Counting Motherhood

I keep a lot of numbers in my head.

One is the number of pink lines I was expecting. I was ready for that disappointment. But first one and then another appeared as I watched the white stick on the counter, surprising me after all.

Two has been a big number for us. Because those two pink lines represented not one, but two little babies. They were born just two minutes apart, first brother, then sister. Then they turned two only two days before our youngest was born. A brother. Number three.

Three takes up a lot of space in our home right now. It’s the number of toddler beds, mini Pottery Barn chairs, three-wheeled scooters, and balance bikes you’ll find around here. Three plates and three spoons and three half-full cups of milk. Three sets of shoes (out of the so many more), three jackets, and three little backpacks to put on and take off.

Four is the number of years I’ve been doing this stay-at-home mom gig. Four years since those twins were born. Those four years have involved some bigger numbers. I’m sure I’ve changed about 12,482 diapers in that time. I must have done upwards of 2000 loads of laundry. I’ve served up approximately 3408 snacks and stepped on 324 Goldfish (probably).

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Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog!

Slow Decorating

Recently, I bought stools for our kitchen island. I started with two but quickly added another, since one kid always felt left out. (You’d think I’d have learned by now.) During our Month of Two Stools there were too many fights to count and I cursed even buying them in the first place. (Sometimes I still regret buying stools because my two-year old thinks he has full access to everything on the island at any given time, but that’s another story.)

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We’ve lived in our house for almost three years. I didn’t care much about stools at first during the chaos of moving and adding another baby and having twin two-year old climbers who didn’t need any more temptations. But after awhile the island looked kind of lonely and empty to me. It was time. I searched and I researched and compared prices. I found some. Now I love having our simple kitchen stools. The kids have easy access to help me bake, I often sit there for breakfast or to work on a project, cold brew or craft brew by my side. The three little Williamses often sit three across for breakfast or lunch or an afternoon snack.

But I had to find the right stools first.

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It was the same in our bedroom. All this open space, what to do with it? A (very first world) problem I had never had before. Our previous apartment barely had room for a bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and space to walk around them all without bumping into something.

I thought I hated the tan walls (It's grey that's in, not tan!) but despised all that painting would entail. Then I saw an image, burned into my brain now, of a bedroom full of tans and whites and creams and walnut and it looked so beautiful, so serene. That picture became my inspiration. A cream-textured bed with nailheads, white and walnut dresser, cozy chair in the corner. I’m not done yet. But it took me at least a year of living there to realize I even liked the space I had to work with. To realize I could mold and transform and even love it.

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I’m wary of buying any pieces I don’t love. Afraid that if I just buy something to fill the space, it will become normal, I’ll get used to it, I’ll never update. Until recently, our ottoman was a $79.99 faux leather (Does "vegan leather" sound fancier? Let's go with that.) dark brown piece with storage from Target that desperately needed replacing. The hinges didn’t quite work after four years of kids using it for everything from a boat to a hiding spot. There were a couple of rips in the “vegan leather” on the corner. But it worked. It held my feet up. It was easy to set it and forget it and not worry about upgrading.

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I’m a big fan of slow decorating. I think you have to live in a space before you know how you want it to feel, how you want it to look, how it will function best for you and your family. I know many people buy houses and immediately go about their renovations and binge on furniture purchases. I’m a bit more tortoise-like, quieter. I often don’t have an idea about a space until — suddenly — I do. It often comes to me, in a flash, and then I can’t tackle a project fast enough.

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I guess we’ve never really had the budget for major renovations or a plethora of furniture purchases to begin with. The lean days of our early married years made even a $79.99 ottoman purchase an investment for us. It amazed me that after putting a down payment on a house anyone had any money left to buy furniture to fill it with. In a way, we’ve been forced into slow.

But I do love the slow accumulation, over time, of pieces that speak to me, of pieces that are just right, of a corner I had no idea how to use until suddenly the exact right, perfect idea pops into my head - ah ha! So that’s what to do with you.

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That ottoman has been replaced now. A bigger piece, one more suited to the size of our space. Without hinges because now I know those will just get broken again. With a cream fabric that will probably get stained but since it was a steal at $169.99 it’s a risk I can take for something that’s more my style, something I like, something that feels like me. (It's still from Target, though. Some things never change.)

I’ve been eyeing some nightstands for our bedroom, a couple of chairs for our living room, still have no idea what to do with the long wall in our entryway. Maybe I won't for another three years, five years, eight. This house will probably never be "done", not finished in the way I see on Pinterest or in the pages of Dwell. And that's alright.

I'm okay with taking it slow.

An Unfair Question

“We were gone last week. How have you been?” a friend asked at our parent-child class. Not friend exactly, really more of an acquaintance, but we’ve overlapped in so many of these weekly classes over the past two years that we both thrill at seeing a familiar face and the chance for some adult conversation.

I froze. There’s no other way to describe it. I stood there at least six seconds too long, well past the time required by social norms to give a reasonable answer. My mind raced. .

We haven’t seen each other in two weeks. How have I been? “Fine” doesn’t exactly sum it all up. Or maybe it does. Let’s see, Monday I mostly yelled, as I dealt with everything from negotiations over getting ready in the morning to cleaning crayon off the walls. Tuesday my devils turned into angels who remembered how to play together nicely and got dressed without prompting them 482 times. We’re doing okay so far today. I mean, it’s only 9:00 and we made it on time. But that’s this week. What did we even do last week? Did we do things? Well, I did completely forget about my own dentist appointment. Like it just didn’t even register that I was supposed to go. That was a low moment. I feel like we did something over the weekend, though. Didn’t we? Why can’t I even think of something — anything — we did just three days ago?

She laughed. Apparently she recognized the look of confusion as I tried to harness my swirling thoughts. “Sorry!” she laughed in sympathy, “That’s not really a fair question for a parent!”

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The same frozen response happens when Tyson comes downstairs, done with work for the day. He’s learned not to ask such general questions as, “How was today?” or “What did you do today?” or even “Did you have a good day?” The first elicits either a muttered “fine” or a torrent of emotions, the second fries my brain (What did we do today?!? For the love!), and the third can find me just as tongue-tied. I mean, define “good.” Everyone was fed, I didn’t completely fly off the handle, and nobody landed in the ER (except the one time they did), so that counts as “good”, right?

These questions seem simple but become frustratingly complicated while I struggle to answer anything beyond the unsatisfactory “fine”.  Even short amounts of time during my day can lead to a flood of emotions for us all. Snuggling on the couch reading stories with the twins was wonderful, but it was ruined in a matter of minutes by a little brother dive-bombing us, which resulted in tears on all three sides (one from being injured, another from the interruption of the story-reading, the third from being physically restrained) plus a frazzled mama, so the TV came to the rescue while I folded laundry, which was peaceful if mundane.

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I have the same jumble of emotions when I realize a four-year old has outgrown all their pants yet again (disbelief mingled with creativity in the wardrobe department), a friend cancels our evening plans (disappointment combined with relief from my introverted side), or lunch is thrown to the floor, rejected by the one in the high chair (anger and...wait, actually, two out of three eating their lunch in peace ain’t bad).

Maybe my emotions lately are taking their cue from the majority rule in our house — that is, toddlers — as they seem to run the gamut from joy to anger to frustration to love in the span of your average temper tantrum.

I often feel everything all at the same time, just like my toddlers and their own outbursts. I am absolutely the most frustrated that you hit your brother but I also feel the urge to kiss your pink toddler cheeks. IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.

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I don’t remember what exact response I gave that day. I’m sure we laughed it off and moved on to other things or chased after our corresponding two-year olds. I surprised myself at my own reaction. Why couldn’t I just say something, anything at all? Maybe because I sensed in this fellow mom the potential for true friendship. “We’ve been good” doesn’t quite move the conversation, the relationship, forward. At this stage in my life I don’t want to build friendships on “good”. It’s made me think through what other response I could have given besides my apparently default one of freeze.

What I wanted to say is my days are ALL the things. Every last one of them. Our past two weeks involved a little of everything, a grab bag full of frustration and fights but also patience and love. Someone was sick, another was healthy, one practiced kindness while the other practiced throwing their toys at every possible opportunity.

I do know the easy, acceptable answers of “good” and “fine” aren’t enough for me. My life can’t be packaged up so simply. It feels almost like lying, like I’m sharing something that’s blatantly untrue. I haven’t been just “fine” — at the very least do you remember the part where I forgot my own dentist appointment?

Is it so socially unacceptable for me to brain dump my response at her feet — the feet of a friendly, fellow mom, one who acknowledges the unfairness of her own question — to tell her I really don’t know how I’ve been the past couple of weeks, but I have done everything on the spectrum from screaming to smothering them with love?

Maybe I should start sharing my own truth a bit easier. That I’ve been exhausted and overwhelmed and completely over all of these kids and also thinking about running away so does she want to look up flights to Cabo with me? The diapering and the one billion snacks and the cleaning up the floor from said snacks and the dealing with the whining (So. Much. Whining.) from three separate children really is too much.

But immediately following all of that, I would share my disbelief that my twins are now real, live actual four year olds and how did that happen? I can’t run away. Kindergarten is just around the corner and then my babies will be off, out into the world. I need to stay here before they all grow up too quickly, snuggle them on the couch, read all their books, kiss their little cheeks some more and feed them all another round of Goldfish while I still can.

At worst, she’ll think I’ve gone off the deep end. And maybe I have. Maybe I am a bit crazy and maybe I have succumbed to the multitude of emotions that run through our house on any given day. She might be uncomfortable with my surge of thoughts, surprised I didn’t follow basic social norms.

But at best, she’ll have a knowing gleam in her eye as I ramble on. I’ll be one step closer to gaining a new friend as she laughs, nods, smiles in agreement, and says, “Me too.

Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything (okay, you won't see any mystery or sci-fi picks on here), watching things that make me think and especially if they make me laugh, and wholeheartedly embrace the podcast. I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening. Here's my two cents worth.

We're doing it quick and dirty this time around - I've been an even bigger bookworm than usual!!

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READ

Girl, Wash Your Face
Loved it. For some reason I thought it wasn't going to be applicable to me (I somehow got it in my head that it was geared toward professional, working women) but it's super practical advice and relatable to everyone.

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of this Will Matter
Funny yet poignant essay collection from the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada. Honestly could take it or leave it. Three stars.

How to Walk Away
Meh. I felt like I should have cared about the main character more than I actually did. It went from serious to overly predictable. The last third was pure rom-com in book form.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads
Fascinating memoir of a Rwandan refugee - her memories of the war and what comes after. Read it and then try telling me we should lock our borders.

A Man Called Ove
Read it. Read it now. And then do what I did and immediately read it again.

Us Against You
The second in the Beartown trilogy. Not quite as good as the first but that didn't stop me from devouring it in two days. 

Love Lives Here
I adore the Goffs. This book is written in a very similar style to her husband's (personal life story with reflection on how it applies to our lives as Christians) that is so real, readable, and beautiful.

The New Jim Crow
This book will (and should) break you. 

Plan B
I think this might have been a re-read for me. I needed a dose of Anne Lamott to help me get through The New Jim Crow without completely losing my mind.

Rumors of Water
Not my favorite style of writing. It read like a lot of high and mighty rambling to me. I enjoyed a glimpse into another's creative process but ultimately found it hard to get through.

Tears We Cannot Stop (A Sermon to White America)
Are you white? Read this. Another one that is hard to read at times (in the very best of ways).

The Very Worst Missionary
I practically underlined this entire book. Though I'm not a missionary, she details so many of my thoughts with the personal faith-wrestle I am going through right now. Hilarious and full of truth. (Also saw a 1-star review where the reviewer bemoaned a Christian book dropping the f-bomb and other four-letter words and how could a Christian publisher let this happen? My thought: great! This is exactly the kind of book for me. Instant purchase. Thanks, 1-star, clutching-your-pearls reviewer.)

WATCHED

Ugly Delicious
I love David Chang and this documentary series about food is fascinating. He takes a deep-dive approach to everything from pizza to crawfish. My favorite episode so far has been Episode 2 about tacos. Not only did it make me crave tacos for the next two weeks but it unexpectedly advocated for immigrants in an interesting way. Who knew a show about food would be so relevant to our political climate right now?

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Rado City
SO FUNNY. We watched it for a date night in and it was just perfect. Absolutely hilarious without being overly vulgar or dirty. It was interesting, funny, and refreshing to hear a comedian do a bit without reverting to sex jokes the entire time.

Queer Eye: More Than A Makeover
Watch it. Watch the first episode and fall in love with Mama Tammye. Then just keep going and binge-watch it all. When the news feels like a bit much or you've had a long day, this is the show to turn to.

LISTENED

This American Life
I know, I know. I'm a late-comer to this one. My favorite so far has been episode 649: It's My Party and I'll Try If I Want To, which is a fascinating look into the Democratic Party and what one progressive candidate in New York is going through just to get on the ballot to potentially become elected.

Otherwise keeping up with my regular shows. I highly recommend keeping up with Pantsuit Politics' deep-dive into 9/11 and what it means for our post-September 11th world. You can find the first episode of this series here. Yes, it's hard to listen to. Do it anyway. I think it is so, so necessary. Especially if you're like me. It's been helping me to process something that I remember and was alive for, but at all of 14-years old never reflected on or really understood.

Note: any links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links.

The No Thank You Bite

Our twins had just turned four when it began. I set their green and pink plastic plates in front of them and that was their cue:

“I don’t like this.”
“This looks yucky.”
“I don’t want to eat any of this.”
“I’m done.”
And, my personal favorite, “Guys don’t eat this or it will make you sick.”

I’m sure it goes without saying that despite how they may have behaved that day, I was actually not trying to poison them. This was all said before they had taken a single bite. Also, these were often foods they had eaten the previous day, week, or even hour.

*insert all the eyeroll emojis here*

Maybe this sounds a little like your house. A blanket rejection of the meal you’ve spent hours (erm, minutes) to lovingly prepare (*ahem* just heat up in the microwave). Kids can’t survive on Cheerios and Goldfish forever, right? What’s a mom to do?

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Read all about the No Thank You Bite and our favorite questions to ask around the dinner table over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog!