Category Archives: The WORD (Faith)

Double Double Toil and Trouble

When my mama said they’ll be days like this, she was not screwing around.

I remember having a conversation about motherhood with her months ago when she said, with a shudder: “Just wait until you’re sick.  You will not believe you ever thought you knew misery before that day.”

I trusted her, but by that point the babies were six months old and we’d never been sick, not one of us.  So I put it on a shelf and forgot about it.

Then a month ago Henry got croup.  His first illness (at nine months, which I was pretty proud of).  Like the gentleman he is, he graciously passed it to each of us, so we shared colds for a week.  Mike and I swam in a sea of tissues, comforting babies, low on energy.  But it didn’t bring us to our knees.

Then last weekend, Arden got her first fever.  She had no accompanying symptoms, so I called the pediatrician who advised I do nothing but monitor her and keep her comfortable.  Her fever raised and lowered over the next two days, and then Henry caught it.  I took them both to the doctor because it was strange to have fevers and literally no other issues.  She did a thorough exam and said it was a virus, and that many babies had been in with the same experience.  She said it would be gone in the next day or two.

Since they were nearly healthy again the next day, I decided to go on our first run since the cold I’d had several weeks before.  I felt great, and was doing my best time post-birth.  I got back to the house and put the babies in their highchairs for a snack — and suddenly, I felt wrong.  My skin hurt and every single joint ached.  At first I thought I’d pushed myself too hard during the run, but the feeling wasn’t going away as I recovered from that effort.  I prepared the babies’ food and felt worse with every passing minute.

After half an hour I called Mike and told him something was wrong with me, but I had no idea what, as I’d just been healthy enough to push 65 pounds over hills in the neighborhood.  Fifteen minutes later it occurred to me: take your temperature, genius.  Bingo: 100 degrees.

From then on it was like being run over by a train.  I had to say out loud, “Just get me to the next thing, Jesus,” as I washed dishes or moved the kids to a different area.  I felt so weak and aching that I physically couldn’t play with them.  I went limp and laid on the floor, holding up a book and whisper-reading it to the babies.  I realized I would be laughing out loud at myself if only I had the strength.

It was soon obvious that Jesus had heard my pathetic wimper because the babies were chubby-thighed angels for the next forty-five minutes.  They just sat quietly playing next to the woman heroically auditioning for the role of a starfish washed ashore: arms and legs splayed, eyes closed.

In a moment of grace I will never forget, Arden looked at me, leaned over, and put her head on my arm, right in the crook by my shoulder.  She stared at me with her enormous eyes and just laid beside me, radiating empathy.  I felt so impossibly in love with her I thought it would be enough to heal me on the spot.  I also remembered she had felt this sick over the last five days, and maybe still did a little, and my heart broke.

I kept my hands on each of them so I knew they were safe, and then I pretended this all wasn’t happening, because I knew I didn’t have an out.  My mom was out of the country, my mother-in-love was working, my husband was working.  Okay — my husband was working and then had a four o’clock tee time, but I still felt guilty asking for help.  As soon as that became a conscious thought — “I feel so guilty asking him not to golf to come take care of the babies because I can’t move,” I realized how absurd it was, and I called him.

He immediately offered to come home before I had to beg, which helped me to remember this was the first such call I’d ever made.  He was understandably bummed about his plans, but made it home within an hour.  At his insistence I went to bed, announcing as I walked up the stairs that I’d sleep probably half an hour (because what kind of a mother takes a longer break than that? I berated myself)…and then didn’t regain consciousness for more than two.

Thank God this happened on a Thursday, because on Fridays my mother-in-love comes to help (alternating Fridays with my sister) so I knew I wouldn’t be alone the next day.  I felt much better through that day, but the fever spiked again as evening approached and I went to bed early, sleeping like the dead.

That Saturday we didn’t have plans, which is always cause for celebration in our house, and I told myself I was ruining it by being sick.  How could we do anything fun if I was sick?  How could we leave the house?  I had to rally!  This was Mike’s day off and the kids’ chance to get out and do something new and exciting; I had to pull it together.  But every ounce of my 101 degree temperature body was saying, Abby, move to the couch.  Do not move off of it.  So, logically, I forced myself to get dressed and put on accessories.

What is with this mother guilt?  Did I drink from a vial concocted by a gaggle of evil raccoons stirring a pot of poison in the woods labeled “Mother Guilt”?  Have I forgotten this disturbingly detailed memory?  Why do I not allow myself to get physically ill?

Mike walked into the room and saw me sitting next to the children, fully dressed and ready to go, but staring into the distance like one of the rubber giraffes they were playing with.

“Babe, I think you should stay home,” he admitted.  “You look like…babe, you need to sleep.  I’m taking the babies, we’re going walking along the water and getting lunch and you will sleep.”

He was so sincere, and so earnest about having a daddy-twins day that I finally caved.  I crawled to the couch and shouted last instructions.

“Take a bottle for each,” I moaned.  “Do you have wipes?”

As he left I burrowed under a blanket, freezing despite the heat radiating off my skin.  I was just about to fall asleep when I remembered: “Be sure to cover their legs with the thin blankets in the back of the car so they don’t get sunburned,” I texted him.

And with that motherly duty complete, I fell into a blissful two and a half hour coma.  When I woke up, my fever was gone and never returned.  Mike had a fabulous time with the babies on an afternoon adventure — perfectly happy, and not sunburned, without me.  Evil raccoon mother guilt be damned!

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Gimme a Break

We’ve come up with a little survival strategy around here, and it dovetails nicely with the relentless structure and organization I impose on us.  When we’ve had a rough night (babies up more than once), when we haven’t had an extra pair of hands to help in many days, when things generally feel awry, enter: Mercy Days.

Mercy Days are days when I tell the conductor in my head that he has the day off, and instead of fighting it, he shrugs and walks off stage.  They are the days when I let myself off the proverbial hook, when I release the three of us from any need to accomplish greatness.  In short, Mercy Days are days of, as Anne Lamott would say, “radical self care.”

For instance, normally I would never have the television on during my time alone with the babies.  I may watch ten minutes while they face away from the screen as I’m feeding them, but apart from that, it’s off.  On a Mercy Day, I am allowed to shamelessly stream You’ve Got Mail and Something’s Gotta Give, should I choose.  The babies still can’t watch it, but it’s a mental break in the background for me to escape to as I hold a toy for them or watch them play on their blanket.

I do not need to get dressed on Mercy Days.  There are clothes on my body, but they may be pajama pants or particularly unattractive leggings.  If UPS comes to the door, that door will simply not be answered while the UPS man is standing there.

These days also involve treats.  On regular days I eat meals made at home or leftovers, but on Mercy Days I pack the kids in the car and we get to drive through the only acceptable drive-thru and my guiltiest pleasure: Taco Time.

Please allow me to make an aside about Taco Time.  Firstly, Taco Time sits in sharp distinction from Taco Bell.  Taco Bell is cat food.  Taco Time is America’s Mexican gift to itself.  I do not order complicated items — it’s a beef taco (or two…I am still producing food for two other people, after all) an order of Mexi fries and I’m on my way.  Those Mexi fries (tator tots given a more glamorous name) should be considered a drug, considering the opiate-like effect they have on me.  Also!  Not to be forgotten: the ice.  Taco Time is the only place in the world I know of besides Evergreen Hospital to serve pellet ice.  Pellet ice is just what it sounds like; little cylinders of textured ice that pops apart at the merest attempt to chew it.  It is bliss for those who love to chew ice, as I do.  I always order an ice water, just to get that cold, crunchy bite of heaven.

So you can see, Mercy Days and Taco Time go hand in hand.

Sometimes it’s the wrong time of day to visit a Taco Time, in which case, obviously, we drive through Starbucks.  Starbucks in the middle of the day represents everything decadent about stay-at-home-motherhood that I always envisioned.  I used to picture stay-at-home-moms having oodles of time to do whatever they wanted and Starbucks in the middle of the week was always a clear part of that picture.  Now I laugh out loud at my misconception, but on Mercy Days, the stay-at-home Starbucks is essential.

Speaking of food, there’s no need to make dinner.  Frozen pizza or calling the mister to pick something up on the way home is perfectly acceptable.  Having a glass of wine at the ready the moment my man walks in the door also goes without saying.

You’re probably wondering how often this slap-dash day occurs.  I’d estimate once a month.  We’re not falling apart at the seams over here, we just need elastic waistbands once in awhile.

These days, rare as they may be, prevent the total breakdown that would surely await any mother who is very aware that her job doesn’t allow for a day off.  My little alarm clocks don’t include snooze buttons.  I can’t call in sick if I don’t feel like changing a diaper or pumping six times a day.  So, I create respite when I need it.

The essence of Mercy Days is grace.  My life is spent earnestly; I give everything I can to my babies.  I read them every book we own, I teach them as much as their little brains can take in, I lead them through physical drills to improve their motor skills, I take them on daily walks, I talk and sing and dance and do whatever it takes to be the steward of them that I know I am called to be.  But thankfully, mercifully, God created grace to fill the spaces when I cannot do all that I should.  He created rest, and breaks, and tiny bouts of junk food to allow me to regain my sustenance to move forward with energy and gratitude.

Oh, and showering?  Laughable.

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Disaster Baby Class Reunion

I always knew there were bound to be some disasters in going out with the twins.  And now I’ve encountered them and lived to tell the tale.  Of course I’ve encountered several, but will only tell one tale.

About a month ago, Evergreen Hospital invited us to return for a class reunion to see the people with whom we took our twin birthing class — to meet each other’s babies and learn how everyone was doing.  This was really appealing to us because we don’t know any other twin parents (apart from acquaintances in EMOMs and one friend in the city I don’t see nearly enough) so we decided to attend.  There were just two little hiccups: Mike had class on the night it was held, and it was planned for 6:30PM, otherwise known as Baby Unhappy Hour (no booze included).  Not a problem, I thought.  I’ve gone out with the babies by myself countless times, and I really want to see the two other couples from our class.  Onward!

I arrived on time (!) and made my way down the hall.  I saw a large group of parents in one room, but noticed they all held one baby, so I assumed there was another room for the parents of multiples.  I went room to room — no luck.  I pushed the stroller back to the main room and asked the woman in charge if there was another meeting for the multiples group.

“Oh, no, we just plan one big reunion a month and anyone who can come, does!”  she said cheerfully.

I tried to mask my disappointment, but probably failed.  Not only would I not be able to “relate” to these parents, but I didn’t know any of them so had no vested interest in their new babies.  The entire point of a reunion is that you know the people prior to being reunited…am I right?

I took a seat and felt twenty pairs of eyes staring at me as I wheeled the twin stroller to park it next to my chair.  I heard Arden stir, just as I knew she would, because it was their dinner time.  I looked at the clock; there was no sight of either of the set of parents I was waiting for, and it was already twenty minutes past the class start time.  After debating for a moment, I decided I’d already made the effort so I should stay and try to redeem the situation.

I pulled Arden out of her seat and fed her a bottle, and just as I did Henry woke up.  I did my best casual “hahaha” to the parents around me who were watching closely to see what I would do.  I was suddenly very aware of the fact that I was the only single parent in the room, and the only one with more than one baby.  I said ten silent thank-yous to God that I had brought two bottles, instead of my usual routine of breastfeeding one while bottle feeding the other.  The image of that happening in this room was so unimaginable I physically shuddered.

I grabbed bottle number two and plunked it in Henry’s mouth, keeping him in his car-seat since I couldn’t hold them both.  I held Arden in the crook of my right arm, with my hand wrapped around her holding the bottle in her mouth, and used my left hand to hold Henry’s bottle in his.  Trying to play it cool to the audience before me only had the effect of making me break out in a sweat.  I was a little duck: calm on the surface, paddling like crazy under the water.

Feeling like something of a baby master at this point, I noticed that Henry was fussing, and he never fusses when eating.  I talked to him and tried to soothe him, but it wasn’t working.  Oh Lord, I prayed, please just get me through this and get me out of here.  I will never again display the absurd audacity it took to attempt this, I promise, just get me through the next ten minutes.

I pulled the bottle out of Henry’s mouth and as soon as I did I knew — I hadn’t removed the spill-proof top to his bottle.  He had been sucking on an empty nipple for five minutes.  This realization sent a stab through my heart, the kind that accuses oneself of being a monster of a mother.  However, I was still holding and feeding Arden, so I had to put her bottle between my knees, which made her cry, and then unscrew Henry’s bottle to remove the stopper without spilling it — all while everyone watched.   Perspiration collected under my arms.  I mentally grimaced at the twin moms who had not shown up.

I finally got Henry’s bottle set and continued feeding both babies until burp time.  This went about as well as can be expected, as Arden cried when I put her back in her seat and Henry took about a year to burp.  I told myself “that’s it, I’m out of here,” but then realized we were only two people away from me “introducing myself and my baby.”  One would logically think: who cares?  You don’t know these people and will never see them again.  Despite that sound reasoning, I forced myself to stay in my seat to avoid looking like a failure.

The insanity of that decision is clear to me now, but in the moment I tortured myself to prove I could do double the work with half the help.  Now I see it just proved what a prideful asshat I really am.

I rocked Arden with my foot and held Henry in my arms and smiled broadly to the class, “Hi, I’m Abby, and this is my son Henry and this is my daughter Arden, and they’re three months old and she weighed 7 lbs 14 oz at birth and he weighed 5 lbs 13 oz.”  There was an audible gasp in the room because most of the other babies weighed less than Arden at birth.  I responded with my fun fake laugh and answered the usual round of questions.

Just then one of the twin couples walked in the door…beam of light, ray of sunshine.  We quickly huddled and began comparing notes, and as we did I felt the sting of realization that my road had been smoothly paved and hers had been straight through the woods with no clearing.  Shortly after recovering from a near-death cesarean section, she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer — cancer! — and was in recovery.  She’d had surgery, and the follow-up rounds of treatment had forced her to quit breastfeeding.  I wanted to swallow my head for the dramatic pity-party I’d been throwing myself.  To put me right over the edge of self-hatred, she handed me a gift for the twins.  She might as well have handed me a grenade, because my heart was splattered across the floor in awe.  Almost bleeding to death?  A cancer diagnosis?  And you went shopping for my babies?  It was beyond my understanding of selflessness.

At that moment the evening shifted.  I put crying Arden in her car-seat, covered her up, and pushed her around the hallway where she fell asleep instantly.  Henry was pleasant and content, and I spent the rest of the reunion getting to know the darling twin girls of the woman who no longer felt like a classmate, but a friend.

I left the building forty-five minutes later knowing that I wasn’t the one who had survived a disaster.  As I passed the nervous and hopeful-looking pregnant couples walking in for their birth class, I smiled at them with the special knowledge of all that lay ahead of them.  One woman whispered to her husband “Oh my gosh she has TWINS” and I thought…it doesn’t matter.  You’ll have your own challenges, as I’ve had mine.  And regardless of their severity, you’ll come through it.

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Fluffy Bows and Thick Mustaches

Before we knew we were having twins, we seriously considered waiting until the birth to discover the sex of the baby.   We loved the idea of the grand surprise as well as finding out as millions of others have throughout history.  But once we discovered they were twins, that idea was dropped faster than a particularly offensive diaper.

The immense amount of prep work and planning for twins did not allow my Type A brain to consider the option of getting double of everything in green and yellow.  An ambiguous twin nursery?  No, and no.  Apart from that, the sheer desire of wanting to know who they were tipped us right over the edge, and we decided to find out the genders at the first opportunity.

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It wasn’t long before we came up with the idea of a “gender reveal party.”  These are a relatively new social gathering, where the results of the gender-revealing ultrasound are shared in front of family and friends in a creative way — cutting into a cake to see blue frosting, opening a gift to reveal a pink onsie, you get the idea.

We chose to do balloons being released out of a two large boxes, because balloons are a sign of celebration, and they are highly visible to a large crowd as they float up into the air.

We went to our ultrasound at nearly 21 weeks and the technician was totally supportive of keeping the genders a secret from us during our appointment.  She helped by having us look away when the screen was going to show the babies’ delicates.  She then filled in a piece of paper I had brought along, which said:

Baby A is a:   GIRL      BOY
Baby B is a:   GIRL      BOY

There were check-boxes next to the girl and boy options, which she checked and then highlighted with the corresponding pink or blue highlighter, and then stuffed it in an envelope we’d brought.  It was deliciously difficult to walk out of the office with that information in our hot little hands, but the promise of the surprise was all the motivation we needed.

Many people asked us over the previous months what we wanted.  I never really answered that question aloud, because I was a thousand times more excited about having twins than I was about having one gender or the other.  I knew in my heart I’d be thrilled with any combination.  If I had to say which made me slightly unsettled, it was two boys, because I grew up with only sisters and didn’t have any idea what raising boys would be like, but I actually really wanted a son.  I’ve also always hoped that I would one day have a daughter, due mostly to the fact that I have such a great relationship with my mother.  Mike felt the same way, but the opposite — he would be thrilled no matter what, but he’d love to have a boy in the mix because he’s always wanted a son.   But really, we spent countless hours talking about how wonderful each combo would be, and how especially fabulous one of each would be because we’d get to experience raising a son and a daughter at the same time.

The next morning Mike went to QFC and asked the lady at the balloon counter to fill the boxes he’d brought along according to what was in the envelope he was about to hand her.  This made no sense to the balloon lady.

“You want them to be pink and blue?”

“No, I want you to read the envelope, and then fill the boxes based on what it says.”

“Do you want me to tell you what the envelope says?”

“No — again, this is surprise to me; you will know, and I will not.”

(ten more minutes of explaining)

“Oh!  I get it!   How exciting.  But it’s my break time so I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”

(Mike stifles rage)

Several people asked why we would trust the revealing of our genders to an hourly-wage QFC employee, but we knew we had the envelope with the results, along with ultrasound photos the technician included, so we could verify that the balloons matched the genders once it was all over.  Incredibly, the balloon lady managed to complete the task, and we headed to my parents’ house for the party.

My sisters were enormously, crucially helpful in planning the creative aspects of the party.  They were all over Pinterest getting great ideas and then we had a sisters’ sleepover to craft everything the night before.

It totally paid off.

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We created a board for people to cast their votes of which gender they thought they babies were, and then they wore pins to signify their choices.  Pink bows for girls, black mustaches for boys.

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We posted signs around the room of fun facts about twins.

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And of course the food was blue and pink themed.  I mean, how many chances in life for this, people?

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About an hour into the party we took photos of the guests showing their votes.

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And then it was time for the big reveal.

Mike and I, along with our parents, were bundles of nerves.  Honestly, how many times in your life are you aware that the next five minutes will literally change the entire rest of your life?  It’s too enormous to comprehend.

Mike and I went into another room to collect ourselves, remind ourselves of what was really happening, and say a prayer of gratitude for the babies, no matter what sexes they turned out to be.  Then we joined the crowd of about 30 friends and family for the opening of the boxes.

One of the most incredible things about this party was the people who weren’t physically there — we had relatives and friends on Skype and Face Time staring at us live as we opened the boxes.  It was an insane Jetsons’ moment to look into a crowd and see our siblings and best friends staring back at us on iPads, ready to see the big reveal live.  We were so, so moved that they would attend from, in some cases, 3,000 miles away.

We chose to have the grandparents be the ones to open the boxes, to honor them and their role in our children’s lives.  We let my parents go first because they would be first-time grandparents through the twins.

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Here is a video of the big moment.

When those pink balloons slipped into the air, my heart absolutely exploded with joy.  I felt an immense rush of love and gratitude, which I could only process with tears that filled my eyes and closed my throat.  I kept saying “I have a daughter, I have a daughter” which was something I’ve wanted my entire life.

I will also fully admit that my immediate second thought was:  oh praise the Lord who knows me enough not to give me two boys!  Amen, and amen.

I love the hug that my mom and I shared in that moment, because she wanted a granddaughter as intensely as I wanted a daughter (and, as a mother of three girls, she wanted it not to be two boys more than anyone can comprehend).

Even as we turned to open the second box, my mind couldn’t move past the fact that I was having a daughter.  I kept saying it over and over — the shock was palpable.  I felt so full of joy that my anxiety for box #2 really melted away.  I kept thinking how amazing it would be for the next balloons to be blue because my dad would have a grandson, my mom would have to learn how little boys operate, and my in-loves would have another grandson (they currently have one and three granddaughters).

Mike’s nervousness had not melted away.  He was thrilled to have a daughter, and had talked about wanting a girl for weeks, but he really also wanted a son.  So once the girl balloons were opened, the pressure was on.  He was visibly nervous as Glenn and Colleen began to unwrap the second box.

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Here is a video of the big moment.

I remember two things about those blue balloons floating out of the box:

1.  My soul rocketing out of my body as I realized we were going to have one of each — the feeling was like fireworks going off in every corner of my mind.  The gratitude and joy were measureless.

2.  Suddenly coming out of my own shock in time to see my husband three feet above me, screaming at the top of his lungs in way I have never heard him scream.  He leapt across the room with such abandonment, he later said it was an out of body experience — he simply couldn’t react any other way.  I was so thrilled to see his joy, his excitement, his unstoppable ecstasy.  It was one of the greatest moments of our lives.

hershey

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Spectacular!

I have no ability to play it cool about this, so I’m just going to say it:

I’m pregnant!

WITH TWINS!

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This is far and away the most spectacular thing ever to happen in my and Mike’s life, and we’re completely astounded that God would give us two.  TWO!

I have never talked about it on this blog, but I have wanted twins for many years.  Not just wanted, craved.  I’ve never really fantasized about having a baby, but twins consistently made me feel overcome with desire.  This cannot be logically explained beyond the fact of what my mother said to me upon finding out I was having them.

“This isn’t like God granted your wish to have twins.  You were always going to have twins because He wanted you to — so He gave you the desire in your heart to have them long before you did.”

She’s absolutely right.  There’s just no other explanation.

But let’s back up, shall we?  Let’s replay the scene of Mike and Abby finding out this little tidbit of information.

We found out we were pregnant shortly after Thanksgiving, and we went into the doctor for our eight-week ultrasound about three weeks later.  We answered the nurse’s  standard questions of our medical history and that of our families, I got checked out for overall health, and then the OB-GYN came in.

She looked exactly like Elizabeth Banks, which made me like her right away because nothing proves you’re already a good mother than judging your doctor’s professional abilities solely on youthful good looks.

She talked to us for a little bit and then opened our chart and said, “OK, looks like you don’t have twins on either side of the family, so we’ll rule that out…”

I interrupted, “Oh but I would LOVE twins!”

“It’s true, she always has,” Mike chimed in.

She blinked at me.  “Why?  Oh my gosh, are you serious?  Well, I won’t go into all the reasons you don’t want twins, because what if you have them and then you hate me?”

She lead us down the hall to the ultrasound room and we were clearly excited, but also nervous.  As I changed into the tent-like gown, Mike held my hand and told me that if there was nothing in the ultrasound, it would be OK, and we could try again, and not to worry.  I agreed completely, but told him if nothing was there I would cry a little bit, but then I’d be fine.  With that healthy communication out of the way, in walked the doctor.

She turned on the monitor and proceeded to move the wand around, and said, “OK there it is,” but before she could even finish that thought she gasped and said, “OH MY GOSH THERE’S TWO.”  Her eyes were enormous and she pointed to the screen where we saw two tiny glowworms with hearts that fluttered like confetti.

My mind went white hot with a rising hope so intense my only way to cope was to confirm, again, and again, and again.

“Are you serious?  Are you joking?  Are you serious?  Are you serious?  Are you kidding?  Are you kidding?”  I said this to her in an absolute blur, talking as fast as I could while I watched her face and the screen, back and forth looking for this to be real, because if it was, my whole life just got made.

She shook her head in disbelief and said very calmly, “I’m not kidding, I’m not kidding, look right here, those are two hearts and two babies.”

I believed, but the happiness was so extreme that my heart and brain couldn’t function on a rational level, so I started laughing, laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, laughing with the most outrageous joy I’ve ever felt in my life.

Finally I crawled out of myself enough to think…Mike.  What does he think?  He didn’t want twins the way I did…and I turned to him and saw the biggest smile I have ever seen on my husband’s face.  His eyes were the size of sand dollars, but it’s that smile I will always remember.

We hugged in a way that conveyed everything our overwhelmed souls couldn’t express.  It was the fiercest hug we’ve ever shared.

It was as if the entire night sky had exploded in that room, every twinkling star, the wide full moon.  Everything in our lives was instantly transformed, instantly ruptured into a creation more beautiful than we knew possible.  My uncontrollable laughter (that was still going on) was the only way I could function as I realized my most absurd, least attainable, out-of-my-control dream was coming to life.  Two lives, actually.

“You’ll have to stop laughing for a second,” the doctor said while laughing herself, “or I can’t get a photo of them.”  Every time she snapped a picture, one of the twins disappeared because my stomach muscles were all over the place with belly laughs.

“I will,” I said, trying to breathe, “Just one second.  You are witnessing the most surreal moment of my entire life…” and I burst out laughing again, feeling exactly like the second grader who tries to hold in laughter at the most inappropriate moment.  I took stuttered breaths so she could get some good shots, and then she said she couldn’t tell yet if they were identical or fraternal, but that we’d likely know at the next appointment.

When we got back to the exam room, we were on a kind of high that happens only a handful of times in a person’s lifetime.  The doctor wanted to get right down to business (“I need you to understand that breastfeeding will be your full-time job”) but Mike and I kept interrupting with new revelations.

“Oh my gosh now we really need to find out the sex — there’s two!” Mike exclaimed.  “And look at her hands, she’s shaking!”

I was, I couldn’t stop.  I tried to listen as she told me to add 600 calories to my daily diet, but the sheer joy in my body was crowding everything else out.  I couldn’t stop thinking what that must have been like for the Lord to see us — He always knew there were two, and on this day He finally got to see us be let in on the secret.  It still blows my mind.

A nurse poked her head in the room after the doctor left and said, “So!  You and the Duchess!”  Which was like a kiss, it was so sweet of her.  She couldn’t possibly know my obsession with Kate, and yet she reminded me we were pregnant together.

We went to lunch to celebrate and couldn’t even order food, due to shock.  The waitress came by four times to take our orders and we hadn’t stopped gaping at each other long enough to look at the menus.  Finally Mike blurted out, “I’m sorry, but we can’t order because we just found out we’re having TWINS!”  She shrieked and congratulated us and then came running back five minutes later to tell us she’d told the whole staff.  We just laughed.

So here we are — 21 weeks in:

21 Weeks

The doctor told me I would measure about four weeks ahead of a woman pregnant with a singleton (can you believe doctors have this robotic word for babies who aren’t twins?), and the bump is not disappointing.

More to come…much, much more.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events), The WORD (Faith), UpWORD (Beauty)

Raindrops on Roses

Yesterday I was at Trader Joe’s for my weekly grocery run, and as I waited in the checkout line I looked out the door to the parking lot.  It had been lightly sprinkling when I’d come in, but now it was a colossal downpour rarely seen in Seattle.  I looked down at my clothes: no raincoat.  Earlier that morning, like an idiot, I’d told myself “April showers, May flowers…who needs a raincoat?”

After paying, I pushed my cart outside and stood under the awning.  I took one step out from under it and was splattered in drenching rain.  I jumped back and spent thirty seconds debating how long would be too long to wait for the rain to pass, but decided that was a truly pathetic response for a nearly fifteen-year Seattleite.  In order to reduce the soak, I visualized my approach like a sprinter pictures crossing the finish line — I’d unlock the doors, grab both grocery bags, open the door, toss both bags inside, and then hurry back to return the cart.

It was all planned.  What’s that they say about the best-laid plans?

I dashed along the sidewalk to my car, which was parked in front of the building, so I didn’t have far to go.  I grabbed the handle of the cloth bag and the handle of the paper bag and stepped off the curb to move toward the car door.  I never saw the cement parking stop that caught both of my feet — I fell so fast I didn’t even realize I’d fallen.  I was standing one moment, and the next I was lying face-first in an inch of water, all of my groceries splayed out before me.  My mind raced to catch up to what was happening, but all I could think was “Why is the puddle red?”  Suddenly I realized a bottle of wine had shattered and was soaking not just the cement but my groceries, too.

“Oh my gosh are you OK?” a woman behind me asked.  She looked truly horrified and stopped to stare.

“I’m fine, I think,” I replied, not knowing which way was up.  “I think I’m fine.”  I finally stood up and tried to triage the situation.  As the rain continued to pour, I couldn’t decide what was most urgent — my cell phone lying face down in water, my leather purse lying on its side in the water, or both bags of groceries which were now soaked through.  It’s incredibly bizarre how the brain functions when it’s in minor shock — all of this seemed to last for forty-five minutes, but actually occurred in about twenty seconds.

I picked up my purse, keys and cell phone and threw them over my shoulder.  I grabbed the cloth bag which wouldn’t break on the bottom, and determined that the groceries inside were mostly OK.  I threw it in the car, splattering a pint of water all over the seat.  I gingerly picked up the shattered glass fragments from the concrete and put them in the disintegrating paper bag with the ruined groceries.  It occurred to me just then that I’d now have to re-shop for all of these items, and the thought of it completely overwhelmed me.

I picked up the bag and carried it inside, in a daze.  I stood in the doorway dripping water from my hair and clothes, and put the bag down on the floor.  I looked around for an employee but couldn’t really get over the fact that I was standing in the middle of a grocery store fighting back tears, and didn’t want anyone to see me at all.  Finally I walked up to the nearest one who had a chipper can-I-help-you look until she turned and saw me and dropped her jaw.

“I need help,” I said feebly, “I fell in the parking lot and need a garbage can for my groceries…” I didn’t finish before she interrupted.

“Oh my gosh, oh you poor dear!  Are you OK?  Are you hurt?” she asked earnestly.

“I’m alright,” I replied, realizing for the first time that my left knee was actually throbbing and my left hand was scraped.  “I picked up the glass because I don’t want someone to get hurt…” I trailed off because she had already picked up my soaking bag and was guiding me toward the other side of the store.

“We’re going to get these replaced for you,” she said matter-of-factly, the idea of which had never even occurred to me.  “Just give me a moment while I see what you have here.”

I bit my lip to keep from crying because her kindness was all it would take to break the dam.  I grabbed a paper towel and started wringing the water out of my hair and off my clothes.  I looked down at my leather boots which were beyond help, and realized I was wearing leggings that should have torn, but were surprisingly intact.

The woman came out of the back room with a piece of paper and a basket and started running around the store filling it up with all of my ruined items.  I was shocked to see this and wanted to trail after her to tell her I could do it, but the odd thing was, I really couldn’t.  If they had thrown away my groceries I know I would have turned around and driven home without the items, because I was still shaking and my knee was aching.  Toss in my humiliated face and soaked clothes and you have someone who is not willing to wander the aisles for food.

I closed my eyes and heaved a major sigh of gratitude that the employees of Trader Joe’s were such angels.  In doing so, I must have looked even worse because a fellow shopper walked by, looked at me, and stopped.

“Arrrrrre you OK?” he asked.  I told him I was fine and mentally noted that however bad I thought I looked, it was probably twice that.

The lady with my groceries came back and said, “I’m so sorry but we’re all out of the ground flax seed you had in your bag, so we’re going to refund you for that.”  The idea that she was inconveniencing me with her lack of flax seed was so laughable that I did just that — I laughed.

I looked down at her name-tag and noted her name – Nancy – so I could write a composed thank you note, as I didn’t have the words to tell her thank you sufficiently.

Another employee walked up to me and handed me the two dollars and change for the flax seed, and then double-bagged my fresh groceries.  Just then Nancy came walking over with a bouquet of flowers, and I caught my breath at their generosity.

“Nancy, I can’t thank you enough.  I really am so embarrassed and I’m so grateful for your help,” I told her.  “The flowers are just above and beyond, I don’t know what to say.”

She instantly saw that I was one word away from bursting into tears, so instead she hugged me.

I walked to the car with my groceries and flowers, amazed at the kindness of strangers.  In the words of Anne Lamott, God was really showing off on this one.

I got in the car and finally cried like I’d wanted to since the moment I fell.  Except these tears weren’t just filled with a bruised knee and ego, they were also filled to overflowing with gratitude.

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Elbow Grease

Even though Mike and I have yet to experience unemployment in our marriage, I am still overly conservative and penny-pinching in our daily lives.  Call it my nature, but I wish I could sweep our funds into a nice little pile in the middle of the floor before stuffing it all in a pillowcase and hiding it where Mike can’t find it. 

I don’t do this without cause.  Mike’s spendthrift ways are thoroughly documented somewhere in a book called “There’s Always More Money Where That Came From,” a book I failed to read before signing the marriage certificate, by the way.  Similarly, my frugality is the stuff of legends, legends that felt like a myth to Michael before he married me and realized I would circle the block for days for a free parking space.

So it’s easy to picture the clash of ideals when one of us carries a homemade lunch to work every day and the other frequents the local Nordstrom for a refreshing cafe lunch and a shoe shine.

Mike has long argued that a shoe shine is a great decompressant, and he always tells me about his engaging conversations with his favorite shine artist, Kim.  To avoid any raised eyebrows, Kim is a man.

I have always lamented Mike’s shoe shines as a needless extravagance, and he has always defended them by pointing out that they cost a mere $2.50.  Well, $2.50 plus a $5 tip.  And, he points out, it’s helping out his main man Kim, and who can argue with that?

This is the point in the conversation when I roll my eyes.

Well, I used to roll my eyes.  All of that changed one Sunday when Mike invited me to get my boots shined after church.  I asked if we could really shoot the moon and get that cafe lunch, too.  Needless to say, he agreed.

After enjoying a bowl of crab bisque and too many slices of sourdough, we meandered downstairs to the shoe shine room near the entrance of Nordstrom.  I started to ask Mike just how often this little shoe shine date with Kim really takes place…is it once a month?  Every two weeks?

“Kim!” he hollers to the man furiously buffing a gentlemen’s shoes.

Kim turns around, leans in toward Mike until he’s inches from his face, and says, “My man!”

Must be every week.  At least.

“What do you want today?” he asks Mike.  He hasn’t noticed me standing with him yet, and that’s when I remember that Mike once told me that Kim is nearly blind.  All at once I’m realizing the implications of a blind man shining shoes all day, and I’m stunned silent.

“We’d both love a shine,” Mike replies, gesturing toward me.  “This is my wife, Abby.” 

We exchange hello’s and he invites us to sit while he finishes with his current customer.

“I been slammed today, man,” he says to Mike.  “It’s almost the holidays and people are coming in a mile a minute.  This one woman walked off in a huff when I said I was backed up five pairs.  People don’t get it.  I’m the only one working here today!” 

Mike sympathizes with him and assures him we’re in no hurry, so he can take his time with other things.  He asks if we’d like to change the TV station or choose from the reading materials.  A feeling begins to creep up on me, a feeling of being mortified that someone thirty years my elder is about to wait on me.  I feel a sweat-inducing class-consciousness, and I realize I’d rather run naked through the store than have him shine my shoes. 

It occurs to me that the feeling harks back longer than I can consciously recall.  My parents always raised me never to have others do for me what I could do for myself.  This includes things like housework, landscaping, washing the car, laundry, and apparently, shoeshining.  Part of it is about not spending money on those things, but the other part of it is the fact that what is my responsibility is my responsibility.  I made my shoes scuffy, therefore I should have to buff them myself.  Case closed.

“Ma’am are these boots black or brown?” he says, leaning over my feet.  It’s the worst reminder of his lack of sight.

“They’re black,” I reply, “and I’ve never had a shoe-shine in my life.  I haven’t taken good care of them,” I admit. 

“Well, you’ve got to come in here,” he says.  “You’ve got to get your shoes done, not just to make them shine but to treat the leather.  Especially in Seattle!  The water dries out the leather and you have to have them oiled.”

I feel both gently chastised and justified by what he’s said.  Yes, I need to take better care of them, and yes, it is my problem.  But it also occurs to me that he’s emphasizing that this is just part of owning shoes — you go get them shined.  It’s not about pretentiousness, it’s about caring for the things you purchased six feet away in the shoe department.  It’s the same as getting an oil change (which my dad has always done himself by the way…poor example, then).  My making this a class issue is really my issue — I’m uncomfortable; he’s not.  After all, the shoe shine costs $2.50 — it’s designed for every shoe owner to take care of their shoes.

I look over at Mike, who couldn’t be more at ease.  He’s telling Kim about church today, since he asked what we’ve been doing this morning.

Kim apparently agrees with our morning choice.

“So you’re paying attention, you’re tuned in,” he says.  “People I meet here always think that their days are not numbered, but let me tell you, they are.  You’ve got to get to know the Lord before you meet Him, am I right?!” 

Kim steps into the back room to gather different supplies, and I turn to Mike and tell him something about how utterly ungrateful I am for having an easy job sitting at a desk all day while Kim is on his feet, working his tail off for far less money.   I tell him about a teacher I had in seventh grade who used to tell us about her trip to India and ask us a haunting question:  if we were ever in India, would we pay to take a ride in a rickshaw?  Would we do what felt degrading to the driver in order to help them make money?  Or would we refuse to take a ride, on principle, but then know that we had just kept that person from making enough money for the day?  I’ve never forgotten that question, and I still don’t have an answer.

Mike looks at me and says, “Kim is working hard, yes, but there’s honor in that.  He’s here every day serving his clients, getting paid, making what we hope is a living wage.  Think about it: he’s blind — he has every excuse to be at home, and instead he’s here working his tail off.  I’m going to support him as much as I can because I admire him, and I want him to be the best paid shoeshiner in the freaking state.”

I don’t know what to say, but I suppose I agree.  I want to support Kim, and I also want to be socially responsible.  For today, that means swallowing my issues and letting him shine my shoes. 

Kim returns and finishes our shoes.  We tell him he did an incredible job, because he truly did.  I can’t believe how much better my boots look, and I tell him I’ll return.  He asks one favor of us before we go.

“Would you email the management and tell them that you liked your service today?  That woman I told you about earlier threatened to email management and complain that I couldn’t wait on her fast enough.”

We are both horrified and vow to send an email that will remove all doubt as to the nature of his service.  We pay him and begin to walk away.  Normally, I would have a hurricane of a heart attack if Mike tipped someone more than 30%, but in this case I just feel proud of him for the far higher than 30% tip he hands to Kim.

“And,” I add, “I’ll tell everyone I know with a pair of shoes to get over here.” 

Nordstrom, Bellevue Square: Open 9:30AM – 9:30PM Monday through Saturday, 11AM – 7PM Sundays.

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