# Mom Math

1 + 2 = fighting

You are exhausted and the kids are wild. Subtract the pain of getting them into the car from the total number of wiggles to get out.

A friend reports the pukes at her house. Count backward to the last time you saw them. Devise a theorem to prove you are not in danger.

Your own kids get the pukes. Add up all the things you are going to miss for the next seven days.

Amount of fun at the bounce house divided by the germ potential equals whether or not you go.

Child is teetering off the deck railing. Count the number of steps to reach him and divide it by the milliseconds left until he is in free-fall.

You get a headache. Base your medication choice on how many hours until your husband comes home.

One twin is falling off the slide while one twin is running into the parking lot. Quick! Who is most at risk?

You have ___ minutes until someone cries. List the things that you have to do and then prioritize them. Start with number one. Calculate if you will make it to number two.

Your toddler’s whines are growing into sobs. Calculate number of feet to the nearest exit. Will you make it there before sobs turn into wails?

Two 3-year-olds does not equal one 2-year-old plus one 4-year-old.

It is unseasonably warm outside. Your kids are tired and grouchy. Weigh the importance of exercise versus the importance of nap and decide which has more value. Show your work.

You see your child lick the arm of the chair in the doctor’s waiting room. Devise a hypothesis about your prediction of illness onset.

Your baby just woke up from nap/finished nursing. It is time to leave. How many minutes until a poop blowout?

Your baby just woke up from nap/finished nursing. It is time to leave. How many hours do you have until you have to be back home again?

Children are begging for snacks. Multiply how much they didn’t eat at lunch by the number of minutes until dinner.

Subtract the kids’ bedtime from your bedtime. The total number of hours between their bedtime and your bedtime is The Golden Ratio.

Does your need for Netflix outweigh your need for more sleep? By how much?

One twin is sick. If you infect the other twin on purpose right away, you will only have to miss three days of work instead of five.

Use the Richter Scale to determine how much stress one more child will add to your family.

Subtract your current age from your best guess of your onset of menopause age. Take that number and shove it deep into the bins of baby clothes you refuse to get rid of.

# Those Little Voices

It’s 7AM. I am lying here in bed, sick with liquified guts, and I am unable to get my children changed. Their Daddy took over, and I can hear their twin two-year-old voices jabbering away to him. Omgosh, their little voices are slaying me this morning.

“I go down? It dark, Daddy!”

I got a taste of what it’s like for him, hearing them from afar. He hears their voices across the phone line. He hears them for the first time every day in person at dinnertime. He gushes over their adorable voices and I can barely hear how adorable they are after twelve straight hours of whines, pleas, cries, negotiations. Why is it so different when you aren’t the primary caregiver? Why do they sound so much cuter from afar? Why do they sound so much younger and sweeter and gentler after a break? Why do they seem so much more adorable when I know I can lie here and writhe in peace?

I feel guilty and amazed every time I don’t feel the same gush of adoration that he feels. I wonder every time if it would be different for me if I worked outside the home, and I heard those voices for the first time at dinnertime.

I had to ask Mr. Okayest to stay home from work this morning, even though it is his first week at a new job. (He will have to go in for a meeting later, so I am willing my guts into submission before then.) He snuggled me as I writhed, because he knows that his touch on my back is the only thing that calms my distress or pain. I murmured instructions of how to take over preschool carpool stuff, but I know he can handle all other childcare better than I can. No need for instructions. He can do all my jobs.

He can do all my jobs better than I can, in fact. Nobody really talks about that. We give stay-at-home moms a lot of understanding and sympathy these days. There are a million blogs about what I do. But what about these amazing dads with such full plates? Modern fatherhood demands so much of these versatile men. They are expected to be just as involved and nurturing as we mothers are, which is a great thing, but they are also expected to do all the manly things of years past.

Mr. Okayest is way better than okay. I am one lucky woman. I am so thankful to him that I can stay home with our little ones. But, sometimes, I just wish I could be him and hear those little voices over the phone from a desk at work. Sometimes I just want to hear them from afar and appreciate them, without having to endure liquified guts first.

Get it together, woman!

***

originally appeared on Beyond Infertility, a website about how parenting after infertility is different. I am a regular contributor to their website.

# The Twins Destroyed My Body (No, Not Like That)

My ever-present wrist brace helps me hold this heavy flower (the first flower my kid ever gave me!)

Everyone talks about the pain of childbirth, but what about the pain of child-rearing?

You think I’m going to talk about stretch marks? Wrong. The twins destroyed my body in a whole different way than I expected: they are breaking me. At just over a year and a half old, they weigh 32 and 34 pounds each, and apparently that’s too much.

I don’t really carry them anymore. I taught them to go up and down stairs on their own as soon as possible. I don’t even pick them up when they’re crying- I just sit down on the floor and let them come to me. (That’s a trick I learned during bedrest with a toddler!) But, when you have two fat children under the age of two, there is still a lot of lifting and hauling. Every day, there is hauling in and out high chairs (2 twins x 2 times per meal x 3 meals = like a thousand times), hauling in and out of cribs for naps and wake-ups and bedtimes, heaving them into carseats if we go anywhere (I long ago calculated that one trip to anywhere means four buckle/unbuckles per child: in at home, out at destination, in to go home, out to come inside), and heaving them off their brothers during tantrums over the empty Tylenol bottle.

Oh, and let’s not forget the heaving them onto the changing table for every diaper. Yes, yes, I know that I could change them on the floor or the couch. Yes, yes, I know that most of you don’t use changing tables. I don’t want to hear it. I have changed approximately three trillion diapers by now, and I know what works for me, and it’s the changing table. I am just not good enough to keep a poopy diaper away from the dog or the other twin if I change someone on the floor, okay? Also, I’m tall, and I don’t want to bend over more than I have to. Also, maybe I just suck at changing poops, because I can make a mess and I prefer to keep that e.coli contained to one area that I can disinfect. OKAY?

Anyway, as you see, the children are heavy and ridiculously large for their age and still need to be lifted many times per day. Also, as you can see from any of my photos, I am not large for my age. I have zero muscle tone. Well, not zero, but I think it would take some major steroids to make me even look like I have any muscle definition. With my first son, everyone said, “Don’t worry; you’ll get stronger.” Ha! Now I reply, “I don’t get stronger; I just get sorer.”

I hurt everywhere, all the time.

Do you other moms hurt this much? If so, how can anyone look at a young mother with her arms full of a baby or a toddler and not rub her neck? This kid thing HURTS. Everyone talks about the pain of childbirth, but what about the pain of child-rearing?

My neck hurts. My back hurts. My wrist hurts. My head hurts. My hips hurt. Let’s just say that everything from my hips to my skull hurts all the time. Tell me I’m not alone in this, or else I’m going to have to see a doctor.

I primarily lift babies on my left side, so my left shoulder and back are all bulked up – at least compared to my right side. I probably look like I have a disorder. My left shoulder sits so much higher than my right, and I spend all of yoga class trying to get it down again (that is, when I’m not staring at the dude in front of me who is wearing my same skin-tight women’s workout capris, but with his shirt tucked into them).

My left wrist started to give out when the babies were about three months old, so I received cortisone injections several times. Now the doctor won’t let me do any more, so my choices are surgery or hold on until we can turn the cribs into toddler beds and the high chairs into regular chairs.

Even my muscles in my throat hurt! I feel like I’ve been looking down for 4 1/2 years straight, and now I have foreshortened the muscles in front of my throat. I am always stretching my head backward to help. Is that weird? Has anyone else experienced this? Almost five years of gazing into their eyes while nursing and bottle-feeding, and then looking down at their short little toddler bodies from my great height …. seems to have put me in a permanent downward-facing position.

My neck is all kinked up. I have had migraines my entire life, but they are worse lately with all the muscle strain. I do yoga and I stretch out on a foam roller every night and I try to take care of myself, but there is really nothing more to do until I get these kids more independent.

What the heck, kids? My husband said I feed you too much, because you just poop too much and weigh too much, at least compared to the pooping frequency and weight percentiles of your little friends at the playgroup. I guess it’s my fault you’re so heavy. It has nothing to do with the fact that your father weighed almost ten pounds at birth, right? (My twins were seven and a half pounds each at birth, at 38 weeks gestation. I shudder to think how big they would have been at 40 weeks as a singleton. However, bedrest and tator tots helped them get to be that big. On purpose.)

I’m lucky: my husband has magic hands. He can find every knot and every tender spot. He can just touch my neck with his fingertips and I might start to cry with relief. He takes over most evenings and most weekends, doing all the heavy lifting to let me recover before the next round.

From now on, the only gift I will give a new mother will be a massage therapist to visit her house every day for three years, or for as long as her child needs to be lifted, whichever comes first. Just kidding. That’s what I’m giving myself. When I win the lottery.

***

I understand that there are other ways to maneuver children. I worked at a Montessori school for a while, so I know that an ideal situation would be to have everything at the child’s level. No lifting/hauling/heaving would be needed. In the Montessori method, crib mattresses are on the floor from birth and children’s tables and chairs take the place of high chairs. Their feet should be on the floor when eating and they shouldn’t be restrained behind buckles or bars. I saw this method in action, and I can attest that it works in a Montessori environment. I can also attest that my house is not a Montessori house, and that one of my twins is a hurricane. I chose the buckles and bars and all of that as a way to keep my sanity in the short term, so I have myopically chosen to sacrifice my body for my sanity.

# Did She Have a Bad Day Today? (Clues for the Husbands)

If…

She asks him to bring home more carpet cleaner and/or Spray n’ Wash,

The carseat is in pieces, drying on the deck,

The kids’ sheets are clean (think about it),

The living room rug is outside,

The van windows are down (think about it),

She’s standing in front of the pantry with a quizzical look on her face,

It’s raining,

The migraine medicine is out on the counter,

The kids’ breakfast is still glued to their hair,

You call her from your work number and not your cell number at dinnertime,

You start a conversation with, “You know how tomorrow was supposed to be my day off?”

# Pioneer Women Probably Didn’t Wonder About That: A Hierarchy of Needs

Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna cry because I didn’t do that homemade play-doh project I was going to do. Or because my kid doesn’t know how to play hide-and-seek or climb a tree. Or because I haven’t played any classical music for them in a long time. Or because I haven’t made sure they know who Bambi is. Or because I haven’t made that blueberry smoothie in the blender yet.

You know what? All those sentences have “I” in them. If I were a pioneer woman, like my ancestors, I think I would be so consumed with hard work all day long that there would be no “I” in any of my sentences about my children. I would be working to make sure they were fed, clothed, and (sometimes) clean. Well, guess what? That IS what I do all day long.

Despite the fact that this modern life provides so much mothering help –like washing machines, dishwashers, DVD players, and baby swings (wow, how did they survive without those?) – my mothering life is still about the fulfilling the basic needs: feeding, clothing, and cleaning my children. I spend as much time preparing a meal as I do feeding it to them as I do cleaning it up. Three (four) small children make an enormous mess as they are learning to eat. I have to clean every surface of the dining room after they eat. Then I have to clean the kitchen.

Do you think this leaves much time for me to worry about whether or not they are being mentally stimulated? I practice “benign neglect”, partially out of necessity and partially out of choice. My pioneer ancestors, and every other kind of ancestor, probably practiced benign neglect because they were busy surviving. If that pioneer mother had to knit every sock by hand, do you think she had time to worry if her kid mispronounced his “f’s”? If that pioneer mother had to haul water from a stream, do you think she had time to worry if her kid ate enough vegetables that day? If that pioneer mother had to keep a fire burning all day, do you think she had time to worry if her kid doesn’t know what sound an elephant makes? (What does it make?)

Do you think that pioneer mother loved her children any less?

My psychology degree comes in handy sometimes. I often think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which states that physiological needs have to be met first – before any higher needs can be met. If our needs are a pyramid, then bodily needs are the base. Water, food, and sleep are basic human functions that have to happen. Next up the pyramid comes “safety”, where a person feels secure and safe in his body, home, and family. In the middle of the pyramid, there are “love/belonging” and “esteem”. Not until the very top of the pyramid do we see “self-actualization”, which covers creativity, learning, and even acceptance of facts. In my education classes, we were taught that our students could not learn if they were hungry. I have fed children in the back of my classroom from my own pocket.

As for my own children, I often think about how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applies. I am busy all day long, just meeting the base of the pyramid for the kids: basic human needs like food, water, sleep, and oh, poop. (No kidding: “excretion” is on there.) And between those chores and emergencies and necessities, I squeeze in as much of the “love/belonging” and “esteem” as I can. We are hugging and kissing and touching. I make time at every diaper change to poke their bellies, kiss their lips, look into their eyes, see how much their eyelashes grew that day. It is shamefully easy never even to make eye contact with a baby (two babies) during a diaper change. I can be up to my elbows in poop and forget that there is someone attached to that bum. Mothers of multiples – or maybe all mothers – have to work hard to slip in those moments that make a child feel special as often as possible. I put my hand under their shirts and stroke their backs whenever I can, just so they can feel my skin, if only for a second. I am constantly trying to find ways to meet their “love/belonging” needs and their “esteem” needs.

But what about their higher needs? What about the self-actualization? What about that project I never got to start with them? What about that game I never played with them? Well, unless it’s reading a book or going outside (I almost never say “no” to those two things), they’re going to have to figure it out themselves.

I trust that by leaving my children alone while I tend to basic needs, that they will naturally gain the higher thinking processes on the Hierarchy of Needs. They are learning about give-and-take while they negotiate toys with each other. They are learning about space and time and pain and risk as they scale and descend from the couch. They are learning fine motor skills and sharing as each twin slides one rainboot on his foot.

I provide the base. They’re going to climb to the top. Maybe literally.

# 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.

# To My Readers Who Are Struggling with Infertility

I don’t just sympathize – I truly empathize with you. I feel your pain. I walked in your shoes. Whatever you are going through or feeling right now, I probably experienced it:

…..Miscarriages, adoption paperwork, IUI, IVF, Clomid, Follistim, Bravelle, Lupron, progesterone suppositories, 1.5” needles, glass vials, cysts, insensitive comments from strangers or non-strangers, meeting with social workers to prove that my house was suitable for children, getting fingerprinted at the police station like a criminal to prove that I was suitable for children…

…Spending \$1500 out of pocket at the pharmacy for one month’s medications, enduring laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, waking up in agony after egg retrieval surgeries during IVF cycles, wasting thousands of dollars when my period started and that cycle didn’t work, breaking down in tears at family parties, screaming in pain during not one but two HSG procedures (barbaric), blood tests every other day, vaginal ultrasounds sometimes EVERY day…

…Genetic testing for me and for my lost fetus, trying to change everything from the lotions I used (parabens!) to the temperature of the water I drank (the ayurvedic doctor said only hot water!), crying  in Wal-mart because I saw a poster of a baby, wanting to run over the “stork parking” signs in parking lots, hating my body because it couldn’t do something that teenagers/ out-of-wedlock couples/ drug addicts can do by accident… (And I’m worrying about the kind of Teflon on my pots?!)

Did I forget anything?

The whole thing was infuriating, and it made me feel powerless over my life and my body and my future. I wanted more than one child, and the clock was ticking.  I even listened to my doctor say, “Well, if it hasn’t happened in five years, it’s probably not going to.”

So, yeah, I get it.

But, I am here to tell you something. I not only survived infertility, I kicked its butt! I never want to dull the pain of what happened to me, because I want to support those who are coming down the infertility path behind me. I want to be a small source of hope for you. Everyone is probably telling you stories (like “My friend so-and-so…”), but I don’t want to be that person. I just want you to know that I felt how you felt at one point, and now it’s over. It’s over. And it will be over for you someday too. I know it.

I experienced all of those things, and more. After 13 rounds of fertility drugs, 2 rounds of IVF, miscarriage, and adoption, I now have three beautiful boys. Although we haven’t used birth control in nearly a decade, none of those children were conceived in my own body. One of them came to us through adoption, and two of them came to us (simultaneously) through IVF. All of them have souls that belong in this family.

While the acute pain of infertility has ended, I refuse to forget about it. I think I know what you are feeling. And that feeling won’t last forever.

“Not room enough to receive it.”

I reflect on my infertile time each day at naptime, when I settle my three big baby boys on my lap for their milk. Combined, they weigh almost as much as I do. They take up all the space on my big rocking armchair. My lap literally cannot hold them all. I get weepy and emotional each day during this rare few moments. It’s the only time of day I get to cuddle them all. I think of a scripture each day during this time: “I will…open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10) That scripture runs through my mind as they try to sit there on my lap because there is literally “not room enough to receive” them all. My arms are full. My lap is full. The windows of heaven opened, and, I must say, we worked really really hard to open them.

We may have never had this lap full/chair full/ house full of children if we had not prayed, or had miscarriages, or done the adoption paperwork, or decided to do IVF twice. I don’t know. All I know is that, in my case, I had to wait. I had to wait and learn and be patient and work really hard. But, most of all, I had to break. I didn’t bend when I was supposed to bend. I was not a strong branch. Eventually, instead of bending, I broke. But after that, I accepted my life/journey/path/challenge (ugh, each of those word choices is equally as cheesy as the next). I reached a state of peacefulness and true patience somewhere around the eight-year mark – and that’s when my children started arriving.

There was not room enough to receive them.

***

[And, yes, I do know that the verse from Malachi is about tithing, not IVF.]

# Surviving the NICU: Life as a Preemie Mommy

This article is the first in a series of guest posts. I have invited a few select friends and family members to contribute to my blog. I have chosen them based on two things: 1) I personally go to them for help; and 2) I am fascinated by their unique parenting challenges, because I want to hear how they make “okayest” work for them.

Allow me to introduce you to my sister-in-law, “Dee”, who, along with her 2-year-old daughter, Em, is currently living with us. Em, my niece, was born 3 1/2 months early and survived. Em, a former micropreemie, now weighs 27 pounds and can hold her own against her three cousins (who have managed to outweigh her). We have four children under the age of four living in this house. The chaos, mess, noise, and diapers are out of control, but every time I see Em giggle, hug a cousin, or say “oops” with a lisp, my heart soars. She is the Girl Who Lived. Here is a little window into the world of preemie motherhood.

When Melissa asked me to be a guest writer for her blog, I thought about what “okayest” moments I’ve had parenting my daughter, Em. I could go on for days about different situations we’ve had, but being a mom of a 1.5 lb baby tops all of my other mommy moments. Parenting in a NICU is incredibly difficult, especially when you never saw it coming. There are no perfect moments. There are no lovely, glowing pictures of you snuggling your newborn. It is chaotic, heartbreaking, and eye-opening to watch your tiny baby struggle to live, while you struggle to keep your sanity. Each and every day is about surviving and being okay.

Em’s (glossed over) Birth Story:

At 25-weeks gestation, I noticed a small amount of spotting. I’ve heard it’s not terribly uncommon, but I had my husband take me to the hospital just to make sure. As my doctor was checking me, his expression turned from unconcerned to uncomfortable. He told me that I was 2 cm dilated, and needed to be rushed to a hospital with a level three NICU, so that they could put a stitch in my cervix.

While in the ambulance, I asked the EMT how many premature babies he had delivered. He responded with: “Two. But neither made it, since we aren’t equipped to keep smaller babies alive.” I was stunned and furious. Who says that to a patient that is 25-weeks pregnant and on a two hour trek to the hospital?!

By the time we arrived, I was 4 cm and having contractions. They were able to give me medication to keep Em in the womb for another week, which saved her nearly a month in the NICU.

On the seventh day, I woke up bleeding and contracting, and spent the next five hours begging my nurse to get my doctor to help me. She would come in every half an hour or so to tell me that I was fine, and that I was not in labor. I cried. I pleaded. It took my mother and husband yelling at nurses down the hallways to get someone to come in. By the time my doctor showed up, my daughter was having her legs crushed in the birth canal. I was told I needed a stat c-section. Then an ultrasound showed that there was no time, and she needed to be born breech, immediately. My tiny little baby was born with bruised, black legs, because of my nurse’s negligence. Had she been head first, my time as a mom would have ended that morning.

This is the day Em was born, at 26 weeks gestation, when her eyes were still fused shut like a kitten’s.

Em went through nine weeks of crazy ups and downs. We went through more than I can even write, but here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Being a preemie mommy means:

-…you were (more than likely) unaware that your little one was going to come into this world so soon, and are BEYOND unprepared. And it’s okay that you are! You will learn by watching your baby change each hour of each day (and from the occasional google search that turns out to be helpful, and then is just down-right terrifying).

-…mourning a pregnancy that ended too soon. You will feel gypped. You may have to go to your baby shower while your baby is in the NICU. You don’t get to look super pregnant and take fun maternity pictures. If you’re like me and waited until the second trimester to tell anyone, you’re going to feel like you’ve been pregnant for five minutes.

-…not getting to touch or hold your own baby for days or even weeks.

This is the first time Dee was able to hold her own baby. She had to wait two agonizing weeks for this touch.

-…being discharged and having to go home without your baby. This was one of the worst nights of my life. The guilt, the pain, the uncontrollable need to just be with your baby…. As hard as the first night is, it gets less painful as visits become routine. Eventually, you will be able to walk out of the hospital with your sweet little preemie and it’ll be a day you’ll never forget.

-…having to decide different courses of action, whether they are invasive, risky, or down right experimental. Em was part of the NEWNO study, which is a double-blind study to test whether or not giving a particular gas to preemies helps them breathe on their own faster. It was a scary decision to make, but to us, everything that was being done to save Em was first tested on preemies that were part of studies like this one. She can know that she made a difference to future preemies.

-…realizing that you and your child are capable of more strength, endurance, and hope than you can imagine. It may not seem like it, now, but trust me. You will see.

The Unique Positives:

-You will get to know your baby sooner than most parents do. You will see their personality shine through from day one, and (let’s be honest) it is interesting to watch a baby develop before your very eyes. When Em was born, her eyes were still fused shut, like a kitten. When she was about two weeks old, we walked up to her incubator to find these odd paper sunglasses on her, and her nurse told us that early in the morning, her eyes opened. I wish we could have seen it, but we put pictures of us in her incubator, so at least she still saw us.

-You will see that your preemie is a warrior. They will go through things that adults can’t handle, and their strength will amaze you. One of Em’s scariest NICU experiences was when a PICC line (an intravenous catheter that is threaded from the arm/leg/head to the heart for prolonged medication) site became infected. For several days I watched the slightly concerning bump on her foot turn into a black, marble-sized wound, that the nurses just would not take seriously. It wasn’t until she started running a fever of 103 degrees with her heart rate at 220 bpm, that they took action. They took off my 2.5 lb infants clothes and made her stay in an open bassinet for hours just to bring her temperature down. Once her fever was under control (days later), they told us that they needed to do a spinal tap to check for a deeper infection. After they performed it (and we cried harder than she did), we went home, for the night. At 3 am, I received a call from the doctor that they didn’t get enough fluid to test, and that she needed consent right now to perform a SECOND spinal tap, while she was all alone. As you can imagine, spinal taps are PAINFUL, and she was only given a small amount of Tylenol to ease the pain. These tests bring grown men to their knees, and yet these preemies often go through some of the scariest things alone. By the time we got there, she was bundled back up and sleeping soundly. It was if she hadn’t just had two giant needles jabbed into her frail back, just hours earlier. I don’t think I would have been in her position.

-You have more milestones to celebrate! Daily weight-checks to see if they’ve gained a few grams, being able to finally put some cute little clothes on your tiny baby, graduating to an open bassinet, and for some preemies, getting to take an ambulance ride to go from a level three NICU to a hospital with a level two!

Life at Home:

Here is the joyful but intimidating day of Em’s homecoming, after almost 3 months in the NICU.

-The first night at home, you will be thinking: “WAIT. No monitors?! How will I know what her sats are? What if she has bradies (bradycardic episodes)?! How will I know?!?!” The idea of going from medical care 24/7 to being totally on your own is terrifying. Chances are, there will be a lot of unnecessary phone calls to the NICU because you think something is wrong, but DO NOT stop calling just because you think you’re being overly concerned. Had we given in to the many doctors that told us we were just young parents, and were still having some PTSD from Em’s prematurity, she would have never been diagnosed with epilepsy when she was, and she very well may not be here today, had we not followed our parental instincts.

-As time goes on, you start seeing your baby as a normal, healthy baby. No wires, no needles, no bandages, just your wonderful munchkin. Other people, however, don’t always know how to treat you and your preemie, now that you’re home. Which brings me to my next thought.

What NOT to Say to a Preemie Mommy:

1. “At least you’re not 40 weeks! Being this pregnant sucks!”

Say this to a preemie mommy, and she’ll want to punch you in the left ovary. We would give ANYTHING just to have been pregnant long enough to deliver a healthy baby. Bite your tongue!

2. “I wish I didn’t have to breastfeed!” or “You DON’T breastfeed?”

Preemie mommies can’t always lactate, which makes us feel inadequate and guilty for robbing our sickly babies of something that is so good for them. Even if you don’t want to breastfeed, it stinks not to have a choice.

3. “How is your baby having a GOOD day?! It’s so sick!”

Preemies can have good days. Even if it’s just gaining ten grams or coming down on their oxygen levels, it’s progress and that leads to hope. If you aren’t going to be positive/sympathetic, don’t say anything! We could use someone to just listen to us.

4. “Don’t worry, she’ll be fine.”

Yeah? Where did you get your doctorate of neonatology? Not only is this infuriating because no one knows if your baby will be fine or not, but it makes you sound passive about a very upsetting situation.

5. “Yeah, my kid was in the hospital with the flu for a few days. It’s tough!”

There are many parents out there that have had kids in the hospital, and many for reasons far worse than prematurity. But if your kid is in the hospital for poison ivy, don’t compare.

6. “At least you didn’t have to deliver a big baby!”

(Insert the hundreds of “at least you”’s that preemie parents can throw back at you.)

7. “She looks awful!”

She may not look well, because she is small and sick, but come on, now.

8. “She’s a preemie and you took her outside in this weather?!”

I’ve got more doctors numbers in my phone than I have friends/family. If I need medical advice on my kid, I won’t be asking you.

9. When your GYN nurse asks (without looking at your chart) “Did you feel the baby move, today?”

And cue sobbing. Running into people that don’t know you delivered early is tough. I have no advice for this one. It’s just awkward and sad.

10. “I’ve heard that the odds of a preemie doing ____ are ____%”

I’ve heard that the odds of being killed from falling out of bed are 1 in 2 million, so I’d start sleeping on the floor, if I was you. I hear statistics from every doctor and nurse that crosses my path. Don’t be negative, or try to be “realistic” about it. Just be supportive.

A Few Things to Remember:

-It’s okay to have fun outside of the NICU. I’ve had my share of guilt about going grocery shopping, seeing a movie, or just getting some dang sleep, but it’s necessary! You really do have to take care of yourself! Your baby has plenty of people taking care of him/her, so get take a little time each day to do something for you, even if it’s only for five minutes.

-Don’t take people’s crap in the NICU! I had a good share of family members that needed to just get the boot, either from being upsetting or negative. Your baby wants a happy mommy, and he/she won’t get that if mom is stressed out by a visitor that isn’t being supportive. Don’t be afraid to ask them to give you some space!

-The NICU stay will end eventually. It will seem like you will never escape the monitors, doctors and the sickening smell of Purell, but in a few weeks/months, you will hopefully be home with your little one.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but it seems like an even more unattainable status when you’re the mommy of a preemie. You don’t have to have it all together. You don’t have to pretend like you didn’t just cry in Target because a woman was pushing around her newborn, and you can’t even find a preemie shirt that will fit your baby (which, by the way, you’ll want ones with snaps that go down the front!). If you follow your instincts, get some sleep every once in a while, and just do your best, you will be okay.

Here is Em on her second birthday. Look how strong and big she is! Photo courtesy Mr. Okayest (Em’s uncle)

# Run-On Sentence Life

I’m not *busy*. I’m just crazy.

My sister-in-law asked how I was doing, and this run-on sentence disaster is what came out:

“We’re doing great, other than I feel like a crazy woman with the babies going so fast in opposite directions. They are like puppies. And potty training at the same time? Insane! I put R on the potty, and then I have to herd Baby A out of the bathroom, and by that time, Baby B is in the bathroom, and by then R is kicking that one in the face (idly) while he tries to go potty, and by then the Baby A has climbed up on the fireplace hearth and is falling off, and then I have to leave R on the potty, but then he cries because he is “wone-wee” in there and can’t go if he’s “wone-wee” and by then, Baby B has climbed on top of some sort of wheeled toy and is actually being pushed by Baby A across the living room.”

Run-on sentence much? My whole life is a run-on sentence!

My days are crazy. People say, “Wow, you are so busy,” but it’s not about being busy. I have plenty of down time where I am just lying on the floor as happy babies stick their fingers in my nose and knee me in the c-section scar. It’s more about me always spinning in circles- sometimes literally. By the time I remove Baby A from crawling toward the dog, Baby B has crawled toward the dog. I spin in circles.

My whole day is fight-or-flight. My husband says this means I am just reacting to things. I think this means that I am just really sweaty all day long.

I taught Kindergarten for five years before this motherhood thing. I can easily wrangle 25 five-year-olds into coats in 1 minute flat, but I can’t dress my own three children in under twenty minutes. I can easily usher 25 five-year-olds out the door during a fire drill in mere seconds, but I can’t get to my own kid who is falling down the stairs before dropping another kid. I can easily keep 25-five-year-olds happily engaged at a lovely decibel level, but my own three children make my ears bleed.

I miss a few things from the old days, when my 25 kids got on the bus and went home at the end of the day. Now I have three children for 24 hours a day, and there are some things that I feel like I will never get back. That’s okay. I swear I’m not complaining. But, whew, I wish God could give me one of those days back right now, just for a little vacation.

My husband and I were introverts. We had a quiet life, but maybe that was the problem! Our life is so loud and wild now, even if it’s not overtly busy. If only we had been big partiers before children (ha!), then maybe this would be easier now. I think wild party animals and social butterflies get all the After-Baby-Attention because their busy social calendar screeches to a halt, but I’m here to say that maybe we should consider the poor introverts. How do we fare in all this commotion?

I wish I was that mom who gets all gushy about the noise and chaos bringing joy to her heart, but, as you know, I am not shy about saying that bedtime is my favorite part of the day. I love my kids, and I love their bedtime just as much. I long to get my house back for those lovely two hours before I go to bed. But shouldn’t I be celebrating this “joyful noise”?

Mr. Okayest says that we’ll get there. The kids are just too little to go upstairs together and make blanket forts and have raucous laughter echoing down the stairs while I make dinner in peace. They still require constant 100% physical effort from me.

I miss Sunday naps after church, making dinner in silence, and eating dinner without food on the floor. I miss reading the Sunday Washington Post, going to the movies on Friday night, and going out to eat once a week. I miss driving the car in undistracted (i.e., safe) silence. I miss not lugging a 30 pound diaper backpack everywhere I go (and not packing a 30 pound diaper backpack before going anywhere!). I miss a back and a neck that don’t hurt constantly. I swear I’m not complaining. After all, I did let the doctor implant two eggs in there.

I’m a crazy woman with a run-on sentence life. I promise you that I used to be smart, and creative. I promise you that my vocabulary used to be twice as large as it is now. I promise you that I never wrote any run-on sentences. I also promise you that I never said this sentence ever at all before yesterday: “We don’t put turtles in our brother’s bottom”.

I also promise you that I wouldn’t change it or trade it. To cope, I may cry, or watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, or shamefully snap at my husband, or drink too many Diet Cokes, or whine… but I promise I wouldn’t change it. I kiss their fat cheeks, I squeeze their cellulite, I inhale their baby head scent before it’s too late. I see  three shades of skin, three colors of eyes looking at me, and my heart melts sometimes. I am thankful. Truly. But I wouldn’t mind just that one pre-kid vacation day….

# Ways My Husband Has Found Me upon Returning Home from Work

• Sprawled on the floor, flat on my back
• Crying with frustration at the kids
• Crying with joy at seeing him
• Asleep on the couch
• Wearing his clothes
• Wearing no clothes, but not in a good way (because my clothes were pooped/spewed/peed upon)
• Ponytail askew after a toddler tantrum
• Actually making dinner (!)
• Standing in front of the open fridge or pantry, crying because I don’t know what to make for dinner
• Hyped up on Excedrin Migraine
• Moving like molasses in January because of prescription migraine medication
• Covered in children
• Covered in spit up/poop/pee (“It’s ok, honey, I rolled it up before I hugged you.”)
• Gone. Because I went to my mom’s house.

Some things about adoption are hard to admit. And some things about biological children are hard to admit. I hesitate to be too forthcoming because my sons will read this blog someday. (If I can ever find the time or money, I will totally make this into a book or photobook or something. They will be all like, “Ugh, Mom, that’s so stupid. Who cares?! Stop talking!”) But here is one nugget that I have recently allowed myself to admit:

I am upset with my biological sons for gaining independence, but I am proud of my adopted son for gaining independence.

By the way, I never say “adopted son” unless I’m at the doctor. But here it seemed necessary to the sentence. I don’t want to be Mr. Royal Tennenbaum and introduce you to “my adopted daughter Margot.” Just as it’s important to say “the child with autism” (rather  than “the autistic child”), it’s important not to let “adopted” become that child’s adjective. Adoption was something that happened to him one time: on the day he was born.

Anyway, about that independence… My oldest son didn’t come from my body. As a result, I didn’t have the hormones that come along with pregnancy and birth. Adoptive mothers are still given the gift of that  lovely cuddling-induced hormone oxytocin, though, so we still bonded. But I never had to wrestle with that bittersweet feeling of watching him grow inside of me, and then grow outside of me. He came as a fully separate human being from me.  Therefore, when he started to crawl and walk away from me, it didn’t hurt. It was celebratory. I cheered him on. I see him doing things by himself and I have surges of pride.

Something weird is happening in my brain as my “biological sons” (again, I promise I don’t use that phrase in conversation) are learning to walk. I am feeling a wee bit, um, mad at them. Am I crazy?! Do other moms feel this way? In the newborn phase, they cuddled me because of gravity. Gravity forced them to rest against my chest. Then, in the baby phase, they actually cuddled me because they wanted to be close to me. Now, in the toddler phase, they are separate human beings with their own will. Sometimes that stings. It stings the momma who felt like they were part of her body for nine months of gestation and then one year of baby-dom. I am proud of them, but it stings, too.

To quote Raising Arizona (the best movie about infertility and child-stealing ever made): “Course I don’t really need another kid, but Dot says these-here are gettin’ too big to cuddle.” And that’s the “crux of the biscuit” right there. (Obscure Frank Zappa reference thrown in there for my Dad.) I have mommy guilt, and now I have mommy sadness. It’s not about them walking- it’s about me! I’m so sorry, kids, but you have to deal with me putting my issues all over you.

1)      I never had enough arms or time to cuddle them the way they needed, and now it’s too late = guilt

2)      I want more children but I don’t know if I can have more children (via any method) = sadness

As anyone who has watched a baby grow up knows, once he can move, that’s all he wants to do. Babies who can move are constantly on the move. If you’re lucky, you might get a few minutes of cuddles when they are falling asleep, waking up, or feeling sick.

However, I am noticing that the amount of children one has is inversely proportional to the amount of cuddling one receives. I may get one twin to cuddle for five seconds before he is distracted by one of his brothers doing something more exciting. I have been pushed aside for the wonderful world of movement, brothers, and distraction.

It’s the natural order of things. It is beautiful and wonderful and terrible.

# The Phrase “Upscale Resale” Makes Me Want to Gag

Everyone knows that I buy almost all my kids’ clothing used. The exceptions are underwear, socks, and sometimes jammies – but only because those are hard to find. I actually think it is kind of stupid to buy new clothes for kids (sorry), unless you can’t find what you need or it’s a special occasion. Like Easter- isn’t it good luck to have new clothes in Easter or something? Most of the time, kids outgrow clothes before they get all used up and pilled anyway, so it’s super easy to find good stuff.

Plus, I’m a little spoiled because people take pity on families with three boys in diapers and often donate bags of clothes. I consider that to be extremely generous, because they could have sold those clothes for money. It’s as if they donated money to my family.

When I was on bedrest and my 2-year-old was outgrowing his clothes, I panicked when I realized I couldn’t go to the thrift store like usual to get the next set. I was worried that I would have to buy all new clothes online or something. (Unless Mr. Okayest were to make a trip to the thrift store to pick out a season’s worth of toddler clothes, which he would be perfectly capable of doing, but somehow I just didn’t see that in his job description…) That’s when my friend Jen told me about something called online consignment. Holy cow, I had hit the jackpot. I didn’t even know something like that existed. You could buy used clothes online? Without using ebay? Sweeeeeeet.

I quickly realized that most of the online consignment places billed themselves as “Upscale Resale.” Gag! At the risk of quoting that awful John Stossel, give me a break. “Upscale Resale” seems to be infiltrating this market. The phrase “Upscale Resale” must have been invented by someone who was too embarrassed to shop at the thrift store. Most of these online shops bragged about their “flaw free” clothes, “zero imperfections”, and, of course, the Holy Grail of Nothing, “name brand children’s clothing.”

As a crazy mom of three children three and under, may I just say that I am super proud of myself if they are dressed at all?! Do you think I care if my kids’ clothes are “flaw free” and made by J.Crew? Do you think that “upscale resale” matters to me when there is always puke, pee, peas, or poop on every article of clothing at all times? An outfit lasts maybe an hour in this house.  Twins quadruple (not double!) the mess, because not only do I have two babies who make themselves dirty, but I also have two babies who smear mess on each other.

Or maybe I don’t care about name brand and “flaw free” because I was a teenager in the 90s, when girls could stay covered up in oversized thrift store flannel. That’s a blog post for another day.

And the prices? Well, if the Upscale Resale used shirt is \$7.99 and shipping is at least \$2.99, and I can get a similar shirt NEW at Target for \$5, or used at the thrift store for \$2, what is the better option here? Duh.

I have taken advantage of the online consignment to sell overflow and/or outgrown clothing, because they just mail you a prepaid mailer bag. You can stuff it and schedule a mail pickup, and it’s easy enough for even a mom like me to handle. However, most places don’t accept Wal-mart brands or even Target brands! When did used clothing become snobby?! Someday when my kids are in school and I am free to watch Teen Mom all day long, maybe I can sell the clothes myself at a proper consignment sale – where they accept regular old kids’ clothes. (Or, probably more appropriately, pass them on to another mom who is as overwhelmed as I am.)

Give me a real thrift store any day. I’ll take the clothes that smell like a stranger’s B.O. and have a few flaws. I’ll take Wal-mart brand. I’ll take the kind of clothes that need baking soda or vinegar and a couple heavy-duty washes to get the stink out. Downscale Resale for this family.  Hey, at least my kids are dressed, okay?

# Twins vs. Dishwasher

(Getting creative here. Why trap them inside a cage when I can trap myself instead?)

The most important chore in my morning is to unload the dishwasher. It has bottles in it, see? Also, it seems to be that thing that determines how smoothly the rest of the day goes. Forget to unload it and watch the chaos ensue. I dare you.

My twins are almost one year old, and, like any babies, they love to crawl to the dishwasher. What’s the problem with that? Well, if the dishes are dirty, then you’ve got a baby with a sharp knife in one hand and a cutting board with chicken guts on it in the other. If the dishes are clean, you’ve got silverware in their mouth and dog-haired hands grabbing your plates.

I have to unload it while they are in the high chair. That’s my only choice. Unloading it at nap would mean waking the babies with loud noises. Also, I’ve got to get those bottles outta there and drying NOW!

First thing in the morning, I put the babies in their high chairs for their breakfast. They have a tray full of bananas, wheat bread, and some Cheerios. Things are quiet. Things are good. Today, I’m going to have this whole thing under control. I start to unload the dishwasher. I pull out the top rack. G is screaming because E stole his banana. I go retrieve it, yanking it from E’s tight grip, and then I have smooshed banana on my hands. I wash my hands.

I take two cups out and get them in the cabinet. E is choking. I run to him but then realize that the fact that I heard him choking means that he is cough-choking, which is fine. I watch him resume eating,  and start to go back to my dishwasher, when I remember that real choking is silent. If I’m unloading dishes, then my back is to them, and then I won’t know that they are silent-choking, and then they will die. I decide to sit and watch them eat. The dishwasher can wait.

I watch them eat while sitting beside them. Ugh, they’re fine. This is stupid. I’m going back to the dishwasher.

I unload a couple more glasses. I move on to the sippy cups. They are all wet. I have to dry them before I can put them back together. Wait, that dish towel is disgusting. Let me go get a clean one. Hmmm, can I leave the babies in their chairs while I run downstairs to the mountain of clean stuff in the laundry room (i.e., laundry closet)? Yes, yes I can.

I come back up to find the 100-pound dog eating bread right out of G’s hand. I scold her and chase her into her crate. I come back to the babies, thinking I should wash G’s hand, when I realize he’s already stuffing more food into his mouth with that hand covered in dog hair and dog slobber. Oh well, what does it matter anyway? He practically licks her coat all day.

I head back to the dishwasher. I can’t remember where I left that clean dish towel. Oh, well, the sippy cups can just sit in the sink to dry. I start to unload the bottles from the dishwasher, when I realize I have dog on my hands. I wash them again.

The babies scream. They are bored of Cheerios. I debate what else to give them. I should make them some scrambled eggs. They need protein. I abandon the dishwasher for the stove.  I put the pan on the stove and turn on the heat. I crack some eggs. As the eggs goober up my hands, R yells, “I have to go pee-pee!” while peeing on the floor. I do some quick calculations about ounces of milk versus the amount of time since the last potty trip, and want to shoot myself.

I pick him up, sit him on the potty, and yell at him to stay there. As I run for the paper towels and vinegar spray, the babies start to cry and give me the sign language for “drink” (i.e., wild hand gestures that might mean something). The dog whines in her crate. I run over to those still-wet sippy cups and start to fill them with water, when I realize I have “pee hands”. I wash them again.

R cries out, “I need you, Momma!” I abandon the sippy cups. As I race back to the bathroom, I pass the pan that is smoking on the stove, the eggs sitting on the counter, the babies crying for water, and the dog whining in the crate. This kid needs a bath. There is pee on his legs and feet. I do some quick prioritizing in my head, and decide that he gets sprayed with vinegar spray. He cries because it’s cold. Oh, well, it’s what we have to work with here. I can’t exactly throw him in the bathtub that is on another level of the house while babies sit in high chairs.

However, I do have to run upstairs to get new clothes for R. Can I leave the babies alone in their high chairs while I do that? Umm, well, they threw all their food on the floor already, so I guess there is nothing for them to choke on while I’m gone. I get the clothes, but R hates to be naked, so he’s screaming, “I don’t like that! I need underwears! I don’t like naked!” while I race back down the stairs.

I make R help me clean up the pee with paper towels. I mentally thank myself for having put the dog in the crate ahead of time, even though she was in there for some other reason. What was that reason again? Oh, yeah, the babies… and their food.

The babies are still crying in their high chairs. They are probably  lonely, or hungry, or thirsty, or something… Oh, right, I see the abandoned sippy cups and the smoking pan and the eggs on the counter. Right. Okay.

I look at the clock. Maybe they’re tired, because it’s almost time for morning nap. Forget the eggs. I turn the stove off. I wipe their hands with wipes. I get the babies down. What a mess! I handle the cleaning of the high chairs, and then I let the dog out of her crate to handle the cleaning of the floor.

What’s the noise? Oh, dang, I left the full dishwasher open. One baby is sitting in the dishwasher, drooling on (licking?) my clean dishes. The other baby is pulling out a sharp knife. I take the knife away, carry that baby far away from the dishwasher so he will have to crawl for a long time before he can get back there, but by then, the other baby has discovered that knife.  I take that away from him and carry him far away from the dishwasher so that he too will have to crawl for a really long time to reach it again. By this time, the first baby has reached the dishwasher again. I yell. I roar. I slam the dishwasher closed.

I have not unloaded the dishwasher.

Maybe Mr. Okayest will do it tonight when he comes home from work.

# So What Do You Do All Day?

I WILL TELL YOU WHAT I DO ALL DAY!

 POOP 8 poopy diapers + 2 sit-on-the-potty-poops 60 minutes POTTY TRAINING teaching, sitting in the bathroom with him while babies run amok, reading stories to him while on the potty, cajoling, bargaining, cleaning up accidents 90 minutes WRESTLING NINJA CHILDREN INTO CLOTHES At least 9 outfit changes per day, each leaving me in a sweat 60 minutes BOTTLES 6 bottles, including prep time 30 minutes  (in the early days, with slow flow nipples and 18 bottles per day plus breastfeeding, this was about 25 hours per day) MEALS 3 meals per day: each with 30 minutes prep, 30 minutes feeding, 20 minutes cleanup (including the floor) 240 minutes LAUNDRY 1-2 kid loads per day: washing, drying, folding but leaving it on the couch, refolding after the kids throw it on the floor, finally remembering to put it away after the kids are napping in their rooms and I can’t put it away so then they throw it on the floor again when they wake up 60 minutes UNLOADING THE DISHWASHER after 6 or 7 tries 20 minutes OTHER CHORES Just kidding 0 minutes KEEPING THE KIDS AND THE DOG APART ‘nuf said 30    minutes TRYING TO PLAY WITH MY KIDS but then someone has an emergency and I get up to deal with that 60 minutes BATHTIME If I do all 3 together… maybe… But who I am kidding? I never bathe my kids! 60 minutes BEDTIMES 5 naps per day (2 kids x 2 naps each + 1 kid x 1 nap) and 3 bedtimes (3 kids x 1 nite nite), includes wrestling into jammies, prayers, teeth brushing while screaming, lotioning, singing, cuddling in a hurry, reading scriptures and books 120 minutes CLEANING UP Um, yeah 5 minutes WATCHING REALITY TV AFTER THE KIDS ARE IN BED Don’t judge 120 minutes GRAND TOTAL ~16 hours

# When Vacation Isn’t

(Please note that I am sinking into the sand here. I told you I never carry both of them.)

Woe is me: my beach vacation was hard! Just before I packed my 3 diapered children off to the beach, I saw an article from The Onion entitled “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean”. I actually elle-oh-elled. (Okay, I’m totally snorting while reading it again right now.) The last line is, “At press time, [mom]  was reportedly busy preparing a meal identical to what she would have made back home, except that she planned to serve it on paper plates.”

Oh, this is such a First World Problem. (Or, as my college roommate would say, “A White Person Problem”.) I suck. I will complain about my vacation when most people don’t even get vacations. Let me serve some cheese with my whine. Or get out my mini-violin. Go get your tissues, people, this is gonna be a tearjerker!

My mom always said, “Why would anyone want to stay in a beach house instead of a motel? If I wanted to makes beds and do dishes and cook, I would’ve stayed home.” I guess she wrote that Onion article.

Mr. Okayest and I were a perfectly matched beach couple. We both liked to spend all day (and I mean all day) on the beach. We read books, we napped until we were too hot to breathe, and then we jumped in the ocean and kissed between dodging waves. Repeat. At night, we went out to dinner and took moonlit walks and dared each other to swim in the black ocean. We did this for years and years, and it was the one thing that I loved about not having children. (Maybe the other thing would have been my Mormon Nap after church on Sundays.) I think the beach was the one place I felt content without children.

Woe is me. In addition to normal vacation gear, I had to pack formula, baby food, a potty seat, a stool, two high chairs, two pack n’ plays, a baby gate, three floaties, one blankie, diapers, pull-ups, night diapers, swim diapers, and wipes for the beach. I had to spend the first sunny morning shopping at the Food Lion with my cousin. I had to plan and prepare dinners and lunches that would appeal to six kids, ages six and under. I had to keep all my children from drowning, burning, or dehydrating. I had to convince all my children to sleep in a strange place because this is fun. I had to do dishes and wash bottles and clean the dang floor under the high chairs three times a day, because we didn’t bring the dog along to do it for me!

Woe is me. I hauled cranky children into the house for every lunchtime and naptime (2 twins x 2 naps per day). I hauled slimey suncreened children back out of the house for every beach time, praying that they didn’t pee on me while they were smooshed into their too-tight pee-through swim diapers. I dealt with vacation-inspired diaper rash so bad that it called the doctor all by itself. I had to bathe my children way more than I ever do at home, because of the sand/ diaper rash/ sunscreen patina. I had to let my oldest kid get knocked down by a wave so he would have a healthy fear of the ocean.

You know what? SO WORTH IT!

So worth it: Mr. Okayest was with us for days on end – no work, no grad school, no homework, no car repairs or house repairs, and, oh yeah,  no house chores that he has to do because his wife didn’t. (At home, I call myself a “garage widow”.) I loved having his help with the babies, but mostly I just loved seeing his tanned, scruffy, beautiful face all day, every day. I miss his face when he goes to work.

So worth it: my serious introverted toddler actually had fun. Fun. This kid can sometimes go an entire day without smiling….but here, at the beach with his cousins, he was laughing. He was running and jumping and splashing and sand-castle-building and pretending weird things.

So worth it: My kids slept better in a strange place than they do at home. Must have been all that sunshine. And all those rowdy cousins.

So worth it: I did get to swim in the ocean with my husband a few times (i.e., he threw me in) because there were more adults back on the beach to help out. I did get to sneak out to dinner and go on romantic moonlit walks on the beach with my husband after the kids went to bed, because there were more adults back at the house to stay with the kids. It had been a loooong time.

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And, lest I forget, here are three more vacation-related things for which I am grateful:
1) We did not get evacuated for a hurricane this year. We were actually evacuated two years in a row.
2) I was not on bedrest this year. Thankfully my cousin bought out our share of the beach vacation last year, after the doctor forbade me to go.
3) Most importantly, we are not the owners of that beach house. It was falling into the ocean – much like the one we rented last year, which has fallen into the ocean.