Happy One Year Birthday!!!

Dear Yeladim,

Today is the 365th day we’re blessed to be your parents…it’s crazy to imagine and truly hard for us to believe, but you’re one whole year old! Up until today we measured your age in months (remember, 12 months makes one year) but this is a whole new milestone! So much has happened in this last year…let’s recap.

– you were born

– you lived in the NICU for your first month

– you learned to suck, swallow and breath

– you learned to communicate with us by differentiating your cries

– you’ve taken three airplane rides

– you’ve been to a bowling alley

– you’ve been to a zoo

– you’ve been to restaurants

– you’ve learned how to sit up

– you’ve learned how to babble

– you’ve learned how to smile and show many, many emotions

– you’ve learned basic words and can say Abba and Daddy

– you’ve gained weight and strength and can now pull your weight up, stand climb and cruise

– you’ve learned to fall and get back up

– you’ve learned to play and love one another like we’ve never seen before

– you’ve learned to eat solid foods (and you love them!!)

– you’ve learned to find and seek objects

– you’ve learned to play basic games

– you’ve learned how to clap

– you’ve learned how to be stronger and fight through your prematurity

– you’ve learned that there isn’t a thing you can’t do when you set your minds to it

But most of all you’ve learned and you know that you have two daddies that will always be here for you. Aways love you. Always hug you. And always guide you. Always. Your smiles when we walk into a room light up our hearts. Your giggles tickle our very soul. Your babbles to us and one another are the sweetest sounds. And your snuggles are by far the best snuggles ever.

Today we celebrate you, but we also celebrate someone else. Aunt Ashly and her family. Without her and her family we would not be here today celebrating you! So today we honor her and thank her for all she’s done for us in helping to make us our perfect family. Aunt Ashly: We Love You!

So today, February 17, 2018, we celebrate the last year of living by partying with friends and family and surrounding us by the community that helped us through this year. And although not all of our family could be here, we know they’re here in our hearts (and FaceTime!) and that we love them!

Keep growing. Keep exploring. Keep making us proud with the little things you do every single day.

All our Love,

Daddy and Abba

Unpacking the Last Year

I dedicate this piece to my husband, for without him I may not have survived this last year. We’ve struggled together and independently, but for me this piece was a tough and necessary one to write. I know others who have been through similar and feel alone. You are not. You are never alone. So to my rock, to my Miter, to the man I love, and to the best Big Poppa an Abba could ask for: I love you.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

In just eight days our twins will be one years old. It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly one year since we first met them. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been parents for this last year. It’s hard to believe how much has happened this last year. But most of all, and something that I wasn’t expecting, it’s hard to believe just how traumatic our experience was prior to, and leading up to our stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It’s taken me a while to truly unpack. A lot of tears. A lot of talking. And a lot of networking with parents whom have had similar experiences.

Many of you who follow my blog know that we wrote letters. We wrote them every single night while we ate dinner prior to returning for nighttime cares in our assigned NICU pod. Sometimes I wrote them myself, crying, and others I asked Brian to write because I was empty. Some of them we wrote together, or at least outlined what we wanted to share, but one thing was certain: we wrote them as a means to digest exactly what was happening, a way to communicate to those back home what was going on and a way to take care of our joint mental health. I cannot begin to describe what it was like to experience being away from our friends and family for so long. It was grueling. But we continued these letters for major milestones throughout their first year – and it’s been great for both of us and will turn into an even greater memory for our children.

When we got the call early on February 17th that our surrogate had gone into labor – like legit labor – we went into action mode despite being scared shitless. Brian got on the phone and booked flights, I secured us a ride to the airport, and our surrogate’s husband was as stellar as could be in keeping us up-to-date with literally everything that was going on. In fact, if it wasn’t for him and his wife (clearly) it would have been so much worse. They were truly a foundation for us, but little did we know just the firmament they would provide. We secured our animal’s wellbeing for the time (indefinitely) that we would be in Texas and packed for the trip.

While we were being driven down to the airport we got the call and text that Ashly would have to have an emergency c-section. As emotionally charged as I was it was the worst (and best) news ever. We were going to miss the birth of our children. This was something for which I was not emotionally ready. Given all the variables we had we planned to be there at the beginning of 35 weeks gestation, but alas, biology had other plans. This is the first time I am writing about it, but I was shattered. So. Utterly. Shattered. For the nearly 21 months leading up to their birth I fantasized about that day. Arriving at the hospital. Getting gowned up and cleaned. Cutting the cord. Holding our children for the first time. And just like that – gone. Like a band aid ripped from the most sensitive area of my body it was gone. I would never experience their birth. And that fact left a pit inside…But, what did happen, and we’re forever thankful, is that our surrogate’s husband Mac FaceTimed us in the airport during the procedure. It was the next best thing to being there. And not only did he FaceTime, he had an extra device that he used to video their birth so that we would have that memory forever. I have watched this video over and over imagining what it would be like for us to have been present. I am thankful for this. In fact more thankful than he’ll ever know because the shear emptiness I felt when I knew we wouldn’t be there was an emptiness I’ll never forget.

And then we got to the hospital. So much of it is a blur – but we got there. We were registered. The intake staff was so nice. SO nice. And then…they brought us up to meet our children. It was still February 17th so we got to meet them the day they were born. It was nothing short of miraculous. Seeing our son, our daughter, holding their hands. Stroking their forearms. Hearing them cry. Smelling them. Staring at them. Observing their every move. And then we were given the opportunity to hold them, skin to skin, for the very first time. My body experienced something that day that it had truly never experienced before. I don’t even have a word to describe what it was like to see Brian holding Alexander that first time…and then the feeling of holding all 3lbs 13oz of Phoebe…it was surreal like something out of a fairy tale. But there we were, holding our children for the first time. But there was something different about it. They were attached to wires. Breathing apparatuses strapped to their faces. Feeding tubes taped to their mouths. Soon the realization that we were in the NICU sank in.

The doctor doing rounds came to us to speak. It was crazy – she wanted to talk to us about our children. OUR children. And we did. We learned a lot about their health status and what we should expect: to be in Texas until their gestational due date in early April. The pit that hit both of us was akin to the worst sucker punch in the gut. It didn’t sink in. We pretended that it did. But it didn’t. We stayed in the hospital until late that night – we had a really hard time leaving. In fact we left somewhere around 2am to drive to our surrogate’s home to unpack, try to sleep and then wake up the next day and go to the hospital. And that’s exactly what we did.

Our routine for the next month was the following:

  1. Wake up
  2. Shower
  3. Pack up expressed breastmilk for the day
  4. Drive to the hospital
  5. Walk to the NICU
  6. Scrub our hands for 3 minutes
  7. Sanitize our cell phones
  8. Sit in the NICU pod until care time (feed, diaper change and temperature check at 8am, 11 am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm and 11pm)
  9. Drive home to our surrogates without our children
  10. Repeat the next day

Each time we left the NICU walls and returned (which was only for lunch and dinner breaks and to sleep at night) we would repeat steps 4 – 8. It was like living a real-life groundhog’s day except it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t entertaining. It was grueling. It was tedious. It was torturous. And to this day I cannot stand the smell of antibacterial soap or products like hand sanitizer – in fact it was around month 3 after their birth I put it together – the smell of these products made me nauseous. Of course, I wash my hands with soap and water like everyone else and will use sanitizer when needed, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t trigger these memories and bring this pit back into my soul.

We watched our children struggle each day to perform simple tasks like drinking, breathing and regulating their body temperatures. We watched as their internal organs were still maturing, vying for the time missed in the womb. We watched them from their birth weight as they lost weight, then cheered every night at their 11pm weight check to see how many grams they’d gained. We did this every day for a month – hoping – praying for the moment that we would be told that they could be discharged. Eventually that day did come and it was one of the most joyous days…we could finally drive back to our surrogate’s home to rest and we would no longer be empty handed, we would finally be heading to her home as our family. All of us. The way it was meant to be.

All in all we spent one month in the NICU. And in that time our surrogate and her family became something much greater to us. While we had spent the last year and a half getting to know them, bonding with them what we didn’t do is live with them. But this time, we did. They opened up their home. They opened up their lives. They treated us like the family they already had. And in that month they transformed into extensions of our own family. When we needed to cry or talk they were there. When we needed a human touch, a hug, compassion – whatever, they were there. They may someday read this piece of mine, but I hope they already know just how good they are. I hope they know just how pure and human they are. I hope that they know that the humanity and love they extended to Brian and I will never be forgotten. Ever. And if it wasn’t for them, that first month of our children’s lives would have barely been bearable and we’re forever grateful for that love.

But prematurity left its mark on our children – even to this day. I’ve covered topics like corrected age and aspects of prematurity many don’t have to consider, so I won’t re-hash that here, but what I will say is that it’s constantly thrown in our face. No, not by the average person, but by the ways in which our children grow and develop. Our children were and are constantly compared to other babies born at full term. Comments like, “But my baby is the same age and doing this and doing that…” to the medical questionnaires given to us at their wellness visits and having to answer “no, my baby cannot do that yet…” or, “oh, other 6 month old babies do that?!” It’s been an uphill and sometimes downright trudging through the mud. Thankfully we’re lucky in that our pediatrician is well versed in prematurity and standardizes our kids based on corrected age. The best note we’ve gotten from her was at 11 months we retook out 9 month (chronological) CDC survey. Remember, being born at 33 weeks means that their corrected age is always 2 months behind their chronological age. Her response? “Your children are perfect!”

But premature digestion lead to severe reflux. Premature immunity lead to lots of colds and illness once they went into public daycare. Premature lungs lead to breathing treatments for both children for nearly every single cold. Prematurity has delayed almost all aspects of their gross motor skills, cognitive and emotional development. And it’s OK. They are making amazing strides, and, as the doctor said, “Perfect!” But it doesn’t make the sting of comparison any less easy. But as all parents do we cope. We survive. We grow. And we are stronger for all of this experience than we were had we not been through this. And while I wouldn’t wish this on anyone I am grateful that this was our experience. Because it’s our experiences in life that mold us into the people that we are – and for that, I am grateful to know that our mutual strengths will continue to help our children thrive and grow.

That’s the long and short of unpacking the last year. To say that it’s been a “roller coaster ride” is kind of an understatement. It’s been more like a bungee cord adventure jumping from the highest peak, stumbling on the way down, recoiling back up only to be dropped back down…and repeat, repeat, repeat. Ultimately, we’ve landed on our feet and like all adventures we’ve survived. And we’ve learned that no matter what is thrown our way in this adventure of parenting one thing is for sure: we love our children more than humanly possible and every ounce of our being will go into making sure that they are cared for, protected, loved, nurtured and ready to face the world. We will impart our lessons and tools so that they can continue to navigate this world (ok, just our living room and play area for now) as we prepare and head into completing their first year of life and start their second. We are excited. We are ready (well, almost…). And we are and always will be: one family. Perfectly imperfect. Quirky. And above all filled with love.

Rainy Day Fun – Salt Dough!

As a child that grew up in the eighties somewhere between analog and digital, often times rainy day activities consisted of what we could do at home: paint, color, play with kitchen utensil and even Play-doh (and movies…but we didn’t have a VHS until the late 80’s and daytime TV was not ever child-appropriate lol). Of all the things we did Play-doh was one of my most favorite – I mean where else could you make a hamburger, apple pie, a convertible car and an ice cream cone, wreck it all, and do it all again? It was a fun, creative and encouraged me to use my hands to sculpt and play. However, at some point I ended up with containers of drab brown mush with rock-hard pieces intertwined…which I hated. I’d ask my folks for more, but alas, it was expensive and I had to wait for a special occasion like a birthday or Hanukkah.

Fast forward 30-something years and here I am with kids, and while they’re not quite ready for Play-doh just yet you can bet that once they are it will be in the house – with just one caveat – I won’t purchase the store stuff. My reason is simple and truthfully it has little to do with the money. It has to do with the interactivity and lessons that I can teach my children. It’s amazing that with a few common household ingredients we can make our own Play-doh – it is [significantly] cheaper than the store bought stuff and teaches kids how to be even more creative since we can make our own fabulous color combinations with whatever food colors we have on hand.

There are two types of homemade Play-doh recipes that I am going to share – both are classified as “salt dough.” I learned both of these recipes while working in the JCC Kid’s activity room in college (thank you Charlie for teaching me!). In fact I was running a program called “Kids in the Kitchen,” which was all about teaching kids responsible kitchen behaviors, how to make fun and healthy snacks and build necessary kitchen safety skills. One recipe is cooked and the other is not. Either way, have fun, be safe and remember to store whatever you make in an airtight container (Glass jars work the best, but you know, safety first!). If stored properly these recipes should last up to 3 months or more.

Homemade Play-doh (Uncooked)

1 cup All Purpose Flour
¼ cup + 1 tbsp Kosher salt (I find this works better than iodized salt, but truthfully whatever you have works)
½ cup warm water (sometimes you may need an additional tablespoon or so to absorb the flour)
Food Color (Water soluble – not more than 6 drops)

  • Mix together the flour and the salt.
  • Mix together the flour and food coloring.
  • While stirring add the water to the flour – and more water if necessary.
  • Transfer the dough to a plastic cutting board* and knead until smooth.

Homemade Play-doh (Cooked)    

1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup water
¼ cup + 2tbsp Kosher salt
1 ¾ tsp Cream of Tartar (also known as tartaric acid)
1 tbsp vegetable oil (such as olive, canola or rapeseed)
Food Coloring (Water soluble – not more than 6 drops)

  • Combine all ingredients (except for food coloring) in a medium sauce pan.
  • Turn stove to medium/medium high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to thicken (if you’ve ever made Pâte à Choux, or éclair dough, this is similar).
  • Add the food coloring once thickening begins.
  • Continue to cook until the Play-doh has bunched itself up onto the spoon and the dough doesn’t appear to be “wet.”
  • Place onto a plate or parchment paper and allow to cool for 20 – 30 minutes before playing.

* A great trick to make a cutting board “nonstick” is to put a damp dishrag underneath. This will prevent the board from sliding everywhere. I also recommend plastic as opposed to wooden cutting boards since the wood will absorb the food coloring.

Now that you’ve made your homemade Play-doh it’s time to play! Don’t forget that a trip to the dollar store for accessories is way cheaper than the fancy sets! Pick up things like mini rolling pins, cookie cutters, forks, spoons and so many other things…be creative. Have fun! Make memories!

Happy 11 Months, Yeladim!!

Dear Phoebe & Alexander,

Today is your 11th month birth celebration and our 11 month blessed to be your parents. As we type this we sit in disbelief trying to understand how fast the time has flown and that in just one months time we’ll be celebrating your one year birthday…ok, back to this month…

Yeladim – this last month has been a rough one. It’s been wrought with illnesses, tears and even a loss. You both somehow managed to come home with another sinus infection, double ear infections, bronchiolitis (Xander), coxsackie virus (again) and even conjunctivitis. And, over new years weekend we lost one of our furblings: Ebony Rooster Mahoney Broustein. Through it all you both were troopers and gave some incredible snuggles and reached incredible milestones. Oh, and how could we forget, you took an airplane ride back from Florida.

Phoebe – your 11th month was filled with discovery. Your ability to crawl around has progressed from army style to all fours. You move around everywhere. You have also mastered pulling yourself to stand with many types of base objects. You even walk across the couch and reach to other spaces to try and “walk across.” Examining objects and banging them together is one of your favorite things to do. You’ve developed a strong affinity towards our “peek a boo” blanket. You love to be hidden underneath and asked, “Where’s Phoebe?!” You immediately uncover yourself, bounce with joy and a smile…and, you’ve started to clap your hands…it’s been such a month of progress!

Xander – your 11th month was filled with lots of movement! You’ve mastered the army crawl, well, sort of…it’s more like you’re just “Slytherin…” Ok, bad Harry Potter joke. But seriously, you get all around and are just so proud when you get to where you want to go. You love to jump and play musical instruments; in fact the tambourine and the xylophone are your favorites. You love when we sing and dance, it brings such a smile to your face! As for steps you are taking so many assisted steps with Abba or Daddy holding your hands…but, you are still very much learning how to use and move your body and often just find yourself taking little tumbles here and there. Oh, and you absolutely love chasing your sister but by the time you get to her she’s sadly moving on…

One thing that you have both started during nap time is likely the one thing we’ve dreaded – resisting the nap and playing with one another. It’s mildly hysterical, but you both just stare and make one another giggle from your respective cribs. Xander – your laugh when Phoebe is babbling to you is priceless…all belly laugh. But seriously – you both need those naps so you’re not cranky 🙂

We cannot wait for winter to be over as that should mark the end of the sicknesses. This year has been particularly rough for many kids, but most especially for those born prematurely. The temperature swings have made for a particularly great breeding environment for nasty bugs and sadly you’ve both picked them up. It’s been hell but your pediatrician is not worried and says that this happens often. By two years old (gulp) you’ll have a rock-star immune system. And by preschool and grade school even stronger which means perfect attendance. No sick days!

Last thing – today is also your Daddy’s birthday. He stayed home from work to be with us since today was an “Abba home day.” It was just so much fun!

We love you both to the moon and back. Until next month when we celebrate your one year birthday and have our first reunion with your Aunt Ashly, Uncle Mac, Kaisen and Evie!

All our Love,

Daddy and Abba

10 months!!

Dear Phoebe and Xander,

Today is your 10 month birth celebration! Wow, only two more months until the big: O. N. E. And to top this months celebration off, we’ll be celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa Florida (Diane and Marc), Uncle Eric, Aunt Mallory, And Cousins Connor and Eli…! And we’re celebrating Hanukkah, too! So much fun!

This last month for both of you has been nothing short of extraordinary. You’ve both hit incredible milestones and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have watched you get here.

You’re both:

– crawling

– babbling

– standing up supported

– pulling yourself to stand

– making decisions on objects with which to play

– self feeding yourselves table food

– on a new three meal a day schedule (and four bottles)

– you’re both aware of your respective reflections in mirrors and love to kiss yourself

– you’re both becoming more aware of each other and even engaging one another in play and babble!

Phoebe – you’re bringing yourself to sit up! All by yourself! Amazing!

Alexander – you have so many consonants you love to babble: mama, dada, gaga and baba! Awesome!

Yeladim, we are so blessed! You are both certainly filled with such personality it just overjoys

our hearts. Your smiles and giggles fills and warms our souls.

We love you with all that we are.

All our love,

Daddy & Abba

The Conundrum of Prematurity: “But They’re Getting So Big!”

There is nothing more joyous or more adorable than a doughy, pudgy little chunkster of a baby, right? You know, the one with the cute Budda belly, thigh rolls for days and cheeks so pinch-and-kissable…ah, the life. And then with twins there are two of them – #omg #cutenessoverload #pudgefordays. After all a baby that is fat, smiling and happy must be healthy, right?

This concept of “baby weight” and “fat babies = healthy babies” dawned on me back in the early days of the NICU when family would ask, “How much do they need to weigh before coming home?” It literally was a question that was asked more than two dozen times by family, friends and those around us that were not medical personnel. Why was everyone so damn concerned about how much the kids weighed and not with whether or not they could exist without breathing support? Or feed via a bottle? Or coordinate their breathing while taking a bottle and not going into bradycardia (brady, for short)?

As we traversed the NICU we learned that there were many signs of health and many things to monitor when learning to manage prematurely born infants. There is also the topic of “corrected age,” which looks at developmental milestones as a function of chronological age vs. gestational age (more on that later). In fact, weight was rarely discussed except to ensure that any body weight lost post-birth was promptly regained; weight was not even a criterion for hospital release! What was? A NICU nurse referred to the short list as “START.”

1) Self-regulating body temperature and heart rhythms

2) Taking all milk by mouth

3) Ability to breathe without any support (although some babes are released on oxygen)

4) Regular excretion (pooping/peeing)

5) The car seat test

While this list is by no means exhaustive it is a good list of basic tasks that all newborns must accomplished prior to being released.

Thankfully our babies were released at one month of age (chronological age) and we were cleared to go home. Having been born at 33 weeks (gestational age) they were doing pretty good. But before this happened our occupational therapist (OT) had a long sit-down with us. It was likely the most life-changing conversation. Simply stated she said, “You don’t have normal babies. You have babies that were born 2 months early and their chronological age must be “corrected” with respect to their gestational age.” What does this mean? Since usual or normal full term is 40 weeks here is how 33 weekers is “corrected.”

Comparison of Gestational, Chronological and Corrected Ages for Children Born 7 Weeks Premature

Gestational Age Chronological Age Corrected Age
33 weeks 0 weeks -7 weeks
34 weeks 1 week -6 weeks
35 weeks 2 weeks -5 weeks
36 weeks 3 weeks -4 weeks
37 weeks 4 weeks -3 weeks
38 weeks 5 weeks -2 weeks
39 weeks 6 weeks -1 weeks
40 weeks 7 weeks 0 weeks
—– 8 weeks 1 week
—– 9 weeks 2 weeks
—– 10 weeks 3 weeks
—– 11 weeks 4 weeks
—– 12 weeks 5 weeks

So what does this mean? Why do we correct age? Why is this important? How long do we need to correct age for? What impact will this have on the kids? The answer? Every child is different. Let’s break this down in a simple, concise way.

What does ‘corrected’ age mean and why do we correct for age?

The term “corrected age” is nothing more than a way to observe a baby based on their “age” had they been born full term. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed a guide (available by clicking here) that shows the average age most kids develop certain skills. Things like the ability to self-soothe, make direct eye contact, sit up, babble and a host of other social, cognitive and motor skills. But when a baby is born prematurely it has an effect on this timeline. In other words: some milestones may be delayed and may show up on or around their “corrected” age. For example at 4 – 8 weeks old most babies born full term start to smile and engage with those adults around them. Our babies didn’t start to actively smile until they were around 4 months. When we correct for their “prematurity” we can clearly see that they would be “2 months corrected.” And when we look at the AAP guidelines we see that this would then fit into the “normal” curve.  Basically, for developmental milestones (Social, Cognitive and Motor) it’s important that parents of babies prematurely born correct to their gestational age – this also means that doctors need to correct as well and allow the extra time needed should babies require.

How long do we correct for age?

Most developmental milestones should correct themselves around 24 months, or 2 years of age. This seems to be what the peer-reviewed literature states as well as the AAP. Of course if we’re concerned with a particular milestone then we should always go back to our pediatrician and openly discuss.

So what does all of this mean? Is weight important? Yes. Of course it is. It’s an indicator of nutrition and how well our kids are thriving from a purely growth-perspective. But there is so much more as parents of premature babies to think about. It means that while our preemies may not “look like preemies due to their size” despite them being 10 month old may still act and behave like an 8 month old. It means that your child at 14 months who is speed walking may leave my crawlers in the dust, and this is ok. We’ve accepted this fact. It’s all a part of parenting. But above all what this should tell us and any parents is as follows:

  • All children develop differently
  • Children born premature go by “corrected age”
  • If you are concerned about a particular milestone simply speak to your pediatrician

But please: stop telling us parents of preemies that our “big babies who were once so little and tiny” are no longer premature. They are and will be until they grow out of it, and even still sometimes the scars of being born early are with them forever.

Happy 9 Months!

Dear Phoebe & Xander,

Today is your 9 month birth celebration! Holy cow, yeladim, where has all this time gone?! It literally seems like a blink ago and you were born, tiny, connected to all the wires and we were back in Texas with Aunt Ashly and Uncle Mac. But, alas, we’re in Pennsylvania, it’s cold again (like when we unnamed5came home) and you are officially 9 months old…and, next week we’ll celebrate your first Thanksgiving Holiday together! There will be so much food: mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing and so many other things…

Phoebe: where to begin with your accomplishments and milestones?! It’s so hard…so much has happened since your last letter. You are now moving all around…literally, everywhere. And your favorite thingunnamed1 to crawl towards? Sasha’s food bowl…You also love when Abba and Daddy say, “Come Here…” you get so excited, smile and make your way to us. It’s so stinking adorable! You giggle so much (most especially at Daddy and Sasha…and the song “Rump Shaker”), you take big-girl baths in the big-kid tub, you cut your first tooth (yesterday!) and one of your newest things you love to do is practice standing up and holding on to objects. You talk, too. A lot. “Ah-bah-bah-bah-bah” is your first phrase and babble…so stinking cute! Keep being inquisitive and contemplative. Watching you study and learn is just the coolest thing ever! Oh, and we celebrated National Pickle Day (ok, not really, we didn’t even know it existed but rest-assured it will be a Bernstein yearly holiday!)

Xander: you had a great eighth month! You’re babbling more and more (oh, and whining 9more and more…lol), and your first official babble phrase was, “mah-mmmmm-mahh—-mahhh.” It happened about 2 weeks back and took us both by surprise! You found your voice! Go Bubba! You are also more and more sturdy on your legs and have taken to sitting and standing and making a game of it. You love your breakfast in the morning – anything apples and cinnamon is your jam! You love to pass objects between your hands, put them in your mouth and just go to town and chew. Lately, you even love to chew on your bibs. We swear you’re IMG_7302cutting another few teeth with the massive amounts of drool you produce. You also are just such a smiley and happy baby it’s so stinking adorable! And, although she wants nothing to do with it when we sit you on the floor and your sister is there you go to hug her…bubba, it’s literally the cutest thing.

In other news, Abba had to take his first business trip away from you both and Daddy since we’ve been home to Pennsylvania. That was not a very easy thing for him – but Daddy made it better. He FaceTimed with Abba during your dinner and evening playtime, and he even sent me pictures of you both in the morning time before daycare. Soon, Daddy will be leaving for a week for business and we’ll do the same for him…!

unnamed7Most recently you’ve both been fighting a really bad viral cold. Phoebe, it hit you hard in your sinuses and Xander it hit you hard in your lungs and chest. It’s been hard to watch you both struggle but you’ve both managed through the worst of it. You gave both Daddy and Abba great snuggles, and, well, watched Moana more than a few times. Ok, way more than a few times…Phoebe – you literally stop everything when you hear it go on the television!

Yeladim: Keep growing. Keep learning. Keep exploring. Keep being inquisitive. Keep talking. Keep playing. Keep smiling. Keep grooving. Keep developing into the amazing tiny humans you are. We love you more than you’ll ever know!

All our Love,

Daddy and Abba

unnamed6

Happy 8 Months!!

Dear Phoebe & Xander,

Today is your 8 month birth celebration! How is it that you’re already 8 months old!? It seems nearly impossible to believe, yet here we are celebrating everything about you both!

Since your last letter you both have really tipped the scales…Xander you are a whopping 22.5 lbs and Phoebe you are 16.75lbs. Though this weight isn’t an “official” weight, Nurse Jane was happy to grab quick informal weights during our visit for your flu vaccines. Official weights coming at your 9 month wellness check.

Phoebe – you have so many new skills! You can sit up, army crawl, babble and stand! You absolutely love to move around and cannot stand being still. You are super inquisitive and love to observe everything you see. You study objects before playing and love to analyze everything – it’s super cute. You’re officially a “Daddy’s Girl,” and love to smile for him whenever you see or hear him…It’s truly precious! You are no longer just eating purees of single foods now as you’ve officially graduated to more complex food combinations with spices, vegetables, fruits and meats. It’s been nothing short of amazing to watch you grow and adapt to eating foods. In fact, you just recently started to love yogurt melts, teething wafers and have even managed some cereal-type puffs…but still no teeth…

Xander – since your last letter the strides you have made are just incredible! You are able to roll in every which direction, you officially sleep only in your crib and you’ve started to babble! In fact, you love screeching and exploring your voice – totally adorable. You’ve also tuned into “stranger danger” and really love your Abba and Daddy, but truth-be-told you’re an “Abba’s Boy.” You love to stand up, sit up and explore your surroundings – oh, and take anything and everything and place it in your mouth. Literally. Everything. Oh – and you have two teeth!! Your ability to manage foods with texture has improved leaps and bounds! You love your solids and most especially look adorable opening your mouth…Last thing: you’ve started to officially give yourself your own bottle!

Yeladim, we love you to the moon and beyond! Each day you show us more of your incredible personalities and we just absolutely love it!

Keep growing. Keep learning. Keep exploring. Keep being the incredible little people you are and always be true to yourself.

All our love,

Daddy & Abba

Happy 7 Months!

Dear Phoebe & Xander,

Today marks your 7-month birth anniversary…you’re 7 months old! Holy moly! The time is literally flying since you’ve been born…and boy has this last month brought about so many incredible changes in you both! It’s been an unbelievable experience to watch…let’s see what’s been going on:

Phoebe: you’ve made some absolutely incredible progress – let’s take a look: you can roll front to back and then back to front. You love to roll. You can spin on your belly 3600 in order to search for the perfect toy. You have begun the process of army crawling – and have made it a few inches forward! With more practice you’ll be moving in more new ways! You’ve pretty much mastered sitting up on your own once placed into position – you still haven’t figured out how to get there yourself. You absolutely love using the exersaucer. You love to touch down and do little squats…not to mention play with the mirror. You have discovered that you can giggle and that you’re ticklish. You think your fur-sister Sasha is just the funniest thing ever! And you love when she kisses your little toesies! You’ve officially given up your evening catnap, so we’re now 3 solid naps a day. And lastly, you really love to eat your solids. Your favorites are sweet potato, pumpkin, plums and apples.

Xander: the strides you’ve made have been pretty remarkable this last month! You’ve started to really discover your babble and vowel sounds! You’re finally telling your story! You can roll front to back AND back to front, now, and you no longer cry when you make it to your tummy! You are finally taking to the spoon and exploring solids…your favorites are bananas, apples, oatmeal and plums. You have two teeth that have officially broken through – wow! You have graduated from sleeping in your mamaroo to officially sleeping in your crib…this is such a great accomplishment! We’re so very proud of you for this! You are able to sit up so much better and sometimes unsupported – and you’re doing it so well. You love it when we sing to you – it instantly brings a smile to your face, and you love to chew on your caterpillar toy. You enjoy time in your exersaucer but really long to be able to stand on your own. You love when we hold your arms up and stand…you shake your tushie and smile so much! And…and…you’re giggling! Hooray! Oh, and you painted at daycare! You painted with your hands and a brush!

Each of you has achieved so many individual accomplishments…it’s unbelievable! But there are also some other mutual noteworthy events that occurred: you are both officially unswaddled for all sleeping! You love your new transitional Love To Dream sleep sack (but Pickle – you gave us a RUN for a money during the transition…girl…). You prefer to just play on the padded mat and no more “tummy time” mat as you both roll too much. And you both are able to sit up in your stroller so no more car seats for them! And you are now the stars of your own blog with Abba called, “Not The Momma!” You love posing for pictures (And Daddy secretly loves to dress you both up!).

Yeladim – you’re growing way too fast and changing way too much; literally, something new every single day. What a gift to watch your growth unfold right in front of our eyes! At times it seems surreal and still somewhat of a dream, but when you whine at 4:15am we know it’s not a dream lol. Albeit you are sleeping somewhat through the night…#almostthere

We love you so much. Keep growing. Keep developing into the amazing humans you’re destined to be!

All Our Love,

Abba and Daddy

The Importance of LGBTQ+ Story Books

As an adult my memory of childhood is pretty good. I remember events so far back it sometimes shocks myself – and with the most vivid of detail. One thing I clearly don’t remember is ever being told a story where anything LGBTQ+ was discussed. I don’t ever remember a story about a boy coming out of the closet, or a family with two moms (or two dads), a character who was transgender. In fact, the first time I read anything about “being gay” was when someone bought me the book called, “The Gay Man’s Health and Wellness Guide” in an effort to help me not contract HIV. Real nice, eh? Not the best read for a 17-year-old coming out of the closet. If literature that included these topics were presented to me would things have been different? You can bet your ass it would!

Early childhood education (ECE) is crucial for children’s development and critical thinking. One aspect of importance is learning about family. After all family is everything, right? There are many types of family compositions: mom/dad, two dads, two moms, single parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, step parents and more I am surely missing. When children are presented with stories that show these families, and theirs, it teaches acceptance, not just tolerance. One thing that binds each of these family units is love – and these children’s stories are about the love of family and of their importance.

Recently, I was tagged in a FaceBook post where 32 (random number) books that feature LGBTQ+ friendly subject matter were listed to be included on Public ECE reading shelves. Of course each educator would have to preview books for age-appropriate content. That goes without saying.

These were books that presented different family composition (i.e. same-sex parents), stories of coming out and most of all that we exist and are a part of everyday life. That’s 32 more books than existed when I was growing up. Oh, and how I longed for a book that showed someone like me.

It was only natural that I engaged the poster and, of course, discussed which of the books I already had in my library. Having these books will be so important for my children. I want them to see their family in a book. There’s something so powerful about that message. And of course they will know other family structures – they will know that their father’s have a mother and father. They will have friends with mothers and fathers, two dads, two moms among many more I’m certain.

However, one comment made mention that they would be upset if these books were read to their kids without them having the opportunity to discuss issues like this at home. They continued to share that they had a right to even have their children sit out from stories such as these, or better yet, just not include books about LGBTQ+ families as they don’t align with their religious beliefs, all while attending a public school. Hold up…Just stop…

While I understand there are families that may not fully understand or accept my family, but that is not my problem. My family is here and my family exists. And there are many, many families just like mine. This is why when children attend a public education system they should be presented with facts, not opinions, and allowed to form their own thoughts as they align, or otherwise, with what they’re taught at home. Books that depict other family units only show that they exist. It’s that simple. It’s actually no different than learning about the many religions of the world, the many cultures of the world and much more. It’s also why there are home, private and religious schools. If a family wants their children taught a certain way then by all means choose the best educational path for them. As a parent I wholeheartedly understand wanting the best for my children.

By not including these books as part of ECE you do a gross disservice to our youth. These books simply allows kids to see their families and for others to see families different from their own. It doesn’t take a parent’s right to instill their own beliefs and morals. It just presents other family structures. And for my part as a parent I am glad that these books exist. It gives me much hope that the world my children will grow into adults may be a bit closer to truly accepting all people.