Drafts

Looking at the many, MANY drafts in my drafts folder reminds me of how quickly things change. How I’d start a post on something that was relevant in the moment, only to find it wasn’t by the time I returned to it two weeks later. Perhaps what makes maintaining a parenting blog so difficult is the wicked combination of lack of time and the ever-revolving door of rapidly changing issues that make up the foundation of the parent’s existence.

In this moment, our girls are approaching their fifth birthday. They sleep in bunkbeds. They bombard me with their (faulty yet amusing) knowledge of brains and galaxies and chrysalises. They are a far cry from the hapless blobby babies they once were. We are distanced enough from that time to begin to look back on it and sigh with wistful gratitude, yet still too close to the horrors of the two’s and three’s and early four’s to have shed the PTSD of their early childhood. So I remain jumpy. Hypervigilant. Fearful that things won’t get easier, despite the fact that they already have. In so many ways they’ve grown, as have I. And yet I find myself always tangled in the web of wanting to be a better parent, and never feeling that “good enough” is good enough.

My most recent and profound moments of clarity have involved my ever-present quest to accept my children for who they are. Love them, yes, always I have from that first moment they were pulled from my body, with that deepest of loves that you can’t make up your mind to have or do or feel, but that just lives in your skin, burns in your soul. Jump in front of a rabid lion kind of love. But acceptance is a far different thing. I have struggled to accept and understand my children as people who are so very very different from myself. Shy. Cautious. Observant. Introverted.

Multiple times a week now, I give a speech to some curious 4-year old in my daughter’s class who asks me why she doesn’t talk. With as much genuine enthusiasm as I can muster, I confidently proclaim how wonderful it is that some people are quiet and some people are loud and how GREAT it is that we’re all different, right?! I’ve talked about this in this space before, and yet it’s one of those issues that seems to have gotten stuck in the revolving door of issues and not found its way out. What I want is to not CARE if it EVER finds its way out. What I want is to look at my beautiful child and genuinely feel like her quiet tune is okay in a world of loud song.

“In school I’m just quiet” she tells me. “My friends are too loud. I’ve lost my voice like Ariel, but I talk a little bit. Just a little bit.”

I read books on selective mutism and raising introverted children. Her teachers have learned to whisper to her. Her classmates, though curious, so far have accepted her quiet unassuming presence. I revel in her loud unrestricted voice at home. And I try, so very very hard to believe it really doesn’t need to be any other way right now.

Bit by bit I step toward accepting and enjoying my children for who they are. And bit by bit I help them find their way through a world in which their square-pegness often meets round holes.

In efforts to give both girls more time to build their confidence and motor skills, we petitioned their school district to allow them into the two year transitional kindergarten program in the Fall, despite the fact that their summer birthday doesn’t technically qualify them for it. It worked. And so I relax a little bit knowing we’ve bought them some more time. Perhaps the extra time being even more valuable to me, allowing me that space to enjoy where my children are at and how far they’ve come, instead of nervously noticing how they aren’t quite where their peers are.

Perhaps they needn’t be. Did I want children who were like every other? Or did I want exceptional children? I don’t know anymore. And this is progress, because six months ago I would have answered that question with an answer based on wanting things to be easier, status quo, “normal.” Today I am willing to go beyond hoping that my daughters’ unique character traits and temperaments will transcend the challenges they pose now, and become true assets to their future selves, and believe that they will. That it will all be worth it.

Every day I am a new version of the parent I was the day before. Layer upon layer, draft upon draft, I’ve learned and grown, and written and rewritten my own character sketch. So many drafts, but never the finished product. Just one mom, loving. One mom, tired. One mom, laughing. One mom, crying. One mom, proud. One mom, scared. One mom, trying.

Yes, that is me in this moment. Just one mom, trying.

Posted in Parenting | 5 Comments

It’s a Wonderful Life

This morning I woke up to a tiny voice singing about the Hanukkah candles she was drawing on her magnadoodle. I snuck past the kids’ room hoping the peace would last long enough for me to curl my hands around a hot cup of coffee and admire our sparkling beast of a Christmas tree one last time before we tear that sucker down and throw it unceremoniously onto the curb.

The peace didn’t last quite that long, but the Mr. handled it, so I managed to get in a few moments of nostalgia between the screeches of injustice coming from upstairs. I laughed at the thought of how I’d, just yesterday, told my sweet, knowing husband that I wanted to do better this year.

Me (6:12pm): I really want to be a more patient mother.
Me (6:19pm): STOPFIGHTING LEAVEYOURSISTERALONE STOPSTOP STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!

It’s hard when there’s a fairly constant stream of

She’s looking at me
She’s not eating her waffles (and I am and we must do all things exactly the same)
She took my tinker bell
She’s singing (god forbid)
She pushed me
She’s not saying sorry (as if I do when I should)
She She She

I drown in the whiney She.

The truth is, it’s not an easy life. It’s often not even much of an enjoyable life. But it is a wonderful life. I think about this for a moment because the air has become still again. One child is now snuggled up against me, eyeing my laptop keyboard with bad intentions, while the other is still upstairs, baking a pretend cake of some sort and yammering on about chocolate frosting.

It’s wonderful, it is. I squish an ant that has dared to try to climb on my coffee mug. These ants. The rain has driven them in and they are relentless. The girls squeal with misguided delight when we walk in the front door and find a stream of the little buggers. My nemeses. They put a finger down delicately to get the ants to walk on their hands and then talk sweetly to them. I think about buying them an ant farm as I mow the rest down with windex.

It’s wonderful because it is mine. My marriage. My children. My messy house. My beastly lopsided Christmas tree. There is gratitude to be found between the other feelings that earned far too much real estate in my life this past year. The anger and sadness. The disappointment and frustration. It’s all been pretty understandable, friends shake their heads at the year I’ve had in sympathy. How could you not feel all those things?

And it’s true. How could I not. The feelings themselves aren’t the enemy (it’s the damn ants that are the enemy). No, the problem has been that I’d gotten a little too close to those feelings. Forgotten the forest in the midst of all. those. trees. My brother died. My children were going through an extended difficult stage which included consistent and lengthy sleep interruptions for me. I had little hands-on support. It has only been within recent weeks that I’ve been able to pull back and see all those things in the context of all the OTHER things. The laughter of my daughters. The beach days. The increased closeness I feel with my husband. The job I (mostly) look forward to going to. The growth we’ve all experienced.

[23 minute interruption as small children require help putting dress up clothes on]

Things I dismay at hearing:

“Mommy can you get the dress-up box for me please?”
“Mommy can you draw (anything) for me please?”

Because these two requests mean a lengthy amount of time spent helping them in and out of outfits and alternating between trying to help them learn to draw whatever it is their little minds have imagined, and trying to help them learn to manage their frustration when their fine motor skills fail to match their imagination.

And a lot of whining. Those two scenarios mean a lot of whining. Like, a lot.

Now my coffee is cold and I don’t even know where my mug is so I can heat it up. Life is suddenly less wonderful.

Where was I? Coffee. Ants. Feelings. Growth. Ah yes, growth. The one thing these kids keep doing that I actually match as a mother. Their pace of change step by step in line with my process of becoming a mom to the children they are at any given moment. And right now the children they are talk your ear off and dance insatiably, and fight one another with conviction and passion, and WHY WHY WHY the crap out of anyone who can’t escape. The children they are want to know everything. Learn everything. Do everything (unless that thing involves heights, dark rooms, or presents they can’t open yet). The children they are vehemently distinguish themselves from the babies they once were. Without pull-ups, bedrails, and toddler-sized forks, they suddenly think they’re big. And they are.

They’ll go into kindergarten this year. A far cry from the 4lb babies we had to jailbreak out of the nicu four and a half years ago with promises to nurses that we’d watch their breathing as they ate and call if they dropped even an ounce. Kindergarten. Near-five year olds becoming themselves. And us, as parents, becoming ourselves. Twelve years of marriage in a sweet spot. A place to make a mess out of and call home. And the ants, consistent as the sunrise and sunset, the squabbles and the hugs. Always here. Always able to be counted upon.

It’s a wonderful life.

Despite it all. Because of it all. It is, a wonderful life.

 

 

 

Posted in Gratitude, Parenting | 3 Comments

Big Dreams

For the past few months, dreams have been a big topic of conversation in our home. At the dinner table. In the car. At 3 in the morning when they decide they must, in great detail, and at great length describe every facet of their most recent dream to me. I adore hearing them describe their dreams. I adore it less at 3 in the morning, but generally, I adore it.

We have bad dreams: Mickey and Minnie were tickling me! They were big and scary and chasing me!

We have good dreams: I was dancing and singing and I saw a bear! A funny bear, not a scary bear. And the bear said RAWR! And I laughed, and sissy was there too!

We have confusing dreams: Brandon was in my dream and he had three eyes! Why’d Brandon have three eyes in the dream, mommy?

We have dreams that intrude on real life: There were feathers, mommy! There are feathers in my bed! I don’t like this bed, this bed is scary! Are there more feathers, mommy?

We have “broken” dreams: Mommy, the teachers closed the door to my class, and mommy wasn’t coming to get me. Can I have the dream again, can I fix it? Mommy’s gonna come back in the dream…

We have competing dreams: (child A) I had a Snow White dream! And there was a bunny there in the forest, I was holding a bunny with Snow White! (child B) I had a Snow White dream too! And I was holding TWO bunnies!

We have unfinished dreams: [insert tantrum here because we won’t let small child go back to sleep to finish the dream she was in when we awakened her.]

There’s a standard cast of characters: mommy, daddy, sissy, grammy, grammy’s dog, aunts, uncles, and cousins, their school friends, their teachers, every type of animal under the sun and a fair amount of disney characters.

Last week though, Juju told me that she talked to grandpa in her dream, and I felt a familiar wistfulness inside. Both the girls’ grandfathers passed away long before they were born. I miss my dad every day and while I have found peace with his death, I still cry at the thought that he never got to see my girls, or me as a mother. At the same time, I feel the pangs of sadness that my husband must harbor similar feelings in regard to both of his parents.

I selfishly asked Juju for more information, more details about her dream. Did grandpa have brown skin, or pink skin? What did he say?  She danced around my questions but smiled widely and said only, “I was with grandpa in the HAPPY dream!”

And I suppose that’s all I really needed to know.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Nostalgia, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Lessons

**Edited to change the title of this post. Courtney (in her comments below) is right… these vignettes aren’t as arbitrary as I thought. They are all tiny snippets of the things I’ve learned recently as a parent and the way I’ve learned them. Collectively, they equal my gratitude.**

There’s a raucous chorus of “Down by the bay” happening upstairs. I’m downstairs. With coffee. This momentary peace will not last long. Oh yep, there we go… “No sissy! You’re not singing it right! Stooooooop!” The screaming indicates level 2 hair pulling, possibly someone sitting on the other. But ya know, the Mr. is upstairs and we have a pretty firm, although unspoken rule that whoever is closer to the fight, deals with it. I wonder if he knows about that rule.

Mmmm, coffee…

***

Around this time a year ago, I cried when my kids were the only two in their preschool class who refused to stand in their Halloween costumes with the rest of their classmates for a mass parental photo op. I cried when our failure to hide sufficiently behind the audience resulted in them bolting from their gymnastics performance to run into the arms of their daddy. I cried when I went to the parent teacher conference and felt desperately like I needed to explain that “they do so much more at home!”

This year, I danced with my little dinosaur at the back of the classroom as her classmates performed in front of the paparazzi parents. I beamed when my spunky gymnast did her first somersault all by herself in our living room, despite the fact that she had balked at doing anything in her gymnastics class for two weeks in a row. I laughed at the parent teacher conference as we discussed their strong wills, their unique spirits, and their utter silliness.

There’s been a lot of maturing happening in the last year. Apparently it isn’t just children who grow up.

***

My girls love to “do art”  but have failed to learn the basic task of putting caps back on markers, which means I’m constantly throwing them away, dried up and barely used. And then for a few weeks they’ll settle for crayons and colored pencils until I buy some more new markers for them to use furiously for three days before the tips dry out. Sadly for our couch, that never seems to happen until after there’s a huge ink bleed left on a cushion or two.

Did I mention we have decided to not buy any nice furniture until the girls turn 6? Or 10.

***

I have discovered I am utterly incapable of answering my four year olds’ deep philosophical questions. Like when I showed them a time lapse video of a caterpillar creating its cocoon and becoming a butterfly.

“But why mommy?” they asked, deeply concerned. “Why wasn’t he happy being a caterpillar?”

***

Becoming a parent unleashed a relentless spiritual journey upon me, largely manifesting in the single, yet most difficult lesson to learn: there is actually so little we control. We cannot protect our children entirely from the outside world, or from their own internal process as they figure it all out. We can’t do much to change their unique developmental timetable or their deeply ingrained temperaments. And there is absolutely nothing we can do about white board marker on the walls.

White board markers are permanent on walls.

***

A tiny sparky little boy in Beef’s class asked me the other day why Beef is so quiet. And I asked him why he is so loud. When he couldn’t answer, I told him how cool it was that some people are loud and some people are quiet and so many are somewhere in between. He nodded sagely and then he told me they have a dog and are going to the zoo tomorrow.

And I looked down at my quiet girl and saw her eyes sparkle up at me with the loudest love imaginable.

***

Two days ago, I had a gut moment that prompted me to abruptly and urgently ask my husband to check on the girls who were playing upstairs. He found Juju at the top of the stairs, sitting in a wicker basket, about to tip it over to “slide” down. She was furious when he prevented her from doing so.

I am now a believer in “mother’s intuition.”

***

Thanksgiving was a quiet affair for us this year. There was much to be thankful for: the near perfect turkey. The baby my brother and sister in law are anticipating this coming year. The hard work my husband puts in day after day to support us. My own job which fulfills my need for creativity and problem solving while allowing for friendships, office pranks, and Starbucks runs. Our relatively good health and our warm home. And my daughters. For the joy that they bring me, and the lessons. In patience. Acceptance. Letting go. Oh, the many, many lessons.

Thank you, my ridiculous goosers. Thank you.

Posted in Parenting, Random Thoughts | 6 Comments

Eating fish food and other ridiculousness

We’ve given the girls “responsibilities.” I throw the word around every chance I can get hoping it will bounce around in those little brains of theirs and stick somewhere. “Put the clean utensils away, girls, it’s your responsibility. Time to feed your fish girls, you’re responsible for taking care of them. Clean up time please! Did you take care of all your responsibilities today?” Which all sounds well and good and like fairly reasonable parenting except the truth is I have more than once put my coffee cup down beside the fish bowl in the mornings, hastily tossing some flakes in for Nemo and The Other Fish (landing a few in my own coffee) because someone is always throwing a tantrum right about that time causing me to drop the good consistent “take care of your responsibilities” parent act, feed the fish myself and not care about a few dehydrated worms in my coffee. Bottoms up, folks.

***

Beef has taken to dressing up her stuffed animals and arranging them in her room in such a way that I walk in and think an elaborate Pacific Islander meets ancient Mayan wedding ceremony is being performed. Simba and Pokey the donkey face each other solemnly, draped with beaded necklaces and plastic flower leis, a butterflied fairy halo adorning their heads. Sometimes they sport a crown or a pair of fantastic bunny ears. A ring of witnesses encircles them. Mickey mouse and an assortment of sparkly round-eyed creatures smile maniacally yet silently at the lucky couple. A green dragon named Soda sits beside Soupy the Sea Lion and So the Ox, all looking slightly more somber than their lemur eyed friends. I tiptoe with reverence past the gathering, hang up the laundry and back quietly out of the room, closing the door behind me, the only sound the ever-present hum of the humidifier.

***

I’m fairly certain I didn’t paint my nails until I was at least 10. I don’t remember caring much about my hair until that age either. I have been told that I refused to wear any form of pants until I was well into elementary school (all dresses, all the time), but that sounds like the stuff of myth and legend to me. My children on the other hand name hair styles they want each morning (typically related in some form to either Elsa, Ana, Merida or some classmate who I have never seen and whose hair is a perfect, unfortunate mystery to me) and then whine when it isn’t exactly as they envision it in their mind’s eye. I adore the mornings they declare they want to wear their hair loose. “My wild hair is beautiful” they say and oh how I agree. I adore it. Until I try to comb it out in the bath later that night. Then I adore it less. They ask for blue nails. Purple. Orange. They know how to hold a hand mirror up so they can see the reflection of the back of their hair in the big mirror. Meanwhile I forget to rinse the shampoo off the back of my head and wear to work whatever clean thing I can find on the floor that maybe sort of fits me.

***

The Mr. made the critical error of starting this elaborate pre bedtime-routine that the girls now insist on nightly. (I keep telling him he should never do anything fun for them, nothing good ever comes from it.) Now every night he chases them back and forth through the hallways. First as a growly Quasimodo stooped over monster, then on hands and knees as a meowing cat, and lastly carrying a rag doll, making her prance and jump after the girls. Monster, cat, dolly. Every night. Oh the squeals and screams and heaps of laughter. It’s the stuff of fanciful childhood memories, the true bread and butter of family life. I smile and then thank my lucky stars I wasn’t the one who started that back and knee breaking routine. Dodged a bullet there. What a good daddy he is. Call me when it’s story time.

***

Twin parents will tell you about this twin phenomenon called The Switch. The Switch ensures that while rarely will both children be simultaneously awful, they systematically and seamlessly take turns being awful, in perpetuity, guaranteeing zero respite for twin parents, ever. In the early days this rang true for colicky crying spells and sleep problems. And in the preschool years apparently manifests in a back and forth of whining and general obnoxiousness. The Switch is my enemy, to mostly be battled by alcohol and chocolate, both of which make me a better parent, albeit a chunkier one.

***

At this exact moment, one small child is sitting on the couch with a faux side braid, Elsa-style, eating an apple and watching Sleeping Beauty, while the other plays in the backyard making mudpies, wearing a Little Mermaid get-up, all sparkles and bedazzlements. At this exact moment, the Mr. is eating tortilla chips and reading news on the ipad, having just come back from biking at the park with the now apple-eating child. At this exact moment, even alcohol and chocolate free, I am happy. This exact moment is not like most moments, but for now, I’ll take it, ridiculousness and all.

Posted in Gratitude, Kids, Memorable Moments, Parenting | 5 Comments

Four so far

I try to look at life in this moment through the eyes of my more knowing self a few years from now, and I can see that this will stand out clearly as a big time of change. Having just turned four, the girls are in the mother of all developmental shifts. Being separated from one another at school, they’ve hit their stride in maturity and confidence, triggering such a shift in their minds and behavior it’s like I’m meeting two new little girls every morning they come downstairs to the breakfast table.

Sure, we still battle with their impatience over toast, their indecision when it comes to wardrobe, and their constant whining and fighting with one another. But they’ve GROWN so much over the past weeks. I haven’t spoken much about this next topic because it was so frustrating for me, I just couldn’t post about it: but only within the past two months did we finally reach potty training success. After our initial attempt at 2-1/4 years old, they staunchly refused to get anywhere near a potty. Just 1000% refused to sit on a potty of any size, shape or color regardless of the routines, rewards, or sticker charts we used to entice them. Until one day, they asked me to paint their fingernails. And I said I would if they peed on the potty. So they marched into the bathroom, peed on the potty, wiped, flushed, washed hands, and demanded blue polish for their hands AND toes, thank you very much mommy, ain’t no thang. And have been peeing on the potty without a single accident ever since. Thankfully for my own sanity, this happened before their fourth birthday. But barely.

I put this out there because I don’t think we’re the only family who has faced late potty training woes and now that it’s behind us, I gotta say I wish I had seen more people stand up and say, hey, it’s really okay if your kid isn’t potty trained at two. Or three. It doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong or that anything is wrong with your child. It’s just one of those things that can’t be forced. And if you have a kid who, like ours, just will not do something until they know they’ll be pretty adept at it, or if you have a kid who just isn’t interested or ready for some other reason, SO WHAT. People don’t bring it up if that was their experience because it’s frustrating and embarrassing. But I wish they would so that others facing the same thing wouldn’t feel so alone.

So yah. I’m bringing it up.

Aside from potty training finally not being the bane of my existence, the girls are also just in a really awesome stage of communication. The other day we stopped at a red light beside a homeless man sitting on an overturned bucket in the median. Juju asked “What happened to the man, mommy?” When I said he had no home, no bed, no food, it unleashed a flood of questions and concerns and opened the gateway for communication about gratitude and how we should help others.

Yah, these kids can’t go six minutes without fighting one another over a plastic toy, but life lessons about human kindness and gratitude can sink in there somewhere… right?

Speaking of gratitude, two nights ago we helped them to say their first prayers before bed. Essentially a conversation with God to give thanks. It was a sweet moment, listening in as they spoke aloud, despite the fact that we learned that they are way more thankful for pancakes than for mommy and daddy, but hey. They are four after all.

In so many ways they make me laugh right now. Beefy walked up to me the other day holding out a picture and told me she drew Malichigan (evil queen Maleficent and the state of Michigan rolled into one?) Juju proudly declared her precious county fair-acquired unicorn to be named Chuck E. Cheese. Both spend endless amounts of time riding their (Amazon box) rocket to the moon (“Not the earth, mommy, the earth is the blue and green circle.”) When I think of them, I think of dollhouse play and princesses, bus races across the kitchen floor under leg tunnels, dinosaurs, bear rides on “daddy bear,” and building lego towers as tall as themselves. I see the elaborate scenes they create using every toy they own and then the sound of them screaming bloody murder when sister attempts to destroy it all. Sounding out their letters, counting their blueberries. Making up song lyrics and tunes, and choreographing dance moves to go along with them. Waking up at the crack of dawn on the fourth of July to run up and down the hallway yelling “Happy Birthday ‘Merica!” Shouting with glee, “I did it!” as they jump off the curb with two feet, or climb into the carseat themselves, or do any number of other tasks that PT and OT have helped them master, albeit somewhat later than most of their peers. All they know and care about is that they did it. They can do it. They ARE doing it. This is four so far.

And four, so far? It’s pretty good stuff.

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Posted in Milestones | 17 Comments

Apart

Trying to describe the relationship between my girls is difficult. There’s a sweetness and a neediness that coexist in this amazing infuriating complexity. Competitive. Enmeshed. Best of friends. Most antagonistic of enemies. They seek and find within the other what they think they lack in themselves. Confidence. Ability. Strength. But the truth is, they each possess those qualities at all times, in spades. Looking in the mirror provided by their sister, they sometimes forget to just look within. Which was a big part of the reason why, after much thought, we decided to split them into two different classrooms as they began the transition up to Pre-K this summer.

In the weeks before the split, I watched them as they practiced their legwork drills from soccer, chanting as they jumped their feet in and out, “Apart! Together! Apart! Together!” Their laughter rolling in such a way I couldn’t tell where one’s laugh began, and the other’s ended, calling to each other and jumping in unison with such simple shared joy. I felt like a traitor, knowing what was coming. Knowing they didn’t know. “Together! Apart!” I kept trying to downplay it, brush it off as just one of those things that eventually happens with multiples. Many schools here split twin sets at first grade, if not kindergarten. One way or another, it’s bound to happen. It will be good for them, I told myself. They deserve this.  They deserve to have that space to experience their own friendships, their own victories and defeats. To say their own yeses and nos. To look to their left as they are making a decision about how to feel about something and see no one there and be forced to look inside their own selves for an answer.

As it stands, there is virtually no space in which they exist apart from one another in their lives. So much so, that even that last sentence begged me to write “…in their life.” As a singular, shared, one. One life. But it’s not. It’s two lives. It’s two individuals.

And so, off to two different classes they went. Apart.

The first day I got the class email newsletter, and I saw a picture of Juju, occupied with her Mad Science activity, my heart caught in my throat. Because there was Jujubee. Just Jujubee. After a year’s worth of preschool newsletters, it finally hit me that never had I seen a picture of just one of my daughters busy at her little wood table building a block tower or making a messy painted picture. Always always always were they together. A unit. The Twins.

And now I find myself learning the language of a singleton parent. I stumble over my words and catch myself saying “they” to a teacher who doesn’t know a “they,” but only a “she.” I have to physically stop and retract my own verbalized comparisons when I realize the classroom I’m standing in knows just one of my daughters and has no space for such comparisons. It is a hard language to learn, so much harder than I anticipated.

They are my “they.” Together.

As I took Beefy to her class this morning, she cried in the parking lot, pleading for her sister. I had to carry her into the school and across the common room, hoping her sister (who had been dropped off earlier by the Mr.) in a class just across the way wouldn’t hear the familiar sound of her sissy crying. As we reached the class, her very own class, she asked for last kisses and last last hugs (and last last LAST hugs), and then she hopped away from me and asked her teacher for a muffin. And in that moment I knew it would all be okay.

Apart. Together. Apart. Together. Apart.

We will all be okay.

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Posted in Milestones, Twins | 8 Comments