Tag Archives: twins

The Rudmans

July 17, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in July 2015 Her Family.

Kelli Rudman is no stranger to families with multiples. Her dad has a twin brother and she has a twin sister, so it is safe to say it’s a concept she is more than familiar with.  But when she discovered she was pregnant with triplets, that familiarity was no match for the shock both Rudman and her husband, Nick, felt.

“We were completely surprised, shocked, and overwhelmed initially. We were kind of scared out of our minds. It took a good four to five weeks for the news to set in. There were many nights of not sleeping and lots of worries about complications and possibly having to go on bed rest,” says Rudman.

Rudmans2

That shock soon turned into excitement, and as families do, the Rudmans started preparing. First on the list was sharing the news with their daughter, Millie. Now, Millie, being only 1 at the time may have hindered full comprehension of what was actually going on, but the excitement continued all the same. Particularly when Kelli and Nick found out all three triplets were boys, a set of identical and one fraternal.

“We got excited thinking about how unique it would be,” Kelli explains. “When we found out it would be three boys we thought that was especially great since we already had a girl. We dreamed they would be the best of friends.”

The preparations continued and next on their list were some pretty important items.

“We bought a mini van and a La-Z-Boy recliner in the same week. Those are two things we never thought we would own,” Kelly says.

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Once transportation and relaxation were taken care of, Kelli and Nick began the task of finding quality childcare and secured two exceptional nannies, which made the idea of returning to work less intimidating.

Kelli works as an ENT physician for Boys Town and Nick is an attorney with Baird Holm. They were both fairly new to their jobs when they found out about the triplets. The family had just moved to Omaha from Milwaukee where Kelli completed her residency. Kelli is an Omaha native and was happy to move closer to family.

Family would play an important role once the triplets made their arrival. That day came last December 1, five days earlier than the doctors had planned. Kelli was 35 weeks pregnant and had worked full time up until the last few weeks. The Rudmans welcomed Max Nicholas, Jackson Ronald, and Hutchinson Kent, and were beyond thrilled that each boy was born in good health.

“They didn’t have any problems. They just had to grow and learn to drink from a bottle on their own. They were in the NICU for just three weeks and got to come home within days of each other. Jack wasn’t supposed to come home until after Christmas, but we got a call on Christmas Eve saying he was ready. We rushed up there and surprised my family by having all three boys home when they walked in our house. My mom and dad started to cry. It was the best Christmas present ever.”

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The entire family has adjusted very well, even Millie, who loves helping her brothers when they lose their pacifiers.

“It’s been really great. We have just accepted that for the first year we will have people around all the time to help. Since I am a twin, I am more excited for the triplets because you realize how close you are with your twin sibling. I am so excited for them to have that bond.”

Rudmans

Potash Twins

October 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha once reigned as a major live music hub where scores of legendary artists came to perform. Many resident musicians who got their chops here used Omaha as a springboard to forge fat careers on 
the coasts.

The local African-American music scene was particularly lively from the 1930s into the 1970s, with jumping venues and jam sessions galore.

Then, that halcyon time faded away.

Now, identical twins Ezra and Adeev Potash of Omaha, two fast-rising horn players with crazy close ties to such living-legend jazz greats as Wynton Marsalis and Jon Faddis, are intent on reviving that long dormant scene. Nominated for Best Jazz for the 2014 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, they recently became co-artistic directors at the Love’s Jazz & Arts Center in Omaha. The twins, who turned 20 this fall, booked an all-star lineup of local artists at LJAC through 2013, headlining some dates themselves.

But it’s all a prelude for something grander. In collaboration with LJAC executive director Tim Clark the brothers are busy raising funds to underwrite a 2014-2015 lineup of jazz superstars. Many prospective guest artists are personal friends and colleagues of the twins in New York City, where the Westside High School graduates study music.

The brothers and Clark want nothing less than to create a world-class jazz club at the center, whose jazzman namesake, Omaha’s own Preston Love Sr., played with Count Basie and came of age in local nightspots like the Dreamland Ballroom. All the jazz giants played there or at Allen’s Showcase and other
long-gone venues.

Clark says, “What’s so exciting about the twins is their enthusiasm and their sincere desire to preserve one of America’s original art forms, jazz, and to put Omaha back on the map as a national jazz hub. They’re very serious about their craft and making jazz a priority in Omaha. They bring a breath of fresh air.”

“We’re going to try to raise the money to do the season right,” says Ezra, who plays trombone, tuba, and sousaphone.“We’re meeting with donors to prove to them our passion and our vision to get what we need to become a sustainable jazz club. The thing we want people in Omaha to know is that we have the connections to bring in the biggest names in jazz. The only way we can make it happen is if Omaha gives us the resources to make it happen. We’re really close to getting it.

“Now is the time. Omaha’s really thriving as a city and becoming known for its arts. Jazz is a historical music with strong Midwest roots. North Omaha was a center of jazz, and it can be that again.”

Adeev, who plays trumpet, says, “We want to make Love’s Jazz an attraction for not only the Midwest but around the country. You won’t have to go to 18th and Vine in Kansas City or to the Dakota Club in Minneapolis to listen to great jazz.”

There are plans to upgrade the acoustics at LJAC to “make it a state-of-the-art performance space,” says Ezra.

As unlikely as it sounds that two suburban Jewish-Americans barely out of their teens should lead a jazz revival in the heart of Omaha’s black community, it’s just par for the course for the twins. At 15, their chutzpah translated into a private lesson with trumpet master Marsalis after sneaking backstage at the Lied Performing Arts Center in Lincoln following a gig by his Lincoln 
Center Jazz Orchestra.

They appreciate what they have with Marsalis, who’s introduced them to other jazz icons, some of whom they’ve played with.

“Because of our relationship with Wynton we’re able to meet, hang out with, and learn from the best musicians in the world,” says Ezra. “We have a lot of awesome opportunities. We’re always eager to learn. And we like sharing with Omaha what we’re exposed to.”

Faddis confirms the brothers are “not shy” in approaching accomplished players like himself, Marsalis, and Jonathan Batiste for “pointers.” That networking has the brothers getting schooled by the best in the field.

“We’re living jazz history,” says Adeev, who studies under Faddis. “Wynton is the modern Coltrane. Jon Faddis is the disciple of Dizzy Gillespie. I feel honored to be part of the legacy they’ll leave me.”

Clark describes the twins as ambassadors, but the brothers also enjoy the limelight. In March, they performed at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, where they led an impromptu New Orleans-style “second line” parade down Sixth Street that National Public Radio featured. A film crew following them for a proposed reality TV series was there and at the May Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting, where the brothers performed. They also did a recent talk at October’s TEDx Omaha event on the Creighton University campus.

Their talk and performance there focused on the intuitive communication and bond twins enjoy, an asset that is magnified on stage. “Twins in general like to finish each other’s sentences,” says Adeev, “and that kind of works the same in jazz.”

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Family Success Story: The Codrs

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fertility issues are something that Jim Codr wouldn’t wish on anyone—not even his worst enemy. “You just sort of float along indefinitely with no end in sight. You start to question what you are, what you want, and how bad you want it.”

Emily, his wife of nearly 10 years, agrees. “There was a time when we didn’t think we would be able to have any children,” she says. “Our biggest obstacle, as a couple, [was] the difficulty of starting a family.”

Nora, 3.

Nora, 3.

But then, one day, everything turned around for the Codrs. They were blessed with a daughter, Anna. And then twins Nora and Margaret. And then a son, Edward. All of these fairly back-to-back pregnancies were surprising. “We got all sorts of raised eyebrows when we announced No. 4 was coming,” Emily adds.

What the Codrs didn’t realize was that the little blessings they had hoped for would turn out to be just as testing on their marriage as the fertility issues. “Having four children under 4 made life very stressful,” Emily says. “We had heard that multiples put a lot of stress on a marriage, but we had no idea just how little time we would have for each other, let alone ourselves.”

Each day presents a new set of obstacles for Jim and Emily. Not only do they have to ready themselves for work every morning; they also have to feed, dress, and drop off their four kids at school and daycare. It’s quite the hassle already, but it can be even more taxing when the children don’t want to cooperate. “[It] requires a great deal of organization and pre-planning the night before,” Emily says.

Eddie, 2.

Eddie, 2.

Fortunately, Jim and Emily, who both grew up in Omaha, have plenty of support around them to take some of the edge off of raising four young children.

“We lived in Kansas City for about five years prior to moving [back] to Omaha. I came to work for my father,” Jim says. “We came to that decision primarily because we [knew we] wanted to start having kids and thought the career move would be a better fit…Boy, I’m glad we did. The flexibility and benefits are huge.” Emily, too, has a flexible job that allows her to attend to the needs of her family when problems arise.

“We have an amazing network of people that have done nothing but help us along the way,” Emily says. “We have wonderful friends that didn’t forget about us when the days were long and hard caring for multiple babies…We often remark that life would be a whole lot more complicated for us outside of Omaha. [It’s] such a wonderful place to raise a family.”

When it comes to parenting, Jim and Emily try to stay away from the “divide and conquer” philosophy and focus more on working together. Leaving the house is a perfect example. Going anywhere with their children is one of the most hectic things they deal with on a regular basis, but they’ve gotten to the point where they have a system. “Logistically [for us], we simply need two adults minimum…It has sort of forced us to another level of parental participation,” Jim explains.

“We always wanted a big family…We may not be taking our kids on trips around the world, but at the end of the day, we tuck in four, healthy, balanced children whose parents love them and love each other.” – Emily Codr

“We don’t have roles as parents. If something needs to be done, we just do it,” Emily adds.

“I disagree with Emily about roles. She has a role—just do everything!” Jim counters with a laugh. “But seriously, she is a really terrific mom and keeps the engine going. I’d be lost without her.”

Having so many young children so fast brought the family closer together, in the Codrs’ opinion. Before they had kids, Jim and Emily had been more “carefree and freewheeling…even self-absorbed and a little immature.” Or, at least, that’s how Jim saw himself. Nevertheless, being parents has taught them many lessons.

Anna, 6.

Anna, 6.

“Being together is a priority for us,” Emily says. “We do most everything as a family, and we enjoy sharing experiences with each other. We [also] appreciate the ordinary days.”

“You learn what patience and determination really are,” Jim says. “It’s very easy to lay blame when things are going wrong, especially when they’re out of your control…You learn to stop hitting below the belt and lean on each other instead.” He adds that he admires his wife for her calm collectiveness. “I wish I had the grace under fire that she does.”

Although raising four children is quite enough to deem Jim and Emily saints in some people’s eyes, they don’t feel like they’re doing anything extraordinary. “We always wanted a big family…We may not be taking our kids on trips around the world, but at the end of the day, we tuck in four, healthy, balanced children whose parents love them and love each other,” Emily says.

Of course, the Codrs say their kids are just like other kids (in other words, they fight constantly). But in the end, they work well together and love one another.

Maggie, 3.

Maggie, 3.

“One of the coolest things about having several kids stacked together is that they have such an emotional attachment to each other,” adds Jim. “They always want to do things as a family. They love the weekends and nicknamed it ‘family day’…Their sibling relationships are just as important as the child-parent relationships. We try to stress that.”

“From what we have been told, parenting doesn’t get any easier as the kids get older, but we are sharpening our teamwork skills every day, and life must be getting easier because we cannot imagine how we did it,” Emily says.

“Oh yeah,” Jim adds. “It never ends. But that’s part of the fun, right? You get better. The kids get better. We’re all learning how to cope with one another.”

Young and Surviving Cancer

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was just eight weeks after Amberly Wagner-Connolly had given birth to twins when she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. She was just 29.

“I knew that life as I knew it would never be the same,” she recalls. “I was so shocked. Why me? Why would I have these beautiful kids and then so soon after find this out?”

As it turns out, the experience has come to be one of the most positive things that has happened in Wagner-Connolly’s life. It also became the springboard that put her goals in motion.

“It has helped guide me in my life and my career,” she says. “It opened my eyes to how much worse things could be and inspired me to do more with my life. Through cancer, I realized that I wanted to go into public health where I can help others. I know I am a better mom, friend, teacher, nurse, wife—everything. All of my roles have been affected in a positive way because of [cancer].”

On March 1, Wagner-Connolly celebrated her four-year anniversary of being a cancer survivor, and while she has managed to make it a positive in her life, she acknowledges that it was also one of the most difficult and trying times in her life.

“It has helped guide me in my life and my career. It opened my eyes to how much worse things could be and inspired me to do more with my life.” – Amberly Wagner-Connolly, survivor

The number of young adults who are diagnosed with cancer is very low, usually less than 5 percent, depending on the cancer, says Margaret Block, M.D., a medical oncologist at Nebraska Cancer Specialists. But for those who do receive the disturbing news, it can be a very emotional and stressful journey.

Like many young cancer patients, Wagner-Connolly experienced the challenges and emotional turmoil common among people her age. She struggled with the shock of being diagnosed at such an early age; she feared not being around to see her children grow up; and she grew weary from juggling two tiny twins and a four-year-old daughter when she could barely take care of herself.

Her family and friends and people she didn’t even know became her biggest supporters. Her husband worked nights and was able to help as much as he could during the day. Her mother and mother-in-law also provided help when they could and were there for emergencies.

Her co-workers at The Nebraska Medical Center held a fundraiser for her. Several friends of her sister who work at Lincoln Financial Group also organized a fundraiser/auction and raised more than $6,000 to help her with her medical bills.

This touched Wagner-Connolly greatly and was a turning point that helped her keep fighting. “It made me see the good in the world,” she says. “When complete strangers reached out to help me, I became determined that I had to do something with my life to make an impact like they had for me.”

“The number of young adults who are diagnosed with cancer is very low, usually less than 5 percent, depending on the cancer.” – Margaret Block, M.D., medical oncologist with Nebraska Cancer Specialists

Determined to not let her surgery and chemotherapy treatment slow her down, Wagner-Connolly was able to continue her master’s studies, finishing on her target date. She also kept a challenging work schedule as a nurse at The Nebraska Medical Center.

Being able to maintain some control over other parts of her life was important to her mental well-being. There were days during her six-month chemotherapy regimen when she felt as if she couldn’t go on. “I just had to take it day by day,” she recalls. “I did a lot of reality checks.”

Having goals—such as seeing her children grow up, completing her master’s degree, and wanting to live to make a difference in the world—fueled her will to keep fighting.

“Amberly did an amazing job,” says Peggy Jarrell, LCSW, OSW-C, a licensed clinical social worker and a certified oncology social worker at Nebraska Methodist Hospital, who worked with her during her treatment. “Motherhood can be stressful enough…put cancer on top of that, and you have a lot to deal with. [She] was able to maintain her own and still stay active in the outside world.”

Jarrell says it’s very important for cancer patients to establish a good support network of people and friends who can help them through this period. She also recommends having a designated support person who can accompany them at appointments and act as their second set of ears. Many hospitals now provide nurse navigators to help patients “navigate” the health care system.

Stacy Patzloff, RN, BSN, a certified oncology nurse navigator at Alegent Creighton Health, says nurse navigators work closely with the patient and the cancer support team to make sure everything is coordinated. They’re there to attend appointments with them and to act as a support person who is available 24/7.

“Motherhood can be stressful enough…put cancer on top of that, and you have a lot to deal with.” – Peggy Jarrell, licensed clinical social worker and certified oncology social worker with Nebraska Methodist Hospital

Support is key, agrees Dr. Block, whether it’s family, friends, a support group, or seeking the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist. Exercise can also be a good thing and may help you get through chemotherapy with less fatigue, she notes.

Other tips that may help young patients get through treatment and recovery include:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others.
  • Take time for yourself if you’re having a bad day.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Seek the nutrition advice of dietitians on staff at the hospital where you are receiving treatment.
  • Take care of your physical well-being. Programs like Alegent Creighton Health’s Image Recovery program provide cancer patients with wigs and helps them deal with hair, nail, and skin problems that are unique to cancer patients.

Today, Wagner-Connolly is very active in a number of projects to help other young victims of cancer. She started the group Survivors Raising Kids for young parents who need help with childcare during treatment and recovery. She is on the board of Camp Kesem for kids who have had a parent with cancer. She is also a nursing instructor at Clarkson College where she teaches public health and is pursuing a doctorate in global health.

“I know how lucky I am,” she says. “I want to make a difference in this world. No one should have to face cancer and certainly not a young mom.”

And for those who do, Wagner-Connolly is committed to easing that journey.