MicroblogMondays: Stay-At-Home Parent

Ever since I wanted a baby, my plan had always been to return to work part-time after a six-month maternity leave . Well, that was my plan with having one baby at a time.  When we had our twins, the plan was still for me to end my maternity leave after six months, which would have been March.  When my in-laws decided to come in April, my instinct was to be at home so I would have control over how the babies were cared for.  Bob had no problem with me delaying my start day.  My office is totally flexible and my boss just let me make my own decision.  Since Bob still has two weeks of new parent leave that he won’t be able to take until late June/early July, I told everyone that I’d return to work some time in July so Bob and I could take the babies on a trip during his break.  My boss came for a visit and asked me if I still felt good about going back to work.  I said, Of course!  But I was stressed about finding childcare.

I never looked into daycare early on, because, well, taking care of twins takes a lot of time and effort.  I had some intense internal debate about nanny vs. daycare.  With one baby, it would be a no brainer.  Daycare would be the way to go because it’d cost way less than a nanny. But with twins, things change.  The couple of daycares that I spoke to charge more per day for part time than for full time.  That times two equals a hefty sum.  Plus I’d have to do the whole getting two babies to get out the door and drop off and pick up thing, which adds to the stress of the day.  The next choice is hiring a nanny.  I knew that a nanny for two kids would be pricey.  I had a hourly rate in my head that I’d offer thinking that it would be affordable for us.  I signed up for one online service to search for a part time nanny.  I received many applications but none of the applicants speaks Cantonese, which would be my first choice.  A twin mom friend of mine referred me to an agency.  The agency lady matched us with this Chinese nanny.  I didn’t think it was going to materialize into anything.  But once I spoke to the nanny and met her in person, I actually liked her a lot.  She has been working for a family for eight years helping raise three children.  She’ll be available when the youngest one goes to preschool in July.  She doesn’t have experience with twins but she did take care of these kids simultaneously.  The family she works for wrote her a wonderful reference letter.  I came to find out (from a little Gool.ging with the information that she told me) that the father of the kids was my high school classmate.  It is indeed a very small world.  This nanny came to meet the babies and my mom, and to my surprise Miss I-Will-Cry-When-I-See-Strangers A.K.A. little Bunny warmed up to the nanny right away and played with her without any problems.  It would be perfect, wouldn’t it?

I totally thought that everything was meant to be.  However, the subsequent two days I did the math over and over again and it just didn’t seem right.  The nanny would have to come for 10 hours a day from when I leave for work to when I step into the house.  I get paid 7.5 hours a day at work.  After paying my taxes and after paying her taxes, I would contribute absolutely no money to our household income.  What is the point of me rushing to work and rushing back, trying to put dinner on the table, and rushing to bed time if I don’t bring in any extra money to the family?  Just for my career and my own personal satisfaction?  Leaving my babies with someone else and missing them and their milestones?  It had never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t go back to work.  For the first time ever, it occurred to me that maybe going back to work is not in my family’s best interest.  I seriously considered this whole situation for a week then finally it became clearer and clearer that staying home with my babies will be the way to go.

I gave my boss my verbal notice.  We both teared up at the end of the phone conversation.  I have been there for almost 15 years.  It gave me my job satisfaction and stability.  However, my life has moved forward and this work place is no longer the place for me.  I will miss the people and the work and my sit-to-stand desk, and I don’t look forward to clearing out all my therapy materials and toys.  However, I am excited about being at home with my babies taking care of them the best way I know how.  Who knows?  When the babies go to preschool, maybe my career will take on a whole new direction?  It is an opportunity for me to stretch myself once again when the time comes.

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MicroblogMondays: Blood Test Results that Scared Me

The babies saw Dr. Easygoing for their 9-month check up last Thursday.  Can you believe that they are 9 months already?  I’ll have to plan for their first birthday which will be here in less than three months.

The twins are doing very well health-wise.  To my surprise, both of them went up on their percentile for weight.  Okra is now at the 36th %ile, and Bunny is at 23rd.  Ever since they have become more mobile and their formula intake has been inconsistent, I kept thinking that they must have been lagging behind in their weight gain.  Dr. Easygoing reassured me that they are well.  He said some babies’ weight gain flatline when mobility increases.  Okra is 29 1/4 inches and Bunny is 28 3/4.  They are long and lean babies.  Dr. Easygoing commented on how social, interactive, happy, and healthy they are.

Shots were not part of the schedule for the 9-month check up, but blood work was.  I didn’t realize it but Dr. Easygoing usually orders lab test for a complete blood cell count, food allergy panel, and lead for 9 months.  Since Okra threw up twice after he had avocado in the past, Dr. Easygoing also threw in an order for avocado allergy.  Fortunately the clinic has a lab there so we didn’t have to go anywhere else.  Okra was the first one to be poked.  He already started crying while being held down prior to any needle going in his arm.  Bunny started pouting and crying when she heard her brother.  She also screamed when it was her turn not because she was poked but because she was restrained.  The good news is, they got over it quickly and stopped crying once we were out of the lab.

The lab results for the allergy panel came back the next day.  Both babies’ blood did not show elevated value for the common items for food allergies.  Right after lunch, I checked my email and found this from Dr. Easygoing.  It was regarding Bunny’s blood test results: “Her blood test to check for anemia was inconclusive and she had some cells not typically seen on a normal blood smear.  I want to recheck her blood test at our office and be certain everything is normal.”  My heart was about to jump out of my chest when I saw it.  What did that all mean?  I took my phone out of my purse and found a missed call and a voicemail from Dr. Easygoing.  He was asking me to call him when I had a chance as he wanted to talk to me about the kids’ lab.  He said there was nothing to worry about but he just wanted to repeat the lab test for Bunny to make sure that everything was okay.  He ordered another blood test and if I could bring Bunny in for it it’d be great.  At that point, I was truly worried.  So I called him back several times but he didn’t pick up.  I paced the living room and was trying to think what it could mean to have “some cells not typical seen on a normal blood smear”.  I was trying not to freak out.  Finally, Dr. Easygoing called back and spoke to me.  He said that the machine that ran the blood picked up on some atypical cells but because the machine doesn’t classify what kind of cell, it often marked it abnormal.  The machine does it about once a week, and 99 out of 100 times it’s nothing.  But to be safe and to rule out anything abnormal, he would like me to take Bunny in the same afternoon so we could get the results on the weekend.  He said something about white blood cells and such.  Honestly, I did feel a sense of urgency from his voice but I trusted that Bunny was in good hands.  I canceled a visit from an out of town friend and drove Bunny to the clinic when she woke up from her nap.

Baby girl did very well this time.  She struggled for a little when I held her down but she did not even make one peep when the needle went into her arm.  She just stared at the tiny tube that had her blood flowing through and was acting totally normal throughout the whole thing without being even upset for one second.  It was amazing to watch.

Then we waited.  During that time, my mind ran really far with all the possibilities of what this might mean.  I got scared at one point wondering what if she has cancer?  Do we have to contact the donor to request additional family medical history?  What will it mean for our family if she is sick?  What if I lose her?  I was freaking myself out and was trying not to freak out.  It was very difficult to wait.  But at the same time, I had to remember to pray for God’s peace that transcends all understanding.

Fortunately, Dr. Easygoing didn’t make us wait.  We had the blood work done at 1:45.  He called me at 5:20.  The first thing he said was, good news that everything turns out great.  Bunny is healthy.  Nothing is wrong with her blood.  Then he went on to explain what happened.  The lab’s machine picked up on some “abnormal” white blood cells on the first blood sample.  A hematologist looked at the blood and saw white blood cells that looked like cancerous cells (!?!?).  Dr. Easygoing got a call from the lab with those results.  He was alarmed and called up his trusted colleague who is a pediatric hematologist and showed her the results.  She told him to just tell the family (us) to return for an additional sample to rule out any problems.  He contacted me and tried to keep me as calm as possible but he himself was alarmed.  When the second blood sample got sent for analysis, the pediatric hematologist went to the lab to take a look at it herself.  This blood sample was totally normal.  It turned out that the first sample contained some white blood cells that were the results of the body created antibodies to fight out the cold virus that Bunny had in the last week.  Somehow the first hematologist (who apparently only looks at adult blood usually) mistook the cells as cancerous.  Dr. Easygoing apologized profusely for worrying us unnecessarily and burdening me to take the baby in for another unnecessary blood draw.  He said he’d talk to the clinic director about waiving billing for the second blood draw because it was the lab’s mistake and not ours.

I was just relieved that Bunny is still super healthy.  I am also glad that Dr. Easygoing didn’t mention the C word the first time.  I would have freaked big time.  I am also grateful that Dr. Easygoing was on top of things so we didn’t have to wait for the whole weekend to get the blood test results.  I hugged Bunny extra tight that day as we don’t have to worry about her healthy anymore.

MicroblogMondays: Back to Normal

We saw our in-laws off at the airport last Friday.  The 7-week visit finally came to an end.  All in all, it was a successful visit.  First of all, My mother-in-law and Bob did not get into a fight at all thanks to my husband’s amazing ability to be on his best behavior this time round.  Secondly, it was heartwarming to see the change in my father-in-law’s attitude towards the babies.  At first he was a bit overindulgent with Okra, our baby boy, but later on he spent about equal time with both babies.  You can tell that he loves them both equally.  Finally, I feel that they have also changed their attitudes towards me. Although we had the previous incident that left a bad taste in my mouth, my mother-in-law did come around a couple of days later and told me to call her “pathi” whenever I would like.  I appreciated her change of heart but I hadn’t called her anything since the incident.  Right in front of the security check point at the airport when we all said our goodbyes, my mother-in-law hugged me and kissed me on my cheek.  My father-in-law also hugged me and touched the side of his head on the side of my head.  It was a tender moment.  I was touched by their gestures.  I remember the last couple of times when we did the whole airport scene, I got a side hug from my MIL and a handshake from my FIL.  Time has changed and I feel that despite the cultural differences in things like how to address my in-laws, their gestures meant and “you are a part of our family and we appreciate you”.

The house felt empty after they left, but it also meant I got my kitchen back.  Most importantly, I have my clean kitchen floor back!  Cleaners came as we left for the airport.  My mother-in-law is the best cook but is not the cleanest or the tidiest person when it comes to washing and cleaning.  Let’s just say that the kitchen counter and the floor were constantly sticky despite my best effort to clean up after her.  The area around the sink was always wet.  The sponge for washing dishes lied in the sink soaking wet.  The different cloths for wiping hands, counter, and dishes were all mixed together and smelled the same.  My MIL worked hard to clean the kitchen on a daily basis after all the cooking at night, but a cleaning service was necessary to get all the grime off.  Bob can now walk barefoot on the kitchen floor without feeling like he has to rub and clean his feet all the time.

My mom came home the day after my in-laws left.  It is so nice to have her back.  The babies actually remembered her.  Bunny is usually the suspicious one when it comes to people, but she observed my mom for a few minutes and immediately smiled at her.  Surprisingly it took Okra a little more time to stop looking skeptical at my mom.  She commented on how both babies have changed: Okra is taller, his face is skinnier, and he has become so social and fun.  Bunny is mobile and crawling all over the place.  She is so smart and tries to figure things out on her own.  My mom had missed them so much and is now in paradise as she gets to spend time with the babies again.

Routines are back.  Meat is back in the fridge.  Life is back to normal.

MicroblogMondays: Fifth Year Blog Anniversary and Being Official

WordPress told me that I started my blog five years ago on June 2nd.  Including this post, I have published 468 times.  I would say I never thought that this blog would last so long and I would write so many posts.  How fitting it is that to celebrate this 5th anniversary, I finally received the babies’ updated birth certificates in the mail last Thursday.  This whole process of getting my name on the birth certificates took forever.  We finally got the orders from the judge in California for the step-parent adoption.  The orders got forwarded to our attorney in Annie’s state.  Our attorney and her paralegal took their time in getting back to us.  And finally we signed some paperwork for vital records to add my name to the birth certificates.  When I opened the envelope and unfolded the two birth certificates, I was feeling a bit emotional.  Although I know and feel like the babies’ mom, legally I was their guardian.  I had no right to apply for a passport for them so I couldn’t travel out of the country with them even if I wanted to.  Seeing my name on these birth certificates on this anniversary week of my blog is a very sweet thing.  It reminds me of God’s goodness and faithfulness for watching over us all these years.  When I started this blog, I didn’t know what was going to happen.  God had this plan for us.  I couldn’t have foreseen all the twists and turns it took us to get to this point.  Here I am.  I am so grateful for having these little ones in our family and to see my name and Bob’s name on their birth certificates finally.

MicroblogMondays: Disrespect

My in-laws’ visit to the States is nearing the end.  Eleven more days before they depart.  It has been relatively calm compared to their last visit two years ago, as Bob has listened to me and tried not to react to his mother’s constant pestering and endless complaints of various things that he has not done right in life.  Trust me that it has been very hard to do and he has been restraining his tongue the best he can.  I am very proud of him for being respectful to his parents even though they yell at him a lot.  His mom really knows how to push his button.  The two of them are still displeased that he went against their wishes to marry me, and think that even if he didn’t marry me, he’d still have these same babies with another woman.  I don’t know how that’d work in their minds, but whatever. He just doesn’t fight back as much anymore.  It isn’t worth it.  I don’t understand most of the things they talk about in Tamil anyways.

Today I want to talk about disrespect.  Bob has these relatives who live about 45 minute away.  We had already visited them a couple of weeks prior, but my mother-in-law wanted to invite them over for Saturday lunch because the relative mentioned how she would love to eat this one dish made by my mother-in-law. Since my in-laws only have two weekends left, Bob told her not to invite these relatives over because entertaining someone over the weekend takes a lot of work and energy.  We would still need to take them to Indian grocery store 40 minutes away, and my mother-in-law also wanted to go visit Cos.tco and a dollar store.  The timing just doesn’t always work if we pack so much in as my in-laws only eat at home and won’t visit a restaurant.  .  Having these relatives that we had already visited over for lunch just added to the pressure of timing.  But alas, she did invite them despite Bob’s opposition.  On Saturday, prior to the relatives’ visit, my mother-in-law told me that these relatives were bringing their own paper plates.  She explained that they had paper plates left from their son’s birthday party.  Since we have babies, they didn’t want to burden us more by making us wash more dishes.  Well, the true and unspoken reason was totally different.  These relatives, in particular the wife, are strict Hindu Brahmin who only trust vegetarian food prepared at home.  They wanted to avoid using our plates fearing that these plates have touched meat before.  But I felt disrespected by this behavior.  They were coming to eat the food that was prepared at our home but they didn’t have the decency to use our plates and utensils.  I had never seen such behavior and was quite appalled by it.  These relatives showed up with paper plates and disposable utensils.  Even the mother-in-law of the wife was scolding her for bringing her own plates rather than using the host’s plates.  The daughter-in-law was defending herself saying that she had learned it from her grandmother and couldn’t help it.  I remained courteous throughout the whole visit but I did feel a little insulted and disrespected watching them whip out and eat off of their own paper plates.

And then, the same night, my mother-in-law asked Bob why I would call her “pathi” and my father-in-law “thatha”.  Here is the back story.  My in-laws had never told me how to address them.  I asked Bob many times, and all he said was to not to address them.  To me, this is really weird.  American people call their in-laws by name, or simply mom and dad.  In my culture, there is a title for every person so I’d call my mother-in-law “lai-lai” and my father-in-law “lo-yeh” if they were Chinese.  But no, I don’t have a way of addressing my in-laws.  When they visited two years ago, I couldn’t call them anything because I didn’t know how, but it made me feel like a very impolite person.  My MIL would refer to my FIL to me as “uncle”.  She still does it this time.  She would say, “Let me talk to uncle”.  This makes me cringe every single time because he is NOT my uncle.  But I don’t say anything and just let her be.  This time during their visit, I follow the babies and call them “pathi” and “thatha” like what the babies will in the future.  This ability to address them makes life so much easier as I would call to their room and say “pathi or thatha, please come help.”  I don’t see anything wrong with it as it’s pretty natural to follow your children and call their grandparents grandpa or grandma.  I didn’t think anything of it until last night.  She said to Bob, “I am not everybody’s grandma”.  So she takes offense of me calling her “pathi”.

This upsets me so much.  I feel very disrespected as the mother of my children.  She is essentially saying that I am not part of her family.  My children call them grandpa and grandma in their language but I am not welcome to call them the same.  And I am not welcome to call them whatever daughters-in-law would call their father- and mother-in-law in their culture.  I am left with the titles for others: auntie and uncle.  They are not my auntie and uncle.  I find this whole notion ridiculous and degrading.  After seven years of marriage, they still seem to have a hard time accepting the fact that I am their daughter-in-law.  She finds me calling her grandma offensive but she doesn’t find her relatives bringing their own plates to eat her food an offense.

I have been very easygoing with my-laws.  I can overlook the mess that my mother-in-law makes in the kitchen throughout the day in the last 5 weeks, the incident when she left the stove on without realizing it, or the incident when she carelessly tried to hold both babies at the same time by pulling on Bunny’s one arm.  There have been many things that required getting used to while living with my in-laws but I choose to look on the bright side.  However, this time I feel so disrespected that I can’t get over it easily.  The whole day yesterday I was upset and did not want to talk to my mother-in-law.  I was courteous and answered questions but I didn’t make small talk.  I didn’t address her and my father-in-law all day as I was at a loss as to what to call them.  I find calling them uncle and auntie ridiculous, so I am better off not calling them anything if grandma and grandpa are off the table.  Bob will eventually speak with her about my displeasure and asking her what exactly she would like me to call her and her husband (other than auntie and uncle).  I am still having a hard time looking at her without feeling angry.

I hope that the conversation that Bob will have with my mother-in-law will resolve this issue. I hope she understands that in order to be my children’s grandparents she’ll have to make an effort to accept me as her daughter-in-law.  If they want to have a relationship with my children, they will have to treat me with respect.  Letting me call them with the right titles would be a good first step.

MicroblogMondays: Sitting Up

So… I have been waiting for the babies to sit up for a peculiar reason: their 6-month professional photo shoot.  I have always loved 6-month-old babies.  They are so smiley and so much fun.  I have always wanted to document this stage.  However, my photographer said that it might be good to wait until they could sit for at least 10 to 15 seconds unassisted so that there would be more interesting photos than them lying down doing nothing.  Ever since then (when they were about 5 months), I have been waiting for Bunny and Okra to sit.  No such luck for a while.  They would roll.  They would scoot.  They would push themselves up.  But nope.  No sitting up.  I tried to practice with them but they’d often topple over.  Then they turned 6 months.  Still no sitting.  Then 7 months.  Still no sitting.  My sweet 6-month-old phase is moving behind us and my babies were nowhere close to sitting.  Came 8 months.  Suddenly I saw signs of life in the sitting department.  First Bunny started to sit for longer than 3 seconds.  Then Okra’s turn. One day suddenly they both sat for longer than 15 seconds! Hurray! There is light at the end of the tunnel!  But Bunny and Okra are now so mobile and move around so much, I hope that the photo shoot won’t be us trying to catch them from rolling and scooting away from the camera.

Here they are on our new play mat:

MicroblogMondays: Mother’s Day This Year

Mother’s Day this year was vastly different from all the previous years’.  We participated in the child-parent dedication at church that takes place on Mother’s Day every year.  Rather than watching others longingly in the past few years, we got to stand on stage with our babies and receive blessings from our congregation.  I love that every year our pastor not only acknowledges the mothers in the congregation, but also those who have lost their mothers as well as those who want to be a mom but for various reasons aren’t one on this day.  My baby boy was so handsome.  He was sporting a bowtie, suspenders, and a nice blue plaid shirt.  My baby girl was lovely in her floral dress.  This year I feel so loved by everyone around me.  I didn’t wash a single baby bottle today as my husband and mother-in-law picked up the duty.  I got to have some down time by myself doing a little grocery shopping and trying on dresses at our local strip mall.  My friend Jo came to the baby dedication and brought with her chicken wonton in a takeout container completed with a piece of napkin and a fork in a paper bag.  She basically armed herself with “contraband” food that was not allowed in the house.  Since Chinese people often go to a dim sum restaurant on Mother’s Day, she felt that chicken wonton was the closest thing she could give me as obviously we weren’t going to have dim sum any time soon.  She is such a thoughtful friend and we are so thankful to have her as the godmother for our children.  It was also lovely to receive messages throughout the day from friends wishing me a happy first Mother’s Day with our babies.  One friend who wished me a happy Mother’s Day told me something that upset her.  She has been trying for a baby for a number of years.  A friend of hers who has also struggled to get pregnant chose to write her today, out of all the days, to announce her pregnancy.  This announcement made my friend very upset because it triggered all sorts of emotions for her today.  She was doing quite well up until that point.  You see, her friend wanted to make a FB announcement today but wanted her let my friend know ahead of time.  This friend could have told my friend the day or a couple of days prior to Mother’s Day.  But no, she chose Mother’s Day to do that just because of poor planning on her part.  Even she herself said in the email “I realized this probably isn’t the best day to tell you”.  Then she should have done it earlier!  I was upset along with my friend.  The amnesia that some people have is ridiculous as they so quickly forget how emotional triggering it could be for someone who has been longing for a child to hear pregnancy announcement on Mother’s Day.  I just wish that people have more awareness and are more mindful of the effect of their actions on others.  I hope that my friend gets to experience being a mother on Mother’s Day in the near future.