Sunday, May 13, 2012

You may now all call me Master Michelle....what do you mean that's not the way it works?

I am officially a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University for the second time.  I really wish I had been the same student I was for my undergraduate degree as I was for my graduate degree.  I still don't have grades for my final semester, but I'm not really worried about it because I know that I got at least the minimum grade required (probably much higher) and I just will not let myself stress about it.

The graduation ceremony was yesterday (5/12/12) morning and the coliseum was a mad house.  It was the largest graduating class in the history of SFA and there was clearly not enough room.  I hope that they consider splitting the graduation in half next year because I imagine the ceremonies will continue to grow.  With the parents paying so much for their kids' college educations they should at least be able to sit down at the graduation.

My mom took a few photos of me after the ceremony.  These are a few of my favorites.

I'm glad that I went back even though it was a huge financial struggle.  I am now one step closer to becoming a college band director, but the next step will have to wait a while.

The boys are doing great with the potty training.  They wear underwear 75% of the time and usually only have accidents with #2.  We hardly ever have wet underwear.  They are getting better at telling us they need to go instead of us just making them go.  They are just doing great.  They also did pretty fantastic at the graduation ceremony yesterday.  No big meltdowns, and that is saying a lot since it was 3 hours long and went clear into lunch and nap times.  We had them evaluated for headstart because ECI referred us, but they didn't even come close to qualifying.  While it would have been nice to drop that daycare bill, I sure am thankful for their accomplishments.  They have come such a long way and I know they will keep progressing!

Josh and I are doing something at Henderson Civic Theatre together for the first time since 2007.  Josh did a show last year, but we haven't done something together in years.  Josh is directing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and I am performing the role of Olive Ostrovsky.  I am really excited to get on stage again.  I have really missed the thrill of performing.  I think it will be great. 

This is the Tony performance:
Every night we will have guest spellers that will keep the show fresh, so hopefully that will keep audiences coming back for more.  I think the cast will also be really fun so I am really looking forward to starting.  Performances are July 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22.  If you are close you should come!!  I am sure I will have many more updates on the show as Josh has a tone of great marketing ideas.

Also, my blog was nominated as a top blog for moms of multiples.  Voters choose the top 25 and you can vote every day.  If you have a second click the circle of moms link at the top right and vote.  I would very much appreciate you support!  Thanks!!

Until next time!!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Aaden and Noah's Story

I found out that I was pregnant New Year's Day.  We were suprised and excited and anxious.  Of course, we had to wait several weeks before we actually got to see a doctor, so 28 days later we made our way to the doctor excited to hear our baby's heartbeat for the first time.

At our first appointment we went in for the sonogram and it was very exciting until the technician said, ,"Oh...wait a minute..."  It got very scary for a few seconds until she identified a second heartbeat.  We were having twins.  Next the technician checked for several other things and was worried that she could not find a septum (the line between the babies indicating that they were in two separate amniotic sacs).  However, she and our doctor assured us that they would probably be able to see it at our next appointment  and scheduled a follow up for one month later.
At our next appointment, one month later (13 weeks gestation) they were only really concerned with finding the septum.  I was amazed at how my little beans had turned into little people and looked like they were boxing each other.  When the technician excused herself to get the doctor we got worried.  It was kind of like one of those moments in movies when the doctor gets a concerned look on their face and give the parents terrible news.  The doctor came back to the room with the technician and started giving her instructions.  After a few minutes the news came..."We can not find a septum between your babies.  Let's go over to the exam room so we can talk about what this means."

The details were scary.  Mono-amniotic/Mono-chorionic twins happen in only one in 10,000 twin pregnancies.  There was a 50-60% chance that one or both babies would be still born.  In addition, because they were split from one egg, there was a high chance that one of the babies would be born with some sort of defect ranging from heart, lung, spinal, renal, or brain defect.  It was a lot of scary stuff to hear, but there was still a chance that there was a septum and the ultrasound equipment was just not advanced enough to locate the divide.  We were referred to a perinatal specialist in Shreveport, LA (which was two hours from our home) first in hopes that their advanced equipment would find the septum, and second to give us a physician would could properly care for our very high risk pregnancy if they did not find the septum.

The following week we made the trek to Shreveport to find out for sure what we were dealing with.  They did not find a septum.  The doctor also gave the ultrasound technician a series of directives, "check the hips, check the stomach, check the back, check the chest, etc." and then finally informed us that he was worried that they were conjoined based on the photos he had been sent.  What?!?  We had no idea that was even a concern.  Immediately following the ultrasound we met with the doctor where he gave us all the gruesome details again.  He also offered a selective termination in which they could terminate one of the babies in order to give the other a better chance of survival.  No Way!  I responded by simply saying, "no...that's actually isn't an option."  He warned us of the tough road ahead.  I would see him in Shreveport monthly, unless something more serious arose, I would see my doctor at home every two weeks.  I would go on bed rest at home at 20 weeks and begin seeing my home doctor every week.  At 24 weeks I would be admitted into the hospital for continuous monitoring and would remain there until the babies were born.

Then the fun began.  We continued living our lives knowing that one way or the other our lives were going to change.  We both still had the stress of our jobs, preparing and taking bands to contest, in addition to the stress of the pregnancy.  Everything went along without a hitch until our appointment at 20 weeks in Shreveport when they began to check out organs.  The organs looked fine, but they did discover a single umbilical artery in twin a which could be a sign of defects that could not be detected on the ultrasound.  We would just have to wait until they were born to find out.  (This is probably the reason for Aaden's hemi-vertebrae and horseshoe kidney)

I also began bed rest at home at 20 weeks and so instead of my days being filled with the stress of my job it was filled with the what ifs of my pregnancy.  The only thing that kept me sane was feeling them move and the security of having weekly appointments to be sure they were both okay.

At 24 weeks I was admitted into the hospital where they monitored the boys twice a day for a few hours.  At first they were still small enough to move around quite a bit so it was very difficult to monitor them effectively so many times the monitoring sessions took quite a long time.  Things went along nicely for two weeks, then one night, right at 26 weeks, the boys began having issues.  Twin A's heart rate was dropping pretty low and staying down for too long so they began to prep me for surgery and gave me the steroid shots to speed along the boys' lung development.  For about a week I stayed hooked up to an IV while they continued to monitor the boys 24 hours a day.  I also began having contractions during this time so they gave me all sorts of drugs to try to keep them at bay.  When I was finally taken off continuous monitoring and allowed restroom privileges again (and allowed to take a real shower!) things seemed better.  I was at 27 weeks and had only 5 weeks left until they would take the boys.  Things seemed fine.  My parents came to visit and my mom was going to stay with me for a couple of weeks.  She just had to make one trip back home for a doctor's appointment and then she would be back for the long haul. Josh was busy doing drama camp in Henderson during this time so the plan was that mom would keep me entertained so that Josh wouldn't have to travel back and forth so much.  Mom left on a Sunday for her appointment (Father's day actually).  The next day I was feeling down so I called Josh to ask if he would come for the night.  He agreed without any argument and I immediately felt better.  He brought me food (it's difficult to live on hospital food) and I enjoyed that before I began an unusually late monitoring (there had been a ton of births that day so I didn't start my first monitoring until late, moving my second monitoring back later).  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  About 8pm Twin A went into distress and stayed that way for too long.  The next hour was one of the craziest hours of my life.  People were in and out of my room, nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, all the while all I can think about is my baby being in distress.  I was finally wheeled (ran really) down to the operating room and within 15 minutes my babies were born and I entered the most stressful time of my life.

Aaden was born with an APGAR of 0 and had to be revived. His umbilical cord was completely white and the doctors had no idea how long he had not been receiving blood. His 5 minute APGAR was a 3.  Noah was born with an APGAR 3 and his 5 minute APGAR was an 8.  Noah was only on the vent for a few hours, Aaden for a few days.  It was so difficult to see my babies hooked up to so much equipment and not be able to hold or comfort them in any way.  The first week was pretty uneventful until Sunday.  We had just left the hospital for the night and decided to go to Henderson and stay with Josh's parents.  We got a phone call from the NICU before we got there telling us to come back immediately.  We got no other info except to come back.  I have never prayed or cried as hard as I did during the 45 minute drive back to the hospital.  We called once during the trip to get the same info, keep coming.  When we arrived we ran to the NICU and the doctor met us at the door.  Aaden had been in distress.  He had fluid on his lungs and he had almost died.  He was stable, but still considered critical.  I'm still unclear as to what happened, but it had to do with his pic line.  He was returned to the vent and that was how we experienced our first thrill on the roller coaster ride of the NICU.  I still get teary when I think about it.

Noah had a similar scare later that week, but it did not escalate to the same level that Aaden did because the nurses were much more attentive because it had happened to Aaden.  The boys continued to slowly improve.  They had good days and bad days and our days directly correlated with theirs.  The were in the NICU for three months and came home one week before their due date.  They were still on heart monitors when they came home, but they were home.  Besides some developmental delays they have been great.  They are perfect.

This is why I march for babies.  If I can help prevent even one family from experiencing the same scary things we went through then it is worth it.  Since the boys were born, just three years ago, they have upgraded the percentage from 50-60% chance of stillbirth to 70-80% chance of survival in mono mono twins with proper care and monitoring.  March of Dimes helped with that and so I will continue to march so that one day maybe mono mono twins will no longer be a high risk pregnancy.

I never thought I would experience something like this, but it happened to me and it could happen to anyone.  I am thankful for all the people who donated and marched before me, and I will continue to pay it forward as long as I am able.

Monday, April 9, 2012

One month since my last blog? Good Grief!

Okay, so catching up on the last month...
I had two job interviews in which they both called me on advice from the music store guy.  One job was for THE band director at a 1A school that has a band program that has been getting worse for several years.  The current director is retiring and so the administration was using that as an opportunity to get someone who could turn the program around.  That should have been the first red flag. If they really wanted a better program they should have taken action before it got this bad, but for whatever reason they continued to keep this guy and let him continue to run the program down the tubes.  I was the first interview.  The second red flag should have been when they asked me questions like, "How do you feel about intonation?", and "What do you think of the National Anthem?"  They all had enough hs band experience to ask stupid questions (yes my friends, in this case there is such a thing as a stupid question!).  In addition since they all had kids in band they asked parent centered questions instead of administrator questions.  I understand asking a few, but don't base the whole interview on that.  They seemed to like me and the principal called me and asked me to let them know if I got offered something else so they could possibly counter-offer.  Mind you, I was only the first interview.  Another very qualified person also applied so it became between me and this other person and because I am a woman with children I lose.  They were concerned that I would not be able to balance the job with children.  I was (am) pretty angry.  Even though I really didn't want to clean up that mess, my children should not be the reason I don't get the job.  That is 100% ILLEGAL!  I was very tempted to hire a lawyer, but why?  I don't want the job.  I wish the other candidate the best of luck with that.  I hope he understands what he is getting into...

The other interview was for a position in the town I live.  HOW CONVENIENT!  I wouldn't mind having this position if only for the convenience factor.  However, I was asked about my children and if I could handle having a job and caring for them.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?!?!  This is 2012!  I am not the first woman with children to ever have a job!!  For the last two years I have basically had a job in addition to school work and I think my boys are very well adjusted.  And it's like these people don't care that I can SUE them and the school districts for this.  They are not supposed to ask anything about family, religion, etc.  It is really quite frustrating (if you couldn't tell by all the caps).  I still don't know anything about this job.  He was waiting until after his contest to make any decisions, so hopefully I will know something this week.  The music store guy has assured me that I was at the top of the list, but I don't want to get my hopes up after the last let down.  I hope I find a job and I hope that I am not forever stuck in this mommy can't work world.  It makes me want to go straight into my DMA so much. 

Speaking of DMA, I think I really want to go to Michigan State University.  Their Director of Bands, Dr. Kevin Sedatole, did our conducting symposium and I really liked him.  Plus, this is silly, but it would be kind of a cool full circle thing since his brother was my high school band director and is basically the whole reason I am a band director.  The plan is to teach for a few more years (more or less to regain control of our finances) and then pack up and move the family to Michigan for three or so years.  Who knows if that plan will pan out, but for now there it is.

My weight loss is going well.  The numbers on the scale are not dropping, but apparently inches are because I was able to fit into a pair of pants that were two sizes smaller than I was wearing January 1st.  Also, I was looking back at some pictures and you can tell a difference.

This was the concert in the fall right before Thanksgiving break last fall.
This was taken on Wind Ensemble tour at the end of January.

This is one of our family photos taken in February.

I don't have a good recent photo since then, but I think these show a decent progression.  My exercising is way easier.  I can run for five minutes now (possibly longer, but I haven't tried yet), my strength training is progressing and I am steadily adding more weight and more reps.  Now if only I could keep my eating under control.  Easter is always hard for me because of all the candy you can't get any other time of year.  I'm also very nervous about what will happen after I graduate and no longer have use of the rec center.  I will figure it out, but once you become addicted to working out it kind of becomes an obsession.

Until next time.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I hate being sick

I have had what I believe to be a head cold for the past three days.  I tried to tough it out and go work and stuff, but yesterday I seriously felt like death so I came home early.  I slept and slept and slept and this morning I feel a thousand times better, but unfortuately still not 100%.  I hate to start spring break feeling bad, but looks like that is going to happen.

I decided to stop going to the official weigh ins at weight watchers we really can't afford the extra $50 or so dollars a week.  I am still counting points, I'm just not paying to get weighed anymore.  Josh is helping to keep my accountable and he has really taken a liking to my WW Power Foods cookbook so we eat out of it a lot.  The scale is not moving very fast...maybe a lb a week, but my clothes feel so different now!  I wore my skinny jeans yesterday and I didn't feel as if they were glued to my skin.  They were perfect!  I have to wear a belt with most of my other pants and my shirts are feeling a little looser around the bottom and in the arms (though not so much in the bust area.

I attended a conducting workshop this past week with a fellow conducting student.  It was part of a music conference that took place in Monroe, LA.  It was kind of a bust.  I didn't take anything positive away from the experience and I wish I had not spent my money to attend.  I was encouraged to simply beat time and not do anything too expressive because it may be too confusing to the ensemble.  While at home we are encouraged to rely on the ensemble to keep time so that we can use our gestures to encourage a more musical performance.  The clinician was obviously from a completely different school of thought, and while he is a highly respected educator, I disagree with his philosophy on conducting in a huge way.  The Friday after spring break SFA is hosting Dr. Kevin Sedatole for a conducting symposium and I am very excited to learn from him!  I get to conduct the 5th movement of Lincolnshire Posy (Lord Melbourne) for the symposium concert and then I am going to do the 2nd movement (Horkstow Grange) for the actual symposium.  I know that I will get a ton of valuable information that will help make me the type of conductor that I want to be!!

Aaden and Noah have entered a new and exciting stage.  They want to choose their own clothing.  This is fine, but they remember enough of what they have to actually tell us what shirt they want to wear.  This only becomes a problem when they want to wear Elmo several days in row as we only own one Elmo shirt each.  Most days we are able to sway them into wearing Woody and Buzz or Mickey Mouse, but on the days we can't change their minds we are faced with a complete and utter meltdown that typically throws our entire morning schedule for a loop.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to remedy this I will gladly accept them.  Our boys are generally very well behaved so unfortunately I feel a bit ill-prepared when they do have a breakdown.  We do swat, never on bare skin, and never for more than just a shock, however, I don't think that is the appropriate response to a tantrum.  I do a lot of whispering in their ear and talking quietly while they are looking in my eyes, and this works, but I can't get close enough to them for a long enough time when they are in throes of a tantrum.  Usually we just wait it out, ignore it, but when we are on a specific time frame in the morning it becomes an issue to just ride it out.  I feel like a bad parent for not knowing the answer!!  All thoughts and ideas are welcomed.

Until Next Time...

PS:  If you look to the right you will notice a widget for my March for Babies fundraiser.  We will be marching again to help raise money in hopes that one day all babies will be born strong, healthy, and full term!  If you are feeling generous, feel free to click the appropriate place on my widget to sponsor our march!  Just take a look at Aaden and Noah to be sure the money is going to a worthy cause.  Without funding provided before they were born we may be without one or both of them.  I am thankful everyday for the march of dimes!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Painting is fun...and Mexican food is my enemy!

This week has been fairly uneventful.  I really don't have anything exciting to report.  I thought I would share my photos from Painting with a Twist, but other than that, nothing exciting.  We had a lot of fun at PWAT.  We did have a little drama before because we got a late start getting to Shreveport, and we were late for the class so we were worried we would lose our spots, but we didn't and much fun was had.  I like the location in Shreveport better because they sell beverages on site.  Not just "beverages" either.  The instructor was great and we all got really great paintings out of the deal.
I took some process photos, but my phone died so I couldn't get the final product until we got home.

I am going back this Sunday (by myself....eeek!) for a Vera Bradley charity painting event!  I'm really excited because in addition to a fun painting class I will get at least one Very Bradley bag!!

I am down 6.4lbs total.  I am losing pretty slowly, but I am keeping pretty diligent about my workouts, and my running is getting so much easier.  When I started I couldn't even make it close to one lap around the rec center, but now I can do one lap when I am tired at the end of a strength training session and not feel like I am about to die.  Not sure if I will be ready for a 5K in April, but maybe by this time next I can do one.  Maybe I'll be able to run some of the March for babies.  Now if I could be as diligent about my food choices I would be in good shape.  I'm working at it...

So Noah has started lying.  While bathing the boys a couple nights ago Noah grabbed his back side and said, OW!!  Daddy hit me!   But Josh didn't...  Yesterday when we picked the boys up from school Noah told us that Aaden bit him, but the owner told us that she thinks that Noah bit himself based on the location of the bite marks.  I'm not really sure where this came from, but I hope it is a very short phase.  I can just imagine him going to school and telling his teachers that one of us hit him and getting CPS called on us.  We do swat, but always on the diaper and more for shock factor than to cause pain.  I'm sure Aaden has caused pain at some point with a hit, but I'm not sure where he picked up the tattling or lying.  Has anyone else had a child do this?  

Until next time!

Friday, February 17, 2012

A year older....on my way to becoming wiser

I turned 31 this past Tuesday.  Where has the time gone?  It seems like my twenties were gone in a blink of an eye.  I feel like I've wasted so much time.  Not sure if you can tell, but I'm one of those people that gets depressed about their birthday.  I'm not sure when that happened, but it's definitely been going on for the past two years.  Anyway, I spent all day Tuesday on the verge of tears.  I'm so pathetic.  Josh definitely helped my mood and attitude a bit when he surprised me in Nac with the boys.  I wasn't going to get to see them otherwise because I had rehearsal for University band, so it was a pretty great surprise...and I cried anyway. 

Speaking of university band, I am really having a super time with the group.  I am learning new music that I probably would never do with a 1C middle school and the band is responding pretty well in general.  It's almost like directing middle schoolers with more mature sounds, and dirty minds...not sure if that is better or worse yet.  I'm really excited to put this music together as part of my recital, and I think the group is going to sound great when it is all said and done.

I am going to a conducting workshop on March 2 in which I will conduct Blue Shades and be critiqued by Anthony Maiello.  This is his bio.  I'm super excited to get to work with a conductor of this caliber, and I want to be as prepared as possible, so I purchased his book, Conducting Nuances, at TMEA.  I know the whole point of a workshop is to get comments for improvement, but who doesn't want to be told they are amazing, so I'm hoping for a little of both.  Since I am studying Blue Shades right now, and Wind Symphony is performing it on their April concert, I also get to play with Wind Symphony (there is an AWESOME bass clarinet solo) and I will get to rehearse it with Wind Symphony any time Dr.Campo is out.  Such a cool opportunity, and a great piece of rep to add to my list for post graduate school.

Aaden and Noah impress me on a daily basis.  They are going through this phase where they want to do everything themselves.  I love it, except that it adds half an hour to our daily routines.  Noah is very persistent and does not give up very easily.  It takes forever for him to ask for help and if you try to help him without him asking he hides.  Aaden gives up very easily and asks for help within a couple of minutes.  I think this is so opposite of their personalities.  Aaden is usually the headstrong one, and Noah is usually more dependent.  I guess it doesn't go for everything they do, but if you had proposed this scenario to me two weeks ago I would have predicted the opposite happening.  We are getting family pictures done tomorrow.  We set the time for early in the morning in hopes that the boys would be in good moods, so say a little prayer for us.  We are hoping for lots of sweet smiles and creative shots.

Tonight Josh and I and two of our best friends are going out to dinner and doing a session at Painting With a Twist for my birthday celebration.  I have been looking forward to this for two weeks now.  It will be my third time, but the first visit for everyone else.  I can't wait to see what they think and see how the paintings turn out.  I am going to make sure my phone is fully charged so I can take progress pictures.  This is such a fun experience, and I think everyone should do it once. 

Until Next time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I have been at the Texas Music Educators convention since this past Wednesday. And I thought tour was bad for eating.  This has been a nightmare.  And to make things worse, I forgot all my tracking stuff.  So I have mostly just done my best to make good choices, although a couple times temptation absolutely overcame me.  I am down 4.8 lbs total in two weeks.  Monday evening I will see what the damage from TMEA is. 

I have read three books so far for my resolution to read 50.  I read the Hunger Games Trilogy, which I was very much against reading.  The first book ended up being pretty cheap on my nook so I bought it, and as much as I wanted to hate it, I ended up loving it.  I flew through the first two pretty quickly, but the third was tough to get through.  I found myself hating the main character, Katniss, because she was whiny and generally just dumb.  But I really got attached to Peeta's character and became more interested in his fate than hers.  Overall, it's a pretty good series and I would recommend it to anyone.  As a matter of fact, Josh is reading it as we speak.  He started last night before bed, and when I woke up this morning he was reading it again.  He's not much of a fiction fan, so if he is enjoying it, it must be okay.

My running is getting easier.  I was able to run .6 miles at intervals.  I kinda gave up on the couch to 5k thing because it is too difficult to do on the treadmill and I am using my own method counting distance instead of time.  Slowly I will take the walking out by increasing my running distance and decreasing my walking distance.  I can't wait to get back to school and the rec center though where I have more control over my environment.

Next Friday Josh and I and two of our friends are going to Painting with a Twist for my birthday.  I'm really excited to do something fun like this for my birthday since usually it falls in the middle of TMEA and I don't really get to do anything fun.  I'll be sure to post pictures of our finished products in next weeks edition.  I love this place!

Until next time!