Sunday, February 27, 2011

The New Pecking Order ... Or Why I Love My Job

[Warning: this posting contains scatological references that may not be suitable for young readers (but will probably delight anyone who enjoys the idea of the Jeffs covered in it).]

Hi, gang, sorry for the long delay between postings.  We're slowly getting used to the new pecking order at home and the "adorable little angels" are just now giving us a break.

Before we get into the latest update, here are the vitals: the kids are growing like weeds!  Woo hoo!  In the first six days that they were home, Kaden gained a pound and Jenny gained 7 oz.  We were elated.  This week's results were even better: in seven days, Kaden gained another pound (a 7 pound behemoth) and, even more shocking, so did Jenny (all 5 lbs, 10 oz of her)!

Given that their reward for so much great work was a vaccination shot, I doubt that they will keep up this pace.  On the other hand, they don't really have a choice: every three hours, like clockwork, they get another bottle  Given how much we are feeding them, you would think that we were making goose liver pate.

So, here they are ... the new, bigger, and (if you can believe it!) even better Jenny Lynn and Kaden (no, they're not fighting ... at least not yet):

Just look at those adorable round little faces (and Alix, thanks for the outfits; the kids love 'em).

In other news, we've slowly come to understand the new pecking order around the house:

First, it's Jenny and Kaden.  No question.  They may only be a month old, but they are firmly in charge.  Despite my best efforts, they absolutely refuse to be properly potty trained, sleep through the night, or pick up after themselves.  And, as they taught us today, they make the rules around the house: we're still allowed to have dinner parties, but only if they start by 5:30 pm and end by 6:00.  "PM" that is.  Not like the old days when we could easily stretch a few (dozen) bottles of wine into the wee hours of the morning.  After Jeff and I tried a (small) repeat performance last night, the Twinkies decided to make it clear that they like their schedule just fine, thank you.  No deviations. No interruptions. Nothing fancy.  Just feeding, peeing, pooping, and sleeping (sometimes all at the same time).

After the kids comes Glorious Gloria.  If the kids don't rule the roost, she does.  "Jump!"  "How high?" I'm not embarrassed to admit it: if you can guarantee me six hours of sleep, I will do whatever you say, too.

Third, is Jeff.  Hee hee.  Okay, I had to put that in there, if only to humor him.

Then, at the bottom of the totem pole is me.  And this is why I love my job.  At least there, sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) my colleagues will pretend to listen to me.  Not at home.

The problems with being at the bottom of the heap are obvious.  If you've forgotten, just remember what they say about sh*t rolling downhill.  Kaden was kind enough to give Jeff and me a reminder.  Oh, and it doesn't so much "roll gently downhill" as "thoroughly coat everything in its path".

Last night, about 1:15 in the morning, after a nice dinner with family and friends, after getting full bottles into both kids, after burping and changing a sweet (read: "clean and quiet") Jenny, Jeff started to change Kaden only to discover that Kaden had a blow out of record proportions.  We finally know where all of the formula we've been stuffing into him over the last month went.  Everywhere.

As those of you who have been here before know, formula is a liquid with few, if any, binders, yet, when it comes out the other end, has this amazing viscosity that defies physics.  On one hand, it will flow from place to place like water.  On the other, it will stick to anything that it touches like superglue.  Kaden's onesie?  Yep.  Jumper?  Yep.  His entire clean change of clothes?  Yep.  Jeff S.?  Yep.  Jeff A.?  Double yep.  The half box of wipes that we plastered to him?  Yep.  The giant towel we used?  Yep.  The drop cloth that we almost threw over him in desperation?  Yep.  Just about the only thing that it did not adhere to was Kaden's diaper.

This all would have been an unpleasant and exhausting, but tolerable, pain if it had happened to Jenny.  She would have laid there getting progressively more annoyed, but probably would have kept the announcement of her displeasure to a level slightly below that of a low lying jet flying directly overhead.

But this was Kaden, who differs from Jenny in many respects, particularly in that he (1) goes from "off" to "full throated melt down" in microseconds (no gentle progression for our little boy) and (2) has a wail that makes a sonic boom sound mild in comparison.

So, while we were desperately trying to clean up his home-made superglue and stop it from spreading like a toxic ooze, he was letting our friends in southern California know that he was being tortured mercilessly and that they should send for help immediately.  Thankfully, one of our neighbors is fostering a stray dog with "separation anxiety" who started howling at the sound of Kaden's screaming and didn't stop until this morning.  It was so bad that the neighbors had to walk around the block dropping off apology notes on everyone's doorstep.  (On a side note, we're proud of our little boy for already learning the valuable lesson of "blaming it on the dog".)

Thankfully, 20 minutes, a full box of wipes, and two changes of clothes later (plus a detox shower for each of his Daddies), Kaden was clean and sound asleep, acting as if nothing had happened.

Nevertheless, kiddo, we could not be happier.  And, as Mary says with cake, "Welcome Home".

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Does this onesie make me look fat?

The twinkies had their 2nd weekly checkup with their pediatrician, Dr. Rostek, this morning.   Guess what two teeny tiny preemies increased their body weights by 10% and 20% in one week!

Jeannette was 4 pounds 3 ounces last week and today she tipped the scales at 4 pounds 10 ounces!

Kaden was 5.0 pounds one week ago.  Today he weighed in at exactly 6.0 pounds!  We've actually taken to calling him "butterball" in the last couple of days. ;-)

Everything else in the checkup went equally well and the doctor was visibly pleased with their was Gloria, our baby nurse, who is taking personal pride in every ounce.   This is as it should be since she long ago mastered the art of the double simultaneous feeding without assistance.

The twins also had one of their first in-home visitors here in SF.   Tim Greeff, who works with Jeff A at CEN, was in town for some meetings.  Jeff brought him over to the house after their last meeting so that he could meet the twinkies.   Being just an overgrown kid himself, he was naturally a bit hit with both kids and even got to help out with the 6 pm feeding!

Finally, as we previously mentioned, our good friend Jay took some time to decorate the nursery for us before we arrived home from India.  Here's a quick movie that showcases his handiwork!  Thanks again, Jay!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2nd try - Steve's Video of Baby Shower and Arrival

Ok, think that we finally figured out how to post videos to blogger.   So, here's the video that our friend Steve put together of our baby shower and our arrival at SFO with the twinkies!

Thanks, Steve!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Morning

One of my favorite memories as a kid was waking up early on a Sunday morning after my parents had friends over for dinner the previous night.  It was the only time that not every dish was immediately cleaned up and put away after a meal.  Among the leftovers, you could always find something (usually some dessert).  Plus, since everyone else slept in, I had the house to myself.

Last night, Meredith, Steve, and Nazly came over to see the babies (we dispensed long ago with the notion that anyone will ever want to come see us again; smart people).  Jenny and I got up early and snuck downstairs to raid the refrigerator.  Thankfully, there was some leftover strawberry-rhubarb pie, which I devoured while Jenny enjoyed her pacifier.  Seems like she got the raw end of the deal.

While that was a treat, it does not compare with how sweet it was watching Jeff dancing last night in the living room with Jenny in his arms while she waited for her midnight feeding.  No wonder I fell in love with him.  Wish I had a taken a picture so I could show it at her wedding while she dances with her Daddy.

Later today, when everyone else is up, Kaden and I will take pictures of the new nursery.  Adorable.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Last time, we mentioned that our friend Steve surprised us at the airport.  What we did not mention is that he has been a producer for multiple national news programs.  Here's what I consider his best work:

{technical difficulties posting - see new post above for embedded video!]

Thank you, Steve!

Out of India

Well, we made it home.  So, here's the scoop that we did not want to discuss until we were safely home with the Twinkies.  We had great legal advisors, worked with very helpful government officials at the US Embassy, and got very lucky.  This is why it took only three business days to get our paper work done.

Over the last 6-9 months, the exit process got progressively longer.  When we started working on surrogacy in India, the exit process was taking ~2-3 weeks from hospital discharge.  Then, we started hearing horror stories of it taking 6 weeks to 3 months for some families to return home.  After not requiring DNA testing for awhile, the US Embassy began requiring testing again (which took 10-14 days without an expedited process, plus extra time for the passports themselves).  And the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and Foreign Regional Registry Office (which jointly are responsible for issuing exit visas) started "inquiries" for children born through surrogacy.  Initially, this added another 14-21 days to the process.

Fortunately, after the initial implementation of these new procedures, the time for completing the process started dropping again, with DNA testing available on an expedited basis and the inquiries more streamlined.  As a result, we expected it to take 2-3 weeks from discharge.

But, then, we got very lucky.  The US Embassy exercised its discretion not to require DNA testing where there was sufficient evidence of paternity, which our clinic provided in volumes.  And, our lawyers were able to work with the Indian government to provide a report in lieu of an inquiry (same information, but supplied by the lawyers with documentary evidence, rather than having the government having to gather the information on its own).  The result?  A three day exit process.  We hope that other new parents are equally lucky.

Other than two last minute surprises and two very long flights, the physical process of getting home was easier than expected.  We got to the airport early and breezed through the check-in process (having new born babies in tow helps grease the skids a bit).

And then we went through security where we got more stamps on more documents.  Sadly, however, of the eight airline tickets (four each for the Delhi-Munich flight and the Munich-SFO flight), the stamped the wrong ticket for Jeff A.

So, while he held the babies and all of our carry-on luggage (not insubstantial when you are carrying 18 sterilized baby bottles, baby clothes, diapers, wipes, burp cloths, formula, changing pads, documents, etc., etc., etc.), I went back through security to get his ticket re-stamped.  Unfortunately, the person who initially did the stamp was on break, so I had to explain the whole process to someone entirely new.  I'll be nice and leave it at that.  He eventually stamped the right ticket for Jeff A. and I worked my way back through security again.  Only to find out that they had also stamped my ticket incorrectly.

So, back through security all over again and back to yet another official to explain the mix up.  By this time, they were over me and just stamped it and told me to go.  So, for a third time, I worked my way back through security (where they patted me down a third time) only to have one of the guards (all with large guns) tell me that I would need new Munich-SFO tickets for Jeff A. and me, since those were accidentally stamped when they should not have been.  At this point, the senior guard, who was watching the whole process, came over, looked at all eight tickets, and told us to go.  My guess is that he figured it was Germany's issue, not his; plus, he was probably taking pity on me since the entire process made me start to sweat from head to toe.  Basically, I got to begin our long trip home soaked to the skin.

After some time in the airport lounge (where we got to change the babies on a changing pad on the floor since there were no changing tables in any of the bathrooms; thankfully, they were just wet), we boarded the plane.  I know that the large airlines get bad raps, many times well deserved.  United is generally very helpful to Jeff and me as travelers, but this time they screwed up over and over again.  But, thankfully, Lufthansa came to our rescue.  On both flights, they gave us the entire bulkhead row (six business class seats across) with two bassinets.  Granted, the flights were empty, but Lufthansa got extra credit across the board with wonderful flight attendants who did everything that they could to help us, including washing the babies' bottles.

You see, that was the second surprise.  I still can't figure out how it happened, but on our eight hour flight from Delhi to Munich, the babies managed to eat almost all of their formula and went through 15 of their 18 bottles.  Give it to babies (especially Jenny who was a fussy eater until the flight) to wait until the the most inopportune time to get cravings.

In addition to having only three bottles left for the layover and entire flight from Germany home, we were quickly running out of formula.  You have to understand that, up to this point, there are only two times when the babies cry: first, when they are naked (they really hate being cold) and, second, when they are hungry.  If we miss a feeding by only a few short minutes, Kaden goes from sweet, adorable baby to the devil child.  No warning, just sudden screaming.  The idea of running out of formula (notwithstanding Daddies' secret stash) had me breaking out in a sweat all over again (this, of course, is on top of the sweating fit I had in the plane bathroom while trying to change a screaming, squirming, naked Kaden's poopy diaper while not letting him touch anything -- quite a feat, I might add).  As a result, with the boarding announcement for our Munich-SFO flight and a very, very long trek to the gate, I had to take a detour throughout the airport to try to find formula.

Thankfully, albeit in the complete opposite direction of our gate, there was a pharmacy and, even more thankfully, they had ready-to-feed formula.  At this point, I would have gladly served the kids raw steak if they would have eaten it.  So, with new formula in hand and laden down with babies and bags (which multiplied exponentially as we collected empty bottles and dirty clothes), we trudged to our gate.

I can tell that the babies are not very discerning yet (or at least their noses are not fully functioning), because on this flight, they wanted to be held almost the whole time. While I loved every minute, I have no idea how they tolerated being near me.  I offended myself.

Eventually, however, we made it home and zipped through immigration and customs to find our friend Steve waiting with camera in hand.  It was a great treat seeing him.  And the bottle of Fernet was equally appreciated.

Jay and Eric also met us with the car and car seats. Thank you, Jay; we could not have made it without your help!  An even bigger surprise was coming home to a completely redecorated nursery.  Again, Jay (and Neil) out did themselves.  Thank you, guys.

But more about that and Glorious Gloria when we return.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We're Going Home

It's official: the babies are heading home.  We were able to complete the necessary paperwork, so now we are working to get home.  By the end of the week, the babies should be firmly on American soil (and, after the 26 hour trip home, they will not leave again until they can buy their own damn tickets!)

We were able to complete the paperwork in three business days, a process that, even when expedited, normally takes two to three weeks.  Jeff A. says that it's the first time that my anal compulsive nature has paid off.  Frankly, we got lucky and worked with some great folks.

Before we completed everything, we were able to spend some special time in Delhi with friends.  Saturday night, our friend Aimee (who was in Delhi for a sustainable development conference) came by on her way to the airport.  We got to introduce the Twinkies to her and then had a nice dinner out (the babies stayed at home).  Here's a picture of Aimee with Kaden:

As I mentioned in the last posting, we were also able to spend time with Manali and other friends on Sunday.  And then last night, Saurabh and Nico were kind enough to invite us over to their house for dinner with Manali.  Again, we ate way too much wonderful Indian food.  We're trying to convince Saurabh and Nico to have babies or at least a puppy.

Here's a shot of Manali with the babies from this morning (on the way home from their Doctor's appointment, we stopped by to see her and her puppy, Ladoo).  The babies are wrapped tight in the beautiful receiving blankets that Manali gave them; she's also promised to show Jenny how to tie a proper sari, when Jenny''s old enough.

And here's a shot of Liyi (a new friend and the babies' night nanny), Jeff, and Kaden; don't they make a good looking family?

 Finally, to close out the post, here's a shot of Jenny Lynn being burped by Jeff (that's his neck you see).  She continues to grow (2.0 kg at this morning's check up), but she's still a tiny little squirt.  And a fussy eater.  Hopefully, that's just a passing phase.  But you can see what a sweet, sweet angel she is:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bigger and Bigger

We can't wait for tomorrow's check-up.  They kids are both getting big and we want to see how much they weight.  Plus, neither is scheduled for any shots, so it should be an uneventful visit.  We like those kind of visits.  So do the babies.

The Twinkies continue to be complete joys.  And with all that she's been eating, Jeannette is finally filling out (although she's still a fussy eater, taking almost as long feeding as sleeping afterward).  In fact, today, I turned around quickly to talk with the day nurse (who was holding one of the babies) and confused Jeannette with Kaden.  Her face is really filling out.  Makes us so happy.  Unfortunately, even after the forced weight loss program this last week, Papa is also filling out.  Gotta lose this "baby weight".

Last night, we went to a friend's house for dinner.  It was a great evening.  Jeff met Manali in March in Delhi at a set of Cleantech meetings that she and another friend, Shalani, organized.  At that time, we were just beginning to think about surrogacy in India.  When we came in June, we were able to spend time with them and their families and friends.  So, it was a fun reunion when we got to see Manali and part of the same group again last night.

We were going to bring the babies to dinner to meet everyone, but, with the hope that we might be able to return to the US earlier than expected, we decided leave the babies at home with their night nurse to avoid the risk of infection.  Plus, driving in Delhi with them terrifies me.

In other news, it looks like we will be coming home this week!  We were expecting to fly home on the 21st, but we are way ahead of schedule on the paperwork side, so we are going to get home early.

Now, for the scary part: flying for 26 hours with 17 day old twins.  In a strange way, we are looking forward to it.  Although we'll be packed into a plane with 350 of our closest friends, it will be the first time that we will be alone with the kids.  With a day nurse and a night nurse, we have been surrounded by help.  It's tremendously appreciated, but we're going to have to figure it all out on our own at some point.  What better way than when we are crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder on a half-way-round-the-world, never-ending flight.  Are we stupid or what?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Check Up with Doc

If yesterday was eventful for us, today was eventful for the Twinkies (well, for Jeannette a bit more than Kaden).  They got to go for their first check-up since discharge on Wednesday.  And I got to learn first hand what it must have taken to storm Omaha Beach.

When people said that nothing would ever be the same, I heard them, but I didn't understand them until this morning.  Two babies, two nurses, two daddies, multiple feedings (kids and adults), the de rigueur morning coffee (no such luck; cranky daddies), multiple diaper changes, packing the diaper bag, and trying to marshal everyone out the door for a 1 km drive down the street to the hospital for our doctor's appointment.  What normally would have been a simple two minute stroll down the block became a massive two hour assault.  And, even with all of this, we were still 20 minutes late.

The kids would have been perfectly happy had we missed the whole thing.  First, their weigh ins (both have done great and are gaining weight like crazy: Jenny Lyn's now 1.95 kg and our little tiger is 2.5 kg, gaining a full 25% of his body weight in three days!).  Another jaundice test of each of them (ouch!) and then poor Jenny Lyn got her first Hep-B vaccine.  Maybe she thought that if she didn't gain enough, we would forget.  Sorry, little girl.  But, that was one case where it really did hurt us more than it hurt you.  You forgot it in a few seconds, but I can still hear your cries in my ears.

So, here is a shot taken from this morning just before the assault began:

And here's a shot of our apartment building (and, yes, that is a doughnut shop on the first floor; remember, it's important to support your local merchants):

Next Stop

The babies are continuing their whirlwind tour of government agencies with their first visit to the Ministry of Home Affairs.  Up early, packed the old apartment, went to the Ministry, moved to the new apartment (where we stay until the 21st), and then back to the Ministry later today to pick up our magic envelope.

On Monday, we take the envelope to the FRRO where we find out how much longer it will be before we get to bring the babies home.  For the uninitiated, although the babies are ours and they are US citizens, they can't leave the country without an exit visa.

So, here's a picture of Jeff and Mariamma (the babies' day nurse) waiting patiently with the babies at the Ministry of Home Affairs:

Subsequent update: so we went back to Home Affairs Friday evening and had a tiny bit of a scare.  We arrived early (silly Americans) and waited patently along with two rooms full of other foreigners picking up their magic envelops.  Then, they announced the Australians.  After a wait, the Pakistanis.  Another wait, and the rest of Asia.  Wait, then the African countries.  Wait, then Europe.  Wait, then Latin America.  And, finally, it just the Americans left (not sure what ever happened to the Canadians; probably got lumped in with Europe.  Must be magic in those little maple leaf flags sewn onto all of their backpacks.)

Then they called one of our compatriots.  And another, and another, and another.  On through the list.  One after another.  I was right up front so I got to call out to folks when their envelope hit the top of the stack.  And the stack got smaller and smaller and smaller.  Finally, there was only one left.  And two of us standing there.  It was for them.  "No soup for you."

I looked around and there was no one else left (except for Jeff A.; the Twimkies got to stay home).  As the official packed up to leave for the night, we stopped him and asked where our envelope was.  He rolled his eyes and motioned for us to follow him.  Back through corridor after corridor and room after room.  While walking, we casually passed another official, who told us to follow him (I must have missed the secret hand-off).  We went to a random desk in the next hall and he gave us our envelope.  Like much in India, just when you think that things could not possibly come together, they somehow do.

So, now we wait until Monday to take our envelope to the FRRO to find out what it says.  Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, here is an early Friday morning shot of the Twinkies with their night nurse, Lee:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

American Soil

Today was the first time that the squirts were on American soil.  (Sorry, but just about everything is a "first" for them, so even trivial things get lots of ink.)  Yep, we took a short family trip to the US Embassy.  Just going there made me miss home.  Notwithstanding how much we miss America, we were ecstatic at how short the trip was.  We arrived early for our 10 am appointment, were met early, and, even after a detailed review of all of our documents, we were out the door by 11.  The best part, we picked up the Twinkies' passports at 2:30 pm the same day.

First, a big thanks to the folks at the Embassy, especially to Nancy Hamilton.  If any of you are going through the same process in Delhi, please contact the Embassy early and keep them up to speed on your baby's (or babies') progress.  Nancy, in particular, was a great resource, helping to ensure that we knew what documents we needed and had everything ready before we arrived.  It was the kids' first trip since they left the hospital and her help keeping it to a minimum was much appreciated.

Fortunately, the kids were both great all day.  They only woke up for a few seconds each.  After a 30 minute effort yesterday to wake them up for their passport photos with them closing their eyes just when the picture was about to be taken, we got to the Embassy to find out that the photos were the wrong size.  They have a photographer at the Embassy (we should have just used him in the first place) and the babies each work up perfectly on cue and them promptly fell back to sleep.  Maybe they do have a future in film.

So, for anyone who's keeping tally, we have the birth certificates, we have the passports, and now we need to exit visas.  In the past, that has taken up to two weeks.  Hopefully, however, we will benefit from the work of folks who have gone before us and the process will be a bit faster.  Fingers crossed.  Then the kids can see more American soil.

Oh, and in other good news, they have both doubled their food intake with each feeding, we've shortened the time between feedings a bit, and they are still usually hungry when feeding time comes around.  Granted, they tend to get very sleepy for the second half of their feedings, but they are definitely eating more.  Can't wait for their checkup on Saturday to see if they've continued to gain weight.  Jenny's probably not quite as excited, since she will have to start her Hep B vaccine if she breaks 1.85-1.90 kg.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hopsital Prison Break

Yeah!  The babies are free.  After meeting with their pediatrician (Dr. Deepak, who is wonderful), the kids were successfully discharged from the hospital this morning (a ten day stay).  Both were exactly back to their birth weights (1.73 kg for Jenny and 2.06 kg for Kaden).   Both also received oral polio meds (not too bad) and had another jaundice test just to be sure all is functioning well (two very unhappy babies during the procedure).  For poor Kaden, it didn't stop there as he also started his Hep-B vaccines (Jenny is still a bit too tiny).  He was not a happy camper at all when he got the shot.  Poor  baby.  But, fortunately, he quickly forgot.

We wove through Delhi's chaotic traffic back to the B&B for a late feeding.  (Aside: seriously, how do they make 5 lanes out of 3 with motorcycles flying past like an army of gnats and not get into more accidents?  I'll probably have a heart attack driving from appointment to appointment with the kids in the car.)  After all of the commotion this morning and the physical examination, Kaden was ready for his bottle and sucked it down right away.  Jenny, on the other hand, was perfectly content just sleeping away in her new cocoon.  It took about 5 minutes to wake her up for her feeding.

Okay, so enough of the blather, here is their first post-hospital picture:

Okay, not the best, but after all of today's excitement, we just wanted to let them sleep.

And here are some pics from yesterday afternoon.  First, Kaden with his mittens (Bong: this shot is for you and Lori):

And another one of Jenny in her burrito wrap:

Of everything that has happened so far (other than their birth), what has been my favorite memory?  Easy; watching either of them fall asleep in Jeff A's arms after a feeding.  Compared to them, he's a giant ... a very loving, nurturing giant.  They're lucky to have him watching over them and we are both so blessed to be able to care for them.

Now the real excitement starts.  Over the next couple of weeks, in addition to navigating Delhi traffic, we get to navigate two government administrations.  Our next step is at the US Embassy for their emergency passports.  The Embassy personnel have been great.  The individual who heads up the American Services section, Nancy Hamilton, has been nothing short of terrific, answering multiple emails, setting up appointments, and allaying our concerns.  We have an appointment tomorrow morning and, if we have all of our paperwork in order, we will be able to pick up our emergency passports the same day (only good for a one-way trip back to the States; no international travel for awhile for you, kiddos).  We have our fingers crossed that it works as well as the Indian birth certificate process.  Then, with their passports in hand, we move on to the Ministry of Home Affairs and FRRO.  More on that later.