Winter Wonderland

It’s virtually all gone now, but this time a week ago, Clan Dillingham was blanketed in about a foot of snow!

We took all the boys out into the wintery weather the day the white stuff was falling. Houston had a blast trekking around with Daddy and making snow angels with Mommy. The twins, who obviously couldn’t play down in the depths of it all, just enjoyed experiencing the winter wonderland from the vantage point of Mommy and Daddy’s arms. Is wasn’t long, though, before we had to get the kids inside to defrost them in front of a toasty fire.

Mommy & Houston get giddy in the beautiful powdery snow.

The next couple of days were more suitable for lengthy outdoor play for Houston and his neighborhood posse. He went sledding with Alyssa and Jamie on a fast course their daddy charted out; then he was off for more sledding down the steep hillside at Dixie and Donni’s; and then he finished things off with lots of snowball-making fun at Maddie’s.

Undeterred by the lame snowman Mommy built, Houston’s favorite thing to do with the snow was make snowballs. While exploring the back yard with Daddy and looking for all the wild animal tracks they could find, Daddy created snowballs of all sizes for Houston. And every time he would drop and break one, he would implore Daddy to make him another. That way, he could have one in each hand at all times. “Chill McGill,” the biggest surviving snowball from their outing that day, is now living safely in our freezer.

Houston is starting to comprehend colors. If you ask him, “What color is this?” he will reply with his standby answer of “green.” But if you point out an object that is, say, red, he is able to name other red things in the room. It’s normal for kids to be developing their understanding of colors around this age, but this milestone is easing our worries that Houston might be color blind … just with his Horner’s Syndrome and all, we worry about his eye sight probably a bit more than do most parents.

Daddy primes the sled for Houston & Alyssa’s slippery ride downhill.

Random but worth noting: After his millionth dirty diaper change, Houston said, “Sanks, Mommy!” As a “domestic goddess” who is elbow deep in doo-doo many times throughout the day, it was a sweet thing for a mama bear to hear unprompted from one of her cubs. Yep, it’s the seemingly small moments like that that make my oftentimes thankless job so rewarding!

Gabriel and Zeke are no longer taking bottles … of milk, that is. See, some time after stopping breast-feeding them around 9 months of age, I began putting them down to sleep with pumped milk, formula and then whole cow’s milk. It must’ve worked so well that first time, getting them all wound down and in the mood to snooze, that it became an unintentional habit. Then a few week’s back, I noticed that Gabriel had stinky breath, so I researched some of the possibilities.

Well, there’s this thing called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay that I actually remember hearing about when I was a first-time mother. But because breast-feeding Houston, transitioning him to regular milk and eventually weaning him from a bottle was so drastically different than has been my experience with the twins, I totally forgot about BBTD. Don’t worry, Gabriel and Zeke don’t have it.

Doing his best Little Drummer boy, Zeke pounds gleefully on brother’s brains.

But reintroducing myself to the issue and its horrible effects on the gums and teeth, I swiftly stopped giving the twins their crib bottles. Since Zeke’s a thumb sucker, he sometimes gets water in a sippy cup in bed, whereas Gabriel either gets a bottle with a few ounces of water or even an empty bottle, since he has come to rely on the bottle as a pacifier. As long as the bottle isn’t filled with a sugary substance (i.e., milk or juice), Gabe’s oral health will be fine, and we will simply have to break him of his bottle pacification down the road, just as we had to do with Houston and his binky and just as we will have to do with Zeke and his thumb.

Zeke has his diagnostic x-ray on 12/23. He was such a good little guy, flirting and talking to people in the waiting room, and even laughing and jigging during the actual procedure (an especially notable fact, considering that this hungry, growing boy hadn’t eaten since about 7 p.m. the night before and his appointment wasn’t till 9:30 a.m.) I haven’t heard from the gastro specialist, who is supposed to call in the next few weeks, but the radiologist said that from everything he could see during the x-rays, he’s fairly certain Zeke just has a bad case of acid reflux and that his puking is not a symptom of something else major. Thank you, Lord!

Other twins highlights:

  • Already adept at using the thick, wooden drawer pulls as a ladder, Gabriel has taken to standing in the bottom dresser drawer, in order to reach the radio, humidifier and lamp on top. The resourcefulness of this feat so impressed me that I couldn’t even get mad the first time I saw him pull this stunt.

“So this is what astronauts must feel like,” thinks Gabriel.

  • Zeke’s current walking style: with arms outstretched behind him, kind of like wings — Super Man is his alter ego after all — or with forearms pointing up to the ceiling with fingers wiggling. (Houston likes to follow behind imitating his saunter.) Zeke has also gotten as fast as a speeding bullet.
  • Gabriel walks with his shoulders shrugged up toward his head, kind of like Frankenstein or a big ol’ brute football player. We do call him our bruiser boy and his manly ambles only accentuate the nickname.
  • Zeke has taken to running and dramatically plunging onto Houston’s beanbag. That boy likes to fly!
  • It bears repeating that Gabriel seems to be our most musically inclined, instantaneously jamming out to tunes whenever he hears them. That boy likes to groove … anywhere, anytime!
  • Both twins are doing the “light” sign and Zeke now does the sign for “cat.”

Click the above photo to check out all the recent December pics. There are also a few new additions in the December – Part 1 gallery. Christmas pics are coming soon. In the meantime, Happy New Year!

Franky the Fir, Acid Reflux & More

We headed to Granny and Grumps’ mountain house for Thanksgiving — our first road trip with the entire posse since April.

Sure, it was exhausting: the packing, unpacking, repacking and unpacking again; the stress of keeping the twins controlled and/or restrained in their new environment; the long drive up, with Gabriel screaming and Houston crying, “Go home;” and the long drive back, with Houston whining about wanting to live in the mountains with “Ganny.” (Our drama dude, Zeke, did the best while on the road, just chilling and sucking his thumb.) However, the family fun made it completely worth the effort.

Houston as a snowman while @ the choose-and-cut tree farm.

The funniest memory happened on the day we decided to buy our first choose-and-cut Christmas tree from one of the many tree farms that pepper the slopes of Western North Carolina. While trucking up the steep hill to Sugar Plum Farms, we remembered that the mini-van was on empty when we got to the mountains two days earlier. We decided to stay on course to the farm, since we had almost arrived.

Then Granny informed us that the only gas station en route home only took cash, so we figured that left us only enough money for one tree. Sweet Granny, who was already lending us the cash, said we could use the dough for our tree, instead of hers.

I had wrapped the boys up for the cold day, but didn’t have any gloves or mittens for them, and didn’t realize how treacherously chilly the wind was. Stephen and I held the twins while we waited in line for the hay ride up to the top of the mountain where you choose your tree, and Granny kept Houston busy visiting Santa and exploring the grounds. By the time our ride had arrived, Gabriel and Zeke’s hands were freezing, and our arms were fatigued from holding those heavy hoodlums for 1/2 hour.

Houston sits proudly w/ Franky the Fir atop the clan mini-van.

Despite our elements, the boys loved the loud tractor-pulled ride up. But the second we arrived, Granny and I decided to hop back on and take the twins back to the van for warmth and bottles. Granny tended to them, while I went to find her then-lost camera. On the way to the gift shop (which is where Granny left the camera), I noticed the long line of cars with families waiting to claim their trees. I talked with Darryl, the co-owner of the farm, who was in charge of tying trees onto people’s car rooftops; I explained that we didn’t have enough gas to sit in line and asked if we could retrieve our tree tomorrow. He said, no problem.

Meanwhile, Stephen and Houston were on the mountaintop for tree duty. Not quite sure what to do, Stephen asked some other folks who seemed in the know (they had their own gloves and a saw), and they said to find the tree you want and saw it down. Saw-less and chilled to the bone, Stephen asked a Mexican laborer to chain saw the tree he and Houston picked out for us: a perfect 4′ Frasier Fir, that we lovingly named Franky the Fir.

Once we gathered up the troops, Stephen put the van in neutral for our downhill departure, and we virtually coasted into to the gas station. Already having a good laugh about our zany adventures by the time we got back at Granny’s house, we decided that choosing and cutting a tree from Sugar Plum Farms would be a great way to kick off our yearly holiday traditions. But next year, we’ll be a lot more prepared.

An initially reluctant Zeke finally accepts the stylin’ mohawk Mommy gave him.

Last Wednesday, the twins had their appointment with the pediatric gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. Clark. He said Zeke has acid reflux and prescribed him Prevacid, and informed us that Gabriel was at the tail end of his infantile vomiting and didn’t need any further treatment (unless, of course, the puking was to rear its ugly head with a vengeance). Stephen and I had pretty much surmised both of these diagnoses, but figured we might as well bring both babies to the doc, just in case. To make sure Zeke’s condition isn’t something else, he is getting a diagnostic x-ray/fluoroscopy procedure done on 12/23.

Here are the stats from the appointment: Zeke’s weight is 22 pounds, 14 ounces, and he is 30″ long; Gabriel’s weight is 23 pounds, 10 ounces, and he is 29 3/4″ long. The fact that Zeke weighs less, but is taller than Gabe has allayed my paranoia that Zeke’s incessant puking had somehow stunted his growth. Plus, the doc said both boys’ measurements fall within the “normal” range for their age.

The medicine seems to be helping Zeke, although it has not yet been a 100% cure. Zeke still tends to be a bit pukey in the morning and then it fades as the day progresses. It has, however, noticeably improved. Not only does our Z-Bird seem happier, it’s also so much more enjoyable playing with him now that he doesn’t constantly wreak of vomit and we’re not so anxious about the next impending mother-load of goo to drop. A welcome change, for sure.

A delighted Gabriel shows off his newly acquired walking skills.

Yes, Zeke has had a rough ride in his short life: being the stuck twin during TTTS, and having the CCAM, lung surgery, the umbilical hernia and now reflux. But Zeke seems to have lucked out of one minor thing that has stricken both of his brothers: sensitive skin. As you know, Houston has eczema and has to be lubed up with special lotions and ointments on a daily basis. And now Gabriel’s often-times splotchy chin and cheeks, and dry, bumpy nose must be tended to with the same zeal. Stinks for Gabe, but I’m sure Zeke is relieved his brother finally got something.

Other happenings:

  • Like taking his walking cues from Zeke, Gabriel is now clapping with gusto.
  • Yet, Gabriel was the first to do both the “eat” and “more” signs. Zeke followed suit.
  • Gabriel still really likes to dance, especially when Mommy’s singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with jingle-bell accompaniment.
  • Zeke points at everything and murmurs cute little sounds about the respective object(s).
  • When the cats grace us with their presence, Zeke tries to “meow.” Gabe “talks” excitedly in their general direction.
  • Zeke also finds great fulfillment in sticking his index finger up his nose, while simultaneously sucking his thumb — quite the feat!
  • The twins are finally finding pleasure in Mommy reading books to them.
  • Zeke, already obsessed with blankets, has a penchant for fleece. He and Houston will sometimes play with/battle for possession of Houston’s Ho-Ho blankie.

Miss Heather’s Play-Doh skills are far superior to Mommy’s, as evidenced by this snowman family she and Houston created.

  • As if play time isn’t crazy enough, both Houston and Zeke get a kick out playing “ghose” (ghost) by pulling fleece blankets over their heads, while walking around, bumping into walls, slipping and falling down.
  • Houston is keen on saying “close eyes” while doing the action and having the aforementioned results take place, minus the blanket. (Yet, he won’t close his eyes to have his face washed during bath time. Curious.)
  • Houston thinks all lights we see at night are holiday lights. For instance, when he sees solar lights lining a sidewalk, he excitedly says, “Wook, Mommy. Cwis-mis lights!”
  • He also likes saying, “Mommy, calm down,” when I’m boisterously singing Christmas songs, or “Nuff, bruv-uhrs,” when the twins are getting too loud and rowdy.
  • On 12/5, we took the kids to see Santa at the mall. Houston asked for a “jungle gym” and talked about Rudolph.
  • Not even a week ago was the first time I tended solo to all three boys in the living room. Since then, they’ve greatly improved in branching out of their baby-proofed nursery into the other, more discipline-centric spaces of the home. What a relief they’re starting to turn that corner.

Smothered in spaghetti sauce, Gabriel (left) and Zeke get spazzy after their lunchtime carb fix.

  • On 12/12, Houston made his first trip to the vet with Mommy. He liked the adventure, but is still perplexed as to why we put “Bob in box,” as well as why his toy Corvette car has nothing to do with the cat’s trip to the doctor.
  • That evening, Daddy and I took everyone to Wal-Mart for a huge shopping trip. I won’t say it was exactly fun, but everyone did surprisingly well (except for Mommy, who was pretty stressed out the whole time).
  • Tonight, we took the kids to see a Living Nativity with live people and animals. Houston liked the presentation and loves learning all about “Jee-thus’ birt-day.”

Click the top photo of Houston at the farm to see the pics from our wonderful Thanksgiving up in the mountains. (Thanks to Granny for snapping all these cute shots.)

On another holiday-related note, click here to check out a few recent additions from Granny in the Halloween gallery.

And click the above photo of the twins eating to view all the December pics.

Uncivilized Heathens

This is what Stephen and I have been calling the twins lately. They seriously act like untamed animals much of the time. Miss Shawn and Miss Heather say, “Oh, that’s just boys.” But I don’t recall Houston ever being such a crazy beast.

One theory is that it’s because there’s two of them. When one starts to act up, the other’s competitive nature kicks into full gear, and he must outdo his brother’s antics and/or screeches. Although, sometimes it’s just one heathen (usually Gabriel) causing the trouble. Another possibility is that because I often have them sequestered in their room, they behave in such a wild manner to get my attention.

However, their lack of civility persists when I’m playing with them on the floor, when they’re hanging out with the family in their pack-n-play, when we’re working with them in the living room, when we’re holding them, when we play in the back yard, and when I’m feeding them, so that’s probably a bum theory.

An adorable, yet oftentimes mischievous squinchy-eyed grin is Gabriel’s favorite expression these days.

They have made some improvements, though. For instance, their spitting during meal time has all but disappeared, and they’ve gotten much better about not pulling hair and earrings. Yet every advancement seems to be replaced by another brute behavior, such as Gabriel’s hard-fought battles during virtually every single diaper change — not a fun thing to deal with considering that he is one tenacious little boy, who delights in sticking his hands in doo-doo.

Another one of the twins’ favorite acts of rebellion is opening their dresser drawers and pulling out all the clothes — not a fun thing to fix repeatedly throughout the day, especially considering that the clean apparel often land in puddles of puke, adding to Mommy’s already significant laundry load.

I’m sure our efforts to quell such misbehaviors will eventually pay off. But for the time being, my hands are just overwhelmingly full. That is why there are barely any photos from November (click the photo of Zeke below to view the few moments I was able to capture). In the midst of intermittent household chaos, I simply didn’t have the time to snap the millions of cute shots that my darling kids offer up throughout the day.

SpongeBob SquarePants & Stephen Ezekiel: Separated @ birth?!?!?

I know one day when the boys are men, Stephen and I will reflect back on this time, laugh and say to ourselves, “I’m not sure how we did it, but those sure were the glory days.” Granny’s great, great Grandma Hettie said it best: “When they’re little, they’re under your feet. When they’re grown, they’re on your heart.”

Yep, things are challenging now, but at least I know where all my youngins are: safe and sound here at home with me. I can’t even imagine the anxiety parents feel when worrying about where their adolescents, tweens and teens are, what they’re doing and with whom they’re doing it. Guess I better get ready ’cause it’ll be here before we know it, and I’ll be pining for the barbarian-baby days!

A few recent twin highlights:

  • The boys finally started sleeping in separate cribs in late November and are loving the extra space. (Thanks to Miss Shawn for lending us Dixie’s old crib.)
  • Gabriel’s walking really took off over Thanksgiving at Granny’s house and improves by leaps and bounds every day.
  • It sounded like Gabriel said “Heather” today when she was here helping out.
  • Zeke enjoys waiving. In fact, he waived to Heather through the window when she left, and it even sounded like he said “bye.”

Houston, giving his version of a “thumbs up,” settles in for potty time w/ some reading material.

Houston is currently into:

  • Knock-knock jokes;
  • Building blocks;
  • Mr. Potato Head;
  • Helping Mommy unload the dishwasher and load the washing machine;
  • Playing peek-a-boo with Gabriel and Zeke;
  • The shows “Super Why,” Pingu” and the “Iron Man” cartoon;
  • His beloved Ho-Ho blanket;
  • Christmas DVDs “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;”
  • Occasionally beating up brothers;
  • Doing pretty much anything with Daddy;
  • And, of course, giving Mommy a hard time.

Unfortunately, Houston is no longer into using the potty. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.