By: Susan Howard
A blog by Brandy’s wife
Heather Has Two Mommies is a black and white book put out in the 80’s, one of the first, (if not the first) books of it’s kind to help children understand that all families are different. A girl is starting her preschool and she gets upset as she tells the class she doesn’t have a Dad, she has two moms and so the story goes that each kid talks about their family. Each kid draws a picture of what their family looks like, one being the child of stepparents, one being the child of a single mother and one being adopted. It shows the transition from feeling different to being apart of the class.
The book feels a bit simplistic, but we bought it long ago to give Sophia something to refer to that reflects her family.
My oldest daughter has always been able to take care of herself. She mothers herself constantly. When I get frustrated with her misbehaving she says, “Mom, you should take away T.V. from me tonight.” Or on the rare occasion we keep her up late she puts on her own PJ’S and demands “Someone needs to put me to bed.” She is very much like my wife Brandy in that way, in charge of what she needs and not afraid to get it. “Sophia, you’re going to a real school tomorrow.” “Why are you so upset Mom?” she asks. “I am not upset, it’s just a big deal. It’s school.”
The night before her first day of kindergarten she gets to pick two books before bed and one of them was Heather Has Two Moms. I knew in that moment my Sophia was ready for big girl school.
Good luck Soph. You’ll teach them a thing o
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 Brandy Black
When I was pregnant with twins, several of my friends told me that they hoped we were having at least one boy so we could experience both genders. I didn’t really get why they kept telling me that boys are so different. Once I found out I was having a son I wondered what life would be like for him being surrounded by girls, 2 moms and 2 sisters is quite a lot to handle. I wondered if he would be attracted to boy things with all these females around him. Is it learned or do boys just like trucks and cars and all boy things?
Now that my son is 18 months old, I understand why all my girlfriends desperately wanted to me to experience having a son. He is very different. He hugs, like a little monkey, holding tight and I can feel that I genuinely calm him when I’m near. He is interested in all things that move, trucks, cars, balls, and trains. He bangs his toys against windows, doors and his sister’s head. When he’s done with his bottle he passionately throws it to the floor and then says “uh-oh.”
He is protective of his twin sister and she remains his best friend. He calls everything Bella. He walks around the house saying “Bel-la, Belllla, BELLA.” He won’t stop hitting his her, he doesn’t listen, he runs right toward the street and fast. He is all boy.
He is mellow compared to his vivacious sisters, he comes along for the ride, he smiles and follows them around. He is vulnerable and not afraid to show it. He is cautious and careless all at once. He is a balance to our family and his happiness is infectious. I can tell that he will heal and break my heart as he grows and experiences life.
He lights up a room of strangers and can often be found in the middle of circle of girls. He flirts by fixing his eyes on his prey and coyly turning away and then back again. He once got a woman in her car to stop, roll down her window and say “well hello little guy.”
Our little Penn among a sea of women.
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
By Brandy Black
Our 16-month-old twins are walking. Penn with a fast trot and Bella, a waddle and a shake. They are both proud with every step they take and are beginning to understand things, particularly orders from their older sister. “Don’t touch my castle.” They wouldn’t dare upset her, they live for her entrance every morning, laugh at everything she does. She rules with an iron fist, getting on their level and in their face when they upset her. We stand back and debate when is best to intervene. The twins are fighting now too. They shove and hit when they don’t get their way and fight for our attention. We are officially out of the baby stages and into toddlerdom. Having been through this before I’m excited for what’s around the corner. This is one of the worst stages, impossible to go out to eat or go anywhere for that matter because Penn and Bella don’t listen. It’s not that they don’t want to, they just don’t understand the rules yet. When does that happen again? At night when all the children are tucked in their beds, Susan and I began to calculate the tough months ahead and it is daunting. Yet their little brains are emerging and it such an exciting thing to watch.
I have been waiting for the day that our oldest can actually play with her siblings and it’s been unfolding before our eyes. Sophia made a fort underneath Penn’s crib and all three of them squeeze under with toys. They giggle and peak-a-boo out at me. They throw food at each other at the dinner table and I can’t resist smiling before I scold them. We have dance parties before bed and all three of them spin around and stomp their feet. My life is full, it’s complete with these children and I could not have known the joy that there laughter would bring me. I have never known what it’s like to be part of a big family until now and I wouldn’t change the smell of pancakes and the screeches of joy for anything.
Although I turned in my Audi and bought a large American car, one that I never would have imagined ever owning, I proudly tote my children around and thank the universe daily that I am so lucky to be blessed with these souls. It is a constant struggle keeping ahold of what I envision Brandy Black to be. I get lost sometimes. Being a parent can consume me and I fear that I’ve lost touch with who I am but I remind myself that change is inevitable and I will always be who I am, who I always have been and who I want to be in the end.
By Brandy Black
After a long weekend solo with 3 kids and lots of support from friends, I poured myself a drink, sat down to catch up on emails and work and found this in my inbox.
By Brandy Black
It’s that time of year, when the sun pops out from behind the clouds and we all begin to think about traveling with our families over summer vacation. I found that planning a trip to Hawaii is daunting. I scoured through websites looking for the perfect house to rent and either ran into red X’s on the preferred dates of travel or simply couldn’t find anything in our budget. After much angst we settled on Hilton Waikloa Village in Kona on The Big Island. We stayed in a two bedroom suite with a balcony overlooking the ocean in one direction and an open lawn with a hammock in the other.
Although this resort is huge, so spread out that you can take a tram or a boat to get to dinner, it was a blast for the children.
At night we played freeze tag with the kids on the grassy grounds. Once tucked in and with the babysitter we had picnics by the water.
There were several restaurants to choose from including Chinese, Italian, Mexican and the children’s favorite, the morning buffet!
It was a great place to stay with kids and although we struggled traveling with three little ones. The resort did not disappoint. If you are off to Kona with kids you must check this place out!
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.