I Went Away With a Girlfriend for Two Nights So I Wouldn’t Crack

I went away with a girlfriend for two nights. My husband insisted. I had been going through a really rough time, due to anxiety problems combined with some truly evil migraine medication side effects combined with potty training. He knew I was about to break. He told me, “You need to call your friend and ask her to go away with you. Right now. If you don’t call her, I will.” She is also a mother of three-year-old twins, so she heard the desperation in my voice text, and scheduled a beach weekend with me right away. Her husband must be as smart as my husband.

In order to make it to my weekend away, I had to sludge through my husband’s six-night business trip first. It was such a huge strain on my body and mind that I could barely even look forward to my beach weekend. I survived, but potty training didn’t.

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I did force my friend to do this with me and she will never forgive me.

When my friend and I told our strength-training instructor that we would be going away to the beach, he got a sparkle in his eye and said something about us “going out” and blah blah. We looked at each other and laughed. Sleep. Lots of sleep. And maybe a couple long walks on the beach. (Oh, and somehow I would force my friend to do one of those old-timey dress up photos with me, but that would be pushing it.) Our trainer, a man with no children, had no idea what we were really looking forward to. Sleeping through the night. Deciding when we wanted to go to the bathroom. Eating a whole meal without witnessing anything gross enough to make us stop eating. Eating a whole meal without getting up. Not having anyone demand anything of us. Not dealing with anyone else’s poop besides our own. Not having anyone ask us 900 questions a day. (Not exaggerating: the average three-year-old asks upward of 400 questions a day. Times two for us. It’s science.)

It was finally time to leave. My kids, ages 6, 3, and 3, are finally old enough to basically say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out” when I leave. A year or two ago, we were still in the cling-to-my-legs stage. Sometimes they seem better off without me. I know that is the anxiety talking, and it’s not really true. But they fight less when they aren’t around me. They potty train properly for my husband. My husband can keep the house in order. Sometimes it seems that I shouldn’t be here. Anyway, I was so emotionally drained by the week of single parenting prior to our departure that I sagged into my friend’s car with not quite as much enthusiasm as I had imagined I would have. I wanted to weep, but more from exhaustion rather than from sorrow at leaving the kids or from joy at leaving the kids.

As the house got further and further behind us, we realized it was so much … easier… to talk to each other without four three-year-olds talking to us at the same time. Wow. Imagine that. We were able to finish thoughts and sentences. Have a real back and forth like normal people. It was so… easy. And not once did I turn around and strain my neck looking into the back seat!

We arrived at our hotel and both of us had to take Benadryl. It’s been so long since we slept through the night that we know we can’t actually sleep through the night anymore. The body is a cruel mistress.

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My first time alone in a hotel room. Age 36.

I had never slept in a hotel room alone before. Since I married at age 22, I can’t remember a time that my parents or my husband weren’t with me in a hotel room. (I did go to college and also studied abroad in Italy, but I always had roommates!) It was weird and scary and intimidating. And yeah, kinda nice.

We did all the usual things that you would expect Mormon moms to do at the beach in the cold springtime: walk around, sleep in, eat at cheap restaurants, look at dolphins, not drink, and maybe make fun of the cheerleading competition that was in town. It wasn’t life-altering. But it was good. Very very good.

I was surprised that I couldn’t make myself call home.

I was also surprised that I never did relax. How many days would it have taken?

I was also surprised that when I came home, I discovered that my kids are the cutest things in the whole world. Those little voices? Those chubby legs? Those giggles? Those fat arms around my neck? Are you kidding me?! Beautiful.

It lasted about an hour. Then they were the same old kids.

I need to go away again.

 

Also, this is a non sequitur, but this sign made me laugh every time I got on the elevator.

Also, this is a non sequitur, but this sign made me laugh every time I got on the elevator.

 

Mom Math

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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.

Having Twins is Not the Same as Having Two Children (The Parking Lot Double Tantrum Event of 2015)

A few of my friends have eight or nine kids each. One neighbor, a few houses down, has ten children. Contrary to my expectations, they are the most relaxed mommas I know. My theories are either:

  • those moms were just naturally relaxed people to start, or
  • having that many children forces them to relax and/ or give up.

I want to shadow them for a day. I want to be their apprentice. Be their mother’s helper. I demand that they write a book or a blog so I can get inside their worlds. Do they want to take a sledgehammer to their to-do list at 4:00 PM? Or do they not even have a to-do list?

The word on the street (the SAHM street) is that after four children, it doesn’t get any harder. Apparently, having three to four kids is the most intense, and after that, they begin to take care of themselves and/or each other.

However, twins change the equation entirely (as does having a special needs child). A woman in my circle, who is a mother of eight children, recently cared for a set of three-year-old twins for three days. She had 11 children under her care for a long weekend. Afterward, she said to the twins’ mother, “I don’t know how you do it every day! Twins are completely different.” A mother of EIGHT doesn’t know how WE do it?! Game-changer. It made those twins’ mom (and me, another twin mom) feel completely validated and relieved. Finally, finally, we have some anecdotal evidence that what we do is ridiculously hard and abnormal.

Mom math: Having two three-year olds is not even remotely like having one two-year old and one four-year-old. A mother with two small children that are properly spaced might invite us to a nice adventure. But a twin momma would have a much harder time saying “yes” to the zoo or to the restaurant. The best example I have about how having a twin is different is the Parking Lot Double Tantrum Situation of 2015.

Have you ever seen a twin toddler tantrum in public?

We all have lived through a toddler tantrum in public. We all have had to leave the full cart of groceries behind at some point. But how many of us have lived through a twin toddler tantrum?

See, the thing is, only one twin at a time ever gets mad enough to have a meltdown in public. But that twin causes the other twin to join the meltdown, and thus, the unfairness of motherhood is evident. In the Parking Lot Double Tantrum Situation of 2015, Twin B just decided he didn’t want to ever leave the gym daycare when I came to pick him up. Was he sick? Had something happened? Was he exhausted? Whatever the case was, we had to get out of there.

He screamed on the floor. I tried Nice Mommy, Bribery Mommy, Mean Mommy, and even Batman-Voice Mommy. When all that failed, I heaved his 37 pounds into my skinny arms and dislodged my scoliosis back. He wildly kicked and screamed and writhed in my arms like an angry octopus. And, with my octopus, I run into my (bemused) weight-lifting trainer in the lobby. Now, if you had a singleton, or evenly spaced children, your embarrassment might have ended here. Red-faced, you heave the tantruming child into the minivan and drive away. End of story.

For a twin mom, however, that is not the end of the story. I also had sensitive Twin A trailing along. At first he was mildly concerned, but obediently followed me and his octopus brother into the gym lobby. Twin A’s worry soon turned into whines, and then his whines turned into full-fledged high-decibel wailing. Full-fledged wailing turned into screams with words: “PUT HIM DOWN!!!! STOP HURTING MY BROTHER!!!!!!”

wpid-wp-1438022892485.jpegAs we reached the parking lot, I could no longer manage to contain octopus-limbed Twin B (screaming in my arms), AND drag screaming defensive Twin A by the hand. I had to calculate who was more likely to die by running from me in a parking lot. Mommy math: Twin B was more of a threat. I couldn’t dare put him down. So I let go of Twin A’s hand.

Twin A defiantly crumpled in a heap in the parking lot, all while screaming at the top of his lungs, “STOP HURTING MY BROTHER!!!!” Twin B is still flailing in my arms and screaming.

Forget being embarrassed. At this point, I know I will need a chiropractor visit as a result of this incident.

And yes, they know they are never allowed to do ANY of these things. Usually they are mostly obedient children. However, they are also children. Children who have bad days. Children who get scared for their brother. There is no reasoning with any child in this state. I used my Batman voice to propel Twin A onto his feet and into the van. I heaved Twin B into the van with the last of my back muscles.

Lecture, discipline, more tears, more Mommy Batman Voice, blah blah. Whatever.

What is important here about the Parking Lot Double Tantrum Situation of 2015 is that this was a twin problem. I’m fairly certain that most mothers who have a toddler tantrum in public would have other children who were either older or younger than that toddler. The older child would be able to understand that his brother was having a tantrum and that momma was not hurting him. The child younger than said toddler would be a baby, perhaps too little to worry about what was happening.

Even though I am sincerely in awe of the moms with eight, nine, or ten children, they wouldn’t necessarily have this double tantrum situation to deal with in public.

And, if they do, I really really really need them to write a book or let me be their apprentice. Now.

 

***

 

(Yes, I did go to the chiropractor that night. Twin B owes me a $30 copay.)

Mothering My Child Named “Anxiety”

My anxiety is one of my children. It’s new, so it’s just a baby. Maybe a toddler. I wonder what gender it is? Let’s call it a “she”, because I don’t actually have any girls and I don’t know what they are like. She – my anxiety toddler – is demanding. Selfish. And I don’t like her.

She was dropped on my doorstep. I have no choice but to live with her. Where did she come from? No one knows. She might have been created in pregnancy hormones. she might have been birthed in the operating rooms where I almost died. She might have decided to stay when the demands of “triplets” became too much.

I am learning how to live with her. I am learning what she needs, and what makes her flip out. I am a little ashamed of her, because she is badly behaved and has a black spot on her heart.

I am ashamed that I am ashamed.

She makes me tired and scared at the same time. She confuses me. She is a paradox. She doesn’t want anyone to see her, but she begs for reprieves from others.

She is selfish. So so so very self-absorbed, as most (all) toddlers are, but she doesn’t give any of those cute wet slurpy kisses and fat arms around my neck and warm heavy snuggles into my bony chest to make the selfishness feel worth it. She just takes takes takes. And then, when other people need me, I am too stuck under her weight to physically move.

wp-1456000594353.jpgShe is the reason that just taking my children to the park makes my hands shake. She is the reason that laundry seems like an insurmountable mountain (which sometimes it literally is). She gets hold of my phone and gives it some sort of virus that prevents me from emailing people back. She, like a newborn, keeps me up at night and causes me to pace the floor to rock her back to sleep, and makes me feel exhausted upon waking.

She makes me sweaty and headachy from the adrenaline of chasing her. She overstimulates me so badly, that once the children are in bed, I collapse onto the couch and have to turn my body to face the couch. I block all else out, and just stare at the busted up leather two inches from my face until I can breathe again.

She hides in the shower curtain and jumps out when I’m least expecting to play hide and seek. Worst of all, she steals from my children. She sneaks up on them too. She steals experiences and time and games and imagination from them.

She doesn’t know it, but, as her mother, I am determined to find her best qualities, no matter how hard I have to search. Since no one else will love her, then I have to try even harder.

Against her will, she is teaching me to say “no”. It’s embarrassing at first, but a surge of relief later. I say “no” to chores during nap time. I say “no” to baby showers, even though I love my friends dearly. I say “no” to doing more than one thing in a day. To certain places, certain activities, certain people, and certain responsibilities . And this can be a positive thing. She is teaching me my own limits. She is helping me draw that line between what *I* can do and what *other moms* can do.

She is accidentally teaching me compassion toward others’ “faults”, which may just be their own evil babies dropped on their doorsteps, too. She would hate that she gives me empathy.

She is somehow reminding me how to breathe, count my blessings, pause, and contemplate. Because of her, I am learning to retrain my brain about a few things. She doesn’t like that either.

wp-1456000626204.jpgMost importantly, she has taught me that she is the source of my stress, not the children. It isn’t them who make me hide in the bathroom. It’s their evil sister! This realization is big news in my addled brain.

Anxiety, and not my children, is the source of my stress. 

How long will I have to raise her? When will she be grown enough to leave the nest?

Verbal Twin Fights, Two-Year-Old Edition

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Ah-choo!
No that’s MY AH-CHOO!

I’m a strip mall!
No! I’m a strip mall!

You’re a tator tot.
Momma, I not a tator tot!!! I not!!!!

You’re a darny darn.
I not a darny darn!!!

I saw a garbage truck.
No you didn’t!

That’s a truck.
No, that’s a BIG truck.
That’s a truck.
No, that’s a BIG TRUCK!

I see the moon.
NO you CAN’T!

I want to go outside.
NO I want to go in DRIVEWAY!

You can’t see my monster truck shirt!
YES I DO SEE!!

I like raspberries.
NO YOU CAN’T I LIKE RASPBERRIES!

You’re a Bobby Bob.
I NOT A BLOBBY BLOB. MOMMA!!!

I pooped.
NO I POOPED!!

You’re a bunk bed!
YOU’RE A MICROWAVE!

Geez, kids

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After I finished vacuuming:
“It’s not better. I think you need to do it again.”

When coming inside:
“You need to vacuum more.”

While watching TV:
“I think you better make dinner now.”

While making dinner:
“What’s that SMELL?!?!”

While snuggling:
“What’s on your face?”

While poking my mole:
“What’s THIS?!?!”

While backing up:
“Don’t crash Grammy’s house!”

Also while backing up:
“Don’t crash my cars!”

While accelerating in the car:
“Slow down!”

While turning a corner in the car:
“Hey! You knocked my toy down!”

While driving:
“I saw another policeman.”
Me: “Uh-huh.”
“SAY YES, MOMMA. SAY YES!”

While I am taking a shower and he pulls my shower curtain back for no reason:
“HEY! YOU GOT ME WET!!”

And…

While standing on an elevator with a woman in a veil:
“You Batman?!!”

 

 

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.