April 29, 2016

Twin Toddler Obsessions Part 2: Where the Wild Things Are!

I read somewhere that the average parent has at least 5 picture books memorized by the time their kid is a year old. I'm up to eight at 21 months (these are affiliate links. I'm a book snob so they are all decent books, I promise):

Peekaboo Baby
Goodnight Moon
Touch and Feel Farm
Llama Llama, Red Pajama
One Love
That's Not My Owl
The Big Book of Happy 

and most recently, Where The Wild Things Are

This simple story, by Maurice Sendak, is 53 years old and has just over 300 words. It's a classic, topping tons of "best of" lists. It reads like a poem and the detailed images keep even the busiest kids entranced. And it is the first book that my toddlers have really fallen in love/become obsessed with. I'm proud.

That said, I have read WTWTA so many times now that I am actually dreaming about it. Weird, freaky dreams that don't end well for me - that's fun.

Getting ready to show me her terrible claws!
But they love it so much. I'm sure my dramatic readings (which are Oscar-worthy) have something to do with it, though they might be slowly driving CJ insane.

We no longer hear "SHOES!" in our house. In fact, we haven't watched a PTX video in weeks. I'm not gonna lie, I might have claimed YouTube went away for a little while. They'll be fine.

Now, Jules carries this large paperback book everywhere and just throws it at me and growls when she wants me to read it.

"I'll eat you up!" 

You can't read this book from a mom's perspective. Read it like you're Max. You're 8 years old and pissed because your mom won't play along with your fun and nobody really understands you and this is the only way you know how to express your love for and frustration with her. Keep up the rhythm of the words at the pace of a kid who's just making it all up as he goes along.

Get excited because you're on the adventure of a lifetime.

It's magical.

And then there are the messages woven into the story. Yeah, I've gotta put a boring adult spin on it and read way too much into the complexities of a made-up 8 year old's psyche, but there is so much that my girls could learn from this simple tale:

Love is complicated and can make you feel all sorts of crazy. Like you want to eat someone up. That's ok. In fact, it's awesome. You should embrace that and run with it. Just don't really eat them.

We all have different ways of expressing our frustrations and we need to be patient with each other. We should try to hear beyond people's words and listen to what they're feeling.

Imagination is a powerful tool. It has the ability to distract us from and help us process our struggles as well as help us heal.

"Be still." It's one of the best ways to feel calm and centered amidst chaos. 

Friends can come in all shapes and sizes; you should never judge someone based on their appearance.

Sometimes you just need to let loose and be wild in order to gain some perspective and feel better. Dancing in the moonlight is pretty much one of the best ways to do this.

Even when you have all you ever wanted, you'll still want to be "where someone loves you best of all." 

Because there really is no place like home. Wherever or whoever that happens to be.

Even when she makes mistakes, Mom will usually come through for you in the end. Be patient with her too.

Feed your kids.

Really, what an awesome first book to be obsessed with, right? Hell, even if it didn't give me all kinds of feelings, I'd happily read it all day every day just to hear those giggles and see those little claws come out.

But then, the unthinkable (not) happened.

After six straight weeks of 10 times a day readings (a shockingly long time for a paperback book to survive in the hands of twin toddlers), WTWTA finally suffered an unfortunate death by toddler. Jules' excitement got the better of her and she shredded it during nap time.

This threw Viv, who might suffer from some of her Dad's obsessive neat-freak tendencies, into a full-blown tizzy every time we tried to read what was left. She couldn't even look at the book without trying to "fix" the broken pages. They would battle it out until someone moved on or the book went away. It was a nightmare.

What was left of their beloved book had to "get lost" for a few days until I could order another. I did my best to tell the story without the pages and read all their other old favorites but it just wasn't the same.

Then last night, while picking out books for bedtime, Jules chose this huge one filled with 20 picture books. She opened it up and there they were, on the first page she flipped to, her wild things.

Her tiny face lit up as she pointed and shouted, "AHHH! Dis! Tis!? Rrrraaaa?!" It's the first time I've seen her truly excited for something other than my boobs or her Dad.

I still know it by heart so I played my part while she flipped through the pages with a fervor, zeroing in on her favorite images: the dog, the ocean and the dance in the moonlight. We roared and showed our claws and she squealed with glee.

They repeated the last word with me like they always do. "Hot!"

But then it was bedtime and she wanted to take this huge, gorgeous, expensive book to bed with her. I couldn't let her. Not after what she did to the one I got for a buck at a consignment store. We "found" old faithful and she happily traded. All was well! Good night!

Then her sister spotted it and lost her mind at the sight of those torn pages. I ended up basically ripping the book in half. Viv got the few pages that were whole and Jules got the torn ones. Half an hour and 3 more readings later they happily went to bed, each with their half in hand.  Peace - for now.

Needless to say I already ordered few more copies. Although, considering how fast the PTX obsession died they'll move on by the time my prime shipping gets them here. Either way, I'm definitely going to hold on to the shreds of the original to share with them one day. I think they'll get a kick out of it.

What was the first book your children fell in love with? Did it survive your obsessive toddlers?


April 24, 2016

And for this, I am grateful.

My 2 month old nephew started coming here when my sister went back to work a few weeks ago. It's been an adjustment for all of us, especially the girls and R, the 4 year old boy I watch. While I am by no means a "baby person," I much prefer toddlers and preschoolers, I am kind of loving having him here. He is satisfying my baby fever but I get to sleep all night (well some, at least.) 

Little man Zack is so chill and already gives the best smiles. I love just hanging out with him when all the other kids are resting. He is still pretty much in the eat, poop, sleep phase but when he's awake he loves to snuggle and then have some intense hang out time in his little yes space we have set up. He's a mover and so smart, already grabbing things and trying to roll over. I love caring for him and watching him grow. But it's kind of killing me too.

It's not the stress of caring for a baby on top of the other kids. This was my life for years in daycare, mixed ages and mayhem. I can't even lie and say that caring for one baby is just as hard as caring for two (it's really, really a lot easier), but again, that's all I know. So that's not it either.

Oh hey, look who mastered feeding 3 kids under 2 at once!

It's the sadness I feel when I connect with him during those special, quiet moments - when he lights up as I change his diaper or when he just relaxes and is content lying on me after a bottle.

It breaks my heart because I know my own babies so rarely had those same experiences. It wasn't for lack of trying - I know the importance of those moments - it was because it seemed like every single time I wanted to stop everything and just love and see and feel my baby, the other one needed me too.

I have very few solid, seared-in memories from those early days. I remember the first time I felt them on my cheek and bits of seeing and holding them for the first time. But the moment that I will forever remember was the very first time I was feeding Jules and Viv woke up too early.

They were in the NICU and on staggered feeds at the time. They were each awake for exactly half an hour every 3 hours and we had just that much time to change, temp, feed and snuggle with Jules before it was Viv's turn. They were taking forever to get through just a few milliliters at this time and the threat of going back to the feeding tube was real.

It was one of those days already, I had missed Jules' kidney ultrasound that morning and then Viv kept pulling off one of her leads, setting off that freaking awful alarm while I sat there and wondered if she had just died until someone finally came in and said, "Oh, no big deal, just needs some more tape!"

Anyway, I was feeding Jules. She had like .5 ml to go and it was getting close to Viv's time. I knew we could push Viv off a bit but I was alone and didn't want to risk someone else getting to do anything with her. I was actually begging Jules to just eat faster so we could snuggle before Viv woke up. And then I heard it. Viv stretched out her arms and let out a tiny little sound. I looked up and there she was, 3 feet away in her little box, eyes wide open, totally awake and alert. Staring right at me. They didn't cry out back then, not in the way people think babies do. She just looked at me, I swear she was willing me to go to her, and I felt this surge of helplessness. I looked at her, and back down at Jules, in my arms and still with a bit of bottle to go, and I knew: this would be the story of their life.

They would never know the feeling of having my 100% undivided attention at their beck and call. Sure, I can say almost 2 years in that they've gotten plenty of one-on-one quality time. I think? I don't really know because I'll never be the mom who knows what it's like to devote 100% of my attention to one of my children.  I will always be thinking of or wondering about the well-being of the other one. There's never not been "the other one" for any of us.

In a way, they're lucky. It's all they know. If I were to ask them in 5, 10 or even 50 years what it's like to be a twin, they wouldn't be able to answer the question - because they have nothing to compare it to.

For me, I see it, I feel it every day, the pull to be there for my child, to do everything to make her feel safe and secure and make her feel like the most important thing in my world. And more often than I would have ever liked, I've needed to ignore that feeling, as I was too busy making sure the other one knew that she was also the most important thing in my world.

I missed things. Like the first time Jules rolled over. And when one of them took their first steps - worse, I can't even remember for sure who I missed and it's only been 8 months. I have forgotten so much already because there is so much more to remember.

These things seem so petty but I guarantee singleton moms know. There is no question. The little big things that make up every day with your child. A mom of one child knows. There is never any confusion over who did what and when. Or who is crying or hurt before she gets there.

She doesn't ever have to wonder if she put the right kid in the right crib last night.

Or if she is seriously damaging her teeny tiny infants because one is starving and has been crying for a few minutes longer than she's comfortable with while she is trying to get the other, supposedly easier one, to latch.

The entire first year was so hard and scary and so, so rushed. Everything. There was so little time to talk to them, to connect with and really slow down and see them. It was diapers, bottles/boobs, burp, squeezing in some not-so-quality time, sleep, wake and repeat. For months on end.

By the time they were more alert and we were all better adjusted,  this was just our routine and it worked so we never questioned it. Until, all of a sudden, they're almost two years old and things are finally slowing down and we're all like, "Who are you people!?" 

It's like we're just starting to get to know them. Because I'm not always distracted or busy or stressed so I get to sit and watch and actually see what they are really all about.

I feel like I'm just getting the hang of actually snuggling and cuddling them, because I'm not always trying to juggle them or keep two floppy babies safe in my arms at once.

I don't have to rush through baths or diaper changes because no one is screaming to be fed or put to sleep in the background.

I can enjoy outings and get-togethers again, as they will play and eat real food and sit with others and I can just hang out.

And, of course, they have each other. To play with, to snuggle, and just talk to. 

I can finally breathe.

But with those deep breaths, the ones that come with no longer having to hurry and keep everyone happy, there also comes this intense regret.

For letting the day-to-day tasks of care-giving get in the way of actually caring for my children.

For not giving them the peace and calm and connection that I think babies need in those early days.

Mostly, for the fact that I tried so hard to do everything right that I mucked up the most important thing - just being a new mother and embracing the madness that came with it.

I focused so much on keeping everyone alive and happy that I forgot to be grateful for, and bask in the amazingness that was becoming a mother of twins.

It's hard not to dwell on this but I'm reminding myself that I'm the only one who even gives a damn and that they are fine. Even if I doubt every single day that it was enough, I'm smart enough to know that they are fantastic, that they love me and I love them and that is all that matters.

In a sense, I'm grateful for the regret. It's making me, 21 months in, be much more mindful of all the little things. Our first little conversations that we're having and all the words they try to say and mispronounce. When they look at me with joy as they discover something new. Every single time they offer me a hug and a kiss without me doing it first.

Maybe I'm just hoping to make up for lost time and attention, but a part of me believes that all is not really lost. I know now that while the bond of those first few months is super important, it is hardly going to define our relationship as mother and daughters.

Because now the connection is two-sided. We not only see, but hear and understand each other. We are bridging the gaps that opened when I was just trying to survive.

Every time we connect over something silly that I could have easily missed or they grab my hand just because, I know I'm succeeding. I'm filling those spaces where those early memories should have been. And for this I am grateful. For this awareness, this new found appreciation and my ability to forgive myself for just not knowing at the time.

All is not lost. There are still thousands of moments to share and love and connect. And this is when it really matters.

At least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself.


April 4, 2016

General Hospital Tackled Public Breastfeeding and It Was Amazing

Yes, this post is about a soap opera. And breastfeeding in public. Have I officially hit housewife status or what?

I remember when I was about 10 years old I thought for sure I had a brain tumor. I did not have any symptoms of one, but I was convinced it was there. Because Dominique Baldwin, a character on my favorite show, General Hospital, had one. Yeah, I was that kid. I thank Vada from My Girl for that personality quirk of mine.

By age 9, I was hooked and learned quite a bit about life from GH, including how to kill someone, fall in love, have an affair, what to do if an evil Russian woman cursed you and that people can come back from the dead multiple times.  I watched religiously for 12 years until I graduated from college and had to get a real job which got in the way of my habit. Luckily soap operas are just like old friends and after almost 10 years off I was able to pick right back up where I left off when I stopped working while pregnant with the girls.

Little has changed in Port Charles and many of my favorite characters are still alive and up to their same antics. The dead just keep on rising and even veteran characters who were long gone have returned. I was devastated to find out that Luke and Laura Spencer had since parted ways but, despite Luke leaving the show last year, I'm pretty sure even that is only temporary.

Now that I am older I have a better appreciation for the real-life issues that GH portrays. While it can be a hotbed of fantasy with a healthy dose of paranormal, the writers have never shied away from tackling tough subjects such as rape, breast cancer, HIV, homosexuality, alcohol and drug abuse, infertility and domestic violence. And lately, finally the point of this post, public breastfeeding.

Here's a recap in case you missed it (which you did because you're not me):

Olivia is meeting with the Mayor of Port Charles, known only as Lomax, in the restaurant of her hotel when her baby gets hungry. She starts to feed him, much to the mayor's horror. Instead of excusing herself or just looking away, the mayor makes a huge fuss, using her power to belittle Olivia and essentially bully her into either making her child wait to eat or ending the meeting because she "shouldn't have to see that."

Olivia refuses to stop trying to feed baby Leo, despite being humiliated and told that she "shouldn't be doing that in public where people are eating." That's when the Mayor threatens to have her arrested for public indecency. If you know anything about public breastfeeding you probably know it's perfectly legal. Olivia knows that too. She gets up to leave in a huff and accidentally bumps the table, which is when she's arrested for assaulting a public official.

Olivia's baby-daddy, Julian, is married to superstar lawyer, Alexis Davis, (my favorite GH character of all time/Nancy Lee Grahan). While Julian, a local media mogul, is able to convince the mayor to drop the charges in order to avoid a public scandal, Alexis announces that she and Olivia are now suing her for assault. The mayor clearly provoked Olivia and forced her into leaving through shame and humiliation. She created the issue herself when she berated a woman for feeding her baby, which she is legally allowed to do. And when she realized she had no legal ground to stand on, she had Olivia arrested, because she's the mayor and she felt threatened

Last week the case went to court. I watched in tears while I nursed my own babies  as one side battled for a woman's right to feed her child anytime anywhere and the other actually fought for the public's right to not be exposed to "that kind of stuff." After two breastfeeding women entered the courtroom all hell broke loose and the mayor even went so far as to proclaim that, "What's natural to them is inappropriate and offensive to most others!"

Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of Olivia, but not before the women of Port Charles bared it all for every woman's right to not feel shame or judgement for feeding their babies. Several women in the crowd tore open their shirts in solidarity with Olivia (which is perfectly legal to do! You don't even need to have a kid on your boob!) It was incredible.

I feel like I should reward some of you for reading a soap opera recap.. So here's a cute pic of my crazy kids.

I have to admit, this means so much to me because I've never breastfed in public. I could blame the fact that they're twins who always want to eat at the same time or because we don't get out much but really it's because I don't feel comfortable doing it. Because I don't like making other people feel uncomfortable, almost to a fault. I care so much about what others are thinking that I'll stay home or excuse myself to another room when my girls are hungry, rather than risk putting someone else out of their comfort zone.

It's the reason I've never shared a pic of myself breastfeeding. Well, I'll change that now.

My first public breastfeeding selfie!
That's why this story matters. Because I shouldn't have to feel that way at all. I should feel confident feeding my kids in front of anyone - strangers, my father, my best friend's husband or my landlord, without even a second thought. I shouldn't think twice about sharing a picture of something so natural online. Because they're my kids and they need to eat and that's how they do it. Because it's what I think is best for them.

But I don't, because I have learned that people aren't comfortable with it and that it's wrong to make people feel bad. Never mind that my kids suffer for it.

I hate that I care more about what other people think than my kids' needs and I have to wonder, how would I feel if people weren't allowed to berate us for it? No, I can't be arrested, but I can be judged. What if the tables were turned and I could call the cops on you for side-eying me? 

I'm not allowed to walk up to strangers and ask them to stop eating because I don't like the meal they are having. I'd probably get beat up if I told a woman to cover up her earlobes because I found them offensive. And god forbid I ever vocalize my disgust to a mother doing anything with HER children that I disagree with, unless she was actually hurting them. Sure, I'm legally allowed to do all of those things but I'd be insane to and society would likely shun me.

And yet people are constantly insulting women who nurse in public. Some times it's with blatant threats and shame. But more often than not it's simply a look of disgust, a tsk-tsk, a sigh or a huff. Or a rant on social media. Just enough to make the woman know you disapprove but not enough for her to say or do anything about, let alone file a law suit.

I wonder if, unless you're a breastfeeding mother, it might be hard to understand why this GH story was so awe-inspiring. Obviously it's a soap opera, so it's over the top and dramatic. Plus, if it's already the law, who cares if people complain? They can't stop you and you don't have to listen to it, right? You might even say, just ignore them or walk away, it doesn't matter since you have rights.

But it does matter. Especially if you're not a breastfeeding mother. This story was written because there are still so many people who just don't get it, who continue to perpetuate lies about breastfeeding or the idea that it should be hidden away, like some shameful secret. These people who just can't seem to grasp that it's not about sex or nudity or indecency. And it's not about what makes you comfortable or what you don't want to see. It's about a mother, feeding her child, the way she was literally born to do. Plain and simple.

Isn't that something we all want, no matter where or when it happens? Fed babies?

I've seen people turn a blind eye to abuse of all kinds, to outright racism and hate, to poverty, to the plight of the environment, etc. People can pretend to see past all sorts of terrible things, and yet these same people will go out of their way to berate a mother for feeding her child. How backwards is that?

I have to wonder how people would react to if they actually saw it on a regular basis? Breasts being used for their intended purpose and not just to sell everything under the sun or in porn? I mean, it's not like there are droves of women going out to dinner and target at the exact moment their child needs to eat. When a woman does nurse in public, she's not usually doing it just for fun or even because she wants to. Even my husband admits I'm the only person he's ever actually seen breastfeed. It's not like it's everywhere. But if it was, would people finally just see right past it and stop this crap?

Whatever happened to, if you don't have anything nice to say then just shut up? Or, even, live and let live?

Thankfully it seems the tide is turning. We are seeing more stories like the one on GH and hearing more about people accepting and standing up for nursing moms everywhere. Multiple "Nurse-ins" are being held in protest after a woman is shamed by a business or employee. Alyssa Milano stood up for all nursing moms against Wendy Williams on national television. #Normalizebreastfeeding is booming. Brelfies (breastfeeding selfies shared on social media) are a thing. It's happening. Women are feeding their babies, regardless of who might see or say something.

So, bravo, General Hospital for holding nothing back (literally) and helping empower breastfeeding women. I am an incredibly proud fan these days, even if it does make me the ultimate housewife.

Here's another, more updated, #brelfie, just for good measure.

To watch scenes from this epic General Hospital storyline click here, here here and here.

To learn more about breastfeeding in public click here.

If you're a nursing mom and you need to know where you can and should breastfeed check out this amazing video by Latched Mama.

And if you're not a nursing mom but want to support acceptance of public breastfeeding just be a decent human being and keep your opinions and looks to yourself. Have your friends do the same and the world will be a better place.