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To New Beginnings and Happy Endings

Today is a big day. Today my youngest two children start kindergarten and my oldest child begins second grade. This is a day that seemed forever away on the horizon. It was the major milestone that I kept in sight on the hardest days of parenting. If I could just make it to the twins’ first day of kindergarten, at the very least I can start blaming all their shortcomings on their teachers (just kidding teacher friends! Love you and what you do and BLESS YOU a million times).

There were days when I never believed I would make it here. It seemed forever away. There were days when I had to leave the grocery story because I had two crying babies and a screaming toddler and I was about to burst into tears. There were days when I thought if I had to clean up one more spilled cup I was going to scream. There were trips to the doctor for ear infections and sleepless nights due to stomach viruses. There were days.

They weren’t all bad. There were days when they were so adorable when just a look from either of them would melt my heart. There were toys shared and pictures drawn that were beyond sweet.

I started this blog almost three years ago exactly. The twins had just begun preschool. This is a picture from their very first day of preschool.

Who are these babies? Has it really only been three years since they were this small? They have changed so much since then. I remember when they were starting preschool, I wondered how they would do. I could not imagine that either of them would be able to follow directions. I imagined the teacher leader circle time and my kids standing up in the middle of it and walking over to a toy that caught their attention. I could not for the life of me picture them sitting still while their teach handed out the snack. And yet, they stepped up to every challenge and did amazing in preschool.

I took this next picture this past weekend.

Seriously, who are these big kids? I wish I could tell the mom taking the picture of the preschool kids that the next three years will go by so fast. Even if I could, I wouldn’t have believed me. I’d heard it a million times and brushed it off as an over used cliché. Because when you are living live with three preschoolers, nothing goes by fast.

Except it does.

I’m thankful for this blog because it helped me capture some of the memories I know I would have forgotten if I hadn’t written them down. Like how hard it used to be to ride escalators with my children. Or the fun we had playing games. For three years this blog helped me while I struggled to find meaning in a chaotic daily life. Hard days became blog posts with a redeeming lesson at the end. Many times it took writing it down to realize just how special the moment had been. Other times if I didn’t sit in front of a computer screen for an hour to let it out, I would have just sat alone and cried. This blog helped me during an important phase of parenting. I mostly wrote it for myself and it was a bonus that others enjoyed reading it.

But for the past year or so, the posts have become fewer. This is due partly to the fact that I blogg over at todayisawgod.org and partly to the fact that I started working full-time.

I believe in beginnings and I believe in endings. I’m so glad that I started this blog because it helped me discover my love for writing. It gave me an outlet that I desperately needed. But it is time for the ending. This is not the end of Susan blogging forever. As I said, I’m still writing at todayisawgod.org. But for now, this blog is ending. I’m closing this chapter so that I can move on to different things. Maybe I’ll be back with a different type of blog or maybe I’ll write again about parenting observations. I just don’t know.

Thank you to my loyal readers. You are great. Your support and encouragement helped convince me that I didn’t need to throw in the towel after only a few posts. Thank you to my amazing husband who shared his wife with a computer screen on countless occasions and who read through almost every post for typos no matter how late it became.

But most of all, thank you to my wonderful kids. Thank you for unknowingly sharing your life in this blog. After I capture these posts and save them, hopefully you will read them some day and realize that yes, mommy was stressed a lot, but she was mostly just trying to be a good mom. Being a good mom shouldn’t have to be so stressful and though it may not have seemed like it at the time, I was constantly doing my best to chill out. The three of you are the delights of my day and you will always bring me joy!

Happy first day of kindergarten and second grade!

The End of An Era

I wasn’t sure what to do with you when I first held you both in my arms. I was scared. I questioned whether I had what it would take to be your mom. I was so happy to be holding you but at the same time I was so scared that I would mess up or make a mistake or break down because life was about to get very hard.

Guess what? I did mess up, I made a lot of mistakes and I even broke down. But it was all worth it. Because through out all of it, I got to be your mom. Life was hard and things were crazy but after five years of this twins thing I think we’ve finally found our groove.

I always imagined that the first 5 years would be the hardest. I knew that it would be difficult to have two little babies and a toddler in the house. Two babies learning to sleep through the night. Two toddlers learning to walk. Two preschoolers learning to potty train. Everything was done in twos with you guys and in so many ways that made the last five years the hardest five years of my life.

But there is another side to having twins that people don’t always get to see. As the mother of twins I experienced twice the joy. You were two sweet babies that I got to hold in my arms at nap time. You gave me twice the amount of baby giggles that I found so adorable. You gave me twice the hugs and twice the kisses.

You taught me a lot about a lot of things. Take patience. As two children who end up sharing most things, you know a thing or two about patience. You’ve had to wait for things. When there is only space for one person, you’ve learned to wait your turn. This has taught you a lot about disappointment. As the second and third child you’ve haven’t had the same royal treatment that your older brother received his first years. For every first that he endeavored, a parade of pomp and circumstance followed. You guys were different. We were just so thrilled to make it to your milestones that we had little energy to do much else. You learned to just go with it.

Here we are five years later and what amazing kids you’ve become.

Daughter, watching you make friends is like watching the sunrise every morning. It comes so easy to you. It seems every time we leave the house you make a new friend. I hope that you never lose that skill. I hope that you will always see people as friends that you haven’t met yet. I love how excited you get over the silliest things. I love your love for girly things while at the same time your ability to keep up with the boys. I love you.

Son, I didn’t know four year olds could be this thoughtful. How is it that you have learned to be more selfless than many grown adults including myself? Thank you for the example to set in this house to always be thinking about others’ needs. I love that it took you 4 years to learn how to like cuddling but now that you do you want to cuddle all the time. I love that you won’t let me leave the house without first running to give me a giant hug and kiss. I love you.

Today is your birthday. Today you are five. In a few months, you’ll be done with preschool and ready to start kindergarten. I’m a little sad to close this chapter of our lives but I am so excited to see what the next five years will bring us.

Today You Are Seven.

Can it really be that today you are seven? I’m not quite sure how we are here already. Last week when we bought the number seven birthday candle for your birthday cake I actually had to stop to think to make sure I had the right number. Seven does not feel right. You haven’t even lost your first tooth yet. You are the same height as your four-year-old brother. How can you be seven?

Trust me, some days you feel way older than seven. Some days, you look at me with that grin of yours and you say some witty remark and I swear you are an adult trapped in six-year-old’s body. Other days when you refuse to do your homework or clean up your room you seem very tween-like.

But most days you are still my sweet little boy. The baby that made me a mom. Seven years a mom. You’d think after seven years we’d have this thing down, but as you and I have both learned this year there are so many layers to this parent-child relationship thing. Just when we think we are making progress, one of us goes and throws another wrench in the process.

We have had our moments this year. We struggle at times to communicate effectively don’t we? If I’m being honest, most of my frustration comes when I perceive you not caring about things that I cared about at your age. I am trying to remember that you are not me and you do things differently than me but it is hard. As you grow older, this will become more and more difficult. I promise to try my best to allow you to grow into your own person and not just try to mold you into a miniature version of me. The world doesn’t need another version of me. There is already one of me. The world needs a you. You have so much to offer the world. You are creative. You are funny. You are outgoing. You are charming. You have talents I never had. Trying to mold you into me would be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. You are already on your way to becoming an awesome adult. I will try to remember that.

Thank you for another great year of being your mom. Thank you for teaching me patience as we attempt to study Japanese together. Thank you for your forgiveness when I’ve let you down. Thank you for playing with your brother and sister even when you’d rather play alone. Thank you for always trying your best when you play basketball. Thank you for holding my hand in the parking lot. Thank you for flashing that amazing smile that still melts my heart. Thank you for insisting that I cuddle with you at night before you go bed.

I can’t wait to watch you grow this year.

(And I promise that you will FINALLY lose a tooth when you are seven. This is definitely your year buddy.)

Lions and Safety Drills

Today my son’s school had a safety drill. Yesterday they sent a letter home explaining the importance of the drill and the preparedness of the school if something were to happen and the school had to go on lock-down. The letter made me calm and anxious at the same time. I was glad the school had thought through such things but sad that it needed too. I still remember all too clearly the feelings last December from Sandy Hook.

I was curious how this safety drill would go in the eyes of my first grader. While the letter assured the parents that the drill would not be traumatic or scary, I wondered what he would think of the whole ordeal. So before he went to bed tonight I asked him.

He told me how the entire class huddled into a corner of the classroom and got into tiny balls. He described how the teacher put black plastic things over the windows on the doors. My stomach began to churn as I imagined the room full of kids acting out such a scene.

And then he said something that made me laugh.

“And my teacher said we have to be really quiet because if an animal got into our school, like a lion, we wouldn’t want the lion to know where we are. Which makes sense, except I think lions live in Africa so I don’t really think a lion will ever come into our school.”

I thought of a room full of 6-year-olds imagining a lion wandering the school hallways. I hoped they all sat there today in their tight little balls and thought, “Well, this is silly, I don’t think a lion will ever come to our school.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad my son’s school has a plan. I’m so glad the students practiced it. But I’m also glad my son doesn’t have to go to school every day wondering if today will be the day when the teacher has to cover the windows and the class will huddle in the corner for real.

Thank you teachers for knowing just what to say to put a kid (and his mom) at ease.

Teaching My Extroverted Kids How to Be Introverts

My three kids are extroverts. On a scale of 1 to 10 they rank a 26. They have entire conversations with complete strangers in the grocery store. I can leave them with a different babysitter every day and they will never have separation anxiety. They make friends with kids in public play areas and expect to have play dates with them a week later.

They love people.

If you were to document their day, I would imagine 80% of it is spent interacting with others. I can’t speak for my older son while he’s in school, but I can tell you that when my two four-year-olds are home they are together. It never occurs to them to play separately. They might literally be biting and pulling each other’s hair out because they hate each other so much in that moment, but they would still rather play in the same room with each other than play alone somewhere else.

And so, as summer has begun and the days are becoming longer, I am already noticing that they are growing tired of each other. I can hardly blame my twins. If I had spent every waking moment with someone for the past 4 and a half years of my life I think I’d be a little sick of them too.

As I began to notice the noise level slowly increasing in our house, my inner-introvert was begging for sanity.

“Why don’t these kids ever just sit down and read a book?”

“Do they even KNOW how to play by themselves?”

And that’s when I realized, maybe they don’t. I will say that my older son does. And once in a while, he will sneak off to our designated craft space and draw. This lasts about 10 minutes before one of the younger siblings discovers him and wants to color as well and then a fight breaks out over the yellow crayon.

The twins have always had each other to play with. Their life is one long play date. When my son started school, they still had each other. When they were toddlers, out of convenience, I always had them playing in the same room so I could watch them. Now that they are actually old enough to play in a room without me watching their every move, it rarely occurs to them to separate.

And that’s when I decided that twice a day, for 30 minutes increments, we were going to have mandatory introverted time. We have three floors in our house and three kids. Perfect. I mapped out some ground rules:

  1. You must stay on your designated floor for the entire 30 minutes. We have a bathroom on every floor so there are no excuses.
  2. Pick activities you can manage yourself. No asking Mom or the babysitter for help. While this sounds like I’m promoting independence, I’m actually trying to eliminate the loophole my children have discovered that is asking for help and getting a chance to interact with people.
  3. If you stay on your designated floor for your entire time you will get a prize. This is pretty self-explanatory.

We are only in the trial phase of this experiment as school has only recently ended. It takes about 10 minutes for them to get settled but once they are the next 30-40 minutes (a perk of children who can’t tell time) are wonderful. The house is beyond quiet. Well it’s not actually silent because all three kids still insist on talking to themselves while playing alone, but the decibel level decreases at least by at least 80%. At first my husband, the extreme extrovert from whom they get their social tendencies, thought I was crazy but even he can’t argue with the peace this time creates in our house.

My hope is that by the end of the summer they might actually choose to play by themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I love that they are so outgoing. I love that can hold conversations with everyone around them. But I also want to give them the skills to be alone. I want to teach them how to get lost in a book. I want them to explore their own imagination instead of playing off someone else’s idea. I want them to be able to express their creativity by coloring and drawing what’s in their heart.

Do they beg for quiet time?

No.

Will they ever?

Maybe not.

If they learn nothing else from this summer experiment, my hope is that they will learn that playing alone is not miserable but can actually be just as fun.

Okay maybe that last part is pushing it, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

How a Trip to Vegas Helped Me Find Myself

In February 2012, I spent a girl’s weekend away in Las Vegas with my two best friends to celebrate the fact that we were each turning 30 that year. Stated like that, it sounds a lot more risqué than it actually was. In reality, one of these two friends was living in neighboring Henderson, NV while attending med school and we went to visit her.

But we did have fun. Three friends together again, catching up, sharing stories and making new memories. The last time the three of us had been together for such a length of time with no kids or no husbands or boyfriends was 11 years ago. It was time. It had been so long since my only job was to make decisions for myself. We got ready to go places in a quarter of the time it usually takes with kids. Except, of course, for when we actually decided to blow dry our hair and put make up on which case it took us twice as long as usual than our everyday mom routine. The weekend was everything I hoped it would be.

But it was a conversation I had on the flight with my friend that rocked my world.

My friend has two boys that are about the same spread in age that my three kids are. So she gets it. She understands the 4 p.m. meltdowns and grocery store temper tantrums. We laughed and marveled at the moms raising the seemingly well-behaved gentle boys. We didn’t get those boys. We got the boys that jump from couches and run laps around our houses.

And then she said it.

“Yes, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I don’t miss working. I love being home with them.”

Hmmm.

Really?

She’s a stay at home mom, with her kids all day long, and there is no place she’d rather be? I love my kids. I absolutely love them with all of my heart and soul, but I also love being at work. I sometimes refer to work as my “day off”. I love the adrenaline I feel when I’m working on a new project. I love sitting in a meeting and brainstorming a new concept. I love spending my day with adults. And when I come home I love being with my kids. But sometimes when I’m home there is somewhere I’d rather be; sometimes I’d rather be at work.

As a mother, thinking that phrase in my head, I was mortified.

How could I possibly believe that? Why couldn’t I just be like my friend? We are alike in so many ways. Why couldn’t we just be alike in this area as well. But we weren’t. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself, I couldn’t agree with her statement.

So when I returned from Vegas I knew I needed to wrestle with that statement more. The conversation with my husband went something like this:

Me: “Hey honey, can we talk a little later?”

Him: “Umm, sure. What’s this about?”

Me: [Bursting into tears] “I don’t really want to talk about it in front of the kids.”

In hindsight, this really wasn’t the best way to open a conversation after returning home from a girls weekend in Vegas. I spent the rest of dinner cryptically assuring my husband that the conversation was not going to be about some breach in my fidelity or my desire to run off to Vegas but instead was about my career goals and motherhood.

There were a lot of tears that night as I tried to explain the thoughts flying through my head. The truth was, I didn’t really know what I was thinking. For three years I struggled and worked really hard to get the hang of the stay at home part of motherhood, but I never could get it to click. I never felt like I fully fit in to that world. And as I tried to explain this to my husband I realized that I still wasn’t sure what I was saying. Did I really want to work full-time? How would we manage everything? We could barely manage household life with me working part-time, how did we expect to manage it with me out of the house for 15 more hours a week? Was I just over reacting to a nice girl’s weekend? Maybe I just needed more weekends like that.

Needless to say I was a mess.

For awhile.

We spent the next few months having hard conversations about new goals and new plans for our family’s future. As I came to settle on the fact that I wanted to work full-time, we wondered if I’d be able to keep my current job or if I’d have to find a new job. Or, if my current job couldn’t accommodate a full-time position, would I be okay staying at a part-time position until they could. There was lots of praying. Lots of asking for strength.

And then things started falling into place.

I talked to my boss and after a bit of working on the budget and staffing structure they were able to accommodate my request to go full-time. In a little over a month, I will make that transition and I can honestly say I can’t wait. Of course it will be a transition for our entire house, but we have all talked about it and there isn’t a single person in this house that I don’t think can handle it.

Last weekend, I returned to Vegas to see my same friend graduate medical school. In addition to celebrating her big day, this trip back was significant for me as well. It was the end of a 15-month journey that lead me along a path to resolve the tension inside of me. I was very excited to go. My husband was terrified. Worried that I might come back with an entirely new perspective and want to become a stay-at-home mom, he reminded me several times before the trip that the decision had been made for me to go full-time and there was little we could do to change that at this point. The good news for him was that I came home with no second wave of a quarter-life crisis.

But on this plane ride I was able to reflect on what I did during those 15-months that changed my trajectory so much.

Speak up.
That first Monday night could have gone very differently. I could have very easily stayed quiet. I could have bottled my emotions and convinced myself that they didn’t matter. I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t always easy. I was scared and I said things that didn’t always come out the way that I meant for them to come out but if I had never voiced my concerns I could still be where I was 15 months ago, which was not the best place.

Connect with Friends.
Life became busy when the twins were born. The amount of laundry doubled, the dishes tripled and the number of toys, well, I can’t count that high. Between spending time with family and keeping up with household minutia, I had nothing left. By 7 p.m., I was exhausted. When my husband and I did go out, we went out alone for date nights. We lost track of our friends. That’s not to say we stopped all contact entirely, but as most parents can relate, we just didn’t go out as much after we had kids because going out meant finding a babysitter, paying a babysitter and, perhaps most important, losing cherished sleep time. But losing those connections meant losing the relationships that round out your sanity. Your spouse is great, but of course he/she is going to relate to your parenting struggles, he/she has he same kids! I find no greater joy than going to a friend’s house and watching her son have a meltdown in front of me. It sounds horrible, I know, but it assures me that my kid isn’t a lost cause. If her seemingly okay kid can have a meltdown because the fruit snacks are Phineas and Ferb themed and not Batman themed then my kid crying over wearing no underwear with her bathing suit doesn’t seem so bad. The first weekend in Vegas reminded me how much I missed my friends. In the 15-months that have followed that trip, both my husband and I have been blessed to reconnect with old and new friends that help us feel like maybe we aren’t the worst parents in the world.

Ask for Help.
My husband is a great person to talk to. He should be; he’s a pastor. I also have friends that are amazing listeners. As wonderful as the people in my life are, I needed more help than they could give me. There were things I needed help with that went beyond that duties of husband or friend. Things that I needed to be able to work out for myself and not worry about how others would perceive me. For me, I find that it can be easier to talk to a complete stranger than to someone who knows me to the center of my soul. If you have never been to professional counseling, it’s incredible. It’s like going for coffee with someone where you get to talk about yourself for the entire time. Except that you are paying the person to have coffee with you. Or in my case, my insurance company was paying the person to have coffee with me. I know there is a stigma around counseling and I think that’s ridiculous. I know it sounds weird to say “I go to counseling because I struggle with the balance between motherhood and my career goals.” But here is the thing. I do. And before I started going to counseling, I was unhappy. And I didn’t know why. Counseling helped my figure out a lot of things. I think I’m a better mom now. I also think I’m better at my job now. So you can judge me because I couldn’t figure these things out on my own, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I needed help.

So those are my three life lessons from the past 15 months. I won’t lie, I cried a lot of tears this past year. But I also smiled. A lot. I learned how to look for joy again. I discovered I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. I connected with friends who helped my crazy days feel not so bad. I also came to know that when my husband stood in a church 8 years ago and made a promise to love and cherish me through good times and hard times he meant it. He has listened to me and supported me and encouraged me every step along the way. I could not have done this without him.

And to every one else who provided love and encouragement, whether you knew what was going on behind the curtain or not, thank you.

 

Seeing the Beauty

My daughter is beautiful.

She has these gorgeous big blue eyes that are the size of sand dollars. Her hair flows like golden thread down her back. When she smiles, the sun shines a little brighter.

When I look at her I see a beautiful princess. There is not a single thing wrong with her. She is perfect.

I take a lot of pictures of her. Mostly because I find her doing adorable things at random moments throughout the day. I often share her adorable moments on Instagram and Facebook. One thing that always catches me off guard are the comments about how much she looks like me. When I look at my daughter, I do not see a little version of me. This is a person I have seen almost every day of her life. When I look at her, I see the girl who once was my baby who is quickly growing into a big girl. I see a few similarities, but I would not say she is a clone of me. I think this is pretty common among parents. I hardly ever talk to a parent who can see the similarities between their children and themselves. Most are like me, they see some traits, but not all of them.

Regardless of what I think, people still tell me that she looks exactly like me all the time. Which means that she hears that she looks like me all the time.

So no matter what I tell her she looks like, she is going to take cues on the value of her appearance based on my opinion of myself. Do you see how confusing that can be for her? I can tell her she is beautiful, but if she hears me degrading my looks, what is she supposed to think? Do I really believe that my critical words about myself will not affect her?

Most mornings, she is standing right next to me, in the bathroom, mirroring my actions as I get ready for work. There we are, the two of us, staring into the mirror getting ready together. Right now, she is four and she wants to be just like me. Sure, she sometimes puts eye shadow on her checks instead of her eyelids, but she is trying her best to be like her mom.

Now imagine, if every morning, as we are getting ready, I am voicing an external dialogue of self-criticism. Or, in an attempt to make sure she knows how beautiful she is, I make remarks about her beautiful hair and my awful hair.

As if only one of us can be beautiful.

This habit of self-criticism teaches my daughter two things. First, it teaches her to look for the negative. Find the flaws. Instead of teaching her to focus on the things about herself that make her beautiful, self-criticism teaches her to focus on what’s wrong with herself. When I tell her how beautiful she is at the expense of my beauty, I am teaching her how to compare her looks to those around her. I’m giving her the words to build sentences like “I wish my stomach was as flat as your stomach” or “Your skin is so much clearer than mine!”

This is not uncommon in girl world. She is bound to come across it, but she is not going to learn it from me. For the rest of her life she’s going to hear “You look just like your mom” when she is around my friends. She might be like me and find that hard to believe (in her teenage years I’m sure I’m the last person she’ll aspire to be like), but at some point she might begin to see the truth behind that statement. She might look into the mirror and see glimpses of me looking back at her. When she find those pieces of me, I hope she will see the beauty in the mirror. I hope she will smile when she sees my smile. I hope her eyes will sparkle when she sees my eyes.

I do not think I am perfect. You will not find me on the cover of a magazine anytime soon; okay let us be honest, ever.

But I believe the best gift I can give my daughter is the ability to look into the mirror, ignore the flaws, and see a beautiful face looking back at her.

The Scratches of Life

He lives life to the fullest.

He is our risk taker.

He wants to live every day to the max.

There is no down time for him.

He has been this way his entire life. From the first months of his life, my husband and I noticed there was something different about him. That’s the thing about having a twin sister: everything you do is compared to her. Whereas she liked to be held and cuddled for long periods of the day, he would rather be free to stretch and roll on the floor. He did not like the confines of someone’s arms when he could be roaming the floor learning to crawl.

A diagnosis of torticollis turned out to be an ironic blessing in his development because he wore a helmet on his head for 23 hours a day to help reshape his head. This provided amazing protection when he learned to walk. As he took his first steps and began to wobble around the house, I was able to breathe easy knowing his head was safeguarded from the furniture he seemed to have no fear charging into.

He has a scar on his upper lip from falling into the corner of a wall. Upon seeing the cut for the first time I, perhaps slightly overreacting, was convinced his front tooth had come through his lip, which was the reason for all the blood. Slightly freaking out, I ran outside to get my husband who was talking to the neighbors. When he came in to examine our son, and looked on the inside of his lip, he noticed there was no interior cut. The tooth had not come through. It was just a cut from the wall. This was my first clue as his mother that I would need to learn to keep a level head when assessing his injuries. This ability to stay calm and not freak out when he comes to me bleeding has served me well.

I imagine him as an adult. Of my three kids, he will most likely be the first one to sky dive, rock climb or, well, get a speeding ticket. He will attempt to do things his brother and sister will never consider. He will experience life. He will not sit passively and watch it pass him by. He will do more in one month than most of us will do in an entire year.

That will be him as an adult.

But today he is still just 4 years old. He is still just a little boy learning the ins and outs of riding a bike. And so, when he went to make a sharp turn on Friday after his older brother cut him off, he took a fall. He landed face first on the hard pavement. I wasn’t home but my husband reports that there was no shortage of tears or blood. By the time I was able to come home he was no longer crying, just iced up and sitting on my husband’s lap.

The little monkey who is usually so active and vibrant was temporarily content with cuddles and hugs while his face throbbed in pain.

I worried the fall would scare him off bikes for a while. Other moms have shared their child’s fall stories and how their kids have not touched their bikes since. My heart sank a little. My son loves his bike.  It brings him such joy. Would he ever ride as carefree as he did before his fall?

Two days later my fears subsided. He was back on his bike as if nothing had ever happened. Less than a week after the fall there was hardly any mention of the incident.

This fall is not the first nor will it be his last.  Throughout his life, he will encounter his share of scrapes and bruises. His resilience on his bike demonstrates that he seems to understand this far better than I do. I want to protect him from every future scraped knee and elbow. I want to wrap him in bubble wrap so that he’ll never be the little boy throbbing in pain with an ice pack to his lip again.

But you cannot live life to the fullest without getting a few scratches along the way.

The Story

I’ve told the story at least 100 times. I’m sure if you recorded me telling the story 10 times, I tell it using the exact same words with 98% accuracy. There are most likely errors in the story but the story has been told the same way for so long, the truth is long forgotten. Years from now, my children will tell their children this story. When you have twins, the “when did you find out it was twins?” question becomes as common as the “how did you meet?” question when talking to married couples. This is my story.

It was a Monday morning in late August and I had just found out I was pregnant a few weeks earlier. I was eight weeks pregnant and it was the day of my 8-week check-up.  The day before I had had an issue that concerned me and spent the day googling the symptoms (never good) to see if I was having a miscarriage. While my internet findings gave me results that said I could be experiencing anything from a miscarriage to a multiple pregnancy to a normal pregnancy most of what I read said that it was completely normal. I thought it was best to bring it up with the doctor anyway. She agreed that it was probably nothing but prescribed an ultrasound just for “peace of mind.”

My husband had accompanied me to the first appointment, but it was his first day of fall classes for seminary and since we were pretty confident that everything was okay I gave him my blessing to go to class as to not miss his first day. The last thing he said before he left was:

“Call me if it’s good news, call me if it’s bad news, just don’t call me if it’s twins.”

I called my mom to come with me, more to watch my son in the waiting room, but also to be there if something was wrong and I needed emotional support.

While the technician was doing the ultrasound, she was mostly quiet which made me a little nervous.  It seemed to be taking longer than it needed to. After a bit, the technician turned her screen toward me and showed me a picture and said:

“Do you know what this is a picture of?”

I had not had an 8-week ultrasound with my firstborn. The only reason I had even a remote guess at what she was showing me was because my friend had just told me she was pregnant and had shown me her 8-week “black bean” ultrasound picture. I sat up to get a better view of the two black beans that were on the screen in front of me. Hesitant to answer, I looked at the technician and then back at the screen.

“Is it, are there two of them?”

“Yes, and I saw heartbeats for both. So it looks like you have two babies in there!”

The technician went back to the waiting room to get my mom so I could share the good news. Coming back to see what she thought would be pictures of just one baby, imagine her surprise when I explained what the two black beans meant. We asked the technician a few more questions and then headed out to the car.

At this point, the appointment had taken much longer than expected. I looked at my phone and realized I has missed a call from my husband. I quickly called him back.

“Well she said she saw a heartbeat.”

“That’s great.”

“And then she saw another one.”

I could tell he was confused and then remembering his last words to me, I added,

“Sorry, I didn’t call you but you told me not to call.”

“Wait, what?”

“Twins! We are having twins!”

The rest gets kind of blurry. Family members were called. Friends were notified.  The events of the day were quickly becoming the events of the story that would be told and retold again and again.

I share this story today because my twins, the ones that were born over a month ago were originally due today.

April Fool’s Day.

And if you know them you’ll agree that this was a fitting due date for them. Because their main goal in life is to make others smile. Whether it’s trying to tell funny jokes (that are never really that funny) or singing silly songs, these two kids know how to bring smiles to everyone’s faces.

They came a little early, but they are still jokesters at heart.

Happy 4th Birthday!

A Very Special Letter to Two Very Special 4 Year Olds.

Today is your birthday. You are both four. You can discuss it all you want, but you are both equally four. Technically, your birth certificates might read you were born a minute a part but I was there and I promise you, you entered the world within seconds of each other. One of you might be taller today but trust me son, when puberty hits, that might change for a few years. I wouldn’t get too comfortable being the tall one, she’s close behind you and eats way more fruits and vegetables than you.

Today you are four and that is special. It is special because you have another person to celebrate the exact same milestone with. The two of you have a bond that no one else will ever have with you. I know I tell you this all the time, but I don’t think you’ll truly realize this until much later in life. The miracle that took place to create two babies instead of one is something special that most of us don’t have. Most of us didn’t have a friend with us when we were in our Mommy’s tummy. You did. You were literally created with a friend right next to you. I know you don’t always think of each other as friends and you threaten to not be brother and sister anymore, but fortunately that is something you will never be able to change. You will always be brother and sister. You are special together.

But you are also special because of who you are when you are alone. Yes, you are a twin and that is special, but you more than just a twin sibling. And so, because your older brother gets his very own birthday post on his birthday, here are your very own birthday posts.

To my Sweet 4-year-old Son,

Wow. To say this has been quite a year is putting it mildly, isn’t it? I’m not sure when it started but I’m pretty sure you hit the ground running when you turned three and you haven’t slowed down yet. In one year you have done three years worth of activities. I often tell people the world moves too slowly for you. Some might say you are a bull in a china shop, but I prefer to say that the world was built too small for you. That’s why you love to be outside. When you are outside you are free. You can spread your arms wide and run and soar like an eagle. You would be outside everyday if you could. It is only because I refuse to stand outside in 30 degree weather that we aren’t out there in the winter. The cold doesn’t seem to bother you though, you are moving too fast to notice the chill. My favorite memory of you this summer was you riding your bike. It was a bike that was too small for you. You had outgrown this bike and yet you loved to ride it. You were so proud to show me how you could pedal up the driveway and glide all the way down again and up the neighbor’s driveway. I think you liked riding your bike because on the bike you are finally going a speed that is normal to you. While others might look at you and think you are going fast, to you it’s just normal. I will cherish the image of you riding that bike down the driveway in my mind.

To my 4-year-old Princess,

Today you are four. You have waited for this day for weeks and it is finally here. It’s very special to be you. At three you have come out of your shell. I used to worry that you would get lost next to your two extraverted brothers but this year you have shown the world there is nothing to worry about. It has been such a joy to get to know your personality. You are spunky and sweet at the same time. One moment you can be insisting on brushing your hair yourself and the next minute you are sitting in my lap asking me to read you a book. It must be tough being three. You are capable of so many things but still dependent on so many other things. The good news is when you are four, things will get a little easier. You’ll learn to do more things which means you will be dependent on me for even less. This will be exciting to you, but a little sad for me. It’s a tough balance for us mothers and daughters. As you strive for independence I will want to hold you tight and keep you small forever. It’s not that I don’t trust you can do it on your own; I’m sure that you can. It’s just in my mind you are still the little baby in the NICU born 5 weeks early. You’re the sweet little baby who used to love to be held for hours. It’s hard to change that mental picture. That’s why I cherish your hugs so much. They take me back every time. Promise me that you will still come to me 50 times a day and say “I Love You” like you do now. If you promise to keep doing that, I promise to keep telling you the story about how lucky I am that God gave me you.

Happy Birthday.