My Top Ten Posts of 2016, My Least Prolific Year

Homecoming: 3 Car Pile-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

#9: Kindergarten These Days. Sheesh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2: How I Really Feel About Birthmothers

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

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

A Valentine’s Chart: He Says, She Hears

Mothering My Child Named “Anxiety”

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

Mom Math

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

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

love you!

 

I Was Asked to Write a Book Review for “Multiples Illuminated” (!)

Multiples-Illuminate-Nov-cover-revised1Earlier this year, the editors of book in progress about multiples found my blog and contacted me. They asked me to write an honest-to-goodness book review for them. I was so flattered! I quickly agreed to do the review, but to be honest, I was a bit skeptical about agreeing to review a book that I had not yet read. What if I hated it? (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit snobby selective about books and writing in general – despite the fact that the twins have given me swiss-cheese holes in my brain. Maybe I’m just a jerk!) Well, when I started reading, I breathed a sigh of relief: the book was good. As I continued to read, I realized the book was really good. By the end, I was wishing I had written the book myself. I am honored that I can attach my name to this truly good book. Thank you to the editors for giving me the chance to preview this book and share my opinion. Below is my full review of “Multiples Illuminated”.

 

“Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice from Parents of Twins, Triplets, and More” is exactly the book that all parents of multiples – from pregnancy onward – need in their libraries. A combination of anthologies and advice, this book fills a huge gap in the literary world. Whether you are hugely and painfully pregnant with twins (or more!), or you are completely catatonic from keeping up with the needs of newborn multiples, or you feel like your brain is a ping pong ball with an army of small people in your house, this book is for you!

“Multiples Illuminated” was exactly the book I needed when I was expecting my twins. Unfortunately, the pregnancy books I did manage to find back then usually gave super unhelpful tips like, “Don’t do cocaine.” (Um, yeah, I guess I’m all set.) I’m just an “Okayest Mom” – I didn’t need anything bossy or overly optimistic. I just wanted something real. What I needed was a book like this one – a book that would have told me how ridiculous it would be when I was nursing two babies and one needed to unlatch to burp. (In case you’re wondering, you can turn yourself into a mother cat and lift a baby by the pajamas with your teeth. Just kidding. Kind of.) I needed a book that would have told me the harsh truth: I would indeed feel like “a sedated mental patient” sometimes. Or most of the time.

I am not the only parent of multiples who doesn’t remember much of anything about the first year. I had two-year-old son with special needs and newborn twin sons. I had three children in diapers – and I was running on fumes. I needed “Multiples Illuminated” then, but I actually feel a little lucky that I do have this book now. I’m still in the trenches, but now I know I’m not alone (or crazy!).

Even though my twin boys are now three years old, “Multiples Illuminated” has quickly earned a place in my heart as a personal resource. This book has restored my faith in my own sanity during potty training and other more-than-twice-as-hard tasks. I even choked back tears of relief while reading a few chapters: other parents of multiples have experienced situations and feelings that I thought were unique to me. I felt so much less alone when I read that other parents have been so stressed that they have almost had to leave their body to view the insanity and chaos from above; others have also missed their spouses and felt lonely because one of them always had a baby in their arms; other parents have struggled to read picture books simultaneously to twins; other parents have felt that all-consuming guilt when they can only meet the needs of one twin at a time. Being a parent of multiples can be heart-wrenching, overwhelming, sometimes just okay, and sometimes  so very delicious. Thank you to the contributors and editors of “Multiples Illuminated” for telling the brutal yet beautiful truths about being a parent of multiples.

 

If you want to be better prepared for multiples than I was, you can purchase “Multiples Illuminated” for yourself at Amazon (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook),  iBooks, or Kobo.

“Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My” was published on BabyCenter.com!

BabyCenter.com calls itself “The #1 Parenting Resource” with over 40 million visitors per month. Recently, THEY contacted ME and asked me to write a post for them for RESOLVE’s National Infertility Awareness Week. I  was so honored and flattered, but realized I am not used to writing with deadlines, assigned topics, and word counts. I hope I did all right by you all, my loyal readers! They published my post on April 21, 2015 here. I have reprinted the entire post below with their permission.

Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My

Have you struggled with infertility? I understand. Have you had miscarriages? I empathize. Have you wanted to run over the “Expectant Mother Parking” signs in parking lots? Me too. Have you gone through IVF? The adoption process? I get it.

After having been infertile for almost a decade, I now finally have three small children, none of whom were created in my own body (one is adopted from someone else’s body; two are from petri dishes).

I can empathize with those of you who are begging for children, and also those of you who are begging for five minutes away from your children (even if you have to hide in the bathroom with that jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter and an US Weekly). I know what it’s like to cry at a poster of a baby in Walmart because you desperately want one yourself, and I know what it’s like to cry because your children won’t stop crying.

After having finally had success with adoption and with IVF (twins!) within the space of two years, I can totally identify with the adoptive moms and the moms of multiples.

I know what it’s like to have black and white children as my three boys are of various races and genetic makeup.

wpid-wp-1430331810741.jpegI know what it’s like to wait years for a baby. I also know what it’s like to bring a baby home all of a sudden, after a birthmother picked me only three days prior. I also know what it’s like to suffer through the endless nine months of torturous twin pregnancy and bed rest, feeling like it will never end.

I know what it feels like to be fingerprinted for an adoption home study, to suffer through painful fertility procedures, and to try to go to sleep one night knowing that the baby inside you has died.

But I also know what it feels like to sniff that newborn’s head and want to eat him. I know what it feels like to get an hour or two of sleep a night for seven months. I know that surge in my heart when my children giggle, or run to me, or hug each other, or turn a single-syllable word into four syllables.

wpid-img_20150426_185249.jpgI understand the pain and the joy of so many of you moms out there. By the bad luck of my own biology, and by the miracles of adoption and modern science, I am all of you.

You know what I don’t know?

I don’t know what it feels like to hold any of my babies on the first day of each of their lives. (Due to adoption paperwork and a near-death childbirth experience, I still have weird misplaced guilt about missing those first days with all three of my children.)

I don’t know what it feels like to go into labor and give birth. (I had a Cesarean section with the twins.)

I don’t know what it feels like to have two children. We went from one to three instantly.

I don’t know what it feels like to have a pregnancy without fear.

I don’t know what it feels like to make a baby for free, or to make a baby in my husband’s arms, or in my own bed.

I don’t know what it feels like to worry about birth control choices, costs, or side effects.

I don’t know what it feels like to carry a single baby to term.

I don’t know why our birthmother chose us.

I don’t know how to teach my black and white sons about race.

You know what? None of it matters. What I know, what I don’t know – maybe it doesn’t really matter. If I could go back to my childless and hurting self, what would I want myself to know? What do I want you to know?

I want you and I to know that we are mothers long before our children arrive. We become mothers the moment we decide we want to be mothers.

I want us to know that it doesn’t matter in what body our children arrive. If their souls are meant to be in our family, they will come.

I want us to know that the pain is only temporary.

I want us to know that someday, although the acute pain of infertility will fade, we will refuse to forget. We are going to remember the hurt, on purpose, so that we might strengthen others who are forced to follow us.

I want us to know that so many women out there understand what we are enduring. I want us to open our hearts to each other and embrace our shared pains and joys and hopes. It’s going to be okay.

I know this because I’m an Okayest Mom!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, hey, thanks for reading!

 

***

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

 

Sharing vs. Oversharing

oversharing 2

How does a momma get support for medical challenges without oversharing? When does sharing become oversharing?

The beauty of having more than one child is that I can say, “One of my children was diagnosed with something,” without throwing one of them under the bus. If I had an only child, I wouldn’t be able to say that.

One of my sons recently received some diagnoses. (He is healthy; not to worry!) As a mother, this ranks high on the list of challenges/ priorities/ things about which I want to vent. As a mother, however, protecting my son is my number one priority. Therefore, I (obviously) can’t spill medical business on a public blog.

However, as a mommy blogger, I also know the value in sharing weaknesses. Not only does it help others who might be going through the same challenges, but it also provides a support network for me. Perhaps if my first priority is protecting my son, then my second priority would be advocating for my son. And, sometimes, as a stay-at-home mom who has a vivid online social life, advocating can mean gaining knowledge and strength from other mothers who have been there before me.

How do I do that without oversharing? How do I do that without compromising my son’s privacy?

Reading good old-fashioned books is one way. Privately reaching out to friends who have already shared their children’s situations is another way. Keeping up with appointments is another way. I am doing all that. I am trying to absorb and grieve a little bit too.

But when I open the vault, when I bare my soul online, the outpouring of support that I receive is just true “balm of Gilead”. I wish I could do it this time. But I can’t.

What I will do is share some of the beautiful things that friends have said to me in private, when I opened that vault in a non-blog way.

“You were chosen to be his mother, and he was chosen to be your child. You are equipped for the journey. Even though you may not have all the tools right now or feel up to the task, you can do this.”

“I think it is so important to sit in our sadness for a while so that we can be better equipped to forge ahead. Be assured that God has a plan and although this is news to you, it is not news to him.”

“Do take time to adjust to the new information. You deserve to let yourself be sad, mad, confused, relieved that it isn’t your fault, anything you need.”

“You are his best protector and advocate. The good news is that nothing has actually changed. He is still the same sweet boy.”

Oversharing” is such a four-letter word. It’s such a bad thing to do, especially if you are a mother, especially if you are a mommy blogger.

Sharing” is such a beautiful word. Sharing my trials with these friends meant that I received these warm words in return, right when I needed them.

It’s Time to Eat My Words: My Son is Going to Preschool

Yes, the mom who got her fifteen minutes of fame one year ago from an article she wrote entitled “Benign Neglect: A Case Against Preschool” is now sending her son to preschool.

Yes, I changed my mind.

I don’t often change my mind about anything. But it’s time to eat my words… a little bit. Time to shove that blog post partially in my mouth and partially chew it.

I wrote that blog post in August of 2013. It was selected by wordpress.com to be featured on their home page as a “freshly pressed” blog post. Suddenly, I had hundreds of likes and followers. Suddenly, a whole lot of people were listening to me – when I was simply trying to document my crazy parenting for my three small sons.

I stand by what I wrote. I still believe that parents and teachers should not push children too quickly. I still believe that play is serious and important work for toddlers and preschoolers. I still believe that memorization is not learning. I still believe in the necessity of free time for children. I still believe in ending the competition and the Mommy Wars. (I even started a Facebook group for like-minded mommas.) I have nothing to prove, and neither do my children.

However, I have decided to send my son to (a play-based and non-pushy) preschool for several mornings per week this year. Why? I said I didn’t quit my teaching career so that someone else could teach my son, and I meant it. But I also said that the only thing that would convince me to change my mind would be the twins coming up behind him.

three on fenceThe twins prevent us from having a normal life. It has become clear to me that my son needs something of his own. He needs time away from the babies. He has plenty of socialization with kids his age – playgroups, walking groups, swim lessons – but he needs time away from the world of the babies. He needs time away from the baby gates that hamper his independence. He needs time away from the twin fights.

I can’t give him everything that he needs right now. So much of our day-to-day life is consumed with surviving: meals, clean-up, poops, repeat. I am not finding time to teach him the things that I wanted to teach him. I am just not able to live up to the dreams I had in my head. I am a professional: I am trained specifically for his four-to-six year old age bracket… and yet, my teaching skills seem to be on a shelf that is just too high for me to reach right now. It breaks my heart.

I know this is the right thing for him. I still practice “benign neglect”, but now I have a case in favor of preschool. I’ll have to be “okayest” with that.

Let’s Be Okayest Together! Facebook page launch!

My dear readers,

My first facebook page is up and running! “Okayest Moms” on Facebook will be a community – not just stuff about me. Please join by clicking on the facebook “like” box. I have almost 2500 followers on the blog, but the facebook page is launching TODAY! Instead of saying “join the discussion” (ugh), allow me to say:

-Post a picture of your Mom Confessional or Mom Problem to our album.

-Check out the link to my zazzle store, because I get royalties from your purchases. Yeah.

-Be sure to like ME because there are okayest imposters out there who are boring.

From http://www.facebook.com/okayestmoms:

“Okayest Mom wants to create a community where we can all be okayest together. Tired of the mommy wars and the competition? Me too. This page is for moms who want to confess their okayest moments, rant a little bit, quit pretending that our kids poop rainbows, and (oh yeah!) be fans of the Okayest Mom Blog. ”

Love you guys!