How a Germaphobe Survives Preemies

If you saw my twins in the yard, you would never know that almost a year and a half ago we were in a self imposed quarantine and didn’t leave our bedroom or allow others to come in for about four months. No, I’m not joking. For four months, I obsessively monitored every object that came past my bedroom doorway, washing and sanitizing teethers, blankets and pumping equipment, and avoided physical contact with anyone that was not my husband or my mother. I nursed and pumped around the clock. I did this all in the name of the premature immune system, and avoiding cold and flu germs from school aged nephews and nieces, and commuter family members. By the spring of their first year, my girls came down to the living room and played at a distance from my young nephews.

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When my girls were born eight weeks early and at the start of cold and flu season, I did not hesitate to establish rules of contact and visitation with family and friends almost immediately after leaving the hospital. Family members would describe me as a germaphobe even before having children, so it was no surprise to them that I would be hyper sensitive to hand washing and contact when they realized I would be bringing home not one, but TWO fragile humans from the NICU.

As I pick up spoons caked with avocado and beef off the floor and wipe them on a paper towel before returning them to the lunch bowl, I reflect on what a journey this has been. I have never feared fresh air and sunshine, just germs from other people and their tiny people. From the time the girls were a month old we were bundling up and taking regular walks all over the neighborhood, but we hung a small plastic stop sign from their stroller that we received as part of our exit packet from NICU, that read, “Please wash your hands before touching mine.” It was awesome. It stopped everyone from reaching in a grabbing baby fingers (which immediately go into their mouth,) and many people shared with us that they wished they had something like that when their children were small, because it becomes an awkward task asking strangers not to stick their hands in a baby’s face. Some people don’t mind at all, and some talk about how these encounters build up immunity. I kept telling people, one day they will be sneezed on, they will eat dirt, and will roll around with all of the other kids-their immune systems have some extra developing to do now though, even more so than a full term newborn. We’ll get there.

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When spring arrived and my girls were about four months old, I gradually allowed young cousins to interact closely with the babies. We set out a large blanket on the floor and big kids and babies could play on hands and knees or crawl and giggle next to each other as long as big kids washed hands and no one was sick. I did not allow any toys that went into the girls’ mouthes to be touched by the kiddos though. Unfortunately at this point, that was usually every object they encountered. If cousins wanted to hold babies, we’d wait till after bath time or when they were out of their school clothes and sports uniforms and washed hands. Kisses were on top of the head. Even with adults, I would place a burp cloth over clothing so the girls weren’t licking or laying on a dirty shirt. I continued to breastfeed, and we avoided several stomach bugs and upper respiratory infections. By the time it was summer, our requirements were simple: wash your hands before touching the babies, and if you’re sick, stay away. The baby toys were handled more, and the girls started playing off of their blanket and on foam squares or the carpet.

We ate lunches and dinners on the front porch in our camping high chairs and spent a lot of time outside. In late summer, we took a big family trip and enjoyed floating in the lake and playing outside with our cousins. For their first birthday in November, we had a big birthday party withIMG_0931 lots of family and friends. I was still nursing. The girls were passed around to everyone, but I still kept a close eye on anyone that looked ill. I would gently usher the girls away from a coughing adult or send kids to wash their hands when I saw them wipe their noses.

Once H&G were walking, things got interesting! Walking and teething will break a mother that fears germs. Especially when there are twins and you cannot make your eyeballs move in two different directions simultaneously. Not only are they putting everything imaginable in their mouthes, but now they can get to it on their own, and sometimes in that instant you’re not looking!

Things that I’m pretty sure my toddlers have eaten:

-Hair
-Dirt
-Leaves
-Shoes
-Bird Poop <—-I thought I was going to have a heart attack!* But they were fine, and so was I 🙂
-Books
-Paper
-Lint
-Twigs
-Pebbles
-Really, REALLY old food that they managed to find deep down in the crevices of their high chairs
-Old Almond Milk
-Plastic
-Clothing tags
-Each others boogers <—Twin life
-Bugs

And one time I pulled a PENNY out of my daughter’s mouth. That could have been very dangerous, but luckily she gave herself away. We’re STILL teething, so I know the fun isn’t over yet!

My reactions to toddler noshing have mellowed, because I really have to pick and choose what is going to take up time and attention. Not everything can be earth shattering or send my blood pressure through the roof. So these are my hard NO’s:

-Don’t touch or eat poop
-Sick people stay away

-Avoid chemicals/pesticides
-No touching/eating garbage, whether on the floor or in the can.

Even if we’re under the weather, we will always get sunshine and fresh air. We still want people to wash their hands when they come home from a store, a school, or any busy public place. We eat mainly organic foods, and my girls and I have been dairy and soy free because of allergies. I very recently (at 18.5 months) stopped nursing my twins. This was bittersweet and I definitely cried. It marked a new stage for my growing girls and made me feel like my security blanket of providing that little extra immunity for them disappeared. I’m happy to say though, that at 19+ months we have lived alongside several flus, stomach viruses, upper respiratory infections, and croup, and have never been sick with any of them. I hear that we’re bound to catch something between now and 24 months, but I feel like my girls have strong immune systems now. I’m so thankful that we were able to give that extra time to develop and ease into interactions with a very large circle of family and friends, and I am so thankful that I was able to breastfeed twins for as long as I did.

You know you’ve made progress when other people are running around, pulling all sorts of things out of your toddler’s hands, and you’re like, “ehh, it’s fiber.”

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The Spirit, The Wallet, and The Ego

At the start of this year, I pledged to embrace the mantra: Local, Home, Hand. This was a conscious effort to incorporate more homemade and handmade pieces into my life; frequent small businesses and support local artists and artisans. The idea behind this was to become more thoughtful about consumerism and to connect more personally with the people making the goods and providing services.

I’m happy to say that so far, everything is going according to the plan. Well, almost.

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I recently started a business (yay!! 🙂 ——->insert shameless plug here,)<——— and I felt a resurgence of creativity that had been dormant for about a year now. A few months ago, the hyper focus of raising my twins very gradually shifted from all about the girls, to mostly about the girls, with a side of mommy’s art time. Drawings started to fill my half-used sketch book, and I revisited some shelved t-shirt designs. It was the spark I needed to light that creative spirit again and give me a sense of accomplishment apart from being a mother.FullSizeRender

Time home with my twins made me realize a few things about style and comfort. Personally, I needed both: clothing and accessories that were stylish, and could function for daily parenting activities. This was the inspiration for the Ginger and Hazel™ business. My girls have become very interested in hats and headbands and learning how to put things on and take them off, so these items were in our daily rotation of interesting things that could entertain and educate. Also, my babes are still pretty bald, so they require head gear pretty much everywhere we go since the weather has been cold here in the Northeast.

A typical night around here is putting the girls to bed and then staying up till about 2am cutting, pinning, and sewing fabric, and sharing pictures of items and events on social media. Essentially, I hit the ground running with my girls at 7:30/8am, and then 12 hours later, clock out as “Mom” and clock in as Juliette, the hippie-ish, sort of crunchy, art student that dates (married) the tattoo artist, and stays up all night making cool things.IMG_0638-1 It’s like the old me comes out at night. I should definitely be sleeping more. But the truth is, I love it. I love the thrill of making something with my hands. So much so, that I’m willing to sacrifice precious sleep to do it. It’s good for spirit, I can feel it.

So then there’s the reality of running this small business. There’s money spent collecting materials and tools. I’ve set up an Etsy shop where people can purchase my handmade items, and I’ve sold hats and headbands directly to friends and family. Direct sales are the most profitable. Profits are good for the wallet.

And finally, the retail experience. This is where it gets interesting. Retail offers great exposure and validation for your product or brand. FullSizeRender-1When you find one that shares your vision and aligns with your values and expectations, it can be a wonderful partnership. It’s exciting seeing your item in a store, even if your profits may initially take a hit. This is great for the ego. And I’ll be honest, I take a lot of selfies modeling my own products with my girls. After two babies and very little sleep, a couple clicks on the ‘like’ button is damn good for the ego too.

So, looking to the future, the questions hang in the air: Will you be successful? What is success? I’m happy to say that I am personally making some fun and creative items for family, friends, and maybe you, but at the end of the (very long) day, I’m really making them for me. Through Ginger and Hazel though, I get to share. ❤

You can check out some of our handmade products here! 🙂 :

www.etsy.com/shop/GingerandHazel 

 Find us on Instagram: @gingerandhazelcoIMG_3826

#Rewearthedress

In August of 2014, hubs and I celebrated 6 years of marriage, opened a new business, and had made it through 9 months of raising twins while co-habitating with family. We hadn’t been out on a date since the girls had come home from the NICU, and barely had free time with each other.

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While running my hands over the many garment bags hanging from the rolling wardrobe in the basement, I saw the thick, white vinyl that protected my wedding dress. It was such a lovely dress. Simple, no frills. I wondered if it still fit. I remembered how I went shopping for it by myself, and bought the sample off the rack at the bridal boutique to save money. After alterations, I STILL ended up paying the equivalent of several car payments for something I would only wear for a few hours. Why did I do that again? And it’s pretty widely agreed upon that the wedding dress shouldn’t be worn again. So, essentially this is a very expensive, single use item. Like a very elaborate up-do or makeup job that looks great for the night and comes off by morning. Some people would argue that a wedding dress is a valuable keepsake, or heirloom. They would preserve their dress (which of course costs more money,) to pass on to family. But I have found that most dresses end up taking up valuable space, and people are left with a relic that no one has the guts to donate or repurpose. Or they don’t know how. Some people have imagined beautiful ways to reuse heirloom dresses, or display them for all to see, (check out some of those ideas here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-tate/10-creative-things-to-do-_b_5194277.html ,) but not everyone has the space or time to do that. So I thought to myself, why can’t I wear this again?

From this thought came #rewearthedress. Because on the one hand, it’s just a dress. Wearing it to a restaurant (or around the house, or letting your kids play in it or with it, or drawing on it…)lessens the pomp and circumstance. It makes a statement about how silly it is to place so much value and importance on a dress. It’s a piece of clothing, just like a shirt or a pair of jeans. It’s amazing that entire television shows are devoted to wedding dresses. There are some people who place more importance on the dress than finding the right person to wear it with. But on the other hand, it’s a (sometimes pricey,) wearable memento from a very special day. And it’s one hell of a conversation starter. My dress is a very tangible reminder of the day hubs and I made vows to one another and danced all night with our closest friends and family. I enjoy telling people about our great party and my great partner. And it is fun! It made me feel pretty and a little impressed with myself that I could clean up and get into it after months of wearing pajamas and nursing babies around the clock.

I made a plan to wear my wedding dress again for our 6th anniversary dinner date-no matter where we decided to go. To my delight, it still fit-probably a little better than it had pre-twins thanks to nursing. Hubs, being the roll-with-it kind of person that he is, was all for the idea, (one of the many reasons I married him!) We made plans to eat at a clubby, local sushi place, and had babysitting all lined up.

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Three days before our anniversary, a slight eye irritation was beginning to really bother me. It seemed I was developing a pesky stye. Hot compresses were applied, and I skipped makeup. The day before our date, my eye was so swollen shut, I had to go to the doctor. I was told I needed antibiotics, and possibly a trip to the ER. Aweeeesooooome. It was pretty disappointing. Murphy’s Law in full effect. We debated rescheduling for another weekend, but waiting weeks to get out alone for a few hours to celebrate an anniversary happening at that moment, just didn’t feel right. So, I improvised. I grabbed some sunglasses and a fedora, and wore the dress anyway. We never actually made it to sushi, either. By the time we were out of the house and made our way to the restaurant, my face was puffy and uncomfortable and shaded by sunglasses, so we decided a quiet, well-lit, casual meal would be better. So, we went to our local taco spot and tucked my dress under the small, wooden table where hot sauce sits in a condiment caddy made out of an old six pack box. We ordered nachos and tacos and sat face to face (sunglasses,) and had our first childless conversation, with the lights on, out of our home. Hubs held my hand across the table and told me I looked beautiful, and afterwards we visited the shaved ice shop.

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The whole outing happened so fast that we drove around just to stay out a little longer with each other. We talked about our babies a lot, but also about our wedding day, and life before the girls and plans for the future. It was really nice. I told hubs that if the dress still fits, I’d like to wear it every year on our anniversary-even if next year we decide to stay in. Why not? I’d love to see more people wear their wedding dresses again. Hell, even if that dress has outlasted the marriage, don’t let it just sit in the closet! (Check out what this guy did! http://pulptastic.com/wife-leaves-husband-gets-little-creative-wedding-dress-see-hilarious-results/ ) It gets people remembering, and talking. People perk up when they talk about their wedding day and start to tell the stories of how they met and the people that were there along the way. I read somewhere that taking photos on anniversary vacations in the wedding dress is a thing.  Maybe for our 25th. 🙂 #rewearthedress