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!

 

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Where Have You Been? /My Anxiety Coming-Out Party

Readers, you might not care where I’ve been, but I do. This post is my coming-back-to-life party. Let me take a deep breath.

I used to post at least weekly, and it wasn’t for you. It was for my mental health. (Oh, and some future version of my kids.) I don’t think straight unless I write. And you poor souls have been the recipients. I haven’t posted much lately, and for the first time in years, I didn’t post anything at all for six months. That probably means I didn’t have a complete thought during that time, either.

So, where have I been? Let’s see. I had a triumvirate* of reasons that led to my writing/thinking demise:

  • My oldest son started school. For reasons I can’t explain publicly (see Sharing vs. Oversharing), this milestone rocked our world for quite a long time. It’s been a difficult time, but I’m proud of my kid, and, yeah, proud of myself for not giving up.
  • Twin Non-Napping Disorder. For real this time. Unlike last time I wrote about my twins’ napping strike (see Fireball of Change: Twins Breach Cribs), this time there was no going back. They were done. As soon as my oldest began school, no amount of mothering finesse, bribes, threats, tricks, separations, or whiskey (just kidding, duh) could put these toddlers to sleep during the day. Nap time was one of my only blogging times. I have always said that their nap was the only thing keeping me sane. Now I have proof. Wow, it feels so sucky to be right.
  • Twin Potty Training Disorder. I haven’t really “unpacked” this one yet. I’m still too close to this train wreck to be able to write about it. You’re welcome.
  • <deep breath> I have an anxiety disorder. There. I said it. I am completely open about my struggles with infertility, IVF, adoption, miscarriage, a transracial family, and multiples. I have years of practice with all those things. I have found that being open about my struggles has brought me peace (through writing therapy) and solace (through sharing with others and opening up communication). I am good at advocating for children who have been adopted and for women who are infertile. I will fight for them. But a mental health problem? That’s new to me. I had to sit on that a while. (Although my most dedicated readers probably read between the lines  – or just read the actual lines – and figured it out a while back. Also, sometimes I write drafts and forget to publish them and then my blog or my life is out of order.)

The kicker is that the very thing that helps me muddle through these three stressors IS writing. And yet the stressors have prevented me from writing. Ugh. What a vicious self-defeating circle. Enough is enough! I have to get back on the writing wagon. (What would a “writing wagon” look like? Maybe some alphabet stickers on a Radio Flyer? A horse-drawn cart carrying authors to a writing convention?)

What are the repercussions of “coming out” as an anxiety sufferer on a public and only semi-anonymous blog? For my future? For my children? I’m not sure. (Mr. Okayest still has veto power over my posts, so he can help me there.) What I am sure of is that keeping it hidden has not worked for me. I can’t seem to work through it without writing about it. Plus, it affects my mothering life greatly (badly?), and thus, writing about being an Okayest Mom without writing about being an Anxious Okayest Mom just seems hollow.

I have learned that my anxiety, and not necessarily my children, is the source of my stress.

That was big news in my addled brain.

One of the things that gave me courage to admit that I have an anxiety disorder was a religious article published recently. It was beautifully written, and it really touched me. Hit me. Smacked me. The article is from an LDS magazine, but I believe it would benefit any religious person struggling with a mental health issue – or anyone (religious or not) who is close to that person. The author writes, “I had thought my spirit was primarily under attack, not my brain.” [You can read more about this at the end of my post if you’d like.]

Anyway, I’m glad to be back. I missed you guys. Hopefully by being more open about my anxiety, I can write more – and write better. Along the way, maybe I’ll even help some other mother who has simultaneous experience with infertility, miscarriages, adoption, IVF, multiples, a transracial family, AND anxiety.

What? Oh, that’s just me, isn’t it?

***

*I initially had three reasons, therefore I used the word “triumvirate”. Then I added a fourth thing and I couldn’t think what the word for four things would be.

***

The longer quote:

“It is essential to understand that such a spiritual crisis is not a result of spiritual weakness or lack of faith. Rather, depressive feelings and the resulting depressed view of one’s spirituality are usually caused by a chemical imbalance. Because our physical bodies and our spirits are necessarily connected (see D&C 88:15), it can be common to feel the effects of a physical disorder in a spiritual way, especially in the case of depression, which alters our very perception of ourselves. Therefore, it is important to seek out the actual source of such feelings, especially when experiencing the often-distorting effects of depression…

I soon discovered that medication and cognitive therapy were effective at bringing relief. But the one thing I didn’t find in any of my research was mention of the spiritual repercussions of mental illness. This surprised me, since so many of the symptoms I’d experienced seemed spiritual in nature. I came to realize that while the medical texts rarely acknowledged the spiritual effects of depression, I had initially gone too far the other way—I had misconstrued my depressed feelings as spiritual unworthiness. Indeed, I had been so sure my feelings were manifestations of spiritual weakness that it had never occurred to me I might have a chemical imbalance…I hadn’t seen myself as depressed because I had thought my spirit was primarily under attack, not my brain.

In the light of such challenges, the message given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the October 2013 general conference offers perspective and hope:

‘I wish to speak to those who suffer from some form of mental illness or emotional disorder, whether those afflictions be slight or severe, of brief duration or persistent over a lifetime. … These afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.'”

from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/02/depression?lang=eng

 

 

I Have Ping Pong Balls in My Head

My heart deflates and swells a hundred times a day.

img_20151107_154642.jpgHave you ever had a moment when you felt like you were going to run out of the house screaming like your head was on fire because you couldn’t take one more second of toddlers? I have twin toddlers. They ask the same question, sequentially. Then I try to answer both of them at the same – because, after all, they just asked the same question – and it never works. Inevitably, only one of them will listen to the answer. Then the other one says, “What you say?” and I have to repeat it again.

Thus, I have the questioning of toddlers, in stereo, at all times. It makes me long for the good old days of mono. (Audiophile joke there.)

I’m tired in my bones.

They have quit napping. Did I mention that? For real this time. I have coerced and forced and reinforced naptime many times over, and I have always won every uprising and insurgence the twins have launched at me. Not this time. It’s been several weeks and all my bribes, threats, tricks, and separations have gone over like a lead zeppelin. (Audiophile joke there.)

I can’t write anymore, so my blog and my brain are suffering. And, oh, the irony: I finally get my oldest child off to kindergarten, and the twins decide that very week that they are done with naptime! There is no rest for a momma.

I have tried quiet time. It worked with my oldest child. Play with some toys and be quiet and let’s do this until kindergarten starts. But these twins turn quiet time into a WWE match. There is almost nothing in their room – no toys, nothing – and yet they manage to put holes in walls and perhaps in their heads as well. Twins always have an audience, and they love it.

I have tried separation. The Hurricane Twin gets the guest room. Then both of them cry. Forever. They don’t know how to live when they are apart.

I have tried separating the twins, but joining with one twin in the guest room. Hey, even though I won’t get my own time, at least I get some cuddle time with no questions in stereo, right? Hmmm. Not really. Heaven forbid I nod off… because I have been hit in the face with pants to wake me up. It is quite a window into the soul of whichever twin I am cuddling, but the other wails for his WWE partner/ audience in the other room.

wpid-wp-1425383125280.jpegMy soul is screaming for relief and I feel like I have ping pong balls in my head and I think I might run out of the house like my head is on fire. And then, out of nowhere, he snuggles into my armpit and says, “Don’t take my sunshine away,” and my heart swells within my chest and I feel like I might burst.

I guess my mental health will have to take a backseat to that kind of love.

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.other.choice.

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.

Setting the Record Straight

Sometimes people misunderstand my snarky tone. I hope I can write well enough that everyone understands my intentions. My intentions are to convey the absurd in my daily life. I want to be truthful. The truth is:

1) I love my kids. This is indisputable. Everyone loves his or her kids. Every parent wants to do his or her best for  the children. If I wrote a blog about that, it would be really boring.

2) What I do is really hard: There are only 2 people on the whole planet, besides myself, who have done this job alone all day (my husband and a friend from church). Usually it takes 2-3 grandparents to replace me for a day. Having three children under three, or three children in diapers, does not occur often in nature. Number 2 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

3) What I do is really ridiculous: My daily life is absurd. It’s weird. It’s crazy. Normal people do not live this way. If I didn’t find humor in what is happening here, I would crack. I might literally crack in half from being tense. Number 3 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

My blog is trying to tell the truth about numbers 2 and 3. I have mothers all over the world messaging me about how grateful they are that I am telling the truth. I have infertile women all over the world telling me that they are sobbing while reading my story because someone finally understands them. I have friends telling me they are crying with laughter or crying with tears at something funny or sad that I wrote. How are we supposed to help others if we don’t tell the truth? How can we relate to others if we don’t show our weaknesses?

If you have read my “about me” page, you know all this already. I have overcome trials as we struggled to build our family- some of which include infertility, miscarriage, adoption, IVF, carrying twins, and almost dying. I want to tell my children what it was really like to “acquire” them.  It was hard, sad, funny, ridiculous, embarrassing, and wonderful. I also want to record what these early days were like for us. Soon enough, they will be in school, and none of us will really remember these painfully beautiful and painfully hard days. I have a bad memory, and I am seriously sleep-deprived –  both of which indicate that I will not remember the majority of what is happening here.

A friend of mine has a sign on her wall that says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

This blog is written for my children. A question I answered in my “What Happens When You Start Blogging” post was, “Why are you writing in a public forum if the information is really for your children?” The answer is that I have discovered that I am incapable of keeping a private journal for them – I just don’t make the time. However, when I am blogging, I know I have followers who are waiting for my new posts. I currently have just shy of 1500 followers. People tell me that they eagerly anticipate the email notification that I have posted something new. That knowledge is excellent motivation to keep writing. So, yes, this information is recorded for my children, but you readers are the motivation. And I thank you for that!

With all that cemented, let me set the record straight by doing something I never do: brag about my children. Here are some amazing things about them… just so you know they are loved. wink wink.

My oldest son (R, age 4):

  • Has a very long attention span
  • is obedient, despite tantrums
  • has excellent motor skills, both fine and gross
  • can recite some scripture stories and knows how to pray
  • can talk about Jesus and Heavenly Father
  • is very thoughtful
  • has favorite foods that include salmon, blueberries, falafel, quinoa, and veggie juices
  • doesn’t know what a “Happy Meal” is (even though he loves french fries, I admit)
  • does not watch TV (but does watch a limited selection of DVDs)
  • does not know how to manipulate any sort of smart phone, computer, or device (this is my choice)
  • protects his babies from all sorts of dangers
  • has an above-average vocabulary (according to a speech therapist) and even understands a bit of Farsi

My middle son/oldest twin (E, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my husband’s baby photos, but with lighter eyes and hair
  • is a hugger. He will even pause to hug the stairs, the wall, or a boot
  • has a lower lip that slays me
  • rubs two fingers together when he is nervous
  • is much larger than almost all singletons his age
  • is already learning to share and take turns, because he has no choice
  • has favorite foods that include avocado (he can eat a whole one every day), eggs (he can eat 3), salmon, falafel, and plain yogurt
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says many words

My youngest son/youngest twin (G, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my baby pictures, but with darker hair and eyes
  • is quick and sneaky, like a ninja – or a chess player.
  • has the most kissable head… His oldest brother calls him “baby doll head” (he made that up)
  • was in charge in the womb and is in charge now
  • is much larger than most singletons his age, but is way smaller than his twin
  • has favorite foods that include all the same healthy foods that his brothers like
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says some words

I love my kids (duh, boring), and what I do is really hard and really ridiculous. There you have it. The record is straight.

What Happens When You Start Blogging

So, I guess blogging is like having a reality show: you are supposed to pretend the audience and cameras aren’t there, right? Like a Teen Mom who was struggling to repair her crappy car in the first season, but in the second season she has a brand new Jeep?  Except we aren’t supposed to know that she knows that she is famous now.

So I am supposed to pretend that I don’t notice that I have 199 followers now and almost 5000 views in the space of just two weeks? Well, screw that, I noticed. I started this blog for my kids. I have a bad memory, and something about twins and sleep deprivation compounds that problem. (Go figure.) I knew a couple people who were interested in reading what I had to say. Then WordPress hand-picked one of my blog posts to be featured on their Freshly Pressed homepage. They even sent me a non-form email about why they picked me! It was flattering.

The next day, my blog had blown up. Well, I don’t really know what a blog is supposed to do, because mine is the first one that I have read. But it seemed to me that going from 17 views a day to 741 views a day was a big deal.

I feel like a band who had a good first record and now has all this pressure to create an amazing “Sophomore Album”. Talk about writer’s block.

Ok, ok, it’s not writer’s block. I have plenty to say. The problem is that I think a lot harder about what to share about my kids when I have 199 followers and lots of strangers wandering in and out of my virtual life. My oldest son is just three years old. For every single thing I post, I have to ask myself if this will be okay for him at 13 years old, or 23 years old. I want to tell my story about being a mom, without compromising my sons’ stories. Their stories belong to them.

Why, then, would I even blog about my children if this is a problem? I guess I have discovered the reason people blog at all. It’s because knowing that so many people are out there, ready to read whatever drivel pours out of my head when they get an email notification that something poured out of my head, is a serious motivational push to keep writing. Yes, I am writing for my kids to read in the future… but who would ensure that it gets written in this Okayest Mom life? You. You would. If I know you are out there, waiting, and telling me that I have something worthwhile to say and a good style in which to say it, then maybe my thoughts will actually get recorded.

In other words, thanks. Thanks for pushing me to ignore my laundry and my floors and giving me a reason to record some dang family history for my kids before I forget it.