Category Archives: twins

Happy Birthday, Stephen and Avian!

To commemorate Stephen and Avian’s 12th birthday, I thought I’d recall their entrance into the world, while I still remember the details so vividly. Not that I expect to forget any time soon.

Finding Out

Our first ultrasound, Jon asked Dr. Coll (who had twins herself) nervously, “so, um we would know if there was more than one baby, right??” She said “oh yes, there is just one heartbeat, see it right there?”

Turns out, one of them was hiding. The good news was, we’d had some time to embrace the initial surprise of being pregnant, so by the time we found out there were two, everyone we told just laughed. “Of course you are! Twins!”


When we found out their genders, Stephen (Twin A) was named in honor of Jon’s younger brother, Stephen, who had died at 18-years young. As for Twin B, our girl, we’d been tossing around names, when my sister Lynette’s friend Mark came to town. Mark studies birds, and kept saying “Avian” -this and “Avian”- that. I loved it, and hoped the Avian Flu wouldn’t become too much of a thing.


I’d been on bed rest since July 25, which meant I had a lot of time to worry, eat, read, and lay out on the deck in my bikini (at 175 pounds and growing every day).

My only “field trips” from bed were to see the multiples specialist in Reno, where she’d do a 3-d ultrasound and check on the babies. After one Dr. visit, we went to Macy’s (totally against the rules, but I “needed” something). I was excited to go out in public, and actually wear some of the cute (I thought) maternity clothes, and put on makeup and make my hair look nice. I thought I looked “pretty”.

The young woman behind the counter saw me and exclaimed, “oh my goodness – you look like you’re going to EXPLODE!” She continued on, laughing at me. I tearfully left Macy’s, without buying anything. I went out to the car, told Jon the story, and he marched back in to find her manager. He came back out with a complimentary purse and makeup kit. Hopefully, that clerk never made fun of a fat pregnant woman again.

For my birthday, I got a double jogging stroller – I spent hours staring at it.


The Big Day

After months of bed rest, the Specialist in Reno decided it was time for Stephen and Avian to come out. I was secretly hoping for a c-section, that just sounded so much more pleasant, but our team of Truckee Dr.’s (Taylor-Thompson-Coll)  were confident that we would be ok, and scheduled the labor to be induced on the morning of September 26, 2005, one day shy of 37 weeks. The day before, I ventured out for a 3-mile hike, after months of doing NOTHING. I was sure the babies would come flying out, but, no.

Heading to the hospital, Sept 26, 2005

Jon and I met our good friend Sheila at Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee. Sheila had two kids of her own, but didn’t have the best birth experiences (I think she nearly died), so she wanted to see a birth when everything went well (fingers crossed).

After taking the drugs to induce labor, I wanted to see how long I could last without the epidural. Turns out, not long at all (Huge kudos to all you tough women who did it without the pain relievers). Before I got it, I was barely able to breathe through the pain, and got seething mad at Jon for turning on the tv (cnn at this moment – seriously!?). After the epidural though, I was in heaven – childbirth is easy! This is fun! Bring out the babies!

Sheila went shopping and bought Stephen and Avian the sweetest little clothes to wear home from the hospital. The hospital room was fairly quiet throughout the day as we waited.  But when the time came to push, the room quickly filled with nurses and multiple doctors, just in case there was a problem.

Our boy, Stephen Patrick, was born at 5:58 p.m. Dr. Taylor told me “Wait!”

Four minutes later, at 6:02 p.m., Avian Rose was born.

Stephen (5 pounds) and Avian (4 pounds, 3 ounces)

We were instantly in love with these tiny creatures.


The babies were cleaned up and friends arrived to celebrate.  We had Chinese food right there in the delivery room. After a couple hours, I asked a nurse if it was ok to get up – no one had realized I’d been sitting there since the delivery. It was pretty gross.

While in the shower (epidural wearing off, now everything is hurting, birthing is actually hard…), a nurse came in and told me Stephen had jaundice and would need to get under the lights asap –  that worry and anxiety leading up to the birth came rushing right back.

Avian’s weigh-in

Hospital life

The next few days, while waiting for Stephen’s jaundice to clear up, we enjoyed being in the hospital and having nurses to call for help whenever we couldn’t figure something out, or whenever we needed to sleep, they magically whisked away the babies and we could rest. I think we were both pretty terrified at the thoughts of “how in the hell are we going to manage this at home without two full-time nurses helping us?”

Jon and the kids
Burrito babies. Avian on the left.
Avian: Hey, where did my brother go?
Avian visiting Stephen, who had to stay under the lights for a few days
Marveling at the tiny feet

The staff at Tahoe Forest Hospital was amazing, we had a huge room with two beds all to ourselves, they served us delicious food including a special king-crab leg dinner (and friends brought us some pretty amazing food from favorite restaurants around town). We were very lucky that the maternity ward was so quiet and we were taken care of so well.

I asked the doctor, “when can I start running again?” He laughed and said, “Right now, if you feel like it!”

I tried, starting out with a walk, and it HURT. Running would have to wait a bit.

Brinn and her daughter Sophia, with me and Avian

My mom (aka Grandma Rosie) arrived at the hospital to help with her first grandchildren. She was a lifesaver.

Stephen and Avian had their photos taken for the baby wall, so we dressed them up in the new outfits from Sheila.


Stephen and Avian

After five days, it was time to go home. Fortunately, we wouldn’t be leaving alone, my mom would stay with us for a couple weeks to help.

First car ride, 5 days old. We were terrified.
My mom, Grandma Rosie, expertly juggling her grandbabies
First walk with Stephen and Avian, in front of their first house in Squaw

Life with two babies

I won’t pretend it was easy and blissful and happy – it was full-blown triage.  The evenings were the worst- the babies (both of them!) would start crying around 4pm and wouldn’t stop for hours and hours. We spent so many nights walking around the house carrying them, trying to console. Breast-feeding was a nightmare and near-impossible when I was alone- I couldn’t just leave one poor baby screaming while feeding the other – I spent hours in bed with them, crying often, trying to survive. We tried desperately to get them on the same feeding and sleeping schedule but failed miserably.  Oh wait, back to the happy birthing story…

Cousin Katie with Avian. Katie lived in Truckee at the time and came over to help me when Jon had to work.

Jon’s parents came out from Massachusetts to meet their grandchildren a few weeks later. We met them at the airport, along with Cousin Katie. Grandma Bev and Grandpa Bill fell in love with them instantly. They moved here and helped take care of them – for which we are forever grateful.

Grandpa Bill and Stephen, Grandma Bev and Avian
Stephen spent a lot of time like this with Grandpa Bill.

Twinning is winning

There’s nothing easy about raising twins, I post a lot of pictures of the happy times, but we struggle.  A lot. But 2x the trouble means 2x the love – and having Stephen and Avian come into my life has been the best thing that’s happened to me.

Happy birthday, Stephen and Avian. I love you both so much.

Avian and Stephen on a recent road trip

Squallywood with the kids

My kids, Avian and Stephen, age 11, are currently taking a one-year sabbatical after being on ski team at Squaw since they were five. I am a beginner compared to them, but they still humor me once in awhile and agree to ski with me.  I love watching them on the hill- so carefree and happy. And I learned some of their tricks, including how to avoid long lift lines, how/where to get free cups of whipped cream (yes, full cups of whipped cream), how to make boring runs a lot more interesting, and I got some tips on how to improve my skiing.

Squaw One chair, much better than the funitel. Despite a full parking lot, we never stood in a line for more than 5 minutes.
Avian, who gave me tips for better posture and control
Stephen and Avian at Cupcake Island
Stephen taking a cookie break, with a prime seat by the fireplace
a new friend we met at the bar
Stephen and Avian patiently waiting for me. They both ditched their poles at the bottom for this run, which meant they were free to wave their arms through the air like they were swimming, among other tricks. 
Stephen next to the trail sign that is normally a lot taller than him
It might look like he’s wearing goggles, but they’re actually on the top of his helmet – he achieved his goal of not wearing goggles the entire sunny day. 
Avian and Stephen patiently waiting for me
Stephen having fun on Mountain Run
Avian right behind him
Stephen packed the snack bag for us- and surprised me at the end with a beer. Such a sweet (and smart) kid.


Stephen and Avian’s Maple Syrup Slideshow

Here is a slideshow that Stephen and Avian presented in front of their 4th grade class, along with their introduction to maple syrup below the video. Papa Buckshot helped a lot with the content of the intro.

We went to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to make maple syrup with our Grandma Rosie and Papa Buckshot. Our family has been making Maple Syrup for nearly 60 years at our Sugar Bush. My great-great-great-great Uncle Elmer also produced Maple Syrup on the Potvin Farm for many years in the early part of the 20th century.

The First thing you need in the production of Maple Syrup is Sugar Maple Trees.

Sugar Maples only grow in North Eastern part of North America, no other place in the World.

The next tool is a drill.  The Tree should be 10”in diameter or larger to tap. On large trees two or three spiles may be installed, depending on the size of the tree.

IMG_0041Does it hurt the tree? a little bit- experts say, the sap drawn from one hole in a tree uses about 10% of the nutrients the tree needs to grown in the spring, so the damage is minimal.

One tap will produce enough sap to make a quart of syrup during the season. Papa taps 200 trees, so we should produce 200 qts or 50 gallons of Maple Syrup in a season.

Once the trees are tapped, we collect the sap each afternoon around 5pm. Weather is the most important factor in determining how much sap we get. Sugar Makers like the numbers 40/20. Highs of 40 degrees or above in the daytime and lows of 20 degrees at night. The twigs and branches have to freeze at night.

Some days it runs poor and other days very good. With 200 taps some days we may get as high as 170 gallons and others IMG_0026only 40 gallons. Season generally begins in mid-March and last 4 weeks long, however, no two Maple Seasons are exactly alike; each one is different depending on Mother Nature. The season can start as early as February or as late as the end of March/early April.

After the sap is gathered we have to boil it to remove the water. We use 219 degrees in temperature, and 66% sugar content, as our guide to when the Maple Syrup is finished. The longer you boil the water out, the thicker the batch gets and it will hold a higher temperature as it gets thicker.

To produce a gallon of syrup, sugar makers use an industry standard of 40 to 1. In other words you need 40 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup. We do better than that at our sugar bush, and it takes closer to 30 gallons of sap (because it’s sweeter). The sap that comes out of Papa’s trees are usually 4% or higher in sugar content. This is higher than normal.

We use a flat pan method to boil down our sap, which takes a lot of work and it evaporates about 10 gallons of water per IMG_0024hour. It takes 18-20 hours of boiling to get from sap to maple syrup.

While it’s boiling, we have to keep adding wood to the fire, skim the foam off the sap, and continue adding sap to the pan as the water evaporates.

We use the flat pan because syrup cooked slower produces a better tasting syrup. We fire with wood and some of that smoke ends up in our product. When you cook it slower it breaks down the molecules, releasing more of the true flavor of the Maple.


Pigeon Point field trip

This past week, I had the amazing opportunity to tag along with my 4th grade twins’ class on a visit to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, on the California coast.

Ano Nuevo State Park
Ano Nuevo State Park

I wasn’t one of the “lucky” parents selected in the lottery to be a chaperone, but I was able to book myself a private room at the lighthouse hostel,  join in on all the daytime activities, and get some free time to run and hike.

my room in the Dolphin house, which had a piano… yay!

After we arrived, two incredible outdoor educators, Emily (aka Dipper) and Fiona, gave us an enthusiastic welcome and got everyone psyched for the coming activities, which would include tide pooling (a short walk from the lighthouse), healthy meals prepared by (and cleaned up by) our kids, opportunities for free play, an exciting puppet show that evening, and day hikes and explorations the following two days.

Dipper and the kids
Fiona and the 4th graders


The first afternoon, we walked about 1/4 of a mile North of the lighthouse for tide pooling. (click on any of the photos below to open a gallery of larger images)

After tide pooling, I got to sneak in a beautiful run while the kids had free time.

The kids cooked a delicious dinner before we watched the sunset over the Pacific.

Puppet Show! We learned a lot about elephant seals, to prepare us for our hike the next day.


The next morning, after breakfast, we packed up to visit Ano Nuevo State Beach, for a 4 mile roundtrip hike to check out the elephant seals.

After returning from Ano Nuevo, we hiked down to the beach near the lighthouse. I was a little tired, which is why I only took pictures of the kids who were right next to me. 🙂

We had another amazing dinner prepared for us, and I followed Elia, Stephen, and Declan around for some photo ops before I was to leave for the night and drive back to Truckee. Boo.

I highly recommend the Pigeon Point field trip, to add to any parent’s bucket list of field trips to NOT miss out on. 🙂

Photo Apr 19, 1 15 30 PM


for love of horses

Avian has had a healthy obsession with horses for the past couple years.

It seems to have begun a year ago Labor Day – we were picnicking at the beach at Bodega Bay, when I looked over and saw her riding bare back on the beach… seriously…


She had met some people who brought their horses down to the beach for walks, and she asked them if she could go for a little ride. Fortunately, my friend’s husband, who had been walking with her (and his daughter), was spotting her and there was someone leading the horse, but still. After getting over my initial shock, I was excited for Avian and we spent a long time talking to the people and learning about their horses.

On the drive back through Sonoma County, we saw a beautiful sunset with… more horses.

2013-09-01 19.28.30-1

The next day, we went to visit some friends, who had…horses.
Avian got to spend a couple hours learning more about caring for horses and she got to go for another little walk.

2013-09-02 15.40.44-1 2013-09-02 16.21.01-1

At the beginning of the summer, we were invited to a donkey camp in the high Sierras. Serious fun with over 100 horses camping right next to us.

horses horses 2 stephen and horse

After the donkey camp weekend, Stephen became nearly as enthusiastic as his sister, and finally, yesterday, we visited an equestrian center in Truckee where the kids will begin riding lessons very soon. They are beyond themselves with excitement.

Afternoon at Wild Island

The last week of summer vacation… The reality hit hard this morning, and I decided we needed to Do Something Fun today. I called Jp and we settled on getting out of work early to take the kids to Wild Island, a water park just east of Reno.


The park was only open from 3:30-7, and there were hardly any people -it was in the high 80s, no lines- perfect conditions.


The last time I took the kids there, 2 years back, they were too young to go on any rides aside from the kiddie pool features. I had personally never been on water slides before, so this was new for the three of us. Fortunately Jp was an experienced professional and was able to take the mostly fearless SB and AB on whatever they desired.

Our first ride was a thrilling long slide that we raced down side by side, head first. From there, we decided this half-pipe looking thing looked like fun. We all climbed up the many flights of stairs to the platform, and avian immediately decided this was not for her. She walked back down but I felt like I had to do it if Stephen and JP could do it.

I had no idea what I was getting into, as you cannot see over the ledge from the platform. As soon as I got pushed in the tube over the ledge, I tensed up and thought “big mistake, huge mistake, gonna die, what was I thinking“…

Fully expecting to either (a) get thrown from the inner-tube and break a bone or several bones or (b) fly off the side of the half pipe and plummet to my death.

Instead, (a) my swimsuit bottom got pulled completely down, with my bare butt sticking out through the tube and (b) I received terrible whiplash from throwing my head around with each swing (couldn’t keep my chin to my chest as they had advised- something to do with g-forces).

After I finally came to a stop and dragged myself out of the water, JP pulled up my suit bottoms and led me away to help me calm down. I was starting to cry, I couldn’t stop shaking and my head and neck felt like something was seriously damaged. He helped me breathe through it though and low and behold, after three laps on the lazy river with the kids I was back at it and went on every ride (except two) and it was the Best Day Ever. Each time I got to the top of something (I’m terrified of heights) I told myself “this is for the kids”.








running with ghosts and swimming with seals

After having the worst day of my adult life yesterday, and waking up to more complications this morning, I found myself repeating expletives in my head as I drove my son to his 3 hour soccer camp.  After I got the kids checked in, I checked out, and hit the back road to Martis Valley.

IMG_0417[1]I forgot how fast I can run when fueled by anger.

looking west towards the dam from the trail
I climbed the trail up towards The Strand (Glenshire), crested the top, and then turned back towards Waddle Ranch instead. The Strand trail had a lot of loose rock and wasn’t very friendly towards my sprained ankle from last week.

I met Matt Rusanoff, whom the trail is dedicated to, the first year I moved to Truckee, while working on the program for the Truckee Follies. Matt was an extraordinary guy, always the life of our Follie’s program planning parties.

He was extremely passionate about the trails around Truckee, and I often think of him while getting lost in my head on a run.
At the top of Matt’s trail is Katy’s Walk, dedicated to Katie Morrison, another friend who left us (with her 2 small children) tragically early. Katie was equally passionate about the trails, and particularly about running. No matter how busy she was, or how much she had going on, she always made me feel like my life was fascinating and important to her.


I thought about the problems I am having with my kids and wondered how Katie, who appeared to be a Supermom, would have handled the situation. Her kids were a bit high-energy (like mine), but they treated her with total respect. I suspect she did not put up with anything less. As I left Katy’s Walk, I thought about how fortunate I am to have my kids, and I made a pact to be a better mom. Life is fleeting.
On the way back,  running down a dirt road, things looked different. I couldn’t be late getting back to the field, as I had a coach’s training (really important since I’ve never played soccer and know nothing about it), so I trusted my instinct and cut across the woods, in the direction I thought Matt’s trail should be.

my last view of Martis Valley while crossing the dam

It took a leap of faith, but I found my way, silently whooping at the sight of the trail, and ran hard back to the field.

After soccer, I took the kids to the pool for a few hours to keep their energy expelling program going strong. We had a blast, and I think we will have a much needed peaceful evening together.

Stephen and Avian, playing “Seal Show” for me in the pool

Soccer until sunset

Avian has been dreaming of playing soccer for years, and by some miracle I managed to sign her up in time not only for the season, but for the AYSO British Soccer Camp this week.

She loved her first day at camp, and continued to wear her shin guards, cleats and carry her new soccer ball around all day.
After dinner we went back to the fields and practiced until the sun set.