Why All Moms Need A Twin Pass

“I’m the mother of twin toddlers” is a phrase I often use when writing. It’s a true statement, but it’s also the ultimate parenting get-out-of-jail-free card. I have watched, in real time, faces of disapproval and judgment turn to empathy and understanding upon learning I have twins.

Had a cesarean? Twins. Haven’t figured out the how to get more than two hours of sleep in a row, let alone settle on a philosophy about it? Twins. No end of diapers in sight and your kids are pushing 4? You guessed it! Twins. Whether the topic is childbirth, breastfeeding, discipline, or potty training; I get an understanding nod where others might get a sideways glance.

I know it’s hard to believe, but people do tend to give me a pass on things when they see that I have more than one child at the same developmental stage.

Carting my kids through an airport, store or gym – I hear things like… click here to read more at Pregnant Chicken

7 Things You Can Do to Break Your List Reading Habit

Life is busy. You’ve got kids pulling at you, commitments in all directions, and not enough time in the day to warrant a 2-minute shower.  If you’re lucky, you might gather enough news from your social media feed or the magazine racks at the grocery store to appear relatively informed on current events.

When a shower and staying up on current events seems too daunting, the thought of reading, if that’s even entered your mind, has probably come along with immense feelings of inadequacy or a dismissive chuckle. Ain’t nobody got time for reading literature these days. As a busy mom and reader, I get it. More often than not, I reach for the short, quick-witted, easy-to-read points over the lengthier expository musings.

I like quick and easy. I’ve fed my kids Mac and cheese and Nutella sandwiches far more than I’d like to admit in the name of convenience. But like these foods, lacking in nutrition and substance, the quick reads and easy-to-digest list formats that have become the pinnacle of many online publications, leave us feeling malnourished.

Lately, I’ve been feeling overstimulated by the sheer amount of information I take in on a daily basis. Ironically, I also find myself feeling empty and frustrated by the lack of substance in the midst of this bounty. If you’re feeling similarly, but aren’t sure how to get out of the rut, here are seven steps to help you break the cycle:

Commit to reading at least 10 minutes per day.

Doing anything for ten minutes per day is doable. After twenty-one days, new habits are formed. Studies show that reading can help slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s. So reading for ten minutes per day seems reasonable, habit-forming, and good for your brain. 

Save interesting articles for later.

Only have three to five minutes to scan your newsfeed, but come across something that looks interesting? Think you’ll remember it for later? Highly unlikely. Tag it, save it, or email it to yourself. Whatever your method for saving, make sure to circle back around to read it when you have some free time. 

Read articles without lists.

I know it may sound scary, but if the title intrigues you, and the content fascinates you, don’t shy away from an article because it lacks the popular list format. Read it. You might like it.

Seek out quality over quantity.

I know it seems counterintuitive, but taking in less scattered, low-quality information could actually increase your brains’ ability to retain information. So spend less time on screens scanning the bounty, and choose your intake of content wisely. 

Read a novel.

Ain’t nobody got time for that, right? You’d be surprised how addictive it is once you start. Audio books count too, so what are you waiting for? 

Unplug more often and go for a walk.

What does walking have to do with reading you ask? Taking walks can help clear a busy mind. A clearer mind has more space for reading. See the logic?

Find writers you love and support them.

Seriously. If you like us and you want to read more from us- follow our blogs, share our articles, and give us feedback. If you’re a fellow writer, and this isn’t a regular practice of yours, there’s still time to redeem yourself.

 

*This list is in no way, based on science, research, or fact. It is the opinion of the author and meant for the sole purpose of venting, humor, and irony. (In case you’re a bit slow and didn’t catch that.)

Why Loss of Perspective is Exactly What I Needed

Mold laden salami swirled atop the hot soapy water of the trash can. The day had sucked life and perspective out of me, but I was determined to end the night on a strong note and hopeful that the satisfaction I’d get from cleaning out a garbage can would be the ticket. Then it happened. The handle on the trash can broke and sent its contents splashing all over the kitchen, my clothing, and right into my mouth.

Today has been a day.  My mood has been awful, I’ve been feeling dangerously close to entering the sucking hole of sorry-for-myself, and I’m pretty sure the garbage can incident sent me over the edge.

My overall poor mood may have something to do with the fact that I am on day two of a diet that includes nothing I’d really like to eat or drink. Or that it’s close to a year post-repatriation and I miss my friends and life in Shanghai. But perhaps it’s the mountain of stuff to do in my home, the looming medical appointments and surgeries for my children, or the fact that my kids have turned whining into an art form and torturing one another into a favorite pastime. Did I mention that I’ve decided to homeschool in the fall? 

I find myself frustrated with running a household, finishing lingering home projects, grocery shopping, getting less fat, sorting through mountains of paperwork, paying bills, arranging medical visits, keeping my kids alive; and on the days I feel really caffeinated- attempting to raise them into decent human beings. 

If it seems like I’ve lost perspective, I have. If you feel compelled to make things better with encouraging words, please don’t. I know there are much larger problems in the world, and that my life is more than many could hope for. I know that I am loved, and I appreciate your prayers. I do. But there is something about getting caught up in the little things. Something that until recently, I couldn’t appreciate.

This new gift of appreciation came when I listened to a story about life in a war zone. It resonated when the person talked about how he and his friends cherished getting caught up in trivial matters. He said that in the midst of bombs exploding, petty annoyances made things feel more normal. It took being in the midst of war, but he actually recognized aggravation as a privilege.

Life is far from normal, and while I’m not delusional enough to think my life is like living in the middle of an actual physical war zone, I did relate to much of what he said.  My war isn’t over land in Gaza, and my bombs aren’t weapons that kill. My war zone consists of children who hold the unknown of both diagnosed and undiagnosed disease in their bodies, of epilepsy, nighttime seizures, vein malformations within the brain, undiagnosed movement disorder, and rare genetic disease. My bombs are too many medical exams, procedures, surgeries that carry risks beyond the disease, and being one step closer to a diagnosis that may change our lives forever. 

My life load is weighty at the moment. Typically, I lament these times when I lose perspective, and feel guilt-ridden and ungrateful. But I’m going to stop guilting my struggles with doses of perspective, and instead, try to see them as the privilege and coping mechanisms they are.

But first, I am going to rinse my mouth out with some bleach.

 

 

From the Parenting Files: Temporary Insanity

Last night was going to go smoothly. I had it planned. The kids would go to bed early, the Mr. and I would get an evening to chill, and we might even get to bed early ourselves. Because that little combo is the ultimate worn-out-parent trinity.

And we are worn out.

I was in and out of a work project when I decided I would get up and play mom for a few minutes. I scanned the room. When I realized the five thousand Legos strewn on the floor had not been cleaned up, I made the rather brilliant and time-saving decision to sweep paths to and from each bed to the door with my foot. They could clean in the morning.

It was 7:45, both boys were in the pajamas and in bed reading. I couldn’t believe it, but I was standing on the precipice of Friday night nirvana. Then it happened. I gave my child his anti-seizure meds like I do every single night, and after swallowing them, he said: “I think dad already gave these to me.” Clearly, this could not be possible, but I calmly (maybe half-psychotic calmly) yelled down to my husband to ask. I remember him saying yes and the rest gets a little foggy.

I do recall telling my husband to see if he could get my son to throw up. I also remember trying to find the number for my son’s neurologist. But the screen and the phone- so white and so slow. In the midst of cries from my child, and stroke-like bursts of white before my eyes, I found the number. For some reason, the young woman with the call service thought it best to patch me through to poison control instead of taking the patient’s name and number so an actual doctor could call me. But hey, I was in the stroke- zone and couldn’t think clearly. So instead, I connected with poison control. And that’s when things got really fun. Because poison control could not hear me. So I spent the next five minutes running around my house, saying the thing I refuse to say “can you hear me now?” in every possible nook and corner. I stood on my dining table. I went outside. Nothing. No reception.

At this point, I figured AT&T and god had colluded to punish me for all of my previous reception gripes. I gathered myself enough to string together an impressive array of profanity and decided to try to call the Dr. again. Because that’s who I really wanted to talk to. So by now, the husband is in bed with the child who could be overdosing, little brother is cowering under his sheets on the top bunk, and I am going stark raving mad trying to get more than 1 bar of service so I can make a call and save my child.

At this point, I was practically hanging from my rooftop. I’d successfully registered for a call back from the doc when I decided to try poison control again. Someone answers, there’s a long pause, and then they speak. But not in a way that I can understand. Enter insanity. Having lived in Asia, I pride myself on understanding the English spoken by many different accents. And maybe it was because my kid could have been dying, but I could not understand a word this person was saying!

As I was trying to spell the drug for the tenth time, the on call Doc rang through, saving the poison control woman and me. His calm and reassuring voice cut through the insanity with “He’s okay Mrs. Kinney. He might just be a little tired and wobbly in the morning, but he will be ok.” Suddenly I could breathe again. The white pops of light disappeared. I even had a good laugh once the adrenaline died down.

I did not have my perfect night. But I did have a healthy child. And it turns out, that was all I really needed.

 

Naked Writing Project:You Can Feel Panic and Thanks at the Same Time: It’s Called Parenting. (Or ‘Panks.’)

There’s this thing where I fear my kids.

My anxiety is so tight around my neck that I can’t really breathe. I can’t catch my breath to attempt to keep up with them. I can’t think because the air is choked off. I holler, the abrupt loud noise all that escapes out the top of that clamp.

I don’t know what to say. They ask. They ask everything of me, and I don’t know how to answer them, how to be what they need. I don’t know how to mom. It’s terrifying. It’s not even ‘what if I fuck it up?’ it’s, ‘how can I less fuck it up today than I did yesterday?’

Nothing is cleaned. The bills aren’t tended to. The kids are never content. The marriage is barely credible. I never commit enough of me to either work or home. I don’t make enough money. But I’m away from the kids too much. I feel judged. And I judge. I can’t sit still because then something is going undone. There’s always the undone. I can’t do it all but I have to do it all but I can’t do it all. I can feel my shoulders hunch and breath quicken. I drink to not feel terrified.

I wanted to be a mom. I wanted it so bad. And we had to work for it. There was waiting that broke my heart, there were pregnancies that ended up in blood and defeat. We’d walk around our neighborhood, trying to talk sense into all our despair, and I had visions of my kid in the sunlight, on a bike, just ahead, just ahead of me. There was such lightness and relief in that vision.

And then I got my kid. He was healthy and wonderful. And rides a bike, in the sunshine, just like I wanted. And then, with not so much as a stutter, he got himself a sister. And we had two kids. And the job. And the house. And the everything I ever thought I wanted. And now two bikes, in the sunshine, just ahead.

But in my bliss, I sweat. Oh, the guilt. The guilt! I have every damned thing in the world and no business feeling anything but happiness with gravy on it. I know moms who had to work WAY harder, who lost WAY more, who had to settle/adjust their dreams in a million different ways. I know of moms whose kids aren’t safe, aren’t fed, aren’t healthy, and can’t ride bikes in the sunshine.

So my malcontent is just me being spoiled and ungrateful. And there’s more guilt about that. There goes those shoulders and that panting, breathlessness again.

The other day all of us were in a grocery store. My husband had the kids in/near the cart and I wandered off to get something. When I came back, I said something to one of them and they didn’t respond and I had the most bizarre thought; what if I imagined all of it? What if this isn’t my family? What if I’m a stranger and they don’t know me? What if I approach them and they shrug me off?

If they’re not mine, but someone else’s, who am I? Where am I? What would I be if the kids and the sunshine had never happened? Would I still be married? Would I have all the time in the world that I don’t have now, to be creative and self-aware, and clean and organized and fit? Would I be all that, or would I be a quiet, sad version of me? If I just picked up my box of wine and walked out of the store alone, where would I be headed? And what of that little family back in there? Who would they be without me?

Icy, lonely. Cold all over. It felt weird and detached, surreal. In that second as I stood there stupidly hugging a carton of orange juice, I felt the gulf of living away from my life. Living another life, a life without my sunshine’s. It didn’t feel like freedom, it felt like loss.

A moment later there was a fat, sticky little hand in mine and I was back in the moment, in the momming. Being needed, and needing them back.

I’m trying to live my life, with these blessings, without the panic. I’m trying. I’m talking and writing about it. I’m trying. Maybe if I share the most ruthless, honest, shitty, terrifying stuff, it will free me from some of that strangling feeling. Maybe other people feel it sometimes, too.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

————————————————————————–

Postscript: OK. I followed the rules, I wrote with the flow, pushing my feelings onto the page, and did not edit. Now here’s where I make the curator of this Naked Writing Project let me share my preambles/caveats/apologies for what I wrote. (Ahem)

It’s overwrought and not economical in expressing emotion/It leaves you feeling bad for me and not hopeful for yourselves, that is not my way/Where is the humor to make me sweat less as I share?/My therapist says I hide behind jokes but haha no I don’t, she is/It COMPLETELY disregards my daughter and how incredibly goofy and great she is/It makes both my kids seem like heavy accessories to me and does not give them their own awesome selves and they deserve better/It’s so fucking ungrateful. What is wrong with me?/I’m self-conscious and don’t know if my shallow words, echoing my tepid pain are really worth putting out there into the world/Shallow words? Tepid pain? Good Lord. That’s the kind of flowery malarkey I’m talking about. Sheesh.

Umm. Ok. I think that’s all for now. It’s scary to be naked.
IMG_7168Sarah is a Physician Assistant, a mom, wife, bachelorette party-planner, co-owner of a hippie ice cream shop, and a writer in training. She can usually be found writing dick jokes for sketch comedy or confessing to poor parenting on her blog, http://sarahandrobbbigtrouble.blogspot.com. She is not always naked. Sometimes she wears socks since she lives in the Midwest and it is cold there.

The Drug Window

There’s a brief window of time that I’ve come to cherish immensely; a time when I get to experience my child without the haze of drugs clouding his mind and personality. I call it the drug window.

When my son was first diagnosed with Epilepsy, I felt such relief. We had been living in the unknown for close to 3 years, and I was thrilled to finally have an explanation for all of the falling, mental confusion, emotional outbursts, and fatigue. A diagnosis also meant we could move forward with a treatment plan.

In the beginning, all looked hopeful and bright. In my mind, he was going to start his meds; they’d gain control of his seizures; and we’d look forward to the day he’d grow out of them. But life is complicated and epilepsy is not an easy disease to treat. We currently find ourselves in the ultimate catch-22 where the drugs are absolutely necessary and beneficial, but the side-effects seem equally great.

Soon after taking his meds, my son slips into a strange and subdued place known as medically safe and seizure free. I have a love-hate relationship with these drugs. On one hand, they have the potential to control the epilepsy and save his life. On the other hand they’ve taken over his physiology. He’s easily agitated, horribly uncoordinated, showing signs of drug-induced ADHD, and generally out of whack.

I’ve gone from having a child with an unknown illness, to a child who’s stuck in an epic battle somewhere between drug and disease.

And I miss him terribly.

I get an opportunity to see him and his true personality before each 12 hour dosing- once after waking in the morning, and once again before bedtime. He may emerge at moments throughout the day, but nothing compares to the clarity I see in him at those particular times.

As such- I’ve come to cherish our windows more and more. I approach and await the waking and unfolding of my child day after day. I sit patiently and savor the moments when he emerges; the moments when I get to experience all that his mind has to offer in its less encumbered state.

Disease has a way of reminding us how devastatingly beautiful and fragile life is. It can crush and destroy us; but it can also push us toward perspective and focus.

I’m in the early stages here. Most of my days are still a mix of devastation and beauty. The devastation comes when I watch him stumble and struggle through seemingly simple movements and tasks, and wonder if he’s had another seizure. Beauty is found when his perseverance gives birth to breakthrough, when we celebrate his triumphs, and when we take joy in simple moments.

As I contemplate the future, I wonder what his quality of life will be like, how our lives may continue to change, and how to manage this disease while ushering my children through our new life here in China. It’s overwhelming really. So much has changed for us. We are in a new home, in a new country, and dealing with an illness that has and will continue to change the dynamics of our family. I would not hesitate to wave a magic wand and make the epilepsy disappear if I could; but I am grateful for the new insights and perspectives I’ve gained along this journey.

I’m beginning to see glimpses of what I would be missing and moments I would likely be pushing aside if I didn’t see my children through this new lens.

The early mornings that once exhausted me, have become a sacred time- one that I look forward to with excitement. I find it ironic that I spent days of my parenting life sleep-training my children, and now I’m the one drawing out bedtime. What I once viewed as tedious and unending nighttime conversations, are now treasured moments where I get to engage with my child and gain fresh insights into who he is.

I count myself among the privileged rank of parents who have children with special needs. Our journeys are challenging. They are often fraught with concerns, fears, frustrations, and loneliness. But they are also full of perspective, hope and joy.

I’m learning to grab a hold of joy amidst the sorrow and frustration; and to value this new gift of perspective and what it has ushered into my life.

In the short time since my son’s diagnosis I’ve learned to slow down, look closer, take less for granted, and approach my children as gifts waiting to be unwrapped.

I’d like to think I would have learned these things without such a serious medical situation, but I don’t know that I would have. I do know however; that should we choose to slow down and fully engage, we all have the ability to approach our children like we do any other gift- with interest, curiosity, excitement, and celebration.

In doing so, we have an opportunity to take part in one of the most profound and beautiful exchanges a parent and child can share in- the pure delight and joy of experiencing someone for who they are. And this I’ve found, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another.

One Foot In

The haze of pollution hangs heavily over the city. My nose is more stuffed up than usual. My head aches and my ears burn. It’s a high pollution day here in Shanghai. I’ve heard about these days, but I’ve never experienced one quite like this.

My handy little air pollution app has turned red, and the number 236 glares at me in accusation. Why would anyone choose to live in this? It asks. How could any benefits to your children possibly outweigh the health risks of living in such pollution? It scolds. I set my phone down and look away.

Days like these pull me back into the reality of living in China. Days like these make me wonder if it is worth it if this is the right thing for my children. I think about all of the people who live in the reality of extreme air pollution because they have to, and I am again reminded that I am a mere visitor in this place.

This is one of the double-edged swords of being an expat. We live where we live, often, because it’s where we want to be. There are varying degrees of this reality, but a good number of us choose to say yes to our assignment because we know it will benefit our career, fulfill a desire to live in a particular country or scratch our adventure itch. This very reality; and the fact that we can choose to move out as freely as we moved in, makes it difficult to feel fully at home.

Many of us do our best to live in our host countries as more than mere outsiders. We attempt to learn the language, function within the local customs, keep an open mind to cultural differences, and absorb what we can. As someone who has moved back and forth between my home country and foreign lands- I have learned the value of absorbing the culture around me, as well as the importance of living in the moment. But it’s on days like these that I’m reminded I live with one foot in this world and one foot back in my home country- where the grass seems greener, and the air breathes cleaner.