October 10, 2018

I Had a Bad Day

I was a bad mom yesterday.

I didn’t give them enough attention, love or kindness. I was distracted, stressed out over money and clutter, wallowing in my own feelings of inadequacy in this world. There was too much TV time for them and too much phone time for me, while I desperately tried to escape the anxiety in my head.

Worse, when I had opportunities to show kindness, to encourage, to stave off their roller coasters of emotions, I failed miserably. I lost my cool over messes they made while I was dealing with my crap and I fueled their negative behavior with my negative reactions. I went against everything I know and rued the fact that I spent the day chipping away at the foundation of respect and kindness that I worked so hard to build.

Why did I feel this way? Because, at bedtime, my 4-year-old whispered to her father, “Today was supposed to be the best day ever but angry Mommy came out and angry Daddy came out and now I'm sad,” as she burst into tears.

Ugh. He didn't even want to tell me she said it, knowing it would make me cry. I did cry, but then… I owned it. She was right. On this day, I was not a good mom; not by my own standards at least. Angry mom did come out, more than once, and often for no reason other than I was incapable of controlling her. It was like an out of body experience - my heart saying, No, Stop, Don't and my brain saying, GET THIS SHIT DONE.

I made poor choices, the worst of which was to stew in my anger over something out of my control and allow my emotions to dictate how our day went, and I hurt my kids as a result. The irony is not lost on me.

How often do I rage inside when their emotions get in the way of our plans? Worse, how often do I forget to keep it all inside, gritting my teeth or whispering a threat out of their range or absentmindedly patting their backs and mumbling "I hear you...it's hard..." all while I want to beg them to please just. get. over. it?

It's impossible to live on top of another person and avoid being affected by their difficult days. And what good would I be to them if I did pretend as such? I know that I can't fake it well. If I'm upset, it's better for me to get it out - write, clean, scream, go for a drive, anything other than pretend all is well. I made the choice not to do any of that. Instead, I tried to do too much all at once, which led to frustration and more anger.

I get that we're supposed to shield our kids from our adult problems, but I don't feel guilty or ashamed for the fact that my four-year-olds were affected by my poor choices yesterday. I had a bad day, I'm human, it happens. I could have let it impact my sleep last night, worrying over how this will scar them for life. I could stress over how I broke them and destroyed years of work. I could have, and, long ago, I would have. It's so easy to give in, to allow the mistakes to shine, to forget about all the good.

But none of it would make a shred of difference. There is only one thing to do: move on. OK, two things: focus on the good.

There were tears today, but there was also laughter, and play, and love. Maybe not enough, but it has to be doesn't it? Some days are just like that. There's a life lesson for them in here somewhere, and while it might not the best way for them to learn it, if I'm going to preach authenticity and honesty, I need to practice them as well.

So I make a choice: be better. Today is a fresh canvas on which I get the chance to paint whatever experience I want my children to have. I choose to make the most of our situation, to let go of the worry, even if just for a little while, to laugh and hug and play. I choose to feel my frustration, then leave it for later, when little hearts are not likely to become collateral damage. I choose to model grace and forgiveness and most of all, kindness, to them and to myself because if they don't see it, how can I ever hope they will learn it?

It's so cliche, but today is a new day and with it will come ample opportunities to make better choices. I will slip, I will mess up, but I will also remember my daughter's words from last night. I won't allow them to saddle me with guilt and sadness, instead, they will fuel my fire to be better, to listen more, to control my emotions and responses.

It's so easy to believe the lies our hearts tell us - that one bad day can undo a thousand good ones, that the scars left by angry words can overtake a lifetime of love and support, that we have broken them. That alone could be enough to make me abandon all hope of ever being better, for the damage is done. But my heart, thankfully through lessons of my own girlhood, knows better. I hold fast to the fact that children are resilient and want to forgive, to feel loved and supported, to give love and support.

I can't give up now, I can't let the guilt swallow me up and resign myself to the idea that a few hard days make for a bad childhood. I vow to start fresh, to smile and make eye contact, to have meaningful interactions and thoughtful responses.

I could go out of my way to make today special or magical, to give in to the guilt and try to make up for what was lost yesterday, but where's the authenticity in that? What they need more of is consistency. They need to know that some days are hard and other days are not but in the end their mom is there with love and guidance, not just chocolate kisses and tv shows because she feels bad all the time. It may not be the best day ever, but it will be better than yesterday.

At the beginning of the day, that is all I can do. Be the change and all that. 


August 24, 2018

A Halloween 4th Birthday Party (in July)!

Although I can't believe it, our baby girls turned four years old in July! Four is a big deal, they are such amazing little people now, maturing and changing so much every day. They're always talking and coming up with the craziest plans and stories, often about all things spooky (I might have a strong influence on this), especially Halloween. So it wasn't really a surprise when they excitedly told me they wanted to have a Halloween 4th Birthday party.

Admittedly, I initially tried to sway them into something more practical, less labor intensive for me, like a day at the Town beach with close family and friends or a backyard BBQ as we've always done, but they were adamant about needing a Halloween party (despite having never seen nor attended one in their short lives). So, the planning began and in the end, I have to say I'm pretty proud of how it all came together. Not to mention that the girls were over the moon with excitement and joy to share one of their favorite celebrations with all their family and friends on their special day.

You might think it would be difficult to pull off a Halloween party in July but thanks to Amazon, Spirit Halloween Store and Party City, as well as my own fairly well-stocked supply of Halloween decorations, it was a piece of cake. I still think one of the best parts of this party that I will be able to reuse almost every bit of decor for as long as it lasts - and our house will be decked out for Halloween! I don't have a ton of decor pics but we basically just used lots of regular old decorations, some special purchases from Etsy and my amazing sister truly worked some magic with her streamer skills!

I tried to keep the food simple, though Pinterest was mightily tempting me to do all the Halloween themed things. I put together Jack O'lantern fruit and veggie trays, took way too much time cutting out cheese and lunch meat with adorable Halloween cookie cutters. I was happy to do it, but by far the most popular items were the pizza we ordered and the Pirate's Booty so next time I'll just buy 10 bags of that. 

We kept dessert simple with banana ghost pops, basic cakes, and cupcakes stuck with some Halloween toothpicks. As much as I wanted to have one of those cool witch cakes or something that looked too good to eat, this was perfect and super budget friendly. The kids also took some Halloween candy home in their goodie bags, which also included some play-dough and some fantastic Halloween goodie bag swag. 

The kids (and some adults) wore the cutest costumes including Elastigairl, a princess, a unicorn, batboy and a football player. Even the adults got involved;  GG dressed as a bumblebee, Aunt Kate in her football jersey, their great aunt Lisa as a cat and Debz as Batgirl and their Jama, in the most clever and comfortable costume of all, her work scrubs! I dressed as the only costume I've worn since college - a witch (so did the girls and my cousin, because we are all kindred souls). 

I set up a few activities to keep the kids entertained, although if I ever do this again I'll just set up 20 helium balloons and space for them to run! The big girls loved the coloring books and make your own jack o'lantern stickers though. 

I also set up a little dress-up area full of masks, capes, wings and various costume parts. It was a big hit, even the adults were trying on bits and pieces throughout the party. 

We also played our first party game of Pin the Smile on the Skeleton. I forgot where I put the prize though so everyone just got a piece of candy with the winner getting two!

I don't have a ton of photos as I always get caught up and forget to take enough I hoped others would capture some more but realized that it was just for show anyway. The photos don't really matter, because I have the memories of my girls' huge grins, their excitement at the transformation of our living room and all the fun we had - and the fact that we're still talking about it a month later!


August 2, 2017

Book Review: Multiples Illuminated - Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Tween Years

(this post contains affiliate links)

One of the first things I did when finding out I was having twins (who are now THREE by the way), was start stressing. It was not so great for the babies, but how could I not when my life had been so dramatically changed in just a few moments with the upward swipe of an ultrasound wand?

I worried about my ability to care for two human beings and whether or not I would mess them up more than I would have a singleton. I thought constantly about the future and how we would clothe and feed them, how I would handle the inevitable sibling rivalry and whether or not CJ and I would survive this as a couple. And then there was the added worry and guilt over ensuring that each one felt completely loved and supported 100% of the time – but knowing that would be nearly impossible.

There were times along this three year journey where I felt totally alone. All the moms I know are amazing, but none have twins and I often wondered if I was the only one with such intense fears or who really struggled to get back on their feet after a crazy pregnancy, NICU time and breastfeeding issues. I am thankful for social media and twin mom groups, usually my go-to for advice, but most recently, I had the opportunity to read a fantastic collection of stories written by other parents of multiples and it was quite the eye-opening and reassuring experience.

 Multiples IlluminatedMultiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Tween Years, the second book in a series, is edited by fellow moms of multiples, Megan Woolsey, a mom of four including 9 year old triplets, and Alison Lee, a mom of four including 3 year old twins.

This compilation of 21 colorful anecdotes, honest admissions and helpful tips for multiples aged two to twelve, is a must-read for any multiples parent or parent to be. Each story is the perfect mix of raw, relatable and reassuring. Even the most anxious parents of multiples will feel a sense of relief in knowing that at least one other person out there understands.

At times hilarious and silly, Multiples Illuminated is also poignant and heart-warming, getting to the real deal of this twin stuff, such as the stress it can have on your marriage or partnership, navigating the delicate dynamics of inclusion and individualism as well as the daunting challenge of toilet training two at once. Also delving into such topics as having one twin with special needs or health issues, single parenting multiples and how to handle a world that consistently views twins as one person with two bodies, there is something for every parent of multiples to connect with and appreciate.

This glimpse into our futures made me laugh out loud: “You pick them up and balance one on each hip. You are super strong, and you have no idea that in 10 years your hips will ache and you will go to physical therapy and no one will be able to figure out why.”

The most significant underlying theme in Multiples Illuminated is the varying degrees but overall consistency of the twin mom guilt I alluded to before. Since day one it has gnawed at me, as I held my teeny-tiny newborn in the NICU, all wrapped up in her cords and trying not to tear out her feeding tube. Her sister let out a peep from the isolette across the room, signaling it was almost her turn to eat. My heart ached to just scoop them both up and never put them back down, never wanting either of them to feel as though they were second best or less important.

The reality is, as many of the stories touch on, that sharing is the name of the game with twins – whether it is our attention, their toys or experiences, it is the one thing that will be a constant in our lives from here on out. And for them, our multiples, it is all they have ever known after coming into this world with a built-in sidekick (or punching bag, depending on how well they get along). It is our job to make sure this hand they've been dealt goes as smoothly as possible. Every day we fight a battle of making sure no one feels less loved or supported, all while trying to maintain our own sanity, when in reality it's likely a losing battle. They were two people, born together, destined to compete no matter how hard we try. Thankfully, Multiples Illuminated is chock full of tips and tricks to ease the stress.

One of my favorite quotes, from writer Pamela Alma Weymouth, describes it perfectly: “Today, there's not a day that goes by when I'm not playing peacemaker, teaching negotiation skills, slicing fruit into equal parts, measuring out juice, then comparing the two glasses with a microscope to make sure the levels are equal.” My girls are not yet at the stage of “but she got more!” but I already make sure everything is split evenly as much as possible in a desperate attempt to stave off more feelings of guilt.

I found myself laughing out loud more than a few times and constantly nodding along as each writer's words rang true in my heart. Each story illustrates one of the numerous frustrations and joys of life as a parent of multiples; it is clear the writers dug deep to share these tales in the hope that they will help others – and I believe they will. I already feel better about the dreaded threenager stage we're entering and have more ideas to facilitate their individuality in a world where the most common question we receive is, "Do they have their own personalities?"

As a twin mom and writer I am often asked for advice by other soon-to-be moms of multiples. From now on one of my suggestions will be to read this fantastic book. Whether your twins are still in-utero or headed off to kindergarten this fall, you will find something in this collection that eases a worry or puts a smile on your face. And we all know how important that is in this wild world of multiples!

Multiples Illuminated comes out on August 4 (National Twins Day!)

Click here to order your copy of Multiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Tween Years today. Click here for the Kindle version.