Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not a Mama

Now I’ve done it. Apparently, I inadvertently ended Elliana’s relationship with Elizabeth. She told me with such sincerity that my heart dropped.

It all started with the famous naptime. While pregnant, I devoted myself to helping Elliana learn how to get herself to sleep. I was convinced that she needed to nap daily despite her frequent, persistent, and creative protests. I followed strict instructions from Madame, at Elliana’s school, and eventually we all got sleep!

As a result, I work hard to keep naptime routines consistent. So, when I heard Elliana talking rather loudly in her room, I feigned surprise and said “Oh, you are still awake”. I proceeded to tell her that if it was too distracting to have Elizabeth sleep in the room with her than Elizabeth would need to take her nap downstairs. Since Elliana dotes on her baby doll, this reminder is usually taken very seriously and followed by instant compliance. You may think I’m ruthless for suggesting that I separate the two of them, but I crave sleep like my next breath of air.

After disappearing downstairs, I heard Elliana again rather loudly. Several minutes of this passed and Elliana must have known I was about to come upstairs. As she was apparently planning to veto her nap, I found her in the middle of the stairwell.

Elliana: “I’m not a Mama anymore.”

Mama: “What?”

Elliana: “I’m not a Mama anymore. Because of what you just said.”

She looked very serious and genuinely sad, but resolute, as she made this statement.  I tried to think quickly and all I could come up with was:

Mama: “What do you mean?”

Elliana: “You said you were going to take Elizabeth downstairs during nap. So, I’m not a Mama anymore.”

I was horrified. This is what she thought that meant? I hadn’t intended that at all! I was simply trying to get some sleep in our house (getting Elliana and twins down for naps simultaneously is no small trick – and trying to fall asleep myself once they are down is a pipe dream!).

I tried to calmly remind her that it just seemed like it was too distracting to have Elizabeth in her room. She was welcome to see her after nap when they both woke. Yet, Elliana was adamant that she was no longer a mother.

In this two-minute exchange I felt reduced to dirt. Elliana and Elizabeth have been practically inseparable for the past several months. Elliana sashays through the room with her doll in a baby sling and she rocks her to sleep using all the techniques she’s studiously observed for the past several months. She tends to her diapers, spit-up, and outfit changes. She even looked at me knowingly one day at nap and said “You won’t believe it, she’s STILL wiggling”. That one had me at a loss for words so I’d said “Oh” and left her to handle the “wiggly” baby.

So, as you can imagine, I feel horrible to have unintentionally stripped her of a role she has honed, almost religiously, for the past several months. Then, amidst my exhaustion and shock I managed to think of a key question.

Mama: “Do you want to be a Mama?”

Elliana: “No.” (tears now welling in her eyes)

Mama: “What do you want to be?”

Elliana: “I just want to be a kid!” (tears now pouring down her face)

All along, I thought she’d been mothering over her baby doll because she wanted to. I had no idea that Elliana, with her seemingly endless imagination, felt exhausted by all the hard work she’d been doing to tend after this “newborn”.

I’m still not sure if I’ve collected all the pieces of my heart that broke on the stairs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Off Kilter

Elliana could have cleaned her crayons up 4 times over with the time she spent protesting the task. Twincy and Twinjay were on round two of spit-up and diaper changes. I was attempting to shower before bringing Elliana to school to meet Spencer for a Family Work Day. And so, it was a fairly normal Saturday in our home: typical tasks were taking 3x as long as they might otherwise.

Finally, all tears aside (mine included), we were in the car and on our way. After drop-off, I headed to the coffee shop with the babies. My master plan was for the twins to get extra sleep in the car and, potentially, I’d meet up with some other MoMs (Mothers of Multiples) at the monthly gathering. I realized the latter was a distant possibility, as summer attendance is low, but even so the jaunt provided a much-needed outing.

After parking, I pulled out our double stroller. Amazingly, it has 12 different combinations of seat arrangements to keep everyone happy! Truly, the bells and whistles are kind of daunting. My favorite feature is the ability to snap in carseats so the babies can KEEP SLEEPING! After getting the babies in and settled, I hurried into the shop to avoid the rain that was beginning to pick up speed. A quick survey of the cafe showed that, indeed, no MoMs were meeting today. No problem, still some semi-me time.

Since I don’t drink coffee (Yes, I said it. You can file it under the long list of reasons I might be crazy) I opted for a steamer. After paying for my drink, I set it in a conveniently placed cupholder that eliminated the possibility of spills onto the sleeping babes. Since preventing all potential hazards is just one of the many things that race through a mother’s head regularly, I was silently congratulating myself on our purchase as I nestled the cup in the holder.  

I pivoted to head toward the door and relish in the me-time I had scored, even if it was just quiet sipping in “solitude” in the car. No sooner had I done that then the back wheel fell off the stroller! Truly, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

The kind man behind me asked if he could help. I think if I’d answered anything other than “YES” I would have been committed for insanity. I am now trying to make the stroller stay upright without spilling this drink and cannot let go to reattach a wheel! The man replaced the wheel, I thanked him profusely, and then I reassured him that the car wasn’t far away. My errror.

I managed to get out to the sidewalk only to realize I couldn’t risk angling the stroller off the sidewalk for fear the wheel would detach and we could all tip right over. Thus, I parked the stroller on the sidewalk in the now pouring rain. As fast as possible, I began to ferry each carseat to the car while reassuring myself that glares from any strangers were unwarranted: they had no idea how much better this option was than the alternative parking lot plunge!

It took about 6 racing trips, back and forth, just to get everything in the car. To add insult to injury, the newly attached wheel fell off, again, just as the stroller was hoisted into the trunk. I began to curse the day we bought this thing (literally, less than a month ago) and put the car in reverse.

Since I don’t frequent coffee shops, claiming my energy levels would be intolerable if I consumed caffeine regularly, I wasn’t familiar with this parking lot. My current state may cause me to question this argument, but, nevertheless, I was backing up, in pouring rain, on a steeply inclined driveway.

As I pulled out, and down the hill, I found the lighting system rather peculiar. None of the traffic lights seemed to face me directly so it was nearly impossible to determine when I should enter traffic. After craning my neck, and wondering if I’d pulled forward so far that I was under a light, I realized there was a DO NOT ENTER sign to my right. Oh, and it was intended for people like me! Similar to the large arrow painted on the driveway indicating all traffic was to go in, NOT out. Aaah, got it. So, I backed up the hill, in the rain, redirected the car, and exited the lot.

In my head I was whipping off a letter to the company imploring them to consider better workmanship of their products. Surely, parents care more about the basics, such as wheels staying attached, than the numerous features advertised on this Rolls Royce of strollers. And, if they haven’t had many complaints to date, it’s probably because parents with multiple little kids are TOO BUSY to write these letters! We just need stuff to work. In fact, I have several ideas for how this stroller could be improved. Better yet, let’s start from scratch. I’m sure I could describe features that really matter to parents. Like, for example, 12 seat arrangements but no adjustable handlebar??? Really?

That’s about as far as I got. By this point I had reconnected with Spencer and my mental tirade came to an end. I knew, in all reality, this letter wouldn’t get written. Sadly, my expertise will be sitting idle until I’m discovered.

Now, Spencer is usually very good-natured. He befriends most everyone he crosses paths with and genuinely likes to keep the masses happy. However, by the time I relayed the story to him he was livid. And, before I knew it, he had keys in hand and was dashing out the door. I began to question that logic since heavy sheets of rain had been pouring down for over an hour, but he was gone.

All I know is that a fuming Spencer arrived at the store, looking like a drowned rat, with the stroller in one hand, the wheel in the other, demanding to see a manager.

We have a different stroller now.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


As we were getting ready for dinner this evening, Elliana was deeply engrossed in coloring...or so I thought. I walked through the living room and was greeted by this news:

Elliana: "I just bit off a big piece of toenail"

Yeah. Enough said. I'm dreaming of crawling underneath a desk, like my 8th grade Spanish teacher used to. When I come out, I'll share the rest of our insanity from this weekend.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Breaking Point

I am reduced to sitting in a fetal position on my office chair and fantasizing about wearing boots (will explain later). I am actually considering vomiting just to end the rise and fall of puke in my throat. I am afraid to take off my fleece or even move my body. I am rigid with disgust and the inside of my nostrils have begun to itch. In fact, it feels like my whole body is itching. No, these are not more lovely symptoms of Lyme Disease. Perhaps, worse…

Soon after getting all three kids to bed, Spencer went to the neighbor’s house for a drink. I settled into the office to catch up on some emails when I felt something move on my head. I shook my head and thought I’d imagined it but realized that it was too heavy to be nothing. So, I reached up and actually felt a lump. To my horror, a caterpillar fell onto the desk. A CATERPILLAR! It was yellow and fuzzy and began to uncurl and move once on the desk. I am repulsed. I am not camping. I am inside, in my office, and worst of all I haven’t gone anywhere! How did this caterpillar get in my hair? It wasn’t like it was just on top, it was almost underneath the rubberband that’s holding my hair back. This tells me it had been moving around for a bit.

Consequently, I feel sick. Are there no boundaries? I would be much better with an ant, a mouse, or any number of other things. And, the WHOLE story would be different if I were outside. But I am not. I am in the one, tiny space in our home that is just for adults. Until tonight.

So, my very healthy reaction is to text my sisters that I am traumatized (and because they  know me so well they know I am not exaggerating and they are laughing themselves sick). Then, I proceed to call my older sister just to let her know how truly awful this experience is. I am squirming all over.

Oh, and the boots. That seems to be my go-to whenever something comes indoors that I expect should be outside. For example, the dish gloves and boots I donned when the mouse entered my first apartment or the boots my little sister and I wore the first time I babysat her and a squirrel got into the house. My parents actually found us curled up on the couch, with boots on, watching Sesame Street re-runs as we tried not to notice a squirrel darting across the living room floor.

For most people, the breaking point would be the result of a major life event. Yet, I seem to have pushed through severe post partum hemorrhaging, diagnosis of Lyme Disease, and days of twins crying in stereo with more grace than I can muster for this. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


*For those of you who have been following, C is Twincy and J is Twinjay

This is what the 4x4 dressing room at the store feels like. The kind women at the store helped me squeeze into the room in order to nurse Twinjay who had begun to cry. While answering Elliana’s many questions, and maneuvering the double stroller with one hand, I finally got all 4 of us into the room. It was like learning how to do a K-turn into a parking spot where you think you can squeeze into but you aren’t 100% sure - while you have an audience. The saleswoman nicely shut the door for us since I was now wedged in, couldn’t reach the door handle from that angle, and had not yet unbuckled the crying baby.

I was pleasantly surprised that Twincy was facing the mirror, which I thought would keep her occupied. So, I began nursing a now almost-frantic Twinjay.  Elliana decided that Elizabeth (aka her baby doll Big Baby who was recently “born” and renamed) also needed to be nursed. She very seriously “nursed” her, which consisted of plastering her face to her tummy – about belly button level- and draping her shirt over Elizabeth’s face. Meanwhile, Twinjay is happily eating as though she hasn’t eaten in days and Twincy has a front row seat to what she deems completely unfair. Twinjay is eating and she isn’t. So, we sat there, sweating in the store with the broken AC while Twincy broke into full wails and Twinjay continued to nurse. I wondered how many customers were bothered by this racket as the store was about the size of our family room. It was so hot the mirror started to steam and the babies’ tiny bits of hair began to curl as it only does when they are completely sweaty. As soon as there was the slightest indication that Twinjay was done, I put her in the carseat (barely burped) and rescued Twincy. Elliana was now done feeding Elizabeth and full of questions about why we couldn’t get out of the dressing room yet.  I fed Twincy and was finally able to reach over the double stroller, unlock the door, and maneuver the stroller out the door with one hand while holding Twincy in the other and verbally directing Elliana to the register.

After paying for the slippers and accepting multiple offers to help open the door for us as we left (the store was almost empty once we emerged from the dressing room – no idea if we cleared it out or not), we were in daylight again.  In fact, it almost seemed cooler outside.

Following a quick stop next door to the toy store (not because I’m crazy but because they assured me the teething toy I was seeking was sold there), we headed to the car. Just as we go to the car I leaned to start disassembling the double stroller and Elliana hopped up (as 3-year olds spontaneously do) and knocked right into my mouth. Literally, I could feel my lip swelling instantly. Minor blood but immediate swelling. Fantastic. I began conjuring images from Hitch and tried to use it as a teaching moment for Elliana to still ask if someone is ok even if she didn’t intend to hurt them (her initial reaction was just to tell me to put a bandaid on it in a less than concerned voice). After our brief discussion she looked really sad which broke my heart and wasn’t my intention at all. Always trying. That’s what I tell myself. Always trying. Next time maybe I’ll know the exact right thing to say.

I walk around to the driver side and get a whiff of an awful odor. My initial reaction was, ah, this was the reason for fussing. At least one of those poor babies needed a diaper change. Poor kid. Yet, a moment later I recognized the stink and was amazed it was still with us! On our way out we had been unable to avoid driving over remains of some roadkill. It was indistinguishable upon sight but moments later recognized as a skunk. Apparently, they still really stink when dead and with each revolution of the tire the stench wafted into our car through the AC vents. So, this stink is going to continue to accompany us for some more driving pleasure. Truly, there is nothing I can do about this one so home we go.

As we drive, I try to answer Elliana’s chatterbox questions.  Twinjay starts fussing again and one side of my mouth starts to swell shut so, while I answer questions, that half literally just stayed closed. Awesome.

The 7-minute drive home felt much longer, as it always does, when there are crying kids in the car. Once in the driveway, I quickly begin my dance of getting as many things in the house as possible while strategically removing kids. If Elliana is out first she’s mobile and that can be a problem, especially if she decides she doesn’t want to come inside OR is going to “help” with her sisters while I’m shuttling items. Sometimes, her version of help is squeeze/stress relief with a baby arm as the object of choice. Not at all comforting to a Mom who just sometimes wants to be able to step out of the room and know all 3 of her kids will live to see her walk back in.

Alas, we are all inside. And, while I was getting lunch on the table, Twinjay scooted. She scooted!! I was as proud and overjoyed as only a sleep-deprived Mom can be. I reached for the phone to call Spencer when I realized my cell must be in the car…in the bottom of the collapsed stroller. Not fun. So I got the house phone (yes, we still have one, long story) and left him a voice mail. Truly, 2 minutes later, Twincy scooted too! Each had gone a full body length and I was beyond thrilled by their accomplishments! I ran outside to get my cell to now call my Mom in hopes of actually reaching someone live. I positioned Elliana at the front door to watch me as much to protect her sisters as to keep her in-the-know. Now, popping open the stroller isn’t really that cumbersome but the stroller is heavy and I’m still recuperating from Lyme Disease. So, today’s outing alone was exhausting. Instead of opening it to get my cell phone and, good to see, my wallet, I tried fitting my arm through the bars of the stroller. Naturally, as soon as I did the phone slid to the very bottom and I couldn’t reach. Stubbornly, I began turning the stroller and reaching from every angle until I surmised that I’d already expended more energy than I would have if I’d opened the stroller in the first place. So, I relented, got wallet and cell and ran back inside.

Thankfully, Mom answered her phone at work. Elliana caught wind of my excitement and began racing around the house crowing that her sisters had scooted. “Good for fun, my sisters scooted!”. 

And so, once the hubbub died down we all had lunch. Elliana happily chomping away and me, eating through the half of my mouth that still opened. Somehow, it still tasted good and I was happy. Nobody was crying, we were no longer in the dressing room, and I had worn a black shirt so maybe, just maybe, my pouring sweat wasn’t obvious at the store. I can dream, can’t I?