Dear James and Jackson: No Explanation Needed

Dear James and Jackson:

I actually began your six month letters as “Dear James” and “Dear Jackson”, but after a rather telling outing yesterday afternoon with just the three of us, I opted for one final “joint” letter.  Please forgive your Mama, I know you are individuals.  Seven month individual letters, I promise.

As for your six month check up:

James weighed 20 pounds and was 27.5 inches long.

Jackson weighed 17 pounds, 5 ounces and was 26 inches long.

I basically got the go ahead to feed you anything.  Your first homemade meal was (drum roll) chicken n’ dumplings.  And you LOVED it.

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I know as I begin this story I am going to sound like some pampered LA Mama with nothing better to do than go to yoga in the middle of the day in the rather swank suburban town of Westlake Village, just north of LA.  Admittedly we did stop at Stonehaus Winery, where I proceeded to treat myself to a $17.00 lunch; which I did not have time to eat because I was a.) going to yoga and b.) feeding the two of you.  Obviously, I did not have wine, though it would have been easier to consume while feeding you than the tuna fish sandwich.  Afterwards I did go to yoga.  I dropped you off at the day care for exactly one hour and 30 minutes.  It was the middle of the day.

The evidence points to me being a lady who lunches with two babies and purchases an over-priced sandwich before heading into downward facing dog.  Guilty as charged.  For the record, the tuna fish sandwich went in the trash.  Soggy bread is not your Mama’s thing.  In many ways, I suppose my ability to toss a $17.00 sandwich in the trash could fine me for something, especially with your Daddy.

After ordering my $17.00 lunch, the three of us proceeded to sit around a little outdoor fire pit. It was oh so quaint and picturesque.

Across from us was a group of women all perfectly coiffed with rather fancy strollers, designer handbags, designer babies and what appeared to be designer lives.  They were, after all, talking about Real Housewives … of somewhere.  I wish I was kidding, but I am not.  As I strolled by I thought, how cliché?  I can honestly say I have never seen Real Housewives in any rendition.

I say this not as a point of pride, but a point of fact.

Oh my goodness, you have two! Twins?, she asked as I sat there feeding two infants with a spoon attached to a pouch.  It was an organic pouch, but a “pouch”, no less.

I smiled at her and said, Yes, twins. 

Are they identical?

Not at all, I replied.  James, I think you are tired of this question, too, because you proceeded to fart about as loud as any six month old baby I have ever heard.  Whenever you do this, it is always followed by a gigantic grin.  Boys must think farts are funny at every age.

I never used those pouches, do they like them?, she asked while watching the two of you thoroughly enjoy your rice and beans … from a pouch.

I smiled at her.  I hate redundant questions.

I heard they are bad for their teeth, she said.

Only if you let them suck the food out the top on a regular basis, but I always feed them with a spoon, I replied.

I bet it was hard breast feeding twins.  Did you breast feed?

I did, I still pump a little, but they are mostly on formula now, I replied in absolute shame.

While rubbing her daughter’s hair she said, She breast fed until 14 months, but my son quit at eleven months.  I lucked out, our nanny made food cubes.  You must have help with twins?

10 hours a week right now.

Wow.  That’s not much. Good luck!  And with that, she smiled and went to her table, where she sat and waited for her $17.00 lunch.

Now your Mama has pretty good self-esteem, so a few women with $1000 strollers and $1500 handbags are not going to phase me.  I can go days and not look in the mirror.  I feel like I went weeks when you were born.  We were donning our $89 Snap n’ Go Stroller because you are still in infant seats.  As for handbags, I was not carrying one.  I was sporting a bright red canvas diaper bag, absolutely covered in milk stains from our last outing.

For myself this sort of measuring against other women is a waste of energy and I have never engaged in it, but there is something about becoming a Mama that brings out my inferiority complex. Not because I personally care for me, but I care for you.  I don’t ever want you to be ashamed of me.  Or think I did not give you the very best care in your first year of life.

If I let him look at the television and eat from a pouch while drinking formula, will he become a fat zombie couch potato with his hand in his pants and never leave my side?

I contemplate questions like this one while trying to forgive myself for every perceived transgression.  After all, I had already failed you by not drinking enough bone broth while you were in the womb.  I ate sugar.  Banana shakes were considered a meal.

The list goes on …

Sometimes I think we Mama’s go to ridiculous lengths to get it all right, ultimately losing sight of what’s really important. Luckily, I have TWO of you to help keep me grounded.  Yesterday, I sat there looking at a table of Mama’s who appeared to be following some book I don’t even have time to read and a little piece of me begins to feel like a failure.

After our outing, I thought it over and due to the times we live in, I have provided for you a list of questions (complete with easy to memorize answers) you might one day need.  In my 44-years they have never come up in conversation with any of my friends, but they have come up ad nauseam with people I barely know since you were born, so they must be important.

Were you breast fed or bottle fed?

Who cares?

Were you delivered naturally?

Yes, bringing a child into the world is natural.

Are you identical?

Are you serious?

Did you eat packaged baby food or homemade baby mixes?

Who cares?

Baby-led weaning or spoons?

What are you talking about!?!

What age did you watch television?

In the womb, I think.

Cloth diapers or disposables?

Who cares?

Did you co-sleep or crib?

Crib.  And occasionally we kicked our Mama out of bed and this happened:

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Did you play with toys?

Look at them like they are nuts because they are.

There is no explanation needed.  Your Mama loves you always to the moon and around the moon and back again.  And even when your face is covered in chicken n’ dumplings, you are both very happy, fairly flexible babies who sleep almost 12 hours every night without incident.  You watch The Notekins sometimes so I can get dressed.  You eat from pouches sometimes.  You fart in public all the freaking time.  And your Mama has not had a manicure or a pedicure since before you were born.

My feet hate me, but the two of you love me.  So my feet can wait.

I suppose we’ll find out how truly flexible you are when we take our first plane ride to Nashville next month.  Just in time for those seven month individual letters.

Please be good and try not to stink up the plane … after all, I do have a blog where things are recorded regularly.

Love,

Mama

 

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Adventures In Motherhood: It Happened One Night

Home Day 01I remember the first night we brought them home from the NICU.  I didn’t sleep a wink.  I kept staring at their little tiny bodies — just slightly more than five pounds — making sure they were still breathing.  They gave us so much information about SIDS at the hospital I was convinced this was a lot more common than it actually is.  Once I admittedly shook James awake because he was sleeping so deeply I could not tell one way or the other.

Now that James smacks his lips and Jackson sighs, I have a much easier time when I check on them at night. 

After that first night – which I remember like it was yesterday – the subsequent five months were somewhat of a blur.  I wrote stuff, I took more pictures than I care to admit, especially since I swore I was never going to be THAT Mom.  Now I realize we are all one baby away from being THAT Mom, so we might as well embrace it. 

I tried to remain present throughout this period that crossed ever so effortlessly between the greatest love and happiness I have ever known, to a form of torture; something I had certainly never experienced for any real length of time. 

Sleep deprivation. 

I went for almost five months straight never sleeping more than four consecutive hours, and most of it was less than three. I felt as though these little beings were testing me.  Putting me through the ringer so to speak, just to see if I was cut out for this.

I’m convinced there is a big baby convention they all go to right before they are born where they learn that the one called “Mama” needs to be tested.  The one called “Dada” is funny and all, but that Mama person … you need to make sure she has your back.

He Did It

I guess I finally passed their test because on the evening of Thursday, March 6th, 2014 – they both slept through the night for eleven and a half hours! 

I didn’t because I kept waking up to make sure they were still breathing. 

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On that beautiful morning at 7:07am — as if he had not a care in the world — I heard James cooing in the other room.  When I arrived at his crib he had a smile on his face so big and happy it filled me up for the day.  Every night since that night, it has not been perfect (James) but it has been a full night of sleep – no crying, no fussing – just an occasional bout of middle of the night babbling (James). 

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Now get this part.  As exciting as it is, I’m a little sad.  It means they are getting bigger.  They’re growing fast.  That exhausted sweet time filled with middle of the night bottles and breastfeeding … it’s gone.  After roughly 2300 feedings, what I wouldn’t give for just one more sixteen bottle, 60+ ounces of breast milk pumping day. 

So, that wasn’t so bad was it?, I asked Jonathan

Why, you want to do it again?

I don’t know.

What?!?!

Let me see how things are going when their both crawling around …

I have what I like to call the “Susan Sarandon threshold.”  She had her last baby at 46 and look at her.  I, of course, never had such a threshold until I found myself finally pregnant at 43. 

Wilcox party of 4 is good.  It’s enough.  After all we went through to get here, I am just so grateful.  I feel younger than I have in years.  I feel more alive than I have in years.  Even with no sleep, I felt these things. 

Having children motivates me in ways nothing else ever has.  For the first time in my life I feel as though I am getting out of bed for something beyond myself.  Life feels bigger.  Everything old is new again because now I get to experience it though the eyes of my children. 

Today was their six month birthday.  I really can’t believe it. They look like little boys to me now.  Their personalities are so distinct and very different, and yet they get an absolute kick out of each other.

The day before their seven month birthday they will take their first plane ride to Nashville!  And two weeks later to Washington DC and then Chicago — and possibly a couple of other places in between.  James has a Southwest  and United frequent flyer accounts; Jackson has Virgin America.

We decided when traveling with twins you need your own row.

Yes, it’s more expensive.  My sanity is worth every penny.

Happy six month birthday to my little Dumplings!  This week we’re moving beyond cereal, fruits and veggies so look out.  I can tell they are absolutely bored with the menu — despite the fact that I sing the entire Sesame Street classics album from beginning to end with voices!

I’m still waiting for the go ahead to feed them dumplings … and chicken fried steak.  And brisket (real Texas brisket). But I think this week, we’ll start with some eggs and chicken.  Not at the same time.

One more thing … a friend of mine had a baby boy about four months before I did.  She also gave birth to her first book and I want to support her in any way I can.  It’s such and exciting year for her!  Her name is Tonilyn Hornung.  She is a blogger at Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine.  And this is a link to her book promo for How To Raise a Husband.  Please check it out — and like her on Facebook if you are so inclined.

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Adventures In Motherhood: The Secret Handshake

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Some people say there is a shift that happens in you from the moment your baby, or in my case, babies, are born.  You are instantly – MOM, or in my case MAMA.  From the moment they let out that first cry, you instinctually think like a mom, act like a mom, and talk like a mom – you’re a member of a club with a secret handshake. 

There are millions upon millions of members, but the handshake is secret because there is absolutely no way you can understand it until you are a member. 

Of course, there are those moms we look at and say … “You have to have a license to go fishing in this state … “ – we can all finish the sentence.   Frankly, there are some people who should not be parents.  Just because you can procreate easily and often does not mean you should.  I admire those who know that about themselves. 

From the moment I laid eyes on them (even before I laid eyes on them) I unconditionally loved these tiny little beings.  And yet, to say I didn’t understand them is an understatement.  It took me months to think, act, talk, and ultimately feel like a mom.  The Dumpling’s Mama.  The first several months were like trying to solve a Rubic’s cube and then one day … it all twists into place. 

This Mama shift was not instantaneous for me, but when it happened I felt it. In that moment, the secret handshake was revealed. 

It goes without saying, having twins definitely organized my home and my mind in ways I never envisioned.  After awhile you send Toto to look behind the magic curtain and realize the secret handshake is really simple, yet surprisingly difficult to do. 

Give your kids your authentic self.  Skim the first year manuals for the basic operating instructions and then toss them aside and engage your babies.  Most days we read and play and stroll and sing and dance and laugh between eating and napping.  It takes every ounce of energy I have to be present for them as they wake up to new experiences and new feelings every single day.  The joy I get back from the light in their eyes is priceless.  

Watching our children open and experience joy and wonder — that is the secret handshake. 

It’s addicting. 

This past weekend I was able to go to yoga and a movie.  Thanks to the generosity of my husband and my mother-in-law, I took 5 hours and 45 minutes off from the boys.  I missed them, but I needed it.  I needed to recharge my best self.

I went to see Her with my friend, Lori, followed by Chaz’s yoga class.

As I walked into the movie theater, I had completely forgotten what the premise of the movie was.  I had read it when I said I wanted to see it, but for the life of me all I could recall as I walked into the theater was, “God, I need a hot dog.  I am starving.”  Lately, all non-essential information ends up in the trash of the Terry hard drive.  I can’t be bothered remembering that which is not important. 

As I walked into the movie on Sunday, I sat back in my chair and completely surrendered to the fact that I had no idea where I was going.   In my opinion, it’s the very best way to see a movie.  In many ways, this unknown was a metaphor for my life right now.   I have no idea where we are going, but I am headed there with complete conviction.  The boys give my life a laser focus.  I have some non-negotiable outcomes and the rest is a blank canvas. 

The premise of falling in love with your Operating System is creepy, though I like how they resolved said creepiness.  The Operating System (Scarlett Johansson), who calls herself Samantha, is fun to listen to as she begins to feel and process the world as a human would.  She feels so many things, while Theodore is wondering if he has felt everything he is ever going to feel. 

During her expansion she said something that stuck with me. 

“The past is a story we tell ourselves.”

The minute the sentence was uttered; my mind began to wander.  I was not lost.

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I thought about my past, my journey to motherhood, how the story I tell myself is different from my parents, my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts and uncles and my friends.  It’s not because any one of us are wrong — each of us soak up and feel the moments we live differently.  Both good and bad.  There is so much room for interpretation.  Everyone in the room has a different story for the same moment. 

When I would go to Arkansas as a kid, I thought it was better than Disneyland.  I thought it was better than anything.  I know my mother did not have this experience.  My aunt did not have this experience.  I idealized it in a way only kids can, and I carry it. 

I thought about Jackson and James. 

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What story will they tell themselves? More importantly, what is James telling Jackson in this picture?

I don’t know if all of the adults in my life realize it, but the reason I am so fixated on giving our kids many of the experiences I had – a farm to go and run around on, snow ski vacations, weekends at the lake, really fun trips to all kinds of places – is because I loved my life as a kid. 

Minus the occasional teenage angst, I was happy.  There is nothing I would change.

This says something about my parents.  They did something right.  I want to give this joy to Jackson and James.

After the movie I went straight to Chaz’s yoga class for the first time since the babies arrived.  I still do not have contact lenses.  I took my glasses off and did most of the class blind as a bat.  It was the best yoga class I have had in months.  When you take a class unable to bring anyone else into focus … you really go inside and focus on what is important. 

As I was putting the boys to bed that night, I again wondered about the story they would tell themselves.   Jackson grabbed my ear and held on tight as I laid him down in his crib. 

I stood staring at both boys under the soft glow of their nightlight while the sound machine roared ocean waves.  I want to give them an awesome story to tell.  One they want to share with their own children.  As a parent, I think this is the greatest compliment a child can give you.

So thanks Mom and Dad, Sandy and Cherry, Mawmaw and Bob, Annie and Kathie, Memom and Gran Gran, Uncle David, Aunt Paula, Uncle Robert, Aunt Peggy, Aunt Bridget, CATS – everyone that built me. 

I hope Jackson and James have such a village surrounding them.

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