Divorce and Separation · mom of boys

Parenting Twin Seven Year Olds…The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (and basket-ball).


When the boys were five months old I remember sort of stumbling into morning rounds a couple minutes late and the Attending looking annoyed as he continued through the patient list. I mentally replayed my morning up to that moment at 8:35 AM.

I was up from midnight to 2 AM nursing both boys. Then I was up at 4 AM. For good. Nursing them. My ex left the house at 6 AM and there I was. Trying to get ready for work, making myself look human, while also getting two babies dressed, fed, and out the door. I remember it started raining just as I opened one of the back passenger doors in the daycare parking lot. I carried the two car seats with two five month olds, and stood in the rain as I buzzed the daycare door to let me in.

Those were some damn hard days and nights. But in some ways they were easier than the parenting I do now a days with two seven year olds.

These boys, man. On the way to basketball on Saturday. We had already had a morning. Because there was a lot of not listening that occurred so I was heightened in terms of my ability to tolerate any further nonsense from them. There I am. Driving on a main road and the seatbelt light flashes and I yell the offending child’s name. “Dude, seatbelt!” “But I dropped my Nintendo Switch!” “Well grab it and put your seatbelt on” … seconds go by. The car starts doing that obnoxious ‘You don’t have your seatbelt on’ beep and I’m like “What is taking so long?!” And then I hear some talking back in the form of under the breath muttering and he’s thinking he’s slick, and I’m just done.

I pulled over to the side of the road. It’s a narrow main road with not much of a shoulder. So I basically took up half the road. I stopped. Put my flashers on, and dared any drivers behind me to come mess with me. I turned around to face my children and waited in silence as he finally got his seatbelt on. I put my hand out for the stupid Switch and then tossed it on the seat next to me. Waited for the cars to pass and then pulled out to resume our journey.

He leans over to watch his brother on his brother’s Switch. I hear the critique start. Because brother without the Switch feels he knows how to play better than brother with the Switch. There is some bickering and then brother without the switch and the seatbelt offender says, “What the fuck?!” He did use it appropriately in context as he questioned his brother’s move which did lead to his brother’s death in the Switch game.

I pulled over again. Turned around and talked about appropriate language, and he was apologizing, and then we are on the road again. I’m not sure he was actually sorry, I think he just wanted me to start driving again.

We make it to basket-ball miraculously all in one piece. Basketball is a ten minute drive from my house. This was ten minutes of my life with twin seven year old boys.

Today I spent the morning trying to decipher the $8.25 charge on one of the boys accounts at school. The boys bring their lunches and eat breakfast at home. There should be a .75 cent charge for the ONE chocolate milk I was asked if he could purchase last week. I look closely and discover not one chocolate milk charge but 11. The boy had chocolate milk eleven of the last twelve school days.

When I talk to him in the afternoon he looks exhausted before we even start, and I ask what’s wrong and he says he had a hard day because a girl made fun of him, and called him a name “lots of times” and he asked her to stop and she wouldn’t. Then he’s crying. So we process another kid being mean, and then I still need to talk to him about lying about the chocolate milk. Which I do. He feels bad. He feels worse when he realizes he’s going to be paying the $8.25 for all the chocolate milks. He feels even worse when I tell him that on top of paying he is going to be doing firewood runs with me every morning this week.

I’m not trying to kick him when he’s down, but he still has to own the lying about the chocolate milk. There was no yelling. It was a calm discussion with hugs. But damn that was a rough fifteen minutes of my parenting day.

So that’s what I mean when I think back to when they were 5 months and my worst problem was carrying two babies, nursing two babies, and trying to stay awake for work…because now adays I have these two people. Two people who say things like What the fuck?! Two people who lie. Two people who hit each other and pick their noses. Two people who feel such big feelings and who look to me to contain them, hold them, and love them.

This Saturday at basket-ball, there was the whole countdown at the end of the game and the crowd joined in and my What the Fuck son got the ball and dribbled down toward his basket, and we were at the “THREE TWO…” and he threw that ball up there and nailed the shot right at ONE. The crowd went wild and his teammates, including his brother were grinning ear to ear and slapping his hand and back, and he shoved his hands in his pockets, turned and walked away from his basket like he was just going for a stroll, and he tilted his little head over toward me and made eye contact and I smiled and clapped and he did a little smile and kept walking.

It’s those moments that I live for. When my kid looks for me because he wants me to be watching. For all the parents missing those moments- you’re missing out. Because even in the worst and hardest moments of parenting, it’s those moments when you know they want you to be here, by a little side eye and a smile, and if you’re absent you’re missing it. And I wouldn’t miss the What the Fucks?! Just like I wouldn’t miss the heroic buzzer shot. I want to be there for it all.

And I want my kids to want me there. Because that’s one of those warm gooey feelings that lacks definition. As a parent you want your kids to want you around and those moments when you can see that they do…are few and precious and keep me going through those horrific ten minute car rides.


A Note on CPR ***Triggering re- CPR and death.

I don’t watch football. It irks me for many reasons. 1- Doctors and nurses save lives every day and we will never make millions of dollars per shift. While I do not fault pro players for working hard and pursuing something incredibly difficult, I do no think it is worth the millions they are paid. 2- When I see people riding motorcycles without helmets I have a visceral response because I think wow. You just want to die don’t you? And/or you are a complete idiot. Playing football…sort of the same reaction. I worked in a pedi-ED for 7 years and the worst injuries were football, hockey, and skiing/snowboarding, and the surprising fourth place would be cheerleading. These were kids. Sustaining serious injuries. The fact that we KNOW that long term head injuries causes chronic traumatic encephalopathy and yet people still PAY to see these men literally cause brain damage to themselves…well it’s sick and fucking twisted in my opinion.

So when I heard about a football player falling down cold and requiring CPR mid-field and the subsequent fallout. I’ve had a lot of feelings about that. I think people having the most feelings are people who have performed CPR. You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand. I’m that person. I’ve performed CPR. And honestly, I lost count of how many times I have done it.

The feelings I’ve seen from my fellow critical care healthcare providers on social media are a mix of things including but not limited to: we are not paid enough for what we do and it’s ironic that the million dollar employees on that football field had no ability to save their teammate and it was the 20$/hour EMT’s who saved him. The NFL and the world has taken a pause after being traumatized by watching CPR performed. There is acknowledgement that watching and performing CPR is traumatic. I can tell you, of the several times I performed CPR or rescue breaths I never got a break afterward. In fact I would be reprimanded if I tried to take one because “Everyone is feeling it and they are all back covering patients. Pull it together.” Was said to me when I was found crying in the med room after the unsuccessful resuscitation of an 11 year old. Unsuccessful resuscitation sounds too pretty though. This is what really happened.

I straddled a kid and pushed in and out on his chest with sweat pouring off of me, no gloves, no mask, no idea why he was here, he was carried in by screaming parents and me and another nurse threw him on the stretcher. She started breaths. I started compressions. She and I passed glances as the rest of the team surrounded the bed. I could feel his ribs bend under my hands, and I had to keep a fast pace. It was the end of night shift and we were all fucking beat. We were also short staffed. I also had three patients who were freaking ill that I knew needed me but here I was. Pushing on a chest praying this heart would start. But there’s a particular smell of a dead body. You learn it after working critical care. We all knew it. We all smelled it. He wasn’t long dead, and young enough we may get a heartbeat back, but he was gone. The heart beat would be so the parents could have time to wrap their minds around organ donation and brain death. I knew it. The nurse at the head knew it. The doc knew it. But there I sat. Pushing on his ribs, hearing the parents scream and cry, and after fifteen minutes, three rounds of epinephrine the doc called it. You ever hear parents when a doc calls their kid dead? It’s about as awful as you can possibly imagine. There was a thud as the Dad fell to the floor. The mom keened a sound like a horribly wounded and dying animal. And I slowly climbed down trying not to look at the kid because I knew I had three more waiting for me outside the door.

I wiped a stray tear and walked past the dead child and the grief stricken parents. I walked into a room with a kid with pneumonia. I looked at her chest. Rolled my eyes and said “Fuck.”

Grabbed the bag and started pushing air into her lungs. She was on the monitor but for some reason it didn’t pick up that she wasn’t breathing. Her oxygen level was still perfect so it must have just happened. She was warm and pink, but definitely not breathing. The doc walked by saw me bagging and said “Oh!” and helped me roll them into our resuscitation room. I bagged her until she was intubated and brought up to the ICU. Then I went to try and give report to the day shift nurse who was pissed I hadn’t hung the antibiotics for the other patient.

I could barely even speak. I remember just rubbing my head and saying I’m sorry and going to get the antibiotics and hanging them and going home. That night was Christmas Eve.

I went to my family’s traditional get together and pasted on a happy face and pretended I hadn’t had a horrendous shift that involved CPR.

So you see. That was one time. One time out of many. Healthcare professionals are not given the support, the time, the space, or any ability to not be traumatized doing our work. I didn’t get a bonus when I saved people’s lives. In fact my clinical skills had absolutely no bearing on my raise each year. It was based on patient reviews and emergency department numbers and benchmarks. So if anything comes from this very public display of CPR I hope it’s 1- Respect for the goddamn skill that critical care healthcare workers possess. Because I’ll say it- we are a fucked up little bunch of people- but damn we know how to save lives. 2- Acknowledge that football is fucked up. 3- Healthcare providers NEED and should be REQUIRED to have access to the time, space, and resources to heal after a traumatic work event which SHOULD include any and every time we perform CPR.

To any Healthcare Providers reading this- for your own knowledge- after I left the ED I saw a therapist for about two years and did a lot of EMDR therapy with him. It changed my life and allowed me to heal from all the trauma of the ED. Our focus was on my memories from working in the emergency department as those were quite traumatic for me, but I did not even realize it until after I left how messed up I was. When you are functioning in chaos it’s hard to see how heavy it is until you are out of it. Exposure therapy and I think any kind of therapy can be scary for critical care workers- I know we are a tight little bunch who don’t trust outsiders to be able to hold our shit. Because it’s heavy. But I promise you there are mental health providers out there (Myself included!) who treat first responders and are not intimidated by our shit. Do not let yourself go untreated because you think we can’t handle it. We can. Hospitals will never prioritize your mental health- you’re going to have to take the steps on your own. And for that I am sorry. I am sorry we work within systems designed to demoralize us. But I see you, and I appreciate you, because I am you.


Ten(+) Things I Have Learned Living in a Farm Town.

I’ve learned many lessons in the five years since I moved here. I grew up in a suburban town that I thought would be similar to this small rural town. There are similarities, but also significant differences unique to rural life. I’ve written and re-written this post over several months. There was a section about guns I am editing because that can be a separate post.

  1. On the community Facebook page- when people post pictures of cows or horses that are in their backyard with the caption “Did some one lose a cow?” They are not joking. There will be a flurry of responses and tags e.g. “John Smith looks like Betsy…?” “Maggie Smith tell John Smith that looks like Betsy” Eventually John or Maggie Smith may pop on with a picture of Betsy home safe and sound in her barn and many thanks to the community for helping them find her. I did not know people could lose horses and cows. But they do. More frequently than you would think. Vice Versa people post pictures of animals that are lost…I have been credited with identifying a lost duck and hens that were in the wetlands area across the street from me. A thankful owner drove up in their van within ten minutes of me replying to their “Lost duck” post and hopped out and retrieved the duck and hens.
  2. I can be friends-ish with Republicans. It takes a lot. From both sides. And let me qualify this with a hell no to Trump Republicans. But if I didn’t at least play nice and polite with some Republicans…well that cuts out about 4,000 people of the 7,000 total. Of note Biden won by 8 votes in the last presidential election in this small town- which gives me some hope.
  3. I have to work harder to find my people and the families I want the boys exposed to. It’s not impossible and I’ve met some incredible people and amen for the other lesbian couple in town who have boys the same age as mine. I also have attended some of the town Democratic committee meetings which helps.
  4. In that vein- I have never lived somewhere with a majority Republican government and I am continuously impressed with the persistence of the Democratic committee. They are never defeated even as they are always defeated. They show up to all town meetings and enter candidates into every election possible. I have come to truly admire their dedication in a seemingly hopeless town populace. They have also taught me the importance of Democrats showing up even when there is Republican majority.
  5. You will get stuck behind tractors while driving. You will also know multiple people who own tractors. There will be many discussions about said tractors, as well as rides on them, and inevitably one of them will have a tractor that has no brakes. This will be a known fact and yet people will still use the tractor. With no brakes.
  6. You must have a generator.
  7. Farm towns have significant racism and homophobia. What’s interesting though is that most people are still willing to have a conversation with me and be neighborly or friendly. There are hateful people. Make no mistake. But there are also people who will in this rough shodden sort of way be accepting of me as a person. I had a client once who had a neighbor who was transphobic and after a few caustic interactions they ultimately developed this bizarre friendly banter that I now understand. Every morning she would walk out for her paper and the neighbor would be working on his car and he would look up and wave and say with a grin, “Morning Tranny,” And my client would respond, “How ya doing you bigot?” Then they would both laugh with neighborly affection. That is the best way I can describe farm town life. It’s like we know we are all different but there is also this loyalty that develops and protectiveness among people who live in rural communities. I’ve been forced to challenge my own black and white thinking around human relationships and differing political belief systems in big and small ways.
  8. There are incredibly indigent people in farm towns. People who are suffering, whose homes don’t have working heating systems, and who are food insecure and housing insecure. I volunteered administering COVID-19 vaccines in town last year to homebound individuals. I saw incredible poverty in some of the homes I visited. But also strength, dignity, and pride. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience for me. There was poverty in the suburbs I grew up in, but not like this honestly.
  9. I can’t let my gas tank get as empty as I used to because I won’t make it to a gas station. We are not in the middle of nowhere per se but it takes a few miles to find a gas station. And at least ten miles to find a grocery store. Traveling a minimum of 20 minutes to a grocery store was a new experience for me. I do not like it.
  10. Growing up on the shoreline I was used to salty air, salty breezes, and generally a fresh feeling from the water. It is still weird not seeing the water every day. But the longer I am here the more I have leaned into the woods, the open fields and valleys, and what my cousins who are geologists refer to as “elevations” but what the locals call mountains. They are petite mountains. There are beautiful sunsets over the valley, and I’ve traded the nasty smell of low tide for the warm wafts of manure in the Summer time. There are cows a few houses down, and ducks and hens the other direction. Horses across the street. The landscape is hard to beat and I understand why people stay. It’s a rough sort of beauty that creeps under your skin. After being away for a few days this past weekend I drove through cities and suburbs to get back here, and I breathed this sigh of relief as I saw the haystacks and the tractors. Then I thought there was something wrong with me for being relieved by haystacks.
  11. I have a friend from Wyoming, she lived in California and now on the East coast. She says there’s a saying that people on the West coast are nice and people on the East coast are kind. Meaning, on the East coast and especially in New England we are likely going to be rude AF to your face. BUT…with an annoyed sigh or no eye contact at all we will hold the door for you, and we will dive into the street when you drop something and then yell at you as we run after you to give you the dropped and recovered item. Kindness with a gruff exterior has never been more real to me since living rural. People who may be seen as “mean” have helped me drag Christmas trees to my car and house, and they have helped me stack and cover firewood the day before a hurricane came, they have shown incredibly kindnesses to my sons and I in many ways. I get warning texts about bobcats and coyotes from the neighbor who once argued with me about the sense of putting a BLM sign in a town “Full of white people”. I have found that as long as I don’t overtly try and change any one’s opinions but firmly stand for my own…we find this central sort of peace. I have experienced true kindness in a town that is about 1/3-1/2 homophobic.

I moved here five years ago. And especially after the divorce I thought I would leave. But the longer I stay the harder it is for me to imagine living somewhere else. The love that people have for the land here is contagious. And the loyalty among rural neighbors is hard to describe and not truly appreciated until you experience it firsthand. In a liberal state I never expected to land in a majority Republican enclave. But it’s made me appreciate the drive and fortitude of the Democrats who are here so much more. I thought that maybe I’d have to compromise who I am to live here, but if anything it’s cemented who I am because while others may have different beliefs there is still a level of acceptance of me and what I stand for because there is admiration of the fact that I am standing for something.

Since I moved here I see a rainbow every Spring and Summer. Usually two or three. In fact I’ve never seen so many rainbows before I moved here. I’m taking that as a sign that I’m where I am supposed to be. And who knows? Maybe along the way some one’s viewpoint will shift and that by me being here the next presidential election the democratic candidate will win by more than eight votes.

p.s. We didn’t know Biden won our town until three days after the election because the registrar and town clerk were both out sick and we had to wait for them to come back and count the “boxes in the office” for the final count. Yup. That happens apparently in rural towns- boxes of ballots in an office that only one person has the keys for.

p.p.s. I am looked down on for paying for a trash service. Apparently we are all supposed to bring our trash to the dump and then complain the dump is only open banking hours.

I searched the town FB group…this was the first of MANY in the “lost cow” search results