Acupuncture and Back Pain

As shocking as it may seem, being in a sort of smallish body and building two babies at once took a toll on what used to be a pretty strong structure. I’ve always thought I was tonka tough. But two little bouncy boy babies have brought me d-o-w-n. I’m finally admitting defeat, and tapping out.

Fortunately, tapping out in this case just means I’m going to try to take care of myself rather than ignore the constant thud of pain in my back. Way back, around two years ago I was told by the surgeon who was fixing my umbilical hernia (another twin-pregnancy smackdown) that I was going to have back problems. My thoughts were as follows:

  1. Clearly he has no idea who he’s talking to.
  2. Back pain is for the same type of people who actually get sick.
  3. If my back hurts there’s always Ibuprofen.

And while I’ve been laying on my back, on the floor, faced with the multitude of marbles and books that have collected under the couch and TV stand over the past two days I have finally had to admit: he could be right. My back not only hurts, but it is a problem. I did nothing weird to tweak it out, simply putting Smitty’s shoes on, bent over in half. While holding Sheppard. As I’ve done seven thousand times before. But that was that and now I cannot even really stand up straight without some real driving effort.

My name is Jodi, and I have a problem with my back. (I also was forced to admit I was sick not more than a few weeks back. Apparently this is a “learning” year for me. YAY!)

So. After admitting that my “ignore this” approach was going nowhere, and taking several fistfuls of ibuprofen which wasn’t even coming close to touching the pain, I made an appointment with an acupuncturist. I have more than a few friends whom I respect that have said this is something that has helped. And in my vulnerable state of only being able to lie down flat, I kind of admitted defeat.

So here’s the spoiler: I’m not sure if I’m into it or not. The session was great: the acupuncturist (is that what they’re called?) was empathetic and warm and attentive. I absolutely felt something during my time there – kind of like a river of pain moving from needle to needle, and then finally disappearing. I particularly enjoyed the sensation of a heat lamp on my back while lying there for around 30 minutes, alone, with needles everywhere, listening to a white noise machine giving me ocean waves simulation. I did love that. And walking home, I felt totally zen’d out. I felt better, for sure. But my caveman skeptical brain wonders if it’s just the actual laying down still for an hour that helped, the psychological boost of actually being proactive against this, time passing, or a combination of everything that was effective.

So I’m going to try more. They suggested that I combine some chiropractic care with acupuncture and I feel like I probably should. I’m trying to place my doubting brain aside and put a little bit of faith in people who spend their lives helping to fix up broken bodies like mine. I figure I’ll follow their plan for one month – maybe two acupuncture sessions and two chiropractic sessions, and if things go well I’ll continue. If they’re not, then I’ll go back to my ignoring this problem solution which is not actually helpful, but is totally free and takes up pretty much no time.

How to Survive a Throwing Up Toddler

Bath #2,456,354 during the sickness. Don't forget how good a bath feels when you're down!

Despite the wealth of writing material born from surviving not one, but two (!) vomiting toddlers at once, I’d prefer not to have to experience it again. However, I have also been baptized by fire (uh, and vomit), and feel like I’ve learned a trick or two. Here’s hoping someone finds this while combing the internet at 3 AM, as I was, trying to see if there is any good way to get through this experience:

Get A Bowl, Make it Be Friends With the Vomiter

I thought possibly Smitty + Shep were too young to understand that throwing up in a bowl is way more awesome than on the carpet, or couch. They totally got it! At age two, these guys learned to let me know when they were going to throw up, and took a great amount of pride in hitting the bowl.

It began with Shep. He threw up on the floor a few times before we got organized enough to read his signs. But sure enough, if he pointed to his mouth or tummy and said, “Ouch” we had T-minus 3 seconds to get it to him. But that was usually enough. And if he was given lots of praise and reassured while getting it in the bowl, it actually seemed less traumatic.

More importantly, Smith took note. After mocking his twin brother over and over, with pantomimes of throwing up complete with wrenching sounds, it was his turn. Smith had a different warning. If he coughed, that was it. One cough, maybe two and he was ready to roll. They each knew that the plastic bowl was the place to hit, and they each started asking for the bowl when they felt it coming on.

I believe that with more hard work and practice, these two toddlers will be ready to join a fraternity by age six due to their throwing up prowess alone. That’s probably not funny. However if you’re reading this at 3 AM your “what’s funny” bar may be a bit lower so I’m leaving it.

Buy A Snow Cone/Shave Ice Machine

Years ago Anson and Roan bought some cheap snow-cone machine that takes up way way way too much space in our Brooklyn apartment’s valuable cabinet real estate. But it has proven its worth time and again during illnesses. The worst feeling in the world is that one where you cannot keep even a drop of water down, but you are so wickedly thirsty that you drink anyway. As a mom, I know that I cannot let my toddler chug down anything at all, because it dehydrates him even more when he throws it back up. But it’s also incredibly hard to ignore his begging for water.

This machine is better than a blender, because it doesn’t crunch up the ice into chunks, it literally shaves it. So just a few slivers of shaved ice, slowly melting in their mouths seems to trick the body into hanging onto it, and quenches their thirst *just* enough to feel like they are not being tortured. Once they’ve held enough shaved ice pieces down over a few hours, you can even give them a treat and pour Pedialyte over it which helps them hydrate even more. And it resembles a really crappy tasting snow cone.

I can’t seem to find a link for the machine we have (we just bought it at a CVS), but literally it wasn’t more than $20. It is awesome for the sick kiddos. And sick husband. And sick me.

Remember How You Love to Cuddle? Now Is the Time.

Smith started throwing up at around 1 AM. After enduring what I believed was the worst of it, he finally fell asleep in my arms. I wanted to put him in his bed, but was worried that he would throw up in it (again). So Anson tucked me in on the couch, sitting up, with Smitty held upright against my chest. Rocking back and forth, I sang to him for about two hours, keeping a plastic bowl in one hand, and his head secure against my body in the other. For me, (and there’s probably some science to back this up but I just cannot be bothered to Google it) I always feel less queasy if I am upright. Laying down often times causes the world to spin. I assume it’s the same for my two-year-old.

So though I would love to be in bed, asleep, from the hours of 1 AM – 3 AM, it was worth it to me to hold my little pukey boy for a few hours, affording him the time to rest while being held. If nothing else, it was a stolen few hours of extra-sweet hugging time from a baby that desperately wanted and needed his mom. I’m so down with that.

Movies Were Made for Times Like These

I don’t think this even needs to be said, but just in case: during sick times, all TV and Movie and Screen rules are thrown out the window. Essentially, if anyone is sick and conscious, a movie is being played for them. Smitty + Shep love a loop of their three favorites (The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., and various Scooby Doo episodes), but whatever works. I read to them too, if they want, but mostly a little nest on the couch, a movie, and lots of reassurance is the order of the day. Don’t even try to be that guy who doesn’t let their kids watch TV. Don’t be that guy.

Medicine Works

I know we’re a nation of over-prescribed pill-poppers, but there are a few things that really do help. Our doctor prescribed an anti-nausea medication that worked really well with Shep and sort of well with Smitty. Smith had a hard time keeping anything at all down, including the medicine (Ondansetron) so we were caught in a little bit of a catch-22 with him. Still, once we got it in him, it helped. This is especially important to me with him because he just doesn’t have a ton of weight available to lose. That kid needs to keep down everything he can. If you have a toddler who is repeatedly throwing up, get on the phone with your pediatrician and have them call it in. It helps.

Get A Good Thermometer

This is sort of a note to myself. I don’t have a good thermometer, so I rely on my intuition. I can tell if my boys have a fever or not, but I’m not great at precisely nailing their temperature. I haven’t found a good answer for toddlers. They’re too old for rectal (and frankly I just cannot do that to them when they’re already feeling awful), but they cannot handle the under-the-tongue kind either.

I’m open to suggestions on this one – anyone have a good recommend? Every time I call the pediatrician, they ask what the boys’ temperature is, and I’m always, “….heh…well…probably over 101….” I’d like to have a better answer.

Most Importantly: Remember It Will All Be Over Soon

It’s so hard to not be able to fix it when our kids are struggling. It’s tempting to feel a little distraught and overreact to what is probably a very normal and non-threatening illness. These things usually work themselves out in less than 24 hours. Remember that. If the night is seeming long and your child is having a hard time, just remember that this is something that we all go through. It is also something that strangely, kids look back upon fondly. Roan still talks about nights I’ve stayed up with him, and the action of putting a blanket over him, even in times of perfect health, is reassuring to him. Kids love to be taken care of, especially when they really need it. Trust your instincts, take a rest when you need it, and buy some bleach for cleaning. As my friend Kara texted to me, “One of the nice things about bleach is that it burns right through your sense of smell and the stench of vomit is at bay for a while.”

She’s not wrong.

Any tips from you? I have a feeling I will be revisiting this over and over and over.

Raw Guys by Emmie

Emmie vs. Manhattan

You know what age I was at my dumbest and most awkward? Around fifteen. Maybe sixteen. Obsessed with wanting my hair to look like Martin Gore from Depeche Mode, and loading on more eyeliner than even Boy George would tolerate, my most creative feat was stacking Aqua Net, Extra Super Hold cans around the perimeter of my room. (Ozone layer, I am sorry.) My most productive moment was figuring out that the cloves in the spice cabinet could actually not be smoked. Or maybe they could but definitely not in the notebook paper I was using to roll them in.

I was brilliant like that.

So now I am a seasoned human being, looking at teenagers of today and cannot believe the amazing things they do. Overall, I’d say they’re much better at being in this world than I was. I am a huge fan of a teenager called Emmie. She was super special to me as a sweet infant, chubby-cheeked toddler, big kid, tween and now teen. Emmie is my niece.

Anson photographing Roan, Emmie + Boone at Wildwood

Without describing the multitude of ways this girl is on an elevated creative plane, I’m just going to share a book she gave to her cousins, Smitty + Shep for Christmas. Shep + Smith have been obsessed with “Raw Guys” since Halloween. It started with a Grim Reaper figure in our neighbor’s yard. They would go visit him every morning and yell “Rah!!” at him. Because obviously that’s the language the Grim Reaper would speak. The term “Raw Guy” evolved to describe every spooky figure, including zombies, skeletons and decapitated heads hanging from tree branches down our festive Halloween block. Instead of being frightened by these figures, the boys loved with a capital L-O-V-E-D them. They would beg to go see the Raw Guys. And then Halloween ended and there were no more.

Until…

A book was given to them by cousin Emmie. It looks like this:

"Raw Guys"

Raw Guy Bunny

Raw Guy Fawn

Raw Guy Ducklings

Raw Guy Raccoon (my favorite)

Raw Guy Hedgehog

Raw Guy Lamb

While I’ve done my best to photograph the pages, it doesn’t quite do the book justice. Each animal has been modified by Emmie with googly eyes, and fitted with painted-on extra jagged teeth, colorful Raw Guy approved colors in the fur, and trickles of blood here and there.

Smitty + Sheppy love their Raw Guy book. They love to make their scariest Raw Guy sounds, and pretend they are scared with big “Oh-No!” screams and giggles that build and build as the pages turn.

Beyond the obvious genius of creating this book for my boys, I am just amazed that a sixteen-year-old girl can even be bothered to hook her little cousins up with something so personal and sweet. Emmie rocks my world.

What’s more, Emmie has created a tumblr that is simple and brilliant. It is called “Just Some Doors”. With the tag line, “Really, that’s all it is.”

And really, that’s all it is. Emmie has photographed doors around Brooklyn and somehow it is compelling and beautiful enough to make me keep going back to see what she has seen. The way she has seen it. You should see it. Check it out here. (www.justsomedoors.tumblr.com)

So many things I love about this girl. But mostly it is this old and wise way she has of living in her own skin, proudly being exactly who she is. I’m not going to say it’s all rainbows and sunshine but the truth is, Emmie thrives in the rain. She is the kind of creature who can see all the beauty between the drops, and then translate that for the rest of us to see. At only sixteen, this girl is beautiful and smart, kind with a wicked sarcastic sense, and gifted beyond what’s fair.

Falling Dominoes

I’m guessing you’re exhausted.

After these holidays, most of us are reaching for that extra cuppa, or maybe just breathing a little deeper, trying to revive after all the excitement and fun of the holidays. If you’re like me, you’ve finished load 2,345,949 of laundry because everything in your home has been thrown up on. Several times. By several different people.

Welcome, 2013!

Approximately infinity popsicles were eaten in the past 2 days

So that’s how my family spent the break. Shepz began the throwing up festivities on the day after Christmas. I knew that obviously Smitty would follow suit, because they practically lick each others faces for twelve hours out of the day. Sure enough, at midnight the unmistakable sound of our child losing his everything woke Anson and me up.

Trying REALLY hard to play with zero energy

Trying REALLY hard to do homework, with zero energy

A few things about toddlers throwing up:

First off, it’s one of the rare things they do that no matter what, it’s not cute. It’s sad. Shep was absolutely horrified the first time he threw up. This is the twins’ first experience in that genre of being ill. So he was just totally surprised at the whole of it. Smith watched Shep a few times and would sort of laugh, then mimic in a way that felt more mocking than sympathetic, then got bored with it. Until it was his turn. At that point, he shared the horror that Shep had felt, probably to a greater extent. Turns out that Smitty is a heaver. From the moment he began until the moment I could get him back in bed, there was about three hours of sad sad sad heaving in about ten minute cycles. Poor kid. I ended up sitting with him on the couch, holding his head to my chest with one hand, with my other hand on a plastic bowl, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a loop because if I tried to stop he made the sign language symbol for “more” frantically. This lasted, as I mentioned, for around three hours. At one point I reminded myself that what was happening was actually one of the more delicious times a mother can have with her child. Not the vomiting part, but having her baby (ok, toddler) snuggled up on her like a little ball, with his hands wandering up and down her arm. The weight of a sleeping baby is exactly Heaven on a mother’s body. It feels warm and just perfectly heavy enough. I decided I could sit here with Smitty for hours and be happy. Even if it was occasionally broken up with the violent heaving.

Post-Christmas tree, Post-Christmas Smitty

Smith, doing his best to stay awake

I did begin to despair because there was nothing I could do to help him. I wanted to keep him upright, hoping that would be a small assist. I wanted him to be comfortable so we cuddled under the weight of our coziest blanket. I wanted him to know I wasn’t leaving so I kept singing, even after his breath slowed down to a rhythm that suggested he was asleep. But that’s all I could do. Smitty couldn’t keep down even a drop of water so when he begged for water I had to distract him. Not that easy at 2:30 in the morning.

Smitty, Bear, Shep

When I finally got him to bed, I collapsed in my bed and then realized that I was next. I was going down. There was no doubt that it was my turn and I spent the next three hours going from my bed to the bathroom with my own horrible episode of this illness. When the sun came up and Anson woke up I told him about the night, that I was sick as well, and then Roan tore out of his room, racing to the bathroom…and…well you can probably guess the rest.

He was in rough shape.

A precious few moments when things felt ok

Smith + Shep

For those of you keeping track, that is four out of five Nelson Calls taken out by a stomach bug in less than twenty-four hours. Ridiculous. Anson was the last man standing and had the weight of many sick and needy people on his shoulders for that day. I disappeared downstairs for a good chunk of the day, just hoping that all was well. A few times I would resurface and do what I could, but honestly, I just wasn’t able to do much. Roan and I cuddled together in his bed for a while and I slept while he texted with his cousins in Utah. When I finally was able to get my feet under me I bathed the twins and put them down to bed. When I came back upstairs to recap the day with Anson, I knew there was trouble. Roan was asleep on the couch and Anson was just staring at the ceiling, clutching his stomach and looked the color of grey that isn’t pretty.

I grabbed Roan, locked the front door, shut the house down and wished Anson good luck with the next twelve hours. We all knew what was coming. That is the earliest the house has ever closed down for the day. Roan and I went to bed at 8:00. Anson was up all night, throwing up all night.

The miracle we all needed happened – everyone slept in. By our house standards that means anything past 7:00 AM. Nobody woke up before 8:00. I felt well enough to take on the sick kiddo-s, and told Anson to stay in bed. Other than a night-time relapse by Smitty, we were all on the mend by nightfall that evening.

New Year's Eve. After 24 hours of feeling healthy we three stayed up to welcome 2013

As Anson and I finished tucking all the boys into their beds and headed upstairs a weird almost euphoric feeling hit me. We talked about the past 48 hours like a war, one we had come back from as victors. It was overwhelmingly strong, this feeling that we had gotten through something together. I realized I had been on constant alert, trying to figure out who needed me the most, without a break for the last two days. And that we were all ok, almost back to normal, was such a giant relief, it felt like a gift.

Having a sick child, or having sick children, is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. This episode was trivial, I know. No one was ever really in danger, we all knew it would pass. But the vulnerability of being so invested, so tightly wound up with a person’s well-being is brought to light when that person is suffering. But it also shines a light on how a partner eases the burden. It made me so grateful that I am with a person who is equally invested, who is ready to dig in as deep as possible to keep them safe and well.

Roan: January 1, 2013

Being sick as a family, going down one-by-one like dominoes? Not the family vacation I would have planned. But Roan remembering his mama sleeping next to him while we got well, Smitty and Shep possibly being able to recall the comfort they found being close to their Dad and Mom when they needed us, and me always remembering how my husband shines at the times I need him to? These are the bricks of our family, our home.

Something Good

I want to share the newsletter from Twiniversity, a nationwide community based here in NYC made up of (surprise!) families with twins. Or triplets. Or even more-lets. Natalie Diaz runs this show, and she is easily one of the most powerful and huge-hearted women I have ever met.

Nat became aware of a Brooklyn family who had recently moved to Connecticut, and subsequently lost their young son in the shootings last Friday. His twin sister survived. For those (like me) who cannot take one more sad story, this is born from sadness but more than that – shows that for every one violent act, there are thousands of people ready to counter it with love. That’s something to get us through the day, yeh?

I can’t believe it. We did it. We raised OVER $5,000 in less then 11 hours. We will have a tree and plaque in New York City’s Central Park to honor Noah Pozner, the twin boy who lost his life in the Newtown shootings.

We are still collecting funds. Future money (above the $5,000) will go directly into a trust that the family has set up for his surviving siblings, including his twin sister Arielle. If you would like to donate you can visit http://fundly.com/honor-noah-pozner

We are so pleased that Twiniversity could organize this. Now, there will be a tree in an iconic New York City landmark (where the family is from), visited by millions upon millions of people a year, in honor of this young soul. The shade that the tree provides will comfort many. I hope this thought brings peace to the family in a small way. The Central Park Conservancy has also agreed to allow us to choose a tree in the area where the Manhattan Twins Club has their annual picnic. This will give our local club a chance to watch it grow and be enjoyed by hundreds of sets of twins each year.

I also have some unexpected, but very welcome news. Jay Stallard, brother of Jodi Call (twin mom and blogger of Pistols and Popcorn: http://www.pistolsandpopcorn.com), has agreed to MATCH our tree fund. Jay thought it was important that another tree grow along side the one we are dedicating, so they can grow together.

Jay, our ENTIRE community thanks you. This is an outstanding gesture and our community is overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness.

We hope this news has brought a tiny glimmer of light to this very dark time. Thank you so much for your donations and support.

My sincere regards,
Natalie Diaz
Founder of Twiniversity and Mom to Anna and Johnny 8 years old.

Obviously a big thank you to Jay. He’s a person I have identified as a brother since early High School, as he spent a good amount at my home, sometimes living with us, sometimes just torturing me. But his generosity and kindness have floored me on this day. And that’s the kind of thing that I really, really needed to have happen at this time. I needed – and am guessing all of us need – something good.

Getting Loud

There’s a difference between being loud, and being noisy.

Without exception, I believe that everyone was hit, like a punch to the stomach, with the news on Friday. It is the kind of story that is too monstrous and dark to actually take in all at once. For a person to wage such violence on others is frightening. The truth that he waged it on children is even more black.

And so, after we hear this kind of story, and let it become part of the truth of our day, what then?

Most of us need to talk about it. After we have convinced our bodies to please breathe again, after we learn that this type of event is real, permanent, and unchangeable. We need to connect with our friends, and combine our outrage and sadness. We need to know that we are going to find a way to change the world, to save the world. We need to imagine that there is a cohesive universal thought happening that is preceding this change, one that locks down a much safer world for our children.

And then, the exclamation points, avatars, bar graphs and You Tube links start cascading in. As most of us log on to our Facebook or Twitter feed to get a sense of how our friends are feeling, the conversations change from expressing sadness and vulnerability to politicking and screaming at each other. It’s never helpful.

Have you, or anyone you know, ever changed their stance on a very hot-button issue because they saw a bar graph?

Have you, or anyone you know, ever clicked on a You Tube link posted on your timeline by someone who is being borderline crazy in their stance on a hot-button issue?

Have you, or anyone you know, ever read the entire comment from someone yelling at you when it is paragraph after paragraph of statistics?

There is a difference between being loud, and being noisy.

I am all for getting loud. There are things that we need to change. They’ll change when we get a collective, strong sound going, something loud, that is informed, measured, articulate and reasonable. I will absolutely be part of that change. What I will not do is be noisy. I will not add to the noise by being hateful towards those whose ideas are different than mine. I will not add to the noise by pretending I have answers when in fact I am in the infancy of searching for them. I will listen to anyone who speaks with sanity, and I will stop listening when the tone becomes antagonistic.

I will not click on your You Tube link because there is a yin for every yang in that medium and it ends up being all noise.

Peace.

I grew up in a house full of guns. I have been attacked by a person who was mentally ill. From my experiences, one was scary, while the other was not. However, had I grown up in a house full of guns with a person who was mentally ill, my experience would likely be different. This doesn’t mean that I am informed on what policies would serve mankind best going forward. But it does influence the way that I live my life, and how I build my home.

What I will protect.

For now, I recognize that my most potent power resides in how I keep my home. My power is held in my ability to protect my boys in their home. While the rest of the world is unpredictable, and I cannot control what they hear or what they are exposed to, I will prepare them by building their strengths. But home will be a place where the news does not exist. For now, while they are children, I will protect them from the events in this world, and this will be their bubble. It is where I have the power to keep things quiet. Make no mistake, this home is loud (just ask our neighbors). But the noise will be locked out. That is my power.

Strong.

But as they get older I will need to expand my reach, and the news on Friday made me wake up to that truth. I need to get loud in my efforts to make the world at least a little safer for my three sons. My task now is finding the way to do that. Separating what is loud and what is noise will be my approach. I would love to hear what yours will be.

Secrets About Being a Mother

Smitty, Me, Sheppy, Roan, Green Balloon

Maybe you are a dude, a dad. Or possibly a lady wondering if this mothering thing is up your alley. Perhaps you are a mother, trying to figure out if your normal is actually normal, or if you should start pretending a little harder. I’m writing for you, all of you. But be warned: I’m on day eight of an eleven day stretch of single-parenting this ship. Not only that, but two yes two of my three man-children are down with fevers. I’m Xena Warrior Princessing this family currently and am under a little distress.

What better time to break down what it is to be a mother? The stuff you don’t know. Start here:

  • Mothers are kind of mean. Mostly to ourselves.

Not including those jealous meanies in the playground who suck their teeth at how we encourage our little ones to successfully climb up the slide because really we are much too smart to even think we can win that battle of “stairs only” when obviously the slide is meant to be climbed, not including those meanies – we beat ourselves up in the most cutting of ways.

I’ve yet to meet a mother who does not mentally inventory her failures at the end of the day. We all process them differently. Sometimes it shows up as frustration towards the child, sometimes it comes out as anger towards a spouse, and sometimes it just manifests with a huffy breath and backwards fall onto a couch. But we all feel the potency of each disagreement, each mishandled and overreacted bump with our children x1000 at the end of the day. I usually am able to desperately reach for a few wins – maybe I made Smitty laugh more than usual, or maybe Sheppy shared with a stranger. Maybe Roan offered up a sliver of his day that was important to him. Those are wins. I try to bump out all the rain of messy things with those. But as a mother, we hold the responsibility of all wrong things on our shoulders. We teeter between feeling absolutely overwhelmed and wondering if we’re not quite grateful enough for what we have.

This is why we need time alone. Holding the weight of two or three or four or five people’s bad experiences on our shoulders gets heavy. And yeh, we signed up for this. And no, there’s not a lot you can do to help. Just recognize it, appreciate it, and give us a massage gift certificate. That’ll do.

A mother would consider her child eating raspberries in this fashion both gifted, and talented.

  • Mothers are ready to fix it.

Once a child is introduced into a persons life, the world becomes crazy large. Nothing is actually about the mom anymore. Sounds really gross and scary but it’s actually beautiful. A primal switch is flipped, and the center of the universe is no longer the same. Relationships are redefined and love becomes a huge tangible thing, and not an abstract weird smokey ghost.

Part of our power comes from knowing that we have this magical reserve. For instance, I do know that even if I am tired (I am), even if I am grumpy (I am), even if I’ve not had a break from my kids in eight days (I haven’t), I would be happy to have the chance to help anyone I love. And guess what? Mothers love a lot of people.

Ok, even I think I’m getting a little glittery here – what with the love and magic and whatever. And it’s not all sunshine and flower garlands. But the truth is I think my ability to actually love changed once I became a mom. It probably has something to do with that whole “I’m not the center of my world” thing. Getting out of the middle puts me in orbit with everyone else. It’s easier to connect there. There are an infinite amount of ways to get into that orbit, probably. But for me it took the massive change of having a child.

Obviously a version of the gifted and talented school of berry-eating.

  • Moms can smell their children’s fevers.

I’m not actually sure about this one. But I think it’s true for me. There’s probably a smart-guy science-y explanation for this but I can actually smell a change in my children before they get sick. Or right when they do. Pretty cool party trick, right? With Roan, I can actually feel it in his hands – when I hold his hand it feels different, and then BLAMM-O! Two hours later a fever breaks onto the scene.

You don’t have to believe me but it’s true.

And lest I make all the people who are not mothers mad by this post on magical motherhood, let me say that I think the mothering kind of love comes from a certain place in our heart. It’s quite close to the place where we love our animals, and almost shares a chamber with the place where we love the rest of our family. It also harbors a mean and malicious protective sniper that sometimes makes us behave in pretty crazy ways. All of us. Sometimes. And I’m sorry for that. On behalf of mothers everywhere, I’m sorry for when we believe you want to see another picture, watch another video, or hear another story about our precious. I’m also sorry for when we feel entitled to expect you to put our children’s needs/wants/desires in a place of special importance when actually, they are not your priority.

Mothers can be overbearing beasts, it’s true.

And while having a child can sometimes put things in perspective, if you’re a big jerk before you have a kid chances are you’ll be a big jerk after you have a kid right? But I have seen people change into who they really probably were their whole lives – just through the magic of  becoming a mother.

Ok ok ok – or becoming a father. Everything I wrote is for you too, ok?

  • Mothers really want everyone to be happy.

See above.

Being Married to My Husband Is….

Roan + Anson

There are a lot of things I’m lucky to have. Like a parent-teacher conference where I get to hear that Roan has been shining his Roan light bright and warm for others to bask in. He’s a good kid, that dude. Maybe his innate zen goodness has something to do with me and (more likely) maybe it has nothing to do with me. But I’m the one who gets to hear about it, so I soak it up. I’m really grateful for the kid he is.

I’m thankful for the way Smitty was shouting, “Hello, Bwook-Ah-Lee-iinnn” (Brooklyn) from the swings yesterday or how Sheppy tackled Smith with hugs and kisses today to help erase his tantruming brother’s tears. I get to watch my children have these moments, not all of them sweetness and rainbows but these moments – that show me who they are. And lucky me, all signs point to them being pretty decent humans. I’m grateful I get to be around for those moments.

Anson + Shep

Not to diminish my love for these three sons, but my highest point of gratitude is pointed in the direction of the guy I married. That guy. I’m just lucky that he’s stuck around as long as he has, because truthfully I’m not sure many people would find being married to me all that amusing. To wit: Anson was lucky enough to be on the end of this winning statement over the weekend, from your humble author:

I wish I was married to someone…more like…ME! I wish I could be married to myself!

Awesome, right? You’re probably now thinking about how if only you could be married to a woman who wanted to be married to herself all else would melt away like so much butter on pancakes. I know. I’m awesome.

And let me be clear when I admit that I’m ridiculous. Just so we’re clear.

Sheppard, Smith + Anson

Sheppard, Smith + Anson

You see, I was “sleeping in”. Which basically means that I stay in bed for about an extra 1/2 hour to 45 minutes while Anson takes the boy-army upstairs and starts the day. It’s a weekend tradition, one I feel like I earn by being Captain Amazing during the weekday mornings. Seriously. You should see what I can do in a 20 minute school-morning crunch even before coffee cup number one. Captain. Freaking. Amazing.

So it goes – I lay around in bed and hear screaming, giggling, wrestling, and singing going on above me. Usually I try to go back to sleep but this weekend I wanted to join in. I wanted to go up stairs and sit on the couch and watch the crazy boy show unfold in front of my sleepy eyes. But as soon as I arrived on the scene, all the voices started at once. “I want!” “Can we…?” “Up please!” “Mamamamamamamama….mom….Balla balla balla MOM!”

And I’m back at work, really. This is what I do and not what I wanted at all. Anson quickly disappeared, chagrined by the bacon, pancake and orange juice bomb that had gone off in the kitchen and furiously started cleaning. All the boys started climbing on me and nobody had offered her majesty a coffee yet.

This was not what I came up here for. I wanted to watch them like they were a TV show, not be part of the action. Couldn’t that just be what happened?? Why oh why were all these boys expecting me to act like their mother when I just wanted to be more like…a guest?

I stomped into the kitchen and gruffly informed Anson that I did not want to be in charge right now thank you, and that I am having one particular wish right now, that is, to be married to myself. Because myself would have had the boys fed, dressed, probably on their way out the door to the park and definitely not naked with pancakes stuck literally to both their face and buttock cheeks.

Anson + Smith. And some yogurt drink.

I reiterated that I’d like very much to have myself as a wife. Because then I could kick back and let myself do all the work because myself is the one who pretty much does it all.

Although. If I spoke to myself like that, myself would tell myself to go do something with myself that’s probably not at all possible. But Anson just sort of listened, handed me a cup of coffee, and backed slowly out of the kitchen. Smart dude.

After the circus left the house for the park, I wound down a bit and considered the morning. Then some things occurred to me. Anson works all week, then on the weekends glues himself to his kids and furiously tries to do small kind things for me. If I (seriously, accidentally) topple a full coffee cup on the floor, he pushes me out of the way to clean it. If I’m seeming overwhelmed he swoops in and tries to help. If a headache is hinted at, his hands find their way to my neck not to throttle me for being so grumpy but to tease the pain out of my shoulders. He doesn’t fire back at my nonsense, and usually lets me cross all sorts of stupid lines before he retreats and gives me the space I need to consider how I’m using my words.

In the quiet of a mostly destroyed house smelling of bacon and pancakes, I realized that there are probably some awesome things about being married to me. But there are some other things that most people would probably not be able to bear, yet Anson does. He continues to show up every day, 100% for his kids, and even more importantly, works really hard to let me know he’d rather be nowhere else. He works really hard to let me know he’d rather be with no one else. And he works really hard to not laugh at me when I proclaim ridiculous things about the joys of being married to myself.

For the record, I would probably not even make it to a second date with myself so there’s that.

Roan tracing Anson's face on the window

This year, all my gratitude for all the goodness in my life goes to Anson Call. This man I married twelve years ago and stays with me every day. He’s a better person than I deserve to have, and exactly as good of a person as my sons deserve to call Dad. I’m so so so thankful that he’s with me.

Photographing Strangers: Ok or Not?

Photographing strangers and posting the pictures to a public forum is creepy. Even if the picture is beautifully framed, wonderfully lit, and visually stimulating, unless the person has agreed to be photographed you’re crossing a line. Instagram has made this type of photography wildly popular and more accepted than ever. Many of my closest friends and relatives do this. Subway pictures of strangers, people waiting for a train, people crossing a street, eating food – I get it. The landscape of NYC littered with its citizens makes for compelling photographs. This is the sum + substance of why people watching here is so satisfying. But I don’t agree with the notion that just because it’s possible and popular, it’s ok to voyeuristically post pictures of strangers.

If I caught a stranger taking a picture of me, for whatever noble and artistic reason, it would bug me. Particularly if they were being sneaky about it. More so if they were taking a picture of any of my children. Honestly, that would freak me out. It’s just invasive, and that is the truth.

I think there are some exceptions. Vague pictures, not specifically showing faces but instead more of a landscape. Performers, who presumably are putting themselves out into the world to be watched. Maybe even police officers or other public figures on duty. Anyone who is not having a private moment. But the rest of us are just going from A to B, without trying to be on the stage of social media, maybe not feeling our best or looking our best or maybe we’re going through something or possibly feeling vulnerable or wearing something we thought looked great but actually looks awful.

But we have not agreed to be part of your artistic expression. By being in public, is it just implied that we consent? I don’t think so.

I’m seriously kind of shocked by how many people take and publicly post pictures of others. When did this become ok? How does it seem like a valid form of art? And if they have to do it covertly, doesn’t that just sort of negate any argument that it’s fine? In my experience, anything a person has to hide is usually kind of on dodgy ground.

I’d love to hear how others feel about this – particularly people who do it. Truthfully, I’ve done it before. I’ve seen a funny situation, photographed it, then posted it. But after seeing it done more and more, with people dancing a little too close to the line of invasive disregard, I’ve had to put the kibosh on my own involvement. It could be that I’m being ridiculous, though. What do you think?

Gratitude. Helping. Safety.

Hang on child

After one surprise week off from school, Roan is back learning and playing with his friends. Shep + Smitty are taking a nap wrapped up in their favorite blankets with their favorite stuffed animals standing guard. I’m sitting in my super warm home, steam making my radiator squeak with winter noises, and have to squint from the amazing sunlight pouring through my back windows. There is a computer in my lap, which is plugged into a wall that makes it turn on. The water in my sink pours both hot and cold. The clothes in my closet are mostly clean, and all the books and toys in the boys’ rooms are just sitting around in their perfect condition, save a few pages glued together with grape jelly. I know what we’re having for dinner tonight, and that it’s sitting in my kitchen being kept at the correct temperature in my refrigerator until it’s ready to be cooked later tonight, on our stove, which also works.

Bubbles

My family will sit at our own table, together in our own space. Safe. And later the boys will take baths, with an unending supply of warm soapy yummy-smelling water, bubbles and toys surrounding them. They have their choices of pajamas, with no shortage of dinosaur themes, superhero themes, color block patterns, or simple solids. Really, whatever floats their boat at the time, they can have. Books will be read, TV shows will be watched, and at the end of the day we will all sink into pillows that are ours, fluffed exactly as we like them and with the doors locked and cozy down comforters pulled over our ears; this family will all dream of flying or popcorn or bunnies or toys being taken away. None of us need to worry. Our needs are met.

Warmth

It has been made crystal clear to me this past week that each of these things – the thousands of things everyday that are normal to us, that we think we deserve or have rights to – can just simply be taken away. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hard worker, honest, mean, nice, healthy or a glutton. They can disappear, and then what?

I have been inspired by the amazing community of Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy. Every day there has been drive after drive to collect donations or find labor to help all the people who have lost their homes and businesses. I have to admit that I have felt absolutely overwhelmed, and then helpless. I have things to give, I have time to help, I have a few dollars to donate. But I’ve not really known where to go. Each place – the Red Hook Initiative, the Red Cross, the church on the corner, or the non-profit across the street – they all seem like they need help. I wonder if other people feel like this – that there’s just too much need, and what little I have to give isn’t going to help enough.

Love

I suppose there are different styles of giving, and of being able to help. I have been in awe of my two friends,  Jennifer Perillo and Ilana Levine who seem like they are built for this type of circumstance. (Click here for an excellent entry by Jennifer detailing ways to help – from anywhere.) They have organized coat, blanket and food drives. They have organized  lists of places to help. They seem constant in their efforts. If I were to name everyone I’ve seen who has just jumped in – this would be an entry of hundreds of names. My friends and neighbors are truly inspirational.

I am fortunate though, that an email found its way to me, detailing the needs of one family. And that is how I am built to help. With just a few texts my closest friends of course came through and then some. We’ve been able to pull together enough clothes, shoes, books, toys and legos (of course!) for this family to get through the winter at least. Now, if only one of us could pull a new apartment out of the air, we’d feel totally successful. Still, sometimes good enough has to be good enough.

I am hugely grateful for the electricity that runs through my home, uninterrupted. I am grateful for the water and warmth, and the safety that the four walls and roof of our Brooklyn home have provided for us. I do wish I could share more of it. I wish I could take this sense of safety and warmth, this comfort and wrap it up and hand it out. The sadness I feel for my neighbors who are suffering, for people I don’t know who are suffering – it probably doesn’t help anyone. But I feel it, and hang on just a little tighter to my boys when I hug them goodnight. These basic things – health, beds, blankets, safety, home – these are truly the most luxurious things we can have in life. All the other bells and whistles just seem to be of no consequence at all.