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 | 4 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


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


I sit here, and I sit here, and I sit here. Watching the cursor blink. It’s mesmerizing actually, that single vertical line, each blink so expectant, so patient. But watching it isn’t bringing me any closer to finding the words I was hoping to find to mark this moment, to verbally celebrate my daughters as they turn four.


It seems so far from the day when we brought them home from the hospital, freed from nicu life, the days of promise stretching before us with as much expectancy as the quiet blinking cursor on a page.

I typically write about parenting. Today I write about my daughters.

Oh sweet girl, tough girl, funny girl. You are finding your way and your place in this life. Your confidence soars and your tenacity with it. Twenty seconds older than your Beefy, you are the quintessential big sister. You torture her needlessly, but always acquiesce to her in the end. You are so present in the big moments, but tend to disappear when you feel sad or hurt. I fear you will struggle with finding the balance between being strong and allowing yourself to be vulnerable and need others.  I see in the quiet moments how much you still need your momma though, and I hope you know I will always be there to hold you no matter how old you are or how strong you are. Your desire for independence shows up in all things now, and in all things drives me crazy. And yet I love to watch you find that freedom. I love it less when it means you run ahead of me and your sister out the doors of the school and down the street. But secretly I smile because it reminds me of the many stories told of me as a child, breaking free from my mom at parks and running running running. So independent. So strong-willed. And yet, so sensitive. You love to build, create, smash, and go go go. All things you do, are done with great gusto and flair.

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the other day your preschool teacher asked me if you can sing. With true concern (because apparently you don’t share your gift at school), she asked me this. If there is anything I have ever had absolutely ZERO concern about, it is whether or not you can sing. Child, you live your life on the windstream of a song. You weave original lyrics into original tunes. You sing in the bath, at the table, in the car. You sing your way through books. I never anticipated that I would live my late 30’s in the middle of a musical. You continue to find your way when it comes to confidence and approaching new things. Your overabundance of caution is well matched by your persistence and curiosity though. It may take a while before you decide that you can tackle something, but once you do, there is no stopping you. Your imagination and creativity are boundless and you will play for long stretches with your animals and dollies. You feel strongly and deeply, and tantrum loudly and longly, but you also can turn on a dime and forgive so quickly, so completely, your smile an easy path back to happiness after a difficult day.


My girls, so beautiful, more beautiful than I have ever been in my life. It’s been a rough year, but we’ve weathered it. And I love you. How much do I love you? Beefy girl, you always answer this question when I ask it, with a quiet and assured “soooooooo much.” And that is exactly right. I love you both, soooooooo much.

May your fourth year be the year you find your wings and soar.


Posted in Milestones | 7 Comments

Just love them

It’s a hazy day in a hazy month in what is turning out to be a hazy year. Today is my birthday, and today I grieve.

My brother had written down some words before his death. “Be good to the kids” he told his wife, “and just love them.”

Being a parent has been difficult. Some days, I don’t want to be a parent at all. It’s too hard. Everything is just too hard. But since my brother’s passing, in the brief amount of time I’ve been back home, as I listen to my children whine and fight and exert their strong, stubborn little wills, and I just don’t know what to do with them anymore, I hear through the din the calm voice of my brother saying “just love them…”

He was always so much better with kids than I am. More patient. More steady. Less flustered, more wise. After all, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters when it comes to parenting, isn’t it? That we love them. That we do our best to be good to them, and that we love them.

Tomorrow my daughters will turn four. And I hope that the sun will make its way through the shadows a bit more than it has today.


Posted in Sadness | 9 Comments

Goodbye, for now, goodbye

People are here in our lives. And then they’re not. And yet, they still are. In the pictures. In our minds. In someone else’s laughter. In the dawn. In the twilight. In our quiet dreams and darkest nightmares. In the wisp of light that catches the corner of our eye and then flits away. In a prayer. In the saltiness of our own tears. In anger and forgiveness. In a gooey mixing bowl filled with cheerios and melted marshmallows and tang. In the strumming of a guitar. In a note left behind. In the memory of a last touch. In old wounds. In new hopes. In the sight of an empty favorite chair. In the faces of their children. In long-ago and oft-retold stories. In the cloud cover over a desert mountaintop. In a paintbrush, a camera lens, a sigh. In elementary school diary entries. In a red camaro, a folded flag, a tattoo. In the “what should have beens” the “what could have beens” the “whys”. In the sadness. In the regrets. In the lightness of a moment when peace unexpectedly finds you. In the splash and giggle of children poolside. In a dusty photo album. In a single drop of dew. In the lilt of a smile as you close your eyes and say “I see you, I love you, my brother, my friend, goodbye, for now, goodbye.”

People are here in our lives. And then they’re not. And yet, they still are…

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We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand — out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. -Romans 5:2

Posted in Nostalgia | Tagged | 24 Comments

Snippets of a thought

When I jog in the mornings, my mind weaves a million words together in these beautiful sentences, and all that I think and feel and see becomes a literary picture so vivid, so real and true and perfect, that I can’t wait to get home and spill the words exactly as they existed out there in the cold 6am morning.

We all know how this story is going to end, right?

I reach my house and all the practicalities of life are there waiting for me. I stop at the porch to stretch my sciatic nerve, reaching and pulling and reeeeaaccching. Then the tired hamstrings. Open the door and hear the crash of big small voices and something large and plastic falling upstairs. But first, coffee. Okay fine, water, and then coffee. A not so tiny tiny girl walks into the kitchen and says brightly “I have to say Happy Mother’s Day mommy!” I smile at her total lack of tact in hiding the fact that she has been coached by her father, and grab a hug just before Thing 2 walks in and flashes the sign language symbol for “I love you” and sings out “I love you mom, for all you do!” Part of a preschool mother’s day poem they learned last week. Too bad they don’t seem to love me “for all I do” when I make them waffles and they had in their heads that it was oatmeal day.

Standing in the shower a thousand items rotate through the mental to-do list. Downstairs closet needs a new lightbulb, must work this afternoon if I don’t want to have a meltdown by Wednesday afternoon, set up a meeting with a housecleaning service, did someone pay the school tuition, seriously this tub is still draining slow? Watching the little mini water tornado swirl around the drain waiting to carry the soapy bubbles down down down. But ah, I’ve received the gift of a brand new bar of soap. Something about opening that solid perfectly rectangular little box and inhaling the brand-new-bar-of-soap smell makes me happy, and I oh so briefly forget about the to-do list and live in the land of new soap, hot water, and quiet.

Somehow lunch even manages to roll by before I have a chance to sit down and try to recall the words and ideas that had so captivated me earlier in the day. And by now, it’s just fragments. Snippets of a thought. The vague feeling of a story I was holding, out there in the cold early start to the day as my feet hit the pavement and I watched the water and the sky, so gray, and green and choppy. Two ducks thinking they’d have a bit of kelpy breakfast at the sea wall being startled by the frigid mini waves cutting and crashing into them until they finally launch straight up from the water’s edge and head for calmer perches.

“Geez Madge, next time I’m picking the restaurant.” I hear one quack to the other as they fight the wind and fly over me. Mallards. A testy bunch.

I close my eyes and trust my feet and listen to the wind and realize just how cold my hands are. Opening my eyes the cold blasts in through the retinas and I feel awake. Not just awake like I can shuffle to the bathroom awake, awake like I can see the truths around me and feel the world breathe. I think about how the older I get, the more empathy I have for people. Everyone is struggling in some way, with their reality, or how they perceive it. Who am I to judge and deem their struggle worthy or unworthy? If we are all just a mass of humanity struggling in our own ways, wouldn’t it be nice if we collectively struggled together toward the same light of wishing and hoping for better, instead of yelling at each other for stealing parking spots?

But then it’s easy to be zen and full of good will when you’re outside breathing in the headiness of the ocean and jasmine and those plants that smell like licorice. Here no one is screaming at you, no deadlines are haunting you, your father isn’t dead and missing out on watching his grandchildren grow, groceries don’t cost you a million dollars every week, and your hundred worries about your family and children have swirled up and been swallowed by a big gulleted pelican and carried far far away. But you don’t live in a 6am walk. You live in a life full of all those other things, and hope that if you tuck a tiny sprig of jasmine in your soul it will suffice and you won’t yell at strangers in a crowded parking lot next time someone steals your spot.

Now I am hours away from that morning jog, and the words that so clearly lived in that space of solitude, sunrise, and cold bones are gone. Or are there, rather, but tangled back up in the realities with which they have to coexist. My children are fighting over a piece of dollhouse furniture and my kitchen is a WRECK. But I remember to breathe and breathe again until I’m able to catch the tiniest whisper of that jasmine and feel compassion for my imperfect words, my imperfect self, and this imperfect world in which we live.

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