Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters



You Can… I Can… We Can Do This Hard Thing

This week has been a doozy – and for no particular reason. It’s just been a hard one. Maybe it’s because football is nearing mid-season. The grind is wound up and wearing on me.  Maybe it’s because we’ve now completed the first six weeks of school. The kids are wound up and wearing on me.  Maybe it’s because I’m the mother of twin two-year-old boys. The guys are wound up and wearing on me.  Or maybe it’s because sometimes some weeks are just hard.

And if a week has been hard, then generally, that means that our Friday Night under the Lights was doubly hard (well, I guess with twins everything is always doubly hard), so maybe that makes this one quadruply hard. If that’s even a word. My spellcheck doesn’t recognize it and my number skills are more like deficits. When I tried looking quadruply up, the always wise and munificent Google – eager to predict and please — tried to give me quadrupedally as an option – from the word quadruped. As in walking with four legs – which honestly doesn’t fit our night either because the boys are NEVER walking during football games. They’re either being towed in their wagon to the stadium (thank you, Jesus and Uncle Chan) or they’re being hauled by yours truly up and down the stands, straddling and sliding down my hips like I’m the banister and they are Mary Poppins. And that makes us a sextuped — which doesn’t even exist.  My spellcheck tried to change that one to sextuplet – which is some sort of computer land kernel of encouragement reminding me that things could always be worse and that I need to quit wallowing in self-pity. Which I will do… right after I finish my rant.


The doozy of a week all began with a carefully-placed, hard, little turd in my favorite bra.  Neci, my old-lady dachshund with spiteful tendencies and great aim, was angry once again. This time it was personal, and it was directed at me. No doubt about it. The dung in the D-cup doesn’t lie. (No, that’s a lie. I’m scarcely a B-cup during PMS week, but I digress…) So, that was Sunday.

Next came Monday and my fellas fighting from the time we hit the threshold till the time I reached my threshold and broke out the iPad restrictions. They had thumped each other’s heads with backhoe blades and potty chair bowls (empty, hallelujah!) one time too many. No iPads always hurts me way more than it hurts them, though. Tablet time gives me time to myself. To do laundry or to do dishes or to do nothing (which is honestly what I really, truly need on any given Monday).


Then came Tuesday and my own stupidity. I forgot the boys’ after school snacks. Or rather, I forgot PART of the boys’ after school snacks. I had their juice boxes (which is good because I don’t think I could’ve creatively acquired apple juice). However, I didn’t notice that we were out of goldfish snacks (I keep a case-full of them in the passenger seat of my van) until I’d picked up the boys, strapped them into their car seats, handed over their juices, reached into the goldfish case, and… THEN I noticed. No goldfish. Nada.

Denying toddlers an afternoon snack is just not something one does. Ever. Like, Never Ever.

I had two choices: listen to the shrieking of my angry, hungry howler monkeys for the eight miles and twenty minutes it takes to get home or forage on the floor of the van for the flotsam and jetsam of previous weeks’ worth of feedings.  There were plenty of remnants to be found, and I figured — while assuredly stale– they were still relatively germ-free. So foraging I went. Crawling on all fours, I became a true quadruped for that five minutes of shameless maternal scrounging. I spelunked through the cavernous undercarriage of bucket seats and hidden compartments in my Chrysler Town & Country (which comes with LOADS of them) and managed to procure enough to quarter-fill a couple of recycled baggies from my lunch sack. Annnnndddd the boys were satisfied. Mommy for the Win!!!

Until Parker dropped his juice box straw.

Nothing says toddler apocalypse like a juice box with no straw.  I had to pull off the road and locate the missing straw in order to stave off the four horsemen and the breaking of the seventh seal of my last nerve.


If there’s one tiny tidbit of advice I can give to twin boy moms – well, any boy moms, really – never run out of snacks. Boys eat. A lot. From the very beginning. So you’d best become a walking pantry with wholesale-sized sets of snacks. But I’m also here to say that even when you’re well-supplied and they’ve been snacking the entire four quarters of a football game, they will still pick at the pulverized and granular remains of concession stand cotton candy straight off the bleacher steps — and I can guarantee you it’s not as germ-free as the aged, decaying goldfish in your minivan. But what is one to do? I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. I’m building their immune systems, one incipient bacterium at a time.fullsizerender

So during the game, I was dealing with a couple of lads strung out on Benadryl (for snot stoppage) and powered by lost-and-found crystallized sucrose — a combination with the mood-altering, stimulant qualities of bath salts. I had to keep them separated most of the night so they wouldn’t chew off each other’s faces. I was absolutely exhausted.

By the time I got home last night at around midnight, my brain and body felt like a hit-and-run victim. While soaking off the carnage of the night and perusing social media in the tub, I found an interview from one of my favorite authors of all time, Barbara Kingsolver. In it, she talks about her favorite phrase, “You can do this hard thing.” It became her mantra for her children as they grew and faced challenges. I really needed to see that because it reminded me that I’ve been given the challenge – let me rephrase – I’ve been gifted the challenge of raising a set of twins at fifty. And I can do this hard thing. I have already raised a set of girls (not twins, but still), and they turned out alright. Well, better than alright, if I may say so myself… so I can do this hard thing.

And speaking of my girls… Kingsolver’s article also shamed me into remembering the kind of week my girls have had.  Bethany is a first-time mom with a teething almost one-year-old. He has had strange rashes, sleepless nights and mysterious projectile vomiting. Her week has been a tornado of trials and I live too far away to be of much help.  And then there’s my oldest.  Caitlin’s week has been a real and true hard week – a week of real and true struggles in a decade of real and true struggles. She is operating in Burns during this, the third month of her fourth year of five surgical residency years. It is one of the hardest rotations in one of the hardest residencies at one of the hardest residency programs in the nation. It is a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually demanding rotation for her. Yet that is nothing compared to the struggles of her patients in the Burn ICU. They are so sick, so very critical. They themselves are undergoing arguably THE hardest physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain that exists on our planet. Four patients this week alone have died. Just yesterday, she lost one of her all-time favorite patients; one whom she had been gifted the challenge of working with, on and off, for four years.  The death hit her so hard. It hit their whole team so hard. They wept and wept. But it was nothing compared to the patient’s family’s sense of loss — of their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain.

Yet another reminder – and this time not from Google , but from God — that there is relativity in all things, and that it’s time to pull up my mom jeans and quit my bellyaching and just plain do this damn hard thing.

So for all of you moms out there (twin or first-time or any-and-all-kinds), struggling with the juggling… for all of you teachers out there, chafing from the grading … for all of you football wives out there, going under from the upheaval of the season… for all of you surgical residents out there, defeated from doing daily battle with death and disease… for ALL of you women out there, doing your utmost every day to build a stronger, kinder, gentler, healthier, smarter, better world for all of mankind: we can do this hard thing.

We. Can. Do. This. Hard. Thing.

We can and we will.


Tell all the Truth, but Tell it Slant.

tell it slant

Wise words from Miss Emily Dickinson, shy and sheltered spinster poet. Considering I’m shy and sheltered myself (minus the spinster part), I take her words to heart. All of my blog posts are personal truths about love and motherhood, family and teaching, and just plain life as I live and know it. But the one personal truth I have not yet shared has been my faith – nor had I any intention of doing so. But then last night, I prayed for some guidance about what to write for this week’s entry… and wondrously, at 2:00 am, Dickinson’s lines woke me. They were running through my head like a mantra –which is surprising since I hadn’t read her poem in decades. But I knew immediately what truth I was supposed to tell.

I’ve known a lot of truth in my fifty years. And I’ve known a lot of lies. I know the phrase, “the gospel truth,” and I believe in it.  But I have seen a multitude of transgressions committed in the name of those selfsame gospels, and  I must admit that the Good Book has been used in the past to crack me through to the very core.  And it still can send me cowering to a corner if someone too dogmatic and zealous waves it at me. So how do I go about telling all of you my truth without sending you running headlong away from my sinful self and the harsh realities of my past? Or perhaps worse, running toward me with promises of salvation and sanctuary within the walls that house your own cloistered congregations…

The truth must dazzle gradually, says the divine Miss Em. So let me ease you into it.  And the best way to explain it is that I’m sort of like the alcoholic’s daughter who won’t try a sip of beer or go into a bar because she’s afraid she’ll become a raging alcoholic. She’s afraid she’s inherited that dispensation toward weakness and rash behavior – or in this instance – weakness and rash beliefs and that she’ll — I’ll– end up a radical, out-of-control zealot ready to condemn any and all who don’t think and feel as I do.  So I steer clear of sanctuaries and Sunday schools, and FCA meetings, and even organized prayer chains. My fears are real and they are debilitating. Because from a young and impressionable age I was thrust into a controlling and questionable church. By the way, I’m a believer. But I believe in the Love of Christ. Not the liturgy. Organized religion controlled me once. To the point of near-annihilation. That’s one time too many.

Until the age of ten, I grew up a free-spirited, southern tomboy. My little postage stamp of native soil was none other than Faulkner’s own Yoknapatawpha.  My summers were a barefoot bohemian paradise. I played house in creek beds, chased snakes in kudzu, deadheaded marigolds in the garden and drank Kool-Aid in dixie cups. Just describing it, I realize that this idyllic place has all of the haunting, symbolic overtures of that original garden and the fall from innocence… And indeed, in the late summer of my eleventh year, thunderstorms stacked themselves tall and dark on the horizon and triggered that inevitable fall.


My family decided to pack up and hit the road like twentieth-century tribes of Israel, along with about a dozen others from tiny towns in northern Mississippi, and head out to Dallas, Texas to forge a new, eternal life in the blazing-hot Promised Land. Once we reached the proverbial land of milk and honey, all childhood innocence banished. There were no creek beds or kudzu in the concrete jungle. Instead, there were rules. And orders. And boundaries. And curfews. Fraternizing with the neighbors was frowned upon. So was public television, unless it was church sanctioned. (The church allowed football, thank God, and it’s in Dallas, that my passion for football was formed.So there’s a silver lining.) But back to my coming of age… Over the next five years, I was dutifully schooled on the hazards of being a girl. The world was big; I was small. The world was bad; I was a good girl. The world was dangerous; I was weak. The world was out to get me; I needed looking after. I needed firm guidance. I needed to rely on the Lord’s wisdom and the church’s protection. I was weak and feeble-minded and incapable of forming opinions. As a female, I bore the stain of original sin and would always need a male figure (pastor, father, husband) to guide my wicked and wayward soul. Education was not for me. High school (a private and church controlled ) was as far as I would or could go. My voice was silenced and my opinions were hobbled.

But I didn’t go down without a fight, I will say that. There wasn’t much I could do because I had no true weapons or ammunition, but I did what I could. I quit eating. I quit communicating. I curled inward and shut down. At one point toward the end, the church thought they had me where they could break me. I remember a room filled with elders in beards and three-piece power suits. I remember prayers. And prophecies. And speaking in tongues. And condemnations. And demands. And laying-on of hands.

I have despised beards with a fear bordering on phobia ever since…

The irony of needing salvation from a faith that promises salvation does not escape me.

But escape, I did. And salvation, I found.


My parents saved me and my grandmother rescued me. Somehow my mother and father managed to extricate me from the ravenous claws of theocracy and religious radicalism, while they themselves remained firmly entangled and entrenched within its dogma. I know it wasn’t easy on them after I left. I know they bore the stigma of failure– and probably a whole lot worse — because of it. I’m sure the inability to control a girl-child was an outrageous sin of grievous proportions.  But they risked all and flung me as far and wide as they could: two states over, to a little town with a big reputation, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Again, the irony that my salvation was found in the belly of the apocalyptic Manhattan Project does not escape me.

But escape I did. Thanks to my sweet grandma.

She, above all others, showed me what it means to truly embody Christ and his teachings. She sacrificed so much to accept me, her mysterious firstborn grandchild with the broken sense of self and the paralyzed soul.  She nursed me back and she showed me the light. She proved to me that I could make it in this world, that I was important, that I was smart, that I was worthy. She was a female phenom. She modeled what I knew I wanted to be. Strong and willful and courageous and true. Because of her, I eventually went back to school and got my degree.  Because of her, I raised strong-willed, able-bodied, incredibly intelligent daughters. Because of her, I write.


I was silenced for far too long. I shied away from hard subjects. I shied away from confrontation. I shied away from truths. But now I’m telling all the truth. And my truths aren’t told out of anger. Or shame. Or to cause harm. Or to seek pity. My truths are told to help others. Other women who don’t feel or know their value. Who’ve been denigrated and diminished until their spirits are dried up and their souls are sawdust.  Other children who have been bullied and badgered into choices and changes that fly in the face of their sweet sensibilities and ultimate destinies. These stories should be told. These opinions should be heard. And so I will tell all my truth.  And I will wait for them to tell theirs. The truth must dazzle gradually…

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