You Can Call Me Elisha Otis

For some reason, when I was pregnant with the Twinstroms, my biggest concern was how I would pick them both up at the same time. Why on earth I chose that conundrum to fixate upon for the duration of my pregnancy, the world may never know, but it was the puzzle my brain worked on for the better part of the gestational period. I googled, researched, imagined, and asked questions of some Mother of Multiple veterans. The answer, overwhelmingly, was "you'll figure it out." In general, that is the axiom of parents of multiples.

Sure enough, as soon as the Twinstroms were on the outside, I set myself on the path of “figuring it out.” In no time, I had my very own technique, not only for picking them both up, but feeding them simultaneously, holding them simultaneously, just about everything but diapering them simultaneously. As they have gotten bigger, techniques have been modified, new experiences have emerged, and they are no longer the fragile little people they once were. Now mostly mobile, and at least 3X their birth weight, this whole “picking them up at the same time” business is getting harder and harder.

I am lucky in that my twins are on the exact same schedule. They do everything at the same time (and I mean EVERYTHING, even… you know… the messy diaper thing… yeah, that). So, when I’m alone during the day with them and the four-year-old, transportation between the living floor of our house and the sleeping floor of our house before and after naptime requires some ingenuity (specifically because they are now mobile, and everyone is always trying to pilfer toys from one another – including the four-year-old, who doesn’t know his own strength). They say necessity is the mother of invention, and this mother was necessitating some invention – so, here is the Twinstrom’s new luxurious elevator.



First Lessons in Loss

This morning, the kids and I went to get their pictures taken. After an hour of corralling and acting like a complete ass to try to get a few simultaneous smiles out of the gang, the (almost) four-year-old was awarded a balloon for good behavior (I wonder if they have tried that tactic in prison?). He practiced hanging on tight as we walked through the mall and he was very careful during lunch to make sure his balloon didn’t fly away. As we walked out to the car in the blustery wind, he was sure to remind me that the balloon’s safety was his top priority. Once he was buckled in the car, and I was getting the twins settled and the stroller put away, the balloon got sucked out of the car and blown into the great beyond. Pure devastation.

The ride home was full of tears (Depression), and every other stage of grief. Seriously. He threw the toy car he was holding in his hand, and exclaimed, “I’M MAD!” (Anger). “Maybe the balloon just went under the car.” (Denial). He told me he’d be good if we could go back and get another balloon (Bargaining). By the time we were home, I thought he’d arrived at acceptance, the balloon is gone, and it is not coming back.

We are no strangers to these cycles of grief at our house. We’ve been living them in some fashion or form for the past five years since our first daughter died. The misconception about these stages is that they are linear. They are, in fact, not. One does not arrive at acceptance as the final destination of grief and then go on to live a happy and long life in acceptance. Wouldn’t it be nice? But no, we move fluidly in and out of each of these stages, sometimes staying longer in one, sometimes for years. If we’re lucky (and work really hard), we spend most of our time in acceptance, only because it seems to be the most productive stage.

So, I should have known… Upon entering the house, we began the cycle all over again. Now, here’s where I am never sure if I am making a huge monumental mistake as a parent: I am positive about our choice to introduce our children to the notion of heaven and the reality of death as part of the life cycle. They have a sister who is not with us, and to deny them the experience of knowing Brady and her story, is to deny Brady the honor she deserves as a member of our family. However, there is a tricky line in describing heaven in that you don’t want it to sound TOO enticing to a child.

The almost-four-year-old and I sat down to talk about his balloon. We talked about why he loved his balloon, and we talked about where it went. He told me that it went to space and then when it was through space it got to heaven and Brady found it. My heart was smiling. He understands the concept! He understands that Brady is in heaven! Hooray! Until… “and mommy I don’t want Brady to have my balloon, so I need a really, really tall ladder so I can get up to heaven and get my balloon back from her.” Oooooh. A) As it turns out, sibling rivalry is not relegated only to this realm. B) Here is the magical thinking of grief… and the cycle begins again. I cannot lie to you, still today, I wish there were a really, really tall ladder that could get me up to heaven, so I could just hold my baby girl for a moment. I promise I would be quick and come right back to earth (bargaining).

As ridiculous as it may sound, I understood my son’s pain in the moment. I understood the devastation behind his wailing. I knew the familiar ache of longing he was sensing, and I was so right there with him. I know it was only a balloon, but for him it was more than the balloon. The concept is an important one. The lesson is one we will spend the rest of our lives getting our arms around, there are some things that when they go, they go away forever, so we need to hold tight to what we can of them.


I Thought of That

You have had this happen, I know you have, because you are an intelligent and creative person. Some ingenious invention pops up in your midst and you immediately think, “Why didn’t I think of that? I could have been a millionaire!”

So, because I am too lazy to actually go through the motions of creating the things I HAVE mentally invented, I like to give them away like little gifts, so someone else can become a millionaire off my (marginally) brilliant ideas.

· Hair Band-aids. I know, at first blush it sounds a little ridiculous, but I have a pre-schooler who believes in the healing power of band-aids. I love it! He gets a bump, bruise, or cut, asks for a kiss, and covers it up with Scooby-Doo or some other cartoony hero. Band-aids are wonderful for knees, elbows, fingers, toes, but NOT heads. You find this out the first time your child bumps their head, runs to the band-aid stash, and comes back with one stuck in their hair. They sustain further injury in the process of excising the sticky mess. Hair band-aids = problem solved!

· Refrigerated lockers. Okay, I have said this so many times, and 50% of people think I’m crazy, 30% think I’m brilliant, and 20% are too busy trying to find a place to store their leftovers while they go to a movie to hear my idea. Think about it, you’re with your main squeeze on the patented dinner and a movie date and you’ve only eaten half of your pasta dish because you went to the Cheesecake Factory (and who are they kidding with those “portions?”). Unless it’s winter in Minnesota, you have nowhere safe to store your leftovers. And especially since it’s a seafood pasta, you can’t take it with you because it’s E-coli city, population YOU if you eat it tomorrow. You’re out of luck. Enter the refrigerated locker. For a smooth 50 cents, your seafood pasta is safe and sanitary while you watch your romantic comedy. In 48 hours, you’ll still be laughing instead of having explosive diarrhea. You with me?

· Cars that come standard with vacuums. Why on earth GM hasn’t gotten with the program on this one, I may never know. Just this morning I cleaned out my car and could only get so far without lugging the Dyson out into the driveway or driving around the city looking for the nearest gas station or carwash with that big vacuum canister that you have to pay to suck the crumblies out of your ride. Think of how much easier it would be if you could spend those five minutes waiting in the carpool line multitasking by using your little car dust buster. I also think that cars need to have a hook to hang a purse on, but… baby steps.

As I see need, I will do the public service of posting my (marginally) brilliant ideas here. If you are the type of go-getter who can take a (marginally) brilliant idea and run with it, you are welcome to mine. Just bake me a cake or something in return (though, I’d gladly split your millions with you).


Learning to Crawl, and then Defy Gravity?

Sometimes I love the little synchronicities that life gently arranges. It happens that my little girl twin was learning to crawl at the same time that Wicked was in town. Where is the synchronicity in that, you ask? Stay tuned…

Have you ever watched a child learn to crawl? It is the most amazing thing. Think about it, we don’t TEACH them to crawl, and even though we do crawl around a little bit to get on their level, that’s not our preferred mode of travel, so it’s not like they are learning from example. Somewhere deep within them they KNOW that crawling is what comes next, even though they don’t quite know intellectually exactly what they are trying to do. The process took my daughter a couple of weeks. It was the typical process, the getting on the hands and knees, the rocking, the unintentional launch forward, the face plants, the accidental movement, and then finally… TA-DA, she was crawling. All the while, you could just see the wheels spinning behind her eyes, knowing she wanted to accomplish something, but not quite sure exactly what it was. There was joy, then frustration, some despair, and ultimately achievement and celebration! All the elements of a great story, almost Shakespearian, in fact.

Really, I know it is just nature. It’s just the way we grow and change. Everyone does it, there’s nothing special or unique about it, but it’s fascinating! I hope to never be dull to the miracles of growth. Perhaps I am aware that I only have one more shot at this… watching a child learn to crawl (our boy twin is bringing up the rear on the crawling thing. Truth be told, I’m slightly relieved at his lack of interest in being entirely mobile). Maybe that’s why I’m feeling so sentimental and “deep” about it, but it really got me thinking about my life.

One Friday evening, in the midst of my little lady’s self-directed crawling lesson, we left the kids at home with our (amazing, brave, and unflappable) babysitter so Mr. Lindstrom and I could enjoy a night out. I was fully aware that we could return that evening to the news that our little girl was a full-fledged crawler, one of the many things my children will accomplish in my absence, and I’m really okay with that. We were going to see Wicked for the first time. I purposely avoided learning too much of the music or understanding too much of the story, because I wanted to be stunned. Indeed, I was. Wow.

I am certain that the themes of feeling misunderstood and ill defined are relatable to everyone (specifically women), and this is a musical with two strong female leads. All that said the real WOW factor occurs at the close of the first act, when the “Wicked” Witch literally defies gravity. Where logic tells her it is impossible, she chooses not to accept the limits, she grabs her broom, and she flies! I cried, because I felt simultaneously inspired and sad.

My daughter was at home defying gravity (okay, learning to crawl), but moving herself forward, refusing to be slowed down by mistakes or missteps, and I have been cheering on her tenacity and gumption, and marveling at it. INSPIRED! And where am I moving myself forward, refusing to be slowed down by mistakes or missteps with tenacity and gumption? SAD.

As babies, the accomplishments happen so quickly, and they are so noticeable. They are sitting, they are crawling, they are walking, they are climbing, they are talking… etc. etc. They get a little older, they are reading, they are spelling, they are doing math, and so on. It happens so quickly, and we can measure it against what they were doing just months before. As an adult, we are still growing, but it seems slower going, and even more difficult to measure.

I can’t imagine that I’m the only mom that feels like this (or maybe I am just praying that I’m not a lone voice in the wilderness), and perhaps it’s a function of the fact that my kids are still quite small, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just trying to keep up. I feel conflicted, because on the one hand, my dream has always been to be a mommy, and I’m doing it, and trying every day (and sometimes succeeding) to do it well – this is no small thing. On the other hand, at one time in my life, I had so many other dreams, too, and those are kind of getting dusty in a closet somewhere. I have faint memories of them sometimes, but logic keeps stuffing them back down, because right now, my job, responsibility, and privilege is these little people that I made.

I am struggling with this a lot right now, and feel kind of vulnerable now that I’ve shared it. It’s a blow to the good ol’ self-esteem – this feeling of being sort of lost and simultaneously so clear. What I mean is that I cannot downplay the work that I do as a mother. I have always said, and will continue to sound like a broken record when I say again, being a mom is the most important work I will ever do. I am clear about that. However, I don’t think that it’s the ONLY work I ever wanted to do, and at times, I feel like my identity is so wrapped up in it, that it is the only work I’m doing – and I can’t remember who else I am in the midst of it.

So, what am I gonna do about it? I guess I’m going to start by crawling. I don’t quite know what that looks like, yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. I might have to save defying gravity for later, because my broom is being used to clean up my kid’s messes for the moment, but maybe once they’ve learned to use their own brooms…


Hoover Parenting (or My Version of Waving the White Flag on the Mommy Wars)

The more I am working on the revival of this blog, the more I realize that I want it to be more about the experience of being a parent than the nuts and bolts of parenting. So, I offer you my experience, because it is the only frame of reference I have, and I invite you – through comments, emails, etc. to share with me your experience.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter Brady 5 years ago, I remember feeling the anticipation of joining the sisterhood of mothers. When I had a baby, I would hang out with other people who had babies, and we would enjoy each other, and each other’s babies, and then we would live happily ever after. I remember the first moment that dream was crushed. The exact details are unimportant, all that matters is that I had shared an intention I had in parenting my children, and was told by someone that it was “wrong.” Whoa. Hold the phone… WRONG? Really? The baby had not even entered the chill of this cold world, and I was already doing something WRONG??? I had read the books, gone to the classes, done the homework, and here I was, already failing the test.

I am sure that it says something about me (and I am not ashamed of this), that I had (and still do have) faith in the sisterhood. That we are all mature and confident enough to recognize each other as intelligent and thoughtful people, all of whom are able and obliged to gather information regarding our parenting decisions, and then make those decisions based on what is right for us and our families. Isn’t that what we’ve been fighting for since the dawn of time? It appears that, for now at least, this is not entirely so, and I can’t quite (still, 5 years later) put my finger on exactly what it is that makes this not so.

I suspect it is something like this; as parents, we take our job seriously (let’s face it, it is the most important job we’ll ever do). Is it possible that when we see someone else doing it differently than we are, our gut reaction is to defend “our way?” The flaw in this is that in our desire to affirm for ourselves our own path, we are in essence critiquing the path of another. The fall-out of such behavior is the exact opposite of a sisterhood, whether that is the intention, or not. I have seen it, and I am raising my hand, because I am guilty of it. (Seriously, I think we’ve all felt like a victim here, but I am admitting to also having been the perpetrator). Now, I want to be very clear that I don’t believe that we set out to alienate each other, but I see it as a by-product of our need to identify with parenting “camps” (as I call them). Whether it’s those who choose to breastfeed, those who choose not to, working moms, stay at home moms, those who send their children to school, those who choose to homeschool, cloth diapering, disposable diapering, sleep training, or not… just to name a small few of the boxes we separate ourselves into. We naturally flock to those who do it “our way” for support and advice, and (whether intentionally or unintentionally) alienate those who do it differently. We are passionate about our decisions, because again, it is the most important job we’ll ever do.

I am so troubled by this, because I see such a wide margin of good parenting. I wish we could move to a place of celebrating each other for making thoughtful and knowledgeable decisions about what works best in our own unique positions, rather than acting from a place of defending our decisions. I am afraid that the “mommy-wars” are not a myth, and I am sad.

My personal solution to this (and believe me, it is intensely flawed - I would even say that it sucks... you'll think that's funny in a second) is what I call “Hoover Parenting.” Parenting in a vacuum. It is isolating. I have consciously made a choice to not do parenting groups (like ECFE, or less structured “mommy groups"), I generally avoid “playdates,” and often will opt to find activities around the house rather than journeying out to the park. For me, any time I am exposing myself to others who could potentially judge me, I am vulnerable. Church is very difficult for me. I am a firm believer that children BELONG in church, and in order to learn how to behave, they have to be exposed to worship, but I am constantly aware of the faces of my fellow congregants when my pre-schooler is misbehaving, and allow it (and yes, this is my responsibility) to affect my own worship experience. I LOVE being a parent. I LOVE my kids. I HATE (and I am not quick to use that word) the mommy-wars.

I am aware of a website called “Moms Like Me.” I like the website, I like what it’s trying to do – connect moms, form a community, yes, please! However, I will take a small issue with the name. I propose that we don’t need to find the moms like us, we need to actively seek out moms that are NOT like us and seek to understand rather than be understood. This is a challenge (especially for a Hoover parent like myself) because it requires us to be vulnerable, and put aside our desire to satisfy others, but I have always believed that nothing about parenting should make you feel like a failure – because again, this is the most difficult job we will ever do! Imagine what it would be like if our first reaction to someone who did something differently from us was, “hmmmm… tell me more,” rather than, “well, that’s just not right?”

We’re all in this together, trying to raise good, productive members of society. Each of us is using our own unique gifts to work with our children’s unique gifts. So, for today, find a friend, and tell them what a great mom they are (without the sub context of playing down your own parenting), and let’s support the great work that we’re all doing – whether we’re doing it alike, or not.

(And as for myself, I’m going to try to get out of this parenting vacuum every once in a while – it’s getting a little messy in here).


For the Ladies

This smiling face to the right, that's my daughter, Tillie. The daughter of whom I wrote in my last post. She's my baby, and I think she is beautiful. The other day, while talking to my mom on the phone, I said, "Mom, I just think that Tillie is so beautiful and I don't want her ever to look in the mirror and not see how beautiful she is."

Guess what my mom said to me... "Colleen, would you believe that I have always felt the same way about you?"

Psssst... yeah, I'm talking to you... here's the deal, your mom thinks that about YOU too. Now go look in the mirror, and see your beauty - Gorgeous!


What's In a Name?

The choice of what to name your child is such a personal and important choice. It is the first gift that you design for your child consciously that will stay with that child for their entire lives, even before you put into action other parenting choices, you have named that child. A name is not a determiner of character, that is your child’s gift to you, but what you call that child becomes an identity to that character they have brought to the world. To me, it is among the most beautiful embodiments of the parent/child connection. This is why my heart hurts when I hear stories of family members or friends who have made comments about what parents have chosen to name their child. A phenomenon, I have noticed, that people seem to think is fair game while the baby is still gestating, but once that baby has been born people tend to keep their mouths shut. I did a google search to see what Emily Post would have to say about this, and turned up empty handed. I like to think that she would agree with me, that thoughts regarding the naming of a child are best kept to ones self, regardless of how close you believe you are to the child’s mother and father.

**I must out myself here, I was in the camp that felt free to smack talk Gwyneth Paltrow for naming her first child Apple. I must note that Apple was born before I became a mother. My excuse, of course, is that there are many things that I have learned since I became a mother, myself, and one of them is how deeply hurtful people’s commentary on choice of name can be. I want to publicly apologize to Gwyneth Paltrow for any pain I may have caused her. It is nice to have that off my conscience. **

All of my children’s names have a story associated, but the story of the women for whom my eight-month-old daughter is named, is so special. I want to share it, because these women exemplified for me qualities that I wish for all women to possess. I thank you in advance for indulging me, and hope you find some element of them that is meaningful to you. Apologies to my family if I have gotten the facts muddled, this is my version of these wonderful women who have inspired me, and I honor them in this way:

My daughter’s first name is Tilla. We call her Tillie. She is named for my great grandmother Tillie, who was called Tilla. That’s the only backwards part of the story. My great grandmother Tilla Louise spent her childbearing years on a farm near Moorhead, Minnesota, in a town called Shelly. Luckily for me, one of her children was “Boppa”, my mother’s Daddy, Gerald. As an aside, I must note that my Boppa is one of the most influential men in my life. I adore him, as does anyone who has been fortunate enough to meet him. So much so, that I always said when I met a man who reminded me of my Boppa, I would marry him. And I did.

Great grandma Tilla had four children. Three were born before her life changed dramatically. You see, my great grandmother Tilla had Polio, and was very near to death. Boppa remembers this quite well, and it was a turning point in his life, as well (I can only imagine how the threat of losing your mom would change your life). Tilla recovered miraculously, but was never able to regain the strength or mobility of the left side of her body. As a farm wife, she did all the cooking for the family and the staff of the farm and she managed to do it (and do it well, and with a good attitude, according to all accounts - I still hear stories about her bread) with the limited use of her left arm. After her recovery from Polio, Tilla gave birth to her fourth and final child. Her children had children, then her children’s children had children, and her greatest pain was that she was never able to hold all these beautiful children. My heart aches to think about it, because it is a pain that I know. The need and desire of the mother’s heart to wrap your protective arms around these sweet, vulnerable, perfect little creatures, and to be limited in that ability. I understand. This is why we chose the name for our daughter. In my mind’s eye, I see my first baby girl, Brady, in heaven, cradled in the able and loving arms of my great grandmother, Tilla.

However, Tilla’s legacy is greater than this. It is greater than her will to survive and thrive despite her physical limitations. Tilla’s legacy is a refrain that has been passed down from great grandma Tilla, to my Boppa, from Boppa to my mom, from mom to me, and now will be passed to my children; “There is good in everyone, you just have to look a little harder in some.” Shelly was a town settled by Norwegians. At home, Tilla and her husband Melvin spoke mainly Norwegian. My Boppa’s first language was Norwegian, though he was born and raised in the United States. As they were assimilating to the culture and learning the native language, there were times that they were treated poorly, a story about a teacher who was what we would consider in these times, abusive to my Boppa because his command of the English language was not yet full comes to mind. (Pardon my personal, political commentary, but it seems as though times have not changed very much, have they?) My Boppa fought in World War II, and was in the Platoon that liberated Dachau. I prefer not to imagine the things that he saw during that time in his life because it is a harsh juxtaposition to the jolly man that I know with the sunny outlook. However, Boppa came through those experiences with that same refrain, “There is good in everyone, you just have to look a little harder in some.”

I remember the few times I was with my great grandmother, Tilla. I remember when she died. I remember the night that my mother left to be with the family in Shelly to make final arrangements. I remember the loss that we felt. This loss, I have come to understand better with age and perspective. Because I have so few of my own stories of her, I collect stories of Tilla like curios, and stow them away to share with her namesake when the time is right, so she too can know, “there is good in everyone, you just have to look a little harder in some.”


My daughter, Tillie’s middle name is Violet for my husband’s grandmother, whom this world has missed since 2007. Violet would only be called Vi. She was a legend in the Nokomis East neighborhood. To call her eccentric seems to be an understatement. To say that words do not describe her, is too common. I can use the familiar idioms, “one of a kind”, “marched to the beat of her own drum”, “one in a million”, and even those don’t seem to do. Vi said what she thought, when she thought it no matter what. Vi spoke up for herself unafraid of the chips and where exactly they may fall. She knew what she wanted, when she wanted it, and exactly how she wanted it, and because she knew, she made sure YOU knew. Even though Vi grew up in a time when women may not have been encouraged to do so, Vi found her voice, and USED it. I learned this about Vi the first time I met her, and grew to appreciate and admire this about her while she was still living and even more in her absence. I can only give my daughter the space to find her own voice, and encourage her to find the courage to use it. Vi left us the gift of many stories, which will be shared through the years with my Tilla Violet about the woman who had perfected the art of living life out loud.


Names have stories. How and why a person came to be called what they are called is part of where their story begins. Having had the fortune of naming five children of my own, two of whom did not live to learn the stories of their names, I have learned to shift my impulse when someone shares their child’s name. Where I may have, at one time, only thought of it as a title, I know a name now as a story, and I ask, “what’s your story?”


Back To School

I have to give you a warning, this will likely not be a very funny blog. In fact, it won’t be funny at all. I’m about to pour out a whole lotta pain, and if you’re not up for it, this may not be the blog for you to read.

In March 2005, I gave birth for the first time to the most beautiful baby girl who made me a mommy. She, as all firstborns are, was so spectacular and new, and she was her daddy’s and my heart and soul. All births are amazing, but there is something about the wonder of a mother’s first, how profound that moment is when you are forever changed… It is now 2010, and this past March, we observed her fifth birthday. Then, on July 5, we observed the fifth anniversary of her death. My beautiful baby girl died of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy, a diagnosis which falls under the very large, and more familiar umbrella of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). In true SIDS, there is still no known cause, in the case of Brady Judith Lindstrom, my baby, they were unable to rule out environmental factors. What this means is that her environment likely contributed to her death. In other words, in Brady’s case, she was placed on her stomach to sleep by a caregiver, and was found with her face turned in to the mattress. Her beautiful body was lifeless and despite best efforts, she could not be revived.

I was there for my baby’s first breath. I was not there for her last.

This year, my baby girl would be starting Kindergarten. I can only imagine her gorgeous round face, crowned with a brand new first day of school haircut of her red locks. I can only imagine it. Most days, the pain of her loss is an ache, like learning to live with a chronic pain, I assume, only it’s a chronic pain in the heart. On her birthday, the anniversary of her death, and on holidays the pain is intense, sometimes unbearable.

I can’t run away from it. All these kids going to school. Living, breathing, happy, giggling kids filled with the excitement. I remember holding Brady in the first days of her life, and calling my mom hysterically, “Mom, how am I going to put her on the bus?” This, of course confused my mom. What bus is she getting on? Why would I be putting my brand new infant on a bus? I was thinking about that first day of school… about that amazing moment as a mother where you let your little one use their wings.

Today is that first day of school, and while my heart is leaping for joy for all my friends whose children are testing out their wings, I miss my little girl, who has a different set of wings. As a bereaved parent, there are days that you dread and anticipate the sadness of for weeks, and there are days that sneak up on you, and then ambush you like a sniper hitting target. Today is one of those days.

Why do I share this? Not because I want people’s sympathy. I share this because I want to give voice to this experience. We are all around you, mothers who have lost our babies. For the most part we keep our pain to ourselves – mostly because unless you’ve walked our road, there is no possible way for you to understand. And believe me, we don’t WANT you to understand. Our hearts break every time another mother joins our club. We are a small club, and a usually quiet club, but when we are given a chance, we will speak loudly. We honor our babies by keeping their memory alive. I thank you for giving me that opportunity.

On September 14, Brady’s little brother will be off to preschool. I can’t wait to watch him use his wings!

Have Keeping Her Cool Emailed to you!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Popular Posts