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Learning and trying to be kind and living my life as fully as I can stand it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


This essay was written a couple weeks ago and put away until I could come back and edit. Reading it now I will leave it mostly untouched--not because it doesn't ask for editing but because I am tired and it seems good enough.

In the weeks since I've written this page has kept me company as I've wondered how to share the things I've seen and done and felt. Essays have partially formed in my head as I drove but none of those are there, sitting on a mental shelf, now that I'm ready for them.

It's been a month since I went to work. A long, 31-day month but whoa. That's a lot of life to pack into one month. Work has been intense and amazing and sweet and slow and full. In the world of organ donation there is a lot of hurry up and wait--hurry to get to a hospital and then wait until the right time to be introduced to a family. I knew this but mostly from an office perspective-from a far off, semi-connected perspective where I was acutely aware of time passing and couldn't do much about it. To have a job where I sit quietly for long stretches of time is so rich for me right now. Because that sitting doesn't happen a lot as a mom of four small children. During the sitting I am very aware of the people around me. Of the energy in the room. Of the walking to and fro happening in the hallways, in and out of rooms. Of the phones ringing. There can be an edginess in me, of wanting to do something. To make something happen. But I am there to wait. To learn. To remember to pause. To remember that very rarely will rushing to get something done make anything better in these circumstances.

It will be hard not to write and write and write about the holy experiences I am witnessing. I want to share them with you because they will make your life better. Confidentiality is hugely important though. So I will seek opportunities to give you things to hold, even for a moment. Because they are so worth holding.

Last week I worked three 12-hour shifts--each of them more than two hours away from my house. I flew to one in a private jet. I took Uber to one, sitting in the back seat of a car with a stranger for three hours. I drove myself to the last one, ready for some alone time. I left a hospital at 9 pm after spending the day in an alternate universe. The universe of the grief of strangers. A room I am invited into and allowed to stay for a while.

I walked out of the hospital and found my car--my husband's sedan that I'd driven, leaving the minivan with four car seats with him because I knew I might be home late. I sat on a bench and Facetimed with my family, those four little faces lit up with smiles and love. My son asking "Are you coming back?" I walked out of the room where a man's heart stopped beating and got to sit down and talk to my husband and my kids. Gratitude and life poured through me. So much of each.

I have three iPhones. One for each job and one for myself. Often I carry them all with me. The various vibrations and dings and rings can be hard to separate one from the next. Who is calling or texting? How quickly do I need to look?

On my way to the car a phone went off once. . .and then again. . .and then again. Not one text but three. I looked and saw notes from my mom. A quick response from my sister. Another one from my brother. The words referenced an email I hadn't read yet whose bad news was made clear. Family news from across the country. I thought I could guess at it and I almost didn't pull up the email in that dark parking lot in the land of lettuce farms worked by poor men and women. I was tired but glowing, as though the edges of my person had been mostly erased in order to hold space for necessary required unhoped for feelings. I ultimately opened the email because I couldn't leave it unread.

It was one sentence, written by my uncle. So stark and heartbreaking that I floated further away from my body. Confused. Lonely. So, so very sad. I drove a few miles in the dark, headlights shining only as far as their batteries could reach. Am I safe to drive? I wondered. I didn't want to sleep anywhere other than home so driving seemed like the best option. I called my husband to speak a few brief, full sentences about what was going on and how I felt. Strange. Other-wordly. Hearing his voice grounded me and I kept going, anxious to be home.

We all get those emails, or ones like them. Or phone calls bringing the worst news in the world. We sit at bedsides, hold hands, try to listen. And then go grocery shopping or for a tooth-cleaning, sitting in traffic, frustrated at a long red light, so many stories and losses or joys folded into our hearts for safe-keeping or to be discovered later or because there is nowhere else for them to go. Are we all just doing our best? We hold multitudes and I am reassured and bewildered by this fact.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wednesday call

On a muted conference calling sitting in the dining room, getting ready to present I case I was a part of this past Saturday. My first case presentation of this type though I've done in the past, from different viewpoints. The TV is on and the bigs are watching. Two of the three doors to the courtyard are open, the cool air drifts in, at least one child is unclothed. I can't see any of them but I hear sings of movement and, most important for me at this moment, no whining at my side. . .

that's changed in the past 10-15 minutes. Now I have one on my lap. One is standing on the couch, playing with the keys, glasses of water and Yahtzee cup that sit on top of the out-of-tune piano. I've already picked up poop from cement outside. We're in a a spectrum of potty-training and it is a combination of amazing and insane. Their pack mentality is in full-display--the alph has learned to use the potty and the other three are following in line, taking their time but stepping to. Have to keep up. We aren't doing much other than reminding them to go sit on the potty. Wiping butts. Cleaning surfaces of poop and pee. Putting on and then taking off and then putting on diapers.  Spending way more time in the bathroom than I would ever choose to. But all things considered I will take it. I see the future and it looks good.

 Sleep-wise, we've given up for the moment. Again. There is a session of musical bed, couch, floor mattress, crib. This is all with the bigs--the littles remain firmly in their cribs and oh please oh please can that just stay that way for much more time? Bedtime is no longer, or not at this moment, a nightmare. They get pretty hyper but we're for the most part avoiding the screaming when it's actually time to go down. Sunday morning I told them we would stop locking the door. They seemed glad about that. They have really not liked the locked door and I don't blame them--we both agree we would hate being locked in a room. It's one of the few parenting decisions we've made that I've felt icky about. But we did it because they would.not. stay.in.bed.no.matter.what else we tried and I couldn't stand extending the time awake another minute. My husband probably would have chosen to let them stay up until they got tired, though he too was pretty done by bedtime. It felt important to me that they have a firm bedtime, that they learn to fall asleep in their beds. That they get the rest they need. But we've spent the past two months taking turns sleeping in their rooms, getting shoulder muscles and back muscles tightened and stiffened up. I couldn't do it anymore. So now we put them down, I sing them a song or two, we close the but don't lock the door. They usually come open the door at least once. I tell them it's time for bed, walk them back and give them something nice to think about while falling asleep--our upcoming trip to Vermont, our visit to the fire station today.

Call done. Many strings of cheese consumed. Kids all quiet and engaged now but of course for the 5 minutes I was talking they surrounded me like a hula skirt. I'm working on a post about tantrums but for now, unedited update for your sake and mine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A look inside

Some thoughts on raising four children under three. Aka an inside look at our life.

-I do not know what size shoe my children wear. Kids' feet somehow grow fast and slow and they are able to wear a size for a long time and then seem to skip two sizes over night. We have several bunches of shoes, some of which are definitely too small for the bigs but we keep for the littles. Some of which were lended by my sister and maybe once fit someone but now maybe don't fit anyone. Do twins wear the same size as one another? One has wider feet for sure. Some shoes are just designed in a dumb way and may fit but are so hard to put on that they might as well not fit. So yeah. What size do they wear? Not sure. There is a trail of shoes between our house and Stephanie's house, bridged by the seats and crevices of the mini van.

-Taking care of them is physically exhausting. By the end of a day of being with my kids my whole body hurts. They are heavy and fast and they treat us like essential, loved, pieces of furniture so we catch elbows and knees to the chin and nose. We receive full body tackles with a quick-shift to absorb the unannounced blow. Putting them in the car requires climbing into the van, reaching over seats, wrestling with buckles, negotiating strollers or bikes or bags in the way.

-Scarcity breeds desire. If I bring four full water bottles, no one will want any water. If I have one half-full bottle of water, everyone suddenly is dying of thirst.

-Any time I'm doing something I wonder if my time would be better spent doing something else. Is there any point in cleaning the kitchen right now or should I take this kid-free time to clean out the bigs' closet?

-Sometimes I get to just after bedtime and I have to ask myself whether I even made eye contact with a certain child.

-I crave alone time with them, and for them, and when it comes time to choose who will come out with me or spend time with Nana. . .it kills me. I hate to separate them. I struggle with trying to make it fair, trying to think of the week as a whole, trying to think of who seems to need it. It is so strange.

-There is so much poop. SO MUCH POOP.

-We own approximately 150 children's books. We read approximately 10 of them with any regularity. But we don't get rid of them because. . .they are books? Maybe someday soon someone will choose a new one?

-We own approximately 500 toys. The kids play with approximately 5 of them with any regularity. We have rotated them out several times but somehow we end up with piles and buckets of toys. The kids are more interested in getting the screw drivers out of the middle drawer in the kitchen and using them to "fix something". Of note, the bigs go to our neighbor's house about once a week. She has one toy--an old red barn with little people and animals that belonged to her now-adult children. She says Lily and Cyrus play with it diligently every week.

-There is so much laundry.

-Not only do we not keep track of milestones but we sometimes miss them entirely. Especially with the little girls. Hmmm, it suddenly occurs to me that you are talking? And I can understand you? And possibly this has been going on for a while and I didn't notice because I didn't expect you to  be talking yet? Or hmmm, perhaps you keep taking your diaper off because you are ready to start using the potty? But how can that be??

-Seeing the kids interact in all the various combination of sibling is a joy and a gift.

Is there anything specific you wonder about? Let me know and I'll try to describe it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tuesday afternoon

The big kids didn't nap today so in an unprecedented move I opened up the laptop and told them I was going to do a little work. Immediately they flocked to my sides and said "I want to do a little work", lingeringly touching the keyboard.

Me first, I said.

Now a new show is on and they are locked in place, eyes glazed. What is happening in their/our brains when we watch TV? I love TV very much. I watch too much. I mentally beat myself up about it. And I also rely on it to soothe my tired mind. It helps me stop.

What does that look like when I'm raising my kids? Does it need to be a good show? How much is too much? Would I rather see them playing, using their imaginations outside? Yes. I would rather that for myself. Maybe just in theory? I don't really know. I just feel so. . .tired. But I have somewhat distant memories of being outside in the world, feeling my body and insides light up with joy and the connectedness that comes from trees and water and dirt roads.

Losing the nap, I will take the necessary 30 minutes to answer a work email. To look at the possibility of me and my husband going away for a night or two. Because it feels impossible to imagine so that means we need to make it happen. To check Facebook. Another guilty pleasure, an addiction that I know is out of control. And yet. . .it is a community for me.

In some ways an additional layer to newly-forming relationships with other moms of young kids who live nearby. Who are raising their kids with me.

In some ways the only connection I have with women who live across the country, all of whom I knew before. Before marriage. Before any of us had kids. In past versions of ourselves. In our blessed, rich-tasting youth that seems to fall in layers through the decades that came before kids. And they knew me. We are a web of cheering each other on. Of eyes meeting across a screen to raise an eyebrow and say "Preach, sister." a

My family in Vermont. Even my parents and siblings in nearby cities. We connect in person. Via text. Sometimes emails. And we watch each other and learn each other via Facebook. I don't know what I would do without any of these people--my funny, spread-out, many-layered tribe.

And this blog in many way exists because of Facebook. Because I can write a handful of paragraphs and throw them into the winds of digital connectedness and people can read what I think about. I'm grateful for that.

One of the little girls is starting to wake and the cartoon is almost over. It's a gorgeous day outside. I haven't written the email yet. Time to go.

Monday, April 4, 2016


It's when I do things like take a challenging, emotionally-difficult job as a way to give myself a break that I wonder how skewed my sense of things really is. Though skewed in comparison to what or whom? The idea that there is a right way, a normal way, persists doggedly despite my attempts to weed it out.

In this moment I miss my kids acutely. In a painful way. Even though getting through the weekend was exhausting and the house is a mess and my list of things to do is impossibly long. It's hard when they're away from me. It's hard when they're with me.

Motherhood seriously makes me question my mental health. There have been times over the years where I've questioned it--because I think too much. Because it runs in my family. Because my moods are so up and down. I question the decision to blog about it right now because this essay smacks of a cry-for-help and. . . I don't even know if I want help right now? I just want to not feel so fucking crazy.

I haven't been writing much lately but my head has been so full of words that I want to get down. Because life and my heart and my brain feel so full. There are several half-finished essays in the queue, waiting for a spit shine or something.

There is so much more to say but for now I will just post this. Not a cry for help. A snapshot.

If you do feel like helping me, these are the things I could use:

-Social invitations to events or gatherings that make me feel fun

-A critical eye and some energy for picking an area of my house and figuring out how to make it functional/organized/less insane

-Topics you'd be interested in reading about

I'm ok! I miss this space.