By: Brandy Black
I have been sucked under for the last two months and have yet to even take the time to document the madness in my life. Having a family of five means that everything hangs in a delicate balance and when one tiny thing goes amiss, it feels as if walls begin to crumble. And if you know me, I don’t like it when the handcrafted balance that I have worked so diligently to create for my family, gets disturbed. So you can only imagine my dismay when our au pair decided to go back to Germany with no notice. I had to take the advice I often give my five-year-old and take a few deep breaths, I had to make a plan quickly and put up a front to my wife and kids that I was not utterly destroyed and terrified on the inside. I do this often, pretend I’m stronger than I am, I think I sometimes convince myself of my superhero powers but ultimately, I will admit I’m tiny and constantly on the brink of a meltdown. I’m also awful at asking for help, I bare my pains quietly and fear that I will burden others but this was a time of desperation. I emailed everyone I knew asking for help, within 2 hours of learning of our au pairs departure, I had 3 back-up sitters scheduled until our new au pair arrives. I realized in that moment how truly lucky we are to have all of the incredible people in our lives that support us. I was reminded how much people like to help when needed. And “it takes a village” kept running through my head.
The house has been crazy, the babies adjusting to multiple people coming in and out, juggling schedules with my wife, our preschooler graduating to elementary school, summertime, vacations, it’s mayhem and I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m beginning to see that my life will always be a puzzle and the pieces will forever be scrambled and I don’t have to know all the answers right away and that perhaps embracing chaos is a part of life’s little challenge to me.
I wonder if there will ever be a day that I worry less, that I sleep more, that I bring my shoulders down and fully trust.
I doubt it.
By Jason Howe
By Brandy Black
I realized as soon as I had three kids that balancing attention is a tough job. I worried that they would all blend together in my mind and I wouldn’t notice the little things that I always had with my first born. In some ways that feels true, I haven’t written down the first sneeze or the first smile or the first laugh or the twins discovering their toes. But what I hadn’t prepared myself for, having been an only child, was the very distinct personality differences they would all have at such a young age. Bella, 17 months old, is obsessed with shoes. We may have our very own Carrie Bradshaw in the house. She picks out different ones every day. She not only picks them out for herself but for of the rest of us too. Her concern is constantly about shoes. Why aren’t we all wearing shoes all the time? She insists on wearing them with her pajamas. She waddles around with a confidence like she runs this place. She has also recently taken a liking to a particular floral (floral is in you know) cover-up for her dresses. Yesterday in the hot heat she would not let me take it off. When it’s wet from washing her hands she screams if I try to remove it. This morning, she dug it out of the laundry basket and held it up to me. I told her it needed to be washed and she began screaming. When I put this wrap on her, she smiles and pets it and then waddles off to something else.
There is no blending in for this little girl, she has her own ideas and everyone will listen to them. She has begun what friends of ours have coined “the Bella drop” in which she drops to the ground back rounded and head to the down, screaming when something goes wrong. I remember learning a version of this for Drill Team in high school and it’s quite hard to drop yourself from standing like that. We think she may be a cheerleader. She’s got the moves already.
She is a foodie. She loves any kind of food and fully expects to be fed when anyone near her is eating. She is that kid that will follow other kids to their treats assuming their parents brought enough for everyone.
She sits on my feet every morning while I blow dry my hair. Her brother wanders around picking up toys, babbling but Bella plops down on my feet, stares up at me and waits patiently for me to be done. She is a little lover, she will walk right up to you and sit right down on your lap. She loves to be held and could ride around on my hip forever.
Bella Bell, you are our sweet baby girl.
By Brandy Black
I judge. I don’t mean to, I don’t want to, I swear I won’t but I judge. When I see a mom walking down the street with their child attached to a leash, I judge. But if I have learned one thing from parenting, it is that the minute I started feeling high and mighty, I fall, it’s inevitable. I broke down and bought back packs with leashes attached for our twins. My wife fought me all the way through the purchase but the fact is, safety is my priority. I had no idea how hard it would be to keep track of two 17-month-old toddlers in a public place. We were at The Grove this weekend and I could not take my eyes off our son, he would zip around so fast and of course his twin sister running the opposite direction. Having three kids makes it next to impossible to ensure that they stay by your side. So, I did it. I sometimes get brave and decide to take all three to the park alone and a few minutes in I wonder how I’m going to get the hell out of there. I begin to notice all of the unsafe playground equipment and the potential for falls. When I asked Susan about how she handles it she said “you just have to infer that they are going to be safe or that if they fall it won’t be that bad.” And that is where we differ. I can’t handle the notion of my kids being unsafe on my watch. I worry all the time. I’ve always been a worrier, I convince myself that worrying will make me more vigilant so I can’t seem to let it go. My wife doesn’t worry much from what I can tell. I’m envious that she can live in that state. What must that be like? No wonder she falls asleep the second her head hits the pillow.
So the leashes hang on their cute little hooks by the front door, waiting to keep our children safe one day soon.
By Brandy Black
I should have known what direction my 40th birthday trip was going when I woke up the morning of our flight with a terrible cold. If I knew then…
Our first day in Hawaii was spent at the pool with all the kids. I hadn’t quite thought through how challenging, even with three adults, it would be to manage twins and a five-year-old. Just getting out of the room was exhausting, the sunblock, floaties, diapers, wipes, bottles, snacks, the list was endless. Then I had the bright idea of purchasing an oversized (literally as big as I am) turtle for Sophia to float around on. I wasn’t thinking, didn’t consider that we would be toting that damn thing around for the entire week. I just saw the smile on my daughter’s face when I agreed to her plea. Once all kids were finally in the pool and on our floats, we quickly realized the water was freezing cold. I know it’s always warm in Hawaii but on the occasional 70 degree day it sure would be nice if the pools were heated! Our water is warmer in California and frankly the weather too! My oldest said “I thought it was supposed to be like summer in Hawaii?!”
“Me too baby.”
After about an hour of freezing our asses off in the pool just to say we did, we decided to have lunch and that is when it all began. Sophia complained of a tummy ache. At first it was minor but it continued to escalate and by the end of the day she just wanted to be in the room. We scrambled to think of what might have caused this and came up with the natural solution- constipation. She has struggled with this in the past because of her deathly fear of pooping (that’s a whole other blog) but all was typically resolved with a little MiraLAX. And shit! I didn’t bring it! I brought the entire house in our three suitcases but didn’t think to bring the MiraLAX! So off Susan went on a 40-minute walk to the nearest grocery store while I juggled three kids with the nanny. When Susan returned she happily held up a box of ExLax! ”Why did you get that?” I say, with an instinct that five is a little young for Exlax. It turns out that’s all the market had and there were no other stores anywhere near us. I asked to see the box, convinced it wasn’t safe and Susan read aloud ”Yep, it’s fine, it says half a pill for five.”
Reluctantly I agreed. Suddenly a few hours later the pain was worse. Our daughter was officially not enjoying the vacation. We eagerly awaited a poop to make it all better. The next day, no poop and still serious belly pain. By the afternoon we had to call the resident doctor onsite and she advised us to race to the hospital for fear that it was appendicitis. Now I was in a panic. Not only had we discovered at this point that Susan read the box wrong and Exlax is not for young kids but it can also make appendicitis burst! We left the twins with the nanny and called a cab to the hospital which was 40 minutes away. Sophia at this point was screaming “take this pain away, please why aren’t you fixing this?” and I in a full-blown panic. On the way to the hospital Sophia finally fell asleep spread out across my lap. What a relief -until I realized that I was wet, she was wet, the cab was wet and it really smelled! Yep, she shit all over everything and get this: I didn’t bring back up clothes.
We finally pulled up to a small driveway and I was convinced we weren’t in the right place. It looked like a Veterinary Hospital. We finagled our daughter out of the cab and walked into a dingy little waiting room full of a family of Hawaiian people sitting around talking. We signed in and then had to wake our finally peaceful daughter. She began yelling “What are you doing? Why are you doing this to me? My belly. My belly.” I insisted the doctor give her something for the pain but logically they wouldn’t, they needed to see what the problem was first. They wanted Sophia to pee in a cup but she refused to drink water because she knew the pain it would inflict. After much yelling and getting transferred into a private room because we were bothering the other patients, Sophia finally fell asleep again. I began calculating the hours that we were going to sit by her side watching her sleep with no real answers since she was certainly not going to wake up and pee in a fucking cup. After convincing the doctor that she had to come up with another plan she decided to do x-rays. Sure enough we identified the problem, Sophia was 100% constipated. The nurse came in a few minutes later with an enema and handed it to me.
“Do you want to do it?”
“What? No, I don’t know how to do it!”
We agreed that she should do it while Sophia slept and I would be standing by on the gurney in case she woke up. I was above Sophia and with no warning from the nurse, shit came spraying out of my daughter, all over me! ”Well that happened fast” the nurse says with a friendly tone.
We got back to the room at 3AM and hoped to wake to a better day.
Suffice to say, the days didn’t get better. Sophia still struggled through pain, our twin daughter threw up on me, I think because the food in Hawaii was a bit different for her. The wind was howling, making our beach trip a disaster that culminated in our double stroller toppling over and hitting a woman in the face. We were dying to go home early from our never-ending trip but the doctors actually advised staying because travel only makes constipation worse.
The final leg of the trip, a red-eye flight which had been recommended by veteran friends with twins, was a nightmare. The kids didn’t sleep well, Sophia shit all over herself in her sleep on the plane and I swear the flight attendants sent in a Hazmat team to clean up after us. Oh and after arriving back at our house at 7am, I had scheduled a work meeting at noon that same day. I think I’m still recovering.
By Susan Howard
Crouched down by the bedroom closet I am hiding from my one-year-old twins. I hear them crawling and screaming; they are inside the house, coming closer and closer. My dog betrays my trust by bounding beside me loudly and noisily wagging his tail, basically giving me away. Both children have ear infections and both are certain to let me know how miserable they are by yelling, rubbing their snotty faces into my shirt, and needing to be held incessantly.
All I want to do is change clothes. The fantasy of a glass of water is a distant dream. I have to pick up their sister from school and I refused to go in slopped on sweatpants. It’s after 2 and I have not had lunch. After suffering multiple stomach issues I made it a goal not to eat meals during stressful situations. At this rate I am on the Gandhi diet.
Let’s face it. I am not good with babies. I don’t get them. They don’t get me. We agree to disagree. For the next three days we have no Au Pair, so I am trying to pitch in and take on the front lines. I had no idea how relentless the enemy was. The enemy is abound.
They come in one behind the next, invading on all fours like a pack of mini wolves. “I need to get changed. You gotta give me a second,” I plead. But my voice is drowned out by their wails. These guys are professionals.
I do have a new shirt and jeans on so perhaps I have triumphed, good over evil. In a moment, a slobbery sweet potato snot face is embedded in my new shirt and I smile, really I cry.
By: Brandy Black
By: Brandy Black
It’s all about perception. If you think life is hard, it will be. If you think life is unfair, it will be. If you think three kids will beat you down, they will. This isn’t to underestimate the power three children have to exhaust you in ways you didn’t know possible, but rather to examine state of mind. I was warned by some that we probably wouldn’t go out of the house much with a four-year-old and twins. I was told that we would finally have no choice but to slow down. I was advised by others that we would just do it, life would go on but it would become a new reality. I told myself (when I was pregnant) that life was over. There would be no vacations. No dinners out. No extra circular outings of any kind because I could not fathom how it was possible.
On Christmas eve 2011, nine days after having twins, I was faced with my first challenge. I wanted to take my entire family to church, to sit together and be grateful for the incredibly blessed lives we have, to be reminded that love and family are all that matters, but when I suggested it I think my friends and family thought I was crazy. Newborns and a kid at 5:30 at night in a quiet church, she must be insane! I almost didn’t do it. But my wife said yes. She knew I needed to feel like we could do things, that I didn’t want to fear the changes that were happening, that I needed a sense of normal and most of all that I don’t stop. Sleep or no sleep I like to be active. We piled in two cars and off we went to a candlelight service. With babies bundled in carriers wrapped tightly on our chests, we sat holding hands, singing Silent Night while we watched my parents help our daughter light her candle off theirs. It was in that moment that I decided I would listen to no one else but us and we would determine the “struggles.” Fear holds so much power in our lives and I wasn’t about to give in to it. So three weeks later when I was advised by another mom with a newborn that I shouldn’t go out to the dinner I was invited to because I would be exhausted the next day, I kindly listened and ignored. Off I went for one hour to say hello and feel like me for a moment. I have been “exhausting” myself for the last 6 months. All five of us jumping in the car at 6PM on a Friday for dinner and a movie, BBQ’s on Saturday, swimming all day on Sunday. Life hasn’t stopped. Sure at the end of the night I’m tired and I wonder why I push myself around so much but at the end of the day, I’d feel like a ton of bricks hit me either way so why not have fun doing it?
Why are we so precious with ourselves? Why does it have to be so hard? Why do conversations have to start with “Wow, you guys are really doing it” and “It must be so difficult, you must be so tired”? While we appreciate a stranger’s or even a friend’s acknowledgement that yeah this is fucking hard, it’s also not -it’s us. It’s our life, we have three kids. So what? Don’t rain on our parade. Life is better. Life is rich. We have been given the gift of laughter on the kitchen floor while our twins battle for toys and we cheer them on. We exchange videos via text of the adorable things that not one, not two, but all three of our children do. We need our dates, we love our dates, we celebrate our time together because it’s all ours.
So here is my unsolicited advice back to those that give it to me. Let go. Relax. Embrace the chaos. Free fall. This is my life and this is my version of jumping out of planes and I plan to enjoy it every fall, trip, toddle, jump, skip, leap, step of the way.
By: Brandy Black