Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012
Take a husband and wife, twins, 2 big kids and...voila! blended family

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Labels…An Epic Mommy Fail

My day ended with me sitting on a stool crying, head in hands, utterly disappointed and thoroughly defeated as a Mommy. I'm quick to point out my fabulous days as a mother…though I wish there were more…but I tend not to share my complete failures. And tonight, I was taught a massive lesson by one of my five year olds.
Most of you who read this blog are pretty familiar with our twins, Max and Luke. I'm famous for saying, "It's always Luke." Pee on your brother? Oh that was Luke. Paint the cat? Luke. Wreck a friend's car? Luke. Smash a dozen sodas in the driveway? Luke again. You see, it's just always Luke. He's "that twin."
Max has no hilarious stories. He's just not the type. When he's alone in a room I don't worry. When I can't find him immediately I don't worry that he's setting a fire. His antics are…just completely unremarkable. He's loving and kind. We cannot make him defend himself. He won't fight back, won't cross the line…He's just a very old soul and a very good boy.
Have you ever, as a parent, labeled your kids? It's innocent enough. You want to give a glimpse of your kids by way of introduction to others. I do it all the time. I'll say "This is Luke and this is Max. Max is a lover and this one? Luke? he's trouble." It's meant as a term of endearment…because while Luke tests me daily, he is phenomenal. He's helpful and sweet, he's nearly obsessed with learning and knowing how to do everything. He's the leader. But, he's also a stinker. And he knows it. So it just stands to reason that we'd shake our heads, give a wry smile, and say, "Whew, this one? THIS one is gonna give us gray hairs." I never meant anything by it…It just…it's become Luke's identity. Something I didn't realize until a cataclysmic moment tonight when every introduction came home to roost.
The boys had been running wild all day. This evening they were roughhousing in our room and Max came crying to us…"Luke just stepped on my face very hard and it hurts." I jumped up, ran into the bedroom, and counted till Luke came out from under the bed. I then took him by the hand and sat him in timeout in the darkened dining room. I waited the obligatory 5 minutes, then went in and got down on his level and said in a very quiet voice, "Buddy, this has to stop. Max is your brother. He is your best friend. You cannot hurt him. You must stop hurting him." Sounds good right? Straight out of the Dr. Phil/Super Nanny handbook. I did it all correctly. Right? Wrong. He looked at me, dissolved into tears and said, "But I can't stop Mommy." I asked why. He put his hands to his face, sobbed and said, "Because i'm trouble Mommy. I'm always trouble. I never get to be the lover. I'm the bad one." Wow. just..wow. I scooped him up and held him tightly to my chest. I told him, "Oh no honey no…You ARE a lover. You are wonderful." He shook his head emphatically. "No i'm not Mommy. I'm trouble. That's what you tell everybody. Max is the lover and i'm the trouble. I can never be good b/c i'm a'sposed to be bad."
I asked him, "Does it hurt your feelings when Mommy and Daddy say that?" And he nodded his head. "Yes Mommy, because i'm a lover too. I know I am." I can honestly say i've never felt worse as a mother. This wasn't losing my temper or showing some tough love. This has been a systematic dismantling of a kid's soul with a simple label. This is something that, while said in jest, will take months to reprogram. I failed him. And you know what? I failed Max too. Because I elevated his good behavior to make him seem to be the favored child. And, trust me, I spent my life being "the good one." It's no favor to do to a kid.
And suddenly I wonder…is that why Luke is so obsessed with his appearance lately? Why he has to be dressed up? Why he does his hair, wants cologne, asks me if he's handsome. Has he been trying desperately to be better and seen his appearance as the way to do it? My God. So why share here? Why on earth lay bare the massive mistake i've made? Because i've heard some of you commiserate with me. You label your kids too. It's such a normal mommy thing to do. And i'm telling you…take it from me. STOP. Right now. It's not cute. It's not funny. It's a mistake. I just hope I'm not too late to change what i've done to Luke. Because it's funny…I can almost trace his radically bad behavior back to when I started to use that label. It's ramped up dramatically and i've wracked my brain as to why. But now I know. And so do you. I only hope tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Invaluable "Dear Abby" Message...

Anyone who knows me knows this has been a trying time. We closed out 2012 with the tragic and sudden death of my cousin Kevin. We started 2013 with my Dad falling down the stairs, fracturing his pelvis and suffering a traumatic brain injury as well as cuts and bruises. All of this...coupled with his Alzheimers, has made his recovery very difficult. Throughout it all I've kept everyone up to date on Facebook. Comments from friends have literally carried me through the days. I specifically remember one from my friend Ingrid after I posted for people to pray for Dad...She wrote, "Will whisper right into God's ear." I've thought of that countless times since reading it.
Last week my cousin's wife Jill, who's dealing with unimaginable grief, wrote me this: "Abby, you are a swan that is swimming gracefully along - Movement so carefree and beautiful to behold - however, I know that under the water, your little legs are zooming, and fighting each current that comes along, like baptizing cats! I so appreciate you: your kindness, your humor, your feminine strength, your talent, and your tough as nails determination." I have not written her back but her description, her words, have meant the world to me.
Similarly I got a message last night from a friend i've never met...Odd right? But these days not so uncommon. She is a friend on facebook who lives in Canada and last night she sent me a message so touching it inspired this blog. This is that message: "Hi Abby. Just want you to know that I check in on you every day . I think that what you have been going through lately - well, it just has not stopped for you. You have hung on with grace, strength and a heart full of love and gratitude. I am not a very religious person, but I have been sending you hugs and all of my strength every day. Hang in there as you always do. Your parents are going through something horrendous and yet, it is a shadow that hangs over all of us. You are dealing with the mortality of your parents - at the same time that they are. I enjoy your spirit every day. I , being Canadian, am about as Democrat as one could be, lol.. I think that you and I would have some crazy but spirited debates I respect your beliefs and understand them. And I love how you can see the good and understand the ridiculous. You call a spade a spade; and I love that. I love that you can see the beauty in the presidential ceremonies , even if he isn't your choice. I love that you can see that weapons that are meant for destruction do not belong on a person's back, but that your rights should not be taken away. I love how beautifully you write, and see your world. I also love how you think it is cold there! It is -30F here right now. And although we are metric, I think "F" should still be added to our temps! We are stupid to keep living here sometimes, I think! But our brains' freeze and we don't know any better! I love your pictures and look at them daily. I think your stories and your boys are sometimes the funniest part of my day. I think that people need to hear the good parts of their lives sometimes, as seen by others. Others that they have no idea are watching. Take care. This too shall pass, I suppose. You can do this. Hugs....
Please understand...this is not meant to be a self serving blog post. I am humbled by the words you just read...and I admit there are just times I feel like I don't deserve the descriptions. But I just feel moved to share just a few of the kind messages and posts and thank everyone. There are those who still think social media is the enemy but for me..for my family and at this point in my life, I have to say I would feel so alone without my friends, virtual and "real" for being here for me. your words roll through my brain all day every day. From the private messages from friends to the passing comment from a former colleague today just telling me to hang in there, I am humbled and amazed every day by the people who check in on me, on my boys and my family...and I thank you. I hope you know I check in on you too and carry you in my prayers. Thank you.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Blog I Should have Written But didn't...

There was a blog I should have written yesterday but didn't. You see, yesterday was my father-in-law's birthday. He would have been 83. Bill Donley passed away nearly six months ago and the void he's left is vast. So yesterday I spent a lot of time reflecting on a life lost and cherishing a life still living...my own dad, who coincidentally, is 83 years old. I watched as one of my twins, Max, listened to a book read to him by my dad. In a quivering voice laced with pregnant pauses as his mind tried desperately to read the words and then say them, my dad recorded "The Little Engine That Could." It was a Christmas gift and is Max's favorite book. Max laid on his belly, legs in the air and crossed at the ankles, with his little chin in cupped hands, rapt to hear what his Granddaddy read. It was precious. I thought how blessed I am that I got to spend another Christmas with dad. How lucky the boys are to have that book, and our Christmas memories. This was the blog I should have written but didn't. Then I read a friend's blog. She'd written a journal entry on the D.C. metro about a Granddad with his 4 year old granddaughter. She wrote about their relationship, their joy, and her desire to stop that little girl and tell her to remember every word. It hit home with me because of the thoughts spinning around in my mind all day about my own dad and about my husband's dad.
This is the blog I should have written yesterday but didn't. You see, I was "busy." I joined the YMCA, took my kids to and from school, cleaned up puppy accidents, prepared meals, did dishes, gave baths. I even fought with my husband. He was late, I was frustrated, he was grieving, I was not as understanding as I should have been. As he sat in our office crying and listening to music our phone rang. It was too late for calls, it was my mom's cell number on the caller ID and I knew instantly something was wrong. She said my dad had fallen down the stairs, she was in the ambulance with him and it wasn't good. He is now in intensive care with a broken pelvis, bleeding on both sides of his brain, stitches and cuts and, as you can see from the top picture, in a lot of pain with much healing ahead...if we are that lucky.
I called all three of my brothers, woke them from their sleep, related the news. I am 10 hours away. I called my sister and told her as well. I spoke to my mom at 4 a.m. to hear of any update but there really wasn't much to say. I thought of her, exhausted and scared, hailing a cab at 3 a.m. alone to go home from the hospital. She arrived home to find far too much blood spilled on a white tile floor. On her hands and knees she sopped it up alone. And I think about the cruelty of it all. When someone dies young we say, "So unfair, so much life left to live." When someone lives a long life we say, "So sad to die in so much pain, or not remembering, or praying to forget." There is little peace in death. Peace is for other people. It is not for me. And THIS...THIS is the blog I should have written but didn't.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our Bed's a Buffet

So this is a recurring problem. Our bed is a buffet. Picture it: last night hubby climbs into bed, is waiting for me to join him and when I do, I lean over to give him a kiss and...feel something hard in the bed. now stop it. this is G rated. That's not at all what I meant! When I pulled back the covers to see what the offending object or objects were I found...hardened flour tortilla pieces. I'm not even kidding. After already clearing out a Matchbox car and a Binks I found crusty food from dinner. After all, it was Taco Tuesday. See, this is the problem. We have a first floor master suite. We'd always wanted one but it's become a bit of a hang out for the boys. When Kelvin and I want to watch the news we put cartoons on in our room for the boys to watch. So, it's somewhat a problem of our own making. Now, we have rules: No food in Mommy and Daddy's room, no food in the bed etc. And you see how well it's working. I took the picture above this morning after breakfast and this is exactly as I found it. Cars, apple pieces, (on my egyptian sheets no less) a bowl and an empty juice. So our rules are not making a dent. On almost a nightly basis my husband does a "sweep" of the sheets to get rid of the crumbs. He'll remark, "Huh, boys must've had cookies for snack today" and my heart sinks. It's true. They're crumb bandits, destined for a life of leaving snack cartons and remnants everywhere. I'm trying to break the of the habit but just had to share. Because I have to admit my hubby and I got quite the chuckle last night when we found the tortilla shells. That was a new one, even for us. I cannot imagine what is next but note to self: Serve non-messy, non-crumbling food and Hanger On!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

BUT MOMMY...

"BUT MOMMY!" It's the boys' newest phrase and it is like nails on a chalkboard. "Boys Clean up your toys..." "BUT MOMMY!" and it does no good to explain there are no "buts"..or i'll swat their butts. On and on it goes. Max is a huge fan of "NO!" which he says to everything. We've told him that he can't say that to grown ups so his newest one is "I CAN'T!" the list of things they cannot say far outweighs the things they are allowed to say at this point. How do you all tackle this?

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Love You


There are moments in my life with these boys that take my breath away. Like when I am steps from closing their door for the night and Luke calls from his bed, "Mommy...MOMMY..." I say, Yes baby...and he replies..."Bye bye Mommy," and he gives me a little wave. I like to think that's his way of saying "I love you." Of all the words I say to the boys I say those three the most..but name a different word and it's likely one they have picked up and can parrot back to me. But not those coveted three words. I have friends with kids who are younger that have already said it. I saw a 10 week old baby see it on a youtube video. But my boys are stinkers. They are making me wait. And that will make it mean that much more.

I have already gotten to experience so many of the things I have longed for as a mom: The bear hug. The absolute love and excitement they exhibit when they see me first thing in the morning. When they climb up into our bed. I always longed for my fridge to be covered with their works of art. And now it is. I wanted my boys to pick me weeds and call them flowers...and they do. To me they are roses. I don't care what their technical name is...all I care about is that they're pretty to my boys. That makes them pretty to me.

So I'll wait for "I love you" and I will cherish those three words like no others. Wouldn't it be great if we could all grow up and still see things through the eyes of a child. To not understand that life's full of weeds...to believe that every living thing is as valuable as a rose? Wouldn't it be pretty to think so?

6 a.m. Bandits


Help! Max and Luke have started getting up at 6 a.m. every morning and I'm about to lose my mind. Last night I was up after midnight trying to get laundry done and finally fell into bed around 1 a.m. then 5 hours later BAM it's "Hi Mommy." I don't know how to make the boys sleep later now that they're in big boy beds. Locking them in their room just isn't safe in my mind. But wow, I'm exhausted.

So mommies, help me out. Will this go on ad infinitum? will they eventually sleep? Because I know they're tired. I just know it. They snooze through their morning activities. What i'm afraid you'll all say is that I need to get up and put them back into bed in the morning as I do with their naps. But Lord I am SO tired I just don't know that I can pull it off.