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.

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.

That Time I Left My Nursing Twin Babies Too Soon and Sounded Like a Maniac

breasfeeding portraitWhen the twins were six months old, I left them overnight for the first time. I was still nursing, and still only sleeping 1-2 hours a night. Needless to say, it was too soon.

My husband had already left the twins for his business trips, and, of course, every single day when he went to work, and, well, every weeknight too (because I had night duty when he had to get up at 4:30 AM for work every day). He had also almost lost me in childbirth – and had somewhat lost me to the omnipotent needs of three children in diapers – so it was understandable that he was ready to arrange a night away. I was actually somewhat excited, too.

I left the children in the care of my extremely capable, loving, and willing in-laws. Even the best possible in-law care could not overcome my deliriously sleep-deprived, hormonal nursing self. I didn’t expect that handing the babies over would trigger a whole landslide of feelings about the near-death experiences that Twin B and I shared during the birth. Leaving those babies felt like death to my addled brain.

As I tried to force my arms to hand Twin B to my tender and devoted mother-in-law, I began to weep. As we separated, my weeps turned into sobs and I cried out,

“HE LIKES IT WHEN YOU BREATHE ON HIS HEAD!”

He likes it when you breathe on his head? Umm, well… okay.

Hear me out. He’s a twin. He’s used to constant contact, you know? And he is just a wild man who needs a lot of physical input to settle down. To a person without children, that all might sound ridiculous. But, my sweet mother-in-law nodded with understanding. Mother to mother, she knew I wasn’t crazy.

And I knew she would breathe on his head.

He’s three now. Thriving. He still needs a ton of sensory input. He likes back scratches, firm foot squeezes, shoulder rubs, idle strokes, “belly pets”, being thrown in the air, being smooshed, being rolled, going fast, being upside down, a heavy hand on his back in bed, and head-butting. An adult hand on his thigh during dinner even makes him eat more food. Basically, he likes every kind of touch that his brothers don’t.

wp-1456004211966.jpgAnd, yes, he still likes it when I breathe on his head.

During the day, he is so wild, I can’t believe he has not yet experienced grievous bodily harm (other than a black eye every so often). He drives me crazy and gives me heart palpitations. But, but… in the rocking chair in the middle of the night, he nuzzles into my bony shoulders and sighs. I breathe in his baby-fine scent that has never left. I exhale my breath into his hair. My inhales calm me down; my exhales calm him down. We both win.

I’m not a maniac. I’m a mom.

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.)

“You’ll Remember All of Their Firsts, But None of Their Lasts”

Besides the moment my husband walks in the door, the best thirty seconds of my day are when my babies “pretend to be my babies” – a strange nightly ritual that floods my nervous body with  oxytocin.

“Please, Momma,  I be your baby now?”

My days can be so hard that, by bedtime, I feel clawed apart, chewed up, spit out, left for dead, drawn and quartered, and buzzing with sickening amounts of adrenaline.

My children have never been able to really relax with me. I guess I should say “on me”. They can’t relax on me. Well, one of them can. One of them fits my body like a glove. (Or I guess I should say like a tight shirt, because who wears a body glove?) The other two children just don’t seem to be able to relax on me unless it is the middle of the night. Darkness is my friend.

Maybe I’m too bony, and they prefer bosomy. Maybe I’m too cold, and they prefer warmth. Maybe I’m too anxious, and they can smell my anxiety seeping out my pores like gasoline. Whatever the reason, they have usually preferred their father, and often even their grandmothers, over me.

wp-1456004224725.jpgBut after our whole day has passed, after dinner is cleaned up, teeth brushed , scriptures read, prayers said, they each take a turn to lie in my arms like a baby.

They ask, one at a time, “Can I be your baby now?”

They may have been kickboxing each other all day long, but they calmly give each other the time and space to lie in my arms for the duration of a song. I gather each into my arms like a newborn. Even though each one is three feet longer than at birth, and about six or eight times their original birth weights, they each nestle into my chest in the exact same way as they did as newborns.

One rests his ear against my heart, because it soothes his bad ears. One nestles into my breast as if he were vaguely still aware of long ago nursing. One stares into my eyes with unashamed devotion.

To my arms, they each feel the same as they did as newborns. One is clammy and stiff. One is warm and floppy. One is cool and solid.

But each one physically relaxes as I begin to sing into his ear in turn. Their shoulders loosen, their heads nestle in deeper, and I have their complete attention for the first time all day.

There is no one else in the world when it is that child’s song. I lean over him so my hair makes a soft curtain over his face. I stare into his eyes, whether hazel, deep brown, or almost black. I press my cheek against his cheek and whisper-sing into his ear.

I sing southern gospels, church hymns, songs my momma sang to me, or old nursery rhymes. It doesn’t matter. He is really listening to my heart and to my breath and to my voice. Whether that child grew in my belly or not, my voice and my heartbeat are his, and his alone, for those thirty seconds. We belong to each other.

wp-1456004277769.jpgI am terrified of the day they never do it again. “You’ll remember all their firsts but none of their lasts.” When will the last time be? My voice and my heartbeat and my bony arms will someday not be enough to relax them or to fix them. These days are so incredibly draining, but what kind of toll does it take to have a child be too big to “pretend to be your baby”?

It is the best thirty seconds of my day. It gets me through. That oxytocin, that fierce mama bear love, that desire to eat them whole, is fuel to get me to the next day. So I can feel it all again.

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?

The Madness of Toddlers

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Toddlers are utterly baffling. Multiply the madness by two and I’m mayor of Crazy Town.

In the middle of the night

Twin B: Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY!
Me: What? What do you want?
Twin B: I want to be quiet.

While zipping up his jacket
Any twin: “I want to zip it!!! HELP ME!

At dinner
Me: Do you want another drink of water?
Twin B: No, I want WATER!

While buckling a carseat
Twin A: You buckle it. LET ME BUCKLE IT!

While pulling up pants
Twin A: YOU do it. I DO IT!!!!!

Outside
Me: Do you want to walk to the mailbox with me?
Twin A: NO. [hysterical crying] WAIT FOR ME!!!!!

Basically anytime

Me: Can I help you?
Any twin: NO YOU DO IT!

While washing hands
Twin A: YOU GAVE ME TOO MUCH SOAP!
Me: If you put your hands under the water, then the soap will go away.
Twin A: I DON’T WANT TO. YOU GAVE ME TOO MUCH SOAP!!!!

Me: You’re a complicated little fella.
Twin B: I not a ca ca ca. I am a RABBIT.

Me: Do you want some cheese?
Twin B: No thanks. I want some cheese.

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!

I’m a Passenger in Life (Because I Failed a Motorcycle Class and Cried)

“Learning to ride a motorcycle was MY dream and now you stole my dream and stomped on it!” I sobbed to my flabbergasted husband.

We were young and childless. Early 20s maybe. I had just failed our motorcycle class. Badly.

I'm wearing my dad's motorcycle jacket from the 70s.

I’m wearing my dad’s motorcycle jacket from the 70s.

My dad had a motorcycle when I was kid, and it had always been my greatest hope to learn to ride one as well. I was too terrified to accept rides because I thought it would tip over going around corners – but I didn’t know how to tell him that. The words wouldn’t come out. Maybe because I never conquered that childhood fear, it morphed into some kind of daredevil I-told-you-so thing to get back at myself.

Motorcycles seemed like the logical next step for Mr. Okayest and me. We love vehicles. My husband had a 600+ horsepower racecar that he had built and I was a garage widow. He built me a car from leftover racecar parts that had a clutch so tough, I sometimes cried when a light turned red. He brought cars back to life and sold them for profit (once for ten times what he paid). He had a vested interest in anything with wheels, including four-wheeling, but had assumed I would never want him to have a motorcycle. Apparently, that’s what wives are supposed to say. (Of course, it helped that my less-than-100-pound college roommate/ best friend had a motorcycle and wanted to go for drives with us.)

When he told his friends at work that I was pressing him to take a motorcycle course with me, they were jealous. They told him how lucky he was. “My wife won’t let me have a motorcycle,” they said. (I don’t think the words “won’t let me” should appear in a marriage, but that’s a post for another day.) So we signed up for the class at the local community college.

I was so excited. It started out pretty fun. Getting on a motorcycle in the FRONT was so empowering. I learned how to make it go and stop. I learned how to turn the whole bike with my head – the bike goes where your eyes go. I learned how if I wanted to wear a 3/4 helmet, I should be prepared to live with 3/4 of a face. Anyway, we were having these awesome date nights together at the motorcycle course. So romantic – for me anyway. I was living my dream and getting to be with my hubby. Win-win.

Until the road test.

See, I have to pee when I get nervous, okay? Let’s just blame it on that, okay?

All fifteen of my classmates were lined up for the road test. We just had to use small motorcycles – almost scooters, really – to make some maneuvers around cones and road lines without putting our feet down. We had done it before in practice, but now we were standing in line for a test to determine if we got our motorcycle certification. I felt a bit nervous, but I was standing by my man who always makes me braver.

And then I had to pee. I timidly asked the instructor if I could use the bathroom, and she wasn’t happy. I had to run allllll the way across the parking lot and through the college. By the time I got back, my heart was racing… and everyone was done. Even my husband. Everyone stared at me, out of breath and flustered. All eyes were on me as I climbed on my scooter/motorcycle. Suddenly, I knew I would fail.

I put my foot down. I’m sure I did a lot of other things wrong too. But everyone was staring at me. They were all relaxing with a cigarette in the grass and watching the puny blonde girl learn that she is going to fail something for the first time in her life.

We went back to the classroom and the professors tallied up our points. Then they called out our names, one by one, to hand us our certificate or send us packing. Mr. Okayest got his state certification, with a perfect score on his road test. He was a natural. When they called my name, they said, “Fail”, and the whole class heard.

I had never failed anything in my entire life. Straight-A student, perfect attendance, cum laude, double major, blah blah blah… and now I was put in my place. Fail!

Mr. Okayest had such a sympathetic look on his face that I couldn’t look at him again until we got to the car. As soon as my butt hit that VW seat, I burst into tears. Like a toddler. Wailing. Snotting. Making no sense at all.

Like the early-20s, semi-immature, newly-married, never-failed-anything person that I was, of course I took it out on my husband.

“This was MY dream and you stole it!”… even though I had asked him to take the course with me.

“This was MY dream and you crushed it!”… even though it was in no way his fault that I had failed.

“This was MY dream and now I will never be good at anything ever again!”… even though that makes no sense at all.

The starter bike that we had purchased for pennies was so small for Mr. Okayest that it looked like his knees were in his armpits, like those men with the funny hats who ride those tiny motorcycles in the town parade. The plan had been for him to learn on it, then pass it along to me, whose frame it fit, and then save up for a bigger bike for him.

Nevermind.

He started taking me around on the back of that bike. It wasn’t big enough to support us both, so we wobbled a lot. But I hugged his strong back and closed my eyes and leaned when his body leaned. I liked it.

And then I loved it.

I didn’t have to pay attention to anything at all. I daydreamed while snuggling my husband close. I held on tight to my beloved. I even learned that I could close my eyes around corners to avoid my childhood fear of falling over. Heck, I wasn’t driving! I let my worries seep out the back of my helmet, like how Harry Potter can steal memories out of someone’s head in a long silver stream. I smelled the creeks and the earth when the road dipped low in a hollow. I saw the great expanse of sky when we crested a mountain top. I learned not to sneeze in my helmet. I let go.

I learned that I was a passenger in life. I am not always the driver. It feels good. I wear it well.

^ Now that last sentence there would be a great ending to this post, but there’s more.

Failing this motorcycle class was before my body failed to get pregnant. It was before my body failed to carry babies to term. It was before I failed to deliver babies without kicking the bucket. It was before I learned the lesson of, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I fail at lots of things now. I think I failed this morning not to yell at my children. I fail and I fail every single day at so many things, but I’m okay with it. I have learned so much.

We eventually sold the tiny bike and planned to get another properly-sized one someday, when we could afford it. It was hard to let that tiny bike go because it was supposed to be mine. As we were selling it to some other newly-certified motorcycle driver, I saw that that was the final nail in the coffin of me being a driver. I would be destined to be a passenger forever. It was okay, though – I just had a few pangs as it drove away.

When we finally got pregnant with twins, my husband must have had some sort of mini-crisis, because he decided that would be the best time to get a new, bigger, stronger, tougher motorcycle. One that fit his body. One that woke up the neighbors. And one that I couldn’t ride with twins protruding from my belly.

“NOW?!” I yelped. “Are you serious? Of all times you could have chosen to buy this thing, NOW?!!!” I can’t ride it, I’m nesting, we’re saving up for the “triplet” diaper onslaught, and did I mention I’m nesting? And all these hormones make me feel like you are riding out to certain death? And I get to be jealous on top of all that, too? I get to be jealous of you riding to certain death?

YOU STOLE MY DREAM AND STOMPED IT. AGAIN.

Mr. Okayest is nothing if not rational. And we all know how much he loves his spreadsheets. He convinced me that it was the right thing to do because it would save on gas, and it would be a free date night anytime we had a sitter… and – wait for it – allow him to ride the HOV lanes home from work so that he would get home sooner. “Won’t you need me home an hour earlier to help with baby twins?” he said.

And he scores!

He brought that motorcycle home and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was drooling. Oh, and, yeah, it’ll get him home sooner or something.

I couldn’t ride it. Even if I could have fit my twin belly between us on that bike, I would never take twins on a motorcycle. They weren’t wearing helmets, you know? I had to watch him drive away as I stayed home on bedrest. And then stayed home with recovery from almost dying (not on a motorcycle, though). And then stayed home caring for newborn twins.

He was right. He got home sooner.

When the twins were a few months old, and my birth wounds were healed up just enough to allow me to not retch, my in-laws babysat one day so we could go for a quick ride. Our first ride together in years. I nuzzled into his neck. I closed my eyes around corners so I didn’t have to feel afraid. I let my body lean with his. I smelled the earth and felt the rumble of the engine and hugged him tight. I was more nervous than before, knowing that I had three small children under three years old waiting for me to come home without bodily injury, but I was so happy. My worries seeped out the back of my helmet in a silver stream.

I’m a passenger. I ride and I ride.

Bye, kids!

Bye, kids!

***

Oh, the passenger

How, how he rides

Oh, the passenger

He rides and he rides

He looks through his window

What does he see?

He sees the sign and hollow sky

He sees the stars come out tonight

He sees the city’s ripped backsides

He sees the winding ocean drive

And everything was made for you and me

All of it was made for you and me

‘Cause it just belongs to you and me

So let’s take a ride and see what’s mine

Singing la la la.. lala la la

“Passenger” by Iggy Pop

How Do Moms Ever Keep Makeup On?

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I only wear makeup so people don’t think I have the flu. Or so people will think I have this twin thing down. (Even though I might go all day with mascara on just one eye, if I happened to break up a twin fight mid-mascara.) Too bad all my makeup melts off my face before Mr. Okayest gets home from work. Every.single.day. Why?

The wind was blowing.

I am greasy.

I ate something greasy.

I cried because the kids stressed me out.

I cried because the kids are sick.

Twin A sneezed on my face.

Twin B drooled on my face.

My oldest coughed on my face.

I got sweaty when I chased Twin B in a parking lot.

I got sweaty when I worried about what will happen when my oldest starts kindergarten.

I live in Virginia.

It’s spring and there’s a lot of pollen.

It’s winter and it is snowing.

It’s summer and there’s just so much humidity.

It’s fall and it is raining leaf mold on my face.

I took a nap on the couch.

I decided to play airplane with the kids right after lunch. Whoops.

I had to change my shirt AGAIN because someone snotted/vomited/pooped on it, and the neckhole was too tight.

I got some amazing wet baby kisses.

I’m not sure why I bother. Maybe it’s because I’m blonde, which means I just look… khaki… without any blush. I didn’t resume bothering until the twins were many many months old. I sure saved a lot of money without doing any of that bothering! At this point, I’m just proud of myself for attempting to bother to atttempt.

Kiddie Music? They Prefer Bowie.

guitarThere is no such thing as “kiddie music” in our house. There is only one music, and it’s called MUSIC.

Twice, I took my kids to those free kiddie music “concerts”, where musicians perform kid songs and the kids dance up front. All three cried. Both times.

I guess they prefer David Bowie. Lou Reed. Rolling Stones. Black Keys. Neil Young. Black Sabbath. Led Zeppelin. Loudly. With dance parties and miniature guitars.

The normally extroverted Twin B clung to me with shaky arms as he watched the other kids sing along to “Wheels on the Bus.” My oldest, who has his own toy guitar, could barely stand to look at the guitarist singing about cats. He had a look of disdain on his face, before sobbing that he wanted to go home.

There is no such thing as “kid music” in our house.

Sure, I sing the kid classics to them myself every day, but there is no way in heck you will hear it coming out of my speakers. Momma can sing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” but the subwoofer can’t. Won’t.

Montessori schools maintain that you should always teach the children with real objects, like real tools and dishes, only smaller. There should be no baby-fying of everything. Adults in the Montessori world are expected to use proper terminology as well. Objects and vocabulary should not be dumbed down for children.

I take the Montessori thinking and apply it to our music as well: I am not dumbing down music for them. They get classical (from my husband) and rock (from both of us), because that is what we enjoy. (Oh, and plenty of church hymns on Sundays to round us all out. We love Jesus *and* we love rock n’ roll.) There is not a separate world for them. I was raised in this way, only much much louder. My dad didn’t turn it down for my bedtime, and I loved going to sleep with 110 decibel Led Zeppelin.

If you and your kids enjoy kid songs, then more power to ya. All I’m saying is, if you don’t like to hear kid music in the car, then don’t play it. They’ll be fine. Although they might not like free kid concerts.

***

My favorite rock n’ roll from two-year-old twins:

“Hot tramp, I wuv you so!”

“Another one bites the bust!”

And, the best ever is their version of “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways:

“I’m your ch- ch-ch- ch- DAIRY FARM!”

I’m Just an Okayest Friend

I’m an okayest friend with extraordinary friends.

Some of my reasons for being an Okayest friend

Some of my reasons for being an Okayest friend

Both my family and my husband’s family have always supported me (sometimes even literally). But I also have this small mom tribe around me who have bailed me out of trouble a thousand times during this tumultuous time of life. I don’t have a lot of friends, but I have a lot of support. For this, I consider myself extremely lucky. Friends are not obligated to support me, yet somehow I have been the recipient of much more love than I have ever given. Unfortunately, I am sorely lacking in the payback department.

Recently, a good friend posted an article she liked about what it takes to be in her “mom tribe”, which made me think about my own mom tribe. I liked the article so much that I wanted to add to it. As two of my dearest members of my support team prepare to move away this month, I would like to dedicate this post to my mom tribe.

My closest friends in my tribe have exhibited at least one of the following traits:

You make me want to spill my guts. In one-sentence bursts between toddler demands.

You don’t say things like, “Kids love me!”

You don’t post selfies – with the exception of your profile pic, of course. We all need at least one selfie. And you don’t take gym selfies.

You tell me when I wear the wrong kind of shoes to the gym.

You make me pee a little with text one-liners in the middle of the night.

You don’t brag about your kids too much… cuz I’m sure mine are always gonna be behind.

Those times my husband is out of town and we are all sick, you might drop a loaf of bread or a box of cookie butter cookies or Pedialyte on my porch in a germ-free drive-by, even though you know I would probably never reciprocate.

One time, when we were all sick at Christmastime, you offered to come over and put all my ornaments on my tree. Because I hate that job.

You always lift my kid up to the throw a ball in the basketball hoop at the gym, even though you have four or five of your own kids to lift up.

You offer to watch my two-year-old twins when I’m in a terrible bind, even though you know I probably won’t reciprocate.

You don’t judge. We hear that trite phrase a lot, but you know that you don’t know what it’s like to be wrapped up in the Okayest Family anxiety/migraine/ developmental delay/ infertility/ almost died/ twin/ adoption/ transracial situation.  (Just as I don’t know what it’s like to have a husband deploy, or work on his second PhD, or have four or five or six or even two kids.)

We don’t clean our houses for each other. More importantly, we don’t apologize for not cleaning.

You have given us beautiful hand-me-down toys and clothes, even though you could have taken those items to the consignment store for cash. You pretty much gave me money out of your own pocket. I will pay it forward.

When I was super overwhelmed, you tapped me on the shoulder during church and said you were going to teach my Sunday School class of seven-year-olds. You would not take “no” for an answer. You demanded that I give you the lesson manual and march myself to an adult class for once. (I cried. With relief. In the bathroom. And then I went to the adult Sunday School to refill my soul.)

We don’t call each other, visit, or plan activities between the hours of 4-7 pm. It’s the unspoken SAHM rule. (Note: Germ-free drive-bys are permitted within this window.)

I get a little distracted from friendships sometimes

I get a little distracted from friendships sometimes

You don’t keep score. Of anything. Who called last, who gave more car pool rides, who offered to help… (Good thing, too, because I would lose. Every time.)

You didn’t care that time that I RSVP’d yes to your kid’s birthday party and then totally forgot to come.

You have offered to bring me dinner.

When I came out of intensive care, you had arranged a schedule with five weeks of dinners from church sisters.

You actually want to hang out with me sans kids, but you will settle for my three screaming toddlers. But you have responded to my pleas for girls night.

Two times, you brought me a donut.

When I was on bedrest, you arranged daily care for my toddler with different church sisters.

When I panic about a tremendous load on my shoulders, and message you a long rambling message begging for ideas to help me fix that problem, you respond right away. You don’t get mad when I don’t make time to write back to you, even though you made time for me.

You have caught a runaway twin of mine in a parking lot.

When my twins climbed out of their cribs and quit napping, you came over and laid on my floor and helped get one to sleep. (In case you don’t know, putting a toddler to sleep is NOT cozy and sweet like putting a newborn to sleep!)

When I tell you something I already told you, or I tell you about that cool new product that everyone knows about but me, you make fun of me instead of just nodding and smiling.

You ask how the kids are doing when you know they are sick/ have a big meeting/ appointment/ hard thing to do. I only hope I remember to ask about your sweet kids as much as you do about mine.

You have walked me through the IEP process and calmed my fears.

You have broken the Sabbath to watch my kids so I could break the Sabbath to attend a once-in-a-lifetime concert. (Not that I am condoning this….But, Bob Dylan? Jack White?)

No competition. Duh. If you have a cute party, I’m not gonna one-up you. I promise.

You tell me I’m doing good.

Why have you all done these things? You all make me laugh and you make me cry. You all hold me up. You all show true love and service through many of these things. This list is an amalgam of different friendships. I would be a lucky woman if I had even had one of these things happen to me from this list. You all know who you are, and I thank you. I can only hope that someday, when my kids are in school, and when I don’t feel so overwhelmed and wild-eyed, I will reciprocate. Or at least pay it forward. I only hope you can accept my apologies for not being able to reciprocate/pay it forward just yet… But I thank you for having faith in me anyway.

You all are not okayest. You’re amazing,

Is It Just Me, or Does Every Two-Year-Old Have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

duck blanketGoodnight, baby. I love you.

Goodnight, other baby. I love you.

What’s that? Your blanket is wrong? Let me help me help you. Is that better? Now you’re all cozy and tucked in just right.

Oh, it’s still wrong? What about your feet? Oh, your toe is out. There. I covered your little toesie. All better. I love you!

What? No, your blanket is fine. Ducks? What? Oh, I see. The teddy bear side is facing up, but you want the duck side to face up. Okay. I will turn it over. There. Perfect! Close your little eyes, you sleepy head!

No, your blanket is not wrong. I fixed it. See, the ducks are facing up! How? Oh, you want the blanket to cover your doggy too. Oh, not that doggy. Where is your other doggy? Hold on, I will go find it.

There. There’s your big doggy. Wrong way? Oh, here, let me turn it around. There, his head is by your head and the blanket is covering him. Okay?

What now? Your “tebby bear” fell down? Well, pick him up! I guess if you move your arm that would mess up the duck blanket covering the doggy. Okay, there, the tebby bear is propped in the corner again. No, I promise he won’t fall over. He will sit there in the corner. Yes, he’s sitting. See? Good NIGHT!

Stop crying! What is it now? Your crocodile is right there. He’s fine. Oh, I forgot, he has to wrap around the top of your head like a turban. There. Turban crocodile. GO TO SLEEP.

You HAVE your lovey. It’s under your face. And other lovey too. Yes, it’s under your belly. You HAVE BOTH LOVIES.

I’M NOT COMING BACK IN THERE.

Doze? Hose? Nose? What’s about your nose? What does that mean? Oh, there, I will wipe it with a tissue.

DON’T MAKE ME COME BACK IN THERE.

Who pooped?

To the Other Migraine Mommas

wpid-wp-1436319915505.jpegI am no stranger to pain – I get tremendous migraines. All my life. My mom can remember me having headache pain as young as five years old. This is the one topic that I can’t seem to write about properly. Chronic pain is such a tricky bedfellow. Usually, I plan and memorize entire blog posts in my brain before sitting down at the computer to finally type them. I normally vomit up a blog post in one go, during naptime or at 5AM before the kids wake up. I always know what I want to say.

Not so with the migraine writing. I don’t even usually talk about migraines, much less write about them. It’s just too hard, or too depressing. Maybe I keep throwing away the blog posts about migraines because it is too difficult to capture. Or because I don’t want the pity. Or because I assume that you, my dear readers, could never understand. (*gasp!* Did I just insult you?! If you have migraines too, or other chronic pain, I apologize!)

I’m not a visual person. I’m a verbal person. (Obviously. I’m a blogger. Duh.) I can’t pronounce words until I can spell them. I have a ticker tape of my sentences running through my head at all times. I solve problems by writing about them on my blog. I even email my husband when I have hard stuff to say (and, bless his heart, he emails back). However, migraines seem to be the one thing that I can’t dissect with words. Maybe it’s because I can’t remember a time without them.

In my neurologist’s office, there are rows of framed artwork of depictions of migraines running down the length of the hall. Seeing those for the first time made me shudder. It was the first time that I felt someone had visually captured my pain. There were various paintings of dark, evil stuff. There were sharp colors and blunt objects and horror movie scenes. There was black and white. There were heavy burdens and twisted messes. There was isolation. Loneliness. Despair.

It was beautiful. Someone understood. Lots of people, actually.

Migraines are not headaches. They don’t respond to even the strongest addictive narcotics. They are not normal pain that a normal pain pill with a DEA Controlled Substance classification can fix. They cause vomiting, sometimes for days if the pain gets out of control, and sometimes I can’t see out of one eye. I don’t need to go into all the gory details, but after four days of that, I start to see how people could contemplate suicide. Or at least a drill in the head. (Don’t google that.)

People who experience chronic pain of any kind understand that life is not the same for us. We can’t do certain things, or go certain places. We can’t lead a completely full life, no matter how much we pretend that we do. Anyone with chronic pain can get downtrodden. The weight of any pain that is relentless – that you know will come back even if you control it – is exhausting. It messes with your head (no pun intended).

I could go on and on about this. Medications, trials, new medications, side effects, prevention, triggers, tricks, resources… but I don’t want to do that.

I want to talk to the moms who also experience migraines.

Anyone with migraines has my utmost empathy. But other moms with migraines (and other chronic pain) have my respect. No one but you all really know what I go through when I am trying to care for children while handling a migraine (poorly). I can see it in your eyes. I know.

You give away that baby lotion that has too strong of a smell to other non-migraine moms. You keep the lights off in the house during the day too. You have fixed meals for your children while taking a break to vomit and pray. You can’t take your migraine medication when you need to, because you have to be alert, for your children’s safety. You contemplate other medications with serious side effects and undesirable consequences, just so you can care for the children. You look into your biological children’s eyes and wonder if they could be having a headache today, because they are extra naughty or extra whiny. You pray that they have not inherited the 50% chance of this curse. You offer a silent prayer of thanks that your adopted child will never carry this burden. You can’t take your children to the park sometimes, because heat or sunshine might push the headache you have into a migraine. Poopy diapers (x twins!), which are normally a disagreeable nuisance, become almost impossible. You avoid playdates with another beloved mom friend because she may use a certain cleaner or a scented candle or an air freshener in her house. You have to gather all your courage to sheepishly ask the nursery leader at church to please consider not wearing perfume because it transfers to your babies. You can’t join the other moms at the indoor play area place because certain noise might be a trigger. You wish you could work in an office, because at least it would be quiet- but then again, it would be fluorescent, so nevermind. You calculate how many hours or minutes until your husband normally arrives and base your medication choice on that. You have called your husband and told him to come home from work early because you have done all you can do, but now you have to hole up in the dark and deal with this pain.

When he gets home and takes over, you have to let the pain in. You have to stop fighting it and face it. And it is a blinding pain. Searing. And it scares you sometimes, even though you have done this for thirty years. Your husband wonders if you have a low pain tolerance, but you want to scream that he would know just how high your pain tolerance is if you two could switch bodies for just two minutes. Your strong lumberjack of a husband would be on his knees – you know it. And you love him anyway and look into his eyes and once again offer a prayer of thanks that he doesn’t have to understand this pain. (Plus, being a spouse to someone with migraines is a pain unto itself.)

I'm in there somewhere.

I’m in there somewhere.

And yet, we manage to dress the children through all this. We fix them three meals and two snacks anyway. We take them places when we can. Break up fights. Clean up toys. Do some laundry. Change poops that seem to smell a hundred times worse than they really do, and it burns our brains. We pretend we’re fine and squint through the pain while we watch them play. We try to read another story even though the board book is a bit blurry. Our stomachs lurch when we hear their piercingly loud squeals of joy that would normally sound so cute. Our eyes literally water with the pressure, but we try to smile and build another Lego tower. We handle it. There.is.no.other.choice.

There is no one to help you. You are alone with your pain. But I empathize. I get it. You have my respect.

There is a special place in heaven for moms with migraines.

Dear Husband, While You Were Away, These Things Happened

wpid-wp-1436299044992.jpeg

You may have received a few weird texts from me while you were away. Allow me to explain.

Dear Husband,

While you were on your business trip, eating at restaurants and having full conversations with adults, reading in your quiet hotel room, and wearing nice suits into secure facilities, many things transpired. I don’t know where to begin. You’ve seen quite a few strange texts from me in the last few days.

I am a woman alone with three male toddlers. Boymom.

Someone pooped on the deck. A child. A person. Twice.

I spent as much time as allowed by law at the gym. The children were at the gym daycare for exactly 120 minutes a day. Not one minute less. Yes, I did my strength training class. (I even imagined that my instructor was Parker Posey in “Dazed and Confused”, and she was about to bust out the ketchup and scream “Fry, like bacon you little freshman piggies, fry, fry!”) Also, in full disclosure, I spent a lot of time just idly peddling on the recumbent bike while I listened to U2 and googled the cost of a hip pair of fluorescent gym shoes.

I threw a party in the basement after the kids went to bed one night. A party for moms. We ate that nacho cheese that gives me a stomachache and a headache and watched “Footloose” and didn’t wear bras.

The dog ate a diaper. I didn’t clean up all those little beads that exploded out of it. I was hoping the rain would wash it away but it seemed to make the problem worse. I feel guilty and want to apologize to the earth, but not to you.

I didn’t make the kids clean up their toys. I thought they didn’t notice that I had silently changed the rules, but one of them told his grandmother that “We aren’t cleaning up our toys because Daddy is gone.” Oh, snap!

I fed them fish sticks – or “dick dicks”, according to Twin A. I would never feed them dick dicks if you were here.

I handled a lot of my bidness myself for once. I managed to fix the baby gate when I broke it, finally! I got the trash AND the recycles out on time. I even updated the PlayStation system (with your help via the phone during my mom party when our movie wouldn’t play).

I did not kill the children.

I spilled yogurt all over the deck and the children when I tripped over them. I didn’t clean it up. Thankfully, the rain and the dog were actually helpful in this regard.

The kids were dirty because I haven’t bathed them – because you’re not here to do it for me. I added a couple squirts of Burt’s Bees soap to their baby pool that was full of rain water. Yes, yes I did. They slipped and slided and made a lot of suds. That totally counts as a bath. What?! I’m short-staffed.

I tried to get a tan on the back deck during naptime, and I even managed to take a selfie for you while doing so. I was a bit weirded out when one son kept staring at me through his blinds. Also, the baby monitor informed me that I had to go upstairs approximately 47 times to separate twins and generally restore order. While covered in greasy oil and wearing a bikini. The twins were a bit weirded out as well.

Pinterest fail. It's a sprinkler. Sort of.

Pinterest fail. It’s a sprinkler. Sort of.

I tried to be a Pinterest Mom and failed. I tried to poke holes in a pool noodle and attach it to the hose to make a sprinkler for a dollar. But the water just seeped out instead of shooting out and the kids were totally bored. I even hung it on a tree to make it work better but they weren’t impressed. (When you have an engineer for a dad, mom’s inventions are super lame, I guess…)

I had an anxiety attack. But not about the Pinterest fail.

I binged watched some stuff on Netflix. And by “some”, I mean, a lot. I don’t plan to tell you what I watched because I’m embarrassed. (Oh, dang, I just remembered that Netflix has a history, unlike flipping channels on cable, so I’m sure you will know anyway. And you won’t care.)

I felt terribly uncomfortable at night now that our attack dog is going deaf.

And, to top off the week (drumroll please), one of your sons fell off the lower deck, naked, while peeing.*

I think we need a man around.

Sincerely,

Your wife

***

*He fell 8 feet, but was miraculously fine. I am happy to report that I am indeed calm in an emergency. As he was falling, I was actually running through my list of who to call to watch the twins in case I had to rush him to the hospital. Since the doctor told me I would have to wake said fallen rubbery naked child every two hours all night long to check for signs of concussion, this situation was still grave and worrisome. However, I do believe that it will become a funny story in our family lexicon sooner or later.

Also, I long ago decided that there is a special angel who watches over playing children. Also, I decided that children are made of rubber.