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Thursday, June 28, 2018

The IVF Chronicles: The Transvaginal Ultrasound

I don't really remember my first "lady" appointment (is that even a thing that any woman remembers on purpose?); you know the one where the doctor gets all up in your business when really it's just been you and possibly tampax for several years.  But doctors, nurses, and techs, I have learned especially going through IVF and pregnancy, are super chill about lady parts that I don't even want to talk about with my mother or sister (I know there are some women who are really cool with their vaginas-not one of them right here).  Like I will never understand and always be in awe of the women of RHS on Rodi Road who were able to make chit chat and casual small talk during my several transvaginal ultrasounds.



The first one caught me by surprise which is not exactly how you really want to go into the procedure.  With our IVF plan, we were to call RHS when I started my period; because honestly, they are the only excited people when Aunt Flo visits you because that means it is time to hijack the hormone system and begin growing eggs.  I could have sworn that day 3 was supposed to be just a blood draw day where they evaluated my estrogen levels and other baby making hormones before putting me on birth control to get the timing just right.  Nope, I was poked first like I had anticipated, a bunch of blood was taken, and then I was sent back to another room and put in a special lady chair where I met my first of several friendly ultrasound techs.

If you are a lady, you know the speculum business from a Pap smear is one of the most uncomfortable experiences ever.  If you are not, I'd recommend comparing it to if a dentist had a crank to open up and keep your mouth from clamping down so they could see down into your esophagus (but in a body area you generally don't allow people to stare or let people poke).  Ladies, the poking, coldness, even the clicking (for me it's the clicking that is bothersome) of that damn machine being inserted and adjusted is a strange hell as a woman.  The transvag ultrasound thankfully doesn't use a speculum, however, there is a wand (that's right, expecto patronum, because making a baby without sex is so freaking magical).



The tech explained that today they were going to be observing the baseline size of my ovaries and making sure they and my uterus were in tiptop shape for egg growing and embryo housing.  Then I was handed the damn wand and told to go ahead and insert it then the tech would take over guiding it to do the procedure.  What in the hell?!  I have new appreciation and hatred for all of those antiabortion laws now that force women who are seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy who are forced to go through this first (like, I hope there is a special place in hell with a male version of this wand for their dicks, but I digress).  Anyways, this was my choice and I gladly obliged in the hopes for my future children.

Perhaps this tech was just down to business, or perhaps she was just not as small-talky as others would be, but this first go-around with the transvaginal ultrasound was super awkward because she didn't talk the whole time after getting started until about 30 minutes later.  Seriously, I stared up at the dark ceiling (why are these done in dark rooms?!) and observed the beautiful leaf patterns on the room curtain while listening to the camera clicking what I assume were pictures of my ovaries and uterus.  Later, techs would share the images with me of growing eggs and the two coffee stains that would become my babies, but for now there was really nothing to see but two quiet, broccoli shaped ovaries and a vacant yet healthy and welcoming uterus.

Gentlemen, if you are a loving member of your relationship and you know a woman who is going to have your baby, please respect the amount of embarrassing positions and moments they will endure on behalf of your progeny.  Get that lady some flowers to thank her for allowing so many to peek and poke and her being mostly good hearted because that is what is necessary to bring a healthy child/children into this world.  And ladies, hang in there, the transvag ultrasound is but an awkward stepping stone to some amazing and unbelievable moments.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dear Airport Stranger

Dear Stranger Who Left a Note on My Car:

You know, it was the one that said "Learn to park" and then had a colorful word I'm hoping my boys never unleash on a woman (or any person for that matter) especially in anger or frustration.  We had been at the Pittsburgh Airport dropping off my boys' sister and their nephew before dawn for their early flight back to Seattle.  It was an earlier than normal wake up; the bubs were actually sleeping when the alarm had gone off at 1:45am (the husband and I were discussing whether we thought we would have alarm-alarm or baby alarm that night, fooled us babies!).  The boys were generally jollier than any person should be dragging themselves out of bed at that time and clamoring into the car for a jaunt down I79.

We drove separate cars so PAG could take the Seattle family in one vehicle and I could come down in familial solidarity.  It was an uneventful drive in the darkness; no deer, no construction, although it seemed there would be activity and slowness later in the regular part of the day.

We arrived at PIT with time to be comfortable going through the airport with tiny people and there was less of the craziness that PAG had told me about from the pickup earlier this week.  Our only snag was parking; I misjudged the line in the dark and parked like a crazy person in two spots instead of one. I got out questioning my choices and the look on my husband's face was so embarrassed yet loving.  Not wanting to hold things up and knowing we'd be in and out with some quickness, I chose not to readjust the placement of my car.

Perhaps you saw this as I was unloading my one-year old bubs into the double-stroller and having a jolly laugh at my own ridiculousness.  Maybe you really needed that spot next to me because it was your lucky airport spot.  I like to think you didn't see me at all and just came up to a Chevy Cruze abandoned and looking like a shitshow in two parking spots.  Anyways, no matter the lead up, it obviously filled you with rage to see someone being so dick-ish about parking spaces when that business is valuable real estate at the airport.  I get it-so, you put a note on my car to teach me a lesson.

I did learn a lesson that day and have had it in my heart ever since. I wanted the chance to respond to  being called a b-word for the error of offending you at the wrong time.  Here it is; I get it-I judge people too.  It is a personality habit that I am frankly ashamed of.  It is unChristian and unkind and unhelpful.  I judge people for the same mostly harmless bullshit that caused you frustration that morning.  Maybe you were on the edge of anger or frustration already for factors I don't even know about, but isn't that how all of our anger comes about?  Don't we allow things to build and build inside of us until we snap over something minor?  Aren't we all guilty of this and we need some crazy lady parking her car badly to pin our frustrations on?  I get it!  I have spent the better part of a year feeling angry, scared, and frustrated for reasons I often cannot really articulate or control.  I am trying to be the daughter, mother, wife, teacher, friend I can be while surfing hormone and life changes that I don't fully comprehend.  So I too find it easy to look at nuisances and pet peeves and exact some mental vengeance through judgement.

This judgement I generally keep to myself and just chuckle at how much better it makes me feel to be better than someone because of stupid things.  Car stickers really bother me because they are inviting me to judge them as I sit in the passenger seat or walk uptown.  I get really frustrated with folks at restaurants who (in my mind) have no business being in a restaurant because they treat the service and workers poorly or cannot possibly seem to restaurant (like honestly, please read).  But anyone who experiences similar feelings may appreciate the downside of allowing all of that to build up and ferment.  I get angry and sarcastic and turn inward with dark and angry thoughts that just swirl and spiral, never really accomplish anything or making anything better.

This is how your note felt; I wasn't bothered by it (I know I parked like an asshole) and I don't think you really felt better because you left it.  Generally if I am feeling particularly prickly, I try to mentally remind myself that we all do this and it is mostly unhelpful.  We are all carrying around baggage with us (as in the case of the airport, sometimes literal baggage) and we can either help out each other by taking a breath and holding out a hand to help each other, or we can tear each other down with judgement and harsh words.  I didn't help you out because I parked like an asshole, and yes, I probably should have realized my dick-move and adjusted my car to be a better parking lot citizen for those twenty minutes.  I don't think you helped yourself by calling me out for it.  I don't think raining judgement on each other is our spot to occupy while we are here, and I hope to impart that to my boys.  We are all here together trying to share our space and time in the world.  Hopefully we can do it in ways that are kind and caring and thoughtful.  I wasn't thoughtful that morning, but you weren't either and I don't think the two wrongs made right.  Let's do better next time!

Sincerely,
The B*** Who Will Park Better Next Time  

Friday, June 8, 2018

Art and Kindness

I have a good life, no, let me rephrase that, I have an amazing life!  I woke up this morning with two bubbly babies and a kind, caring, smart, and funny husband.  I walked up to town with them to take them to day care for their last day.  At day care, there are no tears upon drop off, we crawl on the floor, joke with Miss Julie or Miss Neisha or Miss Tammy and I slide out the door as they boys are zooming around the room with toys in hand.  I come back to a great house on the river and am able to sit on my back porch enjoying a cup of coffee.  I am financially secure thanks to a great job with a great staff in a great community.  I went last night to a paint 'n sip with my mother who lives two blocks from me and enjoyed laughs, drinks, and creativity with her.  I truly have a great life, however, there are times of stress and anxiety that have swelled up and are in their own way debilitating or hampering on my enjoyment of the privilege I enjoy.  So when two major celebrity suicides (among countless others that will go unreported) occur in such a small window, it makes me reflect on how mental health and taking care of oneself as well as reaching out to others who are hurting is so important and critical for all of us.



While my life is great, I have had my own battles to navigate.  As my mom lovingly puts it, I am generally a high-strung, anal-retentive perfectionist.  I have very clear and high expectations of how I believe things ought to be both small picture and large.  I have learned flexibility, but it is not always easy for me to adapt and modify how I think things should be (so I had children-the definition of change!).

Often I will put failures (perceived or real) on my own shoulders as some function of me not trying hard enough, or working long enough, or not being smart enough.  I sat in my end of year meeting just days ago with my principal trying to workshop where I went wrong with my instruction or classroom management as I had one of the most stressful years of teaching in my career.  There is a lot of Kool-aid out there that says that teachers are the variable that make all the difference in the successes or failures of students and this year I was drinking it hard-core.  She didn't want me to see my work this year as a failure or moral deficit which I appreciated her saying as I have been beating myself up over shortcomings as a mother, spouse, teacher, daughter, person for nearly a year.

I'm not well versed in the causes of depression or anxiety so I will not pretend to be any kind of expert on anyone besides myself.  Saying that, I know as a meticulous planner, I feel most vulnerable when big things or small things don't go according to plan.  When my first marriage blew up after just over a year, I let myself sink into some unhealthy choices as a way of 'having control' over a very unstable time.  Thankfully family, friends, and therapy helped me pull it back together and get back on even footing.  Going into my pregnancy and early motherhood, I had a vision of how things would look and turn out.  However, no amount of reading or preparation could get me ready for lady hormones, two babies, or how sleep deprivation affected my mood or feelings of control.  And then I  transitioned to being a working mother with a classroom of students who possessed enough personal baggage to fill a 747 kept the ground from settling.  Again, a support system (doctor, therapist, coworkers, friends, spouse, family) was what kept me pulled together and functioning on days when I didn't want to or didn't think I could.

I know it seems easy to look at the lives of others and think to ourselves they ought to have nothing to complain about or wonder how could they possible suffer mentally when it appears they have so many good things in their lives.  I have great things in my life and yet the anxiety is still there and I work to cope with and manage the stress in my life.  We are all going through a journey that fluctuates between joyous and terrible, with on-days and off ones.  It can be difficult, painful, and lonely, even when there are many folks around commenting on how wonderful they think you have it.  Take a moment to read the signs or look for the clues that someone may be hurting just a little more today than yesterday.  Maybe they need you to hear them, or maybe they need a distraction during a tough time.  Ask before assuming (remember the two ears, one mouth rule and listen twice as much as you speak) and respect what they need before offering what you think they need.  Let's take care of ourselves, each other and spread some kindness in a world that could always benefit from a little (or a lot) more.  Let's also make it clear that it is okay to not be okay and to ask for help or extend some help when and where it is needed.            

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Reflection List #2 part one: Work Life Routines

So for List #2 I am supposed to outline all of my daily routines and then determine where to trim the fat of things that add stress and anxiety to my life.  As a teacher, it feels like I have two lives and sets of routines, one that occurs during the school year/school day, and one that is my out of school (afternoon or summer) routine.  Here are the breakdowns for both.

School Day Routine: So you want to know the crazy circus ride that is being a fourth grade public school teacher? Well buckle up because by the end of this ride you will either want a nap or an adult beverage or both.  PAG and I divided up drop off and pick up duties of the bubs to match our contractual time.  I drop off because I start later, and he picks up because he ends earlier.  I arrive at school around 7am-ish give or take the time it takes to stop and grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee at Sheetz (thank you Sheetz for keeping me un-hangry this year, I would have been much more of a monster without you).  I sit in my classroom and make a mental to-do list of things to take care of immediately and tasks that can be accomplished at a more relaxed pace as I read through emails, respond to emails, and eat my breakfast.

And here is some of the chaos I walk into (however this is mighty clean because we were getting ready for open house here!).
Until this year I would have stayed after school beyond my contractual time to clean up the holy-disaster that is a classroom after fourth graders have been learning all day.  Books, papers, pencils are tossed around willy-nilly and try asking them to maintain one square foot of space.  Seriously, try it and then tell me to get 25 of them to have the same standard of cleanliness that I expect.  Nope, it was just easier to stay after they were being bussed home and get all of the items back into their "should be" places (this is not just a school thing, I have "should be" places for lots of things in my car and in my home-it may drive my wonderful husband crazy that I want shoes on the shoe rack and keys in the key bowl).  This year, however, with two bouncing bubs at home to play with and feed and cuddle, I wasn't staying to do all of that, so I generally tackle it in the morning so my day ran smoother and I could find the materials we would need throughout the day.  This was not my favorite way to start the day, but I can't really get work done without a clean starting point.

The cleanest it ever is but that is because everything is packed away for the summer.  I love and hate this picture because it doesn't really show how vibrant and crazy our learning and activity is during the year.
I prepped the room with a new quote of the day, writing down homework assignments, and making sure I had all of the necessary paperwork organized and printed.  If we were using the smart board, I would look over programs and make sure I wouldn't be caught off guard with a strange math problem, or a smart slide that I didn't fully understand.  Sometimes if that was all I had in the morning and there were no meetings planned or papers to be graded, I would get some future planning done and make some materials for days or weeks ahead.  Day by day planning is the worst and I would rather have things ready in the case of an emergency than put the burden on my co-teacher or one of the other fourth grade teachers to figure out.

So that was three paragraphs and kids haven't even arrived yet? Yes, every minute of my day requires my time and often I could fill five times those minutes if I had the opportunity.

Kids arrive at our school at 9am.  The two hour working period is nice, because once the kids are there, I have had my introvert time to charge up for the day and am ready to expend that energy into working with them.  And I won't get crazy into detail about how each minute I can tell you what our class would be doing, but honestly, it is 9:19am now and I would be asking the student with the job of sending our lunch order to the kitchen to use the smart board and print the order to the cafeteria while interpreting silent body language from another student who was asking to go get a drink or fetch a pencil from their locker.  Any day off for appointment or sick day I could look at the clock and tell you where the kids should be and what they should be doing down to the minute.  I run on teacher time and this is how it works.  The first couple of days of the summer are sometimes rough getting out of that rigid routine and finding a more natural flow of doing things not at a bat-out-of-hell pace.

As I mentioned, kiddos are bussed home at 3:40, and I try to be out the door on my way home between 3:45 and 4:00.  As a twin parent, there is a lot of patience and work that goes into managing two nearly toddlers on your own.  So I try to be a good partner and parent and get my bottom home to help out with playing, feeding, and entertaining them.  Sometimes I am able to catch a nap as one of the bubs is sleeping, but more recently, the kiddos don't need that later afternoon nap and want to walk outside or play in the upstairs room or explore the other areas of the house.  This is great, but it is exhausting and leaves me looking forward to our evening bedtime routine with the boys.  Dinner is flexible and we take turns spooning out baby classics such as apple chicken or ban-blab-blub as the other has some food or takes care of chores.  More playing is done, sometimes we pull all of the books off of a shelf and read some of them.  When the kids are flinging themselves at us frequently, wanting to be held, but not too much because they might accidentally fall asleep, we move our parenting operation upstairs and often to baths, teeth brushing, jammies, Harry Potter, bottles and bed.  For most of this year, it took every ounce of energy to get to bedtime and I couldn't talk myself into writing or reading or even watching TV after we had gotten the fellas into their cribs.  I collapsed into my own bed and was trying to catch some minutes of sleep before someone woke up and came back into bed with us.  Again, every minute counted when there was the high likelihood that I'd be rocking, feeding, or soothing a restless baby.

So that was half of this reflection post without really looking at how to smooth out and de-stress-ify the routine.  But it is summer vacation, and I can come back to this and make this a part one of some series.
  
Bonus: Take action, circle all of the routines that bring you joy, and cross out all the routines you dislike.  What is it about the circled routines that bring you joy? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

My Boys are One!


I have a whole post in my head that I am processing about the birth experience and first year of life for my bubs and will get up here in the near future (I'm on summer vacation-yay!).  However, I want to make it known that today is one of my favorite days.  I am a mama because of this day.  My pregnancy and birth experiences plus the events of this past year have changed who I am and how I interact with the world around me.  My boys fill me with hope and love and I want to be better because of how amazing these men are (and there are the tears, because squishy feelings).  Today is a day for thankfulness for all who have shown kindness and provided help to PAG and I through our first year of twin parenthood.  No man is an island and no more is that so than when you are parenting, especially parenting two exciting balls of energy at once.  So today is for all of the folks who share in our joy and share in the ever changing experiences of Bilbo and Wall-E.  As these fellas cannot yet say "thank-you" let us do it for them and if I do not tell you so in person, please know we love you and keep you in our hearts everyday and are thankful for all of your kindness and love.  Happy birthday boys!    



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The IVF Chronicles: WTF is IVF

There was a cute, fun conversation I had with my boss when we were just about to start hormone injections and the shit just got real business of IVF.  PAG and I had confided in our family members of our intentions on pursuing preggo-hood and we wanted to allow our employers the opportunity to know what emotional roller coaster we were embarking on so we didn't show up to work basket cases with no context as to why.  So I emailed my principal about two weeks before our beginning of school in-services to let him know what would be happening and how that may affect me at the beginning of the school year.

I remember going in and doing some basic small talk about summer and preparing for the school year before saying that I was there to tell him that we were doing IVF.  He gave me a curious look that told me the information didn't land quite right so the teacher in me went about delivering the message a different way.  I told him we were trying to get pregnant which has no shades of other possible meanings so the wait time on that understanding was much shorter.  He laughed and said he was worried that what I had said before was some kind of relationship counseling and that our marriage was in some kind of trouble.

How can there be marital discord; we have a SPAM selfie together.

IVF and infertility in general is not a subject of much conversation.  We just passed not too long ago National Infertility Awareness week where there were several articles and pieces out in the inter webs  explaining that some kind of barrier to having a child is experienced.  I will not pretend to be an expert in infertility stats or the various options and procedures available to couples and individuals trying to conceive (or TTC in the web lingo) as we were fast tracked to IVF because of some insurmountable odds PAG and I would experience without.

We were walked through the routines and the procedures formally twice, once with one doctor who ended up not working with us (I think she was focusing on some other area of doctoring or research, maybe) and then again with Dr. A, who oversaw our case until we were discharged as successfully preggo parents to be.  I remember there was a handout/booklet on the center of the table that outlined, with illustrations and diagrams, the egg retrieval.  The needle was magnified to encourage nervousness that a bubble tea straw would be needed to suck up our grape sized eggs.  This is not the case---please read those pursuing infertility treatments---I am not a doctor and will not describe things accurately at all or without hyperbole; your eggs will be normal sized and I don't even remember the ins and outs of the procedure.

We knew we were doing this so no matter how scary the pokey needles or big the bucket of money we would need, we were ready to sign on the dotted line.  And here's what we knew going into it what IVF was:  I would be on a variety of drugs and hormones throughout my monthly cycle first to chill out my ovaries from producing anything, than kicking them into overdrive to make as many eggs as possible without putting me into estrogen shock (again, not really, but there is OHSS which sounded super painful and highly likely).  Then when the eggs had reached peak ripeness (this thing with being ripe will come up again and again in this process and it is never, not gross) the doctor would retrieve them.  Meanwhile, my partner would supply his end of the reproductive ingredients in a manner not fun or convenient and also involving needles in places most people just don't want them.  The doctors of the laboratory would arrange fixed marriages of sorts via a process called ICSI (it's the one everyone shows with the needle putting the sperm into the egg) with as many eggs and sperms as possible.  Then they would be set to hang out while we fret and hope and begin using progesterone with the needles much bigger than the previous ones.  There would then be a transfer day where I had to have the most water in my bladder as possible and they took the best embryo and introduced it back into my uterus ready and welcoming for the embryo to look around and say "gee, this is a swell place; I'd like to make my home here for nine months." At that point we hope that the odds are ever in our favor and in about two weeks there would be a blood test to check for pregnancy.  Oh did I forget to mention the fifty million blood tests and the 1,000 ultrasounds I would go through for not just an IVF pregnancy, but an IVF twin pregnancy?!  I guess we can talk about all of those adventures another day.

While that is all easy to understand and fairly straight forward, I needed it explained to me in language I most understood, and by that I mean book language.  I absolutely lived with "Get A Life" : A His and Hers Survival Guide to IVF" by Richard Mackney and Rosie Bray.  The couple reference a UK experience of IVF which had some key differences especially when it came to insurance and the payment end of things, but each chapter was designed to give a thorough layperson's experience of both the pitfalls of failure and the joys of success.  Web articles are meh for information about reproductive services, and each individual clinic is going to be different slightly in their procedures and how they arrange things.  We loved RHS in Monroeville, seriously loved them.  Dr. A was the stern, serious straight talking woman I needed getting started and answering my initial questions.  Dr. S did my retrieval and my transfer and I am sure she is an angel sent to earth to help families conceive children.  Even the receptionists and the blood draw technicians made the whole experience as fun and calm and comforting it can be.  I didn't go through the hardships I am sure many families endure, not by anything I did but through sheer luck, but I can imagine they are the perfect staff to console and encourage others in their trials and IVF missteps.



IVF is mysterious and intimidating to the medical novice.  Knowing that babies are made of female eggs and male sperm is just the tip of a big complicated iceberg.  It is seriously impressive that so many folks get preggo so often or with so little effort as the odds of the sequence happening just perfectly so is daunting.  I am glad we went against the odds with our IVF adventure.  We are nearly at a year, even though that conversation with my boss seems like just yesterday.  PAG and I are lucky, blessed, fortunate, and thankful that we now are experts with our own IVF adventure.

Reflection List #1: What Makes Me Happy Right Now

This year has been hard.  The most hard I could never have really prepared myself for.  I wouldn't change it for anything, but I know that when I went in to have my babies in the wee hours on June 6th, I had no idea how different my life would be in the subsequent weeks and months and how what I expected it to look like was nowhere close to the reality of what this year became.  We crossed into the final month of our babies' first year of life yesterday with a trip to the zoo for a reunion with our RHS doctors.  I almost didn't want to go because it has been a hard year and sometimes when I am feeling blue, I tend to want to squirrel myself away and be a hermit to regain some kind of control of what I am feeling is nonstop chaos.  I am glad we went as the experience reminds me I have so much to be thankful for and so many blessings to be counting.



A few months ago, I picked up this journaling book for this blog, determined to put myself at least on a weekly blog schedule to do some personal writing and reflection.  And then more life happened and I pushed my writing aside for babies, school, this meeting, and that event.  I seriously looked at my May calendar this past Friday and cried looking at all of the ink on the page and not knowing when I will catch a break between now and July.  The writing is supposed to be one of my ways of making breaks happen.  Does anyone else have a successful strategy for making the best of their me-time or generating more of it?  I'd love some advice on how to make loaves and fishes out of the spare seconds (read none-I might actually owe someone my time right now) for things like writing and not folding laundry.

So in the spirit of getting somewhat on track, but not being to harsh with myself if I slip into the blog void for a few weeks, here it goes!

Things that make me happy right now:
Snuggles-I am not a warm and fuzzy person.  I am generally not comfortable with small talk and I find it draining to socialize outside my immediate family unit for long stretches of time.  However, I love to hold my boys and give them nose kisses and tickle their tummies and hold them at 3am even though I haven't slept a full night of sleep since Obama was President.  Today the day care called to tell me that Wall-E had a fever and was extra sleepy and wanted held more than normal.  As they get more and more kid like, I realize that my baby holding days are decreasing and that I need to get while the getting is good.  So bring on the snuggles no matter what time.

My coteacher-Em and I have been working together for three years, but the way we understand each other, you might assume it were longer.  She is a great balance to me in knowledge and teaching approach, and we have a shared philosophy that meshes well for our students.  We have had a challenging year, however, I can show up every day knowing I can rely on her completely.  She is also a mum to a toddler and a newborn so we get to share mommy-battle stories of sleepless nights and the joys of new baby accomplishments.

My husband-PAG watched the boys tonight so I could be a figurehead at our town band rehearsal and practice as he has already out practiced me so far this year.  I can count on this man to share the workload and hear what is burdening me and be my shoulder to cry on. Every momma deserves that kind of man, and I am blessed to have it.

A healthy mom and healthy(ish) dad-it is my parents' birthday this week and as a new parent, I realize I owe them all of the things.  I can't imagine life without them and don't tell them enough how much I appreciate what they have done and sacrificed for me and my siblings.  We had the best life because of them and we are functioning human beings because they taught us how to be productive and caring people.