Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Update on Celiac Disease

I took the girls to see their GI specialist today, as a follow-up for their February 4 endoscopies.

We weighed both babies, with Faith clocking in at 21 lbs, 14 oz, and Grace at 22 lbs, 7 oz. They can both face forwards in the car now (although they have been doing so for months...illegally. i'm soooooo bad.).

Dr. Elizondo came in to see us and said, "Let's talk about Grace first."

Apparently, Grace is fine. The biopsy showed no signs of Celiac disease and the anatomy of the lower intestines looked fine. She'll be labeled as "underweight," and be seen by Dr. E every few months, just to track her progress.

Then there's Faith. When he said, "Did anyone call you about her?" my heart sank. No, no one had called. I wondered why, but instead wen to the, "What's wrong?" portion of the appointment.

It seems as though her biopsy showed signs of Celiac disease, but not definitively. It also showed what may be an allergy to a certain protein in cow's milk. It's either one or the other, and only a blood test will give us the answer we need.

So, of course, I asked, "Isn't this the blood test that you didn't want to do and instead did the endoscopies?"

It turns out that the answer to that question is, "Yes." I was puzzled, so Dr. E explained it like this.

The endoscopy should have given us a 100% conclusive answer to the Celiac disease question, but it didn't. Some levels of certain hormones/enzymes/etc, indicated Celiac, whereas others looked perfectly normal. And some of the chemistry pointed toward this milk allergy, while other chemical elements looked just fine.

In short, it was inconclusive, which is where the blood work comes in.

If we do the blood work, then it can be compared side-by-side to the endoscopy biopsy and, hopefully, give an idea of the bigger picture. I'd liken it to a criminal trial -- one piece of circumstantial evidence will not win a case, but with a number of pieces of circumstantial evidence, you can build a story and put a criminal away. Same deal. Sort of.

So we left with orders to get blood work done on Faith. Both of the girls were in bad moods as it were, so I decided to just go ahead and get it done. Faith was less than thrilled about this attention she was getting, but recovered quickly.

We have an appointment with Dr. E on April 10 to discuss all of this. He said I'll get a call if it looks like it's Celiac disease, but otherwise, we'll just come in in April and go from there. Whatever that means.

So one question is answered, but two more have cropped up. Such is the story of my life with twins.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Trip of a Lifetime

It's been quite some time since my last post, but I have a good excuse. Wanna hear it?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...


Yes, again.

Beware of this post...I plan to post detail upon detail of our trip, so I can be sure to remember them when I'm old and feeble. If you're not interested in the minute details of our vacation, you may just want to view the slide show for the highlights.

So, here goes...

A few months ago, Todd and I were talking about Devin and how proud we are of him. He went from being an only child to having not one but two little sisters in the blink of an eye. Combine that with a host of health problems and the amount of attention babies need, and you have an older brother who often gets put on the back burner. He's been a real trooper and Todd and I really wanted to do something special for him, especially before he starts Kindergarten.

So it hit us -- where would you take a kid in order to show him or her the time of their life?

Well, duh.

So we planned a trip to Disney World. Four days, three night, just the three of us. Not a super-long trip, but long enough for us to give Devin the undivided attention he hadn't gotten in a long, long time.

We left for the airport before the sun came up on February 21. Todd's parents graciously stayed with the twins while we headed to Orlando, via Atlanta.

We arrived in Orlando around 1:30 and jumped right onto the Disney Magical Express bus. Like last year, we took full advantage of this awesome service, skipped baggage claim and were taken straight to our Disney resort.

After stopping at the other All-Star hotels (Sports and Music), we arrived at the All-Star Movies resort. We hopped off the bus and headed for the registration desk. Our good friend, Ed, noted that we were celebrating Devin's first trip to Disney World and gave Devin a special button to let everyone know that he's a first-timer. He also made sure we got a good room, in the building we requested.

Now remember, this is Disney, so your hotel is a dream-come-true, and the All-Star Movies resort did not disappoint. It's one of Disney's "budget" hotels, but they still spared no expense.

There are five "themes" to the hotel, each section dedicated to a different Disney movie -- Herbie, Fantasia, the Mighty Ducks, 101 Dalmations and Toy Story. We requested to be in the Toy Story section of the hotel and were put in a prime location, close to the pool (but not so close that we could hear the noise), on the first floor, looking out on a giant RC Car, straight from the movie. The buildings of our hotel were adorned with huge Buzz Lightyear and Woody statues (38 and 45 feet tall, respectively -- each significantly taller than the three-story buildings next to which they sit), as well as a three-times-the-size-of-real-life replica of Andy's Room. Devin was in Toy Story heaven.

After checking out Andy's room, we found our own room and were so excited to see that it, too, was decorated in Toy Story theme, complete with bed-spreads, artwork and wall-paper border.

We got settled in, locked our valuables in the room safe, poked around the grounds of the hotel for a little while and then hopped on the bus for the Magic Kingdom.

It was at this point that Todd and I really started to play up the excitement of seeing Main Street USA for the first time and by the time we arrived at the park, Devin was about to explode.

We made our way through the turnstiles, through the front gates and onto the circle at the end of Main Street. Before we rounded the corner, though, we stopped Devin and said, "This is it, Dev. You're about to see Disney World for the first time."

Then we slowly walked him around the building and pointed him toward the castle.

What happened next was nothing short of...well...weird.

Devin didn't gasp, or breathe or make a sound. He was perfectly still. It was almost as though he couldn't get a grip on what he was seeing. It was such a totally immersive experience that he just couldn't wrap his mind around it. Truth be told, the poor kid was kind of off-kilter for the rest of the day.

So we walked up Main Street, pausing to pay homage to the statue of Walt and Mickey holding hands. Then we asked the kiddo what he wanted to do first and he said, "Splash Mountain." That surprised us, since he'd been saying all along that he wanted to ride the Haunted Mansion first. But whatever!

We went to get in line for Splash Mountain, but the line was over an hour long. Luckily, Disney has a fantastic innovation called a "Fast Pass" in which you get a ticket at a particular ride (most rides have the Fast Pass option) that gives you an hour period of time in which you should return. When you come back, you get to skip to the head of the line and get right on the ride. It's a fabulous arrangement as your ticket sort of waits in line for you while you go do something else.

And that we did. We went and rode the Pirates of the Caribbean (Devin was not impressed), Aladdin's Magic Carpets (he loved that), and toured the Swiss Family Robinson tree house.

We also walked through the castle where we ran into a character meet-and-greet. It was Lady Tremaine (more commonly known as the wicked step-mother from Cinderella) and Anastasia and Drizella (the wicked step-sisters) and I couldn't have been more excited, as Cinderella was my mom's favorite movie and it holds a special place in my heart. Devin wasn't interested in meeting these three ladies, so I jumped in line with his autograph book and took a picture with the meanest of the meanies.

I held up a picture of the twins in my photograph and Drizella said to Lady Tremaine, "Mother! Look how cute they are!" Lady Tremaine replied, in a deep, growling voice, "How adorable." She never cracked even a hint of a smile. She actually gave me the chills.

We snapped the photo, but before leaving, the step-sisters reminded me that there are two sides to every story and not to believe everything Cinderella tells me.

By this time, though, it was time for our dinner reservations at the The Liberty Tree Tavern. We chose to dine here because it was a character dinner, meaning that various Disney characters will greet you at your table while you dine.

During our dinner (which was fabulous, by the way), we were visited by Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Chip & Dale.

After dinner, it was time for us to head back to Splash Mountain. Sure enough, we were escorted to the front of the line and hopped right on the ride. Bada bing, bada boom.

Again, Dev was not impressed. He especially didn't like the big plunge at the end where we got all wet. I'd like to remind everyone, though, that it was his idea to ride this ride, even after watching it a few times. Needless to say, Splash Mountain was not on the itinerary for the rest of the weekend.

At this point, we were exhausted. We trudged through the park, pausing only for a trip through it's a small world (yes, it's meant to be with no capital letters). This was much more Devin's speed.

We got back to our hotel, but Devin saw the pool and that was the end of the idea of bed time. We put on our bathing suits and Dev and Todd went to splash around. I stayed in the room for a few minutes (our bags had arrived by this time) to "get some things arranged" and met them at the pool a little later.

Begrudgingly, Devin finally got out of the pool and grumbled his way to our room. His mood lightened, though, when we opened the door to find a gift basket on the table in our room.

Apparently, Mickey Mouse himself had brought a welcome basket to the room for Devin! It was filled with a plush Mickey Mouse doll, a coloring book and crayons, a Lightening McQueen die-cast character and some Captain Jack Sparrow stickers. There was even a card, featuring all three of these characters, that read, "Welcome to Disney World, Devin!" It was only the beginning of the magic.

We got some much-needed sleep and headed out the next morning to EPCOT.

We immediately made our way to Soarin', a ride designed to make you feel as though you are hang gliding over various parts of California. I rode it last year and it was almost a religious experience.

The line was pretty long, so we got a Fast Pass for Soarin' and decided to check out the Nemo Ride in the building next door. It was a fun ride, but sort of scared Devin, who was still not quite himself. After riding, we took a photo opportunity with Bruce the Shark from the movie and went next door to Turtle Talk with Crush.

This is an incredible, interactive show in which you are looking at an animated screen with Crush, the sea turtle from "Nemo." The cool part is, though, that Crush can see you too, can hear you and respond to your questions. How is this possible? It was amazing.

The kids all sit down in front while the parents side on benches behind them. Crush "swims" onto the screen and greets the audience. In our particular show, he picked one little boy out from the audience and asked him his name, where he's from, etc. When he was done talking to this little boy, he spotted another boy in the audience, wearing an "orange shell."

Wouldn't you know it? Devin was wearing orange that day.

The attendant handed the microphone to Devin and Crush asked his name.


"Well hi Devin! Who brought you here today?"

"I slept here last night!"

"You did? And you came to EPCOT alone?" (Laughter from the audience)

"No. My mommy and daddy are here."

"Where are they?"

So Todd and I raised our hands.

The attendant then brought the microphone to us and I introduced Todd and myself to Crush. Todd and Crush laughed about Devin and his excitement and his propensity to ask a lot of questions. Soon, though, the mic was passed to someone else and we were left laughing at how we were the only ones in the audience whose entire family got to talk to the famous sea turtle.

After exiting the auditorium, Todd picked Dev up and said, "DEVIN! Crush picked YOU out of the crowd and talked to you! You are so special!"

Suddenly, Devin burst into tears. Todd and I exchanged alarmed glances and put Devin down. What could possibly be wrong after that?

Todd asked Dev if he was hurt or upset, but instead he said, "I'm just so happy!"

My four-year-old was crying tears of joy. He was so completely overwhelmed by the whole experience that he just couldn't get a handle on his emotions.

After we got the tyke calmed down, we went back to Soarin' to claim our place in line. We shuttled to the very front, where we were told to wait until the next "concourse" opened up.

As we stood with another family of three, I noticed a group of Disney employees (Cast Members, as they are called) standing nearby. They were all huddled around, talking and one of them even counted down, out loud, from ten, while looking at his watch. What was this all about?

One of them, the only one not wearing a uniform, approached us. She began talking with Todd, Devin and me, along with the other family standing there with us. We talked about Disney and how great of a time we are having, etc.

The mom of the other family asked, "So what do you do?" since it was obvious she was someone special -- not wearing a uniform is a dead giveaway in Disney.

The lady answered, "Do you really want to know?"

We all replied, "Yes..."

"Well, I have nothing to do with Soarin'. In fact, I'm not employed by EPCOT. I'm in charge of the 'Year of a Million Dreams' program. Are you familiar with it?"

We all said, "Yes," again and she continued.

"Then you know that we have to give out a million or more dreams come true this year. Some prizes are small and some are huge. Some are worth nearly $90,000 and others involve shopping sprees. There are a ton of wishes we can fulfill.

"One of those wishes is a Dream Fast Pass. It's a card that you wear around your neck that allows you to go to the front of the line on any ride, at any time. You don't have to get an electronic Fast Pass and wait for your specific time. You just show up when you're ready and hop on.

"Sounds cool, huh?"

Now we were all pretty excited.

"How would you all like to have a Dream Fast Pass? You've all just become the latest winners in the Year of a Million Dreams!"

And with that, we were each given a Dream Fast Pass, good that day only in EPCOT, but allowing us to ride all of the best rides with no wait.

I thought I was going to cry. Devin did. More tears of joy.

I found out later that the daily wishes and dreams are granted using a computer generated random sequence. That morning, the computer told the Dream Fast Pass team to hand out 15 Dream Fast Passes to the people in line at EPCOT for Soarin' on Concorse 1 at 11:15 a.m. Whoever was there at that time, got the Fast Passes. We just happened to be there. Luck of the draw.

And that's why that guy was counting down on his watch. A few seconds earlier or later and we wouldn't have been the winners. For the rest of the day, too, we were treated like celebrities, with people congratulating us and shaking our hands. It was a big deal!

On the biggest high of our lives (well, almost), we boarded Soarin' which did not disappoint (except Devin, who was scared of it). From there, we left, knowing that we didn't have to worry about wait times or coordinating our Fast Passes with timing on other rides, lunch, etc.

So we took our time, by-passing lines at Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, and Test Track.

We had a late lunch at the Coral Reef Restaurant where we got to watch sharks, sea turtles and fish swim around, and then headed back to our hotel for a nap. It was already quite a day!

We did have a great surprise in our room when we returned -- Mousekeeping had taken our washcloths and made them into little bunnies. They placed them on our window sill so they were greeting us upon our arrival.

We returned to EPCOT that evening to make our way through the World Showcase. The World Showcase is a fabulous attraction built around the lake in the center of EPCOT. It showcases nearly a dozen countries from around the world, giving tourists an idea of the architecture, culture, food and history of each country. It's a celebration of the differences and similarities that we all have, giving a reminder that we are all a part of a global community. Each county's pavilion is employed by visiting students from that particular country, who help to lend realism to the experience.

We made our way through China, Norway, Mexico and Morocco, stopped for a glass of wine in Italy, a glass of Champagne in France and a beer in Germany. We headed around the lake to the UK Pavilion where we decided to have dinner at the The Rose and Crown pub. We were seated on the patio, where we had a perfect view of the incredible, awe-inspiring IllumiNATIONS fireworks show. It even caused another round of tears of joy from Devin.

After dinner, Todd and I took turns again riding Soarin' (since Devin didn't want to ride again) and we finally went back to our room. We were exhausted.

The next morning we headed to Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is one of the smaller parks and we intended only to spend half a day there. Most of the rides are pretty geared toward bigger kids and adults, so we bypassed the rides to take in shows and meet characters.

Our first order of business was to meet Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater from "Cars." These two guys are Devin's heros and he was actually shaking when they made their appearance and revved their engines as they went by. He was second in line to meet the famous race car and rusty tow truck. We all three approached the two automobiles and were able to touch them, talk to them (though they didn't talk back, they did respond by revving their engines) and take photos. It was the chance of a lifetime for Dev.

Afterwards, we headed to meet Buzz and Woody from "Toy Story." The characters had a great time with Devin, each pretending to deface the other's promotional posters on the backdrop of the set while the other was taking photos with our kid. Devin proudly told Buzz that he went as Buzz Lightyear for Halloween in 2006 and spent a good five minutes with the two heroes. It was so much fun!

We were pretty hungry by now, so we headed to the real Pizza Planet, the pizza shop in Toy Story. We had...what else? Pizza and played a few arcade games, as well as looking for Hidden Mickeys throughout the restaurant.

It was starting to rain, but luckily, we were right across the street from the Muppet Vision 3-D theatre, where we took in the show starring Kermit, Miss Piggy and even the guys from the balconey. Devin loved it.

Afterwards, after sprinting through the rain, we took in the Playhouse Disney Live on Stage show, starring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisie and Goofy, with help from the characters of "Handy Manny," "Little Einsteins," and "My Friends Tigger and Pooh." It was an interactive show, that invited the kids to jump up and down, shout out answers, call to "Toodles," pat their legs to help Rocket go faster, find Pat for Manny and "Think, think, think" with Darby, Tigger and Pooh. Needless to say, this was a highlight for Devin.

Finally, we took in the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show, which Devin just loved. It featured specially made automobiles, stunt drivers and big sets all created to show you how high-speed chase scenes are filmed. We learned that the scenes where cars drive backwards at high speeds are actually built backwards, so the driver is actually facing the back of the vehicle and driving it very safely. They even created a driving suit with a dummy head in the front so you couldn't tell that it was someone sitting backwards. Pretty ingenious!

The rain picked up, however, and cut the show short. Devin was disappointed, and we thought this would be a good time to get back to the hotel for a rest.

Lo and behold, though, the rain stopped and Todd and Devin were able to take a dip in the pool while I took a nap. Afterwards, we took off to the Magic Kingdom where we took the Monorail to the Polynesian Hotel (where ZZ and I stayed last year) for dinner at the Kona Cafe.

Then it was back on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Devin loved the monorail so much, though, that he wanted to ride it some more. Since it just makes a loop between a few different resorts and the Magic Kingdom, we just sat, rode and enjoyed the scenery. At one of the stops, I hopped out and asked the monorail driver if we could sit up front with him. Sure enough, the cab was open and we were allowed to "drive" the monorail. Devin felt so special and even got an official monorail co-pilot license. Again, the right place at the right time. Our kid must be our good luck charm!

We finally got off the monorail at the Magic Kingdom and, for the first time during our trip, really had no agenda. We took Devin on the Snow White ride, which he did not like. I was starting to think this kid wasn't going to like anything!

We did manage to make it on the Winnie the Pooh ride, which he loved. FINALLY!

We also spent a lot of time playing in Pooh's Playful Spot where Devin was able to burn off some energy. We also went to Mickey's Toontown Fair, a section of the park just for little tykes. We toured Mickey's house and played on the playground. I was hoping Devin would want to ride the kid-sized roller coaster or meet Mickey, but he was more interested in just running around.

We finally pried him away from this area and rode Stitch's Great Escape, where Stitch sneezed on us, burped chili dogs on us (yes, smell included) and generally disgusting. Devin and Todd loved it. This time, I was not impressed.

Finally, we made our way down Main Street to watch the Wishes! Fireworks Show above the castle. Tears of joy flowed again, this time from all three of us.

Our last night was a late one and we zonked out quickly. We woke up on Sunday, got packed up and took our luggage to the front desk. Again, utilizing the Disney Magical Express option, we were able to check in for our flight and check our luggage right there in our hotel. From there, we departed again for the Magic Kingdom, where Devin announced that he was finally ready to ride the Haunted Mansion.

If you remember from my Disney Trip last year, the Haunted Mansion is a family tradition. As a kid, ZZ, our parents and I all laughed at the hilarity of the silly ride, from the paintings in the stretching room, to the ghosts that sit on your lap and follow you home, it's just good fun. To take my kid on it was like passing on a legacy.

So we entered the house, went straight into the stretching room and Devin immediately wanted out. He noticed, though, that one of the portraits in the stretching room was the same as the Haunted Mansion tapestry we have hanging in our house (oh stop laughing) and the familiarity brought him a little bit of peace.

It didn't last long, though, and he was asking to get out. We put him in between us in the Doombuggy and proceed through my favorite attraction.

In the year since I've been there, though, the Haunted Mansion has been remodeled. And the changes are awesome! The hallway of portraits now includes a bay of windows through which lightning lights up the corridor and changes the seemingly benign portraits into hair-raising images of ghost ships, headless horsemen and Medusa-like creatures.

The library, piano room and coffin room are the same, but the scene with the big spider webs is gone, replaced with an Escher-style room filled with staircases going every which way and upside down.

The sceance room is different, too, in that Madame Leota's head is now floating in a crystal ball, instead of sitting on a table.

The best change, though, was the attic scene. Instead of the bride with the red-beating heart, you now enter an attic dedicated to Constance (the new bride) and her many husbands. As you pass each of their Victorian-era wedding portraits, you notice that each of the husbands' heads disappear after a few second, leaving Constance there with a beheaded beau.

You pass one, two, three, four husbands before rounding a corner and meeting Constance herself. She's beautiful, standing there in white, repeating her wedding vows, but in true Disney form, out of nowhere, she produces a silver-edged axe and says, "'Till death to us part..." Yikes.

We got off the ride, with my grinning ear-to-ear and Devin protesting that he will never, ever ride that ride again. I'll just add that to the list of a zillion other rides he'll never get near.

We ate a quick, early lunch, and redeemed our Fast Pass for Peter Pan's Flight, another favorite of mine. Luckily, Devin loved this as well. Whew! I had redeemed myself.

We took another ride on Aladdin's Magic Carpets, rode The Jungle Cruise and hopped a horse on the Carousel.

We ate lunch at the Pirate and Parrot cafe, trying to coax Devin back on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. No dice. He wasn't going to fall for it.

We made one last trek through some shops, picking up souvenirs for the family and a t-shirt for Todd (which, when we got home, we found was a children's size shirt, not adult!) and walked through the castle, back down Main Street. We all paused, in the middle of the street, blew a kiss to the Castle, made a wish and turned our backs on Disney World.

(If you've read this far, leave me a comment. I'd love to know if anyone actually read through this whole thing, despite my warning at the beginning. Just to put it into perspective, it's taken me nearly three hours to create this post.)

After a short delay, we were home by 12:30 a.m. on February 25 and spent the day together today, as a family reunited. We missed the girls terribly and enjoyed spending some time with them.

It was a fantastic trip. A totally different experience from what I had a year ago. This time, I was the mommy, where as last time I was the kid. I loved watching the world of Disney through Devin's eyes, but nothing could have prepared me for how he reacted. He only started to come out of his shell after two days. He was just totally overwhelmed, but in a good way.

Of course, it's all Dev can talk about now. How he talked to Crush, how he ate dinner with Goofy. Suddenly, the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion are his favorite rides and we laugh at how by putting few states between you and a scary ride can really give you a lot of courage. He's excited to take his sisters to meet the princesses (yes, he actually said that) and wants to make sure that the next time, all five of us go. I never saw that coming.

To sum the trip up, I'll recall the conversation I had with D on the Magic Kingdom Railroad. As he sat next to me, quietly watching the scenery go by, he turned to me, with big eyes and a slight smile and whispered, "This is the best time of my life, Mom. Thank you."

And they lived happily ever after.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Blog Scavenger Hunt

This post marks the 190th on this blog. It's been over two years since I began this online diary, starting with just blogging about my then-upcoming pregnancy. The blog expanded, though, once we realized we were having a rare set of twins. I never actually anticipated it going on this long, but writing has become my therapy and this has become the best baby book I could ever accomplish. All of my favorite moments have been captured here and I hope that, in years to come, this blog will be a keepsake for my kids to treasure.

That being said, a number of my blogging friends have created contests to mark different blog milestones -- an anniversary, a specific number of posts, etc.

And since I subscribe to the "BASE" method of creativity (BASE = Borrow And Steal Everything), I decided to do the same thing.

So, the "Erin Pruetz 200th Blog Post Scavenger Hunt Extravaganza" was born. It works like this:

For the next however-long-it-takes-me-to-input-nine-more-entries, the ten questions below will be available for answering. To answer them, you must leave a comment on this post.

My 200th post will feature the answers to all of the questions, along with the declaration of a winner. Winners will be chosen randomly from all of the commenters on the this post. You do not have to answer all of the questions correctly to be eligible to win -- you just have to leave a comment with some semblance of trying.

The winner will receive his or her choice of the following, to be sent via US mail, by me.

1. A Starbuck's gift certificate, valued at $10
2. An iTunes gift certificate, valued at $10
3. A McDonald's gift certificate, valued at $10 (that's for all you mommies out there)

There are quite a few usual suspects out there who will comment, but I want lurkers and regulars alike to be a part of this contest! This is my opportunity to find out more about my own blog and the more comments I get, the better my blog will be!

So, without further ado, here are the ten questions, all of whose answers can be found somewhere in my blog.

1. What are the themes of my kids' bedrooms?
2. What happened in Concan, Texas that caused Devin to have to visit the emergency room?
3. How many stepsisters do I have?
4. What kind of car do I (begrudgingly) drive?
5. What was Devin for Halloween this past year?
6. What are my primary nicknames for the girls?
7. What was the name of the nurse-from-hell that I had in the post-partum unit after my twins were born?
8. What color did I paint my bathroom?
9. What day did we find out that we were having twins?
10. What is the name of the church my family attends?

Okay! Let the comments and answers begin! Good luck!

Clip from The TODAY Show

Here is Jill's segement from today's TODAY Show.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Big Premier

Sister-in-law and mad scientist, Jill, is in New York this week for various television appearances surrounding her research on Senegalese Savannah Chimpanzees.

For those of you who are interested in watching, here is the line-up as we know it now. There may be more, depending on what her PR rep is able to do with David Letterman and Jay Leno.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The TODAY Show
7:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Jill will likely be on the earliest segments, between 7:00 and 8:00

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
NOVA episode Ape Genius
Check local listings here

And, for good measure, here is the link to the online version of the National Geographic Magazine, which will be available on newsstands next week.

Fongoli Chimps

While in New York, Jill will tape a segment for Inside Edition and should have more information about when her National Geographic Channel special will air. More details to come!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day

We had a great February 14, filled with lots of love, kisses and candy. You can't ask for much more than that!

Devin had school yesterday, which meant his Valentine's Day party fell on the actual day. I was the party coordinator for his room, so the girls and I headed over to his school around 1:00 to get all set up.

First we had a craft in which the kids made foam door hangers decorated with hearts and other such items. Then there was red punch and cupcakes. Afterwards was a rousing game of Valentine's Day bingo and then a quick game of "Heart" Potato, where we passed around a red plastic heart while the music played.

Finally we had a quick story and then handed out the party favors and sent the kiddos along their way.

By this time, the girls were exhausted. They'd woken up nearly an hour earlier than usual that day and had to be taken in for their monthly RSV shot. Combine that with just being shuttled around all day and you have two very cranky babies. Grace was inconsolable by the time we left D's school, so I put her in her crib immediately after arriving home.

I went back downstairs to get Faith and by the time I got her upstairs and into her crib, Grace was already asleep. Poor girl!

The real celebrating was last night, though, when Todd arrived home. Before he could even get his jacket off, Devin was begging for his Valentine's Day presents. So we ll exchanged gifts in the dining room, as is our family custom.

The girls got feather boas from Todd and t-shirts from me. Devin also got a t-shirt from me, while he got some "Cars" characters from Todd (as if we don't have enough of those). The kids also all got clothes from Grandma and Grandpa, which made mommy very happy! Because of Grandma and Grandpa, I hardly have to buy clothes! Good thing my in-laws have good taste!

Todd opened his gift from me -- a skin for his iPod. Now he can clip his player to his belt, his keychain, etc. He was very excited.

But the best part of Valentine's Day was my gift from Todd -- a digital camera!

I know I've talked about it more than a few times, but we have a fantastic digital camera. It's one of the best cameras on the market and takes exceptional pictures because there are lots of settings and options.

Unfortunately, this professional-grade camera is not meant for someone like me. It's meant for someone like Todd, who is a mix of techno-geek and artist. Todd knows all about saturation, aperture and other such photo-related items. I only know, "Point. Click."

And I haven't mentioned the size of this thing. It's enormous and requires its own case. Not exactly something you can just throw into the diaper bag or purse. It also weighs more than a pound.

The camera that is smarter than I

So I've complained for awhile that I needed a camera that I could take with me when I go places with the kids. I'm not very self-indulgent, though, so I could always find a reason to not spend upwards of $100 on myself. And our family photo albums suffered!

Knowing this, Todd took it upon himself to research and buy a camera for me. He knew that once I got my hands on it, I wouldn't be able to say, "No." The same thing happened with the iPod Todd bought me for Christmas. Can't say he doesn't know me well!

So I've been busily learning how to use my new camera. It has all kinds of odds-and-ends to it and has many of the same features the Nikon has. But I don't have to use those features like I do with Todd's camera. If all I want to do is take a photo or a video, I just turn it on, point it and hit the shutter button. Ta da! No muss, no fuss.

One of the best features the little beauty has is a voice memo that you can activate after every photo or video. Normally, I wouldn't use this very much, but with identical twin girls whose distinguishing features are often lost in photographs, it will be a lifesaver in determining who is who. Now, after I take a photo, I just have to say, "Grace is on the right," or, "Faith is the one standing."

I anticipate that I'll have to get used to always having a camera with me, but I am making a promise to myself that I'll keep my new camera accessible everywhere I go, so I won't miss another moment of adorableness or silly antics.

To top all of this off, though, was one of the best Valentine's Day cards I've ever gotten.

It's no secret that I think Goran Visnjic from ER is a very good looking man. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for his dark eyes and accent. Todd is well-aware of my fondness for this particular Croatian and likes to make little jabs about how doey-eyed I become when he comes on screen.

I'll just let my Valentine's Day card from Todd speak for itself.

Hope your Valentine's Day was as sweet and perfect as ours!

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'd Like to Thank All the Little People...

And by little people, I mean the three shortest Pruetzes -- Devin, Faith and Grace. Without them, I'd have no blog. And without a blog, I wouldn't be eligible for the awards that Casey, author of the Quilao Triplets Blog gave to me!

Casey is a mom to three, odds-defying micro-preemies, Makena, Riley, and Alyssa. These girls' fighting spirits and incredible journeys after being born at only 25 weeks and one day makes for some of the best reading around. Combine that with Casey's talent for writing and ability to capture some of the best moments in kid-dom, and you've got one heck of a blog. If she hadn't gotten the "E for Excellent" award and the "Bodacious Blog" award first, I would have given them to her!

And now, it's time to pay it forward and give these awards out to the most Excellent and Bodacious blog I know.

There are certainly a lot of them, as I have established quite a community of friends via blogland. Many of them are moms of multiples and some of them are friends of mine from around San Antonio. All of their blogs are interesting, thought-provoking and even challenging. If they weren't, I wouldn't read them daily.

But if I had to vote, the most Excellent and Bodacious blog that I have the privilege of reading comes not from a mom of twins (or more), a neighbor or fellow parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

Rather, I give these awards to a long-time friend of mine. I've known her since she moved to Texas from the Northeast in the sixth grade. She claimed for years that the Yankee way of life was the only way of life for her, but after many years of living in Texas and even moving back to New England for awhile, she's finally seen the light and realized that Texas is truly the only state worth living in (I can hear the groans all the way from Maine, Oregon, Utah and California). She now lives in Dallas with her husband, Matt (also a high school friend of mine) and their son, Travis. They are excitedly awaiting the arrival of their second child any day now!

She started her blog, about her "Zoo," when she was pregnant with Travis. As I become more and more ensconced in her writings, I realized what a treasure a blog could be, with musings, stories, thoughts, experiences, movies, photos and more. Her blog inspired me to start my own, long before I even knew what a huge role it would play in my life.

My blog was originally going to be something only for close friends and family and to share with my kids as they grew up, but quickly became a method of disseminating information about our high-risk twins and recording events I knew I'd forget during the most stressful time of my life.

Since then, my blog has evolved into somewhat of a diary of my life, chronicling the ins-and-outs of my days with Todd and the kids. I love to go back and re-read my posts and I look forward to the day my kids can appreciate the memories that are being preserved right here. I am so thankful that I have kept this diary.

So, for the inspiration that has been given to me to write my own blog, for the wisdom that has been shared and for the incredibly heart-felt and engaging posts, I award Meg Beach at The Beach Zoo with the "E for Excellent" blog award and the "Bodacious Blog" award.

Friday, February 08, 2008

My Mom -- Molly Devins

I'm not sure what prompted all of this, but this morning my mom has been on my mind more so than usual. We're not near the anniversary of her death and we're still more than six weeks from her birthday. Maybe it's the beautiful weather or my conversation about the beach yesterday -- or maybe she's just placing herself near me today. Regardless, something has put her at the forefront of my mind today.

In my thoughts and recollections of her, though, I realized that I've never really posted about my mom. I've mentioned her here and there, but never really described her or went into my memories of her.

My mom was fantastic. She was a fun, vivacious woman who was as proper as the South is warm, but could drink a beer and act silly with the best of us. She couldn't tell a joke to save her life, but would pick up a banana and be "talking" on it whenever ZZ or I brought a friend home -- just to get a rise out of us. She obnoxiously sang to us in the morning, but also gave good back scratches while we were still in bed, "just to get the blood flowing."

Mom insisted on a good breakfast every morning and wouldn't let us do our homework as soon as we got home...she believed we needed some "down time" after a long day at school.

My mom was devoted to my dad and lived for my sister and me. She took on roles in the community that she truly hated, but did so for the betterment of my sister and me. She sat through countless gymnastics, ballet, jazz, tap and piano lessons and attended basketball games, swimming and diving meets, as well as school plays and vocal recitals. Mom tirelessly drove ZZ and me to friends' houses, birthday parties and social events without ever once asking when it was her turn to have a social life.

My mom would welcome anyone into our house at any time. Friends learned quickly that if you "coincidentally" showed up at our house around 6:30 pm, you'd be invited in for dinner.

Mom was also as strong as an ox. Back in the 1950s, before it was known how bad cigarettes are for you, she took up smoking. Like anyone else, she was hooked and didn't want to give up the habit. However, as my sister and I matured and started to understand about drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, my mom put her foot down and quit smoking. Cold turkey. After more than 20 years.

Mom's favorite place on earth was our vacation house in Crystal Beach, Texas. The beach was magical to her and she passed that same feeling along to me, my sister and even my Kentucky-born dad. She was close to her parents and made sure that ZZ and I forged the same close-knit relationships with her mother and father, better known as Nana and Poppa to us. She valued family and made it her goal every day to make sure our family was a fortress of love, commitment and trust. She succeeded greatly.

On September 9, 2003, before Devin was even two months old, my mom passed away. She had battled Alzheimer's Disease for nearly ten years and bravely stood in the face of her diagnosis, wondering what would happen to her husband and kids, never once asking, "Why me?" She was selfless, right up to the end.

Letting mom go was hard, but after seeing her suffering for so many years, it was a relief to know that she was finally out of the pain and confusion that had become her prison.

Life goes on. We've all learned to go on without mom, while keeping her memory alive in our hearts. My dad has remarried, to a woman who truly rounds out our family. She's never tried to replace mom, but rather fill a void. It's a thin line to walk, without wobbling from side-to-side, but my stepmom Jean has done an incredible job.

ZZ and I both had to learn, years ago, how to make do without our mom. It strengthened our bonds with one another, as well as with our dad. The three of us hold a bond that no one could ever break. Every cloud has a silver lining, and the cloud of my mom's passing is lined by the silver strokes of my very strong and bonded family.

I miss my mom every day. I regret that she was not able to attend my wedding, or ever really "meet" Todd (she technically met him, but was already living in an assisted living home when he and I began dating). I hate that she never had the opportunity to know any of her seven grandchildren, including two sets of twins. I hate the she and my dad didn't get to retire to Galveston or see the world like they had always planned. I hate that her life was cut short by such a meaningless disease.

But I love my mom. I always will. The death of her body means nothing, as her soul continues to live on in heaven and in our hearts. I can feel her near me and I know she is a guardian to me, my kids and my entire extended family. I know she is proud of me, proud of ZZ, proud of Dad. I know she approves of Jean and is reunited with her mom and dad. And I know that one day, I will see her again.

Molly Myers Devins
March 30, 1944 - September 9, 2003

As a baby

As a toddler

Mom's first car was a Jeep. ZZ and I both learned to drive on this Jeep and many years later, my Grandfather restored it and gave it to me. It was painted blue and white and I called it, "The Blue Angel."

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 19, 1967

My Disney problem started a long time ago

I was a little scared of Santa, but Mom came to my rescue

The Devins family, at our favorite destination on Earth

Mom, me, ZZ with our grandparents, Nana and Poppa

Mom and me on my First Communion day

My family in London, June, 1994

Dad, Mom and me at a New Year's Eve party, December 31, 1997

My mom

Monday, February 04, 2008

Endoscopy Update

After a restless night's sleep and a very early 5:20 alarm, we got Devin off to a friend's house (a very good friend, who was willing to take D at 6:15 AM!) and made our way to the hospital down the street.

We checked into the surgery center, were taken back around 7:00 and got a chance to talk to the girls' nurses, doctor and anesthesiologist and ask and answer a lot of questions.

Todd accompanied Grace to the procedure room just before 8:00 (after an enormous number of kisses from me). Grace was chosen to go first because of her two heart conditions -- special consideration has to be made when using anesthesia. A few minutes later, Todd returned to the pre-op area where Faith and I were, and there we sat for what was only about 15 minutes. We were very surprised when Dr. Elizondo poked his head around the corner and said, "All done!" We know it would be quick, but that was really quick!

He showed us some photos of Grace's interior (YOWZA! I wasn't expecting that...) and told us that he didn't see anything abnormal -- nothing cancerous, no polyps and no sign of Celiac disease. He told us that he did biopsy both her esophagus and lower intestine, because those will give us a 100% diagnosis on a number of things.

After we asked questions and felt comfortable with the information he gave us, both Todd and I took Faith back, as Grace was still waking up in the post-op area.

I held Faith and laid her little bitty body on that big gurney. I gave her lots of kisses and whispered lots of, "I love yous," as they put the mask on her face. She fought for a second, but the gas did its job quickly and she was out like a light before we knew it. One more kiss and we left the room.

Dr. E lead us into the post-op room where Grace was awake. When Devin had tubes put in his ears, he woke up from his anesthesia and was a nightmare. He kicked, screamed, threw up, heaved, etc. It was awful and I was completely expecting the same, but was pleasantly surprised when I walked to Gracie's side and there she was, lying on her side, with her pacifier and favorite blankie, just staring at me. No cries, no disorientation, nothing. Even her nurse kept commenting, "She's so good!" We warned her that when Faith came in, it would be a different story.

I held and rocked Gracie and gave her some juice. She was just so happy to sit in my lap and look around. Not a peep from her.

Soon Dr. Elizondo popped his head through the curtain and said, "Faith did great too!" He had more pictures for us, from Faith's digestive tract, and a similar story: Everything looks good, but the two biopsies will tell the whole story.

We heard them wheel Faith into the bay next to Grace's, but they asked us to please stay behind the curtain until they told us to come around, as, "There are certain things parents just shouldn't see."

I agree -- I really don't want to see my baby unconscious and breathing through a tube (even though our days in the NICU were filled with that kind of stuff).

But it was hard to sit there and listen to Faith wake up, just on the other side of a thin piece of fabric, and not be able to look at her touch her or tell her I was there. It seemed like an eternity before they pulled back the curtain and told me that I could hold my daughter. By this time, Grace's IV had been taken out and she had asked for her Daddy, so I headed toward Faith and quickly took her from the nurse's arms. She told me to be careful, as Faith's head was still a little wobbly. Sure enough, it was like holding a newborn for the first few minutes!

But soon, like her sister, she started to come out of it and look around. And, like her sister, no crying. Just content to be held and wake up. I couldn't believe it. Not a peep from either girl!

After a couple of cups of juice and some discharge orders, we were let go! I was wheeled out, holding both babies and we were off to pick up Devin. We got home from this whole thing before 9:45!

All is well now. The girls are eating, Devin is playing and it's just another day in paradise! I suppose the girls will take a good nap, but from the looks of it, you'd think nothing had happened today. They're just as silly and spunky as ever!

I'm very happy that Dr. E did not find anything, although I wait with baited breath for the biopsy results. We have an appointment on February 28 to discuss the findings.

Of course, if the biopsies show nothing, then we're back to square one -- why are the girls so small and why don't they gain weight? Maybe the diagnosis is, "They're just small." That's what I'm hoping for at least.

Thank you for the well-wishes, support and prayers. An endoscopy is a very easy and simple procedure, but going under general anesthesia has inherent risks. Now that it's over, I can breathe again. For now... :)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More on Jill...

This whole Jill thing just keeps getting better and better. I can't tell if this is actually interesting to other people, but I know to me that it's just about one of the most exciting things I've ever experienced, and since this is my blog, you have to bear with me.

*Big Smile Here*

Anyway, Jill will be on NBC's TODAY Show on February 18. While she is in the states that week, she'll also be filming a bit for Inside Edition.

The PR firm she is working with, as well, is in talks with David Letterman and Jay Leno, although nothing has been set up yet. I'll keep you posted on firm dates for all of her appearances.

In other news...

Tomorrow, February 4 (Happy birthday, ZZ!), the girls will have their endoscopies to look for signs of Celiac Disease. Look for a post here for updates. Please say a prayer for a good outcome and a good reaction to anesthesia. They've never been "under" before and it scares the heck out of me.