one from the NYTimes will add flames to the upper-middle class movement to delay boys entry into Kindergarten until they are six. This could then serve to increase the poor/not poor gap since poor families are less likely to delay school entrance (obvious reason: keeping your child home or in preschool an additional year is expensive!).
Luckily, Casey and I have a few years before we need to make choices about these issues. Unluckily, research isn't being done in this area. So I don't know that we'll have much more information to go on in four years.

Apr 29, 2014

I Shouldn't be Grumpy.

I have been up countless times snuggling and comforting little boys last night. I guess it's really still night since it's not quite 5AM and I'm up with them again. I'm exhausted. I'm emotional. I'm puking (mystery pregnancy nausea is still under 10 for the night though. We haven't crossed the threshold for a bad night yet.) And I'm starting a new day. So when you read this, send up a little prayer for our family. We're going to need them today.

I have two little boys with fevers who just fell back asleep, but that hasn't been the case most of the night, and I doubt it lasts long. I feel like lately all of my prayers have either been praise praise praise or helpme helpme helpme. I don't seem to have a middle ground anymore and, if I'm being completely honest, it's not an even split. Today is another helpme day. So Lord, help me!
A rare moment with two sleeping boys.
Yesterday was a challenging day to say the least. Naps didn't happen; Davy only slept 40 minutes in his crib. He spent most of the day crying and sitting on my lap. Pathetic doesn't even begin to describe. By midday, I needed a break from being touched and cried on and having snot and tears wiped all over me, so we headed to Sonic. Car naps don't happen very often anymore but when they do they are still just as glorious as ever. And yesterday, it was needed. Very needed.
Tripp was in a great mood all day and cheerfully played by himself. Actually, even sick Davy did a great job playing. My boys love to play. And they play hard. He colored in the morning. And explored the bubbles in the afternoon. But he needed a wub most of the day and would randomly break into tears at any moment.
Competition for Jackson Pollock in the morningand bubbles in the afternoon!
Then, at bedtime I noticed Tripp was feeling warm too. It has been a long night. I just have a feeling today is going to be another long day.
Collapsing on pillows during playtime. So tired! So pathetic!
And I'm grumpy. I know I should be thinking only of my kids. I know I should feel grateful this is just a minor illness and my babies are overall so very healthy. I know I should just buck up and be the mom God created me to be. I know I should get over it because wallowing never fixed anything. I know I should. But I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm spent. And I'm grumpy.
I would grant someone else in my position compassion. I would offer another mom a listening ear and a hug. So I'm allowing myself the freedom to feel the way I feel even if I shouldn't. I'm giving myself a few minutes to throw a pity party. I'm skipping my morning devotional to feel grumpy and feel sorry for myself.
And then I'll go back to gratitude. Because feeling grateful and praising God honestly feels better than being grumpy. Because I have the choice to be happy. The choice to praise in the midst of the storm.
I'm encouraged when I remember that other moms have been here. And survived. I'm not the first twin mom to have two sick babies. Moms of triplets and quads survive. I can do this too! I love these words:
I am not the only one.
I am not alone.
Other women too need a helping hand.
Show them to me, God, so I won’t wallow in self-pity
Or think more of myself than I should.
Show me your face through a woman’s face.
Let me hear your voice when my friend embraces me
Saying, “Girl, where have you been? I’ve missed you.”
-From Renita J. Reems Showing Mary: How Women can Share Prayers, Wisdom, and the Blessings of God
And so while I skipped my devotional, this morning I'm still praying. And praising. And throwing up. Because, ya know, weird pregnancy nausea.
Father in Heaven,
Today I remember to praise you, for you are good and you and are faithful and you are loving. All the time. And so all the time I should praise you. Even in the midst of my plea for help I need to remember to praise you always.
You are a God of compassion and a God who is capable of anything. But I am not capable of much. Both my little boys have fevers and clearly don't feel well. And all I can do is hold them and tell them I love them. I feel helpless. But I have one thing I can do Lord. I can turn to you in prayer.
I pray for their health. I pray they feel better soon. I miss my laughing, smiling, mischievous little boys. I pray they come back soon. I also ask for prayers of strength and patience and compassion for myself. Set in me a heart to help my little boys and be there for them today. Create in me a spirit of a servant. Prepare me for today. Grant me courage. Grant me strength. Grant me patience. Grant me a cure for the grumpies.
In Jesus' Name I Pray,
Update: Davy's temperature spiked to 103.6 so we ended up at the pediatrician. My mama's intuition was right an his throat is swollen and red. The step test was negative, which the pediatrician expected. Apparently they are seeing a lot of very high (some even get your kid to an ER high like 104-105) fevers and sore throats. It's a viral infection with no other symptoms making it's way around Dallas. Tripp's temperature was still just below fever level at the appointment but his throat was also showing some signs of infection. Overnight Tripp's temperature increased to fever level. Both of my poor babies have a virus. So nothing can be done but let them fight it.

Apr 28, 2014

Expensive Wine. Cheap Pizza. And Favorite Things.

It's a fancy day. Two posts in one! Weekend wrap up and favorite things linkup. Together. In one post. Whoa.

With my love at his 30th birthday party!
I'm not a huge fan of the weekend wrap up posts on blogs, mostly because I don't take enough pictures over the weekend to make it interesting! But I have to at least give a shout out about Casey's birthday party. I didn't plan a big elaborate party like I have in the past, but we did have a few other couples over on Saturday night for "expensive wine and cheap pizza." We sent out invites (via paperless post, the greatest online invite site! and a few via text for folks who I guess don't check their email often enough) pretty last minute so didn't expect a huge turnout. Shows us! Even planning the party just days in advance we ended up with 14 people! It was bigger than expected, but we had a great time!
Before I get too far into the party, let's start back on Friday. So, our weekend...
I posted TWO blog posts on Friday. Serious overachiever here. But it was the end of National Infetility Awareness Week and I felt that I should catalogue all of the facts I had put on Instagram and Twitter all week. I know you are all so sick of me talking about infertility but until women stop disminishing this true medical condition and telling friends to "just relax" or "go on vacation" it is clear that MUCH more education on the subject is needed. My second post was part of a link up with www.TwinTalkBlog.com to celebrate Multiple Birth Awareness Month. It's really fun to see all of the other twin blogger moms and Instagram moms and "meet" their twins. (Link to first post. Link to second post.)
Most of my blog posts are written a few days in advance or the night before posting after the boys go to bed. I was able to squeeze the Twin Talk post in during nap time! Unusual for me! The boys fell asleep in the car on the way home from MOPS (where we had an incredible speaker deserving of a full post of its own!) then after lunch fell asleep for an epic nap.
The clouds parted and the angels sang. Because my boys are amazing nighttime sleepers but not such amazing nappers. So a 2.5 (almost 3!) hour nap is an absolutely unheard of luxury around here! And some days they seem to think a 20 minute car nap is all they need. It never is.
Also on Friday, I posted my latest pregnancy comparison photo. The further into this singleton pregnancy I get, it gets even more apparent just how HUGE I was carrying twins! (Comparison at 20weeks. Comparison at 23weeks5days. One of these days I'll see if I have any others that line up in progression for the earlier days of pregnancy!)
I was nervous posting this photo
-comparing a professional maternity photo to a selfie can't work out well for me!-
so I really appreciated all the sweet comments!
Saturday we got up and out of the house to run errands. I needed to go to the tailor (because next weekend we are leaving our sweet boys for the first time ever and heading to NOLA for a wedding!). We went to a woodworking store, where we picked up new floor mats for the sunroom. We went to lunch. We went to my moms to grab our folding chairs (which have been living in her garage for a while now) so we'd have enough seating for our 16 RSVPs. We ran by the grocery store to get a few party things. Busy morning!
While the boys napped, Casey and I straightened the house up, moved a second table into the dining room so we could seat 16 (our dining room table holds 12 and can fit 14 well but 16? not so much), and laid down our new floor mats. Our sunroom looks a lot less childish with an iron gate and "wood" floors instead of the brightly colored foam we had previously with the multicolored fencing. Since we'll have it like this for a few years, it's nice to feel a bit more adult!

Our invite. Photo taken in Napa at Chase Cellars during our 5 year anniversary trip.

After the boys went to bed, we finished party prep and guests started arriving at 7:15. We had a five year tasting flight of wines from Chase Cellars and it was so fun to taste the same wine, grown in the same place, same vines, just different years. When you taste them side by side the subtle differences aren't so subtle! We really love Chase Cellars. We had a great experience when we visited them in Napa and have loved being members of their wine club these past years. We had fresh fruit and veggies. Ordered pizzas. Simple fare. It was a great night! Fun conversation and easy to host!
Because of all the party prep and fun, I completely forgot to take my nighttime anti-nausea meds. And paid the price. I was sick ALL night. Really sick. So today, Casey took over a lot of the parenting and I slept in. Then I napped when they napped. And we all had a jammie day. Actually the boys had a diaper baby day. I love a little dude in a cloth diaper!
They look so cute in diapers!
And I am serving as a reminder of why this will NEVER be a fashion blog.
Jams and a t-shirt that doesn't quite cover the belly is certainly not a fashion statement!
Today I'm also linking up with Andrea at Momfessionals for a Favorite Things Party. I thought a lot about my favorite thing (or two) under $10 for April and it was a challenge for me!
(1) I bought this Sandra Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon in Coral Nude at Target the other week and I get compliments every single time I wear it. Anything resulting in compliments = automatic favorite! For $7.59 you can buy yourself some compliments too.
Rockin the coral lips.
(2) I am also loving the start to our not so babycentric sunroom. The anti fatigue mats we bought were on sale for $9.99 on Saturday at Rockler Woodworking and Hardware. They said it was a one day sale, but if you hurry they are still marked down online! In our house you can see the sunroom from the front door so upgrading from bright primary colors to wood grain is a huge improvement. The new iron gate instead of the plastic primary colored one also helps a lot. And so far the boys haven't defeated it!
Sunroom with new wood-look foam.
I kind of miss the orange 70s tile but it's much more practical.
And nicer than the primary colored foam.
The old foam and gate
on the day we I stalked the twins newest greatest nemesis:
The Permanently Affixed Iron Gate.
A week in and they haven't escaped yet!

Apr 25, 2014

Twice the Love. Twice the Smiles. Twice the Joy.

Today I’m linking up with Twin Talk Blog to celebrate Multiple Birth Awareness Month.
If you are a normal reader of the blog you “know” the boys already and are familiar with our journey.

For those of you don’t, I’ll start at the very beginning.

As it is the last day of National Infertility Awareness Week, I’m actually going to start at the VERY beginning.
My husband and I are one of the 1 in 8 couples diagnosed with infertility. In 30% of cases, the infertility lies with the female, as it does in our case. (Check out this post for more infertility facts.)
I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which means I don’t ovulate every month so we knew getting pregnant might be difficult and started fairly young. After a year of trying, we were sent to a reproductive endocrinologist (an RE). It was with this first RE that we learned I also have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) from Premature Ovarian Aging (POA). Basically, this means my ovaries are old and all of my eggs need walkers and have grey hair. (Read more here.) For perspective, the test used to diagnose DOR is called AMH and you want your AMH level to be AT LEAST above a 3. If it’s above a 1 you’re still okay. Anything below 0.5 and your chances of conception drop no basically zero. My AMH was 0.36 at the first test.
In May 2012, three years after we first decided to expand our family we did IVF (invitro fertilization) with ICSI (no clue what it stands for but it’s a more advanced form of IVF used for low sperm count or really bad egg quality). For our whole TTC (trying to conceive) timeline you can see this post. We went in with fairly low expectations but knew that further diagnosis of my medical issues required that the doctor see my body do a full cycle and IVF was the best way to analyze my egg quality and quantity.
It worked! On June 20, we found out that we were pregnant. (See our awesome photo announcement.) On July 3 we had our first ultrasound and we learned it was twins! (Another awesome photo announcement.) Although we made the decision to transfer two embryos, we were told we had a 5% chance of pregnancy and never expected twins! I blogged throughout my pregnancy and those posts can all be seen here. Let’s just say it wasn’t textbook and it wasn’t easy.
>But, on January 13, 2013 at 33 weeks 3 days gestational age Charles Casey (Tripp) and Davis Donald (Davy) entered the world. They spent 3 weeks in the NICU and came home on SuperBowl Sunday.
To say we were instantly in love doesn't even begin to describe. They were small but mighty. They captured our hearts and forever changed us.

My very difficult pregnancy didn't leave me much time to worry about how I would handle twins once they arrived. I learned as a I went and at this point I'm pretty good at triage!
We frequently get asked if it's hard having two and I never know how to answer. I think anyone has a new baby gets thrown into a new and completely unexpected life. It's a huge adjustment and it's challenging. (In fact, I'm pretty much terrified of doing it again. Did I forget to mention I'm pregnant? Baby boy number three arrives in July!)
Left: December 2, 2012 with twins.
Right: April 25, 2014 with a singleton.
Twins are certainly a unique challenge but I don't have a point of comparison.

Twins are all I know!

When I hear the "you must be so busy" and "double trouble" comments I never know how to respond. My boys rough and tumble. They fight over toys. They randomly give each other hugs. They can't sleep if they can't see each other.

They already have a bond I can't describe. So, yes I'm busy. And yes, when one gets in trouble the other is close behind. But, I was thrown in to this parenting thing straight to the deep end with two babies! I don't know any different. I learned triage at the same time I learned how to be a mom.

My life with twins has been crazy. (Hence, This Crazy Cass Life!). It's a crazy, chaotic life. I'm busy. I'm exhausted. And this is the most joy-filled I've ever been. I love being a mom to these two boys. I feel so blessed that God saw fit to give us twins.

We waited a long time for these bundles of joy. We prayed. We struggled. And our hearts were truly prepared. And now Casey and I just look at these perfect blessings and can't believe we have the honor of being their parents. So when you say "better you than me," I agree. I'm so glad these boys are mine.

Part of me feels sad for our third little boy. I hope the twins bring him in to their little duo. I hope he is able to share in the bond and the love of this little brotherhood. Their is something very special about twins. Hopefully Irish triplets** share a similar bond!

**How did I not know Irish triplets meant three in three years? So what is it called when you have three in 18 months?!?!

Thanks to all of the twin moms stopping by from the link-up to meet my little men!
I love to meet other twin moms through blogging, Instagram (@LexyJill), and twitter (@LexyJill). Leave me a comment with your blog and/or Intagram and/or Twitter. I'd love to get to know you! And if you are local to the Dallas area - lets do a playdate! I love playdates and getting out of the house and their is something really special about playdates with other twins!

Resolve to Know More

As promised in my NIAW kick-off post, I have posted a fact about infertility and it's effects on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram each day this week.

Instead of five randoms about my week, for Five on Friday this week I am sharing these facts with some more color and links to other great bloggers on the subjects. I really encourage you to "Resolve to know more."
As I have said multiple times, we are one of the 1 in 8 who suffer from infertility. Look around your circle of friends. Look at your Facebook friends list. Look at your blogroll. 1 in 8 couples. People you know and interact with daily are suffering from infertility, many silently and alone. Be sensitive in your words and actions.
Infertility is diagnosed after a couple unsuccessfully attempted to get pregnant for 12 months (or 6 months if over age 35) or if a couple experiences multiple miscarriages. After that point, it is time to seek medical help! Treatment options are varied and frequently successful. Their are hormonal treatments, acupuncture, ovulation induction (from hormonal drugs typically), clomid, IUI, IVF, IVF with ICSI, egg donation, sperm donation, surrogacy, and even full embryo adoption. If those don't sound like good options to you, infertile couples also look towards adoption and some make the choice to live childfree. All of these choices are emotional and hard. To read about one couples journey from treatment to adoption check out her blog post. But all are valid. The first step though is to seek medical treatment.
Infertility doesn't end with a positive pregnancy test. Pregnancy itself poses many hurdles and these are even one so for couples who have experienced infertility. From miscarriage, to stillbirth, to prematurity, a positive test is only the beginning. In fact, ART (assisted reproductive treatments) are associated with higher risks of all of these things. You may be asking why anyone would undergo ART knowing their risk of complications was higher, but the reality is these percentages are still very very small even if relatively higher than for a spontaneous pregnancy. For more on prematurity after infertility please look at this post by an infertile micro preemie mom. It's a hard read, but oh so honest and oh so important.
Infertility is a disease that effects both men and women. In fact, 30% of infertility issues can be attributed to the male partner. 30% of issues can be attributed to the female partner. For 10% of couples the issues are attributed to both partners. His and Hers Infertility issues. The remaining 20% of couples have "unexplained infertility" and may never know what is causing their difficulties. For Casey and I, the issue was me. I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and DOR (diminished ovarian reserve) as well as an issue (never labeled) with ovulation (as in it doesn't happen). It is easy to think of infertility as a women's health issue since it is the female who gets pregnant. But it effects men too! Not only can the actual medical issues stem from the male partner, but the guy goes through the emotional turmoil right alongside his wife. Don't forget the men of infertility in your life.
Infertility is not a choice. While deciding to expand your family is a choice, the medical problems associated with infertility are about more than just family planning. The tests run by reproductive endocrinologists do more than just help a woman get pregnant. They also give important health information. This is just one reason why it is incredibly important that insurance companies recognize the importance in covering these visits. I am fortunate to live in one of the 15 states that requires insurance companies cover infertility treatments (although our coverage was pretty pathetic at least we had something!) Advocacy is needed to help people recognize the importance of medical coverage for fertility.

Apr 24, 2014

I Bought All the Things: Sippy Cups

A look into our cabinet
I bought all of them. Every one. I'm referring to cups for the boys. And now I'll talk to them. Part of the I Bought all the Things series.
When it came time to introduce water last summer, I did my thing and took to researching. This time, my extensive research wasn't quite as extensive as usual (cut me some slack will ya? I had two little guys to take care of!) so my quick Google search told me that the sippy cup was invented in the 1980s by a mechanical engineer named Richard Belanger who was tired of cleaning up spills. He patented the cup in 1992 and licensed it to Playtex. These spill proof cups were invented for parents not for kids. Nothing about them is a childhood developmental milestone. They weren't designed with kids in mind. They were designed to limit messes and make life easier for parents.
And doctors, speech pathologists and other childhood specialists all agree that sippy cups aren't so great. In fact, sippy cups are correlated (important word. Repeat a basic statistics mantra with me: correlation is not causation!) with an increase in orthodontic issues, tooth decay, speech impediments and delays, and other issues. These are actually some of the same problems associated with prolonged bottle usage - which is kind of the point. The sippy cup is just another version of a bottle! And, just like bottles the American Academy of pediatrics recommends phasing out sippy cups and bottles by one (and certainly being done with them by two).
Like a bottle, sippy cups are bad for teeth because we as parents allow kids to sip on them throughout the day and over long extended periods of time which can lead to tooth decay. Like a bottle, sippy cups are bad for the mouth because the act of drinking from the hard spout contributes to malformations of the soft palate and expensive orthodontia down the road.
These are pretty big issues with the sippy cup, but not the biggest. The biggest reason (in my opinion) to steer clear is the effect on speech. The sippy cup promotes an anterior-posterior movement of the tongue that is similar, but not the same, as the pattern used in bottle feeding. So it keeps toddlers making developmentally inappropriate mouth formations rather than the more mature swallowing pattern they need to learn. The sippy cup isn't a training cup or a next step cup and in fact keeps toddlers doing baby like motions instead of learning the life skills they need.
Two alternatives exist: (1) go straight to cups or (2) straw cups.
Alternative 2. The straw cup.
Some parents choose to go straight to cups with their toddler and will purchase actual training cups like this Doidy Cup or the Wow Cup. These teach your child to drink from a real cup. A great life-long skill! I considered this option for all of five seconds. I have twins. I don't have time for that game! Holding a cup for them every single time they need a drink? And cleaning up the constantly dropped cups. I'm just not ready. The designed for parents sippy cups were made for a reason after all!
So, we looked into option 2, straw cups! Straw cups have actually been shown to have benefits for oral development and are even used therapeutically in speech.

You might have come here thinking I was going to review sippy cups. I'm not. I'm going to introduce you to our collection of straw cups and walk you through our journey to using them. This does involve one sippy cup. And lots of straw cups. Every one of the straw cups I could find.

When the boys were 6m we introduced their first straw cup, this one from Playtex (similar but not exact. Playtex has changed some models). It's a pretty great intro cup because it has soft little areas for mom (or dad) to squeeze and help get water into babies mouth. Once they've had a bit of success getting water from the cup, they are more eager to do it again. So they try harder. The boys figured out these cups by the end of day one.
First cups! The cups have a mixture of water and juice at the recommendation of the pedi GI.
But these cups aren't a long term solution. Those same little squeezable areas that are so amazing on day one quickly become a problem once little hands figure them out. The boys were squeezing water everywhere! The straw in this cup also doesn't reach all the way to the bottom of cup and so almost 2oz of liquid is wasted. When you are just using cups for water (like I was in the beginning) it's no big deal. But I knew we would eventually be transitioning to breastmilk in a cup. And losing 2oz of breastmilk is unacceptable!
We next bought the Zoli Cup. And loved it. The weighted straw was absolutely perfect. The biggest drawback to the Zoli Cup is the way the lid attaches to the cup. If you take the time and do it right, the cup rarely leaks. And even when it leaks it is just a few drops. But, if you don't do it right, the lid is useless. Unlike the Playtex cup with its nice click to ensure you twisted the lid all the way on, the Zoli doesn't let you know. So I have to shake it upside down over the sink every time I refill the cups.
Zoli cups at the picnic table outside.
Labels from My Two Babes on Etsy. Or find her store on Facebook.
For the six months when cups were solely for water, this is all we owned. We had four Zoli cups that we used regularly and two Playtex cups that sat in the cabinet.
And then it was time to transition away from bottles.
I started putting breastmilk in the Zoli cup. No dice. They refused to drink it.
I tried putting coconut milk in the Zoli cup. No dice. They refused to drink it.
I tried putting almond milk in the Zoli cup. No dice. They refused to drink it.
I tried the Playtex cup again. They squeezed breastmilk all over their highchairs. And refused to drink it.
The bottle transition wasn't going well. So I started asking other moms for help and I got an awesome suggestion from a mom in the Lil Mamas Facebook group. A regular sippy cut is just like a bottle (duh!) and can ease the transition. Get a bottle that morphs into a sippy and ease into the transition. So obvious right?
So, I got four Joovy Boob bottles and they had no issue taking breastmilk or almond milk or coconut milk from those. (And I actually like the Joovy Boobs better than the Dr. Brown's bottles we had been using the past 12 months. I'm hoping the new baby liked the Joovy Boobs because he might be getting them and we can consign our huge Dr. Brown's collection). I then added the handles that are sold with the Joovy Dood sippy cup. They are also compatible with the Joovy Boob and made the bottle slightly more sippy cup like. Next, I changed the spout to the Joovy Dood sippy spout. It took maybe a day for them to accept the new spout. At this point they were drinking breastmilk from a sippy cup with no fight at all. The Joovy Boob bottle is pretty great, and the fact that with these two changes it becomes the Joovy Dood sippy cup makes it a great transition cup! To complete the transition, I took a week mixing expressed breastmilk with almond milk until they were completely transitioned to milk from a sippy cup. Success!
Tripp with the Playtex.
We kept using sippy cups (always the Joovy Dood) for a few weeks and then a re-introduced the straw cup. And we had no issues! (Cue the Hallelujahs!)
Once we were using our Zoli cups for milk at every meal, the leaking started to bother us more. So we went on a hunt for a better straw cup.
  • Lansinoh mOmma. Like the Zoli Cup, this cup has a weighted straw which is great, but the rounded bottom got old fast. It was far to easy to knock off the table and it didn't carry well in the diaper bag.
  • Skip Hop Straw (Dinosaur). We got a Skip Hop cup in our Citrus Lane box and were actually pretty impressed so we ordered another. These cups are great for water. They don't leak at all. The boys seem to really like them. They are gosh darn cute. But the straw is horrible and doesn't reach anywhere near the bottom of the cup. I absolutely refused to put breastmilk in these. Now that they drink "milk" it isn't as bad, but I am still very annoyed by the amount of waste at the bottom of the cup. These clean well and are easy to assemble.
  • Munchkin Click Lock Flip Straw Cup. Like the name says, this cup has a great click lop system. And a flip top. We hate this cup. Davis learned how to remove the plastic flip top piece and will put the whole thing in his mouth. Choking hazard!! I can't give them this cup unless I know I will be watching like a hawk. It is rarely used. I could tell you about the straw length and the leaking but none of that matters because it just isn't safe. (Really, everything about this cup is fairly decent with the exception of the whole choking hazard part.)
  • Avent Straw Cup. This is one of our very favorites. It holds 9oz which is really great for leaving the house. The lid twists on securely and never leaks. The straw is not a good weighted straw, but does reach nearly all the way to the bottom of the cup so not as much milk is wasted. The boys drink from it well and seem to like it. This cup is tricky to disassemble and I actually had to read the instructions (for a cup!). The lid is so well secured that it isn't easy to pop off. Once disassembled it cleans well and re-assembles very quickly.
  • Playtex Lil Gripper Straw Cup (this is the closest I can find. Playtex updated the styling so this is not the exact cup we have). These cups are just okay. While all straw cups suffer from liquid pushing up the straw, this is the only cup we have where the liquid comes out like a geyser. It is very easy to take apart for cleaning - maybe too easy. When my boys shake the cup they frequently dislodge the straw and so can't drink anymore. It also has a straw that is, yet again, at least an ounce short on the bottom.
Their are three straws cups I haven't tried and would be interested in.
  • The LollaCup is a great weighted straw cup with really good reviews. I haven't bought it because the handles make it HUGE and after seeing it in the store I just couldn't fathom carrying it around in a diaper bag. I have heard a lot of negative comments about the handle design and they crack if the cup is dropped or thrown. I might try buying this cup when my boys outgrow the need to throw all things.
  • The ThinkBaby doesn't have a weighted straw but the straw is long enough that most of the liquid comes out. However, it only comes in orange. And I have twins. Who need differentiation so I know who has drank how much. So a cup in one color doesn't do it for me. I could put name labels on them (I have adorable ones from MyTwoBabes on Etsy) but I wouldn't be able to quickly grab the right cup without looking for the label. Not okay.
  • Munchkin Weighted Straw. I am really interested in trying out this new cup from Munchkin. It has the leakproof click lock system - without the dangerous flip top. And it has a weighted straw! It is new to the market and I haven't found it any local stores yet. It is on Amazon (my go to shopping location) but shipping prices are ridiculous for a sippy cup! (Why is everything not Prime?!) So I'm waiting to see it at my local baby store or until I find time to drive to the further away Buy Buy Baby that has them in the store.
With all of the new information coming out that even BPA plastic might be bad for our health (read here) I know many parents are choosing to forego the plastic and use glass or stainless steel bottles and cups. The most common brand I have known people to switch to is the LifeFactory Glass Bottles, although for bottles I have to say that I really like the new Glass Joovy Boob Bottles. Neither brand has a straw cup designed for toddlers though. LifeFactory has this sippy cup and this straw bottle for adults but neither are the right option for our family. We like straw cups for oral health and I need one that is toddler friendly. I'll just twiddle my thumbs and wait for one to come out.
But until then we bought two Foogo Thermos Straw Cups. They are stainless steel so no plastic concerns. They has a straw. AND they are heavily insulated and can keep drinks cold for 12 hours which will be a huge plus in the Texas sun! These babies arrived at my house on Tuesday and after just one day of use I don't feel fully qualified to give a full review, but I will say that I'm pleased. The lid is a flip top and does come off when the boys throw the cup, so I am storing the lid in a drawer for now. Without the lid I haven't had any huge leaking issues and I can easily pop it back on for errands and outings.

Apr 23, 2014

Happy 30th Birthday!

My Dearest Darling Bucko,
One of our earliest dates. At the Dallas Arboretum.
May 2003. 19 year old Casey.

As I write this, you are still 29. Still in that youthful decade of self-exploration and discovery. But tomorrow is a big day. Your birthday. Your 30th birthday.

It's pretty incredible to think that when we met, we were still teenagers. Freshmen in college. No true responsibilities. Unsure who we were. Even less idea where we were going. But we went there together.

(1) Mardi Gras in New Orleans. February 2003 before we were dating.
(2) Skiiing in Angel Fire. December 2005.
(3) Swing dancing in college. Sophomore year (2003/2004?)
(4) SMU v Baylor football game. Fall 2005.
Here we are, 11 years later. And you are 30. No hiding from adulthood now. Not that we could before. The twins are asleep in the other room. I'm 6.5 months pregnant. You have a successful finance career. We have a mortgage. A car payment. 401ks. Clearly adults already.
Daddy with both his boys. September 2013.
We grew up together over these years. We discovered who we were, individually and as a couple. We grew closer to God. We grew closer to each other. We learned about responsibility, and bills, and mortgages, and budgeting together. We learned the importance of family. We've seen friends come and go and have learned who it is we can really count on. We are growing into the people God intended us to be. Learning our purpose. Learning our place. And we've done it all together. Stronger because we were together.
I know you always said that by 30 you would have enough money to retire from running your own hedge fund. And that lofty goal didn't work out. While retiring together sounds pretty nice, I'll happily put that off for a few more years (or even decades) for the opportunity to continue watching you grow as a man and as a father.
Davy sleeping with Daddy. April 2013.

So now, we will enter into your next decade together. You have worked so hard this past year. Balancing God, our relationship, your demanding career, and fatherhood isn't easy but I have seen you do it smashingly. I have seen you make incredibly positive changes in yourself and in your attitude. I have watched you grow closer to God. I have seen your priorities shift and change to welcome two beautiful little people into your life. I have been so impressed by your commitment to do better. My heart overflows with love for you. I love you more today than the day you proposed. More than the day we were married.

Engagement Photos. July 2006.
I feel so content, so safe, so secure, in the life we have built together. This security makes everything else seem easier. Doable. I know that this next decade will be amazing. As long as we stay strong together. Our relationship is strong. We have found our groove as parents and worked hard to align our priorities: God, each other, our kids.
I feel so privileged to raise three boys with you. I'm so glad they are boys because I know that our sons have the most outstanding role model they could ask for. Tripp, Davis, and our third little bundle are lucky little boys. They are incredibly blessed to have you as a father and your example as their first introduction to The Father's love. I would be the luckiest mom in the world if our sons grow up to be like you!

Three boys in Burberry. Father's Day and Baptism Day. June 2013.
I know that you aren't a huge birthday person. I think birthdays should be celebrated as your very own special day to do and eat whatever you want. It's your day!!! And should be all about you. You, not so much. Over the past years you have humored me and let me throw you big parties like the Back to the 80s Bash, the Black and White Masquerade, the Luau, and the first (of now many) elaborate poker nights. I know you prefer a lazy weekend to party prep so I appreciate that you let me celebrate you!

Clockwise (1 and 2) Black and White Masqurade.
(3) Poker Birthday
(4) The Luau
(5) Back to the 80s Bash
(6) A few of the guys at the luau
Well, this year I think a new reality is setting in. No big bash this time. No dealing with all the attention. This year, we start new birthday traditions as parents - dinner at home, homemade cake, and a few friends getting together (but no actual party) over the weekend. This year we have 15 month old twins. And I'm pregnant. And a few things fell through the cracks. Like party planning. So I apologize. Please know this oversight is not a reflection of my love for you or the value and importance I put on this milestone birthday.
Family photo. July 2011.
So on this very big day, I want to tell you how very loved you are. You have enhanced my life. You brighten my spirit. You have helped me flourish. I am better for knowing you, for loving you and for being loved by you. I hope you can say the same.
You are my rock. My comfort. My home.
I love you. And today I'm celebrating you -- even without all the hoopla!

Apr 22, 2014

No Milk Mama: Talking Soy

Many folks with a milk protein intolerance are also unable to tolerate soy. In fact, a common shorthand for milk protein intolerance is MPSI where the S stands for soy.
In the beginning, Davy couldn't handle soy and I had to eliminate it. This meant no easy dairy substitution to soy milk and soy cheese. No easy solution of eating off vegan menus (which are heavy in soy). No Wheat Thins or many other processed foods which contain soybean oil or soy lecithin. Any "cheating" and he had a full blown GI reaction.
While I was still nursing, I was instructed to add baked in soy back into my diet and see how Davy did. And he was fine! Hallelujah! So we kept experimenting. He still reacted to large amounts of soy like soy sauce or edamame or soy cheese but at least I could eat crackers again.
Once he started solids, we allowed him to have crackers with soy lecithin in them and he was fine. He also does okay with soybean oil. This means he can eat Graham Crackers, puffs (select brands are dairy free - we like Happy Family), animal crackers, etc. We then tried letting him self ingest edamame (soy beans) and it didn't go well. Edamame is considered an easier soy to process since it is pure soy so it is a good first try. But even that was too much for my poor little guy. His first exposure to soy sauce was also a bad experience.
This was an accidental exposure. We were at the mall and the boys had already finished the HUGE lunch I had packed for them so I gave them each a few carrots out of my Hibachi. And Davy turned bright red. Hives all over his chin and face. Luckily, I carry Benadryl!
We stay away from "raw" soy but do allow soy as an added ingredient (like a small amount of soybean oil or soy lecithin). He does occasionally gets a few red marks around his mouth after eating a large amount of soy, but it doesn't move beyond those very few hives. As long as it is small number, we don't even offer Benadryl for this as it doesn't seem to bother Davy at all. This is a huge relief because SOY IS IN EVERYTHING.
We are highly highly fortunate that Davy outgrew the more severe reaction to soy. And are hopeful this means he will someday stop reacting to soy at all!

Apr 21, 2014

The More You Know #NIAW

Every year RESOLVE, an organization founded by The National Infertility Association, sponsors National Infertility Awareness Week to put a spotlight on infertility and bring awareness to and about those struggling with infertility. This year, National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) started yesterday (April 20) and goes until April 26.
If you are new to my little corner of the blogging world, you see smiling pictures of a pregnant me with year old twins and are probably wondering what I have to do with infertility. Well, I am the face of infertility. I am one of the 1 in 8 who struggles with infertility.
Infertility can look like this.
Having my boys didn't change that I am infertile. It didn't erase the scars. It didn't change the hurt and the pain. It didn't change that I suffer from an endocrinological disease that will effect me in areas other than just fertility for the rest of my life. Infertility changed me.
The effects of infertility will be felt my whole life long. And I am passionate about educating others about infertility. I am passionate about supporting women and couples who are struggling. That's why the theme for NIAW this year really hit home for me.
"Resolve to know more..."
I know that I'm a nerd. I know that my love of learning goes beyond normal (hello PhD) but I can't imagine anyone out there doesn't wish they knew just a little bit more.
I wish infertility was talked about more. I am fortunate that I had a doctor diagnose my PCOS when I was just 18 so I knew conception would be potentially difficult. And so my husband and I started young. But, my reproductive issues move well beyond PCOS and so starting young wasn't enough. But for many couples it is. People believe that since celebrities are having babies well into their forties anyone can pregnant at any time. But the harsh reality is that fertility declines every year. Every year getting pregnant gets more difficult. No matter what pop culture says. No matter how many medicinal advances we make. Biology is set up so prime fertility for women is when we are younger. I wish fertility was talked about more so women could make educated choices about their family planning.

I wish fertility was talked about more so I started talking.
I started blogging about infertility in March of 2012 in a pretty uninspiring post. The post isn't much, but that day I have up my anonymity and decided to be a voice for infertility, to put a face to the disease. I posted why I did this and will share it again. It's as true now as it was then.

I am grateful for all of the tears I have cried and for a God who promises to wipe each and every tear from my eyes (Revelations 21:4). Every circumstance, every event, every place has a meaning. He will use everything! Every tear I have shed, every heartache, every hurt, He will use. Even though I am disheartened by our struggle to have a child (more on our journey so far in another post), I know that God will use my experience to encourage and motivate others.

But unless I am being open and honest about our journey, God can't use me. So this is me, opening my heart to all you people of the interweb hoping that just one person finds hope in our journey.

Over the next few weeks I got braver and posted more details. (Like the promised post on our TTC Journey). I started posting links to my blog on Facebook. And hundreds of people from my last reached out. Friends from high school with multiple miscarriages. Sorority sisters with endometriosis. A college friend who had a hysterectomy. Literally, hundreds of people.
I felt so alone in our journey before I found the infertility community on twitter. I felt isolated from my offline life before I went public about our journey. Casey and I were not alone in our struggles. We learned that as more and more people reached out.
Unfortunately, there are too many of us. 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. 1 in 8 couples wonders when the yes will come (if the yes will come!). 1 in 8 couples cries every month when they get another no. 1 in 8 couples need to know more about their options, about support, about fertility.
As I kept hearing from more and more people, I vowed to educate those around me on infertility. I vowed that no matter what happened in our journey to a family I would continue to advocate for infertility. I vowed to support folks that I know who are struggling. I vowed to educate fertile couples so they know what their friend might be silently going through. I vowed that if I helped even one person my work would be worth it. I struggled with how to be an infertility advocate while pregnant and while a mom. In fact, I still do. But I vowed to make it work. Because this is too importantly.
I am so blessed by my miracle ART twins and my miracle spontaneous pregnancy. Not everyone is. I am blessed that my infertility journey has a happy ending. Not all of them do.
In addition to my regular blogging drivel, this week I will be posting facts about infertility each day on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I really hope you take a moment out of your day and educate yourself. Educate a neighbor. Educate a coworker. Resolve to know more. Resolve to help others know more.

Apr 20, 2014

Three Days.

Smocked Easter Outfits.
What a weekend! We jam-packed a lot into this one. And now I'm paying the price. I'm having my first Braxton-Hicks contractions of this pregnancy. So here I sit in bed, chugging water and recapping our weekend. And trying to figure out when my babies got so big!
Easter 2013 at 3 months.
Easter 2014 at 15 months.
The financial markets were closed on Friday for Good Friday so we had Casey home all day. A rare treat! We enjoyed spending time as a family and we played hard! We have boys who really love to play. After naptime we ran a few errands before our 15 month well-check. Casey would never forgive me if I didn't share one of our errands. So, the story.
Last weekend, our car was packed with 3 babies (all rear-facing) and four adults. To get folks in and out, two adults were having to climb through the back hatch because rear-facing seats don't leave any space to get by. We all went to the Easter Egg Hunt and then went to a local place, Bake and Play Cafe, for a snack. Sometime in the fun of the day and the chaos of getting in and out of the car we lost a shoe. All week, I have searched for this shoe. Diaper bag. Car. Nursery. No luck! On Thursday, Casey suggested I call Bake and Play and see if anyone had turned it in. I knew the boys went into the cafe shoeless and the parking lot is shared with a whole strip mall so even if someone found it outside there is no guarantee where (if!) they would turn it in. I was sure it wasn't there and didn't call. On Friday while we were doing errands, Casey took the initiative and called. And they had our shoe! Someone turned it in!! He's feeling like the hero.
After finding our shoe, we headed to the boys 15 month well-check where we learned they are doing great and making strides towards kicking prematurity's butt! All in all, an awesome appointment. We ended Friday with a trip to InNOut Burger. Pretty nice.

At InNOut Burger.
Dairy free fries.
Dairy free burger.
Saturday we ran a few more errands, including a stop at Target for the second pouf for the nursery. Yay! Feels so good to have that done! We went to our nephews birthday party. We played Easter Bunny and got everything set up. We ironed the boys Easter outfits. Twice. (Don't ask.)
The Easter Bunny was here!
Sunday was of course the big day. Easter Sunday. The Easter Bunny knew the boys were still young so gave them filled Easter baskets instead of making them hunt for everything. And the boys were pretty enamored with their goodies. (More about what they got here.)
Checking out the new toys.
We worshiped with our church family at Munger Place Church and then let the boys hang out at the petting zoo (yes, our church had an Easter petting zoo!).
Alleluia. Christ The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Then went to spend the afternoon with our family. The boys hunted for eggs with their cousins. We ate. We talked. We laughed. Good day.
(1) Courtney and McKinley finding eggs and presents in the shrubs.
(2) Maddie running for an egg
(3) The chaos of five big kids hunting.
(4) Ryan and Megan searching the bushes.
(5) Nana shaking out the confetti egg.
(6) Gretchen right after Courtney smashed a confetti egg over her.
(1) Nana helping Tripp look.
(2) Davy found an egg high on the ledge.
(3) Tripp shaking his eggs.
(4) McKinley holding Tripp's basket (and trying to explain that we put eggs in the basket!)
(5) Courtney leading Davy out to the egg hunt.
(1) Davy decided he didn't need to search. Plenty of eggs in brothers basket!
(2) Davy emptied his basket. One thing at a time.
(3) Brothers comparing notes.
(4) Who needs shaky eggs? They have shaky buckets!
(1) Davy and his newly emptied bucket. Just one pesky piece of tissue left.
(2) Tripp comparing the shaky.
(3) Davy discovered the Annie's Bunnies and paused for a mid-hunt snack.
(4) Tripp taking a snack break.
(5) Davy wants to know why his ears are on again. Don't we know he took those off already?
(6) Tripp exploring his basket.
And now I'm just plain tuckered out!
Happy Easter!