#WhyIWalk

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Last year, we were rookies in the March for Babies.   We registered to walk only a few weeks before the big day and made very few preparations. Our skeleton team consisted only of George, Aunt CiCi, Brandi (George’s cousin), the babies, and me.  At that time, we walked in honor of our babies.  They endured seven week stint in the NICU, and at the time of the walk were making their first public appearances.   George and I felt a sense of gratitude for the March of Dimes, which funds major research to help preemies like ours grow and thrive.

This year, we started much earlier and rallied our friends and family to join us.  We even ordered royal purple team t-shirts to show group cohesiveness.  Our team doubled in size when our neighbors with quads also joined the cause.  Together our team was over thirty-eight members strong and raised $1650!  This year, the cause was bigger than just our own family.  It was in honor of our healthy, thriving babies, but also in memory of the many babies who passed away this year.  Our community of multiples is a small one, and when tragedy strikes, we all feel the sorrow.  Far too many families experienced infant loss, and the March of Dimes is helping to make sure that more families do not endure similar situations.  I can only hope that our team grows even larger and stronger next year!

The sea of royal purple warmed my heart.

The sea of royal purple warmed my heart.

This sign proudly hung in the "Garden of Hope" for other families facing premature births.

This sign proudly hung in the “Garden of Hope” for other families facing premature births.

Our sign was surrounded by signs honoring other babies.  Take a close look at each one though.  Some signs honor babies while others are memorials for babies.  We walk to help prevent future families from hanging memorial signs.  No family should have to endure the loss of an infant.

Our sign was surrounded by signs honoring other babies. Take a close look at each one though. Some signs honor babies while others are memorials for babies. We walk to help prevent future families from hanging memorial signs. No family should have to endure the loss of an infant.

 

This year, my parents and sister's boyfriend (Matt) were right at our side.

This year, my parents and sister’s boyfriend, Matt, were at our side.

Along for the walk were the Murphy Clan (top) and Bonnie Brae Crew (bottom).  Two of these walkers were expectant mothers with babies due this summer.  They know the March of Dimes is working to make sure their babies are delivered full term.

Along for the walk were the Murphy Clan (top) and Bonnie Brae Crew (bottom). Two of these walkers were expectant mothers with babies due this summer. They know the March of Dimes is working to make sure their babies are delivered full term.

Along for the walk were the Murphy Clan (top) and Bonnie Brae Crew (bottom).  Two of these walkers were expectant mothers with babies due this summer.  They know the March of Dimes is working to make sure their babies are delivered full term.

Along for the walk were the Murphy Clan (top) and Bonnie Brae Crew (bottom). Two of these walkers were expectant mothers with babies due this summer. They know the March of Dimes is working to make sure their babies are delivered full term.

Wait a minute...one of these is not like the others.  Which one doesn't belong? When Harper was unhappy in the Runabout, Spencer happily took his place.

Wait a minute…one of these is not like the others. Which one doesn’t belong?
When Mason was unhappy in the Runabout, Spencer happily took his place.

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Aside from group cohesiveness, a nice perk of having a large team was that we didn’t face a barrage of questions or a sea of paparazzi like we did last year.  It allowed us to just walk and enjoy the spring weather.  Also, it was far easier managing four babies with so many helping hands.  Everyone gladly took turns pushing our 120 pound stroller and entertaining fussy babies.

We crossed the finish line as a group for one cause.

We crossed the finish line as a group for one cause.  Everyone, including he babies, received a sticker that read, “I did it!”

 

Quads doubled!

Quads doubled!

After the walk, the babies enjoyed quick picnic lunch of their favorite staple: peanut butter and honey sandwiches with apple slices and goldfish.

After the walk, the babies enjoyed quick picnic lunch of their favorite staple: peanut butter and honey sandwiches with apple slices and goldfish.

Nisey and Papa beam with pride when they are with their grandbabies.

Nisey and Papa beam with pride when they are with their grand babies.  Our family team shirts didn’t come in toddler sizes so I ordered March of Dimes onsies for the babies that read, “Proof Miracles Happen.”  I thought it was quite fitting for them.

 

Have you ever participated in a charity walk or fun run?  If not, I hope you’ll consider joining the March for Babies next spring.

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

 

 

We would like to extend a special thanks to those donated to our team: George Shawver, Jr., Carol Vincell, Kristi Bowman, Melissa Shaw, Megan Haley, Karen & Brad Cox,  Ashley Lopez, Patty Winkle, Leslie Murihead, Melissa Dumas, Marianne Southwick, Lindsay Howard, Treva Muirhead, Cathy Wildman and Terri McGuire.

And for those who walked with us: Jaime Balderas, LeeAnn Brager, Esmeralda Colmenero, Gracie Colmenero, Alfonso Cordova, Joey Cordova, Juana Cordova, Jen Crawford, Candelairo Hernandez, Griselda Hernandez, Kimberly Hernandez, Rojelio Hernandez, Matt Johnson, Kristen Klatt, Kelsey McGuire, Daniel Murphy, Debbie Murphy, Dennis Murpy, Sara Murphy, Ann Odom, Brenda Quintan, Alan Reid, Deven Reid, Jessica Rivera, Alondra Rodriguez, Mina Rodriguez, Viviana Rodriguez, Daria Schwalbe, Paul Schwalbe, Priscilla Serrano, Kaylie Slaughter, Tyler Slaughter, Brandi Steele, Evelyn Villanueva, Courtney Zehnder, Denise Zehnder, and Steve Zehnder.

Shawver Shenanigans: Daddy’s in Charge

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When I review the snapshots taken in a week's time, it's apparent that our lives are full of shenanigans, but that is what enriches us and makes life full of JOY!  It's a clear reminder why God thought quadruplets were just right for our family.  Here are some of my favorite outtakes from the past few weeks-

This week, we had to do a little schedule rearranging when our regular babysitters could not care for the quads.  I headed to the office on Tuesday while George stayed home with the quads.  Obviously he knows how to care for the quads and where to find things in the house.  But, George has not been alone ALL day with the quads since they were newborns.  I fretted a little about how he’d mange their new toddler attitudes, sketchy naps, and tantrums.  The night before, I prepped him by reviewing the schedule, meal plan, and suggested activities.  In addition to that- I showed him the “go bags” stocked with toys, snacks, and other necessities should we have a showing on the house.  Our house went on the market last week and had exactly one showing all weekend so expected nothing for Tuesday.  Before we headed off to bed Monday night, we had a showing appointment for Tuesday afternoon at the exact time nap should end. When Tuesday morning rolled around, I got ready for work and was about to head out when the screeching began.  I believe it started with Rylin, our resident diva, and rapidly spread creating a quartet of destruction.  George was not even awake at this point.  I snatched the two screaming girls and presented them to a groggy George.  Knowing rush hour traffic was stacking, I darted out leaving George to contend with the rocky morning.  In recent months staying home with the quads has been a mixture of joy from watching them grow, and stress in dealing with toddler-hood.  I secretly hoped that George would get a grasp of what a typical day with the quads is like, you know a few fun highlights spattered with fall on the floor, feet kicking tantrums paired with a single brief nap. After being in the office for a few hours, I checked my phone for messages or missed calls.  NONE.  I sent George a quick message to see how it was.  He replied it was going well.  Hmmm.  Really???  I left him with four toddlers screaming into oblivion and he wasn’t even alert at the time.  I suspected he was fibbing to hide the ugly truth.  I made it to lunch and hadn’t heard a peep out of him.  This time I called and he gave a glowing report from the day.  At that moment, everyone was happily playing upstairs and was about ready for nap.  Hmmm.  It sounded good.  Really good.  Suspiciously good.  I went about the rest of my day in the office and headed home fully expecting Def Com 4.  Upon my arrival home, I braced myself for pitiful screams.  Instead, I was greeted with delightful squeals and a warm welcome.   AND the house was in order.  The den was tidy and it smelled nice- of baked ziti.  George sat happily on the floor playing with the crew.  He didn’t have that haggard appearance I typically sport.  He told me how everyone got along great and took two hour naps, which were actually cut short because of the showing.  Although the quads didn’t appreciate being awoken for the showing, they did well playing in the yard away from the prospective buyers.  Much to my chagrin, George handled everything perfectly.  In fact, I expect he’ll be able to watch all four on his own more often. The best part?  George apparently enjoyed recording a bit of the day for me: After breakfast, the quads did a little light reading of their favorite Disney books.

This looks like serious study time.  If I didn't know better, I'd say they were actually reading.

This looks like serious study time. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were actually reading.

It wasn’t on my “schedule”, but George managed to change all four crib sheets.  If you have never done this chore, I’ll tell you it’s quite a feat, especially when eight feet manage to trample your handiwork.  As I am writing this post, I noticed there’s actually an extra mattress on the floor, one that we keep in our linen closet for tornado weather.  I think Daddy created an obstaclce course of sorts.  Well, whatever they did, Sydney had a huge grin on her face so I guess it was fun. Three little monkeys jumping on the bed... one fell off,

and bumped his head.

and bumped his head.

I’ve been battling tooth and nail with the quads about climbing on furniture.  I let them sit on the couch, but if they stand, it’s back to the floor.  Other furniture is off limits.  I constantly parrot, “Feet on the floor.”    It looks like Daddy doesn’t have the same policy.

Uh oh!

Uh oh!

An installment of Shawver Shenanigans wouldn’t be complete without a video.  Daddy most definitely has a different way of handing dishes after breakfast… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tl_-asHqUk   When you were a child, what did your Dad let you do that Mom would never allow?   hugs!   Amber

A Golden Hour

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Just when I thought spring was here to stay, Mother Nature threw a curve ball.  Once again, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees with drizzle, successfully holding us as hostages indoors.  ARGH!!!  To top it off, Mason and I both have an irritating cough.  Consequently, he’s extremely clingy, needy, and whiny today.   If I could, I’d snuggle him up and read or watch movies all day long.  Yet, the other three babies crave enrichment and attention.  I’m sorry, Mason, unfortunately it’s not a snuggle all day sort of day.

A few weeks ago, I stocked up on Target One Spot items, some for the quad’s Easter baskets, and some for rainy days like today.    After that particular haul, I attempted to execute a craft that I saw on Texas Tales that involved gluing pom poms onto Easter themed die cuts.  Similar aged quads managed it, I expected similar results.  It didn’t go as planned.  At all.  I dotted glue on the shapes and directed the babies to stick their pom poms.  They dutifully stuck their pom poms onto the glue.  It started out well.  Then they proceeded to remove the pom poms and smear the glue everywhere.  Or, in Harper’s case to attempts at eating the pom poms.  Feeling deflated, I scooped up all components of this activity and stuffed them into our craft box for another day.

Today it was time to revisit the pom poms, but not as the original craft.   Instead, I pulled out our old baby food making ice trays.   I gave each of the babies a tray and a handful of pom poms, directing them to put the pom poms into the squares.  For a good five to ten minutes, they stayed in their toddler chairs as they stuffed pom poms into the trays, emptied them and refilled them.  I was delighted at that and really didn’t expect it to last beyond that.

This is how our activity began, at the coffee table with toddler chairs.

This is how our activity began, at the coffee table with toddler chairs.

Look closely and you'll see how each of the quads approached this task in their own way.  Some put one pom pom in each cube while others stuffed several into the same cube.

Look closely and you’ll see how each of the quads approached this task in their own way. Some put one pom pom in each cube while others stuffed several into the same cube.

Amazingly, these pom poms continued to entertain the quads for a full HOUR!  Say what?  Naturally, they didn’t sit at the table for an hour, but they found an array of ways to play with the pom poms and enjoyed every minute of it.  I actually think they would have happily played longer, but nap time was fast approaching.  The $2 I spent on pom poms was by far the best investment I’ve made in a while.  They created a golden hour for us on an otherwise dreary day.

 

After they had enough table time, the quads found new ways to play with their pom poms.  Harper stacked them onto a chair.

After they had enough table time, the quads found new ways to play with their pom poms. Harper stacked them onto a chair.

Sydney piled them on her feet and kicked in delight.

Sydney piled them on her feet and kicked in delight.

Rylin stuffed a baggie with them.

Rylin stuffed a baggie with them.

Meanwhile, Mason filled an empty wipe box.

Meanwhile, Mason filled an empty wipe box.

 

 

What’s your favorite One Spot find?

hugs!

 

Amber

 

P. S. Pom poms are obviously choking hazards so this required some diligence on my part.  Surprisingly, Harper only tried to consume one pom pom and no one else even considered snacking on them.  A win in my book!

Spring Has Sprung!

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By Texas standards, it’s been a harsh winter. Thanks to below freezing temps, hail, and rain, we’ve been cooped up for several months without seeing the light of day. In fact, days passed when no one even ventured onto our porch.  As the quads transformed into rambunctious toddlers who craved climbing, running, and exploring, indoor activities became a challenge. We made due by creating a “motor lab” in our media room by adding a mini trampoline, slide with climbing wall, a sit ‘n’ spin, and various riding toys.  It wasn’t horrible, but indoor play pales in comparison to the great outdoors.  With the sun shining again and temperatures warming up, we’ve been enjoying outdoor play daily before nap, and sometimes again in the evening.   We play outdoors so often that we made a small investment in “yard” shoes, which are Garanimal’s version of Crocs.  They slip on and off easily, and can be hosed down outdoors.  In any other situation, I’d say Crocs, or any imitation of them is a fashion faux pas.  For quads playing in the yard, they are perfect!

It’s incredible how well the babies play when they have ample room to dart around, and new sights and sounds to explore.  Sidewalk chalk has been a favorite activity, but is currently banned.  A few little people thought tagging furniture and fences was a bright idea.   This does not bode well for a house that is now on the market (you read that correctly, we’re moving…more on that later).  Banned side-walk chalk isn’t a huge deal because the quads still enjoy swinging, relaxing in chairs, digging in the sand, swinging from monkey bars, collecting rocks and grass blades, picking flowers, and playing games of tag. I dread the dog days of summer when triple digit heat waves plague us.  I relish these sunny spring days!

Drawing on the concrete and rocks is okay!

Drawing on the concrete and rocks is the way to go!

Tagging the fence and lawn furniture with chalk is not okay.

Tagging the fence and lawn furniture with chalk isn’t so great.

Mason is proving himself to be quite acrobatic.

Mason is proving himself to be quite acrobatic, and enjoys swinging by his arms.

Harper can reach the bar really well, it's a bit harder for him to heave his feet off the ground though.

Harper can reach the bar really well, it’s a bit harder for him to heave his feet off the ground.  Today he thought he was a big boy when Sydney’s OT helped him do a few chin ups.

Seriously, I could line up hundreds of swings with the belt clips undone and Harper would be occupied for hours.

Seriously, I could line up hundreds of swings with the belt clips undone and Harper would be occupied for hours.

Lounging in baby Adirondack chairs is always a great way to relax.

Lounging in baby Adirondack chairs is always a great way to relax.

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When the quads were tiny babies, they happily wore sunglasses. Then they tuned into opinionated toddlers who refused accessories. Just recently, the girls have realized the wonders of sunglasses on a sunny day.

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Mason melts my heart when he picks dandelions from the yard, presenting them to me as he says, “flower, have it”. He has a very generous spirit.

 

What are your favorite outdoor activities in the spring?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Snaggle Tooth

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Our pediatrician recommends seeing the dentist between 18 months and age two.  I’ve been planning to take everyone for their first dental exam this summer, around their second birthday.  Plans changed last week.

Monday evening as George dressed Sydney in her pajamas, he gasped as he exclaimed, “What happened to Sydney’s tooth???”  My response, “I don’t know?  Is something wrong?”  Apparently the little monkey chipped a good portion of her front left tooth, but neither of us could recall when it happened.  Sydney isn’t the most graceful child, but neither of us knew of bump that would cause a chip of this size.  She was fussy that evening, but didn’t seem terribly bothered so I wasn’t panicked, but worried about it still.  The next day, I made an appointment with the pediatric dentist in our neighborhood to get it examined.  Nisey babysat the trio while I took Sydney to see the dentist.

Sydney rarely smiles, revealing her teeth.  I snapped this on her 18 month birthday.

Sydney rarely smiles, revealing her teeth. I snapped this on her 18 month birthday.

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I tickled Sydney and got her to reveal her new and improved smile with the chip.

Sydney and I enjoyed a little individual time in the waiting room, but we weren’t there more than five minutes.  Dr. Roberts welcomed us and exuded a gentle demeanor well suited for little ones.   Despite Dr. Roberts’ friendly nature, Sydney does not appreciate anyone opening her mouth.  She protested with gusto squealing and thrashing angrily.  Nonetheless, Dr. Roberts got a good look at her teeth.  Thankfully, there was no nerve damage.  Sydney got a clean report plus a Cinderella toothbrush (coveted by Rylin) and pink dinosaur.  She will, however be a snaggle tooth until she loses that tooth and gets a permanent one in it’s place.    She’s  just as adorable as before the chip so I don’t foresee any problems for Sydney.

Noticing a bit of tooth shifting, Dr. Roberts inquired whether Sydney was thumb or pacifier sucker.  I admitted that Sydney still used her Wubbanub to help calm her sensory system.    I was prepared to use the justification our occupational therapist gave me, but it wasn’t necessary.  Without hesitation, Dr. Roberts warmly replied, “Let her have it!”  In fact, she said it’s preferable to allow a pacifier because parents can control their use.  Sydney may be Wubbanub dependent, but she’s only allowed to have it in bed, for sleeping or sensory breaks.  Her thumb goes with her everywhere, and I’m confident she’d pick up a serious thumb sucking habit if we took her Wubbanub now.

Sydney fell in love with her Wubbanub in the NICU, and   continued to love it after she came home.

Sydney fell in love with her Wubbanub in the NICU, and continued to love it after she came home.

At 20 months, Sydney is still smitten with her Wubbanub.  She now has a nice collection of hand me downs from her siblings.

At 20 months, Sydney is still smitten with her Wubbanub. She now has a nice collection of hand me downs from her siblings who are no longer interested.

Needing to go to the dentist for an “emergency” situation wasn’t ideal, but I enjoyed spending time with only Sydney.  Individual time is rare and always treasured.  After our visit, Sydney and I enjoyed a bit of retail therapy at Target.  I scored several items from the One Spot for the quad’s Easter baskets and a few household essentials.

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Sydney had fun trying this magenta feather boa on, and she wasn’t upset when we put it back on the rack. I would have loved to buy it for her, but this dress up accessory was $20! I think not.

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We captured a “selfie” before heading back home.

 

Have you ever experienced a dental “emergency”?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Shawver Shenanigans: Still Alive & Well

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When I review the snapshots taken in a week's time, it's apparent that our lives are full of shenanigans, but that is what enriches us and makes life full of JOY!  It's a clear reminder why God thought quadruplets were just right for our family.  Here are some of my favorite outtakes from the past few weeks-

 

It’s been quite a while since an episode of Shawver Shenanigans.  It’s not for lack of Shenanigans.  At 20 months old, the quads are getting into all sorts of mischief, so much that I can hardly keep up with them.  Another conundrum is that they are quite aware of their behavior and I don’t want to encourage them to continue something undesirable (e.g. climbing on the couch and sprinting) by snapping photos.  Nonetheless, I captured a few highlights hopefully without encouraging bad behavior.

The quads have been doing exceptionally well with using utensils at meals.  Don’t get me wrong; meals are still a total mess.  They are, however,  getting food onto their utensils and they transferring that food into their mouth 50% of the time.  I’m proud of their progress so I thought I’d do a post about how meals are going with a video clip of some of their marvelous self feeding skills.

I prepared a meal that I thought would help them display their emerging skills: meatloaf with mashed potatoes, green beans, and garlic bread.  I thought they’d effortlessly spear the green beans and meatloaf and could scoop the potatoes without them falling off the fork.  W-R-O-N-G!  The quads did not view this meal as a the culinary art of Suzy Homemaker.  Instead, they saw a sensory experience to be seized.  Mason grabbed potatoes by the handful and proceeded to fling them across the table as if it were a school cafeteria food fight.  As I attempted to redirect him, Sydney artfully smeared potatoes in an arch shape across the table.   It didn’t take long before Harper and Rylin joined the shenanigans.  I was horrified it the disaster that was my kitchen.  Not only were my children creating mayhem at the table, but they weren’t eating the meal I prepared with my last shred of energy for the day.  UGH!  The potatoes seemed to be wreaking havoc so I scooped them up and attempted to salvage the rest of the meal.  I can’t win them all, can I? We’ve had many more meals that would be a fantastic example of civilized toddlers using utensils, but I’ve scrapped sharing that.  It seems that when I hit “record”, things go awry.

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The meal started off as a pretty one.   I tried.

 

Mason looks a tad guilty here.

Mason looks a tad guilty here.

 

In the evenings, George began a new tradition he may soon regret: piggy back rides.  He lays on the floor, and one or two babies climbs on his back for a ride.  They do surprisingly well checking their balance and hanging on.  Of course, these piggy back rides are at a snail’s pace so if they fall it’s not a big deal.

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Sometime after nap and before dinner, the quads get all jazzed up with a second wind.  They take great pleasure in darting up and down the hallways as they shriek creating a reverberating echo.  I’m relatively certain this particular activity contributes to evening headaches, but they are happy squeals so I let them have their fun.

 

What’s shaking at your house?

 

hugs!

 

Amber

 

Pink Cake

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The quads are beginning to make requests, some quite specific. All. The. Time.  While I love how their language is progressing, it also brings new challenges.  Often times, denials result in full throttle toddler tantrums with someone kicking and screaming for what seems like eternity.  Of course when one child is having tantrum, there are often bystanders who chime in.  Other times, there is no tantrum, but persistent requests that cannot be met.  I do relish when the request or the timing is humorous or downright adorable.

At 5:45 am, I heard Mason softly requested, “Drink, please.”  I wasn’t too keen on being up at 5:45 am, but I obliged this polite request.   Clearly, the kid knew he was parched and wanted his needs known.   When I presented him the desired drink, he replied, “Have it”, as he nodded in agreement.    Thankfully, he went right back to bed after hydrating.

After being in bed two hours, Sydney woke up saying , “Outside. Outside. Outside.” as she gleefully jumped in her crib.  Not the best time of day for playtime.  This time, we gently told her it was “night, night” and she settled.   Tantrum averted.

Harper’s new request, “Boogas”.  No, he doesn’t want boogers, he wants me to use his saline and nasal aspirator to remove his boogers, and he knows exactly what to do.

Harper insists on doing the saline on his own.

Harper insists on doing the saline on his own.

My favorite request to date, however, was Rylin’s for “Pink cake”.  A family friend gave her a Strawberry Shortcake magazine filled with pages of pink cakes adorned in strawberries and frosting.  This led Rylin to begin the request for “pink cake.”   Not white cake or yellow cake, this was for pink cake only.  She persisted for two days straight, and thankfully accepted many denials.  Finally, on day two, George caved and made his princess a pink cake from scratch.  This may be my favorite request to date because it was seriously tasty cake.  I’m secretly hoping she’ll request it again, I’d love another slice.

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Our cake wasn’t quite as ornate as the ones pictured in Rylin’s magazine, but it was really good. I served Rylin’s in a pink bowl for good measure.

 

 

 

Pink cake, anyone?

 

hugs,

 

Amber

 

An American Icon

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Shortly before the babies were born, a McDonald’s opened up on a corner within walking distance from our house. While the golden arches are iconic across America, I had mixed emotions about their new presence right in the neighborhood. We are not fast food connoisseurs at all.  Anytime someone inquires about what fast food chains are close to our house, I blank. I really have no idea because we eat at home most of the time. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the occasional indulgence or convenience, we just rarely eat fast food.

Also, early on in our marriage George and I took a road trip with my extended family. We both vividly recall the youngest cousins having a tantrum because we stopped at Wendy’s instead of McDonald’s (apparently McDonald’s boasts better toys in the kid’s meals). It was the horrible wailing feet stomping type of tantrum that humiliates parents. At that point, George and I wondered if we wanted to darken the doors of a McDonald’s ever again, especially if we ever had children in tow. Being the parents of four toddlers we know full well that tantrums ensue whenever, where ever and avoiding McDonald’s doesn’t equate to zero tantrums in public. It only guarantees no tantrums in McDonald’s.  Last week, it happened: the quads ate at McDonald’s. Granted they ate yogurt parfaits, they had their first ever McDonald’s experience. I do hope to convince them yogurt and apple slices are the only items on the menu for as long as possible (ideally forever).

 

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Since McDonald’s is within walking distance, we walked. I assumed that there wouldn’t be four available high chairs and planned to serve the quads in their stroller, but Nisey thought we should try sitting in a booth. They did relatively well sandwiched between two adults, but thoughtful McDonald’s employee generously heaved four high chairs over to our table. We happened to be at a long rectangular table, which easily accommodated four high chairs.  The yogurt parfaits were gobbled up and the quads seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.   With spring weather on the horizon, I believe we will enjoy many more yogurt parfiats.  

 

 

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This table was ideal for housing the seven of us.

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When it was time for our McDonald’s adventure to end, the quads made sure to throw decent tantrums.

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There is a table in this McDonald’s that lights up with different colors when you touch it. The quads would have really enjoyed eating at this table, but it was occupied when we arrived. Before we left, everyone had an opportunity to touch the colors. Sydney thought she needed to touch it with her face.

 

What’s your favorite item on McDonald’s menu?  I’m serving the quads yogurt, but I admittedly love the fries.

hugs!

 

Amber

Banding Together, Raising Awareness

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Despite having a few scares, George and I were lucky during my pregnancy and subsequent NICU stay. From the moment we learned we were expecting quadruplets we were painfully aware of the inherent risks for all involved and we chose to accept them.   Even knowing these risks, it never occurred to me that we may not take one or more of them home.  The past year has been a difficult one in our community of quadruplet families.  In the past eight months we’ve wept as many families lost one or two babies.  And, three different families lost all four babies due to extremely premature deliveries.   The Peterson family was the latest to suffer this grave loss.  They bravely share their story and photographs on their Facebook page, Prayers for the Fantastic Four.

Jen and Chris shared this photograph of their angels.

Here, Jen embraces three of her angels.  Her first daughter, Serenity, is represented by the teddy bear.  Serenity was delivered  two days prior in hopes of saving her mother and siblings.  Unfortunately, the delivery of the remaining three could not be prevented.  The Peterson family has a Go Fund page established to help offset funeral and hospital expenses.  If you are able, any donation is appreciated.

What broke my heart even more was knowing that these lives may have been spared.  I believe this because of my friend, Kathryn.  Before I met her, she lost her twin boys at just 16 weeks due to incompetent cervix.  Since her losses, Kathryn has become the most articulate advocate of TACs I know.  Because she is the expert on this topic, I asked her to share her knowledge in hopes of raising awareness and helping mothers realize their options.  Here are Kathryn’s words:

Ever watch Dexter?  It’s a Showtime program chronicling the ongoings of a serial killer while following a moral code.  Dexter successfully detaches himself from his killing tendencies by referring to that part of himself as his ‘Dark Passenger.’  I have a Dark Passenger, too: an incompetent cervix.  And it killed my sons.

The cervix sits between the uterus and the vagina and acts as a safe keeper of baby.  A good cervix stays closed during pregnancy and holds baby in tightly.  A column of mucous forms in the center of the cervix to plug any possibility of good (or bad) vaginal bacteria ascending.  At the end of the gestation, contractions essentially slam baby into the cervix repeatedly to send the message, “Hey, open up, it’s time!”  After that timely prodding, the cervix will dilate and allow baby to be pushed out vaginally.  There are some other things that tell the cervix to get ready – but those also all occur at the END of gestation.

In contrast, an incompetent cervix fails.  It opens willy nilly – even at 16 weeks!  It could open ever so slightly to lose bits of the mucous plug and allow bacteria to ascend.  It could open just at the top forming a funnel that baby slips into causing all sorts of problems.  It could even open all the way causing the baby to fall out.  And just as fast as it opens, it can close back up never having its misbehavior detected.  This earns an incompetent cervix the nickname ‘Silent Killer.’

Diagnosis of IC can be difficult.  The cervix can change so frequently, that often it’s not detected as problematic until an emergency arises.  Most often, women must lose several 2nd trimester pregnancies before most doctors will even consider IC as a diagnosis.  Doctors treat it as a diagnosis by process of elimination rather than a diagnosis based on IC symptoms.

Treatment options are severely limited by gestation and severity of the situation.   In a nutshell, current treatments include:

  1.  Wait and Watch Approach – Doctors may suspect (or even KNOW) a patient has IC and elect to simply monitor the cervix via ultrasound every two weeks from about 16 weeks to 24 weeks gestation.
  2. Preventive Transvaginal Cerclage (TVC) – entering through the vaginal canal, a cerclage is stitched in/out of the bottom of the cervix, pulled taught like a purse string, and tied off.  This placement occurs between 10 and 14 weeks gestation as an attempt to prevent any cervical changes occurring and becoming problematic.  The TVC is removed at the end of pregnancy to allow for vaginal delivery.
  3. Rescue/Emergency Transvaginal Cerclage (TVC) – This occurs during the pregnancy when doctors notice that a dangerous change has occurred in the cervical length or dilation.  There are many limits to even utilizing this option as there has to be enough length remaining to place the stitch and most doctors will not place a rescue cerclage at gestations close to or beyond viability (24 weeks).  Again, the TVC is removed at the end of pregnancy to allow for vaginal delivery.
  4. Transvaginal Cervicoisthmic Cerclage (TVCIC) – A TVCIC may be placed prior to or during pregnancy.  Though this is still a vaginal cerclage, it is placed ABOVE the cardinal ligaments.  It may be removed to allow for vaginal births or left in place for future pregnancies (and a c-section performed).  Fewer doctors currently know about and perform TVCIC than TAC.
  5. Transabdominal Cerclage (TAC) – A TAC may be placed prior to or during pregnancy at 10-14 weeks. Through an incision in the abdomen, a mersiline band is placed AROUND the very top of the cervix to disallow dilation.  Vaginal delivery is impossible with a TAC and a c-section is required.

Once a person is diagnosed with definitive IC, there should be no question that placing a preventive permanent transabdominal cerclage (TAC) is the correct path.  (side note: tvcic is a viable option, but I reserve recommending tvcic in only extreme situations such as a rescue or when multiple abdominal incisions would occur in such a tight time frame that increased risk is assigned to the patient)

While statistics depend on each doctor, here are a few rough numbers to consider:

Success rates of TVC = *80% for a live birth (about 40% of these births are preterm)

Success rates of TAC = 97%+ for a live TERM birth (certain TAC doctors have even higher success rates)

*these may be exaggerated because some women receive TVC placements who do not actually have IC and are counted towards being a TVC success even though they would’ve been successful without one.

Clearly, TAC gives the best possible outcome for baby’s life.

Another consideration ought to be the quality of pregnancy.  With IC, uncertainty rules pregnancy.  Every twinge, every pain, every flutter, every kick, every toilet visit – it’s all filled with dread and fear.  As odd as it sounds, IC support sites are filled with pics of women asking if discharge looks normal.  On top of that, TVCs often require (and I ALWAYS recommend) bed rest to keep as much pressure off the cervix as possible.  Forget baths, exercise, intimacy, lifting toddlers, etc.  Your baby’s life is relying on that thread of support at the bottom of the cervix.

With a TAC, IC considerations are gone.  The cervix will not budge.  Even if the length shortens, the cervix cannot dilate.  It cannot open and allow baby to slip out.  Baby is baking until doctor says otherwise! Unless it’s for other non-IC reasons, bed rest is not required.  I personally worked up until the day of my c-section and that is the norm for TAC sisters.  Pregnant in the summer, I spent hours each day in the pool.  In the winter, I practically lived in the bathtub.  Intimacy was allowed.  I was able to lift what I wanted, shop til I dropped, and live my normal life.  TAC allows normal pregnancy!

As women, we rely on our doctors to prescribe the best treatment.  We assume they have the same goal – and same urgency – at protecting our babies that we do.  To be clear, I do not think doctors prescribing a preventive TVC have the ill will of wanting to risk or kill our babies.  Unfortunately, every doctor placing a preventive TVC or advising a wait and watch situation when IC is known is doing just that: risking your baby.  Sometimes it’s due to a lack of education, but sometimes when you press the doctor, you’ll hear them utter, “If this doesn’t work, then next time…”

So what can a mama do?

Educate yourself on the realities of cervical insufficiency.  Understand how the cervix should work and how it fails.  Fully understand what each treatment option entails.  Find women to talk to on support boards about their experiences.  Evaluate your lifestyle and mental health and figure out what you could realistically handle during a pregnancy.  Speak to the top IC doctors in the country (Drs. Haney, Davis, and Sumners).  Talk to your OBs and MFMs.  Pointedly ask them what happens if you funnel to the stitch and shorten at 22 weeks.  Ask them what will happen if your membranes bulge or baby’s leg dangles into the vagina.  What then?  Ask them who makes the final call on treatment for baby.  Remember, this is your body, your baby, and your choice.  Nobody is going to look after preserving and protecting your baby better than you are.

As a specific point, I want to offer an asterisk to all the successful tvc stories you may hear: firstly, a woman with known IC could absolutely have a completely normal, intervention-free pregnancy.  That’s the crapshoot of IC: sometimes the cervix works and sometimes it doesn’t.  It may behave well during one pregnancy and terribly during another.

Additionally, you need to understand this equation:

TVC Success = surgical skill + cervical behavior

TAC success = surgical skill

With an IC diagnosis, you already know your cervix does not work.  Understand that choosing a TVC continues to rely, in part, on the behavior of that broken cervix.

For me, TAC was the muddy answer at the time, but oh how clear the waters have become.  I was able to slaughter that serial killing Dark Passenger who stole away my sons and conquer IC altogether.  I now have beautiful twin rainbow daughters thanks to my TAC.  And I will never regret choosing life at any cost for them.

Kathryn Nguyen is a proud mother to two sets of twins and a prayerful TAC-only advocate.  Visit her blog Beyond This Desert for more information on cervical insufficiency and TAC.  

Three other quad mom bloggers joined me in the effort to raise awareness on this sensitive topic, please visit:

Capri + 3

Chillin’ with Chad

Quads from Heaven

In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I addressed my own losses, Casting a Light in the Darkness & Reflecting.

Toddler Tips: Let’s Have Tea

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With each passing day, I find myself trying to solve some new challenge with raising four toddlers, aka “quaddlers”. They are a cunning lot who inspires a little ingenuity on my part (and George’s) just to manage day to day life. While my ideas are born from being surrounded by four toddlers, I think many of them could be helpful to any parents of little ones so I'm sharing.

With each passing day, I find myself trying to solve some new challenge with raising four toddlers, aka “quaddlers”. They are a cunning lot who inspires a little ingenuity on my part (and George’s) just to manage day to day life. While my ideas are born from being surrounded by four toddlers, I think many of them could be helpful to any parents of little ones so I’m sharing.

When  Sydney was initially evaluated by ECI for speech delays, the speech pathologist asked how she was doing with open cups at meals.  SAY WHAT????  Seriously, I didn’t realize that at 15 months they should be drinking from an open cup (or at least trying).  I’m not sure what parents of singletons do, but as a mom of quadruplets, I was not about to let four toddlers loose with open cups at the table.  At that age they were practically catapulting spill proof straw cups across the room. In fact, at that age I believe we were using sippy cup straps.  Even though the quads were apparently deprived of an opportunity, the speech pathologist understood my plight.  She suggested letting them practice in the bathtub with cups so I wouldn’t have to contend with spills.

I thought about that, I really did.  However, germaphobe me just could not get past the notion of encouraging the babies to drink bath water.  Even though I try extremely hard to avoid urine in the water, I know they still pee in the tub.  Plus, they are taking a bath because they are smelly, sticky, and downright gross!  I could not do it.  Several months passed and I still had not allowed the babies to experiment with open cups at the table, or the bathtub for that matter.

When Sydney’s re-evaluation for speech came up at 19 months, the speech pathologist inquired about how she managed open cups again.  UGH!  I had to admit she (and the others) still weren’t given an opportunity.  I volunteered that with the warmer weather approaching we could start using the water table outside and could try cups then.   They’d still have their icky hands in the water, but at least I’d be sure there was no pee pee in their beverages.  That wouldn’t do, she wanted Sydney and her posse trying open cups.

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Together we decided a bathtub tea party would work perfectly.  Instead of encouraging them to drink the bath water, I filled a tea-pot with fresh, cold water.  I told the babies it was “time for tea”, passed out cups and filled each cup with a little fresh water.   All four babies drank happily, spilling very little.  When someone attempted to refill their own cup with bath water, I redirected them saying, “No, no, Mommy has tea here”, and refilled the cup myself.  In time, they poured “tea” into the water and made multiple attempts to drink the bath water, but I stuck to the plan.

I used color tabs to make the bath water blue so it would look different from the tea.  I don't think the babies cared about that, however.

I used color tabs to make the bath water blue so it would look different from the tea. I don’t think the babies cared about that, however.

Bottoms up, Harper!

Bottoms up, Harper!

Ryin is a girl after my own heart, I also like sipping tea with a spoon.

Ryin is a girl after my own heart, I also like sipping tea with a spoon.

Of course, a tea party also includes the finest of fruits and pastries.

Of course, a tea party also includes the finest of fruits and pastries.

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After a while, Rylin started feeding Harper some of her tea.

After a while, Rylin started feeding Harper some of her tea.

We will continue having the occasional bathtub tea party until I’m brave enough to serve open cups at the dinner table, or perhaps the outdoor picnic table.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m considering filling the tea-pot with something other than water (e.g. decaf tea or juice) to encourage them to drink it and not refill on their own).   Out of necessity, I’ve been hostessing these tea parties on my own with all four babies at once.  However, I think we’d make more progress on bath nights when I have help and can bathe just one or two babies at a time.

Where’s your favorite spot to enjoy a cup of tea?

hugs!

Amber