Sunday, September 26, 2010

One Year

"If you think back and replay your year, if it doesn't bring you tears either of joy or sadness, consider the year wasted."  --Peter MacNicol as John Cage, Ally McBeal 

A heady sentiment, to be sure.

Pre-children, you could say that I had very few worthy years. Up until that fateful ultrasound, my life was relatively safe, relatively un-eventful; which I am thankful for.

My childhood was marred only by divorce, but the early 80's were ripe with such statistics, and we made the best of it. My brother and I became experienced travelers before we were teenagers, while expanding our family circle by embracing our new definition of family.

Part of that new definition mandated traditional roles to blur. My dad's younger sister, my aunt Mary Lee, became part of our household, and we forged a bond that can only occur while sharing the day-in and day-out intimacy of shared residence.

I saw the challenges of parenting a newborn through her eyes, and her son (my cousin) was the first baby that I ever held, cared for, and fell in love with.

She lost a long battle with breast cancer one year before I found out I was pregnant. It never occurred to me that she wouldn't be around to witness my parenting struggles.

One year is a blip in a lifetime, but it can also be an eternity.

Since starting this blog one year ago, I've exposed my vulnerabilities on the World Wide Web, for anyone to see, and yet, felt oddly exhilirated at times with the honestly that flows from my fingertips.

I follow a number of twin mommy blogs. And, as melodramatic as this may sound, I credit them (and one in particular) with saving my life the first year after I became a mom of multiples. To some, mommy blogs may appear superficial, but if you look deeper, you can see the framework of their souls, right there for anyone to see. The internet has become a safe place to display your inner demons, your deepest secrets - because we all have them, and everyone can relate.

I've come to respect and admire mommy bloggers because even though it's the internet, it's not entirely anonymous. On the contrary, recently I was introduced to someone I have never met, yet she knew all about me via my blog (hi Jeff's mom!) I was flattered and embarrassed at the same time. Had I provided the parts of me that I would have wanted her to know? Was my true self apparent in the words that I publish on the internet? You can never know a person wholly by words on a screen, but there is a certain connection that comes from sharing secrets, even with strangers.

I'm not big on anniversaries, but it felt appropriate to document my Blog-o-versary (stolen from 6512 and growing). I don't have a giveaway, just more of my innermost self to display here in this magical space that has changed our lives. I just have one question: Will you keep reading?

Mary and me, circa 1996

Monday, September 20, 2010

40 Weeks

Have you ever done the math of pregnancy? 40 weeks is full term. But 2 of those weeks occur before a woman even ovulates. Most women don't know they are pregnant until at least the 5th week - one week after the irritating, yet reliable monthly visitor is scheduled to arrive.  That leaves 35 weeks to skip about happily preparing for the arrival of the most life changing, heart wrenching experience of your entire life.

Now consider this: "full term" for twins is 37 weeks (and I use quotes to express the irony here - there is another baby, but three fewer weeks...) I won't even go into the ludicrous timeframe for triplets and quads.

Side note: I foreshadowed my own pre-term labor when I facetiously posed the rhetorical question to a friend of mine as to why, in this technological age, did I have to lug these babies around for 9 months??

Most doctors will schedule the first ultrasound at 20 weeks; mine was reluctantly done at 16 weeks, due to persistent high blood pressure in my first trimester. After being assured of a solo, yet strong heartbeat at my 12 week appointment, I had settled into pregnancy quite easily. Although anxious about motherhood, I had no idea what lay ahead.
Of course, it was at that ultrasound that I first saw this image.

18 weeks later, at 34 weeks, I gave birth to my identical twin baby girls. That's 4 1/2 months for those of you still following my math. So, one half the normal time to mentally prepare for two times the number of infants.

Does not compute!

While I was pregnant, during the course of a normal day, I might get to experience the little thrill of telling a stranger that had inquired about my pregnancy that I was expecting twins. The overwhelming common response was, "What a blessing!" Now, not being a religious minded person, I admit to cringing a bit the first few times.

But while shopping at Old Navy for bigger maternity clothes, I remember the first time that I actually believed my twin baby girls may just be a blessing. It was the same day I had spent the morning sobbing to my dad on the phone as he encouraged me to embrace the thought of twins, and to look forward to the day when I could hold them both in my arms.

Children bring immeasurable joy to our lives, no matter the manner or timeframe in which they arrive.

I love them more and more each day, and wonder how that's possible?
(picture taken in May 2010, Pacific Beach, WA)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Feminism and the Modern Toddler

For my girls' second Christmas, I asked my mom and sister-in-law to buy them kitchen items for pretend play - the little velcro carrots and eggplant, a loaf of french bread with "cutting" board and plastic knife, and mini cardboard boxes of cereal and milk. One even came with a child sized shopping cart with optional hand held basket for those shorter trips.

I loved the sets. My girls - not so much. They couldn't quite get the handle (pun!) of the knife, nor the cutting motion needed to un-stick the velcro partners. The cardboard boxes soon became flattened into the carpet, like discarded recycling. Holding onto hope, I dutifully put the scattered plastic produce away each night, and re-shaped and taped the cereal boxes.

I was thrilled when my boss ("Auntie T") brought in pictures on her iPhone of her daughter's hand-crafted wood kitchen set, complete with fridge, stovetop/kitchen sink, dishwasher, washer, dryer - all with moving parts! At first, they loved opening and closing the doors, but never quite got the full gist of the beauty that lay before them. I imagined them spending hours (ha ha) engrossed in pretend baking, cooking and shopping.

A friend generously donated his spice jar collection to add to their ever-growing kitchen accessories. I meticulously cleaned them and set them out like little glass trophies. I even filled one with coffee beans for the shaker effect.


Not giving up, I arranged for the procurement of two identical miniature muffin tins at the neighbor's garage sale for a quarter each.

I scoured our kitchen drawers for duplicated items that I could relocate to the kitchen replica that was evolving in the playroom.

I snagged two plastic colanders from the dollar store.

Our old camping pots and pans were relegated to imaginary play when we upgraded our camper.

I found a bargain on a Princess tea set in the toy section of a discount department store.

I mail ordered a dozen styrofoam eggs, after they expressed an interest in the plastic Easter egg variety, thinking this would jump start their interest. After all, they loved making scrambled eggs with me, demanding I allow them to crack the egg, shell and all, into the bowl and take turns stirring. (sigh)

Over a year later, the entire collection sits in the corner of their playroom like an unloved pet. They would much rather pester me in MY kitchen, despite my plea suggestion to "go make muffins in Your kitchen!"

Is this an example of the grass-is-always-greener? Or are they budding feminists bucking the system and striking for women's lib in the kitchen?

Perhaps I should have bought them a tool bench.

Play kitchen "glory" days. Temper tantrum by Tristyn.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ambivalence Expounded

In my mid 20’s, and during my first years of marriage, I had decided I didn’t want children. I wanted to be free of the obligation, the hard work, and not to mention the heartache that inevitably comes with motherhood.

But life leads us in the direction we need to go, and we get little hints along the way.

My dad had a heart attack one year after I was married, and the rug was pulled out from underneath me. Hercules in the eyes of his daughter – the man who could do just about anything, fix just about anything, build just about anything. I spoke to him on the phone from his hospital bed. As he told me about his experience - that he lost feeling in both his arms, and struggled to breathe but still refused to accept that something was wrong – I lost it. I felt so helpless. My dad - who so lovingly raised me, who woke up with us before school when I was in 5th grade to help me curl my hair, who was so strict with me as a teenager (which I now realize was his way of showing he loved me), and now that I am an adult, who never lets me leave without telling me he loves me – was sick.

My memory of him in the hospital will stay with me always. The nurse, in awe of all the long-staying guests in the room asked him, “how many children do you have?” to which he responded, “I have a double King’s ransom… two boys and two girls”. I looked at her face, and realized that my dad was the luckiest man alive, not because he had survived his heart attack, but because he had a family. I knew in my heart that my life would not be complete without children.

Just one month later, my husband’s step-dad lost his long battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children up until the moment that he died.

On a recent trip to the Washington Coast with my extended family, I retired early after putting my girls to bed, and listened to the clatter of my family in the next room.

I thought of the modern concept of family, and how it's like math. What begins as simple addition (marriage, children), division (divorce), subsequent addition (re-marry) and sometimes subtraction (death) eventually becomes multiplication (grandchildren) and then evolves into algebra (in-laws, etc.)

Sticking with the mathematical analogy, which component does a family need in order to continue to exist?

I've been asked quite a few times why I changed my mind about having children. Instead of relaying the above, I tell them this:

If my 30-year old self could have a conversation with my 50-year old self, what would I say?

My best, logical guess would be To Have Children. 
Twins + Grandpa = Happy
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