Broken Record

I totally just KILLED my own personal record!

Wanna know what it is?

I have officially been un-pregnant for the longest amount of time since first realizing my fertility back in late 2007!!

That’s right, folks, Elias just turned 17 months and I am still NOT PREGNANT! (Oh, and I’ve also broken my personal record for nursing. I nursed the twins for 16.5 months and Elias is a few weeks past that.)

After three back-to-back pregnancies resulting in four children, being not-pregnant with no chance of getting pregnant for the first time in more than 6 years is so fucking amazing. (And please don’t read too much into this. I am not intending to be callous or insensitive to people struggling with infertility or loss. This is just my personal journey here.)

As Elias nears the 18-month mark, I finally, finally feel like we’re getting on with our lives. The proverbial light is finally in view. We’ve even started planning our first out-of-state family vacation in September.

Mentally, I feel  like I’ve stabilized. This is a big deal for me, as I’ve dealt with depression and bipolar II disorder for most of my life, not to mention severe post-partum depression after all of my pregnancies. A few months ago, the woman who does my acupuncture started me on a natural supplement called Grounded, specifically formulated for mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. That, coupled with other Chinese herbs and a serious dedication to meditation, has been a game-changer for me.

Things are pretty good right now. Sure, there are everyday dramas and stress and nonsense to deal with. None of that has gone away. But in the past year, I’ve made major progress in finally addressing the seriousness of my mental instability, stress level, and need for self-care.

That’s my bi-monthly check-in for you. This blog has been a big part of my life since 2007/2008 and I often think about what to do from here. It’s not really a place I can be honest anymore; too many people around town and in my personal sphere know about it. I can’t lay out my personal struggles, relationship drama, or — despite years of waxing poetic about my uterus, cervix, boobs, bloody show, and other graphic novelties of pregnancy and nursing — anything related to my body anymore.

(Related true story: There was a woman at the twins’ school who was also expecting when I was pregnant with Elias. After she gave birth, I ran into her husband during pickup at school. He stopped me and exclaimed, “Hey! So we found your blog! We were Googling “lost mucous plug” when she was in labor and that’s how we found it!” OMFG, seriously?!)

For others who have kept parenting blogs, what have you done as your children have gotten older and issues of anonymity came up? Do I just take this sucker down? Change names? What to do?

Down and Out

I’m turning 36 on Sunday. I love birthdays! Normally! But I’m not feeling it right now.

Right this minute, I just feel plain ole nasty. My hair is frizzier by the day, my skin is sun damaged and constantly broken out, my body is awkward, my clothes suck. Nothing fits right or makes me feel good about my appearance. I barely know how to dress myself anyway. I feel like a teenager entering high school — totally and completely uncomfortable in my own skin.

It’s ironic. Mentally, I’m feeling (generally) more at ease. But on the outside, I look like I’ve been run over by a golf cart. Go figure that when my body looked awesome, my mind was in shambles. We can’t have it all, now can we? Perhaps this is the Great Secret of Life: The uglier the skin, the wiser the soul. I must be the Buddha herself.

I don’t know what my plan is for this, other than more vodka.

Acupuncture FTW

Since you haven’t heard from me in a while, I figured I’d just jump straight into an update on my ovaries.

I’ve written several times about my mittleschmerz, a.k.a. My Horrific/Satanic Ovulation Pain from the Inferno. Ever since I stopped taking birth control pills back in late 2007, I experience a tremendous pain during ovulation. It  started out as a twinge on the ovulating ovary, followed by a sharp, unbelievably painful, piercing pain through the side of my abdomen down through my cervix for about 36-48 hours. Imagine being stabbed with a burning sword at an angle through your torso. Something like that.

It’s gotten worse after each pregnancy. When my period came back after Amaia was born, the pain started lasting longer and got more intense. Then, the real shit hit when my cycles came back 11 months after having Elias.

Let me describe the pain to you in two words: HOLY. SHIT. Also, FUCKING. RIDICULOUS.

It begins as a cramp in the center of my uterus starting a full week before ovulation. It grows more and more crampy and painful throughout the week. Then, about two days before ovulation, the stabbing begins, culminating in labor pains. I am not exaggerating. I have given birth to four children and it is the same pain as active labor, only my uterus is a lot smaller. I can’t walk, talk, go to the bathroom, nothing. One time, I had to abandon a shopping cart and drive myself home because I couldn’t stand on my feet anymore. The pain is THAT debilitating.

On the one hand, the ovulation pain has helped me get to know my cycle extremely well. I know exactly when I ovulate, I know exactly how long my cycle is, and when my period will begin and end. I could practically set a clock to my cycle, it’s so regular.

I’ve mentioned the pain to my OB before. The only thing he offered was a shrug and some ibuprofen. I’ve tried Advil, Percoset, and Vicodin. Nothing touches this pain. I would literally need an epidural to take it away.

So, you get the picture? Pain. Lots of it. For a long time. Just to release one microscopic little ova.

Two months ago, I mentioned my problem to the woman who does my needles at the acupuncture clinic. She suggested doing some points on my belly before ovulation.

The first time, there was a DRAMATIC reduction in pain. I went from not being able to stand the previous cycle, to having a manageable cramp after my first acupuncture treatment.

I had the points done again five days before my ovulation date this cycle. Two new words for you: NO. PAIN. Also, FUCK. YEAH.

if I didn’t know my cycle as well as I do, I wouldn’t have even known I’d ovulated. Unreal.

So, if you’ve stumbled across my blog by accident, or if you also suffer from mittleschmerz, there you have it: acupuncture. Try it.

 

Amaia is Three!

Amaia turned three years old yesterday.

She’s our little sassy pants. Over the past year, she has potty trained, given up the pacifier, learned to talk in complete sentences, switched to a toddler bed, and stopped eating dairy. That’s a huge list of accomplishments!

What makes me really happy is to see how she’s becoming a playmate to her older sisters. And in the past few weeks, I’ve even caught her hugging her baby brother.

Amaia is quite girly. She cannot stand to be wet, dirty, or have messy hands. The tiniest crumb on her shirt will cause a crisis. She loves princesses, fairies, Lalaloopsy, My Little Pony, and, of course, all things PINK. We even had a pink birthday party for her last week.

She has a short fuse and angers quickly. She gets frustrated before even trying. She can talk your ear off. She has a lot of friends and people gravitate to her infectious smile and adorable pipsqueak voice.

We’re so proud of her and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

I am an Awesome Mom

I had an epic Awesome Mommy Moment today and I just wanted to share.

For the past few weeks, the twins have been acting up. Althea, in particular. Major ‘tude. Complaining, demanding, bad attitude, defying, etc. She just turned 5, so. This sucks.

Anyway, it’s been building up the past few weeks. It’s partly a reflection of my own mental state. My stress level has been through the roof between planning three birthday parties, Christmas shopping, <– going into debt, teaching at the school, writing the school newsletter, taking on two major freelance projects, trying to train for a half marathon (or rather, being totally unable to due to zero time to exercise, unless I would like to stop sleeping), my husband training for a 100-mile race, having no help throughout the day, meditating and doing acupuncture to care for my mental health (or rather, not being able to due to a complete lack of time for self-care), trying to cook/clean/do laundry/cut coupons/pay bills/vacuum/keep the bathroom from becoming a health hazard, and keeping up with the everyday demands of being a full-time stay-at-home mom to four small kids and and and . . .

Well. I’ve been a little . . . um. Fucked up.

Keep this in mind as you applaud my Awesome Mommy Moment. I promise, it’s coming.

Today, I picked up the twins from their pre-kindergarten program. There’s a small retention pond outside of the school building. The kids usually race each other and throw rocks into the pond after school while the moms gossip about each other within spitting distance of one another. (For good reason at times, mind you.) (<–This is the reality of having just-about-school-aged children, as I’m learning. Mommy Gossip.)

The pond is a problem because we live in Florida. The rule of thumb goes that any standing body of water in Florida has an alligator in it. People who live here know this. And this pond is no exception. Two gators in this SOB.

Anyway, to get to my Awesome Mommy Moment. (It’s really, REALLY good, I’m telling you.)

Althea and Elise are standing at the pond’s edge. While I am mindlessly gossiping with another mom, they take off their shoes and socks and start digging around in the dirt around the pond, sticking their toes in the water, throwing things into the pond, etc. Really stupid, defiant shit. Stuff they know they’re not supposed to do.

Shoes off? I can handle. Digging around in the dirt with shoes off? I can handle. At the edge of a pond with their toes in the water which is home to two known alligators? Well, even I have limits.

I ask/tell them to back up to the grass line, stop digging in the dirt, stop throwing things into the water, warn that I’m going to count to three if they don’t make a decision about what they want to do, etc. They don’t comply. And they don’t comply. And they don’t comply. (I told you the books are bullshit.)

Cool Mommy has officially lost her Cool.

After the 4th or 5th request to step away, reason, etc., I pretty much lose it in front of all the happy suburban mommies.

Here’s your step-by-step guide on How to Lose It in Front of All the Happy Suburban Mommies When You Have Four Children:

1) Grab the non-running child by the wrist and place inside of the vehicle.
Drag the least mobile child (Elise) by the wrist to the minivan. Be sure that her feet are actually digging into the soil. Then grab her underneath her armpits and place her gently but firmly inside of the vehicle. Instruct her to “Sit down and buckle up because Mommy is extremely angry.” Breathe audibly through your flaring nostrils.

2) Attempt to reason with the mobile child and proceed to be completely ignored.
Count to three and hope that you don’t spontaneously combust in a ball of fury. Caution: This child will use her small stature, lack of social embarrassment, and relative physical mobility to her advantage.

3) Get into the driver’s seat of the minivan and pretend to drive away.
This will cause the mobile, defiant child to run toward the vehicle in a complete, hysterical panic. Be aware that any sane, concerned parent standing by will have an equal reaction. Listen for the screams of “WAIT, WAIT, YOU FORGOT ONE!!!!!!!”

4) Do not give a fuck about judgement because these people have not lived the past 2 months in your shoes.
Because I sure as hell don’t.

We Are Five

The twins turned 5 years old yesterday.

We are five years old!

We are five years old!

This past year has been such an experience for me individually and for us as a family. About two months after Elias was born, I slipped headlong into a deep, dark depression. It really deserves its own post, but for now, I will say that it got scary.

So, about six months ago, I got serious about my mental health. Like, really serious. As in, no fucking around anymore. I have made more progress in the past six months than I have in a lifetime of therapy and drugs. Probably part of it was my dedication to getting myself in a better place, and part of it was just my age. I think the 30′s really are as great as they say they are.

So what does this have to do with the twins turning 5? Everything. Because as I’ve started to heal, our relationship has blossomed in unimaginable ways. I feel so deeply connected to them and their response tells me that they feel it, too. My eyes are open now and I’m amazed at these two beautiful beings.

Elise . . . oh, where do I begin. Elise is kind, maternal, giving, and sensitive. She is moved to tears by the beauty of a drawing or the sadness of a song or movie. She’s a helper and will (usually) quickly move to help me with cleaning up or cooking. She loves her baby brother with all her heart and is quick to protect him from harm.

I’ve seen her patience level soar over the past few months. Where she might have previously put the smack-down on Amaia for stealing a toy, she will now try to negotiate or share. For instance, Elise and Althea got Lalaloopsy ponies as a birthday gift from a friend. Amaia immediately usurped the ponies, of course. Rather than freaking out and throwing a fit, Elise patiently asked, “Amaia, will you please give me back my pony?” And then later: “Amaia, are you ever going to give me my pony back?” And finally, still pony-less at the end of the day: “Amaia, you’re never going to give me back my pony, are you?” Never once did she try to yank it out of her little sister’s hand.

And wow, is she ever an artist. She will draw for hours, page after page of really unique and bizarre stuff. Swirls and curls and improbable scenarios with intricate details. Her doodles cover everything in sight — walls, doors, furniture, the car leather. She went through a pirate-inspired phase where she put X’s on everything. To this day, I’m still finding X’s in corners of the closets and behind random doors. She’ll complete a schoolwork assignment, then cover it in doodles. Here’s the front page of a recent worksheet:

photo 1 (1)

She completed the assignment. Then, she drew faces on all of the produce and anthropomorphized all the food at the bottom.

On the back side of the same paper:

photo 2 (1)

She explained that this is a prince with zig-zag legs who is crying because the princess didn’t choose him.

Elise still loves the color purple and pizza. She’s not at all afraid of bugs, dead worms, or dirt. The messier, the better, as far as she is concerned.

Althea is a sassy, feminine little thing. She loves everything princesses, makeup, dresses, and dancing. She changes clothes 10 times a day and will frequently protest the outfits I choose for her. Her favorite thing in the world is to put on a really twirly dress, a tiara, and play high heels. I’ve caught her flipping through my magazines to look at the ladies wearing makeup and fancy dresses. She tends toward laziness and bossiness. We sometimes have to remind her to watch her tone!

Althea loves to read, write, and draw. Like Elise, she’ll sit for hours, just drawing. Her drawings tend to be more ‘literal’ and decidedly feminine — everyone has long eyelashes and lipstick. She’s also very much into making “lists”.

Her belly is sensitive. She doesn’t take criticism well. She loves ladybugs and the color red. She’s loves Daddy especially. Where Elise is a bit more independent, Althea will climb into our bed more nights than not.

This is our last year together “at home” before the twins move on to elementary school. I’m excited for them — this is the first year they’ve really liked school and have been motivated by the structure, rules, and consequences. I think they’ll do great in kindergarten and beyond. I try not to indulge the future too much, instead focusing on being patient and present in today.

Happy birthday to my big girls!

One-year Checkup

Elias  had his one-year checkup this week. Unreal. Here’s a nice, boring post for the three of you left reading my blog.

Sleep

Finally! He is sleeping through the night! Except when he doesn’t! Moving him out of our room at 9 1/2 months old seemed to have done the trick. His night waking diminished. If he wakes now, it’s almost always around 4am, and just the one time.

He wakes for the day around 6:45am and bedtime is 7pm. He takes two naps a day still: one at 9:15am, another between 2-3pm.

The problems between Elias and Amaia came to a head recently. They were sharing a room, but Amaia became so physical toward him that I started to fear for his life in her room overnight. It sucks, but I literally couldn’t sleep. So Elias and Elise are sharing a room, and Althea and Amaia are sharing a room. The vowel gods are happy.

Eating

Nursing continues to go perfectly! Except when it doesn’t! As his top four teeth were coming in a couple of months back, he started biting occasionally. Fun! Then, his latch went to shit and his teeth started scraping my nipple, which felt about as awesome as it sounds. I had to switch to the football hold for a few weeks while we worked that out, but all is great now.

He nurses 4-6 times a day at this point from both sides. He really loves it and is not too distracted, unlike the other three girls at this stage. I really don’t have any weaning plans right now. I recently joked on Facebook (because that’s where jokes really count, right?) that I would stop nursing Elias once I make it to the cover of Time. So there.

As for solids, he’s officially a plate to prepare. He eats almost everything everyone else eats at this point. Making breakfast looks like an assembly line at my house. He can drink from a sippy cup and a straw. He has no problems drinking expressed milk from a bottle when needed.

After being completely dairy-free for more than six months due to Elias’ milk allergy, I’ve started reintroducing milk products in my diet. I don’t actually buy dairy products, but I will eat cheese or butter if it’s in a food that I eat outside of home. The first few weeks that I ate a little bit of dairy, my stomach would blow up like a balloon.

It’s so weird, really. My husband went from drinking about a gallon of milk a week, to drinking absolutely zero milk of any type. We buy a half-gallon of soy or almond milk, only to have it spoil because no one drinks it. We don’t buy or eat mac ‘n cheese, ice cream, butter, or all of those salty-cheesy snack foods that used to be such a staple in our pantry.

(On the same note, I tried to introduce limited dairy to the older girls for a few weeks. It’s just so easy to buy some string cheese when it’s BOGO at the grocery store and toss it in their lunches. But Amaia’s eternally snotty nose came back, Althea’s ear would bleed when she would scratch it, and all of the girls complained of belly aches and smelly poop.)

Weight/sizes

Elias weighed in at 20lb 12oz, 30 1/2 inches long. He’s in size 4 diapers and 12-18 month clothes.

Milestones

The question at this stage is, of course, Is  he walking yet? Praise all that is holy in holy heaven, NO! He has started to take one or two small, unassisted steps between objects, though. You can really tell he’s mega excited when he does take his little steps.

He just learned to clap. He doesn’t speak any words yet, but he’s very talkative with babbling. He loves being sung to. He is quick to smile and is generally a sweet, relaxed baby.

Except . . . when he isn’t!

Holy shit, this kid started throwing tantrums this week. Is this normal? He’ll grunt loudly, arch his back, and roll around on the ground if he’s pissed about something. He’ll throw a fit if he’s not ready to sit in his carseat or stroller, or if we pick him up to move him somewhere when he has other ideas. My little Scorpio child is showing his colors early.

Here are the kids on Halloween:

halloween 2013

Potty Talk

For the past year, the twins have been completely obsessed with potty talk.

It started slowly after the start of school last year. Out of nowhere, “pee pee” and “poo poo” went from being simple words to describe bodily functions, to monosyllabic utterances that would cause them to literally fall off their chairs in a fit of breathless hysteria.

At first, it would make my hair stand on end. But, being such a good and conscious mother, I would just ignore it or say something really enlightened like, “I see those words are really silly to you.”

Which, of course, would make them laugh even harder and cause my blood to absolutely BOIL.

The hysterics . . . my GOD, it got to be dangerous. The twins would choke on their food and injure themselves while falling to the ground. They literally could not even finish the words before they would fall over laughing.

“P…P….P…. BAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

That’s when we set the rule of “No potty talk at the table.” This didn’t stop the behavior entirely, but it at least made mealtimes tolerable.

Slowly, I got used to it. “It’s just a phase,” I assured myself. “It can’t go on forever.

Uh. Yes, it can. It can go on.  Forever.

The potty talk has not stopped. It has not slowed down. In fact, it has simply gotten more sophisticated with age. Sometimes, the twins have entire conversations that consist of the words “pee pee” and “poo poo.”

Elise: “Pee pee!”
Althea: “Poo poo!”
Elise: “Pee!”
Althea: “Poop!”
Elise: “Poopy poop pee!”
Althea: “Caca-poo pee pee!”

I’ll hear Elise playing with the dolls in her dollhouse — you know, the organic, gender-neutral, wooden dollhouse with the handmade, non-toxic, locally-sourced dolls that are supposed to inspire creativity and independence? And this is what I hear:

Mommy doll: “You have to go pee pee before we leave!”
Daughter doll: “Okay mommy, I’ll go pee pee! I have to go poop, too. I have a big caca-poo. Can you wipe my butt, please?”
Mommy doll, resigned: “Sigh. Yes.”

Attempts at diversifying their humor have been weak at best. I recently introduced them to knock-knock jokes. Good, clean fun, right?

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Dwayne.
Dwayne who?
Dwayne the bathtub, I’m dwowning!

This joke was hilarious as-is for a while. But it wasn’t long before they began embellishing it with a five-year-old’s sense of humor.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Pee pee.
Pee pee who?
Dwayne the pee pee, I’m pooping! BAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

As might be expected, Amaia is catching on. Of course, her attempts at humor make absolutely no sense at this point, since she’s trying to mimic her older sisters. Just this morning, she managed to tangle up the “Trick or treat, smell my feet” song with the “Beans, beans” poem:

Trick or treat,
Smell my feet,
Eat your beans, 
I don’t care,
I’ll take off your pants.

Somehow, I’m not seeing stand-up comedy in her future.

He’s One

Elias turned 1 year old today. It’s so cliched, but this year has flown by. The day of his birth is so very vivid in my mind still.

I’ve been sad today. I watched his birth video and it was equal parts joy and sadness to realize that I will never experience that again. And even sadder to think that, with time, the vividness will fade, too.

On the bright side, I’ve managed to go a whole year without getting pregnant!

So, happy birthday to my little guy. He’s always smiling and sweet. He loves his family. He’s sensitive and independent. He’s made our family complete. He’s made my heart whole.

Meaning It

“Amaia took my toy! She took my toy without asking permission! AMAIA, YOU TOOK MY TOY WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION!”

Normal preschooler meltdown, right? Well, not quite. Not the voice, anyhow. This is not the hysterical, high-pitched wail of a preschooler. No, these words echo off the walls in the booming, diaphragm-sourced voice of a school-aged kid — not a small child in throes of a non-verbal tantrum, but a child who is starting to control her emotions. And mean it.

Over the past month — since starting the school year, really — I’ve started to see a marked change in the twins. They’re nearing their fifth birthday. This is about when most of us start having longer memories of our own childhoods. I actually remember my fifth birthday cake — chocolate frosting with flowers.

Kindergarten is starting to move front-of-mind — When to start touring schools? Where are friends going? Should I consider homeschooling? And with the approach of the big 0-5 has come a shift from having Little Kids to having Kids.

Like, LegitActual. Kids.  It’s all feeling . . . real. And not a little bit terrifying.

The tantrums are becoming fewer. Their bodies feel substantial. I eyeball a pair of their shorts and think, “Nah, too big” — only to find that they fit just right. I can’t just whip the twins up into my arms anymore. I  have to brace what’s left of my core and squat down in order to avoid slipping a disc when I pick them up.

I hear them negotiate, extend “thank you”s and “sorry”s, dress themselves, ask to set the table or wash the dishes. They invite their little sister to play. They are kind to babies and friends. They blame. They defend. They try a bite. When they say “no”, it’s substantiated with reason.

They say “I love you.” It’s taken nearly five years to hear those three precious words. And they mean it.

(So worth the wait.)

***

I’m having flashes of the future. I see older kids with their knobby knees and hairy legs, with one foot in childhood and the other taking a step toward the great chasm of self-identity that is adolescence, and I think to myself My god, will that happen to my kids? 

I am at once proud and sad, anticipating and anxious.

***

Elise says to me, “Will I stay this way forever?”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I want to stay small forever. I don’t want to grow up. And I want Althea to stay small and Amaia to stay 3 years old and Baby Elias to stay a baby and you to not get wrinkles.”

My heart cramps. The sadness over the inevitability of it all spreads like warm water from my chest, down my arms. It’s a feeling of comfort mixed with uncertainty. 

I don’t know what to say. So I am honest:

“Me either, baby. I wish we could all stay like this forever, too.”