Yesterday afternoon Vivian came running up from the basement and breathlessly told me that she saw a bug. “Ok honey,” I said, grabbing the paper towels, “show me where you saw it.” She didn’t want to go. She made me carry her and squeezed me tighter and tighter as we got closer to the couch where she saw the “bug.”
It was nowhere to be seen.
“What did it look like honey?”
“Well, it had four legs and a hump for a body.”
“What you are describing here sounds kind of like a mouse so let’s get the hell out of here,” is what I would have said if I really wanted to skeeve an already slightly skeeved little girl.
And maybe it isn’t a mouse. But Vivian and I decided to go back upstairs while the other girls stayed in the basement to straighten up.
Not two minutes later, Eva screamed, like shrieked, and came running upstairs cry-screaming, “A mouse!”
Please note: the above picture is of a cute mouse. Our mouse was not cute; it looked more like a killer really.
At which point I could no longer contain my horror and screamed at the top of my lungs, “Get the cat, get the cat,” while the girls followed my lead and screamed and ran in circles.
I found the cat and threw her down the stairs and started for the safety of higher ground. Like when we were kids and we could only walk on furniture because the ground was lava, but in this case I was sure every step would result in my bare foot landing on a furry ball of ick.
The cat immediately came back upstairs through the cat door. Stupid cat. I picked her up again and decided to bravely venture a little further into the basement before tossing her in. And that’s when I saw it, the “bug” with four legs and a hump for a body a long tail and of course not a bug at all. This time the cat saw it too and went after it! Good cat. Sorry I called you stupid.
My next move, like any modern, self sufficient woman, was to hide in my bed under the covers and have my husband handle the problem.
But curiosity got the best of me and I bravely approached the basement as far as the top step, to check on the progress of mission, “Help Dumb Cat Kill Mouse.”
It wasn’t going well. Husband and son would flush out the mouse and cat would barely notice and stay poised, staring at a wall where the mouse obviously was not. To which I verbally abused my poor kitty saying, “You are the worst, the absolute worst. And you are the worst $90 I ever spent!”
Unfortunately we had to leave the cat to her own devices. I blocked off the cat door securely with a pillow and we headed out to do some errands to get ready for company that evening. Oh, and also to get mouse traps.
Our guests arrived and we let them know the unfortunate news about our newest house guest and our worthless cat and as we were trading stories about critters getting into houses, my cat busts through the pillow barrier with a dead mouse in her mouth, like it was no big deal, takes it over to her food bowl and drops it.
Ummmm ew! But also, yay! But mostly ew.
So I guess this post is for my cat. Who is now my hero. I feel the need to publicly apologize for all the the terrible things I said. So, I’m sorry Squeak. You are the best $90 I ever spent.
There she is. Resting after a long day of catching a mouse! My hero!
A Letter to My Kids’ Teachers:
Dear Mrs. Soanso and Mrs. Whasername,
December has been an incredibly busy month for our family.
Aside from regular Christmas preparations, other unexpected events have popped up, so we have not been able to give schoolwork the proper attention it deserves.
So teachers, I would like to formally apologize for the following:
- For late library books. In a more regular time of year, we always (sometimes) check to see what day it is and make sure we all have our library books in our backpacks.
- For not sending the test back in signed. Honestly, I can’t even look at the test yet. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be great and then I’m going to beat myself up for not doing more flashcards and practicing more math facts which surely would have increased the score.
- For incomplete homework assignments for my kindergartners. Typically we are happy to do homework, but in December it’s either practice your letter sounds or go grocery shopping or run errands. I know how important letter sounds are, but my kids really do like to eat.
- For late absent notes. I apologize for not bringing these in the day after the absence. But, what with mopping up vomit and trying not to inhale too deeply so as I don’t also catch the bug, (which if I did, would cause the entire structure of the household to completely collapse – you think it’s bad now?) the note must have slipped my mind.
- For the kids not wearing sneakers on gym days. Again, in December, it’s all I can do to get them on the bus so as long as they aren’t naked, I don’t really care what they are wearing.
- And finally, for not completing December’s journal packet for the kindergartners. Although, when I received this, I do have to admit I laughed out loud. A journal. For kindergartners. Who can’t read or write yet. I just knew this wasn’t happening in December. Honestly, I’m not sure this will get done in January.
I’m just over here trying to make a magical Christmas!
Christmas x 4 kids + my suspected (probable) ADD + working = I’m not very good at December.
I hope to return to my normal self in January, where the kids will have their homework and be prepared for school around 80% of the time.
Until then dear teachers, bear with me.
Once Upon a Mom
Today my triplets are six years old.
I’m not even sure what I want to write about here. About how fast time flies? About their birth story? About the super-amazing pinterestastic party I threw them? About their beautiful souls and their unique personalities?
I guess what’s really hitting me today is this:
We were so nervous to tell people that we were having triplets. We hadn’t really digested the idea ourselves. We knew that we would need a lot of help from our families and we were worried about how that would impact their lives. When we told my parents, there was nothing but smiles and joy. My dad said, “Every child is a blessing from God.” (The same thing his mother told him when they sheepishly told her they were expecting their 4th child (me!) that they could ill afford). And while that statement didn’t take away all of our worry about having triplets, it was just so true, it made everything easier.
When my girls were growing in my belly, I could only think of them as a unit – triplets. And instead of concentrating on how much I was going to love them, I was so worried about how they would impact my family and if I was going to be able to be a good mom to them.
I am so happy God gave us these girls despite my doubts and selfishness.
Because each one of them is a tremendous blessing from God. To me, to my family, to my extended family and to their friends. And not because they are triplets, but because they are Eva, Vivian, and Zoe.
When I was “in the weeds” when the triplets were babies, my sister encouraged me to look to the future. “I can just see them in a few years, laughing and running down the stairs on Christmas morning. A house full of children.” She was absolutely right. And it’s even better, because it’s not just a house full, it’s a house full of these specific children. Each one here for a reason. Each one specifically chosen by God to be on this earth at this time and given to me as a gift.
So, here I am in the future. The triplets are older and life is easier. But so much better than just easier. Here in the future, I am able to let go of my worry. I can see that their impact in my life, my family’s lives is only positive.
Every child is a blessing from God.
So today is a day to thank God for these blessings. A day to celebrate the life of Eva, the life of Vivian, and the life of Zoe.
Eva: meaning life or living one
Vivian: meaning alive or lively
Zoe: meaning life
I know you shouldn’t have a favorite when it comes to your kids, but I do. I can’t help it.
It’s Vivian’s front teeth. They are my favorite.
She lost one last night. And in true Vivian style it was very dramatic. There was some sock ice skating, a fall, a fat lip, a tooth knocked out, and blood everywhere, especially all over her brand new, sparkling white pillow case.
There was crying and bleeding and popsicles. It was very exciting. But now, no front tooth. I’m kind of bummed and I’m not sure why.
It’s not the last front tooth we have to lose here. Eva hasn’t lost any teeth yet, so I still have those adorably tiny chompers to look at.
And I’m not terribly sentimental. I mean, I didn’t even cry when the girls started kindergarten.
So I’m wondering why I’m feeling so emotional over this one.
I think maybe because she was the first of the triplets to get a tooth. The girls were 6 months old and on a semi regular schedule. Things were just starting to get a little easier, a little more manageable, a little more predictable. We were going to take the family out for the 4th of July, first to a fair in our town complete with Will’s first big wheel race (2nd place winner that year and the 4 years following! Go Will!) And then we were headed to a friend’s house for a party. The entire day, the girls were fussy. The outing proved to be more difficult than we anticipated. I really had no idea why we even took them out. But how many months can you just sit in your house watching babies grow?
Thankfully my mother in law was at the fair to help and we had friends who helped at the party. When we got home, I saw it. A little white friend poking out of Vivi’s gum. Her first tooth! No wonder she was so grouchy! Poor baby. Then the next day, Zoe got her first tooth. The very next day! No wonder SHE was grouchy too! (I don’t know what Eva’s excuse was; it was another few months before her first tooth).
I thought it was funny that Vivian had gotten her tooth first. She had done everything first at that point, the first to have her feeding tube taken out and eat a bottle on her own, the first to come home from the NICU, the first to roll over, the first to sit up. And she did it again. By one day. I always imagined she had a spidey sense that Zoe’s tooth was about to poke through so she willed her tooth out to beat her to it.
I guess that might be why I’m feeling sentimental and sad.
Or maybe it was just a really cute tooth.
The beginnings of the team!
I remember the day I realized my kids were a united front. I can see it so clearly, like it happened yesterday.
I think the girls were 3 ½ which would have made Will 7. And they got in trouble for doing something, but I’m not sure what. I was annoyed at them, but I can’t remember what I said.
Okay, so obviously I don’t remember exactly. In fact, based on my description it seems I barely remember at all. But it’s just the circumstances I can’t recall. What I do remember is the moment, their little huddle, their expressions. That I can see clearly.
I think I was angry about a mess they made. As I was growling at them about it, they started shuffling slowly towards each other. And as they moved closer together they started giving each other knowing looks, which I didn’t even know was possible for 3 and 7 year olds. Looks that said things like, Just keep quiet until she’s done, Don’t make any sudden movements, and Let’s just let her nag herself out. I could have sworn I spotted a nearly imperceptible preschooler eye roll.
And that was it. The moment I knew they were a united front. Against me.
Up until that point I felt like we were all a team. And I was the MVP, the star player. The team looked to me for everything. A hug and a kiss and a bandaid after a tumble. A snuggle and a story before bed. A game of hide and seek. A library book driven to school when it was forgotten. A clean up after an accident. Medicine when they were sick. Diaper changes. All their laundry washed and folded and washed and folded again. Dinners, well not just dinners, but all their food all the time. Baths and hairbrushing and teeth brushing and bed making and room cleaning. And milk! All the glasses of milk I’ve poured!
I wasn’t the MVP after all. I was their coach. I drove them to the games. I booked their hotel rooms. I ordered their uniforms. And nagged them and told them what to do. A lot. Now don’t get me wrong, coaches are great. But they aren’t on the team!
I want to be on the team! I thought I was on the team! Remember that time when our bodies were basically one? Did that count? Was I on the team then?
As I watched them with their heads close together talking in hushed voices compwete with developmentawy appwopwiate speech impediments I felt happy for them. Look! I thought, they have each other!
Because really, I’m not meant to be a teammate. I am here to coach them. To teach them, to guide them, to encourage them, and to give them consequences when they make bad choices. You can’t do that when you are in the game. It’s got to come from the sidelines.
And so, did I feel a little left out? Sure. But as a coach I was proud of them. Proud in that moment that they recognized they had teammates there to support them.
This is going to be huge for them as they are growing up. Not only having siblings who get it and who can support them and comfort them, but to have someone to roll their eyes with when mom nags too much or whistles too loud.
And being on this team will bond them for life.
Because isn’t it nice when you run into someone who had a similar growing up experience? Your mom taught aerobics too? Your dad can go 2,000 miles away and still run into people he knows too? You kind of feel like you know them.
For siblings it’s the same, but magnified. My kids will grow up and move out (fingers crossed) and away (but not too far I hope!) and meet new people with different stories, different backgrounds. Some of those people will have parents similar to theirs but only their team will have all their experiences in common.
No matter where their lives lead them, and how different their own families may be, they will always remember their first team. Their memories will bring the team right back together. I imagine it will go something like this:
Hey, remember that one time Mom got so mad that we didn’t clean up our toys so she got a trash bag out and told us she was going to throw them away and one of us called her bluff and said, ‘Fine, I’ll help!’ and we started putting the toys in the garbage bag and then mom got so sad because she liked our toys so much she started crying a little and never ended up throwing them away?!
Ok, so maybe I do remember what happened that day.
I was chatting with a mom the other day. It started out as regular chit chat. How are your kids? Did you have a fun Halloween? Isn’t the weather mild? That sort of thing. But then, as small talk sometimes does, it abruptly turned a corner into something real.
And I found myself talking about my worries about my children. About my daughter who suddenly won’t sleep unless all the lights are on, who gets nervous when I leave the room.
Is this normal? Is it a phase? Should I wait and see what happens? Is there a parenting book that addresses this? What would you do?
I had no idea what she would say. In fact, I had no idea how we even got to this place. She is not a mom I talk with often, not someone I commiserate with. Her kids are older than mine, but I’ve never looked to her for guidance.
I waited for her response, her advice, her reassurance.
And this is what she said to me:
“Do you love your kids?”
“Do you tell them?”
“They’ll be fine.”
In less than a minute, she saw my anxiety, my tendency to hyperfocus on a behavior, to turn it into a problem, then try to control it. This anxiety and desire to control is like my security blanket. Well, not like a security blanket, because I never feel warm and cozy with these wrapped around me. More like a cane really. Something to grip until my knuckles turn white, something that holds me up, that helps me walk through the uneven stones of parenting.
Do you love your kids?
Do you tell them?
They’ll be fine.
In three sentences, she ripped the cane out of my hand and I felt myself fall to the ground. Into a pile of uncertainty.
“How do you know they’ll be fine,” I asked, looking up at her, shielding my eyes. The light of what she was saying was too much for me to take in all at once.
“I work with really messed up people.” (She works in mental health and I’m sure she used a more professional term but it escapes me). “They weren’t loved as kids. Their parents never told them. They have problems. Real problems.”
“Your kids will be fine. Just love them. Tell them that you love them.”
And I knew in that moment she was right.
It seemed so easy. Too easy. But I knew she was right.
I can’t control my daughter’s need to be in the room with me at all times. That’s her need. Her feeling. Her fear. But I can stop myself from making it into more than it is. From obsessing about it. From showering her with my anxiety.
I have no idea what is going to happen to my kids over the years. I can’t control how they will perform in school or sports, what fears they’ll have, how other people will treat them. I can’t stop them from experiencing pain, from suffering.
But I can love them. And I can tell them. And I can trust that they will be fine.
Commiserating with mom friends is a must right?
Raising kids is hard. It’s nice to be around people who get that. I kind of thought I would be awesome at it and I would have all these great instincts and my kids would act perfectly because of my superior mothering skills. Turns out, that’s not the quite the case for me. I’m often without instincts, my kids do misbehave, and no one has ever described me as superior! At this point in my life, I’ve given up the ideal of what I thought mothering would be and am just trying my best. Trying my best to raise my kids and trying my best to enjoy them, even in our messiest moments.
Commiserating with other moms who really get it helps me to find the humor in our not so perfect moments.
Here’s how a typical commiserating session might go:
Me: You are never going to believe what happened to me this morning! I was upstairs on the phone scheduling a doctor’s appointment and when I came downstairs I saw that one of the girls had been cutting her hair with kid scissors!
Mom friend: I know the feeling. My daughter and I walked away from her homework for a second to look something up on the computer and when we came back, her little brother decided he wanted to do “homework” too and colored all over her paper!
And then we all laugh because at the time those moments are hard and stressful, but after a while it is funny, and it makes us feel better to get that off of our chests, and here’s another mom who really gets it. The rest of the day is a little easier.
So, that brings us to this week. Here I am at a mom event, a play date, a meet up, an excursion or whatever you young moms are calling it now, and I am commiserating with another mom.
Me: So get this, I’m running my 9 year old to the bus because we are late! Again! And my 5 year old apparently thinks I’m leaving forever because she runs out of the house in the cold with no pants on screaming, “Mommy, don’t leave me!”
I chuckle and wait for her to bounce a story back to me.
Mom friend: (pensively says) That’s funny. But, yeah, how do you make sure they don’t go outside without you? My oldest can reach the door knob now and I’m a little worried about it. Did you keep your doors locked all the time, or did you have a talk with them about safety?
Ummmm. Ok. Not a funny story, but…
Me: I don’t know. I can’t remember if I locked the doors when the kids were younger. But mine are pretty obedient and it wouldn’t really occur to them to run out of the house without me. I think this time was like a one time thing.
Ok, now that’s out of the way – let the commiserating begin!
Mom friend: Your kids are pretty obedient aren’t they? I saw them holding hands in the parking lot this morning. At what age did they start doing that?
And then it hits me. Like a ton of bricks. We are not commiserating. She is asking me for advice! Which in and of itself is not a problem really. It’s kind of flattering actually. The problem is that I was seeing us as contemporaries and we were going to COMMISERATE! But what’s happening here is I’m the older mom! The more experienced mom. The mom she can go to with questions. I know these moms. I love these moms. I’ve peppered these moms with questions. The their children seem great, so they must be doing it right, so let me get some tips moms. But that’s not me! I’m not “older.” I’m a mom with young kids!
But then I glance over to this woman’s children, a three year old bashing blocks with a plastic hammer and an 11 month old gnawing on the corner of a board book. The rest of the room shows a similar story. The kids are teeny. Babies crawling around eating cheerios off the floor. Toddlers impulsively grabbing toys and shouting, “mine!”
My kids are 9 and 5. We haven’t eaten a board book in ages. My youngest can dress themselves, brush their own teeth, and pour their own milk (kind of). My oldest is reading chapter books and gets off the bus on his own. She’s right! I am the older mom!
There will be no commiserating. There will be no laughing release of tension at the end of this conversation.
I politely answer her questions, give her all the best tips and tricks I can remember. I let her know she is a good mom and doing her best. And then I get the hell out of there! I certainly don’t mind giving advice to the younger moms. Just not when I thought I was one of the younger moms!
I run home, pull out my phone and call one of my best mom friends for some real commiseration. “You are never going to believe what happened to me this morning!”
I have a big family and I came from a big family. It’s not quiet in my home. It wasn’t quiet in my home growing up. When I was a kid the TV would be on in one room, maybe a radio on in another, a wrestling match that almost always ended with a broken lamp, and maybe a fight or two – all going on at the same time. And I loved it!
Second Generation Chaos
There’s a little less wrestling and a lot less TV in my house, but the noise and chaos remain. We have a school age son learning to play the violin. We have triplets worn out by their first year in kindergarten who occasionally melt down in tears. We have a mom who whistles and sings and dad who shares his loud music collection. There’s fighting, yelling, and more than one conversation happening at once. Our nearly dead clothes dryer squeaks so loud you start looking for the earplugs and sometimes there’s food burning on the stove, setting off the smoke detector.
And it’s not just noise -it’s a little bit lack of organization and schedule. I don’t know if it’s me or being raised by hippie parents, but my body does not want to be on a schedule – I feel a physical aversion to it. I’m like a toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed on time, even though she needs the sleep. My brain throws itself down on the floor in a complete tantrum, “I don’t wanna do the same thing at the same time every day!”
My Calm Friends Have Peaceful Homes
I’ve had the privilege of visiting my calmer friends’ homes, where there is less yelling and more patience. The space is cleaner, neater, more organized. A load of whites is done every Wednesday. The vacuum is run every day. There’s no faint scent of “litter that should have been emptied yesterday.” It’s so nice to walk into a space like that. And not just the neat part, but the calm part. Some of my friends just exude peace and to be near them is like stepping a sweet scent. I feel calmer when I’m near them, just being around them helps keep my crazy at bay. Now, I’m not saying these women are perfect. I know there are no perfect moms.
I used to think this was my goal – the calm, neat home. To curb my temper. To clean up the house. To run a load of whites every Wednesday. To get my act together. But now I know better. My calmer counterparts are not my goal. They are not me. It’s in their nature to be calmer and more peaceful. That is one of the reasons I love them and love to be around them. But, calm and peaceful is not my default setting.
My New Goal: Embrace the Chaos
So instead of trying to be something that I’m not, I’m going to start embracing who I am, to appreciate my nature.
What that means is yes, our house is filled with noise and chaos, but that’s not a bad thing. The noise comes from dance parties, sock skating, tickle fights, and attack hugs. The chaos that begins with a burned dinner ends in a pizza party. Embracing the chaos means throwing out the schedule to play my violin along with my son, staying up late on a school night to let the kids watch the Princess Bride, and throwing a birthday party for our guinea pig. These are great times for our family: loud, joyful times. And they’ll be great memories for my children.
Already I’m more content at home, now that I have given up trying to be something that I’m not and trying to make our family like someone else’s. Now we have the freedom to be our amazing, loud, crazy big family.
It’s a beautiful sunny day. It’s autumn. The leaves are at their peak in bright colors. The weather is cool and sunny. And here come the perfect moms walking out of school.
I pass them as I’m walking in. They’ve dropped their kids off already. On time, of course. They are laughing and smiling and talking on their way out. They are younger than me and beautiful. Shiny long hair, no gray yet. Wearing hip, casual clothes effortlessly. They could be in a magazine, with a caption, “How to be the Perfect Stay at Home Mom!” These ladies are killin’ it!
First-time-mom-me would hate them. She’d be jealous of these perfect moms because they are beautiful, they are fit, they are wearing expensive clothes, they seem like they have it all together. They’ve formed a bond with each other where I always felt a little out of step. And first-time-mom-me, well, I didn’t feel like I had it all together. And I felt like I should. Like it was obtainable. Like those women were the models for it and I had to achieve that before I could enter into the perfect mom club.
Well, current me knows different.
Current me knows this: Shiny long blond hair mommy, she just found out she needs a hysterectomy and her heart is aching at thought of not being able to carry another child. Designer jeans lady, her father is at home on hospice care. Yesterday the nurses told her it was going to be very soon. Cute work-out clothes mom, well, the teacher thinks something is “going on” with her son and she recommends taking him to a behavioral therapist for his “strange” behavior. And that mommy holding the perfect looking 2 year old, her husband had an affair. She wants to get as far away from him as possible, but when she looks at her kids, she’s not so sure she can.
Of course I don’t actually know these women. But I do know that there are no perfect moms. I have met some amazing women in my 9 year career in mothering and not one of these moms didn’t have some battle going on in their lives. I know the perfect mom is a myth.
So even though I don’t know these moms, I know these moms. I know that they are taking care of their aging parents, that their child hasn’t slept through the night – ever, that they are recovering alcoholics, that they are late on their mortgage, that they haven’t spoken to their sister in three years, that they had several miscarriages, that their son has a developmental delay, that their daughter has cerebral palsy, that they fight with their husband every day, that they are dealing with depression.
There is so much behind the looks, the designer clothes, the manicure, the salon hair, the handsome husband, the pretty house.
As current me walks past these women, I am happy for their smiling, happy for their laughing. I know there’s pain behind it. I’m glad they have each other. I smile at them, wave to the 2 year old, and walk my kids into school.