Saturday, December 15, 2012

Typing through Tears

    "Senseless" does not even begin to cover the act of violence that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday, Friday, December 14th.  As a mother, as a woman, as a human being, I just cannot fathom why such young children could have been targeted by such a cruel act.  I'm just so distraught over it all, as is the entire country - I don't have a vested interest, I don't know anyone who was affected, I haven't suffered a loss because of it myself, but everytime I think of it right now (all those innocent little children), I break down in tears.  I was distracted enough yesterday not to focus on it too much, but today, being away from my own children, in several public shopping places while doing some Christmas shopping with my husband (while his parents took my babies to the playground), it was all I could think of, and I found it hard to think about anything else.
       My "put yourself in their shoes" sentiment is to blame.  All I can think of are those poor little faces in their last moments; their little eyes and soft chubby pink cheeks looking up to the door when that goddamn shooter entered the room, how scared they must have been, how they just wanted their Mommy's and Daddy's to make it all better.  I think of the parents of those poor angels, how they said Goodbye to their babies Friday morning, never knowing that it would be the last time they'd see them or hold them warm in their arms.  How they would have to walk into their little ones' bedrooms and know they'd never get to tuck them into bed again, never see their smiles and hear their little voices, so alive with awe and enchantment and curiosity for the world opening around them.  This will always be the Christmas when they lost part of their hearts, part of their own souls.  They'll have to return gifts that they'd so carefully planned out, hoping at that time to see their beloved's faces light up on Christmas morning when opening the perfect gift.  It will never be okay.  Nothing could ever make up for their loss, and my heart bleeds for them.
        I think of my own babies and how I would feel if anything ever happened to them.  But I have to stop right there, because I just can't go to that place and torture myself; I could never wrap my head around having to be without them after loving them for so long.  As I hug them now, I hear their little hearts beating in their chest, see the blueness of their veins and capillaries below their fair skin, imagine the thoughts they're having and the questions and ideas they're forming in their heads, watch them play and chatter and just breath.  I can't hug them tight enough, can't make them understand just how much I LOVE THEM; all I can do is tell them every chance I get, show them by giving extra hugs and kisses, try to be more patient and understanding, and just stop cleaning the kitchen or whatever else I feel is important at the time, and just be there WITH THEM.  At least I still have the chance to do all these things, unlike those poor children whose lives were cut short and those poor parents will have to miss them forever and ever.
        Everyone wants someone to blame, someone to take the fall for this, some way to take action to stop this from happening to others, some constructive way to come to terms with this, since that bastard took his own life after ending so many innocent ones for no apparent reason.  It doesn't seem like it's enough for him to burn in hell for eternity - he took the easy way out and he cannot be punished now.  I hope for the parents sakes that a clear motive comes to light, so there isn't just a huge question mark of why this bastard did this; nothing will fill the holes in their hearts, but for so many questions surrounding it to remain unanswered would make it that much worse, in my eyes.  Why did he go to the school that day at all, if he'd already killed his own mother at their home?  What did those poor children have to do with anything?  What was it that made him target certain classrooms?  Was it quick and painless?  Why did his mother have those guns to begin with?  Why?  Why?  Why?
        Many people are now petitioning for stricter bans on gun control, which I am in support of - I can understand the right to protect oneself and having rifles for hunting game, whether to provide food for ones family or as sport, but I don't think that semi-automatic and assault weapons need to be accessible to the general public, not even with a background check (apparently this particular shooter was honor roll and had no history of mental illness or criminal action, so bans probably wouldn't have stopped the sale to him anyway).  I know that "guns don't kill people, people kill people", but I have to hope that measures could be taken to deter attacks on innocent, young children.  If only it were possible to have more security at schools and public places - that may not have stopped this shooter either, as it seems he forced his way into the school - such as metal detectors, locked doors, video cameras at the entrances...  something to protect these children who cannot protect themselves.  If he'd tried to buzz in at an entrance with a camera, and they could have seen him and said he couldn't come in without removing his coat or where ever he was hiding his weapons, maybe it could have been avoided.  Maybe if there were metal detectors at school doors, it might deter someone from even bothering to enter that building.  I know that profiling and judging by someone's appearance is supposed to be wrong, but if it could save a life, so be it.  I'd do anything to protect my children, all children...  It's just not fair that they'd ever have to see this sort of thing firsthand, let alone know about it at all at such a young age.  They should be thinking about Christmas and Disney castles and race cars and games, they should be able to see school as a fun place to learn and play and make friends, not what it became yesterday.  We can only shield them from the cruelty of the world for so long, if only we could shield them from these random acts of violence.
          I'm tempted to keep Quinn out of preschool and stay at home with my babies until after the holidays, but then I'd have to give him a reason why (and who's to say that it's any safer after the holidays...), and I'd never want him to know about what happened to those poor children, or for him to realize that something like that could ever happen to him or at his school.  I'm hoping by getting some of this out of my head, out through my fingers, I might be able to overhear some snippet of this story on the news without breaking down into tears.  I don't know how to come to terms with all this yet, I hope it doesn't destroy my usual optimistic outlook, because then he (the shooter) will live on in my fear, and I definitely do not want that. 
            Quinn caught me with tears in my eyes this afternoon.  I was lost in thought while emptying the dishwasher; the quickest thing that came to mind was to say that I miss my family at the holidays, which is true.  He came over and pulled me down to him, and he hugged me the tightest squeeze ever, rubbing my back.  It was all I could do not to cry even more, just feeling his little body in my arms, feeling his heart beat against mine, the pure innocense in his gesture.  He said "I'm your family, Mommy, and the girls will be, too, when they get up from nap!"  I sighed, rubbed away the tears, and said "And I love you more than you could ever know.", to which he rolled his eyes and said "Mommy, I know", but then smiled as he went back to his toys.  I closed the still-full-dishwasher and went to play with him.  The dishes could wait, but I could not wait to just spend time with him and enjoy ever precious moment we have together.  If I can learn anything from the horrific tragedy yesterday, it's to just be in the moment and enjoy every second I get with my babies, breath them in, make memories, and do everything I can to make them know just how much I do love them.
             Sweet dreams to the angels that were lost yesterday and to the adults who were also lost along with them; may they all remember how much they were loved here on earth and not be afraid anymore, and may their families take comfort in the sweet memories that they had together.  #typingthroughtears

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quake 4.0

     We suffered an earthquake yesterday - and by suffered, I mean that I'm suffering because I DIDN'T EVEN FEEL IT!  A 4.0 magnitude quake pinpointed in Maine (where there've apparently been several earthquakes over the past few years...who knew! as a former/hoping-to-be-again-Geologist, I should have!).  The shaking was felt throughout the Boston area, and even further west into parts of New York; no tsunami's were spawned though, unfortunately...
       It was a little after 7 p.m. when I had gotten the kids into the bathtub - Quinn went first, and then the twins went together, about 7:15 p.m.  Quinn had run upstairs to get clean pajamas (since he'd missed the potty and peed on the first set... hohum), when Doug called from the kitchen "What was that?".  Seconds later, his phone signaled a new text, from our neighbor Jamie, who asked if our " just shook, too?".  Apparantly, the bathing of two two-year-olds was distraction enough for me to not even notice the house shaking.  My excuse is that my house is generally shaking anyway, especially leading up to my three children's bedtimes!  Oh well, the quake didn't cause any injuries or damage anywhere, just cool stories for everyone else but me...  but then, the more I thought about it today, I realized that I actually do have a little story related to the legendary "2012 New England Earthquake".
       I'd taken the kids for a walk just before dinner yesterday, to peep at the beautiful shades of leaves and skip stones across the lake.  We got home about 5:30 to find the neighbor's black lab (mix?) dog, Tucker, sitting on our front porch.  Tucker is often out wondering the neighborhood, chasing garbage trucks, accepting treats from the mailman so he'll leave him alone, pooping in everyone's yards (despite my telling him that it's not my birthday and please don't leave me anymore presents!), chasing baby strollers being pushed past the house, escorting small children blocks away much to the chagrin of their frantic parents.  Just last week, I had to intervene when a police officer was going to take him away (book'm Danno!) because he was running amuck and wasn't wearing a collar.  My kids love Tucker, and have always yelled gleefully to him out our front window; they pet him and hug him whenever we see him out, and he often comes over to say "Hello" when we get home from somewhere, but he always goes home easily when I tell him to.  Not yesterday though...
       We arrived home, with the twins in the stroller and Quinn walking along.  As I said, Tucker was sitting on our porch, which is something he never does, and when I unlocked our front door, he tried to get inside.  He was whimpering and definitely seemed upset about something.  He went over to the captive girls in the stroller, let them pet him and hug him, licking their faces and hands.  He went over to Quinn standing in the driveway not far from me, walked under his hand for a pet, and then came over to me.  He jumped up on me, but gently-so, and he just looked at me.  I nicely told him to get down, and he whined and layed against my legs so I could pet him.  I thought maybe he was just upset about being outside, that maybe he wanted to be inside his house.  Quinn asked what was wrong with Tucker, and I said maybe he was hungry or thirsty..  Tucker kept whimpering and coming back to me, going up on the porch.  At the time, I didn't think too much of it, though it was odd behavior for Tucker (I did scan him for bites, thinking rabies; I feel bad for thinking that of him now).  We were about to serve him a bowl of water, when, about 5 minutes later, the Nanny poked her head out the door and called for Tucker, who had gone back up on my porch.  I told him he had to go to his house, that Sam (one of the 21 month old twins he belongs to) needed him to play, and I took him by the collar and walked him across the street.  The Nanny met me part way, and I told her he was acting funny, and she led him inside his house.
         We went about the rest of our day and night - craziness while making dinner, eating of dinner, more craziness while cleaning up from dinner, bathtime times three, said earthquake, bedtimes times three.  This morning I happened to think about it more, and had an epiphany - maybe Tucker sensed that something was coming.  I know I've heard about animals sensing when earthquakes or other "forces" are impending.  It dawned on my that maybe Tucker had been trying to tell me that he was worried about something happening, that he could sense something was off-balance and unsettled in nature or all around.  Looking back, thinking about the odd way he had been acting, the whining and whimpering, his affection toward the kids but focused attention to me, and his relectance to leave - Tucker knew.
         I was hoping that we would see him outside today, but I could only hear him barking out a window.  Granted the earthquake didn't amount to anything this time, but if there had been a disaster coming, it would have been amazing if he'd been able to tell me, to warn me to take care of my babies.  I have a newfound respect for Tucker.  While I'm not quite ready to accept "gifts" on the front lawn, I won't be so quick to tell him to go home anymore. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

2 X 2 (Two Times Two)

     First, I'm sorry for the hiatus in writing this blog.  The end of the summer really blew up, from playdates and excursions, to home improvements that contractors were doing (patio, lighting) and those that we ended up doing ourselves.  We ended up painting the entire downstairs ourselves - I painted the entryway over three days, and the kitchen and back hallway over a week (damn trim!), and Doug and I spent 8 hours painting the living room and dining room over two nights after putting the kids to bed, plus I spent another two hours doing finish work.  We saved $2400 dollars doing the painting ourselves, and I just wanted new color, our colors to decorate the walls in time for the twins' birthday party (I'm hoping to paint all the trim before Thanksgiving), which I spent the past two weeks actively planning, and actually setting up for over the past week. 
     After the wall color was done, I immersed myself in planning the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme and everything to go along with it - I just wanted everything to be special for them, to go all out like I did for Quinn's parties, and quite honestly, I think it was easier to immerse myself in the party details than to admit that - oh my God - my little baby girls are turning 2!  Now that the birthday party has come and gone, I can't help but face those emotions and remember their birth story, and I'm forced to come to terms with my feelings of probably never having a one-year old ever again, for the rest of my life.  Yikes!
      I'm definitely remiss for not telling it before now, but I truly treasure the story of my twins' birth (no gorey details, don't worry!), (I treasure Quinn's, too, of course, but I'll tell that another time).  I'd found out in February 2010 that I was having twins.  I was only 6 weeks pregnant but after having had a miscarriage a few months before, I was worried that something was wrong when I had spotting again.  Thankfully, we found that aside from that fact that I was having twins, everything else was progressing normally.  We had sold our condo in Watertown in May 2010, moved to a cute little apartment in Concord, and after a summer of househunting with my two year old boy in tote, we finally moved to our Sudbury home at the end of August 2010.  I spent three weeks cleaning the apartment and then the new house, packing up the apartment, unpacking in Sudbury, and attempting to decorate and prepare for the twins' arrival, Friday, October 1st arrived.  That day was a whirlwind - we had a playdate with our friend Stacy (and 2 year old Peter and newborn Sara) in the morning, then I feverishly unpacked the last boxes, made three meals for the freezer, took Quinn to the playground, and made a dinner of baked chicken, steamed green beans, and baked potatoes - my first clue that labor was eminient should have been that I ate an entire breast of chicken, which I had been having strong aversions to my entire pregnancy (I could cook it for Doug and Quinn, but I couldn't get it anywhere near by plate without literally gagging).  I bathed Quinn, kneeling in the massive bathtub so I could reach him, not minding that I ended up soaked, too, just enjoying laughing and playing with him.  He seemed so little then, so small wrapped in my arms in his lion towel, growling in the mirror afterward with his most ferocious voice that still came off soft and sweet with that smile and those little baby teeth.  I read him three stories, and then layed with him in his new big-boy bed, holding him under his covers.  He asked me to tell him a Lucky story (stories I make up for him, based on a horse my grandparents once had), which I did, and then we said his prayers.  About the time he drifted off, I felt a strong POP in my stomach, much stronger than one of the babies kicking me.  I knew what it was - my water had broken.  I layed there debating whether to tell him that I was going to be having the babies, but I decided against it, thinking it better to let him go to sleep peacefully in his own bed, instead of him waking up more now, with questions and concerns.  I held him a few seconds longer than normal, kissed his soft, fragrant hair, and crawled out of his bed.  I caught a glimpse of him sleeping as I left the room; putting his gate in his doorway, I couldn't help a light groan as I felt the water break more.  I rushed to the bathroom; Doug came to the doorway - he had been in the living room, just settling into his leather recliner for some Friday night beer and TV, but I think he knew that my sound leaving Quinn's room meant something.  I told him my water had broken, I sat on the toilet trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this was "IT", waiting for contractions.  I don't remember what he might have said to me; we both knew that we needed someone to come stay with Quinn until Doug's parents could get to us from southern Vermont.  I left a message with one friend while Doug tried another, and I called my doctor in Cambridge who told me to get to the nearest hospital.  Long story short, we got the neighbor across the street to come sit until another friend from Arlington could get out to our house to wait for Doug's parents to make the three hour drive from VT. 
       We left for the hospital around 9:30 p.m., my contractions were painful and about 90 seconds apart, and grew to only about 45 seconds apart very quickly.  It was a beautiful night - it was warmish but the air was crisp, it had rained earlier in the evening, but had cleared up by this time.  It smelled of wet woods outside, and there were stars everywhere and a bright moon was overhead as we drove Doug's truck through rural parts of Sudbury and Concord.  We arrived at Emerson Hospital, parked close to the door, where I had parked many times for a prenatal yoga class over the weeks before moving.  I stopped and looked up at the sky, and asked Doug to do the same, despite his urging to get inside - I just wanted to stop and remember being a parent of one, remember being pregnant, grasp that we would VERY SOON be welcoming TWO BABIES.  I took a deep breath of the crisp air, took one last look at the stars, let out a deep sigh with a wave of contractions, and we went inside. 
        I was the only one in labor when we arrived that night.  They already had my records (thanks to Mount Auburn for forwarding them so quickly, so late at night!) and greeted us at the door, already knowing our names and that we were coming, and they'd already contacted a second team of doctors, nurses, and pediatricians, since we'd be needing two teams of labor staff, since I was having twins!  It's strange but I remember every moment of that first part of the night with acute detail - we arrived through a certain door that made a specific sound, we went to the desk just inside where there was a vase of pink carnations, went left to the first room in the hall, I used the bathroom first and remember the scent of the soap there, then was monitored on the bed along with two monitors, one for each of the babies.  My contractions were at least every 45 seconds, very intense but I could talk in between.  I remember it all almost with a feeling of static electricity; I felt very aware of my surroundings, remember specific conversations and feelings, wishing I'd asked them to see if I'd dilated on my own before doing the ultrasound to confirm that Twin A was still breach and that I'd require a c-section.  I remember using the bathroom one last time before making that walk to the operating room, waiting on the table for all of the various doctors and nurses and specialists to arrive, waiting for the epidural which was required for the c-section.  I remember Nurse Ellen letting me squeeze her hand so many times when contractions would tighten and wrap up across me every 30 seconds in that stark white, bright room while we waited for more people in blue scrubs to appear as I went in and out of awareness.  Pretty soon, the epidural was administered, Doug was allowed in the room, and Dr. Rubin and an older doctor started.  I remember lots of pulling and pushing and pressure - it's a strange feeling lying on a table, being fully conscious and aware that someone is cutting-CUTTING- into your body but not being able to feel the pain of it, knowing that your body is gaping open, imagining blood and guts hanging out, and you have to rely on these complete strangers to do everything precisely right, that THREE LIVES depend on them!  I had to just focus on the babies and stop thinking about that stuff, but even that felt surreal. 
     At 11:27 p.m. 10/01/10, Twin A, Sierra Harriet, was born.  She cried out loudly in a deep, raspy voice when they pulled her out, which I wasn't expecting because Quinn hadn't cried until his first bath.  They suctioned her, wrapped her, and put a "Twin A" sticker on her hat, before bringing her around to my head - I saw her and sighed "Hi Baby", and she immediately stopped crying, her tiny eyes looking right at me, feeling my forehead against her baby skin.  My first girl, inadvertent middle child, sweet little round head; we hadn't decided on her exact name yet, but there was a clear winner.  They took her over to a warming bed to check her over, while the doctors kept working - I remember one of the doctors actually getting on top of the table and pushing on me with his elbow and forearm, apparently pushing the next baby toward "the opening". 
     At 11:28 p.m., 10/01/10, Twin B, Kelsey Grace, was born.  She, too, cried when they pulled her out, but in a softer way.  They prepared her, a "B" sticker on her hat, and brought her around to my side of the curtain, and like her big sister, she stopped crying when I called her, by name, my "Little Kelsey".  Twin B, the baby of the family, so tiny and soft against my cheek; she was "poor Kelsey" because she'd already had fits of hiccups daily, and I felt like she'd been elbowed and squished by her sister.  She, too, was taken to a warming bed to check her out. 
     Thankfully both girls appeared healthy, but since they were twins born at 36 weeks (and 4 days) and just over 5 lbs each, they were placed in a special care nursery.  Doug accompanied the girls for their first baths and screenings while I was "patched up".  A short time later, we were reunited in a recovery room, the first room I'd been to upon arriving to the hospital.  One of my favorite pictures was taken by one of the nurses - Doug and I with the twins on my chest, both girls crying (as we'd soon find out was their norm), but both of us smiling, Doug looking a little uncertain and sheepish, and a disbelieving but loving smile on my face.  I knew immediately that I loved them, beyond any feeling I'd ever felt, but it was just so surreal to have two babies - two teeny tiny babies, they each fit in one hand with jerky, twitchy arms and legs hanging over, who were hungry and tired and crying, probably from being traumatized just being born and being out of their comfy little warm dark womb.  They were already louder and seemingly more needy than their big brother.  My hospital time after having Quinn had felt almost like a vacation; I'd ordered meals from a special little menu, been watched over my doctors and nurses, got plenty of sleep, and he wasn't really a crier unless he was especially hungry, just made little baby sounds, like petite little sneezes and lots of farts and burps.  The twins, on the other hand, were super needy from Day 1, needing to eat every one to two hours, crying a lot, gassy, not sleeping very well, scaring each other into hysterics.  I had to learn how to breastfeed them at the same time, dealing with holding these wiggly little babies in place, keeping them awake long enough to get a good feed so they'd gain weight just to survive, figuring out how to console two babies at the same time (and just when I thought I had it figure it, it all seemed to change all the time throughout that first year!).  They were just so tiny and I was severely outnumbered and overwhelmed; I was pretty scared and immediately exhausted.  Still, I had so much love in my heart for them, and ever the optimist, I knew it would all turn around at some point. 
      Their homecoming was even a bit lackluster.  It was pouring down rain that day, and it was interesting trying to get them into our new minivan in what seemed like giant carseats because they were so tiny.  But, after spending 5 days in the hospital with them, I was anxious to get them home and find our way into this new phase of parenthood, our new family of 5.  We arrived back to our house in Sudbury, where my Mom was watching Quinn - he was napping at the time, and she'd just showered and was getting dressed.  No fanfare, no warm home overflowing with family, no yummy dinner scents in the kitchen like we'd had with Quinn.  But still, our girls were home, in our new house, with their big brother who in my head was still my first baby although he'd grown into such a little man since holding his 5 lb baby sisters; he just seemed so much bigger now than when I'd left him sleeping in his bed less than a week before. 
       Over the next two years, the twins transformed from these tiny, helpless babies, into the sweetest little girls with two separate personalities.  They started off  nursing every two hours around the clock for 13 months, not sleeping through the night consistently until 16 months, crying for 5 hours a day every single day for the better part of first nine months, at the same time!, requiring drives just to fall asleep for naps and then having to be in their carseats in their rooms in order to sleep during the day...  They were so much work for so long, but slowly the most wonderful things started to happen - they both smiled at 6 weeks old, they were quick and easy laughers, finding joy in the simplest things, they loved going for walks and being outside, they absolutely loved their brother instantly, they started doing yoga poses as they learned to crawl and cruise and eventually walked at 13 months.  They started sleeping through the night and waking up happy and smiley, saying words and now sentences, wanting certain books or toys or foods, feeling purely happy and proud as they do new things and can get their points and needs and feelings across to us.  They've started to play together and act like little girls and not just little babies anymore.
        My babies are turning two tomorrow!  I cannot believe it!  I don't want to forgot those early moments when they were newborns, despite some very low lows, there were so many amazing times and highs "so high you had to look down to see heaven" (to quote one of my favorite movies).  In addition to watching all three of our children play together, it's just so special to have identical twins, two babies who will always have each other, who have known nothing else, and they'll always have a big brother to look after them.  I still look at the twins some days and wonder how I have two babies, two little people at the same stage in their lives, to go through everything together.  And, I feel so blessed to have my son, too; my clever, amazing little boy...  I am so fortunate to have my beautiful children; they give my life purpose and bring me so much happiness.
         Of course, looking at these three little faces everyday, seeing how big they're all getting, makes me realize that, in all likelihood, I will never be pregnant again, will never have those feelings of watching my stomach grow with a new life, hear a little heart beat for the first time, see my baby on an ultrasound, feel those little punches and kicks as they move around in my belly.  I'll probably never give birth to another little one, hear a little voice for the first time and feel that baby skin.  I'll never breastfeed another baby again, hold this tiny little baby in my arms and know that it's part of me.  And as my baby girls go from being 1 to being 2 year olds, it doesn't seem possible that I'll never have a 1 year old again.  It may sound crazy to think of it like that, but I guess I've spent a lot of my life just looking forward to having babies, and then the past 4+ years raising babies from infancy into preschool age, it just seems hard to let go of that mentality.  It makes me feel a little sad to accept that that phase of my life is passing, has passed, even though there are so many wonderful phases to come.  I guess I'm just not quite ready to let go of that feeling of hope and impending joy that carrying a new baby brings.
        Still, on the eve of my daughters second birthday, I can't help but savour the memories that THEY have given me from the moment I found out I was pregnant with twins, these two babies!, to feeling them move in my belly, to their birth, and every smile and baby step and milestone since.  I just want to keep all my babies safe and help them learn, and make things special for them, and just enjoy being with them from day to day.  I don't ever want to forget these moments for as long as I live.  It has been such a rollercoaster, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. 
      Happy 2nd Birthday, Sierra and Kelsey!  Thank you for helping to make me the luckiest, happiest Mommy in the world!  You're beautiful, you're smart, and you're important, and I love you so so much!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Moebius Syndrome Conference

     I just had the most amazing weekend in Philadelphia, and not in the way that might initially come to your mind.  I wasn't there for site-seeing or vacation or reconnecting with college friends.  We packed up our three kids and went to Philly to attend and volunteer at the 10th Moebius Syndrome Conference.  It was such a wonderful, MOVING experience; being there, meeting so many amazing children and their families, just being a part of something so important.  I want to write about my experience there; I just hope I don't sound ignorant or offensive in doing so!
     Moebius Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder which causes facial paralysis and the inability to move their eyes side to side.  In addition, an affected child often has some limb and chest abnormalities, such as webbed fingers or not having fully developed hands or other limbs, difficulty swallowing and therefore, eating, and often breathing issues.  It doesn't appear to be genetic or hereditary, but is more likely based on an abnormality in a gene during fetal development in utero, and isn't necessarily passed from parent to child.  Also, it seems to happen more often in a firstborn child, as opposed to a sibling, and if only one side of the body is affected, it seems to be the left-side.  There have also been a handful of cases where twins have been born with one twin having Moebius while the other does not.
      It is definitely sad, to put it mildly, how many mothers and fathers find out "the hard way" that their child has Moebius.  Mothers go into labor like normal, go through what is often hours of painful labor, just to catch that first glimpse of their newborn baby, anxiously waiting to hold them in their arms, only to find that something isn't as it should be.  Either the baby cannot cry or cannot move their face at all, some can't muster the energy or breath to cry, or the baby sounds like it's crying but the expression on its' little face doesn't change.  Or they might see that the baby has some smaller features on one or both sides of their bodies, like a small, webbed, left hand.  In that moment, all parents just want their babies to be healthy and alive, but then a whole new and completely unexpected realm of issues arises.  And even as the baby grows and progresses into infancy and toddlerhood, that little baby will never (without surgery) form a smile to show their happiness and can never form a frown to show that they need some extra hugging and attention.  People with Moebius are, however, fully capable of a normal life and intellect; I've found that what they might lack in the physical sense, they more than make up for in smarts!
      My husband's cousin, Ian Linn, was born with Moebius about 11 years ago.  He can't form a facial expression, was born with webbing on his smaller left hand, and has had difficulty eating.  His Mom, Dawn, recounted the experience of his birth in a recent article, and having had three babies myself, it really brought to light what it felt like for her to give birth to this tiny little baby, and to find that he was different, though it took the doctors a couple days to give a name to those differences.  That being said, Ian is smarter at 11 than I think I was at 20-something (and possibly even now!).  He loves to read, and not simple children's books, but all of the Harry Potter books, To Kill a Mockingbird...  true works of literature, yet he also enjoys doing all the same things that a regular 11-year old boy likes - playing video games, making up games with Lego's and toys, making friends!  He knows all the words to the Phantom of the Opera and breaks out into song, and he has silly moments like all kids do.  He works hard to articulate his words so that he can be understood, and he knows when someone doesn't understand, so he tries until they get it.  We first got to meet and hold Ian when he was only a couple months old, and we've truly enjoyed getting together with him over the years, watching him grow, following his progress and triumphs and hardships.  My husband, especially, has a truly special bond with Ian, and as Ian gets older, it keeps growing stronger.  It was because of Ian that we were so excited to join in the 2-years-in-the-making Conference, which his parents, Emmet and Dawn, had taken on the organizing of. 
       We agreed last year, that we would attend the conference, and even though we'd be bringing two one-year olds and a four year old, that we would help in any way we possibly could.  We stayed at Emmet and Dawn's house, to care for their golden retriever, Mousey, and to assist with the conference, which was held at the Sheraton Hotel, as much as we could.  Doug was enlisted as a "runner", and I was volunteering in the child care room as much as possible, since that was where I'd be with my own three children (and the twins still won't let me out of their site).  After only a few minutes there on Friday morning, I found that the Child Care Room was definitely the best place to be, to meet and interact with so many wonderful children, either affected by having Moebius themselves, or having siblings affected by the disorder.  It truly struck me how having Moebius didn't change the wants and needs of children at certain ages. 
        There were several babies the same age as my twins.  A little boy, Braylon, was "almost 2", as his nametag said, but he ran around that place better than my little girls did, and without his mother anywhere in sight, he didn't seem the least bit saddened by her absence and not at all shy or withdrawn.  He loved playing ball, and though I couldn't tell what he was saying all the time, I realized that sometimes I don't know what my own "almost 2"s are saying.  There was another little girl, Chloe, who was so sweet and so loving.  She instantly hugged someone who talked to her, and she was just so little and girly and loved dancing around (she immediately befriended my husband, wrapping him around her little finger in seconds).  She'd had some "smile surgeries", and she could move her cheeks a bit more than other kids, and they were hopeful that she would improve with therapy.  There were also several babies only 9 months old or slightly older, who needed constant care, whether for comfort and security, or to check feeding tubes or breathing apparatus.  It was heartbreaking to see these little babies just struggling to do things the rest of us take for granted.  I know most babies early on don't have many expressions and sometimes seem trapped in their own bodies anyway, but it's very sad to think of some of the Moebius babies who will continue that way for months to come (and sometimes much longer than that).
         I also met some preteen girls who, if their faces hadn't shown the signs of Moebius, I wouldn't have known they were "different".  Madyson was attending from her home in Australia, and she was such a sweet and caring little mother.  Her and another girl, Miriam, took upon themselves to hold some of the Moebius babies (such as little Samantha; such a cutie!), and even tried to help my girls get comfortable and color and play games with them.  She was just so open and honest from our first conversation, telling me how nice it was to be here and around other kids who could relate to her and felt the same way she felt.  During one of the lunches (outside of the Child Care room), she came up to me because she'd gotten separated from her mother, and she was just so smart to know to look for someone to help her find her way; it felt so great that she trusted me to help her, and I was so glad that I was able to do that for her!  Several other little girls, MacKenzie, Olivia, Anna, though they all had Moebius, were all just regular little girls - getting their nails and hair done, doing cartwheels.  It was so nice to hear them giggling with each other, knowing that they had each other to relate to, feeling like they weren't alone and here, they were not different!
         I also met a wonderful little boy, Cedric, who didn't have Moebius, but his new baby brother did.  Cedric was one of the boys that Quinn ran around with, but he did find his way to my side many times.  We colored up a paper about a thunderstorm and hale and rain that turned to snow and then the sun...  we had a whole story going, it was so nice.  We painted his fingernails blue, danced, the twins wore his hat and he was so sweet with them.  I'm sure in a few years he will begin to question, as I imagine many "normal" kids do, how he was spared but his sibling ended up having Moebius.  And perhaps his interest in me was because I gave him attention, which he might not feel he's getting enough of right now as his parents care for his infant brother.  I have to admit I did feel a little bad that there I was (causing our usual scene just by being) with my three beautiful children, when some parents are faced with having one child with a disability.
          Some Moebius children have more extreme disabilities than others.  I met one boy, Cody, who was 10, and had more issues than some of the others in attendence.  He was unable to move his eyes side to side and couldn't move the muscles in his face.  His father is blind, so that may have been related to some of the issues with his sight.  He had a hard time with balance and he fell down a lot, but he was such a nice boy - he was in awe that my twins were so identical, he'd never seen two babies who looked exactly alike.  At one point, I wondered if he thought he was seeing double, but I assured him that they were actually two separate babies.  He wanted to hold hands with me, which I was completely find with (I later found he was trying to write words on my hand to tell me things), and he wanted to help with the girls; pushed them in their stroller, tried to hold their hands though I think they were a bit afraid of his forwardness.  He was adament that I call him by his name; everytime I called him "Buddy", he'd hold up his nametag and hum, and finally I explained to him that I knew his name, but sometimes I call my friends "Buddy".  He hugged me : )  Such a big heart, that boy!    There was also another boy, named Avner, who was from Israel, and I spoke with his father a lot.  He was the middle of three children, and he sat on a cushioned bench with his legs up, his father sitting facing him, and three decks of cards in his hands; over and over he stacked the cards in his hands and then poured them out onto the bench, throw his fathers open hands, and then his father would do the same back.  His father told me that there weren't any other Moebius children near them in Israel, and it's incredibly difficult to find doctors and specialists who can care for him, since Moebius is so rare (only about 2000 people in the entire world have been diagnosed).  He said so many times, to me in English and then in Hebrew to his son, that Avner brings him so much happiness and pride, that they love having him in their lives.  It was touching how he just wanted his son to know that every chance he could.  Despite the limited options in Israel, I hope he finds the care he needs physically and emotionally, and the challenges he needs mentally to truly thrive.
            On Saturday evening, there was a cocktail party and a wonderful dinner served for everyone in the Ballroom.  I got to meet many of the parents of the children I'd been interacting with the past two days, learned more of their stories and where they came from.  After the dinner, there was a talent show, starring the Moebius children.  Many of the little girls performed, including a baton dance by Olivia, a gymnastics routine by Mackenzie, ballet by Anna, an impromptu dance number by Katie, Samantha, and Chloe (if she hadn't been too shy to get up from Doug's lap).  Chris, an amazing 19 year old Seton Hall graduate peer mentor, performed a skillful soccer trick opener; he'd talked to Quinn earlier in the day and then played soccer with him in the hall during the cocktail party.  Chase was an incredibly witty magician.
            It literally moved me to tears to see all these kids doing something they loved, as if they were no different than the rest of the world.  I saw where all the practiced cartwheels and dancing came from, listened to the words of the songs, Katy Perry and (dreadful) Lady Gaga.  As much as I hate Lady Gaga, the words of her song "Born this Way" really struck a chord; as much as I think she's exploiting people with disabilities, I could see that it made these little girls feel better about themselves and their situations, even if just for a minute, and they could feel confident and comfortable in their own skin, that they could feel empowered! 
            The whole conference was all about doing that same thing, outside of a songs lyrics, whether by having sessions talking about dealing with issues like bullying, or connecting with doctors who could answer questions and provide guidance when everything, especially in the early stages of diagnosis, is all question marks.  It was such a wonderful and loving thing that Dawn and Emmet did to organize this year's Conference, to host all the Moebius families who could make it there.  They worked tirelessly to put this together, all for the love of their son Ian, but they touched so many other hearts in the process.  I feel so honored and blessed that I got to be part of it!

For more information about Moebius, please visit:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

       Happy Independence Day to you, my friends.  Hope you've spent the day off of work (independent), and surrounded by loved ones, doing something you enjoy (happy).  My family and I went to the beach this morning, despite an insane downpour that threatened to thwart our plans, but had a nice sunny day in the ocean and playing in the sand.  We spent some time playing badmitten and ladder ball in the yard and having a cook-out, "just" the 5 of us, and now I sit in a quiet house, enjoying my independent time.  Time to reflect on Independence Day's past (no pun intended).
        Some of my earliest memories of the 4th of July are from my childhood in Jersey Shore, PA.  I remember there was always a huge carnival and parade, and then after dark, a fireworks display.  I remember laying on my back on our soft pink picnic/beach/fireworks blanket, my Dad and brothers next to me, seeing the fireworks in the dark sky, literally overhead; the smell in the air, the charred paper falling to the ground. 
        Some years later, after moving to Chippewa, PA, I went with my friend Missy to see the fireworks at Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh - it was an amazing show, being right on the point of the three rivers with the fireworks all around.  There were boats in the water, the Fort Pitt Bridge to our backs, a wall of mountains rising on one side and skyscrapers lit up on the other side, and there was music playing from somewhere.  It was very impressive, especially being my first 4th of July since we'd moved near Pittsburgh.  The next year I would see fireworks across the bridge from Beaver Falls, with a guy I liked and another couple of our friends, having just graduated from high school, almost able to taste my new-found independence that I knew was just around the corner with college starting in the fall.
        Fast forward many years, after college, after I'd gotten married, I remember a particularly sad Independence Day.  It was 2003, and the weekend before the 4th, we'd been at a friends wedding in New Jersey.  I recall that I was walking on the beach, trying to make my weekly phone calls to family.  I spoke with my parents briefly, and also with my Great Uncle Ted.  Our calls always ended with me saying "I love you" and him saying "You, too, Jenny", but this time, he said "I love you" first; it struck me with a smile, but I didn't think more about it then.  We got back to Boston the next day and I went back to work on Monday.  My Mom called my cell phone in the middle of the day, which was highly unusual; she had some bad news.  My Uncle Ted had passed away overnight and my grandmother, his sister, had found him in the morning when he hadn't come by for breakfast on her side of the two-family home they both lived in.  He had been sick for a number of years and didn't have any children of his own; my brothers and sister and I had always been like his grandchildren; we were all so close, and it was quite a blow.  The next day was the 4th, and I was still upset and breaking down into tears often.  I remember sitting on the front steps of the condo we rented in Watertown, I could hear the Boston Pops music playing on the TV inside, echoing from other open windows on our block.  My husband came out to comfort me, but I just really missed my Uncle and wished our last conversation had been longer, and I couldn't stop crying.  At that second, there was a rumble in the sky that started low but got much louder and more powerful as it drew near - it was a jet fly-over, four military jets flying in formation, roaring directly overhead.  The jets were headed to do a fly-over over the Esplanade where the Independence Day celebration was going on, but I felt like it was a sign from my Uncle not to be sad anymore, that he loved me, as he told me the last time we talked, and that he was watching over me.  To this day, anytime I see a fly-over, it always makes me smile and think of my Uncle Ted.
          Nowadays, my July 4th celebrations are much more low-key.  The year I was pregnant with Quinn, I was nausious and bloated, so we went out for dinner but stayed home after that.  And last year, Doug took Quinn to a parade in town in the afternoon, but we were strict on the girls naps last summer, because they were still really fussy, and I needed the break, too.  Last night, Doug took Quinn to see the fireworks in Harvard, along with three bands and other festivities, and I was a bit jealous that he got to enjoy the eveing with our son.  But, I know that as the girls get older, we will all be able to partake in the celebration together. 
          One day, I imagine that I will lay on my back on a blanket again under a fireworks display, alongside my children, fireworks blazing overhead, making memories, just like I used to do when I was a child, way back when, growing up in Pennsylvania.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Innocence (and) Lost

       It's amazing how strikingly innocent my three beautiful children are.  I mean, yeah, everyone knows that children are innocent but oh my God, I see these three little faces everyday and it just gets me sometimes, how truly innocent they are.  How simply happy they can be - how two rocks can amuse them for quite some time, how running in circles is fun and funny. Kelsey is always running around in her 'rainbows and unicorns' world, with her tongue hanging way out of her smiling mouth as she toddles around; Sierra will come running to me from across the room - full speed, a huge open mouth smile, her bright blue eyes gleaming, and crash into a huge hug around me, her little hands clasped behind my neck; and Quinn, on my little boy, is so full of life and energy, and even in times when he's running laps around the yard, he just has this toothy grin and sweet little voice that melts my heart!  It's all just so amazing and I cannot imagine my life without them, they truly complete me.  And, really makes me stop and smell the roses, so to speak, and try to enjoy the sweet, uncomplicated moments I get with them.
        I want to help them stay innocent for as long as possible - I'd say for "forever", but I know that can't be possible.  I love seeing them be children and explore the world around them, and I want to show them as much of that world as I can. I have concerns that since I'm caring for all three of them (and, the girls especially, require so much attention), that they're missing out on important adventures and learning experiences, while I spin my wheels and just try to get through each day with everyone clothed, changed, fed, and smiling at the end of the day. I make a point of getting them out of the house everyday, whether to the playground, various playdates, museums, a working farm nearby...  I just don't want them to miss out on anything the world and our life has to offer!
       But I know that innocent can only last so long, and Quinn is 4 years old now, and testing boundaries, and, well, not listening to anything I say. He won't stay with me in crowded (or even empty!) stores, won't hold my hand when crossing the street or a parking lot; won't listen when I ask him to stop running away, won't wash his hands after peeing just because I asked him to and he thinks there's a choice.  I'm well aware of choosing my battles, and when it comes to his choice of clothes to wear for the day, I don't dispute, but when it comes to safety, there's no picking...  I know this is all normal 4-year old behavior, but it's quite difficult to deal with while watching the twins and trying to maintain control and stay calm.  
       This morning we went to church, as we do most Sunday's. It's the church we started going to in Watertown when I was pregnant with Quinn, and even after moving 35 minutes away, we continue to drive there every Sunday instead of attending the church her in Sudbury. We've made so many great friends there, and really enjoy the feel of the church, the community, everything about it (as far as church goes). After mass today, we were walking down the aisle to the back of the church to say goodbye to a family that is moving to New Hampshire tomorrow, a mother and father with four kids who we have known since Quinn was born, whose kids we've played with several times and I've had many conversations with the mother. Anyway, we go down the side aisle and Quinn, determined not to go the same way as us, goes down the middle aisle, weaving up and down pews along the way. No big deal, Doug's watching him, I'm watching him, as we say goodbye to our friends. After the hugs and goodbyes, our backs turned for 2 seconds, Quinn isn't there anymore. We assume he's just waiting by the door - but no Quinn there. He's not up the aisles, he doesn't seem to be laying in one of the random pews, Doug takes the elevator down but he's not around there, and I take the stairs and he's not there. Also doesn't seem to be outside in the grassy lawn or near our van. I'm carrying Sierra and sweet little throaty voice that she has, she's repeating my calls of "Quinn?" I'm starting to freak out, I can't breath. I think of the last moment I was with him in the pew at the end of the service, and he was upset because when I said it was time to put the pen (he was using to write on the bulletin) away until later so we can leave, he wasn't listening to me and is just reacting.  I thought that surely someone wouldn't kidnap him from our church; I mean, seriously?  It's a church, we know half the congregation, everyone knows who he is, but where is he?  I'm downstairs in the common area, nearly in tears, barely breathing, when Father Marty comes downstairs and says that "someone found him".  Now, I'm actually in tears as the relief flows through me; Sierra starts rubbing my back because she knows I'm upset though she probably doesn't understand why (although, she is very intuitive for a 1 year old).
        I go up the elevator and there is Quinn, also in tears, hugging his Daddy's leg, Kelsey looking on (tongue hanging out, of course).  He runs to me and I drop to my knees to hold him, so happy that he's okay and not kidnapped and not hit by a car.  I hold his hand to get him out to our van.  I place Sierra into the van, and she crawls up to get into her seat and play with the buckle, while I talk to Quinn - I hold him and tell him that he is never to leave a building without me again, that he could have been hit by a car or that someone might have tried to take him away from us because he's such a nice boy.  I'm so scared that one of my babies will be kidnapped, especially with my focus being so scattered while trying to watch over three kids with only two eyes, two arms.  I want him to understand the dangers so that he'll stay close to me, but I don't want to scare him so badly, but he has to understand that I'm not just talking to hear my own voice.  I want to protect him from the horrible things that happen in the world, but I need to tell him enough so that he yields my warnings.
        It's a delicate line we walk as mothers, as parents, trying to nurture our children while helping them to acclimate into the world around them.   I feel like if they were good listeners, and could get through that age 3-4-5 phase, they could be innocent for longer, but I guess it's also important that they not be too naive for so long.  I just want my children to be happy and healthy and truly enjoy their childhoods - I just hope that I can protect them from the bad things and help them enjoy the good.  And I just want them to know how much I truly love them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So much to do...

      I am drowning in my "To Do" lists right now.  Every day I tell myself that I'm going to sit down and post on my blog, but every night, after cleaning up after dinner, putting the kids to bed, cleaning various things up and finishing or forfeiting projects I started throughout the day...  by the time I finally sit down at 9:30, my brain is jumbled and jolted and the "oh my God, I haven't finished anything today" sets in. 
      I have three huge, suffocating-feeling projects right now - 1.)  getting quotes for someone to put in a patio (and do other landscaping); 2.) picking out lighting fixtures to get the electrician in to set our house aglow; and 3.) pick a painter to paint our living room/dining room/kitchen after the electrician has finished.  This is all, of course, in addition to taking care of the kids and trying to do more than just get through the days (you know, like teach them stuff!).  And in addition to other things I would also like to do, like writing on my blog, reading the book for July book club, house cleaning, trying to take care of this toe issue (blog to come on that one...), go to bed and get some much needed sleep!
      I just can't seem to gain any ground on these things because I have so many things to do but only about two hours a day to do them...  and it all has to be done at night, when the kids are asleep so I'm not neglecting them or any of the other things on the "Daytime To Do" list, but then of course most offices and places are closed so I can't cross anything off the lists.  And speaking of lists, I have SIX blog posts/stories started that I just can't finish those either
     Ugh, so much to do, so little time!!  Hoping I'll get to post something more substantial soon... and get this other stuff tackled, too!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lost Feeling of Atlantis

      We just returned from a trip to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, via Conyers, GA to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (the former) and to visit family (the latter) (hence the amount of time since my last post!) (will try to tone down the parenthesis going forward).  We spent a few days with my family, and then left my three babies, for the first time ever, with my parents and brother and sister (and her new fiance!).  I learned some valuable lessons in our short time in Paradise (Island, that is):  sunglasses sink, sharks sure sleep a lot, my obsession with Bobby Flay is unresolved and going strong, my husband can be quite the charmer, and most importantly, I'm never leaving my babies behind again!
        We arrived in Georgia two weeks ago, for a couple days of family reuniting before my husband and I were to leave for the Bahamas.  I got to see my Mom and Dad, of course, but also my architect brother Andrew who lives in Florida, my Marine brother Jeff and his girlfriend Cheree, along with my four month old nephew (yay! love him!), Phoenix.  I also got to see my "baby" sister, Carly, and her fiance David (he proposed the day we arrived!) (and there go the parenthesis again...).  It seems impossible that I hadn't seen my brothers in two whole years!  The last time I saw them was when I flew down, almost exactly two years ago, when I was pregnant with the twins; since then, I hadn't had much time for air travel!  We had seen my parents and my sister intermittently in Pennsylvania and when they visited after the twins were born, but I hadn't been back to GA since, and my brothers hadn't been able to make it so far north of the Mason-Dixon to get to Boston.
        I watched my brothers meet their nieces for the first time, and play with my Quinn, too, of course.  It was beautiful to see how my brothers interacted with each of the twins - instantly loving for sure, but Andrew was incredibly gentle, got down on their level and didn't get too close too quickly.  He just had this huge smile on his face as he talked with each girl, meeting his goddaughter, Kelsey, for the first time, and little Sierra, who is never very trusting at first anyway.  Jeff is now a parent, too, so he was completely comfortable and confident, and despite their initial hesitance with new people, each girl accepted that and felt comfortable, too.  I got to hold my only nephew for the first time, see how the dimple in his chin looks just like his Daddy's, see his little smile and hear him squeak and yell.  It was all so musical and precious!
        I was so happy to spend time with my family.  It is always such a wonderful time for me to be back with all of them, back to my roots, to be with those who know so much about me without my having to explain it all, to laugh like I'm 10 years old again!  Even though we're all spread out along the east coast, once we get together, it's always like we haven't been apart.  I was glad to share my family time with my children, to have them feel so much love around them, to feel the happiness and laughter, and to help them get comfortable with each of my family members, who would soon be their caregivers for the 5 days while my husband and I went out on our own, or deserted them, as I felt we were doing.  It was to be the first time I ever left my baby girls, and only the second time I'd ever left my Quinn.  I didn't doubt that they would be well cared for and loved, I was just worried about how they would feel not having Mommy there, wondering where I was, why I had left them.  Quinn is old enough to understand that we would only be gone for a couple days, and we could talk to him everyday.  Even Kelsey tends to be fairly happy-go-lucky, and is generally content to do whatever anyone suggests, as long as a familiar person is close by.  But I knew that Sierra, my shadow, my clinger, Mommy's helper, could potentially have a really rough time, and it just broke my heart to think of her, or any of my babies, feeling sad or alone.
        Tuesday arrived, the day we were leaving for Paradise.  I kissed the twins goodbye in their cribs and cried over them for a few minutes, and I held and loved Quinn while he slept, too.  With mixed emotions, we left for the airport.  On one hand I was looking forward to having some quiet time for myself, simple things like being able to read a book, sit on an airplane and have the seat to myself, go to the beach or shopping, even go to the bathroom alone.  Not to mention, the real reason for the trip: getting to spend time with my husband, having a conversation without children hanging from my body, enjoying delicious, hot meals together (something I wanted, instead of thinking of what I could share with the kids), and to just celebrate being in this life for 10 years together.  I was excited for all of that, but my heart just felt sick being away from my babies.  I broke down in tears several times that first day; when I saw a baby girl next to us as we checked in at the airport ("Ma'am, is there something wrong?"... I think the woman thought I was being forced to leave the country against my will!), when the woman in the sunglass shop asked me if I had children, when I walked through the jetway remembering that I was not gate-checking a stroller this time, when we took off and I felt so far away from them, like they were completely out of my reach, and with an ocean soon between us, they truly were.  My biggest fear was that we would die in a plane crash, and I'd never see my babies again, and my children would never know how much I love them (even as I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes... and I have no plans to fly!), and I'd never hold them again.  And the girls are so little, they just wouldn't understand why I wasn't there, and would be waiting for me to return.  I felt like such a horrible mother for abandoning them.  To make matters worse, once we landed, we found that our cell phones did not work in the Bahamas...  No calling to check in, no texts or photos to see how they were doing.  And I couldn't help but feel anger, resentment for my husband, because he made me go on this "stupid" trip (how dare he drag me to a tropical island!).
          So, once we made it through customs and arrived at the Atlantis Resort around 3:30 p.m., I was determined to punish myself and not allow myself to enjoy a single minute.  The resort was massive, very overwhelming, especially in my depressed state.  The only thing getting me through was knowing that I could call my babies at 6 p.m., and I was all antsy and anxious just wanting it to hurry up and be 6 p.m. already.  I'm sure I was not very much fun to be with those first hours; going from quiet and pensive, to picky and negative and annoying.  I studied the resort map as if it held some secret message (which, if you know me, I would have done anyway) .  I watched the sharks in the pool outside our balcony swim around and noticed that many were asleep. 
       We finally called and heard Quinn's tiny, angelic voice, and I felt instantly happy and positive again.  I heard one of the girls (Sierra?) yell "Ma Ma!" in the background, happily though (but we weren't to talk to the girls in case it made them upset so I'd have to settle for "in the background" type assurances).  I still felt very guilty that I wasn't there with them, but the girls had been fine all day, no crying or sadness, and Quinn seemed to be having fun with his aunt and uncles.  I decided I might as well make the most of my time away from them, at least a little bit, to make it go faster until I would see them again; starting with dinner that night.
         Dinner on our first night in Paradise was at Mesa Grill, a Bobby Flay restaurant with a southwestern flare.  For those of you who do not know, I love the Food Network.  I love to have it on at home and try to whip up culinary commestables in my own kitchen; cooking, baking, no-baking, you name it.  I've taken some culinary classes myself, and Bobby Flay is my most favorite chef, grill master, and restauranteur.  I was so excited to go to his restaurant, hoping to catch a glimpse of him, ideally get my picture taken with him, pinch his butt maybe... kidding (stay with me; sorry, long blog, I know)!
          Dinner that night was fabulous and perfectly southwestern - delicious BBQ Duck in a blue corn tortilla for an appetizer, a chili rubbed rib-eye steak and side of roasted corn in a lime aioli.  It was such a delectible meal, my mouth is watering just remembering all the flavors I tasted that night, followed by authentic churros in a dark chocolate sauce.  Unfortunately, delicious as it was, the meal was not prepared by thee Bobby Flay.  Instead, there was a red-headed look alike chef in the kitchen, as if he was intentionally hired for his likeness to the Iron Chef.  It was kind of funny actually.  I accepted that I was not to see Mr. Flay this time, but took comfort in knowing he had concocted the recipes and menu, that he'd had a hand in my enjoyment of my meal.  We walked back to our hotel room through the midst of the resort, which looked even more minimizing in the dark as it had in broad daylight (having studied the map, I felt a bit more comfortable about it though and felt I had some idea as to which direction to go).  It was an early night, but it was strange to think that I was going to go to sleep and not be woken up throughout the night by the needs of three little birds.
       We still managed to wake up by 6:30 a.m. the next morning though, but that was fine because the resort was calm and quiet, and so peaceful that early.  We ventured off "the res", for some cheap eats for breakfast, since the resort kills you on the prices of everything (we'd split a $7 slice of pizza upon arrival the day before).  The prices were lower, but the service was also slower and not so friendly; we felt like they weren't real happy we were there, but my husband, subconsciously determined to charm them, made an unintentional comment about squishy blueberries which got our waitress to loosen up and actually smile, so she was fine after that.  We perused the island shops, scoping out souvenirs to take home (choked back tears when I saw the giant conch shell for Quinn, bigger than his head), stocking up on snacks, a calling card (our 8 minute call the day before had cost $48!), beers and such to keep in the room.  After that, we headed back to the room to slather lotion on our snow white skin before hitting the Aquaventure water park on the resort. 
        We started with the "Lazy River", but it was anything but lazy.  We chose the double innertube, so we could stay together more easily, but even that was hard to do.  We made it through various rapids and (I) paddled (as Doug yelled "mush!") through pile ups of people and tubes.  We came to a spot where we clearly just needed to get past the worker guy in order to go forward and deal with the waves alone, but no, the guy got ahold of our tube, pushed us up toward this gate-looking thing, we heard a woosh and then a wall of water came crashing toward us... the innertube flipped, we both fell out, our sunglasses got sucked off our faces, I kicked Doug while trying to get to the surface and not lose the tube, too...  The worker guy was laughing, and it was kind of fun, aside from the chlorine burn up my nose and the fear of losing our fancy new sunglasses, but the guy smiled, reached down and retrieved Doug's sunglasses, and then a minute later, he scooped mine up.  He followed us down the next section, trying to get sunglasses to another boy who'd lost his.  Worker guy was in good spirits, and it was hard to be mad at him, since there was really no harm done and he was just supposed to make us vacationers have a good time (even if that meant dunking the blonde, opaquely white girls such as I am).  We enjoyed the rest of the river, a section of wild waterfalls and slides with scary enclosed tunnels and sharks, and had a great time.  Doug went on some of the more daredevil slides while I relaxed under an umbrella and read some of my book.  I couldn't help but watch the little ones around me, and think of my own babies, picturing them splashing in the water, laughing and smiling like they often do.  If only we had brought them with us, like so many other parents here had done, we could be sharing this together.  : (
        We ate a moderately priced lunch, and headed back toward the room, exploring other parts of the resort along the way (other swimming pools and beaches, The Dig with underwater ruins, shopping areas, the casino).  We showered and changed for dinner and called to hear my baby boys voice, and hopefully his sisters voices in the background.  He'd had a good day, though it had rained all day, but they'd gone for a walk in the morning and played and probably kept their caregivers running.  The girls had done well again.  Sierra had taken to shadowing Mimi (my Mom), not letting her out of her sight, but Kelsey was in her unicorns and rainbows world as usual, which all made me happy. 
         We went out to Nobu, a japanese american restaurant, for drinks and appetizers.  Then, off to The Bahamian Club for another stellar dinner.  The restaurant had a beautiful, old world feel, with dark woods, nautical accents, like paintings of large ships and admirals.  The servers wore formal white jackets, and for those parties celebrating birthdays, they did this powerful clapping, chanting version of the birthday song.  The menu was familiar fare, with a bahamian twist.  I had a double breast of chicken with citrus, garlic and herbs, and a delicious sundried tomato, watercress, garlic and crispy onion side, almost like a stuffing without the bread.  It was fantastic, and one of a kind.  Another great meal (though I couldn't help feeling that my leftovers would really have been enjoyed by my little boy).
          On Thursday morning, we went to breakfast, then I raced off to attend a Stott Pilates class.  I had to walk through from one end of the resort almost to the other end, but it allowed me a chance to take in the different Towers/buildings along the way.  It was amazing how the different Towers on the properties had such different feels to them.  Beach Tower and Coral Tower (where we were staying) were very much geared toward families, so they were filled with kids, noise, loud music, and were more "worn", to put it nicely; they are also the original two buildings, maybe 15 years old, so they were beginning to show their age.  The Royal Towers, in the center of the resort, shown on all the commercials and advertisements, was definitely more grand, especially upon entering their lobby (and especially when entering through the casino, quite a contrast!).  There were huge corinthian columns thick as sequoia treetrunks rising 6 stories to the ceiling, fountains and a grand staircase in the center.  Below, there was a massive aquarium in the lower level, with floor to ceiling windows full of fish and "ruins".  There are 20+ floors in each of the two towers, with a bridged suite across the top ($25,000/night with a 4 night minimum!), adjoining the towers in mid-air.  It was an amazing view from the top floor (though we couldn't get close enough to the suite itself, try as we might).  Then, once you get onto the west side of Royal Towers, everything becomes calm and serene.  There are nicer accents like floor to ceiling seashell framed mirrors, more plants and exotic flowers everywhere.  The walkways and lobbies here are open-air, and it's more of the chic, adult set walking around, no screaming kids allowed at The Cove tower (never made it over to The Reef, but that's even more upscale).  There are speakers hidden in the bushes playing bird sounds and Enya-style music like you'd hear at a spa.  The Mandarin Spa is there, which explains the music, and the Fitness Center and Pilates Studio is right next door. 
          I'd been meaning to get back into doing Pilates for awhile now, thinking about it almost every week, in fact (I'd done some things at home all last summer, but that stopped after the surgery on my toe... that's a story for another time), so it was nice that there was a class available on the resort (for a nominal fee, of course - I thought she said $14 but I found at the end of class that she'd actually said $40).  There was only one other woman in the class, so it felt like a private session, plenty of attention from the instructor.  I'd never used the Stott machines before, but they were quite effective, as I think I still have aches and pains from using them right now; a good burn though.  It was a great class and my body felt fantastic afterward, better than the spa. 
         I met up with Doug at the waterpark again, secured our sunglasses this time around (good thing because he dunked us again).  More R&R by the pool, taught Doug how to play Rummy while we enjoyed a frozen rum drink.  Did some more exploring.  I spent some time on our balcony, watching the sharks, most of them still sleeping in huddles, almost in a cute, loving way, like they were a family, which made me miss my family.  Thankfully, it was soon time to call and talk to Quinn again.  Carly and David had taken him to McDonald's for lunch, then to play Mini-golf, some arcade games, and to meet David's parent's chickens (which he still talks about every day even now that we're home).  I felt at peace again, hearing his voice and knowing that he and his sisters were doing alright in my absence.  I still felt guilty though, wishing we weren't so far away, still not sure how I'd get through the next two days without them. 
           We had an early dinner reservation at Dune, which is at the One&Only Oceanclub resort (no, that's really what it's called).  It was another beautiful place, an old 1930's estate turned into a resort with two restaurants.  The Dune restaurant was through the main building, with grand staircases, dark mahogany floors, amazing columns at the front and back entrances.  We were all dressed up, and I felt like I was in a different time period (not to mention a much higher income bracket!) just walking into there.  The food at the restaurant was delicious, the view was spectacular and had it not been cloudy from the rainstorm, the sunset would have been amazing. 
           After dinner, we made it back to the resort in time for a 9:45 p.m. showing of "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" (and finally, something complimentary!).  I'd started reading the book about 3 years ago, but couldn't get through all the backstory of the investigative journalist, so, like so many things in my life, it has sat unfinished all this time.  Very disturbing movie though.  I suspected the killer early on, but it's so disturbing that messed up people like that exist in the world, especially as a parent, these things bother me even more.  (Still, now I have to read the other two books before the next movies come out!)
           It was finally Friday, one more day to get through.  I was almost starting to enjoy myself, and feeling a little sad that we'd soon be leaving this beautiful place, but afraid to admit it at the time or to anyone out loud.  I shouldn't enjoy myself, should I?  That would make me a bad mother, wouldn't it?  If only my babies were with me, I could have been truly happy, able to embrace the serenity around me, though I definitely would not have been able to relax or enjoy the time to the fullest. And the periods of serenity would be mingled with stress, frustration, craziness, but also the smiles and laughter and love - all the emotions that I encounter on a daily basis outside of paradise.  I was so looking forward to seeing my little ones, but I could already see that it was to be a bittersweet departure, and I couldn't tell how long I would be fighting this internal battle (maybe until they go to college or get married?).
           We went to our "usual" breakfast place that morning, and then hit The Cove Beach.  We found two of the last lounge chairs with the canopies over them, and set up shop.  We enjoyed the cool, crystal clear water, swam (then walked when we encountered weird mossy rocks all around us) to the other side of the beach and walked across the sandbar to another beach that literally looked out to open ocean.  I felt so small in that moment, but so in awe of the blueness of the sky, just a bit different than the blueness of the sea, and just the "unendingness" of it.  It was amazing.  Behind me, a DJ spun various hip hop beats, people screamed with glee from the water park, a 21st birthday was getting underway in a cabana nearby, but that all felt so small and trivial, yet so simple, but in a good way.  I took a deep breath in the warm, salty air, my hands on my hips.  I knew I had but one more day to just enjoy the brief freedom before truly embracing my role as their Mommy.  I suddenly felt I should stop beating myself up - here I was on vacation, at a resort where people come to have fun, a rare time with my husband and with myself.  I decided I had better just accept this brief respite and try to relax and enjoy the trip, to refuel and return to my babies stronger and more patient and feeling refreshed, having more energy and having found a new appreciation for all the special moments I have with them, even the stressful ones, my three little treasures.
             We spent more time at the water park and beach that day, before returning to Mesa Grill for our last dinner; just as delicious as the first time, also prepared by the Flay look-alike.  Afterward, we saw "Gym Class Heroes" in concert (complimentary!) right on the resort and hit the hotel bar in our lobby afterward, before returning to our room for some balcony time. 
             We listened to the distant surf, watched the sharks swim around in the pools below us (only a couple of them were asleep this time!).  I watched people on the dimly lit walkways, some walking through at a leisurely pace, laughing, stumbling, and some clearly having just arrived that day and feeling totally lost, just like we were our first night here.  We sat there, seasoned Atlantean's, beginning to feel that "almost time to leave" regret and sadness.  Sure, I was sad to say goodbye to Paradise Island and the brief freedom I'd had during our stay, but I was so so SO excited to see my babies - I'll take those three little bits of heaven over Paradise any day.  Next time, they're coming with us (and maybe a couple family members to help)!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Delusions, Part 1

    I don't know why I thought this would work - I had the thought that I could get some things done online while the babysitter/mothers helper was here, as long as I was in the same room with the girls...  What was I thinking?
    We've had a helper coming two days a week for a couple months now.  She is 11 years old and lives a few houses down the street, and the idea is that she can watch and play with the three little munchkins while I get some things done around the house.  But, so far, the girls will not stay with her...  She is able to keep Quinn occupied for the hour and a half that she's here, so at least that's one less child that I'm neglecting while I try to cook or clean or do anything else.  But, boy, would it be helpful if these two little girls would stay with her, even for a little while. 
     The second time she came, she was downstairs with all three kids, playing in the playroom.  I put the gate up at the steps and went upstairs, feeling this weight lifted from my shoulders, suddenly better able to breath and not feel so suffocated.  About 45 seconds later, both girls started freaking out at the bottom of the steps, hanging on the gate in hysterics; it was like little rats stuck in the belly of a sinking ship, desperate to get out (they're not little rats, they're so sweet, but still, they acted as if they were never going to see me again, like I'd left them in a torture chamber).  So, since I wasn't about to let an 11 year old deal with that stress that instantly makes ones blood boil, I gave in and brought them upstairs.  Didn't get a damn thing done that day... and it's been that way ever since.
      I had such high hopes for my 3 hours of productivity each week - I was going to paint various rooms of the house, clean the entire house once a week, maybe take a shower that didn't get cut short because of being needed elsewhere.  She's only 11, so I wouldn't ever leave the house, but there are so many projects I've been meaning to do since we moved here (August 2010), and my "To do" list is never ending; I just really thought I could feel like I'd made some progress. 
      But no, that hasn't happened yet.  The stranger anxiety should have passed by now (they know her from seeing her every week), the separation anxiety and clinginess is generally supposed to pass by 18 months (they're 19 months), but still no such luck. 
      Today, I really thought I could get this blog written in the hour and a half, but now I'm not even writing the one I had intended because I know my time is short.  As I write this, I am sitting cross-legged on the guest bed in the far side of the playroom (in our finished basement).  My laptop is on my lap, and all three kids and the helper are sitting on the same bed as I am, bouncing up and down, rolling around (well, the helpers not rolling, just the kids), Kelsey just climbed over my lap, and Sierra keeps taking my wireless mouse, and Quinn's trying to show me the boo boo he got three months ago when he stepped on a train (there's no mark anymore, no scar, he just likes showing me; I'm sure he just wants my attention)...  I feel so bad not playing with them when they clearly want my attention, and I'm just typing away, but they are supposed to be playing with Hannah, right?  I shouldn't have guilt over this, should I?
      I mean, really, I should have known I couldn't get a moments peace or get anything accomplished.  But I guess, I remain hopeful - but that's a good thing, right?  Hope...  I just have to keep trying, because I never know when it might finally work!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Random Mutterings that are My Days

    On many occasions, I've thought to myself that people would think I'm crazy if they could hear half the things that come out of my mouth on a daily basis.  Some things I say are mundane, routine instructions or reprimands; other things make me sound like my Mother (no offense, Mom!), or some, like I'm the guy from Clockwork Orange.  So, I wrote down some of the phrases I said the other day.
     It was last Thursday, the day started at 5:45 a.m., with Kelsey and Sierra up first, Quinn following around 7 (that's sleeping in for him!).  Quinn had school in the morning, and we also had a Parent-Teacher Conference, so afterward, I just played with the girls at home before heading back to pick Quinn up.  It was pouring down rain all that day, so in the afternoon, we played in the playroom and they "helped" me make dinner.  Here's a glimpse into my own wonderful little madness, always hectic, often sweet:


     Kelsey, did you actually just spit your apple into that toy?

     Hey, please don't put your finger in your diaper

     I'll be the mommy bear, you be the baby bear
     Take one more bite and you're done!

      Bless you.  Oh Sierra, you have boogies...

     Stop twirling your underpants and put your clothes on

     oh, jeez, you just stomped on my toe...

     Girls, get your toothbrushes out of the toilet...uh, garbage...gross

     Kelsey, leave your coat on

     Girls, stop ripping things down off the shelf!

     Quinn, we have to get your shoes on or we will be late for school

     Sierra know please eat your shoe, Sweetie
     Sierra, you didn't do a good job of holding your baby, now she's muddy, poor Baby

     Love you, Sweetie! have a good day, and be a good friend!

     He's mentioned two girls saying they "hate boys" and hate him...

     You're a bus you idiot

     "Ring around the rosie..."

     No, Honey, we don't rip something out of our sisters hands... Look at this book here and then you can trade

     Get off your sisters head

    Oh, Sierra, are you just dumping all the pieces out of the puzzle?

     Go on up, hold the railing;  No hitting, hitting hurts, You both have to hold the same side;  Keep going, leave the basket alone, go on up, watch your fingers, leave the cereal boxes alone...

     Time to go get Quinn - no please leave your shoes on, Sierra; Kelsey, your coat... Stop pulling those off the shelf... Stay here

      "Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac..."

       Quinn, did you meet caterpillars today?

       As soon as you finish your lunch, I will turn on Calliou...;  Good eating girls;  Sierra no spitting; 

      Kelsey, why are you crying?;

      Stop leaning back in yiur chair please; Quinn don't point that fork at her; please, don't rub eggs on the table; chew and swallow; Kelsey, you should not be turned around right now; too bad calliou is over, now you might miss Thomas too;

      Stop leaning back... Stop Kelsey's back there - time out!  You do not lean back on your chair because you can get hurt if you fall backwards, and you just pinned your sister too, time out!

      1...2...3... It's just the vacuum, Honey! 

     Quinn, please be gentle with her while I do this.  Quinn, don't push your sister.  Quinn...Stop...couch... You just knocked her off the couch!  Time Out!

     Time to go upstairs, Girls; hold the railing. 
     Girls, leave your brother alone.  I'm sorry, Honey, they just wanted to see your Valentines...

     ouch, watch the toe...again with the toe....

      Sleep well, Sierra.  Mommy loves you!  <Sigh>

      Sleep well, Kelsey.  Mommy loves you!

      "Strawberry shake, strawberry shake..."

      Winning is not everything, Honey

      Quinn, do not dip your butt in the toilet, that's gross, there are germies!

       Mommy's little Keltee; you're angry that you woke up, poor girlie

       Tickle Torture, tickle torture!  Kelsey needs to be tickled, too!

       Hi, Mommy's Beesa, such a good sleeper



        Cuddle bug Sierra

        Pretend the blankets are islands and try not to step on the floor

       Just Pounding on some chicken, what's up?

       So pa-ritty

       Hey, Mr. Berenstein Bears Forget Their Manners, what do you say?

       watch the toe...ugh, killing me...

       What kind of loonie doctor are you?  If you cut off my arm, I'll tickle you with the stump of my arm!

       Please don't make fingerprints with your barbecue sauce

       You said "BEAR".  So smart!

      "Figaro, figaro..."

       Honey, why are you yelling?

       Daddy's home, yay! 

      "...and Goodnight to the old lady whispering, Hush...."

      "...That's all there is, there isn't any more..."

      "...Round and round go the days and nights, Up and Down go the Sun, Moon, and Starlight..."

       Good night, sweet Sierra;  Good night, little Kelsey

       I Love you Quinn, Good night; YH, YS, and YI...

Mommy off duty


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Winning IS everything

     "Winning IS everything, Mommy!!", my 4-year old son growled at me tonight in a demonic voice before bursting into tears; he'd just lost a round of Curious George Memory game, and I tried to tell him something to the contrary. 

      We play games together everyday, when the babies are napping and again before his own bedtime - Snack Attack, Go Fish, Memory, Candy Land - sometimes more than 20 rounds of the same game in a row (I'm not even exaggerating).  Sometimes he even plays these games by himself, making up new rules, seeing how the game plays out each time.  He just loves to find out all the options of a game, see how many different directions it can go, how it is never ever the same, how every round presents new obstacles and opportunities.  Much like the world around him, but at least in these games, he can manipulate them to come out the way he wants them to.  Learning strategy is an important part of these games, and in the games that life throws at him, and I can see him making this connection everyday. 

       Whenever he's lost a round and has gotten upset I always tell him that doing something together is the most important part, that it's just nice to play the game together and have a good time, that winning is nice, but that it's not everything...  Lately, he's had enough of that song and dance, and gets vividly upset when I win.

        The other day, he lost a round of Go Fish, and proceeded to throw the cards at me because he was so angry.  Then, on the next round, I asked for the Sand Shark to match the one in my hand, he hesitated and wouldn't make eye contact, and answered "Nope, Go Fish".  I selected a new card, and on his next turn, he said "Do you have the Sand Shark?".  I explained that I knew he had it when I asked, which makes that cheating, which is not nice, and that I won't play anymore if he doesn't play fair.  Of course, I had to work hard at keeping a straight face, because this was clearly his first time cheating, but he wasn't smart enough yet to know how to not get caught.  It was a milestone, even if it wasn't one to be boasting about.

      Should I let him win so he doesn't get so upset?  Should I let him win so that he is happy and feels good about himself?  Or, should I let the game play out so we can learn how to handle those emotions, and feel even more genuinely good about a true win?  To me, winning is not everything.  To me, just being with him, spending time with him, watching him figure out how to strategize, seeing the wheels turning; these are the reasons I play.  And more importantly, just seeing him smile is what makes me feel like I've won.  That smile, that sweet little face....  I think I've answered my own question.