Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Life, the last year.

When I was little, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a teacher and a mom.

As a little girl, I played school in my basement for hours on end, where I had a fully set up classroom complete with borders and bulletin boards and stickers and worksheets that I salvaged from my elementary teachers on the last day of school. It was no surprise to anyone who knew me that I graduated college with a degree in Elementary Education and went on to teach for the next 13 years.

As a little girl, I loved playing with dolls. I idolized being a mom, and there weren't many places I went without one of my dolls in tow. I remember one time my brother and I went to our local park just down the street, me with my doll in a stroller when I tried to convince total strangers that the doll was in fact a real baby. Ha! I began babysitting at quite a young age, and most of my spare time in my adolescent years was filled up with babysitting kids in my neighborhood. People who know me will not be surprised to hear that in college, many of my friends in fact called me "mom" as I was the one they went to for things like help with making meals, ironing their clothes, helping them with schoolwork, or knocking on my dorm room door at all hours of the night for a shoulder to cry on.

My two worlds collided during my 9th year of teaching, when in fact, I did become a mom. It was one of the happiest times in my life as a new mom, yet one of the loneliest years of teaching I had ever had. I returned to work after 5 months of staying home with our twins, which was, to under-exaggerate, hard.  I felt trapped at work, while all I wanted to do was be home with my littles. Since I was pumping that year, any down time I had at school, including my lunch break, was spent locked in my classroom by myself, hooked up to a breast pump, where I would stare out the window and just cry, wondering how I would get through. I would compare myself to other working moms who seemed to "do it all" with such grace, and end up feeling even worse. And, just when I'd start to think I had pulled myself together for another school year, I ended up in the ER on the first week of school, not just once, but 2 years in a row--later learning that I was experiencing anxiety attacks and had to begin a daily regimen of taking anti-anxiety medication.
The boys (6 months old) visiting me in my classroom at school.
Over the years, I created a classroom environment that I was proud of!

The boys (2.5 years old) visiting me in my classroom at school.
I have always been a perfectionist, and I felt that I was never able to do both jobs-being a mom AND being a teacher the best that I could or wanted to. When I focused on one, the other would slip. As the school years went by, and my own children grew older, I found myself tuning in to traits of students in my class that other teachers often missed. I found myself caring less about test scores, grade books, and curriculum maps and more about how my students were feeling. I wanted to help them, not just with reading, but with life. While I would joyfully see 90% of my students succeeding, it was the 10% who struggled that would cause me the most concern. Some of my students would go home each day to awful situations that would keep me up at night, wondering how I could make an impact on their lives for the better, only to return to school the next day to have to tell them that they didn't achieve a high enough test score and then watch while their world seemed to crumble a bit more, right before my eyes.

I couldn't do it any more.

My classroom all cleared out, the day I left, with eyes filled with tears and overwhelming emotion.
This week marks a year since I have stepped away from teaching. A year that I have had the opportunity to focus on being a mom. It has been surprisingly...ordinary. Our days feel a bit like a scene out of the old movie "Groundhog Day," a somewhat repetitive time loop where motherhood and home ownership unite. My kids wake up each day to me being home, I do a lot of making meals and loading and unloading the dishwasher, they have gotten to attend preschool, play in the back yard, go along with me on errands, visit parks, have dance parties in our bedroom, be bored on occasion, and, well-- just be kids. The teacher in me still tries to plan lessons for the day, practicing letters or cutting paper or doing sensory activities, and sometimes they happen and sometimes they don't.

And every once in awhile, my days are filled with real "work" which has now taken the shape of being a birth doula to a few special mommas each month. It has been a leap of faith to venture down this path and leave behind everything I know from a "real" job as a teacher. Doula work is fulfilling in ways I cannot even put into words. To help someone on one of the most transformative days in their life is an honor I do not take lightly.

Sometimes my life doesn't feel real. I sometimes feel like I am living in a dream. For the first time in a very long time, I feel like the best version of myself, yet when people ask me what I do for a living, I awkwardly pause as I don't really know how to answer the question. My whole life I worked towards being a teacher.  And now, I'm just a mom. Just a mom. How does a mom convey her true "lessons" that she tries to teach everyday? The lessons of kindness, strength, courage, and most importantly love?

My boys (5 years old) and I, at home.
I am not perfect. I can guarantee you, it is not all nature walks and snuggles over here. The tantrums are as real as the dark circles under my eyes. I have not gone to the bathroom uninterrupted in I-can't -tell-you-how-many-months. There have been some quite ugly days and moments I am certainly not proud of. Days that I go to bed and I wonder if even I have shown kindness, strength or courage. I still have so much to learn. Is it possible that I am no longer the teacher, but the one being taught? Even I am surprised that my paths in life have led me here, to my most important work of all; being a mom.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Today was hard.

Today was a hard day.

It was a preschool day, which means I had to convince one of my boys that going to preschool is fun.

I failed.

We got to the parking lot at preschool and Owen refused to get out of the car. Then he played a little game of going between the front seat and the back seat so that I could not reach him. I finally get him out of the car and into preschool. Children are lining up outside the classroom door and hanging their things inside their lockers. Aaron does this while Owen stands down the hallway next to the drinking fountain.

I am sweating.

I know this is not going to end well.

The preschool door opens and much to my surprise, both of my boys walk in and put their little schoolbus into the basket for attendance. Just as one of their teachers starts to tell me a cute little story about what my boys said on Tuesday when they were practicing with their scissors, I look down and realize Owen is not in the classroom. He is out in the hallway.

I interrupt the teacher mid-sentence and go to the hallway. I bring Owen into the classroom and he immediately starts crying. Sad crying. He doesn't want to go to preschool today. He wants to go home. He wants me to stay with him at preschool.

I bring him over to the blocks and trucks and try to interest him in the toys. He is not interested. He is still crying.

I am sweating.

I walk him over to the playdoh table and try to interest him in that. For a second, I think he is going to pull himself together. His other teacher is there. She says it's okay if I leave. She can handle it.

I cannot.

I look at Aaron, who is playing so nicely with the playdoh. Now he is looking worried. He doesn't like that his brother is upset.

Again, their teacher tells me it is okay to leave. She practically has to pry Owen away from me. I tell them I love them and that I will pick them up after lunch. I can't look back. Owen is sad. I can hear him crying as I walk away. I turn around when I am out of the classroom and see that they have shut the door.

It takes everything within me not to turn around and go back to get him.

I am crying.

I try to go workout and my music will not play, so I listen to my thoughts as I walk on the treadmill. They are thoughts of doubt. They are thoughts of worry. Should I go back to preschool to listen in to see if he is still crying? I get home and try to busy myself to make the time pass by. I clean. I make blankets on the sewing machine. I do laundry. I worry. I wait by the phone wondering if his teacher will call to tell me to come pick him up. I hope. I hope he is okay.

I email his teacher. I explain our history.  I tell her I am concerned and tell her we have been trying to make this a positive experience for him. I ask for suggestions.

Time ticks by and I start to feel like I brought this on myself. We had a good routine going with me working and the boys going to daycare. They liked their daycare. I took time off of work to try to give them a better life. A life with less busy-ness and more time to just be kids. More time at home and more time with Mommy. Was this the right decision? It doesn't feel like it now.

This is hard.

Their teacher emails me back. She says Owen had a great morning! She says this is normal. She says she thinks we are doing everything right.

I cry.

Her email was so kind. So caring. She understands. She knows it's hard. I thought for sure she was going to tell me that preschool just wasn't going to work out. She reassures me it could still take awhile for him to warm up to preschool, but this is normal. Many kids were sad and tired today, she said. Instead of working on writing their names like she had planned on today, they read books and talked about how mommies and daddies want their kids to have fun at preschool but that it is okay to miss their parents.

She's done this before.

I haven't.

Why does our society make us think that if something is hard, we must be doing it wrong? That maybe, if something is hard, we might be doing it right??

I am still learning. I have a lot to learn. It is hard, this parenting gig. So hard.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

On Starting Preschool: If My Tears Could Talk

I think I have been holding my breath for the last 2 and a half months.

This summer has been a challenge in other ways than the expected constant refereeing that being a mom to twin 4 year old boys brings. The constant talking about pooping and tooting and don't forget the fake burping. Oh, we've had our fair share of those times, and yes, it certainly does get old. But what was new and different about this summer was that my boys added two new words to their vocabularies.

Stupid.

Hate.

You would have been as surprised as I was when those ugly words first crossed their lips. I didn't know how to react. Do I ignore those words in hopes that not getting a reaction out of me will make it so the thrill of saying them again will be gone? Do I send them to their rooms for the rest of the night? Do I create a sticker chart for times that they use nice words?

Truth is, I don't remember how I reacted, but it obviously wasn't the way any good mom would react since those words were repeated on numerous occasions on a daily basis for the rest of the summer.

I hate swimming lessons. I hate going to bed. Mosquitos are stupid. I hate my brother. Stupid Mommy. I hate preschool.

Wait, WHAT???

How did this happen? Where did they learn to talk like this? Why are they talking like this all of a sudden? And how can we stop this?

I don't have the answer to any of those questions. All I know is for the rest of the summer, I seriously questioned my parenting ability.  Where did I go wrong? I would take fake burping at the dinner table any night over Stupid Mommy.

And why their sudden disdain for preschool? The timing of this was less than perfect. We attended a short "practice" session of preschool this summer in hopes of preparing them and getting them excited for what was to come this Fall. But halfway through that summer session, I was spending my mornings of preschool drop-off coaxing one or both the boys out of the bathroom stalls to go into their classroom.

Open House Night, August 2016
But as the calendar days ticked on by this summer, we remained hopeful that they would have a change of heart in time for preschool starting up again. Dan and I shared stories of when we went to preschool. We talked about how nice the teachers are and of course about how much fun they would have. We talked about art projects and science experiments. We picked out lunch bags and backpacks and first day of school clothes. We talked about how it is okay to be a little nervous. We reminded them that Mommy always comes back to pick them up. We attended Open House night and played with all the toys that they would get to play with. I talked to the teacher and shared my concerns.

And so, I continued to hold my breath when the morning of The 1st Day of Preschool came along. Truthfully, I was expecting a catastrophe.

I was expecting their tears, but not my own.

As they sat down on the rug and got out blocks and started to play with the trucks and tractors, I quickly realized they were going to be okay. They were going to be okay. They nervously waved goodbye to me and Dan, but gave us their best smiles. It was then that I could barely mumble the words, "I'm so proud of you," before I had to get up and leave before they saw me lose it.

I'm not sure if my tears were more a sign of relief, that I didn't have to coax either child into their new classroom, or a sign of disbelief that they really are growing up. So many emotions were going through me at that moment. The first 4 years of their lives were flashing back at me.

And so now, now it is time to start a new chapter. A chapter in which I must learn to trust other adults to love on and teach my boys. A chapter that will undoubtedly bring new challenges and yes, most likely broaden their vocabularies even more. But wow, Preschool. It's a chapter that gives me so much hope and so much excitement for the new worlds they will unravel and explore. And I can't wait to be along for the ride.
1st Day of Preschool, September 6, 2016


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Four.

In all honesty, there have been a few times this past year that I have laid awake at night wondering why God chose to make me a mom of  boys.  I am probably one of the most girly people I know. I like clean. I like organized. I like quiet. I like pink. I like rule-following.

As a kid, I played with Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. I know nothing about cars or tractors or monster trucks. I don't really enjoy building things with Legos or zooming Hot Wheels across our wood floors. My brain does not comprehend the point of stacking things up, just to knock it down the second it is completed.

But I try. I try so hard to be the best mom to my boys. I try to build Lincoln Log cabins, and engage in exciting conversations regarding tractor parts. I share my enthusiasm when my boys bring me their latest and greatest cake creation, made with sand and the entire bottle of bubbles they just dumped out after I told them they couldn't bring a bucket of sand to the bathroom sink.

Oh, I have lost more arguments to 3 year olds in the last year than I'd like to admit. I think that is what has made this past year so darn challenging. The constant trying to get the boys to listen. To follow the rules. To be polite. To be a nice person. So much trying day after day after day.

And just when you start to think your 3 year olds are on the right track to behaving out in public, the next day they give the folks at the Target check-out lanes a little show as you try to wrangle them out from inside the ice cube freezers that they have somehow managed to get themselves into at the same time you are trying to figure out how to work the new chip reader for your credit card and pay for your groceries.

To summarize this past year, just imagine that you are hosting a birthday party that runs from the hours of 6am to 9pm. And the parents never come pick up their kids. For 365 days. That's what it's been like.

I'm learning to embrace the crazy, the mud, and the stink that being a mom to boys brings, but also welcoming the 4's with open arms.

Top 10 Phrases I Have Heard as a Mom to 3-Year Old Twin Boys:
1. Why?
2. Poopy
3. Why?
4. Pee-pee
5.  Why?
6. No.
7.          (silence and ignoring me when I'm talking)
8. Why?
9. No.
10. Poopy

Top 10 Phrases I Have Said as a Mom to 3-Year Old Twin Boys:
1. Where are your shoes?
2. Please stop smelling your brother's butt.
3. Please keep your hands out of your milk (juice, water, nose, ketchup, yogurt...)
4. If you had your hand down your pants, then you need to wash your hands.
5. Put your shoes on.
6. We only pee outside in our yard, not in other people's yards.
7. Please move away from your brother if you don't like him bonking in to you.
8. Can you please put your shoes on!
9. Mommy would like to go to the bathroom without you guys banging on the door!
10. Why does this bathroom always smell like pee even when I Clorox it every day?

For posts on previous birthdays, click here:
Three. 
Two.
One.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The last of the firsts...

At almost 4 years old, the "firsts" seem to be pretty rare around here. The first foods and first steps are a distant memory and most days we are just working on improving skills that we already have, uhmmm, like listening.

But we have experienced a couple of firsts this past month that have been pretty exciting.

1. Aaron learned to ride his bike without training wheels. In like under one week of trying. He showed in interest in trying and next thing we knew, he was off and pedaling. It was so fun to watch. He was so proud of himself and just looked like such a big boy pedaling along on his own. Video proof:



2. The boys had their first dental appointment. I wasn't sure if it was going to be more of an appointment to see if Mom and Dad ensure the routine of brushing twice a day (we try, but don't) or more just to sit in the big chair and see what a dentist is all about. Turns out it was a little of both, and both boys loved their experience and Mom and Dad didn't get into too much trouble! They were so brave and the dental hygienist was so, so good with the boys, so we were really lucky to have her at their first visit. Aaron chose Bubble Gum toothpaste to polish his teeth and Owen chose Cookie Dough (!) tooth paste. They had a cleaning, got x-rays and were super psyched to get new toothbrushes, flossers, and prizes at the end of their visit.









Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring Break in "Floridas"

It has been almost 2 weeks since we returned home from our Spring Break trip to Marco Island, Florida and I am still reminiscing on what a perfect vacation it was.

And not perfect in the well-we're-traveling-with-3-year-olds-so-we-should-have-expected-some-level-of-disastrous-moments-on-the-trip kind of way.

But perfect in that this trip actually felt like a real life vacation. Like we-are-traveling-with-3-year-olds-and-I-don't-want-to-pull-all-my-hair-out kind of way.

The boys were angels on the airplane. We didn't even have to lug our giant double stroller around...we left the stroller at home and our kids actually walked and listened and stayed by us everywhere we went.

Do I dare say that taking a trip with our twin 3 year olds was easy?!

Yes, we had our moments. But seriously, I had to pinch myself several times throughout the trip that everything was going so smoothly. That I was having fun, I wasn't stressed out, and actually relaxing on a family vacation!

The boys were absolutely joyful the entire trip. They loved the pool, they loved the sand and beach, and Dan and I enjoyed our drinks and sunsets in a place that truly felt like paradise.

They say, there is nothing better than seeing your kids happy. And it's true. What a gift it was to spend this time as a family.