You know, I really love this picture and I don’t really want to talk about it at the moment. So I’m just going to say we had a fabulous time at Disney World last weekend and discuss something different yet vaguely related because hey, it’s my webspace right?
When we bought our new minivan before Molly arrived I was in complete denial over the fact that we did really need a minivan. I didn’t want one though, I didn’t want to be a minivan mom. I didn’t want to be the stereotype. I fought against it. And yet the days ticked closer towards my due date and the inevitable happened and we got the new car and I couldn’t possibly be happier. At the time of purchase there was also one other point of contention and that was whether or not to get the rear entertainment system. Oooooooh am I glad I did.
First off I have to say we have a very strict rule in place with watching movies: no DVD watching unless we are leaving the county (it’s a big county). Trips to the store, ride home from school, basic running around town– you get to talk to Mommy and Daddy or each other but if we go on a longer trip you can watch a movie. Our trip to Disney was only the third time the kids have gotten to watch a movie in the car we have now owned for 6 months.
Now all this made me think of how when I was little we used to drive to New Orleans each summer and how it was really extra cool when we got to listen to a cassette tape on the way there and how my mom used to get use those little travel games that somehow lost their entertainment value about 10 minutes into the 11 hour trip.
A few weeks ago the following conversation took place:
Andrew “Mommy, what was your favorite game when you were little?”
Me: “Um, I’m not sure, maybe Hide and Seek?”
Andrew: “No your favorite game to play on your phone.”
Me: “Andrew I didn’t have a cell phone until college.”
Andrew: “Oh. What games did it have?”
Me: “Well, it didn’t have games.”
Andrew: “Then what did it do?”
Me: “It made phone calls.”
Andrew: “That’s IT???!?!”
I went on to explain how back in the day my cell phone was basically used for emergencies, to call home, or to call the important guy who would one day become his father. I explained how my phone made only phone calls and even then it only made them in a small geographical area before it started charging me a whole bunch of money. Oh how times have changed.
And while people lament the changes technology brought to the 21st century, my lesson to you kiddos today is this: EMBRACE THE CHANGE.
That’s right, life around you will always be moving forward (at least we hope) and you can look at this in a positive way or a negative one but I suggest you choose the positive because of its inevitability and also the fact that really great things often come out of growth.
I also have to say I can’t fathom what you will be shocking your kids with a few decades from now when you tell them about the giant brick type devices your parents carried around with them that played antique games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds Star Wars and didn’t do amazing things like drive you places or diagnose illness or whatever the heck phone type devices will do in the future. And I hope some day when you are teleporting to your family’s vacation destination you will make sure to share with your own kids the ridiculous and unthinkable experience your own parents once had when it took hours and hours to go places and they were forced to be entertained by nothing but a cassette tape and games made entirely out of plastic. You will undoubtedly enjoy the moment where you blow their minds and make them say as you did yourselves “I’m sure glad I didn’t grow up when you were little, it must have been so boring!”
Until next time,
This one is pretty simple– like what you want to like. Be who you are. Don’t let anyone change that or persuade you to be someone else because we love you as you.
My little girl– pink dress, purple leggings, headband (removed for nap), 6 blankets– all pink or purple dot minky, one Hello Kitty blanket, and her dolls. Oh yes, and her blue truck that used to be Andrew’s. The truck was the thing we could not take a nap without today, the thing we couldn’t leave the house without yesterday. Who says trucks are for boys? Don’t tell Allison that! In fact, don’t tell any of my kids what they are allowed to like or play with and don’t try to push antiquated gender stereotypes on my kids because unless it poses a danger to their health it surely won’t bother me.
So keep on loving what you love my dear children, that’s what makes life sweet
Confession #1: I just really wasn’t feelin’ the blackboard look. It’s super cute in a lot of places but I just couldn’t get into it. I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and go very simple and focus more on getting the picture done. Confession #2: I didn’t do a picture last week. I decided I’m not going to stress when I miss a week because really, are you unable to sleep at night waiting for it? Yeah I didn’t think so (If you answered yes please let me know so I can get a restraining order!)
Now my Lesson today is actually a nod to Valentines Day which I have always greatly despised. I confess (I guess that’s #3) that even after going to church my entire life, and teaching in a Catholic school for 8 years (give me a break here, I didn’t teach religion), I never knew the story of St. Valentine or really gave it much thought. Last week at Andrew’s Sunday School class which actually meets once a month with parents and kids together, the instructor told the story of St. Valentine. Now there’s actually a lot of mystery about the subject but basically there are a few ideas about who St. Valentine was and rather than write you a research paper on the subject, I’ll send you to this site so you can read it for yourself. Interesting huh? So I thought, wow you know what? Valentine’s Day is a little more palatable when you think about it like that rather than a commercialized holiday made to sell chocolate and roses and to make single people feel like shit.
And I figured it made a decent enough lesson for my project here.
So Lesson 5 is: Love Your Siblings Always
There is no one on earth who shares more genetic material than the three of you share with each other. You are each others’ closest links. Think about that for a moment (or 12) as I did when my mom told me the same thing years and years ago. Someday, I know you don’t want to think about it right now, but Mommy and Daddy will be gone and your ties to your family will be each other. I’m glad you have that.
When Allison was born I was worried about how that would change our family of three and when Molly was born I had the same fears but I am grateful every day for how much you love each other and how you are each others’ best friends. I know there will be times you want your own space, you don’t want to share, you want just Mommy or Daddy all to yourselves. I know you will get on each others’ nerves. It’s only natural. But I hope you will always love each other the way you do now. No matter what happens I never want you to lose the bond you share both genetically and as best buddies and that love, at the end of the day, is what makes all this worth it.
Compromise. Ah such an important word. Something so lacking in our society these days. But I have hope for you, my children, and for the other young people in your generation. I have hope that you’ll do a better job of this than we are right now. I have hope every time I hear you talk, Andrew, about the things you are learning in school– open mindedness, empathy, caring, understanding. These are just a few of the lessons you are learning there that mirror our values at home. So while right now I know it doesn’t seem like much fun to compromise with each other all the time, it’s a lesson I hope you learn, or, well, continue to work on because there are few things more important that this.
In other news, Allison has been experiencing joint pain in her legs and sometimes in her arms. It was usually accompanied by a request to be carried and since it started right after Molly was born I kinda ignored it for a little while and hoped that by holding her and carrying her as much as possible she would realize she hadn’t been replaced. But as time has gone on she has shown no animosity or jealousy towards her sister but the pain continues. Well we’re addressing it with the doctor and they will do some tests to see if we can’t figure out what’s going on but she said even for a 2 year old, she’s very flexible and she suspects that Allison is just over extending her joints without even realizing it. This is often how she sits to watch TV (not necessarily with her toes pointed but she’d just come from gymnastics this morning when I took this). Sometimes she puts her belly on the floor and props herself up with her elbows. I usually watch TV in a perfect split too— (yeah, right!) And in typical two year old fashion the more I suggest she not do it the more she wants to. But I guess it made for a good photo this week
Until next time…
Embrace every moment. This is a hard thing to do because there are some moments in life you won’t want to embrace. In fact there are times you will want to forget them completely. But the important thing is this: love with all your heart. Embrace the present. Forgive freely. Don’t hold on to anger. Life is too short to spend it upset with others. Forgive again even when you don’t want to. Tell your loved ones you love them. Don’t take a single moment for granted because you never know what the future holds. You will find it’s not always the big things that you will look back and remember fondly. More often than not it’s the little moments that make life sweet.
A frigid Florida morning. A bike ride on a beautiful trail. Starbucks hot chocolate and a blueberry scone. We did the same almost exactly a year ago when there were just 4 of us, 4 and a tiny microscopic version of Molly (and her twin). We haven’t been bike riding since for fairly obvious reasons. Today was the day. We could have waited yes. Another time the weather may have been warmer but there’s waiting for perfect and there’s living in the moment and sometimes when you are really lucky that moment becomes perfect. What more could you ask for?
Photo: iPhone. Cropped to landscape. No additional adjustments.
My Dearest Children,
There is so much you can learn on a soccer field, like the importance of aiming for your own goal instead of the other team’s goal. But in all seriousness, soccer is a perfect metaphor for the rest of life as many sports have a tendency to be. Here’s the thing. Don’t just pick any goal to achieve. Listen to your heart on this one, ponder, evaluate, weigh the pros and cons and then go for it with such gusto that any naysayers out there will be left in your dust. People will undoubtedly hand you the rusty (and my most despised) old cliché to “Reach for the Stars” which, in its essence, is asking you to set goals that are wildly unachievable. Yet despite my dislike for it, I still think there is value in this old saying: aim for what may sometimes seem impossible, visualize it, and make a plan. Write your goals down. Check yourself. This requires discipline and tenacity. (Quite frankly you’ve all got that tenacity thing down already!) I have such high hopes for you kiddos. Some might say it’s wrong of me to pin such lofty expectations on such young people but I hope by now you realize you wouldn’t really want me to expect any less.
What the future holds? I don’t know. But I will be there cheering for you from the sidelines and helping you keep your eye on the prize.
Andrew is nearing the end of his first real season of soccer and it has been a wonderful experience. He scored several goals—almost all of them for his own team! But that was not really the important part. In fact I think the most valuable lesson to come from the season is how to lose graciously. They lost all but 2 of their games (with one game left) but I think there is a lot to be said for how they learned to handle it. There were no tears over losses, just the drive to try harder and while I know there are many (most?) parents out there who would prefer to see their child win every game, I’m not one of them. Learning how to win means learning how to lose too. It means learning how to work with a team, make mistakes, practice hard, and yes, to have fun—fun that doesn’t require winning at all costs. This may seem in stark contrast to the letter above but I really feel setting goals and learning to lose actually go hand in hand. How can you learn to set high, yet realistic goals for yourself if you don’t know your limitations? How do you move forward if you don’t arrive prepared to conquer what might hold you back? Personally, I’m not sure you can. When they lost the first of their two games today I said in a joking tone “Well we wouldn’t want to break the streak now would we?” But I wasn’t really joking. It’s a great lesson to master the art of losing, getting up, and trying again.
Being back on a soccer field made me really joyful. It brought me back to my childhood and I am infinitely proud that I was sitting there on the sidelines watching my own child love something I loved once too. Plus, I guess now I’m official a “Soccer Mom” (Minivan included). And I finally learned, after all these years, that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Teaching that is. I grew up the daughter of a teacher and my kids are growing up the son and daughters of a teacher now too. Just because I’m not actively employed as an educator doesn’t mean I ever put away my teacher voice. All my teacher friends out there can understand what I mean when I say I really can’t possibly help it. So my kids attend (and love to pieces) their traditional schools but they are, for all intents and purposes, homeschooled too. How could it be any other way?
This year’s project is two fold hence the “Lesson” theme. First and foremost I’m capturing the year in pictures which is a wonderful way to get all of Molly’s firsts as well as trying to come up with a cute way to explore the things I want my kids to learn and appreciate about growing up.
The second aspect is for me and it needs a little explanation. I took a traditional black and white photography class when I lived in New Jersey where I learned how to develop film among other things. I also took a Master’s level digital photography course while getting my M.Ed. that explored how you could use digital photography to help educate an increasingly visual population of students. But that’s really it. And I want to do better. I want to keep growing as a photographer so I bought a couple of books and I am working on reading my camera manual from cover to cover. Each time I try something new for my picture I’ll make note of it.
And so without further ado, my Project 52 for 2014—Life 101: A Guide to Growing Up
My Dearest Children,
I won’t tell you life will always be easy—it won’t be. I won’t tell you I can fix everything either, much though I’d love to try it’s better for you if I don’t even when I can. But I can assure you one thing. No matter what you encounter in your lives, my arms are always open and whatever you are facing we will face it together.
Image: Tripod with Remote | f 1.4 1/15
I’ve never experienced a year with such a singular focus as this one. I started the year not pregnant and I’m ending the year not pregnant but I spent most of the moments in between consumed entirely by the babies inside me. Pretty much every single major decision made this year revolved around my pregnancy, the biggest of which, was the decision to leave teaching after 8 years in the classroom. It wasn’t an easy choice but it was the right choice.
Some thoughts on the year:
I find myself more and more distanced from the pop culture world. I don’t know the big movies or popular TV shows and I find that I don’t care or miss them. This morning I was watching one of the morning shows as it did a rundown of the biggest pop culture news stories from this year and some I didn’t remember and others felt as though they happened in a different lifetime.
Actually the me that started this year feels like a “me” from a different lifetime as well. Maybe that’s from experience or maybe that’s just a part of getting older.
I made a commitment to have more faith this year and I failed at that miserably. I spent it worrying instead. I think I aged about a decade from worry this year. However, in a practical way we have settled into a different church and found renewed faith in that change.
At the end of last year we visited a school fair for the county where we were able to view the different school choice options. There we fell in love with one of the choices and we prayed very hard that if it was indeed the right place for Andrew, he would be offered a spot at the school. We were thrilled to receive his acceptance letter in March (It was a lottery system so all you could really do was hope and pray.) It turns out it was a fantastic choice and we are so SO happy that all our kids will get to attend this school. No more school choices until High School!!
Other random things that happened include planting our butterfly garden, Andrew starting soccer and scoring his first of several goals, Allison starting preschool and loving it as well as her decision to completely potty train 100% on Thanksgiving Day. I got what will likely be “the first” minivan which it turns out I like very much and in the first 4 months of owning it I put over 7000 miles on it. I will be interested to see what the total mileage is at the year mark. I live in my car.
Of course the most monumental event this year was adding another member to our family. Molly’s birth was both beautiful and awful but the one thing that went right was that we got to bring home a healthy baby and in the end that was all I ever wanted anyway.
The few high points were very high and the low point extremely low but the rest in the middle was pretty decent and makes me excited to see what the next year holds.
Finally, on to resolutions and a look at how I did on the 2013 ones.
These were my resolutions last year:
1) Read 40 adult length books (ie: kids’ bedtime stories don’t count)
Verict- Not quite. Here were the books I read
1) Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay 2) Something Blue by Emily Giffin 3) Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi 4)Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi 5) You are Not So Smart by David McRaney 6) Across the Universe by Beth Revis 7) A Million Suns by Beth Revis 8) Shades of Earth by Beth Revis 9) Matched by Ally Condie 10) Crossed by Ally Condie 11) Reached by Ally Condie 12) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell 13) Partials by Dan Wells 14) Fragments by Dan Wells 15) Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander 16) Legend by Marie Lu 17) Prodigy by Marie Lu 18) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin 19) The evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin 20) Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld 21) Inferno by Dan Brown 22) The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow 23) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 24) The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 25) Colony East by Scott Cramer 26) The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 27) Divergent by Veronica Roth (a re-read) 28) Insurgent by Veronica Roth (another re-read) 29) Allegiant by Veronica Roth 30) The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
2) Of the 40 books, fill in my “gap” by reading at least 5 classic novels. You know, those books I should have read in high school but got by on the Cliffs Notes or just never read at all.
Phew. So, not a bad list and not bad considering I spent a good chunk of time mindlessly absorbed in Candy Crush which I’ve now given up completely. I will make it to 40 next year. I also only hit on one of those more classic stories that I should have read before which is of course To Kill a Mockingbird. I read another of the books on the list of 100 books to read before you die which was Cloud Atlas (very good but also a very challenging read). And finally, I broke out of my box and read in a totally different genre than I’m used to. Across the Universe and it’s sequels were very much Sci-Fi and I’m happy to say I really enjoyed them even though I’ve always turned my nose up at that sort of thing. Finally, I’ve got about 80 pages left in The Dovekeepers which I hope to finish today. It’s an incredible book but also very long and not a quick read but definitely worth reading!
3) Learn to sew by taking on 3 projects- a dress for Allison, a blanket, and whatever else I decide when the time comes.
I didn’t make the dress but I did make blankets for Allison and Andrew, had assistance but made pillows for the playroom and again had assistance but also heavily embellished curtains for Allison’s big girl bedroom. Three projects- check, the dress? Nope, and now I have to make two!
4) Photograph night lightning.
Verict: Not even close
I will blame pregnancy for this one. It just didn’t seem like a very responsible thing to stand out in a lightning storm. Plus I still haven’t found a dark enough location. The beach during turtle season is my best bet but when we went this past summer there weren’t any storms.
5) Re-engage in some sort of physical activity. I’m thinking bike riding since A got my bike fixed for me for Christmas.
We did go out bike riding. Then I got pregnant. Then we got a new car that no longer holds the bike rack on the back of it. But I joined a gym and started C25K.
So here are the new ones for 2014
- Read 40 books– same as before
- Run a 5K– running the entire time, no stopping and dying on the side of the road or anything
- Going along with number 2, get my body back in shape by eating better and more natural foods. We will be replanting our vegetable garden in the spring and that will help but we are also going to switch to organic meats and continue to cut back on processed foods (which we are already doing pretty well with).
- Finish the darn baby blanket I started making 6 months ago!
- Take on and complete a new photo project.
Oh and you know, keep everyone happy and fed and entertained (and dressed most of the time).
Happy New Year!
I’ve written this post about twenty or so times in my head and what you are seeing now is a very abridged version of it because I decided most of this is better left in my head. There are some who would say even writing this is too much, too personal, too much information but I’m not writing this for most people, I’m writing this for the people who are experiencing what I did and who are right now turning to Google looking for positive and hopeful stories. Because that’s what this is—a story of hope.
Around this time last year I started having dreams about twins. Twins don’t run in my family despite what I may have told a few people. They don’t. Plain and simple.
Around the middle January I felt sure I would get pregnant that month and that it would be twins. On the 31st of January I found out I was pregnant and even though I tested early the line was really really dark making me even more suspicious it would be twins.
In the middle of February I was shocked to learn, not that it was twins—It was, that just wasn’t the shocking part—it was a shock to learn I was right.
On April 16th, after seeing two beating hearts 4 separate times, we saw only one beating heart.
I don’t want to go into a replay of that day or how I felt because even now it still sometimes feels completely raw and I still see all the events unfold as they happened moment by moment, a nightmare. Plus, I know that I’m in no way unique in what I experienced. Sadly, most people I know have been there even if not for a loss of a twin. Mostly I saw that image I had of my family, the one that started forming months before I was even pregnant, change from 4 children to three.
Except that image, even as it was forced to evolve in those weeks and months following that awful April day, there was still the unknown of what would happen next. Would I ever meet my remaining twin? I turned to Google. Bad idea.
There should be some sort of app that blocks all pregnancy related searches during pregnancy. It would be somehow connected to the pee stick—two lines appear and you get a congratulations message that also says “Sorry, you’re banned from Google for the next 9 months”. But you know I didn’t stay away. What I read didn’t make me feel any better either.
The question that plagued me was how the loss would affect Molly in the long term. I read about something called Womb Twin Survivor Syndrome. A lovely list of problems that Molly might face ran constantly through my mind—not easily fixed problems, problems that are ingrained and permanent. I had already lost one baby but would the remaining one live a life of constant sadness as she felt the sense of loss to the person she was most connected to? I kept wondering, what was it like to be there and know the moment the heartbeat next to you stopped? There had to be something that she noticed inside her, even as a tiny tiny fetus, she had to have felt something. Science says she knew something happened and changed in that moment. And she was all alone.
So I waited. I tried to push those thoughts out of my mind. I know a couple people who have lost a twin and I looked for clues- their children seemed fine, seemed happy and well adjusted. Would I be lucky enough to experience the same? I waited the remaining 6 months for her birth and then I waited some more.
And then one quiet afternoon on the day Molly turned 3 weeks old something incredible happened. She smiled.
I know what you’re thinking; she’s three weeks, that’s too young for a real smile. It must have been gas or something. But I assure you I know the difference now between a real smile and gas. I also know it was real because I have gotten to see it almost every single day since then. It took my other kids much longer to show their first real smiles but not Molly, not my precious gift who knew more than anything her mama needed to see that she was happy. And she is happy. She’s calm and content and filled with this vibrant spirit and I know that she’s going to be okay. And I’m writing this for anyone else who is Googling and wants to know that there are stories of hope out there. There are. Molly is one of them.
I’m definitely no expert on womb twin survivors. I just did some basic reading on the web. But we decided to make sure, when the time is right, that Molly knows her story. Hopefully this will help her in the long run.
“Are we going to be late?”
Shit, yes, of course we’re going to be late. Because your school is on the other side of the world and we had 20 minutes to get everyone out of the house and fight rush hour traffic.
“Are we going to be late?”
“Yes, yes, I’m so sorry”
“Am I still going to be on the morning show!?”
“I hope so”
We pulled into the parking lot and I jumped out with him. He’s the youngest Kindergartener in the school but not even remotely shy. I didn’t go with him because he needed me there, I think I went more because I needed him with me—to help me find the right place on the huge campus. We raced up the stairs to the Media Center and once someone spotted him they pushed him through the crowd of people and other students—one student per class for each of the 9 grades.
We barely made it but he got his shining moment, saying his name loudly and clearly into the microphone and smiling handsomely as the administrator read why he exhibited the attributes of Enthusiasm and Curiosity in the classroom. It was in that moment as I watched him, fighting back the tears of stress and lingering baby hormones, that I thought to myself, who is this child? How is he mine? How did I get so lucky to be his mom?
He’s everything I never was as a child.
I would have been terrified to stand up on camera in front of the entire school. I would have been paralyzed with anxiety over being late. I would have died before walking in last and having everyone stare at me. But even before that, I wouldn’t have even wanted to go to a school as big as his. In fact, I didn’t attend a school that size until High School. He has more confidence packed into his small, five year old body than I’ve ever had in mine. Ever.
“Did you SEE me on TV?! I was on the MORNING SHOW!”
Forget Disney world, soccer goals, or new siblings. That moment right there, was the greatest.moment.ever.
After the awards were given out, the kids got a pencil and a rubber bracelet as well as juice and a donut before they posed for pictures. As he was eating, his class walked in for their library time. That’s when the donut and photo op were no longer important.
“I’ve gotta go, Mom! (mom?!) That’s my class.”
As the kids walked past I kept hearing, “Hey, there’s Andrew” “Hi Andrew!” “We saw you on TV!” They waved, the smiled, the wanted him to come join them.
More realization. Not only is my kid confident, he’s popular. Geeze, would he have even noticed I existed if he met 5 year old Emily? The kid who was probably crying in the corner? But I already know the answer to that- it’s yes. Yes he would have noticed because he notices everyone. He’s that kid who doesn’t want anyone to get left out.
I look at my child in awe. I look at him with pride. I look at him with the tiniest bit of envy. He’s smart and handsome and kind and sensitive and confident and popular and it’s easy for him. It’s all just natural. He has no idea how lucky he is, how blessed he is.
We walked out of the school that morning and I breathed a small sigh of relief. It probably won’t always be easy for him (actually, I hope it isn’t). But I’m glad he didn’t inherit all of the parts of me that I didn’t like about myself. I’m glad he’s not those things I never really wanted to be in the first place and I find myself learning from him more than I ever dreamed a parent would learn from a child.