Thursday, April 29, 2010

The End of an Era, the Beginning of Another

I caught a glance of this picture the other day as I was straightening up the house.

It's Chris on the canals of Amsterdam. We visited there in February of 2007 and had a roaring good time.

Seeing this picture however gave me pause. I looked at it and almost immediately started to grieve the end of the carefree Chris & Sarah days.

"When will we ever be able to pick up and go on a trip alone again? Even when we do, it will never be as simple as it was then."

I shot off a text to Chris:
"What are we doing? Have we lost our minds? When will we ever travel again or be alone just the two of us? Have we made a mistake?"

At this point you may be wondering, how can Sarah write this on her blog? Doesn't she know people are reading this and judging her selfish apprehensions about being a mom?

As you know, I don't see the point in writing if I'm not honest.

And I also know that I am not the only person who has ever felt these feelings of fear and apprehension. I may be one of the few to admit it, but I think almost every parent has felt this feeling to one degree or another. And maybe by talking about it honestly and realizing we aren't alone, we can stop feeling so guilty when it comes up.

(No matter how much you judge me for grieving the loss of my old life, there's no way you can be as critical with me as I am with myself.)

I think I know part of the reason it's so hard right now: we're in a holding pattern.

We can't pick up and go anywhere, anytime with few or no concerns, but, we also don't have two cute babies that can serve as physical reminders as to why we're okay with that.

It's a grey area.
And it's a challenging area.

I want to visit my sister in her new place in NYC this summer; but I know I should be saving for diapers and cribs, and that I'll probably overheat after walking outside in the city for 10 min.

I love reading twins books and thinking about holding them and seeing them laugh for the first time - but man, a week long visit to Costa Rica would be great.

(I mean really, how can you argue with this?)

And when did I start blogging about fetal heartbeats and not crazy Italian drivers?

Everytime I get a NewsFlash from Travelzoo about reduced fares to Europe I feel a little twinge of sadness. And fear.

I realize it's like all things in life, there's a middle ground.
I just have to find it.

I have plans to get a kiddie pool and lawn chairs for the backyard and to invite over a friend for a "dip" and some lemonade.
It's not the beach, but it's also not the inside of a Babies R' Us.

And we're diverting money from eating out in order to start a travel fund so that one day we can take the kids to some of our favorite countries and cities.

Researching strollers instead of researching hotels in New Zealand is one of (if not the biggest)shifts in thought I've ever had to make.

And it's so counter-intuitive; this is what we wanted! So why is it hard sometimes to get onboard with?

It must be as with all things big - growing pains.

I had some trepidations about leaving my single life behind, but marriage has proven to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I feel nervous about moving from an apartment to a house - but I know that's going to be great.

I give Chris big credit for his calm reply to my emotional text:

He's right.

And I know he's right.

Do I miss the old era? Sure.

Will the new be better?

Probably the best of our lives.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Babies Update - 11 Weeks

I have been looking forward to our Friday Dr.'s appointment for 4 weeks now.

I even moved it up.


I just couldn't wait to check in on these two and make sure they were both still in there, and both still healthy.

The appointment was a success in every sense of the word.

Both babies are still there. They both have very strong heartbeats and are about the size of limes. They are laying on top of each other and ...

Are identical!

That means Mama and Papa Wehkamp will be Sharpie-ing the bottom of one babys foot soon. It also means that whatever gender they are, they will be the same.

The sono below shows each twin seperately. And then Chris with both.

All I can tell you is that in the first sono picture, the baby's head is on the left. The second one I'm not sure on.

For my part, I couldn't believe they are already moving. The Dr.'s office has a large flatscreen TV directly in my line of sight so I could see as their little hands and feet twitched and jutted about.

Maybe that was what Chris was feeling the other night when he put his hand on my belly and told me he felt tapping. He was pretty sure it was morse code for "send in a cheeseburger." (Which of course I was later happy to comply with.)

And I can't believe what a softie I've become. I knew I would be a pretty proud, sappy mom, and I am well on my way.

I don't know how much sentiment you'll be able to handle, but you can be sure I'll be testing your limits.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Announcing Wehkamp Family Growth

(You'll notice in the first two segments talk of "it" or "the baby"; that's because we made the first two announcements before having the sonogram and knowing we had a 2 for 1 special.)

It's exciting to think that someday Mr. or Mrs. Pea and Potato might enjoy seeing all the hullabalu that accompanied the news of their arrival.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

2010 is Going to be Interesting - by Christopher

It's Sunday morning. I've been in America for 290 days. Nobody has tried to evict me yet.

I'm finally working full-time and I am the most grateful cog in the the free market machine right now. Just smiling and churning out widgets, that's me. I managed to land this gig in February, a month during which the national unemployment average held steady at just below 10%. Pretty grim.

Texas's average was more like 8% at the time, but I like to believe that I'm somehow special.

So it was that after nearly 9 months of carefully embellished resumes and polite rejections I achieved the American dream: affordable health insurance.

But not before racking up $11,466.50 in hospital bills during one terrifying visit to the emergency room on the night of Monday February the 8th. I turned out to be okay, but it took several tense hours of testing to reach that happy ending.

I was surprised to learn that neither of the two beefy ambulance drivers who were carrying me down my apartment stairs strapped to a wheelchair were fans of the NFL.

I was trying desperately to distract myself from the blinding pain in the left side of my head by chatting about last evening's upset by the New Orleans Saints in Superbowl XLIV. I could barely think or speak but I managed to voice one example of the kind of comment that men use all over the world to initiate conversation with their kind: "Hell of a comeback last night," I said.

"I didn't see the game," grunted the guy below me, who was bearing the brunt of my 200 pounds as he slowly descended backwards down the last of the steps (BTW, how did I swell to 200 pounds!?!?!? More on that later...)

I started to think of some response to that but another blinding surge of pain on the left side of my head washed over me and my mind went blank again.

This had all started about forty-five minutes earlier, right after driving home from my part-time computer technician job and right before finishing dinner with Sarah. Halfway through chewing a mouthful of stir fry my right eye suddenly went dim. I blinked a few times and rubbed it but the dimness persisted.

I sat down on the couch and tried to ignore the throbbing pain that had begun pulsing outward across my head from a spot above my left ear. I tried to say something to Sarah to tell her I was okay but the words were nowhere ot be found. I focused and told myself to calm down and think but the pain in my head was growing in volume.

Suddenly, I couldn't feel my right arm from the shoulder down. It was as though someone had simply flipped a switch off. I can clearly remember that first taste of fear as Sarah was trying to calmly tell our address to the 911 dispatcher.

"This is a stroke," the fear whispered. My chest filled up with ice water.

I don't remember everything. I can remember how frustrated I felt when the EMS guys showed up and started asking me questions I couldn't answer, like "Where do you work?" and "What is your birth date?" It felt like the answers were perpetually on the tip of my tongue just out of reach behind a growing wall of pain.

Sarah told me later that when one of the EMS guys asked me what my relationship was to her I replied, "She's my girlfriend."

I don't remember much about the trip to the ER, nor do I remember much about my initial exam by the PA. I can vaguely remember the needle going in my arm for the blood test, I don't recall the physical exam at all, I have only a brief memory of the EKG and the CT scan is a blur except for the name of the guy who performed it, Luis.

By contrast, I remember every detail of the MRI. From waiting in a wheelchair in the hallway outside of the room while tensing my toes into balls to the MRI tech Matt's bland smile and vague reassurance that everything would be fine.

I'm not claustrophobic, or anything phobic for that matter. You can pack me in a crate and ship me to infinity as long as I get full bars in there. I told Matt this, but he went through his spiel anyway about how if I "became uncomfortable" I could cry Uncle and he would pull the emergency brake or whatever. I popped in the earplugs he gave me (identical to the little yellow ones I've used when playing loud drums) and laid down on the little loading tray.

Matt positioned some things next to each of my ears and clamped a plastic mask thingy over my face. Then the loading tray slid me back into the guts of the machine and I felt like a human burrito sliding into the oven. That image made me smile.

But then the noises started.

Matt didn't say much about the noises, just that there would be some and I should put the earplugs in. I soon wished that Matt would have prepared me a little more thoroughly because the noises very quickly threatened to whip me into a panic.

I can give you a fair approximation:

1. Lie down. Ask a trusted assistant to tie you to the bed and blindfold you.
2. Rent, or own, or rent-to-own a pneumatic jackhammer.
3. Ask your trusted assistant to gently lay the jackhammer across your forehead lengthwise.
4. Issue the predetermined verbal signal for your trusted assistant to activate the jackhammer.
5. Attempt to tolerate the loud volume and repetitive mechanical hammering sound at close range.
6. Fail. Taste the nauseous tang of madness.

As ear-shatteringly, sanity-stealingly bad as the noise is the dye going in me was a full order of magnitude worse.

"Okay, I'm going to put the dye in now. It might feel a little cold for a second," Matt blandly informed me.

Frigid, creeping death suddenly began to invade my right arm. I spasmed in shock as the frigid trickle of pain shot through my heart and raced to my lips and face.

"Are you still doing alright?" Matt asked in a bored tone.

I struggled to marshal my wits against the din mere inches from my head as waves of ice skated through my veins.

"Fine!" I blurted out.

"Okay, just let me know if you need to stop," he droned.

All I could think was, "Please God, make this cardboard cutout stop talking to me so that I can focus on something besides the intense sensory violation which he keeps calling my attention to!" Thankfully, Matt did stop asking questions and I recited 'Ice Ice Baby' in my head in rhythm with the beat of the hammering noise until the MRI was over.

Afterward I realized was more or less back in control of my faculties and my right eye and right arm had returned to normal. I tried to describe the MRI to Sarah but the ordeal was too fresh and all I came up with was, "It was really loud."

Sarah's folks had shown up to offer support. My parents had just begun a week-long cruise and I didn't see much point in worrying them since there was nothing they could do to help anyway.

I laid in the emergency room bed with my family-in-law gathered around me as we waited for the doctor to come in and give us the test results. We watched some fictionalized show about teenagers and their youthful relationship issues).

The actors were each photogenic twenty-somethings whose characters never went to the toilet, ate food or closed doors behind them. It seemed like a very nice world to live in (if not for the rampant relationship issues).

I vaguely wondered if I would be okay.

The doctor told us in no uncertain terms that there was, I quote, "nothing weird going on in my head." Proof positive that medical technology still has a long way to go, but very reassuring news to hear.

His diagnosis was something called a' complex migraine' (which I later learned is also called a 'complicated migraine'). Bascially a big damn headache. Can present with the same symptoms as a stroke since the blood vessels of the brain constrict and cut off blood flow. Then when it subsides and the vessels release again functionality returns. Which is exactly what happened to me. Everything works like it did before.

It can be triggered by extreme stress, among other things, and I suppose we'll never know for sure what caused it in the first place.

My explanation is that I had a 'stress premonition' where my brain magically foresaw that I would soon be starting with a new company, buying a house and baking twins in my wife all at the same time.

I get little paranoid during times of stress that this migraine thing is going to suddenly kick off, but the doc assured me that if I didn't have a history of migraines (I've never had one before) that I would probably never have one this big again.

But the fact that this all happened while I had no health insurance is not the luckiest bit of timing. Though it has turned out that most of the professionals we've owed money to over this have been willing to cut me a pretty big discount for having no coverage and paying in cash. Which I'm told is king.

Meanwhile, the events of February 8th 2010 have caused a big shift of perspective in my life. As in, I pretty much agreed to finally track my birth parents down (which is a post for another day). And about 8 days later I made some babies, which was no coincidence.

Laying in that MRI machine all I could think about (when I could think over the noise) was of all the things I still wanted to do with my life. Birth parents and babies were the two big ones; my past and my future. I wasted no time on either.

Playing with video games used to be a good way for me to wind down but the feeling has changed since my time in the human burrito oven. It feels like my time as a healthy, mobile, alive person is too valuable to spend on fake stuff that doesn't mean anything. Probably a good topic for a post later on, now that I think about it.

Anyway, I appear to be in working order. As best as medical science can tell.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Third Times a Charm (or Why It Took Us Over 2 years to Buy a House)

Who knew the home buying process was so difficult?

Um, try everyone I know.

But I just figured they were whiners and wimps and it wasn't really all that complicated. Cause I know better right?

I wish we would have started writing about this home search process sooner because I know there are a lot of details I've already forgotten about.

To start, this is technically the third time Chris and I have conducted a home search.

The first time kicked off May 6, 2007, the morning after Chris proposed.

We were giddy and starry-eyed and eager to start planning our life together.

We woke up, got in the car and started stalking DFW for the perfect neighborhood to call home.

I specifically remember driving through neighborhoods in Grapevine pointing at houses with one hand while holding my phone with the other; calling everyone I knew to tell them news of the engagement.

"Can you see yourself living here and driving to Lewisville for work?" I remember Chris asking.

What he should have been asking was "Do you think you might want to live here after we come back from living and working in Ankara, Turkey?"

Or he could have asked "Do you think we will have enough money to buy any of these houses after we find out we're having twins?"

But he didn't know to ask any of that. Neither of us knew.

So that house-hunt eventually ended with two tickets to Turkey.

The second time we went house-hunting was when we got back from Europe last summer.

Jet-lagged and full of gelato we jumped headfirst into a full-on house search.

For anyone taking notes, returning from a year stint abroad (not to mention recovery from 3 months of non-stop travel), is not a good time to start a house search. Get an apartment and re-visit the issue in a year. (I cite Blog Post #421)

We were shown a good number of houses on that round, but did I really see them? I think not.

All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and take a nap.

We hadn't even allowed ourselves one week back home and already we were trying to drum up 2 cars, a mortgage, 2 new jobs and cell phones. Ah the American Dream.

My head was spinning.

House search put on hold again.

Fast forward to January of this year.

Tax credit extended, lease running out, talk of starting a family...
Oh, and our neighbors, whose idea of a nice Tuesday evening is marijuana fumes seeping out from under the front door while techno music bumps from 7 pm - 3 am.
Add some loud collision-like noises (that I can only assume is one of the guys repeatedly running into the wall at top speed and then crumpling into a pile on the floor) and you've got a couple who's ready to move.

Our realtor has been very patient with us. He should probably win some kind of award really.

One house was too big, another too small, another too expensive, another too cheap. I felt like Goldilocks.

After a month or so though, we finally found one.

And then almost backed out of the deal because the sellers wouldn't leave their fridge for us.
Our realtor (quite ready to throw his hands up I'm sure) offered to give us a gift card to Lowe's to buy a fridge if we would just go ahead with the deal.

And that's how we became first-time home buyers.

Is this the house of our dreams that we're going to stay in forever? No.

Is it a good house for first-time home buyers who want to be smart about their first purchase and live in something they like? Absolutely.

The neighborhood is well-established (Plano is in far North Dallas for all our international buddies), and it boasts beautiful tree-lined streets complete with parks and shopping nearby.

And this house has it all people.

Every room has four walls which I think will be amazing when we want to block the rain and wind.

Some rooms even have plush carpet so your feet don't get cold when you're walking around barefoot. It's like built-in slippers! And you never have to remember where you left them. Awesome.

All our furniture fits; you can put beds (as in plural) in this house, and tables to eat on also.

No candles or lanterns needed, this place is hooked up with electricity and it runs all day.

We even have windows so you can see outside. Spoiled much?

I kid, but truly the home inspector said this is one of the best houses she's seen for its age. That was reassuring.

It's about 36 years old so hopefully it won't be having its mid-life crisis soon.

The house isn't a fixer-upper by any means...but that doesn't mean I don't have big plans for some paint and decor.

Here's what we're working with:

Would love to plant some new big shrubs outside and some flowers. Maybe add a shutter or two. And one of those big Roman fountains so the neighbors can come over and make wishes.

This is the dining room where we'll do all our eating and card playing.

The kitchen (where I'll re-heat meals people bring us so we don't starve post twins arriving):

Quite possibly my favorite room and the room I'm most looking forward to decorating and inhabiting, the living room:


Future crying and pooping station:

Mothers Suite:

Postage Stamp sized backyard:

And the floor plan I made, complete with a welcome mat and everything.

So, yeah. A long post for what was quite a long journey.

But it was all worth it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And We're Back

We haven't been blogging for a wide variety of reasons.

The biggest for me is that I felt like I couldn't be honest.

Most of what I've had to say over the last few months I've been advised against saying, publicly. For job security and taking the high road and other ideas of that sort.

Whether I should be taking the high road on my own personal blog is debatable: what isn't debatable is that I can't write on here when I don't feel like I'm writing honestly and freely.

So what do you write about when you can't write honestly?
Well, my answer (clearly) - you don't write at all. With a choice between writing nothing and writing fake things, I choose write nothing.

But the time for writing is now over.

We're ready to blog again because honestly, there's a lot to blog about.

For instance:

Exhibit #1 - Our New House


Exhibit #2 - Our new babies in the making.

Yes, babieS.

So, yeah.

To say the blog is back is probably an understatement.

So re-subscribe or re-bookmark the page and hold on to your seats.

The Wehkamps are off and running again.