Saturday, February 23, 2013

PAIL Bloggers Monthly Theme post

As usual, I'm a bit late to the party, but this post is part of PAIL's February monthly theme post.  You can find other posts on this theme here.

As a lawyer and someone who should (at least theoretically) know better, I am a little ashamed to admit that neither MM nor I have a will.  We have occasionally discussed drafting one since our sons have been born, but life is hectic and we have never gotten around to it.

We have talked about who might raise our children in the (we hope unlikely) event that we both die before they are grown.  Although we have discussed the matter, we have not come to a definite decision.  Our two top candidates are my sister and brother-in-law, and my BFF.  There are pros and cons to each option.  The main "cons" to having my sister and her husband raise the boys are that they live on the other side of the country, so that would mean a HUGE change for our sons, on top of many other life changes they'd be living through if we died, and the fact that they already have a child of their own, my nephew R.  The main "cons" to having my BFF raise the boys is that she is unmarried and may find the notion of instantly becoming a single mother to two children a bit daunting (though I am sure she would perform admirably, and we would provide the financial resources, through life insurance, for her to do the job).

We do have life insurance, so we are not totally unprepared.  These are things we need to talk more about and about which we really should come to a decision.  One thing about which we are an agreement: none of our parents are really candidates to be our sons' guardians due to their advanced ages and various physical infirmities.

In terms of the home and community in which we live. . .we live in a modestly-sized home in a family-friendly suburban neighborhood in a good school district.  I believe our home is more than adequate to accommodate our family indefinitely, though I know that MM thinks that we will "need" a bigger house when our sons get a little older.  (What I have come to realize is that my husband is the one who needs a little more space, LOL.)  We have no immediate plans to move to a larger home.  Given the current state of the real estate market in our area, doing so wouldn't really be an option for us even if we wanted to, as we, like most other people we know, are majorly "upside-down" on our mortgage.  (Comparable homes in our subdivision are selling for 70% of what we paid for ours four years ago, and there have been a few foreclosures within a block or two of us also.)

We also have no plans to move from our current city.  MM's job is here; he has been with the same government employer for fifteen years and plans to stay with that employer until retirement in five to ten years.  Our city is the largest in our state, which means that it has the most jobs, and this state is the only one in which I am admitted to practice as an attorney.  For me, moving to another state might mean that I would have to take another bar exam, something I would like to avoid if at all possible, for a number of reasons.  Additionally, MM's parents retired to the same metro area where we live in order to be close to him, as he is their only child. . . and now that grandchildren are in the picture, I know they would be very sad if we moved away.

MM and I have talked about possibly moving somewhere else when we are both retired.  But that is years and years down the road.  Our sons won't graduate from high school until I am 59 years old, meaning that they likely won't finish college until I'm closer to 63-65 (depending upon how long it takes them).  I'll definitely be working until they're done with school, at least.

I am actually a planner by nature, but one lesson that infertility taught me is that you can make all the plans you want. . . that doesn't mean that they will come to fruition.  And even if they don't, it'll still be OK.

Friday, February 22, 2013

13 month update

I am getting tired of feeling negative, and of writing negative posts, so I would imagine that anyone who is still reading (anyone? anyone? Bueller? Bueller?) is getting tired of reading negative stuff on here, too.  So today I'm going to focus only on positive things because, despite how it may have come across over my last several posts, I have a lot of things in my life that I'm happy about and for which I am grateful.

I realized it's been a while since I shared an update on the boys' progress.  AJ and MJ are now 13 months old.  They are both proficient walkers these days and are working their way up to running.  Since their first birthday, they have been going to The Lit.tle Gym every Saturday morning, and it's been a lot of fun watching their progress there in the "Birds" class.  They have become more adventurous in what they are willing to try, and AJ in particular has become more outgoing.  We see many of the same fellow students and parents every week, too, and that's fun.

We were able to successfully get the boys off their pacis with minimal difficulty.  As I'd suspected she would be, our nanny was totally on board with our plan to eliminate the pacifiers.  When I approached her about it, she told me that she actually rarely gave the boys a pacifier except at naptime in any event.  Starting on the Friday after my post asking for advice about how to get rid of the pacifiers, she put the boys down for nap without their pacis in the morning and in the afternoon.  She said that they cried a little more than usual before falling asleep, but not excessively.

Because they had been able to fall asleep for nap without their pacis, MM and I decided to put them to bed that night without them as well.  They were able to fall asleep without much difficulty, and neither child has taken a pacifier since.  So it's now been a little over a week with no pacifier use, and the only small difference we've noticed is that MJ is chewing on a lot more things than he used to.  (Because he used to often have his paci in his mouth.)

In hearing stories from other friends who had to eliminate the paci at older ages, I am actually pretty glad that we decided to do this now instead of waiting.  Maybe if MJ could talk, he would ask for the paci, but he can't communicate at that level yet, so he hasn't.  And they are both so young that I think they've mostly forgotten about them at this point.

In addition to walking and giving up the pacis, MJ is working on talking more.  He already says "Mama" very clearly.  He also says "goggy" for "doggy" and "Da" for "Dada."  He makes a few other word sounds, but nothing that we have been able to identify clearly as meaning anything specific.  (He had started to say "Ba" for "bottle" a week or so before we weaned them off bottles, just after their birthday, but stopped saying that after the bottles stopped being offered.)

MJ also signs "more" and raises his hands for "all done" and also to be picked up.  MM has taught both boys to give "high fives."  MJ can now wave "bye-bye" also.

AJ vocalizes quite a bit but does not clearly say any words.  The one thing he says a lot is "uh-DA," which seems to be used to indicate something. . . maybe meaning something like "look at that!", although that's not entirely clear.  AJ understands a lot of words that we say, based on his reactions to them, but when you try to get him to repeat them or to sign them, he just smiles.

Both boys are pretty good eaters.  One challenge in feeding them is that poor AJ still has NO teeth, at 13 months of age!  Neither of the boys will eat pureed meat in any form--I have tried several, both store-bought and homemade--so that makes getting them enough protein a challenge.  I have tried giving them tofu (fail), eggs (scrambled--ok, hard-boiled--fail), tuna (fail), and quinoa (fail).  They get most of their protein from yogurt and cheese currently.

(I could feed MJ small bits of meat because he has six teeth, but that wouldn't be safe for AJ, and he gets VERY upset if he sees his brother eating something he didn't get.)

Interestingly, neither of my sons seems to like any type of processed food very much.  They haven't had much of that type of food--just some Ger.ber organics, Ella's Kitchen and the like--but what they've had, by and large, they haven't liked.  They will eat most foods if they are whole foods prepared fresh; they have even eaten roasted asparagus and Brussels sprouts.  This is in stark contrast to their father, whose daily diet is composed of mostly processed "foods."

Both the boys drink hormone-free cows' milk from their sippy cups with no problems.  We are trying to work on improving their proficiency with drinking from various types of straws, with mixed results.  They do enjoy their milk.

Overall, they are just very busy and happy, and a lot of fun.  Apart from a few colds, they have been very healthy.  AJ has had two ear infections in the past few months, as I mentioned in my post about the pacifiers, so we are mildly concerned about that and the possible effects on his speech development, but at this point, I think it's too early to be more than mildly concerned.

In other news. . . I have had two job interviews over the past couple of weeks.  I thought one went very well, and I am optimistic that it may result in a job offer. . .but it is with a government agency, so the process is slow, plus it would be a paycut.  I think the lower pay would be worthwhile for better working conditions and more job satisfaction, though.

I also saw another job opening this week for which I believe I am qualified and plan to submit my application and resume.  I have come to believe that my current job is a large source of my stress.  It's really not worth devoting an entire post to that subject; suffice it to say that, for me, as for most people, work takes up the bulk of my waking hours, and I do not find my current job fulfilling.  It's one thing to be away from your children all day doing something you enjoy and feel is worthwhile; it's another thing to be away from your children all day doing something you find soul-sucking solely for the money.

Additionally, I do not like my employer, and although I earn a pretty good salary, the benefits are crappy to non-existent (I opt out of their health insurance because my portion of the premiums is so high; I get no sick leave and no vacation; they don't match employee 401(k) contributions).  In addition, my firm has all the features that most lawyers dislike about private law firms.  I would really like to leave this job before the end of this year, if at all possible.  The job market in my area seems to be actually not too bad for experienced attorneys, so I think that it will be possible.

I am also on a diet.  (I am following an eating plan I've done once before with the success, the one found in this book.)  I decided to take this on for a few reasons.  The first and most obvious is that I need to lose weight.  (har har).  Second, even though I think I need to exercise even more than I need to change my eating habits, I have not had a lot of success finding ways to fit that into my schedule over the past year or so.  Third, I often feel that many of the things in my daily life are out of my control.  I figured that my eating is one thing I CAN control, should I choose to do so.

I am starting Day 4 of this eating plan, and so far it has been pretty easy to follow.  I have had a couple of headaches, but that is pretty typical the first few days.  I am hopeful that I am past the worst of that now.

That is pretty much the best of what's going on in a nutshell.  I am VERY glad it's Friday (as usual) . . .even though I have to take the boys to The Lit.tle Gym solo tomorrow due to MM's having to attend an all-day traffic school (poor guy).  My in-laws will be coming over before lunchtime to help me out in the afternoon, and I get to have brunch with my BFF on Sunday; yea!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Recap of my morning

  • Went to bed early (as I usually do), planning to get up even earlier than usual (5:30 to my usual 5:45 wake-up time)
  • Heard MJ "talking" to himself a minute before my alarm went off
  • Realized I wouldn't be able to take the walk with the dog as I had planned because MJ was awake and was reluctant to start the yoga DVD due to a high probability of being interrupted by the boys
  • Heard AJ also "talking" with MJ (we have a house rule that we don't get either of the boys out of their cribs before 6:00 a.m. unless he is crying; part of sleep training)
  • Lay in bed for a little while until I realized I hadn't heard MJ or AJ for a few minutes and they had likely fallen back asleep
  • Quietly got up and went to the bathroom
  • Was about to feed the dog when I realized MJ was awake (again), and shortly after, MJ started fussing/crying
  • Realized it was just after 6:00 and that MM was not awake (as he should be by that time)
  • Went in to wake MM up, could now hear both boys crying/fussing
  • Got both boys out of their cribs and brought them to dining area for breakfast
  • Both boys cried when they were set down on their feet, and AJ continued to cry inconsolably while being placed in his high chair
  • Quickly poured two sippy cups of milk and gave them to the boys; AJ continued to cry
  • Went back to kitchen to cut up banana for boys, opened dishwasher to retrieve cutting board and found cutting board dirty
  • Assumed dishwasher had not been run and asked MM about this as he walked into the kitchen
  • Was screamed at by MM for "attacking" him when he "just got up"
  • Fed dog
  • Went in and got ready for work
  • Yelled at again by MM for waking him up and "criticizing" him for cutting board not being clean as I prepared to walk out the door
  • Responded with a few choice words of my own
  • Headed off in the dark to my beloved (ha!) job, several minutes behind schedule, without having had breakfast
All of this happened before 6:45 a.m.  And I wonder why I feel stressed out most of the time.

Second counseling session tonight at 8:00.  Unless she can give me 28 hours in a day, not sure what she can suggest that would be even remotely helpful.  (Her first suggestion at our initial session last Friday was that I need to "find some ways to cut back."  HA!)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quick check-in

Thank you to those who read my last post and offered support.  I know I will be OK, eventually.  I am strong and resilient, and have overcome other obstacles in my life.  Moreover, I am not afraid to make changes and take action when a situation warrants it.  A friend and I were talking recently about how some people continually play the role of victim in their lives while others are determined to take ownership of their destinies, own their choices, and make changes.  I am definitely in the latter category.

In addition, I am fortunate to have the support of a loving husband, friends, and family, some (though not unlimited) financial resources, an education, decent health, and two adorable sons who need their mother to be healthy and present in their lives.  These things should help me to do things that might be difficult or impossible for others in my situation.

I am not sure exactly what it will take to "fix" what is wrong, but I am open to finding out. . . and I think that is an important first step.

On an unrelated side note. . . it would be nice to have a year where we don't pay enough for out-of-pocket medical expenses to deduct them on our federal income taxes.  Maybe in 2013?  Geesh.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How much is too much?

(Not infertility related, feel free to skip.)

Even before my friend MH's murder a couple of weeks ago, but especially since that event, I find myself wondering how much stress I can take before I break.  Most days, I wake up feeling OK (some days better than others, but generally OK).  But by some point in the day, I find myself experiencing unpleasant physical manifestations of stress and anxiety.  Exactly what these sensations are and exactly when they start varies from day to day, but there hasn't been a single day in months--even on weekends--when I haven't spent some portion of the day with a tight feeling in my chest, racing heart, heartburn/indigestion, feelings of impending doom, racing thoughts and/or crying.

Sometimes I have a few hours of feeling OK in the mornings, or longer on weekends, and I sometimes "get it together" again later in the day (again, more often on weekends).  But I can't remember the last time I had a day when I didn't spend a significant portion of it feeling overwhelmed and majorly stressed out.  These feelings are worse at work and better when I'm at home with my sons. . . but even when I'm with my sons, I am rarely totally relaxed and happy these days.  (Sad but true.)

Yes, I know I have a lot going on, but this is NOT typical for me.  I have worked in high-stress jobs for the entirety of both my professional careers, and I have always juggled a lot outside of work as well.  I have often dealt with unpleasant crap in my personal life on top of all that, too.  (Example: my father and I went without speaking entirely for eight months when I was in law school.  Oh, and I think I forgot to mention here that we are not speaking currently either.)

And I haven't always been like this since the boys were born.  When I first returned to work when my sons were 10 weeks old, I missed them and felt sad at being away from them, and I felt like I was juggling a lot.  But I was coping with everything and was generally happy.  I certainly didn't feel stressed out in the way that I do now.

Nowadays, any little thing out of the ordinary that comes up can throw me into a tailspin.  I mean the kind of annoyances and inconveniences that we all deal with in daily life--like an accident on the freeway blocking traffic and making my commute double its usual length, a non-working washing machine, an extra appointment (like a trip to the pediatrician for a sick child or today's appointment with our CPA)--can completely throw me off kilter and ruin my day.

I find myself nearly unable to cope with any deviation from my usual routine.  Also very unlike me.  I have never been a "go with the flow" kind of person, but I never used to be so rigid and unable to adjust.  It's gotten to where I don't even want to schedule lunch or weekend outings with many of my friends because I just.can't.bear the thought of adding one more thing to my schedule.

I am not entirely sure why I have been feeling this way, but I know I cannot go on like this indefinitely.  So I have contacted a counselor and will be going in for an appointment on Friday evening (the only time I could fit into my schedule).

As I said, I hate the idea of adding anything extra into my schedule, but I am guessing that having a complete mental breakdown will be a much bigger inconvenience than a counseling session or two.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting rid of the pacifier


Our sons have used pacifiers since birth.  Because they were born nearly six weeks early, it was recommended that they use pacifiers in order to strengthen the muscles they would use to suck and swallow. There is also research that suggests that the use of pacifiers decreases the risk of SIDS in newborns, and particularly in preemies.  So although I know that some frown upon their use (even our nanny), we have never had a particular problem with our sons' use of pacifiers.

Now, though, AJ has had two ear infections in the past two months, and his use of the pacifier is the only small, possible risk factor we can see that we can possibly eliminate.  None of the other things cited as risk factors for recurrent ear infections are going on.  (Ironically, MJ is far more attached to the paci and sucks it far more often than AJ and has had no ear infections.)  So we have decided to wean both our sons off their pacifiers because you can't really have one twin using a paci and not the other.

Anyone reading successfully weaned a 12-month-old from the pacifier?  Care to share any tips on how you did it?  All my friends who have done this successfully did it at much older ages, using strategies that will not work on children this young.

Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Effects of children on relationship

PAIL Bloggers posed these very interesting questions in a recent post.  I started to answer them in the comments section there and realized that my thoughts on the topics raised were long enough to be deserving of their own post.
How is your relationship with your significant other now that there are kids in the mix? Has it changed for the better? For worse?
Both MM and I agree, and have discussed the fact that, while we are both ECSTATIC about being parents, adore our sons, and never for a moment regret our decision to become parents. . . our marital relationship has definitely changed for the worse since they have been born.  The stress on each of us individually, and on us as a couple, of parenting twins has been, and continues to be, enormous.
I find that I have much less patience with MM than I used to.  Because I know more about childcare in general and healthcare specifically than he does, he often has to ask me questions or rely on me for information, and he dislikes that dynamic.  Plus, he often takes input from me about his care of the boys that is meant to be helpful as criticism.
Also, not only is our focus much different now than it was before, mostly of necessity, but we are both very tired and stressed much of the time.  We seldom have time alone, and when we do, we are often too exhausted, mentally and/or physically, to enjoy it.
You will recall my last post about my dear friend who was murdered ("MH").  He was a father of two.  A few years back, when I was trying to decide for myself whether or not I could ever be truly happy if I were only MM's wife and never a mother, I posed the following question to my friends who were parents:  Which role has brought you more happiness: spouse or parent?
My very wise friend MH responded with the following: 
Being a parent (at least of young kids) brings more happiness, but also, in turns, more stress, frustration, exasperation, etc.   Little people drive us to the extremes of all emotions, largely because they are not yet socialized, and therefore less compliant and predictable than adults.  To the extent that a feeling of a purposeful existence is necessary to happiness (and it is for me), parenthood provides that, too.  (But, so does owning a dog, or other dependent creature.)  I think it’s hard to reliably answer this question, though, because parenthood inevitably demands center stage so forcefully once you enter into it that it’s hard to contemplate (or remember) how life would be as merely a spouse (without kids).   
When I mentioned in reply that his answer had surprised me a little, given that he and his wife had been married for several years prior to the birth of their first child, he further clarified:
I think the point I was searching for below is that, once you have kids, your happiness as a spouse is so intricately interconnected with your status as a parent that it’s hard to separate the two.  And, also, being a parent somewhat reduces the happiness you get solely from being a spouse (because of competition for time and added stress), so it’s a sort of a “crowding out” effect.
I must confess that I didn't truly understand his answer at the time. . . simply because I hadn't lived the experience myself.  

MH, I get it now.  Although in many ways, our marriage has suffered through becoming parents--we have less sex, less alone time, less quality time alone, and are more irritable with each other--we also are sharing the greatest happiness that either of us has ever experienced through our boys.  So it's definitely a mixed bag. 

Do you find it hard to talk about?
We don't find it hard to talk about the effects of parenting on our marriage with each other--thankfully, a feature of our relationship has always been our ability to communicate openly with one another--but I do find it a little difficult to talk with other people about, for a number of reasons.  First, just because I don't really like to talk with close friends or family members about any marital difficulties period.  I mean, let's face it:  MM isn't going anywhere, and I want my friends and family to think highly of him.  They can hardly do so if I am bashing him.
Also, I'm not sure some of my friends could relate, either because they are childless, or unmarried, or just have a different dynamic in their marriage than we have in ours.  My sister could probably relate, but see my reason above for not discussing it with her.
Do you do anything in particular to focus on your relationship with him/her as much as your relationship with your child(ren)?
Just in the past few months, we have started going out for a "date" one night a month.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but between our other commitments and the expense of a babysitter, it's about all we can manage.  We have always gone out on "dates" since our sons were born, but up until a few months ago, these were always during the day so that his parents could babysit for us.  (They don't like to drive in the dark, so they don't babysit at night for us.)
I have also resolved in my own mind to work on being kinder and more patient with MM.  Intellectually I know that it isn't his fault that I am super stressed out, that I've had a bad day at work, or that I'm exhausted, and I know that he is doing his best (and doing far more than most dads).  I'm not perfect, but I am finding that just being more mindful of my behavior and reactions is helping.
I have to say, this part of parenting has been probably the most surprising to me.  Although, had I listened to my friends who were already parents, it shouldn't have been.  I think, though, that it's one of those things that you can't really understand until you've lived through it.

Friday, February 1, 2013


(This post will be completely off the topics of infertility and parenting. . . feel free to skip.)

Living in America these days, it is impossible to avoid news stories about gun violence.  Whether it's a random drive-by shooting, or a mass murder like December's school shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, gun violence is something we all hear about on a daily basis.

For me, as I think is true for most people, these events are generally experienced from a distance.  So although we may be emotionally affected by them, seldom are we personally affected.

That changed for me this week.

Wednesday morning, my office building was put on "lockdown" by security.  We were told by building management that the lockdown was due to reports on an armed gunman on the loose in the area. Truth be told, I live in a large enough metropolitan area that I initially found the situation more of an odd inconvenience than anything else.  No one was allowed in or out of the building, so I couldn't go out for lunch.  Not for a moment did I fear for my safety.

Shortly thereafter, coworkers mentioned news reports of a shooting at an office building five or six miles away, with an unknown number of people injured.  My attention was piqued when I heard the location of the shooting and saw the news footage: the building was on the same block as my old firm's offices.  I literally looked at the building every day out my office window.

Still, the location was no more than a point of interest for me in what would've otherwise been, sadly, a somewhat commonplace story.  A suspect shot three people and fled the scene.  Motive currently unknown.  Identities of the victims and of the shooter not being reported at this time.

Just after lunch, as I walked to the kitchen to refill my water cup, I received a message via messenger that one of the shooting victims was a friend of mine.  A friend who was in my law school class.  Another lawyer who worked in the firm that has its offices on the three floors just above my firm's offices.

The story has been all over the national news, so I won't recount it here.  Suffice it to say, an angry man with a gun chose to end two lives--three, if you include the fact that he later took his own life as well--over a dispute involving less than $50,000.  In an instant, this armed hothead cut short my friend's life.  A life that should have been long and productive instead was ended by bullets at the age of 43.

My friend was a brilliant lawyer who had already received many accolades in just the first several years of his legal career, but he was more than that.  He was a devoted husband to a wonderful woman.  They had been married for nearly twenty years, together longer.  He was a loving father to two children.  His daughter was born during our second year of law school and will be 10 in May.  His son will turn 8 next week.  Before he was ever a lawyer, my friend was a hiker, and a swimmer, and rode a unicycle.  He wore Birkenstocks and cut-off khakis to class.  He was kind and open and generous and goofy and fun.

I still can't believe he's gone.