do you believe

I introduced my wife to binge-watching. Orange is the New Black is the perfect first-time binge-watch. I love re-watching, too. Takes me right back to days when M was a baby and I’d put her down for the night and watch it on my phone until 3 am. All the old Alex and Piper feels. I never made it past season 5, so maybe this time I will.

The one thing we got to do outside of the house, in months, was rained on. But we did it anyway. We went cherry-picking! By the way, it never rains here. But naturally it rained that day. We saw it through, though, and ended up with 26 lbs of cherries. If you didn’t know, that equals about 18 pies. I’m so not making 18 pies.

I’m so excited to go home, sit on the dock, watch the sun set, feel the breeze, listen to the whispers of everything that has happened within me. I know they are there. Sometimes I feel my lake whispering to me, sending me blasts of damp leaf fall wind, or intensely silent snow-soaked nights. I hear the chirp of birds on sunny, early mornings when the lake is like glass, and it feels like anything at all is possible. Then the hot, slow and lazy summer afternoons, grass mowers droning and jet skis whining. I taste Miller Light and hear water rhythmically lapping at shore, my feet immersed in cool waves. I feel younger, and immensely old.

Sometimes I fantasize that I can buy back my grandma’s house, now that it’s all fixed up. We’d raise our kids on the hillside, building snowmen in winter, eating pears from great-great grandfather’s pear tree in the summer. We’d buy eggs from down the street, we’d spend mornings fishing for minnows, we’d have our homeschool sessions under the shade of the maple. The Christmas tree would be set up in the living room where generations had their Christmas mornings. I’d hear the house settling at night as the moon shone in from the South West through the old parlor windows. This fantasy makes me feel tremendously whole and, as joy rises from my inner being, I take a deep breath. It would be stunningly perfect, but so would a great many things. Life is never as we hope, and often better than we plan. Let’s see what the future actually brings.

life during covid

I can’t believe I haven’t written since the twins were one week old! I guess I’m just too exhausted to do much of anything. They had a good sleep routine going, then at five months something changed and they refuse to sleep in their crib. We just took it down, we’re going to put them on a mattress and let them sleep there. How the heck else are we supposed to get any sleep? Life with twins is maddening, frustrating, daunting. I love them, they make me cry at least once a week. Partly because I had such an easy, happy baby the first time around (they aren’t so easy, either of them) and partly because there are two of them. And partly because we have big girls that I wish we could give more of ourselves too… I just feel mostly defeated, a lot of the time.

In other news, we’ve been sheltering in place since before St. Patrick’s Day here in the Bay Area. We love the homeschooling. We were just about ready to quit half of what we were doing because our schedules were too grueling. Both of us working, school for Ms. 8 and two different homeschool programs for M. Horseback riding, art lessons, piano, therapists… and babies that screamed in the car. It was not doable. I was a hamster on a wheel that wasn’t running anymore, just spinning like a half dead corpse. Homeschooling both girls has been great. Not having babies scream in the car while we’re stuck in an hour long traffic jam has been great. Having more time together, as a family, has been great. Not living according to so many time schedules has been an utter relief. It was the break we needed.

But now… I’m feeling a little desperate to go somewhere and do something. I’m feeling more than a little homesick for Michigan. I’m nostalgic and moody and longing and feeling a bit like a lion pacing in my cage. The beaches are mostly closed… our trip to Legoland cancelled… you know, all the things that make life fun. I’m an ICU nurse and I have seen some COVID deaths (two, exactly) but for the most part, we never got a surge. We prepared for it, and crickets. We closed down our COVID units. My 20-bed ICU had only two beds for COVID patients, and then we ended up just not taking them at all as they went to a designated unit. Sounds like there were places hard-hit, like NYC, but the Bay Area wasn’t one of them. I’m on the neuro/medical ICU and we are filling up again with the usual… strokes, head bleeds, cancer, GI bleeds, neuro IR post-caths, sepsis, and vent weaning. I’m in charge a lot now and enjoying that role. Even though I left my beloved U of M hospital behind when I moved, and I have nothing but good things to say about them, I’ve grown more as a nurse out here. I’ve been charge nurse, I’ve been on the shared leadership council, I now have three years of experience in trauma, neuro, and surgical ICU (as opposed to just medicine in MI). I’ve been a wound warrior, a MICU champ, and a break nurse. It’s more rewarding. I love my job again. I’m starting to finally have work friends. It was meant to be.

But my dreams, oh my dreams. My psyche is still spinning in confusion. I’m in Michigan at the hospital… but wait, I don’t work here, do I? Maybe I’m per diem, while visiting. But what about Stanford? No, I have to get back to Stanford. I work there. Then I go and interview at Michigan, maybe I actually work there again. The confusion in my subconscious rears its head at least once per week. Previous relationships surface and I often go along in a dream before realizing, wait I’m married, wait where’s my wife? It’s like too much has happened in too little time, and the parts of me below the surface are barely here yet, struggling to keep up. I wonder if the people from my past dream about me, or if I was more easily discarded by their psyches as they moved on to fresher meat. Or are all mistakes, the ones that were people, ghosts that haunt us until the end?

I had this idea that this summer, while in Michigan again finally, I’d go back to the hospital. I’d walk up the sidewalk and into the main entrance. I’d stroll past the cafeteria and the giant fork. I’d use the far elevators to go to 6D, my old unit of 7 years. Where I learned to be a bad-ass ICU nurse. Heck, I’d even stroll through 4C, the first unit I worked on. I’d eye the stairwells I used to sit in. I’d climb up the play structure by the yellow parking lot. I’d say an official goodbye and maybe the dreams would settle down, and I’d finally be catching up with myself. Thank you, Coronavirus, now that will definitely not be happening. Plan #238 ruined. I’ll have to just drive by the outside… an outsider, no matter what my subconscious may think.

So I’m using this quarantine to try to lose weight, because seriously, I’ve gotten FAT. My wife doesn’t like the way I talk about it (and I try not to in front of the girls), but I actually reached obesity BMI at one point so that’s not going to work out for me. Last year I lost 11 pounds doing fitness blender and not eating anything artificial. Having those babies destroyed that loss and threw a few more pounds at me on top of it all. So since March I’m back to daily workouts with fitnessblender plus some power walking. And better eating. I’m back in the overweight category, thank god, and if I want to be in the ‘normal’ weight zone I’ve got to get down another 27 pounds. I’m convinced I’ve got this, though. If I do my working out, and eat well, it will get there. I’ll be back to my pre-California weight. Eventually. By my June MI trip I’m at least hoping to get to my pre-twin weight, which is now 8 lbs away! At the very least, I’m getting stronger. Can actually do sustained runs of jumping jacks, have increased the weights during strength training, and I’m ready to start jogging. I’m 35. There’s no reason for me to be out of shape. I’m freakin’ young, dammit. No reason to feel so gross and homely. No reason to live entirely in yoga pants. Right???

I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully in six months those before pics will be paired with some after pics that will be awesome.

By the way, we found RHUBARB for the first time in 3 years in California. Going to chop it up and freeze it so we can make the correct kind of birthday pie.





the nights are long (and the days, too)

Well, we’ve been home for a week, and we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to manage these two little ones at night. One night they took turns feeding, like a never-ending round robin, and that for sure is not sustainable. Everyone told us, “feed them at the same time! Wake the other up! Keep them on the same schedule!” and now we know why! Last night they decided to have a party at 2am, for two hours. But at least they had the same party at the same time.

The weekend was long. We are a family that normally goes and does stuff every day, so to just stay home in the hamster wheel of feeding and changing was absolutely exhausting. I’m not saying I’m excited to go back to work (um, no), but I am looking forward to the twins getting a little bigger so we can go out and about again.

The grueling schedule and constant work are finally taking their toll on M. On me. Maybe on everyone. The babies cry, the babies fuss, the babies are only happy milk drunk at the breast. The big kids feel shut out and left out. We are tired; the shininess of something new has faded into something else… parenthood. It’s a marathon, as they say, but newborns can be especially thankless in that way. Maybe they’ll just have to fit into our life, we once said casually, because of course, how else do you go from 2 kids to four? And then twin newborns laugh at your plans via scrunched up, red, and furious faces. Fists balled, legs kicking in spasms… no, we are not going along with any of this. We are doing what we are doing, and you will come to us on your knees!

Today I thought, oh gosh, I’m not going to make it through. Through this hour, this day, this week. I go into the bedroom and lie down, trying to claim my body as my own, until a baby is plopped down into the crook of my arm. I can’t help it, tears are making their way out. My daughter is raging outside, frantic in her dysregulation. It leaves me with a hysterical feeling, like the household is this monster come to life, coming after me. My wife notices and somehow scoops up babies, children, everything, and closes the door. Outside all is turmoil, but she’s left me with a couple precious hours to have my own body. When I wake up I do feel a little better.

The babies look at us suspiciously, either that or with wide-eyed surprise. How did this all come to be?? And I think, gosh boys, I’m just doing the best I can. I brought you here and now I’m scrambling to stay upright. I say outloud to my girl, honey I’m sorry. This is hard, isn’t it? It’s just hard. But please, just be quiet. Just stop being so damn upset.

Every night I look forward to morning coffee. I look forward to picking up my girl from field trip “school”, even though she hates transitions and I have to demand that she leave the van and come with me at pick up time. Still, I look forward to seeing her again after only four and a half hours of separation. Being together is sometimes so difficult, but being apart is unbearable. As much as I am the stabilizing force in her life, she is that in mine. We keep each other in orbit, and when one is beginning to spin out, the other reciprocates. We then pong off each other into the ether. But I can’t do any of this with out her.

tick tock

The twins are still cooking! It’s just insane to me that they haven’t shown any signs of coming sooner! But, Friday is eviction day, and we are more than ready. It feels like staring at the toaster waiting for it to pop up… like it’s just taking FOREVER and you want to just pop up the toast yourself and be done with it!

M’s “school” year is going fabulously. I’m feeling so ecstatic about our choice to take her out of school. She is truly thriving without the constraints of the classroom, being physically told to hold still and also the lack of nature. She loves being in the real world, learning about what is in front of her. Her first week of “school” went like this:

Tuesday: Afternoon at the ranch, where she took a hike into the hills, picked cucumbers and ate them, and did crafts… came home with her shoes soaked in mud. Sign of a good day! (And a sign that she needs waterproof hiking boots for this program.)

Wednesday: Group planning with her “class” for the week, and then spent the day at the library… interacting with the librarians, checking out books to keep in the school van, playing school with her friends, sitting around reading with everyone, and creating an obstacle course outside.

Thursday: Went to a farm where she stalked the peacocks and collected their feathers, watched one-day old baby chicks (she’s obsessed with baby chicks), met a real live Blacksmith who helped her create an “S” hook out of clay, rode an old-fashioned train, learned about morse code and train engines, etc!

Friday: Spent the day at Pump It Up, celebrating their first week as a group for the year, having a blast!

So how does that sound for “school”, eh? I’m beyond jealous, because I think she’s one of the luckiest kids in the world! I wish all children had a chance to learn so much from the real world, and have fun while doing it. M says to me, “Mom, it’s not really even like school, it’s just having fun!”

Mondays are open for M, but quickly filling up, as she has play therapy in the morning, and we’re checking out a local art class for 5-8 year olds in the afternoon. She’s also still doing horseback riding on Thursdays after “school”! With all of the things there are to do and learn, who has time for school???

And M’s reading continues to blossom, without any formal help. Every night she asks me if she can read her “Learning Dynamic” series books, and she’s making her way through them nicely. She always begs to read more and I say no because it’s late and I’m tired! I’m still amazed that kids learn to read so organically, without formal instruction. But there you have it!

Our big girl, L, is also settling into the school year nicely, after initial resistance. For reasons I don’t go into in public, we need to keep her enrolled in a formal school. But the K-8 Montessori where M went up until now is a kind, loving place. I do wish L had more outside time and more freedom, but all things considered, it’s leaps and bounds above public schools (no grades, children decide which activities they do first, etc), and L enjoys her friends and teachers. She has community there and it’s like a family. She started off a bit resistant to going to school at all, but within a week that wore off and she’s ready and willing to go to school every day, which is a great sign.

Well, the countdown continues. Babies in T minus 4 days!


taking the big leap

Today we withdrew my daughter from her private school for the foreseeable future. I’ve dreamed of homeschooling, or actually worldschooling, or real life education, since my daughter was two, but until now I’ve never had the means. With twins on the way, and with a two parent household, someone being home all or most of the day every day is finally a reality (and a necessity). And with a little bit of research into the homeschooling community around us, a lot of inner searching, much excitement, and some trepidation, we are giving it a try!

Even in the small, lovely Montessori private school that she has attended the past two years, I see my child suffering in a “school” environment. I see her growing sullen, reluctant to go to school, and feeling irritable and cranky after school, unable to focus on the activities she loves in the evenings. Why do children need to “recover” from school anyway? Because it’s work. Not good work, that you are inspired to do, but often drudge work. The school our girls go to really improves on public schools in a number of important and valuable ways, but when I looked at my very active, very impulsive, sensory processing-challenged daughter, I see a child for whom “classroom learning” is not the right fit, not right now. All of the authority that goes with a rigid schedule of academics and the crowd-control necessary for a peaceful group of 25 three-to-six-year-olds is a round-hold square-peg scenario for her.

And yet, we’ve been wavering because, well, we love the people at the school and appreciate the nurturing atmosphere that contributed so much to our children’s well-being. And also because we aren’t sure how we can possibly tolerate having this very energetic and sometimes difficult child at home 24/7. Actually, having her at home 24/7 is not even an option that she will tolerate.

The only way this could work is if we found some sort of outside programming that she could attend during the week to take the place of school. Something supervised but free-form. Something engaging and active. And so far, we think we have found a few very good options. Programs that take place all day, every day, in the great outdoors (thank you, California weather!). Programs that allow children to learn and inquire and grow at their own pace (goodbye to the reading level expectations!), while allowing for maximum movement and activity. And, by the way, it’s for a fraction of the price of private school tuition AND the occupational therapy required to fit my little square peg into that big round hole that is “school”.

But is it all too good to be true? What will it really be like, to drive her further, to have her around more, to balance homeschool activities with sister’s school schedule and two newborn babies?

We don’t know. It may turn out to be nothing like we hope, but I have a feeling it will be amazing. And I know that by taking giant leaps on faith alone, you sometimes find more joy than you ever could’ve imagined!

I’m back!

It’s been a while, blogging world! For years I was a foster parent blogger, a baby loss blogger, an adoptive mom blogger, a mom blogging about parenting a child with attachment disorder and hyperactivity (she’s doing amazing, by the way). I last left you with a happy post about meeting my destiny in the city by the sea. In that time we’ve settled down into life, and I’ve returned to my passion for healthy eating, respectful parenting, exploring and adventuring with kids, and being a critical care nurse in yet another top ten hospital. Can you believe in a matter of years my life changed so completely, and yet here I am still pursuing these same passions, this time as a happily married mom of two and hopefully more down the road!

Let’s just jump right in: I’m on day 21 of the most radical eating change I’ve ever undertaken. I’m avoiding all foods that contain artificial, GMO, or chemical ingredients. And I haven’t cheated once! I’m also drinking teaspoon of apple cider vinegar each morning, not eating after 8pm, and have even cut out even organic added sugar in most things, including my morning coffee! I experienced the Candida die-off from hell the first ten or so days, and honestly I was wondering how eating such a healthy diet could possibly be making me feel so sick. But here I am three weeks later with several ongoing health issues that have disappeared (heartburn, bloating, itchy skin, recurrent yeast infections) and a burning desire to share all of the fascinating (and gross) things I’ve been learning about what’s in our food!

Today Vani Hari’s new book Feeding You Lies came out, but before starting in on that, I have finished reading her first book “The Food Babe Way”, as well as Robyn O’Brien‘s book “The Unhealthy Truth”. The information in those books alone is enough to make you want to join an organic food co-op for life, and adding documentaries like “Food, Inc” will turn you off of most processed foods for life. But we do live in the USA, and we are surrounded by processed food all the time, so I’m also trying to figure out how to incorporate what I’m learning with what we eat as a family. Every time I cook dinner made with 100% naturally derived foods and one or both kids eats it, I think “Victory!” Every time I bring the pure maple syrup and homemade pancakes to the Mom’s group parties as an alternative, I feel the warm glow of satisfaction that I’ve done right by them, but they didn’t miss out on the party. Even just knowing that their macaroni and cheese does not contain yellow dye, or knowing that every vegetable they were encouraged to put into their mouth was grown without pesticides or GMO seeds, makes up for the fact that hey, sometimes they get candy, or drink chocolate milk, or eat something with a preservative in it. We don’t want to suck the joy out of all of life by being too militarized. Robyn O’Brien says over and over: Do not make the perfect the enemy of the good. For a perfectionist like me, those are words to truly take home and use as a mantra!

More thoughts I’ve been having recently:

-Today I learned about how tomatoes, and some other fruits, are ripened by using gases during transport. Yuck. I really want to start going to the local farmer’s market more often. Support local anyway, right?

-I feel I’m in a rut with the kids’ lunch boxes. Carrots, cucumbers, and celery for vegetables. Berries, apple or pear, oranges for fruit. Maybe it’s ok to eat the same thing most times? I like to feel a little more creative in this area, though. I’m making a mental note to scroll through the pinterest “lunch box” ideas I have pinned again.

-Eating well has not been a mental challenge for me. But exercising totally has. I had a long stretch of doing fitness blender every day, and now I’ve gotten off track again. My weight loss has plateaued and I know I need to get back on it. 20 minutes of my life on my days off really should not be too much to ask! But god, do I drag my feet with it.

-My clothes are fitting better for the first time in a year and a half. The sleeves aren’t as tight, nor are the buttons. Even my jackets/coats are not feeling as tight. Hurray!

-Now that the detox/Candida die-off has passed, it’s time to see if I can get back on the prophy drug I was given for my migraines. I wasn’t sure if the fatigue I was feeling was related to that, but now I’m thinking not.

my happy ending

It’s been one month here in the city by the sea. Where was I before I came here? My memories feel dimly lit. A haze of pain, disappointment, restlessness, and melancholy clings to them. A fog drifts through and covers them. What is there to look back at?

Happiness feels so much less inspiring when it comes to writing. And so very much more private. Pain is universal, pain is something I could shout out to the world, and all of your echoes back to me eased the ache. But happiness? It’s just so intensely mine. I couldn’t possibly fling it out here so recklessly.

And so, it seems I’ve found my path, and it wasn’t anything like what I thought it would be. It’s more perfect than that. Life as a blogging single mom traveler enticed me because it meant I’d be out there, away, anywhere but where I was. But now? I like where I am. I am home. My life branches out before me, full of all the promises that used to ring empty. Every where I turn to look feels bright and hopeful. It’s dazzling, how quickly that all changed. And all I did was jump… jump right out of the old and into the new. My faith has paid off.

Thank you to all of the bloggers over the years that kept me sane. Thank you for your likes and comments. Thank you for the posts on your own blogs that gave me a sense of community. Thank you for this space, a place of expression and venting and healing.

May your journeys all be blessed.

when I love it I really love it

It’s the eve of my first day at work but I think I will be in an office type building doing some kind of orientation… So not real patient care yet. I spent the day figuring out the Muni system. M and I took it to an indoor playground, then up the opposite way to the hospital. It’s easy to use and there are lots of apps to tell you which route and when the next bus is. Easy peasy. Hopefully it will stop pouring rain eventually and I can ride my bike.

Things I love about SF already that make me feel like I’m in the honeymoon stage of a relationship:

1) My face and legs and everything else are not freezing when I walk out the door. Also, there is no snow or ice on my car to scrape off.

2) Parents speak to their children with patience, kindness, and respect, even when the child is completely losing it. It’s like a different planet than the Midwest, the way people are parenting here. And it rubs off on me… Sure I constantly strive to not punish or threaten ever, but gosh it’s so much easier when everyone around me is parenting the same way!

3) There is so much to do, everywhere. We never have to repeat activities (if we don’t want). I got so sick of the handful of things to do with kids in my part of Michigan, and they were all so far that I was spending such a fortune on gas.

4) Speaking of, yay public transportation! I’m going to skip the parking pass and put my car somewhere maybe. Don’t need it in and around the city. So awesome!

5) People are super friendly. I have conversations everywhere I go! I feel like part of the world again.

6) I love having less stuff. We brought the bare minimum and the house was furnished and had kitchen supplies. We don’t have the years and years worth of clutter and that is refreshing. It’s easy to keep the place clean and everything has a place. And if anything breaks, well the rental company gets to take care of it!

Part of me can’t imagine going back to Michigan now. So dreary, and boring, and lonely. My mother doesn’t want to stay here, I know that. I couldn’t even rent this place full time most likely, and I hate to move again if we stayed. So probably we can’t stay, and without my mom how can I find childcare? It would eat up every penny of my earnings. But oh man, I like it here. I really, really do.

sixth day in SF

Coming up on the one week mark and getting ready to actually start working. My brain cannot even comprehend how it’s going to go. I’ve worked at the same place since a year before nursing school ended, that’s 10 years. I’ve never been a nurse anywhere else. I brought along a few things I absolutely “need” (needle drivers, pen light, coban) and they use the same charting system at the new hospital, a major plus. But still. Will I hate it? Will I be given shitty/crap assignments every single time? Will the other nurses despise travelers? Will the manager be friendly? Will I just want to go home every single day? Will I regret ever doing this?

Ugh. Pre-first day jitters are the worst. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’ve been an ICU nurse for almost 8 years at one of the largest and best hospital systems in the world. I’ve worked with world-class physicians and their fellows, residents, and interns. My patients and families almost always like me and want me back. I don’t have to get involved in any drama. It’s only for 13 weeks. Think of the money! Eye on the prize… that first paycheck on 1/20 for about $3600! I can rock this out. I can do it.

big day in the city

I’m exhausted. Today we were up bright and early to get M to her new school. It seems like it will be a good fit, and it’s about 15 minutes away by car. I don’t mind driving in the city, but gosh, things that seem close miles-wise can take some time to get to! She did great on her first day, and even let me leave half-way through. They brought her out to the car at pick-up (our first experience in a “line”) and said she did great. She told me she had fun, most importantly. I know she misses her old school and her dear friends and teachers there, but she will be super excited to see them in April! I’m just relieved that we found something affordable that fit her needs. They had tons of spaces with lots of types of activities, indoor and out. It’s not Montessori, but it will do just fine.

After school, my friend Saba and her parents and kids came to check out our place. They were pretty impressed! Then we all headed out to Pier 39, because Saba’s dad is in the USA for the first time and hasn’t seen anything yet. The kids had tons of fun chasing pigeons, riding the carousel on the pier, spotting sea lions, and dancing to the busker music. I am so happy that I have so many great places to explore and friends to do things with every single week! Feels like a freakin’ dream come true. Going to work might suck and totally burst this happy bubble I feel like I’m living in… we’ll see.

Tomorrow M will have swim lessons here for the first time. I’ve got to do some cooking, grab a few things from thrift stores, and explore the neighborhood a bit. It’s going to be a nice day, I think, with no definite plans or time tables.