Today was Sarah’s first full day of Kindergarten and Norah’s first full day of PreK3 – both at the same school.
I’d love to say that the whole event went off without a hitch, but it was more like driving full speed down a road full of potholes that we just kept falling into and stumbling out of over and over again.
It began the night before. No, let me back up, it started Friday. Friday was kindergarten orientation, which was fine. Lots of listening to policies and procedures while sitting in bleachers and tiny 5-year-old sized chairs. But it was good, that is until I took Sarah home and realized Luke was running fever… one that quickly escalated to over 104 and sent me into panic mode and left me feeling off balance the entire weekend. There were sleepless nights spent trying to cool an exhausted sick baby down in a bathtub at 3 a.m. and lots of panic adrenaline that left me feeling tired and empty.
Fast forward to last night. I was busily trying to gather all the things two little girls would need for school the next day, do dinner, take care of all four very busy children and get my anxious energy under control. Norah, during the hustle and bustle, secured a green marker, which she then used to color her eyebrows green, thus earning her the name “little Grinch” for the remainder of the evening. The good news is that the marker did mostly come off. The bad news is that she was left with a green tinge that looked like bruising all around her eyes. Happy First Day of School and no-I-don’t-beat-my-kid-I-promise!
Not to be outdone, as I continued to prepare for the next day, I thought all four of my little angles were sleeping, preparing the way for a great first day. It was only when Mark and I made our way to the bedroom at 10:00 and discovered that his Kindle was missing that we realized Norah had snuck into our bedroom, stolen the Kindle and was watching YouTube videos under the covers in her bed.
Needless to say the first morning of school was… well, not exactly wonderful and lovely. I had to physically pry her exhausted booty out of bed, fight her into a uniform that she did not like, attempt to comb through the rats nest she made out of her hair and get to school on time.
As I was finally making my way out of the neighborhood this morning, late and trying in vain not to take out long-stalling school buses on my way to school, I realized I had left their carefully packed lunchboxes sitting on the kitchen counter at home. This might not have been that big of a deal, but Norah, ever the child of hand-me-downs, got to pick out her very own special brand new Snoopy lunch box for school and it was the one exciting thing she kept talking about. Too late to turn around though, I pushed forward knowing that I would have to make another round trip and be late to work.
We did manage to arrive on time, however.
Sarah scampered off to her new Kindergarten class in the assembly room without so much as a look back at me. I probably should have been emotional and weepy over my girl starting kindergarten, but honestly I was just so relieved that she was so happy and excited about it.
Norah was cautiously excited, but stuck to me like glue. I stood with her during morning assembly and walked her to her class. But when I got ready to leave, well you would have thought I was really and truly bruising up her eyebrows. She exploded. First thrusting her head onto her desk and screaming, and then bolting for me and having to be retained by both the principal and her assistant teacher. I felt terrible. TERRIBLE. But I left, because I knew that was the only way.
After the round trip of securing the lunch boxes, I sat at work anxiously all day. I figured they would surely call me if things were going terribly, but the phone didn’t ring. At carpool time, they brought her out to me screaming and crying, but assured me that she had been fine all day.
As I drove the girls home, my heart was heavy. I had tried to do everything right and felt like such a failure. But then I began asking the girls about their day.
Sarah, wearing her first day of school crown she made, was exuberant. She told me all about the new friend she made, enthusiastically telling me that she now has “TWO friends” and all they did together that day. My poor little introvert has been at the school for three years, all that time only managing to make one real friend. So this was a big deal and it absolutely made me tear up.
She then told me about every time she saw Norah throughout the day – at lunch, at PE, leaving music class, recess – and how every time they saw each other they ran and hugged one another. Sarah told me how they got to play together at recess, playing “Team Unicorn,” and about how “Norah didn’t even get in trouble once or have to sit on the line by the teacher.” She was the proudest, kindest big sister and Norah told me how much better that made her feel.
I may not have been emotional at first day kindergarten drop off, but first day kindergarten pick-up melted me into a gigantic puddle of goop. Our school has the phrase “kindness is practiced here” emblazoned all over it, and I’m so happy and so proud of my kindergartner for being kind and caring so much for her little sister when she knew she was scared and upset.
Thank you, my sweet Sarah, for showing me what’s really important. Look out Day 2, we’re coming for you.
My twins, by babies, are one today.
When I’ve mentioned their upcoming birthday to people, they stare at me in shock, “Noooo! There is no way! That went by so fast – well fast for me, it probably wasn’t fast for you.”
But in truth, it was the fastest year of my life.
I admit, when we first brought the twins home from the hospital, after the initial joyful rush of meeting my two new little people, the fear set in. Our first night home, Mark and I, seasoned parents, only got 45 minutes of sleep. “What has happened to us?” we wondered dismally. Enter the blur.
I have a hard time remembering the first 4-6 months of their lives. There was trouble with nursing, supplements, trying to figure out how to manage two babies at once at night and somehow get them both back to sleep at the same time so we had a chance of rest. There were so many nights where I just stayed up with them, earbuds in, tearing through one audiobook after another, or watching shows on NatGeo about hermits living in remote places, listening to Scott Brick narrate Jurassic Park and Lost World.
We struggled with both babies gaining enough weight in the beginning. I cried when I had to supplement them for the first time as I dealt with tough emotions of “not being enough” for them. They were small and Vera was behind on her milestones. We were adjusting from being parents of two to being parents of four.
“Why?!” Mark and I often wondered. “Why were these two little souls entrusted to us?”
And then something amazing started happening around the time they turned six months old. For one, they started sleeping stretches at night. Real, honest to goodness sleep. I tell you, if I have sleep, I can conquer the world! And I began to sleep as well. Instead of life being, “How in the world do I take care of them both at once?” It became, with a sense of awe, “Oh my goodness, I get to take care of two babies at once.”
They began to notice one another, interact with each other, their sisters, us. They were happy, smiling, laughing. They developed fascinations with things and especially with one another. “What a blessing,” I thought, “to get to experience having twins.”
Luke and Vera have such wonderful little personalities. They daycare teachers always tell us that even when everyone else is upset and crying, they remain happy (though I attribute that to them having to learn to self soothe very early on in life because there were only two of us and four of them).
Luke has always been our physical child. The first to roll, sit, crawl, eat, pull up. Vera is our introspective child, always taking in the world around her, and she’s much more verbal. She says a host of syllables and clicks her tongue and lets out the short little “he he’s” when she laughs. Luke is our chuckler, who lets out great big belly laughs. Where Vera daintily eats her food and hardly makes a mess, Luke dives in fists first and shovels everything in his mouth at once, making sure to cover his face, hair and ears in the process. Where Vera is our blue eyed blondie, Luke is our olive skinned boy with dark hair and dark eyes. His hands and feet are twice the size of hers.
Watching them together is one of my greatest joys. They are so funny together. Just the other day they were holding onto a chair next to me. Luke was trying to get my attention, when Vera reached over and pulled his hair. He turned and swatted her, screeched at her and then turned back to me. Vera promptly let out her “he he” and did it again.
Life with twins is certainly no joke… or maybe it is and the joke’s on us. Luke and Vera were such unexpected, surprise additions to our lives, but they have brought with them so much heart, so much laughter and so much joy.
They are great little people and somehow, together, we’ve all managed to survive the first year.
Happy First Birthday Vera. Happy First Birthday Luke.
We did it.
P.S. We also finally got the hang of tandem nursing after the first 6 weeks and we were able to stop supplementing then, too. This mama has now successfully nursed twins for a whole year. And I think it’s ok to be a little proud of that. <3
Today, my bright, beautiful oldest girl turn five years old.
Every time I became a mother to another of our children, it was special. But there is something so unique, so terrifying about becoming a mother for the very first time. When I think back to those last few days before I gave birth to her, before my life was changed, I laugh a little and feel so emotional. I remember being so ready to not be pregnant anymore and simultaneously terrified of giving birth. I read every book, every article, imagined it over and over and over in my head.
And when the day came, a week past her due date, stubborn from the start, it was unlike anything I could have imagined.
That day Sarah came into the world, big at over 8 pounds, eyes wide open with deep, sweet dimples. I gazed at her, amazed that I was her mother, responsible for her life, largely in charge of her future, and oh, how I loved her.
It is so very hard for me to believe that was five years ago. It feels both so close and so far away. In the five years since then, Sarah has formed herself into my dazzling little pixie with an expansive imagination and a love for art and fashion. I have to laugh at myself now, remembering how I didn’t want my little girl to be covered in all things pink, when that has always been the color she chooses as her very favorite.
This past year has made my Sarah girl really grow up. She became the big sister to twins two days after her fourth birthday and she has embraced her role mightily. She loves her babies with a joyful devotion. If I’m not watching, she will scoop one up, scurry off to her room, then close the door so they can’t escape. There she reads to them, dresses them up and plays games with them. When I come looking for them and open the door, Sarah always lets out a protest, “But Mama, I want to play with them! Please close the door!”
At first I dreaded her picking them up, but after a time I decided just to teach her the correct way to do it and it’s become so helpful. If one baby is crawling off to where they aren’t supposed to be, Sarah will rush to their rescue and carry them back to safety.
She dotes on them constantly, naming Vera “little cutie,” and Luke “little buddy.”
At 5, Sarah absolutely floors me with her art. She loves to draw and makes up beautiful scenes of unicorns and flowers and butterflies. She inserts specific details and gets extremely upset if things aren’t exactly perfect. So many times I hear loud tears and when I ask her what’s the matter she crumples up her paper and tells me that it’s not perfect, she messed up. It breaks my heart to see her struggle with perfectionism, but I also know that it serves her in improving herself.
One of my very favorite of her creative outlets is fashion design. I feel like I’m watching my very own episodes of Project Runway as she colors and cuts out pieces of paper, creating her own patterns to assemble outfits on her My Little Pony. Or, with great skill, turns ordinary items into crowns, scraps of ribbon and cloth into capes for her dolls. Even Vera is often adorned in custom made Sarah clothes.
Sarah is my sensitive heart. She feels so deeply for other people and animals and does not like scary things. She continues to love books and has even begun to sound out letters and words and it makes me so happy.
Ever my flower child, one of her very favorite things to do is pick wild flowers and create bundles of them for me and our kitchen table.
As I look back over this past year, I have to selfishly say that I could not have made it through without my Sarah girl. She has become such a good helper around the house, always willing to bring me things when the babies are nursing, or help direct Norah out of trouble.
I am so grateful, so blessed, so proud of my firstborn girl. I can’t believe she’s 5: the age of kindergarten and the very heart of little girlhood. Her long, skinny frame, skinned elbows, wide grin and wild, short hair are just so very right on her, and her kind spirit and vivid imagination make me so happy.
Around the time the twins were born, Sarah started asking me to let her take dance classes. She seemed to have an aptitude for it and I was excited about letting her try. Then the reality of life with two new babies set in. It was tough just to get out of the house, never mind the juggling to get everyone to school and back each day. Throwing another place to be, especially in the evenings, on our plates was starting to look grim. I know we can’t give our children everything they want, but I knew she wanted this badly and I wished I could do it for her.
The deadline for registration was approaching when we got a note from school saying that K4 could sign up for Angel Choir if they so desired. It would require staying after school one day a week and several performances over the course of the school year. Ever the performer, I wondered if she might be interested. We sat down and talked about dance and what it would involve and we talked about choir and what it was. I let her make the choice. She could choose one. And to my utter surprise and relief, she chose choir.
Angel Choir has been one of her greatest joys these past few months. On Thursdays, Sarah will wake up and say, “Mama! What day is it?” When I say, “Thursday,” she cheers and says “Yay! I have Angel Choir today!” and then tells me all about her teacher’s beautiful voice. She skips through our house singing songs and constantly asks me about her next performance.
One of the most fun parts of Angel Choir is that performances are not just for parents. They regularly sing at church, for special lunches and, my favorite, for nursing home residents.
Yesterday was performance day at a local nursing home. The kids, ages K4-2nd grade, put on their best green “Irish” clothes and prepared for their St. Patrick’s Day themed singing. We all crowded into the common room and took our seat next to the residents. The choir was fantastic. There were hand motions, scarf waving, show tunes and even Irish dancing.
The kids had a blast, performing with enthusiasm. I was impressed with how many songs they had learned and even a little teary as they belted out songs from The Sound of Music. And while I loved watching my daughter truly enjoy her performance, my gaze kept wandering to the elderly guests in attendance. Together they leaned forward, hands clapping, smiling brightly and singing along with familiar tunes. They cheered with gusto after the kids finished a song and even offered up a few of their own takes on some of the songs. Mom and Norah came with us, and Norah enjoyed dancing right along with the choir to the delight of the many guests there. I can honestly say that watching the glowing faces of the old people there was one of the purest forms of joy I’ve ever seen.
When the children finished performing, one resident stood up, cheered and said, “Oh please do come back!” Another ran off (and I do mean ran – she was quite spry) to grab a basket of St. Patrick’s day goodies they had made for the children and they invited them to stay for juice and cookies (some of the gooeyest and softest I’ve ever had).
My girls didn’t want to leave! When one old lady asked for a hug, Norah joyfully ran into her embrace. The same lady insisted on high fives and had stuffed her pockets full of quarters to hand out to the kids. If ever there was a more appreciative and captive audience, I don’t know one.
And while I hope that Sarah can still do dance one day if she wants to, I am so grateful that Angel Choir has turned out to be such a joy and blessing for Sarah, for the audience and for myself.
Our lives are super crazy. Of course they are – you can’t manage four children four and under without some chaos. And in the 10+months Mark and I have been juggling it all, things have gotten better and, in some ways, easier.
I have very sweet people tell me all the time that I “make it look easy,” but most of the time it’s really not.
I also have so many very sweet and well meaning friends and family who want me to occasionally “do things” outside the house – to get away or be present for some event. And while the intention is always good, I find myself clenching internally at the prospect. How do I explain to them why this is a big deal without sounding whiny?
Most kids have a “witching hour,” that time in the evening where they sort or lose their minds in some form or fashion and it makes everything a little more difficult. That time usually falls around dinner/bath/bed, at least in our home. Everyone starts to get hungry and reacts in different ways. At our house, the babies start getting fussy. They scream, crawl to wherever I am, pull up on my legs and scream some more. Norah makes trouble. She steals toys, dumps out bags of pretzels on the floor, dumps dog food into the water bowl, colors all over herself with markers, etc. Sarah, for the most part is pretty good. But when she’s really tired and hungry, she will start crying over things like, “I don’t ever want to move out of this house,” or “Mama, you said four days ago that I could wear my pink jacket and you didn’t let me.”
And then there are the physical mechanics of getting everyone to use the bathroom, changing diapers, washing hands, cooking dinner, cutting it up, serving it up, getting drinks, bibs, spoons, baby food and everyone into their seats and eating. It’s tough with one kid, but with four it’s a juggling act. At least the babies can’t crawl out of their high chairs yet, right?
Anyway, then there is the feeding of babies while we try to scarf down our food between screaming and ordering the big girls not to leave their seats or that they need at least TRY what they’ve been served. Then, when it’s all over, there’s the dishes and putting up of things and getting pajamas out and towels, wash cloths, diapers, etc. while four very mobile children continue to be very tired and run amok. There is bathing (we’ve finally figured out to get them on alternating schedules so only two are bathed any given night), the dressing, the teeth brushing, the nursing, the book reading, and the “DO NOT GET OUT OF THAT BED AGAIN” routine that starts.
When all that is finally over sometime around 8:15, we move onto finishing the dishes, prepping bottles, stuffing diapers, signing folders and trying to get extra work done before we crash into bed and end up staying up until 11pm to cram in some much needed self and couple time.
What I’m saying is, that evenings at our house are very much a two-person job. Mark and I have a pact not to leave the other alone during that time of the day without recruiting an extra set of helping hands. Now I know some parents have to do this alone all the time and they have my UTMOST respect, but there is a reason we have a pact on this, and it’s mostly so that if one of us crumbles under the pressure, the other person can pick up the pieces and keep everyone moving. Or, someone can tame the babies while they scream and the other gets bed things out. Or, someone can clean up whatever mess Norah has made while the other keeps everyone “out of it, get out!”
And so one of us just leaving the house between 5-8 is not possible without help. It’s just not. I know that we have to take care of ourselves (no lecture needed there), but that usually happens between 9pm and 11pm. I would love to throw my hands up some nights and say, “Sorry! Not tonight! Mommy is taking her wine to the back porch,” but Mark would cut me with the daggers he threw from his eyes, and honestly I would do the same to him if he tried such a move.
All this to say, I’m sorry, really I am, that I can’t hang out in the evenings right now (or really do anything until after 8:30p.m., including talk on the phone). And unless I can bring at least two kids with me, even daytime breakaways are tough. Eventually things will get better as everyone grows up and becomes more self-reliant, but right now we all need each other most of the time, especially in the evenings. The babies are still nursing and Norah and Sarah need that extra little bit of mom and dad time after they go to bed. I love my family and I’ve learned to embrace the chaos in a way my mostly-introverted self never thought possible. I’m so grateful for their sweet faces and nighttime hugs and kisses, but there is always a whirlwind of chaos and Mark and I are in together. So really, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s us. And I’m ok with that.
In January I had good intentions of doing a post reflecting on the madness that was 2015, but illness invaded our house, taking down one with strep, another with croup and the other two with RSV, followed by some necessary ear tubes and a lip tie correction procedure. There was also a quick care visit to remove a piece of Styrofoam out of Norah’s ear and an ER trip thrown in there for good measure. And in the midst of all the madness, I forgot about everything except trying to get my babies well and somehow finishing the magazine on deadline.
Now that the babies’ procedure is over, I’m sitting here feeling kind of dazed and dumbfounded. I honestly have trouble remembering much of the past 10+ months.
A friend and coworker of mine is expecting twins, and together we chatted about my twins’ birth and I mentioned that Mark had recorded the c-section from a discreet non-gory angle, but that I’d never actually sat down and watched it all the way through. So over the weekend I decided to do just that.
It really is amazing and beautiful what modern medicine is capable of. I sat there in awe as I watched little V first slip out, and then as it took two doctors to physically shove and tug my breech boy out of my ribs together. And then I watched as Mark followed the babies back to a little room off the OR to be weighed, measured and cleaned – or at least that’s what I always thought they did. In these 10+ months, I never actually knew what happened after they were delivered.
I watched the video on bated breath as both babies were immediately put on CPAP machines in an attempt to get them to breathe on their own, or “make the transition,” as I heard them say. I watched as oxygen masks were placed on my tiny babies, tubes slid down into their bellies and nurses counted off numbers and percentages. I heard them say, “She will probably have to go up to the nursery for more oxygen,” as people hovered around, making sure they were ok. And then, after a few minutes, a mask came off and, “She did it!” was exclaimed as little Vera made the transition on her own, breathing in that life-giving air without anymore struggling, while Luke continued on the machine.
I had no idea any of this was going on while I was being stitched up, and I’m sort of relieved I didn’t.
The next thing I knew, I was being rolled out of the OR. They handed me Vera, put Luke briefly on my chest for skin-to-skin, monitored him, then whisked him away for oxygen in the nursery.
I remember sitting stunned in recovery, holding my tiny 5 pound baby girl, receiving sweet phone call updates from the nursery about my son and not feeling like any of it was real. After all, my other two deliveries went quickly and smoothly, and I ended up with a baby girl after it was all over. It was so strange to think about this other baby boy of mine somewhere out there, supported in his hours-old life by oxygen and a team of nurses that I had only caught the briefest glimpse of.
I was lucky and incredibly blessed though, for my little man finally made “the transition” later that same day and I was slapped in the face with reality as they brought my second infant to me to hold, comfort and nurse.
And now, nearly 10 months later, I sit here and still can’t believe that was all real, or that we have two babies sometimes. All those early struggles feel so stretched and blurred as I chase my now two incredibly mobile and beautiful babies around the house, digging paper and hair and toys out of their hands before they can stuff them in their mouths. I get to revel in their very different and very distinct personalities and truly get to know them.
And just now, all this time later, I realize truly what a miracle, gift and blessing those first few days were and how much I truly owe the nursing staff at the hospital. It’s hard to believe my now 16 and 19 pound babies were ever those scrawny little 5 and 7 pounds newborns in the video.
With our oldest child, some things came easy, but many things were a struggle. Any time we got ready to make a big change for her, things always seemed to go disastrously wrong. Maybe we forced her into things too soon, or maybe we didn’t enforce things hard enough, but for whatever reason, so many of these things were hard. The transition to a big bed from a crib? So much screaming and running out of it. Potty training? I don’t even want to walk down that dark road of memory (though it did involve peeing on the chocolate chips I attempted to bribe her with). I mean even getting the kid dressed was an ordeal. She wore nothing but dresses for YEARS because I just got tired of fighting the pants battle. And trying new foods is STILL an issue.
In comes child number two. Our child I often refer to as “our challenge.” She is strong willed, determined, stubborn and quick to anger. And we have two other little ones that take up so much of my time. I decided, then, not to stress too much about pushing Norah into any big changes. After all, I barely have enough energy most days to just make it through; fighting a two-year-old onto the potty was at the very bottom of my priority list.
But Norah, ever the child of her own ideas and schedule, has always had other plans. We had a c-section scheduled for her on September 23, so of course she decided to arrive 9 days early on September 20 of her own accord. Food? Will it fit in her mouth? She wants to bite it. It won’t fit in her mouth? She’ll tear it apart with her hands and teeth until it will fit in her mouth. Broccoli? Sure, why not?
We are in a small house, and when the twins arrived, we had them sleeping in the living room because I could not deal with moving Norah out of her normal sleeping environment: her crib in her room. So, of course, she figured out how to climb out of the crib and began hurling herself to the ground. With her track record, we couldn’t allow this, so she got moved into the big girl bed in a shared room with her sister on her own timeline. The transition was a little shaky, but she got it down pretty quickly.
And now potty training. Oh how I have DREADED potty training her. My past record with Sarah was so utterly miserable, that I had decided to wait until she was 2-and-a-half and past the sick season to even begin trying.
So, of course, two days after her surgery, Norah told me she wanted to sit on the potty. “Not the little potty,” she said. “I want to sit on the big potty.” Well… ok then. I took her. And what, do you know, she went. And since that day, she’s barely looked back. It’s been less than two weeks and she may have one accident a day, and has an almost perfect track record at school.
I am absolutely astounded. I had prepared myself for such a miserable battle, one that involved long periods of sitting and waiting and screaming. So when none of that happened, I felt like I was being pranked. Yes, we still have some issues when she’s playing and doesn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom, but for the most part, she’s totally got this. She, it seems, is much better prepared to tackle the next stage of life than I am.
So many times with Norah, I have thought, “But wait, I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready for this next stage in her life.” And every time I feel like she’s thinking, “Oh let’s just get on with it mother,” and takes the lead. I have a feeling she’s always going to throw a kink in my plans, but that’s ok. For all the strong willed battles we have, I’m so glad that she can turn that determined mind to do good and great things as well. As she so aptly loves to tell me, “I’m Wonder Woman, Mama!” Yes you are, baby girl, yes you are.
I haven’t felt much like writing lately… or maybe it’s just that there is no time.
Our kids have been falling to illness like dominoes: one gets sick, starts to mend and the next falls victim to the illness, until at least three of them are sick at any given time. Yes, I knew this was coming, but it still doesn’t make it easier to bear. We go to the pediatrician’s once a week when we’re lucky, 2-3 times a week when we’re not. We’ve battled raging high fevers, puffy, goopy eyes and coughs that keep the whole house up at night.
Nearly every day, Mark and I look at each other and say, “Do you think it’s their ears or just teeth?” Because we certainly couldn’t just be sick without 3 of our 4 also getting new teeth.
And Norah (of course it’s Norah, it’s always Norah) has had it the worst of all. After nearly two months straight of ear infections, fever, coughing, middle of the night screaming, and now our fifth antibiotic, our pediatrician sent her to the ENT. He took one look inside her ears, cringed, pointed to the second to worst picture on the ear infection chart and said the word I knew was coming: “tubes.”
That, in and of itself, really isn’t so bad. I had prepared myself, know lots of moms who have had to get tubes in their kids’ ears and I know that this will bring welcome relief for her. But it didn’t stop there.
You see, our poor girl also has a snoring problem and it turns out her adenoids are pushing in on her ear tubes, her nose, eyes and even her teeth, so those have to come out too. Her case is bad enough and she’s suffered so much that the doctor wants to do the procedure as soon as possible. He first mentioned the Wednesday before Christmas, but then amended it to the Monday after to let the newest round of tough antibiotics have time to attempt to clear things out.
I know, logically, that this is a very common, quick and easy surgery, but a little edge of panic still creeps in when I think about her having to go under.
I am so thankful that I was already off work for the surgery and recovery time – a little silver lining. Trying to balance working full time and being a mother is something I constantly struggle with. There’s so much guilt when I’m at work away from my sick kids, but then there’s guilt when I’m home and missing so much work. “What must people think?” I often wonder. But I have to put that behind me and do the best that one person can do (or really two, Mark stays home with the kids when they are sick as much, if not more than I do).
And so, as Christmas comes and we get ready to celebrate, please keep our Norah Bean and her very anxious momma in your prayers. Here’s to hoping everyone’s teeth all come through, the fevers stop and everyone gets a little bit of rest.
Next to, “You have your hands full!” And “Are they twins?”, “How do you do it?” is probably the most common thing people say to me. And my most common response is, “I don’t know!”
And I feel like that often, especially on mornings like today when we’ve been battling back-to-back illnesses with the kids, repeated 4a.m. wake ups, coughs, kid nightmares and my own lingering congestion I can’t quite kick because I can never get enough rest.
But, the truth is that we do manage to “do it” most days, thanks in large part to the following:
- Coffee. I mean a lot of coffee. One morning I made coffee and Mark actually said to me without joking, “Why did you only make six cups?!” The struggle is real.
- Consistent early bed times. I have finally learned that Norah needs to go to bed early so she has enough time to settle and go to sleep before Sarah joins her in the room for bed. That means bed time routine starts at 7p.m. And I’m strict about it. We can hedge a little on the weekends, but if we get off by too much, everyone has a melt down at the same time, including me.
- Preparation. After everyone goes to bed at night, I set about getting ready for the next day. Bottles are made, folders are signed, snacks and pump bottles are loaded into the car, diapers are stuffed and folded. I learned the hard way that trying to do this while all the little people are awake takes roughly three times as long and adds an hour to our morning routine.
- Learn to let some things go. My house is a disaster. I felt terrible about this for a really long time and I still try to fight it from time to time. Here’s what we manage to accomplish most days: dishes, trash, some laundry and picking up one area of the house. Here’s what we fail at: keeping the bedrooms picked up, SOCKS, wiping down things, organized closets, cluttered vehicles and dog hair in general. This past weekend I spent time cleaning our hallways, laundry room and living room. Norah and Sarah destroyed most of my work in under 10 minutes.
- The village. People ask me all the time, “Who helps you?” Mark and I do a lot ourselves – we have perfected the two person juggling act it takes to keep things rolling along. But, we also have our families in town who help with watching the kids, and an amazing nanny who helps on afternoons and Fridays while Mark and I work, and a long list of amazing mom friends I text and call on a regular basis for moral support.
- Patience and understanding from other people. I work for an amazing place – a place that has been flexible with my schedule with my children and has always allowed me to be where I need to be for them. I know this isn’t always easy, but I am thankful for it every single day. I don’t sleep much and forget things all the time. When I dropped the kids off at school this morning, I had forgotten a number of things and the teachers quickly reassured me not to worry, they would make it work. Bless you people!
- The grace of God. I pray for patience and strength and to be a good mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker and person every day. I fail a lot, but I keep on trying.
- A strong marriage. Mark and I have been handed a lot. Our children are amazing blessings, but they demand a lot from us. It’s so easy to lash out at one another – and it happens, especially when we’re exhausted and frustrated. But being able to realize that it is just the frustration and exhaustion talking helps us overcome these things quickly, and we remind one another that “united we stand, divided we fall.” I really could not do this without him.
Despite all these things, we still have a lot of pitfalls. Just this morning we couldn’t find anyone’s shoes; Sarah’s uniform sweatshirt disappeared into some dark corner of our house and has yet to resurface; Norah put up a great and mighty protest against wearing pants and hurled a plastic shoe at my head that found its mark; I forgot the diapers and had to turn around once we left the house; I discovered that several ounces of my preciously pumped milk had spilled when we got to school; I realized that I forgot wet bags for the diapers when we got to school; we forgot to get juice when it was our turn to bring snacks for school; oh, and I’ve been awake since 4am with a little boy who is adjusting to his new crib and room and a 4 year old who accidentally saw part of daddy’s zombie show last night and had nightmares and panicked the rest of the morning until we talked about snow angels and unicorns.
Life is crazy. I feel like every day I must look like someone dragged me behind their car. But, despite all of this, I am really and truly happy. I love my kids. I love my husband and we all manage to make it work.
This past Friday the director of our kids’ school said another parent came up to her and asked who that mom is who pushes the twins in the stroller and carries a toddler on her back every day (ha!) She told her who I was and the mom said that my kids are always happy and I always have a smile on my face and I inspire her every day. Wow! Talk about humbling. That was exactly what I needed to hear. We ARE happy and, really, that’s the crux of how we’re “making it.”
Over the past six months since the twins have come into our lives, I’ve struggled with ways to dedicate time to my older girls. Mark and I constantly “divide and conquer” though, and at night while he bathes and dresses the babies, the big girls and I move to the back of the house to begin their bed time routine – which is always a challenge as I constantly find myself physically wrestling an overtired two-year-old into the bath tub while her older sister screams, “SHE IS SPLASHING SOAP IN MY EYES AND HITTING ME!”
One night Sarah asked me if we could have a “Halloween Party.” I was hesitant at first, because one more thing, but she looked at me pleadingly and melted my over-tired heart. Her imagination is boundless and I knew that anything and everything could easily be transformed into a Halloween Party. I agreed and she cheered!
I began to think of the things I could do to turn bath time into Halloween party time. What does any good party have? Music of course! So I turned on the Pandora “Halloween Party” station. Then I dimmed the lights, but that was a little too spooky, so I got a fall-scented candle and lit it in the bathroom. Perfect. Now as “Monster Mash” and tunes from The Nightmare Before Christmas flood our bathroom, we dance and laugh. Sometimes we add extra fun things like bath foam to make “costumes” or bath bombs to fizz and turn the water different colors (yellow, blue, red!).
Now, when 7:00 rolls around, there are no more battles to get into the bathtub. Norah enthusiastically yells, “Tub time!” while Sarah says, “It’s time to party!” and wiggles her hips. We rush to the bathroom, set up our party, shut the door to close out the babies, dance and play and they get mama’s full attention.
It’s not elaborate, but it is fun and it’s the joyful time we all need together. Now I look forward to getting everyone ready for bed, and the only protesting that happens is when it’s time to get out of the tub (but even that is minor because we keep the music going while they dry off and get dressed).
One of my favorite parts of all this are the things we use to create our party. The only thing I love more than shopping local is buying things that I know are safe and healthy for my family. My friend Kate owns Zombee Candle and Coven Co., and sells both products at her new store in Shreveport, The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts. For our tub time parties, I’ve been lighting up seasonally appropriate fall scents – L’Automne and Bitches Brew (though the girls call it Witches Brew). Bitches Brew is purple and smells like apple cider, so it usually gets Sarah’s vote for party time. The candles are made with soy and don’t release any kind of nasty toxins into the air.
Coven Co., is a line of natural and organic beauty products, including bath bombs and body butter (and the body butter even comes in the falltastic Hocus Pocus scent). The girls love waiting to see what color their bath bomb is going to release when we toss them in the tub.
I am so excited to have the opportunity to share a little bit of our Halloween party joy with my readers! I’m teaming up with Kate during the week of Halloween to giveaway some of these locally made products from The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts.
You can win this awesome little bundle of healthy, Halloween goodness which includes:
- 3 x small Coven Co. Aura Bombe bath bombs in Grove [lemon & sage] or Mandarin Royale [vanilla & orange]
- 1 x 14oz Midi Zombee in your choice of Bitches Brew [mulled apple cider], L’Automne [orange, clove, black tea], Hocus Pocus [vanilla & pumpkin], or Hallowed Ground [tobacco, patchouli, cedarwood].
Here’s what you have to do to enter. Make sure you complete all the steps – we’ll check!
- LIKE The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts on Facebook.
- SHARE this post with your friends.
- TAG a friend in the comments.
- PROMISE to have your own personal Halloween Party, even if it’s just lighting up a spooky scent and relaxing in the tub with your very own bath bomb.
The last day to enter is this Saturday, HALLOWEEN! We will announce a winner on Saturday. Good luck!
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