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”)

 

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.

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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.”

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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.

It’s the Holiday Season…

I love the holidays, though my definition of “the holidays” differs from most people’s in that I firmly believe “the holidays” begin with Halloween and end with New Year’s because those are the temporal boundaries of my other busy season (the primary busy season lasting from March through July). During what I’ll call a twelve week span (because let’s be real–October first is the very latest we all start celebrating Halloween), I’m constantly baking and getting the kids ready for things and wrapping presents and baking and traveling and baking and did I mention baking?

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(for the record: I love all the baking I do, but it’s a lot between October 1 and January 1)

As of this writing, my holiday season has been in full swing for about a month, with the first holiday happening last week. Halloween was unseasonably warm this year, and that turned it into an adventure for everyone. I baked the cupcakes I’d signed up to bake for Sam’s class party…

…and they were apparently a big hit! And honestly, they were great fun to do, at least partly because Kyle helped with the decorating. We spent two evenings together in the kitchen baking and mixing and mixing and decorating, and per his report, the whole experience was highly satisfying (his favorite part was rolling the cupcakes in sprinkles after they’d been frosted, and I can’t blame him). 

Our Halloween plans had otherwise been to attend the school’s trunk or treat (since our neighborhood is garbage for trick-or-treating–no sidewalks and halfway up a really steep hill that people like to drive down at about 300 MPH) and show off the kids’ costumes. For Isaac, we ended up getting an embarrassingly cheap dragon costume (and I say “embarrassingly” because it was horrible quality and way larger than the site suggested it would be, leading to a very difficult time when he eventually did wear it), and Carrie got a very floofy version of Rapunzel’s dress along with a gorgeous braid headband. Sam was, of course, Darth Vader. 

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But anyway, we wanted to go to the trunk or treat, but that first got rescheduled because of mosquitoes (Massachusetts was having a pretty bad EEE outbreak this year, but we had a hard frost a couple of days ago so TAKE THAT YOU BLOOD SUCKING MONSTROSITIES) and then it got cancelled because of rain. This left us without any sort of trick-or-treating for the kids (because our hill is dangerous in good weather, never mind when it’s pouring out) until my mom gamely agreed to come with me and take the kids to a local mall for trick-or-treating there.

This was something of a mistake.

Our local malls vary from “pretty nice, actually” to “why is this still open?” and this mall tends towards the latter category. Thirty years ago, it was a really nice place with fancy restaurants and a really posh feel to it, a classier version of the typical 80s mall. As is the case with most malls, however, time and changing trends in retail chipped away at its poshness and left it somewhat of a shell. It’s still got a singular anchor store (there’s a Sears, which gives me questions, and the other anchor spot is now taken by a doctor’s office) and the skeleton of a food court, along with a handful of mall fixtures (American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Journeys, etc.), but it’s definitely a shadow of its former self. 

A disheartening number of storefronts were vacant when we got there on Halloween, and the fronts that were open ran out of candy pretty quickly–I don’t think anyone at the mall anticipated the entire county coming to trick-or-treat there rather than face the rain. Sam had a grand time because he’s five and got lots of candy (a full set of Dum Dums! I’ve never seen one of those before!), but the twins were wailing by about 10 minutes in, and my mom and I were both exhausted at the end of the adventure.

So. Here’s hoping that next Halloween has pleasant temperatures and no rain.

(but at least the kids looked cute! For all 5 minutes they all stayed in their costumes)

And now it’s today, which is my birthday.

Did I do anything to celebrate? Well, I wanted to, but the kids shared a wonderful cold with me, so I spent most of last night with a throat too sore to allow talking and most of today wishing I could be horizontal. Kyle, being the star that he is, stepped in and made the batch of brownies I’d planned to make for myself and, since he was working from home today anyway, let me get a nap in while the twins were napping, which will hopefully help me recover from this cold quicker and without any trips to urgent care because of breathing (because the last thing I either need or want is to get pneumonia again). 

So things have been lowkey, but I need that. We’ve been juggling a lot of adventures lately with the twins especially, namely that Isaac has been fast tracked on the path towards an autism diagnosis and Carrie still qualifies for early intervention services.

Carrie first: she had her annual evaluation today to see if her development has caught up to where it should be, and the hilarious thing is that she’s basically where she ought to be when she’s not being observed. When she is being observed, as we discovered today, she’s pretty behind in a couple of areas, namely fine motor and receptive communication. 

But she’s not actually behind.

Most of the areas where she scored “behind” were items on the test that she knows how to do and does often, but today, when asked to do them in front of the EI evaluation team, she gave an impish little smirk…

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…and ran off giggling to hide behind the couch. Cue my little genius communicator getting much lower scores in fine motor skills and receptive communication than I know she’s capable of. On some level, this should bother me, but I’d rather she get services and not need them than need them and not get them. Worse comes to worse, they reevaluate in six months and she doesn’t get services anymore after that, or else she just gets a little supplemental help and EI helps with her preschool placement in 2021 (wow, that’s an actual year, that’s bizarre).

And then there’s Isaac.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned my concerns about him relating to autism… well, less concerns, more “I’m autistic myself, my entire family is autistic, I know what it looks like, and he looks like he’s going in that direction.” Our wonderful services coordinator got the ball rolling for diagnosis, but because he was only 17 months old at the time, we couldn’t do a lot because most diagnostics won’t say much until a kid is at least 18 months old (which I hate because if you’re living in a bright, loud world and can’t filter out sounds and sights, important to unimportant, and get so exhausted because of it and have a hard time having conversations or learning language because you’re so overwhelmed… like, wouldn’t you want to name that and learn coping skills ASAP?). 

But we started anyway. We took the ASQ and the M-CHAT, both of which mostly look at autistic traits–that is, traits that are common in people with autism. Things like lack of eye contact, stimming, repetitive behavior, the typical “that child has autism” traits, you know. Those both kind of bugged me because they felt like they were reducing autism to a checklist of traits, which I haaaaaaaate

BUT then came the RITA-T, which we did last week. The RITA-T actually looks more closely at behavior that makes sense when you understand how autistic brains function (i.e., it’s hard to split your focus because so much sensory input is competing for your attention, and you can’t automatically filter it like a neurotypical person would). The test focuses on something called “joint attention,” trying to split your attention between a toy you’re playing with alongside another person and the person sharing the toy with you. It also focuses on how you’re interpreting sensory input (e.g., how Isaac reacted to me pretending to cry, how he reacted when I called his name with a blank expression, etc.). 

And, well. Isaac scored high enough to qualify for fast tracking towards diagnosis at our local hospital. 

Fast tracking essentially means that instead of us having to play telephone games trying to get in touch with someone, the EI specialists send in the paperwork for us. Fast tracking means that instead of facing a 6-18 month wait for an appointment, we’re looking at a 6 week wait. And that’s a huge difference. Six months would put us at Isaac being two years old, skipping over a lot of development. And eighteen months would put us at Isaac being three years old and aging out of EI services altogether. That it’s been fast tracked means that if he gets a diagnosis (which seems very likely at this point), he’ll be able to receive the services and therapy he needs to help him cope with a very overstimulating world and hopefully start preschool already better prepared than he would otherwise be. 

So. We’ll see what happens there. In the meantime, I’ve got 16 days until we do something absolutely insane and pack up the whole family in a rental car to drive down to Texas for Thanksgiving! Until next time and a wild trip report…

(oh also I have purple hair now)

Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some ideas I’ve had and discarded:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how do you costume any of that?

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

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

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

I think he can be a dragon. 

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

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

So maybe he’ll be a dragon.

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

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

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

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

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

Also I love babies.

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

Starting with the Halloween costumes.

12 Years, 178 Days to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What they deserve

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

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

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

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

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

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

(the jury is still out on Isaac and Carrie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What have we learned?

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

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

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

So. What have I learned?

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

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

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

But.

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

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

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

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

It is not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The twins? Not so much.

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

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

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

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

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

10: I love my life. I really do.

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

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

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

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

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

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A Post with No (Few) Words

I’m not writing much today, since things remain relatively… normalish. Kyle is going back to work tomorrow, I should get an all-clear at my postpartum appointment on Friday, Sam’s birthday is in 19 days, and the twins are doing very well (save for some constipation issues, but that’s the name of the game in this house). No, today, I wanted to just post some of the pictures from our newborn/family photo shoot last week,  because they make me happy.

(all pictures were taken by Melanie Haney from Simply Mella Photography. Real talk: if you’re in Massachusetts or New Hampshire and need a photographer, hire Melanie. She’s amazing)

 

(that’s Isaac on the left and Carrie on the right)

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