they’re here!

We have twinsies! We are beyond exhausted, running on only a few hours of sleep per night. Good god. The first 24 hours was the hardest, because the boys were starving and frantic for milk that hadn’t come in yet. We had to start snaking a little tube into their mouths while they nursed and feeding them. They are great breastfeeders, there just isn’t enough colostrum to fill their little tummies! So basically they were nursing and fussing around the clock, until we started supplementing. But my wife’s milk is coming in more and more, so we’re hoping for a great first weight check tomorrow!

The birth went smoothly, and we had only two small snags: Baby B, Basti, lost too much weight the first day (11%), and Lindsey fainted after her first shower. But everything went fine other than those things!

I missed M, my original baby, while at the hospital for 3 days. We’ve been delirious, hallucinating even, on so little sleep. People have sent food, and money, to help us, which is a godsend. My mom has helped by staying at home with the girls, making breakfast, doing laundry, and so many people have chipped in to provide transportation for the big girls’ school and other things. It honestly takes a village, and I haven’t been afraid to ask for help! We’ll take all the help we can get!

One funny thing that happened is that we got a good look at the placenta after, and it appears not to be a single placenta, as all the high-risk perinatologists thought! It is, instead, two placentas fused together. Incredibly rare! But this also means the boys could be fraternal, not identical! We’ll only know by doing a DNA test. The pathology of the placenta will also confirm that it was two placentas, not one.

From Minnesota Center for Twin and Family research:

Though fraternal twins have their own separate placentas, sometimes the two fertilized eggs implant close to each other in the uterus, which can result in their placentas fusing. The two fused placentas look like one placenta, causing them to be mistaken for identical twins.

This is a fairly common mistake; as many as twenty percent of all twin births are misidentified as identical or fraternal. This confusion is one reason why we take special steps, such as sometimes taking blood, to determine if twins are identical or fraternal.

So! They appear to not be mo-di twins at all, but fused di di twins! Crazy! Sometimes they look identical, and sometimes they don’t, so the jury is still out. Personality-wise, Mr. Joe is the stronger sucker, and usually more demanding as far as wanting to be held, or wanting to eat. Basti is more laid back, ok with lying flat in a bassinet to sleep while swaddled, and a sleepy feeder who sometimes needs lots of encouragement to finish a meal. They both weigh pretty much the same and were the same length. They have medium to light brown hair, and very dark blue eyes! They were both born with the same sacral dimple, no birth marks, and perfectly formed everything.

Over and out… struggling through the first stages of twin mom life, but happy to have them here!

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Baby A (Mr. Joe) and Baby B (Basti)

summer is wrapping up

And we’re getting into gear for fall… meaning, back-to-school for our Montessori kiddo, and not-back-to-school for M. Although, it’s sort of back to school because she’s starting some new programs! I’m so psyched for her to not be in school, to be out in the community and in nature, learning from the real world. It’s one of those mother instincts, when you just know you’re going in the right direction.

We’ve had some major upsets around here, with our floors being redone and staying at hotels. M had a bit of anxiety with the routine change, then again when her frenemy from last year in kindergarten turned up in her same summer camp this week. Apparently, both girls have been doing GREAT at camps, no behavioral issues, having fun, etc (according to the other girl’s mom, who I spoke with many times and like very much). Then they are in the same camp all week and BAM, lots of problems. They are wild, not listening, fighting, etc. So, her mom and I will be making sure that doesn’t happen again! It’s too bad, really, we were hoping with time apart they could have gotten on a little better, but something about these girls in combination just ignites all of their nasty behavior. M has been so anxious about being around this girl that her behavior at home went a bit wild, as well. We were wracking our brains for a reason… is it because we added gluten back into her diet? (Organic gluten only, but still.) Is it because we ran out of her magnesium supplements for a few days? (Same thing seemed to happen last time she missed several days of the mag.)

Then, it all became clear. She was insanely anxious about being with this girl in camp, and worried about telling me about it because she didn’t want me to be disappointed. So we’ve had lots of talks about letting us know she’s having a hard time with something, rather than turning into a spitting hissing dervish. She needs to know she won’t be punished for having a hard time, we just want to help.

In any case, we’re moved back into our house and unpacked. Now we have some serious mini-van shopping to do and some baby furniture setting up… we have 4-5 weeks until these babies arrive on the scene!

the end of forbidden fruit

Summer is in full swing, and two baby boys are still cooking and ready to enter this world in just a couple of short months! (And not before then, please. Keep growing boys, and stay in there!) Summer is so much better than the school year, and a large part of that is the “no school” part (for me). I felt so much pressure all year to have the girls reading “better”, writing “better”, and constantly living up to some outside standard. So many outside standards, in fact, it was making my head spin! The standard at summer camp is pretty simple… respect others, respect property, for god’s sake eat at least part of your lunch/don’t whine about how hungry you are later when you didn’t eat any lunch, and have fun!!!

I see so much growth in M, already. The freedom from being locked up in a classroom full of academic expectations has allowed so much of the best of who she is to come out. I’m not saying she’s a little angel suddenly, or that her special needs went away. We’re just not constantly shoving her square peg into anyone’s round hole! Another area of growth we’ve discovered (and discussed as parents, ad nauseam) is her ability to eat “junk food” without staying up for 36 hours on end, jumping off walls with glazed-over eyes. And thank god, because at 6 years old, away at summer camps, I just can’t micromanage what she eats. And my intensely social child wants to eat what everyone else is eating, which happens to be red koolaid and goldfish.

So we are allowing her to control what she eats outside of our home, with the understanding that our family does not buy or cook with or serve artificial dye, but these foods may be available at events. She has basically done what any hyper-controlled kid does when they are allowed to eat something forbidden… stuffed her face with as many ice-pops, cookies, and goldfish as she can get her hands on. And honestly, I’ve been waiting for the axe to fall… for freaking out, long restless nights, tantrums out of the ordinary. But nothing. She’s eaten it. Boldly stated she’s eaten it, to see what we’d do. Then we’ve gone about our business pretty much as usual.

So, apparently I no longer have to be the ultra-uncool uptight parent at every party and festival guarding my child against food dyes like my full-night’s sleep depends on it! Hooray! (In case it isn’t clear, though, I thoroughly disapprove of artificial dyes in any type of food or drink, and will continue to support brands and companies that use natural ingredients with all my dollars and words.) But if you didn’t know, schools and camps do a terrible job of guarding kids with food allergies from said foods, and I’m super glad that I don’t need to go ape-shit every time I find out my kid put a piece of candy in her mouth!

My hope is that, in time, this forbidden stuff will no longer seem so great to her, and she will internalize our family’s overall values of healthy, clean foods. Right now, though, I just have to squeeze my eyes shut and be a model through example. It’s the best way with the least immediate results!

 

for my daughter, my inspiration and my teacher

I have been on a journey to removing my daughter from the conventional education system since she was 2 1/2. Today, we are three days away from seeing that dream realized. My daughter, so full of energy that she has been diagnosed with ADHD, so sensitive to noise and light that she has been diagnosed with SPD, so in tune with her brain’s physiological need to feel the breeze, the soil, the rush of equilibrium as you jump or race through space, that she has been called disruptive, annoying, “special needs”, and wild (even by me), would have done so well in a hunter gatherer society, where the sensations of nature all around her would have given her a sense of balance and peace, where her energy and enthusiasm would have made her one of the most successful members of her tribe, where her curiosity and incessant need to do would have driven her to quick and easy accomplishment and satisfaction.

She doesn’t live in a hunter gatherer tribe. She lives in a truly weird version of humanity that has arisen in 3% of human history. (Written human history is 3% of anatomical human history.) She is, historically speaking, a completely normal homo sapien. She has not adapted genetically or physiologically to the last 3% of our biological history. She possesses completely normal biological instincts, as most children do, but unlike many children, she has not been able to adapt, in her 6 years of life, to a biologically weird culture. And so she is a biological norm, and a cultural anomaly. She is “wild”, and I, her mother, have failed to “tame” her. All of the supplements, occupational therapy, food restrictions, punishments, rewards, pressure, shaming, and leading-by-example in the world has not transformed her from her biology.

But it’s ok. I can’t change the culture or the society or the world that she was born into. I can step back and look at the big picture. I can take advantage, at every opportunity, of the scenarios in which she shines as a truly human mammal. Look at her on the beach, for example, running and digging and playing for hours. Not too tired, not too cold, not whining about sand or sun or wind. She has stamina, she has the ability to meet her own needs, she has drive, she has focus, she is kind, she is insightful, she is generous, she is in all her glory.

When you see children who do not learn well in school, they will often display characteristics that would be valued and admired in any number of non-WEIRD cultures around the world. They are physically energetic; they are independent; they are sociable; they are funny. They like to do things with their hands. They crave real play, play that is exuberant, that tests their strength and skill and daring and endurance; they crave real work, work that is important, that is concrete, that makes a valued contribution. They dislike abstraction; they dislike being sedentary; they dislike authoritarian control. They like to focus on the things that interest them, that spark their curiosity, that drive them to tinker and explore.

-Carol Black, “A Thousand Rivers”

My daughter is exactly as above. She wants to contribute to the real world. No amount of “Montessori work”, as brilliant and creative as it may be, can take the place of figuring out how to make a bridge out of sand, how to make cupcakes out of random kitchen ingredients, or how to keep a fire burning with leaves and sticks. She needs to play, and not in the cutesy way of driving little trains along little tracks, or assigning mother/father roles to baby dolls (although yes, she does that, too). She needs to play exuberantly, and with the force of her whole body. She can play this way all day, and she can because she must. She is driven to socialize and interact in every moment. You can sit her at a desk, but that won’t diminish her need to talk to and explore with another human being. This is how she learns and grows from her world. She is the fullest expression of what it means to be a young mammal. Observe and study young monkeys, young tigers, young dolphins, and you’ll see what I mean.

Is my job as a mother, then, to force her to comply with the trappings of this modern era? Should she be made to sit still in a circle, or at a desk, for hours on end? What will this achieve or accomplish, other than a sense of control for the rest of us? I must encourage and model kindness of spirit, respect for the boundaries and needs of others, and the ability to regulate oneself for ultimate inner peace. Yes, those must be my goals as a parent. And yet, my little human mammal has arrived on this planet to show me that this need not be achieved within four walls. She is at her most regulated, kind, and respectful when she is respected for who she is and what she needs. And what she needs is the type of environment where she will blossom into who she is meant to be.

My daughter, my teacher, my inspiration: In three days you will be released into this world. You will be asked to take control of your own learning and your own fate. You will be given guidance and leadership, but not force or control. You will become responsible for what you know, and how you know it. You will learn to regulate yourself in whatever way works best for you as a unique individual. You will find those places in which your caring spirit and your insatiable curiosity lead you to greatness.

You will bloom into your truest, most radiant self. I am humbled to be with you on your journey as your mother, your mentor, and your friend.

a parenting meditation on acceptance

I accept that my child is loud.

I accept that I do not like noise, and my child is noisy. This will make me uncomfortable. This will trigger sensory defensiveness in me. This will mean that I have to find ways to cope with her loudness, as well as help her learn to discern when and where to NOT be loud, as well as to encourage empathy in her so that she knows when to back off. I accept that this will be challenging.

I accept that my child is rough.

I accept that this will also trigger my sensory defensiveness. I see that she is sorry when her rough movement causes me pain, and I see that she is embarrassed and ashamed. My job as a parent is to help her modulate her rough behavior so that no one gets hurt, and to help her find the appropriate outlet for her proprioceptive needs.

I accept that she will ask for boundaries by pushing my buttons.

My job is to hold those boundaries firm with love, modeling calm and anger management. I accept that I will often fail at calm, loving boundary-holding, and will dissolve into yelling. I will then attempt to model repair, and an attitude of perseverance toward bettering myself.

I accept that she is impulsive.

I accept that she will do things that a child several year younger would do, but probably not a child her own age. I accept that this part of her brain is still developing, on track, but behind most of her peers. I accept that I will have to repeat myself more often than not. I bear witness to the fact that although it takes time, she does learn to do things that must be done. I accept that I will sometimes be overcome by frustration with this.

I accept that she won’t always be able to do what her peers can do.

I accept that there are some things my child cannot do yet that others her age can, like sit still at a restaurant or for a show. She may not be able to take group swim lessons because she can’t yet follow all the rules. She has to be supervised at times that other children do not. I accept that I will have to make accommodations for this, even as I see that in her own way, she is maturing and reaching the milestones she’s meant to reach. I accept that I will feel anger, disappointment, resentment, and most of all, fear, when she is unable to keep up with her neurotypical peers. I accept the responsibility for my own feelings and my own expectations, which are not hers, but only my own.

I accept that she is exactly who she is, and who she is meant to be.

I accept that the challenges presented with parenting her are gifts of growth to me. I accept that by not fitting into a prescripted developmental timeline, she has brought me with her outside of the box, to explore new paths together. I love her for this. I appreciate her for this. She is a unique expression of the divine. Her energy is her gift to the world.

the madness of children

Over the weekend, I broke. The loudness, impulsiveness, defiance… being ignored, talked back to, forced to clean up after, disrespected… it was too much. I felt like I was swirling down a drain. I could barely talk to or look at my child. The life-force had been sucked out of me, and there was nowhere to go to recharge or recover. So, I went to bed at 6pm, and then went back to bed with my daughter later.

I tried to do better the next day. I didn’t do a lot better, but I did do better. And I’ve suffered the mom guilt thing ever since. Why, when I love my child more than life itself, when I study and memorize respectful parenting texts, when I intellectually know how to do better, do I not do it all the time??? What is wrong with me???

Ironically, this is the question my daughter asks herself every single day, all day long. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop myself every time? Why didn’t I think things through? Why is it so hard for me to listen? Why do people get so angry at me? Why can’t I be “good”?

So, as a mom, I’m here today, doing my best. Apologizing and owning my own shortcomings with my daughter. All morning I made a herculean effort to be less short-tempered, to not yell, to not storm off. She could only find one shoe. She wanted chocolate candy for breakfast. She crawled over the middle of the seats in the rental car. She wanted a jacket. Then didn’t want it when she had one sleeve on. She wouldn’t go into her classroom because she hated the shoes she was wearing because we couldn’t find the other shoe she wanted. On, and on. And I kept saying, “I’m trying so hard not to lose my temper. I love you and I want you to know how much I love you. I’m frustrated by this but I’m trying not to yell. I want to have a good morning together.” Over and over. And somehow, the morning was a little better for it. Not because she did what I wanted in the end (she wore the shoes she didn’t like, but complained the whole time, she didn’t wear the jacket, she crawled over the seat), but because I didn’t throw gasoline on her fire. So the fire was smaller and easier to recover from.

My daughter is my spiritual practice. She pushes me to practice what I preach. She insists that I never stop growing. Her existence forces me to mindfulness. I’m grateful to her in every way.

4 weeks!

Four weeks left of school for my little one! There are certain days that inspire me to enter the next year, without “school”, with passion and without fear. One of those days was Sunday, when my girl and I headed off to a new beach to see what we could see. We discovered a free children’s program led by park rangers, we got to see them feed the aquarium life there, a little tour behind the scenes of the tanks, and then out to the beach!

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Making a new friend, working together, digging hands and toes and bodies into the natural world.

With my own eyes, I could see that play in this mud was worth 1000 hours in a classroom. The cooperation, teamwork, communication, sensory stimuli, engineering, creativity, knowledge building, and nature exploration was good for body, mind, and soul, not just mind. And let’s be honest… who can learn when their body’s needs, and their soul’s needs, are not also being met?

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Running free, learning in peace.

As well-meaning and loving as the adults in my daughter’s school have been (and they have been so loving with her), nothing can fill a child with learning the way that freedom can. After school, my daughter is grumpy, sad, irritable, and tired with low self-esteem. After 5 hours straight on the beach, exploring freely or learning from rangers, whichever she chose, she was calm, regulated, confident, and happy. So, it seems to me, the choice has become a no-brainer.

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Exploring the free aquarium on the beach. Learning happens all the time!

Not everyone has the choice, financially, or for child-care reasons. I’ve been given an incredible gift: an opportunity to give her the learning that fills her up, rather than empties her. We are taking it! Now, wouldn’t it be amazing, if someday, all children could access this type of education???

Anything less is not good enough.