Tag Archives: family

What do Smokey, Say Anything and Sa-weet! cars have in common?

For Steph’s 41st birthday, we decided to set up camp at the Springfield Cruise-In, and invite all our fabulous family and friends.  Once a month, hundreds of classic cars, ghetto cars, souped-up cars and various what-not converge on Main Street. It’s fun to camp out on the sidewalk and watch the crazy go by. Or, to be a part of the crazy. But that’s another post.

Saturday afternoon, we packed up for the event. Lurch and Lester were both stuffed to overflowing. Our mail person, who knows us dearly, saw all our CRAZY AMOUNTS of camping gear and asked excitedly “How long are you gone until?”. Steph looked down and said “Til tonight.” Shrugs. This is just ONE of the trucks, packed.

Lester, packed to the gills.

Lester, packed to the gills.

Lots of great friends and family showed up. We CONVERGED on that parking lot, y’all. It was ours for the evening. You can see Steph in the background in the hat behind the 532 beer coolers.

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We had corn hole for the younguns’. Here’s our friend Andy and his son. Andy works on Lester and Lurch to keep them running smoothly. I tease that we’ve provided the funding for their son’s college education. We love them. They’re good peeps.

Andy

Here we are on Lurch, posing for the passersby. Hot cars and hot babes!

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The boys were great – they partied til about 9pm. Their ties were a last minute addition. Hopper’s is a spatula. Pic does not do it justice.

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Later in the evening, we took a walk around to gawk at the cars. Just me, Steph, Rachelle, and The Boyz. We needed tunes, so we brought our boombox.

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We may or may not have blasted Run DMC and Beastie Boys as we walked down Main Street. Mostly, the sound emanated mysteriously from the stroller, because I hid the speaker in the stroller visor. We had entirely too much fun with our boombox.

Is there a business opportunity in recreating epic movie scenes?

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SayAnythingHeatherAndSteph

PS. WTF? Why is she smiling? She’s supposed to be full of angst and teenage pathos. Jeez. She almost looks proud.

PPS. Discount Beverage sign behind us. It’s like too good to be true. This picture is totally perfect.

If you haven’t been to a cruise-in, PLEASE GO. The people watching is unbeatable. And people just come up to you like you’re biffles. Here’s Stacy and Tracy. “We’re twins, too!”, they said. “Take our picture!” Or something like that. I’m kind of not sure I believe them, but I felt drawn to them…

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WAIT A MINUTE. That guy on the right totally reminds me of Smokey. OEMGEE!!! I met Smokayyy!!!

If you don’t like my favorite eff word, don’t click, y’all.

Ok, in all seriousness, we were there for the cars. Guess which one was my favorite? I’ll give you one guess only. It may have been on hydraulics.

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We had a fantastic night. Thanks to all of our friends and family for coming and making the amazing Stephanie Shaar’s birthday so much fun. We love you! Can’t wait for a repeat next year! Oh, and next month, we’re ditching the 5-ton grill. We decided we’re just bringing the fire pit and errbody can char their own hot dogs and s’mores. Veggie dogs for moi. Can’t wait!

It’s time to PAR-TAY

I have an addiction. I am planning about 4,327 parties right now. Apparently, this is me these days:

Parties coming up that I’m planning?

The Drink Champagne and Dance On Tables Party:

Great Gatsby Soiree

What’s the party? I’m about to turn 40 {Can. Not. Comprehend.} That, coupled with the fact that I feel this innate need to earn a shit-ton of money for the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville, has turned my sweet little party into a full-on 1920’s dress-up bash, complete with a silent auction, a Charleston dance contest, and a live band, if we can fit them. WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO? I somehow need to find the time to solicit for *important stuff* for the silent auction.

The “Steph Turns 41, is having a mid-life crisis and bought a slick sportscar” Party, Wherein we bring both our old cars and cruise up and down Main Street in Springfield. JUST LIKE WE DID WHEN WE WERE TEENAGERS. Except this time, there will be no wine-coolers involved. This happens tomorrow. Should be fun!

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Third big party? The boys’ first birthday, which is right around the corner! I was planning on doing a mustache bash, but the mustachioed items are a bit trite these days, and honestly driving me bonkers. So, how about a Punk Rock Baby theme? Check out this ridiculous baby party. There’s a fruit mohawk coming out of a styrofoam head!! Gah, the perfect thing for a 1 year-old birthday party! Keepin’ it real, folks.

Any other “different” party ideas for 1-year-old twins? I have time to get this right, and have a ton of fun! I’m not into traditional baby stuff. I want something memorable!

That’s all I’ve got for tonight. Looking forward to sharing Steph’s party, tomorrow !

 

 

Happy Birthday to the Love of My Life

Today is Steph’s birthday – she turns 41. I love this woman! She gets more accomplished in one day than I do in an entire year. So, it’s very smart of me to keep her around.

Someone as amazing as Steph deserves a motto. I should get this on a t-shirt for her 41st birthday present:

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If you know Steph, you know that she loves to “knock stuff out”. In her world, you just have to get it done. No time for tomfoolery. Except, somehow she does have time for tomfoolery and lightheartedness. She knocks that out, too! Whodahell is this woman?

Steph is a super-star. At risk of sounding like I’m bragging about my “great catch”, I try not to talk too much about how amazing she is. But today, I’m going to brag.

Here’s what I love about her, in no particular order of importance.

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She literally has a Ph.D. in microbiology. Who da eff has a Ph.D in that except for people like Stephen Hawking? Ok, I know his is in Physics, but same sentiment. Her dissertation was about the ebola virus. {Or is it e.bola? She worked with lots of the stuff, so is it eboli?} She was even dropped into Africa to extract service-men who had contracted ebola. I hope that info has become declassified. If it hasn’t, then I’m in trouble.

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She is super musical. She can sit down at the piano and play Rachmaninoff. Ok, that might be a stretch these days, now that she’s out of practice. But, she can still play you the song she wrote for her high school graduating class. She sings. She loves music!

She is super sporty, and has played just about every sport known to humankind. Including golf, which I’m happy to say she deemed “boring”. Except she did mention something about the “drink cart” that rolls around and shows up magically at just the right time with your fresh tasty beverage. She liked that. She went to college on a combined academic and rowing scholarship. Which apparently meant that she’d get up at 4am to run – oh say, a 5k, ON THE WAY TO THE DANG BOAT  {or canoe, ship, kayak. whatever they call those rowie type things)

She is geeky. We’ve already discussed her brilliance, which I could go on about ad nauseum. She knows a lot about a lot of stuff. Especially science. She uses words like viremia in every day conversation. I’m not kidding! It has something to do with your body’s susceptability Never mind. I can’t even spell it.

She has more hobbies than God. Gardening. Restoring old cars. Learning the ukulele for the boys. Making jewelry. Craft beer brewing. The list could go on and on. Right now, she’s been tinkering with her new 1966 Suburban. Last weekend she was working on installing the carpet herself. Gah!

Note Liam sitting sweetly in the backseat helping his mommy.

Note Liam sitting sweetly in the backseat helping his mommy.

 

But, here’s the thing. These days, Steph doesn’t have much time for sports, or music, or to toss around lofty words. She’s too busy taking care of the people she loves.

Like her mom, who depends on Steph to be there for her.

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Like the boys, who she dotes on and smothers with kisses on a regular basis. I wish everyone could see her with her boys. She delights in them and they bring her so much joy!

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Like me. She spoils me rotten.

We clean up pretty nicely, right?

We clean up pretty nicely, right?

 

I come up with a million projects and ideas that I pass off for her to implement. Like how I decided that I wanted a lime green border for the boys converted chalkboard-fireplace. She went and got the wood and got lime green paint that I turned my nose up at. {Seriously, it was avocado – NOT lime green.} So yesterday, we got proper lime green paint, and there she was – out in the yard, painting away. This is just one of the millions of examples of things she does on a regular basis because she loves me.

Mostly, I wanted to post this today, because I don’t think she realizes how in love with her I am. She’s pulled in a million directions right now, and is a bit tired from all the care-taking she’s been doing, so I want to remind her that she is an extraordinary woman. She is amazing, beautiful, full of life, super-interesting, brilliant, funny, caring and creative. I am so lucky to be on this journey with her – co-creating a rich, happy, messy, full-to-overflowing life.

 

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Mother’s Day

Steph and I don’t really subscribe to a lot of the traditional holidays. (Except for Halloween. We’re bat-shit-crazy about Halloween) (Oh, and Christmas. I can not contain myself at Christmas and it’s going to be worse now that we have little ones.)

For Mother’s Day, we decided we weren’t going to buy each other presents, or any of the other hoopla. But that didn’t stop me from hosting a Mother’s Day dinner for my family.

The day started off with me waking up to this sentiment from my beautiful daughter, Ophelia.

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From there, I started working on my mom’s Mother’s Day present – a picture frame with a pic of each of her TEN grandchildren, ranging in age from 21 to 3 months. The frame had 11 openings, so I got all crafty-like and used sticky letters and cool paper that said “We love you GiGi” for the 11th opening. I figured we could trash my message when we have the 11th grandchild, and replace it with a photo. The 12th grandchild is SOL. I forgot to take a picture because I was desperately trying to line the stupid letters up.

Family dinners are a ton of fun, but a TON of work. I start by listing out the menu on the board. This helps when we’re in hour 5 of cooking and I have no clue what to focus on next.

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Then, I did the tablescape. That’s right. I said “tablescape”. Because I use Pinterest, and I know what makes a beautimous table.

Peony

Table

I tried to dress the boys up and take a picture of our entire family (minus Dakota, who has defected to Vietnam – but that’s another story). The closest I got to a classic, timeless photo of our beautiful family was this:

Steph

 

Sigh. Aside from it being August and Liam’s first Mother’s Day, it was also their little cousin Timothy’s first. He’s three months old. He makes Liam look huge!

MrPigAndTimTim

LionOnMother'sDay

One of my favorite parts of the dinner was when I was trying to get Katie to smile, so I could give her mom Ali a beautiful photo of her loving daughter. She wouldn’t smile. So, I said “Katie, give me your best ‘Gosh I love you mom, you’re the best’ smile.” She did. It wasn’t fake at all.

Katie

So, on to more serious stuff.

My mom is a beautiful, artistic, extremely intelligent woman.  She really embodies the spirit of perseverance to me. My dad was killed in a car accident when I was 14, and my sisters were 10 and 7. My mom had been in medical school in Philadelphia for 4 long years when he died 2 months before she graduated.

Instead of celebrating the long journey we all had taken to get her her doctorate, we had to pick up the pieces and re-invent our lives. My mom was never the same after that, but she is a beautiful woman, who shows her love through her cooking. So, family dinners, like Mother’s Day, are extra special. We cook for about 6 hours and then feast.

You never know where the conversation is going to take you, but it’s our family. And my mother is something special. She taught me how to persevere when things seem desperate. She taught me how to keep most of life’s troubles in perspective. So, if you know me, and I seem very “go with the flow”, it’s because since my dad’s death, I’m keenly attuned to what’s important. Things roll off me and I err on the side of ridiculous positivity. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but mostly, it just keeps me happy.

I gave my mom a card this year that told her she was my hero. She really is. Though it’s hard for her to show her emotions, I know she loves us all intensely.

Momma

A Birth Story

7 Days Old

7 Days Old

 

This blog actually starts seven months ago….when Steph and I fulfilled a dream that was long in the making. On September 12, 2012, our beautiful boys, Liam and August, came into the world. BAM. Overnight, we were parents to four children – 2 adults, and two infant boys. Our life was suddenly so full I barely had time to think. I knew I wanted to start a blog about our family, but I didn’t have enough brain power to figure out a blog name. So, I jotted down what I knew would become my first post one day – the story of August and Liam, and how they came to complete our messy, joyous family.

Before I share their story, I wanted to explain my whimsical little blog name, Mommy Loves Martinis.

Mommy does love martinis. A great lot of them. Even more than the tasty little beverage itself, I love what martinis symbolize!

*** Fun. Light-heartedness. Adventure. Subversion. Daring. A grand ole time. ***

Because even though this world is complicated and there is much to fathom, in the end it’s all about embracing those you love, being passionate about your life, and having fun along the way.

I just read a story about a little boy, Mitchell, who had muscular dystrophy. After struggling for many years, he came home from the hospital to die at home, surrounded by his family. He had been sick for years, but was so at peace at home in hospice. His dad asked Mitchell what advice he would give people about life. Mitchell’s response? “Be nice to each other and be glad you’re alive. Nothing else matters.”

I don’t take advice from a dying child lightly. They know what is important, and what is not. My hope for this blog, then, is to celebrate life, and have a little bit of fun doing it.

So, here’s the story of August and Liam, written 7 months ago, when the boys were 8 days old.  It’s a little painful, but to me it’s full of joy and passion, and ends just perfectly.

9/20/12 Thursday – 8 days old

Stephanie and I tried to conceive for almost two years, which honestly was a bit of a shocker to me, because I had gotten pregnant at the blink of an eye with my first two, who are 20 and 19 years old. I was 36 at the time we first visited the fertility clinic –  “on the cusp” for advanced maternal age, so we moved quickly from less-invasive procedures to IVF – in vitro fertilization.

After two weeks of stomach and butt-shots (for real!), our first IVF in October of 2010 resulted in a positive! At 8 weeks, we were released from the fertility doctor, and had our first appointment with our obstetrician. We met with the nurse and got a large congratulatory bag of pregnancy goodies. The doctor decided at the last minute to do an ultrasound. He showed us the heartbeat, and then paused. “I’m so sorry. What I thought was the heartbeat was something else. There is no heartbeat.” I was confused and in disbelief.

We asked for a second opinion and went up to the top floor of Baptist Medical Center to the high-risk practice ROC – where they had super-duper machines that showed blood flow. The doctor was very gentle, and showed me where the blood flow should have been. We had miscarried at 8 1/2 weeks. I distinctly remember throwing the congratulatory bag of goodies in the trash as we walked out the door. I had several martinis that night!

We were devastated, but regrouped and did our second IVF in March of 2011. Again, it was positive. Hallelujah! Only a handful of people knew, because of what we had gone through before. I made my fertility doctor keep us on until 10 weeks, at which point he released me to the obstetrician. By then, my pants were starting to get pretty tight and knew I had to share the news at work before people figured it out! Stephanie left for a work trip right before my 12 week appointment. The morning of my appointment, I couldn’t feel anything. My morning sickness had stopped. I called Steph and told her to prepare for bad news.

At the doctors office, I saw the ultrasound tech and asked her “If you don’t see a heartbeat, will you please tell me right away and not wait to make me see the doctor?” It was very important that I know right away if something was wrong. Something was wrong. There was no heartbeat. We had miscarried at 11 weeks. When we went in the hospital for the D&C, I asked the doctor to bring in the ultrasound machine and show me our baby one last time, just to make sure. I just couldn’t believe I had had two miscarriages in a row. I’ll never forget the last image of my little girl- her little hands clasped gently in front of her,  her head bowed down towards her body.

Next, we did two cycles of the frozen embryos that were left from the first two IVFs while we recuperated financially and emotionally. More shots and estrogen patches and waiting. The cycles were negative. We finally did one last IVF with my own eggs in January of 2012. Our plan was to move on to donor embryos if that didn’t work, or if I miscarried again. When we met with Dr. Winslow after my egg retrieval, and right before the transfer, I talked to him about how many to transfer. I had a plan. “Dr. Winslow”, I started. “I know we normally transfer two embryos. But, I’ve had two miscarriages. I’m 38. I don’t think we have to worry about high-order multiples here. Would it be reasonable to transfer three?” He agreed. So, I went home with three little embryos vying for a chance….

For those who do fertility treatment, you know you’re not supposed to test at home. It’s a carousel of emotion, and it’s best to stay away! I cheated, and used pregnancy tests immediately.  4 days past my transfer, I got a faint positive on the little stick. (I may or may not have sheepishly purchased multiple  3-packs of pregnancy tests at Target in the following weeks) Our first ultrasound 2 weeks later confirmed IT WAS TWINS!!! It had taken us a total of 2 years, 8 fertility procedures and 13 embryos transferred to get there, but we did it! I’m not sure who was more excited – our fertility specialist Dr. Winslow or Steph and I!!

Twins!!For the record, Ophelia and Dakota in the picture above are actually uber-excited!

Because of my age at the time (38), we went through all of the non-invasive testing – Nuchal Fold, the quad screen, and the new test – MaterniT21 – that has a 99% accuracy rate in detecting Down syndrome, and other chromosomal disorders. Both boys passed all tests with flying colors. I breathed with ease and focused for the rest of my pregnancy on having the experience I was never able to have with my first two, since I was a teenage mom when I had them. My twin pregnancy was hard to enjoy because I was so uncomfortable, and I was full of anxiety that I would miscarry again, but we finally made it to my scheduled C-section date of September 12, 2012. Eviction notice for the boys, since they were 37 weeks and considered full-term!

Here I am the night before the C-section. I had already been in the hospital for a week with pre-eclampsia. I was ready!

Taken the night before my C-section!

Taken the night before my C-section!

 

Steph is ready for business.

Ready for action.

Ready for action.

 

Once on the table and prepped, they brought Stephanie in and turned on a Bob Marley CD – “One Love” was the song that was playing. I remember joking with the nurses about the music, and took some deep breaths. I was ready to meet my boys.

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Baby A came out crying and I remember crying that I had made it to birth and hadn’t miscarried. He was here! Out came Baby B, and baby B was crying, too! I was so relieved! I hadn’t realized out traumatized I was from the miscarriages, and how convinced I had been that something would go horribly wrong. I had spent 9 months living in a state of if.. “If I get to see these babies.” “If I carry them full term.” “If I get to be a mom again.”

As they sewed me up, I got to meet Baby B – Liam Bruce. He was perfect! Small to me at 6 pounds 9 ounces (my first children had each been over 9 pounds!) but perfect. He looked at me with his dark eyes and I laughed at how intense the little bug was.

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Suddenly, the neonatologist was holding Baby A – August John – up for me to look at.  She told us his weight – 5 pounds 14 ounces, and then paused. I’ll never forget her words, though I’ve forgotten most of what she said after she got her initial thoughts out. “This is Baby A. He has soft markers that lead us to believe he has Down syndrome.” She went on to talk some more about his belly being distended and that they would need to send him to NICU for immediate testing, but I cut her off. “No”, I told her, “We had all the tests and he was negative.” I’ll never forget the dead silence in the room and how they all looked around at each other. I swear the silence lasted 5 minutes, although I know it was only a few moments. “Amnio?”, she asked, and I told her no – but that we had done MaterniT21, which had the same accuracy rates for detection as amnio. She tried to steer me back towards the issue at hand and told me “OK. I’m actually more concerned about his belly. Kiss him, and you’ll see him soon.” They sent him immediately to the NICU.

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I honestly don’t remember much of anything after that, except for looking at my partner Stephanie and asking her “Is everything going to be ok?” She assured me it would and that we would love him no matter what. I was terrified. I don’t think I said anything else the entire time I was in the operating room, but I can’t be sure because it was a blur. I do know that I was devastated.

The night was very long and quiet. I sobbed that night and the next morning in the hospital, having moment after moment where I couldn’t believe it was true. After all that we had been through – the IVF’s, the miscarriages, the tens of thousands of dollars we had spent – the emotions that would peak and valley with each failed try. But it was true. Even before they drew his blood and sent it off to genetics, I knew it was true. And I knew we would be ok. None of this could have been a mistake. It had unfolded exactly as planned. By the next afternoon my tears had stopped for the time being, and I knew I needed to jump full force into loving and caring for these babies. That I couldn’t sit there in shock another moment.

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There’s a simple blood test that confirms Down syndrome – the presence of a third copy of the 21st chromosome in each cell. We got the call on Wednesday from our pediatrician, Dr. Sanchez,  with the results from the genetics testing. He called us personally to tell us the news. I already knew in the bottom of my heart, but I didn’t know how relieved and peaceful I would feel when I got off the phone. I looked at Stephanie, told her “It’s positive” and gave her a kiss. Then I took a new breath that would start our new future. I picked up August, smothered him in kisses and thanked him for choosing us to be his parents. I couldn’t imagine having a different baby. I honestly couldn’t. Liam and August are ours, and we will do everything we can to be the best mommies we can be.

August is perfect to me. I’m scared to death about the medical issues that come along with Down syndrome, but right now he just seems like the sweetest, most gentle baby I have ever met. And, so far, he’s healthy. We are so blessed.

He seems wise beyond his years. His twin brother Liam will be next to him crying, and August will just gaze at him as if to say “Listen little dude, it’s not worth the fuss. Don’t get yourself worked up. It’s ok.”

His expressions are priceless. His blinks are long and slow, which melts your heart and brings tears to your eyes. Who would have thought that little blinks could be so quietly and perfectly sweet? Liam’s personality is super-intense, and we enjoy so much spending hours looking back and forth at them, watching how different they are.

The boys are 9 days old now – and our life is already a flurry of doctors appointments that are lined up over the next few weeks. Every time I pick up the phone it’s someone from the pediatrician’s office, apologetically calling to give us more info on yet another appointment – for the geneticist, for the opthamologist, for a repeat echo, for the pediatric cardiologist. We have more questions than we do answers, but that will come in time. For now, I’ve done little things, like ordering some books about Down syndrome, liking some Facebook pages. But I am driven to get involved. Steph and I both are. That’s what August wants. I know it.

The outpouring of support has been amazing. Everyone has celebrated the birth of our boys with us – not once have we been told “I’m sorry”, which makes me smile 🙂 Right now, I’m in the phase where it helps for me to say the words “My son has Down syndrome” out loud – whether into the air, or typed on the computer. I know that he is much, much more than his diagnosis, but it helps us now to accept fully and move on.  After all, it’s only been 9 days since these boys were born and our whole world changed in the blink of an eye. Our journey was not what we expected, but it was a perfect journey, and we have two perfect little boys.

*****

April 13, 2-13

So, that’s our story. As I sit here today, the boys are 7 months old. Ophelia is their “Sistah-Nanny”, watching them during the day while Steph and I work. By night, she’s a nursing school student, studying her way towards being a kick-ass nurse. Older brother Dakota is out spreading his wings in Vietnam – literally climbing mountains and experiencing new cultures. I think often of the miscarriages – my two little bubbas who didn’t make it this earth. Or, maybe they did, and wanted to wait until they could be born together, as twins! I don’t know, but I have a sense of deep peace about it all. This is our family, and we invite you to share in our love and adventures.  We worked so hard to complete our little family, and here we are, making our way through life. Thank you for reading! XOXOXOXOXO

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