Thursday, October 29, 2009

Double blessings

Stranger: Are they twins?
Me: Yes, they are.
Stranger: I'm so sorry for you.
Me: I'm not. I feel very blessed.

The saying "double blessings" sounds so cliche, but it's so true. Every baby is a blessing, more babies = more blessings. I know that for many people a baby seems to be more of a curse than a blessing and that breaks my heart. I know babies are expensive to raise and take a lot of time and energy to care for them. I know that a lot of parents simply don't have the resources and let's not forget the poor young women who accidentally get pregnant when they are alone and sometimes just children themselves.

Nevertheless, children are blessings from God. That means people are blessings from God. We've all heard the saying "he thinks he's God's gift to the world." Well, why can't he/she be just that? We all have the ability to be God's gift to the world if we give to the world.

It doesn't take much. One woman today helped me out to the car with my shopping. I was at a store that doesn't allow shopping carts out of the store and it would have been very difficult to cart my purchases to my car while pushing the double stroller. It took this woman all of about 2 minutes to help me but she made a big impact.

Today we ordered William's glasses. They were expensive at $250, but really, can we put a price on William's vision? The Rx was at about 4.5, which means he is very farsighted. He really needs these glasses and since we are treating his vision problems so early, he has a chance of actually achieving good vision by the time his vision stops developing. So, this $250 might seem like a bargain when you really think about it. I was thinking of all of the research and education that went into getting William his glasses, the many years of humans studying the eyes and figuring out how to help the vision of others. Over the next week or so there will be more people involved in making William's glasses just right. The lenses need crafting, then they need to be put into the frames (how they do that really amazes me). It boggles my mind to think of all the many people throughout time and throughout the world that had an influence on William getting his glasses, even if that influence was tiny and without any mind to how they would be helping my little boy.

Everyone has an impact on this world and on others in most everything that we do. We have an impact on others in our jobs, the way we drive in traffic, even in the way we carry ourselves when out and about running errands. We can be blessings or curses, but thankfully the vast majority of people choose to bless the earth and bless others with their lives even if they don't realize it. Like I said, it doesn't take much. A smile or kind word can work miracles.

With the world as it is today we are always reminded about our carbon footprint. We all have a carbon footprint no matter what. It's the price of being alive. Lately, as we become more and more aware of it, guilt of just living can become immense. While I strongly believe in being eco-friendly, we should also be happy to be alive and rejoice in our time here and rejoice in the others that are also alive with us.

What is the opposite of a carbon footprint? An "oxygen" footprint? I Googled this and found an interesting blog post that says the opposite of a carbon footprint is "God's footprint." While I actually disagree with a lot of what is written in that blog post, she does make some interesting points. Mostly, what I take from that post is that in addition to a carbon footprint, which we can't help but leave, we can also leave a positive footprint (or God footprint in a sense).

So, I guess it leads me back to blessings and how the twins are a double blessing and yes, I believe they are God's gift to the world, just as each and every one of us is. What we do with this gift is our choice, but I believe that we are meant to leave goodness and light in our wake. We are meant to give of ourselves, give our love and spread positive energy the best that we can. I know it's not so easy sometimes, maybe a lot of the time. We all get bogged down by troubles big and small. Trying to look past the troubles is sometimes difficult, but humans are so amazing and optimistic because that's exactly what people tend to do. We still can find ways to give of ourselves even when we think we have nothing to give, even when we don't even realize we are giving.

That's how the human race has survived and evolved. Think about it.

Isn't it amazing that performing even a small kindness for a stranger can impact generations? Isn't it even more amazing how far our reach is over time and space?

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for being alive.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The good news is...

The doctor was able to squeeze William in for an appointment this evening. He did a full examination including a Bruckner Test. The white glow in William's eye is not due to something really nasty. What a relief! It's still not a good sign, but it's nothing catastrophic. Essentially, his vision is very poor and he's using only one eye to fix on what he sees. He needs glasses asap so we'll go get them ordered tomorrow and hope we get them soon. The pediatric ophthalmologist wants to see him back in 8 weeks to see if the glasses help him to use both of his eyes and also help him to be able to focus. Apparently, the poor guy sees blurry and double all the time.

I urge all of you with small children to consider getting their eyes checked. Vision problems can be greatly improved if treatment (in William's case, glasses and possibly more patching and maybe surgery) is given while their vision is still developing. We all want to do the best for our children, right?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

William's eyes

From the moment William was born, we could tell he looked at us differently than other babies. He had a way of looking you that made you feel as though he could see your soul. He would just stare. Sometimes, when he was just weeks old, he would stare at me and smile and coo. It was the sweetest thing. He looked full of love and sweetness.

Even then I could tell that his eyes were misaligned. It wasn't severe, but it was noticeable. Through the first few months I kept reading in various places, including the informational sheets sent home with me from the pediatrician's office, that a cross-eyed look can be normal in infancy. I reminded myself of this often and waited for it to get better. Instead of getting better it got suddenly worse right at about his first birthday.

I brought this to our pediatrician's attention at his well-baby appointment. She made a referral to the ophthalmology department. We saw the ophthalmologist a little over a week ago. At the time, I just mentioned that he seemed to be cross-eyed from birth but that more recently it seemed to have gotten much more prominent and that William seems to be bothered by it, often shaking his head, bumping into things, and hitting the side of his face with his hand and rubbing his left eye a lot. He's also crying a lot more than he used to. Actually, he has always been such a happy baby, but the last few weeks he has difficulty in the afternoons and is often inconsolable.

After a thorough examination I was told that William's left eye is very weak, that he is very farsighted in the +3 to +4 range, and that we should start patching his right eye a few hours a day and soon get him glasses and plan on corrective surgery to align the left eye.

A few days ago I noticed in some photos that his left eye shows leukocoria. I just learned that word recently, because of this issue. It means "white pupil." I recalled an article I read about this when I was pregnant. I wrote to the ophthalmologist about it and he said he saw the white glow, but didn't see anything bad in his examination. We can't get in to see the pediatric ophthalmologist until November 13th. Right now that seems like forever away.

I've learned that leukocoria is never normal and by what I've found, it's usually an indication of a health problem. Dave and I are doing some research on the matter to present, with photographs of it, to our pediatrician at our appointment on Tuesday. Hopefully we can get some peace of mind on this matter soon.


The boys discovered their teeth not long after they grew them. The first tooth came it a little before 7 months. The second tooth soon followed. These were their bottom front incisors. The top front incisors came a couple of weeks later. The next teeth on top came at about 10 months and the next two bottom teeth came in at 12 months. Right now they are both showing signs of more teeth coming in, perhaps their top first molars.

It was at about 10 months that William discovered that his teeth could be a powerful tool. I was watching them fighting over a toy, yet again, when William got a look on his face and it was almost as if a light bulb appeared over his head. He leaned over and bit Ronan on the arm so quickly I couldn't imagine Ronan even felt it. Within seconds Ronan was screaming and he had deep teeth marks in his bicep. Ronan dropped the toy and William scuttled off with it and a big grin to match.

That was the beginning of the biting war. Most of the time William is to blame. Most of the time I don't even have to see it to know what happened. They seem to have a tell-tale grunt when they bite and a tell-tale scream when they are bitten. Ronan gets a few good licks in now and then, but William really does damage. I didn't get their 1-year photos done at Sears because I didn't want Ronan photographed in the studio with big dark bruises and a few small cuts on his left cheek.

For awhile time-outs worked but then the boys started laughing at me. They laugh at me when I say my most stern "NO!" They laugh at me when I try to show disappointment. They laugh when I show shock or dismay. They think most everything I do is funny, and that in itself is funny. Still, I'm at my wits end how to resolve this biting issue.

On that first bite a funny thing happened. I tried to get a photo of the bite and just as Ronan noticed the camera, he stopped crying and smiled to pose for the photo the very instant it was taken!

I think that shows how used to being photographed they are. hehe

Friday, October 23, 2009

One year old!!! And walking!

I know I'm a month late in posting this, but as you can imagine, keeping up with twin toddlers keeps me busy! Yes, I said toddlers. They started being able to walk across a room the very week of their birthday.

Walking was something that they worked up to. Most people I know seem to know the very day their baby or babies started walking. Both William and Ronan practiced it for about 4 months. They would take a few steps on their own at about 10 months, but didn't really show any inclination toward taking walking to the next level. They got really good and fast at crawling. They loved walking along furniture and from one piece of furniture to the next, but if we practiced walking with them, using their hands to hold them up, they got bored quickly and dropped to their hands and knees, especially William.

Even after they proved they could walk, they still chose crawling as their main mode of transportation for about another month. William got the jist of it just a few days before Ronan did, but they were always pretty much on the same page. Now they both walk all over the place and look so cute! "They look like little baby zombies!" Dave said of their walking style. We got them penguin costumes for Halloween. Their walk is a lot like a penguin walk. Although, I am tempted to dress them as zombies for a little Halloween video. I'll only get this one opportunity. hehe

We had 3 birthday parties in all. Dave had to be in the UK on their actual birthday so we held a little family party, just the 4 of us, before he left. We had some cake and presents on Sunday, September 20th. We gave them a crawling tunnel and some wooden block puzzles. They love wooden block puzzles and are getting very good at them.

On Wednesday, their actual birthday, I invited a few friends over and their children. Heather, Gavin, Tanner, Carmen, Maya, Rachel, Karen, Elena, Fiona, Ashley, Stephanie, and Avery were all in attendance. We had cake and had our own little party. I put some ball-pit balls into the boys' little blowup paddling pool in the family room and we had our own little ball pit, though 250 balls really doesn't go very far toward filling that pool. The kids really loved it just the same. I should take this opportunity to mention a special group of women with whom I have bonded with over the last year and a half. They are my fellow twin mommies I met on a website geared toward helping women maintain healthy pregnancies. This particular website had forums for people to communicate with others who are due around the same time. I met 7 other women all expecting twins at the same time I was! We posted to each other on a daily basis, sharing our experiences, hopes, and fears. We went through some similar ups and downs and supported each other through them as well as our own unique individual ups and downs. Now all of our twins, all 4 girls and 12 boys, are one-year-old and we are all still in frequent contact. There were a couple of twin mommies who joined us for a little while. We remember them, though we don't hear from them. Anyway, this group of gals and I pitched in for a couple of birthday onesies. We call them the "traveling onesies" and we sent them to each other, photographing our children in them then sending the onesies to the next family. You'll see them in some of the photos.

On Saturday, October 2nd, we had the big party at my mom's house. In attendance were Graeme, Ashley, Roger, Rumna, Dolly, Keith, Steve, Jack, Chris, Molly, Bev, Betsy, and I hate to admit there were a couple of people whose names I can't recall right now. It's late and my mind isn't so clear at the moment.

We had a lovely time at all 3 parties and we are certain that the boys officially love parties, especially parties for them.
Some photos:

The boys earned their wings!

We took our first family trip in August. We went to Salt Lake City and then to Las Vegas. This trip was taken for many reasons. We wanted to introduce the boys to my large extended family in Utah. I have many aunts and uncles and hundreds of cousins. You'd be amazed by the size and even more amazed by the closeness and love we share. My high school reunion also happened to coincide with a family gathering so it seemed like fate that we take the trip that particular weekend, the weekend of August 15th. To add to that fate, a good friend of mine who lives in New York was going to be vacationing in Vegas that week and with Southwest Airlines flight schedules, it worked out well to book a series of one-way tickets with a stop in Vegas before returning home.

We borrowed some Go-Go-Babyz from a good friend of ours who has twins that are 7 months older than William and Ronan. They were very handy, indeed! They allowed us to wheel the boys in their car seats right to the gate and on the plane. It did feel funny to be pulling the boys in this manner as if they were luggage.

We really enjoyed the trip even though it was a whirlwind visit. We managed to visit with many family members individually and in groups. It was also very nice to see many of the people I knew in high school. I actually didn't realize I had missed so many people from 20 years ago. Yes, 20 years ago! It was really nice to be back in touch with them. Also, through the fantastic wonders of the internet, there are a lot of us all in touch every day now, mostly through Facebook.

While in Vegas we saw the MGM lions, the Siren Song show at TI, walked around a lot, ate at a few buffets, stayed in a fancy suite at the Venetian (thank you, Dave!), and took a tour through Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

Here are some photos of our trip presented in no particular order:

Dorothea Lange

I meant to post this months ago in the wake of Daniel's passing. He helped me write this piece on his mother, but I never had the courage to show it to him. I wish I had. Another dear friend of mine helped me to write it and I just learned that his wife just passed on. When he broke the news to my mother he said, "She's moved on to join Daniel. What an awkward pair they make!" Well, I can't verify the exact words he said, but it was very close to that.

Here is the paper (forgive the formatting, this blogger editor isn't easy):

The Unknown Dorothea
She was born Dorothea Nutzhorn in Hoboken, New Jersey, on 26th May, 1895. Her father was German and had abandoned the family when she was young. Her mother worked as a librarian while her grandmother worked as a seamstress. According to Rondal Partridge, Dorothea’s photography assistant, good friend and “adopted” son, “her grandmother was a vicious drunk.” With her mother busy working and her grandmother working and drinking, Dorothea raised her younger brother Martin. She contracted polio at the age of seven which left her foot shriveled up; she was left with a permanent limp as a result. She believed this crippling helped to make her who she was and put her more in touch with the world. It was her upbringing that taught Dorothea to hold her head high no matter what happened. She once said that she had discovered a way of becoming invisible. She would just hold her head high and nobody would notice her. She later assumed her mother’s maiden name, Lange.
Her family wanted her to become a teacher; she wanted to become a photographer. She didn’t own a camera, but this was what she wanted to do. Her career began in San Francisco in the 1920s. She belonged to the California Camera Club where a friend convinced her that she had something special with her work. She opened a studio and took portraits on commission. During this time she married artist Maynard Dixon and had two sons. She traveled the American Southwest with Dixon taking photographs while he painted. For a short time the family lived in Taos, New Mexico where Dixon produced many paintings depicting the Native Americans of the area.
In the 1930s she felt that her portrait work, while she thought it was good, wasn’t where she wanted to focus her attentions. She wanted to do more than photograph just the people that paid her. In the early 1930s she went to the streets in search of inspiration. She photographed what others wanted to avoid: breadlines, waterfront strikes and the people affected most by the Great Depression.
In 1935 she worked for the California and Federal Resettlement Administrations, which led to her working for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) led by Roy Stryker. (Profotos) It was while she was doing this work that she fell in love with her second husband, Paul Taylor, Chairman of the Economics Department of the University of California. Paul was in charge of her team with the FSA. “Paul Taylor was an explorer, not of seas and continents, but of nearly unnoticed social events as they began to take form.” (Kerr, Dorothea Lange Fellowship)
Paul first came in contact with Dorothea's photographs in the summer of 1934, when he saw her picture of a strike orator in a local art gallery. (Dorothea Lange Fellowship) At this time she was still a studio photographer but had been following her instincts and exploring her real passion, documenting the events on the streets, photographing people in their true nature instead of in the sterile confines of a studio. Friends and family described their relationship as “a great love affair.” Paul and Dorothea were true soul-mates. Even the best soul-mates have differences, as did Dorothea and Paul. Paul was involved in politics, spoke seldom and softly and approached everything with careful thought and precision. Dorothea lived in the moment. She was gregarious, always moving and reacting quickly. She wasn’t interested in politics, she was interested in people. (Dorothea Lange Fellowship) She was also a perfectionist. “She kept the cleanest, best arranged house. There were never any ashes in her fireplace though she lit the fire often. You never saw how she did it.” (Partridge)
Her most famous photograph, “Migrant Mother” was taken while working for the FSA. Her photos, coupled with Taylor’s essays and captions, provided evidence of the urgent need of government assistance for displaced Americans. This photo has been reproduced in many forms, including a United States Postage Stamp.
Just as she held her head high, she kept her photographic standards high. Later in life, after she had achieved a name in photography, she charged $200 for a portrait. At the time Ansel Adams was charging $40 and Imogen Cunningham was charging $20. Dorothea got $200 per portrait because she priced her standards high. (Partridge) It was this pride that led her to get fired by Stryker. Stryker wanted her to submit her negatives to be developed by what Partridge called “darkroom junkies.” Dorothea wanted to do her own work, which resulted in her holding back some negatives; she wanted to keep her standards at the highest level. Though she had her disagreements with Stryker, she still spoke fondly of him, calling him a “genius.”
While World War II brought an end to her work with the FSA, it opened up new possibilities and sent her in new directions. Hired by the War Relocation Authority, Lange documented the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps. In 1940 she was the first woman to receive a Guggenheim fellowship, though illness prevented her from completing the grant to travel the country photographing the American people. (Dorothea Lange Fellowship)
By this time she was already sick with stomach problems combined with a chronic fatigue which resulted from her childhood bout with polio. Later, doctors discovered that she had cancer of the esophagus. Lange battled the cancer for ten years following the diagnosis. By 1954 she became so limited that she couldn’t go on magazine assignments that took her out into the field. She still always kept her camera around her neck but as she couldn’t go out, she began to photograph her family and her own domain. “She built up quite a body of work in that way,” said her son, Daniel Dixon. She was an extremely family-oriented person. She had high expectations of her children but when her grandchildren came along she spared them the pressure she often imposed on her sons.
“It’s important to understand why she got ill,” says Partridge. Dorothea took responsibility for the brother she raised. Affectionately referred to as her “monkey,” Martin was “a warm, friendly fuzzy dog.” (Partridge) At one point Martin was fixing up Dorothea’s house in San Francisco when a friend of his offered to pay him a substantial sum of money to fix up his house. Martin accepted the job knowing that the money he was being paid had been stolen by his friend. When the police asked Martin about the money, he confessed that he knew the money was stolen and for his part, he went to jail for a year. “This caused such an upset in Dorothea that her stomach acid flowed and eroded her throat, which led to the cancer,” says Partridge.
Regardless of her illness or in spite of it, in 1954 she went to Southeast Asia on a long-term trip that included the countries of Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines among others. Taylor was doing work with the governments of these countries. He was working for the Ford Foundation, hired to work on land reform. Taylor and Lange traveled on diplomatic passports. They enjoyed all the privileges of being an elite traveler. All necessities were provided by the Ford Foundation and the various governments of the countries they visited. Though ill she was as comfortable abroad as she would have been at home. “She went with no assignments, she went just on her own, not understanding the culture or language, just guided by her sense of vision, what she saw,” says Dixon, “The work she produced during this time was, in my opinion, the most evocative of her career.” She often asked herself, “what in the world am I doing here with a camera?” What she was doing was trying to find understanding through the camera. (Dixon)
Prior to taking the trip she consulted a doctor to see about traveling with her health condition. The doctor said, “What difference does it make whether you die here or there? Go!” (Dixon) During the next several years they traveled from Asia to the Middle East to Egypt, then from Egypt they went to India, Nepal and Pakistan. From there they went through Russia and Europe by way of Volkswagon before returning home to the United States. (Dixon) Dorothea spoke fondly of her years spent abroad. She said that living in Asia and the Middle East gave her a “third eye” in her head. She saw things in a different perspective. (Smithsonian Archives of American Art)
The trips to Asia, Middle East and Europe produced the last major body of work she completed. When she returned she continued to photograph her life at home around Berkeley. This work at home was a conclusion to the work she began prior to her travels just after falling ill.
In 1953 she was asked to put together a body of work for a major one-woman exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). It took her almost two years to look through all the work that she’d done and put it into some kind of order; to arrange it so that it showed some development of her as a photographer. (Dixon)
Dorothea died on October 11, 1965 just a few weeks prior to the opening of her exhibit at the MOMA. When the exhibit opened her family received a message from President Lyndon B. Johnson in recognition of her work. Her husband, Paul Taylor, donated the bulk of her collection to the Oakland Museum of California where it remains. The collection consists of over 25,000 negatives and more than 6,000 prints. (Profotos)
Lange’s compassion for people and dedication to her worked marked her as not just one of the “greats” of photography, but according to Partridge, she was the greatest photographer of the 20th century. “Other photographers used photography selfishly as a method of self-expression, their work was inward looking. Dorothea’s work was outward looking; it was about poverty and society. This is where she did something and made a difference.” (Partridge)
Recently, the photograph Dorothea considered her “most famed photograph” sold at auction for $882,000, breaking the record for this type of work. The photograph, “White Angel Breadline” and was taken on her first day out on the streets in San Francisco in the early 1930s. It was “instinct” that told her to take that photo. (Dixon; Smithsonian Archives of American Art)
According to those that knew her, she had the most insightful eyes one would ever know. She saw and heard everything. In her last days, Dorothea said what a pleasure it was to take a picture and to see that what you have done is "true." (Dorothea Lange Fellowship)

(All photos courtesy of Daniel and Dixie Dixon)

Breaking the silence

If you're reading this, then I must thank you for coming back after my long absence. It has been difficult to write for many reasons. There is so much I wanted to write here that I was overwhelmed and buried by the weight of it all. The boys are taking more and more of my time and energy, not that I'm complaining, it's just the fact of it. I truly love it. Every day they teach me how truly wonderful family is and what a blessing it is to have children. I feel so extremely blessed!

I have a lot of posts to catch up on so I'll try to be brief with them while hoping not to leave anything pertinent out. We have a crisis on our hands at the moment and we could use the support and prayers from friends and family. I'll get to that in one of the upcoming posts.

Thanks for coming back!