Jake & Josh Aron - "Good reason" for an update

Dear Jake & Josh fans,

Greetings. We had planned on sending an update just before the boys turn 3 in May, but we have a good reason for being early. We’ll get to that later because first we want to share all the wonderful news about our miracle men.

(But, please, before clicking out of this e-mail be sure to read the “good reason” section near the end of the text, before the pictures.)

Let’s start the update with the boys' last major hurdle -- feeding -- and how close they are to clearing it.

Both are eating about four meals a day at the kitchen table; their feeding poles no longer leave their bedroom. When they're sleeping, they get plugged in for a night-time meal, mainly because they’re not getting enough calories during their daytime feedings.

They should be able to overcome that as they discover new tastes and master new textures. So far, Josh can chew away at pizza and chicken nuggets but Jake prefers sticking with soft, smooth things like pudding, yogurt and ice cream. (Who can blame him?!)

Another wonderful milestone is that they are virtually medicine-free. All that’s left is Josh getting a few puffs from an inhaler every night.

With no medicines or feedings, the boys no longer have to deal with a 12-inch extension cord attached to the "button" on their tummies -- at least, not while they're awake. They are so accustomed to being “unplugged” that they get quite upset on the rare occasions when we have to give them a daytime medicine – such as last week, when both were fighting colds. The irony is that the tubes were a huge help under those conditions: Both were able to be fed when they otherwise wouldn’t have been up to it and we were able to easily squirt in their medicine. The fight to attach the extensions was nothing compared to what we would’ve faced trying to get them to swallow a spoonful of Triaminic.

So since they’re eating so well and are without tubes or medicines, it only makes sense that our nearly-3-year-olds are now going to school! They attend the JCC twice a week and even have the same teacher Zac had when he was their age. Our house already is starting to get decorated with their projects, from renderings of a spider to candleholders to a pair of impressionistic designs (Josh says his "is a Mommy;" Jake’s is a bear).

This summer, all three boys will be attending camp at the JCC. It should be interesting to see how Jake and Josh respond at the swimming pool when other kids see their buttons and other battle scars across their chests. Odds are, Jake and Josh will probably be curious why the others DON’T have buttons and battle scars.

Now that Jake and Josh are spending more time around their peers, we've noticed that both are much smaller than their classmates. Genetics are certainly a factor, but we've still begun monitoring it with their doctors. It’s not really a concern – more like another reminder that aspects of their extreme prematurity are always looming.

Here's our favorite part of the update: Bragging on their unique, wonderful attributes.

Jake loves music, has a great sense of humor, is really good about remembering names – and has an amazing ability to combine all three skills. For instance, if he meets you Monday there’s a good chance he’ll incorporate your name into a song Tuesday or Wednesday. His usual trick is to take his favorite song, "Regina," and replace the “gina” part with someone else's name, such as “Re-Mommy” or “Re-Daddy” (although he prefers to call his Daddy “Jaime,” but that’s another story). He never fails to amuse himself, punctuating each silly creation with his loud, rolling, contagious laugh.

Josh is in training to either become the youngest member of Cirque de Soleil or to join the monkey exhibit at the zoo. The kid is one giant muscle, able to turn a hug into an invitation to stand on your shoulders before you know what hit you. Our little He-man matches brains with brawn, such as figuring out that if he picks up a chair and moves it to another room then he can easily reach forbidden items. Yet just when we’re at our wits end, we’ll discover him sitting quietly in a corner building a perfect tower of blocks (color coordinated, with only pieces of the same shape) or studying a family photo album.

For the most part, they get along like brothers. They play together nicely until one takes something the other wants, then pandemonium ensues. Josh is more likely to take something from Jake just because he can, while Jake is quick to use his powerful voice to alert the entire neighborhood when anything doesn’t go his way, even if he's to blame. It’s times like those when we think back to their 200 days in the NICU and laugh things off.

Not to be left out is their incredible big brother, Zac, who just turned 7 and recently lost his third tooth. (He’d want that mentioned prominently). He remains very proud of his brothers and is unbelievably tolerant, even when they turn off the TV during his favorite program or deal out a hand of 52-pickup with his Yu-Gi-Oh cards. He’s also way more understanding than any kid his age should be about all the time and attention the twins require.

Since December, we’ve had another member of our house, an au pair from Croatia named Matija. She bonded quickly with all three boys – through fun, messy art projects with Jake & Josh and persuading Zac to drop the training wheels from his bike – and has been a tremendous help to us.

With fewer therapies and so much progress, we’re still hoping to have the boys off their feeding tubes by their third birthday, May 11. But even if it doesn’t work out that way we’re confident that we’ll get there soooner rather than later. Then we can focus more on all the other obstacles and joys that come with raising three boys!

OK, now for the GOOD REASON we're sending this e-mail.

On Saturday, April 30, we will be among 10,000-plus folks in the Dallas area taking part in the March of Dimes’ WalkAmerica fundraiser.

Lori is part of the local walk’s Family Teams Committee, and their goal is to round up walkers. So consider this our invitation for you to grab your sneakers and your friends and join our “team,” or to start your own squad.

Details can be found – and donations can be made – at the Aron Family team Web site:

www.walkamerica.org/aronfamily (just click on the address to be connected)

Please let us know if you can join us. It'll be a 5-mile walk around the lake, starting at 9 a.m.; registration is at 8:30 a.m. As a bonus, we’ll be giving everyone on our team the March of Dimes’ version of those popular rubber bracelets that every cause seems to have nowadays.

In case you didn't know, the March of Dimes helps pay for research into what causes prematurity, how to prevent it and how to treat prematurity-related problems. With more answers, other families could face fewer of the dilemmas and worries we faced when Jake & Josh arrived 17 weeks early.

Thanks again to everyone for loving and supporting all five of us the last three years. We know how truly blessed we’ve been by these boys and we take pride knowing their story brings so much joy to so many people.


Lori & Jaime