I hope everyone had a nice Fourth of July!  It was so weird for us not to be at the beach this year, but we still enjoyed ourselves.  I LOVED having Raleigh home and not studying!!!!!  He just has this weight lifted from his shoulders and it is so nice having my husband be his good ole' self :)  Raleigh was off on Monday and I must say I missed him yesterday when he went back to work.  We had a nice weekend even though we weren't getting our sun on at the beach.  On Saturday, we went to the Farmer's Market before we saw the girls and then we just relaxed in our new lounge chairs in our backyard.  We grilled hamburgers that night and they were yum yum good!  Sunday, we went to church and afterwards we visited the girls.  Some exciting news....the girls have moved to an open crib! 

Aren't they cute?!  I think it is adorable seeing them snuggled up against one another.  They do have their separate cribs when they get fussy but they spend the majority of their time together.  As Raleigh mentioned, it is so fun to see them just looking right at one another.  As long as they keep their temperatures at a normal rate, they can stay in this open environment.  That is just another step toward coming home!  As much as I love seeing them in an open crib, I yearn for them to be home in their own cribs.  We have been working so hard getting the nursery ready (pictures coming soon, promise!)  and I just want to see them tucked into their beautiful bedding all nice and sound.  I know the frilly stuff is just that...frilly...but I am tired of seeing them in this sterile environment.  I want to dress them in cute clothes, have them wrapped in monogrammed blankets, and be in our arms any time of the day.  When we started to pick out their bedding I thought it was ridiculous how expensive everything was.  I knew we were buying it more for ourselves because the girls won't remember what it looked like, but now I have a slightly different perspective.  Parents decorate their children's rooms' out of love; it is a display of our affection for the new additions of our family.  All we want to do is love our children and that is one way of showing it.

Anyways, on with the story.  On Friday, we also met with our pediatrician.  Raleigh and I both liked his perspective on the girls.  Of course, I had  my list of questions (by the way, he said that the vaccinations were fine) and the main thing he told us was that when the girls come home we should treat them like new born babies, not preemies.  He also told us to act like parents and not nurses.  That was so nice to hear!  Everybody has their own parenting style and we are still figuring ours out but now I feel more at ease knowing that their schedule is more important than charting their growth, feeds, etc.  Currently, the bottle is still our biggest roadblock towards getting the girls to come home.  Both girls are taking around 35 cc's (half of a bottle) and trying the bottle twice a day. 

Adeline gets about half-way through her feed and she is finished for the day!
Maralee has been taking her whole bottle majority of the time!

Friends, it has been such a difficult process getting them to take their bottles.  They are trying so hard to suck, swallow, and breathe but they just aren't coordinated enough to finish every time.  The first time I heard that my children were uncoordinated ruffled my feathers but now I realize the truth in that statement.  They aren't supposed to be doing this yet so for them to be trying is such an accomplishment.  Lately, the NICU has been filling up with new preemies.  Having been down that road, I can sense the fear and uncertainty in the parents' voices and expressions.  I thank God that He delivered us from that scary place and we are on our way to the promised land.  Right now, I am reading Deuteronomy and it is a recap of everything that the Israelites went through as they journeyed from Egypt through the desert for forty years.  I feel like Raleigh and I are where the Israelites were - about to cross the Jordan into the promised land filled with milk and honey.  God is showing us how He kept us safe through our desert and He is wanting us to remember how faithful He was to us in our darkest times.  "And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes." (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 21)

It is my goal to use this experience to catapult my faith and love for my God.  It has been amazing for us to see the work of His hands in our lives.  Even though Adeline and Maralee still have so much to accomplish, they have already come so far.  They might not take their full bottle every time they try but sometimes they do.  On June 20th Maralee took her first full bottle and on June 28th Adeline finished hers! 

 Adeline finishing her bottle for the first time - I was so proud of her!!!!!!

It was such an accomplishment and "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  I absolutely adore that bible verse.  It speaks such truth and it earnestly gives me the encouragement that I need to finish this race.  Whether or not the girls realize it, they are showing their perseverance each time they try to take their bottles.  Because of that, they are developing their character and their story is not only giving us hope for a future but it is helping us to show others God's wonderful love for all of us. 

9 weeks
Maralee weighs 3.12 pounds and Adeline weighs 4.3 pounds

After we had the girls, the first thing our doctor told us was that this journey would be like running a marathon.  Raleigh and I have both been athletes our whole lives and that parallel was quite fitting for us.  Like running a marathon, this journey has had its lows and its highs.  It is not fun going through it but we are going to persevere until we reach the finish line.  Running this race has allowed our faith and love for our God to multiply and we can't help but give him the glory. 

So, in honor of our girls, we have decided to run in a half-marathon.  The race is set for Saturday, October 2nd so we have a little less than 10 weeks to prepare for it.  Now, I am going to be completely honest....I did not want to do this at first.  Running a half-marathon has always been a goal of mine but has never seemed achievable.  As much as I enjoy running through sports, I despise running long distance.  In high school, I played soccer and I was a forward which meant I would run really fast for a short distance throughout the game.  I love running while dribbling the ball and having a target to shoot at when I try to score.  But, running just to be running....that is another story.  I have a long list of reasons not to do this race: time, full schedule already, not coming in first place, boring, lack of motivation - the list can go on and on.  The one thing that convinced me to try and run this race was the girls.  I have seen them struggle through each road block but they have persevered and just keep trying.  I figured if they can do that, the least I can do is honor them for their accomplishments.  Raleigh and I are following Hal Higdon's half marathon training program and so far we have attempted week two and are on week 3.  Sunday, I sweated my little booty off running through a local park.  We ended up running 3.5 miles and I will admit that I walked at least one mile all together.  So, the biggest thing for me right now is to build up my endurance so I can run longer and walk less.  I doubt I need to remind anybody, but I did have babies eight weeks ago so to say my endurance level is shot is an understatement!  When we aren't running, we are doing strength training to P90X.  We have already done the abs, cardio, and arms/shoulders videos and I am walking like a hunchback!  Even though I don't always enjoy this training, I do feel good getting back in shape.  I am going to try my hardest to stay on the schedule (even when the girls come home) so I can be as ready as possible come October 2nd.  I am scared that I won't be able to do it, but I am tired of letting fear control my thoughts.  "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

Happy 4th of July!
"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." - Hebrews 12:1

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen