#Dofightgo – Guest Posting over at TwinTalkBlog today

Have I raved about Twin Talk Blog lately? Seriously. I would have LOVED to have this as a resource when I was pregnant. (They started up just a month or two after my twins were born.) Luckily, Meredith, founder extraordinaire, keeps posting a variety of topics that relate to all sorts of stages with carrying, birthing, and raising twins. It’s a fantastic site, and if you are a twin parent, I highly recommend you start following it.

Today I’m guest posting a few thoughts at Twin Talk, and I’d love for you to check them out. Here’s the beginning to get you started.

3- IMG_6113 (800x533)DO, FIGHT, GO: WHAT I’VE LEARNED PARENTING 3 UNDER 3

A week ago I started writing a post called “What happens when you treat staying at home with your kids like a job.” Or something like that. The title was a mess. The concept was blasé. The post sounded like every other stay at home parent who’s ever tried to find meaning in the endless rounds of cheerios and diapers and play dough.I never finished it.I have a hard time finishing anything right now. My twins are at a very mobile thirteen months, and my preschooler (who’s not going to preschool yet) has ramped up her curiosity to a new level – namely, the third shelf of the pantry and the top of the refrigerator.

Which brings me back to the post I was trying to write. What my former job taught me about managing my days at home was helpful; it just wasn’t that interesting.

But have I stopped to think about what I’ve learned from staying at home with my preschooler and twins? It’s been almost a year and a half of this complete life change. There has to be something.

So after we put everyone to bed, I promised myself thought space. Yes. I had to make a date with my mind to think. It’s getting real, folks.

Here’s what I came up with. Keep Reading….

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Romance vs. Reality – how we *almost* got a dog

Some people test drive cars. This weekend, we test drove having a dog.

I’ve wanted a dog since we got married. I have stubborn, animal-loving streak in me (horse girl alert) and for some reason, our farm-yard seems a little IMG_4155 (800x533)empty without a furry caretaker.

But we have this problem. Well, ten problems to be exact.

The chickens.

Don’t get me wrong. I love our chickens. I love fresh eggs and bright yellow yolks. But apparently dogs and chickens tend to be incompatible unless there’s some significant training going on.

A normal person would get a puppy. But I have to admit that A. I don’t know anything about puppy training, B. I’m not particularly patient enough for puppy training, and C. I don’t have consistent time to commit to puppy training.

I thought the answer was getting a dog in the middle of his puppyhood– one that had been given a head start so that we could just come in, finish the job. Enter, Snoopie.

Snoopie was a beautiful guy – a seven month old goldendoodle newfoundland (breeder’s oops, I’m assuming) with long lines and an easygoing disposition. He was medium-sized, black and white, and loved people.

Sigh. Turns out, he also loved chasing our chickens.  And barking. There were also the mammoth-sized piles of waste, and the constant attempts to get in the house. And then this: the realization that I’m more in love with the idea of having a dog than I am with the actual logistics of keeping one.

You know. The romance of an idea vs. the actuality of it.

Because it seems so easy. The beautiful, well-behaved dog. The woman in high-heeled shoes. The basketball player’s arching jump shot. Never mind the hours of training. The years of callouses. The thousands of shots that bounced off the rim.

Romance is not reality. Reality is hard work. Reality is hard-won. And gracefulness is realizing you’re not in a place to put in the time.

No anger. No bitterness. No need to keep wanting something that’s not possible right now.

I know it’s much more trendy to tell people to chase their dreams, reach for the stars, all that business. But what about the times when that’s just not possible? What about the days, months, years when we have to wait?

What about the desires that have to be patiently brought back to bed, time after time, until they finally fall asleep?

What can we learn from knowing our limitations, instead of cursing them?

Snoopie went back home to his family last night. It was a quiet ride, me second-guessing myself, my ability to commit to things. Afterwards, I stopped on the way home for Chinese food. I listened to someone else bang pots around in the kitchen. I let someone else take my plate.

The night air was full of haze and dew when I left. I was tired, but content. The decision to return the dog was the right one. The reality of my life doesn’t leave me with time for extra right now.

To everything a season.

Grow or Die

Gabby slideThere’s a strange theme running through my summer. It’s everywhere – in the stems of the sugar snap peas that faded from bright green into a tired tan, in the hanging basket that didn’t appreciate our extended vacationing, in the suddenness of my daughters’ ability to do new things.

Things either keep growing, or begin to die.

Ever since midsummer’s solstice, I’ve been reminded how every year is a build-up to the longest day, the day when the sun stretches itself into eighteen hours of light here in the Midwest. And then after that?

This current shortening of daylight, a slow slide from life to dark.

Meanwhile, the twins are crawling, yelling, reaching, wanting, and there are days I don’t know what to do with all this NEED. The only thing that calms me down is a gentle reminder that if they weren’t growing, something would be wrong.

They have to grow. The converse is unthinkable.

But I can’t help but wonder. What about you? What about me? What about us, here, in the pleasant middle of life? The only growing I’m doing is the kind around my midsection that I try to prevent. But that’s not exactly dying, is it?

Or is it?

Now that the girls are one, I find myself trying to set a new list of goals. We survived year one. Go us. So many twin parents say that the hardest year is the first one, so this makes me feel like we accomplished something. (Exactly what, I’m not sure. I’d say mastering the art of carrying two babies up and down the stairs, but I tripped this morning and ruined my record. No one was hurt, btw.)

But I don’t just want to write down five lines of cutely bulleted things to accomplish next year. I don’t want the next phase of our family’s life together to be some sort of stylized bucket list.

I want us to commit to growing. I want to see my babies learn to speak. I want to watch my three year old start loving an instrument. I want to start a female mentoring program for all ages and all walks of life at my church. I want to memorize more of the Bible so I have a better chance at holding my temper and catching my tongue. I want to firm up those places, physical and emotional, where carrying and caring for babies has left me changed.

***

On Monday night, my parents were visiting. The girls were in bed. My husband and father were sitting in the hot tub, and my mama and I relaxed by the dormant fireside. I attempted a set of sit-ups; she caught up on email. After a while, she asked if I wanted to hear a blog post.

I sat up, knees tucked, toes spread quiet on the rug. She read author and blogger Ann Voscamp’s most recent post, How to Get Really Living Instead of Merely Existing. (A must read. Please check it out.) And it struck me, there on the rug, that there really is no middle ground. I really do have to strive to grow in that which I love, or face the fact that I immediately start to wither.  

This principle is in my faith – to grow in understanding, or lose meaning. In my marriage – to grow in love, or risk falling out of it. In my children – to grow in stature, or worry something’s wrong. In my self – to reach toward my goals, or watch them waste in silence.

Grow or die.  There’s no other way to say it. There’s no other way to live.

Ten Tricks for the Family Trip

Picture7Ten Tricks for the Family Trip

Welcome to high summer. Before we had kids, this season meant one thing to my husband and I. Road trips. A lot of them. They are the reason our old 4Runner is knocking on 300,000 miles, and the only logical answer to why we know almost every Willie Nelson song by heart.

Then there were kids. Three of them – all girls. And when they travel, these young divas require their favorite blankets and life jackets and sippy cups and an endless parade of My Little Ponies. The twins also require two Pack’N’Plays, diapers, wipes, a cooler of snacks, a bag of toys, and at least four nuks.

Why all this stuff? Because every scenario should be accounted for. I’m not a Type A by any stretch, but I have learned a very important rule in road tripping. When you’re prepared, everyone has a good time. When you’re not, you’re pulling off at exit 203B with no gas station in sight, stripping your toddler of noxious clothing, and re-dressing her in pants that are a size too small.

We just completed our fourth and most spontaneous road trip of the season, and we now feel like well-seasoned professionals. Here’s what worked for us.

Pack a toy bag

Preferably, one of those grocery store types that stands on their own works the best. Grab a few toys, and make sure you pick a few that light up and play really obnoxious songs. Annoying as they are, sometimes kids need the distraction. Keep it within arm’s reach, so that when the whining starts, you can swoop in with Mr. Potato Head and save the day.

Bring snacks

You get hungry in the car, right? So do kids. Really hungry. Bored hungry. Snack hungry. Whatever time of day, make sure you have at least one option of something you can put in a cup and pass back. For little ones, applesauce in a pouch is a lifesaver. Yes, this is how you end up vacuuming ten pounds of cheerios out of your car, and washing seat covers. Who cares. The kids aren’t screaming, and that’s what counts.

Take a break

Kids don’t do well skipping meals, pushing naps, or missing bathroom breaks. Let’s be honest. Grownups don’t either. So keep an eye on the clock. Stop to change diapers, go potty, and eat lunch at the normal intervals your kids do those things. No one benefits from the keep-on-keeping-on mentality 387 miles at a time.

Buy an atlas

I know. Paper. Bulk. I have a phone. I have a system. Yada yada yada. When you’re in the middle of nowheresville and your phone doesn’t get service and your GPS can’t figure out which satellite to track off of and the babies are screaming, nothing beats a good old fashioned map. Unless you like being the idiot at the gas station, mispronouncing road signs and admitting you don’t actually know which direction West is.

Go. Go. Go.

Ever been stuck reading the sign “Rest stop – 27 miles” when your toddler was yelling at the top of her lungs, “But I need to go potty now?” Always keep an eye on the map and the mileage to the next town. Make friends with your GPS. And when all else fails, don’t force anyone to wait. Pull over. Now. A little embarrassment is better than sitting in a booster seat full of pee for the next six hours.

Be a wipe packrat

Your mom stashed Kleenex in her purse and baby wipes under the seat for good reason. Kids make messes. But there’s no sin a pack of wipes can’t handle. Keep them handy, keep them close. At least one for every row of seats you have. Use liberally.

Keep a garbage bag

I’m notoriously bad at forgetting this, but having a plastic bag stashed away for emergencies is amazingly helpful. Road trips generate mess: diapers, wrappers, ice cream cups, Go-Go Squeeze packets, wipes, etc. Take a tip from backpacker mentality, and Pack It In, Pack It Out. The poor schmuck stuck doing post trip van clean-up will thank you.

Tell stories

Need an idea to keep kids entertained that doesn’t involve the DVD player or the books that keep falling off the seat? Make up silly stories, pack them full of potential or future events that may occur, and keep them going as long as you can. Ask your kids to tell the next one. You might find yourself busting a gut at their yarn-telling skills.

Let sleeping dogs lie

I know the best family picture is just begging to be taken out there on the pier… but the kids are fast asleep in various broken-neck car seat positions. Whatever you do, don’t wake them up. No picture is worth the thousand decibels of scream you’re about to subject yourself to if you interrupt their hard-won sleep.

Stop for ice cream

It’s messy, it’s sweet, and it can always be found in a drive-thru if you can’t stand to unbuckle everyone one more time. And if you didn’t get the cute picture on the pier, you can always take one of your toddler mowing down a cone-in-a-cup and call it equally as summertime-good.

Turning the Tide – The Twins are One!

The most important things are somehow the hardest ones to get down on paper.

My babies turned one year old. You guys. One.

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My darlings (Gabby left, Lucy right), day one.

Bottles. Pumping. Newborn diapers. Midnight feedings. Swings. Play mats. Burp rags. Bouncy seats. These things marked our reality for a certain set of months.

The girls’ infancy was glory unfolding. Perfect pink hands curling and uncurling like sea anemones. Slow blinks, dark eyes working to focus on our faces. The sweetest smells of milk and baby wash. The ease of holding, yet somehow feeling held ourselves. Two babies. We couldn’t stop repeating it.

But their infancy was a work like none other. There were days that felt like the sun was stubbornly stuck at 3:43 pm. There were some months I remember only in fog and through pictures, because I spent them stumbling out of bed in two hour increments every night.

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My specialty: folding tiny clothes

Everyone tells you “it’s a stage”, and “it’ll pass”, and “you’ll never get these days back.” This is about as helpful as starting a road trip and seeing your destination on a highway sign: New Orleans 1800 miles. You still have to drive every single one of those miles, yellow lines flashing in your wake.

You have to break it down.

In one month, the newborn clothes will start getting tight. In two, a schedule will start guiding your days. Smiles will play on the edge of his lips. In three, she will start holding her head up, no longer an infant. At four, the clothes become tight again, and the drawers need to be cleaned out. In five, sleep may become elusive as they grow. At six, a glimmer of change, a flurry of arm and leg movements.

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Gabby’s favorite toy: Daddy

Seven, solid foods. Sitting up. More drawer cleaning, more clothes. At eight, there may be teeth starting to arrive. In nine months you’ll put away a few bits of baby paraphernalia – the bouncy seat, which they wiggle out of, the swings, which are boring. You become their favorite toy. In ten you’ll start debating whether or not to grab baby and car seat, or just baby, because the combination of weight is enough to break your arm. Eleven – movement. So much movement.

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Mama! Look! Fingers!

And suddenly at twelve months, she is big. You put her down at the end of the day and wonder just how it was you made it from here to there in a manner of months. The baby has become a person. A person with (very) vocal needs, great belly laughs, and keen interest in the surrounding world.

It is as though time is based on desire. The more you want, the faster the minutes pass. The harder the hours, the more everything slows down to the second. Tick. Tick. Which means that maybe, just maybe, though we can’t control time, we can control our perception of it.

Perhaps then the key is simply a matter of want.

It’s okay not to want to change diapers and launder blowout-stained clothing. It’s also okay to wish his head would rest forever on your shoulder. It is this combination that moves the days forward – motivation and movement, reverence and rest.

***

IMG_4732 (800x533)We didn’t throw a giant birthday party with themed gifts and pinterest-style decorations. To be honest, I’m not good at that kind of thing, nor do I have the time to care. So my mom did the work of invites, and I blew up a few balloons, hung them on a Happy Birthday sign, and combed everyone’s hair. My family gathered in the yard at my parent’s farm, ate amazing home-cooked food and adorable cakes kindly made by my sister in law, opened presents, and played with the kids in the sprinkler.

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Lucia -1

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Gabrielle -1

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Ellis -3

It was summer and it was lovely. Really, really lovely, according to all three of my girls. And that, my friends, was all I wanted.

Sharing my birth story today at Twin Talk Blog

twin talkHappy Friday!  Today I’m sharing my birth story interview-style over at Twin Talk, which is fast becoming one of my favorite resources for all things twin related. If you are a twin mama and haven’t bookmarked this page, do it. Do it now. And if you’re on Instagram, you can follow them at @twintalkblog. (You can find me on IG too now that I finally figured out how to hashtag. Yep. Follow me @rachelriebe. I’m cool.)

Ps. Did I mention they do giveaways? They do giveaways. As the mother of twins, I love giveaways.

Meanwhile, here in the rain-soaked mud sponge that has become our backyard, we’ll be trying to survive another round of teething. Gabby has two top teeth coming down, and Lucy has two bottom ones coming up. If breakfast was any indication of how this day is going to go, we’ll be packing everyone in the van after morning naps for a nonsense trip to somewhere at least an hour away.

Godspeed. And may your weekend look more scream-free than mine.

 

 

 

Multiple Birth Awareness Month: My Confession

9 mo

Hear that? Mama thought we were scary. (G, L)

I used to be afraid of having twins.

It started at nine weeks when the ultrasound technician revealed the amazing truth that I was harboring two heartbeats. I was afraid of not being able to carry them to term. I was afraid of birthing them. I was afraid of how I was going to divide my time between them and my two-year old daughter. I was afraid I’d always be letting someone down.

I was afraid having twins meant I wasn’t going to be a good mother.

Two days after we came home from a thankfully uncomplicated birth, I got my first taste of the chaos I feared. It was breakfast time – my toddler in her booster seat, the babies in their rockers on the floor. My spoon was in my first bite of oatmeal when it happened.

All three girls started crying at once.

Ellis was done eating and wanted out of her chair. Gabrielle had her fist in her mouth and wanted to eat. Lucia was working on some business in the lower realms, her face turned red and squinchy. All of them were screaming.

I didn’t know where to start, still unfamiliar with the triage that multiples require.

That morning I did it all wrong, attempting to breastfeed a newborn, change a diaper with my free hand, and reason with my toddler that I’d be done in a second. It was a massive fail. My husband came in to find us all tear-blotched and upset.

People often ask if it’s much harder caring for twins. My answer? It’s not harder. (Changing a diaper isn’t intrinsically hard.) It just takes longer. 

Diapers. Baths. Clothes. Car seat buckling. Meal time. Crying. Everything takes twice as long.

Add this to the fact that babies in and of themselves are time-consuming creatures. They require slow and careful movements. They long to be held. To stare into our eyes. To form connections and bonds, brain synapses firing like lightning bugs on warm July nights.

april 042 (533x800)Funny thing is, toddlers need the same thing. So do spouses. Just all in a different way. And once I realized this, somehow, my fear of adding two tiny people to our family got a little smaller.

No matter how many of us were in the house, ultimately, we all just needed to be loved. And love was not a limited quantity item that went out of stock in my pantry. Love was the one thing I could always find, even when everything else was short on supply.

Not that it always looks like love within these walls. Everyone still cries. We all get frustrated with one another and the need to take turns. But as a mother of multiples, I’ve learned how to triage effectively. I’m not defeated when everyone needs something all at once.

I’ve learned that helping one daughter first allows the other two to understand the fine art of patience (well, someday.) I’ve seen how sharing, even in its early stages, will become one of the most important life skills my girls can master. I’ve even earned a spot in my own equation, advocating for myself and taking care of my own needs as well so I can better take care of everyone else.

I’ve found love to be an ever-renewable resource, wide enough for all of us, a perfect force for driving out fear.

 

april 022 (800x549)Written in honor of Multiple Birth Awareness Month for my 9 month old twins Gabrielle & Lucia, and my ever precocious toddler Ellis Olivia. For more great thoughts (and adorable pictures) on raising multiples, go check out  today’s link up at Twin Talk Blog.