fear, uncertainty and doubt

When we moved into our house several years ago, we couldn’t figure out our garage door key pad.  The previous owners had never used it and the owners before them couldn’t recall their code.  It turns out the key pad was dead.

Our actual garage door opener was so old that it would only accept programming from a similarly old keypad. I remember the garage door repair guy essentially challenging me with, “Well, this is really a basic install and you would waste your money having us install it.” I was game.

“Of course,” I said nonchalantly, “I can definitely install that.”

Sometime after that, I did tear open the box. I was immediately overwhelmed by all of the what ifs: What if I programmed the opener and it deprogrammed all of our other remotes (this had happened before)? What if I broke it? What if it took a long time to do? What if it was aggravating? What if I still ended up having to call the company anyway?

Marketers would’ve been delighted with my quandary – this delightful blend of fear, uncertainty and doubt keeping me from doing a simple task and pushing me toward unnecessarily spending money. Many times I considered calling the garage door repair company and paying them a ridiculous sum to fix the problem. I considered buying a new garage door opener – justifying it with the fact that our current opener was so old any way.  I considered bribing someone else to fix it.

That ripped-open garage door keypad box found a nice home in the cupboard over our refrigerator where it lived for almost two years.

Every time I took the kids for a walk and had to grab the door opener out of the car, I silently chided myself for being so silly about this keypad. Every time Frank went for a run and left the screen door open, I was annoyed at my silliness.

I could’ve asked Frank to do it, but I didn’t.  He was unconcerned by all of this unnecessary juggling and was actually unaware that the solution was tucked away in a cabinet.

Today, almost impulsively, I decided this fear of the unknown was going to be put to rest – at least as far as the garage door key pad was concerned.

Armed with the owners manual, an unhelpful You Tube video of a kid showing off his keypad in the bedroom (not a euphemism) and a new ratcheting screw driver that I love, I went out into the garage and I was the boss of that garage door key pad.

Not only did I program it, I removed the old key pad, installed the new keypad and checked to make sure that the car’s garage door openers still worked.

Everything. Worked. Perfectly.

All in less than 20 minutes.

What this makes me think of: in what ways are fear, uncertainty and/or doubt stopping me from moving forward? What silly work-arounds have I created to avoid addressing fear head-on?

How about you?

mother’s day

When Mother’s Day draws near, I hold my breath a little bit, as though I am anticipating a punch that never happens.

Mother’s Day has become, for me, like sitting down at a feast with all of my favorite girlfriends. The day is beautiful, the food is amazing – but there is a catch: not everyone gets a meal.

The first few Mother’s Days I experienced while we were trying to get pregnant and going through infertility and dealing with losing a baby, were just bone-chillingly sad and lonely. Sure, I was happy for my friends around me who were experiencing motherhood, but here I was with this deep sadness and pain, on a day designated to celebrate what I didn’t have. My plate was empty.

I was lonely and sad and scared. And let’s be honest, until infertility, the realest pain I had experienced was losing a grandparent, which is, while sad, a pretty standard part of life. Mother’s Day was an emotional bomb with shrapnel spread far and wide.

Four years ago, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day. I expected to feel unfettered joy on that first Mother’s Day morning, but instead…

I was grateful, absolutely, for the two little girls I was holding that morning. But looking around the Mother’s Day table, I noticed that there were still people with empty plates.  The abundance for some and the emptiness for others made a knot grow in my stomach. It just seemed unfair.

Not celebrating Mother’s Day is not the answer. We all have moms in many forms and fashions – the mothers we were born with and the women that mother us throughout our lives – and so celebrating their impact in our lives is appropriate and good and right. I am grateful for my own mom who is the embodiment of joy, friendship, kindness and hospitality. She made every day of my childhood an adventure and continues to be one of my dearest friends and confidants.

And still…

It also feels right and good and appropriate to acknowledge and hold space for the women (and men) who put on a brave face on Mother’s Day in spite of feeling incredible pain, loss and sadness. I don’t have a cure for this heartache, but I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are loved. May you have a supernatural peace this Mother’s Day in the midst of all of the noise.

housekeeping

Before I get caught up with the blog…

Entropy, or the concept that time moves in only one direction, has been a minor distraction of mine for the entirety of my life. I find it fascinating that we can physically move in many directions in space, but only in one direction in time.  So I love fiction (and non fiction) that talks about wormholes and time travel and other time-bending/reversing theories. The first chapter book my dad read to me was HG Wells’s The Time Machine.  Good stuff, even if I was only in second grade.

And so, here I sit, marveling at how precisely and fluidly time has marched forward, plucking away, while life happens. I am particularly aware of time’s effects when I look at our not-so-little Annie! Annie constantly grows and changes imperceptibly over the course of a day, but it isn’t until I look at pictures from a few months ago that I become aware of how she is no longer an infant and is verging on toddlerhood.

Speaking of Annie…

Annie is ten-and-a-half-months old.  If we were to assign labels, I would call Annie my “chill” baby.  She slept through the night at two months, rarely cries and loves playing little games with me.  Her favorite is when we grunt back and forth at each other until she dissolves into giggles.  As the designated “chill” baby, she is taking her time with mobility. A mighty-fast army crawler, she refuses to pull herself up on anything unless she feels the reward is greater than the risk.  She will walk assisted, but prefers to be on the ground, stealthily getting into things and finding little treasures (lint, dustbunnies). With a mobile baby, you can never vacuum or sweep enough – so – my new mantra: why bother?

Annie is eating table foods with ease, enjoys a good sippy cup every now and then, and is transitioning to reduced formula levels.  She loves to give “noseys”, but nose-beware: she is aggressive with her affection and has no fear of breaking a nose – yours or hers!

She is a dancer in the style of the groundhog from Caddy Shack, grooving in a herky-jerky rhythmic fashion while balancing on my knee.  She rolls with most things: no nap, no problem!, but occasionally develops a strong preference that she makes known.  Recently, she has developed a strong dislike for her “cage” – an open-air baby-safe area that she can roam around in our family room. Girlfriend knows her mind!

So that’s Annie the Awesome.

Her twinster sisters are four, which means, thank goodness, they are no longer three.  Three was a little bit of a debacle.  Considering the major changes in our family, it was actually not terrible, but three year olds certainly have an opinion that they enjoy sharing all-the-time.

At four, they are more reasonable and really quite smart.  They love talking about the natural sciences with Frank (how does the sun work? where does it go at night?) and ask surprisingly detailed follow up questions that demonstrate that they are trying to learn a topic.  While they need frequent reminders about manners and tidying up, most of the time they have it down right.  My current quest is to help Carrie word statements so they sound less like accusations (“Apparently you forgot to tell us what the day of the week is, Mom”) and more like reminders (“Hey mom, can you tell us the day of the week please?”).  I have a feeling that mastering this skill will be super useful to her in life – especially marriage.

We just had the girls’ parent-teacher conferences and it was interesting to see how the girls’ personalities come to light differently in the world than they do at home. Carrie has always been a dynamic little personality, but in the past year she has really blossomed and has been identified as a leader in her classroom.  She is encouraged to allow other children to also lead, but her teachers said that the other kids are quite happy to do whatever she suggests.  It will be interesting to watch that skill unfold and be refined.  At home, Carrie is often the laid-back kid who would prefer to sit slack-jawed in front of the TV for hours if we let her (we don’t let her!).

Ellie, who often instructs Carrie in what to do at home, is a little bit more introverted in the classroom.  She is also quite smart, grasping skills and concepts quickly.  She loves to take some time to herself to read a book while at school, but then is also happy to go play with her friends.  At home, we’ve seen her working on her teaching skills with Carrie and some of her other friends.  It’s quite cute to see her kneel down to instruct another child on how to do something.  When the other child accomplishes the tasks, she is so encouraging saying, “That’s right! Good job!” It’s really a joy to watch!

As far as staying at home – the short response is: it’s good.

The longer response is:

It is both what I imagined and nothing that I imagined.  I’ve kept busy with some free-lance projects and volunteering, but I’ve also loved just being with the girls to hear about their days and to go on little adventures.  Like many mothers before me have noted, it’s frequently hard to know where the day has gone. I rarely find myself just sitting on the couch or with free time to write, which is contrary to how I imagined it would be. I can appreciate why so many stay at home moms feel under attack by others who question “What did you do all day?”  There is a lot of time and energy that goes into keeping the operations of our household running, but the actual tasks are often not worth noting.  I cleaned a toilet. I fed the children. I paid some bills. I researched a project. I did some work.

I can also appreciate why some moms are totally unstimulated by staying at home.  Repetitive tasks like dishes and laundry have become monsters in their own right.  Boring, tedious monsters that scare – not by jumping out of dark corners when I least expect them to – but by just sitting where they are, staring quietly with eyes that plainly say, “Sure. Fold me/Clean me – I’ll just be right back here in a matter of hours or days. Try me.” These monsters are unrelenting in many ways.

Of course, these monsters existed even when I worked, but let’s be honest: I rarely cooked when I worked so we ran the dishwasher once a day (maybe). Now, I run that sucker two or three times a day. And when I worked, I had a lot of dry cleaning and only had time for laundry once a week, making it feel more like an exciting event.  Now with five people in our family, laundry has to be done twice a week or we will drown in laundry. Literally.

To finish my evolution into a complete cliche, the twins will start soccer in two weeks with one of their buddies down the street from us. So yes, I will be rolling into soccer practice in our minivan, drinking a half-caf latte and wearing yoga pants. It’s going to happen and there is nothing any of us can do to stop it. So I say, embrace it!

Over the course of my existence, I’ve come to realize that nothing lasts forever. I know that this stay at home mom experience is just a season of my life. I am doing this for now, and I will do something else later. In spite of the laundry and dish monsters lurking at every turn, I am trying to put into practice the concept of being content where I am and enjoying this season of life.

So that’s it.  I think I’m caught up now with the blog.  I am hoping to write on a few more topics in the upcoming weeks because so much more has been happening in the K-House than just laundry!

showing up

In 2003, for reasons I still don’t understand, we wrote our new family’s first Christmas letter. Frank wasn’t sure why we were writing it at the time and we both thought that this first entry into our family’s public narrative should be sent out for very limited distribution. Our first letter vividly featured our most pressing and passionate marital argument until that point: a debate on the number of pillows allowed on a bed.

My answer? Eleven.

Frank’s answer? Definitely less than 11.

What was funny to us then, and even now, was how many people responded to tell us how much they enjoyed the letter.  And also, to passionately declare their support for either Team Frank or Team Emily.

The important thing, though, is that we felt this surge of connection with the people who commented.

So, we wrote another letter. And another. And another. And we got brave and sent it to everyone on our mailing list. It was exhilarating!

There are only two rules of K-Fam Christmas Letter Writing: 1. Keep it light and 2. No medical drama.

There have been some years when those two rules have been easier to follow than others.

The letter-writing process begins with both a scrubbing of the year’s events as well as a suggestion of a concept.  This year, after spending approximately five minutes with his newest daughter, Frank determined that the letter should be a memorandum from Annie talking about the circus she joined called Our Family.

In the case of this year’s letter, I wrote it, deleted it, wrote it again, sent it to Frank, sent him some changes, he sent me changes, I sent him changes and then we were done. Many years, there is at least one request (from Frank) for a chart/graph representing of some sort of achievement (sometimes this achievement is vomit or diaper-related) and most years, I ask for a few extra pages.  We’ve remedied these requests by occasionally allowing a gratuitous graph to sneak into the letter now and then; I started a blog.

The most important thing that happens, though, is that first step: we scrub the events of the year.  I take out the unnecessary details of the somewhat emergency c-section, the intestinal drama with two toddlers that reside in our home, Frank’s inability to securely screw the top on the orange juice and Annie’s over-the-top cuteness (she’s too young to get into too much trouble right now). Not to put too fine a point on this topic, but Frank, what is up with the OJ? And the Tabasco? And anything else with a lid?

So the events are scrubbed.  Cleaned up. We put a bow on the whole thing and send it out first-class mail.

The other stuff I don’t include is how many times I look at my peers and see how they are being a better mom.  They have better crafts, better playdate ideas, cuter lunches for their kids, etc, etc, etc. And then I see how some people are truly excellent writers and I’m a hack blogger.

I actually almost didn’t write this blog post because, well, it’s not an original topic or theme and others have written about this particular theme better, funnier and betterer.  (That whole sentence is a beautiful mess. I can’t fix it.)

But since this blog exists largely so that my daughters can glimpse inside the brain of their 34 year old mother, I am writing it anyway.

I realize there are two things illustrated with the story about the Christmas letter:

First, that when Frank and I are sharing our story and delighting people and engaging with friends and family – that is when we are the happiest.  We love making people laugh.  We love the idea of people opening their mail and being excited to see another silly letter from those tall people. We love the connection.

Second, nearly every year I think, “meh. I don’t think I can write this letter.” I didn’t do anything remarkable enough.  I made mistakes.  I can’t even tell you how many times Frank wanted to write something fun about my job, and I told him to just chill out – write something generic – write something uninteresting that essentially says, “Don’t worry, Emily still has a job.” I did fun and cool stuff when I worked.  I worked with remarkable leaders and innovators and true public servants. I helped out with projects that were fun and interesting. I just never could say it because I was weirdly worried that someone would write back and say, “Um, yeah, Emily is lame.”

In a nutshell, I have a lot of anxiety about how people perceive me and I hate that about myself. (I am actually working on a post specifically about that anxiety, but I started it a year ago and I’m still not any closer to done.)

I am not the best writer.  I am not the best mom.  I am not the best human. I am not number one, I’m not even in the top 50%. The only immediately remarkable thing about me is my height – and that doesn’t help me on the Internets.

I would really like to use that lack of bestness as a reason not to try.  I want to say, “Well, I don’t have to write that press release or post that information or play tea party with my twins” or WHATEVER – because someone else is doing it better somewhere else.

Wiser people than me have said now-cliche things like “99% of success is showing up” and other such brilliant things. And they are right.

I write all of this to essentially steal borrow other people’s wisdom: show up.

Show up and do your job. Show up and be a parent. Show up and be a friend, daughter, son, sister, brother – whatever. If you don’t have the best words to share, the best dish to pass, the best outfit for the occasion – show up any way.

Be brave. Be courageous. Let your little light shine. Even if that light is just a Christmas letter. Even in the worst years, when your spouse lost their job twice and you moved and you were a little freaked out – show up and write the letter and connect with the people you love.

A lot of people don’t show up. Maybe they are scared, too. Maybe they were worried they couldn’t do the best or most interesting, so they stayed home.

I totally get it: It’s hard. I often don’t want to show up. Sometimes, I don’t show up.

And maybe people don’t know that sometimes all they need to do is show up. Sometimes they are worried about a lot of things, like what if they aren’t enough. Maybe, if you see someone not showing up, maybe you could reach out to them. Show up for them.

Stand firm. Be present.

Grab hold.

Because the other thing I’ve heard a lot is that possession is 9/10ths of the law. (Note: I am not a lawyer or someone who knows anything at all about the law. So, you know, take that possession thing with a grain of salt.)

why I quit

Well, it’s taken me a few months to come out with this, but I quit my day job.

Yup. Quit.

Good-bye.

Donesies.

You should know, first and foremost, I loved my day job.  Yeah, there were crappy days and sometimes crappy seasons, but I love to work.  I’m kind of a junky like that.

Specifically, I loved the people I worked for and with.  Every day was new and fresh and different. That was excellent.

But…

After a night of fitful sleeping (the twins did this sleep regression thing for like, a year, that just about ended me), I would awake to the sweet sound of my alarm clock.  Or, in a wave of terror and panic, I would awake to two eyes staring at me from three inches away from my face. Either way, most work mornings were terrible. Corralling twin two year olds, convincing them to wear the clothes I wanted them to wear (for expediency’s sake), getting them moving in the right direction (towards the door) and also making sure that I was presentable – all by 7 a.m. so that we could run out the door, stop at Starbucks, drop the girls at their sitter and arrive at work on-time – was a fiasco.  Nearly every day someone cried.  Maybe it was the twins. Maybe it was me.  Maybe it was a squall line of stormy tears that ended almost as quickly as it began.  Maybe it was a freaking hurricane that lasted two days (“Mom. Mom. MOMMY. Remember how yesterday SHE wore the pink dress and I didn’t?” Commence tears. For two days.).  But there were almost always tears trying to leave the house.

Oh, and last winter I was very pregnant and it was -20 several mornings.

It was … amazing? Yes. Amazing.  Like, amazing that I didn’t develop some sort of twitch.

Or maybe I did.

Anyway, that was just the mornings.  If I had night meetings, my mom (St. Mary Kay) did pick ups and I arrived home after bedtime, exhausted.  If I didn’t have night meetings, I picked up two tired and hungry two year old toddlers and schlepped them home to try to make something that looked like dinner that, very often, they wouldn’t eat anyway. And then, because hygiene has always been a priority in our house, I’d hose the kids off in a very unfun bath, sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as fast as I could, and put them to sleep.

I’d like to pause right now and give a big shout out to single parents out there.

SINGLE PARENTS! Holy crap.  How do you do this, ALL THE TIME? Seriously.  Good for you. GOOD FOR YOU.  Single parents do not get enough credit or sleep or time off. While Frank was gone for four days each week, I was by no means a single parent.  I had a safety net that came home and let me sleep and made breakfast and did tuck-ins. And baths.  So, all I’m saying is, I have a strong appreciation for the legit single parents.  You rock.

So, back to me.

I did this three days a week.  On the fourth day, because Jesus is kind and my Mother-In-Law loves her grandchildren (St. Sandy), the kids would get to stay home and paint and color and have fabulous tea parties with GrahSandy.

And THEN, Frank would come home.  Now, while a lot of people do point out that he had the benefit of a full night’s sleep at a hotel and dinners out and so on, WHICH HE TOTALLY DID AND I NEVER FORGOT THAT FOR EVEN ONE MINUTE, the flipside is that he was staying in a hotel with paper-thin walls, in an uncomfortable bed and eating at Chili’s-type restaurants for every.single.meal.  As an aside, I do not actually want to know how his body has been chemically altered by that lifestyle, but if any scientists are curious about the effects of Chipotle-Chili’s-Panda Express-only food pyramid lifestyles, Frank is totally available.

And then he had a terrible commute to and from work.  Thanks to the brilliant Wright Amendment (which ended on 10/13/14 – woot!), Frank could never fly non-stop to Dallas from Midway for work.  He always had to stop. Sometimes he had to change planes.  No matter what, a generally short 2 1/2 hour flight would be dragged out at least an extra hour or so – possibly more.

Once he landed in Chicago, he had another hour to two hour drive home, depending on traffic.  His route often covered four Interstates/Tollways/Expressways, so every time he has to exit/enter a new road, there was a significant opportunity for a back up.

So that was fun for him.

Often he would walk in the door and I would launch the nearest twin in his general direction as a means of saying “hello darling.” He learned to reflexively drop the suitcase in order to catch the child.  He’s spry.

Fortunately I didn’t work on Fridays, so we used Fridays to catch up on stuff like seeing our children. And chores and paperwork.  And moving houses.  We moved houses last year.  I just finished unpacking recently.  So, yeah, we got that going for us.

And laundry.  Do you know how much laundry a family of four generates?  That’s nuts.  Now that there are five of us, we’ve reached epic levels of laundry.

I’m saying all of this to say that the way that our family was operating was unsustainable.

Considering all that we went through in order to have a family, I was realizing more and more that I was going to get to the twins 18th birthday and probably say, “What the crap was THAT?” in reference to their entire childhood.

That’s not cool.

And then we were adding a third child to this situation.

When Annie was born, I found myself looking at her little fingers and her little face and thinking/praying, “Thank you God for sending this baby to save me from myself.”

I don’t think that’s hyperbole; Annie’s birth probably saved our family from the future we were racing toward.

I would’ve kept working if we only had the twins.  I would’ve muscled through it and done the “grin and bear it” routine.  I would’ve missed events at school and stuff at work, feeling inadequate and terrible in both arenas. Frank and I would’ve put our marriage on ice and hoped there was something left when the kids went off to their small liberal arts colleges along the Mississippi River or in Upstate New York (or maybe a Big Ten school, I don’t really know).  We could’ve done it.  I would’ve done it.

It would’ve been a mess.

I wondered while I was pregnant with Annie how it would play out if I kept the crazy cycle going. And always, I just sort of knew, we couldn’t stop the landslide – so we better just sidestep it.

At first, when Frank and I started thinking about this change, we kept looking at our checkbook.  But, in an unspoken way, we kind of knew that God would provide and He seems to open and close doors for us in a weird way. We decided to trust this rhythm we had with God and we had with each other and make this move.

On my last day of work, I was filled with relief and … something else.  Turns out, thanks to an abundance of psychologists in my life, this other feeling was grief.

It was hard to quit. As I said before, I love to work.  I love projects and check lists and people and ideas and all manner of work-y type things.

I just do.  It’s weird, when I think of it, how much I do like to do these things.

So while it was hard to release the death grip I had on working, I did it.

I did it because I love my family. I love my husband and I love my children. I did it because all of those stupid cliches are sometimes true – people on their deathbeds don’t say, “Gee, I wish I worked more.” People dying say, “I wish I had more time with my family.”

I give mad props to the women who work and have families and can do it all.  That is awesome.  I so wanted to be that woman – the one who could work and, like day to evening Barbie, transition effortlessly to caring for my family with organic homemade food and manicured hands. It’s just that, for me, the reality is this: I. Can’t. Do. It.

In some ways I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t do it all.  I couldn’t sustain all of these fires I had burning without getting burned myself.

Staying at home with the children is work, no doubt. And I went through a hazing week a few weeks ago that caused me to see my hairstylist earlier than normal to touch up my roots. My dear friend, St. Eve, had to increase her data plan due to the insane amount of text messages she received from me, many consisting of things like “Sweet Jesus help me!” and “OMG YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED.” It got so ugly, she stopped reading my texts while eating.

Enough of that, though. (for now)

When the rays of sunshine are long, stretching across the floor of our office/study/gathering area and the twins are busy drawing a very important picture for me to review and Annie is spreading spit-up across her blanket and the floor; when the sink is happily full of dishes from meals eaten at home; when the girls’ fingers are prunes from long bath times playing; when we have a stack of books to read at bedtime from the library; when we can take our time walking to school in the morning holding hands and saying “hi” to Miss Leslie-the-Crossing-Guard (and Carrie can give her a flower); when our kitchen window is full of pictures and when the five of us are snuggled on a couch – when those moments and days and experiences happen, my heart is full and happy.

And when a whole bunch of other stuff goes down (future blog posts, maybe), I sometimes wish I could be somewhere else. Like at a job. Or hiding in my bathroom with the door locked.

But no matter the situation, this is a pretty awesome gig: this staying-at-home business.

SInce I’ve been at home, I wanted to blog more.  Write about Ellie and Carrie and Annie.  After all, this blog is for them. But no matter the blog posts I was writing in my head, I could never put them down because before I could write all of that, I had to write this.

So here it is. Sort of word vomit. Sort of an explanation.

To my daughters: if you work outside the home and have children, awesome. If you work outside the home and don’t have children, awesome (but get some dogs that I can spoil or travel a bunch so I can bore my friends at The Home with the minutia of your latest adventures). If you stay at home and have children, awesome.  If you stay at home and don’t have children, seriously, what are you doing? Go to work. Or volunteer. Geesh.

’round here…

Just a few diddies, in no particular order…

I had Annie on her floor mat, working on rolling over. Ellie came over, intrigued by what was going on.

“Ellie, want to help me teach Annie how to roll over?” I asked.

“Sure. I got this.  Watch.” And I did watch as Ellie unceremoniously pushed Annie over. “There. Done.”

Annie, because she’s cool as a cucumber, was unfazed.

 

As we pulled into the Peapod Pick Up location, I told the girls to say “hi” to Peapod.

“Hi Peapod! We are here! How are you today?” asked Ellie.

“Oh, I’m OK. I’m just tired and taking a nap,” answered Carrie in a squeaky voice, apparently in-character as the Peapod building.

 

This happens nearly every morning at breakfast: Ellie gulps down her orange juice just as I’ve started feeding Annie her long-awaited, much-deserved cereal and/or bottle.  As I explain to Ellie that I am feeding Annie and cannot get her more juice, she says, “OK, fine, I’ll feed her, you get me some juice, OK?”  Girlfriend is a logistics queen already!

 

Ellie, upon realizing we have a library book that needs to go back, delivered the following monologue.

“Mommy.  OK.  So, we can ONLY keep a library book for SEVERAL days. We cannot keep it forever. We have to return it, OK?” Her little eyebrows went up and she nodded her head. “OK. So, we can go tomorrow, OK Mommy? And when we go there, we can get WHATEVER we want.  First, we can go down the movie aisle. And then we can go down the book aisle, OK, Mommy? OK. Good.  Here, let me show you this book.” At this point she started paging through the book a la Vanna White.  I couldn’t stop giggling.

 

“I want a (fill in the blank).” This question is asked daily in a whiney, plaintive, accusing voice by both of my children.  I hate it. I always correct them.

But they Just. Don’t. Get. It.

So instead, I’ve started responding with, “Well, I want an oompa-loompa!”

At first, that response stopped the whining as they pondered what I requested.

A few days after I started this response, their Auntie Cay-Cay said, “I want a drink of water.”

The twins responded, “Well, our mom wants an oompa-loompa!”

 

A storm came through a week or so ago, resulting in a lot of downed tree branches in my parents’ neighborhood.  We drove through to survey the damage.  Carrie’s eyes became as big as saucers as she took in the scene.

“Wow. This was a LARGE storm!” Then, deftly, Carrie merged the world she saw with her imagination. “Let me look at my phone. Oh wow. Yes, this was a LARGE storm. Mom, do you see the trees? It was a LARGE storm. We should call Grandma Gigi and tell her.  I think there were bad lizards. Mom, can you use your real phone and see if there is another LARGE storm coming? We better tell Grandma Gigi about the bad lizards.

After thinking about what she may have meant when she said, “bad lizards”, I finally deduced that she meant blizzards.

“Honey, do you mean blizzards?” I asked.

“Yes. Bad lizards!” she replied.

“Oh, no, it’s not bad lizards, it’s blizzards. Like lots of snow and wind. That’s a blizzard.”

Carrie was not impressed. I am sure that a bunch of naughty reptiles raining down from the sky seemed a lot more interesting.

 

Carrie, upon eating a Skittle, said,”Mommy, this jelly bean (she knows not what she eats) tastes like an eyeball: sweet and squishy.”

… Um, what?

That is all for now…

bedtime

At first, they were quiet.  It was 8:35 p.m.  Well past bedtime.

And then they were talking and singing.  I ignored it.

And then I heard the first footsteps thunk on the floor over my head.

Crap, I thought.

The footsteps were quickly joined by their matching pair.  The footsteps padded around the twins’ room.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

And then, almost without warning, the footsteps were running at a frenzy down the hall and to the stairs. Bum da bum da bum bum bum bum bum.

“MOOOOOMMMMM!!!” shouted both girls.

“What?” I asked firmly, trying to walk the fine line between yelling and pleading.

“There is a GHOST! We saw HIM!” said Carrie, appearing around the entry of the living room, her eyes wide, but her lips betrayed her as they were curled up in a smile.

“Seriously? There isn’t a ghost,” I told her.  A curly red head popped around the same corner.

“Yes, yes there IS!” Ellie testified.

“No, there isn’t. C’mon girls, go back to bed,” I directed them.

Sensing that I knew that they were making the whole thing up, the twins scurried up the stairs.  I heard their footsteps round the corner of the banister and chase each other down the long hall to their room.

Whispering, talking and then outright hollering ensued.  I sighed.

THUNK! 

I cocked my head to the side to listen to hear if there was a follow up scream of pain. Nope.

And then there was the dull staccato of little feet running on the carpet, flying around the banister and drumming down the stairs.

“MOOOOM!” Oh, the whining.  Frank and I have been trying to break them of it.  Every word is stretched out by at least one or more syllables, often with sentences beginning with the word, “Buhhhhhhh-t!” (“But” is the original, un-mangled word). We correct them nearly every time the whining surfaces, sometimes even demonstrating for them how absolutely annoying the whining is.

So far, we’ve only been met with blank stares and more whining.

Parenting appears to be a lot of repetition without a lot of immediate gratification.  I’m guessing in 30 years the twins won’t even remember to thank us for breaking them of this nasty habit – they will just be consumed with the whining in their own homes.

But I digress.

“What now?” I asked. Again, working hard to maintain a firmness in my voice without sounding desperate. If they could please, please, please sleep, I could get some of the long, long over-due thank you notes done.

“Ayeeeee. Neeeeed. Waaaahhhh-ter!” complained Carrie.

“Stop whining, please.  You can get a glass of water.”

“Mooooom.  Ayeeeee. Neeeeeed. Kleeeenexxxxxx!” called Ellie.

“Well, first, please stop whining.  Second.  Please, for the love, go get a Kleenex.”

As far as I could tell, the feet and voices obeyed.  The footsteps wandered back to the twins’ bedroom. Another loud THUNK.

I sighed.  I put down the pen I was using to write out thank you notes.

Up the stairs I went, flipping off the light in the twins’ bathroom at the top of the stairs.

Their bedroom is at the far end of a long hallway, giving them ample time to hop into bed and to pretend as though they never left it in the first place.

“Girls,”I said upon arriving. “Get. In. Bed.”

Carrie stared back at me, deciding whether she was going to heckle me by stating the obvious.

“We are, Mooom.”

Oh no, she didn’t! I thought.

“You weren’t three seconds ago. I can HEAR you walking around and singing and hollering,” I told them.  Ellie’s eyebrows inadvertently shot up.  This was news to her.

“Girls. I am very, very disappointed to find you both out of your beds, wandering around and playing…” so began my lecture.

I am sure I said many wise and important Mom-things from the doorway to the twins’ room.  In response both girls tried to explain that they were only playing with the doll house.

But as my gaze around the room took in both the chaotic mess of their room (So.Many.Stuffed.Animals!), my heart softened as I looked at their little faces.

“Please, girls, go to bed.  We can do so many fun things tomorrow, but you need your rest so that you can enjoy them.” I finished.  Not quite General Patton, but I was severely limited by my own lack of stamina and restrictions on appropriate word choices (the twins’ expert-level use of the phrase “sons of bitches” is not what I want to get called into pre-school for this year).

“But Mom, remember when we went to the park with Daddy and the lightening and the thunder and we had to hurry home and it rained?” said Carrie as quickly as she could.

I started to interrupt her.  I started to tell her that the story about the storm was irrelevant, but then I stopped myself.

Her big blue eyes were serious. Playing at the park and leaving because of a storm was one of the riskiest things she’d ever done in her life so far. It was not a secondary detail, but an important thing to remember while I was telling her about future plans to play at the park.

“Yes, and everything was OK.  It was scary, but you made it home and everything was OK.  Now let’s go to bed and get rested for the busy day tomorrow, OK?”

There was some more whining and some more negotiating, but in the end, there were two girls in two beds, attempting (as far as I could tell) to sleep.

I went downstairs, stopping at the kitchen for a snack.  As I walked back to the living room, I had a realization that I am sure that every parent has.  It isn’t a new or unique or extraordinary.

It is as common as the way that time marches onward.

I realized that there will be a day when the twins and Annie are gone.  They will be at college or in their first apartments or wherever, but what’s important is that they won’t be at home. Around bedtime on that day, I will probably wander into the kitchen for a snack or a glass of water.  I will turn off the lights in the kitchen as I leave and round the corner to the living room, passing the stairs as I go.  I will look up those stairs and I will realize that there isn’t a light on, dimly, in the hallway for little girls to find their way to the potty late at night.  I will wander up the stairs, around the banister and to the end of the hallway.

I will stand in the doorway of the twins’ room, remembering that years ago I told them to please, for the love of all that is good, go.to.bed.

And instead of big blue eyes peering up at me from a lovely mop of blond hair or piercing blue eyes looking back at me framed by a mane of wild red curls – there will be two perfectly made twin beds.  They will be well-worn and indented in the middle from where two little girls grew up tall and strong and smart and brave.

I will stand in that doorway, holding a cold glass of water with the condensation making my hand wet and I will stare at that room for a really long time, remembering.

And I know, without a doubt, I will wonder, maybe even aloud, “Where did all that time go? How can they be gone already?”

So tonight I sat down in the living room, put away the thank you notes, and wrote this down.  Not just for me, but for my girls so that they know how deeply and profoundly loved they are – and as Frank says to them whenever he puts them to bed, “you can’t do anything to change that.”

I love you Elliana, Carrigan and Annabel. Every minute, of every day.