Resilient

Minutes after they were born, Will and Sully were wheeled to a NICU room where nurses and doctors who are much smarter than I am watched over them and helped them get over the first few struggles their Twin-to-Twin transfusion caused. Not much that followed was the “normal” we were expecting. Having made it to our mountainous goal of 36 weeks for delivery, we thought delivery day would be fairly straightforward. We had visions of bringing them home in three days. While we didn’t take them home right away, their time in the NICU provided little moments that we were able to celebrate, perhaps to a larger degree than those families with more normal deliveries do. For instance, the first day the boys were able to wear clothes.

“Do you want to change him?” a nurse standing over Sully asked. She’d invited John and me to bring outfits in for the boys that morning, and their “come home” outfits that before had seemed bittersweet were going to get a try.

I nodded vigorously.

I tilted Sully to a “baby-sitting” position, and worked to pull his onesie off and over his tubes without breaking him. Every snap and limb that came free was a victory. I’d never changed such a new, newborn before.

I reached for the outfit we had so lovingly brought from home and as I did so, let go of Sully, who tipped forward – and THUNK – knocked his head on the edge of his incubator.

My heart stopped beating.

“Oh my God!” I said, tossing the outfit and reaching out to grab my baby. Tears came to my eyes immediately, and to my horror, the nurse started laughing.

“He’s fine,” she said, pushing the sleeves on his new outfit up like the professional she was, as I righted Sully. Seeing my tears, she quieted her voice.

“You know. Babies need parents,” she said, “to love them, to teach them.”

I gently held Sully again while she reached the outfit over his head.

“But babies teach parents, too. This is their first time being a baby and meeting the world, but this is your first time being a parent, learning to have a baby.”

I swallowed a lump in my throat and nodded. I was not ready to be a parent. How would this double surprise that turned our lives upside down (and ironically, right side up), better prepare me for how to teach someone to be a good person, to love others, to have confidence and not arrogance, to have the courage to be different?

She pulled his outfit over his head and I leaned him back gently and snapped the little buttons. I watched how the skin that didn’t have as much time as it needed to get the chubby underneath crinkled at his knees, the tummy area of the new outift bag around Sully’s 6-pound waist.

“Plus,” she said. “Babies are resilient. They’re strong enough to manage those little bumps that come with new parents.”

I smiled at her and nodded in silent appreciation.

Her words ring true every day. Every day provides its own new pothole we haven’t bumped over before. Its own new detour where I thought I’d learned my way. But the wonderful thing is. Sully and Will are resilient. And they forgive me for not always knowing, and for navigating this strange world with them, even if we don’t always have the right map.

Imperfect Perfection

Before I had kids, before I had a job, before I had bills, I was watching Oprah one day and heard a mother on the show say, “I felt like I wasn’t doing anything well. I wasn’t doing my job perfectly, I wasn’t raising my children perfectly – I wasn’t doing anything perfectly.”

I still hear her words every day, but more often, I hear what she said next:

“I had to realize that not everything has to be perfect. That 80% was pretty dang good.”

Every single day, somewhere in  between driving the kids to school, driving to and from work and putting the boys to bed, I think:

Something has to give. I can’t keep doing this. I’m sinking.

It feels beyond impossible to keep up with everything one is supposed to take care of. The kids. The house. Making dinner every day. Bathing your kids every day. Doing laundry every day. Going to work every day. Volunteering every week. Fulfilling board responsibilities every week. Going to the gym – well, never anymore. And every day, with nearly every task, I think, I’m not doing this well enough. This is nowhere near perfect.

With time, however, I’ve realized, if you step back for a bit, there’s a tiny slice of freedom when you revel in the imperfect.

Last night, just before bed, the boys were wired, and I knew they weren’t going to go to sleep. It was an imperfect moment. Our laundry was stacked high, I have a new sink to put in the downstairs bath and was mentally ticking how late I would be awake, dishes were piled high. Then Sully grabbed Will’s hand and they linked fingers and started giggling, and it was a moment of pure, imperfect perfection.

This morning, Will and Sully woke up fighting while John woke up with a neck kink that had him moving like a robot and I tried to finish the laundry from the night before and we both tried not to kill our children who found a reason to fight over who held the plastic hammer, who watched what show, who wore what shirt. “I’m heading to work,” John yelled from the stairs. “Love you,” I yelled back searching for Q-tips in our out-of-order bathroom. “Love you, too,” he called. Not the time for a kiss at the door these days, but time for I love you. Imperfect perfection.

On Sunday night I let the boys pick a snack at the grocery store before we checked out. They each picked a ½ gallon jar of puppy chow. Last night after making their plates for dinner and setting them on the table, I came down to grab the boys to eat and found said puppy chow all over the downstairs couch with huge dark spots surrounding the little bites. What the …

“See me, Mom?” Will asked. “I’m eating puppy chow. Like a puppy.” And he proceeded to scoop bits of the puppy chow off of the couch with his mouth. That explains the dark spots.

“Will.”

Sigh.

Will then got out his microphone and Sully told him not to sing over the hockey game.Will belted it out any way, and stood one foot away from me screaming, “I – LOVE-YOU-MOM-EE,” while I wiped up the puppy chow.  Imperfect perfection.

These days, the blow dryer is me pulling my wet hair down in the morning and turning my air conditioning in my car on high on my drive to work. I haven’t seen the inside of a gym since 2008. I have never washed the windows in my house because I don’t know how to do a project with toddlers at the center of it.

But there is love.

A lot of it.

Amid the crazy confusion of each day, in the moment when I say: Something has to give. I can’t keep doing this. I’m sinking.; I try to close my eyes for a second, take a deep breath, and revel in the imperfect perfection. ‘Cause that’s pretty great, too.

The Fourth of July Went a Little Awry

Yesterday broke my heart for my boys a couple of times, but what pieced it back together was the way they reacted to some not-so-fun times on the fourth.

The boys were so excited for the parade, that Tuesday night, they closed their eyes (which is normally a 45 minute battle) to go to sleep right away so they could wake up sooner (I’m not ruining the fact that going to sleep earlier does not make exciting events happen sooner).

“I’m going to rest, Mom,” Will said. “I can’t close my eyes, ’cause that hurts.”

Sure. Okay. As long as you’re quiet.

At 6:15 the next morning, Will took a breath and the following run-on sentence ensued:

“Today we’re going to a Fourth of July parade and so we’re going to go potty and put on pull ups and get changed and go to my grandma’s school and walk to Mary’s (daycare) and watch the parade and someone’s going to throw us candy and then we’re going to go to a party.”

So much for thinking they never listen to me.

“Yes, we will,” I said. “It may take a little time, but we’re going to do all of that.”

The boys sat at the curb waiting for the parade with more excitement than they’d contained since their 3rd birthday.

The first few vehicles passed by, and no candy.

The second few vehicles passed by, and no candy.

The boys stood on the curb, 3-and-a-half-feet tall, red cheeks turning more red, waving and clapping for everyone. No candy.

The next few vehicles passed by, and terribly, it seemed we were in the terrible middle state, where candy was being throw to individuals on our left, and those on our right, but the passersby were reaching for more candy just as they passed.

Maybe the boys aren’t old enough to notice, I thought.

“Mom,” Will said eventually, head down. “No one’s throwing candy to me.”

Maybe they will notice.

“Honey, I’m so sorry.” I looked at the plastic bag we’d brought that had a lonely Tootsie Pop. “If we don’t get much candy, I’ll get you a really nice treat on the way home, okay?”

He nodded, and resolutely turned to wave again. Not giving up.

A few trucks later, the boys got freezer pops they immediately passed to me to open for them.

Halfway through the freezer pops, peppermints and butterscotches and bubble gum made it their way.

Then Laffy Taffy and Tootsie Pops.

And Sully and Will’s faces were alight.

Sully ran into the street, catching on to the whole deal.

Will sucked a cinnamon disc and a Boy Scout left the parade to come over and stuff six pieces of candy in Will’s hand. (Which may lead to Will thinking he wants to be a Boy Scout, I can hear it now, “Mom, Boy Scouts eat tons of candy.”).

We walked home with two bags full of enough candy to get us through summer. The boys hands and faces were sticky with sweets.

And all seemed right with the world again.

Thank you to the many men and women who sacrifice so much so that our Fourth of July could be celebrated with family and friends while yours may have been far from home. We thought of you so much yesterday, and appreciate you more than we can say.

“Rest” Stops

We went to South Dakota to visit John’s family last weekend. Sully is doing so wonderfully at potty training that I thought John was going to have an aneurism before we made it to Sioux City.

100 miles out – Sully: I has to go potty.

200 miles out – Sully: I has to go potty.

At the first stop, I took him into a Quick Stop handicapped bathroom and reached over to grab a new pull up. I turned around and found the poor thing trying to reach the potty, missing, and pee ricocheting onto his shoes, the floor, the toilet paper, etc.

I snuck out to grab approximately 15 paper towels while I tried not to think of who else’s you-know-what I was no doubt cleaning up as well.

We hopped back in the car and John asked, “Do you take him into the women’s bathroom?”

No, sweetie. I take him into the urinals and stare at the men going to the bathroom. He’s known me for a while now, so he interpreted this through my eye roll.

“I just wondered,” he said, shrugging his shoulders when I shook my head and applied hand sanitizer.

On our way home, we made our final stop at a gas station. Sully went potty, no problem. Will started going potty as I got Sully ready and I looked down and realized I didn’t have pull-ups.

Damn.

Pulled their pants up went outside to get the diaper bag and found the car locked. John grabbed the bag we went back in the bathroom, Will went potty and got them both dressed. Meanwhile, I had to potty.

“Mom’s going to go potty now,” I said.

“Mom – can I see how ba-dye-nahs go potty?” Sully asked.

I listened and unfortunately heard the clatter of one other person in the bathroom.

“No, Sully.”

“Can I watch you pee?” he said again.

“No, Sully!” I said and hurried as fast as I could.

I sighed in relief as I heard the door close before we made it out. No witnesses (and a very kind probably fellow- mother).

Five minutes later, we had grabbed snacks and were hopping back in the car.

“That was a good stop,” John said seriously.

Uh-huh. Fan-freakin-tastic.

 

 

The good (and not so good) of twinship

Every once in a while, the boys completely surprise me with a sweet moment. However, all of those “good” moments, are often followed immediately by a moment highlighting the not-so-good elements of twinship.

I now have Sully sleeping with Will – I paired them in a desperate attempt to see if Will’s 6-time-a-night night terrors would be reduced knowing someone was with him.

The good: Those 6-times-a-night night terrors went down to 2.

The bad: An average night sounds like this:

12:30 a.m.: “Will! Stop kicking me!”

2:30 a.m.: “Momma!! Sully hit me in the eye!”

And so on and so forth.

The good: The other day, I went downstairs to fold laundry. The boys weren’t far behind me and I heard Will say: “Wanna’ hold hands, Sully?” and Sully say: “Yeah.”

The bad: They made it two steps before Will said, “Don’t hold my hand like that! Like this!” and then gave up on the idea altogether.

The good: We picked pizza up the other night, and I’d just put Sully in his car seat next to Will when Will looked over the side of his seat and said: “You’re my very best friend, Sully.” and Sully said: “You’re my best friend too, Will.”

The bad: Five minutes later they used their twin power to team up against me and dual-scream and cry about wanting to play outside and not eat dinner (and it was pizza! Pizza people!).

The good: I can use Sully, who’s much more advanced in the potty training arena than Will, to teach Will to potty.

The bad: Will flushed Sully’s #2 the other night and it resulted in an all out war in the bathroom, and Sully forcing a #2 just to prove a point. (Note: Potty etiquette – flush your own poo).

It’s something else, watching two people who were born just one minute apart, who share DNA, grow up and be so incredibly close and so surprisingly, wonderfully different.

Do you have any special sibling moments that have made you sigh (and then maybe five minutes later, made you scream?).

Cannibalism at the – Zoo?

We took the boys to the zoo last week. We rode the train. We took a walk through “Australia.” We pet llamas.

I forgot to hit up the hand sanitizer station with the boys after petting llamas.

I saw a sign that said, “Warning: Petting animals without washing hands could lead to …”

“We forgot hand sanitizer,” I told John.

Here’s the thing. It may have been better to find out what “Petting animals without washing hands” could lead to. Because …

We went to visit the hand sanitizer station by the chickens, and while the boys spread the excess amount of “sanzitizer” in their hands, I watched a baby bird fly around.

“That’s the smallest bird I’ve ever seen!” I told Will and Sully.

“Where?” they asked, and I pointed as it slipped through the chicken wire fencing.

“He’s tiny!” Will said.

“Wait – where he go?” he asked.

“He went back through the fence,” I said, but my brow was furrowed. One of the chickens seemed not so happy about this tiny friend flitting around their area.

“We’d better get going,” I said, wary of future happenings.

Just as I said it, our little bird friend slid back through the fencing, and into that angry chicken’s mouth. The chicken tossed it on the ground and it was quickly surrounded by six angry chickens.

“We gotta’ go now,” I said.

“Mom?” Will said …

“Now – Daddy’s going to be worried.” I made eye contact with the horrified mom next to me and nodded my head at the exit.

“But Mom!” Will said. “Why that chicken put the bird in his mouth.”

“Oh. He was just playing, he said, ‘Get outta’ here little bird’.” I swallowed a lump of horror.

We made it to John and my heart was breaking for that little bird. Damn. This was supposed to be an innocent zoo trip. I was having flashbacks to the time I stood, six years old in Earl May, waiting for my mom to check out, watching the hamsters play, then stood paralyzed with shock while I watched the momma hamster eat a baby.

“They do that sometimes,” the Earl May person told me when I ran to the front, finally able to act, screaming that they needed to help a hamster.

I felt similarly helpless during the remainder of the trip to the zoo.

“I feel like I should have done something,” I told John when we finally got in the car. “But I was scared I was going to worry the boys.”

“Uh huh. What were you going to do?” John asked.

I shrugged, frustrated.

“I could have been like, ‘scat! scat mean chickens’!”

John stares at me as I start the car.

“Something tells me that wouldn’t have worked,” he says.

It might be a little while before I make it back to the zoo. I was all prepared to tell my boys if they found two animals “wrestling” one another at the zoo.

I wasn’t prepared for cannibalism.

“It’s wasn’t cannibalism,” John says, when I tell him this.

“Um. Yeah. It was.” They all had wings after all.

“Was it a baby chicken?”

You’ve got to be kidding.

Only my husband can argue the semantics of cannibalism.

I would ask for your stories about the Animal Kingdom, but I don’t think I’m up for it yet. Wait. Actually, if you have seen two animals “wrestling” at the zoo, and you want to share that story – I’m all for it – because I need something better than “wrestling” I think. I need something that will stop any and all questions before I start giggling like a 12-year-old.

Phone Etiquette with Toddlers

After going in the potty last night, Sully informed us he wanted to share his good news with Grandpa John (John’s dad).

We were getting ready for bed, so Sully was in Pull-Up, pajama bottoms, and no shirt, when the four of us huddled in the hallway and listened to the phone ring.

Grandma D answered.

“I went in the potty!” Sully announced.

“What a great job, Sully!” Grandma D said.  “I’m so excited for you to come visit us. We’re going to have a lot of fun riding Grandpa’s golf cart…”

As toddlers do, Sully had already lost focus on the call – he’d said his peace, I guess. He was now focused on pinching his nipple, I noticed. I looked at John and shook my head.

“… and we can go back to the place where you like to work on the cars –” Grandma continued.

“I’m touching my boobie!” Sully yelled.

“What did he say?” Grandma D asked.

“My boobie! I’m touching my boobie!” Sully repeated.

“Oh,” Grandma D said, stifling a laugh.

“Will, do you want to talk to Grandma D?” John asked Will, who had been picking at his sock.

“No,” Will said. (Have I mentioned Will’s stubborn?).

“How about I love you?” John said.

“Love you Grandma D,” Will said. “I went poop.”

Grandma D must be super excited for our upcoming visit.

The #2 Chronicles

Sully went #2 in the potty on Wednesday night.

I almost had a heart attack.

I almost threw a party.

Will had just fallen asleep and I was getting ready to sneak out of the room when Sully said:

“Mom. I gotta’ potty.”

Ugh. I love that we’re getting closer to going in the potty. I hate the inconvenient times that they actually have to go potty.

“All right – let’s go, bud.”

We get in the bathroom and Sully plops down and assumes what looks like an “I’m gonna’ stay here a while” position after the initial tinkle tinkle.

“Do you have to go poop Sully?”

“Yeah. One time, Mom, I went poop in Ms. Pam’s potty.”

“That’s really good!” I said.

Awkward silence.

Do I sit and wait while he poops? I haven’t done this before.

“Hey. Do you want me to get you a book to read?”

“Yeah!” Sully said.

I return with an “I Spy” book. “I Spy” seemed to be appropriate – after all, toddlers can’t do crosswords yet, right?

“No, Mom” Sully said. “My Elmo book – you know, ‘cause I’m pottying.”

Another “I Spy” book we own, but an Elmo potty “I Spy.” This was more apt. I grabbed it and returned in time to see Sully’s face bright red.

“Good job, Sully!”

“Get it out, Mom.”

Um. No way.

“It’s okay, Sully. You just need to wait a bit.”

And … success! (Double success because the problem was solved without mommy intervention).

The next twenty minutes involved Sully looking incredibly surprised that he had pooped. A lot of high fives from Mom. A high five from Dad. A special treat in the kitchen. And a late bedtime. Finally.

In the morning when we headed for potty routine, Sully told Will:

“Last night I pooped in the potty!”

“Show me!” Will said.

And Sully plopped back on the potty and Will wide-eyed stared through his legs at the toilet.

“Guys – no,” I said. It doesn’t work – Sully, stop it. It doesn’t work that way – you have to wait until you have to poop – you probably won’t have to poop until tonight.”

Both boys look disappointed.

Sigh.

The potty training fun continues. Are your toddlers potty trained? If they are, please say no, or share with me lots of embarrassing stories so I feel better about how long this is taking …

 

Table Talk

Yesterday while in the bathroom completing our morning potty routine, Will sat on his Lightning McQueen toilet seat and Sully waited his turn.

Will said, “I don’t have to pee.”

“That’s not table talk, Will,” Sully responded.

Hmm. Perhaps we’re overdoing the ‘what’s appropriate at the table’ conversations.

“Well, Suls, we’re not at the table right now, so I think it’s okay,” I said. “It’s okay to talk about pee-pees and poop if you’re in the bathroom.”

“Right,” Will said. Will would agree with anyone who let him talk about pee and poop in any room in the house.

“But we don’t say pee and poop at the table,” Sully reiterated.

“Right,” I said.

“But we could talk about eyeballs,” Will said from his potty perch.

“Yeah,” Sully agreed, “or hair.”

Hmmm. Not really what I was shooting for.

“Or, you could talk about what you did at school that day,” I said.

Sully and Will gave me blank stares.

“Or we could talk about teeth!” Sully said.

All right. I give up.

Wanna’ stop by for dinner? We promise some stimulating – if odd – conversation.

Are my kids the only ones who want to talk #2s at the dinner table, or can you relate?

 

To Target. And Back.

Sunday morning John and I took the kiddos to Target to grab our next Pull-Up supply and groceries. We went through the usual fun grocery shopping includes – fights over who gets to sit in the front of the cart, fights over who gets to push the cart, and fights over who gets to hold what snack from the shelf.

In the middle of checking out, I remembered I’d bravely (insert stupidly) let Sully wear underwear on our trip, marking the first time in public without Pull-Ups.

As we packed our groceries I told John, “I’m taking Sully to the bathroom before we head out,” and bee lined it to the family restroom.

The door closed in the bathroom. Sully checked his surroundings, saw #2 stains in the potty, and said, “I’m going potty at home.”

I didn’t blame him.

After a few turns pushing the paper towel button (and one last turn while I opened the door), we headed to the car. We drove straight to the mall, where we walked around the outdoor pond and fed ducks and Will got too close to the water and gave us a heart attack four times. Sully grinned his beautiful grin when a duck came up on the sidewalk and stood just two feet from him, graciously ignoring Sully when he screamed “EAT IT DUCK!”

Twenty minutes later we pulled into our driveway and I unloaded groceries with John while the boys started grabbing outdoor toys and heading for the lawn.

“Where are our groceries?” I yelled from the kitchen as John made a trip back to the car.

“What do you mean?”

“We’re missing half of our groceries.”

“Do you have the receipt?” John asked.

“Why would I have a receipt? I don’t have the groceries?” (See what John lives with?)

Back in the car.

Back to Target.

On the way, John said I looked angry. By the exit, we each accepted 33.33 percent responsibility for leaving our groceries (and left the innocent employee with the remaining 33.33 percent).

John dropped me off where I told a customer service representative our story – she spoke with a policeman (I was a bit confused about the need for trained security with produce, but didn’t ask). A few minutes later, the policeman had grabbed our groceries from a cooler and wheeled them out.

“I told them you’d be back,” the policeman said, passing over the groceries.

Slightly creepy.

“It was a lot to forget,” he added.

And slightly judgmental.

“My husband forgot them,” I said. (Okay, so maybe I accepted 22.33 percent responsibility).

Back to the car. Packing groceries. Distributing snacks to two very tired boys. Back home.

Happy Sunday.

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