Have you ever wondered why you did it? Why you had kids? Why you wanted kids? It’s a trip. Then you walk in your room from the deck. A place to sit and take five. To your children watching Bob the Builder X-Mas, you have the heater on and it’s a cold winter night. Making it nice and cozy in the house. Your daughter is sitting on an arm chair with your pillows wrapped around her saying, “Jack, where am I?” he replies, “I can see you” But he giggles, he’s amused. I say, “Awww, how cute”, and they are, absolutely 100% adorable. But I do have the T.V. on. They are perfect with the T.V. on and when it’s not on, Jack asks me over and over again until I turn it on, which I know is my own doing. I give in 80% of the time these days. He’s so persistent, and I’m so overwhelmed in that sense, the keeping up with highly active twin’s thing. With being the perfect parent. Meaning trying to teach them how to behave. Or how I expect them to behave. Or “Go play with your toys”. It’s just exhausting. I realized I am on Full Time duty at least thirteen hours a day. When I work on my new manuscript, drawing from my time before kids, trying to have kids, I am struck by the amount of free time I had, even when I worked a full-time job because I would always get two full days off a week. All day and night. So, I ask you again, have you ever wondered why you did it? Not that you would change anything about your life at all and love your life and kids!
Sunday Special. Studio Time. Family Yoga. And putting my foot down.
The day started off mellow, I told Jack and Fiona first thing in the morning that I wasn’t going to listen to their whining or fighting today. I had had enough. Alan is sick today, I need to take care of the babies by myself which is unusual for a Sunday. I find a family yoga class nearby, it doesn’t start until 11:00 so I have plenty of time to get there toting three-year-old twins! Jack and Fiona are into the idea of going to a yoga class. We get to the studio, it’s in a Daily Method studio. I fall in love, they have a kid play room and offer childcare that corresponds with a few classes a day. There is a woman giving an essential oils class, and a Daily Method Barre class is just finishing up. The ladies look like they’ve had a great workout, very friendly too. No one seems annoyed there are several three-year old’s running around. The Yoga instructor has her three-year-old daughter with her. We set up our mats in a circle. Fiona does the whole class, she does a perfect down dog, hand stand on the wall, bridge pose, she tries everything the teacher says, during the louder, more active moves Jack joins in, he dances and does volcano and lions breath. Me and my babies hug a few times, I pretend I’m eating them during one of the movements, it’s so enjoyable for everyone. That might become a new routine! After yoga class, we went out for Pizza and checked out a Space Museum; a couple is showing their collection of space suits and space craft stuff, actual pieces, like control panels and seats. They have a collection of model rockets and space tools. Most of the paraphernalia is Russian, she said a while back the Russians were so broke they were selling this stuff, she said it was hard to get the American stuff. When we get home, I put Jack and Fiona down for a nap. “If you guys don’t take a nap or be quiet and play I will separate you” I say. I give them about thirty minutes. They are laughing and carrying on so I go down. Jack has the sink overflowing with water again. I separate them, Jack in his bed, Fiona in the other room. They go right to sleep. I come straight to me studio, I start where I left off Friday night. I draw and paint. I paint three portraits just like in my dream. I listen to Miles Davis and smile. I did it, I controlled my own universe. I was able to give myself and my children exactly what we needed today, it went smooth. Now it’s time for Jack and Fiona to wake up from their nap. Dinner to be made, and the rest of the evening until bed time.
I sit myself next to the kitchen window so I can see when Jack, Fiona, and Alan get home. Alan took them down to the park. They wouldn’t take their nap and when he got home I was at my wits end with a sink full of dishes and a look of despair on my face. How can a three-year-old boy, so sweet, so smart, be so difficult? My son Jack is pushing me to the limit. I have started thinking he is a bad influence on Fiona, wondering if it’s time to give them their own rooms? Alan says no, it’s too early. Today when Jack and I went to pick up Fiona, Jack clung to my leg. He wanted me to carry him back to our car. “No, I’ll hold your hand” I say. I am holding Fiona’s hand, she is wanting to go, she pulls me a little, but I tell her to wait. “Jack, are you ready to walk?” I ask. He cries, holds tighter. I start to walk a little, he gets up and says, “No”, he hits me and grabs my shirt. I feel like crying. We finally get to my car, I put Fiona in her car seat first; Jack sneaks by me into the car, he plays the same annoying game of not getting into his seat, moving from front to back so I can’t catch him. “I am not taking you anywhere until you start listening to me” I say. He finally gets in his seat. On our way home, we stop for smoothies, I give Jack and Fiona a health food brownie to share. Jack wants more, I say no, he cries. At home I give them a nice hot bath, dress them in clean, comfy clothes, and read a book. It’s nap time. I want to lay down myself. I try to rest, I hear Jack and Fiona playing and laughing. It’s O.K., I think to myself. After 45 minutes, I go in, Jacks in the sink letting water flow over onto the floor, Fiona is on the counter with toothpaste all over her body, and the mirror,I have to give her a shower.
The moment they leave I get online, I search for figure drawing workshops, or groups. I received an invitation for a Figure Drawing Intensive next week at SFAI, all week long 10-4. I fantasized about going, tried to think who could watch the kids? Then I thought, this is what I need, figure drawing, just draw for hours from a model, how amazing and good for my soul would that be? I quickly realize it’s a pipe dream, not possible now. I finish cleaning the kitchen, start the dinner and they are home. Jack and Fiona run up the stairs, laughing, they run right outside to the back yard. I feel a little bit sad that my presence at this moment is so inconsequential, but glad at the same time so I can finish preparing dinner in peace. “Mom Fiona needs you!” Jack comes running in to tell me. I thought I heard crying before. I go outside, Fiona is laying flat on her face, I pick her up and her mouth and chin are bleeding. She was climbing on the swing and fell off. I hold her until she feels better. Dinner time is difficult, Jack doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t want to put on pants, makes a mess in the bathroom, knocks over the doll house, then as I’m telling him, “Don’t sit on the window sill, stop playing with the blind” He falls out the window onto the deck. A huge lump forms on the back of his head. I go outside to pick Jack up, Fiona leans out the window and starts laughing at Jack. All Jack wants to do now is go to sleep, it’s 6:30pm.
All night I worry, is there something wrong with Jack, why is he so difficult? Why won’t he listen to me? Fiona is so easy, so sweet. I’ve started going to Yoga again and meditating. It helps, to remind myself on a continual basis of the quiet sanctuary I have access to any where ,any time. I go back to breath, knowing I’ve been through so many challenging things in life, knowing I can get through anything. I know my studio will be waiting for me, I have been drawing a lot, and drawing with Fiona which is so wonderful. She loves to draw, I feel so lucky to have a daughter that loves art. Before we picked up Jack at school today Fiona and I went to the art store and bought sketch pads and new pens. At the park I sat and sketched while the babies played, until Jack took off all his clothes. I put his pants back on him twice, then I was over it and let him be naked until we left. Fiona sat and sketched in her new sketch pad with her new pens next to me, under the oak tree, on the little bench at Castle Park. I have to fight with Jack to get his pants on before we leave. Back home I lock them in their room, turn on the TV and take a shower. I finish writing this, which I started yesterday, now I hear them calling for me. My heart flutters a bit with anxiety. I really can’t take a night of tantrums and talking and asking me for things I don’t want them to have to eat. I just want a nice relaxing evening. What can I do to accomplish this with three year old twins? Two children that are very different. If it was just Fiona it would be a breeze, we could read books, play with stuffed animals, practice sign language, I could give her a bath and feed her dinner, then put her to bed without a hitch. Not Jack. I get anxiety just thinking about it. I really do. I love him so much, I miss the old Jack, my sweet boy. The boy who loved me reading books to him. What should I do?
Birds chirping, chimes making music, Jack and Fiona talking to each other in their locked room, it’s naptime. It’s possible they won’t go to sleep, but I still need my break. Fiona and I were early to pick Jack up from school today, I made the mistake of going in his classroom causing chaos. Jack got up and poured out a basket of toys and every classmate of his, (who had all been sitting quietly enjoying their lunches before I arrived), started laughing. I was intrigued, why was it so funny? Because Jack was doing something “Bad”? I don’t know, but I apologized to the teacher for causing such ruckus. We walked upstairs and noticed the door of the Episcopal Church was open. It is a historic building, with beautiful stained glass, I’ve always wanted to check it out inside. I tell Jack and Fiona, “Shhh, be quiet and don’t touch anything”. The ceiling is high and vaulted, there are beautiful stained glass windows. It smells old but inviting. It feels sacred, I want to just sit here and rest. Fiona is quiet and calm, not Jack. He bounces from one thing to the next, “don’t touch” I say repeatedly. I wonder if I need to take them to a service to expose them to what happens in here. I want to come to just absorb the space, but the sermon would destroy this sacred space for me, the praying to God or taking Jesus into my heart would ruin what I’m feeling right now, the spirituality this church inhabits, the connection I feel to it right now would be stripped away from me to sit through a Sunday service. I would sit thinking in my head over and over again, “I don’t believe in God, I’m an atheist, how can these worshippers believe in heaven and hell?” It would ruin my experience. I’m connected to the sacred space, the ritual of thinking of others, of wanting peace on earth.
We leave the church and head to the grocery store, not my first choice of activities with three-year-old twins. Jack and Fiona tell me they want to “walk” in the store. I agree, but say, “Don’t touch anything or you are going in the cart”. We get green smoothies to ward off our sugar addiction, I’ve been weening myself off, gone through withdraws and depression, it was one of the hardest things ever to admit I’m a sugar addict, that was step one. Then to read all the labels and find out how many grams of sugar is in my food that I consume and give my family. I’ve always said, “it’s OK I worked out today”, then I would have my chocolate chip cookie, or my bowl of cereal or my flavored yogurt. There are so many times in the day where “I want something sweet”. I want it so bad! We wait for our smoothies to be ready. The juice bar is located in the cakes and cookies section of the grocery store. It’s hard to handle, I want to buy a chocolate cake, but I don’t. We get our smoothies and they are really yummy. Jack starts bouncing again, bopping from one thing to the next, touching things he shouldn’t so I put him back in the shopping cart, I put Fiona in the inside part. We grab what we need on our way to the vegetable isle. “Can I get out and walk?” Jack asks. “Can I help you pick the vegetables?” he says. This sounds reasonable, I let Jack and Fiona out of the cart. “Stay by me, don’t touch anything, watch out for that person” I say. (Over and over again) Jack grabs a red bell pepper and takes a bite! The other customers in the store seem both annoyed and amused by me and my children. I BARELY have them under control. I’m embarrassed because I’m one of those people now, with unruly children running around the store, and I’m proud because of their love of vegetables! As I get to the cashier the woman in front of me is telling the story of Jack biting the pepper to the cashier, “There they are” she says, pointing to us. She tells me she also had a son named Jack, he’s all grown up now. She says my Jack reminds her of her Jack, as my Jack is messing with the automatic doors ignoring my calls to “Come back in the store”. She says she found out to late that her son had ADD, “Not that that your son has it, But…”
I’m starting to feel at ease again, I had to put on a show for Jack and Fiona, it doesn’t seem like they will sleep. I need more time to myself, studio time. I haven’t had much time to paint in a while. But I can hear a lot of rumblings coming from their room. It might be hard to get in my studio today, Fiona is crying and calling me. I want something sweet. What to do, what to do. The sounds of the birds enter my consciousness again, the chimes, I take a breath in my nose and slowly let my breath fall out of my mouth. Then yawn. I’m tired already, it’s only 3:00. Maybe I should just let everything go that I want to do this afternoon, like painting and my studio. Or see if I leave Jack and Fiona in their room longer if they will fall asleep, but that means they will be up till nine! Now they are up, I’ve released them from their room and decided to keep them up until bedtime, which will be 7:00 tonight!!!
Step one: Yell “FUCK” in a long, slow, low, voice as the strawberry jam jar slips out of my hands and crashes onto the floor.
Step Two: Say: “Jack step back, be careful, there’s glass everywhere.”
Step Three: Stay calm
Step Four: get a broom and dustpan, try to push everything to one area, being careful not to drag too much jam across the floor.
Step Five: throw away as much of the mess picked up by broom and dustpan, rinse broom and dustpan in sink.
Step Six: get a wash cloth, get on hands and knees, carefully wipe floor from one end to the other, very carefully, getting up all the tiny shards of sticky glass. Throw away dishtowel, it’s too difficult to rinse without cutting hand.
Step Seven: get a clean warm damp dishtowel and repeat step six with spray cleaner.
Step Eight: take break, the final step of vacuuming and mopping whole floor can wait until later, best after mealtimes are over, the children will inevitably make more messes as the day progresses.
“It’s only his bones that are left, a bit of rotting flesh and skin. His brain, his soul, who he was is gone” I say. The smell of dead sea lion comes and goes with the wind. Fiona starts crying, “I wanna see the sea lion, I wanna sea the sea lion” over and over again. She’s so sad, she keeps crying for what feels like an eternity. I try to console her, “There’s so many more Sea Lions in the ocean”. But realize she needs to go through this. Jack’s not as disturbed by the concept of death and gone forever. He says he doesn’t mind because “He gets to eat it now”. He doesn’t shed any tears for the dead sea lion. We are at Kehoe Beach, Pt Reyes, a place I used to come to on a weekly basis. I tell the babies this, “before you were born I used to take my dog wiggly here all the time”. I try to think back if I have ever taken Billy to this beach and for some reason I can’t remember. I can’t remember bringing Alan to this beach either. Was I keeping it for myself? For me and Wiggly? He was a good dog. I am excited to share this special place with Jack and Fiona today. They can hike the whole way in and out by themselves, with lots of breaks. I must work hard at first to keep my, “it’s just a bit further, we can stop when we can see the ocean” thoughts and wants to myself. Jack sits down. “Look at this dirt, let’s play with this dirt” he says. “There’s better sand at the beach” I say. Then I take off my backpack and sit down with Jack and Fiona on the trail. I look up and there’s a hill of yellow mustard plants, a blue sky. I wait patiently until I’m not waiting anymore. I am enjoying taking it slow. Meandering to the beach. I say to myself we are happy right here, we can sit here all day. We get up and start walking again. Jack and Fiona walk over pieces of wood covering muddy patches, sometimes they walk ahead moving into their own worlds, talking to each other, sometimes one or the other needs my attention to show me a bug or hold their hands.
We finally make it to “Our spot” on the bluff overlooking the magical blue Pacific Ocean, sitting in the warm sand with the sun on our backs. We have our picnic, collect wild flowers, Jack and Fiona play in the sand, get naked, run back and forth, even though I try to tell them “conserve your energy we have a long walk back to the car.” Many wonderful beach goers pass us, we chat, the babies say hello and pet their dogs. So many nice people. One lady stops to chat, “the sea lion is dead” Fiona says. The way she says it sounds like she’s processed the information and while she still mourns the sea lion’s loss, she seems to accepts it. Today I am taking Fiona and Jack to the Marine Mammal Center. To show the other side of death, to show there are many live sea lions and baby sea lions too.
I did it! I successfully dropped Jack off for his first day of preschool! It worked out perfect because Fiona didn’t have school today, so she got to “come check out Jack’s school”. To make things even cooler, I pulled them to school in their trailer with my bike. It was a quick ride, which felt shorter on my bike than in my car! It’s the most beautiful day ever, again! Fiona and I stayed for maybe fifteen minutes, then I told Jack we were leaving. He said he wanted to go home, but didn’t cry and when I told him the teachers had a special box of toys for this situation, Jack and I hugged, and said “I love you” and we went our separate ways. Fiona was a bit clingy, on our walk up the hill; she wanted me to hold her hand but I couldn’t because I was pushing the bike. I felt guilty for not being able to comfort her, but I had to tell her to toughen up. The transition is complete! Operation Twin Separation a success. I’m using my bike for commuting again, Jack and Fiona are in preschool programs, the birds are singing and the sun is shining. The perfect way to start my birthday week!!!
Yesterday after we got home from our bike ride, our first one, that was SO fun, Jack, Fiona, and I hung out in the back yard. They got their clothes off as quickly as they could, I filled up the kiddie pool, sprayed them with the hose, and gave them popsicles. It felt like I was in a dream. The warm air all around me, watching the birds in the tree’s, babies playing nice, Spring time. I had a dream the night before, two women were singing, “Oh how the world has changed”, then they kissed. I was in a deep, restful sleep. I felt joy, I felt hope, I felt that the world had changed for the better, a deep change. When I woke up I felt re-born, my brain felt amazing. I was so relaxed, it was like all my anxiety was gone, I felt normal. It was the night the clock moved an hour forward. I have been re-born with the spring, shed a layer. Last night the moon was bright yellow. It cast light on everything and shimmered through my bedroom windows. I didn’t sleep as well last night, but am still relaxed.
I want to live in peace. In peace with myself. This is my birthday wish. I am happy and appreciative of my life. I spent so much time worrying about dying, I’m looking forward to spending the rest of my life enjoying living until I die. To let go and be free of the fear of aging, of my body changing. To be free of self-consciousness about this vein or that brown spot. To not obsess over my heart, to know I’m doing the best I can and that’s good enough. I’m ready for fun again. I am ready to honor my anxiety, my difficult times, accept them as they come and move through them because there is always light at the end of any tunnel.