Be present. Be happy.

Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective, Musings from the Mayhem, Raising Great Kids, Twins | 4 comments

I work hard to be present in the lives of my kids.  It’s not always easy – there’s a million tempting distractions.  But time is of the essence.  As life charges full speed ahead (it’s exhausting just trying to keep up with them) I’ve still got a job to do.

Yesterday morning I was blessed with a reminder of why this is so important.

I have always chosen to park the van and walk the kids to their classrooms.  I love it when they grab my hand in the parking lot and the hallway.  I love kissing and hugging them goodbye at their lockers.  I love interacting with their friends; seeing if I can find the right joke to make them forget about their tired shyness and make them smile.

This year, however, the school has moved to a new location.  Our commute has doubled to 20 minutes without traffic, parking is not at all convenient, and if I leave the school too late I get stuck in rush-hour traffic on my way home.  For all of these reasons, I have been considering using the drop-off lane.  Kissing the kids at the curb.  Letting them walk in on their own.

I shared these thoughts with the kids a few days ago.

“No Momma!  We love it when you walk us in!” Sydney and Taylor both agreed.

“Mommy!  It’s my last year of elementary school,” Gabe argued.  “You have to walk me in.”

“Well, let’s just consider it as an option,” I encouraged them.

“Mommy?” Taylor inquired.  “What if we forget to kiss you at the car?  Would you come in our classroom and steal smooches like you always do if we forget?”

“Ummmm…yeah!” I playfully reprimanded her.

I heard whispers at the table.  Then giggles.  Then high-fives were shared amongst all three kids.

Hey!” I scolded.  “You can’t forget to kiss me on purpose just so I have to come in!”

They threw their heads back with evil little belly laughs.  “Aw, man!  How did you know?” Taylor giggled.

“I know your tricks!” I taunted her.

I stopped and smiled.  One of those God-I-love-them-more-than-life-itself kind of smiles.  Where my eyes well up just briefly, and my chest heaves from the overflow of love that’s gushing through my heart.

A couple of days later, we were late getting to school.  If I dropped them off, they had a better chance of not being counted tardy.  If I wasted time to park, they were flirting with the bell.

“Guys, Mommy’s gonna drop you off at the curb today so you’re not late, okay?” I warned them.

“Okay,” they all agreed with disappointed voices.  They do not like to be late, so they understood it was necessary.  I was secretly relieved.  Now I’d have a better chance of avoiding traffic on the way home.

“Look, Mommy!” Gabe shouted with excitement from the back seat.  “A spot by the front door just opened up!  It’s perfect!” he said.

Ugh.  That was my first thought.  I sighed.  “Okay, but get ready to hop out right away!” I urged.

And then it happened.

When we reached the girls lockers, which are right across the hall from one another, Gabe stopped too.  “Goodbye, Momma.  I’ll hug you here so you don’t have to walk all the way down the hall for me,” he said with compassion.  He put his arms around my neck and kissed me.  Then hugged me.  Then kissed me again.

“Bye Buddy,” I said.  “I love you.”

“I love you too.  Thanks for walking us in,” he smiled and walked away.

“You’re welcome,” I said to his back, so grateful that he’d found the perfect parking spot.

I smiled with contentment as I redirected my attention to his little sisters.  Sydney had just closed her locker door, ready to start the day.  I leaned down for her kiss, but she rushed past me in the opposite direction of her classroom.  “Sydney!  Where are you going?  You’re gonna be late!” I reminded her with impatience.

“Hang on, Momma!  I’ve got to say goodbye to Taylor,” she said as she stood next to her twin sister, who was still unloading her backpack into her locker.

A few seconds later, Taylor stood up, shut her locker door, and faced Sydney.  “Bye Sissy,” Sydney said to her favorite person in the whole wide world.  Taylor smiled, gave her identical twin sister a hug and a kiss, and then hurried into her classroom.

I watched with wonder.  That.  That right there is why I will continue to walk them into school.  So that I am present for those special moments.  The moments they don’t even know I’m watching.  The moments  I will never, ever forget.

Sydney hurried toward me.  “Bye, Momma!  Love you!” she kissed me so fast she almost missed my face.

“Bye, Baby!” I said, as her pig-tails bounced away before disappearing into her classroom.

Then I looked for Taylor.  That little shit.  I chuckled as I barged into her classroom, not caring if the bell was going to ring while I was in there or not.

“Hey, Missy!  Where’s my smooch?” I pretended to be annoyed.

“I guess you’re gonna have to steal one!” Taylor giggled sheeplishly, as she looked at her friends like her Mom was a crazy woman.  They laughed along with her as I stole yet another smooch from my happy little girl.

As I sat in traffic on the way home, I realized I was no longer in a rush.  I was happy to spend the time reflecting on my morning with the kids.  I was so grateful for the reminder to continue to be present.  Because when I am present, I am happy.  And so are my children.

 

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My Messy Mistake

Posted by on Aug 23, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective, Musings from the Mayhem | 4 comments

My husband Craig was a collegiate soccer goalie at Michigan State University.  As a result, he tends to coach our son Gabriel’s u11 soccer team with the same intensity and drive that it takes to become a Big Ten athlete.  He means well, and wants his players to meet their full potential.  He believes winning is just as important as having fun.  Craig is bothered by a loss, and expects his players to be too.

Because he takes the game so seriously, at times he acts a little crazy.  He often screams from the sidelines when a player is in need of encouragement or reprimanding.  He jumps and cheers when the team does something worth celebrating.  He falls to his knees in dramatic disappointment when they make a crucial mistake.

Coach Craig

He also talks to his young players like they are adults.  I often cringe at the things that come out of his mouth.

For example, during one team huddle last season the boys started to ask several off-topic questions.  Craig was eager to start practice, but curious hands kept rising.  Finally, Craig lost his patience.  “If you are going to ask a question, make sure it’s not stupid.  Because if it’s stupid, you’re giving me 50 push-ups!” he announced.

All hands dropped, except for one optimistically brave boy.

“Justin, you still have a question?” Craig couldn’t believe it.

“Yes,” Justin responded, with an innocent smile.

“Are you sure you want to ask it?” Craig dared threateningly.

Justin cocked his head to one side and thought for a second.  “Never mind,” he said, and lowered his hand and his head at the same.

“Okay then!  Let’s play soccer!” Craig shouted with enthusiasm.

I about died when Craig shared this story with me later that evening.  Especially when I realized he genuinely thought it was funny.  Unfortunately I wasn’t surprised, because I correct his verbal approach with our kids on a regular basis.  He doesn’t mean to sound like an idiot, he just struggles to verbally relate with young children.

“Craig!  You can’t say things like that to kids!” I scolded him.

“Why not?  Justin realized it was a stupid question,” Craig retorted with certainty.

“Or it wasn’t stupid, but he was scared to ask you,” I countered.

“Oh,” Craig said, stumped.  “Or that…oops!”  Yeah.  Oops.

Fast forward to this season – new try-outs, new kids, new team selection.

After the first practice, I asked Gabe about the new players.  “There’s a boy named Luke, Messy…” he began to list their names.

Messy?” I interrupted, wondering if I’d heard him correctly.

“Yeah, Messy,” he answered.

“Is that his real name?” I asked.

“No, it’s his nickname.  Daddy gave it to him,” Gabe explained.

Oh God.  Here we go, I thought.  “Why does he call him Messy?” I asked, scared of the answer.

“Because he wore a messy shirt to practice, so Daddy just called him that,” Gabe shrugged his shoulders.

“Gabe, you can’t call him Messy,” I told him.  “That’s not a nice nickname.”

“Why, Mommy?” he asked innocently.

I couldn’t believe he didn’t already know.  “Gabe, what if it was your first night at practice and your shirt happened to be a messy one.  How would you feel if people called you that just because of one shirt?”  I offered him empathetic perspective.

“Ooookay,” he said with a strange look, as if to suggest I was overreacting.

I took a deep breath.  My baby was turning into a boy.  A boy who saw nothing wrong with making fun of a friend just to get a laugh.  A boy who was learning from the ignorant example set by his coach-of-a-father.

Later that evening, I had the same conversation with Craig.  I told him I thought it was unfair of him to label a boy with a nickname he may not appreciate – especially on the first night of practice.

“Kristin, it’s not a big deal,” he said.

“Well, I think it is.  You’re the coach.  You should be setting positive examples of leadership,” I lectured.  “At the very least, you should ask this little boy if he even likes the nickname ‘Messy.'”

“Ooookay,” Craig said, looking at me as though I was crazy.

“Please?” I asked.  “I really think his parents would appreciate the respect.”

“I said O.K. Kristin!”  he ended the conversation.

After tucking the kids in last night after practice, Craig and I sat on the couch.

“How was practice?” I asked.

“Fine,” he answered.  “And by the way, I asked Messy if he liked his nickname.”

“You did?” I asked, relieved.  “What did he say?”

“He said he loved it, and he wants me to keep calling him Messy,” Craig said in I-told-you-so fashion.

“He did?” I asked, surprised.  “Well, I guess if he likes it then it’s okay.  But at least you asked,” I said.

“Kristin,” Craig addressed me with confusion.  “You are making way too big of a deal out of this!  I don’t understand why you thought it was an issue in the first place!” he challenged me.

“Because it was mean to make fun of him, especially when he didn’t know anybody!” I defended Messy.

What?!  How was it mean?” Craig demanded to know.

I was disgusted I had to explain it to him.  So freaking typical.  “Craig!  How would you feel if your kid went to his very first travel soccer practice and the coach and the kids made fun of him just because he spilled something on his shirt?” I tried my hardest to sound convincing.

He looked at me like I was on drugs.  “Kristin!  He was wearing a messy jersey!  M-E-S-S-I !  He’s one of the best soccer players in the world!” Craig burst into hysterics.

“What?!” I was mortified.  “I thought you were making fun of the poor kid cuz he had ketchup on his shirt!”  I laughed along with him.  I couldn’t deny that I had made a condescending fool of myself.

“No!  Messi is a compliment – not an insult!” he assured me, as he rolled off the couch doubled over on all fours in laughter.

“Oh God,” I said.  “That was really bad,” I admitted with embarrassment.  “Our communication skills are severely lacking,” I said.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Craig objected.  “This one is on you!”

“Alright,” I conceded, while shaking my head in defeat.  “At least it’s blog-able,” I reasoned with regret.

“That it is!” Craig agreed whole-heartedly.  My ignorance was his bliss.

 

 

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The Evolution of the Great Twin Split: Part II

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in From My Perspective, Twins | 0 comments

Note: Click here to read Part I of The Evolution of the Great Twin Split.

School starts next week.  Usually, our identical twin daughters would be thrilled to start third grade.  They love school.

At least – they used to love school.

But now?  Now they’re nervous.  Because for the first time since pre-school, they will spend their days in separate classrooms.

The principal insists that twins must be split in order to promote individuality.  I understand the assumed logic in this philosophy.  However, the very existence of identical twins defies common logic starting at conception.

General logic says:

  • 1 egg + 1 sperm = 1 Baby
  • 2 eggs + 2 sperm = 2 Babies with 2 unique sets of genes (fraternal twins)

But identical twins are a phenomenon:

  • egg + 1 sperm = Babies with 1 set of identical genes

Therefore, assumed logic doesn’t apply to the emotions of identical twins.  The only advice I trust when it comes to the emotional well-being of my twin daughters is the advice I receive from other identical twins.  They are the only people with a true frame of reference.

As their mother, I can only project how my twin daughters might feel about a given situation.  I am a singleton.  I do not have an identical twin.  I’ve never experienced this bond.

So I watch.  And I listen.  And then I try my hardest to respect the intricacies of their rare and special twinship as I parent through the lens of a singleton.

These are the disconcerting observations I have made thus far regarding their upcoming split:

  • Until now, Sydney and Taylor have reveled in their individualities.  They have refused to dress alike, even to go so far as to differentiate themselves with their preferred style of bathing suits.  Taylor only wore a bikini, while Sydney deemed a one-piece as a more appropriate choice.
  • While their favorite colors change like most children, they have always agreed to have different favorite colors.  Taylor liked green, then pink.  Sydney liked blue, then purple.
  • The girls have enjoyed their own bedrooms since they were 6.  They appreciated having space to themselves.
  • They were both thrilled when Taylor required glasses, but Sydney did not.  “For people can tell us apart now,” they explained.
  • When Sydney required glasses too, she chose to cut her hair much shorter than her sister’s.  Taylor took great pride in her longer locks.  Again, they wanted to be recognized easily and independently of one another.

As the school year quickly approaches though, the girls are embracing their twinship like never before:

  • For the first time since I dressed them alike as babies, Taylor and Sydney are choosing to wear the same outfits.  They are planning to wear the same shirt on the second day of school.  This public display of their identical nature has been unheard of until now.  Taylor has given away her bikinis, choosing to wear one-piece bathing suits like her sister.  They were eager to buy the same winter jacket, since “it doesn’t matter now that we’re in different classes.”
  • Both girls now share the same favorite color of blue.  This alone is surprising.  But the fact that Sydney is allowing her twin sister to share her previously claimed favorite color?  Again – unheard of.
  • Last night I overheard Sydney telling her grandpa that she and Taylor are planning to re-combine their bedrooms into the bonus room.  They want to be together again.  She knows he is the handy-man who can make this plan become a reality.
  • Sydney rarely wears her glasses, but plans to wear them everyday at school.  “So when people see me in the hall, they might think I’m Taylor.”  She is hoping to be mistaken for her twin sister.  Never before have we faced this.
  • Taylor cut her hair shorter earlier this summer so that she would look more like Sydney.  Sydney was relieved when the beautician left Taylor’s hair slightly longer than her own.  Last night, though, both girls came running in the house from soccer practice.  “Momma,” Sydney said. “Only one person noticed we were twins tonight.  I want to cut my hair just like Tay-Tay’s tommorow, so we look just alike again!”  Taylor agreed with an emphatic nod.  Sydney has not referred to her sister as Tay-Tay since they were 3 years-old.
Sydney and Taylor's google search this morning

Sydney and Taylor’s google search this morning

Obviously, I am very concerned.  Our daughters are identical twins – this is an integral part of their identity and it always will be.  As a result of their upcoming 3rd grade classroom split meant to promote individuality, they are defining themselves as identical twins more now than they ever have before.  They are abandoning their individualities in an attempt to preserve the integrity of their twinship.  They used to love to be different, now they are desperate to be the same.

I can only hope this will pass once the school year gets underway.  Because even though they share the same DNA, they are both very special little girls – both together and apart.

Too be continued…

Note: Click here to read Part I of The Evolution of the Great Twin Split: Part III.

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Bubblegum and Bat-shit

Posted by on Aug 9, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective, Musings from the Mayhem, Twins | 6 comments

So yesterday was a tough day.

I was tired.  I didn’t feel that great.  I had unexpected company.  The house was a disaster from Gabe’s birthday party the day before.  Our 15 year-old dog followed my every step as I cleaned, panting the entire way.  The kids were needier than usual.

Gabe bought $40 worth of in-app purchases.  He claimed it was an accident.  He had received several i-Tunes cards for his birthday and didn’t realize they had run out.  His innocence in the matter was possible.  Possible – but not likely.  Tough love was necessary to be sure it didn’t happen again.

He also received two remote control cars as gifts.  The kids raced them through the kitchen, around the breakfast table and up and down the hallway for hours.  Finally, the noise was more than I could take.  I asked them to take a break.

“Okay, Momma.  But can we please take a bath?”  Sydney and Taylor begged.

“No,” I stated firmly.  “I just got the house clean, and the last thing I feel like dealing with is a mess in my bathroom.”

They love to take baths in our oversized jacuzzi tub.  But they go overboard with the bubbles and the splashing, which soaks the pile of discarded clothing they’ve left behind on the floor.  They get clean, while my bathroom gets destroyed.

“We promise we won’t make a mess, Momma.  We promise!” they begged.

As they begged, I reconsidered.  My nerves were fried, and the thought of them occupied in the tub for the next half-hour sounded appealing.

“Fine.  But if you do, I expect my bathroom to look exactly the way you found it,” I warned severely.

“Wooooohooooo!” they celebrated.  “Thanks, Momma!”

As they ran off to start the water, I grabbed my computer and headed to my bed.  Even though they’re old enough to bathe themselves, I still like to be close by while they’re in the water – just in case.

I appreciated their calm behavior and zoned out online for a little while.  I smiled when I heard them giggling together.  I was glad I decided to let them take a bath.

Until.

All of a sudden, Sydney walked into my bedroom wearing only a towel  and a nervous guilty grin.  She held her right hand to the top of her head.

“Sydney!  What are you doing?!  You’re soaking the carpet!  Get back in the bathroom!” I yelled with frustration.

“I can’t, Momma…” she informed me in her extra-high pitched tone.  The tone she uses when she knows I’m not going to like what she has to say.  “I sort of have a problem…” her voice trailed off as she made an attempt to soften the blow.

I closed my eyes and exhaled deeply.  “What?” I asked bravely.

“I have gum in my hair,” she confessed, as she slowly removed her hand from the top of her head.

I gasped in horror when I saw the gigantuous wad of bright red gum glued to and embedded in the roots of her hair.

“Sydney!  How did this happen?!” I demanded to know.

“Taylor did it,” she admitted.  “We were playing, and she thought it would be funny.”  She was not mad at her sister.  Instantly I knew this was another Twin Plan gone wrong – a mutually agreed upon game that sounds fun, but never ends well.

“Well it’s not funny, Sydney!  What if I have to cut your hair to get it out??  It will look ridiculous!” I scolded her.

“I know, Momma.  Will you please try to get it out before you cut it?” she asked anxiously.

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to go bat-shit crazy.  Scream.  Holler.  RAGE.

I took a deep breath.  “Go get the peanut butter and sit at the table,” I commanded her.

“Taylor!” I beckoned through gritted teeth.

“Yes, Momma?” she appeared from behind the corner wrapped in her own towel.

WHY did you do this?!” I scolded her.  “You’re almost 9 years-old!  You know better!”

“I don’t know, Momma.  I’m sorry.  I’ll go to my room,” she conceded easily – which was further proof they had created this disaster together.

As I worked, Sydney was abnormally quiet as she sat underneath me on a chair in the kitchen.  “What’s going on inside your head?” I asked her.

“I’m really worried you’re going to have to cut it out.  Then I would look horrible for the first day of school,” she said with regret.

“Yes, you would.”  I made no attempt to sugar-coat the situation.

“I just keep asking myself, ‘Why me?’ because I don’t know why it happened to me,” she admitted shamefully.

“That’s funny, Sydney,” I said in a tone that was not at all funny.  “I keep asking myself the same question.”

“I’m really sorry, Momma,” she apologized with sincerity.

“I am too, Momma,” again Taylor appeared from nowhere.  “And I’m sorry for you, Sydney.  It was stupid and I’ll never do it again.”

Normally, stupid is not a word I allow to be used in our home.  But this was stupid.  I said nothing in objection.

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Two hours and half a jar of peanut butter later – Sydney was spared from the worst haircut of her life.  She never fidgeted, never complained when I pulled, and never said a negative word about her twin sister.

“Thank you for having so much patience, Momma!” she hugged me tightly.  “I promise we will never have a Gum War ever again!” she let the cat out of the bag as they ran off together.

“A Gum War???” I spit the question out.

“Don’t worry, Momma!” Taylor consoled me happily, “Sydney got gum in my hair too, but I already got it out!”

I exhaled.  I shook my head in defeat.  I grabbed a beer to continue to ward off bat-shit crazy as the day drew to a close.

Just then, the phone rang.

“Honey?”  It was Craig.  “How much do you love me?”

“What do you want?” I snarled, not wanting to know.

“I’m running late.  Can you take Gabe to soccer?”  asked Craig, the coach of Gabe’s soccer team.

Sure.  No problem.  Let me just hose the peanut butter off myself and put my unopened beer away.

But first?

First, let me take a moment to go bat-shit crazy…

 

 

 

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