Regular thoughts vs. Anxiety Thoughts

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Me. Worrying.

Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me. Well, “tricks” makes it sound kind of fun and playful. These tricks are neither fun nor playful. Hmm, maybe “my mind” isn’t the best phrase either. Let me start over.

Sometimes my brain chemicals try to screw me over.

The same things happen to me on good days as do on bad days. No matter how good or bad my brain chemistry is acting, I still have to make the same amount of meals, wipe the same amount of bums, and hear the same amount of chaos. The difference is whether or not I can handle those things.

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Me. Hiding.

Some days, I can calmly look around and survey the damage and prioritize my responsibilities. Other days, I look around at my life and I … feel like when I’m swimming and I think the bottom of the lake is right there, but then my toes realize that I can’t touch the bottom and I panic and tread water even though I know I know how to swim.

And then, I shut down. Zombie mommy takes over. I don’t know what to do about anything and I slowly lose the ability to do anything. I lose the ability to prioritize. Everything seems huge and every attempt on my part seems inadequate or even just wrong. On a “good” day, I might look back and wonder why on earth I couldn’t handle that stupid little event/ responsibility / feeling/ chore/ request.

Here is how my brain handles things on good days versus bad days…

The houseplant needs water.                                                            
Regular thought: Where did I put that watering can? Which kid will help me water this plant?
Anxiety thought: I kind of like watching this plant die.

My kids go to their rooms for their regularly scheduled “quiet time”.
Regular thought: These kids really benefit from quiet time. We all need a break.
Anxiety thought: Shouldn’t I be doing some cute craft with them or something? I shouldn’t need a break from my own children.

I see a book on the floor that I had promised to read to them but didn’t.
Regular thought: Oh, I better remember to read that to them tomorrow!
Anxiety thought: I am the worst mother ever. How could I promise something and not follow through? These kids will never keep trusting me if I don’t mean what I say.

I am late to something.
Regular thought: Ugh, I tried hard. Oh well, people understand that I have potty-training twins and can’t always be on time.
Anxiety thought: I am never on time. Everyone else manages to be on time, no matter how many kids they have. What is wrong with me?

There are piles of laundry on the couch.
Regular thought: I can’t believe how much mud and pollen three small boys can get into in the spring!  Let’s get this folding started. It won’t be so bad in the summer time.
Anxiety thought: There is no point. Laundry never ever ends. Other moms can handle their laundry with bigger families than mine. What is my excuse? I can’t even look at this pile.

I need to start making dinner.
Regular thought: Let me consult my meal planner on the wall to remember what I am making tonight. Ok, I need to start that in ten minutes.
Anxiety thought: Everyone is going to need me while I’m making dinner. It’s so impossible. They won’t even want to eat what I planned anyway. Why do I bother?

My husband calls and says he will be late coming home from work tonight.
Regular thought: Ugh, not again. Ok, let’s get this over with.
Anxiety thought: I will be doing this alone forever. I can’t handle this. I can’t handle them.

I have a whole lot of emails/ texts/ messages/ calls to respond to.
Regular thought: Well, people understand that I have twins. I’ll get to them sooner or later.
Anxiety thought: People make time for me, yet I can’t seem to make time for them. I am a really bad friend. I am going to lose the friends I’ve got.

Everyone is crying at the same time.
Regular thought: Let me see who has the most serious need and handle him first.
Anxiety thought: I don’t know what to do. I want to hide in the bathroom.

The house is a mess.
Regular thought: Well, I have three small boys! What do I expect it will look like? It’s not like I have a cleaning crew. I’ll clean it when they go to kindergarten.
Anxiety thought: I am a failure.

Even on a bad day, I know I can’t believe the anxiety thoughts. But it’s so hard. I know I shouldn’t listen to that crap. I know it’s not real. These “tricks” are all so new to me. I can’t believe how much effort it takes to both hear them and not to listen to them. On a good day, I just handle it. Handle it and move on.

Besides my migraines, anxiety has absolutely been my biggest challenge to my parenting. Sometimes I imagine what kind of mother I could be without anxiety or migraines strangling me. I can’t decide if thinking like that makes me feel better or worse.

Yes, what I do is really really hard. I am not sure that anyone in my situation would be able to do any better. At least, that’s what I have to tell myself. Having three small children, one of them with special needs, a couple of them potty training, and all of them very very dependent on me, would take a toll on anyone. Right?

It makes me really sad to read what I have written – to put this stuff in words. But I usually can’t heal from something until I write it down. I think better when I write. Let’s just hope I can learn to think better during the bad days, too.

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I Used to Be Good at So Many Things

And now I’m not.

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

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

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

Ice Bar, Stockholm

Ice Bar, Stockholm

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

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

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

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

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

caving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Doing Chores with Three Toddlers Underfoot

image What is it like doing chores with three toddlers underfoot? You’ve heard it before: It’s like herding cats. It’s like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.

I wake up in the morning with a head full of ideas. I am ready to conquer the day! I am ready to not feel so crazy! I am ready to take control! I set the bar really low – don’t get me wrong. I am Okayest Mom, after all. But I do have ideas of what I would like to accomplish in a day, on top of the usual changing-eight-poops and making-and-cleaning-meals-three-times. Today, for example, I thought it would be a good day to change my own sheets and my own towels. Sounds doable, right? Sounds like a good goal for an Okayest Mom, right? Wrong.

As the day progresses, every little thing stretches into bigger things. Each thing that happens is like a hammer onto the side of my head, smashing down any hope I had of accomplishing anything beyond the bare minimum again.

I have three levels of work in this house:

1) “Needs That Are Immediate, Pressing, Non-Negotiable, and Never-Changing”:

    • poops
    • meals
    • laundry
    • keeping kids on schedule
    • hugging/holding/touching
    • reading to the kids
    • getting the kids fresh air
    • not losing my mind
    • connecting with my husband

2) “Needs That Can Usually Wait But Are Very Important and Must Be Smooshed in Somehow”:

    • baths
    • vacuuming
    • changing sheets and towels
    • getting myself dressed
    • cleaning
    • shopping
    • playing with the kids
    • blogging a little of the things that are in my head (so my head doesn’t explode)

3) “Wants”:

    • doing my hair
    • organizing the toys
    • making those cool file folder games for keeping the kids quiet in church
    • uploading photos to Shutterfly
    • messaging a friend
    • cleaning the stainless steel appliances
    •  a haircut
    • blogging all the things that are in my head

I’m thinking I will get to the “wants” category when the twins enter kindergarten. No, wait, I will have to sleep for a year when the twins enter kindergarten. So, hmmm, maybe I will get to the “wants” when the twins enter first grade.

 

***

 

This post was originally published on Beyond Infertility as members-only content. I am a regular contributor to their website.

Almost Dying Made Me Appreciate Muscles and Chores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT…

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine the joy and the gratitude.

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

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

It’s good. You know what I mean?

 

***

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

 

Twins vs. Dishwasher

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