A Celebration of This Crazy Life!

One year ago today, I was looking toward New Years Eve. This was the day we had settled on with our Doctor for a scheduled c-section to bring the Twinstroms into the world. You may think it had something to do with the last minute tax deduction, or my general urgency to get them out of my stretched to the limit, hormonal, pain ridden body. That is not the case (although all of those things sounded attractive). It was simply the time.

That particular very normal Tuesday morning, I had kissed Mr. Lindstrom goodbye on his way to work, and anxiously awaited the time that my scheduled babysitter was going to take the four year-old (then three) off my hands. I was in no condition to match his energy. Usually I was able to move with a modicum of ease, but not one year ago today. One year ago today, I had to take breaks while walking between the refrigerator and the toaster (in our teeny kitchen, that’s about 5 steps). Something was up, but I wasn’t about to admit it. When the babysitter came, her first and most memorable words to me were something akin to, “you look like shit.” Okay, to be fair, she didn’t actually say, “you look like shit,” but she definitely said some Minnesota nice version of that. She politely told me that she would keep Ollie as long as I needed, because she suspected I would be making a trip to the hospital shortly. “I have a c-section scheduled for Thursday,” I told her, confidently. Certain that whatever she thought was going on, was most certainly NOT going on, and could definitely wait a couple of days.

You see, while nobody would accuse me of being organized, I definitely don’t do surprises well, so I plan. I plan and plan and plan, almost to a fault. So I had just the day prior sent out the “birth itinerary” to all concerned parties, letting everyone know when they would be responsible for the four year-old, and when they could visit the hospital. The four year-old had a very important job, it was to deliver the babies their pacifiers, so I had packed them away in his luggage in little baggies with notes telling the responsible party what they were for, when to bring them, and that when they arrived at the hospital, the four year-old was to be wearing his “I’m the Big Brother” shirt. Okay, so not organized, but definitely a control freak. So, I was pretty positive I was not in labor, because that wasn’t on the schedule.

Here are the Cliff’s notes of what followed:

9:00 am - I started timing these odd contractions with the help of some whack-a-doo website that would keep a chart of the intervals and duration. (Control-freak)

9:15 am – Recalled EVERY piece of pregnancy literature that clearly states, “if you think you are in labor, try having something to eat and relaxing to see if contractions slow down.”

9:20 am – Ate one egg and one slice of toast.

9:45 am – Realized that holy shit these hurt, and they are consistently about 4-5 minutes apart.

10:00 am – Called my mom. Conversation went exactly like this, “Hi mom.” “Hi Colleen, I’m in the middle of an appointment, can I call you back in 5 minutes.” “Sure.”

10:01 am – Called one of my nearest and dearest friends, Liv Lane.

Me: “Hey Liv, I need you to keep me company.”

Liv: “I don’t think I can get there until later, maybe. I have the kids all day.”

Me: “No, I just need your company on the phone. I’m having some weird contractions.”

Liv: “Maybe you should call the Doctor.”

Me: “No, I have a c-section scheduled for Thursday.” (Have you noticed yet that I’m completely and totally crazy?)

[Other line beeps]

Me: “Hey, Liv, can I call you back, that’s my mom.”

10:03 am – It was my mom on the other line. I told her what was going on. She said (wisely), “Well, why are you calling me? Call your Doctor!” (Can you guess what I said next? All together:) “I have a c-section scheduled for Thursday.”

10:05 am – My mom convinced me to call the Doctor. I call the Doctor.

10:15 am – Oh. My. God. I have been on hold forever. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller… Bueller…

10:20 am – After being tossed from receptionist, to triage, to I don’t know whom, but I’m hoping that Tom Jones is available, they tell me to go to the hospital.

10:25 am – I called my mom back and said, “They want me to go to the hospital.”

10:27 am – I decided I needed a shower. On the way upstairs to shower, I wondered why I was feeling just like Hilary Swank who won the Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry, and never thanked her then husband. HOLY SHIT, I HAVEN’T CALLED MY HUSBAND!!!!

10:28 am – I called my husband. This was especially exciting because we had never had that “honey, it’s time” moment – and it happened, and it was awesome… for him. I reminded him that I had a c-section scheduled for Thursday.

11:30 am – We arrived at the hospital and after assessment, it turned out that I was definitely in labor. My doctor happened to be in the building (Thank God!) and she came to check on me. I reminded her, the nurses, the janitors, the lab techs who draw blood, the parking lot attendant, and anyone else who I crossed paths with that “I am scheduled to have a c-section on Thursday.” They told me that I had to wait a couple hours, because of that DAMN BREAKFAST I ATE (never believe anything you read. NEVER).

2:30 pm – As they are bringing me into the surgical suite I reminded them that “I am scheduled to have a c-section on Thursday.”

2:58 pm – I heard the cries of Baby A, Thing 1, Tilla Violet Lindstrom. She was 5 lbs 5oz, and every bit as beautiful as I could have imagined. I called her my petite delicate flower. She is still petite, but is nowhere near delicate. Named for two very strong women, she shows on a moment to moment basis that she has earned her names.

2:59 pm – My youngest, my last… Baby B, Thing 2, Keller John Lindstrom arrived. He was 6lb 2oz. He was so quiet, and reminded me in that short moment of the way he had been in the womb, so Norwegian. He just wasn’t going to bother anyone. He still is that way. This child claps his hands when he’s mad. That’s the truth.

They were rushed to the special care nursery because their lungs were not quite strong enough just yet. After 36 hours, we got them back, and we have lived happily ever after ever since.

We’ve been through a whole lot as a family. Having experienced the loss of our 3 ½ month old daughter, our first, and then our third, another girl at 20 weeks gestation. I am acutely aware that these losses made way for the amazing life that we are blessed with today. Quite simply, if Brady and Parker were here, these children that make each day of my life here on earth a beautiful chaos would not be. It’s a mixed bag, and every day is juggling the feelings around that. Knowing that I parent and love in two very distinct worlds, and that, at least in our human understanding, they don’t mesh too easily. In other words, I cannot hold all of my babies at once. I can only physically hold the ones that are here.

Christmas is an emotional holiday for me. After becoming a mother, I understood the feeling of a long awaited birth far better than I ever had in my life. So, the theme of new life around the Christmas holiday holds so much meaning for me. I can never finish singing the song “Away in a Manger.” I cry, without fail, each time. “Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.” This Christmas Eve, as that verse was sung around me, and I could feel the tears tickling my eyes, I looked at my family, and realized how amazing this journey has been. I had my daughter in my left arm, my youngest son next to me in my husband’s arms (he was pulling my hair), and my oldest son on my right side standing on the pew hanging on to me. My arms were full. And right at that very moment, as the music swelled around me, and the tears were poised to burst without my control, my daughter pulled the top of my dress down, and exposed my breast to all my surrounding fellow congregants. Beautiful chaos. I could not do anything but laugh, because five years ago, I could never have imagined… all of this.


Manic Monday Blogarrhea

Is there something wrong with me? Is my playroom supposed to look like this?

Because it doesn't.

I am usually pretty certain that I have a good command of the English Language. However, I am an idiot when it becomes to double entendres. It was only 3 years ago that I finally understood the “Every kiss begins with Kay” slogan.

I am not sure why I think this is so funny… but in the eighties, I thought the two most beautiful women in the world were Lea Thompson, and… wait for it… Darryl Hannah. That’s the truth. You can’t make that kind of stuff up.

A PSA for next Christmas or any other gift-giving occasion: When you give a gift certificate, please remember to put the amount somewhere where the receiver can see it. Not because it will make them appreciate the gift more or less, but because they will know whether they can dream about an iPod or iDrops.

I cannot believe that on Wednesday my babies will be one. Everyone told me that the first year with twins would be a blur, but I couldn’t disagree more. This first year has been so chock-full of memories and warm moments. Has it been busy? Absolutely. Have we lost sleep? For sure. Have I lost my mind? On occasion. But overall, are we happier than we have ever been in our entire lives? NO QUESTION!!!! Come back Wednesday for a very special Twinstrom first-birthday post – complete with a hilarious story about the moment that makes me almost exactly like Britney Spears (I kid you not, whether you love me or hate me, this story will delight you. I promise).


Hot Dog, We Have A Wiener!!!

This is what my husband says whenever there is a winner. It doesn't translate as well in writing as it does in speech. But you don't care about that! You care about who won the Welcome Baby Care giveaway, right? CONGRATULATIONS TO CARISSA! You are the big winner of a Trader Joe's cookbook and $25 gift card. See:
Thanks for entering, everyone! If you haven't already, go find out more about the amazing wealth of information and support at Welcome Baby Care, the newborn care experts! Start at their facebook page, and get to know them there.


Manic Monday Blogarrhea

I understand simple math concepts, like addition and subtraction. I can even get down with some long division and multiplication. If you asked me to solve an equation for X – I could probably get the job done. Especially where sales and tips are concerned, I am all about fractions and percentages. When we were watching Saturday Night Live hosted by Jeff Bridges, he remarked that he hadn’t been on the show since 1983. Later he said that it had been 27 years since he’d been on the show. I almost passed out. Since when was 1983 TWENTY SEVEN years ago?

I wish there were a way to write numbers in all caps without spelling them out. Why don’t we have capital numbers? It would really help me with my write-shouting.

I’ve been thinking about a new A&E show that I think could really be successful. I am even volunteering my services for the pilot. It’s called “Car Hoarders.” It’s not about people who hoard cars, as you might imagine. It’s about people who are able to mostly confine their hoarding tendencies to their cars. Good stuff, no?

I have to tell you why Football commentators have so much of my respect. I am a 13 year-old boy at heart. So, my only joy in watching football is in hearing the commentary. With all the talk about penetration and ball handling, I don’t know how they do it with a straight face. (P.S. I just said, "do it.")

So, this will be a fun icebreaker. The other night my friend disclosed to a group of us that he has a shame-crush on Fran Drescher. Then, it came out that he also had a shame-crush on the music of Ace of Base. Another friend agreed, and they bonded over it. So who is your shame-crush – the person, place, thing, musician, band, food you LOVE but are too ashamed to admit it publicly to people you care about. Comment below – I’ll respect you!

Hey, while you’re in the business of commenting – you have until midnight tonight (Monday, December 20) to win the Trader Joe’s prize pack – you can enter over here. Make it happen!


Food For Thought Friday: Thoughts on "The Confession" AND A GIVEAWAY!!!!

Read on, folks – because deep within the words following, there are instructions for a giveaway – but I wouldn’t want you to skim over the message… so pay attention:

I was a Women's Studies minor in college. In most Intro to Women’s Studies courses, you learn about an important document in the history of the feminist movement, Betty Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique,” and her theory regarding “the problem that has no name.” It is essentially what I described in my previous post. The notion that mothers everywhere are charged with the task of seeking fulfillment in their roles as mother’s and wives and frequently find themselves losing sight of their true self in the process. It truly isn’t a new concept. That said, as a young Women’s Studies minor at Gustavus Adolphus College, I heard the concept, and shrugged it off. Maybe I even laughed hysterically at it. How depressing. How completely unlike me. Certainly I would never feel this way. Certainly I could never feel this hopeless. Certainly I would always be able to achieve balance as a wife, mother, and professional (whatever profession I would choose). What I have learned from this – 18 year olds are adorably hilarious.

Here’s where it gets complicated. I see myself as an optimist. I wake up every morning excited to be me. I like myself (for the most part. Though, I’d probably like myself just a smidge better if I had thinner thighs and looked a little more like Gisele Bundchen. Come on, like you haven’t thought that.) I have a wonderful life and really don’t want for much. I am a firm believer that our thoughts can create reality. However, that’s where I get tripped up a little, because I think with the popularization of the Secret (which is truly a study of an age old Universal Law, the Law of Attraction – like attracts like, and we are all energetically connected to everything we desire) has left out something very important, or at least, neglected to stress something very important. It’s this: All the optimism, intending, attracting in the world can do you no good if you don’t claim your feelings for what they are, honor them, and then do the hard work to get through them. Moving around your feelings by trying to change an attitude, without dealing with the feelings is a shortcut, and will end in a return visit to the same issues time and again. What I mean is, bad stuff happens, difficult feelings arise, challenges occur in life, and it’s not because you didn’t “intend” the right thing, and it’s not because you weren’t “positive” enough, it’s because we are living a life here, and we have lessons to learn, and pain to face - and unless we avoid the shortcut and trudge through the muck like pioneers claiming our land, we won't get anywhere. The key is in the reaction to the pain. The key is in owning who we are in the moment and making a choice about where we will go next while honoring our true self in the process.

“What on earth is this chick talking about?” Here’s what I’m saying: These feelings of not being completely fulfilled are real. They are common. Dare I say, to some degree, they are “normal,” but they are NOT YOUR FAULT. These feelings do not mean that you are not a wonderful mother, that you are not a caring soul, or that you do not adore your family. They say that you are a human being, and when you have to be everything to everyone, something gives - and it's usually YOU. The important part is not that it happens, the important part is your reaction to it.

You all had some amazing ideas on my last post about how a person can deal with the overwhelming task of being a mom; making and taking time for yourself, venting with girlfriends, getting involved in church or mother’s groups. YES! (It bears noting that people who read this blog are darn smart and savvy - give yourself a high-five for being seriously awesome). But how do you do this? Here are some ideas:

If you’re an online type person and you want to connect with people from the comfort of your BUPs (this is a term my old room-mates and I coined in college – it stands for Big Unflattering Pants - we both know you were wearing your favorite pair last night), there are a number of online mom sites. Of note:

Mom’s Like Me

Parents connect

These are very general, but it’s very easy to find online support networks dealing with whatever your parenting passion is, whether it is children with special needs, attachment parenting, breastfeeding moms, mom's who have an unhealthy but totally understandable addiction to Target, you name it.

If you’re a little more ready to get out in the real world and find a playgroup – why not search for a meet-up group? You can find just about any kind in just about any area on this site. This requires some bravery and a willingness to just get out there.

If you’re looking for some “in your pocket anytime" support – find amazing resources and awesome podcasts from Erin and Marti Erickson, a mother/daughter parenting expert team who together make up the Good Enough Moms. Founded on the concept that we don’t have to push ourselves to the point of perceived perfection, we only have to do OUR best, and that is good enough (a message that, if you ask me, is real darn important, and comes with a whole lot of wisdom).

Most importantly, if these feelings are sticking around a little too long, or including fantasies or hurting yourself or others, then it’s not the equivalent of having just “a day.” If you or someone you know are within the first year following the birth of a child, it could be postpartum depression, and SHOULD be taken very seriously. Feel no shame about calling your doctor or asking for a loved one to assist you in finding help. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! If you are beyond the first year following the birth, still feel no shame about calling your doctor or confiding in a friend to help you find support if you are having intense feelings of hopelessness. It may not be “postpartum” depression, but it will no doubt be treatable, and it’s necessary that you get help.

If you are expecting a baby, or have just had a baby, one way to defray some of the overwhelming feelings of being a parent, is to hire help for the first few weeks of the baby’s life with the aid of a postpartum doula (read about my experience using a postpartum doula following the birth of the Twinstroms here). Here in Minnesota, the go-to experts on new baby care are the folks at Welcome Baby Care, if you’re not from around here, they still can help you in a variety of ways, so give them a call, and when you do, say thanks to them for giving you a chance to win an awesome gift:

A Trader Joe’s Cookbook along with a $25 Trader Joe’s gift certificate! This giveaway closes at midnight CST on Monday December 20. Winner will be chosen at random and announced at 8:00 am CST on Tuesday, December 21 and the gift (a $55 value) will be mailed Tuesday afternoon, with the intention that you may receive it by Christmas. So, give it as a gift, or keep it for yourself, either way – it’s easy to enter. Here is what you have to do: Leave a comment affirming yourself (or someone you love) as a mother (just do it -- tooting your horn is cool!):

THEN earn some extra entries by leaving a separate comment to let me know that you have done each of the following:

"like" Welcome Baby Care on Facebook (1 entry)

"like" Keeping Her Cool on Facebook (1 entry)

post a link to this posting on facebook (1 entry)

post a link to this posting on twitter (1 entry)

follow @keeping her cool on twitter (1 entry)

(Oh yeah, and do me a solid and either include your email address in your entry or link to your website so I can get ahold of you if you are indeed the winner!)


Real Mom Confession

Before I get all bloggy here, I have to set a couple of ground rules. I’m about to get pretty vulnerable, and I want to be very, very, very clear: I do not want sympathy. That is not the purpose of this post. So, you can put the violins away (unless you’re literally practicing your violin right now, in which case, don’t let me stop you). The reason I am sharing this is that I imagine that I am not the only one that feels this way. Maybe there are one or two other mothers in the world that feel this way, but it is really difficult to talk about without feeling like you are a) hosting a pity party for YOU, the guest of honor or b) being unappreciative of all you have been blessed with. While I can understand how this may sound like complaining, I assure you that's not the intention, it is simply making note of an episodic event in the life of a mother (this mother, to be exact). Usually, I tolerate anonymous comments with a tone of judgement or mocking (people are entitled to their opinion) - on this post however, it's not even worth it to post them because they will be deleted. I will not allow myself or anyone else to feel shamed for feeling the way I feel. Got it, cupcake?

With no further ado...

I have a confession to make. I don’t always love being a mom. Sometimes I don’t even like it. There is a whole ton of guilt that goes along with this feeling because God knows I’ve been through a whole lot in order to have kids that stick around here. Having lost one child to SIDS and another late in pregnancy, I cannot say that I value my children more than others, but I definitely value them differently with the heart of someone who has not only feared losing them, but experienced it. So, having the feeling of not loving and cherishing each moment with my kids, especially when I KNOW how fleeting they are, makes me feel… sad, angry, lonely, incompetent, lazy, self-centered… you can stop me any time. It’s a horrible feeling, but a real feeling. I LOVE my children, that is unwavering, but sometimes the act of being their mom isn’t exactly my pleasure.

I can go for months cruising along and enjoying (mostly) the natural chaos of my days (with the occasional hiccup). Even the really busy moments (when everyone needs something five minutes ago including myself, and usually what I need is 4 more arms, and an extra hour or two in the day) they can feel sort of humorous and once I am through them they feel like little victories. Then all of the sudden the grand emotion hits… Sometimes it can be directly attributed to something, (PMS, lack of sleep, Glee re-run), and other times I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes I can feel it boiling up inside of me, and I can intervene (a solo lingering trip to Target aka Mommy’s Happy Place, a girls night out [this is where I give the Odd-Quad and my dance girls a loud shout], or a date with the hubby all seem to do the trick), and sometimes it feels like being rear-ended like a big ol’ Mack Truck that you never even saw coming.

Tuesday morning, it hit hard. Setting the stage: When you have three children, two of whom share everything (sleeping quarters, pacifiers, spoons, toys, each other’s hands, etc) bugs just get passed around like the sweet potatoes at the Thanksgiving table. So, when the stomach bug hit, it hit us hard. After a week of passing that around, we moved along to a colds and ear infections. By the time we were on the mend there, Minneapolis was hit with the second largest snowstorm in my lifetime. I was doing pretty well. Keeping a good attitude and plugging along with gusto, knowing that we’d come out on the other side some way or another. Until Tuesday morning, in the kitchen, over eggs. That’s when it occurred to me that this life that I wished for, this life that I have dreamed of since I was a little girl, this life that I thought would make me feel fulfilled and whole – is draining me. Even if I used all the snow that fell over the weekend here in the Land ‘O Lakes, I could not have built a snowball as big as the one forming in my head:

I have only been out of the house twice since Friday

I haven’t had a shower since Saturday

I am wearing the same clothes I had on yesterday

I can’t even eat hot food because everybody is screaming at me

Even if I wanted to go out I couldn’t because I don’t have a babysitter

Nor do I have the energy to look presentable

Plus I recently found out that I take a little more effort to be presentable than I once thought

I haven’t even had a haircut since the twins were conceived

Maybe if I took a nap… but I can’t nap and leave the kids unattended

But I swear I am going to run away from home if I have to ask the four year-old to stop “it” whatever “it” is one more time

But I can’t run away because all my clothes are dirty and I have to do laundry…

And on and on and on and on

You get the idea

And then, what can I do because I’ve been snowed in for 3 days, and it’s so cold outside that when the option of taking all the kids out in the cold and dropping them at “school” just to have an hour to myself and the option of keeping the very subjects of my temporary discontent in my midst all the live long day are equal evils?

See, it sounds like complaining. (I guess it is complaining.) As a rule, I can’t stand complaining, unless a plan is born from it. So far, my plan has been tears, because I can multitask with tears. Beyond that, I don’t know what my plan is… but I know I need one. The other night when we were out for a family dinner, we made casual conversation with a man who remarked on the fact that we had twins. He told us that he has five year-old twins. I think I must have spotted the Mack Truck putting on the gas for the eventful rear-ending right then because I said to him, “please don’t tell me about the hard parts, I don’t want to know.” His response, “you’re in the hard part.” I guess that’s the glimmer of hope that I need right now. It gets better. I know that this is what I signed up for. I think, though, when I signed up, I didn’t really realize how much of mySELF I would be signing away. I have grown so much more confident of who I am as a mother, but somehow lost touch with who I am as a person. I don’t even know what (if anything) I’m good at anymore, besides the fact that I change a mean diaper, and am a rock-star at microwaving hot-dogs (these are real world skillz). I hate to sound so hopeless, but I am being honest. Does this happen to everyone – and what do you do about it????? I need your advice, please, because I am paralyzed.

*Disclaimer: This moment will pass, it always does. I just thought… it’s easiest to capture the fluster when I am in it.


Manic Monday Blogarrhea

When I was in high school and I found myself stopped at a stoplight for any period of time, I used to press the button on my garage door opener over and over again just to see if a garage door in the area was on the same frequency as mine. Now, when I’m stopped at a stoplight, I do kegel exercises. I’m sort of embarrassed about both.

This makes me think of a story my old neighbor once told me about how another neighbor across the street had gotten a new doorbell installed and it operated on the same frequency as her doorbell. So, anytime someone went to the house across the street and rang the doorbell, her doorbell would ring. This went on for about a month before she finally figured it out. I imagine that at the time it was really annoying, but I like to laugh about it when I’m in the mood to laugh and need some inspiration.

Speaking of things that take a really long time to figure out, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: How long do you think it took humans to figure out that sex is what led to babies? Seriously. The human gestational period is essentially between 9 and 10 months. That’s a really long time between cause and effect.

I am having a hot and heavy affair with my crock-pot. If there is a 12-step program, I need it. I use my crock-pot every day. I’m thinking of opening a restaurant with all slow-cooked food called, “That’s a Crock.”

Here’s a little pet peeve of mine, when I go to the gym and people circle the parking lot forever looking for the closest spot. I feel like saying, “Hey, you’re going to work out, right? Why don’t you just get a head start?” But I imagine they feel like no sweat will be broken before its time.

Another pet peeve (‘cause after one, I’m on a roll, right?) when people say, “baby-to-be”, regarding a pregnant woman’s bump. Like, “Congrats on your baby-to-be.” It’s a baby. It’s not gonna become a baby when it’s born, it’s already a baby, it’s just gestating.

About a month ago, Mr. Lindstrom and I were at a hockey game together. While in the bar, Mr. Lindstrom left me at a table alone while he went to grab drinks. I noticed a guy standing nearby that had the strangest piece of elastic hanging from his butt like a tail. It really was the strangest thing I’d ever seen, and I was trying to figure out what the purpose of this elastic was when it occurred to me, I could inconspicuously take a picture of his butt and post it to facebook so I could get some opinions about what exactly this piece of elastic was all about. Without thinking the plan through too thoroughly, I took my phone out, aimed it at the stranger’s rear, and began the process of snapping a picture. Only then did I realize that I had not turned the flash off. The flash on my cell phone is not like the flash on a camera that flashes quickly once, and then is done. Instead, it illuminates like a lighthouse beacon for a steady three-count before it snaps the picture quietly. There was no hope of being inconspicuous. My cover was blown. Not only did the head attached to the rear end I was photographing turn eyes on me, so did just about everyone in the bar. The funny thing, as embarrassed as I was, I really was more annoyed that the picture didn’t turn out, and I’d never get a good answer about this weird elastic tail. Lesson: If you are going to take a picture of a stranger’s butt with your cell phone, turn the flash off. Really, it’s quite simple.


If You Have a Baby, Or Know a Baby, or Are a Baby... A List

Baby stuff is always evolving. Case in point, in the 19 months between the birth of my first baby and my second baby, there were a million or so new things on the market. In the three years between the birth of the four year-old and the Twinstroms, my world of baby goods has been blow wide open. For what it’s worth, I’ve taken a second to compile for you a list of all the things I either couldn’t live without, or think are pretty darn awesome. In no particular order (P.S. I endorse these products having never accepted any goods or services to do so. I just think they’re that awesome!):

For the most part we have always made the Twinstrom’s food (or they eat some version of what we’re eating). However, when we’re out and about, this is the very coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I just throw a couple of these Plum Dispensing Spoons in my purse, and a couple flavors of Plum Organic food, and we’re all set.

While we’re out, if I’m short a bib, I use these Kipiis Bib Clips to make a common napkin into a bib. Voila!

Before the Twinstroms were big enough to eat from a spoon, or hold their own bottles, we got a set of these Bebe Bottle slings. I must say, I do not recommend these for singletons AT ALL. I think it’s really really important to hold your baby when you feed them (and it goes without saying, “breast is best” – but I have to say it anyway lest someone interprets this recommendation as my saying anything to the contrary). However, when you have more than one baby, and a bigger sibling, feedings can be really complicated, and with these, people get fed when they need to be fed, which is pretty darn important if you ask me. When I have used these in public, I get stopped a million times and asked where to get them. As far as I know, they are only available online.

We are hard core swaddlers. Whenever I am asked how we have such good sleepers, I have ONE answer, SWADDLE. I am beyond bummed that I discovered this shortly after my babies were done being swaddled. I gave this woombie to a friend as a gift, and got her stamp of approval. I only wish I’d had one of my own!

When the Twinstroms were born, we literally all but attached these Itzbeens to them. This is genius. With the push of a button it will tell you the last time the baby was fed, diapered, or how long they’ve been sleeping. With ONE it was easy to lose track. With two it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to KEEP track. This thing is the greatest!

Babies have a lot of gear. You have to put them somewhere when you put a load of laundry in, or take a shower, or go to the bathroom. Swings and bouncy chairs can be pretty cumbersome to bring from room to room. These Boppy Newborn Loungers travel easy, and are so comfy for the babe to lie safely on as long as they can’t roll. We used to bring them into the kitchen so the babies could be with us while we prepared and ate dinner. Don’t forget, they are NOT for sleeping upon, though. So, please obey that simple rule, and you’ll love this thing!

Without a doubt, this is the most ingenious product I’ve seen, and we absolutely love these Kristi G Go and Grow Chairs. The Twinstroms spent a lot of time in these this summer – and here’s a picture to prove it!

So there you have it, unique baby gifts for yourself or others, all with my stamp of approval. Enjoy, and use responsibly.


The Decking of the Halls: My Favorite Ornament

This is what my tree looks like this year. It's depressing on so many levels. A) Look at that tree. That is a cheap and ugly tree. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I love real trees in other people's houses. I cannot be charged with the task of cleaning up after them. So, we are artificial around here, and I just haven't been able to bring myself to really spend the money on a good artificial tree -- so we just rock the $16.99 Target special from 5 years ago. B) No ornaments? I mean why even bother putting up a tree if you're not going to decorate it (and in the tree's defense, it is passable for an average looking fake tree when is well adorned with 33 years worth collected ornaments)? Well, I have two very good reasons, the 11 month-old Twinstroms. When I was in college and lived in a house with 6 other girls who fancied a cocktail or two, I saw the damage that can be done when a tree full of ornaments took a tumble on a wood floor more than once. Now, I'm not totally comparing two mobile almost one year-olds to a bunch of drunk 20-somethings, but... well, yes, I guess I am.

So, I'm going to cheat a little here, and instead share with you my favorite ornament on A tree. It's just not MY tree. This is an ornament that shows up every Christmas on my father-in-law's tree. It's my first daughter, Brady. She died of SIDS on July 5, 2005, when she was 3 1/2 months old. This ornament was not really intended to be an ornament (boy, that's a little deeper than I meant to go, of course I wish this didn't exist for the purpose it exists for...) On Brady's first birthday, I tirelessly created a couple hundred of these little sun catchers. Hand painting each of them in reds and oranges, the color of Brady's hair. I printed off hundreds of pictures of her, and cut them all to size, and glued them to these little sun catchers. I picked out a ribbon that I loved and affixed it to each and every sun catcher, tying the bow there, instead of in her beautiful red hair. Then I delivered each of them to our friends and asked them to put them in a prominent window in their home from March 19 - July 5, the 109 days of Brady's life. I told them to feel free to leave them there longer if they were moved to do so. We also handed along these words, which I want to share with you for reference if you know anyone who has lost a loved one, or if you have lost a loved one. Most of these thoughts apply:

We would like to offer you these ideas of ways we would appreciate receiving your continued love and support:

  • Please do not be afraid to speak Brady’s name. She will always be a member of our family. We need and want to hear her name.
  • We often cry or become emotional when we talk about Brady. Please know that it is not because you have said or done something to hurt us. Her death and our loss is the cause of our tears. You have allowed us to share our grief, and for that we thank you.
  • Although it is difficult, we in fact can often feel better by acknowledging and experiencing our pain and grief. We must hurt to heal.
  • Please know that there are many possible feelings associated with grief. Depression, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and questions about values and beliefs are to be expected following a death.
  • We appreciate all of you who continue to display Brady’s picture or other remembrances in your home. We love our daughter dearly and are proud to know that our friends and family choose to remember her by displaying her image.
  • We will have emotional highs and lows. If we have a good day our grief is not over, if we have a bad day we do not need to be institutionalized. Grief is not linear. Grief is a roller coaster. It is not a fun ride, but it is one that we will be on for the rest of our lives.
  • Please know that it can be very difficult for us to reach back when we’ve been reached out to. We still love and care for each and every one of you, and so appreciate your willingness to stay by us, to grieve and celebrate Brady with us each and every day.
  • Our grief will not end. The first few years are going to be exceptionally difficult. We will always miss Brady and will always grieve her death. We will never be cured, as this is a permanent loss.
  • Future children, if we are so blessed, will bring us great joy, but will not replace the ones we have lost. That would not be fair to anyone. If or when we become pregnant again, please understand that it will be an incredibly difficult experience filled with a confusing mix of fear and happiness.
  • Brady’s birthday (March 19), her birthday into heaven (July 5), and the holidays are difficult times for us. The weeks leading up to these important dates are also quite difficult. We have found that often the anticipation of these dates is more painful. If you are thinking of her or us during these times, please let us know that you are. If we seem quiet or withdrawn, please know it is because we are thinking about her. During these times in particular, it may be difficult for us to be cheerful or fun. We appreciate your patience.
  • Our grief has changed us, and on many days can define us, grief is ever-changing. We are not the same people we were the morning of July 5 when we kissed our sweet girl good morning. We will never be those people again. We are new people, with new thoughts, dreams, aspirations, values, and beliefs. Please try to get to know the new us, we hope you will still like us.
As I was looking through these thoughts again, I realize that though it's been 5 years, and our life has changed in ways we could not have dreamed in those early days, all these things still hold true. Brady is still so much a part of our family. She is a daily acknowledgement, thought, and conversation. My heart flies every time I see that little sun catcher still displayed in the home of a friend, knowing that they can't help but think of her when they see the sun glistening around her. In fact, our family doctor has it hanging above their front desk. I absolutely LOVE seeing her there and knowing that people who never
had the fortune of knowing her are touched by her in that small way. So, of course, when I see her sweet face, there on my father-in-law's tree, it really feels like Christmas. And even though our tree isn't decorated this year, our stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and see that one on the right? Hanging under the butterfly? Yes, that's Brady's.

Manic-Monday Blogarrhea

- Are we done with low-rise jeans, yet? I am not opposed to trends, and while standing, I agree that low-rise jeans are quite flattering on some. However, I swear to you, if I see one more butt-crack… (I haven’t really taken the time to complete that threat).

- I feel like there comes a time in every woman’s life where they need to make an important decision, are you a Luke Wilson girl, or an Owen Wilson girl – you can’t be both. I am a Luke Wilson girl.

- My husband went to Target yesterday and only spent $8. WHAT? How did he do that? More rather, what is wrong with me that I could NEVER do that. One time, about a decade ago, I went to Target to get light bulbs, and when I left the store I had just light bulbs. I called my mom. I’m serious. It was a historical moment, and will likely not repeat.

- I think “duties” is one of the funniest words in the English language. I am 33 years old, but I recognize that this makes me more like a 5 year-old boy. When someone talks to me about their “duties,” I lose it. I feel similarly when people talk about “googling” themselves. I hope to mature someday.

- It was reported the other day that a contra banned cell phone was found under Charles Manson’s mattress in prison. He is 76 years old. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that when he was put in prison in the 70s, there was no such thing as a cell phone. There wasn’t even touch-tone! I hope that flying cars aren’t invented anytime soon, because those would be a little more cumbersome to hide under a mattress.

- Mark Zuckerberg makes me feel like an utter failure. To be fair, so does Tara Lapinski (but that reference is so pre Y2K).

- This morning a terror unlike any before fell upon the Lindstrom home, when at 6:45, the 4 year-old came into our bedroom and asked to go see what St. Nicholas left in his shoe. It’s times like these that I am happy that I squirrel things away from the dollar section at Target. Crisis averted, belief suspended.


Food For Thought Friday: Thoughts on Being a MOM (Mother of Multiples):

Food For Thought Friday is brought to you by the amazing folks at Welcome Baby Care. Be sure to check out their website, and don’t forget to “like” them on Facebook to take advantage of all their knowledge as THE post-partum and newborn experts.

There has been a little video making the rounds on the Internet:

All my other multiple parent homies and I have been having a good giggle about it. It’s nice to have a giggle about it, because there is a standard line of questioning that goes on when you bring your multiples out in public with you. I get it, multiples are fascinating! I am fascinated by multiples (especially high order multiples – 3 or more). I try to be gracious and resist the urge to toy with the interrogator, because they don’t know that I have already answered the same line of questioning 10 times during the (what was supposed to be) short trip to Target, but when you’ve repeated yourself that many times, it’s difficult not to spice up the act a little. Here are my top questions/remarks, and the longer form responses I give – I might print this out and hand it to people.

1. Are they twins? Yes. They are. (I imagine that when my kids get older it will be harder to tell that they are twins. There is a size discrepancy between the two of them and they are boy/girl. For now, though, while they are at the same developmental stage of infancy, I am always a little curious what other options the interrogator is considering…)

2. Are they identical? No. They are not. Identical twins share the exact same DNA thumbprint. Essentially, they are a genetic copy of each other coming from the same egg fertilized by the same sperm. Fraternal twins are siblings (no different from a siblings who were born years apart from each other) who shared the womb. They come from separate eggs fertilized by separate sperm. Boy/Girl twins are always fraternal because they cannot be genetic copies of each other when their basic sex organs are not the same. Boy/boy twins and girl/girl twins may or may not be identical. The fact that they are the same sex does not give the answer to the question whether they are identical or not. There are a lot of clues during pregnancy that tell the doctor and the parents what type of twins are present, but I won’t get into all that.

3. But they look alike. That’s because they are siblings. Again, fraternal twins can look alike, and not be identical. The question of whether or not twins are identical is actually a scientific question.

4. Are they natural? Yes (that is everyone’s answer to this question – not just mine – because the question is so ridiculous. What are you asking? Are they homosapiens? Yes. Are they human beings? Yes.) I think that the question that people are meaning to ask is “were they conceived naturally?” Which A. is a totally inappropriate question to ask, and is none of your stinkin’ business, and B. is a totally inappropriate question to ask, and is none of your stinkin’ business. In the event that you were not aware of A and B, you must surely know C. that is a totally inappropriate question to ask, and is none of your stinkin’ business.

5. Were they born naturally? (Again, another kind of bizarre question. They were inside a body, and they came out. Why does it matter how they got there?) This one trips me up a little… Do you mean “were they born vaginally?” and you’re just too shy to say the word “vagina?” And again, what makes this your business? I am always curious about the motive of this question. I have learned, because my answer is no – they were born by c-section, that the follow up question is usually an investigation of whether or not the c-section was necessary. This is usually asked by a person who has a vested interest in the field of multiple births like a Doctor, Midwife, Nurse, or Doula. The short answer is yes.

People are not always aware that vaginal birth is definitely an option for multiple births. For me, it was the desired option. What matters most is baby A (and baby A is always baby A – it is the baby closest to the exit) is engaged and in position. For a skilled Doctor, baby A only needs to “pave the way” so to speak, and baby B can be turned or maneuvered in the meantime to make the journey safely and properly. In my case, both babies were lying across my abdomen (transverse) when I labored, and not in a “head-down” position. It would have been dangerous for all parties to have allowed me to attempt a vaginal birth. So, yes. It was necessary. Also, for the record, I think that is a highly personal question.

6. Oh, it’s so nice that you have 2 and they are one of each. Now you are done. UGH. This one just really really bugs me. Usually I get this one when I’m out with just the Twinstroms. The interrogator usually believes that I am mommy just to the Twinstroms. I usually add that I have a four year-old at home as well – and that we were only trying for one more. That’s the story they hear. The story (as those of you who have been reading Keeping Her Cool for a while know) is far more intense than that. I am actually a mommy to 5 children. Two of them did not get to stay here to live a long and happy life. So… this one stings a little for me. I imagine it lands on everyone’s ears a little differently, but the bottom line is – again, none of your business whether I am done or not.

7. How do you do it? I just do. We all just do. Whatever your perceived challenges are in life… you just do.

If you want to know more about multiple births, the special challenges and joys of birthing and raising multiples, or how you can help a parent of multiples in their lives, I was lucky enough to have been asked to be a guest along with Tory from Welcome Baby Care (who was my Postpartum Doula following the birth of the Twinstroms) on the Good Enough Moms Podcast.

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