Texas + Mickey Mouse talk

The goal I had in mind when starting back up with blogging was to post once a week - which isn't much, I know, but it's easy enough for me to commit to for now. Last week I didn't meet that goal but here I am today and back at it!

It's been the same ole, same ole over here. My mind is consumed with this precious twin pregnancy. You'd think having two toddlers would keep me busy enough, but the fact that I am already huge at 15 weeks and feeling so many bodily changes keeps my mind focused on Shep and Millie. I had a dream about them last night and that when they were born, I hadn't ordered their going-home outfits (the horror!). But in fact, I am slowly starting to accumulate matching pink and blue outfits... whew.

I'm spending a lot of my pregnancy doing a whole bunch of nothing. Sitting around a lot (I'm not allowed to exercise) which means watching TV shows and getting on social media. I get bored easily on social media to be honest, so there's been a lot of catching up on my DVR. The most that I do during the week is take both kids to preschool. While they're at school, I try to just sit down and take it easy, but the busy body in me just wants to clean and organize. This pregnancy has really taught me to listen to my body and relax while I have the time. I can't wait to see the twins on ultrasound next week!

Other kid updates: we are getting Kensington and Bennett's new room put together. I should have more updates about that later this month. I am so torn: I don't want to stop cosleeping, but at the same time, I need the space in bed (hello large preggo belly) and the kids really could sleep anywhere and be perfectly fine. I love that they'll be sharing a room too. That puts my mind at ease! We also installed a new camera in their new room and you can see ev.ery.thing. So, I know this is a good move for all of us!

Kensington and Bennett celebrated Texas last week at school. Look at these precious Texas Natives. I especially love that they know where in Texas they live, along with where each of their grandparents live. 
I am so amazed how much both kiddos are growing and learning every day. Kensington is about 36lbs and Bennett is about 27lbs. She can lift him up, which is hilarious and impressive! Both of my babies are obsessed with wearing shoes - specifically boots - they don't just wear them during Texas week (I have to hide their shoes so they don't drag them all out) and their love for Mickey Mouse increases daily. My favorite part about their relationship is how well they entertain each other. It's not always sunshine and roses with a 2 year old and 3 year old, but overall, they are so gentle and playful with each other.  

But speaking of Mickey Mouse, I have to say this: I'VE CHANGED. I have found myself addicted to planning Disney World vacations. I blame my sister-in-law for inviting us to go with them a couple years ago, haha! We first took the kids in 2017 (when Bennett was only 1 year old!) and it changed me. I am officially obsessed with Disney and I'm not even ashamed to say it. Our second trip in 2018 solidified for Ross and I that Disney is such a fun place to take the kids! Our goal both times was just to make sure the kids had fun; and fun they did have! We are super excited to go again in 2020 but we'll only be taking the big kids. The twins will stay back home and we can take them once they're a bit older. Maybe in 2021... I'll get on planning that probably as soon as we get back from our next trip.

Our first two Disney trips as adults, we didn't plan anything really. I didn't even know what a Fast Pass was in 2017, which is kind of funny as I look back. Now that we've been twice in two years, I am starting to learn how things work and I'm also researching all sorts of neat inside things. So, if you have any good tips/tricks/advice for a our upcoming Disney trip, please let me know!

New Dining Table + Current Toddler Favorites

When we built our house, it just made sense that the formal dining room would actually be utilized as the playroom. It's smack dab in the middle of our house and we can do things in the kitchen/living room while also being able to monitor the kids in the playroom. Practicality is my husband's middle name and it just made sense to do it this way.

Fast forward to now and living in the house for 3 years, Bennett being 2.5 years old, and him still 100% G Tube dependent: our GI doctor highly encouraged us to buy a popup table that we can eat dinners at as a family. That way we could pop it up, eat, and then pop it down. How we've always done meals is by all sitting at the kitchen island (which is plenty large enough) because, again, #practicality. We did look into popup tables but ultimately decided that buying a dining table wouldn't be a bad idea. Ta-da! We're kinda loving it. And seeing 6 chairs for our growing family makes me smile. I can't believe we're going to be a family of 6, but I am soooo thankful. Anyways, hopefully this new setup will encourage Bennett to eat more by mouth. Plus, as practical of people as we are, it's really nice having a dining table to make memories at.
Also for fun, here's a little before and after. Sorry, Shep and Millie; I know the playroom was so cool but you can thank you Big Brother Bennett for the dining table. Just kidding :-) We actually are very happy with the change. What do y'all think?! Are we crazy for getting rid of our playroom while also expecting twins?
Changing the playroom back into it's intended use as a dining room meant downsizing toys - only sticking with Kensington and Bennett's most favorites - and moving the toys into their new room. Their room? That's another post for another day. But essentially, we're going to stop cosleeping soon (sad face) in preparation for Shep and Millie's August arrival.  Though I'm sad to end our cosleeping experience with Kensington and Bennett, I am excited for their new bedroom. I'll share details next month once we get the room ready!

So yea, toys. We own entirely too many, but of course the kids have been gifted so many neat things over the years. I was recently inspired by Elena at Baby Ridley Bump to share a few of our favorite toddler toys!

  • Our play kitchen is so chic and goes perfectly with our farmhouse feel of the house. The kids love to play pretend with it and it's definitely going to be with us until all of the kids have outgrown it.
  • Keeping with the same theme, K and B love grocery shopping in the pantry while using their shopping cart. Also, this is a great tool to use when kids are learning to walk. Bennett always preferred learning to walk with this shopping cart v. the other walkers out there for kiddos.
  • Another favorite toy of theirs is the Dyson vacuum. I personally love to vacuum around the house any chance I get (clean floors are my number 1 cleaning priority) and the kids are always grabbing their vacuum to copy me.
  • Little People figurines are a huge hit in our house. The kids play with them every.single.day. Stores sell a plethora of different kinds but these superhero ones are our most recent purchase!
  • Bennett was recently gifted some Magna Tiles for his birthday and they get played with every day. They're also perfect on our metal kid's size table since they are magnetic! 

Of course there are a million other toys that I could've posted about, but these are the ones that are tried and true and are good investment toys. Eventually, I'll do a post about our favorite baby toys especially since we're about to be back in that season again. We just sent a load of baby toys home with Ross' parents since they have tons of storage at their house, whereas we are full to the brim. Once the twins are a few months old and are more playful, we'll bring those toys out and see which ones they love the most!

Pregnancy Update + Gender and Name of Twins!!!

Alarm clocks run my world. I would never remember to take all of my medicines without those sounds going off every few hours. With IVF, it's not just a one time "we transferred two babies into my uterus" thing. There is SO much that goes on behind the scenes. We started taking medicine in October and well, obviously now it's February. I am still on medicines but I have been given the all clear to temporarily stop my Progesterone In Oil Intermuscular Injections. It's actually bittersweet for some reason. I think mostly because the injections gave me so much peace of mind: "this medicine is sustaining my babies" was always on my mind. But really, by 12 weeks (which is my gestation age), the placenta for both kiddos has fully taken over and the injections are not needed at this point.

Obviously there are two bum cheeks, which means only two spots that the injections can go - one on each side. Every other day we would alternate sides. There's a lot of heating-pad-sitting and oil warming but there is virtually no time for the bum to heal after stabbing 2mLs of oil into it every day. So I have knots galore and it will be nice to have a bit of a break. But please note: I would joyfully take the injections every day if it was necessary. I am just glad that I get a small break since they aren't needed for now.

When the twins turn 16 weeks gestation (conveniently on my 32nd birthday), I will start a new round of progesterone injections but these are called 17OHP or 17OH or 17-hydroxyprogesterone. Yes medical pregnancies are funky and you learn a lot of weird things. Anyways, this injection will go in the same spots on my body: in my muscles on each side of my bum. But they're just a slightly different branch of progesterone than the kind I've always taken with my pregnancies. I may even be at a lower dose than 2mLs.

I met with my MFM (high risk doc) last week and we chatted about a lot of options, but the injections + me being monitored frequently is the plan of attack. We have a few backup options, but hopefully this plan will get us there. A lot of doctors seem to believe my pregnancy with Bennett was just a fluke how it all played out. There was one problem after another. We're still hoping, praying, and believing for a full term twin pregnancy this time around.

A day after my MFM appointment, we got some exciting news: we're having Boy/Girl twins!!! Initially when we talked with my OBGYN about genetic bloodwork, we were going to do the Harmony test. Long story short: we had to go with another test (Panorama) and that test was able to look at BOTH fetal DNA rather than just look for a Y chromosome. It was also such a gift to learn that both babies are healthy with low genetic risk.
thank you to Alyssa Martin Photography for these images! 

Such a neat (and practical) way to complete our family: keeping the score even. And not to mention, we have a plethora of boy and girl clothes already so we're fairly set. That doesn't mean I'm done shopping though. I fully intend to buy several matching pink/blue outfits. In fact, about an hour after finding out the gender of the twins, I immediately bought their going home outfits: one pink and one blue. If that ain't believing for a healthy, full term pregnancy then I don't know what is.

Of course, most of you came to my blog today not to read about pregnancy updates, but to learn what our babies names are! After much thought (months in the making), we finally agreed on the perfect names for our babies.

Shepherd Beau Skinner (Shep)
Ruth Millicent Skinner (Millie)

It's such a joy to be able to pray for our babies with their specific names. And what is still sorta mind blowing to me is that I barely know these two souls inside my body, yet God knows them perfectly well and He knew what their names would be long before we did. Years ago when I would cry out to God, "please give me a baby!", He knew Kensington, Bennett, Shep, and Millie were on their way. But I had no clue.

Keep praying and believing and if need be, trust in God's design of medicine! Your miracle is coming too.

Potty Training Bennett + New TV Shows

My life is full of, "I'll plan it this way" but somehow things always go a completely different route. Just me?

For instance: my 2 year old son, smart as he can be, doesn't get enough credit from me. I had my plans on when we'd potty train. I know this is gonna sound wacky, but specifically, I planned to start the summer before he turned 4 (next summer!) since our Mother's Day Out program only requires 3+ year old kids to be potty trained. And the way that Bennett's birthday lands, even though he'll be 3 this fall, he must stick with the 2 year olds class for fall 2019 rather than the 3 year old class. In addition to wanting to wait, I really didn't believe he'd be mentally ready. So my logic was let's wait until next summer, right?

Well, Bennett proved me wrong. 
He started going tinkle on the potty randomly all by himself a few weeks ago. I am NOT ready for this. But it's the best kind of surprise because *he* is and that makes me smile. Everyone who knows me understands that I am #TeamDiapers for life. In fact, I was soooo reluctant to potty train Kensington too and waited until the very last minute with her. Thankfully, she learned how to really stinkin' fast. I guess that's the perk of waiting until the last minute.

Precious little Bennett sees his Big Sis and hears her exclaim, "I need to potty!" so now he says that and races to the bathroom with us. At first, I didn't believe him. But I thought for kicks and gigs, I'd put him on the pot. Sure enough, he tenses up in the cutest way, has a look of concentration, and begins to go pee. Mom victories are funny. I get so excited for my kids when they successfully pee on the pot. We shout, dance, jump, squeal, and make a big scene.

So yea, the kid doesn't know how to safely chew and swallow his food, but he can go pee on the potty. The irony of trying to plan things, am I right? Although he isn't fully potty trained by any means, I did buy him some Mickey Mouse undies this week and I'm hopeful that will excite him even more. I will likely make our house a "birthday suit zone" this weekend to give him a slight push forward in the training. 
Other happenings include me having pregnancy insomnia. Like, what? If there's something I've ever been great at, it's napping. Sleeping at night has never been one of my strongest qualities, but napping? Yes, I'm a pro. No clue why I'm experiencing this, but I am. When I can't sleep, I tend to just pull out my phone and watch something in bed. I have watched a lot of good stuff lately so I feel like I should share!

  • "Three Identical Strangers" on CNN
  • "Fyre Fraud" on Hulu
  • "Fyre" on Netflix
  • "Ted Bundy Tapes" on Netflix

Other shows I have thoughts on:
  • "You" on Netflix. SO BORING. How is this show getting so much rave? I gave it a solid 6 episodes and finally decided I was wasting my precious time.
  • "Abducted in Plain Sight" on Netflix. I refuse to watch this because everyone says that it's maddening and makes no sense. I don't want to feel that way after watching a show, so I'll skip out on this one.
  • "Smiley Face Killers" on Oxygen. I watched one episode last night and it was just so-so. I may give the rest of the episodes a solid try. We'll see. 

Watching TV has always been one of my favorite ways to de-stress. Usually when our TV is on, the Disney Channel is blasting, so it's nice when I can sit down and watch one of my shows, even if it's at 3am because I can't sleep. If you have any documentary or show recommendations, let me know! I may have seen it, but it doesn't hurt to share! 

Organization and How I Value Time

I refuse to let myself watch the hype that is Marie Kondo. Not because I don't want to - I really do. But I'm saving myself for when I can really commit. I have kind of halfway started decluttering all parts of the house based upon what I've seen on social media: does it spark joy? If not - thank it and get rid of it. See? I paid attention to the cliff notes version.

The main area of focus for my sanity has been Kensington and Bennett's closet. Clothes shopping has always been one of my favorite parts of having a boy and girl. Basically, the kids have never been short on clothes and never will be. K and B share a closet (barely) that happens to be in my sewing/craft room. Eventually, that room will be one of their bedrooms but since they both sleep with us, I won't even worry about that right now.

We recently had an organizing specialist come over (super fancy, I know!) and she really got the ball rolling in this area of focus for me. Here are some pictures but let me tell you: the pictures don't do justice! Compulsively Claire labeled everything in the drawers, separated the clothes by size, removed things too big/too small so that I could sell, and completely restructured how I manage the kids clothes.
before   /   after

Just a look at one drawer in their closet

It's basically my happy place now. My goal is to declutter all over the house as much as possible before the twins arrive in August. I am working in really small spurts because although I'm not technically on a bedrest restriction or anything, my doc still wants me to take it easy (I s'pose that's what happens when you previously give birth to a 25-weeker). So, I do juuuuust a little bit each day and it feels so good.

Time is something that I really cherish. I don't believe that my time is more valuable than another person's but the way that I view it very likely is. For me, I give time to people as a form of a gift (or if I allow an organization expert to come in and do work for me, that's like me getting time back - which is a gift to myself)! The reason I'm bringing this up is because I had an epiphany on Sunday at church. Yadda yadda long story short: the sermon was about "what are you defending?" in relation to that thing sparking anger. Is it a righteous anger or a selfish anger?

It's probably true that my time is more of a comfort and selfish defense that I have. But it has a pure center to it (a righteous defense) - I promise you that. I want to spend my time wisely and give it where I feel it will flourish. One example of me defending time - maybe not so righteously - was while Bennett was in the NICU. I remember getting absolutely, irrationally mad when people would ask me to do things with them. In my mind, I would defensively be like, "what in the heck are you talking about? You think I'd rather spend time with you than my NICU son?" Ross always had to talk me off my emotional ledge and remind me that people just care about me and want to spend time with me. I can laugh about it now and see how everyone just genuinely just wanted a little sliver of me, but in the moment, I would get so worked up. Any other past NICU mom relate? No? Just me?

Well, Sunday's sermon had me revisiting those old feelings and looking more inward, which helped make it clear to me: time is something that I value extremely highly, perhaps more than others, and that is okay! I can now explain things that I could never explain before. For instance, I have never been a "play date" kinda person. I always longed to me that type of mom - I remember pre-planning play dates with mom friends when I was preggo with Kensington. But that's just not who I am. I would rather spend my time alone at the house with the kids, tending to what needs to be done in the home, and let my kids run freely without worry of them breaking anything or hurting themselves. Also staying in PJ's and no makeup is another major perk of not being a play-date-kinda-mom. If you're a play date lover, I applaud you! In another life, I would be more like you!

So yea, time. It's a whole thing for me that I'm finally learning to embrace but also get better at. If I ever seem defensive or possessive about my time, please extend grace. But also know that when you get my time, it's viewed as a gift from me to you with a cherry on top - and that I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else in that moment.

Food Talk and Bennett Update

I know it's been a week since I last posted, but I have been so crazy tired during this first trimester. Not sure if I'm making this up, but I'm guessing there are twice the hormones with a twin pregnancy? Even if not, I am telling myself that's what it is. Or maybe I've had one too many Girl Scout cookies and the sugar is draining me. My personal favorites are the Samoas, Tagalongs, and Thin Mints - in that order. Anyone else feel me on that?

The Girl Scout cookies haven't been my only craving lately (I swear, it's just this time of year that I crave them, so thankfully January is almost over). We went to Dallas this weekend for my niece's 2nd birthday party and on our way from Austin to Dallas, I made Ross drive me through Waco to get me Taco Bueno and then after Waco, I made him stop at the famous Czech stop (obviously) for some strawberry kolaches.
One thing that Ross and I always joke about is how good of eaters we are. And then, wouldn't you know it - we give birth to a son who has a feeding tube and has no clue how to eat.

The thing with Bennett is that from the get-go, we heard "whimpy white boy." In a sense, it's a super degrading term, but in another way, it's kinda sorta applicable so it honestly doesn't bother me anymore. Bennett has never been motivated. The boy will do something when he's good and ready, but not before then. Since he was born so prematurely (25 weeks & 1 day), he never got the chance to safely learn how to suck, swallow, breathe in utero. Long story short: he needed a more permanent solution to being fed (not just an NG tube which goes down babies noses) and that's why he now has the G Tube.

He got the G Tube TWO years ago and honestly it gives me so many emotions to think about. When they placed the tube, they said, "he'll be off it in a couple months." Then a couple months came and went. Next we heard, "he'll be off it by two years old." Well, the boy is 2.5 years old and there's no end in sight.
Our Bennett in a nutshell. Wearing cowboy boots and showing off his tummy. The cloth around his button is to protect his skin from getting irritated (like his mama, he has sensitive skin).

All of that being said, a lot has changed in the last 1 of 2 years in Bennett having a feeding tube.

  1. He doesn't throw up nearly as much as he used to. Which is a huge game changer. For about a year straight, he was throwing up daily, several times. This leads me to ...
  2. He can handle a slightly higher volume than he previously was able to. In year 1 of his feeding tube, he couldn't handle 2oz of Formula in any normal amount of time. Instead we were on a continuous feed (which is exactly as it sounds) just to help him get nutrition. Now, Bennett can handle 6-8oz of blended food within a 30 minute period.
  3. Bennett previously couldn't accept texture into his mouth. He would immediately gag and throw up. Now, he will try basically anything and has even started learning how to chew. But, he still doesn't swallow 80% of his food. Therefore, it just sits in his mouth and we have to scoop it out. 
One huge silver lining is that even in the process of having him dependent on the G Tube for nutrition, Bennett successfully learned how to suck out of a straw. Y'all - he can drink by mouth! Granted, he doesn't take in as much fluid as he needs, so we still help him out by giving extra water in the tube, but it's truly an incredible thing that he mastered the straw.

Another thing: not that it really matters to me at this point what people think about Bennett's unique eating situation, but you have to admit that he looks like he knows what he's doing in that video. He looks like a perfectly normal and healthy growing baby boy. What you don't see is us scooping the chicken out of his mouth after 30 minutes of him just sucking on the flavor.

The G Tube is an absolute blessing. But the biggest frustration Ross and I have with it is simply having to do double work. It's our responsibility to offer Bennett food by mouth EVEN THOUGH we know he's likely not going to swallow it. In addition to prepping food for him to try by mouth, we also have to blend his food to go through the tube (for nutrition sake). Bennett eats what is called Real Foods Blends which is basically packaged, blended food that the DME (medical supplier) sends us every month. We add in oils and fats to make it more caloric. Then, we put the food straight from a syringe into his belly. The Real Foods Blends are actual foods which are already blended up and are specific for tube fed patients. Funny story about that: a few times back in the day, we actually fed him these blended foods by mouth because we had no clue what we were doing. And to our surprise, Bennett liked the flavor even though it sounds awful eating blended up eggs, apples, and oats together.

There are some major benefits to having the feeding tube though, I will admit. My favorite though: giving medicine is so easy AND can be done while Bennett is asleep. If he's sick and sleeping, no problem - we just open the port and insert medicine. Boom. It really doesn't get any easier than that.
The last 2.5 years of Bennett's life has been a wild ride, but also wildly joy-filled too. He is the biggest fan of Mickey Mouse, smiles so easily, gives the best kisses on the lips, is friendly to every single person, recently started talking SO MUCH, and he sleeps 12 hours straight every single night. Now tell me what could possibly be better?

8 Weeks / I Was So Brave

Y'ALL. There are two babies in there.


Two babies, and three gestational sacs. Yes, you read that right. I kind of left that part out when talking about our current pregnancy. Apparently we were meant to have triplets but inside one of the sacs, the baby never started growing. We are confident that baby is already in heaven which completely eases my mind. How did that happen, you may ask? Well, out of the two embryos that we transferred back in December, one of the embryos split into two babies - thus creating three embryo sacs and two babies (but almost three babies).

We are overjoyed that God did this miracle of a work inside my uterus and extra grateful for the two healthy babies that we're already planning names for. I am just over 8 weeks and loving every split second of this twin pregnancy. Speaking of names, I have this irrational fear that someone who is further along in their pregnancy will name their baby the names that we've selected. Totally irrational, but I take my baby-naming very seriously.

Ross, the computer and HTML guru that he is, created a spreadsheet of hundreds of potential twin names. He has it coded so that we each select the names that we like, and then once we agree on a name, it automatically moves to a short list of our favorites. We have a good list of boy names (but of course I have a favorite which I'm thinking will win - yay), but so far, we've only agreed on two girl names. We should know the gender of our twins in the next month or two - it all kind of depends on the genetic testing. If there's a "Y" chromosome, then clearly there is at least 1 boy, but there's no telling if there's 1 or 2 boys. If there are only "X" chromosomes in my blood, then we'll automatically know that we're having twin girls. We'll be doing the genetic blood work at 10 weeks and then the gender ultrasound at 16 weeks.

Kensington has me convinced that we're having 1 boy and 1 girl. From the moment that we told her that there were two babies in my belly, she just assumed there was a brother and a sister. She has also been super interested in caring for her toy doll lately. She is truly such a special girl and we're so proud of her for the role she plays as Biggest Sibling.
My hubby snapped this picture recently when Kensington was riding her bike. I showed the picture to her, and she said, "I was so brave!" From the very beginning, Kensington has brought so much joy to our lives. Her pregnancy was (so) easy. As a baby, she was 100% by-the-books and a complete breeze. And now as a toddler, she has always been such an obedient child. We're slowly starting to experience the fruit of our parenting labor and it's really rewarding to watch her say confident things like, "I was so brave!"

A little about our parenting style, now that we've been doing this for 3.5 years:
*we all sleep in the same room
*we don't believe in the "cry it out" method or sleep training
*we don't use physical abuse as a form of punishment
*when we're hurt or mess up, we ask God to heal/forgive us
*we let the kids play/make any messes they want, as long as they aren't hurting themselves or each other
*Ross and I ask the kids for forgiveness if we screw up in parenting
*we eat sugar and Taco Bell but also try to push more nutritious options when we can

I could go on & on, but I'll stop there. We are by no means perfect. Definitely not. But we try to do our best in raising the kids that we've been entrusted with. After all, that phrase of, "it goes by so fast" is absolutely true. It could've been yesterday when we were pregnant with Kensington. And now? She is a big sister x 3 and turns four years old in less than 5 months.

For those in a desperate season of waiting for children, I urge you to hold onto hope. And pray with expectation. And speak life. Turn to God and show Him your desperation. Plead with Him. I'm here to pray alongside you. It's been such a gift to have each of you during our waiting period and I am sticking on this journey with each of you in the waiting period too.

In the next post that I write, I hope to update y'all about our Bennett. As many of you know, he was born too early at 25 weeks and 1 day. We spent 5 months in the NICU. Now that he's 2.5 years old, I can't wait to share with you how much our baby boy has grown. It gives me all the feels that he is going to be a Big Brother too, especially because I swore I was done having children after his traumatic pregnancy/birth. I can't wait to share more about how Bennett has changed and what our life looks like now with an ex-25-weeker.