How a Germaphobe Survives Preemies

If you saw my twins in the yard, you would never know that almost a year and a half ago we were in a self imposed quarantine and didn’t leave our bedroom or allow others to come in for about four months. No, I’m not joking. For four months, I obsessively monitored every object that came past my bedroom doorway, washing and sanitizing teethers, blankets and pumping equipment, and avoided physical contact with anyone that was not my husband or my mother. I nursed and pumped around the clock. I did this all in the name of the premature immune system, and avoiding cold and flu germs from school aged nephews and nieces, and commuter family members. By the spring of their first year, my girls came down to the living room and played at a distance from my young nephews.

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When my girls were born eight weeks early and at the start of cold and flu season, I did not hesitate to establish rules of contact and visitation with family and friends almost immediately after leaving the hospital. Family members would describe me as a germaphobe even before having children, so it was no surprise to them that I would be hyper sensitive to hand washing and contact when they realized I would be bringing home not one, but TWO fragile humans from the NICU.

As I pick up spoons caked with avocado and beef off the floor and wipe them on a paper towel before returning them to the lunch bowl, I reflect on what a journey this has been. I have never feared fresh air and sunshine, just germs from other people and their tiny people. From the time the girls were a month old we were bundling up and taking regular walks all over the neighborhood, but we hung a small plastic stop sign from their stroller that we received as part of our exit packet from NICU, that read, “Please wash your hands before touching mine.” It was awesome. It stopped everyone from reaching in a grabbing baby fingers (which immediately go into their mouth,) and many people shared with us that they wished they had something like that when their children were small, because it becomes an awkward task asking strangers not to stick their hands in a baby’s face. Some people don’t mind at all, and some talk about how these encounters build up immunity. I kept telling people, one day they will be sneezed on, they will eat dirt, and will roll around with all of the other kids-their immune systems have some extra developing to do now though, even more so than a full term newborn. We’ll get there.

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When spring arrived and my girls were about four months old, I gradually allowed young cousins to interact closely with the babies. We set out a large blanket on the floor and big kids and babies could play on hands and knees or crawl and giggle next to each other as long as big kids washed hands and no one was sick. I did not allow any toys that went into the girls’ mouthes to be touched by the kiddos though. Unfortunately at this point, that was usually every object they encountered. If cousins wanted to hold babies, we’d wait till after bath time or when they were out of their school clothes and sports uniforms and washed hands. Kisses were on top of the head. Even with adults, I would place a burp cloth over clothing so the girls weren’t licking or laying on a dirty shirt. I continued to breastfeed, and we avoided several stomach bugs and upper respiratory infections. By the time it was summer, our requirements were simple: wash your hands before touching the babies, and if you’re sick, stay away. The baby toys were handled more, and the girls started playing off of their blanket and on foam squares or the carpet.

We ate lunches and dinners on the front porch in our camping high chairs and spent a lot of time outside. In late summer, we took a big family trip and enjoyed floating in the lake and playing outside with our cousins. For their first birthday in November, we had a big birthday party withIMG_0931 lots of family and friends. I was still nursing. The girls were passed around to everyone, but I still kept a close eye on anyone that looked ill. I would gently usher the girls away from a coughing adult or send kids to wash their hands when I saw them wipe their noses.

Once H&G were walking, things got interesting! Walking and teething will break a mother that fears germs. Especially when there are twins and you cannot make your eyeballs move in two different directions simultaneously. Not only are they putting everything imaginable in their mouthes, but now they can get to it on their own, and sometimes in that instant you’re not looking!

Things that I’m pretty sure my toddlers have eaten:

-Hair
-Dirt
-Leaves
-Shoes
-Bird Poop <—-I thought I was going to have a heart attack!* But they were fine, and so was I 🙂
-Books
-Paper
-Lint
-Twigs
-Pebbles
-Really, REALLY old food that they managed to find deep down in the crevices of their high chairs
-Old Almond Milk
-Plastic
-Clothing tags
-Each others boogers <—Twin life
-Bugs

And one time I pulled a PENNY out of my daughter’s mouth. That could have been very dangerous, but luckily she gave herself away. We’re STILL teething, so I know the fun isn’t over yet!

My reactions to toddler noshing have mellowed, because I really have to pick and choose what is going to take up time and attention. Not everything can be earth shattering or send my blood pressure through the roof. So these are my hard NO’s:

-Don’t touch or eat poop
-Sick people stay away

-Avoid chemicals/pesticides
-No touching/eating garbage, whether on the floor or in the can.

Even if we’re under the weather, we will always get sunshine and fresh air. We still want people to wash their hands when they come home from a store, a school, or any busy public place. We eat mainly organic foods, and my girls and I have been dairy and soy free because of allergies. I very recently (at 18.5 months) stopped nursing my twins. This was bittersweet and I definitely cried. It marked a new stage for my growing girls and made me feel like my security blanket of providing that little extra immunity for them disappeared. I’m happy to say though, that at 19+ months we have lived alongside several flus, stomach viruses, upper respiratory infections, and croup, and have never been sick with any of them. I hear that we’re bound to catch something between now and 24 months, but I feel like my girls have strong immune systems now. I’m so thankful that we were able to give that extra time to develop and ease into interactions with a very large circle of family and friends, and I am so thankful that I was able to breastfeed twins for as long as I did.

You know you’ve made progress when other people are running around, pulling all sorts of things out of your toddler’s hands, and you’re like, “ehh, it’s fiber.”

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Finding Your Tribe and Other Resonating Memes

As I write this, I reflect on a weekend filled with family and events-celebrations and stress, laughter, great food, children running around, and schedules.

Since my girls have been born, I have an increasing awareness that I don’t quite connect with others the way I used to. This is not a bad thing, but it’s different, because I’ve transformed, and my family is growing. Sometimes, it feels sad, like something has been lost. Other times, it’s empowering because being a mother forces you to use your brain differently, like learning an instrument or speaking a different language. I see the world through changing lenses. There is the individual, the caregiver, the educator, and the partner. Mothers are now on my radar. I understand the way they drive, and why they sleep on the couch until you come home.

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The thought is not original, but a good friend sent me an internet meme one day that put words to this idea that your energy attracts others with your energy. The meme read: “You’re vibe attracts your tribe.” I think of a tribe as individuals that share a common energy that usually drive them towards common goals. Many people who I consider part of my “tribe” are not mothers. They’re not even women. Conversely, there are many women and mothers that I don’t feel very connected to. These individuals have different priorities, and their lives have aligned differently to attain their goals, so our paths don’t cross much, either by chance or design. And that’s OK. 8671909

Being an adult means that there are choices. You are no longer confined to the small circles and limited perspectives that you once grew up with. Sometimes your vibe changes, or the tribe changes. Instead of forcing a connection, it can be a freeing moment to realize that there are others in the world with shared goals, that engage regularly in positive and encouraging dialogue, and that infuse their interactions with joy, enthusiasm, clarity, and support even when they’re just passing through.

This brings me to another favorite meme-ok, it’s actually a quote from Heraclitus.

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He’s a good person to meme out with if you’re looking for quotes about change. I’ve realized that trying to recreate a golden moment in time is not only impossible, but a waste of the precious present. Even if you reconnect with the “tribe,” after a long time away, and you tinker with all of the variables to closely resemble that original experience, it will be different. Time is transformative. It may still be wonderful, but it will never be the same, and that can be exciting and memorable in its own way.

So now I segway to soaking up the good stuff. This will sound super dramatic and may even elicit an eye roll, but I live every day as if it were my last. Perhaps the thought of backpacking across Europe just popped into your head-something you’ve alway wanted to do. Or maybe you’re thinking of starting your own business as you reflect on a less than satisfying job you’ve plugged away at for years. For me, I think about the giant, whole body hugs I get from my girls.quote15 There is seriously nothing better. I have not lived my day to its fullest until I’ve thoroughly snuggled with my babies and kissed their cheeks, blown raspberries on bellies, and tickled baby feet. When I hear the tandem squeals of laughter, or get to sing to both of my girls sitting in my lap, I think to myself, I could die happy. And I mean that. I do wish I had traveled more before children, (who doesn’t?) and I would love to add some professional accomplishments to my bucket list, but really, those are all a far second to being present in the moment and really enjoying my children.

That’s all.  Just good vibes, and grateful for another day. ❤

I’m Too Young For A Retrospective!

Throw back Thursdays, Flashback Fridays. It’s nice to look back sometimes.

This guy.

This guy.

Recently I started throwing back to some old artwork. After 15 months of reading board books and making animal noises, it was good to be reminded that at one time, I was a creative person. Not even just a little creative, VERY creative. Involved in art making. Owned-a-potter’s-wheel, an-easel, hung-six-foot-drawings-from-the-ceiling, stayed-up-all-night-silk-screening-T-shirts, and-made-my-own-stationary, kind of creative.

And then two years went by and I didn’t pick up a paintbrush. How did this happen? My potter’s wheel became a table for old shoe boxes filled with photos, or tubes of paint that were also neglected. Really pathetic stuff. All of my paintings, drawings, and photographs from college were shuffled in and out of storage units, basements and attics so many times, I didn’t know where much of it was anymore. I was starting to feel a bit like I lost my security blanket. I needed my creative things around me. They reminded me.

I’m too damn young for a retrospective! I was thiiiiiiis close to reminiscing about my days as an artist, ready to gather all the painted, polished, carved things in a box and tuck them away in some dusty trunk packed in an attic to show my kids someday. My art skills peaked in college, and I was done, I told myself. Hubs is the artist, I’ll just manage his career.

Then one day I’m flipping through one of my many sketchbooks and looking through some old t-shirt designs I never had the chance to print. There’s a pen in my hand, and I start doodling in the margins and kind of playing on the sidelines of my sketches. Three piles of laundry sat next to me. This is a waste of precious time, I think, no direction, no plan, no purpose. The pen rolled smoothly over the page. Babies started throwing toys out of the playpen. Who do I think I am calling myself an artist? You’ve lost it. The pen kept moving. Almost time to make baby food. It can wait ten minutes. The pen didn’t stop. You have no idea what you’re doing, this doesn’t look like anything. But the ink started to fill the page.

A pen is the best way to jump back in, because once you put that sucker to paper, you can’t erase it. No going back, you’ve made a mark and should probably just keep going.

I’ve been asked: why spend so much time hand making party decorations, editing photos, even decorating a room that you won’t be staying in very long? It’s because these small acts are exercises in creativity-or maybe just a warm-up. They’re also the residual effects of an artistic existence. Creative emissions need grounding, even in the most mundane of activities.

And now, there’s me and this pen, moving forward.

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Daily Meditations

I start every day with daily meditations.  My mother would call them prayers.  Hubs would probably call them wishes.  I like to call them meditations.  securedownload

Every morning I step into the shower and look at this beautiful window.  It has the perfect light pouring through it at about 10am.  I stretch my arms up to the ceiling and open my hands and say,

“Thank you for this day, thank you for this life.  May I always appreciate everything and everyone around me and never take them for granted. Please let me be open to all the great things this day has to offer.”

and then I begin my meditations.  They are the same every day. I add people to my list that I’d like the universe to watch over, that I want to focus some positive energy on.  I say them while I adjust the temperature of the water, while I wash my hair.  My thoughts wander sometimes and I have to bring myself back to my ‘bullet points,’ the big areas I like to concentrate on.  Then I move on to the ‘dashes’ the sub headings of my big meditations where I mull over things in more detail. Some days when I’m in a rush and know I only have a short time before my head is inevitably filled with other things, I just hit the big three:

I want them to be safe.

I want them to be healthy.

I want them to be happy.

I say these to myself a second time when I mentally pass into the section of meditations about my kids.  And I try to remember this: Everyone’s versions of these things may look completely different. And how wonderful that is. One day our children will bump up against other people’s versions of these three goals, and how they deal with understanding, accepting, or rejecting them will probably have a lot to do with how we raise our kids.

That brings me to the dashes:

I want them to be rational

I want them to be thoughtful

I want them to be creative

I want them to be balanced

And I have no idea what any of that looks like yet.  This is the stuff that keeps me up at night.  Well, that and my kids.  My kids keep me up all night.