Staying Sane: Not-so-Small Blessings


Let’s be honest. Holidays are stressful times. I’ve made it through this one – my first as a divorce, sharing my kids. What had started as an unbelievably frustrating experience with co-parent, wound up as a week+ of adventure, re-connections, and more focused time with the individual kids. I am ending an amazing Thanksgiving holiday, newly divorced, and feeling the fullest I have in years.

Some background: I had planned a trip back east to take part in my brother’s wedding celebration the weekend before Thanksgiving. As the time got closer, me and co-parent had to ask for the help of a child mediator to help us sort through the holidays (ridiculous, I know). I wound up with this first Thanksgiving. But at this point, it was too late for any of my family to fly out. Despite this, I was convinced that I could still make this a fun Thanksgiving for the kids so I agreed to this arrangement.

As time drew near, it hit me. Take Big Bro and Red with me, and keep Twin Crazy and Twin Husky behind with co-parent. We worked out a schedule where I stayed with Twin Crazy and Twin Husky (two on one) the time immediately before and immediately after our trip – And me, Big Bro, and Red had a full week away two-on-one. So each parent had two-on-one time with pairs of kids during the 10-day time span.

It was amazing.

*****

These are the things that I LOVED about this trip:

  • Big Bro’s defiance and self-assertion removing the jeans that I packed for him. He only likes wearing shorts now (West Coast, I know). He wound up a week in Philly with shorts on freezing his little ass off.
  • Big Bro and Red’s amazing enthusiasm for the trip, and helping every step of the way. I told them that travel days are difficult and that we have to help each other out when we need to. Big Bro was defiant in wanting to pull our one piece of luggage, and Red carried the toy roller bag that she and Big Bro packed together.
  • WE ALL SLEPT ON THE RED-EYE PLANE! We somehow arranged ourselves to all be horizontal and sleeping on each other and actually getting sleep. I loved cuddling with my little kiddos this way and feeling so close to them.
  • I know this is bad for me to say, but yes, I enjoyed sharing a bed with both of these kids for the ENTIRE week. Somehow traveling makes it sort of OK, but I know a hard habit to break.
  • Running at my Aunt’s house in her backyard with each of the kids. I wanted to get their bodies moving after our nap at her house. I wanted some exercise. We had a great time playing tag, chasing after each other, me running against Big Bro while having Red on my back… I loved it and they were giggling like you wouldn’t believe.
  • Seeing my brother and extended family and welcoming his wife and son officially into our family. I am so happy for them. It was also wonderful to see so many of my extended family in one setting – I so rarely am able to do this. So at least two of my kids got the opportunity to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends of family. It is unbelievable to me that the Twins are almost 3 and have yet to meet so many of my family…
  • Dancing with Red and Big Bro at the wedding celebration.
  • Seeing Red and Big Bro interact so well with everyone at the wedding celebration.
  • Connecting with so many that are now so far away from me.
  • Cheesesteaks and pizza. The way they were meant to be.
  • Being able to do work and have productive days while at my mom’s house. She was able to entertain the kids and I was able to be productive and actually work remotely on those days. In fact, I talked to two prospective clients and they have decided to join our forums… so this was extra big for me this past week.
  • Playing “War” with Big Bro and Red.
  • Walking with Big Bro and Red and Nana and her dog and collecting leaves along the way. The leaves were gorgeous. Bright reds. Bright yellows.
  • Running with the kids up and down hills in my mom’s neighborhood.
  • Playing chase and hide and seek with the kids in my mom’s neighborhood.
  • Doing homework and daywork (he missed two days of school for this trip) with Big Bro. I love spending time with him and these activities. He really enjoys the work and learning. I love being there with him and encouraging him to learn.
  • Working with Red on her letters; she wants desperately to mimic her brother with his schoolwork. We wrote out the names of her classmates and used those letters to create words. We drew out a number line and Big Bro taught her how to use it for simple arithmetic. She was hooked. She kept craving more and more and more equations to work on and she did SOOOOOO amazingly well at them. I am so unbelievably proud of her.
  • My mom’s dog finally accepting these kids and letting them pet her gently and her kissing each of them and interacting with them; seeing Big Bro and Red every now and then simply reaching out to her when they were in the middle of doing something to pet her and acknowledge her existence and show their affection to her. I thank Cocoa for this and having them had some experience with a pet of their own.
  • Trying to see Santa but we were first too early and then too late. Big Bro’s response: “Great! Now we get to go home and have ice-cream!!”. He was not upset at all. We all laughed.
  • Big Bro’s response to my step-father’s pancreatic cancer: “He did not look as sick as I thought he would.” So I guess the little guy was preparing himself for the worst and thinking of my step-dad looking more sick (he is thinner, but does look great otherwise). Afterwards, we talked about cancer, what it is (cells that are growing too fast and they crowd out the good, healthy cells), and how you can’t really cure it. You can either take it out, or use medicine to help control the growth. Big Bro understood and said that Joe-Joe Pop was not going to get better, but the medicine he was taking would help to keep him feeling better longer. I wanted to reach out and squeeze this kid so badly then.
  • Red playing with her toy “pets” that Nana gave her and her sharing with Big Bro. Both of them caring for these “pets” during the trip and also drawing yards and even GARDENS for the pets to live in. I love the fact that the garden I am trying to build is making an impact on them. They drew the things in the garden that they wanted to grow that they thought would be good for the pets.
  • Spending Thanksgiving with family. It has always been my favorite holiday, before the kids arrived. It was such a better way to spend the day – with my mom, my uncle, my brother, his family, and Big Bro/Red. It felt right.
  • Seeing Big Bro and Red play so well with their cousin. The twins have yet to meet him.
  • During a conference call, I spent time cutting out hand-drawn “carrots” and “apples” for above mentioned pet gardens.
  • Ice-cream each night with Nana and the kids.
  • Big Bro taking a shower by himself.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and donuts.
  • Two plane rides back with absolutely no tears or breakdowns. These kids are seasoned travelers. Playing “war” with them while they enjoyed their drinks of apple and orange juice with two straws.

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I absolutely loved the time I had with these kids. I did miss the Twins, but it was so amazing to spend so much one-on-one time with these older kids. When one kid would ask me to do something with them, I was actually able to respond with “Yes, I’d love to do that with you“. I saw the impact in their eyes and still feel so lucky to have shared this time with them.

*****

When we returned, I dropped Red and Big Bro off with co-parent and picked up Twin Crazy and Twin Husky for the weekend.

These are the things that I LOVED about this weekend:

  • Twin Husky saying “Let’s go!!!” when I picked them up.
  • Twin Crazy saying “I’m glad that you came back” when we drove home. Twin Husky repeating and agreeing with her.
  • Walking into my first home after my first personal travel trip away. It smelled good; different; I felt completely at ease. The rest of the weekend I enjoyed doing house projects and cleaning. I love this home.
  • Waking up late with only two of the kids. Waking up to Twin Husky (as usual) and then Twin Crazy in my bed. Them understanding that we would get up at 8 AM.
  • Twin Crazy looking at me and just smiling ear to ear.
  • Playing loud music and dancing along with Twin Crazy and Twin Husky for most of the weekend. At one point, I was only holding Twin Husky’s hands and he was holding back smiles (embarrassed) as I told him that I loved dancing with my son. He is so sweet. They both sang and danced most of the weekend.
  • Taking them to Cold Stone Creamery after their naps on Saturday, before dinner. This was a BIG hit.
  • Then going to Trader Joe’s and having them actually remember what was on the list of things to get.
  • Them singing “baby beluga” and swimming like fish in the bath
  • Puzzle time – Twin Crazy actually doing the puzzles by herself and BEAMING with pride. Twin Husky getting frustrated with his puzzle, but I was able to spend time with him to work through it and the look on his face when he was actually getting the pieces together.
  • Bedtime books with two. It makes a difference.
  • Waking up to their warm bodies again in the morning
  • Picking weeds and Twin Husky saying that he wanted me to do that with him. Working in the garden with them and discovering worms together.
  • Twin Crazy dancing like you wouldn’t believe. Shaking her little shoulders and head. Knowing that it completely cracked me up.
  • Twin Husky pulling me by my hand “Mommy, come with me.“….
  • Each of them wanting to cuddle with me on the couch. Each of them soaking in mommy-time.

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*****

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Tonight I drove them home, and picked up Red and Big Bro for one hour of together-time before I dropped them all off for good at co-parent’s. I took them ALL out for ice-cream. There is just something about holidays/vacations and ice-cream with me. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t get enough ice-cream during vacations. So this was my last hour of vacation/holiday time with all four of my kids together. They had a great time re-uniting with each other. I actually heard squeals and saw some hugs. And I had a brief time with all of them together before ending this holiday break. I couldn’t be happier.

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So now I’m getting ready for the week, a normal week, and I’m not down that the holiday time is over. I’m OK with it. It feels good to be back home. I am glad that I was able to reconnect with my family on the east coast and also bring some kids with me. I’m glad that I was able to spend REAL time with the kids. I am glad that I was able to TALK to them and learn with them and celebrate their growth. And talk to them about missing people and how I know that it hurts and sometimes can be sad, but then you get a chance to see them again.

It breaks my heart when I leave them, but then I think of the next time I will see them and then it’s not that bad.

So it was the many, many, many small blessings that I had over the past 10 days that I am SOOOOOOOOOO grateful for. And I know that there are few people besides myself that can get this much of a charge out of each of these four little people. I know that these kids can light me up in such a special way that others simply cannot – and vice-versa. And this comforts me in some strange way when I am not with them.

Have a great week everyone –

– Mama K

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November 22: First love notes


Chocolate Tuesday! And the kids set out their clothes the night before! This made the morning relatively easy compared to others…

Highlights of the Morning and Commute:

  • I woke up to see a magnetic board of more of Big Bro’s sentences. I couldn’t believe it. I guess he was working on it as he was going to sleep the night before. This was an AMAZING way for me to wake up.

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  • Twins were up and we all said our good mornings to each other in Big Bro and Red’s room. Red asked me to help her get dressed. She ran downstairs for Chocolate Tuesday.
  • After I showered suddenly Twin Husky appeared in my room saying “Mommy! Mommy!”. I’ve really noticed a difference in our connection since I’ve been staying home on Thursdays and Fridays with them. I feel like I’ve been able to strengthen this relationship just by being there. Then Twin Crazy made her way up. As I was getting changed, both were in my closet talking about belts, shirts, scarves. Twin Husky is talking up a storm. Twin Crazy understands everything but still talks in a slurry time of language and it seems like Twin Husky understands.
  • Downstairs, things were easy schmeasy. I got my coffee ready. Red rejected her pants so I got her a different pair. I helped Big Bro get dressed even though he doesn’t need help (but needs me). He was really excited about “day camp” at Red’s school – especially I think because one of his friends is also there. He is adamant for some reason against bringing a jacket. I don’t know if this is some sort of peer pressure or if he really is very hot blooded.
  • Twin drop of was great; Red and Big Bro drop off was great. They mentioned to me that Jackets are a rule so I went to the car to bring out a sweatshirt for Big Bro. He did not cause a fuss. He was busy playing with pine cones with his friend.

They all seemed really happy this morning. I wish I could say the same for me. For some reason I just feel empty. Maybe its because we’re going into Thanksgiving which is normally one of my favorite holidays – but there’s so much going on at home and also with my step dad (pancreatic cancer) that I feel like I’m not where I need to be right now. I feel the need to be back on the east coast with my family who is hurting now. And as a family here we are also doing hurting of our own. I love the 4 days with the kids but am not looking forward to this upcoming holiday. I feel empty and tired and not in the right place. I need to put my best foot forward to make it nice for the kids.

For work, I have a lot of meeting scheduled for feedback from our forums. I am started a second round related to the second forum I am managing. I am going to take the opportunity during these calls to try to sell the members extra reports that are available to them and also drive up our revenue. I would also like to work on my client deliverable and FINALLY break the curse of procrastination.

Highlights of My Working Day:

I was busy but not terribly busy. And of course I didn’t get to the deliverable that I’ve been procrastinating over.

  • I had two debrief sessions over two different forums and received some great perspective on moving forward.
  • I had an interview with a market player for my client project and learned some new things to help inform our work.
  • I lead a go-to-market meeting for another forum we are trying to develop and coordinated with folks internally to figure out who was going to “own” each potential contact.
  • I also looked at some of the services and associated prices for these services that we charge one of the forums. There are some questions I have that we will need to figure out.

And no work done on my deliverable!!!! Ugggh!!!

Dinner and Bedtime:

  • Pick up with the kids was fine; Red was proud of her Thanksgiving hat and also her placemat where she made little turkeys out of her handprints. I missed her class’ Thanksgiving feast – I do feel badly about that but I needed to be at work today. I’ll make it up to her during the 4 day holiday weekend. But to look at her little face with that hat on just breaks my heart…

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  • I came home to a house smelling like cooked food; Hubby was home early and cooking. While dinner was cooking the Twins were being adventurous with their little chairs again. I repramended them and put their chairs in the closet. Kids ate well. I lit a Pumpkin Pie candle and had a beer.

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  • After dinner the kids had a great time having a parade and using my legs to go “under the bridge”. I was doing this with Red on my back, Big Bro pushing around a rocket ship scooter, Twin Husky pushing a toy stroller, and Twin Crazy pushing a toy shopping cart (with twin babies inside…). We had a great time.
  • At one point Big Bro was blocking a path and to get through the Twins had to give him a high-five. They caught on quickly. My password was a kiss. Twin Crazy gave me a kiss each time, but Twin Husky said “NO”.
  • Bedtime was fine; kids enjoyed their books; I enjoyed having them in my lap and snuggling in close to me… asking questions about the book and observing new things from the pages that we have not noticed before, even though we’ve read the books 100+ times.
  • I just returned from checking on the kids upstairs and I passed by a surprise that he left in front of our bedroom — oh my goodness this is just too cute. One day I will miss those nights of checking on them and finding these little love notes from a son that is learning how to read and write:

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It was a good day. I love my new candle. I feel like I learned new things at work. I feel like there’s still more to do, but I’d rather feel a bit under pressure than bored. I love that I have a day with Big Bro tomorrow. I love that he is learning to read and write. I love that I have more of his notes to look forward to in the very near future. I love that after that we will have four days together. I love that Thanksgiving is coming up – it has always been my favorite holiday. I am missing my family though. The best we can do is take pictures of the food and send them to each other; or Skype. Or FaceTime with the new iPhones!!!

Til tomorrow –
– Mama K

November 21: A day of pure silliness


I’m feeling very relaxed from the four days with the kids. We had an active and lazy weekend which was nice balance. This will be an out-of-the-ordinary week for work because of Thanksgiving – one where I feel a bit under-the-gun to complete certain things at work.

Highlights of the Morning and Commute:

  • We all woke up very early this morning. Big Bro and Red set up their clothes the night before – many of which were “new”. We get a lot of hand-me-downs from other families and I took the time to bring out some of the bigger stuff for both Big Bro and Red. I made a big deal out of their “new clothes” and we looked at everything together as it all came out of the wash. Both kids were pumped. Both kids put piles together of things that they liked and didn’t like (the didn’t likes went back into the bin for the next generation of kids, Twin Crazy and Twin Husky). So, they were completely excited about picking out their outfits for today, laying them out on the floor, and getting dressed by themselves before we even went downstairs. It was great. I made a REALLY big deal out of it.
  • While I was getting ready I heard Twin Husky calling for “Mommy. Mommy.” All of the sudden he was upstairs and said “Hiya” and then there was Twin Crazy right behind him. Then I think Red came in. It is too funny. I love how they seek me out – even though sometimes it is nice for the quiet and my time alone. But then there is always a child, a set of hands reaching out to me, a conversation that must be started, or some tears that need to be attended to. I really can’t complain.
  • The rest of the morning was pretty standard – Twins climbing up on chairs to reach the counter, all kids eating, some fighting over toys, some tears. The only thing that was reasonably funny was when I gagged on my coffee (full mouthful) and tried to keep it in, but found it impossible and wound up spitting all of it all over Big Bro’s drawing. I laughed, told the kids about it, apologized to Big Bro, and they laughed about it. Thank goodness.
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  • We had only TWO drop offs today. We dropped the Twins off without a problem. They had fun looking at a garbage truck and saying goodbye to the garbage truck.
  • Our only other drop off was for Big Bro and Red, together. This is because Big Bro’s public school is CLOSED all week. We had to sign him up for “camp” for two days at Red’s school, Big Bro’s old school. I think he was nervous about a different routine / day, but excited at the same time. THey did great at drop off. I could tell that Big Bro was a bit anxious because of the different teacher and he didn’t know the only other kid there, but he quickly sat down and started playing dominos with them. No tears, no apprehension, no prolonged hugs or grasps at the hands. He’s really doing better at new experiences such as this.
  • I’m on the ferry now into the city, wearing some new courdoroy pants that are too long at the leg. They were on the pile at my new sewing machine [link] but I have not gotten to them yet. It is a short week and it is cold outside and I felt like wearing cords. So I just cuffed them and they look ridiculous. I will try to work on that over the upcoming break. So besides me feeling a bit self consious about the look of my pants, I am thinking about what I have to do today. I have too many meetings scheduled for me to feel like I’m going to get much done for the client deliverable I need to get done this week. I am over-booked for one hour with two different meetings so I need to get that fixed. I’m a bit nervous about getting this first draft of the client deliverable done. I find though that when I feel like this I focus beyond belief and I somehow plow through it. I’m hoping that kicks in for me today that way tomorrow and Wednesday I can scale back a bit.

    Highlights of my Working Day:

  • I started the day with my Admin to help me work through two conference calls that were booked at the same time. She handled it well, thank goodness.
  • I had a conference call for my client project where we interviewed a key market player. The call was EXTREMELY short, but extremely informative. They also pointed us to other sources of information which was helpful.
  • I had a follow up one-on-one phone call with a participant from one of our forums from our last meeting; we received good feedback and ideas for our next meeting.
  • I lead another staff meeting where we talked about what we are working on, the proposals we are working, and if there were any issues we needed to discuss as a team. I think these meetings are going really well and bringing our people together more.
  • Immediately afterward, we had a client conference call and organized a face to face meeting for early December. I think I’ll have my shit together before then — HOPEFULLY.
  • The rest of the day was devoted to my deliverable but somehow I didn’t make any progress on anything. I organized myself for meetings for the next day and did some admin items. It would have been great to get some of the client deliveralbe finished, but again I’m procrastinating for some reason……
  • Now I’m on the ferry home – the sun is still out and I’m looking forward to only two pickups for the kids. I miss them on Mondays. I wonder about their days. I always ask them if 1) they learned anything new today; 2) how did they excercise their bodies today; and 3) what they laughed about during the day…. laughing so hard where their bellies hurt. I mostly just like to catch up with them on Monday nights after being away from them during the day.

    Dinner and Bedtime:
    The kids were acting EXTREMELY silly tonight. There were lots of laughs and interactions between all of them. It was an unusual Monday since Monday’s they are usually cranky. That was not the case tonight. They were lively, adventurous, playful, interactive, and full of giggles… completely egging the others on…

  • While I was cooking our “real” dinner, I quickly warmed up some leftovers from the weekend to get them started on something. I’m not sure exactly what they were doing in there, but there was lots of laughter, and at one point Twin Husky was on top of the table and all of the plates were all over the place. I think there was some food consumed, but it was minimal.
  • At the “real” dinner, all kids ate really well. Carrots are a big hit in our house lately. And everyone for some reason wanted to drink from MY waterglass instead of getting their own water.
  • After dinner Hubby gave the kids cookies and ice-cream; that may explain some of the silliness from tonight.
  • There was puzzle time with Red, tickles with the Twins and Big Bro. Big Bro knows that the secret to get me to STOP tickling him is to say “You’re GREAT mommy!!!. So I started to teach the Twins that to get me to stop tickling them they have to say “I love you Mommy”. They caught on really quickly but after I was winded with tickling laughter.
  • Red I and bumped heads while doing puzzles. We also bumped heads when I got her in her car seat earlier in the evening, and later at night when I was reading her a book. My head hurts now.
  • I repremanded Twin Husky for hitting Red and he did the silliest, cutest thing. He stood there, then blew air through his pursed lips real fast, clapped his hands real wide once or twice, and then threw himself on the floor and started to roll around. This got everyone in hysterics. I started to mimic him and he was cracking up.
  • For bedtime, Big Bro and Red wanted to read to the Twins. “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” is a favorite of theirs. Big Bro read the whole book through, but when it came for Red’s turn, the Twins were already bored so it was hard to keep them in the same spot. This again got everyone in hysterics and the kids were basically running all over the place and poor Red was trying real hard to get the kids back to her. The look on her face when the Twins were running away was too cute. It was kindof like, “What are they doing? I’m ready to give up here” kind of look. She is so sweet and she just started giggling with everyone too.
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  • Bedtime for Red and Big Bro was fine. Big Bro started talking about the words he knows how to spell — and then he started to string them into sentences. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted him to show me. The below is his attempt to write “I like my school.”. I am really looking forward to this next stage of his development. You can tell that he’s thinking and trying with his words and really gets into putting the words to paper. I love that about him. His energy at figuring it out.
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  • Another thing that impressed me tonight was when we were reading “No David.” There is a part of the story where David is in a time out and the kid does look sad with a tear going down his face. Big Bro went back to that page and said he gets sad too. I probed and wanted to know if he gets sad when he gets in a time out, or if he meant that he feels sad for David. He said the latter. I breathed a sigh of relief. He explained that looking at the picture, and looking at his face, and the tear on his face, makes David sad and Big Bro gets sad for David when he sees it. Big Bro is VERY tall for his age but he is very gentle. And I am soooooooo thankful and happy that I see so much empathy in him – how he looks out for his siblings and how he also expresses his feelings to books that are meaningful to him. It was a great way for me to end the day with the kids.
  • So, I’m a bit tired today, feeling a bit behind at work, but feeling very satisfied with the kids, their happiness, and personalities. And I truly believe its going to get better from here.

    Til tomorrow,
    – Mama K

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