Aug 7, 2015

For My Babies, On Your 18th Birthday.................

Today my Babies turn 18.  Wow.  That went quick.  If I had a dime for every time someone told me that when I was drowning in children, and up every hour of the night, I could afford car insurance for them.  True story.  I didn't believe it then, but I'm here to testify: it did.  It did go fast.  And that's not all.......I'm going to miss it.  I have been missing it for several years, to tell the truth.  They are pretty self sufficient these days.

Photo by Patsy Holt.  Concept also by Patsy Holt.  Isn't she a genius?

The day they were born was a disaster in every sense of the word.  I was bleeding out, internally, and so were my babies.  They were afraid to put me out, and made me sign a waiver saying I understood that I might die if they just knocked me out.  This struck me as funny, even then.  I *was* dying.  I signed the paper and enjoyed one last laugh.  Or so I thought.  I'd love to see the signature I put on that release.

When I woke up, some woman, who I could not really see because I didn't have my contacts in, talked for a long time.  I think she was telling me that my babies had both been born legally dead and all the complications we were now facing.......  I processed none of this.

When she was done I had two questions: Where are my babies?  What did I have?

I could tell by her expression (what I could see of it) that I had not passed some sort of test.  I was in no mood to care.  Near death experiences embolden you to stick with first things first, I guess.  They showed me Polaroids of my babies, weighing 7.3 and 6.4 but too white, with blue lips and lifeless looking.  This did not phase me a bit, but I was beginning to catch on.  I insisted on being wheeled through the NICU on a gurney to see them.  They lived, but no one knew how long they would hang on or what problems may have to be dealt with in the future.  Added to this was the fact that my twins were across the room from each other.  This was unacceptable, and I wondered what kind of people were in charge of taking care of not only my babies, but any babies at all!  I got that changed in a hurry, let me tell you.  Never be afraid to speak up, especially in a hospital.  They get paid for a quiet environment and will work to maintain one.  What they were thinking is beyond me.  That's all I have to say about that.
This was a turning point in my life.  I did not know what to even pray for.  In the end I prayed for the strength and wisdom to survive this.  That prayer has been answered faithfully every day since.  Thy Will Be Done is easy to say, much harder to accept.  Blind faith is something no one should be without, and it will come to you when you need it most.  Just believe.

Twins should be kept together at all times.  They don't know anything else.  And if some hospital thinks anything different?  Stand your ground and insist.  Embrace your power.  You will win.
When you find out you are going to have twins, it can be a big shock.  Take heart.  That shock is just training, and you are going to grow to the point where you are pretty much un-shockable.  Think of it as training for special ops.  You have started a roller coaster ride and you are going on it.  Yelling that you did not know it was a roller coaster ride will only make it seem longer and annoy the other passengers.  Sit down, strap yourself in, and enjoy it.  You'll thank me for this advice some day.

New roles for everybody!  One of you is still the oldest, but one of you is no longer the youngest.  It's okay, Beautiful Redhead, you are still the only girl.  You are going to enjoy that, eventually.

So, we had to hang around the hospital for 3 weeks, with an 8 year old boy and a 5 year old girl.  We ate lots of popsicles!  And the babies lived!  My kids got a lot of attention, albeit in hospital lounges and cafeterias.  We tried not to contemplate baby funerals, but I could see that very question circling in their eyes.  Whatever tomorrow brought would be worried about tomorrow, and our days were spent making the most of every moment we had together.  I have often wondered how much that time affected my older kids and hope that it affected them in the most positive way possible.  Real life can be rough or smooth, but can only be gotten through one day at a time.

Notice how discreetly nursing can be done?  No need to whip out your boobs, ladies.  Of course you can, but I would just never do that.  It's just not how I roll.
That 8 year old boy gained so much self confidence that I was astounded, eventually growing up to be my Rock Star.  The 5 year old girl had a bit more of a transition, giving up her "baby of the family" status, but quickly got on board when she realized she would get to be in charge of something.  Finally!  This seemed to be an answer to her prayers, but I always knew she would be a Beautiful Redhead, and indeed she is, able to hear screaming babies without blinking an eye.  It was always hard to upset her, but screaming babies just made her more mellow.  She has always been pure joy.

"What time is it? " 6.  "6 in the morning or 6 in the evening?"  What difference does that make?

Our days changed.  The pace slowed down but I was always up, it seemed.  I felt a lot of the time that I should be doing other things.  My "to-do" list in my head was always there, mocking me, and getting longer.  I learned to let a lot of stuff go.  Small stuff, mostly, at first.  For instance, I never really cared about dust, but I did care about other people seeing mine.  Stuff like that went first.  Eventually things like "having a nice car" and plucking my own eyebrows went, too.  Left somewhere along the roadside like so many disposable diapers.  I am learning to pick some of them back up, but only occasionally.  Once you make the change, you rarely go back.  I don't even want to go back there.  It just doesn't matter anymore to me now.
By the end almost everything was gone except "keep kids alive" and "pay bills" .  I do not regret this part at all.

"Yeah, they're twins.  Yeah, they're cute."
Now my days were largely spent with making sure everyone being dressed, even if only in pajamas.  In fact, "pajama days" became a big thing at my house.  They still are my children's favorite days and I only hope that they never realize they were born out of pure exhaustion.  At first I felt kind of bad about them, but I grew to be proud of them.  Many days were spent just tending to the basics of life, and "outfits that fit, or even make sense", were not on my list of the basics of life.  I have no regrets in this area either.

They sucked the same two fingers, but on opposite hands.  I worried needlessly about buck teeth.

We had more important things to worry about.  Like bears.  Each twin had a bear, and the bears could not be lost, even for a moment.  Our kingdom could not run without the bears.  We learned to treasure sleeping babies on our chests.  Or anywhere, really.  Sleeping babies.......mmmmmmmm.  Is there anything better?  No one could tell them apart but us, and everyone always wanted to know if they were identical.  We did not know.  Due to the emergency birth it was impossible to tell and we thought it was easy to tell them apart even though no one else ever could.  And what difference did that make anyway?  Was it needed for our survival that day?  Nope.  We still do not know, or care, or see what difference it makes.  We can still tell them apart and few others ever can.  That's our life.  One thing I do find hilarious is that now the Rock Star's Wife, our own Rockette, is often confused when she sees them out of the corner of her eye.  She can't tell if it's her husband or one of the twins.  Never fear Rockette, they will all do your bidding.  Just be careful who you grab to kiss.  Or not.  It will make for interesting stories in later years.  hahaha

We got very creative keeping the babies safe.  I blocked off the stairs with baby gates, and the babies promptly learned to crawl through the banisters.  I blocked off the banisters by staple-gunning shower liners from the bottom of the stair treads to the top of the bannister.  It looked a little strange and did not go with my decoration "theme".  But I let that go, too.  Again, no regrets.  In fact, I laugh to think that I ever had a decoration "theme" to begin with.  Let Martha Stewart reign in that land.  It seems to make her happy and she can have it!

They eventually slid down the stairs like otters; I thought would kill them.  Still they lived, without any broken ribs.
There were days when I fished half eaten bugs out of baby's mouths, despaired that they would die of poisoning, and almost set the house on fire cleaning out the wood stove because I sucked the ashes up with the vacuum cleaner and didn't have time to change the bag, or realize that there were burning ashes inside it.

 That was only 1 day.

Once I almost left the house without a baby because it was asleep and everybody forgot about him.  But I did learn to hunt down bats, and kill them without hesitation just because they might scare my kids.  I realized that I had spent a lot of my previous life concerned with things that did not matter a bit in the grand scheme of things.

So I started just concentrating on the grand scheme.  All the little stuff worked it's way off my list, plus I began to understand why men got into hunting.  There is definitely a thrill to that chase, especially when you are chasing a bat in your house, and killing it makes you feel very powerful indeed.  All in all, I'm for it and think it holds important lessons you may not understand until a time in the future, but you'll be glad you learned them then.  Trust me on this.

People were always saying "I don't know how you do it!" like I was special.  I was not.  I was a mother, and mother's just do it.  They have no choice, which probably makes it look even more special, but from the inside they are just marking things off their "to-do" list.  There list may be different from yours.  Their list contains such items as "Check babies mouths for 1/2 eaten insects" and "count kids in car before you leave the house", or even "look at self in mirror before you leave the house".  Still, it's just a list and it must be conquered.  I'm not even going to mention how many items on your list will have something to do with poop.  You'll figure it out when it's time.  You will learn many multitudes of things to do with digestion in all it's glorious phases and have to remind yourself not to talk that way at the table.

Happy Birthday Bro.  Let's have a cake fight.
Time passed.  Before long the twins were throwing their food on the floor like champs and the new carpeting had a new pattern from juice stains spilled, nay, sprinkled from tippy cups.  I just rearranged the furniture until I realized it would be better to have areas of concentrated stains and areas of just clean carpet. This led to odd furniture arrangements that I totally lied about and blamed on the kids making forts, with a straight face . I was not questioned further and I sold that house, wished the new owners good luck with stain removal, and a business card from a reliable source for installation and purchase of new carpet.

I didn't care about carpet.  My babies were growing, laughing, crawling, and smart!  Too smart, on most days, but that was a blessing!  I still didn't know what would happen in the future but I had learned to take one day at a time, and to roll with the punches.

Some baby rabbits, about to be loved to death.  Literally.  RIP baby rabbits.
I found two babies not to be much more trouble or time consuming than one.  It is hard not to compare them, but I got better at it.  The way they worked together was amazing to me, with one twin being more dominant and figuring things out, then somehow communicating this to the other twin and getting them to do it.  Classic distraction.  I think I might have learned it from them, and they were pro's at it by the age of 2.

I learned to fear silence, in the few moments I tore my attention away to, say, put away the clean dishes.  I should have let the dishes go.  During one particular silence I went to check on the twins playing outside, in a fenced yard.  I was sure they were fine but I couldn't see them, so I had to check.  This time I was greeted by them playing in the mud.  I didn't even sweat it.

We're playing in the mud, Mom!!  I can see that!  Indeed you are!
I did eventually take off the clothes they were wearing so I could hose them off and during that time, they just kept playing.  From these boys I learned to be calm and carry on, and not blink an eye when someone flew past without a stitch of clothes on.

Alrighty, then, just give me your clothes and carry on, my sons!

It was easy, considering this was just mud.  Mud is clean compared to the first time this had happened to me. That time I had found the them putting things in the stool and then fishing them out and eating them.  Is that the most disgusting thing?  It still has top honors in my life.  Hopefully it will keep it's place of honor because if there is something worse than that, I don't want to know what it might be.

Yep.  They did that.  And they lived.  The blue stuff under the one on the right?  No clue at all.
Our days were ruled by these twins.  But I was not the only one they ruled.  Oh no, they ruled us ALL.  I had a lot of good help, all along the way.  People who loved me, and those babies, and took time to get to know the differences between them.  People who gave their attention and help, and became a part of our lives without even thinking it over.  We had so much fun, even on the bad days.
We had so many catastrophes that my kids stopped getting caught up in the catastrophes and had contests for solutions instead.  To this day they will remain calm when everyone else is obsessing over details that seldom matter.  Growing up in a large family is a gift that is self-sustaining.  I always wanted 3 or 4 kids, but I had decided one boy and one girl was perfect.  I am so glad that I got to have 4, now.   I would have had 10 more if I could have. That might be a lie, but metaphorically speaking, it is the truth. I took the economical route and just started raising other people's when I got the chance.  It has worked out very well.

This face ruled all our lives for several years.  My Youngest Baby.  He made us dance like monkeys.  .....and we danced, like a wave on the ocean......we danced and danced and danced.
The Youngest Baby, the one who had more trouble getting started, turned out to have a will that simply would not be denied.  You could not get anything past this kid.  He was born "street smart", and I feared he was smarter than me.  Years of buying 2 exactly alike things only to have him decide one was better, and his brother, the Oldest Baby, buying into this, this.............ILLUSION.  It drove me nuts!   But look at that face!  These days I can almost cry when I remember what it was like to scoop him us and kiss his neck and have him tell me his outrageous stories that were total lies.  I would do it all again.  He used to say, every night, "love ya ta-marra, mom".  It's one of my most treasured memories.  I'll always love you tomorrow, too, babe.

And this face, mmmmmm.  He never made us dance.  He was our little snuggler, and would sit with us for hours.  He is also the one we had to drag through KCI airport on top of his winter coat at 2 am because we couldn't get him to wake up.  We made it work, fearful of being turned in for neglect.
The Oldest Baby, on the other hand, was easy going and calm.  Gullible, too, sadly.....when it came to his brother.  It took me years to show him that he could have another toy, or another color of vitamin, and live a happy life.  He finally caught on but until then he was dancing right along with the rest of us.  I found it exhausting but also very funny and it kept me thin.  He had a speech impediment as a small child, and once toddled up to me with his bear and his blanky and I lay on the couch, threw back my covers and announced "I'm gonna FWEEP with my MOMMY", sending us all into peals of laughter and then wanting to know what was so funny.  You can still sleep with me anytime, kid, even though it makes you smile uncomfortably to hear me say that now.  Muahahahahahahahaha.  I remember the days when you used to beg to sleep with me every night!  The day he looked at his brother and said, in a tired tone "Oh, please, Airnon......" (that was how he pronounced "Aaron" for several years)  I knew life was going to be easier from that point on.  He was no longer buying into the illusion.

Look at how the tree is decorated.  hahaha
We had our challenges, but we just met them.  Notice there are no decorations on the bottom half of the Christmas tree in the picture above?  This was progress!  The year before we put the tree inside the play pen.  I don't know if they even still make play pens, but their uses were legion.

They made us laugh every single day.  Some times it was hard to explain why we were laughing and some times it wasn't.
I'm sorry, OK boys?  But I won't say which one this is, and who can ever resist a baby butt?
Potty training, which was never my strong suite, took 4 years with the twins.  Because they were boys?  Because I suck at potty training?  I don't know, I guess it was just my karma or something, but I paid the dues.  I PAID THEM IN BLOOD.  I was so proud when I got them to pee outside at 2 and then spent the next two years embarrassed because they peed outside ANYWHERE, ALL THE TIME, EVEN ON MAIN STREET DURING PARADES, and convinced that every time they pooped their pants, they were doing it ON PURPOSE because they were getting even for something.  I never could pin down what. In the end I just had to wait them out.  I can still change diapers on the fly, traveling at sonic speeds through distances that do not bear examination.  It's an odd skill, I will admit, but there you have it.   Sometimes you just have to tip the guy who picks up your trash.  Especially when you run a daycare despite the fact that you can't even get your own kids potty trained.  Especially in the summer.  Garbage men do make good money, and they earn it, let me tell you.  I think we should probably pause and thank God for garbage men right now.

Brothers.  There is no substitute.
 One year I am ashamed to say that when I found out on Sunday evening that my Youngest Baby was supposed to be a knight in a play the next day, I just sent two rolls of aluminum foil to school with him, told him to "wrap it everywhere" and called it good.  I did not have time for that crap.  And I don't think anybody else did, either.  "Ain't got time fo that" wasn't even a saying yet, but it would have fit perfectly.  I dearly wish I would have said it to a packed auditorium before a Bell Game, but alas, I did not.  I regret that.  It was the time of noticing that we spent our time and energy on stupid stuff that did not matter in the world, but not wanting to be the first to say it.  I don't miss those days, and they were a waste of time anyway.

Yeah, they're twins.  I wish they would take a nap.  Sigh.
The Beautiful Redhead found being the only girl really fun, especially after the twins got older.  In fact, she never saw the guy checking her out when we took the float trip the year she was 20.  She never saw My Oldest Baby, who in 3rd grade chose to label himself as a "middle child", give the guy checking her out a direct look, a nod of his head, and an "How ya doin" that clearly said "Get away from that girl, or suffer the consequences".  He was as big as a 20 year old at the time.  She never saw the poor guy scuttle off, afraid of her 16 year old brother, either.  But that all happened.  It was hilarious and I enjoyed it very, very much.  He never said a word to her about it.  It was just a day in the life of a brother, I guess.

Influencing a new generation.  They are well prepared.
Now they are 18.  They are starting their senior year.  What does the future hold?  Still unknown.  What is known is that they have many people who love them, who showed up and taught them what they needed to know, even when the lessons were hard.  I think they are well prepared and this world is very lucky to have them in it.

Need a ride?  Hop in.

I know I'm their mother, but I've known it all along.  I am so thankful for the lessons they have taught me.  Also, the father's day cards are a nice touch, boys.  ;)  But let us not forget the angels that have always been there.  Never forget them.  Never forget to be them, when you need to.  It all comes back around.

Whatever happens, I know that you will do well.  I love you more than you will know until you have kids of your own.  I can't wait for that to happen, of course, but there is plenty of time.  And if I should somehow miss your kids?  Know that I am there, inside you, always, and that you will do fine because you were well prepared by a woman who knew what was really important and never looked away for more than a few seconds. ( Just because she really needed to go to the bathroom.)  

Here's to the next 18 years.  Don't worry.  We will handle it just like we've handled everything else.  Laughing all the way and taking one day at a time.