Tuesday, February 28, 2012

There's only one rule...

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."  KV

That's all...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Body Image.

The Contentious Photograph.

So, there it is...  This is the photograph that caused a bit of trouble in the little Facebook world of Joanna.  My husband, Sam, took this on a snowy day as I was getting ready to get into the hot tub.  I was turning away because I was embarrassed, but then I put it on my Facebook page.  Why do women do that? Apparently to get attention.

My closest friends were proud of me:  "Wow you look great."  (Remember I did have twins, in 2007.  Big twins, not little puny twins.  I had twins. I had twins and I’m tall and thin, a size 4 when I found out I was pregnant. People could not believe how huge I could be from the side, but from the back, I looked normal, not even pregnant. “It’s all baby.” Then we found out it was all “babies.” Twins).

But, maybe understandably, others criticized me, (behind my back of course), saying I was showing off and it was inappropriate, etc.  I guess I was showing off a little.  I was surprised when I saw the picture.  I thought, "Whoa, that's a good angle for me, you can't even see all my stretch marks!"  I think moms of twins who get their "bodies back" should be able to walk around naked if they want to. I don't care what they do to look good again, let them show it off.

My body is far from perfect.  I'll post one of my stomach close up.  My stomach exploded with stretch marks at the end of November, when Stella turned herself around from the breech position. I also remember that very night, as she spun herself around, I felt my abdominal muscles finally give up; the grand moment of Diastasis recti! (I called my OBGYN office the next day and said, “I feel like something bad happened. It feels like my muscles ripped apart.” Nurse Tabby said, “Yes that is probably exactly what happened. You are having twins, and this is normal.”)  I couldn't sleep that whole night.  She was working so hard, and I was so shocked because, how could she possibly have room enough to maneuver herself with her big brother in there too.  She did it, though, and now that I know this little girl, I see that this determination fits her personality.  She was Miss Stella in the womb.  She would do what she wanted to do and no one was going to stop her.  So, my muscles ripped the Hell apart while my baby accomplished something spectacular.  I can't feel bad about that.

Yet, I sometimes cry when I look at what used to be my belly button. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the perfect little belly button I had known for 26 years, you know? No one prepared me for the changes. Everyone said I would bounce back, but then when they found out I was having twins, they stopped saying that.

Nursing is a whole different story. Now did anyone warn you that your boobs would shrivel up and die when you stopped breast feeding? I went from the 34 C to a 34 F some days when nursing, to a 34 AA. Awesome. Skin flabs on some ribs.  I looked in the mirror and didn't know who I was.  I didn't look like myself.

But hooray, this sad story has a happy, silicone ending. I decided to heck with all of the people that said pregnancy is beautiful, it’s natural, and after it's all over, accept who you are, and love your baby making body, and I went to a consult with a plastic surgeon. He looked at my stomach and said, that my muscles were too strong to sew them back together.  He said, "Your abs are tighter than mine!"  I looked down at my stomach kind of sadly, but then proudly, knowing I'd done all that by myself.

My stomach is still covered in stretch marks and my bellybutton is this weird-sort-of weird-thing, but I have boobs again! I went through all the guilty feelings of being selfish, and vain, but in the end I think it’s our right to have our bodies repaired after they have been damaged by pregnancy. Pregnancy was trauma to my body, and I got it fixed. People fix cars with cosmetic scratches and dents all the time. Those flaws don’t prevent the car from running, but most people choose not to drive around in a dented, scratched up car, right?

Yet, I decided to take take the picture off of Facebook.  Don't want to offend anyone.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Nazi Crane?

I took 2 1/2 years off from working to take care of my twins.  And, I would not have been able to go back to teaching if my mother had not been their caretaker for the following 2 1/2 years.  My mother spoke of family tradition, and her own grandmother living in the house with them growing up.  Families work together to raise the children.  She saved me. I love teaching.

During her time caring for the kids while I was at school, my mom found the same TV cartoons on Youtube  that Sam and I watched in our youth - The 1980's cartoon version of Transformers, and He-Man were Michael's favorites.  Stella was introduced to, and became enamored with, Linda Carter's, Wonder Woman.  It aired in the 1970's and was originally set in World War II, the era in which the original comic book began.  As it was set during World War II, many of the episodes involved Nazis and war events.  After the first season the show was moved into present time with some TV magic and finagling.  (Wonder Woman doesn't age, Steve Trever's son, Steve Trever, is now the co-star of the show).  However, because they both watched all the seasons of Wonder Woman, WWII and the Nazis were now in my children's vocabulary.

Flash forward to preschool:  Michael's talent as an artist is apparent.  My sister, an art teacher, started drawing detailed robots with him when he was very young.  He has these colorful marker pictures all over his bedroom, tacked to his walls.  He loves drawing robots.  He loves drawing mechanical inventions.  He loves drawing Nazis.  Yes.  He draws elaborate war vehicles, somewhat futuristic, mixed with airplanes and tanks, and he clearly draws the swastika on the enemy vehicles. He draws these at preschool.  Recently, when I was picking the twins up from school,  Michael started handing his friend a picture he drew.  I quickly snapped it up and said, "Michael, can mommy have this one, I love it," and the little boy exclaimed, "Hey,  Michael gave me that Nazi picture!"  Oh shoot...

Nazi Castle
So how did it all go wrong?  1. Sam let him play a WWII era fighter plane game on his iPad.  (Blame the husband first and always).  2. He knows his Grampy John was a Marine in WWII on a big ship.  3.  He asked me about the Nazis and I told him (in 5ish year old terms) about WWII. He understands the Nazis were very bad.  He somehow also got it out of me that the allies were fighting against Japan as well.  The clever little fellow suddenly showed interest in looking up the Japanese flag in our Atlas book, and now he also draws Japanese enemy vehicles, clearly emblazoned with the red sun.  Oh shooooooot.  4. I bought some beautiful picture books that gently tell stories from WWII (which also showed the Nazi symbol in the pictures). This is where he really fine-tuned his artistic representation.  Can you see the slippery slope?

The problem is my kids are too gosh-darn smart, and they ask too many gosh-darn questions.  While intelligence and curiosity are wonderful, what my children will think of next also scares me.  I have to be on my toes at all times.  If I'm tired or cranky, I can't be impatient and blurt out a non-age appropriate explanation.  I also cannot try to change the subject; That doesn't work... Not with these twins...

So... at age five my children know about slavery, racism, Nazis, the atomic bomb, war, the definition of "sexy," and a little about the menstrual cycle. Shoot?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dear Laundry,

You are growing up now, and you need to start being independent.  You are huge already, and it's kind of embarrassing that you just sit there and do nothing.  Honestly, you have become clingy, and I can't seem to go anywhere without you reminding me you are there, waiting for me.

Listen, You should start taking care of yourself.  We both need you to take care of yourself.  I can't spend my entire life taking care of you.   I'm going to give you your space,  and let you figure this out.  Please get yourself together, clean yourself up, and go where you belong.  It's the best thing for both of us.  Thank you.

                                                      Sincerely,  Joanna

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Buttons and Bowknots.

When life gets you down, make Buttons and Bowknots.  When you need a hug, and there's no one to hug you, make Buttons and Bowknots.  When you are awake at 3:00AM because you're depressed, or your brain won't stop yelling at you, make some Buttons and Bowknots...  And eat them all!

My mom always had this red Betty Crocker cookbook, when I was a kid.  She used it weekly, and some of my favorite childhood memories are on those sacred pages. (Strangely, when Sam and I started dating I realized his mom had the same one, and he grew up with completely different recipes from the same book.  He had never tried the ones that my mom always made.  It's like we were always in the same swell, groovy world, yet tasting completely different things...  Hmmm...). 

Anyway, I have my own copy--a vintage one of course, because Betty Crocker just doesn't make the same one, with the same collection of recipes, anymore.  Obviously I needed the one with the 60's style fondue pot on the cover--These were the flavors of my childhood. 

Ah, but what I remember most, are the Buttons and Bowknots.  They make me happy.  Maybe it's the smell of nutmeg that somehow triggers dopamine to circulate through my brain.  I like nutmeg.  I don't know.  I do know that these puffy doughnut-like treats are delicious.

2 c. Bisquick
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. milk
1 eggDip in:
1/2 c. butter  (Yeah, no...  This is a crapload of melted butter.  You need 1/4th of that!)
1 c. sugar (Yeah... Nope again...  Half of that.  You are just dipping the tops.  If you try to coat the entire Bowknot or Button, it's kind of gross, and that's all you'll taste.  The  nutmeggy flavor will be lost.

Mix first 4 ingredients. Stir in milk and egg. Mix. Knead to soft ball on flour.  Pat it out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with doughnut cutter.  (We always used a water glass and a bottle cap to cut out the shapes). Twist the rings to form figure 8s. 

On an ungreased non-stick cookie sheet, bake figure 8s and holes at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes.  Melt  1/4 cup butter.   While warm dip each in butter, then sugar.

They are best hot, so it's a darn waste to let them sit there.  Just eat them all up.  It's surprisingly easy to do.  Just remind yourself they're baked, not fried.  ;)  (My twins now love them too!).

(P.S. in 2014:  Betty changed it up, got hip with the times.  I didn't see this until recently.  I'll have to try the "orange variation."  Buttons and Bows? Why change the name, Betty?!)

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I've been having a rough month.  I've been having a rough year.

There are some days when I'm laying in bed, and wondering, "What in the heck is wrong with me?  Why can't I get out of bed?"

I'm so tired.  My thyroid was a problem, "The Barry Curse," as our family practitioner stated to me in a cover letter for my lab results.  (When I say family practitioner, I mean, my mom's entire side of the family. Everyone.  All of us.  A whole lot of us).  The women in the family, starting with Jenny Frenette, then Stella May O'Connor, then Estelle Barry, and all of her daughters, (which includes my mother) have either Hypothyroid Disease or Hoshimoto's Disease.  My sisters both have thyroid disease.  We all have it.  That can make a person tired.


My grandfather dying makes me tired.

My grandmother becoming frail makes me tired.

Family in crisis makes me tired.

I get sick every single time I am exposed to a germ, and that makes me tired.

I was pregnant in August, and that made me tired.

I'm not pregnant anymore, and that makes me so tired.

I'm a woman, and my hormones seem to harass me, so I'm freaking tired. 

I have twins.  Tired.  (A year before my blood test came back as T4 deficient, my doctor wrote in the cover letter to results that showed that nothing was wrong with me.  Not a gosh darn thing was wrong with me: "You're a mother of twins, and you work full time."  That's why I was tired?  Life?  My life makes me tired?!  Shoot.  No cure for that one).

Not teaching makes me tired.

Wanting to go to sleep all the time makes me tired.

 I can drink a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato with 4 shots of expresso, and I'm still tired.

And so, I'll let you know when something works, and I wake up.
Because when I stop being tired, the whole world is going to change.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shooting Stars

January 28th, 2012.  It was late, close to midnight, and Sam and I decided to go out into the hot tub.  It seems like we would want to do that a lot--use our hot tub when the kids are sleeping--but it's not common for us, especially that late at night.

Our hot tub sits on our deck, right outside our bedroom, and as we eased ourselves into the water, we looked up.  The sky was like no sky I have seen before.  Stars filled the sky, and were so bright it felt like we could touch them.  We lay in the steaming water in silence, in awe really at the beauty of what was around us.  Slowly, soft, but tree swaying winds, rippled over and over through our yard.  It felt like the breeze was swirling around us, just us, where we were.  They were comforting and warm, even though it was January.  I took a deep breath and it filled me with such peace, and I knew right then, that my Grampy was close to me and God was there.  I've been waiting for a sign.
I think he was knocking at the door. Sam said he was. I'm coming to you. You will love me.
Our hot tub is next to a bank, and there are trees all along one side, up to a field above, an opening to the sky.  I saw a shooting star to my right.  We talked about shooting stars, and Sam said they were just tiny bits of dust or rock entering into the Earth's atmosphere. It's a burning trail of light, short lived, but beautiful.  It was magical.  It was so perfectly mystical: it felt like magic.

I looked all over the Internet the next day and there was no mention of meteor showers, or even of the stars being particularly bright.  I felt like it should have been front page news, all the world should have been told this was coming.

But, maybe it was just for me.  Maybe is was just for me. And I didn't answer the door.