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Jake & Josh: Now the real fun begins!

Family and friends:

Well, we made it.

Mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Josh finally left the only home he'd ever known to come to the one that's been waiting for him for 206 days. Big brother Jake seemed excited by the reunion and biggest brother Zachary thought it was pretty cool, too.

Three days later, we're thrilled to report that everyone has adapted great. Even the sleep-deprived parents are still smiling.

Unlike Jake's arrival, Josh's first day home was quite hectic, mainly because of all the equipment that followed him.

He has a feeding pump - the same kind Jake has - plus an oxygen compressor that looks and sounds like an air conditioner wall unit, a liquid oxygen backpack to be used on the rare occasions when we take him out of the house and two other breathing-related machines that we use sporadically.

Learning how to use those machines, filling out related paperwork and getting set up with a home nurse took up most of the day. Still, we appreciated every moment of it because we knew that when we went to bed, our family of five was under the same roof for the very first time.

This little miracle of ours occurred on the fifth night of Chanukah, which is pretty symbolic considering the holiday commemorates a great miracle that happened in ancient Israel. In fact, while researching a school project for Zachary, we read that Chanukah is a time of "renewed dedication, faith, hope and spiritual light. It's a holiday that says, `Never lose hope.'" We couldn't agree more.

We were disappointed to have spent Thanksgiving without Josh, but knowing he was coming home soon made it a lot easier. It also probably worked out better that they came home a week apart. Jake needed the extra time to slowly get settled into his new environment, and we spent most of it re-arranging our house to accommodate a new baby - much less two! (As much as we thought we were ready, having the baby actually here exposed the flaws in our plans.)

Jake's adjustment period started slowly, but he's in top gear now. A nurse who visited a week ago Tuesday, the day after he arrived, came back Monday and said she couldn't believe he was the same child. He's focusing on things better and is much happier. He smiles plenty and cries only when he's fighting sleep; remember, this is the kid we used to call "Wide Awake Jake."

Our concern that Josh would miss Jake at the hospital never happened.
Instead, the nurses who used to divide their attention between the two ended up loving on Josh twice as much. They even taught him to stick out his tongue and blow raspberries! A sure way to get him to smile now is simply looking at him with your tongue sticking out. It's pretty funny, and he loves it. (In true twin fashion, Jake is catching onto this,

The sweet reality of our new life really hit on Wednesday when we didn't go to Medical City for the first time since May 8, the day before Lori went into labor. (One or both of us had been there every day since.) Zac noticed, too, because on Thursday he proudly told the mother driving
carpool: "Josh is home now, so we don't have to go to the hospital anymore."

After seeing our boys endure five surgeries and watching them grow from
1 pounds, 2 ounces each to nearly 11 pounds (Jake) and 12-plus pounds (Josh), we are finally moving to Phase 2, which we hope will soon be just like raising any other set of twins. Please note that we say that with complete naïveté, sarcasm and trepidation!
(Quick story: Jaime was talking to the mother of a nearby set of twins one night when she asked, "So, are these your first … twins?" Once the shock went away, it was discovered that her children were here ninth and 10th -- and her second set of twins. Yikes!)

While the boys were hospitalized, a friend mentioned that we were going to be the rare case of parents who bring home newborn twins and life gets easier. Different is more like it, but it certainly is better.

When we last wrote, our nights were a bit restful because we were setting Jake's feeding pump for a continuous drip. Well, that crutch was kicked away when Josh came home. Now, both boys now get fed six times a day, or every four hours. Josh gets a bottle every time and whatever he doesn't finish goes through the tube. Jake is at four bottles a day, and goes up to five Monday.

We plan to only take the boys out for doctor's appointments, but even that will keep them relatively busy.

They're headed to the pediatrician and occupational therapist next week, then Josh sees the pulmonologist the following week. Both go back to the pulmonologist's office the week after that for their monthly RSV shot, then in early January both go to the surgeon for an outpatient procedure that will improve the way we use the feeding tube. (For those who are familiar with such things, they're getting a "button;" for the majority of you who have never heard of such a thing, the button is sort of like the valve on a beach ball. It will be placed on their tummy and will make using it and caring for it much easier.)

Best of all, we're also starting to enjoy the spoils of having new babies at home.

To share our good news, we rented two 6-foot storks and planted them alongside the sidewalk in front of our house. (Pictures are on the link at the end of this e-mail). The best reaction so far came from a UPS driver. Jaime opened the front door as the guy was getting back into his truck, and he stopped, gestured toward the signs, smiled and said, "I don't envy you!"

As for Zac, he's taken to having the boys around about as well as we could hope. He talks to them and about them a lot, and doesn't seem threatened, angry or jealous. Of course, he has had plenty of time to get used to the idea of them, and he's been forced to share us with them for half a year. So far, the sweetest things he's said about the boys have been made to other people, and they've relayed them to us. We consider that a good sign because it indicates he's thinking of the boys when he's not home and that his thoughts are happy ones.

Since this is the last installment of our Jake & Josh dialogue, we have some closing thoughts to share.

The main one is how overwhelmed we remain by the outpouring of love and support the boys and us have received. It's impossible to quantify, but we do have a few numbers that help illustrate the point - The distribution list for these e-mails has grown beyond 200 names and we've received nearly 600 e-mails regarding the boys, all of which are being saved to pass along to them.

The doctor who delivered the boys recently told us that medicine and technology alone couldn't have pulled these guys through. It took faith, too, and we certainly have y'all to thank for all the prayers that have been answered.

One of the bonuses of coming home is getting to share the story of Jake & Josh to new audiences - such as the technician who came to work on Josh's oxygen compressor and the guy who rented us the stork signs. The technician couldn't stop shaking his head and smiling. The sign guy asked if he could lead us in a prayer, and offered a beautiful one in which he described the boys as "coming into this world no bigger than a can of green beans."

Their story has practically become a fable. It has all the elements: Two little heroes overcoming long odds, touching many lives and reaffirming the age-old lesson of never giving up. With every re-telling, it never loses any impact or meaning - sort of like "It's A Wonderful Life"
getting re-run every holiday season.

Another beautiful thing is how the relationship between the boys and their admirers has evolved - from them being the focus of so many thoughts and prayers, to them being the inspiration for others.

For example, after we suggested donating blood in honor of the boys, one friend wrote that he hadn't done so in years because it made him too queasy - but he figured that if Jake & Josh could go through all they've endured, then he could handle one needle. More recently, a close friend of Jaime's went through open-heart surgery. As he prepared for it, he drew strength by thinking about Jake & Josh.

Our lives have further been enriched by the relationships we've created and developed - such as many of the people on our e-mail list whom we didn't even know before this began.

A friend hit upon this theme a few days ago when he asked about all the new people who've become intertwined in our lives throughout this ordeal. It's something we'd already been thinking about when trying to digest just how long six months really is.

We decided to try framing the time span by looking at all the non-twins stuff that had happened in our lives since May 11. Then we shifted our focus to the lives of the caregivers in the NICU, the folks who became practically family to us. The changes include: four marriages, a serious car accident, prostate cancer surgery and one nurse who cared for Jake & Josh early on leaving to have both knees operated on and returning several weeks before they were released. Coincidentally, she was Jake's nurse the day he came home.

The best anecdote comes from the anesthesiologist who did Jake's horrifying bowel surgery on May 17. We saw the doctor again a few weeks ago and he told us that on that fateful day he and his partners had been wooing a prospective new member to their group when he was called to Jake's bedside. "And now," the anesthesiologist said, "Dr. Abramson is a well-established member of our group!" It was a good story at the time, but it became even more apropos a few days later when Dr. Abramson was the anesthesiologist for Josh's anti-reflux surgery.

A baby probably needs to be fed or changed, so it's time to end this.

We've enjoyed sharing our stories through these e-mails and the feedback we've received has been wonderful. As of now, though, we plan to make this 10th e-mail our last one.

If there's ever more major news to report, or if we ever get our act together and set up a Web site, we might still put the ol' J&J distribution list back to work. Otherwise, feel free to write or call us
(214-692-8996) any time.

Thanks again for being there for us, and for Jake & Josh.

With much love,
Lori and Jaime

PS - The photos are available for slide-show viewing (without any logging on nonsense) at:¬ag=1