With Every Curveball There’s a Blessing

In this new chapter of being pregnant with twins, we are encountering quite a few curveballs. It’s easy to allow panic to get the best of me. But no matter the challenge, we are seeing time and time again that with every curveball there is a blessing.

Curveball # 1: We’re having TWINS! Oh my word.
Blessing # 1: We’re having TWINS! (How could this not be a blessing?!)

Curveball # 2: Carrying two little active boys means I get tired easily and bigger faster. I’m on my feet all day in my retail job, and some nights I come home to lots of writing work with my government job. One day I had to leave work early because of the pain in my legs, back, uterus, and pelvis, I couldn’t stand any longer. How am I going to do this until Christmas?
Blessing # 2: At the end of October my employers (who are small business owners and have always been incredibly gracious towards me for my almost two years there) sat me down and told me that come November they were releasing me…with pay. “Go and be healthy! Make those babies stay in there as long as possible!” Wow. Who does that? Not only can I rest easy at home but I can also pick up extra writing assignments. What a huge physical and financial blessing!

Curveball # 3: While looking for car seats on Wednesday we encountered an issue. My husband is tall (6’3″) and our vehicle isn’t tiny but I suppose Lancers aren’t all that big either. Problem: None of the car seats could fit behind Simon so that he could drive or even be a passenger safely. So at the end of our first day on the hunt when the staff at the baby store told us to buy a new car, I freaked. We have two months!! Buy a new car now!? That’s crazy.

We went home and armed ourselves with information about tall husbands, small cars, and twins, and set back out again the next day. And finally, we came down to one, yes, just one car seat out of many car seats in existence, that would fit in our vehicle. It just so happens to be the most expensive one at $300 (that’s $300 x 2). But it’s better than a new car, right?

Blessing # 3: Our car seats were meant to be gifts from Simon’s parents (who were also going to get us a crib mattress) and my brother and sister-in-law, but we naturally considered the fact that neither party likely had $300 in mind for a budget when they made their offer. I started doing some online research for “best price Peg Perego Canada” and came up with some stores in Quebec where they were selling it for $250. Thankfully there’s one just right across the border in Gatineau. I called them up. They have TWO left, just TWO. I said I couldn’t make it in because I’m going away for the weekend. They said they’d gladly hold them for a week without a deposit. Two beautiful Italian Denim car seats available just for us!

peg

But more blessings abound with this story! The car seat adapter (which will allow the seat to fit on the double stroller) usually runs for $80 (x2)! At this store it’s only $60 regular price. Not only that, this store gives discounts to members of the Multiples Association, which we happened to join upon learning about the twins. So now we get even bigger discounts!

And to top it all off, yesterday my mom’s friend offered her two cribs and two crib mattresses to us. She has twin grandsons and bought them for when they visited – for one week. We are planning to have the boys share a crib but we know that this might not work for as long as we hope, or it might not work at all.

I’m sure there are many more blessing I’m forgetting, with or without curveballs. But I guess I just want to say that no matter how overwhelmed I may feel at times, or wonder how on earth we are going to do this, there is always a blessing from God that reminds me that despite the difficulties we encounter, we are going to be just fine.

One + One = Four

I awoke from an interesting dream on Thursday, September 12.

“Hey Simon, I just dreamt that we went to our ultrasound and it was twins!”

And then we started joking about what that would be like. “A double stroller, two of everything, a baby on each boob! Twins would be a crazy life!”

But it was just a dream.

That morning just happened to be the morning of our first ultrasound at 19 weeks. We walked into the dark room and told the technician that yes, we wanted a picture, and no, we didn’t want to know the gender.

I reclined on the bed and wiggled my pants past my hips as the tech started rubbing cold gel on my belly.

She turned on the machine and moved the wand back and forth, spreading the gel.

“Your baby is sleeping right here,” she said, showing us the image of our baby snuggled comfortably on my pelvis on my right side.

She moved the wand toward my belly button, “And your baby is very active over here,” she continued.

For a split second I was confused. Did the baby suddenly wake up and jump from one side of my belly to the other?

And then it dawned on me…

Simon shot out of his chair as we cried “WHAT?!” in unison. Surely they heard us in reception.

The technician continued speaking but I was barely listening. I draped my right hand over my forehead and tried to absorb this new information.

I know what’s going on. I’m still in my dream. I’m in my dream from this morning. This isn’t real. This is a dream.

The tech spoke again, “Your twins are fraternal. There are two sacs, and two sets of placenta.”

She went on and on, as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing on the screen. And I wasn’t waking up. As hard as I was squeezing Simon’s hand and he was squeezing mine, there was no rousing from this slumber.

This is real.

And then I thought back to the last 4 months…

The intense morning sickness that finally tapered off at 16 weeks, managed only by Diclectin.

The way my uterus underwent a growth spurt that even had my midwife saying, “You’re definitely measuring more than 17 weeks…”

And all the kicks and punches I felt and movements I could see all over my belly at just 18 weeks.

Despite the shock of learning that we were having twins, we cannot contain our joy! We’ll never forget the moment when the technician casually commented on the activity of Twin B. It was so special to learn that there are two in there.

Ultrasound Surprise

And even though we know we are in for quite the challenge, we are simply in awe that God would entrust us with two babies. That’s not something we could plan or even control (there are no twins in the family!), and that fact alone gives us the assurance that he will continue to be faithful.

My Lunch Box

The following exercise is inspired by Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. In the chapter “School Lunches” Lamott tells writers if you don’t know where to start, write about school lunches. The purpose of the exercise is to take a short assignment and yield a shitty first draft of detailed memory…then see where it takes you.

Here is my shitty first draft of My Lunch Box.

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When I was a kid my mom used to make me peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches when I stayed for lunch at school – once a week tops. They were my favourite kind of sandwich because it was like eating a Reese Peanut Butter Cup melted and slathered on bread.

The thing is though, the other kids didn’t seem to have the same excited response as I did to my most amazing meal. They would look at my sandwich in shock, then look back at their own with wilted lettuce and cheese, and ask, “You’re eating that for lunch?!”

At first I didn’t understand what was so wrong with my meal. Hello! It tastes good! My mom wants me to eat my food at lunch, duh!? But after a while I started to wonder if maybe they were jealous of my chocolate bar on a bun. And then I got a little embarassed.

I’d open up my lunch bag, peer at the contents between two slices of whole wheat (never white!) bread, and exclaim, “Peanut butter and Nutella again!” And then I’d sigh, as though I’d had it up to here with eating roasted hazelnuts and skim milk with smooth and creamy peanut butter. But secretly, inwardly, I’d be filled with glee that my mom packed me my favourite lunch yet again.

Thanks, Mom.

Goin’ to the Chapel

We’re engaged! Hear the story of the proposal from both sides:

In Simon’s words…

A Pre-Engagement Story

On June 1, unbeknownst to Natalie, I took a trip out to her parents’ house for lunch. I had asked to have lunch with just the two of them and asked that they not tell Natalie. They provided a delicious meal and we enjoyed great conversation. After dessert, I decided it was time to ask what I had come out to ask and said, less than eloquently, “I would like to marry your daughter, and I was wondering what you thought of that.” With subdued enthusiasm, they shared their blessing and encouragement (and also thanks for keeping Natalie from heading back to Thailand a second time).

Now that I had their blessing, the next step was to get a ring. Natalie’s mom provided me with 2 rings, that Natalie has kept at their house, for a ring size. I started to research online and even looked on kijiji to see if I could find a steal of a deal. Despite my limited budget, I was able to find a beautiful ring at a significant discount, thanks to my good friend Garry at People’s. He was actually very friendly and did, in fact, help me find more than I thought I could get on my budget.

Preparing for this past Sunday had been in the works for some time now. Months, actually. I had loads of ideas, and now it was just a matter of creating a cohesive plan and tightening up the details. I recruited some good friends and am very thankful that everyone kept it a secret. As you’ll read below, she had no idea that an invitation to have breakfast with her Dad would turn into an adventure…

In Natalie’s words……

An Engagement Story

This past Sunday morning what began as a Father’s Day breakfast with my parents at their home in the country turned into much more when my boyfriend Simon carried out an elaborate plan that sent me on an adventure across Ottawa, leading me to various locations to answer a set of interview questions, and finally ending with a private concert at Gatineau Park in Quebec, where he asked me to be his wife.

When my mom pulled out the video camera at breakfast and my dad began asking me a series of questions about Simon (Do you remember the day you met? What impressed you most about him?) I took this as an opportunity to ham it up for the camera, as I love to do. My impression was that Simon had asked my parents’ permission to marry me the night before at a family dinner and they were just making sure I was certain about him, and recording it all for posterity, until…

Until my mom presented me with a gift. “But it’s Father’s Day!” I remarked. I opened the gift, which was a scrapbook from Simon called, “Songs for My Love.” (He is a gifted musician with his Masters in Classical Guitar and has written me a number of songs). The first page described that this book contained songs for each chapter of our story, and when I flipped the page I found the lyrics to the first song he wrote for me, called “What If”. My parents handed me a sheet of paper with a set of directions. Disbelief mingled with excitement as I gathered my belongings, hopped in the car, and hit the road to the city.

My first stop took me to Joel and Pac’s home. I entered their apartment to the theme song from Mission Impossible and was forced to play a game of Simon Says and answer silly questions about my relationship with Simon in a high pitched voice and a Scottish accent (all on video). I stood the test, whereupon I received lyrics to the second song he wrote for me and directions to my next location.

“Mission accomplished.”

Next I arrived at Kyle’s, whose complete aloofness regarding my presence had me doubting that this day was going to end up with a proposal (he was just acting, for the record). The following directions led me to Simon’s apartment, where his roommate Austin grilled me with the most serious questions yet.

After receiving the fourth song lyrics and directions I arrived at Pink Lake in Gatineau Park, where Simon was waiting for me with a picnic. When we finished eating he grabbed his guitar and led me deep into the woods where we found a secluded area. I sat on top of a massive, fallen tree trunk, and Simon took out his guitar and began to sing.

He played the songs that I had collected in the scrapbook and finished by pulling out a ring and asking me to marry him. I said, “Yes. Absolutely!”

How We Met

I met Simon on October 2 on my first day at a new church, just hours after declaring, “I’m not going back to Thailand! …And I’m going to have a boyfriend by Christmas.”

Transitioning to life in Canada after living in Thailand was an enormous struggle, and though I desired to flee back to Bangkok I knew it was time to settle down and make roots. I walked into The Journey, a Mennonite Brethren church that meets Sunday evenings (where Simon is an intern) to see him leading worship at the front with just his guitar. I was immediately attracted to him, which of course meant a “ring check” was in order. A quick glace at his left hand told me he was single. After church Simon invited me out to dinner with a group of young adults…for Thai food. He drove me home that night, and many Sunday nights to follow.

There was little “connection” or “chemistry” between me and Simon at the start, but that didn’t matter. What drew us together was the character we saw within one another. It was that character that gave us the confidence and wisdom to continue walking in our relationship, and as time progressed we built a foundation that grew into a deeper friendship with each passing month (not to mention a lot of chemistry!) I am so thankful to God for bringing Simon into my life and I can’t wait for all the joys and sorrows we will share together.

He is worth the risk and most definitely worth the wait!

picnic

Pre-Proposal Picnic

the betrothed

After the Proposal

the ring

The Ring

(I burned my arm last week…the bandage has nothing to do with the day!)

On Being Burned

I’ve been burned – literally. And here’s what I’ve learned less than 24 hours later:

Lesson # 1: Buy a kettle that shuts off automatically

I was making ginger tea for my roommate Pip, who had a stomach ache. Our kettle is the kind that boils and boils until you unplug it. I forgot about it, and then I neglected to unplug it before I poured the water – at which point I don’t even want to think about how hot it was. It boiled over and spilled onto my stomach and left forearm.

“I’m buying you a new kettle. Consider it a pre-engagement gift.” – Mom

Lesson # 2: Don’t downplay your pain

Pip kept asking how I was doing and I assured her I was fine. So she went to bed, and I took 2 Advil, 2 cold showers, 2 cold baths, and iced my wounds with 2 frozen milk bags before realizing that maybe I wasn’t fine. Then I googled “scalding” and got scared. I had texted my parents, who called to see if I was ok.

“I really don’t want to talk to you right now. There’s nothing you can do for me.” Click!

Sometimes I’m such a snob.

Thankfully, they called back, and at that point in time I was sobbing. “I think I have to go to the hospital.”

“How are you going to get there?” They asked.

I took a cab.

A CAB? I know…

Lesson # 3: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

I really hate asking for help. It’s a pride thing. I am fully aware of this. I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone. I didn’t want to wake up Pip, my amazing roommate, to have her help me get dressed and come with me to the hospital. I didn’t want to call my loving boyfriend close to midnight, waking him from his sleep, when for all I knew the doctors would take one look at my burns and tell me to apply ice. So I called a cab.

While I was waiting in emergency my parents showed up at the hospital, and to be honest, this made a feel a little silly. Despite the pain (and I truly can’t remember the last time I experienced so much pain) I felt small, young, and a little foolish that my parents were meeting me at the hospital. I didn’t want them to come all this way for nothing. I don’t like being a burden. This goes back to pride.

Lesson # 4: Use caution with narcotics

The doctor who treated my burns (second degree – with a nice bubbly blister across my stomach) gave me some narcotics for the pain and then a prescription for 30 more.

Never again.

At least I hope I’m never again in so much pain that I have to take them. I laid in bed until past 3am. My body was sleeping but my mind was fully alert. I decided to go into the living room to get my book, but as I walked down the hallway I nearly fell over, and then I was certain I was going to vomit. I crawled back to my room on my hands and knees and remained in body sleeping/mind awake limbo until about 6am. The fuzziness hasn’t worn off 12 hours later.

Lesson # 5: Be Thankful

As I laid face down in a bath of cold water (which slowly became warm due to my skin) I couldn’t help but think of all the people who experience my pain or worse on a daily basis. I can’t imagine what life is like for a burn victim. I said a prayer for these people, and later in the night when the narcotics made the pain tolerable, all I could do was thank God that it had passed. I may very well have some large scars across my stomach and my arm, but I’m thankful for doctors and nurses and that I have a fully functioning body that will be restored to health.

Lesson # 6: The Sky is Falling! (No, it’s not)

I’m not as important as I think I am. And why do I think I’m so important? Oh yeah, pride. I woke up at 8am after very little sleep and got dressed for work. The bosses are gone for the rest of the week, leaving me in charge. Better go, because they need me. My coworker Alex took a look at me, asked what happened, and sent me home. “We can handle things today Natalie.” Riiiiight….humbled once again.

Lessons Learned

So my goals? To be humble, to ask for help, and to receive. I am not a burden, people care deeply for me, and they want to bless me. And I am certainly blessed!

I Made it to The Wall!

There’s a wall in my parents’ house with 3 large photos framed and hung proudly in the great room. They are photos of my brother and his family. The photos of me – until very recently – were small and placed on a table nearby.

I’m not the only one who has noticed this arrangement. When friends come to visit they often comment how my brother is “dominating the wall.”

This, in turn, has led to the phrase, “One day I’ll make it to The Wall!” One day…when I’m married…when I have children. One day I’ll make it to The Wall. For now I’ll take my place on a side table. I can live with that. I aspire to The Wall.

Well, as of this past Friday night, I made it to The Wall.

And no, I’m married, or even engaged, or with child. But maybe my parents jumped the gun a little now that I have a boyfriend.

I made it to The Wall!

Regardless, I’m just happy to be up there. Now I don’t have to try to explain to my friends that my parents love my brother more than they love me (just kidding). Thanks Mom and Dad!