Just Say No

You know when everyone older than you keeps including those age-old sayings in conversations and you just think, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard this before,” and nod along? I’m talking about sayings like, “Wow, time flies by so fast.” Then you’re graduating college already and you suddenly realize for yourself, “WOW, time really does fly by so fast.” Another one of those sayings took on a whole new meaning for me recently.

Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another.

Months before I started doing social media freelance work, I had applied to teach an online social media class in a rush to find some kind of side hustle income. Months and months later, I was accepted for this winter semester and thought, “Hey, how cool. Why not teach?”

This week, I found out why not. I was sitting at the counter with my laptop open to all these online teaching trainings and my planner next to me with a list of all the other important things I needed to be doing. I suddenly felt buried under everything. After a moment of sitting completely frozen staring at the screen, I quickly shut my laptop and found Chad in our room.

I told him everything and he simply asked, “Why not back out now before the semester starts?”

I froze again. I am Jenessa. I do not back out of commitments. This is a great resume builder. I can handle this, can’t I?

Then the second train of thought came streaming in. I’ve been dreading the start of this semester. I’ve left all my teaching prep work till the very end of my list everyday. When I’m playing with my girls, I’ve started to feel this weight to get to work, when all I really want to do is enjoy my time with them. The happiest version of me would choose to be less stressed. She would prioritize what really matters and this class doesn’t. I don’t care enough about teaching.

After praying about it, I reached out to HR. Within 48 hours they had already found a replacement. I felt such relief and peace.

Saying “no” to teaching was empowering because it meant I was saying “yes” to time with my husband, my girls, my freelance work, my faith, my siblings, my friends, books, health, travel. A lot of things are important to me and a lot of things are important to you too. Isn’t it wonderful we get to choose what those are for ourselves?

So, here’s to taking control, prioritizing what really matters, and saying, “No, I don’t want to,” A LOT this year.

Happy 2019 everyone!

Raising Sister Friends

I have this deep fear of my girls being in 6th or 7th grade and learning to absolutely hate each other. I can almost hear the yelling and the slamming doors. I know this is years away, but it still weighs on me. My sisters are my best friends. I remember moving right before my freshman year of high school and rarely feeling like too much of a loner those first few months because I had my sisters. I want Nora and Ellie to have that kind of relationship to fall back on. 

I think the root of this fear comes from how natural it is to compare twins. I already find myself saying things like, “Well, Ellie has way more teeth than Nora,” and “Have you seen Nora’s hair?? Ellie is still a little baldy!” It’s automatic. Comparing these two beautiful girls is so easy.

So I’m making an effort to stop right now before they are old enough to realize what I’m doing. Ellie and Nora have their own strengths, quirks, talents, and struggles. Comparing myself to anyone has never led to a good relationship. So, I’m not going to compare my girls anymore. They don’t need me to help them form an easy, destructive habit. It’s a baby step, but a baby step in the right direction.

From here on out, if you hear me comparing them please please please stop me. I’ll be working on catching myself too. I’m considering having a jar I have to put money in each time I do. Maybe I’ll start the girls’ college funds that way.

So here’s an update on these two babes SANS comparisons: 

Nora is my snuggler, tried and true. She doesn’t love playing alone for too long. Especially if I’m somewhere nearby. She gives the best slow smiles when she sees someone she knows from across the room and it all too often makes me a little teary. Nora is a scooting champ. She can roam any room with ease and is getting quicker much to my dismay. 

Ellie LOVES to play. She can make a game out of any activity. Bouncing, sucking on a block, kicking the ground (and her sister), eating mashed carrots, you name it. She is happy to do it. She’s got 6 teeth. Her drooling game is as strong as ever and she is getting close to crawling. She’ll get up on her hands and knees and just rock back and forth. We’re SO close!

I love my little ones. Here’s to having confident middle school daughters that love each other and don’t compare too often. That’s the dream. Because really, if we could all be as confident and happy as little Nora right there, wouldn’t the world be a happier place? 

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I feeling this overwhelming need to get a lot done and it’s weighing me down. So, instead of doing the many things I’m supposed to be doing right now during the girls’ nap time, I have a a mug of hot lemon water (my new comfort drink) next to me and I’m wrapped in a blanket facing our lovely, lit-up Christmas tree. Sometimes the best thing I can do when faced with an overwhelming list is pause, rest up, and do what I want to do for a few minutes. 

I’d already started to ponder on what goals I want to set in 2019 when I realized I need to stop and appreciate all that’s happened this year. 

I started 2018 with one goal: become more like Christ. I didn’t make it specific. I didn’t outline out what I was going to do each month to accomplish this goal. I just let myself focus on Christ and survive the year of 101 life-altering changes. It’s been wonderful. 

This year, I’ve spent some quality time with the people I love. When you have a baby or two, lots of people come to visit. I’ve loved my time with my loved ones. I’m so lucky to have my mom, siblings, in-laws, cousins, friends, the list the goes on. 

This year, I survived the last three months of my twin pregnancy, brought those little girls into the world, and kept them alive for more than 8 whole months. It’s been the most rewarding, exhausting, special year of my life. 

This year, I’m on track to finish the Book of Mormon from Russell M. Nelson’s challenge to the women of the Church. I’ve felt the spirit more in the last two months than I have in a very long time. I felt direction and peace. Parenting has become less intimidating. My migraines have become more manageable. I genuinely attribute these blessings to the Book of Mormon. 

This year, I started my own little LLC doing freelance social media marketing. And somehow, I’m meeting my financial goals and enjoying most of what I’m doing. It’s a relief. Worrying over money is never a comfortable place to be. 

This year, I’ve bonded with Chad over taking care of our girls. Last night we each imitated the girl that most looks like us (Chad and Nora. Ellie and me) and nearly fell over laughing in the kitchen. There’s this entirely new part of our relationship now that we’re parents and I love it. It feels right, happy, and a little scary sometimes. 

This year, I’ve felt more love than any year before. I love Ellie and Nora in a way that causes me to stop and wonder every day how I got so lucky to have them together. Those moments happen when I’m playing the piano and they both stop playing and watch me. Those moments happen when I’m reading them cheesy little children’s books and get a little choked up. Those beautiful moments happen when Ellie actually stops wiggling long enough for me to actually feel like we’re snuggling. Those beautiful moments happen when Nora sees me and gives me one of her slow, perfect smiles from across the room. 

This year has had it’s lows. Being pregnant was far from my favorite thing in the world. Have crazy stomach pains, lots of doctor’s appointments, and then finally my gallbladder removed, wasn’t that fun. And sometimes grappling with the fact that I need to take care of my girls all day everyday makes me exhausted. But I wouldn’t change anything for the world. I love my girls. I love my husband. I love our little life in the basement of my grandparents’ home. It’s our little corner of the world and I’m grateful for it.

So here’s to pausing and seeing how far we’ve come before racing on to the next finish line. I’m sure you’ve done some incredible things this year. Find a few minutes to be grateful for 2018 before making plans for 2019. It makes for a peaceful afternoon. 

We Made It

Tonight, Chad and I were talking about our Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii with my family last year. At that time, we had only found out we were expecting twins about a month and a half prior. We were still in processing mode, especially Chad. We can each perfectly recall the fear and anxiety we felt that trip about the coming year. And then we realized all of that fear and anxiety has disappeared. The girls are seven and a half months old and we’ve survived. Everything we were most afraid of this year has come and gone. We made it. We’re parents and our girls are okay.

You may think, “Of course, you made it,” but I wasn’t so sure. I can clearly remember how nervously I read baby books and articles online and how overwhelmed I was by all the things I didn’t know. Just making a baby registry filled me with anxiety. And while there are a million things I still don’t know, Chad and I know enough. We learned enough. We’ve made mistakes, but we’ve moved forward. We’ll learn what we need to in the future. 

So this Thanksgiving, I’m most grateful that Chad and I are good parents of happy twin girls. It’s an empowering sentence for me to say. Hopefully, you can take a moment today and see the progress you’ve made this year. You’re capable of what’s in front of you. We all are.

P.S. Nora started scooting this week. She pulls her little self with one arm forward toward Chad, toward the ball she wants, toward everything. It’s the cutest thing to watch her determined little self cross the floor. I love it and I have way too many recordings of her new skill on my phone. I can’t help it.

What I’m Learning from My Migraines

I’ve struggled with chronic migraines for the last three years. I did have a reprieve while I was pregnant.  My migraines almost completely disappeared. I thought I was in the clear after I had my girls. That maybe, just maybe, my migraines had been cured. I had a hard time even talking about how good I was feeling because it seemed too good to be true. They came back about two months ago now.

When I have a migraine, a headache hits me first, followed by mental fogginess. Then I struggle to put together my sentences and light and sound become overwhelming. My vision gets fuzzy and I see an aura whether my eyes are open or not. Then the intense pain hits. Always a little above my left eye.

Some of my migraines are manageable. I can do what has to be done before I find the time to rest and let it pass.

For one out of every three migraines though, my world stops. That’s about once a week right now. The pain comes in excruciating waves. My skin tingles and whispering takes all the effort I have. I forget to breathe and my body convulses. I feel wildly out of control and helpless. When I’m not mentally ready for one of these beatings, I lose any sense the pain will end and I have what I can only guess is a panic attack. I hold on to Chad as if he can somehow save me.

My migraines are one of the biggest struggles of my life. Not just because of the pain, but because of the constant weight of feeling like I am letting the people I love down. My girls, Chad, my friends, my family, people at church. I’m always bailing on something or someone when one of my migraines hit.

Chad gave me a Priesthood blessing when I first started getting regular migraines. In the blessing, he told me this would teach me about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time (I was hoping for some miraculous healing) I have learned so much about how Jesus Christ meets us where we are and brings us the rest of the way. I’ve found I have real value even on the days when I’m out for the count with a migraine. What I accomplish in a day does not determine my worth. My worth is innately within me as a daughter of God.

And while I haven’t received the miracle of healing, I have found many other miracles when I take the time to stop feeling bad for myself.

My Miracles:

1. Chad. He really is my miracle. As someone who struggles with his own health issues, he has never once lost patience with mine. He stops everything to help me.

2. Chad’s job. Chad gets to work from home once a week. More often than not, he works from home when one of us isn’t feeling great. It’s like taking a sick day without actually taking a sick day. He can step in and help with the girls when I need and then get right back to his work.

3. My freelance job. Doing social media freelance work lets me work whenever I want. And I usually get to set the deadlines. It’s perfect for my migraines and being a full-time mom.

4. The Book of Mormon. Russell M. Nelson’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year has brought me so much peace, guidance, and hope. It’s my pick-me-up.

So whether you have some kind of chronic pain, a gnarly cold this week, depression, or any other circumstances that are leaving you feeling down in the dumps today, remember that Heavenly Father is sending you miracles. They might not be the ones you’re praying for, but they are there nonetheless. He loves us and is aware of us every minute of every day.

My Crappy, Crappy Day

A few weeks ago, I had a terrible day. My girls had some form of the flu and Nora was in meltdown mode. I had been trying to soothe her for over an hour. I was sitting on the floor caught between calming Nora down and entertaining Ellie when my husband Chad walked in. He picked up Nora and she instantly stopped crying. I mean instantly.

I was crushed. I had held her and sang to her and rocked her for what felt like ages and she stopped crying the moment Chad picked her up. I lost it. I cried and I cried and then I cried some more. I was exhausted and frustrated. I like to tell myself my transition to motherhood has happened, but I’m not there yet. I couldn’t see past all my feelings. Chad kindly told me to get out and he would take care of the girls the last few hours of the evening before they went to sleep.

After some convincing, I quickly reapplied some makeup and threw on a pair of sunglasses to hide my swollen eyes. I grabbed my book and walked out. All by myself.

I didn’t have anywhere to go or anything I needed to do. I was bizarrely caught up on all my errands. When does that ever happen? So I did what I genuinely wanted to do. I drove to Cubby’s and read in my own little nook with some yummy rosemary fries. I lost myself in the pages of someone else’s world. When I finally left, I continued reading in my car.

After a while, I decided I might as well go to Target. I strolled along with my empty cart in my happy place. I eventually grabbed a few things we needed and got myself a new sweater. Hooray for retail therapy.

When I came home the girls were asleep and Chad was washing bottles (he’s a gem). I wasn’t entirely out of my funk. I had made considerable progress though. After a good night’s rest, I felt more than ready to mom again.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to tell you about my crappy, crappy day. Maybe it’s because we all have them. You, me, your neighbor, your friend. All of us. Don’t feel alone in your bad day as a mom, employee, student, or whatever else you may or may not be doing right now. I get it. The world gets it, even if we all prefer to show everyone we’re having a good day. It’s okay to pause, take time for yourself, and start again tomorrow.

10 Perks of Being a Twin Mom

People are always asking me how hard it is being a twin mom. While it is difficult sometimes and I have my share of twin mom rants, it’s amazing most other times. So for any soon-to-be mamas afraid of having twins, this one is for you. Here are a few of my favorite things about having twins:

Perk #1. Twins hold hands.

Oh my word, this is just about the cutest thing in the world. It makes my mom heart melt every time. Word of warning though, watch out for when your babes start teething. Ellie may or may not have taken a liking to bitting Nora’s fingers.

Perk #2. Twin babies fit in the same baby swing.

This is by far my favorite twin perk. It may be my favorite twin mom moment so far. It was perfect watching my girls laugh in surprise together while Chad pushed them back and forth.

Perk #3. You almost have a big enough baby laundry load.

For how often babies need laundry done, at least with two babies I don’t feel like I’m wasting water, detergent, or my time. When one of my girls blows out all over an outfit or pees through to her crib sheet, I can usually fill the washer between the two of them. It feels like a small success.

Perk #4. People are impressed by parents with twins.

Strangers, neighbors, friends, anyone and everyone automatically give Chad and me the gold star parenting award all because we have twins and are still alive. On the days when I’m angsty because my shoulders are sore and I have five minutes before my girls scream for milk in the middle of Target and a stranger stops me and says, “Are those twins?? Wow!” I always feel a little better about the world. So thank you, overly-chatty strangers. I’ll take that gold star.

Perk #5. One pregnancy, instead of two.

Hallelujah. I was not one of those women who feel best pregnant. It was long, exhausting, and uncomfortable. I would much rather face labor 5 times through than be pregnant once.

Perk #6. Buy in bulk. Thank you, mother Costco.

We always need lots of diapers, wipes, formula, diaper genie bag refills, bottles, clothes, you name it. And even though those two babes popped out with a massive price tag around their ankle, at least there are Costco sales that make me feel like I’m saving money.

Perk #7. You don’t sleep taking care of one. So you might as well not sleep taking care of two.

Those first three months are a blur, but I’m pretty sure they would be with one or two babies. With twins, you get two babies for the price of one three-month blur. Seems like a good deal to me.

Perk #8. There’s a twin parent club.

Twin parents look out for other twin parents. It’s like an unwritten rule. Twin parents I don’t even know gave Chad and me a double stroller. Other twin parents with girls a few months older than our own gave us cute 0-3 months clothing their girls no longer fit into. Other twin parents answered all my tandem breastfeeding questions. Twin parents have been my life-line many times. Thanks for including us in the exclusive club.

Perk #9. Matching outfits.

One baby in an adorable outfit is cute. Two babies in the same adorable outfit is the cutest thing in the whole wide world. I know I’m biased, but just look at Ellie and Nora. I can’t get enough of them matching.

Perk #10. The girls are starting to recognize each other.

I love when my girls smile at me, but lately, I have been loving when they smile at each other. They have a built-in buddy and I can’t wait to watch them discover their little friend more and more.

6 Lessons in the Last 6 Months

The last six months have been a whirlwind. As I’ve found a few moments to myself this past week I had a chance to reflect on how much I’ve been learning and growing through all the chaos. Those little girls aren’t the only ones growing up here. It’s felt like a significant growth spurt for me too.

Lesson #1: We all learn at our own pace.

Ellie, Nora, Chad, and me. This is no timeline that anyone of us has to follow, no matter how many Baby Center weekly emails tell me what milestones my girls should be reaching. Ellie learned to roll over weeks before Nora, but once Nora figured it out, she was an instant pro. Chad had the swaddling down pat on day two. I took a lot longer. Whenever Chad or I figured something out first, we’d share it with the other person calling it a “pro tip.” This way, we never feel called out for not knowing how to do something. Pro tips are my favorite.

Pro tip: It’s way easier to get the girls out of their car seats if you loosen the straps first.

Pro tip: If Nora is too distracted to eat, wrap her in her favorite pink blanket and make sure you’re holding her arms.

Pro tip: Sometimes Ellie is only fussy because she is dying to stand up.

Lesson #2: There is no right way to parent (thank you Rachel Hollis).

Between the internet, the well-meaning women at church, and every stranger who stops us to comment on the girls, we’ve received a LOT of advice. I appreciate it most of the time, but the luxury of being a parent of my kids is that I get to choose. We chose the cry it out method for sleep training. We chose to formula feed our girls after a month of nursing. We chose and we had our reasons. And it’s what worked for us. Do what works for you. If you’re concerned about being a good mom, then you are one.

Lesson #3: If it’s not a top priority, don’t treat it like one. 

I listened to a podcast by Jody Moore recently where she mentioned that she aims for a ‘B’ in the areas of her life that aren’t her top priority. I have tried to embrace that mentality. My girls, my husband, my faith, and my sanity are my top priorities right now. So my house is a ‘B’ on the clean scale. I respond to my work emails at a ‘B’ speed. It’s been refreshing not giving my all to EVERYTHING all at once. 

Lesson #4: Love the stage you are in.

Laugh at the spit up. Embrace the dry shampoo and the leggings you’ve been wearing for too many days. This is a time of life you won’t get back. For me, this means I cuddle my girls longer than they need. I sing them songs a little too often and I reread books to them till I have them memorized. They’re already six months! This baby stage is already half over.

Lesson #5: There are angels everywhere. 

I’m forever indebted to the help and love we’ve received from parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and friends. This week my darling cousin watched Ellie while I took Nora to one of her physical therapy appointments. My cute mom met me to go on a slightly-failed shopping adventure and bought me lunch. My kind grandparents continue to generously let us live in their basement. My brother-in-law put the girls to bed so Chad and I could go out on a date. A new friend in our neighborhood dropped off pumpkin cookies. Nora and Ellie have the best village to help raise them.

Lesson #6: 80% of what you need to know you can learn in the hospital.

This is Chad’s lesson. He treated the hospital stay like a parenting boot camp and ask our kind nurses 1,000 questions. He came out a parenting champ. So don’t stress about all the parenting books. Don’t get worked up over how to best prepare to be a parent. It’s okay to learn as you go along. That’s life.

5 Favorite Conference Talks

I lose direction in my life sometimes. It tends to make me wonder if maybe I’m not as close with God as I once was. Then I worry that I haven’t found answers to my prayers in a while. It’s discouraging and distracting. And then General Conference happens.

And in one weekend I find direction and answers. I remember all over again how aware God is of me. I feel found. Grounded.

I’ve been spending some time reading and listening to my favorite talks to prepare for General Conference this weekend. Here are a few of my favorites from past sessions:

An High Priest of Good Things to Come — Jeffrey R. Holland

Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it…You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.

Of Regrets and Resolutions — Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today.

Baskets and Bottles — Chieko N. Okazaki

God has given us many gifts, much diversity, and many differences, but the essential thing is what we know about each other—that we are all his children.

Mountains to Climb — Henry B. Eyring

Now, I wish to encourage those who are in the midst of hard trials…The Savior has promised angels on our left and our right to bear us up. And He always keeps His word.

Lord, I Believe — Jeffrey R. Holland

Hope on. Journey on. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.

P.S. I get to work again with those two beauties featured above at conference this weekend! Woot woot!

P.P.S. One time I ran into Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife, Harriet, in Jerusalem. Talk about a trip highlight.

Nora and Ellie’s Birth Story

April 4, 2018

3:00 pm: At my final doctor’s appointment, Chad and I had an overwhelming decision to make. Ellie had surprisingly flipped and was no longer breech. We now needed to choose between a c-section or a regular delivery. After a half hour of going back and forth, we decided the 20 percent risk of having a regular delivery for the first baby, and needing an emergency c-section for the second….was worth it. Let the party begin.

7:00 pm: After showering and packing everything up, Chad took me to Cafe Rio. We ate all our feelings.

8:00 pm: We checked into the hospital. The nurses got me hooked up to an IV and started me on a low level of Petocin. I spent my night watching Friends and trying desperately not the be annoyed with the very kind nurse who came in all too often.

April 5, 2018

4:00 am: I finally fell asleep!

5:30 am: The nurse upped my Petocin levels. It started to feel real all at once right about then.

7:00 am: There was a shift change and in walked my favorite nurse—Hafsa. Oh how I love this power-house of a woman. I was dilated to a 1 and she broke my water (one of them anyway). Oh baby (or should I say babies?).  Heads up future mamas – THERE’S AN OCEAN IN THERE.

9:30 am: I was dilated to a 3 and started to feel some painful contractions. We ordered my epidural. I was terrified when the anesthesiologist walked in. I felt the numbing prick as Chad started on a long rambling story from high school trying to distract me. Bless his soul, it didn’t help much. Just as I was about to ask the anesthesiologist when we were going to get this over with, he wrapped everything  up and told me he had already done it. I had missed it entirely. Hallelujah.

11:00 am: This was a strangely calm time. My family came in to visit. Chad wolfed down some Five Guys across the room, trying to hide from me the fact that he was eating. It didn’t work, but I did get a smoothie and a jello cup.

1:00 pm: I was dilated to a 5 at this point and had a giant peanut-shaped yoga ball between my legs.

2:30 pm: I was dilated to a 7 and crying now. The pain had suddenly become intense. Chad was a champ holding my hand and Hafsa called in the anesthesiologist who put a shot of extra drugs in my epidural. It helped a little.

3:30 pm: I was dilated to an 8. Woot woot! Things were going faster than we thought they would. I got another shot from the anesthesiologist. My epidural really wasn’t working well.

4:30 pm: I was officially dilated to a 10. My nurse called my doctor and wheeled me into the OR. At my hospital all twins are born in the OR in case they need to perform an emergency c-section. I was only allowed to have one person in the OR with me according to hospital policy, but Hafsa, my new best friend, snuck in my sister too.

5:00 pm: The real pushing started and I had an audience: my doctor, two pediatric nurses, two respiratory specialists, and three nurses. It was a packed house. And the lights were INSANELY bright. Luckily, I had Jewels making me laugh, Chad holding my hand, and Hafsa coaching me through the pushing. 10 seconds had never felt so long.

5:20 pm: Chad and Jewels realized my epidural was no longer hooked up to the drugs since we moved into the OR. The pain was pretty much in full swing here.

5:30 pm: My audience of medical personnel kept saying they could see Nora’s head and that I was so close. These comments drove me a little insane. So sassy Ness came out saying I didn’t believe them because if that were true, Nora would be here already. Fortunately, my sassy self didn’t have too long to wait.

5:32 pm: My darling, tiny Nora Elizabeth entered the world at 5 pounds and 10 ounces. I had a chance to touch her and then she was gone. My doctor told us Ellie was head down so I wouldn’t need an emergency c-section. Miracles! My contractions started back up again a few minutes later, and my second water broke. Hello ocean #2.

5:46 pm: Elise McKenna came to join the family party at 5 pounds and 11 ounces. I got to hold her for a bit longer before she was whisked off too.

7:00 pm: After I was back in my room recovering from Hafsa kneading my stomach (ouch), the nurses brought in my little girls after their hour in the nicu. Chad and I finally got to hold them both. Our little family was all together. It was surreal and magical and hard to comprehend those tiny little humans were ours.

I’m forever grateful for Nora and Ellie. It felt like I had been waiting to meet them for a very, very long time.

P.S. Special shout-out to our incredible families for being there with us. We love you. Nora and Ellie are the luckiest to have you.