Being a parent is hard.
But being a parent to multiple special needs children is 10x harder.
My name is Lizy Piñon and I am a mom to Gabriel (16), twins Amelia and Alexander (DOB 11/10/09), and triplets Felicita, Frida, and Santiago (8). I am a Puertorican that was born and raised in Chicago and met my husband, Santiago, over 20 years ago. We moved to Texas when Texas Christian University offered him a job about a decade ago. He teaches religion and ethics. But more importantly, he is an amazing husband and dad. I am an educator and am currently working on my education leadership doctorate and superintendent certificate at Texas Christian University.
As a child, I had a dream of having a home full of children. While my friends wanted to be teachers, lawyers, mechanics, etc… I just wanted to be a mom. My mom was such a nurturing and caring person and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She was a kindergarten teacher in Chicago Public Schools for over 30 years. You do know that Kindergarten teachers are like the best kind of people in the world, right? She was my very best friend! I lost her a couple of years ago.
When Santiago and I talked about having children we had decided before we even got married that we would adopt our first child, have one (ONE!!!) biological child, and adopt our last. This was our game plan. We were very goal-focused and had this all drawn up in our family plan. So we adopted Gabe at age 6 (adoption is a whole other post), waited a bit because I was working on my masters in Education and working full time as an educator, and then when we decided to try to have a child, we ran into fertility issues (also another blog post). In 2010 we welcomed to the world Amelia and Alexander at 22 weeks gestation. They graced us with their amazing presence for about half an hour. We then needed some time to grieve after such a huge loss and we decided we would wait a while on growing our family. Also, at this time our oldest was needing our full attention so we decided to wait.
Enter, special needs mom mode. I was introduced to a written piece named “Welcome to Holland.”
They told us when we adopted Gabe that he had no special needs; he just needed a loving home and he would be fine. I was thrown headfirst into the special needs world with a very complicated little boy that had been in 8 homes before he finally reached ours at age 5. Gabe was kicked out of multiple daycares and private kindergartens and entered public school kindergarten in a behavioral classroom where they couldn’t just kick him out. I would get multiple calls during the day from teachers asking me what was wrong with him. I would tell them “You are the special education teachers, you figure it out and let me know when you do!”
In my humble opinion, the three most important things to do as a special needs mom are to first educate yourself, next get support from others who’ve walked this road before you, and finally become an advocate for your child.
#1 - Educate yourself: This is when I got important lesson #1 in being a special needs momma. I needed to be the one researching and helping to figure out the puzzle. I needed to be the one talking to doctors and therapists and coming to some kind of conclusion. I needed to quickly become the expert and educate all those that worked with him on how to help him. I was the one that could help them connect the dots between teachers, doctors, specialists, and therapists.
Then came our 25-week old triplets after a picture-perfect pregnancy with no real health issues. They came fast with no time to spare. Felicita, Frida & Santiago were born with a tiny squeal weighing 1 lb 4 oz to 1 lb 8 oz each. Felicita & Frida are identical twins and Santiago is the fraternal triplet. A fun fact is that the girls are both twins and triplets. They spent between 97-115 days in NICU and went through ventilators, oscillators, transfusions, jaundice, PDA ligations, ROP eye surgery, brain scans (with brain bleeds of all kinds), hernia repair, failed hearing test, etc. They thankfully survived but with all kinds of complications. We arrived shortly afterward in Texas with these tiny miracles. But we had no family or friends nearby. I needed to get educated about the triplets’ multiple conditions and figure out the best services for them.
#2 Join ALL social media support groups or real-life support groups: I realized that other moms who had been where I was were the best source of information on what my children needed. I spent hours on social media talking to other moms in the area. They gave me the names of the best local doctors, therapists, and specialists that I needed for the triplets. They also taught me the lingo, the special needs language I needed to know and use when calling for information, appointments, and services. I would call and demand to have them be seen by the best doctor in the department, best therapists (even if I had to wait a bit longer to be seen), and learned what questions I needed to ask to get access to the best treatments. When I first got to Texas I had the triplets each seen by a different neurologist and I told them I was checking to see which was the best one. I am now lucky to have found the very best one in the nation for cerebral palsy up in Plano, TX. I may not be liked, but I sure was respected as a voice for my kids.
#3 Advocate: Last and final thought is that you know your child the best. You are their very best advocate at home, school, the community, and wherever they attend. I have involved myself in school committees, at Cook Children Hospital and MHMR (My Health My Resources) - ECI (Early Childhood Intervention). I do this to keep my eyes and ears open so I know what services or programs my children may need now or in the future. We also need to share their accomplishments and their challenges so others also become allies to help in the good fight. I am thankful for all those friends that have helped lighten my load and have fought for them next to me, like their wonderful daddy. And some days the fight feels like a hundred pounds as I lift my 65 lbs daughter from her bed to the toilet, or hold my 200 lb son tight as he rants about some injustice in school so he will not self-harm and have to be taken to the local mental health hospital via a police ride. But when I see her eyes light up as she twirls in her wheelchair after learning a new dance step in her Ayita wheelchair dance team or when I see that he is able to better express himself in an artwork he completed, then I know that tomorrow will be better and the world is a better place because they exist in it.
It is not an easy path but I have loved every moment of being a special needs mom. I have entered a new world, made new friends, and am a different person than before they each entered my life. So if you are a special needs mom or dad, go out and educate yourself, make new friends, and fight hard for your children! Nothing special about the mom and dad we are. We have simply and humbly had to learn to be the special parent that our amazing children Gabriel, Felicita, Frida & Santiago need. Take the time to enjoy the trip to Holland!
Casseroles! Who doesn’t love casseroles? Made in one pan (for the most part), can easily be frozen into 2-3 smaller portions for 2-3 different days. Add a veggie the night you serve it and you’re done! Following are a few of my favorites. Make your life easy by buying rotisserie chickens. Costco’s are the best! (Costco even sells rotisserie chicken already pulled off the bone!) Tom Thumb does $5 rotisserie chickens on Mondays as well. All of these recipes are easy to double. So if you have the freezer space, go for it! Also, if you don’t batch cook, that’s also fine. On the night you choose to make a recipe, double it then. Eat one portion that night and freeze the other. This is an easy way to stock the freezer without spending all day in the kitchen.
2 cans cream of chicken soup
16 oz sour cream
1 T. poppy seeds
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 t. black pepper
3/4 t. garlic powder
5 cups cooked chicken, chopped into bite-size pieces (rotisserie)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crumbled
1/2 cup melted butter
Mix all ingredients together except crackers and butter. Divide into two 8 or 9 inch square foil pans. Cover with foil and freeze. To heat: thaw, mix crackers and butter and sprinkle over casserole, bake til hot and bubbly on 350, about 30 minutes. Serve over rice with a vegetable on the side.
Your favorite meat sauce (as simple as ground beef and a jar of sauce), about 4 cups
1 or 2 boxes of lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
1-2 garlic cloves
4 cups mozzarella
1/2-1 cup parmesan
Have your meat sauce ready
Mix ricotta or cottage cheese with egg and garlic, add salt and pepper to taste.
Shred mozzarella and Parmesan if you didn’t just buy a bag of it. Do not cook your noodles!
I do this in the foil loaf pans, because I’m only feeding two adults. Even then we had leftovers because I always serve salad and bread. Feel free to make in bigger pans for bigger families; it will cook up the same.
Spray pan with cooking spray
Add a layer of meat sauce
Add a dry noodle, broken to fit the pan
Layer on ricotta mixture, then a bit of mozzarella
Start again with sauce - noodle - cheese - sauce.... until pan is full
Top with mozzarella and Parmesan.
Cover with foil and freeze.
Thaw the day you’d like to serve it and bake until hot and bubbly!
Lazy Man’s Lasagna
Your favorite meat sauce, about 4 cups
1 bag of frozen ravioli of your choice (keep it frozen)
Mozzarella, about 4 cups
Layer meat sauce, frozen ravioli, shredded cheese until the pan is full or you’ve used all the ingredients. Cover the pan with foil and place it in the freezer or bake immediately at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with salad and garlic bread.
Broccoli, Chicken, and Rice Casserole
4 cups cooked rice
4 cups cooked, chopped chicken
2 (16 oz) bags frozen broccoli
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1T. onion powder
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything in a bowl and pour into greased foil pans, size of your choice. Cover with foil and freeze. To heat: thaw and bake at 350 until hot and bubbly. Before baking, you may add crushed Ritz crackers and melted butter or leave it off. It’s totally up to you!
These four recipes will give you about 10 meals, more if putting lasagna into loaf pans.
Jenny Juneau has been a member of FWMOM since 2016, she currently serves the board as co-VP of membership. She’s a family nurse practitioner currently living and working in Louisiana. She is married and has 3.5 year old twin boys Elijah and Landis.
Chiropractic care is an all-natural approach that helps your body function at its fullest potential. It is a safe and holistic practice which not only reduces the aches and pains that often come with pregnancy, but also gets you ready to have a healthy labor and delivery. More and more women are seeking out prenatal chiropractors to add to their birthing team due to the many benefits that a chiropractor can provide. The goal of a prenatal chiropractor is to remove any interference to your nervous system while balancing out your hips and pelvis to get you ready for your big day. Here are the top five reasons why many women are choosing to see a prenatal chiropractor:
1) Reduce low back pain
We have all seen those pregnant moms with their belly pushed out and their hands on their low back waddling around. You don’t want this to be you! The change in gravity caused by a growing belly puts pressure on your lumbar spine and hips. Proper alignment can relieve this pain and make it easier to stand and walk with proper posture.
2) Balancing of the hips and pelvis
Your prenatal chiropractor will focus heavily on balancing the bones, muscles and ligaments in your pelvis. When there is twisting or tension in the pelvis it can restrict proper movement. This can lead to in-utero constraints on the baby during the pregnancy and trouble maneuvering through the birth canal during delivery. Regular chiropractic adjustments will make sure that all of those joints are moving the way they should.
3) Release tension and torsion on the uterus
You have probably heard your birth provider mention your round ligaments. These are the ligaments that connect your uterus to your pelvis. As they stretch with your expanding belly, it’s important to make sure that there is not tension or imbalances between them. This is not only important for you to feel and function at your best but also gives your baby the most space in your uterus to move into optimal positioning.
4) Easier labor and delivery
Research shows that mamas under chiropractic care average six hours less of labor time! They are also less likely to need medical intervention during delivery (some sources report as much as 50%!). When the body is properly aligned and all interference is removed, then it can do exactly what nature intended it to do!
5) Overall nervous system function
Your brain communicates to all parts of your body through your nervous system. By making sure there are no interferences in this communication, it allows your body to work better and more efficiently. Reducing the stress on your body is not only good for you, but for your baby too!
Vertical Chiropractic is one of our Diamond Level Sponsors. If you have any questions about chiropractic care during pregnancy or would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to reach out to Dr. Megan Peterson at Vertical Chiropractic. Office phone number: 817-330-9665 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We can’t always carry around a large DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera everywhere we go (even though I would kind of like to). But we do always have our cell phones. Though cell phone pictures cannot compete with the quality of a professional camera, it is definitely better than having no camera at all. What if you could improve the pictures that you are taking with your smartphone?
Are your pictures fuzzy? Foggy or hazy? How do you fix that?
1. When shooting, hold your camera as still as you can, especially in low-light conditions. Your camera is designed to slow its shutter speed in low-light scenarios, which means you’ve gotta hold REALLY still to get a clean shot. So practice bracing your elbows to your sides while hold the camera up. Or, find a solid surface that works almost as good as a tripod. This will support the camera and hold it still much better.
2. Speaking of low light, the best way to get a clear shot is to light your subject properly. Backlight is horrible for today's phones. The phones just can't handle it. Place your subject closer to a window, or shoot outside in full shade. Just getting good light on the subject alone will help the camera itself perform better.
3. It may seem silly, but WIPE YOUR LENS! A simple trick, but an effective one, and one we don't think about all the time- simply wiping off your lens will make your pictures clearer. After all, we store that thing in our purses, and who knows what kid-size drama made it into my bag this week!
4. Tell your phone what to focus on by tapping on the subject on your screen. When you do this a box will appear and the camera will work to focus on that location. This can also help with the brightness of your picture. If there are both bright and dark areas in the frame, the camera may have a difficult time determining how to expose the picture. But if you click on the dark part of the image the camera will brighten up the picture for you. In contrast, if you click on the bright part of the image the camera will make your picture darker.
5. Try not to zoom in. It is better to walk closer for a good quality picture than to zoom in. In many situations zooming in will take away from the quality of the picture. Of course, there are situations where getting a zoomed in picture might be more important than the quality. For example, if your kiddo is doing a school play and you want a picture of their face you might prefer to zoom in and lose some of the quality of the image instead of losing your child in the crowd.
And for those moments where you want to be in the pictures with your babies or you want to book a special session to document a milestone, feel free to contact me!
Stephanie Hatton is a dedicated FWMoM Sponsor. She is a fine art photographer that specializes in portraits, family and maternity photography. Come read more about our wonderful sponsor in our Q&A blog that was done between Stephanie and FWMoM a couple months ago! If you are interested in booking her for a future session please contact her through www.stephaniereneephotography.com
When I found out I was having twins I immediately knew two things: 1. It was gonna be hard and 2. My laziness was going to rear its ugly head. Here’s the thing; I’m not that lazy, I’m definitely just more of a procrastinator. But when the time comes, I get things done. Anyway, I immediately thought, “I’ve got to have meals ready to go because I assume cooking is now a thing of the past.” Right after bed rest ensued (procrastination!) I started prepping! I scoured my recipes from home and Pinterest for freezer-friendly meals. I found 6-7 that I love and made a grocery list, at a minimum doubling each recipe. I also got foil loaf pans and smaller square pans (it was just me and John, I’m not feeding a crowd). All the groceries got delivered (because bed rest) and I spent about a week cooking and resting. I did have my mom come for the week and help and y’all, she brought pound cake for the freezer! That’s a thing and it was a life saver! So, on the blog for the next couple of months I’m going to share my favorite freezer recipes, tips for freezer meals, and how to make them work for your family. This week I’m sharing four of my favorite recipes that I’ve made for years and how I made them freezer friendly for life with newborn multiples. All of these are frozen in ziplock bags because they stack nicely if you lay them flat to freeze! These meals will give you easily 20-30 suppers, depending on how much you need for each bag. All you’ll have to do the night you use it is to heat the contents of a thawed bag and cook rice or noodles. Done. (You can even have the hubs or the mother-in-law do it!)
1. My Mom’s Meatballs
2. Meal in a Pot
3. Taco Soup
4. Red Beans and Rice
So, my mom’s meatballs are probably my most favorite meal ever and if I ever had to have a “last meal,” this would be it. I’m giving you the meatball recipe but do yourselves a favor and double it. On the second batch, leave out the egg and breadcrumbs and just combine the rest of the meatball ingredients and add the sauce ingredients to make a meat sauce.
2 pounds ground beef
1pound Italian sausage
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Bread crumbs made from 6 slices of bread
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Tony’s cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
Mix everything well. Form into meatballs. Size is totally up to you. To cook, either fry in olive oil, turning carefully until browned all over or bake in the oven at 350 until brown.
1-2 onions, chopped
½ pound mushrooms (optional)
4 6oz cans of tomato paste (24oz total)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ - ½ tsp pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning
8-10 cups hot water (or more for desired consistency)
Sauté onion and mushrooms until lightly browned (in the oil used to fry the meatballs if you did that), add garlic. Add tomato paste, mixing well and stirring until heated. Add seasonings. Slowly add water and combine well. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 2-3 hours, occasionally stirring.
Serve over cooked pasta.
If you don’t want to make the sauce, just buy several jars of your favorite, pour over cooked meatballs, and simmer away. Just add a little extra garlic and seasoning and no one will know!
To freeze: I divide into ziplock bags; however many meatballs I think my family will eat, plus sauce. I can usually get 4-5 bags of meatballs and sauce. When ready to eat, thaw the bag, thenjust heat the meatballs in a pot on the stovetop.
Meal in a pot:
Don’t knock this until you try it!
Cut 1 pound of bacon into bite sized pieces and fry in a pan over medium heat
Remove bacon and brown 2 pounds of ground meat with 2-3 chopped onions in bacon drippings; drain.
Add 2 cans pork and beans, 2 cans ranch style beans, 2 cans Lima beans
Add 1 ½ cups ketchup, 1 ½ cup brown sugar, 4 Tbsp white vinegar, 4 Tbsp liquid smoke.
Refrigerate overnight. The next morning, pour into a crockpotand cook on low all day. Serve over rice.
To freeze: add to ziplock bags and lay flat. Do this before cooking all day in the crockpot. Thaw when you want to eat, then cook in the crockpot. Makes several family servings.
2pounds hamburger meat, browned and drained
2 onions, chopped
1 can yellow hominy, drained
2 cans ranch style beans
2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
1 can mexican style stewed tomatoes
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ranch seasoning packet
1 taco seasoning packet
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and heat on the stovetop.
To freeze: portion into ziplock bags and lay flat to freeze.
Red beans and rice:
1 pound dried red beans
1-2 pounds andouille sausage
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
1-2 chopped celery stalks
Garlic to taste
Salt, pepper, Tony’s cajun seasoning to taste
Soak beans overnight. The next day, sauté veggies in butter or oil, add beans, sausage, seasoning, enough water to cover. Simmer until beans are done, adding more water if needed. Serve over rice.
To freeze: Divide into ziplock bags and lay flat to freeze. When ready to use, thaw a bag, heat the contents of the bag in a pan on the stovetop, and serve over rice!
For all of these, make sure it’s all cooked down before putting into bags. Stack the bags in the freezer. The beauty of ziplocks is how many meals you can fit into the freezer because of how flat they lay! Make sure you label each back with the name of themeal, what to serve it with, and the date. Freezer meals generally need to be eaten in about 3 months, but I’ve gone much longer!
Is it just because I’m getting older, or is the world growing more complex and absolutely crazy? Clearly we have had a couple of crazy years in our nation, our world, and in our homes. Many of us have welcomed more babes home than we planned for, have changed careers mid-pandemic, or shifted into full time home-making/home-working/home-schooling. Through almost all of this we have had seemingly little control. Yet somehow, we still stand and continue to plug away, making sure all little people at our feet are towing the line behind us with ease. MOMs are resilient. If there is a will, we can get it done. We find a way to make it work, to shift on a dime, pick up the groceries and correct the spelling and warm the bottle... all before 9:00.
I count it a win to make it out the door in time, with clean clothing on the children and something in their stomach. Oh yeah, and hopefully a hug.
It makes me wonder, is there more to life than just making it through? At one point or another we have all been overwhelmed at the tasks and weight of managing life. How do we live Extraordinary when we are barely living day to day? Truth is we do not have to barely live. We can thrive and our families can thrive and excel no matter what is going on around us. 2020 and 2021 have shown us that nothing in the world can truly be counted on. Amid the chaos that was the last 14 months, there are a few things that stand out as the priority to living an extraordinary life. Faith, Family, and Friendship. We are wired for these connections. As mothers, we need these connections to the people and beliefs we love the most to thrive. These, I believe, are the keys to thriving daily. They are the keys to living extraordinary lives.
● Friendship. I had the opportunity to see a friend from Oregon who comes to Texas only every once in a while. We have been in each other’s lives since 2002, walked through some pressing times, and some joyous ones too! To me, living an extraordinary life is taking moments in time, like dinner with Amy, that are priceless, and celebrating them. Do this in your life. Celebrate the small and big moments with friends. However you like to honor those memories and moments... do it!
“ Sweet friendship refreshes the soul and awakens our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence.” Proverbs 27:9
● Family. So... this one is tricky. Many of us have great extended families who support and encourage us every step of the way with our growing families and endeavors. Others of us are not as blessed and navigate much of life as a single-family unit. Whatever the case for you, endeavor to make family a big priority for your little ones. My one tip: do not complicate it. Just be present with them. Talk to them. Impart your heart and wisdom to them with tangible and intangible actions. We do not need Pinterest-worthy parties to do so (although I have thrown them and enjoy), but they do need to know that no matter the flavor of crazy the world is offering at the moment, your family is the most secure and steady relationships in their life. I know writing this that you all rock this, you’re literally the best mothers I have ever met! Take into consideration what it may look like for you in the years ahead. I never imagined an hour long nerf war in an empty house when I was changing diapers!
● Faith. One thing I love about our FWMoMs is our diversity. This includes religious beliefs. It is no secret that I am a Christian and that my faith in Jesus is the foundation for my life. If that is the same for you, then I implore to live in a way that is authentic and true to what you profess. Build yourself up in the Word and always put your relationship with God in first place above all other priorities. If you are in another belief system, (my apologies for not knowing all the practices of all religions represented in our group) then I admonish you to do the same. The world is wild and our belief systems will guide, secure, and keep us. Holding firmly is the key to an extraordinary life. When we let go, we are easily tossed by the chaos that surrounds us.
“He is like a man who chooses the right place to build a house and then lays a deep and secure foundation. When the storms come and the floods rage against
that house, it continues to stand strong and unshaken through the tempest, for
it has been wisely built on the right foundation.” Luke 6:48
If you have a community where you worship with others, lean into those connections. Right now, more than ever before, it is essential to have this area solid in your life. The last year has proven how much this is true, and how much we need a community of like-minded individuals surrounding us, becoming an extended family of faith. I share a photo of mine here.
Friends. Family. Faith. The one thread that runs through all three is connection. Foster and cultivate the relationships around you. Isn’t that what this group is all about?!
Simple. Yet extraordinarily powerful priorities for our extraordinary lives.
Tonya Flowers is a mother to Lucas, and twins Wyatt and Timothy. She is a wife, nurse, minister and currently serves FWMOM as our Chaplain.
The day I found out about my pregnancy, one of the first things that popped in my head was all the cute things that I could buy for my littles. I had decided to wait a couple weeks before beginning our baby registry. However, once I actually started working on it I felt completely overwhelmed. There were so many items of different brands to choose from, and then on top of that I had no idea if I needed one or two (or more) of everything. Choosing baby items should be fun and exciting; here are some of my and my family’s favorites to hopefully make it easier for you to decide which items work best for your family.
To start off I had to decide where I would be creating my registry. I picked Target for people who like going into a physical store to look for presents and I also used Amazon for those who preferred to shop and ship straight to us. (A little fun fact: both of these companies give you welcome packets with lots of awesome samples!)
Next, I decided to pick the big ticket items. For us that was car seats and cribs. Amazon was the one that I really liked using when it came to high priced items because they allow your friends and family to “pitch in” towards that item, without forcing someone to pay for the whole thing. With this feature we were able to get enough funds to fully cover all of the more expensive items.
We were blessed enough to be given an Uppababy Vista stroller from another multiples mom. Since we already had this stroller we tried to look for car seats that would fit it. Our top choice for infant car seats was the Maxi Cosi brand. They are very lightweight (remember you may be carrying two or more at the same time from time to time!) and very easy to take apart for those unexpected (but bound to happen) poopy blow outs. However, as our littles got longer and heavier we switched over to Graco 4EVER ExtendToFit car seats. My husband is 6’4” and my boys are following in his footsteps! It was really important to me that my boys stayed rear-facing for as long as they could, which is made possible with these seats.
While I loved the Uppababy stroller it was a bit heavy, and the accessories are kind of pricey. I personally wish we had gone with a wagon instead of a stroller.
After putting the bigger items on the list, we decided to add the necessities. For us, those were:
A couple of other items we added to the list, in case you need more ideas, were:
Baby bottles, a baby first aid kit, wubbanub pacifiers, baby monitor, baby gates, books, sit me up seats, bath essentials, and swaddle blankets.
While I know what worked for my family may not necessarily work for others, I hope this blog is able to give you some assistance in choosing your own top favorites!
Valerie Hines currently serves FWMoM as co-chair VP of programs. She has identical boys, Oliver and Dexter, 1.
Since graduating college, my husband and I have moved a total of seven times and lived in a total of four states. You may be thinking, ahh a military family but alas, we are just two crazy kids trying to find our place in this world; that journey ultimately led us to the state of Texas and we are so grateful that it did!
With both sides of our family still mainly rooted in the Northeast, Rich and I have had to quickly learn how to do most things on our own. Granted there is always facetime but let’s be honest, nothing beats that in person connection, am I right!?
Fast forward to our third year in the Lone Star State, we had been trying to start a family for four years and N O T H I N G was working. You name it, we tried it. If there was a diet that promised to boost fertility or a food that you just H A D to eat, I ate it. I tracked my cycle using traditional trackers as well as ovulation watches (something about your pulse while you’re sleeping?). We had several losses along the way which were soooo hard; but “at least we knew it was working, right?!” Um, sure?
Outside of traveling to the heights of the Himalayas and seeking out a shaman, I feel like we tried everything, everything but medical assistance. Nothing like taking the fun out of procreation, haha. After 5 failed IUIs at two different doctors, we decided to take a leap of faith and investigate IVF.
Before this, literally no one knew of the depth of our struggles because we just didn’t share. It was not until I sat down and had a discussion with my husband about sharing our journey with others and setting up a Go Fund Me account that we even thought about letting others into our bubble. People we didn’t even know helped us put together enough money for our down payment and then our family was able to co-sign with us for a loan to take the next big step.
Here’s how our IVF journey looks simply based on numbers:
Day 0: 28 Eggs Retrieved (no wonder I felt like a blimp!)
Day 1: 17 Fertilized
Day 3: 14 Meeting Cellular Stage
Day 5: 5 Blastocysts
Genetic Testing: 3 Passed (with so many losses we decided this last step was crucial for our success)
Waiting for that call every day to see “who was left” was one of the hardest things about this process for which NO ONE can really prepare you. We shared our ENTIRE journey via Facebook so our family and friends could take each step with us. We also shared our journey to bring to light just how many families deal with infertility across the world. I had several friends reach out to me in private messages sharing that they too had gone through IVF! This topic is so taboo, which bothers me so much!
All in all, we were VERY lucky, our first attempt via IVF was successful! My pregnancy and delivery may not have been by the books and uneventful but in the end, we were blessed with two healthy babies who are now two years old! In about a month’s time, we will actually be implanting that last embryo retrieved at the same time as Lincoln and Remington. God willing, by the end of October 2021, our family will have grown by one more!
Kacie currently serves FWMoM as Co-chair of VP of Programs. She has Lincoln and Remington, 2, with her husband Rich.
This year, this crazy year has given us so many new challenges. Holidays are upon us and we have had to find new ways to visit Santa, pick up gifts, we’ve missed out on parties and family visits. I know we have felt the strain between keeping traditions alive and the health and safety of our loved ones. Finances have changed for many, making us evaluate what Christmas morning looks like. Many families this year are missing someone special around the table, and our hearts and prayers surround them as they mourn. As we walk with our tribe through this extraordinary holiday season, we are presented with an opportunity to focus on what truly matters. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s taught us to value what is most important.
If I threw all the traditions, festive treats, black Friday deals, religious services, and family activities into a pot and boiled it down to the most important during the holidays, what would come to the surface would be these three: family, faith, and giving. All the extras are fun, but without these three as the main dish, the holiday season would not really have much significance. In a year where we have had to evaluate all our priorities and creatively pivot on a dime with plans and celebrations, keeping the main thing the main thing is vital. Let’s not make this too “pie in the sky;” because the kids are out of school and real life is still moving forward, we need it to be practical, attainable, and simple. A Simply Extraordinary Christmas. What does choosing family, faith, and giving as priorities this Christmas season really look like for us?
This one hits close to home. I’ve watched over the last 9 months many people lose their lives in this pandemic. Absolutely heart wrenching at times. It causes me to hug my kiddos a little tighter for sure. It has changed my perspective for the better though, a deep desire to stay well connected to those most important to me. With the littles in our household... how do we engage them this holiday season?
If you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or straight up Santa and reindeer, what you believe about the holidays is the center of your celebration. There is meaning found in our traditions, and for some reason they have more significance now than in years past. For my family, celebrating the birth of Jesus is more than having a tree and presents; it’s about promises fulfilled and compelling love. Our world and our kids’ world has been turned upside down this year. When there is uncertainty in us about the future, they, no doubt, have felt it. Now is a great time to return and rekindle the faith we hold so dear. Our family needs the stability of Truth in a world of chaos. The 2020 dumpster fire is still burning. Our homes can and should be an oasis of peace for our family.
Often when we talk about giving, we immediately think financial giving. That is not what I mean when I say giving is a priority during the holidays. Giving can be of our time, our energy, a phone call, a handmade gift, a help running errands, anything that you can do to the benefit of others counts! We have talked before about how giving truly blesses you as much as the receiver, and during the holidays it’s a perfect time to do so. Without generosity during the holidays, many people would go without. What I know about the FWMoMs is that giving is part of your nature! I’ve not known a more compassionate and giving group of people in my life. So, let’s make giving practical and creative for 2020.
As we embark on Christmas and the holidays, I implore you, friends, to focus on what matters most. Just because Christmas may look and feel different, when the key elements are there it will be a Christmas to never forget. Family, Faith and Giving. Merry Christmas, tribe!
“Then the angel said to them, do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” -Luke 2:10-11
Tonya Flowers is a mother to Lucas, and twins Wyatt and Timothy. She is a wife, nurse, minister and currently serves FWMOM as our Chaplain.
My littles are NOT fans of animatronic dinosaurs, but I knew my dinosaur obsessed two year olds would love the dinosaur exhibit at the Heard Museum if they would just give it a chance! Feeling bold one morning, I decided that I would load us up and give it a go. I was optimistic!
Upon our arrival, their excitement quickly turned to apprehension even though we had discussed where we were going in the car. For them, it was real now. As soon as we started down the dinosaur path my little Lincoln started to back away and immediately wanted to be carried. I asked him how he was feeling, and he so confidently told me “I’m feeling apprehensive, because the dinosaurs.” I was floored. My little guy just told me exactly how he was feeling and there wasn’t a meltdown in sight! Mind: blown and it was only 9 am! I remember giving my husband the biggest smile in the world! I was so proud of Lincoln.
We continued our walk, while I explained that the animatronics were not real, they cannot walk, and that dinosaurs are extinct! I repeated these facts for every single dinosaur and with each passing dinosaur Lincoln relaxed. By the end, both boys were ready to go again! They asked to walk through three more times. Each time they were a little more confident, and by the end we had to pull them away! On the ride home we discussed how they felt fearful in the beginning, but after we walked through the exhibit they felt calm and soooo excited! The day was even more successful than I had hoped. The boys had tackled their fear, and what could have been BIG emotions for toddlers turned out to be quite the opposite! #winning
I promise I didn’t share this picture perfect moment to make you think I don’t deal with BIG emotions, but I wanted to share a moment where I saw light at the end of the tunnel. Where I noticed all of my hard work was finally paying off. I was reaping my reward, just like you will if you, too, have been on the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with toddlers.
There's a book for that!
I knew big emotions were something every parent had to survive, and I wanted to be prepared. For me personally, I’ve always found my answers come from a book. Whether it is a book to teach me how to parent better, or a children’s book that leads little minds to understand and cope, books give me a starting point for conversations, language to use when BIG emotions happen, and a window into other perspectives and future situations.
I started using books that talk about emotions as soon as my babies were able to focus their little eyes. We started with simple books that showed those first emotions we teach like happy and sad. As they got older we have moved past the simple emotions and on to discussing things like selfish, confident, and apprehensive. The more specific, the better! Books have given my littles the language to use when they are feeling those BIG emotions. I used to read Llama Llama Bully Goat to my kids before they were able to talk. We read it repeatedly because they loved it so much. This book would give my kids their first words to describe when the other twin was being mean:”bully goat!” I would hear this phrase on what seemed like repeat. While we have clarified over time how to communicate what’s happening instead of shouting “bully goat”, that phrase gave my kids language to use when they were upset. I knew exactly what they were feeling even though they had a limited vocabulary at the time.
Books have been a key in helping my kids identify their emotions as well as how to handle situations that are upsetting. Below are just a few that have helped my boys. Whenever I hear a parent struggling with a situation, I'm always thinking, “There's a book for that!”
Amazing Feelings by: Anna Bardaus
Peekaboo Feelings by: Wynnie Thom
How Does Baby Feel? by: Karen Katz
Duck & Goose How are You Feeling? by: Tad Hills
The Color Monster by: Anna Llenas
Roaring Mad Riley by: Allison Szczecinski
Llama Llama Time to Share by: Anna Dewdney
I Will Try by: Laurie Wright
No-Drama Discipline by: Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
The Whole-Brain Child by: Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
I don’t know about you, but I can easily get overwhelmed by all of the strategies a book has to offer when handling emotional situations. My plan is always to focus on a few strategies that I can realistically make a habit. I usually look to see how I can pull a few together and create a routine conversation when issues arise. It really helps me internalize the strategies I want to use. I figure using a few is better than being overwhelmed by all of the great ideas but using none in real life. This is the dialogue I use based on strategies from The Whole-Brain Child.
3. Problem Solve
**For moments I get to quickly I put my hand on my little’s chest and say “Take a breath and say what you’re feeling.” This has worked wonders and prevented big emotions from taking over.
Proactive is better than reactive!
Another strategy I use to help keep the peace is to look for situations that consistently cause big emotions. Is there a routine that needs to be in place or adjusted to help prevent this behavior? What can I do to help?
For me, it’s the dreaded S-word...sharing! I noticed most of my boys’ emotional outbursts happened around playtime when there are toys the other twin might also want to use. I was feeling a bit defeated. I had tried talking it out as well as using a timer, but it worked for about a week. I didn’t know what to do. I felt awful asking one twin to give up their toy, so the other would calm down. What was that teaching?
Then a few weeks ago, I discovered a podcast titled Shelf Help. I have never listened to a podcast, but I thought I would give it a shot. Well turns out I found my perfect podcast! I listened to Shelf Help Ep. 33 - Why We Don't Make Our Children Share, and it was everything! If you don’t have an hour to listen to it, all you need is the line “It’s not available right now.” That’s it- the magical sentence to get your kids to understand when they can’t have a toy they want at that moment. That sentence took minutes to become a hit.
Now my kids walk away without a fuss or give back something they picked up that wasn’t available. I also added “Can you let me know when it’s available?” when I notice the other child really wants to play with a toy. Sometimes with this line the twin with the toy will give it up on his own and “show kindness” (another book lesson)! It’s incredible to watch the boys play and use this language with one another. Those big emotions have cut down immensely. I also feel like they have a better understanding of sharing, and choose to share on their own. They are learning to respect the other child and respect boundaries during playtime.
Hopefully there is something here that will help you and your sweet toddlers find a way to ease those BIG emotional moments. If all else fails, let it go and try again tomorrow!
Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples
P.O. Box 123874
Fort Worth, Texas 76121
Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.