Friday, December 31, 2010


"Back To School". Perhaps the most dreaded, most malevolent phrase in all of kid-dom. With Christmas Vacation winding down, it's time to bring out that phrase around my girls. It still strikes fear, as it always has. Two little faces are crestfallen at it. Every time.

I remember way back in the day, when I was the school-goer of the house, living for breaks and days off. Of course, this was back in the 80's and 90's, which meant that school got "way uncool" and "super-lame" after all of the new sweater dresses, leg warmers, banana clips, Skidz apparel had made the rotation; and when all the "totally awesome" school supplies had either been broken into and were rendered now "uncool" (i.e color change pens), OR had been banned by the teachers (i.e the stack of Cool Shades notebooks filled with colored paper: pink, yellow, blue, purple).

In other words, we began counting the days till the next days off on September 1st.

Two weeks is just enough time, it turns out, to somehow convince yourself that you must have heard things wrong. It's not two weeks off; it's two months. One need not worry. One will be off for a long time. One can be happy.

Breaking the truth to my girls has been a delicate procedure. "It's not time to go back to school! No! We're still on vacation!" That vehement denial turned into desperate pleading, "Pleeeaaassseee make vacation longer. Please say we don't need to go back! We're smart! We're good! We don't neeeeeeeeeedddd to go back to school!" And now we've finally morphed into the final phase of 'reconditioning'--meek acceptance; "Today we're not going to school, are we? This isn't a school day, right?" Followed by a heavy sigh.

Christmas Vacation was good. Fun was had by all. Now it's time to pack up and get this second half of the year done. Up and at 'em, kiddos. (And I think they'll be ready to go on Monday.)

Ashlyn said it best the other day: Caedance was complaining about not wanting to go back, saying, "I don't want to go. I don't like school." Ashlyn put her arm around her twins shoulder, stared her in the eye and said, "Oh, but it's okay that you don't want to go and you don't like it. Because you'll just have to do it anyway. Might as well smile about it."

Wise words, little girl. Wise words, indeed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hello Kitty.

"There she is! Grab her!"

"Come back here!" (insert cat meee-ooowww here)

"I almost got her that time!"

"Mom? Why does the cat always run away when I chase her?"

"Mommy why does the cat always run away when I squeeze her?"

"Hey mom? Why won't the cat let me sit on her?"

"Mom, can I bring the cat into the bathtub with me?"

Oh, poor felines in the Dickinson house. How I do weep for you. There was a time in life when you knew peace and calm. When you did not know the quick thud of chasing feet. When you were not quarry to the prey fast behind you.


Such changes.

And yet.

And yet the fact that you constantly place yourself within their eyesight and just outside their grasps tells me that you might not mind it all quite as much as you lead us to think.
Suki & Zoe. (Anna is hiding in peace. Somewhere else.)

On Being a "Dodder".

I love that the girls are figuring out the twisty-turny maze that is Familial Titles & Relationships. For the first time, they are understanding that not only am I their Mommy, but THEY are my daughters, which they call, "dodder". They're even working out that Grandma Peggy is not, in fact, my sister, but is my mother. And to top it all off, Ashlyn deducted that I must then be Peggy's "dodder".

Whew! That was a lot of figurin' for the early morning. We'll have to work on the male roles another day. :)

And what it all boils down to is simple: We are family. We are together. Here. Now. And I love it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Extra Rich Potica

This recipe is from a Slovenian Society Cookbook. So far, anything I've tried out of it has been wonderful.

2 ounces of yeast
1 TBS sugar
1TBS flour
1/2 cup warm milk
Dissolve yeast, sugar, and flour in warm milk and set in warm place until foamy.

1/2 cup sweet butter
1 cup milk, scalded
6 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 whole eggs, beaten
4 egg yolks, beaten
Melt butter in scalded milk and set aside to cool. Place flour in large bowl; add salt, sugar, cooled milk & butter, beaten eggs, and yeast mixture. Mix well. Then beat with a wooden spoon or heavy duty mixer until dough separates from sides of bowl. Knead about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and pliant (if necessary, add more flour). Grease dough and place in a greased bowl. Cover with cloth and set aside in warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Nut Filling:
1 cup half and half or sweet cream
1/2 cup butter
2 pounds walnuts, ground
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Scald cream and butter. Pour over the nuts. Add honey, lemon juice and rind, vanilla, sour cream, and sugar; mix well. Add egg yolks and mix. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. If mixture is dry, add more cream.

 Roll out dough on lightly floured board or cloth until it is 1/4 inch thick. Spread nut mixture evenly over the dough. Roll as for a jelly roll. Cut into 3 rolls using a floured saucer, which will prevent the filling from oozing out. Place in 12 inch greased loaf pans. Prick tops with fork in several places and cover with cloth. Let rise in warm place for about 35 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter OR beaten egg and bake in 325 degree oven for 1 hour. When done, remove pans from oven; let poticas rest in pans for 10 minutes before removing; then cool on wire racks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hello, Tooth Fairy

A new role has been assigned in our family play. "Tooth Fairy" made a scene entrance over the weekend; and the suddenness of this addition made both Dan and I scramble to the call of duty.

We knew that Ashlyn had a loose tooth. Although, "loose" is probably a generous word for the ever so slight movement that we saw with it. Looking forward to that first gap, I took the girls shopping for material from which to make their Tooth Fair pillows. I then promptly put the material and ribbon away. It wasn't that loose, after all.

Days turned to weeks and the tooth didn't seem to be any looser. Then on Saturday night, as we were eating dinner (Chinese) with Dan's mom and dad, Ashlyn came up to me and said, "Mama, there's something in my tooth". I turned to her, expecting to see something caught in her teeth that she wanted some help with, but instead I saw a gap where her tooth had been. I gasped, and she jumped backwards, a little afraid. I tempered my response and told her that she'd lost her tooth. She smiled and started feeling the new vacancy in her mouth.

Now to find it. She didn't think she'd swallowed it, and she seemed to be unsure of what she was eating when she felt the weird feeling. First she thought it was the egg roll, (which we tore apart to no avail), later she guessed the chicken, (but dissection of that yielded no white gem). That left the scattered piles of rice on her plate. Dan's mom and I searched the floor, sifting through the normal stuff they like to toss there during a dinner that includes rice; and picked through each grain on her plate. WHY rice? Why did we have to have rice this night? I refused to give up, lost already at the thought of that first precious tooth might be lost to me forever. As the mom, I wanted to hold it, cherish it, KEEP IT. Good grief, where was the dang thing?

After some very tense minutes of searching I found it. I uttered a call of total triumph and felt victorious all over. (Incidentally, it was buried amidst that piles of rice).

Kathleen and I quickly devised the pillows and sewed them together, to the joy of both girls. That night Ashlyn went to sleep with a lump under her pillow, and a million questions in her head. "Will I see the Tooth Fairy? Will she wake me up? What does she DO with my tooth? Will she give it back later? Will she leave me money?"

Several hours later, the "Tooth Fairy", in a joint portrayal by both Dan and I, snuck in and made the switch. In the morning we had one mystified and happy little girl. And I had a precious piece of history tucked in my jewelry box.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thinking Thankfully...

I'm Thankful for what I have; the many blessings that fill my life, both visible and invisible. The tangible things that I can see everyday and hug, kiss, and love. My husband. My Children. My precious family. I'm thankful for the freedoms I have, that I take for granted every day. For the blessings that I may so often overlook, or worse, mistake for mundane minutiae. I'm thankful for the very fact that I can sit in this chair and just think about all the many things I do have to be thankful for. What a privilege indeed to have that luxury of taking the time to be grateful!

But I'm also thankful for the things that I DON'T have. I'm thankful that I live in a country that's not torn by war on its own soil. I'm thankful that I live in a community & neighborhood where we don't have to see violence everyday. I'm thankful to live in a family where there is no domestic violence. No hunger. No poverty. Our struggles are real, but they are inconsequential when compared to the plight of so many others who are fighting against really insurmountable odds.

The most important thing to me is that I have these things to be thankful for everyday. Not one day a year. Or one week. Or a month. These things stay with me in November, and are still there come July. This life is filled with blessings ready to be seen by anyone who has the eyes to see them.

And I'm thankful for that too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Best. Job. Ever.

I have a secret. It's something that I don't know if I've ever told anyone. Sound interesting? Want me to share it? Of course you do. As soon as someone says, "I have a secret", followed by, "I've never told anyone this.." you automatically want to know what it could be. Human nature.

After that glorious lead-in, I hope it's not anticlimactic to say that my secret is this: I love being a Stay At Home Mom. I mean that. I love it. I am not a fair weather mom here. I love the whole kit and caboodle. The good days, when love and pride swells my heart; and the bad days when I'm not sure I want to claim either child as my offspring. Each and every day is an amazing gift, and I'm grateful and in love with each.

Perhaps you're wondering why, oh why, would this declaration be any sort of secret? Truth be told, I had no inkling that I would even like it. I was that woman who would have the kids and be back at work without missing a beat. I needed my job. It was a part of who I was. It grounded me and gave me a sense of purpose. I had no desire to give up the rigors and stresses of my job to stay at home and stare at babies all day. What fun would that be? What do babies even DO??

God made other plans for me, though. Better ones, as it turned out. There are still days when I miss my teaching job. I miss the thrill of being in a room where learning (no matter how small) is going on. I miss the charged air of a classroom. But, in the end, I wouldn't give this up for anything. And you know what? Being in love with the 'Now' of my life, doesn't make me any less of a modern woman. It's not that 'My Place' is in the home; it's that my JOB just happens to be here right now. Conveniently located in our house. Such a short commute! And of course there will be a day when my job here will probably cut its hours, allowing me some time to get out there and take up a "second" job...just for kicks and giggles. And I'll do that. Then. Later. In the future.

Right now, I'm here. My 'Present' is defined by being allowed the privilege to watch my girls blossom into young ladies right before my eyes. It's an awesome job. I don't know how I lucked out enough to get picked for it, but the Boss must have known what He was doing when He chose me for it.

I'm loving it. Daily.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An Extraordinary Day

Today, an extraordinary event happened: Caedance, my own little touch-me-not, just crawled up on my lap for a cuddle. I didn't have to chase her. I didn't have to coax her. Nor did a bribe have to be uttered (or an ultimatum for that matter). Just a sweet little girl, still little enough to know it IS in fact cool to climb up on your mama's lap for a snuggle. You are never too old for that.

And so I find myself gathering moments like these; precious and few. Hording them in the recess of my mind, diligently storing them where I can retrieve them later. My heart still catches a bit when I think of them being 6. All too soon, 6 will turn to 7, which will inevitably lead to 8. And from 8, well, it's not more than a breath away before The Kraken (else wise known as Hormones) will be released. At that point, perhaps my little gifts will not recognize me, or perhaps I won't recognize them; either way, the relationship will bend and change, prayerfully for the better.

I love every moment of the Present that we've been blessed with. Each new activity and new ability. Each shared thought and each stored memory. It's all golden. Every bit of it. But I still have a small garden of Past that I tend personally; keeping each bit of planted fragility cared for and watched over. On days when my little sweet wonders don't visit me for a cuddle, I visit my garden of memories to remember the days when one or both of them were constantly in my arms.

And even as they grow up and become more and more the women we continue to pray that they'll be; developing flowers that are beautiful in every way, I cherish the memories we've made and the memories yet to be made. And I'm forever thankful for each and every single day we have. Each and every one.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Birthday!

I'm sitting on the couch in the living room, shrouded by memories of a very different night, 6 years ago. October 13, 2004 found me in a hospital bed. Waiting. I'd been doing a lot of that by that time: waiting. I was 34 weeks pregnant. Had pre-eclampsia, and was daily adding more symptoms to my list of slowly spreading damage being done by it.

My pregnancy with the girls was not easy. My blood pressure was the first traitor to Team Amanda. Before the end of my first trimester, I was on blood pressure meds to keep it to a reasonable level, which was high regardless. Next came issues with the girls. First it appeared that both had Downs Syndrome, which led to several weeks of waiting. When that panned out to be untrue, we spent 3 terrifying months unsure if they were conjoined, in which case we faced a very dangerous pregnancy & delivery indeed. When they were finally deemed "separate", it was then decided that they were in the same sack (mono amniotic/mono chorionic or mo-mo twins), which was presented to us in a  package neatly delivered with a 50% fetal mortality rate. On one or both babies. Several more weeks of near constant fetal monitoring brought us up to my 26th birthday. I got the best gift ever when they finally saw the world's thinnest membrane separating the sacks; they were not mo-mo twins. BUT (yes, that's right, there's more!), they did seem to show inconsistencies in growth in relation to each other, which put us at risk of Twin-To-Twin-Transfusion-Syndrome (TTTS). Several more weeks of monitoring were spent making sure that the structure of each umbilical cord was correct, and was sending nutrients to each girl equally. (In the end, we were fortunate not to have had any issues with TTTS. It's an incredibly dangerous and potentially fatal condition for the multiples that experience it).
All THAT having been navigated, things started "calming down" around 28 weeks. Sure, my blood pressure was still sky high (on meds),but after that obstacle course, I could handle it. Picture my frame of mind; after months of near constant worry about very legitimate and real problems, my girls had finally been cleared. We were on our way. My only task was to get to the magical 37 weeks and I'd be home free.
And then I went into pre-term labor. At 30 weeks. Thankfully, I was at one of my still several-time-weekly check ups when they saw the contractions that I didn't realize I was having. 5 days in the hospital and a new-found hatred of the demon that is "Magnesium Sulfate" later and I was back at home. Contraction free and sequestered to the couch. But I still had my freedom. Ha! They couldn't take that away from me! No more injustices could be done, AND I got to wear my underwear. So that THAT, hospital.
Exactly 30 hours later I was being wheeled right back into that place. This time to the Perinatal ward, which would be my home for the unforeseen future. It was there that I was diagnosed with Pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure continued to spike. I was on 6 large dose pills a day. I was spilling proteins like a float throwing candy at a parade. Every single joint in my body was filled with fluid. I had fluid accumulating around my spine and in my neck. Every day my coloring got a bit grayer and I felt a lot sicker. Sick from the inside. And somehow I was still supposed to grow these babies and keep them safe in an environment that was becoming more and more toxic.
After biding my time in the hospital bed, October 13th rolled around. Cue water break. Enter Labor. (Call for the epidural! Hey, I made it to 5cm before I went for the drugs). A nice night of sleeping. (Sigh. Thank you blessed drugs). 
On October 14th, 2004, my life changed. For the better. 
At 8:29am Caedance appeared, followed by Ashlyn at 8:36. I wish I could say that it was an easy delivery with no complications, but that would be a lie. I'll save THAT story for another entry though. Too many words have already been written.
My life has been made better by these two precious creatures that I call my own. They are constant blessings that I have the joy of counting every day. 

Happy Birthday, Ashlyn & Caedance!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Making Way For Autumn.

It's fall. Did I mention that I love fall? Because I do. I love it. Goodbye heavy, humid air of summer; hello crisp, clear air of Autumn. There's something bright and wonderful about a day that smells like coloring leaves. See ya next year, Chlorophyll.

 Some have said that the Fall is a season of dying, followed by a winter-long look at death, but I don't see it that way. To me, Fall is a reminder of God's awesome ability to wipe the slate clean. Slowly. With style. There's nothing "sudden" about Fall. It's an entire season of false starts and stops. Yesterday is 65, today is 90. Oh, Fall; you fickle thing. Leaves that were verdant green yesterday are tinged with yellow today. What could be more profound that driving through a wooded lane guarded by blushing trees?

Each season has its own unique smell, and I think the scent belonging to Fall may be my favorite. Words to describe it? Crisp. Clear. Woodsmoke. Apple. Corn husk. Change. Golden. God chooses to light Autumn with the flare of an expert light-technician. Do you ever notice the perfect slant of the sunlight? It's just enough to brighten the foliage of the trees while still allowing them to glow all on their own. And is there anything more breathtaking that viewing a darkened sky spotlighted by a setting sun? Or the horizon awash with hues of melon, blush, aubergine, over top a picture-perfect treeline done in charcoal?

I love the way Autumn arrives just as Summer takes a final bow; working together they ease the changing scene. Perfect segue partners. The brutish Winter could take some lessons from this graceful pas de deux. Instead it cuts in quickly, knocking off days or even weeks from Autumn's full schedule; cutting short the last days of a beautiful season. A still frame; yellow leaves frozen to branches; piles of colorful foliage gone brown under an early snow. Suddenly Winter.

I love this season. The bright days. The gray ones. The crisp air. The damp air. The way everything just declares itself; Fall. It may be too short for my liking, but I'm enjoying every day we have of it. Windows open. Sweatshirt on. In the woods or in a meadow. Hello, Autumn. Good to see you again, friend.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A day at a time....

Every day when I go to pick the girls up from school, I find myself holding my breath, waiting for what may come. Will it be a good day with two shining, smiling faces racing to the door to greet me? Or will there be tears of disappointment and negative notes in the folder? I know they are trying so hard to be good students, but the process of adjusting to this new role has been an arduous one for them. Some days are good. Some days are bad.

Today was a good day.

Actually, today was a really good day. First off came the smiling faces, eager to tell me that they'd had a good day. A good start. Second, when we got into the car and I checked the folders, there were no negative notes. No misbehavior noted, mis-focus reported. We were on a roll. We got home and the girls set to work on completing their homework: cutting out square pictures and gluing the ones that held a picture of something that started with 'S' to a Seal; and cutting out letters of the alphabet that will be used in class to make an alphabet snake. When I saw the amount of cutting involved, I inwardly groaned and readied myself for a long afternoon. Generally, the girls are not coordinated with scissors, holding them awkwardly and without much success. It takes them forever to get through even a small amount of cutting, and the end results are tenuous at best.

Imagine my surprise, then, when they were finished with all their cutting work in 15 minutes. Moreover, the items they cut were actually nicely done, albeit it a bit misshapen in places. Still, I was impressed. I was further amazed when they asked to practice writing the letter S. On their own. I got them our lined paper and they set to work. I was prepared to help them out, as I always do, but today they grabbed the pencil and got to work on their own. Pencils held in a far more confident grasp, making the motions on the paper. The result was some pretty great looking letters done by two girls who just months ago could barely even hold a pencil, let alone form a letter legibly. Color me impressed to the nth degree.

They've got a long way to go. I know that. But the excitement for me is in seeing the success they're having with the initial steps were making now. I can only imagine how much greater their strides will be with the tutoring they'll be getting. There is comfort in seeing them overcome some of this on their own though. It makes me realize that these struggles will not hinder them for long. They'll come through this and emerge on the other side as two kick ass students ready to blow expectations out of the water. I'm ready for that day. They're already starting to do it now. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kindergarten Woes

No parent wants to hear that there is something "wrong" with their child. No one wants to think that anything about that precious gift could be amiss in any way. You find yourself looking at them, wondering how you could have "missed" it. Since it's been so terribly off for such a long time, apparently.

Today I received a call to set up our first meeting with the teacher, OT & Speech Pathologist, and principal. We'll be discussing what test results have been gathered and what these results show for the girls. My job during this meeting will be to sit and listen, and try very hard not to take what they're saying as anything other than helpful advice to get the girls on track for success in school. Currently, my brain is torn between being grateful for early detection, and wondering how much of their "issues" stem from being in school for only 2 short weeks and still being unsure about it.

I wasn't surprised when they told me the girls would need to be evaluated for fine motor skills. They made it clear at a very early age that they do not like doing anything that involves those skills. They always hated coloring. Painting. Drawing. Playing board games. All of it. I realized that this would be a problem, so I began using every trick in my teacher's brain to get them interested. To make it fun. Shaving cream. Pudding Paint! Water works. Chalkboards. Dry erase boards. PlayDoh. All of it. And none of it established any sort of real interest. Everyday I declared a "Mommy's Choice" activity time, in hopes of getting them to focus and practice at the same time. My choices were usually worksheets, or cutting and gluing activities. The girls would respond by crying. "Mommy, I don't want to color!" or "It hurts my hand!". We pushed through the tears, and I think we made a lot of progress. Both girls were writing their names by this past May (something they'd never been able to do), and even began writing words and drawing a lot more on the chalkboards without being asked to. But pencil/paper work still makes them struggle.
I'm glad for the extra help they'll be getting with this, and hoping their OT will have better luck getting them to strengthen their hand muscles and make writing easier.

The speech therapy came out of the blue for me. I didn't know there was any concern until their teacher asked if I'd spoken to the Speech Pathologist yet. I wasn't sure what the issue could be, and was hoping it wasn't some aspect of their speech that is a holdover from their years of speaking Twinese. (I'm very protective of their twin language. They don't speak it much anymore, but vestiges of it still remain, and I'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible. Call me crazy. But that's just the way it is.)The issue, it would seem, lies in their reluctance to make eye contact or have a conversation. At home, they do both and they do it well. Ashlyn in particular has become quite the chatter-bug, talking up a storm and constantly looking at us to make sure she's got our full attention. Caedance, our quiet "Observer" has even gotten more talkative. Both have shown a lot of improvement since they've started school. But that's at home. I do know that they are not likely to speak with someone they don't know, even in the "safety zone" of school. I know that they are very used to having strangers come up to them, but are reluctant to speak to them, let alone hold a conversation. A big part of me doesn't see this as a particularly fair assessment of their abilities. I mean, I'm really glad the school is getting on the ball and picking out needs to get the kids up to speed, but in the first few weeks of school, isn't it a bit normal for a student (in a very new environment) to need a little time to sort out her surroundings and work out her place in it? It makes me sad that the expectations of Kindergarten have changed so much that children must be quickly guided into the proper channels rather than giving them any sort of time to independently sort through things on their own. This is the new system though.

So our meeting will be set up and a plan will be created. The fact that the girls need some extra help doesn't bother me. Not at all. I guess my only "issue" is the timing. Seeing so much improvement on our side gives me a feeling that they are heading in the right direction. But I don't want them to struggle. They are both smart and able. And can be quick learners when the mood strikes them. I want them to succeed, so I guess this will be the first step towards that.

We'll see.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I'm looking for the Do-Over button on today. It's gotta be here somewhere.....
If not a Do-Over, than perhaps a mind eraser? That would work too.

I missed out on a huge opportunity today. It wasn't an opportunity to make money or obtain something new; but a chance to show calmness in the face of pure and utter frustration. And I blew it. Big time.

When the girls came home from school today, I was dismayed to see some rather unwelcome "behavior" issues with Ashlyn. Being only the 7th day of school, it was both disappointing and a bit upsetting. This is a first for me. I've always been the on the note writing side of the fence, so being the receiver of such a notification was both unpleasant and uncool. (My sincere apologies to my past classroom parents on notes sent home. I hope you took it all with a grain of salt.) I definitely want my children to behave well in class. Rules are there to protect everyone, and they need to be followed. I am a stickler for that in our house too. Break a rule, lose a privilege.

The particular offenses today were of the "Lack Of Attention" variety. In my book,this goes right along with two main features of the girls: they're 5 and they're in Kindergarten. These two reckonings go hand in hand, if you ask me. I would be surprised if their focus didn't wander from time to time. In this case, Ashlyn wasn't participating during seat work, and then later she didn't participate in small group work. Both worksheets were sent home to me. Allowing me a moment to vent, please bear with me, neither worksheet was something I would (in my teaching experience) classify as group work or really, 2nd week Kindergarten stuff. Firstly, they were both multi-sectioned things in which the student was expected to switch mental gears a bit from activity to activity. Secondly, it mixed more complex elements (like naming the letter that comes before the listed letters in one section, and writing the answer in upper case). Hey...make my kid think. Challenge her. Absolutely. I want her to stretch her brain. BUT.....but.....can it really surprise anyone that a 5 year old might have some trouble sitting still and trying to stay on task when it was easy to become lost in the many facets of this one worksheet?

That being said (and as I said, that's my vent moment), expectations are expectations. So I worked through each sheet with Ashlyn, who bemoaned the entire long duration of it. During this time, I lost my patience a few times. (It was so hard not to when I was trying to get her to work through some of the more difficult concepts on the worksheets and Caedance was nearby goofing off rather than working on her tasks). In the end, I did get her through both sheets. And we then spent time talking about how school work is not a choice she can make, and when she's in class, she'll do what her teacher asks her to do. Period. Not decide that the worksheet is for the birds and draw mice instead.

Looking back on it, I wish I had handled it better. Truth be told, we're still trying to get into a smooth rhythm with all this. Doing homework every day is a bit new for me, and I'm finding it a challenge to work with both of them simultaneously when they both have unique needs with things. Working with them separate is the best way to handle things, but keeping the other on task is sometimes hard. Because they've never had to do it. Because they've never been in this situation. So we've got a learning curve going on. All of us. They've got their hands full acclimating to this totally new environment of school with a new set of rules and expected behaviors. And I've got my hands full working through the mechanics of it all; meeting each of their needs so that they can use the homework to help them...not just waste our time.

We'll get there. I know. I knew there would be an adjustment period. But somewhere in the back of my mind I still hoped that it would go so much smoother than this. I was subconsciously hoping that mine wouldn't the students drawing mice during lesson times. But...alas....mine were the children squeaking at the principal during registration, so why wouldn't they be the mouse drawers in class?

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Invention Of Standing In Line

Every morning the students at Franklin Elementary are supposed to stand in line and wait until they are called to go into school. Line by line. Class by class. I am one of many parents who feel the need to watch over this process, making sure that my children are able to follow the "Stand In Line" protocol. What I have found is that when you're 5 "Standing In Line" can mean many different things.

For example, to "Stand In Line" may mean hopping vigorously up and down as fast as you possibly can. Standing in line my also mean whacking your brother ceremoniously about the head as many times as you can before you get caught. (There is a set of twin brothers in the girls class). And then again, standing in line may look curiously like skipping around your comrades, choosing to sample the view from any number of other lines before alighting back to your own.

For Ashlyn and Caedance, the definition of Line is blurry. This week I observed the fact that they will not stand front to back of each other. They will only stand side to side. School policies aside, (and I am a big supporter of walking nicely in a single file line), this has actually tugged at my heart strings a bit. At first I was annoyed, thinking "WHY can't they stand correctly? What is so hard about this?" I found myself walking up to them, pulling one behind the other and holding up a hand that clearly read, "Stay". I'd look on in absolute dismay as the other students stood in a beautiful straight line (after the aforementioned line-dissenters were corrected), and mine continued to stand in stony, resolute silence; side by side.

After dropping them off today, I got to thinking about the whole Side-By-Side thing and a light bulb lit up inside my head. PING! (That's the sound of a light bulb going on in my head, mind you). They weren't being deliberately disobedient. Nor were they ignoring directions. Rather, they were facing the situation in the way they know best; in the ONLY way the know, really. Together. Shoulder to shoulder, as one. Every single aspect of their lives thus far has been joined. They've done everything together both by choice and by circumstance. I've been amazed many times at their lack the word "I" and the constant repetition of "We". They are a unit. They think of themselves as such. And to those who may cry foul and decree that my children do not have a sense of self-identity and independence, may I kindly say you are quite wrong. They are quite independent of each other. I think, I truly do, that theirs is a twinship that is very delicately intertwined. It's not a co-dependency at all. I think they do genuinely feel connected to each other and it's that connection that allows them each to be independent and to go out and explore and try new things.

It's a process that works for them and has helped them blossom into the unique and slightly quirky little sprites that they are. I appreciate that greatly and have no desire to change it. However, there are rules in school, so we'll be working on the line up thing. But at least I have a better understanding now of why they're doing what they do. A bit of an insight into something I thought was simply misbehavior, but I now see was actually just yet another glimpse into a bond that I'll never truly understand.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Kindergarten Miracle

Well, color me purple and now I've seen it all.
Two days of Kindergarten has convinced my daughter to do what I've been trying unsuccessfully to get her to do for the last 3 years. Nap. Will the wonders never cease?

Our daily routine has included a rest time since the day, three long years ago, when they declared that official naps were not for them. I figured arguing was a moot point, so I craftily instituted Rest Time On The Couch. A special time, wherein a movie plays and two little girls must lay down and be quiet. I still get my down time, and have the opportunity to get work done that needs doing. Win-Win.

The usual routine of Rest Time dictates that when the movie is over, the girls will bound up from the couch yelling, "It's O-VER!" I'll say, "You can get up," at which point they run amok around the room for 5 minutes or so until I calm them down with a snack. After today's feature film (Garfield, the movie), Ashlyn performed the routine flawlessly. I answered her call of "It's O-VER!" with my response and went on my way. My part was played, after all. But she continued to saying, "It's O-VER!!!" I tried answering again, just in case we had somehow 'restarted' this part of the routine and I had missed that direction. But to no avail. Finally, I decided to check up on her to see what exactly was going on. Upon entering the family room, I saw her hanging over Caedance's spot on the couch, leaning over to her cuddled form, now adding, "You can get up now! We can play! You're missing it!!!"

It would seem that her twin had betrayed her by falling asleep during Rest Time On The Couch. A most dastardly offense, by Ashlyn's reaction to it. I pulled her back and directed her to leave her sister alone, reciting the age old motto we learned at their birth, "Let Sleeping Caedances Lie (Because It Doesn't Happen That Often)". Ashlyn looked up at me and wailed, "But it's my twin! My twin can't sleep now. Not NOW!!!" It took a few minutes to calm her down enough to understand that, yes, twin can sleep at almost any moment. And that's okay. But in the end I think the whole affair got cleaned up quite nicely.

So here I sit now, one happy girl running amok in the family room, while the other sleeps on the couch. One agitatedly aware that her routine has been altered, while the other sleeping and blissfully unaware of her sin. To the 2 1/2 hours I have to thank for this most unusual moment, I say a grateful (and awed) "Thank You". Thank you half day kindergarten for tiring one of my exuberant girls out. Tomorrow, I'll expect the same for both of them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Day Of Kindergarten

Yesterday I took my tiny, premature babies to Kindergarten. I dropped them off, watching with a sense of surreal wonder as these two precious gifts made their way into the building, without me. I wanted to run behind them, calling out, "Wait for me!!". But I didn't. I stood there and watched as those doors closed on one part of their childhood, and they took their first steps into the start of a new adventure.

The road leading up to this day was long and worrisome. When the girls were born, 6 weeks early and after a very problematic and unhealthy pregnancy, I was thrust into the role of "Caregiver To The Very Fragile". That role consumed my life, 24/7. As they blossomed and grew, my role evolved with them. But no matter how it changed, it was still me and them. Everyday. I'm not going to say that it was the easiest thing; there were plenty of days where I pulled out clumps of hair for lack of any down time or "Me Time". But after almost 6 years, it became "My Normal". And I liked it. Letting it go and evolving again will come slowly to me. But it will come. What choice do I have, really?

This moment,standing in the school playground, watching these two miracles walk away from me for the first time ever was inevitable. I see that now. It was the destination of the road I had been traveling on for nearly 6 years, only I didn't realize it. I was so focused on the patch of pavement in my immediate vision, and at times jarred by the pot holes of daily survival, that I didn't get to look that far ahead. I can say, with pride and some tears, that I've enjoyed the scenic by-way through which I've just come. Each stage of their lives has offered a new set of surroundings and experiences that made the journey breathtaking in its beauty. Now, looking around at this new place, I can see how amazing it is. Everyday they'll take a few steps without me. New people. New places. Learning along the way. And each day they'll come back to dutifully report their findings with the excitement that it all holds. My new role will be to listen, with the corresponding awe and wonder that it all deserves.

My heart still skips a beat when I think of them in this phase, and a lump still finds its way into my throat when I dwell on it for too long. But I'm along for the journey with them, ready to step back a bit to let them explore. We've prepared them for this. I think. I hope. Only one way to find out.....

Here we go.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cats In A Bag

I'm sitting here in the relative quiet of the living room, pondering the great wonders of my small universe. I can only call it relatively quiet because the girls are running around searching for cats and threatening to put them in a bag when/if they find them. Their flight path goes through the living room, so every few minutes, my serene "relative quiet" is interrupted with, "I'm going to find you and put you in this bag, kitty-kitty!" (I'm not worried about this because I have great faith in our 3 cats' unique ability to not get caught by the girls.)

So here I sit, pondering.

The girls are starting Kindergarten in T-minus 6 days. How is that possible? Where has time gone? I keep mentally going between "Ready" and "Not ready" about the whole thing. I'm "Ready" to have those 2 1/2 hours to myself everyday. But "Not Ready" to have to get into the schedule of getting up and getting ready for school everyday. I'm "Ready" for these two to make new friends and have fun little dramas to share with me everyday about it. But I'm "Not Ready" for them to turn into little girls I don't recognize who say things like, "Whatever" and "OMG" and "Yeah, right"...with a 'tude. (I don't think I'll ever be ready for that).

I can't stop time, can I? All I can do is go with this. At the moment, I just want to get the first day out of the way and over with. I'm ready to move past this part and get to the part where it's all just routine. I get myself all psyched out about stuff like this and it drives me nuts. For the last 6 months I've been living under a strict rregime of "This Time Next Year...." and I hate it. Every single thing that we've done has been measured in those terms; it's driving me nuts. I'm finally at a point where I can say, "Hooray! Kindergarten. They'll do great", and I almost believe myself. (Ask me in a month and I'll have more confidence behind that statement).

Looking at my girls, I can say they're ready, even if I'm not. They're quirky, funny little things who, if nothing else, should provide many funny moments in the classroom environment. Just today I had a rather heated debate with the two of them over a bump that has appeared on Ashlyn's forehead. I inspected it and determined that it is most likely a bug-bite. Caedance scrutinized the protrusion and declared that it was most certainly a pimple. And Ashlyn, owner of said bump, shot us both down with the proclamation that it was, in fact, the very startings of a unicorn horn. (Well color me surprised; my girl's got herself a unicorn horn.)

Now a nice little breeze is gently whispering through the windows, and the girls have quieted down a bit in the other room. Apparently they've gotten bored with their futile attempts to capture and bag any of the cats, and have moved on the swinging a selection of their favorite stuffed animals around by their tails instead. And even though I could continue to sit here and ponder my many ponderings, I think I'd rather be done for the night. I'm not too sure where it all gets me anyways. For the moment, I'll resign myself to just look straight ahead and say, "Girl, you've got 2 Kindergartners on your hands. Deal with it." We'll see how that works for me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Earning MotherHood Merit Badges.

I was doing some thinking today. Not a lot, and nothing terribly deep; it was awfully hot out there, after all. But the kind of thinking that usually brings you around to an interesting conclusion that, in all honesty, has been right in front of your face for quite some time only you didn't notice it before. (Perhaps you were too busy. Too hot. Or didn't much care).

In any event, I found myself in this heat-hazed state of thought nonetheless. My thought was that if there is one thing that I miss from my Pre-Motherhood days, it would be the ability I seemed to have had (and have since lost) to just be still. To not move. To do nothing. At anytime, whenever I wanted to. At a drop of a hat, I could shut down and zone out. I'd come home from a nerve wracking, stressful day at school,with the memories of student fights, problems with certain classes, and the burden of tomorrow's woes heavy on my shoulders. I'd kick my shoes off, plop down on the couch, and just stop. Did you read that? Just. Stop. And in that ritual of rest, there was relaxation. Renewal. And readiness for another go of it for the next day.

Motherhood has a funny way of changing that, doesn't it? From the moment they hand over your newborn bundle of mean...bundle of joy (sorry), you are in a state of perpetual and constant motion. It takes all your focus and efforts to meet the needs of this tiny being (or these tiny beings, as the case may be), leaving barely a moment for a shower, let alone several moments, all strung neatly together in consecuative order, during which you might sit down and be still. And that pace of constant motion stays with you, long after you have a baby to hold, and you find yourself swaying gently in the line at the grocery store. The Mother-Motion.

My girls are 5 1/2 now, and though I try very hard on a daily basis, I still am unable to reclaim that lost talent of Being Still. Movie Nights double has stellar laundry folding time. Talking on the phone is the perfect opportunity to mop the floor. And I've found that waiting for a pot of water to boil makes just enough time to get a room or two vacuumed (which leaves one or two less that needs to be done later, you know). Even when I find myself with a rare and special day without the girls, I'll still putter about, putting things away, cleaning up, organizing. The very model of modern motherhood management. (I think that may be one of the first merit badges you earn as a mom. That or Achievement In Milk Production).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this state of constant motion is the ease in which you adjust to it. Not because it becomes a regular part of your routine, but because of the things you gain by being so efficient. My Movie-Night-Laundry-Fold Extravaganza buys me extra cuddle time with my fast growing little girls, who will decline cuddle time in a few years. Mop-Till-You-Hang-Up Talkathons purchase me enough time to have a tea-party with two little ladies. And The Boiling Noodles, Sweeping Carpets Maneuver allows me some longer story time with two emerging readers who still sit in wonder at the magic of a story read aloud.

I may not find myself sitting still much these days, but the ever bustling busy-ness of life with children has brought more joy than I could have imagined. And when I really think about it, I'd rather spend my days doing a crazy circus worthy balancing act with house and kids than to go back to those days of sitting on the couch anyways. And......

Good grief! Why am I still sitting here writing this? There are brownies baking and you KNOW what that means. Yes, that's right; it's "Brownies-Are-A'Baking-And-Ain't-My-Tub-Soap-Scum-Free?" time! Off I go!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stepping Off To School

(Those who know me well know that as the day counts down, I will have things to say.)

To My Sweetest Ashlyn & Caedance

For five precious years I've had the joy
to be at home with you.
Everyday brought it's up and downs,
but together we welcomed each new view.

The new things that you learned or said,
every accomplishment you both made.
I had a front row seat for each success,
and made memories I hope won't soon fade.

Now this year you're off to school,
to start adventures away from me.
A time for you to grow and to become
the two gracious ladies I know that you'll be.

I can't say I'm prepared to see you go,
nor ready to drop you off that first day,
but know thateven if my voice should crack,
 I'm more proud of you than I can say.

You both have come so far indeed,
from being two premature and tiny babies.
You've met your challenges with spirit and spunk,
and are now two grand and glorious little ladies.

So forget whatever tears you see
that may be trickling down my cheek.
Because this is the first of many steps;
on the path to the future that you seek.

Lots of love.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For Whom The School Bell Tolls

Another calendar page has been flipped, turning July into August. I think there has been a part of me that has been positively dreading the month of August. Never mind all the nice things that may occur in it, I have grimaced and cringed every time the mere name of it has been mentioned in my hearing. And now it is here. Time to face the music. Or rather, the tolling of the school bell.

The first order of business to attend to has been to show the girls when they'll be starting school. They awake each morning with the same greeting ready on their lips: "We're not going to school today are we?" No matter how much enthusiasm I muster for it, I can't seem to get them past this particular hurdle. So on August 1st, we marched down to the kitchen and did the ceremonial "Flipping Of The Calendar Page" ritual that ushers in each month at our house. We sit down at the table, look at the month gone by and talk about what fun things we have done, events, visits, vacations, and the like. THEN we flip the page and stare at the blank month ahead; little boxes just waiting to be filled with activities. Endless possibilities waiting to be realized. We always begin by learning the name of the new month, and spelling it, then we count how many days it has. Once that is done, I point out important dates or holidays that will happen. For August, that big date is the 23. The first day of school. We put a circle around it and marked it with a smiley face, then stood back to look at it. Amidst all the the blank boxes, it stood out. Plain as day. No denying it now. It's on the calendar, demanding recognition. I. Am. Here.

Normally life picks up again after a Flipping Of The Calendar Ceremony. You just move on. Back to playing. Back to cleaning. Whatever. Waiting for the next month to sidle itself right in. Not so with August; it's been different. There is a definite sense of counting down that comes with this month, for us and I'm sure for parents of schoolagers everywhere. And I'm nervous. And the girls are nervous.

I am pleased to announce that I've come around a lot since my initial entries of First Day Terror. You'll be pleased to read that I no longer abhor the very thought of sending them to school, no longer shudder at the site of the building, or tear up when walking down school supply aisles. In fact, since Safety Town gave me the glimpse at my future of a daily 2 1/2 hour break, I've been pretty peppy and upbeat about the whole thing, actually. During the one lovely week, I was able to envision all of the things I'd finally be able to accomplish, like, reading for mean, cleaning and keeping up with housework, of course.

And most of all, there is a sense of wonderment that I'll be able to walk through a whole store without saying, "No. Don't touch that. Please Leave That Alone, or Do you have to pee?" What will that be like? Truth be told, after 5 1/2 years of struggling through stores in a parade of phases, I'm not sure how to approach this new one. First I was the lady pushing the double stroller with my left hand while pulling the car behind me. Next I was the lady with two toddlers (each on a leash) running in front of me while I pulled a cart behind me, constantly getting it caught in the lines of the leashes. After that I morphed into the frazzled looking mom trying to catch one or both children as they ran away from me, often times leaving the cart aisles away from where I was, leaving me to have to find it again when I'd collected both giggling girls. (After a few too many of those episodes, I regressed back to the lady with the double stroller and cart phase, with the only difference being that my once happy twins were replaced with screaming ones). And at last, I've become the lady with a cart in front of me and two little ladies strolling beside me, only occasionally make mischief in the produce aisle. Progress is a beautiful thing.

And now I'll be the lady with the cart. Period. Wow. A normal shopper. What will that be like? Can I do it? Will I like it? Time will tell on all of it, I guess. But here's to hoping for many happy (and calm) shopping trips. Here's to hoping that the girls do well in their classroom and enjoy their days there. (Here's to hoping they remember our motto Make Healthy Choices So We Don't Get Sick). And here's to looking ahead for the next Flipping Of The Calendar Ceremony we'll share on September 1st; for all the good memories will remember for August, and all the exciting, upcoming things we'll have to look forward to in the months ahead.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Letter Of Complaint (long overdue)

I feel the need to explain myself.
 It seems that many people see twins who are dressed alike and feel personally affronted and offended. They see it as their responsibility to come up to the mother in question and point out, in their expert opinion, the cosmic error of her ways. To these "Deputy Child-Psycholgists" I have but one offering: "Yes. I dress my twins alike. No, I don't feel bad about it. So there." (You can't see it, but I'm sticking my tongue out right now.)

When you find out you're having twins, two things go through your mind in quick succession: 1). Crap! How did that happen? Mixed in equal parts with 2.) giddy glee at your new found SuperPower: Egg Splitter or Egg Shooter, depending on the type of twins you're having. You spend the rest of that particular appointment swaying back and forth between complete joy and utter terror. It's not until you get home, toss out all the "What To Expect" books because it becomes quite clear THEY don't know what to expect either, and really sit down to think about this whole twin thing that you can calm down. Once that happens, then and only then can you fully appreciate the rare and wonderful opportunity you've been given to do something that apparently annoys a lot of complete strangers: dress your twins alike. Yes folks, that's right. Even before our multiples are born, we're hard at work plotting our future dressing sins. Mwah-ha-ha-ha.

The thing I never fully understand is what the problem is for other people? In response to their unsolicited advice, I always ask them if they have twins or are a twin, and let me tell you friends, at least 95% of the time,they do not and are not. So why the fuss? Look, my day is pretty hectic enough without anyone coming up to me and announcing that my girls will never develop an identity because they are always the same. One lady asked me if I knew they were individuals with different brains. Really? ARE they? How very kind of her to point that out, as I was surely in danger of having never guessed that myself. You see, dissenters, parents of multiples may be many things: we're tired, we're a bit spacey, we may be a little slurred at times (from sleep deprivation), and its entirely possible that due to the time constraint of caring for two or more human beings, we may even be dirty. However, we are not stupid. We are all quite aware that our babies are separate individuals with likes an dislikes that may be as far apart as the oceans. So please don't imply that we don't.

It never fails to amaze me how few of these rude, albeit possibly well-intentioned persons, never stop to think of the possible reasons WHY a parent of multiples may choose to dress them alike. I can't speak for the masses, but I can tell you our own reasoning. First, our twins have always preferred it. When items are bought in different colors, there will inevitably be a war, with one claiming she wants THAT shirt and the one wearing it strutting around in glory at already having it. Second, next time you take your darlings to a playground and let them disperse, think of how much easier it would be to track them if you were looking for just one outfit. Sure, I could equip my girls with a honing device that beeps whenever they come within a certain range of me, but I think my way may be a bit cheaper. Next (and perhaps my most glorious reason of all).....just because. Because I can. Because life with multiples is hard and seeing two little munchkins in matching duds just puts a smile on my face. And I'm worth it. Enough said.

The next time you are in the mall and see two nameless sweeties prancing around in matching garb...rather than choosing to attack the poor parent, try offering some words of encouragement instead. Like, "Gosh! Those your twins? Wow. You still look sane! How do you do it?" or "You look a lot more pulled together than most parents of twins. What's your secret?" or my favorite, "You are a Super-Hero", which always brings a smile to my face since I have that hidden superpower of being The Egg Splitter.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Safety Town

When the girls were born, nearly 6 years ago now, I'm not sure what grand plans my mind had. But I am pretty sure it didn't include the rather intense amount of "Letting Go" that I'm finding myself having to do. Oh, I knew they wouldn't stay my babies forever. I wasn't dumb or anything. But I suspect that somehow I could choose to keep them tiny & precious for a lot longer that time seems to have granted me.

I'll be taking them to Safety Town this week, and those of you who know me well know that I am not totally geared up for this event. Sure, I want them to be safe. I think "Safe" and "Kids" go very nicely together. It's not that. It's that it is one step closer to "Let Go" day (aka Kindergarten), and I'm none too thrilled about it. For all the fun I know they'll have, I find myself holding them a little tighter these days. Wanting to let them go, but not wanting to at the same time. Ready. Unready. Sure but unsure. After some intense soul searching while scrubbing the floor (isn't that when most Stay-At-Home-Moms seem to do their soul searching?) I assessed that if it were socially acceptable & healthy for them, I would keep them right here with me, glued conveniently to my hip. I'd always know just where they were. Who they were with. What they were doing. Handy, yes, but lucky for everyone it is neither acceptable nor particularly healthy for me to handle it that way. So out they'll go. Fly birdies fly. step at a time, please. I can't do it all at once. I'm not meant to, I don't think.

Safety Town marks the first tentative step. (Let's hope it lands on solid ground.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Still Counting Down

I find myself completely amazed that time, capable of such high speeds already, is able to speed up even further when the approach of a dreaded event draws nearer. Even as I write this, the great Cog Of Time is chugging its way around to that most dastardly of occasion: the first day of school. And not just any regular first day of school,mind you, but the girls' first EVER day of school. Bleh.

I think you'll be happy to know that I'm at least somewhat more at peace with the whole thing. Somewhat. Is that saying something? I think it is. We went out the other day and let the girls pick out their book bags. For some inexplicable reason, that shopping trip felt symbolic and important. As the girls raced up and down the aisles of bags, my eyes stayed glued to their every movement, mentally recording each "oooh" and "ahhhh" and "WOW!!", and greedily storing the data for later dates yet to be announced. (You never know when you'll need a Mental Slide Show to perk up a dull day, or remind you that your fast-growing-kids were once little, after all).

After the book bags came the ceremonious "Gathering Of The Supplies". I looked on as each picked out the glue, crayons, scissors, pencils, and markers that will fill their time at The Office. Remembering my own Kindergarten experience, I think ahead to all the fun they'll have doing seat work or being a classroom helper. I remember those days and I am excited for them. Sad for me, but excited for them.

So now it all waits. Sitting in the hall closet, yet unused by awaiting service. My eyes get a little misty every time I open the door and see those back packs in there. I envision the inevitable morning rush; grabbing a bag, swinging it on a child's back, and racing to the car. Just trying to get out the door on time. "Let's GO, girls!" But for now, everything is still. Silent. Unhurried. Unrushed. Waiting. Is there excitement in that, or dread? I think I've upgraded to "Both". I'm content enough to say "Yes, they're going to school" but am also greedily grabbing every moment I can (like shopping for supplies) for now.

People continue to tell me, "You'll be fine, mama, don't worry". But I hope I'll be better than 'fine'. I hope that I'll feel a sense of accomplishment at having brought 2 kids through infancy and toddler hood, while preparing them for school without the aid of Preschool or daycare. I'm proud to say I was here. Every minute. A part of each success and each failure. That part of me, the one whose chest is pushed out with pride, is ready to see how well they do when set upon the world en force. Of course, there is still that other part, let's call it The Inner Mommy, who is not quite ready for this momentous approaching day. Here's to hoping that the puffed out chest gal is able to push aside the whimpering sad-face on d-day........

Friday, July 9, 2010

Menacing Birthday Strikes Again!

You may not notice it to read my words, but I am a whole year older now, having just had a birthday. Does that extra year add some wisdom to my words? Am I more relateable now with that little 2 tucked behind the 3? Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell, I suppose. 

One of the first things that strikes me when my birthday rolls around each year is just how much that day has changed for me. I have no doubt it's the whole "Grown-Up" thing, but when you're a kid, the day revolves around you entirely. Properly. As it should. Somewhere along the way, that changes entirely. These days, my birthday continues to be locked in the orbit of Ashlyn & Caedance, revolving steadily around the great sun of their childhoods. And I can't say that I mind this, not totally. The "Adult" in me says that this is just being responsible and that I am a good parent. However, the "Not-So-Adult" in me stomps her foot, pouts, and wails, "WHAT ABOUT ME!!! IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!".  Alas.

This year I was on my own with the girls since Dan was unable to take the day off work. Not that I mind this, mind you. I don't. What I DO mind is when my little ones wake up on the far, far, FAR end of the very wrong side of bed. It's a rare magical duo who can be tucked into bed as Sugar & Spice, and then transform in the night to their alter egos, Snippet & Snarly before morning. Ta-DA!

Between their grumpy mumbles of general displeasure, I tried to keep my own spirits up (it was my birthday after all) while getting us all ready for the day. It seemed to be going well until Tooth brushing time, when one began "painting" the other with blue toothpaste. Paintee became Painter and swabbed the paste all over her sister in a Avatar-ian sort of way. Lovely. Amidst their wails of disapproval, I scrubbed them down and promptly kicked them out of the bathroom, telling them to go downstairs and get their shoes on.

As I continued to get ready, I heard the tell tale "thawump" of the heavy floor-vent in the living room being jostled back into position. I dashed down the stairs in time to see The Snarly-Sisters take off into the family room. Peering into the grate I saw two My Little Ponies, jammed and staring woefully up at me, silently lamenting their uncooperative role in this crime. I fished them out and resettled the grate. With purpose, I strode to find The Culprits, who were hiding in their family room lair. Each spent 6 minutes in time out. Each used that time making faces and growling back and forth on their separate couches. Each found a way to painstakingly pick at my frazzled and fraying nerves.

I decided that the cure for this bountiful Birthday Bliss (it WAS my birthday. Wasn't it?) was to get out of the house and hopefully free ourselves from the Grip of the Grumblies. Our destination was Lodi Outlet Mall. A good place that cleverly combines running outside and shopping. A magical world, really. As soon as we pulled in, Caedance began describing the soft pretzel she should be getting. I had already told her that we would not be getting soft pretzels today because we were going out to lunch instead. She moaned that it was the ONLY thing that was good and that it was her "Favorite and her Best". I informed her that we still weren't getting pretzels. And so started The Tantrum. 

It was, in the history of Dickinson Twin Tantrums, perhaps the biggest, most powerful Tantum on record. Starting off as mere sobs which, when ignored, grew into more menacing growls which, when still ignored, morphed into large screams and wails of upset. When she got out of the car, the Tantrum went from merely a vocal show into an entire performance, with flapping arms and stomping feet. Face twisting between a pout and fiery rage, she screamed and shouted about not getting a soft pretzel. I, taking a deep breath and remainig calm, informed her that she needed to collect herself or be put into Time Out. Her answer was a swat at me, accented with a growl.

"Time Out it is then", I said guiding her to the nearest walkway. I set her against the railing and walked a few feet away to stand. I could see her. She could see me. She was safe. I was watching. First she flailed about, whapping the air and kicking her anger out. Then she flopped down on the ground and kicked some more. When a lady passed by, she started to scream, "She's going to step on ME!!" After the lady passed by, she stood up and pounded at the air, stomping her foot. Next she got desperate and she began to call out to passerby to help her.

"My mommy is putting me in danger!" she screamed to a passing couple who looked at her with bemusement. "In DANGER! Help me! Help MEEE!" I stood on. Watching. Waiting. As people passed by the showstopping performance that was Caedance's tantrum, they cast glances at me that clearly said, "You poor thing! You are a good mom; nay! A GREAT mom. In the annals of history, your perseverance to uphold your decrees will be looked upon with admiration and sheer awe." Well, that's what I hope they meant, anyway. The looks could just as easily been interpreted as sneers, I guess.

After 6 very long, very loud minutes, I went over to her and spoke in a calm voice that belied my inner upset. (IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!!) Anger spent, she quieted down and, before my eyes, transformed into my Little Girl again. Humming the tune to "Ding-Dong the Witch Is Dead", we walked along and finished our day of shopping with some mild success. (Sale at Gymboree). My mother took the girls to her house for the afternoon and so the rest of the day was spent at peace.

Later that night, I sat in wonder, looking back at The Day That Had Been My Birthday. Where were the accolades? The well-wishes? The attention? Sigh. Memories of birthdays past flitted crossed my mind's keen eye. Double sigh. But even as I missed some of the traditions that marked the birthdays of my youth, I was able to appreciate the new traditions that were forming in these early years of Motherhood. It may not have been a banner birthday, but it was another notch on my experience belt. Another lesson learned. A test passed. (I didn't freak out when Cae through the fit!!!) As I drifted off into an exhausted sleep, I found myself smiling in spite of the day's stresses and imagined misfortunes. Content.

I woke up raring to go the next morning. Decided it was going to be a better day. (And decreed it my holdover birthday from the day before). Ahhhh. 32. Here I am.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm not ready to see them go.....

This post is for me. It's a chance for me to just think. To not worry about how it begins or how it ends, or worry if I worked in a solid storyline and then tied it up all neatly up in the end. It's for me to sit and think. So please bear with me.

These last few months have been rough for me as we gear up to send the girls to school this fall. When people find out they're starting school, they give me these looks that say, "And isn't mommy so glad?" It seems to be the common assumption that I am happy to see them trudging off to school. That it brings me joy to open the door, kick 'em out with a book bag on their backs, and a "Go learn something!" on my lips. Honestly, I thought it would too. When they were born....gosh, sometimes it hurts to think about "when they were born"....I sat and practically lusted after the day when I'd have any amount of time to myself every single day. In the haze of those sleep deprived early years, nothing seemed more exciting...or further away. So I plugged forward, everyday. And somewhere in the whole "moving forward" part of things, something changed for me and now I'm just not so ready to open that door for them. Not just yet.

I know what school is. I know what it does. I know it's a step they need to take. A step away from us and towards their own futures. And I want that for them. I dream for them, I always have. Big dream. Successful ones too. And this is where it starts.

So why does my heart have to hurt so much right NOW? Everywhere I look in this house I see those early years flashing in my eyes. Little hands forever reaching up and grabbing breakable objects, the year the Christmas tree had to be gated up and they still managed to knock it over, a little sprite managing to get herself up on the top of the dining room table, laughing and full of pride with her feat. And the pictures. Good grief. I have this thing about never ever throwing away a picture of them, but I'm running out of room in albums, so I will sometimes stash them in odd places. Then one day, when searching for the garlic masher, I find myself finding a handful of pictures from when the girls were 10 months old and getting into Desitin. Or our first real vacation with them, smiling on the beach.

I've been blessed to be here with them. To stay home and be a part of their every single moment. It's been hard, I won't pretend that it hasn't been. There have been days when I wasn't sure I could make it. Days when it was all I could do to will myself to not curl up in the corner. On those days it was very easy to remember that there was a time when I was certain I would NOT be a stay at home mom. Not me. I'd have my kid and be back at work because that's why I went to school and by golly, I wouldn't give that up for nothin' or no one. Of course, somewhere along the way my heart melted to these two and thus I found myself navigating some rough days on stormy seas of twinfancy and toddler hood.  But somehow, even during those bad days, there was a purpose. I knew that my being home was right for us. It may not have been my choice in the beginning, but it was the right choice.

I can honestly say that I've "Been There" for everything. I didn't miss one thing. First words, first steps, first foods, first boo-boos...all etched in my minds' eye. And I realize how precious that is. It's funny though, in a way, that I thought that all that "Being There" would somehow make this next step...letting go...easier. That I'd be more than ready to share them. But it's not making it easier. And I'm not. Not totally, anyway. I find myself counting down days Start Day. Mentally trying NOT to think about how many Saturdays are left before I say, "This is the last Saturday before they start school" or trying not to picture that first morning when we'll load up the van and go; book bags on and ready. And I really try not to think about that first time walking back into the house after dropping them off. Alone.

I know people think I'm over dramatic on this. I tend to be on a lot of things, but this is hard for me. I FEEL it too much. The 3 of us have, it seems, just adjusted to each other and formed this great bond. Our days are no longer spent in a tug of war over power. They no longer seem to insist on trying to push the limits, and I no longer feel the need to constantly restrain them from being themselves. Or holding them back. And they've blossomed. And I've had the privilege to watch them! And just when it's all getting good and rolling along at a great pace, it's time to send them off? Why is that?

Another thing that worries me about this new stage (and this could be a novella all of its own) is my place in this whole scheme. I used to see myself heading back to work right away and picking up my career. But. Now I'm not so sure I see myself in that role just yet. I can't imagine a job that I want to share my precious family with. My time with them, the work I do with them, my place HERE. I'm not ready to split that with any other entity. Not yet. My heart may change, I know. I'm willing to allow that. And I'm open to it. Maybe what's happening here is that I feel there are too many changes coming at me. The girls in school and (so people assume) my going back to work. But I'm not there yet, darn it. My place is right here. Doing what I don't know, exactly. But I guess I'll figure that out eventually. And when there is a time that I feel ready to go back, I'll do it. But I worry, what if I never want to go back? I worry.

We're keeping the option open for homeschooling them after first grade. To try it out and see if it works for us...IF we feel that would be best for them. Right now, they're all for it. And honestly, that's helping me get through this present trauma. The idea that maybe, just maybe it'll be one year and then they'll be back here and we'll continue working together, like we are now. Just maybe. But what if? What IF they don't want that after a year of school and friends? And if I'm being really honest with myself, that terrifies me too. Maybe even more than anything else, it's that. The rejection that would be to me. The choice they'd make for friends over ME.

Reading these words back I see how this all sounds. Whine. Whine. Whine. Whine. But I warned you, didn't I? I said this was for me and so it has been. I'm not sure I feel any better by it. May need to crank out a few more of these rants for any true cathartic feeling...but it's a start. It's out there and that's something to me because right now, I feel like I'm surrounded by other people who think I should be glad to see them off in this phase. I'm so thankful that I have 2 healthy girls who can go to school and who do thrive and who have the capacity to learn and love to learn. And, as I said, I'm aware of how precious a gift I've been given that I've been here for them. With them. Everyday. Maybe I'm just not ready for change just yet. Oh.....I will be. It always happens this way. Before any big change. And like every time before, I'll jump the hurdle and move forward. We all will. But for tonight...this night...I'm going to be thankful for my babies, (because that's what they'll always be to me), and for this summer that we have to fill with memories. And I'll try to be excited for what I know will be a great year for them. An exciting start on the rest of their lives. (I'll try).

Friday, April 9, 2010

And the Oscar Goes To.....

When you have babies around, you'll find yourself in a sea of diapers and spit up rags. When toddlers keep you company, you're guaranteed to have a gate at every stairway and a security lock on every cupboard door. And when it's preschoolers you're spending all your time with, you find that more than ever, your child's mood is based entirely on your OWN mood, like a mirror. And when you look into that reflectionm, you may see somet things that surprise you. You may even catch a glimpse of the future in that silvery surface.
Today I learned that I am a drama queen. Surprised? So was I. It's not like I don't love a good bit of drama in my life. In fact, I like a little intrigue to keep things interesting. I'm not completely boring. Not yet. But...a drama queen? Mirrors don't lie, do they? (Unless they're the ones in fitting rooms, and in that case they do lie. And add 10 pounds and reduce muscle tone altogether.) 

We had one of those rough days that started out good. The kind that hits you in your blindside and you don't see it coming until it's already upon you, leaving you no choice but to deal with it. I was in the middle of yet another mountain of laundry when my washing machine (the great technical marvel)decided to break. In it is a full load of drenched and sudsy clothing. Lovely. But I overcome this setback by quickly switching gears, tossing the rest of the unwashed laundry back into a closet (If I can't see it, it must not be a problem, right?), and moved on to a task I can control. Dinner. Tonight was going to be turkey. Firstly, I loathe turkey. Completely and utterly. The idea of it and the smell of a roasting one are fine. But the reality of it is sub par to me. But, nonetheless, it was dinner. It had been thawing in the fridge for 3 days but naturally was still frozen. So we'd put it in a cooler of water, covered with a wet towel, to thaw the rest of the way. This should have worked. However, when I got it out of the cooler and was ready to get it out of the bag, I stopped and noticed the curious amount of air inside it. The whole bird was wrapped within a cushion of air, and no matter how much I pushed on it, no air was escaping. No. This air came from inside the packaging, not from outside. And though I'm not a food safety expert, I do know that when a package that shouldn't be inflated with air is completely filled with it, and when that package is also a perishable item, said product is probably on the "No-No" list for safety. Sigh. So I had to chuck it. Ironically, to throw it away, I had to first open the kitchen trash can that had, of all days! What a lark!

So there I was. Surrounded by dirty laundry on one side, wet, sudsy laundry on another, and being laughed at by a gassy turkey hiding out in the broken trash can. Not a good moment for me. Enter Ashlyn and Caedance. All day they'd been bickering, edging closer and closer to full on squabbles. With me and with each other. I'd been able to keep it at bay. Until this moment in the kitchen.
First the phone rang and it was my dad talking to me about the washer. At the same time, Ashlyn came in complaining about what she viewed as a serious lack of pudding in her life. In one ear I was hearing "extended warranties and service calls"; in the other, "and if I just had some pudding, I know it would be fine. WHERE is the pudding? WHERE is it? WHY is it not right here? WHY isn't it on this shelf? Right here? WHY? Mama? Mama? MAMA??" I felt my brain exploding. Just a little. I looked at Ashlyn and said (a little sharply, I'll admit), "Ash! Stop with the pudding. I'm on the phone. Leave the kitchen." I finished the conversation, hung up, and heard the sobbing. I found her curled up on the couch, crying, pulling at her hair and alternatively throwing herself to the left and then to the right side of the couch, each time letting out a moaning sob. "Sweetie? What's wrong?", I ventured. "OH!", she wailed, looking less like 5 and more like 15 in that moment, "I'm just crying stopped LOVING me!" "Because I asked you to leave the kitchen?," I asked for clarification. "YES. You've stopped LOVING me! OH!!!!", she threw herself across the cushions again. I went to her and hugged her, reminding her that I do, in fact, love her. And that asking her to leave a room does not mean anything other than that. She smiled, instantly happy. She even giggled a little and said, "There! That's better, isn't it?", and hopped off my lap to continue on her way. I shook my head, confused at the on/off maneuver I'd just witnessed and went back to figuring out a new dinner plan.
Enter Caedance. She approached me with untied shoelaces, pointed to them and said, "Tie them." Just like that. I stared at her, saying nothing. Near us was a little pile of papers she'd torn up earlier, which I'd just noticed. She saw my eyes alight on the pile and she said, "Pick that up, Mommy." More stares from me. Next came the zipper on her jacket, which had come undone. Even though she knows how to zip, she came to me saying, "Zip it up." That's it. I'd had enough. I crouched to her level, looked her square in the eye and said, "You, miss, are being very disrespectful. You may not speak to a grown up that way. We do not speak to you that way, and you will not speak to me that way. I refuse to help you until I hear you ask me in a respectful way." I turned and walked away. She stood there, watching me. Still untied and with jacket unzipped. Then came the tears. Caedance, at the tender age of 4, learned how to regulate the WaterWorks factory and harness it for her own needs. She can turn them on in a blink, complete with quivering lips and a catch in her voice. She's good. Really good. I've seen many fall to her antics, but I've seen it too often to be fooled. As I walked into the kitchen I heard soft steps behind me. And an exaggerated sniffle. I turned. Ahh, yes. There it was. The tears, the sniffle, the quivering chin. Brava! I stared. She whimpered. My arms crossed in front of me, I said, "Yes, Caedance?" Her eyes flitted down, then back up, then down quickly. "I just needed.......", more eye shifting and sniffling. "Yes?" "To be loved!I'm all empty and I need love!" she wailed. And maybe this was the wrong moment to do this, but I laughed. I couldn't help it. I had been through the wringer today, and now both of my children were turned into thespians, and the one in front of me was going for an Oscar. And no matter how annoying all the breaking stuff was, it was just LITTLE compared to this. This precious, precious moment right now. Staring at my child, who was now both crying and trying to hide the smile that always comes near the end of these "performances". "You're laughing", she accused, now losing control over the smile, but still trying to hold onto the tears. "Yes, I am," I giggled, "But only because I think you DO need some love," and I gathered her up in a big hug and she began laughing too. She pulled away, tears gone, and said, "Mommy, you're a pretty good mommy." "Caedance", I said, tickling her, "You're a very good daughter."
And there it was. Drama ended. For the moment, anyway. They always say that kids repeat what they hear and act on what they see around them. So I'm very curious at these theatrical antics that have been playing a part in our days of late. I'd like to say something off-handed like, "OH! They get that from preschool!" But since they're with ME all day, I guess that wouldn't work, would it? Am I a drama queen? I dunno. Maybe. What I do know is this: even in my most top form, I will never be as articulate and convincing as these two little ladies. Never. Ever.Maybe there is a future in this for them? Hmmmmmmm, I can only imagine it now......

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Mothering Is Like Taking Care Of a Cyber Pet. (Not Really)

   My interet browser has a "gadget" that is a virtual hamster in a virtual "cage". Inside the cage is a water bottle and a wheel, along with Hammy, of course. I've chosen to locate this bit of cyber square footage in the upper corner of my browser's homepage. The better for me to see it. Did I mention that it's interactive? Oh yes, indeed it is. This simple little "gadget", this non-essesential add-on to enhance my web-surfing experience (which I only added because it looked cute at the time) has become yet another responsibility for me. Look back at the items in his cage. Do you see 'food bowl' there? No. His programmers didn't include that. And Hammy gets hungry. Oh, he does. At first I just ignored him, but that only made things worse and now whenever I log on, he's there waiting. Paws up in the air. Sniffing. I feel obligated to go over and click a spot inside his cage to drop a food pellet. Then another, and another, and another. More and more until I feel I've compensated for my serious lack of virtual pet ownership. I can't navigate away from the page until I've clicked on the wheel to make him run, thus easing my mind and turning his beady, judgemental little eyes away from me.

  The way I see it, I can look at this whole Hammy Issue in two ways. First, maybe I'm a bit neurotic. It's a cyber gadget. Delete it already and it goes away. (Does it? Does it really? Responsibilty shirker). Or second, this says a lot about me as a mom. (Doesn't that sound better? Has a quaint therapy ring to it, yes?) I like choice two and since it's my page, I'm going with it. As in all things, you may choose your own thoughts, but know this...until you've stared down that sad looking, hungry hamster, can you really know?

  All through this journey of motherhood, I've been like absolutely any first time mom who just happened to gestate and birth more than one baby at a time: exhausted and winging it. It's true. I started off with the best intentions. I had all the books, and I tried (I really tried) to do it all to the letter. And then somewhere in there, 'Life' happened. Babies were up needing to feed every 2 hours. I didn't sleep for two million nights in a row. There was spit up everywhere. And poop. Oh.....oh the poop. Where was it not? "In their diaper", is the correct answer to that one because I swear to you it hardly ever got in there, even when they were wearing it. (I wonder what the genetic odds of have monozygotic twins who both specialize in super-blow-outs are?) After awhile, I realized that what mattered wasn't a clean house or even smiley, non-crying babies, for that matter. What mattered most were the things I could control: my ability to love and care. They had lots of those things. Always. How is it that no matter how bone weary you are as a parent, you can always find some extra reserve somewhere in you to pull from for your child? When you cannot even care for yourself, you can reach into some unknown vault and withdrawl enough wherewithall to comfort your child and care for him/her/them. I stand in awe of that principal. Absolute awe.

   As I've mentioned before, the beginning days were a hazy blur of one moment spreading into the next, until everything jumbled up and (voila!) the girls turned one. Since then the roller coaster ride has continued, and as a family we're all "Arms Up In The Air" enjoying the ride. The independence that they've gained has given us a freedom to go out and do so many things as a family. I've had the opportunity to do what every parent loves to do...the thing you dream about doing during the weeks and months of pregnancy....relive my childhood. It's been fantastic. Playgrounds, riding on shopping carts, and throwing toys up in the air just to see how they fall and land when they hit the ground. Spending whole days in pajamas, camped out in the family room playing and watching tv; just because. What an awesome, awesome ride. Nothing compares to watching your child experience something new, something that you used to love, for the first time. I find myself holding my breath, anxious to see if they'll like it too. 'What if they don't?', I worry. 'What if they think it's lame?'. Or worse, 'What if they think I'M lame because I used to like this!' (Shudder. Better save that one for when the hormones start flaring. 'Til then, I'm in denial.)

   Every moment has been glorious, and I know it's only going to get better. But even in light of all these precious new adventures we're going on together, I still find myself sticking to the tried and true methods of my 'Go To' mothering technique: giving love and care. For me it's all in the little things. I still go in every night to give the last kiss to those sweetly sleeping lips, and sometimes ruffling a few proverbial feathers while pulling the blanket just a bit higher to make sure they're warm enough.  Whenever I am able to corner them into some snuggle time, there's still a spot on their foreheads that (honest to pete) smells like a baby's head, and you'll find my nose nuzzled against it, sniffing away and thinking about the days of yore. And no matter how busy our day is, and no matter how crazy it was and how many power struggles I won (or more often lost), I relish the moment each night when my girls wrap their arms tightly around my neck and pull me down to their shoulders, saying, "Mommy, I'm gonna keep you." In these fleeting minutes, I find myself looking at my babies once again. For all the priceless family moments we've been granted (and for the many more I pray we'll be blessed with), sometimes I wish for all the world that I could go back to those days when I was surviving by just winging it. By flying by the seat of my unmatched and unlaundered pants. Adrift in a sea of dirty spit up rags, bottles that needed steralized, and poop. Everyday having the privilige to look into the faces of two of the most trusting and loving faces, both completely oblivious to the chaos they had brought to our lives, but certain that every single moment they were covered in love and care.

  How does this mesh with Hammy? Okay, so maybe it was a stretch. But I think in some way it shows that no matter how easy something could be, like deleting a simple gadget, or getting used to my two tiny babies having seemingly "grown up", the instinct part of me will always search for that innate way to love and care. Whether it be by clicking a mouse and dropping some pixel-composed food pellets to a cyber hamster that only really matters to me, or by trying to sift through the piles of "I-Do-By-Self" to get to those fragile moments where my hugs and help are wanted. I still can't believe how much motherhood has changed me, or how much it's brought to my life. But I wake up every morning with a "Thank You God" on my lips, and drift to sleep each night with the knowledge that they're "going to keep me" in my heart.