a love song

Ten years ago this month, Frank and I enjoyed our first Valentines Day as a couple.

It was death defying.

No, for real. Frank had a test flight in a multi-engine plane and there was an issue with the cowling (skin) of the plane. As they were taking off, the cowling came loose and was dangerously close to taking out one of the engines.

Yada yada yada… They safely landed and Frank came over to my parents home, made me a delicious dinner and continued his tireless pursuit of my affection.

The next day, Frank and I had a meeting with our pastor to talk about our relationship – resulting in Frank’s second near death experience in less than 24 hours. Unexpectedly for Frank, our Pastor suggested (oh em gee!!) that we get married.

A few hours later, after recovering from nearly passing out, Frank decided that (and this is a direct quote) he was “as ready as I’ll ever be” to get married.

Which, to me, either meant he was committed to a life of bachelorhood or he was ready to lock this relationship down.

Fortunately for his sister (he was “crashing” with her for 18 months), he meant the second option.

Ten years later.

I find my heart racing when I think of how these years have slipped by. We have filled the time – and while I’d like to think we’ve filled the time well – the slippery, fluid nature of time consumes the background of my consciousness.

I think – “em! Be more present!” and I think – “observe! Commit this to memory!”

I think of the things I’ve already forgotten. Memories filed carelessly in “misc” that only come back to me when enjoying time with old friends.

And I think of the things I’ll never forget – singing 3rd Eye Blind with Kate and Jamie while driving in Kate’s Bonneville – the lyrics to “Long December” because that song became my anthem when I got my drivers license – the first time I met Frank – driving in The Blue Ox with the irreplaceable JLN – seeing my babies for the first time – how my mom smelled when she came home from a fun night with friends – the sound of my dads car cruising into to garage after a long day at work.

Time marches on in only one direction. Something about entropy and other physics shenanigans. Much smarter people than me are far more fit for that concept.

Regardless…

I love time travel stories. I’ve loved them since I was a young girl and my dad read “The Time Machine” to me. I love the idea of moving through time the way we move through space.

And yet…

If given the opportunity to go back and change something, I don’t believe I would.

There is something pure and authentic and genuine about our “one wild and precious life” – and living it as such.

The beauty of writing and blogging is that I do have an opportunity to write into the future – to send myself and my husband and my children a sort of message in a bottle. A way for them to know me now, without the benefit of a time machine.

Next month is my ten year anniversary of blogging. While it started out as the musings of a young 22 year old me who spent more time contemplating area malls, calories in salads and Diet Coke preferences, I hope that it has become for my children and my husband an illustration of me becoming myself – and the mother and wife they will remember.

This life that I am living – it is my love song for them.

Christmas in pictures… with a score card

Anyone who tells you they aren’t keeping track of who is winning in this game of parenting is a liar.

I’m keeping track.  And based on the results of this Christmas season, I don’t think I’m playing for the winning team.

The game? Parenting.  The goal? To raise your children.  The obstacle? They will try to raise you.  Every time a parent is able to maintain peace and present a unified front, parents get a point.  Every time a child successfully demolishes that facade? Point to the child.

For Christmas, we are scoring a few key areas:

  1. The Christmas Card Picture (2 possible points for execution and final product)
  2. The Christmas Outing (3 possible points for execution, most remaining Christmas Spirit and photographic evidence)
  3. Christmas Presents (2 possible points for sustained delight and photographic evidence)
  4. Official Christmas Festivities (1 point for attending church, 1 point for ensemble’s attire, 2 points for general outcome, 3 points for photographic evidence)

Total Possible Points: 15

Winner must win by at least two points.

Let the scoring commence.

The Christmas Card Picture: Twins 2 points

Shot 20

Shot 1

Shot 1

Shot 15

Shot 450

Shot 450

It took three separate photo shoots on three separate days, relocated furniture, bribes and a counseling session for mom and dad, but we finally captured this shot:

 

"Who, us? Difficult to photograph? No!"

“Who, us? Difficult to photograph? No!”

The thing is, I would’ve split the points evenly since we did get a cute shot, but the reason the girls look so angelic is because they are looking at us saying, “Mom, we live in a world that has sanity, and that sanity has to be destroyed by babies with attitude. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Dad? We have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for your sanity, and you curse your interrupted sleep. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what we know. That the toilet, while alluring to us in so many ways, probably distracted us from coloring on your walls. And our existence, while occasionally cute and snuggly to you, ends sanity. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want to be insane, you need to be insane. We use words like poopoos, uh oh, binkies. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent dismantling your sanity. You use them as a punchline. We have neither the time nor the inclination to explain ourselves to parents who cuddle and snuggle under the blankie of the very crazy joy that we provide, and then question the manner in which we provide it. We would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, we suggest you pick up a binkie, and stand a post. Either way, we don’t give a hoot what Christmas pictures you think you are entitled to.”  Not kidding.  Even with angelic faces, the soundtrack playing behind their innocent eyes was definitely Col. Jessup.

 

The Christmas Outing: Twins 2 Points, Parents 1 Point

First of all, kudos to Frank because he scored us our one point.  Frank went into the Christmas outing with an expectation of insanity.  His expectations were met and therefore, his Christmas Outing experience did not damage his overall sense of Christmas Joy.  The remaining points were awarded to the twins.

Between packed aisles, mobs of people at 9 a.m. and the veritable cornucopia of crap that comes with twin toddlers (diaper bags, coats, hats, binkies, bottles, snacks, etc, etc, etc), maneuvering through the store formerly called Marshall Fields was a hot, sweaty challenge.  Santa was on floor five.  Walnut Room, floor seven.  Christmas Tree viewing? Floor eight.  Elevators were cramped with 10 people and a double tandem stroller.  We eventually ditched the stroller and introduced the twins to the escalators, which they enjoyed.

The folks at the store formerly called Marshall Fields packed us all into a table with about four inches between us and our neighboring table. Which is fine if it’s not a brunch buffet and everyone doesn’t need to get up to get their brunch.  But guess what?? It’s a BUFFET!  Squee!

All in all, my siblings and my dad helped maintain the general Christmas spirit and even the twins were happy to scarf down “cake” (muffins… which, really, let’s be honest? Breakfast cake.)

Unfortunately, what you are about to see is the best picture from the three that we took.  And therefore, proof that the twins did win two points, fair and square:

Say "WHAT?? Where??"

Say “WHAT?? Where??”

Christmas Presents: Parents 1 point, Twins 1 point

The proof is in the video. I’m gonna go ahead and give myself credit for the amazing kitchen set that I put together.

But then, the nod goes to the twin to the all-out hysteria when Ms. Ellie did not get 100% dominance over the shopping cart they received as a gift from Aunt Cathy.  That hysteria can be glimpsed at the end of this video.  I stopped filming when it went to crazy-town levels.

 

Christmas Festivities: Parents 3 points, Twins 4 points

First, we got a “gimme” point because we did go to church.  And it was relatively uneventful and we even went to Chipotle for a traditional Christmas burrito bol.  I think Jesus would’ve approved.

I also gave us a “gimme” point because we were all dressed for Christmas Day.  We were even dressed in somewhat coordinating outfits.  Point.

I’m also going to say that we split the difference on the general Christmas experience.  While the girls certainly gave us a run for our money, we retaliated with an appearance by the big guy in a red suit.

Ellie: "Hey, someone is at the door!"

Ellie: “Hey, someone is at the door!”

 

Ellie: "Um, OMG! RUN!!"

Ellie: “Um, OMG! RUN!!”

You can even see that Ellie’s cousin Josh is a little horrified as well.  Score!

Emily: "Hey Frank, capture the Christmas magic! Quick!"

Emily: “Hey Frank, capture the Christmas magic! Quick!”

Frank and the twins playing on Christmas Day.

Frank and the twins playing on Christmas Day.

They look so sweet and innocent playing the organ, but this mama knows better...

They look so sweet and innocent playing the organ, but this mama knows better…

Me? Plot to take over the world? Never!

Me? Plot to take over the world? Never!

Final score?  Twins 10, Parents 5.

 

all you need is love…

It was much easier for me, when I was younger (and dumber), to determine what would make a marriage work.

When I was 22 years old, I would’ve told you, even if you didn’t ask, that a marriage required love. Squishy, delightful, schmoopy love.  Also? I would’ve told you marriage required an investment of time and hard work, but only because once I heard someone say that and I found something oddly romantic about this puritanical angle to long-term relationships. I would’ve told you that marriage required mutual sacrifice (mostly on the husband’s part… thus mitigating the “mutual” part).

Now?

Lots of scientists and philosophers and people generally smarter than I have created an entire cottage industry on why and how and who and when and where marriages work best.  There are endless top 10 lists of things that promise predict the seemingly inevitable demise of your union.

Smash the wedding cake? BAM. Divorce.

Pick a the wrong first dance song? BAM. Divorce.

Does your spouse wash their hair first in the shower while you wash your face first? INCOMPATIBLE! FAIL!

When Frank and I were getting married, though, we were high on LOVE. Every element of planning the wedding was a beautiful adventure on our way to our storybook wedded bliss.

There we were, traipsing through this loveland, la-la-la-ing our way to September 19, 2003 when BAM, we walked faced first into the sliding glass door of our pre-marital conference at church.

Picture this:

Emily and Frank, young, thin and in love, holding hands and sitting amongst other engaged couples.  Eight round tables were placed throughout a large conference room with eight couples per table (plus or minus). We looked at the other couples seated with us and glowed at them – you are like us! we are like you! we are in LOVE! yes! And the other couples looked at us and said back, “stop looking at us like that.  You’re creeping us out.”

At the front of the room was a podium and an earnest professor-type opening up our session in prayer and sharing wisdom and trying to impart the mechanics of marriage on people who were more interested in the difference between a fresh fruit cake filling and a jam cake filling.  Decisions, decisions.

We embraced this conference – we were determined to get an A+ in pre-marital counseling.  We were overachievers.  We were in love!

The conference director said, about halfway through, “OK, raise your hand if you are over 25.” Nope. We were 22. “OK, raise your hand if you have college degrees.” WINNER WINNER! Our hands shot straight up. “OK, raise your hand if you make over $50,000 per year, combined.” Nope.

“If you do not have two out of three of these items in your favor, your marriage is more likely to end in divorce.”

Frank and I sat in stunned silence. Did we fail at marriage before we began?  How is that possible? I have no idea what else what they said at the conference – I was still trying to figure out if we could get extra credit in order to make up for the two of the three we missed.

Originally I thought it was kind of like that summer before my freshman year that I took a keyboarding class and got a B+.  I started my  high school career knowing that I could NEVER be a valedictorian… or a court reporter.

And there is something freeing in that – you know, knowing you won’t be the valedictorian. Or a court reporter.

But the part where I got an F- in your premarital counseling class has less of a silver lining.

Fast forward nine years: we have, so far, defied the odds.  We have our moments, for sure.  We’ve traversed bravely some of the things often described by marital experts as potential marriage enders.

Is there really a magic recipe for a marriage that works and a marriage that fails?

I really don’t know.

Tonight, in a moment of top-of-the-mountain reflection, I watched my brother and his bride rehearse for their wedding.  All while watching them practice walking up the aisle and learn their roles in the ceremony, I was thinking about what I wanted to tell them – what I would wish them to help ensure a long and happy union.

Do I tell them, “Never go to bed angry.” Or do I tell them, “Never say Divorce.” (woops. I said Divorce. Woops. I said Divorce again. And again. I’m in trouble.) Or how about, “If you’re the wife, lower your expectations and if you’re the husband, step up to the plate?” (yikes.)

Upon further reflection…

It just seems that marriage is like flying an airplane.  There are all these logical reasons  an airplane flies. Lift and drag and speed and atmosphere and blah blah blah. (Can you tell I failed my aviation ground school?) But when I see a plane or a bird gliding through the air successfully, doing what it was made to do, the only real explanation that makes any sense is the one that my pilot husband gave me: Pure Freaking Magic.

A lot of people miss the magic.  They are caught up in the mechanics and the science and the logistics – and they miss enjoying the moment.  A party planner who never dances at his parties. A writer who never reads his books. A painter who never sees the art around him.  It’s easy to do the same thing in marriages – to amass “stuff” and to check checklists – and never savor the relationship.

But, oh, the moments where I stopped and wondered at and drank in the magic of it all: lazy Saturday mornings, long car rides, dreaming of our future, holding our babies, lying under the Christmas tree and holding hands on the way to somewhere exciting. How we met and fell in love and stay in love and live in love – that is simply Pure Freaking Magic.

When my brother brought Lauren home, we knew he was a goner.  You could tell it in his eyes and his smile.  It was magic.  And when Lauren laughed heartily and genuinely at his jokes? That, too, was magic.  Pure. Freaking. Magic.

My hope for them is that they marvel at what they have, all the days of their lives.  And that when they see an airplane flying or a bird soaring or a humming bird floating that they would be less concerned with the details and more enthralled with the Pure Freaking Magic of it all.

To Andy and Lauren: I wish you a marriage full of magic and wonder and joy.

PFM, always.

Love,

Em

a prairie home companion

alternatively titled, “a love song for my children.”

I love talk radio.  I love conservative talk radio.  I love liberal talk radio.  I love post-Hawks games sports talk radio.  I love morning talk shows and will frequently change the station when they play music.  I adore news radio of all kinds.

But there is something absolutely magical about my childhood Saturday nights at 5 p.m. in Chicago.

At 5 p.m. on Saturday night, the self-deprecating Minnesotan Garrison Keillor, accompanied by a jaunty pianist, would open up the stage of “A Praire Home Companion,” a lovely radio show that often featured tales of Garrison’s beloved Lake Wobegon

Listening to APHC is like being thoroughly ensconced in some of the most treasured aspects of my childhood.  Growing up, we mostly listened to APHC on the way to Saturday night Catholic Mass, and some of my strongest, most delicious memories, are of Garrison’s steady, deep voice rumbling through stories of Guy Noir and News of Lake Wobegon.  Our family’s red minivan bounced along the tree-lined streets of Palatine, the same streets that brimmed with my own family’s 50+ year history of growing up and growing old in this town.  Sunlight filtered and danced through the large oak trees we drove under, a faint smell of barbecues pre-heating wafted through open car windows and Garrison’s narrative rose and fell over the sounds of my family chattering along the way to mass.

I especially recall Garrison’s folksy duets with guest singers and song writers: a perfect soundtrack to a lush summer day.

Tonight, on the way home from a day with Frank’s family at the Lake, I turned on NPR and heard the familiar sounds of my beloved APHC.  The first strains of the piano accompaniment sent me straight back to those wonderful evenings driving to Mass.  I turned the volume up, hoping that the sound of Garrison’s rambling stories, always punctuated with his deep, inhaling breaths through his nose, would bury themselves deep into the girls’ psyche.

See, those Saturday night family trips to Mass are, for me, the epitome of an American childhood.  We worked outside all day on nearly every Saturday – mowing, trimming, watering, and planting – and then we would wash up, put on clean cotton shirts and skirts, and go to Mass.

The church I grew up in, was a dark, cavernous space, but it was not unfriendly – not at all – it was a holy and happy place for me.  On Saturday nights, our parish allowed the worship director to use guitars and folksy versions of our favorite hymns.  We always left church on Saturday nights with light hearts – and hungry stomachs.

Usually Garrison’s show was still going on when we left church.  While we drove somewhere to pick up dinner, we’d listen to the News of Lake Wobegon, smiling as Garrison deftly wove together stories of Lutherans and casseroles and young people making their way in life.

And always, always, Garrison finished his broadcast with: “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Then, the jaunty pianist would send us all off into the proverbial sunset, happy and satisfied that somewhere in the world, there must be a Lake Wobegon. And more importantly, there seemed to be an implicite promise that there would always be a Lake Wobegon – as long as their story was told.

One day, maybe my children will hear the sound of Garrison Keillor’s voice intimately narrating a story about the stoic midwestern folks up in Minnesota, and that they will feel what I feel: that our stories and our legacy and our love continues on in the people we love, long after we are gone.

 

18 months

The twins are 18 months old.

I know that I am always amazed when I mark the time that has passed since the twins were born.

Every time I do that, I slap my forehead and think, “when did I get so OLD??”

And then I think, “I was so much younger 18 months ago! Where did that time go?”

Full circle.

So yes, the twins are 18 months old.  I am also 18 months older than I was when I birthed these babies.  Frank is, too.  Time, being all chronological and stuff, does that to a person ya know.

On the twins’ 18 month birthday, we celebrated my parent’s 116th birthday.  No, just kidding.  They’re only 58 each.  Ha ha ha. I bet they loved that joke.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents have a lot in common, including being born within 24 hours of each other.  This is Super Convenient for planning birthday dinners and the like.

We enjoyed brats, burgers, salad, potato salad and Portillo’s chocolate cake.  OMG. Have you had Portillo’s chocolate cake?  Stop reading this and drive to your nearest Portillo’s and get some cake – what are you waiting for??

The girls had a blast playing with G-Ma and Rick Almighty.  Auntie Cay-Cay, Auntie Laur and Uncle Andy also entertained the twins, chasing them around the field behind our house.  All in all, everyone had a nice time – although it would’ve been 100x better if Auntie Sarah was there.  Instead she’s all like, in California surfing and stuff.

Boo.

So, yes, the twins are now 18 months old.  Ellie is our chatty baby – she says a lot of words now – Mama, Dada, Bib, Cah-gin, socks, shoes, sippy,  and WAH! (which means more milk, more food, more hugs, more snuggles, more binky).  Ellie also reprimands Carrie from time to time, “Cah-gin. Cah! No! NO!”  It’s pretty hilarious, but will likely need to be reined in.

The girls are hugging each other, which is, by far, the Cutest.Thing.Ever!

Carrie, our child with smaller vocabulary, is our child with the highest likelihood (at this point) to be an athlete.  Running, attempting jumping, spinning (until she makes herself dizzy and falls down… woops) and all sorts of shenanigans are the name of her game.  A lot can happen before the collegiate scouts go to their volleyball/basketball/whatever games.  But still, I am comforted by her interest in spherical objects and throwing them.

Both girls love to be snuggled and cuddled.  They have developed a twin language that they use to plot evil schemes, or who knows what.  It seems pretty legit and conversational, which has Frank and I amused. And concerned. But mostly amused.

The girls go in to be weighed and measured next month (we thought we would avoid the mad rush of back-to-school physicals), so I will post those relevant stats mid-September.  I’m sure that they have gained weight, I’m sure that they have grown taller.  I mean, Carrie grew two shoe sizes between May and July, so the stunner would be if they hadn’t progressed.

So yeah, 18 months, man.

 

 

twinfessions

Ah, twins.

Many a fellow parent has commented to Frank and me, “I don’t know how you do it!”

And I’ve been all like, “Um, what? Raise two infants simultaneously? Like that’s hard or something?”

Ha ha. Ha. Hummm.

It’s time to fess up.

Raising twins is like juggling grenades: If you drop one, everyone gets blown up.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic.

But let’s be clear: twin infants (even twinfants who enjoy projectile vomiting all.the.time) are a piece of cake, once you get them sleeping through the night. From 4 months through 13 months, it’s all just a matter of budgeting a little extra time to accommodate doing everything twice.

Twin toddlers? It’s like dealing with lunatic zombies. Cute lunatic zombies, but lunatic zombies all the same.

Logistically, if both Frank and I are watching the girls, it’s easy-peasy.  Man-on-man defense.  Done.

The challenge is when we are doing some demented version of zone defense because one of us is at work. That’s when it gets exciting.

Case in point: Frank left the room to brush his teeth. He was gone 2 1/2 minutes, tops.

He came back to the twins perched on top of their changing table having a grand old time.  They scaled the rocking chair and the dresser to get on top of their changing table pad.  And they were smiling like they were supposed to be there.

They love to dance on top of our glass topped coffee table.  Specifically, they love dancing to Rolling Stones on our glass topped coffee table.

The second we put them down in the family room, they identify all of the weak points and attack relentlessly. Remote controls? Cell phones? Glasses? Open baby gates? Nothing slips by them.

And the twins are completely fearless, a la lunatic zombies.  I’ve noticed other toddlers are more hesitant to go down the slide at the park, but not our girls. Ellie, our generally more cautious girl, went down the slide the other day, her foot caught and she summersaulted the rest of the way down. I thought for SURE there would be tears. She stood up, brushed herself off, and hurried back to the stairs to go down the slide again. What the what?!

wheeee! Carrie conquers the slide!

This weekend I took the girls to the park solo. Seemed reasonable enough.  How bad can a park be?

I don’t know if you’ve been to a park these days, but holy-crapola, these parks are DEATH traps. Sure, they coat everything in rubber and plastic, but every single piece of equipment has a side that is a free-fall into wood chips. If you are only watching one toddler, this wouldn’t be a problem, but since I am watching two lunatic zombie toddlers, this is a major issue.  Carrie likes to walk right up to the edge and growl at me.

 

Grrr, Mama!!

Again, this would be fine if I wasn’t already distracted by Ellie going up and down the stairs to the slide with the grace of a heavily intoxicated, stiletto-wearing monkey.

Oh, and then there are the communication issues. The girls know how to wave “hi” and “bye”. This is really cute until Carrie is waving “bye” as she walks off in one direction and Ellie sprints in the other. They only sort of understand “Stop!” and “SIT STILL!” and “STAY THERE!”  We’re working on it, but right now the communication gap adds a totally interesting layer.

So yeah, raising two toddlers makes for some very interesting/challenging/exciting/crazy times.  I’m forever grateful that strollers and wagons have seat belts. And I’m even more grateful that I have a husband who is truly a partner in raising these girls – cuz man alive, I certainly wouldn’t want to do this solo all the time!

Plotting to take over the world…

an open letter from the twins

Hello world, it’s us. The twins.  Well, it’s me, Carrie, writing on behalf of both of us.

We thought it was about time the world heard our side of the story.

Sure, you’ve heard all the “wah, wah, my bey-beyz barfied on everything” nonsense our mom and dad still whine about on a regular basis.

News flash: we have not puked since like, December. Except for that one time that Ellie puked like 6 times in a row.  Not sure what was up with that, but whatevs. Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

So Mom and Dad are all like, “Get off the coffee table!” and “Point to your nose!” and “Say, ‘more please!'”

It’s all well and good that they want us to be all verbal and respectful and stuff, but Ellie and I have been talking it over and we think it’s pretty amazing that we can climb on the coffee table.

I mean, a year ago, it was a big deal that we could roll over.  Now? We can hurl our 25 pound bodies up on the glass coffee table faster than you can say, “Babe, you watching the twins?”

Y’know what else? We rock the tech. Give us an iPhone or a remote control and we can do some serious damage.  Two weeks ago, we got Siri to call one of Mom’s work contacts.  Three weeks ago, we turned on Telemundo AND set the DVR to record it.

Doods – there are people like five decades older than us who can’t figure out how to record stuff on the DVR.  We got it LOCKED. DOWN!

So yeah.

Also? We are good babies.  We know we are. Sure, we don’t like the nursery at church and get all up in the sweet church ladies’ grills, but ya win some, ya lose some.  It’s all in the name of scoring a few extra gold fish crackers and cheerios while you’re up in church and we’re doing time.

And sure, we tend to run off in opposite directions when you try to play with us outside.  It’s called strategy.  Ellie and I figure that if we divide, we will conquer. And it works.

While it seems like we’re smart cookies, we do a few repetiviely dumb things, like walking straight off the step down into the family room.  Mom, Dad, I don’t think we’re Mensa material, but I don’t think we’ll be a total bust either.

You gotta take the good with the bad, for sure.

Guys, I know you’re gonna be all up tight and all “my kids have to excel at all things” and stuff, but chill.  It’s gonna be OK.  We’ll learn how to talk.  We will likely go to college potty trained.  And we’re probably gonna do some bone-headed things in the meantime.

I mean, Mom, you got your TONGUE stuck in your BRACES. And Dad, is there anything you DIDN’T hit with your head??  You both turned out OK, right?

So yeah. It’ll be fine. Have a glass of wine on the porch, but keep it down. We’re trying to catch our z’s.

Until then, peace out P’s (Parents).

XOXO,

Carrie & Ellie

mothers day deux

Parenting is not pretty.

Last mothers day weekend, I begged my sister to come spend the night. Frank was out of town and I had to go up to my in-laws for mothers day on Saturday.  We plant flowers and have a nice meal together.

But I knew I would be in no condition to go up there if I had the twins to myself at night.

And so I commenced begging Caitlin.

Because Caitlin is so amazing, the conversation went like this:

Me: Hey Cait–

Caitlin: I’m coming over!!

So yeah.  The evening initially went OK. I mean, there was the requisite puking, but by bedtime, Caitlin was still wearing the same clothes she arrived in.  We snuggled the girls into their car seats (that’s where they slept for three or four months) and tried to get some sleep.

I want to tell you I vividly remember what occurred that night.  I want to tell you that it was a series of Norman Rockwell moments illustrating a generation of sisters passing along the torch of sisterhood to the next generation of sisters.

No.

I have to tell the truth.  The night is a blur.  I desperately wanted and needed sleep, but the nursery house of horrors had come alive in vivid shades of regurgitated formula and the soundtrack was the wailing and gnashing of gums.  I helped Caitlin with one of the feedings, I think.

I know that I went into the nursery a few times and tried to help.  My sister valiantly sent me back to bed.  I was somewhat aware that she was in a new outfit – or that her outfit had been “redecorated” by one of the twins – but I didn’t stop to question it.

When I came-to in the morning, having had a few continuous hours of sleep punctuated by a foggy awareness of babies crying, I stumbled into the nursery at 6 a.m. to find my sister surrounded by a half-dozen half-eaten bottles and dirtied burp rags. Her normally beautifully-kept, perfect blond hair was in rats nests around her face (how do babies make that happen so quickly???) and she had the look of a woman who had seen things she could not bear to repeat.

Me: What… what… what happened?

Caitlin: Oh (looking around, trying not to break down), it’s nothing. They just… they just… THEY WOULDN’T GO TO SLEEP! (lower lip quivering) Why? Why? I tried (weeping) Lord knows, I tried.  I sang, I rocked and they – THEY VOMITED!

Me: Uh huh. Are you OK?

Caitlin: Yes. Yes.  I’m OK.  I’m OK. I just… Just.. need… sleep.  Please, make the crying stop.  I just need to go to sleep.  One would stop and the other would start. Why??

Me: There, there.  It’s OK.

The twins, for the record, had calmed down.  They were looking at us with a quiet satisfaction. It appears that the generational torch of sisterhood can be passed in either direction.

Together, we put the girls in their cutest outfits.  I combed my hair.  Caitlin helped me load the car for my one hour journey and then she stumbled to her car and drove home, where she slept until 2 p.m.

I don’t blame her.

And I thought to myself, “Is this how it is always going to be? What did I sign up for?! HELP!”

I wasn’t alone.

Around July of last year, Frank looked at me pleadingly and asked, “will these children EVER sleep through the night?” I told him reassuringly, “Of course!” but thought, “What if they don’t? What if we never sleep again?!” And then, miraculously, about a week or so later, the twins finally started sleeping through the night.

We had the same situation with feeding the girls solids – it seemed like we would be forever be covered in sweet potatoes and mashed green beans and all sorts of disgusting (and, might I say, bland) baby food.  It seemed like the girls would never figure out their sippy cups or straws.  It seemed like they would never crawl or walk or talk.

And every time I’ve felt that way, I’ve been wrong.  Motherhood has proven me wrong more often than not.

So this year, I’d like to say three things about parenting on this lovely Mothers Day weekend:

1. It is epically humbling.  Not: “Waving at someone across the street because you think you know them but then you realize that you don’t know them and so you pretend your wave was actually a hair adjustment”, but “Holy crap, I actually showed up to college graduation naked AND without the required number of hours!” But, the good news is that it’s not about you as a parent, but rather about doing what’s best for your kids and your family. So, you know, grab a trench coat from graduation coat check and fake it til you make it.

2. A win is a win. Yeah, your kid may not have walked as soon as Susie’s prodigy child or Donna’s baby might have a larger vocabulary, but odds are, your kid will not go to high school only saying “bah” (ball) and “dada” (everything else).  Odds are, you will have a phone bill that will prove that your child has indeed expanded her/his vocabulary to include “Whatever” and “Can I have the car tonight?”

3. Old people are on to something.  Live long enough, I’m starting to realize, and you’ll start saying the same annoying stuff your parents said.  I’m not going to suggest that anyone admit their parents are (gasp!) right, but perhaps our parents might have a few pieces of well-earned wisdom.  They still don’t understand good movies/music/books/fashion/texting/whatever, but they definitely might have a few pieces of sage advice when it comes to raising/chasing after/loving kids.  I mean, I/you didn’t turn out so bad, did we?

Right now I find myself starting to wonder if the twins will ever grow up.

And I stop myself.

 

 

Happy Mothers Day to all you ladies.

three things: bodily functions

A few months after having the twins, Frank and I were out on a mini-date, and during a lull in the conversation, Frank said, “You know, having twins wasn’t quite the poop storm I thought it would be.” (He didn’t say poop… but you know, what I mean)

And, really, it wasn’t a total poop storm.  Except on the few occasions that it was literally that: a storm of poopies. Or barfies. Or whatever.

Just today, I was thinking that I didn’t want to write something my kids would be embarassed about later.  But just like Carrigan cannot resist the siren song of the TV remote control, I cannot resist telling a few scintillating baby stories that I am sure will make their weddings all the more memorable.

Story #1: Everybody Poops

At some point, we realized we couldn’t both get up for every feeding, so we started taking shifts in the middle of the night.  One night Frank came back to bed and I rolled over, half sleeping, and asked him how the first middle of the night feeding went.

“I got poop on my face.”

In my sleep-induced fog, I couldn’t quite figure out the mechanics of that statement. I was vaguely aware that poop just typically doesn’t go on your face.  Or my face.  Or anyone’s face.

In the morning, certain that I was having weirdly realistic dreams, I dismissed the memory as fiction.

But over breakfast, appropriately, Frank gave me the low-down.  While changing Ellie’s poopie diaper, he dropped it dirty-side-down on the carpet. Annoyed and without thinking, he bent over to pick it up, putting his face dangerously close to Ellie’s behind. Being a gassy little love, Miss Ellie chose that moment to let a wet one loose, resulting in poop on Frank’s face.

The way that Frank tells it, there was a long pause where he reflected on the situation, absorbing the reality that it was 2 a.m. and there was poop on his face.

Story #2: Diapering 101

One night, after many nights of not getting a lot of sleep, we were bathing the girls and getting them ready for bed.  Or maybe we were just changing diapers and it was dark.  Or maybe we were changing diapers and it was the middle of the day.  Who knows?

The important thing is that one of us (Frank) took a few liberties with the diaper changing process.  Namely, he didn’t really secure the diaper to Carrigan’s itty-bitty behind.

I was sitting on the rocker, holding Carrie on my leg when it happened.  It began as a subtle warming on my leg, spreading  quickly. When I finally realized what was happening, Carrie had peed through her clothes, my pants and onto the floor. 

Her diaper, however, was hanging around her knees and was totally dry.

Story #3: The Barfies

Our twins had reflux from the time they came home from the hospital until they were 9 months old. Seriously.  You can’t make that crap up.

They barfed all the time.  Sometimes, just when you would think to yourself, “Oh, it’s been an hour since their last feeding, certainly they can’t possibly get sick” is usually also the time where they would unload the motherload of vomit. So. Awesome.

 I smelled barf everywhere I went for a very long time.  Even now, I sometimes sniff my clothes just to make sure I don’t have barf on them somewhere.

While many people experienced the twins’ epic barfies – my family members started bringing extra clothes with them when they came for a visit- the best barfing extravaganza happened to my dear friend Eve.

Eve came over to visit while she was still 6 months pregnant with her little Josiah.  Probably expecting a zen evening of snuggling babies, I don’t think that Eve really understood what was in store.

“Want to give Carrigan a bottle?” I asked her. Said another way, “Want to pull the pin from this grenade?”

“SURE!” 

Eve fed Carrigan a bottle. And Carrigan, equal to the task, gulped the whole bottle down in record time.  She gave a few demure burps, batted her eyelashes, opened her mouth as if to yawn and …

BARFED ALL OVER EVE.

It went down the back of Eve’s shoulder and the front of her shoulder.  It cascaded like a rancid waterfall onto the couch.  It went down the front of her shirt.

And Eve, being six months pregnant, began gasping, coughing, dry heaving and generally reacting to being coated in a thick layer of regurgitated formula. 

If the quantiy of barf expended by my children was directly proportional to the amount of love they feel for a person, my dear twins must love a lot of people VERY MUCH.

style

Specifically, management style.

We’ve all got a management style.

I’ve got it.  You’ve got it. We’ve all got it!

Sure beats herpes, right?

(nothing like a herpes reference to kick off a blog post, eh?)

So. Anywho.

I’ve had lots of managers in my lifetime.  My first two managers were my parents.

My parents have a very unique, very different management style than most parents.

Let’s talk about my mom first.

My mother LOVES a good time. Loves it. Every day was a new adventure.  Mom LOVES people. She loves to talk in lines at the grocery store, at the post office, waiting for the walk signal at a stop light, on the phone to customer service reps, at sporting events and so on. Church was the ultimate showcase of the differences between my parents – after the last note of the last song was sung, my dad BOLTED for the car, grabbing whichever children were closest. My mom? She saw her friend Joyce and wanted to check in on how Joyce’s uncle’s brother’s wife was doing.  And then she saw Ann and goodness, Ann’s oldest looks so cute with her new haircut.  And on the way out she wanted to check in with Father Joe about the Women’s Pot Luck for the Council of Catholic Women and also to see who needed a dish for a funeral.

And to my mother’s horror, when she stepped out into the crisp sunshine of a glorious Sunday, there was my father, pulled right up to the front doors of the church, waiting.

How the next few moments went often determined whether we would be going out for a delightful family brunch or if we were going home for left over cold pizza.

My dad is practically her exact opposite. My dad loved to sit with us and talk about our five year plans and what our personality profiles suggested would be ideal career paths for us. He still loves to review business and acquisition strategies and enjoys reading resumes for people on the hunt for a new job.  He practices looking at things in new ways.

When we were home sick from school and my dad was our caregiver one rare November day, my dad made charts of our fevers on 3×5 index cards.  He planned story times, sometimes the content of which he imagined up in some of the most hilarious stories I’d ever heard in my young life, and sometimes he read to us from The Time Machine  by H.G. Wells.

Were my parents perfect? Nope. They were lots of fun, absolutely.  If you were going to have to be stuck in a car for two weeks traveling across the country and staying in a pop-up camper, you’d be lucky to be stuck with my family.

But the part of me that loves the idea of schedules and charts and graphs (oh, excel, how I love thee), always sort of wished my mom gave me more routine and structure. And for anyone saying, “But Emily, your mom reads your blog! How could you say that??” I must tell you, I know this about myself because my mother told me so.  My mother is a keen observer.  She knew things about us before we ever knew it. She knew I’d go to DePaul before I ever knew it. She knew I’d marry Frank before I even said yes.

She’s good like that.

Annoyingly good.

My parents are different from my friends’ parents.  They are very different from Frank’s parents.  Frank was raised by a periodontist and an artist.  If you want to know what makes a pilot, I think that has to be it – the perfect combination of science on a small scale (in.your.mouth.yuck!) and the abstract vision of modern sculpting.

And yet, despite our parents’ very different management styles, interests and skills, Frank and I make (and laugh at) the same juvenile jokes.

Tonight, Frank looked at me and said, very confidently with a slight smirk, “titmouse.”

And I. Lost. It.

For those of you at home who wonder if this is a made up word, I assure you it is not.  Below, please take a moment to enjoy the tufted titmouse:

Yes, I am a Tufted Titmouse. What?

On Facebook and in forums and in conversations, I have observed much dispute over parenting management styles.  From epidurals to store-bought baby food, nothing is sacred. Or perhaps the issue is that everything is sacred.

I gotta tell y’all that if you get an epidural or you don’t, if you breastfeed or you don’t, if you cloth diaper or you don’t, if you make all of your baby food or you don’t, you may still raise a daughter or a son that will date, fall in love with, and marry another individual who will absolutely fall apart when your child says, “titmouse.”

When my first boyfriend broke up with me, my mom and dad did the most wonderful thing.  First, my mom realized that this was a job for dad.  And my dad sat down and talked to me about grieving lost relationships. As a 17 year old girl, there is nothing more powerful than a dad who is brave enough and smart enough to sit down with you and affirm that you are beautiful and that not all men suck. Just some.

He told me all of the old adages apply: “Time heals all wounds” and “it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”.  And then he very profoundly quoted John Lennon and told me, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

I, myself, have gotten all worked up about whether my child will excel or fail miserably based upon the quantity and quality of breastmilk she received.

But in the midst of the anguish of deciding how to feed my children, I learned how to love them. How to make difficult decisions to care for them, how to snuggle them without watching the clock, how to make them laugh, how to play with them and how to be the mom they need me to be.

Not to worry, we have another 17+ years to go. I don’t expect this learning process to end now that they are close to walking.  I expect that I will continue learning how to be their parent and how to love them.

And I am grateful for all of the styles of parenting I’ve been able to witness because I will likely draw from all of them as I develop as a mom.

Titmouse.

Ha ha ha. 🙂