Author: Lala
•Monday, July 25, 2011
Our Norfolk Beach trip (June 11-13) was a big thing for several reasons. One, it was our first three-day family trip away from any relative. Two, it was more than 6-hour total travel to our destination (4-hour train travel, 3 buses and more than 2 hours of travel by bus) plus layovers. Three, we had two 9-month old babies that were close to 16-lbs each - thus carrying them around could be a challenge. Four, we packed baby supplies for three days and packed for four people - meaning big luggage. But for family fun and togetherness, we thought it was worth a shot.

We woke up early, around 5am on Saturday, fed the babies and took an hour bus ride to the Alexandria Amtrak station. The train ride was fun and way more comfortable than driving a car. Mikelle and Rianne had so much fun in the cafe car were they could crawl, stand, play, and watch kids and the scenery outside. They had fun being able to go walk around with dad and crawl on the floor. I am glad we had a four-seater and enjoyed the space we all needed for feeding and changing our girls. Our babies were able to stick close to their feeding and napping schedules which made everybody happy. After taking two more buses we made it to our hotel at around 3 pm. We were amazed by how patient and happy our babies were during the whole trip! They were very entertained by a lot of things and did not have any crying episodes. I was so tired and we all took a nap after checking in our hotel. Then, after we fed our babies when they woke up, we then headed to the beach, which was just 20 meters away from our doorstep.

Everything was new to Mikelle and Rianne, and they were both very scared of the waves and the sand. We sat by the shore where the waves could hit us to help them get used to the water but it was not a success. They were more comfortable when Carl took them father out since the calmer water reminded them probably of pool water which they are used to.

I was frustrated to find our that I forgot to pack Mikelle's swimsuit I hanged to dry the night I packed. I felt bad that she had to go swimming in her onesie. I found a dollar store when I went out to find some food and bought two matching blue swimsuits for one dollar each. I thought it was a success.

Our first night was pretty stressful. The hotel did not have any cribs available for the babies and since they are both really good sleepers at night we thought they would do fine sleeping on the floor of the hotel - we were wrong. Mikelle slept pretty good for part of the time but Rianne woke up every 20-30 minutes, would sit up and cry that I have to hold her and put her back down. I ended up lying with them on the floor and was not able to get some sleep until Carl took over at around 4 a.m. I was in terrible shape the next morning. My head hurt and I could not think straight. Carl took the girls to the beach in the morning while I slept till a little after 8a.m.I felt a lot better when I joined them later.  Our second night, everyone slept like the dead all night.

On our last day, we decided to take our babies to their first zoo adventure at Virginia Zoological Park. It was a great idea to rent a cart for the babies. We took them out to see the animals and they enjoyed some of it. I think they mostly enjoyed looking at the young kids who were on a field trip that day. It was cute to see their amazement and curiosity. They got to see the prairie dogs up close, and it was fun to see baby and prairie dog staring at each other. They did really good, there was no complaining and crying. They fell asleep on our way to the train station. It was around 11p.m. when we got home. We were so tired but the trip was definitely worth it. It was a bit stressful but absolutely fun! We are looking forward to our next trip, to the Philippines probably.
 Waiting for bus on our way to the train station.
Mikelle and Dad
Our girls loved that they could play in the cafeteria while on the train.
 Mikelle admiring the sceneries.
 Our first day on the beach. It was a beautiful day!! Mikelle wearing her onesie because I forgot to bring her swimsuit.
 Dad playing with Mikelle so she would not be too scared of the wave, water and the sand.
 Rianne and Dad.
 Our girls liked the quilt Grandma Ellen gave us for Christmas.

 Rianne telling us how excited she was.
 Mikelle got really sick. This picture did not do justice how bad she was that day. Her eyes were swollen and very watery. Her nose was very stuffy and face was very red. I thought for a while she had really bad sunburn but then it went away the following day.
They were both scared of the sand and did not like it when we had them sit on it for some picture taking.
 They finally felt a little better after some encouragement and playing. We were able to take these cute pictures below.
 and Rianne.
Our girls talking about how tasty the sand was.
 At Virginia Zoological Park 

 Our girls enjoyed their first zoo trip.
 On our way to catch the bus from the zoo. Our girls were both tired and sleepy.
 On our way home.

Author: Lala
•Saturday, July 23, 2011
Since weekends equates to "going out" for me, finding things to do early Saturday has become part of my routine. Groupon had this 40% off deal on one-hour boat ride at the Occoquan river one day and since we haven't done any boat adventures, we thought that would be fun. The boat was already sailing away as we walked to it and we were so glad that the operator/owner decided to come back and get us on to the last trip for the day. The boat capacity was 30 and there were only less than 20 people that day and so we enjoyed the space as much as the scenery and Carl mostly enjoyed the history and facts associated with the place and the trip. Our girls were not very interested with what was outside the boat compared to what was happening inside with kids running around and dogs sitting beside their owners - especially a gold bracelet of an Indian woman sitting beside us that Rianne got the chance to chew on- how exciting, right?

 We talked to some people fishing that day and just hang out by the river after the boat tour. It was a beatiful afternoon!

 Our girls had so much fun climbing mount Dad!
 Our girls were out when we got home.
Tickling our babies was so fun, at least for the parents!!
Author: Lala
•Monday, July 18, 2011
One of the exciting adventures we had as a new couple was to hike the Billy Goat Trail. We took Trail A and we loved the rocky and steep contour of the trail. Here are some of our picture from November of 2009:

Carl hiking the steepest route of the trail. I enjoyed the hike!
Carl almost at the top.

This was Carl's fave picture of the trip that he kept a copy on his desk at his workplace.

After 1-1/2 years later, we were back at the same place with our -not one but two- girls! Trail A was closed at that time due to flooding - not that we would hike it. We decided to just walk around and took some pictures. It was a very warm day - not the best for hiking with two babies. The girls are as well getting heavier and wigglier making it harder for Carl to carry them around in a sling. After a little bit of walking (less than an hour), we decided to call it a day and went home. It was fun though!

 If you are the photographer, you seldom get a picture of you. I am glad I manage to get one.
 We told our babies to stay put and wait while Carl gets the car.

Author: Lala
•Wednesday, July 13, 2011
We have done a lot of water-related stuff this summer. An outing to the Great Waves water park was the first of the many. It took a while for Mikelle and Rianne to be comfortable with water. They were pretty scared of the waves and so we decided to go to the kids section where we played with water fountains, showers, and other fun stuffs which they found to be as scary. We then decided to try the kids pool and we slowly helped them get in the water. They were scared for a while but then eventually joined the fun.

Our girls can't get enough of crawling. They can't stay put even for picture taking.

We took turns taking care of the kids and playing in the water. I stayed with the kids while Carl tried the different slides available and he watched them while I enjoyed the waves and tubes. 
Aside from Carl's scraped knee from playing in the waves, we had a wonderful day!

Author: Lala
•Thursday, July 07, 2011
A year ago today (Thursday), we heard our babies' cries for the very first time. It was not the happiest moment as deliveries normally are. I was in the operating room very sick because of high blood pressure due to severe preeclampsia. After being on bed rest at home for more than five weeks, I was admitted to Inova Fairfax Prenatal Risk unit after developing preeclampsia at 28 weeks and 5 days on June 28, 2010 at about 4a.m. and was told that they could take  my babies out anytime - if my blood pressure got so high that I started to vomit and see spots, they would operate. I felt like I was a time bomb. With only two hours of sleep, soda , cheerios and eventually water to complete my diet, excruciating pain on every step to the bathroom and just plain pain all over me - part of me wished to get over it soon but part of me keep hoping that I could make one more day longer for my babies. I was able to keep our babies inside for nine more days.

On July 7th last year after my more than an hour of  unsuccessful morning routine of monitoring our babies' heartrates (they could not get a could reading of them at the same time)  I started vomiting after asking for a break. The nurses swarmed me and they called my OB who, luckily, was at the hospital operating that morning. I started getting dizzy and saw spots which were the go signals to operate. The resident doctor talked to Carl and he drove to Inova Fairfax hospital from work with a 45 minute notice till the operation. I remember the comfort that enveloped me when Carl pronounced in the priesthood blessing he gave me that I would give birth to healthy babies and that I would have a good recovery. I remember myself praying non-stop as they wheeled me to the operating room begging for Christ's comfort and hands to guide the doctors. I remember when the doctors gave me the epidural and that it did not hurt as I expected. It was hard to know what was real and what was not. One thing that was sure was that Carl held my hand when they cut me. My mom, worried sick, waited outside while the doctors worked on taking my babies out thru the emergency c-section.

It was not long before I heard a baby cry, which I thought was somebody else's until they told me to look at my baby's face as they put her in front of me.  It was baby A - Mikelle. I looked around but I could not see anything. Everything was a blur. Then I heard another baby cried - baby B was out - It was Rianne. Once again all I said was "I can't see!". Mikelle was taken out at 3:54 in the afternoon and Rianne followed seconds later. (That did not make Mikelle older for any reason as many people assume).They were 10 weeks early and both weighed 2.5 lbs. Things that followed later that were unlear to me. Carl told me that there were two incubators with several nurses and a doctor waiting for each of our babies. They took care of our tiny babies as soon as they came out. They put the tubes and the monitors on and wheeled them to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The doctors said that they were healthy and beautiful. In fact, I was way more sick than they were. The doctor tried to keep my blood pressure in control as they quickly took care of the chocolate cyst in my left ovary that erupted during the operation. I was at risk of seizure at some point. With the excellent doctors (thank you so much Dr. Karen Maser), prayers and love from all of you, I survived and recovered well.

It was Saturday afternoon, three days after I gave birth, when I first saw and held my babies (I was not allowed to see my babies who were just two levels down until they figured out what medications to give me). They were so tiny and the tubes and beeping monitors were a bit scary. They looked so fragile and it was almost scary to touch them. My hand was trembling when I put it inside the isolette door to reach for our babies' head and Carl held my hand to keep it steady. My heart sank and I cried when I saw them that day. I felt guilty for not being able to keep them inside me long enough that they had to be there and go through what they had. I was sad that I could not hold them whenever I wanted to, nor feed and do other stuff that mothers were supposed to do. I cried when I came home empty handed and woke up without a bump nor babies in our home. We visited them almost everyday. I held them whenever I could, sang to them and eventually changed their diapers, clothed and bathed them. After almost 10 weeks, they both came home with Rianne 5 days before Mikelle did, each weighing  close to 5 lbs. Our NICU experience was not  fun at all but it definitely was worth it (we enjoyed the freedom and time to go out, have some couple time, and recover, though). I know that my babies would not have survived without the medical help it provided. We thank God for our precious miracles everyday. It surely is challenging at times taking care of them but they are all worth it - all the sleepless nights and stressful days are all worth it. They give more joy and meaning into our lives. We can't imagine a life without them.

Here's their first year: