Decisions

You know, if you’d asked me six weeks ago what everyone in the house was going to be for Halloween, I’d have rattled things off so easily that I’d have seemed like a mythical Good Mom, someone who’s got all her shit together and actually does the stuff she pins on Pinterest. 

(I do not have all my shit together, and Pinterest scares me)

And now I’m in a wild spot because while Sam has committed to being Darth Vader (“I’m going to do every other year, Mom! This year, Darth Vader; next year, Jack Skellington; the year after that, Darth Vader…”), I cannot decide what to do with the twins. 

A few weeks ago, Sam decided that he wanted to be Peter Pan, and I thought, well, that makes things easier. He’s Peter Pan. Carrie is Tinkerbell. Isaac is Captain Hook. I’ll be Wendy, Kyle can be Mr. Smee, and life’s fantastic. 

Except the next day (fortunately, before I bought anything), Sam informed me that he didn’t actually want to be Peter Pan. He was married to Darth Vader as a costume. Historically, he’s been unlikely to waver from a chance to dress up like Darth Vader, so I went ahead and ordered that, and it should arrive any day. I’m hoping it arrives while he’s at school so I can lay it out during the twins’ nap and he can try it on once he gets home.

14222370_10153829612385592_6350598245219719049_n(the infamous Darth Vader costume when he first got one, three years ago)

So he’s set. It’s the twins. Wayyyyy back months ago, when I naively thought that maybe I could convince my five-year-old to go along with my Halloween ideas, I thought that we could do a Toy Story thing. Sam would be Buzz Lightyear, Isaac would be Woody, and Carrie would be Jessie. It would be adorable, we’d get some great pictures, everyone would have a laugh. But nope, Sam wants to be Darth Vader, and I’m not about to tell my five-year-old that he can’t wear what he wants on Halloween, and the Toy Story thing doesn’t seem worth the expense (because Toy Story costumes are expensive, at least when you’re buying them for more than one person) if we’re not going to fully commit. 

Some ideas I’ve had and discarded:

  • Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It’s the obvious choice, but (a) finding a Luke Skywalker costume is very difficult when your costumee is younger than nine; (b) making a Luke Skywalker costume involves time that we don’t have; and (c) I kind of want to save that for when they’re old enough to understand the implications of what they’re wearing. So nope.

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  • Grapes, purple and green. On the one hand: cute, easy, and cheap. On the other hand: there’s no way the twins would do anything besides sob wearing a costume made entirely of balloons. So nope.

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  • Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. If you want the costumes to match somewhat (like, look like they’re of the same quality and you didn’t decide to save on one twin’s costume so that you can splurge on the other), you’re SOL. Tinkerbell costumes exist at every price point for kids Carrie’s size, but Peter Pan costumes seem to only exist for kids Sam’s size and older, which makes no sense to me, but I only ever did B2B construction marketing, so maybe I just don’t know the market.

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  • The tortoise and the hare. Cute, but what statement is it making about the child we dress as the hare?

    legitimatesaneitaliangreyhound-size_restricted(flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, you’re an asshole)

  • Literally any famous male/female pairing in history. They are literally all romantic couples, and I cringe out of my skin whenever I find pictures of twins dressed as, like. Danny Zuko and Sandy or Fred and Wilma Flintstone or Mickey and Minnie Mouse. No offense intended, because finding boy-girl twin Halloween costumes is WAY harder than you’d think, but my twins are not Lannisters.

original(if you’re not up to speed on Game of Thrones, first: you are luckier than I am; and second: these are the Lannisters, Jaime and Cersei, and they are twins and they have three children together. My twins are not Lannisters)

I keep coming back to Carrie being a princess of some sort, which narrows things down basically not at all. She loves princesses and all things sparkly and traditionally girly, and a princess costume would serve possibly quintuple duty at Renaissance Faires and Disney World and a couple of Halloweens. Theoretically, I like dressing her as Rapunzel, and I like dressing Isaac as Pascal the chameleon to match…

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…BUT then it ends up getting to the heart of the issue, that being Isaac not having a lot of identifiable interests yet. Well, no, that’s not true. He has interests. He likes climbing and cleaning. He’s a voracious eater. He loves laughing and exploring and going into and out of things. He likes things being where they belong, whether it’s a shoe on a foot or toys in a toy box. He likes it when I sing “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” to them at bedtime. 

But how do you costume any of that?

With Carrie, when someone asks me to describe her, I have the easiest time ever. Picking her up is like picking up a baby made of cotton candy and bubble gum bubbles. She’s a princess with delicate aires and a constant song, a love for sparkles and prettiness and animal companions, a need to have things Her Way Or Else. She’s a gremlin, picking up dirty things off the floor to eat, hiding in dusty places, making weird collections of stuff. She’s a bottle of Diet Coke and Pop Rocks shaken up. You can’t help but adore her.

But Isaac. He almost defies description. He’s determined and needs things to be in their place at all times. He needs his routines to be followed and will get genuinely upset if the Thing that usually follows The Other Thing does not follow The Other Thing. If he wants something, he will get it, no matter how much you try to deter him. He’s fast, voracious, and beyond clever. And then when he smiles, you just absolutely melt, because his smile is incredible, the kind of smile that makes you feel loved to the core. 

Which… I guess is a fine description, but honestly, which one is easier to costume: stereotypical bubblegum candy princess or a clever, determined, fast, voracious sweetheart? 

I think he can be a dragon. 

I know it doesn’t matter a TON one way or the other because they don’t even understand Halloween yet. When Sam was their age, I dressed him as an owl because I told myself, “oh yes, he likes owls!” which he didn’t super like owls, but whatever. He refused to wear most of the costume and cried about it a lot, and I got zero pictures of him in the full costume. It wasn’t until the following year, when he dressed up as Darth Vader, that he really started having fun with Halloween. 

So I know it doesn’t matter, and they won’t care, but I still feel a bit like I’m letting Isaac down because finding a costume that matches who he is and what he likes feels impossible.

So maybe he’ll be a dragon.

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In other decisions news, over the last week, I’ve been asked more times than I realized (at first) if Kyle and I were planning on having more kids. 

Honestly, I have no idea, which is what I’ve said. Whenever people asked me during my pregnancy with the twins, I’d say “NO” and wax eloquent about hysterectomies, but twin pregnancies are awful, and when you’re in the middle of one, it’s hard to feel positively about growing any more humans. Kyle and I were talking today about one incident during the twins’ pregnancy, when Sam told me “Mommy, the poop is everywhere!” and he’d gotten poop all over his bedroom and I was so pregnant and so exhausted that I couldn’t deal with it and begged Kyle to come home from work to save me. 

So I can say with confidence that, given a choice in the matter, I will never have more twins. Absolutely no, not ever, never. 

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And there’s plenty of reason to have an overall “NO” on the books. Three kids is a fine number. I have my girl. Our bedroom setup works very well with three kids. A fourth kid would be a wild ride, financially speaking. I don’t know how my body would handle it. I’m just starting to get my body back into normal person shape after spending upwards of seven years either trying to get pregnant or being pregnant (that’s an additional +60 lbs that came from those seven years, too, which is fun). I want to gain some sense of identity and self outside of making babies. I want to have days with all my kids at school and me writing (or playing video games or, like, cleaning I guess). 

But on the flip side, there’s seven embryos on ice, and I went through hell to make them. No, I don’t want seven more kids, but I’d love one more girl someday, if we’re speaking from an emotional sense. I’d like to go through a pregnancy where (a) I know what I’m doing (like I didn’t with Sam); and (b) I’m not high risk solely because I’ve got more than one baby in me. I’d like to just do things normally and not be in a blind panic and then do the newborn days on Comparatively Easy Mode (because after you do twin newborns, any singleton anything is Comparatively Easy Mode). I’d like to have a matched set, two boys and two girls. I’d like to go into a delivery room knowing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and with a playlist that I didn’t get to use with the twins.

Also I love babies.

So. I don’t know. And we’ve got time to make a decision. As long as we keep paying the $85/month storage fee, our embryos will be stored indefinitely. It’s the only way we CAN grow our family again, if we decide we want another child in the future. But I’m not thinking about it now (and I very much know Kyle isn’t), not more than off and on, as a back of the mind kind of thing. I’ve earned a respite from thinking about what my uterus is doing outside of my once-a-month adventures, from spending money on pregnancy tests and obsessively charting everything my body is doing. And I’m going to enjoy that respite. 

Starting with the Halloween costumes.

Mushroom & Mustard Pork Chops + Communication

MUSHROOM & MUSTARD STUFFED PORK CHOPS
I have no idea where this recipe originally came from–I learned it from my parents, and I think they learned it from a magazine somewhere? Maybe? It probably dates back to around the 1970s in this incarnation, but it’s still good… if you like pork. And mushrooms. And mustard.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless pork chop for every person eating (i.e., two for two people, three for three people, etc.)
  • 1 lb pasta of your choice (we always use tri-color rotini, but see below for notes)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup heavy cream for every person eating
  • Butter to coat frying pan
  • Mustard
  • Mustard powder
  • Tarragon
  • Parsley
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • OPTIONAL: As many or as few sliced mushrooms as your heart desires.

Directions

Preheat oven to about 175 degrees F (should be the “keep warm” setting if your oven has one). Melt butter in frying pan over medium heat.

Use a fork to STAB THE EVER LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of each pork chop. Coat the stabbed side in yellow mustard. 

Place pork chops in frying pan, mustard side down. Use fork to STAB THE EVER LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of non mustard side and coat that side in mustard. Now there are two mustard sides.

Let pork sit for 5-7 minutes before flipping, then cook on opposite side for another 5-7 minutes. Remove pork from frying pan and place in warmed oven. 

Add can of cream of mushroom soup to frying pan without rinsing (gotta keep all those good pork bits in there!), along with yellow mustard (to taste; I like to taste a LOT) and cream. Add mustard powder, tarragon, parsley, pepper, salt, and mushrooms as well.

Combine ingredients and set to simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.

Serve pork sliced into bite-size pieces over bed of pasta and sauce. Enjoy.

NOTES:

  • You can use whatever pasta you like for this dish, but I’ve found it works best with short cut pastas, usually either tri-color varieties (rotini, penne, and radiatore are perennial favorites) or with egg noodles to make a sort of pork stroganoff. If you use a longer cut pasta, you’ll want a pappardelle or else a spinach linguine/fettuccine for best results.
  • Your pork should cook thoroughly between the frying pan and the oven, but make sure you check it for doneness! Pork should not be consumed when it’s under 145 degrees F. Unless you’re super into parasites and salmonella poisoning, in which case, go nuts.
  • I’m a bad Millennial and use canned mushrooms when I make this dish, usually just a can of sliced mushrooms that you can pick up at pretty much any store. If you’re a fancier Millennial than I am, you can slice your mushrooms yourself; just make sure they have time to cook down to a nice tender consistency before serving.

*

Sam has been in school for a grand total of two weeks now, which seems both like an eternity and like no time at all. We’ve all sort of slid into a routine of getting things done at night or in the morning, of going to the bus stop for a certain time in the afternoon and spending the school hours on various baby things until that afternoon time when Sam gets home. Of setting out clothes the night before so I don’t have to get up super early to help him choose an appropriate outfit and making sure everything he needs is tucked neatly into his backpack before he leaves. Of newly enforced strictness about the TV (after all, his pre-K didn’t care much if he was a couple of minutes late) and less screen time.

He’s come home with plenty of stories for us. After a particularly rough day last week, his teacher made him star of the day the next day, which mostly meant that he helped out more around the classroom, but it still made him happier about being there. He’s had to hang out on the wall at recess twice, once by himself (for pushing another kid in line while they were heading outside, which he knows not to do) and once with his best friend Hunter, together but far apart (they were… “blowing on each other” he says? And weren’t mad about it? But were still on the wall? Sigh, I miss getting daily reports from his teachers). He’s doing well, as far as we can see, where academics are concerned, but then again, academics thus far consist of sorting things by color and shape and spelling the words “the” and “red,” which he’s been able to read for about six months now. 

(small personal victories: I was determined that he’d have the basics of reading down before kindergarten and HE DID! Now to try that with the twins…)

So it’s… a process. A transition. I hope he doesn’t end up being That Kid, who always starts recess on the wall (I’m pretty sure most of it’s just that transition period between the sort of relaxed structure of his old school and the stricter one of the new school), which has mostly meant just trying to talk to him when the day is over.

BUT as any parent with kids in school will tell you, that’s harder than it seems. Instinctively, you want to draw out every detail about your kid’s day the second they step off the bus. You want to know everything. Who did they talk to? What did they play at recess? Did they like their lunch? What new words did they learn? What new books did they read? (They read “Red” and I’m so excited about it!) What special class did they have today? What did they do in the special class? 

And then your kid is like “I don’t want to talk about it” or their post school answers end up being one-syllable grunts. “Stuff. I dunno. Yeah. Fine. I guess.” And you wonder if they actually were at school or if they’re leading a secret double life as a teeny tiny international super spy. 

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What we’ve mostly discovered with Sam is that he needs time to decompress at the end of the day, and that we’re most likely to get the full story of his day at bedtime, after the twins are in their room and he’s had a chance to wind down with some screen time and ruckus and little boy things (ranging from Legos to “WHY ARE YOU THROWING THAT???” to “STOP TRYING TO SUPLEX THEM THEY’RE BABIES”). That’s when he’ll say, “Okay, I’m going to tell you,” and Kyle and I listen and affirm his feelings and help him to feel better about the day. If he has a rough day, we tell him that we’ll try again tomorrow. If he has a great day, we tell him that tomorrow may be even better. We try to end the day on a positive note.

We’re not always successful, but we try.

Most of his communication nowadays is about science, and I’m dying to chat with his teachers about how much he loves science, because I completely forgot to list that on his “things he likes” paper (I listed “Minecraft” and “Legos” and “Star Wars” because those are his top three Things, but science legitimately trumps all of them). He’s so incredibly curious about the natural world, and he loves learning everything he can about it. Mostly, he focuses on space–it is, after all, the scientific gateway drug–but thanks to Octonauts, he’s also been really into animals lately; and then he’s also been really into weather the last couple of days. 

(today, we watched a bunch of Weather Channel augmented reality videos–I can’t recommend them highly enough–and Sam just fell absolutely in love with Jim Cantore, which is the cutest damn thing)

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(I also adored a weatherman when I was five. His name was Dick Albert, he was my parents’ age, and I once made him a Christmas tree ornament that I labeled “For Dice” and my mom still has it)

I maintain what I think is a healthy amount of worry about his schooling. I hope that he’s challenged but not so challenged that he loses interest. I hope he behaves himself but doesn’t lose his spark. I hope he makes new friends but doesn’t lose his old friends (so far so good on that one–we are, per his reports, batting 1000 in terms of playing with old best friends Hunter and Kaia at recess)

(they had one day last week where they were, apparently, all Spider Man: Sammy as Peter Parker, Hunter as Miles Morales, and Kaia as Gwen Stacy)

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Then there’s the little ones. 

Isaac, in particular, has me gnawing my fingernails in worry. He’s right where should be with his fine and gross motor skills–he’s our little runner, and he never stops moving. When it comes to communication, though, well…

You’re not supposed to compare babies, which is 100% impossible when you have twins because you have another baby RIGHT THERE, so even when you don’t mean to, you end up just looking at the one who’s ahead and then looking at the other who’s behind and being like “…well? Aren’t you going to do that too?” You don’t mean to and you’re not supposed to, but the dumb part of your brain that doesn’t listen to what you’re supposed to do does it anyway.

Communication-wise, Carrie’s doing great. She’s slowly moving into my favorite phase of language acquisition, which is the parrot phase, where your child just repeats everything you say right back to you as a question, and you want to get mad because you’re trying very hard to explain that they shouldn’t bite other children, but when they look up at you with big eyes and repeat, “We don’t bite our fwends?” in that high-pitched voice, your willpower crumbles. She’s got a good dozen or more words consistently (to either my shame or my pride–not sure which yet–three or four of those words are Disney princesses), and she’s got hand signs for two or three more words. She’s frequently able to tell us when she wants something and what that something is. It’s very nice.

Isaac, not so much. At best, he has three-ish words: mama, dada, and Wubba. He also makes kissy noises at the cat. The trouble is that he doesn’t do any of that consistently or in a way that’s helpful for literally anyone, least of all himself. If he loses his Wubbanub (which is his pacifier with a stuffed animal attached, they are perfect, buy one for your baby today!), instead of saying “Ba! Ba!” like I know he can, he’ll stand in front of me and yell, constant long “AAAAH!” sounds at higher and higher volumes. 

Worse than the yelling, though, is the expression on his face. I don’t want to read too much into it, but it seems like pure frustration that I’m not understanding what he needs and that he can’t communicate it back to me. The longer he yells without me getting it, the more distraught he looks, the more his eyes fill with tears, and the more my heart breaks. 

I want him to have words or some way of communicating with the world. If it turns out he’s autistic, I don’t want him to be neurotypical or anything but himself, but I also don’t want him to be unable to express his wants and needs. I don’t care if it means he has a sign with pictures on it or sign language or a computer or what; I just want him to be able to express himself because I can see how much it hurts him when he can’t.

Anyway, I say all of this because he has a meeting with a speech and language pathologist on Friday for an evaluation and sort of game planning session, hopefully to move forwards into speech therapy for him. Which, again, I don’t want to force him into a mold he doesn’t fit, but I want to see that pain and frustration go away when he’s able to actually communicate that his Wubbanub is missing or that he needs a diaper or wants a bottle. 

As for Carrie, she’s just an absolute peach. She’s honestly dangerously cute, always posing with her chin on her hands and saying, “Cheeeeese!” for me. It should be illegal, really, being that cute, but I can’t complain. 

She and Isaac have started bonding together more now that Sam is in school most of the day. They bring each other their respective lovies when they see the other is upset, or they’ll bring each other clothes and try to get each other dressed. It’s a relief; I was wondering if they’d ever like each other or if it would always be World War III between them. And battles still break out very easily, but they’re usually because we have one of something and they both want it. 

(this even applies when we have two of something but Carrie’s is prettier–Isaac, for instance, is not terribly impressed with tortoiseshell sunglasses but adores Carrie’s sparkly rainbow shades)

They’re sweet. And they’re good. All three of them. And as always, I just hope I’m doing right by them, overall.

 

12 Years, 178 Days to Go

Our town starts school the week before Labor Day, then gives everyone the Friday before Labor Day off, so kids have exactly two (2) days of school in the first week. I like this for kindergarten because it lets us all ease into the routine–it gives two (2) days in the first week to take care of all the administrative work, like labeling stuff and teaching kids the very basics of school life, and then the second week is still short so they aren’t too tired, and likely the real intense stuff doesn’t really pick up until the third week, which starts this coming Tuesday.

But one way or another, school started this week, and it was quite an experience.

Monday afternoon, Kyle and I took Sam in for an open house at the school so that we could drop off his supplies, meet his teacher, get him familiar with the school overall, and ease into everything. Sam’s classroom is ENORMOUS, like about the size of our entire downstairs (minus the dining room). There’s a typical desk and learning space, carpet in front of whiteboard, a play corner, a table with bouncy ball chairs around it, an entire nook for the teacher… it’s amazing. I’m sure most kindergarten classrooms are sizeable (when I remarked on its size to my mom, who taught kindergarten for a few years, she seemed nonplussed), but it still kind of blew my mind. 

What blew Sam’s mind–eventually–was seeing his best friend Hunter there. The two of them warmed up to each other kind of slowly at first, for reasons that Hunter’s parents, Kyle, and I couldn’t figure out (weird new environment? They haven’t seen each other since June? Some sort of kid code? Who knows?), but once they realized that (a) oh that’s you, and (b) we are still best friends, they started frolicking about VERY happily, around the auditorium, on the school bus they had for the kids to explore, all over. It was pretty great and set a positive tone for the first day on Wednesday.

Now, granted, that great and positive tone didn’t show up again for most of Wednesday morning, but who’s counting?

That’s not completely true. The great and positive tone showed up again more quickly than it probably could have, but it was kind of like pulling teeth to get it there. Sam’s my first baby, so I went a little overboard on all the “first day of school” photo supplies, like an oversized shirt that says “CLASS OF 2032” like I’d seen in a friend’s first day of school pictures of her sons and then one of those chalkboards talking about all of Sam’s favorite things and such. I 100% did not need to do all of that, but I like celebrating my kid, and I really want to get to his senior year of high school and have these great collections of photos to look back on.

So Wednesday morning. We all got up at 6:30ish because everyone slept kind of miserably for reasons we haven’t figured out, and I used the #momprivilege card to call dibs on the shower because I’d be the one dropping Sam off that morning, and I didn’t want to look like I was heading right back to the house to spend the rest of the day in my pajamas (even though I was, because chasing after twin toddlers is so much easier when you’re in comfy clothes). As I got in the shower, I let Kyle know where Sam’s first day outfit was laid out and asked him to encourage Sam to get dressed as soon as possible. 

So quick shower later, I come downstairs with dripping hair to see Sam, bundled in a blanket and wearing naught but his underwear and a smile while watching Netflix. Cue, therefore, a lot of flipping out because we had to leave in 15 minutes, and I still hadn’t taken a single picture with all the stuff I bought. And look, if I spend money on a photo prop, I am going to use that photo prop. 

We all rushed. Sam got dressed, and then… well, he didn’t want to get his picture taken. 

It’s the duality of the five-year-old. When I’m taking candid shots of his brother and sister being cute, he jumps in the picture with just his underwear, prompting me to say, “IF YOU WANT TO BE IN THE PICTURES, YOU NEED TO PUT SOME CLOTHES ON” in the Scary Mom voice. This has the excellent effect both of allowing me to take pictures of Sam AND stopping him from running about with nothing on. But then when I want to get pictures of him specifically, he’s suddenly hiding from the Momarazzi, like I’m going to sell pictures of him with chocolate on his face to the highest paying tabloid. 

(…would any tabloids like to buy? I’m just saying, we could use some more simoleons to add to the Halloween Costumes fund)

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And, of course, because I wanted to take pictures Wednesday morning, Sam would rather have had his teeth pulled out one by one. 

But I did eventually convince him to stand for some pictures by reminding him that the oversized “CLASS OF 2032” t-shirt makes him look like a ghost. So he posed… in our messy living room, which is somewhat like a mausoleum (we have a gorgeous picture window that means we don’t need lights on most of the day, but first thing in the morning, it makes things kind of… you know, dark). 

Whatever. I got the pictures, and he and I shipped off to school. I was in a mild state of panic because we’d left several minutes later than I’d wanted, and we were supposed to meet with Sam’s best friends from preschool for pictures before we went in. I didn’t want us to be late, so I muttered angrily at red lights and moseying farm equipment the entire ten minute drive to the school (ah, the privileges of living in a tiny town). And lo and behold, we got there way too early for us to do anything but wander around the outside of the building like a pair of lost John Travoltas. 

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(I did get a good picture of him in front of the school, though)

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And then the best friends–that’s Hunter and Kaia–and their families arrived, and we all took pictures and watched our kids, now happily in the company of the friends they’ve had since they were just a year old, run off to their classrooms without so much as a reluctant look back. 

And that was that! I’ll admit to having a lump in my throat for the drive home, but then the twins proceeded to keep me so busy that I didn’t even realize the entire day had passed by when my mother knocked on the front door to keep an eye on the twins while I waited for Sam to get off the school bus. 

(I blame the speed of the day also on the return of the Weather Channel to our Verizon cable, because I’m a nerd and eat hurricane coverage up like ice cream)

For Sam’s part, he seemed to have a good first day. He didn’t get into any details about it, so for all I know, they spent the entire time rehearsing to summon the Great Old Ones and bring about the Destruction of Humanity and A New Age of Cleansing or whatever, but I’m pretty sure they mostly just practiced school things.

(I mean, not that eldritch summoning ISN’T a school thing…)

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The only problem was that he got home with a backpack that was literally dripping. We’d mistakenly given him a water bottle that he couldn’t close all the way, and as a result, his backpack was absolutely flooded. Worse, it wouldn’t zip one way or another, so as soon as he was in bed and the twins were in bed, I found my bra again and headed out to Target to find us a replacement. The pickings were slim (most were like… mint green with pastel donuts or with a mauve paisley print), but I managed to find him a Jansport backpack with stars on it, and those things last forever, so problem officially solved.

Day two was a little wilder to start, somehow. It was Kyle’s first day doing drop off, and in his haste to leave and Sam’s five-year-old-ness and my having twins on me ness, we all forgot about Sam’s lunchbox. Cue Kyle hurrying back less than ten minutes after leaving and delivering said lunchbox to the office, in the hopes that it would make it safely to Sammy (which it did). But for all that hustle and bustle, Sam didn’t really eat much. He had most of his carrots (weirdly enough), and we think? he had the pepperonis we packed him, but everything else was untouched. 

I get that, though. I never used to really like eating more than a snack at school, saving my appetite until I got home and could make myself some real food. But this stuff has basically been Sam’s lunch since he was about two so ???

Whatever. We’ll figure it out, and now he’s home until Tuesday, currently playing his Kindle quietly while the Weather Channel tells us about hurricanes. Isaac is awake after sleeping for maybe three and a half minutes, but seeming less upset about that fact by the minute, and I can shift my focus to the next thing…

…which is school picture day in less than two weeks. Ha.

idekman

First Day of School Stuffed Cookies

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL STUFFED COOKIES
Recipe borrows liberally from Tasty’s recipes for The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies and Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. Check out the notes below for variations! 

Ingredients
1 ¼ cups bread flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup butter, toasted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 ½ cups chocolate chips
Stuffing (hot fudge, Nutella, peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, caramel), chilled

Directions

  1. Melt one cup (2 sticks) butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to ensure an even brown. Once you notice dark flecks in the bottom of the boiling butter, transfer to a liquid measuring cup and allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. *note: if liquid butter does not reach the 1 cup marker, add water until it reaches that line*
  2. Sift or whisk together flour, kosher salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. 
  3. Cream cooled butter, white sugar, and dark brown sugar in a large bowl. 
  4. Add vanilla extract and eggs to the large bowl and combine thoroughly. 
  5. Gradually add dry ingredients to the large bowl (about ⅓ at a time), mixing until just combined. 
  6. Fold in 2 cups of chocolate chips and other add-ins. 
  7. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (overnight if you’re an A+ student!). 
  8. Preheat oven to 375°F. 
  9. Use 3 oz. ice cream scoop to form large balls of cookie dough. Flatten balls between the palms of your hands and rest on cookie sheet.
  10. Place fillings (about ½ tbsp per cookie) in the center of the cookie and seal cookie dough around the filling. 
  11. Top each cookie with chocolate chips and other toppings.
  12. Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes. Allow to cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack. 

NOTES:
I use salted butter for my cookie recipe because I really like the contrast of a saltier cookie with sweet chocolate chips (using unsalted butter is a bit too cloying for me), but unsalted butter will work just as well!

I usually only mix standard, semi-sweet chocolate chips into these cookies, but other add-ins can really boost them to a new level! Try any of these: 

  • Chopped dark chocolate. Use a bar of dark chocolate (not bitter chocolate, unless you’re REALLY into that) and give it a rough chop before folding it into your dough alongside the chocolate chips. 
  • Mini chocolate chips. Substitute for about a cup of regular chocolate chips to give some texture contrast to your dough.
  • Espresso powder. Add one tsp after creaming your butter and sugars. 

The possibilities for fillings and toppings are absolutely endless! I tend to stick with just chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles (to give the cookies a celebratory flair!), but you can top and fill with any number of things! Experiment; that’s what fun in the kitchen is about! 

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I always hate when I’m looking for a recipe for something and I have to scroll through hours of reading on somebody’s life before I get to the actual recipe. I get that it’s a THING, and I get that it’s all about self-expression, but look. If you’re coming to my blog because you googled “chocolate chip cookie recipe” and this somehow popped up instead of the Food Network or Epicurious or something, here you go. The recipe is at the top, and if you want to read about my life, you can keep going while the cookies bake or something.

67396929_10156380619950592_4343912859269332992_o(they’ll look like this after they bake, for reference)

It’s early August, and Sam is less than three weeks away from starting kindergarten. I’ve got all his supplies here in my office, still sitting in Target bags (more supplies than needed, because I was a bad student and tried to find his supply list online… and the list I found was The Most Wrong, so now I have a bunch of pencils and erasers and things that he’d probably need at some point, just not this year). I’ve got his metaphorical Hogwarts letter with all of the instructions and a little fish with his teacher’s name on it. I know his best friend from daycare is going to be in his class with him. I’ve no idea what bus he’ll be taking home in the afternoons, but if this year’s routes are similar to last year’s, he’ll be getting home a little past three in the afternoon–hopefully while the twins are still napping. 

We’re winding summer down slowly with trips to the beach and company picnics. This past weekend, we packed everyone up in the van and drove up to Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, an experience that fell squarely in the middle of the stressful things scale. On the one hand, Isaac got carsick three separate times during the drive and then had a huge diaper blowout after about two hours on the beach. On the other hand, he, Carrie, and Sam seemed to have a blast despite the sickness. Sam and Kyle built a sandcastle together, and the twins huddled with me under our beach umbrella, experimentally playing with sand and eating Goldfish crackers (and sometimes eating sand, too, because they’re babies). 

It was a typical outing for a family with young children. Kyle and I looked at it as a balanced affair, with frustration that having young kids meant we couldn’t do as much around Hampton as we otherwise would have (they have some great arcades and candy shops, and even though I’m trying to lose weight, I have a hard time turning down a beachside candy shop), relief that things went smoothly aside from Isaac’s bodily fluids, and happiness that it was a good day overall. It lasted just long enough that everyone was happily tired when we got home, not so brief that the hour and a half drive seemed a waste of time, not so long that we were exhausted.

And today was Kyle’s company picnic, at a conference center about 40 minutes from our house. I say “conference center,” which makes it sound like it was some sort of buttoned up meeting space and very dull; really, it was more like a summer camp-slash-carnival, with lawn games and bounce houses and cotton candy and face painting and so on. They had some great typical cook-out food (not quite barbecue–hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken, plus a bunch of sides) and some free ice cream, and all-in-all, it was a nice set-up. 

Trouble was that it was LOUD. This is par for the course at every company event I’ve attended for every company ever. The DJ always has the music turned up to 11, the fans are always going to keep the tents cool, there’s a lot of talking and buzzing and noise. I gather that this isn’t something that bugs most people, but it makes it hard for me to engage with anyone–my brain just won’t filter out unimportant sounds like the conversation way over there, the constant roar of the fan, the faint buzz of some fly that wants my lunch. 

Basically, I spent most of today staring blankly into space and probably looking really strange. 

The times I didn’t spend staring blankly into space were fun. The babies enjoyed their cook-out fare, mostly (good: chicken, corn, pasta salad, hot dogs; bad: bell peppers, zucchini). Sam played in the bounce house and obstacle course until he was too sweaty and exhausted to do much more than whine at us. Kyle and I split a cherry cotton candy, and Sam and I giggled our way through a pair of ice cream sandwiches. The twins were adorable, my hair and lipstick were awesome… it was mostly good.

But I am tired. 

So is Isaac, for that matter. He didn’t nap at all today, which meant that the afternoon following the picnic was flavored with his exhausted sobbing at all points, with him nearly nodding off while standing on my lap and then crying when he realized he wasn’t actually completely asleep. I wish we had a clearer picture of what’s going on with him, if only so that we could plan for days like today, maybe with noise cancelling headphones or with frequent breaks or with one of us staying home with him.

He can’t go for an evaluation most places until he’s 18 months old, which is frustrating. He and Carrie turn 17 months old less than a week from today, but the Early Intervention autism specialist can’t test him until he’s 18 months old, and I really want to go through them because otherwise, wait times for an autism screening are many, many months long. And like I’ve been saying, if it turns out that he’s autistic, I’m not bummed out or even slightly disappointed; it’d be nice to have another brain that works like mine in the house, someone to sympathize with me when everything is just too much. 

BUT I also want him to have better coping skills than I have, and to know from a decently early point if he’s going to need more assistance in any area–if he’s going to be like me and deal with frustratingly heavy executive dysfunction and sensory overload issues; if he’s going to need help communicating with us; what accommodations he’ll need to live a happy and healthy life. And I’d like to know that stuff sooner rather than later. 

Sigh. I don’t know. It’s not a super rough waiting game, because at the end of the day, we’re probably only waiting another month, and the screening centers our service coordinator suggested to us haven’t gotten back to me yet anyway. But it’s still frustrating to have no news whatsoever, not in a good or bad way, just because we’re waiting.

And then there’s Carrie, just running laps past every milestone, perfecting her toddle, adding new words to her vocabulary every day. She’s frustratingly cute; she’ll say ‘uh oh!’ or shake her head while saying ‘mm-mm!’ if she’s caught doing something she shouldn’t be. She has her stuffed Bear that she found after my mom brought some boxes to our house a couple of weeks ago; said Bear is now her constant companion, and between him and her stuffed Ariel doll, she’s constantly on about her favorite little friends. She’s impish and giggly and basically everything you’d want out of a little girl, almost stereotypically so. All she needs are the little pigtails and she’ll be sitting squarely in the “Platonic form of Daughter” box. 

She and Isaac get along better these days than they used to, though they still fight over toys and books and my lap. They give each other kisses pretty frequently, team up to accomplish whatever baby feat they’re working on, hide in their “clubhouse” (which is underneath and behind their high chairs, against the wall), and find each other’s lovies whenever the other is crying (Carrie will actually toddle around calling “Wubba! Wubba!” when Isaac loses his pacifier-slash-Wubbanub; Isaac throws Bear at Carrie whenever she cries). I think that’s my one fear with Isaac having autism; I worry that it will affect their relationship. I don’t think it will, but I want them to be close, or at least as close as they can be. 

But. But but but. 

School starts soon, and there are cookies to bake. Good night.

Beds and Screenings

When you’ve got three kids, you pretty much feel like most of your Big Adulting milestones are far behind you, especially if you’ve got three kids, a spouse, and a house. You’ve finished whatever schooling was expected of you, you’ve got married, you’ve signed papers for a mortgage, you’ve done your taxes, you’ve had a job or two or ten, you’ve had kids, you’ve ticked so many things off the list that it’s easy to forget other smaller milestones that come along the way.

Like buying appliances. We bought appliances for the first time when we bought our house, as the previous owners planned to take the fridge with them and the dishwasher had a color scheme and serial number that suggested it had been manufactured in the 1970s. In those halcyon days before Sears became a memory, we wandered through the Kenmore section and chose our appliances in black, not because we had an affinity for black appliances (honestly, stainless steel hasn’t gone anywhere for years, so that would have made more sense) but because the one remaining appliance–the stove–was black and we wanted things to match.

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(this is literally what our old dishwasher looked like)

That was nearly four years ago, and this week, Kyle and I checked another milestone off the list that we didn’t realize was a milestone: we bought a bed.

It’s not our first bed, obviously. We started our married life with an inflatable mattress that lasted three months and was perfectly fine for sleeping and marital activities until one night in August. We’d been sleeping soundly until very, very early in the morning when Kyle shook me awake and asked, “Do you ever have that sinking feeling?” And lo and behold, we were in the process of descending to the floor as our inflatable mattress ceased to be so inflated. We discovered, once morning came, that the mattress had somehow acquired insurmountable holes and was no longer suitable for use by anyone. 

SO we eventually shuffled off to Big Lots and bought the cheapest possible queen mattress and the cheapest possible frame and, like the very talented young marrieds we were, didn’t even bother with a box spring. And for the next eight years, that mattress worked very well for us! Or… mostly well. In the last year, the bed has begun to show the strain of belonging to two fat people (one of whom, we discovered this week, has gone down 6 pant sizes–not me, but one of whom!). 

(it’s Kyle, he’s down six pant sizes)

And admittedly, a lot of the recent strain on the bed, at least on my side, came from the twin pregnancy making me enormous, which put pressure on the springs and turned the bed from delightful and comfortable to misery. The springs had reached a point where they were poking my hip violently throughout the night, and poor Kyle has been dealing with lower back pain for ages, which made everything harder than usual. 

So a new bed. We’ve had a recent windfall of money, thanks to Kyle’s family, and while they were up visiting this week, we wanted to actually shop for a bed, not just go to Big Lots and buy the cheapest and easiest thing in the store. Fortunately for us, my cousin works at a Mattress Firm and was able to give us the Sleep System Experience (I don’t know if it’s actually called that, but it is now). 

And, you know, it really felt like an adult thing because the consideration was less ‘we need this, let’s just get whatever we can afford’ and more ‘what will last us and ensure that we have a good night’s sleep for years to come?’ That, really, was the adult part, where yes, affordability was a concern, but we could afford to consider quality as well. 

We tried out beds like a pair of lumbering Goldilockses, and in the end, we walked away with a pretty nice mattress and an adjustable frame (which I wasn’t sold on until my cousin put it in the “zero gravity” position for us and we both kind of groaned in relief like “ah yes, I remember being 18 and not having back problems”). Both were delivered on Saturday, along with lavender sheets (Kyle’s color choice, and I’m not complaining, purple is awesome) and a comforter that was listed on Amazon as being steel grey but is really one of the many shades of poop we’ve encountered over the last five years of being parents. And I’ve added to my “must buy” list a headboard (preferably one with a bookshelf) and a less poop colored comforter and maybe some throw pillows BECAUSE we got a king-sized bed. 

I never thought we’d need a king-sized bed, even though Kyle and I are both generously sized. We’ve slept in king-sized beds while traveling before, and though we’d start the night spread out and on different sides and laughing about how much space we had, we’d inevitably end the night wrapped around each other in the middle of the bed because I guess we like each other or something? And even with Kyle’s height (he’s 6’4”), a queen seemed to suit our needs perfectly. 

And then we had kids. 

More specifically, we had one kid grow old enough to leave his own room in the middle of the night and come into ours for, oh, any number of reasons. Lately, it’s because he’s just lonely, because my son is nothing if not a people person (he’s going to do so well in kindergarten… I hope), but it can be anything from nightmares to a stomach ache to he suddenly thought of a story to tell us. When he was smaller, I didn’t mind him in our bed because he could easily snuggle between the two of us, and we could all sleep comfortably. 

2017_03_listicle_10_things_nobody_told_you_about_bed-sharing_still

Now, though, Sam is creeping ever closer to the four-foot mark, and having him in bed with us had become… well, difficult, we’ll say. It was the worst when I was pregnant with the twins, because of course, I was a small moose and Sam was clingy, but there was just no space in the bed for Kyle AND Sam AND me AND the planet that was my huge belly. We brought him back to his own bed most nights, but that wasn’t an ideal solution because he’d need a long discussion to get him back in the mood for sleeping in his own room, which meant that one or both of us would miss out on a lot of sleep. If we’d had the space, we’d have just let him sleep in the bed with us, but…

Well. I’m no longer pregnant with twins (a fact I’m grateful for every day), but Sam is even larger than he was before, and his midnight jaunts to our room haven’t slowed down in the least. For a while, with our bed being the disaster it was, we set up a little nest next to the bed, and he’d just hunker down there, content to be in the room with us, even if not in the bed; but that always gave me “wow, I’m a shitty mom” vibes–me in my comfortable bed and my son on the floor in my room, as if he didn’t have his own bed.

(his own bed, despite having a kind of cheap mattress, is very nice–it’s a sleigh bed, even, which has me envious as I click through pages of headboards on Wayfair)

The bed invasions won’t stop, and I don’t really want them to. I’d read an article a while ago about a woman who’d bedshared with her son and how people would always snidely remark about how “you don’t want him in your bed when he’s a teenager” and while she no longer bedshared with him once he’d reached his teen years, she made it clear to him that her room and her arms were always open to him, without judgement or condition. And he heard her and she was the one he came to when he had a broken heart or a difficult time at school or any number of myriad things teenagers deal with.

We didn’t really bedshare with Sam when he was a baby (both of us are paranoid about rolling over in our sleep), but at the same time, I want him to know that he’s always safe with us, whether it’s sleeping in our bed or sitting on the couch between us or buckled in the back seat of our car. I want that for the twins, too, when they’re old enough, whether it’s because of a bad dream or a bad thunderstorm. That they feel safe and comfortable with us is absolutely paramount for me. 

SO! King-sized bed it is. Maybe, eventually, if we ever transfer another embryo and get a dog and more cats and who knows what else, we’ll get another king and push them together like some sort of magical giant frankenbed, but for now, we’re enjoying the HELL out of this adjustable king-sized bed.

*

On the other side of things is Isaac.

Isaac, my beautiful smiley little boy, my unexpected middle child who’s cuddled his way into my heart so deeply and irrevocably, my adventurous snugglebug whose smile could cure cancer. He’s been developmentally delayed–and officially labeled as such–since he was about four months old, most of that coming from (a) some torticollis and (b) that he was born six weeks early. We’ve had him in Early Intervention for that since about that time, and for a while, he was progressing by leaps and bounds, going from a potato who could only look over his right shoulder to a rocket baby zooming around the living room at the speed of sound. 

9roldw

But lately he’s kind of stalled. It’s not a big deal, honestly, because babies do that. They go through a developmental leap and they stall, they gain 15,000 skills over the course of one (long, sleepless) weekend and they pause. It’s more noticeable when you have twins because they never stall at the same time (and this stall happened while Carrie busily learned to stand on her own and take small, uncertain steps), but stalls still aren’t unexpected. At worst, I figured, we could just speak with the Early Intervention team and see about getting him some physical therapy or occupational therapy so that he’d keep up with his sister in terms of walking and talking.

He’s also a rocker and a bouncer, constantly moving himself in almost violent back and forth movements, sometimes mashing his face against something and other times mashing the back of his head against something. He can’t fall asleep unless he spends a decent amount of time on his hands and knees, rocking back and forth while dutifully sucking on his Wubbanub. And to be clear, babies rock and stim a lot, because the world is new and they need to experience it from all angles. Rocking is soothing for babies, too, and for the most part, it didn’t worry me. 

But something in my brain pinged that maybe I should worry, just a little. After all, we have Early Intervention anyway, and they’ve always told us that any evaluation the twins need, they’ll do for free. With that in mind, I asked the twins’ caseworker to bring an ASQ, or Autism Screening Questionnaire, with her when she came to our house next.

The ASQ is a series of what felt like six billion questions that you answer “always/often” or “sometimes” or “never” and your kid gets scored based on your answers. I don’t remember the scoring specifically, but I do remember that 65 was the cutoff for further testing. Carrie, who had her six month evaluation today, took the test first and got a 30, which is numerically the equivalent of “might possibly be the inverse of autistic, like citsitua” and that surprises exactly no one who’s ever spent time with her. She lives for sensory stimulation of all kinds and is about as neurotypical as a sixteen-month-old baby can be. 

Isaac, on the other hand, scored a 95, which is numerically the equivalent of “at least two autisms, possibly even three.” 

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Fortunately, our caseworker and our physical therapist (who was there for Carrie’s evaluation) also had a copy of the M-CHAT, which is the next step in autism screening. Its proper name is the “Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers” and it’s basically the exact same thing as the ASQ, only with fewer and more streamlined questions. With that one, a score below 8 suggests a mild or moderate concern, while 8 and higher suggests that further evaluation is warranted. 

Annnnnnd Isaac scored an 8.

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So we’re moving forward with his autism screening, with our EI office’s autism specialist coming in the next couple of weeks to have a playtime evaluation with him, just 10-15 minutes to see if he should be fast-tracked to an evaluation program, a process that can otherwise take months or even years (which I think is absolutely ridiculous BUT there’s probably an enormous backlog). And I have feelings.

I was pretty weirded out (in a good way) by the questionnaires hitting on questions I wouldn’t have even thought to associate with autism, like questions about constipation or increased muscle tone or “have you ever wondered if your baby was deaf” among the more typical ones like “does your baby have good eye contact” or “does your baby perform repetitive motions?” And I’m relieved for those questions because at the end of the day, you don’t have to be a completely nonverbal Rain Man type to be autistic. Isaac has great eye contact and likes people… but he also has no sense of stranger danger, doesn’t have any real words, and is often very stiff like he can’t stand to be positioned any way that’s different from his current position (which makes diaper changes a blast). 

The idea of one of my kids being autistic is also unsurprising to me; it runs in my family as much as brown eyes, enormous knockers, and astigmatism do. Though my younger sister is the only one in my immediate family with an official diagnosis, the rest of us easily fall into the category of “had current diagnostic criteria been used when I was six, I’d have a diagnosis and a half.” Kyle’s been telling me for ages that I should see a doctor to be officially diagnosed, and honestly, if things move in a more autistic direction with Isaac, I probably will. 

I mean, there’s a lot to it, and so much of treatment and diagnosis nowadays focuses less on what it’s like to actually be autistic and more on how autistic people interact with the world around them. In my experience, and from what I’ve read, a lot of it relates to the usual filters in your brain just… not working the way they do in neurotypical brains. A neurotypical person might easily be able to filter out things like the scratch of a shirt tag, the sound of the air conditioner, the flickering light in the corner, the smell of a long since cleaned spill, the taste of dry mouth, but it’s honest effort to filter those things out when your brain works autistically, and so you’re always on the verge of reaching a level of overstimulation that doesn’t much come for the neurotypical brain outside of the throbbing, psychedelic dance floor of a local club or Disney World on Christmas Eve.

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It’s exhausting. Some days, I reach the end of the day and just need to zone out completely, sit in a dark room and breathe. I have a hard time socializing outside a quiet or one-on-one setting because trying to figure out which voices matter and which ones don’t is really hard. Online or when it’s just with another person–especially someone I know well–I follow conversations very easily, but beyond that, I tend to spend my socializing time towards the edge of a room, counting down the seconds until I can leave.

But anyway. The point of all that is to say that if Isaac is autistic, I’m glad that he’s got me to advocate for him. This sounds really smug and haughty like “ha ha, my autistic child could not have a better parent than I, for I am the best of the parentals!” but it’s really more like “how fortunate to have been born to a mom who understands exactly how his brain works because it’s how her brain works.” It means I’ll be able to help him recognize when he’s getting overstimulated before it ends in a meltdown and help him find ways to cope with the loud, brilliant world that won’t lead to his complete ostracization. It’s like a vision impaired or hearing impaired parent having a child with a similar situation: they’re able to help better because they’re in the thick of it with their child. They know how to navigate a world that’s going to be harsh for their child because of the situation of their birth, in the same way that all parents teach their kids certain things about functioning in the wide world.

So overall, I’m pretty chill about it, but I do have two fears: therapy and Autism Moms ™.

They tie into each other, really. With therapy, I fear therapeutic approaches that, instead of teaching Isaac to cope with the world, will instead train him to appear neurotypical while ignoring what’s going on in his brain that causes the atypical behaviors. I’m not interested in tweaking his behavior; if he needs to stim, I want him to feel confident enough in himself that he can do so. I am, however, interested in teaching him coping mechanisms so that the world isn’t too much for him. 

Related to that… the Autism Moms ™.

Not every mom of an autistic kid falls into the category of Autism Moms ™. When I think Autism Moms ™ I think of the Jenny McCarthy type, the type wailing about autism stealing their child away from them, the one who will try bleach enemas and raw diets and anything to “”””cure”””” their child’s autism. 

I never have good encounters with these types (and they are incredibly common on parenting websites and forums). Things usually start off calmly enough but end with me trying to get it through their thick skulls that kids who have autism are STILL PEOPLE and THEY STILL HAVE EMOTIONS and maybe saying “I wouldn’t wish my autistic son on my worst enemy” IS A SHITTY THING TO SAY. 

Fortunately, the vast majority of autism moms I know are not this type; they’re fantastic advocates for their kids and respect that their children are PEOPLE, that autism is less tragedy and more “well, I just have to adjust my style and expectations like you do with every kid.” But I still fear the Autism Moms ™ because I know my feelings on autism aren’t super popular with them, and I think I’d probably get torn a new one for being really calm about my son potentially being autistic (like… ?? am I supposed to freak out and cry and sob? What is that going to change?). I want to have a village, but I do not want THAT village. 

So I focus on things like the Autism Self Advocacy Network and the #ActuallyAutistic tag on Twitter, and I’ll keep doing so as we all move forward with this. Fingers and toes crossed that we’ll be able to have Isaac evaluated soon and know one way or another, but either way…

Well, he’s my sweet little baby elephant, exactly as he is, no matter how he is.

What they deserve

Sam graduated from pre-K last Friday, which I used to think wasn’t a HUGE deal because, really, must we have graduations for every transition in life? But then he graduated and I was crying the second they started playing “Pomp & Circumstance” (on his principal’s iPhone held up to a microphone, which had everyone falling out laughing). He got the superlative of “the next Luke Skywalker,” which is fair, and had lots of cute pictures with his teacher and with us.

Earlier that day, he’d had his kindergarten screening, which was less to see how good he is at the alphabet and counting and such and more to make sure that his classroom next fall is a good mix of kids. While he was busy playing games that demonstrated his abilities in things like motor skills, concepts, and socialization, I got to sit down and learn all about the kindergarten adventure awaiting us in the fall, for which Sam is most assuredly ready and I am mostly ready.

I say “mostly” because I’m vacillating in how emotional I feel about it. Many days, I think, “Please, someone take this child for the full 8 hours of school, I am exhausted” and many days, I think, “Oh, I hope he’s ready, because we’ve been trying really hard, but there’s so much different about school school compared to preschool.”

Years and years ago, before I had kids, I’d planned to homeschool, less because I think that public schools are a bad influence or because I think that they’re bad overall and more because I wanted to be able to give my kids the individual attention that we probably wouldn’t be able to afford for them to get in a public or even private school setting. That way, if any of my kids were super advanced in any area, we could push them harder; and if any of my kids were having a hard time in any area, we could give them a chance to catch up. And, honestly, I still like a lot of that and would probably be more inclined towards homeschooling them if we were ever in a part of the country or the state where the public schools were less consistently good.

(our tiny town of less than 10,000 people is also a pretty upper class town, by and large, so the public schools are pretty well funded and marked well overall for everything but activities–because the schools have about 14 total people in them–and diversity–for the same reason)

But Sam is such a social kid, and yeah, programs exist for socializing homeschooled kids, but he honestly thrives in a classroom environment, even more than I’d expected he would, and I don’t think I could do him justice teaching him at home.

(the jury is still out on Isaac and Carrie)

It’s going to be a huge adjustment for him, and we’re already seeing his anxiety about that ramp up. He’s having a LOT harder time with bedtime lately, coming downstairs multiple times after being tucked in to ask for, say, a cold drink of water or for another bedtime story or so many varied things. And then once he falls asleep, he keeps waking up in the middle of the night wanting to be cuddled and reassured or, on particularly bad nights, to set up a nest in our room and sleep there until morning (mostly because he’s gotten too big for the bed). Part of me–the part that enjoys uninterrupted evenings–is inclined to scold him for it, but most of me gets that he can’t express his anxiety in better ways, so he just struggles sleeping, and we help him through it as we can.

He probably won’t remember us working through this with him–I mean, my own memories of being five are spotty at best and mostly associated with either being constipated or being at Disney World (at one point, both at the same time, hey!), but I hope that it embeds in his subconscious that Kyle and I are here to help him work through the things he can’t figure out on his own.

Ultimately, that’s what I want for my kids. I don’t want any of them to ever have the feeling of “oh man, my dad/mom’s gonna kill me, I can’t tell them about this!” or “I’ll be in too much trouble if they find out; I have to do this on my own.” If they end up at a party and can’t trust their friends to take them home for whatever reason, even if they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place, I want them to call me for a ride. If they’re really struggling with their classes in school, I want them to ask for help. If they end up either pregnant or getting someone pregnant or with an STD, I want them to talk to me as soon as it happens so that we can work out a plan together.

If they’re queer in any way–homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, transgender, genderqueer, whatever–I want them to know that they can come out to me without fear and that I’ll always be their fiercest advocate, no matter the political climate or what anyone else thinks.

If their life path takes them in a direction that maybe I don’t agree with but isn’t hurting themselves or anyone else (objectively speaking), I want them to know that I love and support them no matter what, that they will always have a place in my home.

If their political or religious beliefs differ wildly from mine but they aren’t hurting themselves or anyone else or advocating for hurting themselves or anyone else, I want them to always be able to talk to me openly and comfortably, to know that I take them seriously, even while they’re still kids.

Because they’re my kids, and honestly, it’s the least they deserve.

 

That Happened

Sam turned 5 yesterday, and when I thought about writing this blog, I thought I’d be reflecting on everything that’s changed about him and life in the last five years, BUT then this weekend verged on panicky stress in myriad ways, so cowabunga it is, and it all started with the birthday party.

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Sam requested a birthday party this year, which I’ve been expecting for a while. A lot of his friends have birthday parties annually, so I knew it was only a matter of time before he requested of his own. The trouble is that our house isn’t really… suited to parties? Kyle and I aren’t the “entertaining guests” types (have another couple over for a game of Cards Against Humanity? Absolutely. Have a bunch of people over? Hello, that’s my social anxiety sending me into the bathroom wheezing), so entertainment space wasn’t high on our list of priorities when we bought the house fiveish years ago. As a result, we’ve got kind of a pass through living room (which is a mess right now, because babies), our dining room houses all of Sam’s toys, our kitchen lacks counter space of any kind, and we have no parking.

So Sam having a party wasn’t quite as simple as I remember my birthday parties being when I was a kid–just some friends getting dropped off at my house for a couple of hours, eating cake, watching me open presents, and then playing with party favors in the backyard. We needed to find a different space to host the party and, after a lot of research and pricing, we settled on Sam’s favorite indoor playground at a local mall. The prices were entirely reasonable, and the party itself was a blast. Sam had such a great time, and I think all the other kids there did, too.

But the act of getting to and from the party, along with a brief incident during the party, almost had the whole thing spiraling into disaster.

We actually managed to get everyone dressed and out of the house in a timely manner, which is no small task when you’ve got one-year-old twins who are being taken out during naptime… and when you have to pack the car with baked goods and favors and everything related to partying. We were actually out of the driveway fifteen minutes early! A good omen, right?

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Well… not quite, as it turned out. Kyle, who has an ear for this sort of thing, noticed that the van was making a rattling noise whenever we took a sharpish turn. The van is, I may have mentioned, a little over ten years old, and while it’s a Toyota (so the motor runs fantastic), it’s bound to have some issues at this age. Most of its issues thus far have been body or accident related (namely, the front driver’s side mirror got torn off by a tree branch, and one of the washer fluid dispensers somehow got turned around, so it now shoots sad little spurts of washer fluid all over the hood in a comically pathetic manner), but rattling is never a good sign.

So that was a pall over things, but I was in stressed out IT IS MY FIRSTBORN SON’S BIRTHDAY PARTY mom mode, so I informed Kyle on no uncertain terms that we were not to worry about the van until we left the party.

We got to the venue, we set up, and my parents arrived shortly thereafter to help out with everything, and shortly after that, guests started arriving. And it was a whirlwind and everything was going so well until! It was time to see if anyone wanted to get their face painted. With the help of some of the other moms, I rounded up the kids from the playground and found all of them… except SAM.

Now, Sam knows better than to run off without telling us where he’s going, and he’s also a little too frightened of the world at large to do so, but the fact remained that we could not find Sam. Kyle and I combed the playground, went into all the nooks and crannies, but with no luck. My mind was racing, split into two lines of thought: (a) OH GOD, MY SON GOT KIDNAPPED ON HIS BIRTHDAY I AM THE WORST MOTHER EVER; and (b) OH GOD, MY SON GOT KIDNAPPED ON HIS BIRTHDAY, THE OTHER MOMS MUST THINK I AM THE WORST MOTHER EVER.

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As it turned out, Sam had just sneaked into the bathroom without telling anyone and was spotted going in there by another dad. Kyle knocked on the door, Sam yelled at him that he was almost done leave me alone dad gawd, and crisis averted.

The rest of the party was great. Everyone enjoyed the baked goods, everyone sang happy birthday to Sam, everyone got to be pirates of some flavor, and then it was time to head home with babies barely conscious and Sam flopping all over me like a fish out of water. He was happy, beyond happy, but he was exhausted.

And, of course, the van was making rattling noises, so my parents agreed to follow us home on backroads (because it’s better to break down NOT on the state’s main thoroughfare), and we headed back, all of us in a kind of “well that was a lot” fugue. Once we returned to the house, Sam opened all of his birthday presents in a hyperactive flurry, dove into building his new Lego sets, and snuggled up in his new Stitch kirigumi, hours before bedtime.

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(this is adorable, but I am biased)

At bedtime, we brought the babies up first, and then started to go through Sam’s bedtime routine. This is where the third catastrophe struck because, you see, we couldn’t find Puppy.

Puppy has been Sam’s best companion since his first birthday, when Kat bought him as a gift, delighting in Puppy’s resemblance to Sam’s Nana’s dog Greta. Since then, Sam and Puppy have been inseparable as much as a boy and his stuffed dog can be. He counts Puppy as a member of the family, as his conscience, as the devil on his shoulder, as co-creator of the universe (his theology and science are a little spotty).

On Saturday, Sam insisted, as he usually does, that he bring Puppy in the car with him. We agreed, with the caveat that Puppy must stay in the car so he didn’t get lost.

Ha.

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Saturday night, as we went to tuck Sam in for bed, he asked us, “Where’s Puppy?” and we realized that we didn’t know. Nobody could recall seeing Puppy after we reached the mall, and nobody thought anything of it because we’d been hauling so much into the house, between baked goods, presents, and children, that a missing stuffed animal didn’t seem that much out of the ordinary. We figured that Puppy must’ve gotten caught up with the other presents, put somewhere he wasn’t usually, maybe even left in the car.

But repeated searches of both the house and the usual places in the car turned up empty. Sam slept heavily because he was so exhausted by the party, but told us in the morning that he missed Puppy very much.

The morning was, by the way, Mother’s Day. Kyle let me sleep as much as he could, which my body interpreted as “it’s the exact same time you usually get up, why aren’t you awake yet?” I came downstairs to receive all the children on my lap and to hear Kyle tell me that the remote control for the TV and cable had somehow gotten disconnected from the TV so that we had to adjust the volume manually.

All’s good. We hunted for Puppy some more, turned up nothing, watched Game of Thrones (long, exhausted sigh), tried to sleep. About halfway through the night, I blearily awoke to Sam trying to climb in bed with me and Kyle because he’d had a nightmare (according to him: Isaac was sick and had no legs or hands and Sam had no legs or hands so he couldn’t give Isaac his medicine). Our bed isn’t quite big enough to accommodate Sam right now (since he, being Kyle’s son, is extremely long), so we set up a nest for him right next to our bed and carried on with the night.

Monday morning dawned cold and rainy and Sam’s actual birthday. We still had no idea where Puppy was, and we had plans to bring Sam to Chuck E Cheese for this, his last birthday where he didn’t have to be in school. And that we did, and he had a blast, running from game to game and ride to ride until he was exhausted…

…but not quite exhausted enough that our attempt to put him to bed without Puppy was successful for the third time. Half an hour after we tucked him in, he shuffled downstairs, telling us that he absolutely could not sleep without Puppy anymore, not if he didn’t want to have nightmares. Kyle and I got up to do another thorough search of the house, though now we couldn’t search the van as well, since Kyle had dropped it off to get the rattling inspected.

We worked off Sam’s clues, including his insistence that he’d brought Puppy inside and tossed him the air a few times before bringing him upstairs. Those clues turned out to be duds, and we simply could not find that stuffed dog. The only thing that made Sam content enough to sleep was when I called Kyle and had him pretend to be Puppy and pretend to tell Sam that he was coming home soon. After that, Sam slept well, but Kyle and I were in a state.

Because on the one hand, there’s the cold reality that if your child brings their favorite lovey everywhere, the chances of it becoming a Lost Toy are extremely good. We know Sam didn’t bring Puppy out of the van at the mall, but that didn’t preclude the possibility of Puppy falling out of the van and nobody noticing. And on the one hand, there’s this harsh logos part of the brain that wants to say, “Well, now you know not to bring your toys everywhere so carelessly.”

I told that part of my brain to fuck off because, really, brain?

The other hand is, of course, the heartbreaking possibility of your baby’s favorite lovey being gone forever and how you’re supposed to help him cope with that. The internet, I have found, is not very much help for this issue, as most of the suggestions are along the lines of “buy an identical replacement!” And yeah, that was entirely possible until Toys R Us (the store Puppy came from) closed and FAO Schwarz (the manufacturer) revamped their husky puppies to look completely different.

In the end, we planned to use some mixture of our own storytelling capabilities and Toy Story lore, combined with Amazon’s new one day shipping (they are evil, but they get things here fast) to bring Sam a reasonable facsimile along with some story about how Puppy had to go away for a little bit so that he could grow up, just like Sammy was, and how he has a different face and looks cleaner but he’s still Sammy’s Puppy in his heart.

And, knowing Sam and how he is the world’s least bribable kid, and how he sees through literally every line of BS we sell him, it would fall flat and we’d have to go the cold world route, whether we wanted to or not.

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Thankfully, though, the story has a happy ending. Kyle picked up the van this afternoon (diagnosis: power steering was cracked and leaking and the struts are starting to get wobbly) and dug through every corner of the thing for anything we missed. In his digging, he remembered that Sam likes to hide things in compartments and pockets and so opened the compartments on either side of Sam’s seat in the back. Sure enough, nestled into one of the compartments was our beloved wayward Puppy.

Sam’s reaction to seeing Puppy on Facetime was beautiful, and I won’t pretend it didn’t make me cry. Bedtime was much simpler and faster, and this weekend’s crises have all been put to bed.

But MAN, I am exhausted, emotionally and physically and mentally.

So. Happy birthday to my beautiful firstborn son. I hope we managed to keep the craziness of this weekend under wraps enough that it was a fantastic one for you.

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Not About Cathedrals

It’s been a minute, blog.

It’s not that I’ve had nothing to talk about; it’s more that every time I sit down to write, my brain gives me a loading error and I end up getting stuck about three pages in without ever making a point. And it’s not that blog writing NEEDS a point, but if I’m writing like I’m coming to a point, I should probably have a point to come to. Right? Right.

So I’ve kind of lost my points. I was going to write about travel and roadtrips, but then I got bored of that writing because it was mostly just me recounting stories I’ve told a million times before. I was going to write about cathedrals because Notre Dame had me sad for about five minutes (until it wasn’t actually destroyed and it’ll be fine), but I got bored describing my favorite cathedrals halfway through. I had all sorts of threads I was going to follow, but I kept losing them.

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In conclusion: I’m just going to ramble about random things.

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In real life, it’s Easter today, and it was a fun one.

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The kids got all dressed up in matching outfits (or attempted matching outfits; those pants and that dress looked a lot more similar online, but I love them all anyway), and we went to my parents’ house for dinner. Sam has had a TON of sugar, and so have we, but it’s all been good. The only bad was that we bought Peter Pan for Sam to watch and have been unsuccessful in finding the remote for our Blu Ray player, so I’m hoping he’s still interested in it once we manage to summon said remote out of the ether, whenever that happens.

But it’s overall good. Everything’s honestly overall good. We paid off a large debt recently, and that felt great. We’re moving in a decidedly positive financial direction, and that feels great, too. Going from “how are we going to get groceries this week?” to “oh yeah, we can totally afford to get the kids some nice pajamas and also to get a new frying pan” is both stunning and fantastic, especially because it happened so quickly. The last year, so much money went towards formula, and now the twins are on real food and whole milk, and we’ve got many more dollars and cents.

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The twins themselves are doing very well. They’ve both caught up to where they should be developmentally, in a lot of ways, and they’re continuing to make progress at fantastic paces. They both still have therapists, and we’ll see if they still need them in another year or two, but seeing them progress physically and mentally by leaps and bounds does my heart good, especially remembering that they shouldn’t even be turning one for another four days.

And Sam… that boy, my god. He’s so scary smart. He’s been really into Legos lately, and he builds these amazing machines while taking engineering needs into consideration like he’s some sort of actual professional engineer or something. And then tonight, on the drive home from my parents’ house, he was doing multiplication in his head. Not just tiny numbers, but double digits, which I didn’t even learn until fifth grade. This kid, my god.

His kindergarten registration starts on Tuesday, and I’m pumped for it. Part of me is like “my baby 😦 ” but I’m mostly really excited to see him start school. He’s SO smart, and I hope that he’s able to really flourish in a more structured setting, because otherwise, it would be a goddamn shame.

I know he has plenty of areas that are ripe for improvement, too, but I think he’s at just the right age for kindergarten. He’s vacillating between excited and terrified of it, one day talking about how he can’t wait to go to school every! day! and the next getting all teary and talking about how he just wants to stay home with me and the babies forever. It’ll be a huge adjustment, I’m sure, and I’m expecting some rough nights around the start of the school year, a lot of tears and meltdowns.

But that’s what we’re here for: to help him work through it and learn to adjust. I always keep in mind that he’s not gone through something like this before. He’s been at the same school since he was just past a year old (aside: GROSS SOBBING ABOUT HIS GRADUATION), and the shift to a more structured learning environment in a place that isn’t his daycare will be really huge for him. He’s never done something like this before.

And, well. We were all there, once. It’s easy to forget, when it’s 30 some-odd years in the past, but it’s all new to him. I just hope we can give him the support he needs to really succeed.

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Back to the twins. Being one has already been an adventure for both of them, but more for Isaac. The day of their birthday party, he woke up with a low grade fever, utterly miserable. He seemed to improve for a few days, but then in the middle of the night, three days after the party, he woke up in the middle of the night with another fever and with really rough sounding breathing. At the recommendation of the on-call nurse, we brought him to the ER, where he was diagnosed with RSV, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia… and the only reason he didn’t end up hospitalized for that was that he’s just old enough and we caught it just early enough that it didn’t turn into something terrible.

He’s better now, even after a couple of days of being a really picky, slow eater and losing some weight during recovery. He’s back to chugging milk, eating everything he sees, and zooming around the living room at top speed. He’s such a speed demon, and so sneaky, that we’ve had to triple check our gates every time we go through them. The other day, I was on the couch, half watching them and half browsing Game of Thrones spoilers (look, I like to be prepared to say good-bye to my favorite characters, and I did my unspoiled time when I watched Lost) when I heard the gate moving. I saw little blonde heads near it and figured the twins were just playing with it, like they do, but a beat later, I looked again and only saw one little blonde head, and she turned and giggled at me.

So now I’m up and in a mild panic because where did Isaac go??? Fortunately, though he’s a fast crawler, he’s not THAT fast. Unfortunately, he’s fast enough that he got into the cat’s room (she’s old and senile and pees on a lot of things, so she has her own room) and was, as I barged in, happily noshing on cat food.

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The gate, mind you, had been closed. So I’m not sure what happened there, except that Isaac apparently does not care what goes in his mouth, ever.

Carrie, on the other hand, remains my delicate little drama queen. She is, by far, the most loudly opinionated of my three kids; if she is having an emotion about anything, you will hear about it. This sounds like it’s a negative, and it is sometimes (mostly when she wakes up from a nap or in the morning and isn’t in her parents’ arms), but my favorite is her scream of joy that just happens. It happens when one of us comes in to get her in the morning/after naptime. It happens when someone who’d gone out comes back. It happens when she discovers that a toy is particularly fun to play with. And it’s adorable.

She’s also taken to imitating the cat for obvious reasons (I mean, wouldn’t you?). So she’ll sit there, in the middle of the living room, matching Tinkerbell’s tone perfectly, and saying, “Bowwwww! Bowwwwww!” (because I guess “meow” is very difficult) I’m leaning into it and getting her a bunch of kitty-themed clothes for the summer, because GOD that’s cute. It’s ridiculously cute, y’all. It’s SO cute.

The only rough thing with the twins is that they don’t quite like each other yet. Or, rather. They like each other, but they don’t know how to express that without hurting each other, and that makes interactions very stressful.

Consider: at their age, their love and tolerance for a person is primarily demonstrated through face pats. The problem is that they aren’t very gentle, so when they try to pat each other’s faces, it results in both scratches and slaps, and someone ends up crying. They REALLY want to show each other that, hi, I like you, but they’re so bad at people-ing that it’s kind of sad.

Oh well. They’re getting older, so hopefully, within the next year or so, they’ll learn to express affection in ways that aren’t slapping each other in the face. Bless them.

And then there’s Kyle, who’s working from home until Monday the 29th, while his office goes through some rearrangements/changes. This is largely a blessing, but I expect it to turn VERY rough when he actually goes back, and I suddenly have three kids missing their dad being there all day, two who just don’t understand what’s going on and one who understands but REALLY DOES NOT LIKE IT.

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(shown: Sam when Kyle goes back to the office)

His being home has made literally everything much easier, from meal times to nap times and everything in between. It’s also made things just emotionally easier: instead of holding onto everything all day and then letting it all out in a torrent when he gets home, it kind of trickles back and forth between us throughout the day, and that’s an enormous stress reliever for everyone involved. Problems still exist, but it’s easier when two people carry something heavy than it is when one person tries to go it alone.

We’re a month away from our eighth wedding anniversary, which is more than a little crazy, and we’ve finally found ourselves in a place where we both (a) can afford and (b) can find childcare for dates again. We’re off to see Endgame this Friday, and we’ve been spending our Sunday nights cuddling on the couch while watching Game of Thrones (and then staying up WAY too late talking about our pet theories about the show). And then, of course, Saturday nights are for D&D and our stream (twitch.tv/mtnmama1, Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. EST), and all in all, it feels like we’re getting our lives back from the haze that was a year with two infants.

As for me, I’m still mostly kid-focused because these three take up a LOT of my energy. I used to joke, back before I Knew, that I’d do well with twins because Sam had the energy of two children, so ho ho ho, two kids wouldn’t be that bad. Now I know better. Now I know that at least once a day, usually more than, during the Witching Hour (5:00 in our house, a.k.a., dinner is cooking but not yet ready and in everyone’s stomach and we’ve all just realized that), all three kids will need to be On Me. And I love them, and I know someday, I’ll probably be sad that nobody wants to be On Me, but during the Witching Hour, when the twins are having slapfights on my lap and Sam is leaning against my back, it exhausts me.

There’s the chasing of the twins all day through the house, because even when you have every barrier and gate up, every outlet covered, every dangerous thing out of the way, your toddler will still find a way to get themselves in trouble. So you look down at your phone to read a news article or something and then you look up, and they’re smiling deviously at you as they begin performing feats of danger and daring and you’re back up again, chasing them around to get them to chill out and stop trying to break their bones for five seconds.

I love it. I absolutely love my days. But by the time I get to the end, even with a nice chunk of time taken out so the twins can nap, I’m beyond exhausted. And that frustrates me because I’d love to be able to settle down and write when the kids are all in bed, and I try to, but every time I try, I get about a paragraph in and end up stuck.

Writing is on hold for now, I suppose. I hate that, but it is what it is. I’m stuck unless I’m lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep, and then a scene will start writing itself in my head, and I end up at war with myself: do I get up and make sure this all ends up on paper or do I let myself sleep?

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I let myself sleep. And maybe the words will come during the day again soon. I hope.

What have we learned?

One year ago today, I was in the hospital, hooked up to all sorts of monitors, plugged into all sorts of IVs, waiting to walk back for my C-section. I won’t lie–I was pretty nervous. Even though I know a lot of people who’ve delivered via C-section and even though I knew statistics, major abdominal surgery isn’t something that you skip into scattering flowers on the road as you go (though if I ever do have another C-section, I’m going with that route). And, you know, I ultimately loved my C-section and would 100% do it again (should the need arise), but at the moment, it was scary.

Also scary was the future, in a different way than I’d known before. Having Sam was its own variety of scary (the variety that says, “wait, you want me to be 100% responsible for this small human’s life? Have you seen me? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”), but this was something entirely new. With Sam, I knew so many people who’d had one kid at a time and were telling me, “Oh, yeah, I remember when little Hippocrates went through that phase. Try giving him a large sock to chew on” and things like that. With the twins? Notsomuch. I’ve got a couple of friends who also have twins, and I can’t seem to go to Target with the babies without someone saying, “Oh! My grandniece’s manager’s sister’s brother-in-law’s best friend has twins!” but it’s not quite the same as having people really close to you, people in your tribe, who’ve been where you are.

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It’s a learning curve, more than with Sam. A delightful learning curve, but a learning curve, just the same.

So. What have I learned?

1: C-sections aren’t scary. I talked about that last week.

2: The NICU is scary, but it can also be weirdly convenient. I would not want another baby in there for all the money in the world. I still can’t watch videos from when the twins were in the NICU without feeling sick to my stomach. The other day, I was reading a chapter in a visual novel (shh, we all have our hobbies and apps), and a character’s baby ended up in the NICU, and I was there sobbing about this Dollar Store brand Grey’s Anatomy and a pixelated baby in an incubator.

Because it was scary and GOD did it hurt. I internalized a lot of it. I never really cried about it much, not as much as I probably should have, but I felt it all. The moment when Isaac stopped breathing in my arms because he was eating too fast is burned into my brain. I can’t let it go.

But.

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It was weirdly convenient. We hadn’t expected the babies to come this early, so we needed the time to get things ready for them at home. I’d been panicking about the recovery time for my likely C-section, wondering how–even with Kyle home–I’d take care of two babies and a four-year-old while recovering from major abdominal surgery.

And we got two weeks. Two weeks to finish preparing, two weeks to recover. I never want to see the inside of a NICU again, but man, it was infuriatingly convenient.

3: Nothing about having one baby is at all like having two babies.

When you have twins, people comment in two different ways: they either talk about a distant acquaintance who had or has twins OR they talk about how their experience with one crazy child was like having two children at once.

It is not.

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No matter how crazy your singular child is (and I say this from the perspective of also having a crazy child), you only have one at a time. When you have two, everything takes twice as long, needs to be twice as much. A singular crazy child only needs to have their diaper changed once at a time, and yes, they may have bouts of diarrhea and such, but pretend you have two people with diarrhea and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

You can feed one child at once easily. When you  have two children and you’re alone, someone else is always screaming while you feed the one… at least until they can eat solid foods and you can distract the one who drew the short straw with some tiny goldfish or something.

The twins are REALLY good babies, but there are two of them. No matter how good they are, there will always be two of them. This means double diapers, double formula, double bedtimes, double potty training and baths and walking. And yes, that’s what it’s like having two kids, but most of the time, you can stagger it a little bit. There’s no staggering here.

I love it. I love it a lot. But it’s a LOT of work.

4: Wrangling three children is VERY hard, and when two are infants, it’s basically impossible without another adult around to help.

5: Special needs happen. And they’re not easy to deal with, but by the same token, you have to deal with them and put aside your own worries (will the helmets be enough? How will we afford it if they need a second set? Will they ever catch up to where they should be?) so that you can focus on helping your kid.

And furthermore, when your kid has a special need, no matter what it is, their need is not about you. Their story with whatever it is–developmental delays, physical handicaps, neurodivergence–is your story. You’re part of it, but I guarantee that if you make your kid’s special need about you, you’ll make it a thousand times harder for everyone involved.

6: Even when you live on a really strict budget, even when you’re technically better off than a lot of people your age, it’s still possible to reach the end of the pay period and overdraw your account at the supermarket, not because you’ve been throwing cash at frivolities or not paying attention to how much you’re spending, but because sometimes, every bill hits at once or you miss something or you run out of a necessity before you thought you would, and at least you’re not losing your house or anything, but you wonder how you’re going to feed your kids this week.

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It sucks.

We’re mostly out of that woods. This coming Tuesday, the twins have their one year appointment, and we’ll see if they can switch off formula completely, which I hope they can, because that’ll save us about $200 a month (like. Not completely because we’ll be buying a lot of milk, but even buying a gallon of milk a day won’t add up to the cost of formula). Next month, Sam has his kindergarten orientation and registration, and in September, his tuition goes away. Another $400 a month we’re not having to throw around.

But twins were a monkey wrench in an otherwise pretty smooth system. They took away my ability to work, mostly because daycare is so expensive, and they’ve added a lot of costs to our lives. And again, I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but it’s been a financially stressful year, to say the very least.

(like thank GOD we’re not still giving them the formula that cost us $120 a week, that was awful)

7: Every baby is different. For myself, I think it would be hard for me to recognize this without having two babies at once. Like, I intellectually know it, but I think so much about statistical averages and things like that, I’d be likely to factor in mitigating factors. Like oh, my second child is doing this at this time, and Sam did it at this time, but we were still in the apartment when Sam was that age, so he couldn’t really crawl around, and wow, Sam was way faster at this than this baby, but he was slower to talk…

When you’ve got two babies at once, you can’t really attribute their differences to anything but that they’re different babies. And they’ve both been very different, from the moment they were conceived. I don’t know how much I attribute it to personality, since I feel like a lot of that is nurture more than nature, but I don’t know what else to call it. They’ve just been so different from day one, not just developmentally but in the way they interact with the world, and while I suppose there have been miniscule differences in the way we treat them (like maybe we smiled more at one than the other or maybe one was having a poopy week or things like that), it’s nothing that would necessarily create this much of a difference in the way they behave.

8: Especially when babies have developmental delays, you need to let go of expectations. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I went into parenthood, I read a lot, and I still do read a lot. When Sam was a baby, I got especially focused on milestones, particularly around when he’d have a doctor’s appointment. If I saw a milestone that he hadn’t hit quite yet, I spent the next several days coaching him until he got it, and he always hit his milestones before those appointments. He followed the book, as they say.

The twins? Not so much.

I knew that going in, too, but I really learned to let go of expectations when Carrie started to fall behind Isaac in terms of milestones. For a little while, they were neck-in-neck and mostly hitting milestones about where they should have with their adjusted age, but around the 8-10 month mark (6 ½ to 8 ½ months adjusted), after Carrie learned to sit up, she kind of… stalled out. I think she just likes sitting too much, since it’s neat and easy and lets her play when she wants to, but because she liked it so much, she was foregoing crawling and that… that isn’t good.

When we had her evaluated, the therapists who saw her explained that it didn’t seem to be something inherent or unchanging, just that she’d slowed herself down to probably develop another skill a lot more (in her case, communication, my little chatterbug). But it was just this stark reminder that (a) babies are different and (b) I had to let go of what I expected the twins to be like. They’re their own people, no matter how you shake it.

9: Everything is easier when you’re doing it as a team.

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Which is a funny lesson to learn because, in a scholastic setting, I hate group work. It’s a friendship killer.

But in family and marriage, having a partner there who really sees themself as your partner and who remembers that you succeed or fail as a family makes all the difference in the world. I can’t pretend this last year, despite how great the twins are, wasn’t hard… but I also can’t pretend that having Kyle as my partner and co-team lead didn’t make it a helluva lot easier than it could’ve been otherwise. From switching off shifts at night to tag-teaming poopsplosions to just lying in bed at the end of a long day and laughing together, he’s made the last year even better than it otherwise would’ve been.

10: I love my life. I really do.

I love my kids. They’re amazing, even when they’re driving me crazy (Sam is so smart that he spends his days going 95 MPH around the entire house; Isaac has entered the “let me hit and scratch your face because I’m curious about it” phase; Carrie has entire chunks of the day where she screams at an eardrum shattering pitch because she doesn’t want to be put down ever). I love to hold them, love the feeling of their weight against me when they settle down to rest, love their three unique giggles, love the way they interact with each other, love them to absolute pieces.

I love being at home with them. Oh, sure, I miss getting out of the house and, to an extent, I miss working (mostly because it meant getting out of the house and thinking about something that wasn’t poop for 8 hours at a time), but I love having days with my kids. I love cooking them meals and playing with them and making sure they stick to something resembling a schedule.

I love my husband, because he’s the best.

And I wouldn’t trade this life for anything in the world. No, not even for paid off student loans (but please pay off my student loans anyway).

So it’s been a year, and I’ve learned a lot, and at the end of it all, I’m very happy. I think Isaac and Carrie are, too. And having a happy family–myself included–feels pretty good.

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51 Weeks

Facebook has a tool that allows you to see posts you made on a certain day in the past, and it’s become part of my nightly ritual. Unless I’m absolutely soul-destroyingly exhausted (read: I have pneumonia or am on Percocet after delivering twins), I try to stay up until midnight to see what happened a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. Part of the fun comes in watching Sammy grow up through my memories, seeing my favorite old videos of him (the one where he laughs hysterically at a dancing doll, the one where he imitates Kyle using the phone, the one where he learns to say his name, the one where he eats my sunshine) and reading old updates on something cute he said or did.

Last night, as the clock flipped over to midnight, I looked at last year’s memories with a little more curiosity than usual, since last year, I was unknowingly a week out from giving birth. I only had two: an updated cover picture and a comment that our power was flickering. This was probably due to the weather, since I remember we had a lot of Nor’easters last winter (Wikipedia tells me that it was due to weather, so go me and my foggy memory!).

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But that’s surprisingly all. No comments about the babies or the pregnancy. No weekly update picture (I think that will show up tomorrow) with size approximations. Just power flickering and a cover picture. All quiet on the baby front.

Weird.

I don’t know what I would have or could have done differently, had I known I was just a week away from delivering. I suppose we could’ve set up the bassinets sooner, but it wouldn’t have made much difference, since the babies were in the NICU for two weeks anyway. Maybe I could’ve packed a hospital bag, but no, I was too pregnant to move almost.

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(this is the secret about being pregnant with multiples: the bigger you get, the harder it is to move)

(also I’m sure someone is going to show up and be like “I had quadruplets and ran a marathon the day before I delivered them” which is really good for you, Mackayla, but my hips still haven’t recovered)

Something I thought about recently that I never wrote about here was my own physical recovery from my C-section, and I feel kind of bad about that. I feel like so much of the internet’s stories about C-sections and recoveries from C-sections are horror stories; I know when I was trying to read up on C-section delivery to prepare for the twins, I kept coming across tales of hemorrhaging and hysterectomies and the like, which did not help my nervousness about the procedure, let me tell you.

So here’s the blurry remnants of what I remember despite the Percocet.

In the immediate aftermath of the surgery, I was fuzzy all over. I couldn’t feel anything below my waist, and the nurses were very interested in maintaining that particular status quo, at least in the immediate period after I delivered. I still had an IV giving me pain medications for the next 12 hours, if I’m remembering correctly, even after I moved from the delivery suite into my recovery suite (which was the same room I had when I delivered Sam, and that brought me to tears more than once). I also kept the booties on my feet–the ones they’d given me to prevent clots while I had my spinal block–for the next 12 hours, until they were confident the spinal block had worn off. And I’ll be honest: I was sad to lose them. They felt nice, like getting a nice calf massage but not from someone who’s like “this won’t hurt!” and then drives their knuckles into your bone so hard that you realize they’re going to hold you captive and force you to write a novel for them.

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For the intervening 12 hours, I mostly just sat and watched TV/played around on my phone. I couldn’t get out of bed, which was both frustrating and fine–I was tired, but I really wanted to see the twins and just move on my own.

Kyle brought me something to eat, but I don’t remember what it was, which is a note to myself that if I ever do this again, I’m going to have a very specific idea what I want for a victory dinner and Uber Eats it, and then send Kyle out to the atrium to await the driver. I don’t know if you can even use Uber Eats if you’re a hospital patient, but I do think it should be allowed for maternity patients.

(when I had Sam, my victory dinner was half a dozen donuts, which I ate while holding him, because I hadn’t eaten anything for about 24 hours at that point)

I remember I had the sweetest night nurse, and I think her name was Michelle. She came in when her shift began and introduced herself before explaining how the night would go. First, I would get some sleep. Then, around 4 a.m., she’d come in and get me ready to try walking again, since this was about 12 hours from when my surgery began. This is when she would remove my IVs, remove my beloved massage booties, and, with another nurse, help me walk to the bathroom so that I could pee without a catheter (which would also get removed at that time). And as a reward for that? I’d get to see my babies, finally.

So when 4 a.m. rolled around, I was MORE than ready to shuffle to the toilet. I queued up the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be” (you know, “Now I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more…”) for motivation, warned Kyle (who was asleep in a cot across the room and acknowledged me with a faint grunt), and got ready. Michelle and her assistant gently helped me to my feet, arms looped around my waist, and served as my crutches as I walked, not unlike a 90-year-old woman, to the toilet and, in a moment that my pelvic floor doesn’t realize has since ended, let loose.

The nurses praised me, gave me my first dose of painkillers (Percocet and ibuprofen), and helped me into a wheelchair. “Try and walk as much as possible while you’re here,” they said, “but don’t overdo it. If you’re hurting at all, stop.”

Which was the weird thing about my recovery, because it was kind of a utopian vision of what a C-section recovery can be. Because I didn’t have the babies in room with me, I got all the sleep I needed to heal quickly, even surprising the nurses attending me when I was wearing my maternity jeans two days after delivery (I mean. They have an elastic waist that’s glorious and that I still take advantage of at Thanksgiving). When I left the hospital, I got plenty of rest as well, so that by the time the babies came home, after two weeks, I was well on my way to recovered.

And, well. In the 51 weeks since, I’ve pretty much returned to something that slightly resembles a more tired version of normal (side note: a study came out recently saying that parents, on average, don’t reach a state of being well-rested until their youngest child is six years old, which is why when the opportunity arises for me to nap, I TAKE THE NAP). The only real indicator of my C-section is the scar on my bikini line, but that’s also mostly hidden underneath my other pregnancy souvenir, the massive flap of stretched out skin left over from how big my belly got.

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I had a couple of big takeaways, the first being that C-sections and C-section recovery aren’t as terrifying or difficult as I’d expected. Something that should be the first choice of everyone involved, regardless of circumstances? Definitely not. But a C-section that’s medically indicated isn’t something to fear, and the recovery, while not easy, isn’t as terrifying as I’d thought going in.

(which, mind, was based on my last surgery, where a bad reaction to anesthesia left me fucked up for a full week afterwards… compared to other people who’d had similar surgery and were back to work the next day)

Another was that everyone’s experience when it comes to birth is going to be different, and that my situation isn’t applicable to everyone. I’m not trying to contradict myself and say that “yeah, that last paragraph about C-sections not being scary? BULLSHIT THEY ARE SUPER SCARY!” because I don’t think the idea of having a C-section, when it’s medically indicated and performed by competent professionals, should frighten anyone. What I am saying, though, is that the speed and ease of my recovery owed a lot to my overall circumstances:

  • My babies spent two weeks in the NICU, so I had two weeks of not waking up at all hours to feed them.
  • When they did come home, Kyle and I took shifts overnight, because the babies were formula fed and didn’t require a boob whenever they got hungry.
  • I’d resigned from my job already by that point, and our survival as a family wasn’t contingent on me getting back to work, so I had time to stay home and recover.

Adding all that together, it makes sense that I was able to recover as quickly and completely as I was and that my story didn’t fall in line with the horror stories I’d expected. BUT, that said, I do think there are some universal things I’d want anyone else facing a C-section to know as well:

  • Do not put off walking unless you’re in excruciating pain. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be doing it on your own.
  • Rest as much as you can, and don’t overdo it. Listen to your body. If your body starts feeling bad when you do something, stop and rest.
  • Do not be a martyr about pain meds. Seriously. If you’re not comfortable taking certain meds while breastfeeding, ask for something else. If you try to be a martyr, it will hurt like hell and you’ll wake up yelping in pain at 4 a.m. begging your partner to get your meds and some water while your three-year-old sits at the foot of your bed innocently asking, “Mommy, what’s wrong?” and trying to climb into your lap, except you can’t straighten up because it hurts so much, so you just kind of pat him and lightly push him away, which likely scars him for life, but then you get your meds and ALL IS WELL AGAIN. (ahem)
  • Take a deep breath. Let it out. In with blue skies, out with grey skies. It’s okay to be scared, but know this: odds are, you’re gonna be okay.

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