Archives for category: Twins

Do you ever wonder what your job evaluation as a parent would look like? My wonderful hubby has to go through the job evaluation process once a year as part of his job. He has to fill out an evaluation and his boss reviews him and assesses his performance on an evaluation as well. Most jobs and careers have similar forays into the world of analyzing how well or not so well you are doing your job. Parenthood comes with no such procedure. We don’t get evaluated at the end of every fiscal year, but after days like today, I wonder what mine would look like.
Each parent has certain days that make him or her wonder whether he or she would have been better off getting a cocker spaniel instead of having a child. As a parent of four, I have had several such days. When Kath was enrolled in her first Vacation Bible School (I’m not going into a religious theme here-just telling a story that will definitely have a context for this blog), her father and I looked forward to the wrap up night in which the children would sing sweet little songs and we would eat either badly burned or undercooked hot dogs. Her group went to the altar to sing the song they learned that week. All these angelic faces smiled out to the audience showing perfectly even white baby teeth as they sang their little song, all except one face. Kath was running around the altar continually. Wonderful hubby and I slunk into our seats as we wondered how many people knew that was our daughter. When she was too old for the nursery, Kath had to attend service with us. When the organ’s first notes filled the sanctuary, Kath jumped up to the center of the aisle and yelled out her music request.
One of MJ’s finest moments came at a craft store. He was three and ran away from me and Kath. He was out of my eyesight and at the other end of the store as people were pointing the way to his location before I could catch up to him. I was scared and angry at the same time. Scared because if he had headed the other way and run into the parking lot (the store had automatic doors) before I could have caught him, he could have been seriously hurt. Angry because he had run away from me and not responded when I called him back to me. Fortunately he has never done that again, but six and a half years later, I still remember the gamut of emotions that flowed through me at the moment he bolted.
Cupcake and Chunk bring about a whole new set of complications. Fraternal twins do not run in our family and we were not expecting twins at all when I became pregnant. Nevertheless, they normally brighten our day, but today I took them to story time at our local library. They ran around the room, they played tag, they wrestled each other, and they fought over who would sit in my lap. What is supposed to be a calm and fun introduction to story time as this is a toddler lap sit story time session designed for 1 to 3 year olds turned into a travesty for me as Cupcake and Chunk ran around while every other child sat angelically in a parent’s lap.
There are just those days in which you know that if people around you evaluated your skills as a parent, you would fall way short of the Carol Brady standard. Of course, Carol Brady had a full time, live in maid, but her three children had to share a bathroom with their three tween and teen stepbrothers. I have to remind myself sometimes that a parent evaluation isn’t judged on the moments in which you want to pull out all of your hair, but it is also judged on the moments you want to savor. When I got the phone call that my beloved grandmother had died, Kath went to her room, found a beanie baby teddy bear and brought it to me as I was crying my eyes out in the formal living room. I think about MJ helping his younger twin siblings so I can make dinner. I think about Chunk dancing at his grandfather’s wedding and making everyone around him laugh with his little dancing steps. I think about Cupcake taking Chunk his cookie and not eating it before it ends up in his hand. I know I have a lot of room for improvement, but they are happy and healthy. It’s tough knowing that time will have the final evaluation, but judging on right now as Kath plays her flute, MJ pets the dog, and the twins play together, I think there is hope that all of us are happy that wonderful hubby and I decided to have them rather than adopt a cocker spaniel puppy.

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In the movie series Lethal Weapon, Danny Glover’s character, Roger Murtaugh always delivers the line “I’m too old for this (insert what you know he said here)…” with great aplomb whenever certain situations arise which only exist in Hollywood action flicks. Sometimes those situations revolve around one of his onscreen children who inevitable cause another uttering of that line. There have been a couple of times in the past couple of years when I find myself uttering a cleaned up version of that line and I think about my age in relation to my children’s ages.
Being the mom to twin toddlers requires energy that I do not always seem to possess yet which they always assume I have in spades. They love piggyback rides and the “upside down” game. That is the process by which I swing them upside down for a couple of seconds and then gently toss them on the couch. They always yell “My turn” or “More” if I do not do this fast enough. Another invented physical fun activity is “Firm Embrace.” If you were (or still are) a fan of the TV show “Mad About You,” you will remember Mel Brooks’ hilarious performance as Uncle Phil who always demanded a firm embrace from Paul and Jamie. This vignette was in my mind one day when Kath was little and we started the firm embrace game which has continued through all four children during toddlerhood. They lay on me and I roll them from side to side while chanting “Firm embrace, firm embrace, I need me a firm embrace.” As I am doing this to toddlers, they love it and do not mind the grammatical incorrectness. All of these physical fun times, however, seem to be causing me to feel my age a little more now than when Kath was little. The day following an intensive session of “upside down,” I feel the muscles in my shoulders and neck more prominently than the morning before. Still Cupckae and Chunk love this and I try to give it my best effort. When I’m a little too stiff, I take them to a neighborhood park to run around and get rid of some of that excess energy.
Nevertheless, I far prefer feeling a little stiff in the joints to another new feeling that I have started to experience lately: the feeling that I am way too young for certain life changes. No, I’m not talking about the M word; I’m writing about being the mother of a teenager and all that entails. Kath turned fourteen this year. Up to this point, boys had been “icky” and “gross.” That was absolutely fine with me. I could handle that; in fact, I loved it because it meant my daughter who is two inches taller than me was still my little girl. Then came a phone call a couple of weeks ago. My wonderful hubby had called me to ask to see if I had found his wallet in his car which I had borrowed to go to the library to write. I instantly run out to the car to search frantically for his wallet. I look under the seats, in the console, in nooks and crannies to no avail. I call home to ask him whether we need to start cancelling credit cards when Kath answers the phone and yells the immortal words, “I have a boyfriend.” Wait a minute. What happened to boys are “gross” and “yucky?” All of a sudden, she has a boyfriend? So goodbye to boys being disgusting and hello to the dating world. For the first two and a half weeks, I especially loved this new dating world. There was no going out on what I perceive as an actual date; instead, there were phone calls and an occasional Facebook message, but no coming to the door and taking to a restaurant or movie. All was going well until Labor Day when Kath asked if we wanted to meet her boyfriend. While I would have preferred to do my income taxes or run a marathon, I smiled and nodded. Ben (not his real name) came over to watch Back to the Future. Instead, MJ had strict orders not to leave their sides. MJ ingratiated himself well and taught him how to play a computer game. Instead of learning the value of 1.21 jigawatts, Ben had to endure MJ’s explanation of how to play Heroes of Might and Magic. Then came dinner. Spencer Tracy was not more surprised to have Sidney Poitier as a dinner guest than I was when Ben stayed to dinner that night. I am definitely too young for my daughter to be dating.
Sometimes I ask myself what is the happy medium. I feel old when I play roughhouse with Cupcake and Chunk but feel too young to have a daughter that is actually dating. Then I come to MJ who has discovered he likes watching movies with me. He loved Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but he didn’t like The Pink Panther with David Niven and Peter Sellers as MJ has a definite sense of right and wrong and (spoiler alert) for Inspector Closeau to get framed for Sir Charles’ crimes is a little too hard for him to accept. As the Oreo cream filling between the cookies that are his twin siblings and his older sister, MJ bridges the gap for me between the three different age groups I have running around my house. Although there are days when I feel old and days when I feel too young for some parental activity, I smile knowing I’m in the right spot for right now. Then I reach for the ThermaCare patch and know I can make it another day.

What was the last song to which you listened in your car? Music and cars seem to go hand in hand. I remember very well growing up excited at the thought of driving a car not to get from point A to point B but because the driver controlled the airwaves or cassette choice. I’ve watched cars’ stereo systems transition over the years from radio to cassette players to CD players to the present array of systems including satellite radio and iPod links. I’ve listened to all sorts of music in the car over the years. I started out listening to the music of whomever was driving the car. Thanks to this, I heard a variety of music. When my grandfather took me for long drives, I listened to big band music. When my dad controlled the wheel, Hotel California or a Clapton tune would inevitably hit the airwaves. My mother was fond of cassette compilations featuring Barbra Streisand and Roberta Flack. Inevitably my music tastes are rather eclectic. U2’s “A Beautiful Day” will follow Doris Day’s “Pillow Talk.” Muse will follow Louis Armstrong which, to me, is great.
I’ve been more lenient, however, about sharing the radio system in the car with my offspring. Before I had children, I daydreamed that I would expose them to all sorts of music, but I especially daydreamed that they would listen to sonatas and symphonies, Beethoven and Bach. I was excited at the thought of little minds being exposed to masters such as Mozart and Haydn. Just because I don’t listen to operas (with the exception of Carmina Burana) isn’t a reason for my children to not listen to Carmen and other classic operas. That daydream flew out the window faster than a drag car at a track. When Kath was little, my wonderful hubby and I listened to the Winnie the Pooh soundtrack over and over and over again. We also sang the lyrics to the Winnie the Pooh soundtrack over and over and over again. My daydream turned into a nightmare that Kath would be in high school and still only listening to the same cassette over and over and over.
Kath is now a teenager. The 14 year old Kath is quite a contrast to little 2 year old Kath. She actually has Vivaldi on her iPod touch and has listened to The Four Seasons. Alternative rock is her love and passion, however. She has confounded teachers who expect teenagers to only know the likes of One Direction and Justin Bieber. Her favorite artists are Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie. She was devastated last week when it was announced that Ben Gibbard was going to release a solo album. She likes to plug her iPod touch into the car’s system when I drive her places and it is just the two of us. My rule is I get to veto when it plays “I Will Follow You” by Death Cab for Cutie as that is one of the most depressing songs ever.
More often than not, it is not just the two of us as I am the mother of four. When MJ came along, I braced myself for another round of kid’s music on our car’s radio system. Children always do their best to surprise you. MJ has never really cared for kid’s music. With MJ, we were fortunate. When he was two, he heard Louis Armstrong. We now own a variety of wonderful Louis Armstrong CDs as he loved to listen to “It’s a Wonderful World” and “Hello Dolly.” Now he likes to listen to U2 and The Script.
So my musical tastes were appeased for a while and sanity ruled inside the car. I like alternative rock so I would happily turn on the alternative station and listen to U2, Train and Mumford and Sons in the car. Then came the twins, Cupcake and Chunk. Each child is different from one another and my little fraternal twins are no exception to that cliche. Cupcake presently loves a cassette of Bear in the Big Blue House music. Chunk likes a Veggie Tales CD. For a while, they would acquiesce and agree to listen to one and then the other. Then each would scream to listen to his or her favorite. Now one will scream for Bear and the other will scream to listen to “Mommy music.” Now it is Chunk who will let me listen to my radio station while Cupcake insists on Bear and Bear alone. Thanks to Kath, I know Cupcake will not be listening to Bear when she is in high school, but I do wonder what type of music they will both like. When we aren’t in the car, Cupcake dances to music coming out of my radio. She especially liked the Pretenders. This gives me a great deal of hope for her musical future and mine.

When I was pregnant with MJ, I watched Food Network quite a bit. Not only did I have lots of different food cravings, but I also craved watching the preparation and discussion of food. Kath quite enjoyed this part of my pregnancy with MJ (although she still reminds me of the good old days when she was an only child) and started watching Food Network Challenge. Together Kath and I would watch four chefs battle it out to build a perfect cake or dessert display. The chefs would work in perfect unison with their sous chefs to present a cake that may or may not topple over into oblivion. While I never understood why you make cake for a competition if you aren’t going to eat the said cake, I always watched in amazement at shows like Iron Chef or Down Home with the Neelys where chefs would work together to cook something appetizing as well as edible. One reason I watch in said wonder is that cooking with my different children is quite a different experience from any of these shows. Frankly, we will never be asked to appear on a Food Network television show.
My daughter Kath was so impressed with Food Network Challenge that for a little while, she wanted to be a pastry chef. I kept reminding her that with her food allergy to walnuts and pecans as well as food sensitivities to kiwi and pickles that another field may be a better fit. While she has moved onto other career ambitions which will be a subject for a future blog, she still likes the idea of cooking. Cooking just doesn’t like the idea of Kath. I was making some dessert and gave her the task of melting chocolate. She burned the chocolate. I didn’t know it was possible to burn chocolate before that, but she did. Once she tried to microwave popcorn. When she took the corn muffins out of the microwave (I had made corn muffins the night before and stored the leftovers in the microwave), she didn’t see that one had fallen out of the bowl. She burned the corn muffin when she made the microwave popcorn. The black charred remnants of the corn muffin went into the trash, but my wonderful hubby could still smell the aftereffects when he got home from work seven hours later. At age 14, she and her friends are starting to discuss colleges and careers. Her friends have sampled her cooking. They have told her if she rooms with them, she is in charge of anything but the cooking. I keep telling her she has to keep at it. After all, my dad still teases me about making a cheesecake that never set and was more like cheese soup. To her credit, she made snickerdoodles this week. She had to bring cookies to school. The teacher requested that the students bring in homemade desserts rather than storebought ones. Kath was the only one who brought in a homemade dessert. She brought it home as well. Cupcake and Chunk were ecstatic. They liked Kath’s cookies and were excited to get more. Truthfully, they were the best cookies she has ever made, but it is sort of a sad statement when kids go for the storebought food first rather than the food people made by hand.
Cupcake and Chunk are now noticing that they can help with cooking. Having twins help with food preparation is totally different from having my other children help. Kath is 14, MJ is 9 and Cupcake and Chunk are 2. Cupcake and Chunk love scrambled eggs whereas Kath and MJ do not. Yesterday while Kath and MJ were at school, I decided to make scrambled eggs. Sounds simple. What could go wrong? Cupcake has deemed herself mommy’s little helper. She has to turn off the TV for Mommy, close the door for Mommy, and help Mommy unload the dishwasher. Sounds great, but sometimes they both want to be Mommy’s helper. Cupcake was in the room while I cracked the eggs. She wanted to help whisk the eggs. She stood on the footstool. At age 2, she needed help to whisk, but she did not want Mommy’s help. I had to help or I would still be cleaning up egg. Then Chunk arrived and wanted to help. Cupcake yelled no. I then helped Cupcake whisk ten times and then helped her off the footstool, installed Chunk on the footstool and helped him whisk the eggs ten times. You couldn’t hear me count the ten turns of the whisk because Cupcake was howling exactly in the place where I had placed her to put Chunk on the footstool. Then I put her back on the footstool followed by ten turns of the whisk and ten seconds of Chunk cries and I reversed it to the same effect one more time. Cupcake and Chunk both want to help cook, but they want to be the only helper at the time. The joy of twins.
So if you’re keeping track, Kath tends to burn things, Cupcake and Chunk tend to negate each other as helpers, so where does that leave MJ? This past weekend, he made his favorite food with wonderful hubby’s help. His favorite food is lemon cream cheese pound cake. It came out perfect. The top was perfectly crisp around the edges, the inside was moist and melted in your mouth. It was the first thing he had wanted to make other than toast with peanut butter or peanut butter crackers or sliced apples with peanut butter or a peanut butter sandwich. I guess if Food Network wanted to make a show about the thousand and one uses for peanut butter, MJ would be the perfect host. Still all of us will keep cooking together with our unique flair. After all, you can wipe up spilled egg, remelt chocolate and buy peanut butter in bulk and except for the burnt chocolate you can still eat most culinary mistakes. I think.

Have you ever seen the movie, Yours, Mine and Ours? The original 1960s version, that is. There’s a great scene where Lucille Ball’s character Helen is trying to explain to a man in whom she is interested that she has eight children. I love the scene in which she tells Frank, played by Henry Fonda, that little tidbit because he returns the favor and lets her know he has ten children. My family isn’t quite as big as either of those families, but I consider myself to be the mom of a large family as I have four children.
It’s quite a feat now taking them all out to a restaurant. To be truthful, it doesn’t happen as often as it once did. Kath is our oldest. She’s 14 and remembers quite vividly being an only chuld. Her brother MJ didn’t show up until she was 5 years old. She loves remembering how we would go out to eat quite often. Daddy worked late, out to dinner we would go. The one thing she did especially like about my pregnancy with MJ was my cravings. I had a cheesesteak craving period, a milkshake craving month, and more. If I wanted a Philly cheesesteak, I would just buckle Kath into her booster seat and travel to the nearest food court or restaurant that served cheesesteak sandwiches. She especially liked the milkshake trips.
When MJ arrived, we still went out to eat quite a bit. Perhaps I should have realized this when his preschool class created paper bouquets one Thanksgiving with notes outlining the things for which they were thankful. Parents had a chance to see all the bouquets when they picked up their precious bundle. Oohs and ahhs were heard az the parents passed the different offerings. Moms. dads, grandparents, siblings, pets and friends’s names were on the first several offerings. I immediately knew MJ’s offering. Here are two of the three exactly as they appeared on the card: “I am thankful for Johnny’s (a pizza chain near where we live)” and “I am thankful for Schlotzsky’s (a sandwich chain near us).”.

No matter what anybody says, most people judge other people. Whether it’s a first glance at clothing, hairstyle, car, purse or dwelling, most people pass judgment on other people. It’s bad enough to be categorized based on one of those aforementioned traits, but when people say things about your parenting style, it tends to be an even touchier subject. For example, in the past week alone, I’ve been called both a marshmallow and a super strict parent (hence the title you think I’m a what parent).
Yes, that’s right, within a twenty-four hour period, I’ve heard myself referred to both as a super softie squishie candy as well as a super strict parent. I don’t think of myself as either, but it’s a little enlightening and a little scary to think of how others view me as a parent.
A family member referred to me as a marshmallow. This person has been to my house which can often be described as a disaster zone as I’m not the best housekeeper in the world (notice I’m blogging rather than cleaning right now). She has also been around me for the past six years during which I’ve had twins (Cupcake and Chunk) who are now two as well as seen the development of my nine year old and fourteen year old. OK, I am a marshmallow in some ways like I give lots of hugs and kisses to my kids. I’m not an affectionate person with the rest of the world, but I love to give my kids a kiss on the cheek or a quick hug when I pass one of them in the kitchen. I’m also a marshmallow in other ways including forgetting to remind MJ to take out the recyclables or not getting onto Kath about cleaning the books off her bedroom floor. My wonderful hubby is the more strict parent and the kids often do whatever he asks the second he asks. We are a great balancing team in that he gets them to do positive actions around the house and I give them lots of affection and attention.
On the other hand, I am going to be a chaperone for Kath’s three day school field trip. Since I’m a chaperone, Kath got to choose which three of her friends that are in her school section get to room with her and hang out with her on the trip. When the parent of one of these friends found out that I was her chaperone, she reportedly apologized to her daughter for her daughter getting stuck with the super strict parent and chaperone. Apparently she saw me explain the rules at Kath’s scavenger hunt birthday party and immediately thought martinet, drill sergeant, the eye of Sauron. When I thought about it, though, if I weren’t able to go on this trip, I would want my daughter’s chaperone to be super strict rather than a marshmallow.
So, what parent am I? Am I Mommie Dearest or Nannie Gee? The strict disciplinarian or lovey-dovey marshmallow? I sort of like to think I’m the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man you see at the end of Ghostbusters. I can look all soft and gooey and act soft and gooey at times, but I also have the capability of kicking butt (not literally only figuratively) when I need to do so. So if I’m a marshmallow, I’ll just keep on making sure I’m the Ghostbusters Marshmallow able to ensure a good touch of parenting mayhem upon my four kids.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned. When I was pregnant with my children, I always envisioned family dinners as those where we gathered around the dining room table which would be properly set with tablecloths, place mats, napkins, silverware and dinnerware. We would discuss lofty ideas or news events. History, politics, art and the like would be analyzed and discussed. Manners would be in evidence. I’m sure there are families where this does happen, but there’s always our house.
On Sunday, we invited my dad over to dinner. My stepmother is presently visiting her children and grandchildren in California. Our subdivision was having a very small Easter egg hunt and I thought he might like watching his four grandchildren hunt for Easter eggs followed by having a nice family dinner and get together.
For some reason, I don’t know why, my four children have never felt the urge to treat their grandfather with awe and respect. They are always completely themselves around him. Perhaps this is a good thing. They love him and want to act naturally around him. No stuffiness here. Whenever he calls, however, they inevitably have a fight or scream when I am talking. They don’t do this when I talk to other people (usually), just my dad.
This should have given me some indication then of how this dinner would proceed. Let me start with the Easter egg hunt. Chunk, my youngest and the boy twin, was chomping at the bit. He saw eggs on the ground and immediately went into retrieve mode. We had to literally pick him up so he would stop going to collect the eggs before time started. My oldest daughter, who heretofore has not been named so we will call her Kath, is 14. Kath decided that she is too old to collect Easter eggs in front of strangers and that she would help the twins, Cupcake and Chunk. This meant picking the eggs up and placing them in baskets. When my dad suggested she show them how to do it rather than doing for them, I think I heard a harrumph, but I’m not sure.
Fast forward to dinner and my main point. We all sat down. I have two tablecloths that fit our table. One is our formal holiday tablecloth. I should have used it, but instead I used the one that has stains and no matching place mats. In fact, I didn’t have five matching placemats (Cupcake and Chunk were in their high chairs). So I used three “Let It Snow” placemats (it was in the eighties outside) and three tropical colored striped placemats. We had some plates from one type of place setting, bowls from another, and the twins had colorful plastic plates.
During dinner, my kids outdid themselves. After two bites of food, Chunk, who had seen the pound cake my husband had made for dessert, started shouting “Cake!” My 8 year old son MJ started telling jokes that he made up right there on the spot. Kath, not to be outdone, started telling jokes that her male middle school friends had told in the cafeteria. When she reached the part with the vomit and bodily functions, I asked her if she thought that was appropriate for dinner. She came back with a loud “Oops.” Cupcake was actually pretty good except she’s going through a phase where she has to eat on my lap. So I had to pull her out of her highchair and let her finish her dinner on my lap as we listened to jokes involving all sorts of fluid. My dad did tell a story about the news that he had seen that morning, but that was it as far as intellectual discussion. Instead, Chunk was still yelling “Cake,” Cupcake was eating on my lap and Kath and MJ were playing dueling jokes, the grosser the better.
Well, the best thing I can say is that they were completely themselves around Dad. At least they only discussed the food fights they’ve seen at school instead of demonstrating them.
It’s my Dad’s birthday today. Before she left, my stepmother asked us to make sure we had him over for dinner so he wouldn’t be alone for his birthday dinner. I’ll let you know whether he decided to brave it or not.