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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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motherhood

I’m Done Trying

I’m so far from perfect it’s scary. I do so many things so wrong. So many. All the time. But I try. I try so hard.

And you know what? Life doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if I try hard. It doesn’t.

It doesn’t care if I work impossibly hard on lesson plans and engaging students and smiling through frustration and praising through pain. It doesn’t care.

And it doesn’t care if I cough through a fortnight of dinnertimes and bath times and bedtimes and more, all while feeling like something a Hurricane dragged home. It doesn’t care.

And it doesn’t care if I try to plan for every possible scenario and every possible outcome, trying my utmost to please those I love most in the world. It doesn’t.

And it doesn’t care if I pen emotional blogs from my soul’s tender soft spot, crossing every heartstring and dotting every tear. It doesn’t.

Life doesn’t care if I work so hard and so fast my world spins out of control… and my coffee gets spilled and my eggs gets broken and my suede boots get rained on and my debit card gets lost and my signals get crossed and my calm gets shattered and my nerves get frazzled and my sanity goes missing.

Life doesn’t care if I work my axis plum off. It. Just. Doesn’t.

Life doesn’t give a damn if I try my absolute hardest because my try’s just not good enough. And my exhausted’s not good enough. And my sick and tired’s not good enough. But then, my well and wonderful’s not good enough either.

Nothing is ever good enough. So I’ve decided I will quit trying. Because life doesn’t give a damn anyway.

But I do.

And since Yoda says there is no try, only do… I will do. I will do my best every single day. And if I do that, I will feel secure, knowing there was nothing more I could have done.

I will simply do my best.

 

Struggling Is Not Failing: New Life and the Worries Born With It

I love seeing new things – things I’ve never seen before.

A few years back, I saw my first fox. She was making her way across the neighborhood green space under cover of darkness, but the streetlights revealed her unmistakable fiery fur and trotting stride. She was beautiful.

I was in awe.

And then yesterday, I saw my first great-nephew. He was lying sweetly in a nest of swaddling blankets, tiny paper finger and toenails topping long, fragile fingers and long, slender feet. He is beautiful.

And I am in awe.

He came early. Seven weeks early. And his mama suffered. She was put on hospital bed rest and then filled with the fumes of a hazy, magnesium hell to battle the preeclampsia ravaging her body.

It was not fun. Nor was it effective. He “broke” her belly (as my sons say) via C-section the very next day. At 33 weeks.

But he is 33 weeks of pure perfection. Surprisingly alert, his eyes dance inside a noggin tiny enough to fit in a teacup, his elfin features glow beneath a widow’s peak of dark, twiggy hair.

This newborn child is beautiful. And so is his newborn mother.

She is pure perfection. Her eyes smile through the pain of incision, through the fog of postpartum, her freckled features deceptively serene beneath her halo of glossy, dark hair.

Because she is the perfect newborn mother — full of self-doubt, full of concern, full of fear.

She worries about milk supply and let down. She worries about milestones to be met and schedules to be set. She worries about bonding time and spending time with her twiggy little nestling when she’s discharged and he’s left behind in the NICU.

She worries about nurturing him and guiding him and loving him well enough to one day set him loose in this big, scary world with all the tools and confidence he needs to flourish.

She has so many worries. But those worries make her the perfect mother. Because that’s what good mothers do. They worry. And I would worry if she weren’t.

Really good mothers strive to always do the right things — the best things — for their little ones, no matter how big they get. No matter how old.

But good mothers never do ALL the right things; they never do ALL the best things.  Because mothers – even the really good ones like my niece – they’re only human. So they struggle.

But just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you are failing.

I saw that on a meme just yesterday and it spoke volumes to me as a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a teacher.

Because just like my niece, I am struggling.

Because another new thing I saw this week was a brand new classroom — in a brand new school system. And it has left me full of self-doubt and fear and concern. I am full of worries.

I worry about school supplies and letting people down. I worry about the schedule to be set and the milestones to be met. I worry about bonding time with my students and spending time with my twins.

I worry about nurturing them and guiding them and loving them all well enough to one day let them loose in this big, scary world with  all the tools and confidence they need to flourish.

I want to do all the right things, all the best things. And I know I won’t do all the right things all the time. I won’t always do the best things. I have so many worries. But hopefully those worries make me a good teacher.

I struggled a lot last week. My niece struggled a lot last week. But we both have to remember that struggling doesn’t mean we are failing. Humans struggle — we’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden. We trip. We fall. We get back up again. We persevere. We triumph. We excel.

It’s all about the perseverance. And Grace.

Because thanks to the grace of God, if our intentions are pure, and our efforts are hard, and our passions are strong, we will not fail. Struggle, yes. Fail, no. We can do this hard thing.

So Lauren, you and me — and all the mothers and teachers and humans out there — we can all do this hard thing. By the grace of God.

I am in awe.

 

 

 

Big Boy Bed Blues: The Crisscross-Applesauce Crossroads

This mama right here finally put these boys right here in Big Boy Beds.

 

They are only four years and four months old. I feel like we’re ahead of the curve… in some alternate universe. Then again, maybe not.

But don’t judge.

Keeping our twins in cribs this long has been self-preservation. There are two of them, after all, and they didn’t sleep – not truly, madly, deeply SLEEP for anything longer than two hour snatches — until 16 months.

So once they started, there was absolutely positively no way we were switching things up anytime soon. But now I guess, we’re past anytime soon. And now, I guess, it’s time.

But they are temperamental, routine-oriented little buggers. Well one is. Parker is easy-peasy — at least when it comes to his big boy bed. (As is evidenced below…)

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But Tatebug… not so much.

As is evidenced by the fact that he was having NONE OF IT when it came time to crawl between the sheets of his new, big boy bed. As in, NONE OF IT.

As in, he wanted his other bed back.

That’s what he said.

Over and over and over again, while sitting crisscross-applesauce half-way in and half-way out his teepee. (Which is ironic, really, because he’s never half-way about anything. He knows exactly what he wants at all times.)

And this boy wanted NONE OF IT. (As is evidenced below…)

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Instead, he wanted his beloved star-splattered crib sheet back. The sheet he’d had since infancy. The one where he’d trace those silver and gold and navy and red stars with his pudgy fingers while singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at eighteen months after waking from a full night’s sleep and feeling great because… WHO KNEW a body needed sustained periods of sleep?!? Valuable lessons were learned atop those stars. And he wanted them back!

This new bed has new stars (we had predicted this outrage and tried our best to circumvent it, but we couldn’t find the same colors…) and he was having NONE OF IT.

And he wanted his “soft pillows all around” (bumper pads, people — bumper pads), he wanted those back — the ones that helped cushion his flailing, sleep-tossed body from one wood-slatted side of his crib to the other. And now what was in their place – a wall! Are you kidding? That wall isn’t soft. And where are the sweet-and-sour greasy smudges from all the salty cry-it-out tears and sweaty corkscrew curls, and tiny, slobbering teething fingers?

This bed has none of that. And he was having NONE OF IT.

And he wanted “THAT BALL BLANKET OFF!” (A tasteful and pricey quilt purchased at Pottery Barn Kids when the boys were nine months old for an incredible steal). He wanted it OFF.

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Helpful parenting tip here folks… don’t buy your kids their toddler bedding while they’re still babies, no matter how high the discount and how hard the desire. You don’t know what your kids will prefer once they develop a personalities of their own… and they will develop their own personalities. Their own Big personalities. Huge, even. And this boy… he does NOT like all those balls and bats and helmets and pendants. He likes princesses. And mermaids. And princess mermaids.

And this new bed has balls on it. And he was having NONE OF IT.

He did want his mermaid tail.

And his six Disney princesses.

And his two magic wands.

And his toddler-sized Elsa.

And his plush puppy named Spider.

And his plush spider named… I honestly have no idea.

And we accommodated as much as parentally possible. We slid all those princesses and the giant plastic Elsa doll and every other random demand from our pint-sized dictator between his sheets. And then we tried to slide him in there too.

But he wanted NONE OF IT.

So we resorted to bribery.

First, we proffered pink and red starbursts left over from the boys’ fourth birthday party in March — cavities be damned. But they were pink and red petrified bricks, so he wanted NONE OF IT.

And then we proceeded to promise a Target trip in the morning. (Target has recently surpassed elevators as my youngest son’s current fixation. There is a glittering Disney princess parade on aisle fifteen.)

The word “Target” is his new mantra – it sustains him from morning to night. For me, it is a continuous whining Drip. Drip. Drip. — effectively waterboarding this mama’s sanity straight into a shattered abyss.

But I was willing to sacrifice momentary mental health for a good night’s sleep.

But he was having NONE OF IT.

So then we tried the allure of Elsa sheets on the internet… or her snowflakes on the ceiling…  or any damn thing he desired… if he would just climb into his mother fucking big boy bed.

But what he really wanted was NONE OF IT.

So finally, we physically put him in the fricking bed with the fricking balls and the fricking sixfold Disney princesses and told him to STAY THERE. And if he didn’t he risked Santa’s naughty list, and his cherished Target trips, and Grandma and Grandpa’s good graces.

And after an hour, he finally whimpered himself to sleep…

…only to awaken three hours later crying for his mama.

So his mama caved. And crawled in bed with him. And Elsa. And his bevy of tiara-clad Barbie dolls. And a puppy named spider and a spider named… who knows? And a couple of hard, plastic wands.

And I slept in the crack between mattress and wall and woke up with a crick in my neck — and a new, sweaty smudge on the wall because the boy wouldn’t let me turn on his ceiling fan. He wanted NONE OF IT.

And we’ll try it all over again tonight.

So wish me luck. And preserved sanity. Because this afternoon we head to Target after nap-time — if he sleeps for two hours with no one else in his bed. Well, no one else but Ariel and Anna and Elsa and Aurora and Mulan and Belle.

And I’m sure a new girl will join him tonight once our quest through Aisle Fifteen is done.

Fashion Blogger meet Frazzled Mama

Perusing my newest Southern Living, I am reminded of the fact that I am truly no fashion icon. Not saying that SL is a homebody’s version of Vogue – but it’s kinda my homebody’s version of Vogue.

I don’t subscribe to fashion magazines. I don’t follow fashion blogs or Insta-celebrities. Occasionally I overhear fashion advice from my students.

Yesterday, they were talking about slouchy separates. I was all in. Slouchy is my second language – spoken every single weekend till Monday at sunrise.

At least, I was all in until I heard someone say — “Just pair ‘em with a scarf and block heels” – and then I was all out.

My version of slouchy separates includes an old pair of sweats and an oversized tee. Block heels? More like bare feet. And the only scarf I’ll do is of the verb-variety — over a huge plate of pancakes and bacon. My twins are my only accessories and I wear them everywhere. That’s why weekends are my days to decompress – not impress.

I come from a long line of well-dressed women. They are immaculate. All day. Every day. My baby sis does black tie as a career choice; my second-born sister wears heels for a quick trip to the refrigerator; and my mom only recently purchased her first pair of sneakers. Kid you not.

I love them. I admire them. I could never be them.

They are fashion goddesses. Me? If I were a goddess, I would be Antipodes. As in, the exact opposite of them.

Now, I do know how to put myself together when occasion calls for it. I’ve rented the runway once or twice. And I’m all about the messy bun. And I even do my brows and toes, although not at a salon. I do them the old-fashioned way – which I guess is far from fashion-forward. But it’s frugal.

And living on two teachers’ salaries, I need to be frugal, not on fleek. All my extra cash goes toward clothing our 4-yr-old twin boys. They need new digs every coupla months — and even with Kohl’s cash, that’s a whole lotta pennies. So waxing and pedis are pretty much outa my fashion budget.

But what started me on this whole rant is my Southern Living magazine. It arrived in the mail yesterday. SL has been modernizing itself as of late and now includes a page or two on fashion bloggers from the South and their glamour go-to’s. The one this time around is a petite little blonde with dangly blue earrings from Georgia. She’s a teacher and blogger, so naturally I took notice.

But those dangly-blue earrings make me immediately suspect she’s nothing like me. There’s no way in dangly-blue-earring hell she’s a mother. If she is, she’s into body mutilation because those earrings are an invitation to pull. I would end up with ear lobes like serpents’ tongues.

And then there’s the white eyelet dress and wedged platform espadrilles she’s sporting. What mom in her right mind wears white eyelet and platform wedges? That’s just disaster at the design stage. There’s nothing but grape juice stains and high ankle sprains in her future. And she has compiled this ensemble for rambling ‘round the big city of Atlanta.

Me? I do weekend rambles around my ranch house looking for lost laundry, not little holes-in-the-wall (although we have those too). Or, if I’m really feeling frisky, we head out to the local Target. That’s our family’s version of a big city jaunt. Nope. No way she’s a mother.

But the finishing-touch is the crossbody fringed yellow bag worn like a Miss Universe pageant sash. The actual bag is barely the size of her left ass cheek. And I’m not talking a three-pregnancy-with-one-being-twins sized ass cheek — the kind that can clutch that lemon yellow crossbody bag in its Dunlap and hide it like a marshmallow Easter egg — I’m talking an unnaturally small, could-probably-still-buy-her-panties-in-a-Carter’s-toddler-girl-3-pack sized ass cheek.

That bag – and her behind – are way too little to be worried about fitting a travel bag of wet wipes and supplies of goldfish and gummy fruit chews and drink boxes and bribe-toys for her kids, plus a mama-size bottle a Motrin for herself in that bag. No way, no how.

That bag is my undoing. And not simply for its size, which is infinitesimal, but for the cost, which is astronomical. At least on my teacher’s salary.

$98??? For a handbag?

And I know that’s nothing in the grand scheme of handbag economics. Turn a couple of Southern Living pages and there’s a slew of Dooney & Bourke satchels for nigh-on $400. What the rucksack? I have NEVER understood paying a massive chunk of your hard-earned living wage on a pocketbook.

But this teacher and blogger, she’s game. But then, she obviously doesn’t have to spend her salary on a new set of toddler trappings (times two) every change of seasons. Or maybe she does… Maybe she is a mama. And maybe that mama manages to pay for her kids’ seasonal closet overhaul with something other than teacher pay.

Maybe her blog helps her live and dress this way. Maybe her blog is her cash cow. Maybe she’s making so much moolah off sponsors she can afford to replace eyelet dresses and ankle bones after a single showing. Or maybe she’s even got a nanny. So high ankle sprains and grape stains aren’t even on her radar because her kids aren’t either.

Maybe I’m doing it all wrong.

Maybe I should start a fashion blog. I’m sure there’s a market out there for moms who love slouchy separates and handbags from Goodwill.  Surely people out there want to know how to pair leggings with a messy bun and vintage bathrobe. (And by vintage, I mean threadbare from the era of twin toddlers — still underway — where distressed and aged is all the rage.)

So if you’re into utilitarian style… and “chunky” describes your midrift, not your cableknit… and you have toddlers instead of handbags hanging crosswise off your chest… and your earrings have been retired to the dark recesses of your closet and memory, I’m your gal.

Follow me.

Sponsor me.

Help me.

Now pardon me…  while I take a weekend ramble ‘round the Target toy aisle in my twin accessories.

The Metaphysical Majesty and Miracle of Mother’s Love

Last weekend, I attended a wedding full to overflowing with beauty and light and joy and love.

The ceremony was at the top of a rolling Georgia hill just west of Atlanta. Below us, a sweeping expanse of warm wheat fields and rough gravel drives. Above us, a decoupaged sky of chipped gray flakes and tissue paper clouds.  To the side, a small, serene lake. Behind and to the right, a riotous bank of hot pink azaleas. If they’d been gold – and sunflowers – I would’ve sworn we’d been painted into a Van Gogh landscape.

The wedding guests were a celebration of all ethnicities and ages, vocations, and persuasions. Smiles rode faces of chocolate and cream, honey and peach, almond, and espresso.

We were delicious.

And colorful.

And so was our clothing.

We women wore bold patterns and vibrant hues, shoulders bare or swathed in netting or lace or even a random fur stole. Legs were hidden or revealed beneath hemlines full and frothy or sequined and straight.

The men sported less color, wearing standard suits and the occasional tux – save their ties of jewel-toned silk, glittering festively at their necks and chests.

We perched ourselves on the traditional white folding chairs of an outdoor wedding, beneath the swirling pewter sky, and waited for the procession to begin. But then the rain set in.

Rain on your wedding day is good luck — and as the forecast had called for no rain until way after midnight, this was a welcome harbinger, as far as I was concerned. It was only the first (and smallest of signs) that this was a marriage approved of in heaven.

Back in the lodge where the reception would take place — inside the room reserved for the bride and her attendants — Itoro was unphased. She was the calmest bride imaginable. No bridezilla, she. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen her ruffled. Ever.

She’s a med-peds physician who handles life-and-death emergencies with deftness and aplomb. Her smile is sheer sunshine. Her skin is warm gingerbread. And this day was fused with her sweetness and light. A little rain could never dampen it or her spirits. Besides, she reasoned, there was a perfectly good indoor alternative not thirty feet away…

But just as we were prepared to switch locations, the showers ended, the harpist rolled out her harp, and my sister and I pointed our camera phones to the clouds, where a brilliant diamond solitaire had burned through the metallic skies.

It was spectacular. It was magical. And (Good Lord!), it was so, so much more than that! And although we wouldn’t know it for a few minutes more, we were pointing our cameras at the metaphysical majesty and miracle of love. We discovered just how phenomenal as I was fumbling with my iPhone, inspecting the picture for Instagram.

That’s when I noticed it — a spec gleaming just right of center on the groom’s side of the lawn. I looked up and glanced in that direction. Was there foil or metal or something else reflecting the light?

Nothing. Was it dust on my lens maybe?

I wiped the lens clean and turned to my sister, “Look at this,” I pointed. “Is there one in your picture?”

There was. Even rounder and more luminescent than the image I had captured.

“What is that?” we both said at once.

Before describing what exactly it was we saw, let me move back in time for just a moment… to a point nearly nine years ago when the bride was a senior at UGA and lost her mother to breast cancer. They had been close. Closer than close. As you can imagine, it was a time of heartbreak, a time of tremendous difficulty. Yet, Itoro persevered.

Her mother had a doctorate in social work, and she became Itoro’s spiritual mentor. She inherited her desire to serve others, to touch their hearts and souls with wisdom and tenderness.

Itoro talked about that period of loss during her reception toast. She testified how God has never forsaken her, even in her darkest days. There, in her time of need, she explained, God sent her a series of mothers – not to replace her own (that could never happen), but to bring love and help soothe the empty ache she felt inside. She called the names of seven women in attendance, my sister and I among them, and asked us to stand.

I’m here to tell you — I may have cried. You know the kind of cry – the surprised, nose-clasped-in-your-hands, jaw-quivering type of cry. Itoro couldn’t have blessed me more. There’s no way.  And it was then I understood the magnitude of what Jo Jo and I had seen. And why.

So back to the lawn and the iPhones and the metaphysical majesty I referenced a bit back…

I have uploaded the image because you all need to see this to believe it. And even then, I will have Naysayers and Doubting Thomases.  But, please — Believe.

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Take a look at the beams of God-Love spilling out of the clouds and bathing the ceremony site in blessings. Note the light pooling on the surface of the lake. Note the shafts and pillars of peace flaring from the newly-parted heavens. See the glory of the fuzzy, new growth backlit on the lanky trees. And finally, there to the left of center in the mossy-brown nap of the lawn, note the orb. The shimmering, blue-green roundness of an angel orb. The metaphysical majesty and miracle of love. And not just any love. Maternal Love.

Don’t be ridiculous, you say. It is nothing more than burnished dust, pollen caught in sunlight, a spec on the lens.

And I say, look again. And hear me. That spec of dust on my lens, as you call it, is on TWO separate photos taken from TWO different cameras in TWO different locations taken at the exact same time. And those two different cameras were being held by two different women — women who love Itoro like one of their own. And I believe that her mother knows and understands our love for her daughter. And that is why she showed herself to us.

That is no dust spec. That is Itoro’s mother — arriving just in time for the ceremony to commence.

I explained that Jo Jo and I didn’t understand just how spectacular a phenomenon we had captured on camera until later, and that is quite true. We knew and understood at once what we had in our pics. But it wasn’t until I showed my husband and he suggested I scroll my Live Photo back to see for sure if what we were seeing was something more than simply refracted light that we truly understood.

And so, I did — but not until our drive home from the wedding. It was then that I opened my photos and revisited the shot.

And there, in the enclosed cabin of a Ford F150, as the forecasted rain finally had its way with us, tapping on the rooftop and the hood, that we finally witnessed the metaphysical majesty of maternal love in flight. She floats – and at times, jets – from the celestial window there in the clouds. We watch her hover, taking stock of the surroundings, the wedding guests, the rugged cross at the altar where her daughter will soon marry her love. And then we watch as she takes her rightful place as Mother of the Bride, settling on the top rung of the first chair of the first row of the bride’s side of the ceremony.

Behold, the metaphysical majesty of maternal love. I have uploaded the video — on a loop. Watch it over and over and over again. May this beautiful angel orb visiting her daughter on her Big Day bless you as much as it has blessed us.

 

 

The Travesty and Tragedy of IVF Clinic Negligence: The Impossibility of Justice

Babies. I don’t know that there is a subject that tweaks the heartstrings and fuzzes up the solar plexus quite like babies. Just the thought of tiny wriggling newborns gets us all giddy with promise and potential. We thrill to the touch of their tiny fingers and toes, their tufted, downy crowns, their milk-mottled necks. We cradle them in our arms; they cradle our legacy in their limbs.

Four years ago, this past week, Mike and I brought our own downy-crowned, milk-mottled newborns home from the NICU. And we’ve been caring for and corralling our twin bundles of rollicking, unequivocal energy and joy ever since.

We owe it all to the generosity of the universe — and a top-notch IVF team.

Because it was five years ago, this month, that Mike and I sat down to meet with our newly- acquired fertility specialist to learn all the ins and outs of “test tube” baby making: the belly and booty shots, the ovary stimulation, the egg extraction, the cup deposits, the petri dish insemination, the embryo transfer. All of it.

Talk about exciting.

And daunting.

Daunting because I was about to do from-scratch motherhood all over again at forty-seven. I’d already raised two daughters successfully into adulthood (no small task); yet here I was again, preparing myself mentally – and physically (hence the fertility specialist) — to bake up a couple more.

And daunting because the odds were not necessarily in our favor.

Now the first thing I recall about that initial meeting is the vast, heavy, wooden desktop in the doctor’s office. The surface of that desk seemed to me a small-scale representative of the hard, formidable expanse that must be crossed to make Mike’s and my dream of parenthood together come true.

But luckily, there on the other side sat Dr. Perloe himself – frothy white curls, cropped close, and eyes twinkling behind clear lenses. He instantly put us at ease.

But he didn’t mince words either, when he gave us the facts. The fact that my eggs were too old to consider for our IVF procedure. The fact that using a donor’s eggs could cost us as much as a compact car or a midsize sedan, depending. The fact that the procedure was no guarantee, but the odds were greatly increased if we followed his protocol precisely: multiple medical and psychological exams; donor candidate selection; numerous supplemental vitamins and hormones using ingestions, injections and suppositories; and time and patience — lots and lots of time and patience.

Our success depended on it. Our success demanded it.

We signed a contract to do our part. The contract also specified that our clinic would do its part.

We never considered otherwise. Events in the news this past month suggest perhaps we should have.

Thank heavens, Dr. Perloe and his staff are consummate professionals and we never had a need to worry. Mixing babies for couples with fertility issues goes beyond their life work. It is their passion. And they do it with compassion. And with contracts.

Those two qualifiers — compassion and contracts — ensure that they would never, ever risk a patient’s hard work, dedication, financial and emotional investment, and (most important of all), eggs or embryos. Never.

The procedure is risky enough as it is.

The IVF success rate for a woman over 40 is between 13-18%. A donor egg increases those chances to 35% per embryo. Transferring twin embryos gives slightly more favorable odds, procuring a 55-65% success rate that one embryo will take. With a chance for twins at 30-40%.

Now I’m no mathematician (far from it – despite being the daughter of a physicist), but I do understand that even when hedging my bets with donor eggs and a double-embryo transfer, there was absolutely no guarantee we would find success – especially on the first try.

But success, we found. On the very first cycle, too. And with both embryos.

It was an absolute miracle. Without a doubt.

But the miracle was brought to fruition through the hard work and dedication of our IVF team – the physicians, embryologists, nurses, technicians, and Mike and me. We were all in it together, working hard and following our contract to the letter. We dotted every egg and crossed every petri dish.

Again, I reiterate that the one thing that was never considered when we rolled the dice, said our Hail Marys, and took our gamble on IVF was that our clinic would be negligent.

But a month ago this week, a fertility clinic in Ohio was just that: grossly negligent. There were issues with a cryogenic tank that housed microscopic miracles, the frozen eggs and embryos of thousands of prospective parents. Somehow, the built-in failproof — the remote alarm system that would notify employees if temperatures began to climb — had been turned off.

As a result, that tank — a tank that housed a total of 4000 eggs and embryos– rose to temperatures that left all 4000 nonviable.  4000 hopes and dreams, 4000 Hail Mary passes, 4000 double or nothing bets, 4000 potential babies… all lost.

I’m up close and personal with the IVF process that these heartbroken families went through. I understand their hopes, their dreams, their financial and emotional investments. I understand their courage, their fear, their gamble.

But I am not up close and personal with their loss. The emotional cost is unfathomable. I can’t imagine it. I don’t even know where to begin. That reality is too harsh, too brutal, too gut-wrenching. There is too much frustration and betrayal and agony and pain for my mind to go there. It slams shut at the thought.

IVF is a wild, whirling roulette wheel. The odds are frightening. A world-class clinic makes the risk worth it. Still, it’s a scary bet.

Wannabe parents willingly take bold risks at steep odds because babies are the jackpot. Babies. Our tiny-fingered, downy-crowned, milk-mottled legacies. We will do almost anything humanly possible to bring them into this world.

These parents in Ohio did just that.

This clinic in Ohio did not.

This clinic was anything but. It is a tragedy and a travesty.

The harm done is irreparable. The resources lost are irreplaceable. The crime committed is unforgivable.

And as the lawsuits stack up, the cases are nearing class-action status. But how do you put a price on hearts broken? On families fractured before they’ve begun? On entire legacies lost?

How is justice ever to be found? How?

It can’t be done.

Mother-Daughter Dynamic Duo: Shine a Life on Cindy and Meghan

I have an artist friend. She is quiet and still as mountains in moonlight. She is layered in the wisdom of the natural world. Her soul ripples when you speak with her. She receives you. She hears you. Actively.

Her hair is scalloped shale, flecked with silver, and her cheekbones are high, whittled planes. She has deep-set eyes and a deep-seated soul.

And she fills this world with rich, buttery warmth.

I can’t even remember the first time I met her. I’ve known her for over half my life. But I do remember her impact on me. How I felt instantly calm and at home. How I didn’t need to fill any silences or put on any airs. Because she is peace. She is acceptance. She is serenity and space. I feel settled in her presence. And loved.

And I admire her for these ways and for so many more.

I admire her for the way she lives her life, loves her child, and lives her art. I don’t know if I know anyone else like her. I don’t see her often, but when I do, I am reminded of what I aspire to be.

She is my soul mentor. She is who I want to be when my soul grows up. And her name is Cindy.

Cindy makes jewelry – handcrafted pieces of spiritual energy. And when I wear her stuff, I can feel the pulse of the cosmos in concert with mine. And it is sheer magic.

And it makes me want to know what she knows. I want to know her secrets. How she lives her passion and creates her world. Because I want to do it, too. I want my art to reflect my spirit and to pulse in concert with the universe. I want to fill this world with buttery warmth.

That’s what I want for my art.

And the way she loves her child — with a fierce and gentle love that listens lightly or moves mountains. She is soft and hard and silence and storm. She is Mother Nature, and she can be unruffled or unleashed.

And this magic mama has wielded an incredibly accomplished daughter.

And I want that, too. That kind of motherhood. That kind of energy. That kind of quiet.

Let me tell you about her daughter — her quirky, cat-like, wisp of a daughter: She has the high cheekbones and deep soul of her mother, but she is absolutely her own woman. And her name is Meghan.

I had the distinct pleasure of being Meghan’s girl scout leader in elementary and middle school, and her Brit and AP Lit teacher in high school., but it is I who was led and I who was taught by this slip-wisp of wonder and whimsy.

She is an artist, too, but she writes. Oh, my, how she writes! Her words are whispers, powerful whispers, that float out and settle next to you on your couch, encouraging you to find the magic in the world — whether it is the vaulting landscape of a national park or the purring kitten at your elbow. She prompts you to feel and to hear and to see miracles in all their myriad forms.

Her essays and blogs are the metaphysical equivalent of condensed orange juice. They are small slices that encompass ALL the flavors, ALL the energy, ALL the power of living life to the fullest.

This mother/daughter duo are gypsies, unfettered and unphased by society’s demand for conformity. They dance down the path less chosen. In the moonlight. In the moment.

They’ve tapped into the inner sanctums of transcendental living, prophets of essence and art. One hikes through the world with a sleeping bag and journal. The other hunkers down with soft metals and gemstones. Both spin ordinary into extraordinary.

And both inspire me.

I don’t see either of them often, but when I do – at a summer concert down at the railroad tracks, at a little shop down under the bridge — I feel restored.

They are both my spiritual mentors. They are who I aspire to be.

(Visit Cindy’s Lunatique Whimsical Jewelry page on Facebook and find you some handcrafted pieces of spiritual energy to wear  ‘round your own neck and wrist!) 33B90F41-1181-4F76-8A3E-8EA5A907D689

A Little Allegory of a Parent’s Soul

To introduce the concept of allegory to high school students, I use Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” It is the first book I ever remember receiving as a gift. I still have that original copy. It’s inscribed with a birthday wish and a life blessing. Its edges are tattered and curl softly from use, and its insides are  tatted up from Crayola abuse.

I loved “The Giving Tree” from the beginning, although I didn’t understand its complexity back then. Instead, I loved it for its simplicity and purity — the modest black and white sketches, and the story of the tree who loved a boy – loved a boy from every depth and breadth and height her soul could reach.

A boy and his tree. I loved it. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t.

And then I became a mom.

And KA-POW! – deeper understanding hit me like a felled oak straight to the noggin. This wasn’t merely the story of a boy and his tree. I mean it was, but darn, it was so much more, too! It was a little allegory of a parent’s soul. And for the first time ever reading that story, I cried. And ever since, every single time I read that story… I cry. I can’t even read the last line, I get so choked up.

The truth and power of its message gets to me: the unhesitating willingness of a mama to hew off whole parts of herself to raise up her young with the necessities and tools to survive in this world.

Like I said, I introduce the concept of allegory to my high school juniors – and they can see it, the multiple meanings hidden in its seemingly simplistic lines. They see the sacrifices the tree makes to keep her boy happy. They see her wide-open love through the gifts of her leaves and her apples; they see the unflinching sacrifice of her limbs and her trunk; and they think they understand the final grand gesture in the giving of her shriveled, old stump. Yes, they can definitely see it. And they think they get it. They interpret the allegory in one of two ways…

Some of my students connect it to parental love – those blessed enough to have parents who have shown them true, unconditional love.

But sadly, some don’t get it at all because some of my students haven’t felt that sort of love from their moms and dads. The stories I hear — the stories I see – students whose parents have left them surfing couches in friends’ houses, students whose parents are locked away in jail or whose love is locked away in addiction, students who are parenting siblings — students mere saplings themselves — playing the role of the Giving Tree.

It’s an impossible task for them. They lack the depth and breadth and height of maturity: their leaves are too tender, their fruit is too green, their roots are too shallow to support and sustain another soul, much less themselves. Their stories are enough to crack open a planet-full of hearts and send them weeping.

And speaking of planets… some of my students see another allegorical interpretation: humanity’s blatant misuse of Mother Earth and her resources. In this version, the boy takes and takes and takes with no regard for the Giving Tree’s sacrifice – the more he needs, the more he takes until there’s nothing left but a shriveled-up stump – and even that gets used.

And yes, the depletion of our planet’s resources is a valid and compelling argument — easily seen and scientifically supported, regardless of those who might say otherwise. And in this political climate – when the Environmental Protection Agency is being run by a fossil fuel magnate and the current POTUS is playing a nuclear-annihilation game of chicken with his Asian doppelganger, it is an interpretation with grave importance.

But I prefer the little allegory of a parent’s soul. And I really do believe it was Silverstein’s intent. Because after each sacrifice, after each leaf and apple and branch and trunk that is taken, his prose simply reads: And the Tree was happy.

And the earth cannot be happy being plundered and pillaged. That just cannot prove true.

But as a parent, that happiness statement rings true every single time. When my girls need me. When my boys need me. When my small and humble breasts sustained them all as infants. When my wide and ample hips carried them all as toddlers. When my long and lanky arms surround them as both youngsters and adults. When my eager, willing heart beats for all four of them always and forever with joyful abandon… I am happy.

For them, I would give all. Willingly. And happily.

That’s how I know “The Giving Tree” is a little allegory of a parent’s soul.

This past week, I introduced my boys to Silverstein’s masterpiece – my original, 45-year-old birthday book, its edges all tattered and curled from use, its insides all tatted with Crayola abuse. My boys were mesmerized. They loved it: the simplicity and purity of its prose, the modest black and white of its sketches.

This story of a tree who loved a boy is timeless. This story of a tree that readily hands out huge chunks of herself never gets old. The tree herself may get old. She may lose apples and branches, and her tattoos — if she had any — may wrinkle like that ME + T heart scratched into the core of her being, but no matter what, if her kid finds happiness, that tree finds happiness.  No matter the hardship, the struggle, the pain…

Yes, my boys loved the book.

And this tree was happy.

giving tree

 

All Aboard the Potty Train!

We just sent both boys off to daycare in big boy undies. Both of them! One sporting Captain America because we haven’t found Iron Man briefs yet, (so to him they’re the next best thing), and the other guy in day-old, slightly used Superman ones because he has OCD tendencies (and that makes them the only thing. Please don’t judge me.)

Now in case you haven’t figured it out, it’s been ALL ABOARD the potty express this weekend in the Candela household. It’s proved a cruel and rickety ride– and I’m still not positive we’ve reached our destination, but we’re getting close.

This morning, we tossed the engineer’s cap to the boys’ long-suffering and sweet-natured day care instructors, along with additional supplies: some stickers, a couple of magic bracelets, and plenty of extra underwear, which I pray they won’t need because no matter how many channel locks and sleeper holds they employ, they will NOT be getting additional briefs on our youngest boy. Truth. I apologize in advance. We clearly owe their teachers some Martin’s chicken biscuits (for those of you not from around here, they are our breakfast equivalent of an In N Out burger. Although these women actually deserve a bottle of private-select, high-quality bourbon — but I believe that’s frowned upon by the State Department.)

Now I feel I need to clarify just a bit before proceeding further. Parker has been out of diapers for the entire summer. He’s been chugging along like a champ, except for one thing (um.. actually two — number two — to be exact). So that was our goal for him: to go number two in the toilet. Tate, on the other hand, has refused to get on board all summer long — like adamantly — so we knew it was going to be a wild ride.

The train rolled out at oh-eight-hundred Saturday morning, with a meticulously-plotted plan in place. We knew we needed strategies, tactical diversions, and lots and lots of patience. It commenced with the disposal of the one remaining unsoiled diaper. We made a great show of it, each boy grabbing a separate Velcro tag and marching it to the kitchen, where we threw away the last remaining vestige of their infancy. They laughed and laughed. And I may have shed a tiny – microscopic, really – tear. Diapers are a hassle and an expense. But they’re also the end of an era… But I digress.

The boys laughed and laughed. Until it wasn’t funny anymore. Until I pulled the wool from their eyes… ahem, diapers from their ass.

“Stand up, Bug. Let’s put on your new Spiderman underwear.”

“I want a diaper.”

“We don’t have anymore, remember? You’re a big boy.”

“I’m not a big boy. I’m a baby. I want my diaper.”

“No, let’s put these on. You love spiders.”

Tate may love spiders, but he does not love Spiderman underwear. What commenced was a tremendous thrashing about and flailing of limbs that left my extremities bruised and him bare assed in the floor howling at the inhumanity of it all.

The potty train had left the station. And then stalled immediately due to a tiny human lying prostrate on the track. For fifty-three minutes. Truth.

Parker, on the other hand, was all about it… until he had to poop.

“Mommy, get the diaper out of the garbage.”

“Not happening. It’s too messy. See?” I take him to the trashcan, where I had intentionally poured Mrs. Butterworth all over it, knowing full well that I would need the evidence to back me up later.

He tried a new tactic. “Let’s go to Target and get some more.”

“We can’t. Target is closed. It’s Saturday.” (Small white lie.) “Besides, we have this magic bracelet. (Big white lie) Let’s put it on instead and then go poo poo in the potty.”

Parker is the more easily manipulated of our two fellas, so his eyes instantly lit up. He proffered his arm and away he and daddy went.

At last! We were off and rolling! Until we weren’t. Another delay. Parker sat there, chugging away, but that sweet little engine just didn’t quite believe he could. Not even with his magic bracelet. So he didn’t.

Tate, meanwhile, finally got off the floor but refused to get into his tighty whities — which, truth be told, are a little loose for his small frame and actually multi-colored. For the remainder of the day, he rode the train naked and full steam ahead, pulling ferociously at his safety valve all the while. But he found success – and stickers on a chart each time.

But rather than using the cute, little, froggy urinal we purchased – complete with spinning tongue to inspire good aim – he used the bushes outside our front door.

As Saturday drew to a close the ride left all four of us completely pooped (although only two of us had actually done so), and with the soil in our front bed growing more acidic by the moment. The gardenias should love it.

Cue our Sunday morning departure. It was a good deal easier on all the passengers. Tate finally fed the frog and even managed to spin its tongue, although it might actually be a uvula… it looks kind of like a uvula. Regardless, he did it. (Although he still prefers the shrubbery.)

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And Parker finally conquered number two atop the toilet – the magic bracelet managing to wield its powers — and got tatted up as a reward. And Mike and I actually began to relax a bit and enjoy the ride.

Yes, the potty express is finally proceeding full steam ahead. And I’m praying that having handed over the controls to our sons’ ever-faithful teachers, the forward motion will continue. I pray that the air brake isn’t somehow inadvertently tripped in the chaos of centers and snack time. I’m not worried about Parker. He’s pretty much got this. But Tate, he worries me a bit.

Earlier, when I mentioned his OCD, it wasn’t for dramatic effect. He has definite tendencies. Tate won’t do anything until he’s confident he can succeed. And once he’s mastered something, he does it, ad nauseam. We’ve recorded hours of him singing Elsa’s theme song. He’s completed his favorite ABC puzzle approximately two hundred thousand times. (I exaggerate. Let’s say one hundred. Thousand.) Last week I told you about the elevator that we rode over and over and over and over again on vacation. And when we weren’t riding it, he was talking about riding it. And begging to ride it. And screaming to ride it.

So I feel like it’s kind of the same with the potty express. He feels fairly confident right now. At least about the first part (we’re working toward no. 2). For a while over the weekend, he wanted to pee every three minutes – and his body wouldn’t necessarily comply — which caused him to stress a wee bit (yes, pun intended). But now, he’s relaxed into an every-thirty-minutes-or-so pattern. (We have a plethora of stickers to prove it.)

Our family boarded this train with the intent of promoting confidence and independence (and a new school level – age 3-4 class) for our little lads. And thus far, it is working. But if our youngest has a set back, his OCD tendencies may take over. He already worries nonstop about “pee peeing on the floor at school.” He gave me a running catalog of classmates who have done so in the past. And if he does, he’s sure to internalize it as failure and our entire train could derail.

So I would appreciate any and all prayers for a successful third day aboard the Potty Express. We could use all the assistance we can get. And please, please… send prayers, not judgment. I know they’re almost three-and-a-half. I know they should’ve been potty trained a long time ago. But twins are a lot of work, David. Have mercy!

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