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postmodernfamilyblog

Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Our Postmodern Family

Our Real Modern Family

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a while now… I guess ever since we decided to bake up a couple of twins from scratch using borrowed eggs and my forty-seven- year-old oven.  My daughter once called us the “Real Modern Family” – and you know, she’s right.  I’m a Southern woman married to a half-Korean, half-Italian/Slovenian Yankee man twelve years my junior; I have two beautiful twenty-something daughters, an arthritic dappled dachshund and a morbidly obese cat.  And now, after much thought and consideration — and then funding and injections, vaginal suppositories, and appointments — I have started motherhood all over again.  This will be the story of us: our real modern family. Or maybe, more appropriately, our postmodern family.  Postmodern, as in “radical reappraisal.” And our story is, indeed, a radical reappraisal of how to make and nurture a family.

Many things have changed since that summer almost three years ago when we began our in-vitro journey… I will do my best to record current happenings, as well as flashbacks to those glory days of post-modern fertilization, pregnancy pillows, and preeclampsia.  I’m hoping our story will be an inspiration to those battling the frustrations of infertility, to those navigating the beautiful and rugged territory of twindom, and to those who decide to either start a family or do it all over again at a rather ripe age.

Even as I try to type this, I question why I’m doing it. I have nothing special to say. I’m nothing special. I nearly stop before I’ve begun, but then I think… I’m nothing special, true… but I do have something different to offer. I can’t imagine there are too many forty-nine year olds out there lactating. Not too many women out there with twenty-three years difference between their last baby girl and their most recent baby boys, not too many women who, as my father says, “ran the engine and the caboose when it comes to supplying grandchildren.” Not too many women out there who just suffered through a sixteen-month stint of extreme sleep deprivation. If nothing else, I can be a freak show for people to point at and ridicule. Still, I hope I can inspire a few to give postmodern family planning a go.

Family X-Mas 2014

 

 

Featured post

it can’t have already been a year

My dad died one year ago tonight. Every morning this month I’ve said things like…In two weeks, he wouldn’t be here anymore…. In 9 days, he would be gone….In one week exactly, he would leave this earth.

And now… In the next few minutes, he would fall to the floor in his basement, all alone, and wait for us to find him.

It’s surreal. And awful.

And my heart is broken. Everyday, it splinters more. Pieces spill like flint — hard, dry, bitter pieces that skitter and scrape across the hard ground. Everything’s harder now.

I miss him so much.

I miss his mineral blue eyes, clear as heaven at high noon. Eyes that twinkled when he told a story — and he was always telling a story. So I guess they were always twinkling. They twinkled extra hard when he laughed.

I miss that laugh— a unique, slow, sort-of-horsey “hyuh, hyuh, hyuh” found at the tail end of a joke. Usually his own. Jokes only some of us ever got. Not a lot of us. Mainly just the physics fellas in our family. (Although honestly, we have three physics fellas in our family, which probably constitutes a lot in the grand scheme of things.)

But now there’s one less. And he was the youngest of the bunch. The end of an era.

And now, at the end of this full year of him being gone, I’m missing him more than ever. And my body is physically sick from the grief. It’s rebelling. No way it’s already been a year. I haven’t had enough time to wrap my brain around this loss yet.

Time should’ve stopped. The world should’ve paid more attention. Stopped spinning. Quaked or something. Been picked up as far south as his namesake geophysics observatory down in Australia

When Randall Douglas Peters fell, the seismograph in his basement should’ve noted the magnitude of loss. Registered it on his data like it registered in my body.

But still hasn’t registered in my mind.

It can’t have already been a year.

It can’t.

Our Family’s Favorite Picture Books for Reading at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite of all the holidays. I know the kids like Halloween and Christmas best. When you’re a kid nothing competes with candy and presents… but once we’ve outgrown our greedy seasons of childhood, we come to favor the holidays that focus on blessings and family. And for me, the one that takes the cake (or pie, I should say because… oh, the PIES that come with this one) is Thanksgiving.

But the cupboards are pretty bare when it comes to the family reading fodder.

It’s hard to find picture books devoted to Thanksgiving. So I had to include books that deal with fall weather, too. Which is okay, I guess, because fall weather is football weather, and that underscores yet another reason why this is my favorite holiday. If our blessings are abundant, each year our family is week-three deep in the playoffs. (Here’s hoping we’ll be counting that blessing this year!)

So this list begins with a book called Football with Dad. We received a copy as a gift a few years back by my dear friend and fellow coach’s wife, Kim.

Football with Dad,
by Frank Berrios, illustrated by Brian Biggs

It’s a Little Golden Book — so it wafts nostalgia the minute you crack the gilded cover. The storyline is exactly what you’d expect — a game of pickup football with a dad and his son, along with a few neighborhood kids (girls included — YAY). It celebrates family and tradition and football fundamentals, and we love it in our house. (Of course we do.)

Next up, is the childhood classic, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day. This is a great one to read the day before Thanksgiving, as it is set on a “Windsday.” Piglet and Pooh and all our Hundred-Acre friends are here — including the first appearance of everybody’s favorite bouncy, trouncy, spring-filled character, Tigger. The story involves coming together to celebrate — and even sacrifice for –our friends. What better story to read the day before Thanksgiving? You can find it in The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh (which is what we have) or in a smaller book all its own.

Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day, by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

There are two more books that focus on blustery days included in this list. The next up is also a Disney-sponsored picture book — one my mom gave the boys a couple years back. It’s Bruce’s Big Storm, and once again, there’s a bear and a storm, plus more gathering and celebrating and sacrifice. But this time the bear is an introvert surrounded by neighbors bound and determined to adopt him as their “den leader” (much to his [dis]pleasure.) As a fellow introvert, Bruce and I are kindred spirits. Sometimes in big get-togethers, I sit off in a corner and just absorb. It doesn’t mean I’m not having a great time; it just means I have to experience the shenanigans on my own terms. Just like Bruce.

Bruce’s Big Storm, written and illustrated by Ryan T Higgins

Speaking of feeling overwhelmed (which we were, in case that wasn’t clear), Sweep, by Louise Greig, is a great book to read when you have kiddos struggling to learn to control BIG emotions inside little bodies. The entire book revolves around an onslaught of leaves, collecting and swallowing everything in its path. This becomes a clear metaphor (even for little kids to pick up on) about how a bad mood can seize control of us until we become buried alive under our dark, moldy thoughts. But this book reminds us to look up. To rise above our collection of negative thoughts and remember the beauty and love around us. It’s powerful for both Greig’s message and for the stunning illustrations provided by Julia Sarda.

Sweep by Louise Greig, illustrations by Julia Sarda

Now if you love poetry like I love poetry, In November, by Cynthia Rylant, is the book for you to read out loud every single night to your littles. While not technically a book of poetry, the language is chockful of lyrical imagery that lights up your soul with all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels of all the types of gathering, from harvests, to winter coats, to hibernation hovels, to logs for the fire, to spices for the pies, to generations of families. It’s all packed tight-to-bursting with beauty. Do yourself and your kiddos a favor and get this one.

In November, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jill Kastner

And finally comes the Thanksgiving addition that we discovered just last year. Thanksgiving in the Woods, by Phyllis Alsdurf is also full of sensory details, traditions, and multi-generational gatherings. Only this time the scene is an outdoor gathering. It’s as if Emerson and Thoreau begat a little children’s book full of the magic and wonder of the woods. It even includes lines from a song the boys and I would sing and sway to at bedtime when they were babies — a Shaker hymn called “Simple Gifts.”

And honestly, isn’t that what Thanksgiving should be all about? Celebrating the simple blessings we so often take for granted?

And for us, a simple gift that holds a special place in our hearts is reading as a family every night. We’ve done it since the boys were first-hatched and we’ll carry on as long as we possibly can — till they fly the nest if they let us.

Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie

Spooktacular Picture Books, according to the Candela Twins

Our family loves Halloween. We love the costumes, the decorations, and the candy, of course. But we also – thanks to this nerdy, bookish, English-teacher mom — love the picture books.

This morning, as we put out jack-o-lanterns and skeletons and gravestones in the yard, an Amazon delivery brought us the newest installment to our Halloween library: Gilbert the Ghost.

He joins The Scariest Book Ever, our “Ginny Goblin” collection, The Creepy Carrots and Creepy Pair of Underwear duo, a nonfiction book called Skulls, and our perennial favorite, The Pomegranate Witch.

The Scariest Book Ever is anything but. It’s all about the scared-y-est ghost ever… so terrified to venture out that he spills orange juice on his sheet just so he can stay home and eat donuts.

The pair of Ginny Goblin books are full of shenanigans and hoodwinks as the impish green girl quests to foil surprises and house rules.

The “Creepy” books are full of cavorting carrots and greenish, glowing underpants.

Skulls is about — you guessed it — skulls in all their beautiful, bony perfection.

 

And then, there’s The Pomegranate Witch. If you haven’t seen it yet, read it yet, bought it yet… well, I can’t tell you how much you need it in your child’s life. In YOUR life. It is beautiful, lyrical, mystical, and even a tad bit hysterical.

Continue reading “Spooktacular Picture Books, according to the Candela Twins”

Heaven Help

My family’s under fire. No, strike that (like a match)… we’re INSIDE the fire. Inside a fiery furnace. A crucible. (I swear, witchery is afoot.)

They say things come in threes. (Witchcraft nearly always does.) But for our family, it’s been four… and I pray we’re done for awhile. First, my father died. Then my aunt (who was so much more than an aunt). Then my sister’s heart failure (an ongoing struggle for her). And now, my mom’s fall and her broken back.

And the heat keeps coming.

And on top of all this, my obligations and demands just keep getting heaped like coal on an already blazing inferno, and I honestly don’t know how much more I can take before I melt like the witch this crucible is trying to make of me.

Before my filter disintegrates completely and I unleash on unsuspecting folks.

Because I’m nearly there. I think there’s still a filmy fragment or two clinging like scar tissue on my lips… but I’m terrified the wrong person — or even the sweetest, most innocent person — is going to ask for one more thing and I’m gonna gush venom like magma.

I don’t want to burn people with nastiness. I don’t. I want to be nice. Be kind. Be a good employee, a good teacher, good friend, good wife, good mother. I want to be a good person. But I don’t know… it feels like all the good has been incinerated. How do I find more? And when found, how can I possibly give it away again… when its become such a rare and precious resource?

Heaven help.

That’s not even a cliched phrase for me right now. It’s a plea. Heaven help me to find the good. To be the good — to the people who deserve it. And maybe even to the people who don’t. Maybe?

Or should I spew all the bad from my body in righteous indignation instead?

My father believed in it. In righteous anger. John Lewis believed in it, too. In good trouble.

But me, I don’t even know if I have the wisdom to identify good and righteous trouble anymore. What if I stumble instead — dog-tired and damaged — into the regular, run-of-the-mill, ugly anger and get myself in some bad trouble?

Honestly, my family and I — we don’t need any more trouble, good or bad. We just need some good. Show us something good.

Heaven Help.

A Strange and Beautiful Win

“There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” — Edgar Allan Poe

Last night was a beautiful win — but oh, the strangeness.

Come-from-behind wins in the final minutes of a game are the stuff legends are made of. The stuff that makes victory taste even sweeter.

But they are also some of the strangest game-scenarios of a coach’s wife’s life.

They are not my favorite. But they are. They are a paradox. (And as an English teacher, I love a good paradox.)

Last night was a hard-fought defensive battle. (As a defensive coach’s wife, you love it AND you hate it. Again, with the paradox.) And what you really love when your husband coaches defense is a shut out.
And our defense DID shut out their team’s offense, but THEIR defense… well, that’s where their 14 points came from.

And you have to hand it to that defense. They played hard. They hit hard and charged hard and sacked hard.And our offense will feel the effects of that HARD for awhile.

But our defense, they played hard too. They hit hard and charged hard and stole that ball hard when it mattered most.

And our offense scored when it mattered most — and scored just enough when it mattered most.

And while we might have liked a few more points on that final scoreboard, and a few less battle scars at the end of the fight, it was still beautiful.

Yes, there was some definite strangeness in the proportions — but oh, what an exquisitely beautiful win. #CANES

Will there Ever be Something to Show for It All?

They say the routine is important… and I’ve got one of those. A snuggly throw over my legs, a cup of coffee at my side, and the predawn pads of fingertips on keyboard.

I show up. Every weekend, I show up. (Maybe that’s the problem. Two out of seven is just not enough…)

Because I struggle. The words fail me. Or I fail them. I think it’s probably the latter. 

I read last night an afterword from an author talking about how she had this story to tell and found herself trapped. Snagged in a tangle. Me too, mama.

Character failures. Overdrawn dialogue. Dead sentences. Like I’m wading through hardening concrete. It feels almost impossible, and I’m barely slogging through.Am I making progress at all? I honestly don’t know. 

I’ve been working at it for years. Years. I’ve been writing my mind and my matters for years.

It is my innermost driving force. It is who I am. A writer. A puller of words out of the ether and onto the … what? Screen? Isn’t that still the ether? Am I even really a writer if there’s no heft in the hand to say that I am?

My boys see the books in my library. My office full of published works by other writers. They ask which are mine. Which did I write? 

Bless them. They have such faith in me. They see me as a writer. But can you be something without the something that makes you that thing? 

Can you really be a writer without the book?

I mean, if you’re a chef, you’d better have food to back it up, right? 

What about a retailer if there’s no product to sell?

If you’re a ditch-digger, there’d best be a ditch in your wake. 

Still, I keep going. I keep doing. I pull my computer up to my lap before anybody else is awake, and I pad out my ponderings and my plotlines and I persevere. I invoke the muse – like I literally practice the invocation of the muse (if it was good enough for Homer, maybe it will be good enough for me), and I fumble along in the darkness before dawn.

Digging the ditch, making the meal, so I can sell the wares. The words And maybe they’ll come. If you build it they will come. That’s the saying, right?

Here we go!

We’re buckled up to this season and ready to roll. And I can’t help thinking about a friend of ours driving to visit us for the first time.

“It was dark,” he began. “I was riding along at a pretty good clip. No hazards, no cause for concern.

‘Until there was. Until I hit a bump and went airborne, headlights skyward, road falling away…. All I could do was pray and shout, “HERE WE GO!”

My friend’s story feels like the perfect metaphor for every football season. We football families strap ourselves in and get ready for this ride of our lives.

We think we’re ready for anything.

We meal prep and mentally prep and lay out kids’ clothes for the week. We load game bags, and wine cabinets, and schedules on Google calendar to share with husbands. We set reminders, too. Lots and lots and lots of reminders. Daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reminders.

But no matter how many times we’ve been down this road, no matter how prepared we think we are, no matter how many calendars and frozen dinners and and bottles of wine, something will go wrong. Something always goes wrong.

Some unknown, unpredictable speed bump comes out of nowhere and sends us airborne. Our eyes must turn skyward as the road falls away and we shout, “HERE WE GO!!!”

It never fails.

But neither does God. It’s not us in total control, no matter what we think. That belongs to God.

Life is hard. And the football life is harder than hard.

But football families can do hard things… With our best-laid plans and God in control, we can do harder than hard things. We can do this football life.

2021 Football Season — HERE WE GO!!!

When Our Hearts are in Deep… and At Risk

I’m a teacher. I pour my heart into my students. Every Day. From first bell to last, I show them love. I grant them access to my heart and mind and do my best to access theirs. It’s my calling and my job. And I love it.

There’s a movie I used to love called Freedom Writers. It’s the story of a teacher and her students — students society has shunned. Problem students. Rebellious students. Students most likely to be given up on. But this teacher doesn’t. She’s determined to help them see their potential, to find their voice, to show them the power of using it to better themselves and the world around them. What’s not to love, right? It’s what I try to do with my students. It is my number one goal.

So I was telling this fellow teacher how much I love this movie, and she floored me by saying she hated it. Really? She’s a literature and writing teacher too — and her personal story isn’t too far removed from the students’ in the film. She grew up rough, she spent her fair time in alternative schools. She didn’t trust herself, her abilities, or her voice. She was a rebel who found a cause in teaching. She dedicated her life to helping kids find themselves and their voice.

So I wondered, really wondered, why this teacher friend of mine hated this movie so much.

“Because that teacher gave too much of herself,” she said. “She destroyed her marriage, her mental health, her life outside of teaching. She gave TOO much.”

Dang.

My friend wasn’t lying. 

And that made me think about our current situation — teaching in a pandemic. Giving and giving and giving to fit our students’ needs. Because need us, they do. They need to be in school. They need the socialization and they need the quality of an in-person classroom. We saw – and are still seeing – the fallout from not having classes and classmates in person the last year and a half.

And we teachers need to be in school, too. Their faces, their physical presence keeps the fire lit inside us. Its a symbiotic relationship. Physical connections fuel educational connections.

But what does that mean for us as teachers? For the teachers who care passionately and want to give our students our very best so they may have the very best education?

It means we risk destroying ourselves in the process. These days, our hearts are at risk. Literally and figuratively. But more on that in a minute…

While we teachers work, our own children attend school. Many of them are too young to be vaccinated. Still, we send them to school because we believe in the power of in-person education, despite the risks. Right now, the benefits outweigh the risks, so I believe they are where they need to be. But they are not as safe as they could be. The risks could be reduced for them, even without the ability to be vaccinated yet. Masks can help reduce their risk.

But in most places, there are no school mask mandates. And without mask mandates — or at least the autonomony in our classrooms to require them — the virus will spread like wildfire. The Delta variant is hitting kids as fast as adults. It is as contagious as measles.

Wearing a mask does less to help the person wearing it than it does to those around them. So when my children wear masks and no one else does, their masks do little for them. And if I, a vaccinated teacher who poses little to no risk to others, wear one, it does very little to help my students. But if we all wear masks, it does innumerable good. And if we all wear masks, it does zero harm.

Because I’m not saying put a needle in your arm and subject yourself to “poison” or “policing,” or whatever notions you firmly believe in. That’s your right. But I am saying put on a mask to help protect MY CHILDREN. And my immunocompromised friends. And my medical provider friends and family who are exhausting themselves – giving WAY TOO MUCH OF THEMSELVES – for people who don’t believe the virus is a big deal.

And speaking of giving too much of yourself. Let me get back to how we are all — every last one of us — putting our hearts literally at risk. Let me tell you about my baby sister.

She’s 50 years old and she contracted a light case of covid last year. Sniffles, sore throat, fever, body aches, loss of taste and smell. She had zero comorbidities and was presumably fine afterward, but six months later she discovered the long-term effects. The virus had desiccated her heart. Her previously healthy, Peleton-bike-riding, yoga-loving heart. 

She thought she’d developed exercise-induced asthma. She began coughing with exertion. Having trouble breathing during exercise. Things went from bad to worse. She nearly collapsed climbing a flight of stairs.

An x-ray revealed major issues. A cardiologist was consulted. The diagnosis: myocarditis due to Covid. A heart function of 12%. She’s been on medication and a life vest for two months and showing little improvement. So in the next week, she’ll go into the OR for a defibrillator/pacemaker combo and then again later for a valve replacement. If these measures don’t work, she’ll be put on a heart transplant list. 

My previously healthy, vibrant, mask-wearing baby sister, 50 years old.

And the same thing is now happening to 20-40 somethings at high, high rates. They are coding in ERs every night. They are filling up hospital floors and ICUs faster than they were last January. And the morgues are getting there. And the cardiologists, they’re busier than they’ve ever been.

Can we ALL please just wear our masks?

And I know while I’m writing this that I won’t change anybody’s minds. That those who hate masks and rage against vaccines won’t read what I write. Or if they do, it’ll be to lash out at me. Or troll me. Or laugh behind my back. I know that. I’m not writing it for them.

I’m writing to the people who will read my words because they believe, because their hearts are in this and they know we’re in deep. They believe if we don’t do something, the outcomes will be tragic. They believe in the power of prevention. They believe in protecting our loved ones, keeping our kids in school, and our economy afloat.

I’m begging friends like these to please pick up their masks and pick up their phones and to use their voices and help change the world.

Help us keep from sacrificing way too much: our children, our medical professionals, and our economy. Please.

(And if you have similar personal stories or concerns and want to reach out, please feel free to send me an email at hhester05@gmail.com.)

This Teacher & Mama is Worried about this School Year

I’d been feeling so good, so hopeful about having a classroom full of consistently present students this year. That there would be no more masks at school. No more social distancing. No more diligent seating chart documentation. Hopeful there would be no more quarantines. 

I was feeling good about devoting my mind and energy to educating my students, not keeping them disinfected.About sending my boys back to school where the focus would be back on schooling.

I’ve been vaccinated. Many of my fellow faculty members have as well. Even some of my high school students have been. These vaccines, plus Covid19 cases subsiding due to a variety of factors, had me feeling hopeful. 

But then July hit. And the delta variant began wreaking havoc. Cases are rising again.. as rapidly as November of last year. But this time, a new fear comes with the rise. This time, kids are getting really, really sick. 

Last year, the severe coronavirus cases – and/or severe aftereffects — were more likely to occur in adults. And even mild cases left some adults with severe aftereffects – my baby sister being one. Covid19 saddled her with viral myocarditis and only 15% of a functioning heart.

She tells anyone and everyone she can to get vaccinated. I agree. My physician daughter does too. I trust my daughter who knows and trusts the science.

But our kids… the little ones… they can’t get vaccinated yet. And that scares me. 

Last year, our children, our students, were fairly safe. Our school system had only one student hospitalized – with Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome — due to Covid19. Thankfully, that student pulled through. 

But this year, things could be very different. 

This year, with this delta variant, children are being more heavily impacted. This past week, here in Georgia, a five-year-old with zero preexisting conditions died of Covid19.  In Mississippi, seven children under twelve are in the ICU with Covid19. Two on ventillators.

Y’all. That’s scary. As a parent, it’s terrifying. As a teacher, it’s terrifying. This year is terrifying on a whole different level. And while some would argue the odds are minimal, tell that to the parents of these children. 

Our middle and high school students have the option to be vaccinated. And some have been. I am thankful for that. But not all of them have been. Likely, not many.

And none of the elementary school age kids have been. No children under twelve. No children my boys’s age. They haven’t because they can’t yet. But rest assured, as soon as they can be, my boys will be. I want to protect them. And I want to protect others. 

But until then… I’m hopeful that masks will be back. And social distancing. And diligent seating chart documentation. And while I’m prayerful that there will be no more quarantines, I’m worried.

This teacher is worried, yes. 

But mostly, this Mama is worried. 

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