My Top Ten Posts of 2016, My Least Prolific Year

Homecoming: 3 Car Pile-Up

My least prolific year! Woohoo! Let’s “unpack” this, shall we? (Ugh, what’s with that phrase lately?)

I began blogging in 2012, about a thousand years after blogging went out of style. Ah, yes, Melissa has always been a late bloomer. Since then, I have had up to 68 posts per year and up to 20,000 visitors per year. However, 2016 was a bit of a bust – in real life and here on my blog, amiright?

With a measly 18 posts during the calendar year, and a solid five months of zero posts at all, my brain got a bit backed up. As I have repeated ad nauseum, I cannot think if I don’t write. However, my blog did manage to rack up 13,836 views with 8,067 visitors for those 18 posts. That’s a bit scary.

What happened to me? Let’s see… Special needs. Check. Potty training twins. Check. Lack of napping. Check. Publicly admitting to an anxiety disorder. Check. And my brother moving in. Check. (I love that guy, and I love having him here, but adjusting to a larger and even more chaotic household changed the game a little bit.)

My top ten posts of 2016 were not necessarily written in 2016. (The all-time #1 hit remains unchanged – a 2012 classic.) So, here’s a little countdown of the most viewed posts in 2016…

#10: What Happened When I Made “Black Lives Matter” My Profile Picture the Day After the Election?

#9: Kindergarten These Days. Sheesh.

#8: When Only My Black Son Gets Assigned to the Wrong Family

#7:I Studied Abroad in Italy to Get Back at My Boyfriend, Part 2: Culture (Men) Shock

#6:My Birth Story: How I Almost Lost My Uterus, My Life, and a Twin

#5: How a Good Girl Accidentally Shaved Her Head and Got a Tattoo One Time

#4: “But He’s Black!” (A Day in the Life of a Transracial Family)

#3: Eight Reasons Why I Can’t Talk on the Phone

#2: How I Really Feel About Birthmothers

#1: So, What is IVF Really Like? (A Thesis)

However, my own personal favorites are usually the least-viewed posts. Funny how that works. They feel like art to me. Like a piece of art I made for my children. A snapshot of their beautiful little lives and their flawed mother. I think my top five favorite pieces (but not yours) of 2016 were:

A Valentine’s Chart: He Says, She Hears

Mothering My Child Named “Anxiety”

Having Twins is Not the Same as Having Two Children (The Parking Lot Double Tantrum Event)

Mom Math

I’ve Got to Pop That White Bubble (Or, The Rap Incident)

Say, that last post there reminds me of something: during the time that I wasn’t writing, to be fair to myself, I was learning a tremendous amount about transracial adoption, white privilege, and Black history. I’ve been listening, reading, and studying like someone lit a fire under my butt. Because, well, someone did. You’re going to hear a lot more from me in 2017 about racial injustice. If you don’t like that, don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on your way out.

love you!



I Used to Be Good at So Many Things

And now I’m not.

I was a good caver. I was a good hiker. A voracious reader. I had a huge vocabulary. Took enough Latin that I could figure out most definitions just by the etymology of a word.

I kept a clean house. I was an excellent cook. I made things like Japanese hibachi and biscotti from scratch.

I made plans, like what beautiful thing to frame next and where to put it on the wall that would be oh-so-visually pleasing. I emailed and called people back. I made plans with them too.

Ice Bar, Stockholm

Ice Bar, Stockholm

I traveled. I drove across the country a few times. I lived in Italy. I visited Hawaii, Sweden, Italy again, Mexico (for one day anyway), Finland, and even Australia.

When something broke, I fixed it or replaced it. I bathed my dog. I think I even took her to the vet. I had beautiful flowers and planned which annuals I would plant each year. I grew vegetables in containers on the deck, and then we ate those vegetables. I watered things.

Now broken things sit in a pile on my counter for months. And then more broken things go on top of them. My dog is so filthy that even a two-year-old who can lick a doctor’s waiting room floor will pull away from petting in disgust.

Every flower and every plant dies. I don’t actually buy plants. My mother gives them to me as gifts, prepotted and beautiful, and I still kill them. (Actually, Twin B usually kills them. On purpose.) My houseplants look like skeletons.

I still cook every day, three times a day (because “triplets” do not go to restaurants), but the meal has to be made in under fifteen minutes. Many delicious and healthy things can be made in that time frame, but none of them is red lentil curry. I burn things for the first time in my life. I scorch pans. It’s not my fault. Changing two poops during cooking will throw anyone off.


Can you tell why this maneuver is called “chimneying”?

I haven’t been caving in five years. I itch to get underground again, where no one can find me. I miss hiking – the real kind that takes all day and you have to pee leaning against a tree and you run out of water and you see heaven when you reach the top. I still hike, but it’s the kind with a triple stroller on a paved path, or the kind where you’re carrying twins and a diaper bag and groceries from the car to the house.

I miss reading. Desperately. I still read… Facebook. (Hey, it’s adult interaction, mmmkay?) I also read scary horror articles about how this modern world will poison and screw up my children. I read (quick) recipes and I read Lego instructions. I read IEP evaluations and drafts. Sometimes I even read a (chapter of a) parenting book.

My house still gets cleaned. When a kid spills, I mop. When a kid wets the bed, I change sheets. When a baby poops in the tub, I bust out the disinfectant.

I still plant and water things, if you can accept a cheesy metaphor about how I plant seeds of information and learning in my children’s brains. And then I water their brains.

I still fix things. When a toy four-wheeler accidentally becomes a three-wheeler, I put it back together. When the kids storm the baby gate right off its hinges, I repair it. When my child is sobbing, I hug him. And, when my kid falls off the deck, I call the doctor. I’m a fixer.

I still travel… if you count going Target for diapers (and for that cute dress on clearance that accidentally fell into my cart while three kids cried and whined). When we’re feeling really brave, we venture a whole one hour to the grandparents’ houses. Whew.

I still make plans. I plan to change my sheets and vacuum the steps and empty out the trunk and upload all my photos onto Shutterfly. Soon. Real soon. I do, however, make and follow through on plans every day to go to the park, the gym, and the playground.

I set the bar low, because I’m an Okayest Mom. It’s how I survive. I’m okay (pun intended) with that, but I do ache for my old life sometimes.

Calling people back? Caving? A decent vocabulary? Now those are just gonna have to wait.


PS, I was never good at driving a motorcycle. The motorcycle course remains the only class I have ever failed. I have decided I am a passenger in life. I love sitting on the back. That’s okay too.

I’m Just an Okayest Friend

I’m an okayest friend with extraordinary friends.

Some of my reasons for being an Okayest friend

Some of my reasons for being an Okayest friend

Both my family and my husband’s family have always supported me (sometimes even literally). But I also have this small mom tribe around me who have bailed me out of trouble a thousand times during this tumultuous time of life. I don’t have a lot of friends, but I have a lot of support. For this, I consider myself extremely lucky. Friends are not obligated to support me, yet somehow I have been the recipient of much more love than I have ever given. Unfortunately, I am sorely lacking in the payback department.

Recently, a good friend posted an article she liked about what it takes to be in her “mom tribe”, which made me think about my own mom tribe. I liked the article so much that I wanted to add to it. As two of my dearest members of my support team prepare to move away this month, I would like to dedicate this post to my mom tribe.

My closest friends in my tribe have exhibited at least one of the following traits:

You make me want to spill my guts. In one-sentence bursts between toddler demands.

You don’t say things like, “Kids love me!”

You don’t post selfies – with the exception of your profile pic, of course. We all need at least one selfie. And you don’t take gym selfies.

You tell me when I wear the wrong kind of shoes to the gym.

You make me pee a little with text one-liners in the middle of the night.

You don’t brag about your kids too much… cuz I’m sure mine are always gonna be behind.

Those times my husband is out of town and we are all sick, you might drop a loaf of bread or a box of cookie butter cookies or Pedialyte on my porch in a germ-free drive-by, even though you know I would probably never reciprocate.

One time, when we were all sick at Christmastime, you offered to come over and put all my ornaments on my tree. Because I hate that job.

You always lift my kid up to the throw a ball in the basketball hoop at the gym, even though you have four or five of your own kids to lift up.

You offer to watch my two-year-old twins when I’m in a terrible bind, even though you know I probably won’t reciprocate.

You don’t judge. We hear that trite phrase a lot, but you know that you don’t know what it’s like to be wrapped up in the Okayest Family anxiety/migraine/ developmental delay/ infertility/ almost died/ twin/ adoption/ transracial situation.  (Just as I don’t know what it’s like to have a husband deploy, or work on his second PhD, or have four or five or six or even two kids.)

We don’t clean our houses for each other. More importantly, we don’t apologize for not cleaning.

You have given us beautiful hand-me-down toys and clothes, even though you could have taken those items to the consignment store for cash. You pretty much gave me money out of your own pocket. I will pay it forward.

When I was super overwhelmed, you tapped me on the shoulder during church and said you were going to teach my Sunday School class of seven-year-olds. You would not take “no” for an answer. You demanded that I give you the lesson manual and march myself to an adult class for once. (I cried. With relief. In the bathroom. And then I went to the adult Sunday School to refill my soul.)

We don’t call each other, visit, or plan activities between the hours of 4-7 pm. It’s the unspoken SAHM rule. (Note: Germ-free drive-bys are permitted within this window.)

I get a little distracted from friendships sometimes

I get a little distracted from friendships sometimes

You don’t keep score. Of anything. Who called last, who gave more car pool rides, who offered to help… (Good thing, too, because I would lose. Every time.)

You didn’t care that time that I RSVP’d yes to your kid’s birthday party and then totally forgot to come.

You have offered to bring me dinner.

When I came out of intensive care, you had arranged a schedule with five weeks of dinners from church sisters.

You actually want to hang out with me sans kids, but you will settle for my three screaming toddlers. But you have responded to my pleas for girls night.

Two times, you brought me a donut.

When I was on bedrest, you arranged daily care for my toddler with different church sisters.

When I panic about a tremendous load on my shoulders, and message you a long rambling message begging for ideas to help me fix that problem, you respond right away. You don’t get mad when I don’t make time to write back to you, even though you made time for me.

You have caught a runaway twin of mine in a parking lot.

When my twins climbed out of their cribs and quit napping, you came over and laid on my floor and helped get one to sleep. (In case you don’t know, putting a toddler to sleep is NOT cozy and sweet like putting a newborn to sleep!)

When I tell you something I already told you, or I tell you about that cool new product that everyone knows about but me, you make fun of me instead of just nodding and smiling.

You ask how the kids are doing when you know they are sick/ have a big meeting/ appointment/ hard thing to do. I only hope I remember to ask about your sweet kids as much as you do about mine.

You have walked me through the IEP process and calmed my fears.

You have broken the Sabbath to watch my kids so I could break the Sabbath to attend a once-in-a-lifetime concert. (Not that I am condoning this….But, Bob Dylan? Jack White?)

No competition. Duh. If you have a cute party, I’m not gonna one-up you. I promise.

You tell me I’m doing good.

Why have you all done these things? You all make me laugh and you make me cry. You all hold me up. You all show true love and service through many of these things. This list is an amalgam of different friendships. I would be a lucky woman if I had even had one of these things happen to me from this list. You all know who you are, and I thank you. I can only hope that someday, when my kids are in school, and when I don’t feel so overwhelmed and wild-eyed, I will reciprocate. Or at least pay it forward. I only hope you can accept my apologies for not being able to reciprocate/pay it forward just yet… But I thank you for having faith in me anyway.

You all are not okayest. You’re amazing,

To the Other Migraine Mommas

wpid-wp-1436319915505.jpegI am no stranger to pain – I get tremendous migraines. All my life. My mom can remember me having headache pain as young as five years old. This is the one topic that I can’t seem to write about properly. Chronic pain is such a tricky bedfellow. Usually, I plan and memorize entire blog posts in my brain before sitting down at the computer to finally type them. I normally vomit up a blog post in one go, during naptime or at 5AM before the kids wake up. I always know what I want to say.

Not so with the migraine writing. I don’t even usually talk about migraines, much less write about them. It’s just too hard, or too depressing. Maybe I keep throwing away the blog posts about migraines because it is too difficult to capture. Or because I don’t want the pity. Or because I assume that you, my dear readers, could never understand. (*gasp!* Did I just insult you?! If you have migraines too, or other chronic pain, I apologize!)

I’m not a visual person. I’m a verbal person. (Obviously. I’m a blogger. Duh.) I can’t pronounce words until I can spell them. I have a ticker tape of my sentences running through my head at all times. I solve problems by writing about them on my blog. I even email my husband when I have hard stuff to say (and, bless his heart, he emails back). However, migraines seem to be the one thing that I can’t dissect with words. Maybe it’s because I can’t remember a time without them.

In my neurologist’s office, there are rows of framed artwork of depictions of migraines running down the length of the hall. Seeing those for the first time made me shudder. It was the first time that I felt someone had visually captured my pain. There were various paintings of dark, evil stuff. There were sharp colors and blunt objects and horror movie scenes. There was black and white. There were heavy burdens and twisted messes. There was isolation. Loneliness. Despair.

It was beautiful. Someone understood. Lots of people, actually.

Migraines are not headaches. They don’t respond to even the strongest addictive narcotics. They are not normal pain that a normal pain pill with a DEA Controlled Substance classification can fix. They cause vomiting, sometimes for days if the pain gets out of control, and sometimes I can’t see out of one eye. I don’t need to go into all the gory details, but after four days of that, I start to see how people could contemplate suicide. Or at least a drill in the head. (Don’t google that.)

People who experience chronic pain of any kind understand that life is not the same for us. We can’t do certain things, or go certain places. We can’t lead a completely full life, no matter how much we pretend that we do. Anyone with chronic pain can get downtrodden. The weight of any pain that is relentless – that you know will come back even if you control it – is exhausting. It messes with your head (no pun intended).

I could go on and on about this. Medications, trials, new medications, side effects, prevention, triggers, tricks, resources… but I don’t want to do that.

I want to talk to the moms who also experience migraines.

Anyone with migraines has my utmost empathy. But other moms with migraines (and other chronic pain) have my respect. No one but you all really know what I go through when I am trying to care for children while handling a migraine (poorly). I can see it in your eyes. I know.

You give away that baby lotion that has too strong of a smell to other non-migraine moms. You keep the lights off in the house during the day too. You have fixed meals for your children while taking a break to vomit and pray. You can’t take your migraine medication when you need to, because you have to be alert, for your children’s safety. You contemplate other medications with serious side effects and undesirable consequences, just so you can care for the children. You look into your biological children’s eyes and wonder if they could be having a headache today, because they are extra naughty or extra whiny. You pray that they have not inherited the 50% chance of this curse. You offer a silent prayer of thanks that your adopted child will never carry this burden. You can’t take your children to the park sometimes, because heat or sunshine might push the headache you have into a migraine. Poopy diapers (x twins!), which are normally a disagreeable nuisance, become almost impossible. You avoid playdates with another beloved mom friend because she may use a certain cleaner or a scented candle or an air freshener in her house. You have to gather all your courage to sheepishly ask the nursery leader at church to please consider not wearing perfume because it transfers to your babies. You can’t join the other moms at the indoor play area place because certain noise might be a trigger. You wish you could work in an office, because at least it would be quiet- but then again, it would be fluorescent, so nevermind. You calculate how many hours or minutes until your husband normally arrives and base your medication choice on that. You have called your husband and told him to come home from work early because you have done all you can do, but now you have to hole up in the dark and deal with this pain.

When he gets home and takes over, you have to let the pain in. You have to stop fighting it and face it. And it is a blinding pain. Searing. And it scares you sometimes, even though you have done this for thirty years. Your husband wonders if you have a low pain tolerance, but you want to scream that he would know just how high your pain tolerance is if you two could switch bodies for just two minutes. Your strong lumberjack of a husband would be on his knees – you know it. And you love him anyway and look into his eyes and once again offer a prayer of thanks that he doesn’t have to understand this pain. (Plus, being a spouse to someone with migraines is a pain unto itself.)

I'm in there somewhere.

I’m in there somewhere.

And yet, we manage to dress the children through all this. We fix them three meals and two snacks anyway. We take them places when we can. Break up fights. Clean up toys. Do some laundry. Change poops that seem to smell a hundred times worse than they really do, and it burns our brains. We pretend we’re fine and squint through the pain while we watch them play. We try to read another story even though the board book is a bit blurry. Our stomachs lurch when we hear their piercingly loud squeals of joy that would normally sound so cute. Our eyes literally water with the pressure, but we try to smile and build another Lego tower. We handle it.

There is no one to help you. You are alone with your pain. But I empathize. I get it. You have my respect.

There is a special place in heaven for moms with migraines.

Okayest Mom’s Okayest Wish List

The Okayest Family

The Okayest Family

Okayest Mom is easy to please. I don’t have unrealistic expectations for Mother’s Day, or for any other day. Okayest Mom doesn’t know how to dream big. Therefore, I’m not asking for what I really want (which we all know is sleeping in and a day alone so I can binge-watch Netflix). Nope. Gotta get my head outta the clouds. If anyone asks me what I want for Mother’s Day, I’m gonna give them this Okayest Wish List.

To have a day where someone does not clock me in the jaw with their shoe, fist, head, or monster truck

To eat a meal without showing my partially chewed food while I yell, “Don’t talk with your mouth full!”

Not to hit my head on the van door

Not to step on a Transformer while I leap over the baby gate like a Olympian hurdler

Not only to go to the bathroom with the door closed (duh!), but also to go to the bathroom without anyone outside the bathroom experiencing Grievous Bodily Harm

To put away a little bit of laundry

To be on time to something

Not to get sweaty during the day

Not to experience the Tri-Cry (all children simlul-crying)

To sleep in until 7:00 AM – nothing outrageous like 7:15 AM or anything

To have no one poop (Yeah, you heard me. So what if that’s not healthy? They poop too.dang.much.)

Not to fix a meal ten minutes too late (No matter when I fix it, it’s ten minutes too late.)

To remain seated during most of my meal (I wouldn’t want to get greedy and expect that I would never have to get up…)

Not to allow any of my fears for my children’s well-being to escalate into unreasonable proportions in my mind

Not to get a headache

To see more smiles than tears

There. So reasonable. So okayest. We got this. What’s on your wish list this year, dear readers?


Mother’s Day is a complicated holiday for many of us, whether because of a loss of a child, or of a mother, or of a dream. While I am infinitely grateful for my hard-to-acquire and super-precious children, I have not forgotten how this holiday used to be one of the hardest days of the year for me. I have not forgotten you! Last year I posted one of my personal favorites, Mother’s Day Can Sometimes Feel Like a Bruise. I hope you like it too.

Inside the Brain of a Gym Newbie During a Workout

As you know, I am new to this whole gym thing. (My carrying-twins-injuries forced my hand.) Sometimes, sweating it out in a perfectly controlled environment gives me the giggles. Here’s what I am thinking while I’m working out:

Workout phrases like “ab cuts” and “ab ripper” need to banned from any place where females have recently had c-sections.

Boredom buster: I like listening to ridiculous 80s pop on my headphones while looking around to see which huge testosterone muscle guys are working out to that girlie beat. If they only knew.

Is it normal to collapse in a fit of giggles when a personal trainer shouts encouraging platitudes like “You do you!”?

Why does everyone under 30 have fluorescent sneakers? The rest of us seem to be sticking to neutral shoes. Note to self: buy fluorescent shoes.

I wish I knew why I am only making my left glute sore. I must be doing working out wrong.

Is my arm too skinny to wear one of those arm-band-phone-holders?

I am so used to yoga that I still feel like I should be gym-ing barefoot. I also never remember water. I was usually semi-upside-down in yoga, so water was always a bad idea. Note to self: Remember water. Remember shoes.

When my husband asked if I get “hit on” at the gym, I remind him that I’m a real catch with a wedding ring on one hand and THREE children’s daycare wristbands on my other hand.

Irony: the place where we go to get healthy is the place that keeps making my kids sick.

While feeling a twinge of modesty, I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t wear tight clothes to the gym. That was the day my long shirt got caught on the rowing machine.

Oh, this elliptical counts how many calories I burned? This will be awesome. I bet I have burned like 600 calories by now… or, okay, maybe just 12. I worked so hard to burn off that last sip of my kid’s juice with the backwash in it?

I had a Spinal Tap moment when the elliptical automatically turned my incline up to 11. I really thought it stopped at 10. How high does it go? Vertical? (“PUT IT UP TO 11!” … “Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?”)

Whenever I feel weak and stupid, I just look around and think, “None of these perfect people has had twins. How many people in here gained 80 pounds of twins, then sat around on bed rest for months, then almost died in childbirth, and then carried those twins around until her spine bent? Nobody, that’s who!” (Oh, except for the person working out right next to me, my twin momma friend/gym buddy…) Then I can hold my head up a little higher.

I really hope no one saw that one time I got my headphones stuck in a coat hanger.

Once I realized I was SUPPOSED to stick my butt out during squats, things started to improve. (They say it strengthens your lower back to stick that butt out during squats. I think people just want to see butts.) I did ballet as a kid and again in college, and I was trained to tuck that junk IN! If you stuck your butt out in ballet you probably got it smacked with a ruler.

Fake boobs?

I will definitely need more underwear and socks.

The catalog phrase “gusseted crotch for ease of movement” on workout pants is synonymous for NO CAMEL TOE. You’re welcome.


What can you add, dear readers?

Mom Secret: Gym Memberships are Cheaper than Preschool (and the Looney Bin)

I went to the gym yesterday. I feel like giggling when I say that.

Why does a thin girl who has never played a sport in her life, doesn’t know how to run, and can’t tell a treadmill from an elliptical join a gym? Well, thanks for asking. Let me tell you. All moms know this little secret: a gym membership is cheaper than preschool.

Also, the twins destroyed my body (no, not like that). But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Before I had kids, I had a good friend with five very small children, none of whom were yet in school. She worked out at the gym I asked her what in the world would possess her to be so hard on herself. She said, “Are you crazy? The gym is the easiest thing I do all day. This is the ONLY way I get a shower.” Huh.

Now that I have three small non-school-age children of my own, I see the light! I told my husband that we were gonna have to put the twins in preschool … or send me to the looney bin. However, this whole gym membership thing seemed like a more reasonable choice – even for me, the least athletic person ever.

I’m no slouch. I mall-walked four miles several times per week, while pushing a double stroller and carrying a kid strapped to my chest for months. I regularly trail-walked with a TRIPLE JOGGING STROLLER that weighed more than I did with the kids in it. And, I did yoga regularly for ten years before the twin pregnancy, so I’m not totally klutzy. But I have never played a sport … and the only way you will see me running is when my Hurricane Twin darts into parking lots. (My college roommate used to just burst into a run on the way to class, just as some people may spontaneously burst into song. She would burst into a run. I would not join her. She once asked, “Don’t you ever just feel like running?” No, no, I don’t.)

During this super long winter, I felt like a dog running in circles without enough exercise. Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, always says that there is no replacement for “forward motion” for your dog. Going on a walk is so much better than running in circles in the living room. I’m going to make a leap here and say that the importance of “forward motion” applies to toddlers and moms of toddlers, as well as dogs. (Sorry to compare you to dogs again, kids!)

Mr. Okayest and I looked at several reasonably-priced gyms. I’m not a picky mom (duh), but some of the childcare places looked a little less than okayest. I didn’t exactly think I would be motivated to work out if the childcare facilities made me feel sad. My twin-friend joined a rather expensive gym that had the most amazing childcare facility I had ever seen. Skylights. Indoor jungle gyms. Mini-treadmills. Just kidding about that last one. And my friend swore that they actually cleaned their toys. And they had closed-circuit nanny-cams that you could watch while you worked out on the ellipticals (treadmills? I dunno). You could watch what kid hits your kid and then stalk his mom across the sauna. Just kidding. This was a place that I could imagine throwing my three kids in – until I heard the price. After hearing the price, I said “no thank you” for a whole year.

Then, we learned that the twin pregnancy had actually done some real damage to my spine. It turns out that carrying twins in your uterus and then carrying twins on your hips isn’t good for your back. Who knew?! The x-rays showed that adding 80 pounds to my 115 pound body was more than I could bear. I lost the weight, but I didn’t lose the damage. I’ve recently started going to doctors and physical therapy, but it seems that I have some permanent troubles. More muscle won’t cure me, but it will certainly help. (A little more muscle can only help with my day job, anyway.)

This back problem has also been making my lifelong migraines worse, and it’s all becoming a vicious cycle. And throwing my back out every couple of months (weeks) only makes life harder for my loved ones. My sweet husband and parents and in-laws have done more than enough taking care of me! I am so grateful for their help and so desperate not to need it.

I kept trying to get back into yoga, but my back problems would prevent me from doing the one thing that I knew would help. (Ah, the old familiar catch-22 of chronic pain…) Also, while I’m making excuses, let me add that the local rec center offered yoga at 8PM. In case you’re not familiar with being a stay-at-home mother of multiples, let me just say that 8PM might as well be 2AM. By the time the kids are in bed at 7:30PM, I am too tired to lift the remote or the phone. Seriously. (I made it there a few times over the last year, but it took superhuman strength.)

My twin friend and my husband both said that the only way the exercise was going to get done was if I took the kids with me. My twin friend and my husband both said that you couldn’t put a price on a gym buddy, or having time to yourself away from the kids. I said you can’t put a price on a closed-circuit nanny-cam that I could watch while I was on the elliptical (treadmill? I dunno).

I was terrified to go to the gym for the first time. I stalled for a few days. Or more. What do I wear? How do I maneuver three little ones into a new place? What do I bring? Where do I put my stuff? I had to convince Mr. Okayest to take me on a Saturday, to show me around, even though he had never been there either. (I have a weird quirk that going to new places alone for the first time makes me unreasonably nervous.) He helped me wrangle three confused kids into the childcare area. The good news about twins is that at least they always have each other.

Then he showed me the difference between an elliptical and a treadmill. He showed me which machines might be good for my back, even though I wanted to cry because I didn’t see any women on them. I’m only here for yoga classes, I said! I felt so self-conscious at first. Nobody looked like they were first-timers like me. Nobody looked like they had toothpick arms like me. And you know what else? Nobody looked at me, either. Nobody cares about me! They are just there to work out and get a break from their kids and fix their crooked backs.

And the best part? I got to watch my kids on the nanny-cam while I worked out. All three stuck together like glue. Often, they even sit in a circle, back to back, as if they are circling the wagons. “I’ve literally got your back, bro.” And the other best part? I felt great after working out… like I actually wanted to go again. Why didn’t you guys tell me I would like it?!

This whole gym thing won’t be forever. Once the kids are in school, I could switch to a less-fancy gym without the childcare from heaven. Plus, once I magically become a more athletic person, maybe I could ditch the gym and exercise on my own like Mr. Okayest. My okayest goal is to go once a week. Maybe I will get there more often, but we still have trails to walk.

Almost Dying Made Me Appreciate Muscles and Chores

Did you think I would say that almost dying made me appreciate sunrises, my kids’ smiles, and my husband’s love? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Obviously that stuff. But almost dying has actually made me appreciate my muscles (however scant) and my ability to do chores. Really. Every single day.

Anyone who has had to completely rely on others must feel the same.

The birth of my twins almost killed me. I had postpartum hemorrhage and spent two days mostly unconscious in the ICU and a week in the hospital. Before the birth, I had been on modified bedrest for the last trimester, and I had to gain 75 pounds. (Tator tots at 3 AM helped me get to 80.) After the birth, I had to relearn how to walk with a walker and a physical therapist. I didn’t change the twins’ diapers until they were three weeks old. It was a sad time with a joyful ending.

What does bedrest and then that recovery do to your muscles? When the swelling went down and the weight came off, I was shocked to see that my calves and ankles looked like a coma patient’s. I looked freakishly, cartoonishly atrophied in some places (and obviously, freakishly, cartoonishly stretched out in other places!)

During bedrest, I had become so frustrated by my inability to walk the stairs of my own home. I didn’t see the basement of my own home for months. My husband would rearrange furniture and bring me the digital camera to show me and ask me how I liked it. I would cry when I couldn’t find something, or, more accurately, when I couldn’t explain to my husband where he should maybe try to look for that something.

[Recently, there has been some questioning of the efficacy of bedrest. My doctors – and my body – have a few things to say. First, any time you use major muscle groups – especially the thighs or glutes, like on stairs – you are shunting blood away from the uterus and into those muscles. That explains why stairs gave me contractions from 18 weeks onward. Second, being vertical when you have 15 pounds of babies pushing down on your cervix can cause the cervix to dilate. Being horizontal relieves some of that pressure, and thus, keeps the babies in there longer. The cervix was not designed to hold 15 pounds of baby inside, okay?]

The washing machine was in the basement, two floors below my bedroom, so I couldn’t do laundry. I wouldn’t have been able to bend over the machine anyway. My husband and my mother took over laundry duty, which is fine for the kids’ laundry… but is a little embarrassing for adult laundry.

Vacuuming was out of the question for months. I couldn’t stand long enough to wash dishes. I would look at certain dirty places in my home and just cry. (Okay, that was probably the hormones, because I don’t cry when I look at the mess that three toddlers have inflicted on my house these days.) I would watch my husband vacuum around me and I would literally sob because I felt guilty and worthless. (Okay, that was probably the hormones too. I definitely don’t sob when he shares the load these days.)

My husband was in grad school. He would work full days and then go to school some nights. He had homework and projects and exams. He gave love to our neglected toddler. He kept up with the house repairs. (We bought a short-sale, almost in foreclosure, that needed more love than our neglected toddler.) He continued all maintenance on our fleet of used vehicles AND then he took over all of my household chores as well.

The army that stepped in to help him was amazing. I have already praised the in-laws who built fences and painted walls and cooked and cleaned and cared for my son, the church sisters who set up rotations to bring meals and care for my son every day, and the mothers and aunts and grandmas and cousins who spent sleepless nights in our guest room… and took away from their jobs and their paychecks and their own families. They saved us. The doctor agreed!


But… taking back each of those chores, tasks, and work, little by little, gave me the greatest joy in the world.

Imagine walking down your stairs for the first time. Seeing your own washing machine for the first time in six months. Imagine the joy at bending over your own load of dirty laundry.

Imagine walking to your mailbox for the first time in months. Imagine the joy of getting your own bills with your own hands.

Imagine pushing that vacuum around your own filthy floor, and eliminating all that fur and funk with your own strong arms and legs that can push that vacuum again.

Imagine actually enjoying being down on your knees and cleaning the base of the toilet with your own hands.

Imagine the joy and the gratitude.

I felt like a toddler, gaining pride in my independence. I enjoyed the basic chores that were once drudgery.

Of course, these days, it’s mostly drudgery again. But every once in a while, as I am racing down the stairs with an armload of messy laundry while all three children cry upstairs, I have to smile. I throw the emergency load in the washer with the speed of lightning. I slam the lid shut and race up the stairs on strong legs. I scoop up one or two or three enormous children in my strong arms. (Well, my arms are like toothpicks, but still…) I can shush them with my strong heartbeat and my strong voice that is full of song.

It’s good. You know what I mean?



This article was originally written for Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am a regular contributor to their website. You can find the original post here.


My Paranoid Train-of-Thought During My Dreaded Biannual Haircut

I hate getting a haircut. There. I said it.

I turn into a grouchy old man when it’s time to get a haircut. Salons are migraine-creating machines: the smells, the position of my neck during a wash, the heat and noise of the dryer, oh, and the smells. Plus, I feel like everyone is judging me. I turn into some sort of sweaty person with major paranoia problems the moment I walk through a salon door.

Here is a window into my brain during the trial that is my haircut:

Ugh, my hair is a mess. I have to get it cut this week, for real. [Two months later] Today I am really going to get it cut. I mean it. Why can’t I schedule online? Don’t they know how freakin’ hard it is for a mom of three toddlers to talk on the phone? Ack, it’s ringing! What is the name of my hairstylist again? How do you pronounce that? Did I even like her last time?

Oh my gosh, it’s so hard to get out of the house, even if it’s while the kids are napping. Does Mr. Okayest seriously have to be using the leaf blower under the twins’ window right now during nap while I am driving away and leaving him alone with the kids? I don’t want to leave their sweet little faces. I want to turn around. I can’t wait to get away from these kids. They drive me crazy. Oh, I miss them.

Wow, it’s so sunny inside this salon. Why didn’t I pluck my eyebrows better before I came in here? In this blinding sunlight, I bet they can see every errant eyebrow hair. Why didn’t I style my hair this morning? They are so judging me right now. Why does everyone look so much more put-together than I do?

Please hurry this shampoo the heck up. I politely told her to please hurry during my shampoo. Why is she massaging my head? Didn’t I ask her to skip all that stuff and just hurry? My neck is breaking. Why is she even washing my hair? The inside of my ponytail was still wet from my shower this morning. My hair never dries. Can hair mold? Can she see hair mold?

Could she comb my hair any harder? I know it’s all matted and wild because I have three toddlers who prevent proper detangling and are always rubbing sticky hands over my head. Geez, lady, you’re going to break my neck.

Oh, no, she’s drying my ears with that little towel. I hope I cleaned them well this morning. One of the twins stuck his yogurt finger in my ear yesterday and I don’t know if I cleaned it.

Oh my gosh, she’s reaching for PRODUCT. Didn’t I tell her that I don’t like the smells and to please skip any PRODUCT? Maybe I should have told her I had an allergy. Migraines are physical problems- why doesn’t anyone respect that?! Wait, did I tell her not to use product? Was that last time or this time that I said that? Sheesh, Melissa, how can you expect a hairdresser you see every six months to remember not to use smells on your head? Is it too late to mention my aversion to smells? Oh, man, it’s too late. I am stuck inside this helmet of smell.

Oh, she’s cutting. She’s cutting a lot. Don’t panic. Don’t PANIC! It’s just hair. Why weren’t you more clear about what you wanted, Melissa? She can’t read minds. DON’T PANIC!!! I told her just a trim BUT THERE IS A FIVE INCH CHUNK OF YELLOW HAIR IN MY LAP! Oh, she’s just thinning it out. I see. Ok, that’s cool.

Wow, there is a lot of geometry involved in this cut. How does she know how to do this?

Why does she keep combing hair over my face? Does she not want to look at my unkempt eyebrows? Why is she pushing it back over my face when I keep pushing it away? I can’t breathe. I really can’t breathe. She has no idea how thick my hair is. I’m going to suffocate.

Holy crap, it is hot under this mask of hair. And under this plastic cape. And sitting in this sunny salon. How is there this much sun? It’s December, for crying out loud. There should not be this much sun. I am so hot. I am sweating so much. I am so grateful for this torture cape of plastic so my hairdresser can’t see my pit stains.

Wow, that’s a lot of hair on the floor. DON’T PANIC!!!!!!!

I am so glad she isn’t chatty. I get so nervous with small talk coming from people who wield scissors. Thank goodness she just wants to do her job and focus. I like being freed from talking, but I would like to be reinstated to breathing. Can she MOVE THE FREAKING HAIR OFF MY FACE?!

Oh, yay, it’s blow-dryer time. Aren’t I so happy? We’ve got the migraine-trigger-perfecta happening right now: heat, noise, smell. I’m going to die.

Wow, she is really pulling hard. Is my hair or my neck going to snap first?!

It is so so so so hot under this blow-dryer and plastic cape. Forget pit sweat. I think we’ve moved on to butt sweat. I don’t think I can stand up. Will she notice butt sweat on her chair when I leave?

Oh my gosh, she’s spinning me around to see the mirror….


It’s so beautiful! I love it! How is it blonder? She blow-dried it so hard, it got blonder? I love this cut. Wow.

You want me back in six weeks? What a joke. She’ll be lucky if she sees me in six months. I mean, *I* will be lucky if she sees me in six months.

Okay, thanks, bye!

100th Post! … Or 105th or 107th? Anyway, Let’s Reflect!

One hundredth post?! Really? Well, actually, my 100th post was about tampons, but that seemed like an inappropriate time to bring up my milestone. This is my 107th post or something. I’m just okayest, remember? Anyway, how have I possibly had that much come out of my head?

It’s time to reflect… and/ or just give you a bunch of leftover thoughts (and way too many copious links):

I’m pretty sure blogging is dead. I’m also sure that the market is saturated. Have you seen how many of me there are? And yet…

… I have 2500+ followers here and almost 200 on my Facebook page. (Oh yeah, and I started a Facebook page.) I started blogging just a year and a half ago, when my twins were not even a year old, and not even walking yet. My oldest was just three and still in diapers. I had three children, three and under, in diapers. Then my niece moved in, and I had four children in diapers. Four children under four. It was a wild time.

My favorite post so far (if you care) is “110 Decibel Lullabies: Memories of  a Loud Childhood”. It was not popular at all, but it was a love letter to my parents that I worked on for years in my head. I am so proud of it. I hope I created a saturated portrait for my sons of what my own childhood was like.

My most-googled/ popular posts have been “My Birth Story: How I Almost Lost My Life, My Uterus, and a Twin”, and “So What is IVF Really Like? (A Thesis)”. Proceed with caution, though, since those two are pretty gory – and pretty dang long. But my all-time most widely-read post was “Benign Neglect: A Case Against Preschool”. It was chosen as a “Freshly Pressed” blog post that was featured on the WordPress Homepage. It had hundreds of comments and daily views. For a minute.

I had never read a blog before I started writing one. I’m sure I’ve made mistakes because of that, but I also hope it added some freshness to my blog.

My super private husband was the one to suggest I start blogging. He knows how verbal I am and how much I needed this outlet for anxious feelings. I figure out a lot out as I write, and even as I plan to write. I was a copious journal-keeper in my pre-kid life, but somehow that hasn’t… conveyed. Now, I blog. But one thing hasn’t changed: planning what I will write is my way to survive.

When times are bad, and there isn’t enough time or energy to actually write for an extended period of time, I get anxious. Too much builds up inside my head and it wants out. Also, when I don’t record something fairly quickly, or scribble a little note, it’s gone forever these days. Taking care of these little ones doesn’t leave much time for reflection or memory.


It’s so important to me to record at least part of this crazy life for my kids (who probably will never care). I want my kid to know I dragged him along to vote recently, even though he thought I said “boat” instead of “vote”. I want my kids to know that I read one of them a book on the bathroom floor this morning, while one of them sat on the potty, and while the other soaked his diaper-rashed bum in the tub. I want them to know that their dad is working late again tonight and I have a terrific fear of the next three hours. Paralyzing, really. (I also want them to know that, as a result of that, they watched way too much Sesame Street today.)


I want my kids to know that we stay busy each morning. We have a regular schedule of grandparents, play dates, and trail walking. Rain or shine, tantrums or smiles, poop or no poop, we are doing at least one thing each day. They don’t have normal lives: we don’t go to restaurants (my oldest almost made it to age five without a Happy Meal), and they don’t grocery shop with me. But once in a while they get to ride in a Target cart. (Don’t get me started on carts.)

I want my twins to know that the day I took away their binkies was the end of my life – for an entire month anyway. Okay, it was just the end of my sanity – oh, and the end of my stranglehold on our rigid schedule. You can probably find my mental black hole on this blog that corresponds with that month of hell.

Other than being mentally helpful, my blog has been good to me in other ways. It has generated a little income. I have several interviews coming out soon (you can read one of them here). I officially write for a website as a regular contributor. (They call me a “parenting expert”! Ha!!!) One of my posts, “My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding”, was even featured on a popular mommy blog and had 11.2K shares at last check.

My blog has also been good to some strangers out there. Women from all over the world have contacted me with messages that are full of gratitude, and tears of sorrow or joy or laughter or relief. They are so grateful to me that I am telling it like it really is. And “it” can be the daily struggles of being a stay-at-home mom (sometimes I feel like a slave that everyone hates), or what IVF feels like, or the not-so-pretty parts of adoption or twins or transracial families. I am in a unique position to understand the infertile women, the parents of multiples, the white parents of black children, the adoptive mommies, and the stay-at-home moms. I try to write honestly about all those things when  I cover all of those experiences.

I have privacy concerns constantly. I try to balance the introversion of my husband and the privacy of my children with my own need to vent. I never know if I’m doing the right thing. While I can identify with many different parents and non-parents, I don’t ever want to throw any of my family members under this public internet bus when writing.

[Wait , someone’s crying. Be right back.]

I am trying to tell my own mothering story without sacrificing my family or my dignity. I give my husband veto power over my articles, and more than a few will stay on the cutting room floor that is my laptop. I hope my children will read all of this someday, so I am careful only to write things that I would say to their face in ten years or twenty years. I am as honest with my readers as I am going to be with my children. That means that there are some things that will never get written. I wish I could talk about body image issues, or the developmental delays of one of my sons, or hilarious things my husband says. I wish I could show you their adorable fat naked bums and cellulite (the kids’, not the husband’s*).

There are just some things that remain whispers between spouses, stuck forever in your bedsheets, even when you’re a public blogger.

But, hey, thanks for reading!



* If you are reading this reference to my husband’s bum, then it survived his veto power. Woot!


I Freakin’ Love TV but I am Cutting the Cable Cord Anyway, Part 2

I’m not gonna pretend I am one of those cool hipsters who doesn’t watch TV. I freakin’ love TV. I would marry TV if I could. I watch PBS documentaries about Pete Seeger or Sex During the Civil War with equal fervor as I use to Keep up with the Kardashians. I detest any shows about cooking (I do enough of that) or singing (I do enough of that). In fact, I don’t need any show about people who compete or win anything. I’m just “okayest,” remember?

I love nothing more than sharing a series with my husband as we curl up on the couch together. I love to gasp together at the Walking Dead finales and I love to go slack-jawed together at the Breaking Bad finales. I get my feelings hurt when he doesn’t want to watch something with me. He hates that I flip channels, so, to get him to watch anything with me, I will automatically hand over the remote. I hate that he re-watches the same boy movies over and over again, but I will contentedly sit beside him and re-watch too, just to be near him – and the TV. (Unless I have PMS, and then, forget it.) Standard marriage economics.

I am old enough to remember turning on the TV without a remote and flipping the channels on a real dial. My grandparents had a fat remote that was like the size of one of my kids’ heads and had maybe two buttons on it. I thought they were rich. I loved TV as much as the next kid. I remember taking the “TV Week” out of the newspaper on Sundays and sitting down on the floor with a highlighter to circle all the shows I didn’t want to miss that week. (Granted, they were usually on “mute” because my father is a guitarist, but, you know…..) I still played in woods, played with my dolls, and rode my bike, so I was balanced. Oh, wait, I grew up on a gravel-road mountain, so I didn’t actually do much bike-riding.

pregnancy tantrumNow that I’m an adult, the TV is my escape. HOWEVER, I don’t use it during the day at all. There is no time for TV for myself when caring for three small but fat children. With my oldest, I strictly held to the AAP’s guidelines that children under two should have no screen time whatsoever. That came back to bite me in the butt when he was 2 1/2, and I was on bedrest with a horrific twin pregnancy. When I most needed him to go catatonic in front of the TV, he wouldn’t. Television – as well as anyone who says “Happy Birthday” in unison – terrified my highly-sensitive son. It especially terrified him when his Dad would laugh at the TV, because men seem to have a different laugh when they are laughing at other men on TV, rather than just chuckling at their adorable children or wives.

kid stuck under tvThese days, my son can watch TV one time each day. He can pick from a strict selection of DVDs or watch Sesame Street on DVR. That’s it. Okay, okay, on rainy or migraine-y days, the TV time gets extended quite a bit. All this means that my one-year-old twins are exposed to TV before they turn two, but you know, they’re doing just fine. And if I ever have bedrest again, at least they will watch some good ole’ Elmo for twenty minutes. (However, I allow no other screen time whatsoever for any of them yet. None of them know about any computers or devices, other than to hold something to their ear and say, “He-yo.”)

But me? After the kids go to bed, I get my magical time that exists between their bedtime and our bedtime. It’s every parent’s favorite time of day. It’s that magical two or three or eight hours in which you try to squeeze every good thing. Quick! Grab the ice cream and the remote and please rub my neck?

I use it as a tranquilizer. It’s the only time that my time is my own, and it’s not the best use of my time at all. I know that. But it calms me down. Even the frantic act of flipping channels calms me down. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true, and I’m admitting it.

Besides, there is a LOT you can learn from flipping channels. I probably wouldn’t choose “Austin City Limits” from the channel guide, but if I flip past and Jack White is playing with an all-female back-up band, I will totally watch it. I probably wouldn’t choose “Oprah’s Master Class” from the channel guide, but if I flip past and Maya Angelou is featured, I’m going to stop and learn. Flipping channels is a way that I learn new things without feeling like I’m trying. It’s not all bad. If “surfing the internet” isn’t considered so bad, then maybe “surfing the TV” shouldn’t be condemned completely.

Mr. Okayest says that I can still watch most of my favorite shows online, even if I have to wait for them. He’s right, but he doesn’t feel the same way I do. Flipping channels is my tranquilizer, and once in a while I learn something from it that I wouldn’t normally learn. (Sheesh, how else would I have learned so much about The Dust Bowl without flipping past another Ken Burns documentary?)

There are plenty of nights when we sit on our “talking couch” instead of the “TV couch” and we are just together. There are plenty of nights when we leave the TV off and “retire early.” But, also, I FREAKIN’ LOVE TV. Since I’m LDS and can’t exactly unwind with an adult beverage, I have this channel surfing. It works. And I like it.

But, my son is getting older. There is so much on TV, even in the middle of the day, that wasn’t there when I was a kid. I guess I chose between the Smurfs and Scooby-Doo on weekends, and I chose between Full House and Webster on a weeknight. But he’s going to have to choose between lots more than that. I always said I would prefer a world without cable for him. Now it’s time to suck it up and remember that I said that. Our home is a sacred and protected space, and I need to keep it that way. Besides, the internet is more than enough for a momma to worry about.

The silver lining is that Mr. Okayest has installed a digital HD antenna in the attic. We get about 10 -20 basic channels for free, weather-permitting, of course. Did you know that was possible again? I didn’t. Most of them are Asian business news and home shopping, but we do get a few of the networks! He also hooked up an old desktop computer to the TV, so I can watch Netflix and Hulu and whatever else I can maneuver, without having to balance a laptop on my lap. We even have a mouse “remote”.

And, you know, it feels really good to untangle ourselves from Verizon’s stranglehold. In addition to cancelling the cable, we cancelled the home phone and the cell phones. We are replacing our cell phone service with the groundbreaking Republic Wireless.* We have saved nearly $200 per month with all these changes.

I think I’m supposed to feel free. I will have to get back to you on that. At least I have lots more money and time and moral integrity. That’s really, really, good, right?

feeling free



* Republic Wireless  is a new service that uses available Wi-Fi in the air, rather than cell phone towers (which are maintained by Verizon and other giants), to make calls and use data. We had to buy a special smartphone to do it, but our cell phone bill alone has been cut by much more than half. You can even have $5 plans with them- and no contracts! We learned much of the details of this service from Mr. Money Mustache blog.

You can read about my anxiety-ridden countdown to cutting the cable in I Freakin’ Love TV but am Cutting the Cable Cord Anyway, Part 1.

I Freakin’ Love TV but I am Cutting the Cable Cord Anyway, Part 1

I’m feeling edgy. As any addict going through withdrawal would say, &%$!

14 Days Left: My husband hangs up the phone with Verizon and announces that our TV will go black in fourteen days. I start to sweat. (We made this decision together, by the way, but that doesn’t help right now.) *

13 days left: I go into some sort of compulsive channel-flipping mode. I can’t stop. I’m on a loop. WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT CHANNEL SURFING?!

12 Days Left- I realize that my DVR is 93% full and that it will all disappear soon, and that means a marathon of DVR-watching needs to happen. I am shoving the kids in bed and digging deep into some serious “16 and Pregnant”.

11 Days Left: Do I even really like “Bates Motel” anymore? And why won’t my husband watch the stored SNLs with me? I know the word “live” is in their title, so they’re not “live” if they are DVR’d, but come on!

10 Days Left: Ack! How are the kids gonna watch on-demand Sesame Street after we lose the cable? WHAT WILL I DO?!?!

9 Days Left: Why in the world is my DVR only down to 87% full? I have a long way to go. Honey, do you still need all your “Top Gear” episodes? I might need some more room on here for “Teen Mom”.

8 Days Left: How is my DVR back up to 93% full?!

7 Days Left: I should be watching more DVR, but can’t stop compulsively flipping channels, just because I can. Flip. Flip. Flip.

6 Days Left: Wait, wait, wait, I just missed a whole new season of a Tori Spelling show? Where her husband cheated on her?! Honey, can you add Lifetime to our favorites? I might need to see how many reruns of this show I can catch in the next week.

5 Days Left: Wait, wait, wait, a whole new season of Kardashians starts next week?

4 Days Left: Wait, wait, wait, a whole new season of Sister Wives starts next week?

3 Days Left: Ohmygoshohmygosh what am I doing?! I can’t do this! Panic!

2 Days Left: Honey, please, you HAVE to watch this show about adoption that I have been saving on the DVR for you for a year. You owe me that much.

1 Day Left: So what time exactly will the TV go dark? Will it be like midnight tonight? Or like midnight tomorrow? I have to KNOW!


Reckoning Day: The TV is black. The screen says, “There is a problem with your service.” I cannot believe how dejected I feel. I have lost a friend. I want to make fun of myself but I honestly feel too sad. It is done.


1 Day After: I find myself looking at the TV guide online, just to see what I’m missing. Not sure I want the husband to know that.

2 Days After: Watching my husband unplug the cable box was accompanied by a sad dirge in my head. I couldn’t get to sleep. I felt like something was missing without watching at least one show before bed. I toss and turn and can’t turn my brain off. I almost got out of bed to tiptoe downstairs to watch something, but remembering that the TV room is not going to fill with friendly light at the click of a button makes me feel dejected. I feel embarrassed for myself in the dark.

3 Days After: Rock bottom. The nadir of withdrawal pains. Not gonna lie: I cried. I cried while saying, “Don’t make fun of me.” To his credit, he didn’t make fun of me. He gave me a hug instead. (It’s not about TV, okay? It’s about anxious feelings and finding another way to manage them, which Mr. Okayest understands about his wife.)

4 Days After: I spend 45 minutes searching for shows I want online. Despite a Netflix streaming plan AND a Hulu Plus plan, I can’t seem to find anything that I want. People say that they “just” watch their shows online, but there seems to be nothing “just” about it. This is gonna take some practice.

5 Days After: I am turning to the internet more during prime time, which only seems to heighten my anxiety.

Zip lining for the first time

Zip lining for the first time

6 Days After: I happened to go zip lining for the first time in my 34-year-old life today. Sans children. TV was not a thought in my blonde head. Staying alive and keeping my knees from shaking on 80-foot high platforms were the thoughts under my helmet today. Too happy and tired to care what I do when I get home.

7 Days After: Mr. Okayest treats me to several Redbox date nights on our projector screen in the basement after the kids are in bed. It helps a lot to be swallowed up by a twelve foot wall of movie.

8 Days After: Might as well go to yoga. Kids are in bed, husband’s working out in his weight room, and I have no TV, so I’m outta here.

9 Days After: Books have always been my best friends anyway. Hello, friends.


(Did anyone notice that my last post was June 9, two whole weeks ago? That happened to be the last day of my cable. Looks like I slipped into some sort of non-writing funk since we cut the cord. Television was somehow good for my creativity. I just went two weeks without blogging, which I haven’t done since the start of my blogging. Thanks a lot, you lack of TV!)

Stay “tuned” for Part 2, in which I remind myself just WHY I AM DOING THIS.


* Please note that my children do not watch cable. This addiction was mine and mine alone.

reading rolling stone

Maya Angelou and My First Smartphone

Welcome to several years ago! I have my first smartphone!

During naptime on the day of Maya Angelou’s death, which also happened to be the first day of me having my first smartphone, I settled in to reread some of her works. My brain went haywire:

“I believe most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.”

[*ding*] Delia’s misses you! Are we still friends? Free shipping until midnight!

“To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision.”

[*ding*] You now have your 2,037th follower on your blog.

“The caged bird sings with…”

[*ding*] Your aunt and your Gramma liked your photo.

“The intensity with which young people live demands that they ‘blank out’ as often as possible.”

Word, Maya Angelou. WORD.

After having my smartphone for four days now, I have a few observations:

  • I feel a little boring and standard now. We are not used to doing anything the normal way. We liked having the albino guinea pig with red eyes that no one loved because he was ugly. We like that we have had three children with only one pregnancy. We like that we listen to vinyl records. We are used to being the odd ducks in a group, and now we’re just so… normal.
  • Touch screens? Dang. Am I living in the future? I was born in the 1970s- just barely, but I was- and I actually remember a life before cable and even remotes and air conditioning. I got up to change the channel, and I tossed and turned in sweaty Virginia summer sheets all night long. I remember getting our first Beta VCR and, later, CD player. I didn’t go on the internet until college, and I didn’t have a cell phone until I was married. I feel like I will have much more in common with my parents than my children will have with me. The scariest part of holding all this convenience in my hand? It’s that my children will never know how truly amazing it is.
  • That sucker is slippery! How do you people not drop those things? I need a case. And a cover. And a screen protector. And some grippy tape. And a string to thread through it. (Might as well rope it to my neck, cuz it’s gonna be an albatross.)
  • I missed my first phone call because I couldn’t figure out how to answer it. Yep, when Mr. Okayest showed me all the amazing features on this amazing phone, I guess he forgot to show me, you know, the phone.
  • I feel like I am one of my one-year-old twins when I make a call. I feel like I am just picking up some random black rectangle and putting it my ear and saying, “He-yo. Bye bye.” It doesn’t seem like a phone. I mean, why I don’t just put the remote control to my ear? Or that ear of corn?
  • CAMERA!!!! What mom doesn’t want a tiny camera in her pocket all day long to capture all of the wonderful and disgusting and horrible things her children do? I am not being sarcastic here. I don’t think I am being sarcastic. Maybe I am. I actually don’t know. I confused myself.
  • My friends on Facebook are gonna be soooo sorry that I got my first smartphone. How will I restrict myself? It is so easy to post photos of my cute kids (i.e., my kids having a tantrum/ being covered in an unspeakable mess) and my delicious food-porn dinners (i.e., animal crackers and string cheese again). No more taking photos on the camera, taking out the memory card, and sticking it in my computer. Phew. That was so hard and all. *
  • I’m in love with it. It’s one of those things that you probably can’t return from, like call-waiting, caller ID, and DVR. You’re totally good without them, until, well, you have them.

So, self, welcome to several years ago. You’ve always been a late-bloomer, and you weren’t about to change now. And, to Maya Angelou, I apologize. I will learn how to turn my notifications off so I can stop “blanking out” and actually relearn why that caged bird sings.



*There is a joke in here somewhere about how I got to know Mr. Okayest in the high school darkroom, where in order to see the photos we took, we had to: thread the film on the reel in the pitch black, then turn on the red safety (i.e., romance) light, then dilute and mix the chemicals in three trays, then wait for them to reach the correct temperature, then pour three different chemicals into the film reel, then hang it to dry on a clothesline, then come back the next day and cut the negatives, then load your favorite negative into the enlarger, then focus it, then focus it again, then do a test print, then insert the photo paper into the enlarger, then expose the photo paper, then put the photo in the developer tray, then rinse it, then put it in the stop bath, then rinse it, then put the paper in the fixer tray, then squeegee it, then hang it to dry, then realize you did a sucky job, then do it all over again, then repeat the whole process for each photo on your reel. Yeah. Yeah, you young whipper-snappers, that’s how it’s done.

That’s also how you fall in love.


Allow me to add that Maya Angelou’s poem, Phenomenal Woman, helped me through those high school years. I wish I could post it here, but it’s copyrighted, and I don’t know all the rules for that yet. So just click on the link and enjoy. But turn your phone off first. Better yet, listen to her read it herself, since she was the ultimate storyteller and orator.

I Studied Abroad in Italy to Get Back at My Boyfriend, Part 2: Culture (Men) Shock

Italy schoolOur Italian professors warned us that Italian men were not a threat, but that they were after us only for sport. “It’s just a national sport in Italy! It doesn’t mean anything!” they said. They encouraged us girls to ignore them. I took their advice at first, when I was a timid country girl. But after a couple of months, I had had enough. I could yell “Va Via!” while literally shoving them away. When my boyfriend (Future Mr. Okayest) picked me up at the airport after a summer in Italy, he said he actually did not recognize me. He later said that he noticed me and appreciated me, but kept on looking for me. I had a don’t-mess-with-me attitude on like a suit. And I was confident.

Italy statueI’m not so sure that those professors should have encouraged 19 to 21-year-old girls to ignore the “innocent” appreciations of Italian men. Yes, I understand that appreciating women is a national sport in that country. Yes, I understand that they were trying to explain that most men were simply noting beauty, as if we were delicate little flowers or a fine glass of wine. However, some of the men were actually threatening me (and my delicate flower). Many of the men touched me. Granted, I had never lived in any city before, so maybe all women who live in cities have to learn to deal with the attention. But I have a feeling that Italy is in a class by itself.

When I say “many of the men touched me”, I realize, after rereading my Italy journals, that that is an understatement. Truthfully, I was groped several times each day and catcalled constantly.

I identified so much with this photo, I took it home, framed it, and gave it a permanent home on the wall.

I identified so much with this photo, I bought it and it now hangs in my house.

The men who were treating me like a delicate little flower or fine wine would try to stroke my hair or my hand and said things like:

  • “American, si? Hollywood, si?”
  • “You-a, me-a, si? Una, due, yes?”
  • “Bellisima!”*

The men who were treating me like a ball in some sort of “national sport” tried things like:

  • Walking in front of me and stopping short so I would bump into them
  • Walking behind me and “bumping” into me
  • Grabbing my bum on a crowded bus
  • Trying to, um, poke me with an umbrella

Strangely, I didn’t feel like a victim, as I would have expected. I just got tougher. It was the first time in my life I really learned to stand up for myself, so maybe it wasn’t all bad.

There were two incidents that were, in fact, extremely threatening. They are too graphic for me to actually write down here, in this blog that I say is for my children. I will just gloss over them by saying that one incident ended with me flagging down an Italian police car with vigorous hand-waving. When the police car stopped, I was quite flustered, and the only Italian I could piece together was, “Uomo no pantalones!” (“Man no pants!” has now become my favorite Italian phrase.)

Also, the police men themselves added to my agitation. Police men in Italy are a bit more casual than policemen in ‘Merica. First of all, there were four of them per police car. Second, they cruise around with the windows down, sunning their brown short-sleeved arms hanging out of the car. Third, they themselves have been known to, um, “appreciate” us.

Needless to say, their casual attitude did not suddenly disappear simply because of one American girl’s wild gesturing. They cruised off in the general direction of uomo no pantalones in no hurry. (I hope I haven’t offended any Italian policemen here. This was a long time ago…)

Me and one of many Italian waiters I propositioned by accident

Me and one of many Italian waiters I propositioned by accident

One story about Italian men happens to feature me as the culprit, not the victim. Most of my friends are quite well-acquainted with this already, but allow me to embarrass myself once again. My Italian was far inferior to my roommates’ Italian. When we went to restaurants, I often let them order first, and then I would simply tell the waiter, “sesso“, which means “same.” After doing that throughout several cities in Italy, I accidentally said it one day in Italian class. My (youthful and male) teacher burst into laughter, and explained that “sesso” means “SEX” and “stesso” means “same”. By leaving out one little letter, I had been telling attractive Italian waiters all over the country that I wanted sex.

And, in case Okayest Mom’s Mom is reading this, please know that no harm ever befell me in Italy, despite all of my crazy stories. I came back tougher, stronger, and, well, more appreciated. Hehee.

Italy trainComing home was a bit of a letdown. I think my 21-year-old self can say it best. From my 2000 Italy journal: “The walk home from the club, just us three girls, was so typical. I wish we had thought to count the incidents of honks, whistles, bikes swerving, catcalls, and approaches at conversation. At 3:30 AM, all the settled men must be in with their women, because every passerby had to comment. In a 45-minute walk, there was at least one incident per minute. It’s not even annoying anymore- it’s just the way it is. But when I go home, will I feel a lack? Will I feel ignored? Will I feel unattractive when no one comments anymore? Worse yet, will I appreciate when someone does catcall?”



*I was also called “Barbie Girl” and “Hey, Chiquita Banana, your sandwich is ready!”

Don’t forget to read the first part of this series, I Studied Abroad in Italy to Get Back at My Boyfriend, Part 1: (Culture Shock: Food), which details why exactly I had to get back at my boyfriend and why I was starving in Italy.






I Studied Abroad in Italy to Get Back at My Boyfriend, Part 1 (Culture Shock: Food)

Overlooking the sea in Cinque Terre on my 21st birthday


Me in Florence, 2000

I studied abroad in Italy in the summer of 2000 to get back at my boyfriend. Yep. Besides shaving my head and getting a tattoo one time after a bad breakup, this was definitely the most un-me thing I ever did. Thank goodness. I changed during my three months there. I grew up. I got stronger physically and emotionally. My man actually didn’t recognize me when I came home. I learned to scream “Va via” (“go away”) at groping men. I learned that I was not a city girl after all. As every traveler learns on her first trip abroad, I learned what I loved about home.

My boyfriend in summer 2000 was future Mr. Okayest. What horrible thing do you think he did to make me leave the country out of spite? Forget my birthday? Ask to go on a “break”? Cheat on me? No, dear readers, it was nothing so lurid. He simply took an internship in another state. I thought he and I would come home from college that summer to be together, and, instead, he (smartly) got an excellent internship. So, out of spite, I thought, “Well, if he’s not coming home, then neither am I. He’s going to leave the state? I’m going to leave the country!” And that is how a ridiculous homebody like me leaves the country.

During the summer of 2000 (“estate duemila”), Italia was a place without air conditioning, computers, and cell phones. I lived in Florence (Firenze), which was a bustling city of nearly half a million, with Gucci, Prada, and Tiffany stores in between each ancient monument and art museum. This was a bustling metropolis, yet somehow it was stuck in time, too, in the most deliciously relaxed way. It was the birthplace of the Renaissance. Homeowners couldn’t even change the paint color on their shutters without permission from the town government. It was one of the fashion centers of the world, but I was just there in my Birkenstocks.

Me in Florence, 2000

My trip to Italy was only 14 years ago, but it seems like another lifetime ago. The summer of 2000 was before the Euro: Italy still used lire. It was before the smoking ban: everyone, from my bank teller to my ice cream man, dropped ashes into my money and food. It was before the iPod: I actually brought a walkman and cassette tapes with me. [Insert sheepish grin here. Embarrassment is not resulting from being so old that I had a walkman and cassette tapes. Instead, embarrassment is caused by being raised by a musician who listens only to quality vinyl.]

I didn’t read about anything before I left. I was a smart/dumb 20-year-old. What I knew about Florence was from my two art history classes. What I knew about Italy was from “The Godfather”. What little Italian language I knew was probably food words or things my future father-in-law had said. There was no Wikipedia to peruse before leaving. I got a travel guidebook at the used bookstore and that was that.

There was no cell phone to take with me. I bought phone cards at the corner markets and called my boyfriend from the nearest payphone. He said it sounded like I was at a racetrack, which was somewhat accurate, since the traffic was crazy enough to knock one of my friend’s shoes off her feet. There was not much internet either. My parents did not have email yet, but of course my boyfriend did. It didn’t matter much because there were only a couple of internet cafes I could use – at exorbitant rates. What I am trying to tell you young whipper-snappers is: back then, when you left, you were gone.

If I remember correctly, I spent a whole summer in Italy for less than three grand. That included airfare. My parents said they supported my decision (although they were completely shocked) if I would handle all the finances myself. I visited the student aid office about a hundred times, and worked out all the details and kinks. I always had a job during college. I had some savings. I borrowed some from a generous aunt and uncle, and I added the rest of the cost to my already-generous student loans. In the late 90s, student loan rates were at a Clinton-inspired record low, so I figured I wouldn’t mind paying for Italy when I was 34 years old. I was right.

Arriving in Italy was a complete shock for this Southern country girl. I wasn’t sure if I was more shocked by city life or by Italian life. Both were a major change for a girl who grew up on a mountain in Virginia and went to college in a rural town whose only claim to fame involved turkeys. Suddenly, I was breathing exhaust fumes and not understanding a word anyone said.

My bedroom in my homestay

My bedroom in my homestay

Our study abroad group was broken up into groups of twos and threes for homestays. I lived with a very formal family who had Sicilian accents that made their Italian even more impossible to understand. We were expected to dress for dinner, not ever be barefoot, and eat whatever was prepared, even if it was fried octopus. As a lactose-intolerant Mormon who doesn’t like chocolate, I will also add that I must have seemed very rude when I declined pretty much every coffee drink ever made.

A Room with a View - MY view

A Room with a View – MY view

Their fancy apartment was on the second floor, but, in Europe, that means about 300 steps. They did not have air conditioning, but neither did anyone else. Even the most famous of paintings were sweating in the Uffizi without air conditioning. We were there during the summer, in a major heat wave. The weather felt a lot like it did at home: hot and sticky. At least something felt like home!

Half our meals were at our homestay, and half our meals were on our own. I learned a few things very quickly about how Italians do food. First, they don’t hurry. The first phrase I had to learn and use was “Il conto, per favore” (“The check, please”). If you don’t ask for the check, the waiter will let you sit there all day. Does your American self bristle at the thought? Well, don’t, because Italians think it’s rude to bring you a check before you have finished relaxing. (I now bristle when American waiters shoo me away from their table with an early check. I mean, I felt that way before kids. Now I don’t really go to restaurants.)

Next, I learned that pasta is just a first course. And it’s not a big portion at all- maybe just a few bites of homemade noodles. Do you think those Italians stay slim with an Olive-Garden-situation? I don’t think so. Same with bread. I never saw a single breadbasket in all of Italy. If we got any bread at all, it would be a tiny hard-as-a-rock little thing sitting beside your plate.

Italy train0010 Oh, and then there’s the fruit. If you reach for a peach at the corner fruit stand, the grocer might actually smack your hand away. Only the seller selects and hands you your fruit. “Why would I want to sell dirty fruit?” Also, they only sell things in season, so you don’t need to worry about picking over the selection to be sure you get something ripe.

I also learned that Italians don’t drink. Water. Italians don’t drink water. We were always so thirsty – and everyone, from the shopkeeper to the homestay mama to the waiter, snickered and giggled about the amount of water we consumed. You don’t really see Italians carrying around a water bottle. And, if you don’t want sparkling water, you better be sure you specify that you want ”still” water. We thought we were in heaven when we found 1-liter bottles of “still” water in the grocery store, but we looked ridiculous carrying them around Italy. (They were maybe the size of a Big Gulp from home, so it didn’t seem weird to us.)

Typical tiny Italian breakfast

So, not only was I thirsty, but I was starving. I was starving in Italy! I was in one of the world’s most beloved culinary meccas, and I was starving all the time. I was used to big, American portions. I was used to a lot of fat and a lot of calories. I was a meat and potatoes girl who was completely out of her element in the world of fresh food. Besides, I was walking over eight miles a day to and from class and meals (and clubs), and burning more calories than I ever had. I lost quite a bit of weight that wasn’t mine to lose.

I was constantly in awe of the beauty of the colors, the food, the people, and the art. I felt alive with all that beauty. But I surprised myself by feeling a little deadened inside from being away from all that was familiar, and being away from the people who loved me. I realized that I was indeed an introvert. I was an introverted country girl in a big city in another country where no one knew me, and everything was so beautiful it hurt. My heart hurt to see all these beautiful things without the mother who used to tell me that “You’re my piece of blue Italian sky” because she never got to travel… and my heart hurt to see all those beautiful things without the man I was to marry. I wanted to go home, and come back with the people I loved.


My view, walking home over the Arno River


Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I will scare you with: I Studied Abroad in Italy to Get Back at my Boyfriend, Part 2 (Culture Shock: Men).