Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters


multigenerational mom

The Magnificent Seven

Seven. The number of completion. Of wonders of the world. Of legendary itches. And the number of times I’ve gotten lucky and right in my life: my second husband, four kids, teaching career, writing life.

This summer we are celebrating all of them — the completions, wonders, itches, and all things right in my life. So much has happened — so much life — in the last seven years.

Seven years ago this month we drove out to Dallas from Augusta with Caitlin, a freshly-minted doctor embarking on her residency. She graduates in one week, after receiving one of the finest and most brutal trainings known to medicine.

She’s flourished here, but that doesn’t mean it’s come easy. Dallas has been a painful growing process — lots of pressure, pruning, heat, storms, and fertilizer (so much colorectal content!). But she’s grown and blossomed into a big, beautiful, bodacious surgeon, ready to excise cancer at its roots.

Seven years ago this month, Mike and I drove her to Dallas while embarking on our own life-altering journey. We were in the process of mapping out an IVF schedule, communicating with our fertility specialist to choreograph not one, but two cycle details and dates: my own and our egg donor’s. Seven years later, we have flourishing six-year-old boys.

But these wonders of ours haven’t come easy. It’s been a painful growing process, being the mother of twins at my age. Lots of pressure, pruning, heat, storms and fertilizer (so many diapers!) But the boys eventually potty-trained (finally, at 3!) and learned to sleep(ish) and have grown into big, beautiful saplings, full of potential and wonder.

And even though Mike and I are about to complete our eighth year of marriage, we lost a year of sleep and sanity when the boys were born, so I’m claiming seven In keeping with this theme… I am more in love with him now than ever. He has pulled my heart into the light and shown it how best to flourish. And honestly, it’s come pretty easy. Sure, we’ve had hiccups and spats, but we’ve had so many more blessings and sparks. And they just keep coming. Together, we’re brighter, better, stronger than we could ever be apart. Gosh, how I love him. And gosh, how I love us.

So no, the seven-year-itch I mentioned has nothing to do with our relationship. No, it has to do with my writing life. I’ve been scratching hard at a novel these last few quarantined months, trying to bring it into the light. It’s been simmering under my skin like chiggers for quite some time, nagging away, just begging me to dig at it. And now I’ve begun, I can’t stop. It’s like the harder I scratch the more it hurts — and the better it feels. It’s a growing process. And I’ve given myself another half a year to complete this tickly, prickly gestation and get it birthed, Good Lord willing.

Yes, it’s been seven years and I’m back in Dallas once again, packing up Caitlin’s apartment and unpacking memories, while she packs in a few more surgeries and a good many hard-won, difficult goodbyes.

These seven years have been a whirlwind of goodness, grace, and growth. I am so full of gratitude for the many blessings received along the way — for the completion of Caitlin’s residency, the wonders of our miracle twins, the blessings of my second-born, Bethany’s wedding and the birth of her own beautiful family, the change of scenery in my teaching career, the writing itches that have unearthed my blogging endeavors and my percolating novel.

All the pressures, pruning, heat, storms, and fertilizer of life surely can bless you a bundle. Can’t wait to see what takes root and grows in these next seven years.

Flourishing in the Chaos of CandelaLand

Rituals and routines. Teachers understand that these two mainstays set expectations for, and an atmosphere of, success in the classroom.

But as everyday folks, we tend to forget the importance of rituals and routines to relationship success, both in parenthood and partnership.

Our family found ourselves resorting to them out of necessity. When dealing with twin boys and adult daughters in separate cities, we kind of had to, to keep us all connected and emotionally healthy.

Our family keeps and celebrates daily, weekly, and yearly rituals and routines. I’ll start with our daily wake up ones…

Mike and I, we get up early — way too early for mere mortals. But we’re twin parents, so that makes us… EXHAUSTED.

Our alarm sounds at 5:20 AM every weekday. Now, Mike throws his exotic, caramel-macchiato, model good looks together in a matter of minutes. Me, it takes me longer to polish my less-than-model-looks. So while I put on my face, Mike packs our lunches.

Sometimes he brings me coffee, strong and black like my eyebrow hairs — which I must pluck every morning lest they obstruct my line-of-vision. But husband-delivered coffee is not quite a regular morning ritual these days because… well, twins.

The boys didn’t sleep for the first 16 months of their lives, and Mike and I lost a lot of brain cells. Bucket-loads of the little gray things. So now it takes us aeons to do the daily grind, which means the coffee grinds often wait till I wander into the kitchen on my own. But sometimes coffee appears at my vanity while I’m tweezing. And it’s the sweetest surprise.

What Mike does do every day, though, is kiss me good morning and good night. Without fail. And tell me he loves me in a thousand different ways, from words, to actions, to emojis, to even sweet little inspirational notes written on my peanut butter sandwich baggie every single day. Without fail.

But back to our morning routines… every day at 6:30, before leaving the house, both of us are responsible for waking one boy.

Mike is on Parker duty, and my big, burly, teddy-bear-of-a-half-Asian-man climbs into bed with our small, burly, teddy-bear-of-a-quarter-Asian-son and gently nudges him toward daylight — which is no easy task. There’s a reason the sign over Parker’s bed says, “Don’t Wake the Bear.”

Me, I get the easier boy. Tate,’s nickname is Bug, and he crawls into my arms and snuggles into my neck like a little cocooned caterpillar. But then, after about two minutes, he unfurls his shine and rises to meet the day. Easy peasy.

While our morning rituals are essential, our nighttime rituals are essentially sacred.

At dinnertime, the boys often FaceTime their big sisters, a tried-and-true way to keep the love and connection alive long distance.

The girls call and ask about preK or gymnastics, or the boys chat up Bentley and Beau and Bray, their nephews and niece. When you’re a postmodern family with miles and generations between your kiddos — and mere months between your sons and grandsons — you make it work through both technology and trips. And since trips are generally reserved for school holidays, FaceTime, it is.

We are also a multigenerational family who believes strongly in the power of books. (What kind of English teacher would I be if we weren’t?) I read with my girls when they were little — first picture books, then chapter books, then young adult novels — and I’m following the same recipe for success with the boys.

Story time is practically the Candela version of communion, where hugs and cuddles are passed around like daily bread. Where word is made flesh to dwell among us through fairy tales and imagination.

Sometimes it’s Ginny Goblin, sometimes Dr. Seuss, sometimes Marlon Bundo. The books vary, but the ritual rarely does. Daddy reads the stories — since sometimes during football season, those last 30 minutes of the boys’ day is the only time he truly shares with them. And mommy disperses the allergy meds like wine and wafers. Our day is cleansed, decongested, and consecrated through story time.

Which brings me to the sweetest, quietest part of any day: tucking the boys in. The bedtime routines are beyond sacred. They replenish us, which is critical during this whole “the-days-are-long-but-the-years-are-short” twin reality of ours. Because the days ARE so long. So exhausting. But bedtimes, they sustain us.

Mike and I share distinctly different goodnight routines with our boys.

Mike gets quality time with the boys in the bathroom — him sitting tub-side while they hold court on the throne. And hold court, they do, chatting him up about friends, fire trucks, phonics reviews… you name it, he hears it.

And me, I get cuddles and kisses and slow-dancing in the nightlight-illuminated darkness to Jewel lullabies from my iPhone, usually “Forever and a Day.” If you don’t know it, YouTube it. It’s poetic perfection.

Beyond our daily routines, we also have weekly ones: Wednesdays are reserved for gymnastics practice, Friday nights are for Chick fil-A (and football in the fall), and Sunday afternoons are for family baking binges.

And then there’s the holiday rituals: Christmas is for hand-picked, personal ornaments and look-alike jammies for all of the kids, New Year’s is for soul food and Seoul food (southern and Korean fusion at its finest), and July 4th is for fireworks in Dallas.

My family loves itself some rituals and routines.

It’s our way of controlling the chaos. Because Lord knows, twin preschoolers at fifty-something definitely lends itself to chaos. And so does teaching 180-plus high school students essay writing. And being married to a football coach in a successful football program. And having adult daughters living time-zones and lifestyles apart.

Rituals and routines — our family found ourselves resorting to them pretty much out of necessity. They brought this mama and her kin some semblance of connectivity and calm. And in a world full of very little connectivity and calm, I needed it. Desperately.

But now, I think we no longer resort to rituals and routine.

I think we flourish with them.

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