Brought to you by the letter D

Hello.

It’s been a Time, let me tell you. Two weeks since I last wrote, and everything is happening so much.

Drugs. I’m not talking the ones that you were warned against in the fifth grade (aside: when we had D.A.R.E., it was before there were any mascots or anything, and all we had was this… “music video,” if you can even call it that, of what we were supposed to believe were police officers singing, “Dare! For keeping kids off drugs!” and then this guy in the background would radically wail, “KIIIIIDS OFFFFF DRUUUUUGS,” and I will tell you that I do not remember anything about the program besides that specific snippet), but the ones that you get prescribed from your doctor. 

When I went to my OB-GYN for my crisis of intrusive thoughts, he had me talk with a behavioral health specialist (which is the new name for a shrink), and said specialist both prescribed me counselling and called my primary care doctor to request an increase in my dosage of my current antidepressant, Effexor. I had been taking 75 mg (the lowest possible therapeutic dosage), so now I’m up to 112.5 mg, which means two little capsules every day instead of one. About a week after that, I had a psychiatric medication review with a nurse whose job is doing only that ever to see if I should continue with the Effexor or if I should switch to a different antidepressant and/or take something else as well. This was a lot like my therapy intake appointment, where you just go through alllll of your issues, realize how long they’ve been issues, and feel like somebody’s just peeled your emotional skin off for a minute. 

Like. Normal therapy gets into these issues, but it’s a slower and more gradual process. Intake appointments get to the heart of things all at once. No slow, gentle “so what was it like during that one specific afternoon when you were eleven and those five boys in your class called you ‘ugly’ while you waited for the school bus?” but more of an “OKAY SO YOU’VE EXPERIENCED INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS SINCE YOU WERE ELEVEN AND HAVE HAD SUICIDAL THOUGHTS SINCE YOU WERE A TEENAGER, SOUNDS LIKE CHRONIC SUICIDAL IDEATION, NEXT TOPIC.” 

Anyway, the nurse (who was excellent; very to-the-point, and also very practical) ended up prescribing me a sleep aid called Trazodone to theoretically cut down on my bedtime insomnia from 2ish hours to 0ish hours, and I’ve been on that for about a week. I want to say that it’s working (especially in conjunction with Kyle and my decision to start taking melatonin at bedtime every night in very tasty cherry gummy form), but I honestly don’t know. I’m forcing myself to be more well-rested, by which I mean that I’m refusing to take afternoon naps even when circumstances would allow me to (read: no appointments for anyone, either virtual or physical), but I can’t tell if anything is working well because Sam’s in an anxious streak and has woken us up one way or another basically every night for a couple of weeks now. 

(more on that in a minute)

So that’ll be fun to talk to my therapist about. Meanwhile, I’ve also had an appointment with an endocrinologist (not a reproductive endocrinologist, because while I’m 100% for snagging one more girl out of our freezies, we need to pay the $3500 to have them tested and have Kyle actually employed before we strike on down that path) to try and start getting my PCOS better under control. Last October, I spent a day in the ER with agonizing pain in my lower left abdomen, which the ER diagnosed as constipation (even though, and this is TMI, I was and am regular for basically the first time in my entire life) but which my OB-GYN figured was probably related to my PCOS. We went down a path there of trying progesterone-only hormonal birth control (review: too much breakthrough bleeding, too much depression, nowhere near enough pain reduction) because I’m prone to migraine with aura, which makes me a poor candidate for estrogen usage; and I got a referral to the endocrinologist to see if we could make my hormones start behaving. 

That appointment was supposed to happen in either February or March, but either I was sick as hell or it was during the Great Cancellation Of Things, so the appointment proper didn’t happen until this month. After we talked about my symptoms (I am quite fat, I have wonky periods, I am very hairy, acne is my constant companion, getting pregnant was a pain in the ass, and my ovaries have the distinct “string of pearls” cysts on them), my endocrinologist ordered about six sprillion blood tests to check how my hormones were doing overall. Everything is consistent with PCOS (absurdly high testosterone, which I wish I could donate to some trans men out there, and hallmarks of insulin resistance though not diabetes), so she’s starting me on metformin (500mg to start, gradually increasing to 2000mg/day) to combat the insulin resistance, and I’m adding that to my daily regimen.

Basically, I’ve reached a point in my life where everything is measured in various pills; and that’s not even counting my migraine meds (because I only really take those when I manage to catch a migraine starting). And honestly, I don’t mind it much. There’s some faux wisdom about blah blah blah, being medicated is bad, makes you conform, something something 5G Bill Gates QAnon bullshit (or, on the other side of things, “all you need is fresh air and a positive outlook, plus maybe some crystals and essential oils!” Or both. Silliness has no boundary), but it’s like. Maybe I like not feeling like garbage. Maybe I like it when I’m able to spend an afternoon writing a blog instead of sleeping. Maybe I want to treat my body’s hormonal wackiness. Maybe I want to have the ability to feel genuinely happy, because depression has stolen that from me, and if I need medication to get that back, I will literally take all the pills

Like not to feel happy all the time. That isn’t how things work. I just want to be able to look at the days and weeks to come and not feel like I’m drowning. 

BUT ANYWAY.

Dads. This weekend was both Father’s Day on Sunday and Kyle’s birthday on Monday. I’ve spent a decent amount of time, therefore, baking and also organizing gifts and cards and the like. 

The baking was the fun part. I love baking; it’s one of those things that, if you know a few tricks and are very precise with what you do, people will love you for it. Kyle’s cake, catering to the things he adores in a dessert, was a red velvet layer cake with a s’mores filling (marshmallow fluff mixed with crushed graham crackers and mini chocolate chips) and decorated with rich chocolate buttercream, marshmallows, graham crackers, and candy bars. I don’t like to say that I’ve outdone myself when I bake something, but this time, I absolutely outdid myself. 

I also outdid myself showering Kyle with multitudinous gifts, each designed to remind him of one of his kids when he used it. From Sammy, he got the game of Sorry, because we pretty much just play board games with Sammy (Sorry is… not anyone’s favorite right now because it’s really frustrating independent of anyone taking revenge on anyone else, and we’re all learning valuable lessons about not trying to stack the deck, because the game Knows). From Isaac, he got what’s called a dice tower; it’s basically a better way of rolling dice that resembles a marble game…

…and makes satisfying “click clack” noises as the colorful math rocks descend. Isaac loves putting things in things, especially if that act creates a Noise, so the idea of him giving a dice tower was just irresistible. And from Carrie, Kyle received some of those colorful math rocks, specifically a dice set with pink and purple butterflies because that’s just who she is. Sparkles, pink and purple, butterflies, rainbows… that may change in the coming years, but for now, she’s my girly girl. 

Lockdown has been easing in a good way here in Massachusetts–at least out in our neck of the woods, people have remained compliant with mask orders, so some things are somewhat back to normal, and we’ve felt comfortable enough the past couple of weekends to go and visit my parents at their house (even though our house is now visitable with its delightful couches, we wanted the twins to get some time at their grandparents’ house, since they haven’t had much time there at all). We went there for Father’s Day on Sunday and enjoyed some takeout from Outback Steakhouse and some good visiting. My dad and Kyle both got cards signed by all three kids (some more legibly than others), and I got my dad a book of Dad Jokes, because he is the absolute master of them. 

So it was a good weekend with a lot of normalcy, and that was really good for my mental state. Yesterday, for the first time in I don’t even know how long, I felt wide awake without having to go and take a nap when the twins did (I try not to nap when the twins do, but usually when that happens, I end up so tired throughout the afternoon that I can’t function; that I’ve been able to go several days without feeling like I need a nap–today excluded for being a migraine day–has been really nice). I also managed to go out and run some errands like the world was back to something resembling normalcy and not just. Chaotic.

Problems have even started being more normal, too, specifically where Sam is concerned. He’s had a loose tooth for several months, as you do when you are five, and it got really loose the other day, probably earlier than it should have. I guess he bit down too hard on a piece of bacon, and that pulled his tooth away from the gum and, apparently, exposed a nerve. The dentist told us there’s nothing for it except to give him Tylenol or Motrin and Orajel, because pulling it before it’s ready would cause more problems than it would solve.

The trouble is that this small adventure has caused a lot of anxiety for Sam. He’s understandably wary about eating now, because his tooth hurts–last night, despite us having his favorite noodles for dinner, he sobbed hysterically and refused to eat them because he was afraid. And then tonight, he sneaked down to snuggle with me when he was supposed to be in bed and told me, “I know I’m supposed to be happy about my loose tooth, but it hurts so much, and I’m really kind of mad at that bacon.”

I told him that the only way he’s supposed to feel is how he does feel–that it’s alright and even makes sense for him to be angry about this happening, because losing your first tooth should be exciting, fun, and painless, not scary and painful. 

And then he wanted to talk about spiders, because he’s six.

His pediatrician recommended us to a therapist to try and help him cope with anxiety better–I think his is worse than it should be because he’s got parents who are prone to anxiety, so there’s that natural tendency to pick up on it, and since the two of us are only just learning healthy coping skills, it’s hard for us to teach him. With any luck, speaking with a therapist will give him tools to use now so that he can grow up and have a handle on this instead of growing up like we Millennials do. 

So we’ll see where it all goes. But hopefully, it’ll go good places. Until then…

Stuff is still happening

I think the wildest thing about locking down is that it feels like there’s nothing new to report ever about anything. Stuff is happening, sure, but it’s like being in a major depressive downswing, where it’s all happening in this void of nothing. Days are all bleeding into each other, to the point where I told like three or four separate people today that Monday is Memorial Day.

It’s not. 

Stuff is happening! It just is happening in this void that’s usually relegated to memories. Like you know how most of your memories kind of bleed together so you know that a thing happened, but you don’t know specifically when? That’s what it feels like. 

It’s like my memories of my choir tours back in college. In four years, I went on twelve choir tours in a huge bus driving all up and down the eastern seaboard of the US, and while some of them are very specific place-related memories (like obviously, that time we went to the beach on Cape Cod was during a tour on Cape Cod), most just sort of blur into a “I know this happened, but I don’t really know when or where.” When did I stay at that person’s house? What year was it? Was it in Pennsylvania or New York or Virginia? Was it in the spring or the fall or the winter?

(if you were in A Cappella Choir at ENC, you know what I mean)

Stuff is happening. Sam’s birthday happened this week! I have a six-year-old now, and it’s crazy. For the most part, there’s very little difference between Sammy the six-year-old and Sammy the five-year-old, except that Sammy the six-year-old has Minecraft guides that he likes to read aloud to us at all hours of the day and night, where Sammy the five-year-old did not have such guides. 

I think he had a pretty awesome birthday, all things considered. We’d been promising him for something like two years that we’d have his birthday party this year at our local indoor play place called Luv 2 Play, which is just that kind of McDonald’s Play Place gone wild, Discovery Zone type adventure land, with ball pits and climbing structures and arcades and pizza! It’s like Chuck E Cheese but so much more! And they’d literally just opened a month before the lockdown went into place and then the lockdown happened and so much for that. 

So I knew the potential for disappointment was high and because of that, I went a little overboard with the stuff we could do. Our local police department had a program in place from about the time the lockdown started where they’d come to your house for your kid’s birthday, lights flashing and sirens wailing, and I signed us up for that. Sam was super shy about it, but he was also beyond happy, and he got to sit in the front of and pretend to drive a squad car (his comments on it: “Wow, there’s a lot of stuff in here! It’s a mess!”). 

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I baked him a cake, as I always do, and even though it looked sort of a mess, it tasted great. Black frosting, as he requested, plus Minecraft decor, as he requested, though my favorite part was the Lego brick candles I found on Amazon. Guarantee I wouldn’t have thought to use those if I hadn’t been scrambling to try and find ways to create a spectacular cake for my big guy to help him with what could’ve otherwise been a really sad birthday. 

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AND. His best friend’s mom got in touch with me and we planned for them to drive up to our house so Sammy and his best friend could see each other. I think that was my favorite part of the day. Sam, being six, says that his favorite part of the day was getting various toys, but I think what really sticks in his mind was seeing Hunter and getting to talk with him, even if they had to stay apart through a car window. 

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So it was a success, despite everything, and I’m relieved. 

Stuff is happening. We broke down our old couch and chair because the furniture outlet we’d gone shopping at literally days before the entire state shut down called us and said, “Hey, are you going to have your couches delivered or what?” 

We’ve needed new couches for ages because our living room furniture was not only purchased in the era of “well, the Båckachë model from Ikea is affordable” but has broken in multiple ways and multiple places. It was ugly and stained and had ceased to be comfortable by any definition. 

And we had a pretty nice tax return this year and figured, hey, Kyle’s gainfully employed and even though he has to work from home now, we should be fine through this pandemic!

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Anyway. We needed new furniture, so we bought new furniture; but when everything went into lockdown, we thought we’d have to wait until whenever restrictions were lifted completely to have it all delivered (since we just did what’s called “threshold” delivery, which means they basically yeet the furniture at you from the back of a moving truck). But no, apparently they’re doing deliveries again, so we’ve broken down the old sofa and rocking chair and made our living room empty and ready for a sofa, loveseat, and coffee table. 

97101404_10157206797540592_2838004347839709184_o(it looks a lot emptier now that we’ve cleaned up all the toys)

It’s wild. Even in this time that feels like miles of endless nothing, I’ve somehow reached the age where I have a coffee table. A really nice one, too! 

Isaac is still having his ABA, which is great. He’s so much calmer and happier, and he’s been getting along so much better with Carrie. He’s gaining words, and though he doesn’t necessarily use them unprompted (i.e., he won’t do like Carrie does and point to a picture of something yellow while saying “yellow”), he still has them, and that’s important. He doesn’t melt down as often as he had been, and he’s just… he’s really doing so well. He’s still very obviously autistic, and I’ve made it clear to his therapists and their office that I am perfectly fine with him stimming, with him being obviously autistic; but he’s learning to communicate better, which is helping him both in the short term and in the long run. He’s better able to express his wants and needs, and because of that, he doesn’t get frustrated so easily. 

Which is good. 

And then for me. Despite not being able to actually physically go to a doctor’s office, I had a breast cancer risk assessment screening thing last week. It wasn’t a huge deal, just something my OB-GYN had recommended because I have a lot of aunts who’ve had breast cancer and other cancers, on both sides. When that’s your family makeup, you want to get yourself assessed, just to make sure that you’re not missing something.

To nobody’s surprise, I’m sitting right in the middle of the high risk category, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m 100% going to get breast cancer, nothing I can do about it, but rather that I need to start being screened more frequently as soon as possible so that if anything does pop up, it can be caught ASAP and stopped before it turns into something unstoppable. 

Naturally, with the world locked down, that basically means that I have to hurry up and wait. I received a packet in the mail talking about my risks and medications I could take (that decreased the risk of breast cancer, but also increased the risk of blood clots and uterine cancer, so I’m like ??? that sounds like the opposite of helping?), and I have a note on my chart about getting a mammogram as soon as I can. And I get to follow that up with an MRI and just alternate mammograms and MRIs every six months until I die or someone chops off my boobs or something. 

(true story: if I could donate some boob to someone who wants to have more boob, I totally would)

All of this has happened in the last week, since the last time I wrote something, but it feels like nothing is happening. Tomorrow is Saturday, I know, but beyond that? Who even knows? What even is happening? Everything is happening, and it’s all a big, meaningless void of nothing. 

And yet, I’m still in favor of keeping locked down as long as it takes to get some sort of actual plan in place or get our act together on treatments and vaccines and whatever the fuck we need because this is not a pleasant illness. I hate being locked down, and if by some miracle, there was no more Covid-19 tomorrow and we could all frolic about freely, I would be the first one out of my house. I want my son to be able to go back to kindergarten and see his friends and finish out the year. I want to take all three of my kids to their well visits without having to wrestle with masks. I want to know without a shadow of a doubt that our trip to Disney World in November is happening. I want people to be able to go back to work. I want to get my roots touched up. 

Like that’s the thing. I feel like there’s this misconception that if you’re in favor of things being locked down, you’re having a blast being cooped up inside and don’t see any downsides whatsoever. That is the opposite of true. I am hitting a yellow wallpaper point. I’m worried about the longterm ramifications of the way the world is right now for all three of my kids, regarding not just their educations but also their psychological stability and the economy they’ll be inheriting. 

But I also don’t want people to die. I’m generally in favor of that not happening. People die every day, of course, but if we can reduce the number of people dying, I’d like to do that.

And then like… I talk about returning to normal and, okay. I’ve seen the post, too, about how our previous “normal” is what has this country being the laughingstock of the world with how we’re handling this. I don’t want that. When I talk about returning to normal, I mean I want my son to be able to see his friends at school and be taught by someone who’s trained to teach kindergarten rather than by me saying “what the hell is a digraph” during a Zoom call. I want to go to well visits at the doctor to catch problems before they’re major. I want to be able to say, “hey, let’s go visit so-and-so” or “hey, let’s go to the playground” or “hey, let’s go get ice cream” and then do that thing.

But I also want the things that would provide a safety net in situations like this–things like universal healthcare, universal basic income, significantly higher pay for teachers, a living wage for everyone, general compassion and caring for our fellow human beings across the board. I want that change. But I also want the normal of being able to pick up my kids from the school bus after they’ve spent a day with their friends.

I hope that makes sense. 

I’m not going to debate anyone about it if you disagree. 

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But I do wish we could find a nice balance between “endless lockdown because we don’t know what we’re doing” and “we’re just going back to business as usual and screw people if they get sick.” 

Sigh.

Uncertainty

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I wrote this entry a couple of days ago, but then I deleted it and decided to try it again, and again, and again, because no matter what I’ve been writing about things, it doesn’t turn out right.

Here’s the short of the matter: Kyle got laid off last week. 

It was 100% unexpected and had nothing to do with the current state of the world. In short, his company was bought out and layoffs happened. We thought he’d be safe from them because of a variety of factors, but in the end, he wasn’t. 

We’ve been through this before in our life together, lots of times. Right after we got married, my internship that was supposed to turn into a full time job… well, didn’t. I’d been our primary source of income because Kyle was still finishing his degree, and we went from being able to afford things like an apartment and our car payments to… not being able to afford anything. And it sucked for about eight million reasons, the largest of which being that we were broke. Worse than broke. We were trying to get an education, and the economy tanked after we’d taken out our loans, so there we were, jobless, newly married, with $60k in student loan debt. 

Kyle had a savings account, so we used some of that to keep ourselves from going under completely. We both job hunted like mad, as much as we could. Kyle eventually found a seasonal retail position, and I kept hunting. I flew up to Massachusetts to interview for a technical writing position and stayed there for a week, waiting to hear back and hearing nothing. And then, out of the blue, people started finding my resume and I ended up, at least for a little while, at my favorite job I’ve ever worked with my favorite coworkers ever. 

But that didn’t last either. That job ended in a layoff as well, because the economy was tough, and my entire department was cut. Kyle and I made a choice then, that we’d both try and find more work, but that if we couldn’t find work in Texas, we’d cut spending where we could and move in with my parents, since they had an in-law apartment they were offering us rent-free. 

And, well. No nibbles after a month, bills piling up, stress on our shoulders. We made the move, and it was hard, and I hated it. I hate moving in general, but I hate it most when it’s moving from somewhere you’ve thought would be at least semi-permanent. I hate it when you’re watching your entire life, save for whatever necessities you can squeeze into a couple of small cars, get shuffled off into storage. All of those wedding gifts, all of those books, all of those photographs, boxed up and kept in a U-Haul for who knew how long. 

I hated feeling like a failure, too, because even though the layoffs in question were mostly because of a shitty economy, you always feel like you’ve failed when you’re laid off. Even when your manager tells you that your work is exemplary, and when the company owner tells you that he’ll recommend you anywhere you want to go, you still wonder how you could’ve let this happen. 

But back then, it was just the two of us, plus a snake and two leopard geckos. We lived as leanly as we could; weeks where we’d saved money ended with a $20 dinner for two at Chili’s, but most of the time, we’d end our week with whatever we could buy for $10 or less at the corner store. 

We moved into my parents’ basement, quintessential Millennials. And somehow, once we’d settled in there, things came together. In only about four months, Kyle got a great job, paying way more than I’d been making in Texas or than he could’ve hoped to make there. A year after moving in with my parents, we moved into our own place. A year after that, Kyle got his last job, which was a great experience with great benefits and pay that enabled us to buy our own house and raise three kids.

And now this.

I’m trying to be okay, for everyone’s sake. I know it’s logical to be okay, that every job Kyle and I have gotten in the past decade or so has been offered to us rather than being something we’ve had to hunt down, that we’ve got a surprisingly sturdy safety net at the moment. I know that all of Kyle’s contacts in his industry heard he was available for work again and started sending him jobs immediately. I know that, in the end, it’s probably going to turn out that it’s all for the best, and he’ll be making way more than he was before, and he’ll be happier and more comfortable than he was before.

And yet.

Everything is uncertain now. We’d finally gotten to a point where paychecks didn’t feel stretched paper thin. The twins are done with formula, Sam’s in public school. We’re halfway through buying couches, for heaven’s sake. 

(we are going to finish buying the couches, as soon as the furniture store opens back up)

It’s different now than when it was just the two of us and some reptiles. Eight years ago, when we packed up our life and moved away, not knowing what the future would bring us, it was just us (plus a snake and two leopard geckos). Nobody depended on us. We could’ve, if we’d had that sort of kooky young person mindset, just up and moved to Scotland or New Zealand, and it wouldn’t be that hard because it would just be us. 

(I mean, it wouldn’t be easy, but big life changes are easier with just two adults who know how to cope with change)

But we’ve got kids now. Three kids depending on us to keep them from starving or being homeless. And in the end, we’ve got enough of a safety net that I know, logically, we’ll be alright, but there’s that little nagging gremlin in the back of my mind saying, “but what if…?”

I remain staggeringly cognizant of the fact that we’re living on a knife’s edge, like pretty much everyone else in our generation. Kyle and I–Kyle especially–are skilled workers who always get compliments on our “work ethic” and other intangibles that people like a lot, but we’re also lucky. Lucky that this happened when it did, lucky that we have families who are able to support us, lucky that we’ve got our safety net in place, lucky that Kyle has great contacts with great connections. Lucky. 

We’re taking turns being optimistic. It’s Kyle’s turn tonight. I’m feeling sulky and mildly belligerent, but I’m internalizing the latter and nursing the former with a handful of novels I’ve been meaning to read and the knowledge that Sam’s birthday next week will, at least, be a good time.

One Month on the Inside

The weird thing about lockdown is that not much changes from one minute to the next, even when it’s been a full month+ of hanging out at home all the time. On the plus side, I can safely say that I did not get Covid-19 when I last went to the store back in March. On the minus side, literally everything else.

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The only big thing of note is that Isaac has, despite the lockdown, started ABA therapy. ABA is apparently considered an essential service, so we have his therapists scrub down as soon as they come in the house, and since Isaac is the first kid of the day for them, there’s no huge worry that they’ve gone and gotten something and brought it to us. 

Today was day 2 of ABA, and it went… alright, I suppose. We’re still in the “let’s play so he gets used to us and then we can start therapy” stage, so it’s mostly two hours every day of unguided play with a box of toys that doesn’t leave our house but also only comes out when it’s ABA time. Carrie participates as well, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad, but both of our services coordinators pointed out that her participation is pretty important, because Isaac lives with her, so he needs to learn all of the things he’ll be learning in context of her instead of just in context of a therapist and one or two parents. 

The box of toys is all pretty easy stuff–shapes boxes, crayons, stacking toys, a firetruck. Its primary appeal is that it only comes out during ABA time, so even though the kids are playing with those toys every day, they still have some novelty to them. And it’s a plus because between Isaac “cleaning” (read: throwing every single thing he owns into the gated space between the TV and the rest of the living room) and Sam sweeping things out to the dining room/playroom with him, most of the twins’ toys are. Missing. 

Sam continues to take this entire situation harder than the rest of us. It’s a huge and difficult change for anyone, and I don’t know a single person who’s looking at the state of the world currently and getting super excited about it, but Kyle and I are at least adults with coping skills. We grumble, and we’re anxious, and when I think about the Worst Case Scenario, I have a panic attack (which is super convenient, because do you know what happens when you have a panic attack? You can’t breathe, that’s what happens, so it sends you on this delightful spiral that never ends :D), but for the most part, we have coping skills. We can conceive of restrictions lightening somewhat, and we know that if we do get sick, odds are that we’ll be fine. Hell, we’ve even got a theory that the bug that took me out for most of January and February (remember that?) was Covid-19 but nobody expected it around then, so nobody knew.

But then there’s Sam.

It’s rough on him, of course, because he’s lost school–at the very least until May 4, possibly for the rest of the year (I would be surprised if school starts up again before September). He’s lost that daily connection to his friends and teachers, his routine has been thrown to the wind, and although he’s kept his academic progress (we check in daily, he does his work, he’s doing just fine), I feel like he’s lost a lot of the non-academic stuff that kindergarten teaches you. Worse, he’s five, so he has no coping skills for just about anything. He’ll be alright for a few days, and then he’ll just completely melt down and sob and throw hours long tantrums, and when we ask him what’s wrong and how can we help, he can’t explain it. 

And we know. He’s scared. He’s lonely. He’s sad. He’s angry. He feels what we’re all feeling, but he’s only five, so he doesn’t have the same coping strategies we have as adults, and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

(but hey, at least his eventual therapy won’t be mostly talking about how he’s messed up because of his parents, so that’s a win!)

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I see people protesting because they want to go get haircuts and go to Applebee’s and go back to this arbitrary “normal” they imagine existed, but I’m here hating lockdowns because I can’t help my kid. Yes, it’s hard not being able to go to the mall on the weekend or even just visit my parents. Yeah, I’m frustrated that I’ve had to try and reschedule about 42 doctor’s appointments in the last couple of weeks. But I’m most worried about my son, and I’m most worried about people who needed those nonessential jobs to pay their rent and get groceries and now have to make $1200 stretch for who knows how long?

I’m trying really hard to be optimistic and know that things aren’t going to last forever. By hook or by crook, 2022 seems to be the date that the experts are saying “okay, if normal even existed, look for it then.” Which is A REALLY LONG TIME to be having periods of lockdown and not lockdown and lockdown and not lockdown, but okay. 

And humans have this neat superpower of being really adaptable. We’ll find ways to make school happen and we’ll find ways to continue seeing our friends and family and we’ll find ways to reopen various things (because CAPITALISM, gosh darnit!). I know eventually, humanity as a whole will adjust.

But I’m looking at the damage happening in the meantime and feeling awfully sad that some of it could’ve been avoided and some of it couldn’t, and basically, this continues to suck.

BUT. We did get a new iPad so that Sam could do schoolwork and socialize, so there’s that.

Clinging

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
(Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers (314)”)

I was initially doing okay with all of this, and ultimately, it was the thought of a longterm social distancing adventure that drove me to snap with rage that disappeared as quickly as it had come. 

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(this happened, like, a week and a half ago)

I can’t remember what set me off, but I think it was Kyle saying the words “…if Disney World is even open by then” about our trip that’s coming up in November. The idea of living life like this the entire rest of the year just made something break a little in me, and I sort of snapped at him in that way moms do when we’ve been carrying it all inside to keep the rest of the family from seeing, because it’s fine to vent to your partner when they’re available, but the emotions show up whenever anyway, and you tamp them down because you don’t want your kids to be scared or pick up on you freaking out.

But eventually, the dam breaks a little.

I snapped, and then it was gone, and I’ve been about as fine as I can be, considering the circumstances, ever since.

That sounds like I’m dismissing things, and I’m not trying to. I’m feeling the emotions everyone’s feeling: grief over the world changing overnight into something unrecognizable. Rage about politics. Fear about what’s coming next. But I feel like I’ve got a better handle on it than I did before, when I was still hovering in the “denial” stage of grief about everything. 

(and anyway, I will eat my hat if Disney isn’t open in November)

Which is all good, because we’re kind of floundering a lot with many bizarre emotions in this house.

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Anxiety is, understandably, the big one. I think I’ve got an okay handle on that because yay, antidepressants. Venlafaxine will probably be the reason I go crazy if the world ever does end properly, but for now, I’ve got a healthy supply of it, and it turns my anxiety into either really vivid crazy dreams or just really pleasant but unrelated dreams. Last night, I dreamed about characters from the soap opera One Life to Live, which I never even watched when it was a thing that was on often. The dream also took place in a therapist’s office, but that’s it. Nothing otherwise notable about it. No portentous 19 crows or anything like that.

Nobody else in this house is on antidepressants, which creates some interesting situations, most of them with Sam. He doesn’t have a completely firm grasp of what’s going on, but he knows that he can’t go to school, he knows that his school year is probably over as he knew it (they’re saying schools are closed until May 4, but I’ll be very surprised if they reopen before summer break), and he knows he misses his friends and teachers.

So, of course, he’s scared.

It mostly comes out at night, and he’s too old for the magic jar of dirt stuff I did when he was younger. Too smart, too. He doesn’t believe it when I rub lotion on his hands and tell him it will protect him from bad dreams, because his anxieties are too big to be vanquished with some love and lotion. He knows that the world isn’t the same, and will never be the same again, and it scares him. 

He gets out of bed every night after he’s been tucked in. We talk to him, we hold him on the couch, we tell him the truth, but we sprinkle it with generous doses of hope, because he needs that. Still, he’s scared. 

He’s kind of shut down about homeschooling, and I’m not sure what to do about it; worse, I’m sort of limited in what I can do about it. He’s in kindergarten, and he’s covered most of the basics he’ll need before first grade in the fall (this will have reached some sort of equilibrium by fall or I am punching this virus in the face myself), so I’m not terribly worried about him falling behind… but I still want to try and help him learn things while he’s at home. 

He does alright for about two days when we give him a new routine, but then on day three, he decides he doesn’t like this anymore and has a meltdown. Which… okay, fair. Maybe he should just have Wednesdays off or something? The routine was, briefly, some yoga and then a video about a subject he liked, writing a sentence about the subject, then doing math. And, of course, forever checking his messages on Facebook’s messenger for kids (he’s got a long distance friendship blossoming with my friend’s daughter, and it’s basically destroying me with cute). 

I feel bad. I wish that I could be 100% there for Sam, but the twins are another adventure during this, my everyday adventure that hasn’t changed in the slightest, except that Kyle is home for that adventure all the time now, so lunch and naptime are both easier.

But the twins seem to sense that something’s amiss as well. They don’t like to not be on my lap, which makes trying to help Sam with literally anything a struggle, particularly because the twins are not small anymore. They’re two now, had their birthday less than a day after the state started shutting down altogether. Our plans to take them to the aquarium were dashed.

Everyone senses that something’s up, and nobody can really parse their feelings on it. I can’t either, but I’m trying to at least throw positive shit out into the world to see whatever glimmers of hope will stick. 

That mostly happens outside. When the weather permits, we throw jackets on the kids and take them out to the front lawn to run around for a little bit after dinner (the backyard is a disaster area, and before all of this, we were going to see about hiring someone to clean it all up for us).

The twins like to run to the edges of the yard and get caught. Carrie especially likes to look at our crocuses nosing up through the dead leaves and greening grass, and Isaac likes to watch trucks rush past on their way to the farms up the street. 

Sam likes to run, just run. He runs from the porch to our big oak tree back to the porch then to the mailbox and back to the porch and to the lilac bushes and back to the porch. Being able to run with abandon helps him, I think, because our house is not a jungle gym, no matter what he thinks.

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I try to plan for Easter, such as it is. We have candy from the Easter Bunny, or at least half of what we’ll need (the other half I need to order from our local candy shop, which is taking orders but not in store shopping). The kids need nice Easter shoes, because even if we’re not DOING anything, I want them to look cute. It’s the twins’ first Easter able to do anything besides be confused about “why is this basket on my desk?” 

I mean, they’ll still be confused, just about more things than “why is this basket on my desk?”

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Nothing is normal, but it’s the new normal for at least the next month, probably longer, at least if people are smart about this. I’m still working through my feelings about everything, kind of picking at them a little bit day by day and seeing how my dreams/nightmares play them out. I think the only real waking fear I have is not about famine or a lack of toilet paper or anything like that but of getting sick myself, knowing that my lungs are kind of crap and that, at the very least, I’d likely be one of the young people ending up in the hospital and on a ventilator, away from my husband and kids for weeks on end. Without the kids, I think I could stand it, but just knowing what it would do to them…

I have a friend who’s an RN in an ICU, and even though I don’t really pray, I pray for her, to anyone or anything that might be listening. She has three kids, just like I do, two boys and a girl. She can’t even snuggle with them anymore, not until this has all passed, and it breaks my heart for her. 

Basically, I just want everyone to hurry up and stay home and behave. I saw a post earlier about this whole thing being like when you were in elementary school and some kids just wouldn’t stop acting up, so you kept losing more and more recess time, even though you weren’t doing anything wrong. Maybe it wasn’t fair, but the teacher couldn’t let the kids who were behaving outside while she stayed inside with the kids who weren’t behaving. So you watched as the bright spot in your day was gradually eaten away because people didn’t know how to act. 

Maybe it’s because I tend autistic, or maybe it’s because it’s in the nature of the oldest child to loathe getting in trouble for something not your fault more than for other kids (like we all hate it, but I think we oldest children hate it the most; I can see the loathing building in Sam’s mind every time we scold him for something the babies are doing too, and I have to remind him that he’s older and knows better), but GOD did I resent those kids. I don’t resent the dumbasses still going out and being Typhoid Marys around the world nowadays, but I do wish that someone would throw dirty diapers at their heads.

I think about them, and I think, “This stupid thing is just going to keep going, and it’s going to be 2021 before anything is over, and we’re going to just have this long, miserable time because people don’t know how to act. There goes everyone’s recess. There go people’s lives. Womp womp.”

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I let myself think that, and then I take a deep breath.

And I say, the first thing I’m doing when this is over is packing the kids up in the van and going to spend a day with my parents. 

I plan for going back to group with Isaac and Carrie and letting them play with all the plastic toys and watching them do more art and wreak more havoc, but this time, it’ll be slightly different havoc because Isaac will have his ABA therapist by then (let’s not get into that can of worms right now, I’m so tired). 

I imagine having a weekend day again where I go up to Michael’s and get whatever craft stuff I want for whatever dumb project I’ll never finish. Like maybe I’ll get photo albums or start scrapbooking or something, or at least think about it. And wandering through Barnes & Noble, enjoying the smell of ink on paper and coffee. And going to see a movie, taking all the kids to whatever crappy kids’ movie is out because we’re free to do so. 

And eventually going out to the mall, walking those long stretches of gleaming tile and popping my head into my favorite stores. Getting a free chocolate from Godiva. Setting the kids loose in the indoor playground after patiently wandering the Lego Store with Sam. Eating something that’s wretched for me from the food court and just not even caring. 

We’ll go to the beach this summer, plan it out a little more than our last trip. We’ll bring quilts and set up a full little camp on the sand, and take off a weekday to go (after all, Kyle has been working 7 days a week the past two weeks; who knows what it is about tech companies that drives them to think, “Ah, you’re working from home, that means all your hours are mine!”) so things will be less crowded and we can get a spot closer to the water.

(probably not Hampton Beach this time, though)

And we’ll have our road trip, in the fall or next fall, one or the other. We’ll pack the kids up in a rented van, we’ll see the roads, we’ll stop for gas and goodies. We’ll take 95 all the way down. We’ll stop at South of the Border, because I’ve always wanted to go but never have. We’ll see enormous fields of cotton and black eyed susans on the sides of the road. We’ll stay on the beach and then we’ll drive to Disney and we’ll be in that delightful bubble for a blissful week. 

This will happen, it will all happen eventually. This is what I think about to keep myself sane, because things are really hard and really scary right now, but it’s not forever, and in the end, we’re all in this together.

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Can I be blamed if I’m angry?
Can I be saved if I’m barely clinging to hope?
I’m clinging to hope

When I say oh, oh
Rain don’t change the sun
Jealous is the night when the morning comes
But it always comes
(Delta Rae, “Morning Comes”)

 

This Damn Week: A List

  • On Saturday, Isaac got norovirus.
    • We did not know, at the time, that it was norovirus.
    • We thought he just had a cold and had too much mucus in his system and it was just coming out all ends.
    • So we took him to the ER because he couldn’t keep fluids down.
      • He could have been there for two hours so that the Zofran would work and he’d be able to drink again.
      • By hour five, Kyle called me to ask me to bring Isaac’s usual bottle so that he would drink the fluids.
      • So my mom came to put Sam and Carrie to bed while I drove all the way to the hospital.
      • Only for Kyle to call as I was about to turn into the parking lot and say that just kidding, Isaac just drank the whole bottle.
  • Kyle and I were supposed to go on a date Sunday afternoon, but since Isaac had norovirus, that was out.
    • Instead, my dad came over and ate cake, and that was fine.
  • Monday was a holiday, and that was fine.
  • On Tuesday, Kyle worked from home. 
    • Which he does every Tuesday.
    • So when he finished work, he decided to take Sam to our local CVS to get a flu shot.
      • Despite having lost three hours of work to a random power outage halfway through the day.
      • (it was also pouring rain)
      • They were also going to buy groceries.
    • While they were gone, Isaac vomited profusely. 
      • It was impossible to clean.
    • And Sam couldn’t even get his flu shot because the power outage had caused the clinic’s supply to go bad.
  • On Wednesday, things mostly seemed normal, except I wasn’t hungry.
    • But mostly things were okay. 
    • My mother visited for an hour in the afternoon, and I had dinner with the kids.
    • After dinner, the kids started climbing on my lap.
    • I started feeling seasick.
      • Uh oh.
  • After Kyle got home, I barely made it upstairs before I, too, fell victim to the norovirus.
    • Cue six straight hours of running to the toilet every twenty minutes and not being sure which end was exploding.
      • (sorry)
    • And after that, cue the next eighteen straight hours of brutal muscle aches and a low grade fever.
    • Norovirus is a bitch.
  • BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!
    • Kyle and I share a toilet.
    • Sharing a toilet is a good way to pass norovirus from person to person.
    • About twelve hours after I first got sick, guess who also got sick?
      • (it was neither Sam nor Carrie)
  • So now we have two adults sick as can be, zero backup because we’re not inviting people into our plague shack, and three hyperactive children.
    • Child Sam is on break from school and will not stop running and scream singing “DIGGY DIGGY HOLE” all the time.
    • Child Isaac is HUNGRY but he’s also not 100% feeling better so he’s ANGRY because he doesn’t want any of his usual favorite foods and he’s very tired of Pedialyte.
    • Child Carrie is playing with Child Sam all the time at 9000 MPH and scream singing either “INTO THE UNKNOWN” or “BABY SHARK” while running around the living room.
    • My head.
  • Everyone finally seems somewhat recovered today, Saturday.
    • (this after completely losing both Thursday–when Isaac was supposed to have his ABA assessment–and Friday to illness)
  • Kyle and I feel well enough to start cleaning up after our illness.
    • We start a load of laundry.
    • When Kyle goes to switch the laundry, he discovers that the water did not drain.
    • He tries to fix the washing machine.
      • He finds $5 in change!
      • He does not fix the washing machine.
    • We cancel tonight’s D&D session so one of us can go to the laundromat.
  • At bedtime, we’re changing Isaac.
    • He has hives.
      • Wtf?
      • We have not started new foods.
      • We have not used new detergents.
      • He is not on new medicine.
    • So we call the nurse line.
      • Nurse line says that this can happen at the end of a virus and we should give him Benadryl.
      • Cool.
      • We don’t have Benadryl.
    • Everything gets pushed back an hour or so while we hunt down Benadryl and give it to him. 
  • Kyle just now got home with the laundry.
  • It is 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday.
  • I need a vacation.

Two of them

It’s coming, sooner than I want it to, mostly because I feel wholly unprepared.

It, of course, is my life as a stay-at-home mom of two two-year-olds. March 14, the twins turn two, and even though it won’t technically be all that much different from the day before, things are already starting to take a turn for the chaotic.

The biggest preview of things to come happened about two weeks ago. As part of Isaac’s therapy, we’re taking him (or trying to take him) to a parent-and-child group through our local Early Intervention center. I’d tried it before, when the twins were really young, but it hadn’t worked out because being a singular mom hauling around two babies with the exact same needs is… well, it’s rough. 

The twins were, I believe, barely past 5-6 months old at the time, not quite sitting up independently yet, and certainly not in a place yet where I could really settle them down and let them frolic. I mostly just sat on the floor, cross-legged, with the two of them lying in front of me, immobile and baffled by the suddenly crazy world around them. The other parents were chatting back and forth about how their kids were doing–this one had a GI appointment later this week, that one was finally taking a bottle without any struggle–but I could barely pay attention for more than a few seconds because the twins just. Didn’t want to be left alone on the floor. 

I couldn’t do it alone, I realized. Whether it was because of my own sensory issues making classroom settings stressful for me (too. much. talking.) or because having two infants and one parent makes doing things impossible, I couldn’t do it alone. And anyway, we didn’t really need group back then. It was mostly a playgroup for parents to come and talk about their struggles and get support, and while I’ll be the last one to suggest I don’t need support, I prefer the one-on-one kind or else support in chat windows. Face-to-face support is… stressful. 

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But then Isaac got his diagnosis, and one of the recommendations from his doctors was some sort of playgroup. Right now, he’s just old enough for the parent-and-child group, like before, and because Carrie is also in Early Intervention (at least until she stops being a little turd during evaluations and shows people what she can really do), she gets to come along, too. It’s a two hour session, once a week, and because Kyle works, I’ve asked my mom to join me on group days (which is great because half of the other adults there are grandmas as well) because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do it. And she’s graciously agreed to join me, and it’s all fun, we expected.

Except. The first day of group, she got a stomach bug, and she got it right as I pulled up to the center.

So I tried it alone again.

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What you first must understand about having twin two-year-olds is that unless a place is easily accessible by stroller, you’re going to have a helluva time getting in. I was recovering from bronchitis at the time (more on that in a second), and I had to haul these two children, neither of whom wanted to be carried, down a couple of flights of stairs to the classroom. I don’t blame the EI center for this, since they technically do have access around the back of the building, and they have an elevator as well (“elevator” in this instance meaning “manager’s lift from back when it was an industrial building”). I mostly blame my thought process of “well, we’ll just go in the front door because that’s less of a hike than walking around back.”

So twin two-year-olds down two flights of stairs, both of them wanting to get down but also not wanting to let go of me, and there’s no space on the stairs for any of us whatsoever. We finally got down to the classroom in time for the end of free play, and the twins had their first encounter with washing their hands in a weird place. By this age, Sam had been in daycare for about a year, so he was an old pro at washing his hands in strange places, but the twins have mostly just seen the inside of our downstairs bathroom and me coming after them with wipes. Carrie wanted nothing to do with the process and screamed and cried and refused to get her hands wet. Isaac, on the other hand, kept climbing up the step stool to play with the faucet again and again and again. 

Now here, one might ask, “well, why didn’t you pull him away?” or “why didn’t the teacher pull him away?” and I might say, “because my hands were full with Carrie, who was melting down utterly; and because the teacher had half a dozen other children plus the classroom schedule to take care of, as this is a group that has a more one-on-one dynamic.” 

Yes, Carrie was melting down, though Isaac recovered quickly from being prevented from making his dreams of flooding the room come true. He spotted a peg board like one we have at home and set to work making the tallest possible tower of pegs. Carrie, once she’d adopted a pouting acceptance of her fate, dutifully marched around the room to see what toys she could see, often coming over to sit on my lap and cry against my shoulder some more at the misery of it all. 

They both finally shuffled over to the play kitchen, which pleased me–they love watching me cook, they love watching cooking videos, and now they were getting a chance to try it out for themselves. Isaac hummed and babbled to himself as he tossed plastic ingredients into a pot (carrot, fried egg, doughnut?), and Carrie became… oddly enamored of a plastic spatula and a plastic watermelon slice. For a few minutes, they were very happy. 

I, too, was happy–happy enough to play with the Little People someone had scattered on the floor by my feet. I set up a summoning circle, and the Little People called forth the Little People Pope in his Little People Popemobile, and it was great.

And then, it was time to stop free play. 

The other kids were, I think, seasoned pros about this, or at least more of seasoned pros than either Isaac or Carrie, whose days at home have all the structure absurdist literature, which is to say little to none. Their switches between activities at home are fluid, and I don’t make them put away their toys before settling them in their high chairs or bringing them up to bed because I am tired and I don’t want screaming. At group, however, once free play is over, the free play toys need to be put away. Isaac was fine with this (hilariously, my autistic kid had the least issue with change) because he loves cleaning up, and seeing that these New Toys also had a Place basically made his life. 

But Carrie.

Dear, sweet Carrie. Carrie, who has developed an almost obsession with me lately, where even if I just step outside the room to go to the toilet, it sends her into a meltdown. Carrie did not want to give up her spatula and watermelon. 

I’m pretty sure I did it wrong. I asked nicely for the toys and, when she wouldn’t give them up, pried them from her vice like grip, which resulted in another tantrum. And I say tantrum, rather than meltdown, because there is a difference between the two. She wasn’t overtired or overstimulated, she just wanted to hold onto those two toys in particular and having to give them up made her Very Angry. It didn’t matter that it was circle time, and circle time meant songs. It only mattered that fuck you people, I want my spatula and my watermelon. 

And all the while, Isaac was running around the rest of the room. He discovered the trash can, which the teacher promised would be put away the next time we came (but for that time, it was not put away, and Isaac liked how the lid flipped around). 

I tried, I tried so hard to wrangle them both to the circle, but I could only hold onto one at a time. When they’re calm, I can do both. They rest their heads on my shoulders and conform to my body, and we’re happy. But Carrie was angry, and Isaac was excited, and their existence was chaos given form. Letting go of one to catch the other made it worse. Other children in the circle were less than happy to be there, but those other children had a parent apiece to keep them from running amok. Isaac and Carrie just had me. 

(sidenote here: I’m not mad at my mom for not being there; she got sick, and that happens. I’m just recounting how crazy it was and how it’s helped me realize that oh man, am I in over my head)

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Circle time was all about songs, with the kids who’d been there before maturely choosing a song they liked and adorably doing the hand motions. My kids, who had not been there before, either ran around the room like a crazy person (Isaac) or screamed and cried like I was tearing out their toenails one at a time (Carrie). Carrie did pay enough attention, however, to fall in love with the “fishy” song and how it ended with “bubbles… bubbles… bubbles… SPLASH!” I think it may have been the only thing she truly enjoyed about the experience.

After circle time, it was time for snacks, which prompted another ruckus from Carrie because hand washing. Isaac washed his hands once, went to the back of the line and washed his hands again, went to the back of the line and washed his hands again… while Carrie had to be forced to touch the water (she’s not like that at home at all… she’s kind of my little fish) and continued to sob hysterically when she couldn’t grab a bowl of peaches all by herself. 

It felt like I was upending this poor teacher’s entire day by having these two unruly kids. Everyone has a first day in group, I know, and all kids have bad days, but they were out of my control entirely. If I had one calmed down or under control, the other was off in the corner summoning Baphomet from the ninth circle of hell or something. 

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But at least the snack was okay. The other parents sat nicely with their kids who’d been there before, all of them using utensils in some approximation of correctness. My twins have little experience with utensils, since finger foods are just easier when you’ve got two, but Carrie gave it the old college try and ate her peaches in about three seconds flat. Isaac had no interest in peaches and instead dumped the bowl over with glee. They both selected pretzels and goldfish as part of their snack, and they would have done well, except they were next given open cups of water to practice with. 

Like. Okay. I know that I need to get them started on that. I know it’s something I should’ve been doing for a while. They’re almost two. Bottles should be ancient history.

But I remain tired and maybe I don’t want to deal with wet milky clothes every day all the time. 

Carrie gave it a try again, and she got thoroughly soaked, though she got some water in her mouth. Isaac grabbed the cup by the lip, and while I know I should have repositioned his hand and let him try again, all I could think of was how I was about to have two drowned rat children and it was 19 degrees outside.

So I took the cup away.

Undeterred, Isaac took Carrie’s cup and sat there merrily squishing every goldfish and pretzel he could find into it until the teacher finally came and took snacktime away, replacing it with craft time: black construction paper and chalk. 

Isaac ate the chalk, but it’s nontoxic, so whatever.

Carrie actually did a very good job, scribbling and stabbing and giggling all the while, which is probably why her next despair-a-thon started when it was time to give the chalk back in exchange for bubbles. 

I like bubbles time. Everyone likes bubbles time. All of the children calmed down and started laughing and chasing the bubbles. Blowing bubbles is a soothing breathing technique, and I felt some of my stress dissipate. Carrie even managed to blow a bubble of her own and squealed with pure joy when I caught it on the wand for her. 

And then it was time to move on. Free play, circle time, snack, craft, bubbles, and now gross motor play in the gym area two rooms down. The twins aren’t very good at being escorted places while holding hands because… well, a lot of reasons. With Sam, we had one child, so we took him out everywhere by himself, and we could hold his hands, and he got good at it. I took him out alone a lot. When Kat lived with us, she came with me. Taking Sam out was easy at most ages, and it still is; he’s a delight to have at any store, behaving himself quite well in exchange for a trip down the Lego aisle.

But the twins… I’ve been afraid. For good reason. I have two hands, exactly two, and any outing with two children requires more than two hands. You need at least one hand, probably two, for each child. You need hands for the stroller and hands for the diaper bag and hands for the inevitable “NO DON’T TOUCH THAT… oh, sorry, I’ll pay for it, sorry!” Being that I only have two hands, I don’t take the twins out by myself very much yet. I need to, I need to start doing it because how else will they learn? But…

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But. That’s basically the moral of this whole story. Everything is twice as hard with twins, which is why I haven’t been doing any of it, which is why they came to the parent-child group as a hot mess.

Somehow, I wrangled them down the hall and let them free. It was… something. Isaac is bad at following commands and ignored everyone who told him that slides are for sliding, not climbing, but later found a rocking horse and pure joy. Carrie just… up and slapped everyone she met. Hauled off and just, SMACK! Right in the face. I thought I saw it once or twice, turning around from helping Isaac to stop climbing up the slide, buddy, what did I say? but I only really caught it once, as I was bringing Isaac back from something else. I turned around, Carrie was facing this other little boy, and she just smacked him right across the mouth, twice, before heading off to do her own thing. 

“Carrie!” I admonished her, hurrying to find some way to scold her without dropping Isaac. The little boy seemed mostly unfazed, though he did lean against his mother sadly, and I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t bring myself to fess up and apologize. 

And then the twins got stamps on their hands and the group was over. I wrangled them back up the stairs, and right when I thought we were going to be okay, Carrie broke away from me, running past the receptionist’s desk and into a meeting room filled with heavy and dangerous office supplies. I had Isaac on one hip, the diaper bag on the other, my purse slung around my neck, and zero energy. “Carrie!” I cried again, and the receptionist looked concerned while doing nothing. 

I put Isaac down. He dissolved into sobs because I was clearly leaving him to be eaten by wolves. I put the diaper bag down. I put my purse down. I marched into the office after my little escape artist, who giggled merrily until I picked her up and then began screaming. I scooped up the diaper bag. I scooped up the purse. I scooped up the sobbing Isaac. I got us all out to the van, somehow, and got everyone buckled in, somehow, and I sat in my front seat and sobbed. 

It was just so much.

Group is a challenge for me from the start, because group means interacting with strangers, which is not something I do well. It means an unfamiliar environment. It means too much noise. It means new situations and strange schedules, and it means that I’m already parenting on hard mode just by being there. 

But add twins. 

Two little adorable kids, one of whom can’t talk at all yet, the other of whom is an impish diva gremlin child. They’re freaked out because it’s a weird place. They’re freaked out because it’s a weird schedule. They’re freaked out because there’s so much noise and so many people and everything happens so much. 

And congratulations to me, I think I just did parenting on hard mode tournament level. 

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I congratulate myself mostly because they came out in one piece, nobody got seriously hurt, and against every sense of self-preservation I have, we’re going back on Thursday (after missing last week because Isaac had a merciful 100 degree temperature, the exact cut off for “you can’t come to group today”). But man oh man do I feel like I’m shitting the bed on this parenting thing. I need to push them and teach them new things, but group made me realize just how behind I’ve been and just how ill-equipped we are for that sort of thing. Worse, it made me feel utterly incapable of doing… well, anything that involves them. How am I supposed to manage twin two-year-olds on a day-to-day basis if I can’t even keep them from wreaking total havoc in a group environment?

I remind myself that my mom will be there this time (hopefully), and that once Isaac’s ABA therapy starts, his therapist will be there. That it’s neither a race nor a competition. That they’re happy, healthy, and perfectly fine children, technically around where they’re supposed to be. 

But I also can’t help but look at it as a test where I didn’t exactly fail, but I won’t be getting a lot of praise, either. 

It also caused my bronchitis to relapse, and now I’ve got a nebulizer, so that’s fun.

I don’t know. I shouldn’t be in my feelings about this, I shouldn’t still be kicking myself about the whole situation, but I am. I feel like I’m failing them on some level that they’re nearly two and don’t have these basic things going on–the ability to transition from one activity to another without falling apart, the ability to drink out of a cup without a lid, the ability to not slap the living daylights out of other children who happen to exist. They’ve not had a lot of opportunities to practice those things, and I know that’s largely my fault, and it’s something I need to work on going forward, but I feel shitty that I haven’t… I don’t know, I guess been doing more to this point.

I don’t know. I don’t know. Two year old twins are a lot.

Right This Very Minute

There’s a weird thing that happens to me after Christmas, as I look at January on my calendars and realize that I have no plans whatsoever. I don’t need to figure out baking specifics and schedule supply runs for specific pay days. I don’t need to make sure the kids have specific outfits at specific times. I don’t need to do much at all in January, and even this year, when I’m looking at a whole bunch of specialist appointments for me and for Isaac (geneticist for Isaac, geneticist and endocrinologist for me), the first couple of months are so calm and nice.

I mean. That won’t last. And it’s mostly just January because the twins turn two in March and then there’s vacations and Easter and Sam’s birthday and basically from March until July 4, I’m going to be screaming like a velociraptor…

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…BUT FOR NOW, everything is copacetic!

Christmas was honestly pretty nice and lowkey, despite everything I ended up putting into it (lots of baking, lots of stuff for the kids, lots of everything), and that tends to be the case year after year, and I won’t complain about it. I was utterly spoiled this year, with SO MANY KITCHEN THINGS, ranging from a food processor (I can make pie crust now!) to a gloriously sweary oven mitt…

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…and then, of course, Kyle added a winter coat and a lovely necklace to the mix, so all-in-all, I feel quite loved and appreciated.

Kyle does as well, but that’s more in spite of me than because of me because GOSH but I hecked up his Christmas.

See. Okay.

The initial plan was to get him a nice, new camcorder because he’s always been about video production and editing. He has a degree in it, even! And although we had a camcorder, it was old and didn’t seem to work well, so we never used it and mostly just depended on our phones to commemorate special occasions in 60-second snippets. And that’s fine, but I kept thinking about how nice it was when I was a kid to have longer videos of our family life and how much fun Kyle has when he’s editing videos.

So I ordered the best reviewed camcorder on Amazon, at least in our price range, and did so after talking to him about it, as I have a personal policy on not buying big gadgets for people until after I’ve cleared it with them. Kyle was excited about it, the camera came with all sorts of accessories, and once it arrived, he set to work putting it together and trying it out…

…and found out that it does not, apparently, work with his computer or mine.

We’re not really sure why. It didn’t manage to record ANY video, despite us taking plenty, and connecting it to both of our computers just got a lot of “?????” from all devices. On the plus side, we discovered that our old camera works really well and has a TON of pictures from Sammy’s first birthday stored on it, so we do have a camera in the end. On the minus side, I still have to go and return the damned thing because what the hell even.

And ALSO on the minus side, because I figured the camera would be such a hit (and it would have been if it hadn’t sucked), I kind of got lazy about Kyle’s other Christmas presents. I got him a couch slipcover, with the mindset of “now we can put off getting a new couch for longer without stressing about our couch being disgusting!” because finances or something? I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know what I was thinking, and anyway, it doesn’t matter because the damned thing doesn’t even fit on our couch. It’s big enough, oh yes, but it’s designed for a specific shape of couch and that shape is not our shape.

So I’m 0 for 2, but I didn’t fail entirely. I also got Kyle a beard kit that includes a sheet to keep beard hair from falling in the sink and some beard shaper tools and combs and such, and he liked that a lot. And he liked the things I got him from the twins. 

Just. You know. Not from me. Womp womp. 

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The kids also had great Christmasses, and their gifts have been overall hits. Sam benefited from Minecraft only being $6.99 to put on his Kindle, so even though we’d stuck to our self-imposed limits of four presents from Santa and four from the family (from each of us: Kyle, me, Isaac, and Carrie), we added that to the list, and it’s basically made his life. And it’s been great because even though he’s in love with the game, he’s still been really good about sticking to his screen time limits without getting angry or complaining, so I’m pleased as punch there.

Isaac has been the hardest to shop for because his interests are a bit more complex than “Sam likes MInecraft” or “Carrie likes Elsa.” He likes figuring out the mechanics of various objects–how they work, how to turn them on or off, how to make them do what he wants–and he likes climbing on things. Eventually, once we’ve got off our asses and cleaned up the backyard some, he’ll have plenty of places to climb around, so we mostly focused on puzzles and mechanical toys, which have all been hits to varying degrees. He mostly just seems happy that he’s got a week with both me and Kyle home to play with him, because he’s too sweet for words.

And Carrie, sweet Carrie, has discovered (though not to her disadvantage!) that having narrow and specific interests makes Christmas very easy for people. She received a grand total of three different plush Elsas, all of which she adores (though only one of which is she allowed to bring to bed every night) along with a periwinkle blue “Elsa” cloak that she asks for by adorably saying, “coke! coke!” at us. She is also confused by Kyle having this week off, but is mostly happy about it… though also sometimes prone to tantrums about it if she realizes that, despite there being two parents home, neither is currently paying her All Of The Attention.

So overall: good times. I’m excited right now about having the Christmas-to-New-Year’s Fugue Week to eat all the candy we got for the holiday, return the camcorder and slipcover, and basically just exist without any conscious understanding of the passage of time; and then I’m excited about having January be a much slower month than the last ~3-4 have been in terms of Stuff To Do, because this year is going to be absolutely wild once it picks up steam. 

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But in the meantime, it’s time to breathe.

Isaac

When I was pregnant with the twins, I had this nagging fear about Isaac, that I’d have a hard time bonding with him. I was excited to welcome Carrie into the world, not just because she was my child but because she was the girl I’d dreamed of having for a very long time. And it’s not to say that I wasn’t excited about Isaac–he was a surprise blessing, the second baby on the ultrasound where we expected to see nothing–but most of my excitement about him came about in an “and” sense. 

It terrified me. I didn’t want any of my children to feel like an “and” and I still don’t. I didn’t want Isaac to be that middle child that faded into the background beside his big brother and little sister. I wanted him to know that he was powerfully, wildly loved, even if I couldn’t conjure up the emotions supporting that fact when I was the size of a small whale. And I was terrified, utterly terrified, that I’d never bond with him the way I bonded with Sam, the way I expected to bond with Carrie. I wasn’t jumping out of my skin with excitement about having another boy, and I was afraid that would translate to my bond with Isaac taking more time to arrive.

Spoiler alert: SUPER didn’t happen. The instant they brought him close to me in the operating room, I fell in love in a way I never have before. I love all of my children equally, of course, and I fell in love with each of them in different ways. With Isaac’s, it was like all the bonding that I hadn’t been feeling over the 34 weeks of my pregnancy hit me in one sucker punch of adoration. I cried when I heard his cry for the first time, and then when I actually saw him, I cried again because of how much I suddenly loved him. 

I have a special bond with all three of my kids. Sam is my partner in crime. Carrie is my little princess. But Isaac is kind of my person, and he has been since the day he was born. When he was really little and the twins used to nap in the mornings while Sam watched TV and I dozed on the couch, Isaac would wake up fussily about 45 minutes in and not relax until he was resting against my chest. I know it’s not safe to sleep with your kid like that, but we did, me with my arm gently around him and him listening to my heartbeat. 

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Something about the way he viewed and interacted with the world clicked with me, the way it didn’t quite click with Sam or Carrie. Not to put too much stock into what’s a glorified Quizilla quiz, but Sam and Carrie are huge extroverts with a desperate need to be seen. Sam’s favorite words are, “Hey mom, look at this!” and Carrie has taken to putting both of her hands on my cheeks so that I can’t look away from her while she babbles in her little baby tongue (probably about Elsa or Darth Vader; she’s quite articulate). I love them. I love singing and dancing with Carrie. I love Sam’s neverending rambles about Minecraft.

Isaac is on my wavelength, though.

Isaac’s way of showing he loves you is first to give you things, and they don’t always make sense. A couple of days ago, he saw his speech therapist for the first time in well over a month (because vacations and holidays make schedules weird), and he was so excited to see her that he brought over a pair of pants (Carrie’s) and one of his blocks; when she put those down, he rushed away to find something new that she might like (his brother’s stuffed puppy and an old cracker). 

He’ll look at you until he’s used to you, and then he’ll ignore you completely… for the most part. When he’s acknowledged and understood the people in a given space, he’ll mostly make his own noises–lots of loud “AAH!!” or just random babbling–while figuring out the mechanics of things or building his own stepladder to something he’s not supposed to reach (read: having a Christmas tree has been fun). You can call his name until you’re blue in the face, but unless interacting with you is his idea, he’ll ignore you completely (again: fun times with the Christmas tree). He’s so insanely clever with figuring things out; he can turn things on and off again with buttons that are completely hidden from him and supposed to be so. He experiments with how things move and work, and his absolute adoration of lightswitches is both adorable and aggravating in the same breath.

If he does want to play with you, you do not get a choice in the matter. If you ignore him when he comes over to you, he yells in your face until you pay attention. He climbs into your lap like the little mountain goat that he is. If he wants you to move your hands in a certain way, he adjusts your fingers, your wrists, deftly puts everything where it ought to be with gentle movements, and then moves himself into place to play whatever game you’re playing (today, it was “got yer nose!” and he pushed my thumb between my middle and forefinger then smashed his head against my hand several times to make sure I understood what he wanted). 

But when he loves you, oh, when he loves you. He climbs up on you and hugs you, his right arm tight around your neck, his cheek resting against your right shoulder. And he stays there, content, holding onto you. He does this in the morning and he does this at night, and he does it if something upsets him. He’s moved away from giving kisses (except to his sister, because they both think it’s hilarious that someone small like them exists in the house), but when he’s tired, he snuggles, his head nestled against your left shoulder, his body relaxing against you, releasing all the tension it usually holds. He doesn’t say your name (except when you’re not around to hear it), but when he sees you, his entire face lights up like a sunrise. He doesn’t scream for joy like Carrie or start telling you Every Little Thing like Sam, but you catch sight of that smile and you’re in love.

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Isaac, my sweet, lovey boy, has autism.

We’ve suspected for a long time, even longer than you’re supposed to suspect (they won’t do tests until your child is eighteen months old); something about him just pinged something in me. Today, we had an evaluation done to learn if our suspicions–and those of our EI specialists–were correct, and they were. He’s autistic, neurodiverse, his symptoms only setting him apart from a neurotypical child of his age a very little bit. The skills that would pull him out of even that diagnosis are inconsistent, at best, and so he is autistic, and so he qualifies for interventions. 

I’ve been trying to parse my feelings on this since we left the doctor’s office around 2 this afternoon, because they’re hard to parse. On the way in, I was crying and hoping that if he had any neurodiversity, they’d see it so that he wouldn’t grow up thinking that he was bad at being a person but instead knowing that his brain just works in a different way. For a heartbeat in the office, I was terrified that they’d adopt a “watchful waiting” approach, which is the conservative way of doing things for a child so young like Isaac (who, although he’s technically 21 months old, actually falls into the category of being about 19 months old because yay, prematurity). But they didn’t. He is autistic.

The trouble I’ve had since is that (a) the next steps are daunting, to say the least (please, please, please let this be something our EI services coordinator can help us with), and (b) I hate the way therapy and services get discussed. 

For (a) they gave me an enormous packet of information that I didn’t have a chance to read through until I got home because the evaluation was in the middle of Isaac’s naptime. Kyle got to it before I did, as I was sitting there and hugging my exhausted child, and he kept asking me what certain paragraphs and sentences meant and what we could do with them and if I’d have to be driving all over the Commonwealth to get Isaac to all these therapists, and I honestly had no idea how to answer him. There were so many recommendations and ideas, and it was all so overwhelming. 

It’s Christmas the day after tomorrow, and I’m not going to try and dive into everything right now because even if I did try, nothing is open. I don’t know if anything will be open until after the first of the year, which is unhelpful, but at the same time, it kind of grants some breathing room before everything changes again.

I know a lot of it will probably be groups and small classrooms, which is something I’ve been wanting for Isaac (and Carrie) for a while, but is also something we couldn’t afford to do privately. With this recommendation, I hope they’ll get that chance for socialization that I can’t provide them; it did Sam so much good when he was their age, and I’d not be surprised if it sweeps away those last bits of prematurity clinging to them. 

I know a lot of it will be ABA, which terrifies me on a lot of levels because I don’t know what it entails, and a lot of the autistic adults I’ve read stuff from and spoken with have given ABA harsh criticism. Our insurance won’t cover therapies like Floortime or RBI because they don’t have the bodies of research devoted to them that ABA does, and we just can’t afford to pay out of pocket. And it’s like… I’ll take the ABA, but only as long as Isaac’s therapists have the same goals I have, those being not to erase or cover up his autism but to help him find ways to communicate his wants and needs to a world built for neurotypicals. I don’t care if he’s flapping his hands or spinning or stimming in a way that makes people stare, as long as he’s not hurting anyone.

Which brings me to (b) because all of the therapy and services seem geared towards “curing” or “reversing” his autism, and I’m just like… that’s not? how it works? I don’t want to cure or reverse anything about him. He is my baby. He is a piece of my heart. I do want him to be able to communicate with us for his own sake, whether that means we all learn ASL or he has a tablet where he points to pictures or he actually expresses things verbally. I want him to be happy, and I want him to be able to take care of himself, however he can, once Kyle and I aren’t able to do so anymore. 

Like the way they were talking about therapy just really turned me off… they were saying that because he’s so young, ABA could give us a complete reversal of symptoms and he wouldn’t be autistic anymore. And I just… don’t want him to be not autistic anymore. I don’t want to train that out of him like he’s a puppy with bad behavior. I want him to be able to talk to us, I want him to be able to focus his attention and take care of himself and cope with sensory overload (or underload, he seems to be something of a sensory seeker), but I don’t want him to stop lining up blocks and balls or taking apart toys to make them work differently or spinning or flapping his hands when he gets excited. That’s part of who he is. I don’t want that to go away. 

GOD I hope the ABA people are open to me saying all of this. I’m not trying to get him therapy in order to remove autism from the equation. I’m getting him therapy to help my autistic son cope with a world that doesn’t understand how his brain works so that maybe, when he’s 36 years old assuming the world doesn’t burn to a crisp by then, he won’t have spent a lot of his life enumerating things that are wrong with him (weird, unprofessional, antisocial, too quirky, off), but will instead be able to say that he’s a delight who just happens to be autistic. That he’ll be able to plan for that when searching for work or meeting people or socializing so that he can live the absolute best life he can.

So that’s where I am, emotionally. He’s autistic, and I don’t feel at all sad about that. If anything, I feel a little happy, which a lot of people would probably find weird, but he really is my person. I get the way his brain works. I appreciate it. But I’m scared of therapy, and I’m angry about the language used, as if it’s trying to delete who he is because it doesn’t fit into a neurotypical mold. I don’t care if he flaps his hands or spins or lines things up in a row or is obsessed with trains. I just want him to be able to say, “I’m hungry” to people who aren’t me (I can 100% tell when he’s hungry without him using words) and then be able to step away if the world is too much for him. I want him to know who he is, and that he’s incredible, even if he doesn’t fit into a neurotypical mold. 

And I’m afraid that, as we move forward with therapy, I’ll have to choose between helping him communicate and have a sense of self and having him forced into a mold that doesn’t fit him. 

Lessons in Traveling

WHEW.

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I feel like that should sum everything up in and of itself–WHEW. WHEW, that was a trip. WHEW, I can’t believe we did that. WHEW, did I mention the part where we drove for 21 hours straight because a snow storm was coming?

See, we decided this year to pack the kids up and drive down to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with Kyle’s family, largely because (a) flying five people round trip to Texas is very expensive, and (b) we hadn’t been to Texas since before the twins were born. That meant that the twins hadn’t yet met a LOT of Kyle’s family, and I’m not a fan of that. And when you factor in that Kyle and I haven’t really spent any major holidays with his family in a very long time, it sort of seemed like a no-brainer to us.

We knew going into it that the trip would be harrowing in a lot of ways, and it was–hell, the last day of the trip was that 21-hour drive straight from Birmingham, Alabama, to our home in Massachusetts to try and outrun the snow storm that was bearing down on us.

(we did outrun it; more on that later)

And here, two days home, I’m exhausted but writing this all down while it’s still fresh in my mind because we learned a lot, and I want that to exist somewhere for me to see or for someone else to see. Hence: what we’ve learned about traveling with three children under the age of 6.

#1. Rent a bigger car than you think you’ll need, and pick it up the day before you leave.

My father-in-law graciously offered to  help us pay for the rental car, since our minivan, much though I love it, is something of a fossil. I don’t mind trusting it when we’re within a tank of gas from the house (read: up to Maine, down to New York, that sort of thing), but if we’re halfway across the country, I get concerned. The problems it could have at this age would lead to us being stranded VERY far from home, so a rental car seemed our best option.

I wanted to be nice and helpful, so I chose the least expensive rental option that could seat seven passengers, and therein lay my first mistake: I didn’t calculate for luggage. We ended up with a fantastic Kia Sorento (P.S. to Kia: your 2020 Sorento is a fantastic car, and I love it and wish it was my car always) that definitely fit all three kids… but we also had to squeeze in two pack n plays, a double stroller, an enormous suitcase, three small day bags, snacks for everyone, puke clean up supplies (more on that in a minute), and Christmas presents. Kyle managed to get everything in on the way down, but on the way back… well, thankfully, my mother-in-law had been planning to ship some of our Christmas gifts to us anyway.

It was a tight fit is what I’m saying.

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I’d also scheduled the rental to begin on the day we planned to leave–that is, Friday, November 19–figuring that packing the car itself would be much easier and less time consuming than packing the bags.

I was wrong.

I think Kyle and I made record time packing the suitcases on Thursday night. We rolled everyone’s outfits like cake and stuffed suitcases without thinking twice. We had everything we planned to bring all set up by the front door well before we crashed for the night, and we even had time to spend just vegging that evening. The next day, however, even though I went to get the car pretty early, we still didn’t get everything into said car until almost 11:00, largely because we had so much stuff and so little space that Kyle had to play a game of Tetris to make sure it all fit.

(he was okay with it because, as he points out every time we do anything, he was the quartermaster for his Boy Scout troop, and he can make anything fit anywhere)

That late departure followed us for the rest of the day, because…

#2. If you will be driving through a major city, plan your entire day around being stuck in traffic.

…day one was also the drive through New York City. Had we left when I’d expected us to, around 9 a.m., we’d have reached NYC around lunch time and been long gone before rush hour. But we did not. The car needed packing and that took a year, and it was nearly–or even past, I’m not sure which–11:00 by the time we pulled out of our driveway.

And, factoring in one (1) stop for lunch and one (1) stop for a bathroom break just outside the city, we hit New York right as everyone was leaving work the Friday before Thanksgiving.

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Weirdly enough, our GPS didn’t direct us around the city, even with knowledge of the snarl we’d gotten ourselves into. I don’t imagine the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is the route around New York City, was much better, and without traffic, that route adds another hour and a half to any given drive through New York. Regardless, we planned poorly and found ourselves scooting along at two-and-a-half miles an hour through Manhattan on the Friday before Thanksgiving.

On the plus side, everyone inside the car remained in mostly good spirits, because what can you do? In that level of traffic (which was obscene, I cannot emphasize this enough), you can’t get off onto side streets because that’ll just make everything worse. You can’t pull over onto the shoulder because the shoulder is taken up by cars already. You just have to put on some music or a podcast you like and hunker down for the long haul and pray that nobody in your car gets car sickness.

We are not so lucky.

#3. If your child has ever gotten car sick, they will get car sick on your trip.

Both of my boys have gotten car sick in the past, but with both of them, Kyle and I thought we’d gotten to the route of the problem and wouldn’t have to worry about puking for the entire trip. Isaac faced forward, which helps him see the horizon (not ideal, but I wanted to do what I could to help him), and we made sure to block sunlight from his face as we drove so he wouldn’t have to deal with the strobe effect.

And yet.

An hour out from our house, it began, right before we stopped for lunch. We heard a cough, a sob, and then liquid, and sure enough, everything Isaac had eaten so far that day was now on his lap, reminding us that milk before a car trip is always a mistake. We pulled over for lunch, changed his clothes, figured he’d gotten it all out of his system, and carried on.

But it was about to get so much worse.

New York City rush hour traffic is rough on even the most iron of stomachs. The stop-and-go nature of the traffic makes your stomach’s contents lurch dangerously, even if you never get car sick. If you do get car sick, you are so deeply, wretchedly, horribly screwed.

Thus, about 10 minutes into our scoot through New York City, Isaac threw up. And did so another five times before we left the city.

I’m proud of us because we didn’t give him milk at lunch, but I’m annoyed because we didn’t plan for his pukeyness happening more than once that day. Usually, he gets the Treatment: Benadryl (which has the same active ingredient as Dramamine, the more you know), a bib of some sort to cover his clothes, and several rolls of paper towels at our disposal. For some reason, though, we didn’t expect him to keep throwing up after the first time, so when we buckled him back in after lunch, it was without any of those things.

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We eventually pulled off into some really shitty service plaza just off the George Washington Bridge so that we could get Isaac cleaned up and so that Sam and I could stretch our legs a bit. We’d gotten to New York City at around 3, and by the time we stopped, it was past 6. AUGH!

It didn’t end there, though, oh no. On the drive back, Isaac started puking again, though we were prepared for him this time, with bibs and paper towels and such. We were not, however, prepared for what happened on our last day driving, when Sam’s stomach ache turned into projectile vomit all over the back of the rental car in the middle of the night in North Carolina. Sam hadn’t gotten car sick before that point since he got ear tubes put in when he was about the twins’ age. He had nothing in the back seat to catch the puke or prevent it from going, well, everywhere.

…I totally forgot to tell the car rental place about that. Oops.

But then again, I’m tired because…

#4. You will not get any sleep ever.

This can really be broken down into 4A. No sleep in hotels, and 4B. No sleep because driving; they both play into each other, though.

We brought the twins’ pack n plays with us, but while we were on the road, we may as well have just never used them. Both twins screamed and sobbed until we held them between us in our hotel bed, and though Kyle and I don’t usually bedshare (tl;dr – we are fat people, and though we are trying to lose weight, we have not yet lost enough to fit three children between us in a queen size bed), it was the fastest way to get them to sleep.

And that would’ve been fair! Except as anyone who’s ever bedshared knows, it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not the parents get any sleep throughout the night. The last night in the last hotel, the twins arranged themselves horizontally between us, giving Kyle and I each about 6” of bed space, so we spent our precious few hours in bed trying very hard not to fall off and make a loud noise that would wake up everyone (including Sam, who was very much about sleeping whenever we were in a hotel).

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(look at all that space they left for us!)

Even when they weren’t making us into a human H, the twins found ways to make themselves comfortable at our expense. I woke up the second morning of the drive because Carrie was desperately trying to meld her head with mine or make my head softer or SOMETHING; basically, she was driving her head into my head. And my GOD did that ever hurt. Isaac, meanwhile, would wake up in the middle of the night and just be patting me all over and giggling to himself as the excess skin he gave me jiggled for his amusement. Very funny when I’m awake; kind of a nuisance when I’m asleep.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the driving hadn’t been exhausting, but it was. Our New York day set us up for awful driving schedules; we didn’t get to our hotel that night until well past 2 a.m., and the following morning, we slept in and spent more hours than we should have washing Isaac’s clothes in the hotel’s laundry facilities. And because of that, we didn’t get to the next night’s hotel until well past 2 a.m., and even when we got an earlyish start on the third day, we still didn’t get to our final destination until past 10 at night.

I thought I’d planned our days so well, but I didn’t realize…

#5. The unexpected will happen.

I mean, that’s just life with kids, but it still hits you like a ton of bricks when it does happen.

On the way down, it was the NYC traffic kerfluffle that messed us up and had ripple effects for the rest of the drive. We had a marvelous visit in Texas that included an early Christmas, a late birthday date, and a delightful Thanksgiving feast; and all too soon, it was time to leave again.

Which… well, rewind for a minute. When we’d started talking about this trip, my in-laws had worried that we’d run into a blizzard during the drive, which made me sensibly chuckle.

giphy-2

Southern New England–and especially the regions we’d drive through on later days–doesn’t really see huge amounts of snow this early in the season. We may get flurries on Thanksgiving, but the last time I remember there being appreciable snow in late November/early December, I was nine. We can typically plan for December through January to be cold but dry or rainy at the most, and for most of the snow to dump on us in February and March. The idea, therefore, of a blizzard hampering our travel over Thanksgiving was a bit silly.

But then, of course, because we’d said aloud that we weren’t worried about snow, the forecasts started talking about a snowstorm. A big snowstorm. Upwards of a foot of snow, maybe more, and ice and mixing stuff, all along the 95 corridor, which is where we’d be driving.

When we left Texas, the day after Thanksgiving, Kyle and I had no idea what we wanted to do about this mess. Should we try and hunker down somewhere until the snow was gone? Should we stick to our plan and hope for the best? Should we leave super early on the final day of our drive and pray we’d beat the storm by enough of a margin that it wouldn’t be a big deal?

We didn’t make our decision until the very last second, when we’d stopped for supper at QuikTrip in Charlotte, North Carolina. We still had another six or so hours before we could turn in for the night, but we didn’t know if anything else would come up before we reached our hotel. We’d need to spend another half hour or so getting everyone settled in the hotel once we arrived, and then we’d have to get up and start driving by 3 a.m. if we wanted to beat the storm and the traffic.

So we bit the bullet and said, “You know what? Let’s just drive straight on through.”

justdoit

I went back into the QuikTrip and stocked up on overnight snacks. We vaguely planned out our shifts but mostly just planned to switch drivers whenever we got too tired to keep our eyes open OR whenever we stopped for gas. I agreed to take the first shift and downed a grape Extra Strength Five Hour Energy, and we were off on what would end up being a 21-hour driving day.

And honestly? It was probably one of the easier days we had. The twins and Sam slept through most of it, and Kyle and I were able to switch out our shifts with relative ease. And I’m proud of myself–while Kyle snored obliviously beside me, I successfully navigated the highways and byways of both Washington, D.C., and New York City–albeit, in the small hours of the morning, so the streets were mostly empty.

Every time we looked at the road around us, we agreed that we’d made the right choice. We zipped through the Jersey Turnpike without so much as a drop of rain falling on the car; the Jersey Turnpike promised to be slick with ice the next day. As I drove through New York City, I came across an enormous truck that had failed to heed the warning signs blasting across the previous six miles of road that the bridge was too short; the truck had crumpled like a soda can, and the police were only just setting up flares around him. I can only imagine what that did to traffic afterwards.

By the time the first snow started falling, we’d been home for five hours. Kyle and I had both enjoyed naps in our own bed. We got a pizza from our favorite local place for dinner and stayed warm and safe throughout the worst of the storm. It was a great decision.

But I am still tired.

In the end, though, I have no regrets. I’ll absolutely do things differently next time–rent a minivan, pick it up the day before we leave, cover Isaac and Sam in tarps (Carrie, bless her, did so well in the car with her only complaint being a lack of cuddling), leave at midnight to avoid NYC traffic, and just plan for everything that could possibly go wrong to do so–but I don’t regret this trip or anything that happened on it. We had an amazing time! From Sam exclaiming in delight that he saw “trillions of lights” in New York City to Kyle and I giggling in a sleep-deprived giddiness as we pulled up to our house at the end, it was an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to do it all again.