03 December 2008

We Came, We Saw, We Thanked

The short version of our Thanskgiving trip is that is was good.

The flights went off without a hitch. The kids were really happy to see their grandparents, aunt, and uncle, and the relatives were equally if not more thrilled to see the kids. Maddie and Riley were showered with gifts, love, and attention. The twins did not sleep very well, but that's to be expected being in an unfamiliar place and in Pack'N'Plays, for which they are really too big. Riley was sick one day we were there, and now I have the parental rite of passage of Kid Barfing in Public out of the way with one of my two. I got out for a run one day and did a long session on my brother-in-law's gym-quality elliptical trainer on another day. The exercise felt GREAT.

The details of what we did on the trip are not very interesting, really, as evidenced by the above paragraph. We spent time together. We ate some great food. We took the kids on a couple of outings. We had what feels to me like a typical Thanksgiving weekend.

In some ways, being at my in-laws' house was easier than I expected. I realized while we were there that my parents-in-law and I don't really have anything to argue about anymore. When John was alive, everything was a battle. We fought over John's time. We fought over John's treatments. We fought over what John should eat, when he should rest, how our house should be decorated. We fought and fought and fought. We were stressed out and frustrated and angry and we took it out on each other at every turn. Now that John is gone, we no longer have anything to argue over. My in-laws are remarkably tolerant and non-judgmental of my parenting, so that possible point of contention is happily not an issue. They want to spend time with Maddie and Riley, help me, and support us in any way they can. I'm able now to see my parents-in-law in a way that was not possible for me to see them before. I've always known that they are loving, caring people, but in the past, the way they've expressed that has often felt abrasive or intrusive to me. On this trip, it didn't, and I was frankly more comfortable in their house than I've ever been before.

There are some things I will do differently when we next visit. One of the things I'd been looking most forward to was being able to get some breaks for myself. I figured with all of those relatives around to help, I'd be able to sneak in a few solo outings or grab a nap here and there. That didn't really happen. My in-laws were all so respectful of how I manage the twins' time and behavior that they didn't step in much unless I asked, and I was not very good about asking. I struggle with asking for help as a general rule, and then there's the fact that when it comes to parenting, I generally don't have anyone around to ask for help from. If I'm at a restaurant and Maddie and Riley start acting up, it's up to me to control the situation. There's no one else around to pitch in. If things go haywire at home, I'm the one who has to find the calm. Because I'm so used to doing things on my own, it just doesn't occur to me to ask for help. I'll be more aware of that next time, and I think we'll all benefit.

Things reached a critical head on Sunday afternoon. Being around so many reminders of John was hard for me; the family home is filled with photographs and mementos. The five-year anniversary of our engagement was the day after Thanksgiving. And just being together—the bond all of us share is John. There was So Much John, All the Time, even though we spent remarkably little time talking about him. All of that was weighing on me more than I realized, and by Sunday, I was a potent emotional cocktail of anger and sadness and frustration and resentment and tension. I was weepy and short. Riley was not in the best of moods all weekend, and he was really pushing my buttons. We had planned to take the kids to the library on Sunday afternoon, and when Riley staged a full-scale whine-fest about putting on his coat, that was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I told both the kids, in a rather nasty tone, that I was staying home while they went to the library, have a good time, see you later. My father, father-in-law, and brother-in-law packed the kids off to the library and had a great time; I spent the afternoon crying, stressed out, and upset. We all needed that time apart.

It's embarrassing for me when my family sees how hard our life is and how poorly I sometimes do at managing it. It's shameful to lose my temper with the kids in front of my relatives, and I felt overwhelmingly vulnerable when, after the kids left for the library, I sat at the kitchen table and just cried out of frustration and sadness and grief. I want people to think we're doing OK, not see that I'm barely holding it together. If I've learned anything from the past few weeks, however, it's that I need to be more honest with myself and everyone around me about what my life is really like. Filled with good things, yes, but also filled with grief and anger and stress and too much stuff for one woman to handle gracefully. I'm doing the best that I can, but my best feels like utter crap and it would be better if I would get over my need to be perfect and let people help me.

We had a bit of a rough re-entry upon returning to Boston. I woke up on Tuesday morning to a screaming Maddie wailing, "My neck! My neck hurts, Mama!" Much frustration from everyong and a trip to the doctor later, the diagnosis was wry neck, a crick from sleeping in an awkward position on the plane. It was scary and not fun for anyone, but the good news is that she's totally fine now. After a back-to-reality doctor's visit with Maddie and subsequent late arrival at work and daycare, I was greeted at the office by the news of massive layoffs. Thirty percent of the staff. Not me. But not good news ever, especially at the holidays. Ugh. To add to it all, Mr. Coffee and I have exchanged a frustrating series of phone calls and messages, and I'm not quite sure what's going on there.

So we're back. We're trying to get back on track. My dad flew back from Detroit with us and has extended his stay until Sunday, which will be great. An extra adult in the house is always good for my mental health and the extra set of hands is great, too. When my dad asked me last night if I'd like him to extend his stay–his original plan was to return to Oregon today—my initial thought was, "Oh, that will be expensive, we'll be fine, etc." and then I thought, "FOOL, HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?!?!" and told him I'd be thrilled if he could make it work. Much better answer. My mom and dad colluded on the phone yesterday to come up with a plan to keep the twins in Oregon for an extra week at the holidays while I come home and enjoy some time to myself; again, my first thought was, "Oh, that's too much for them to do, I can't take them up on that, etc." but I came around rather quickly and am now quite liking the idea.

I'm learning, slowly. I'm letting people help, but it's not easy and I'm not ready to let everyone be part of the solution. Yet. I'm getting there.

And so that was our Thanksgiving, at least the Thanksgiving that went on in my head. Now we shall gear up for Christmas. I actually thought about buying Christmas gifts today, an idea that I did not think I'd be able to handle at all, so amidst all the tough stuff that Thanksgiving brought up for me, there must have been some healing, too. And for that, I am grateful.


Supa said...

Oh man. Asking for help is SO much the hardest part. Congratulations for saying the right thing to your Dad.

s_ivan said...

That's so exciting about your week to yourself in December. I know you'll be working, but what a treat! Too bad I'll be away.

Donn24g said...

You are only human, snick, and doing the best anyone can do. So, congratulations on your baby steps, people LOVE to help. And during the special, warm and giving time like Christmas you might get even more than you bargain for:)

Legally Brunette said...

Oh, Snick. I am going to print this one and post it on my computer, my bedroom mirror, my steering wheel (no reading while driving, though!) and in my wallet.

No question the last three years of my life would have been better/easier/less sad if I could, as you said, let people help me and see I'm also "filled with grief and anger and stress and too much stuff for one woman to handle gracefully."

I so appreciate your putting into words the things I can't admit to myself.

Lil Sis said...

Congrats on all of it, really all of it. And I'm looking forward to your solo week for you! I find my time away from the kids on my own is so mentally good for me, I'm always ready to have them back, but the break makes me a better mom all around.

Happy for all of that for you, and hoping the Mr. Coffee stuff pans out alright as well.

Pam said...

I really suck at asking for help too. Good for you for taking it. I had to ask my parents for big time help last July. What I learned, they really wanted to help, really. I try to reverse the roles. If my son were an adult and needed my help, I would do anything possible for him. Our parents feel the same way about us. Good for you for letting them help you.


Morgan said...

I'm so glad to hear that your dad is extending his stay and that your parents are taking the twins for an extra week. What great parents! Every mama needs to take care of herself! :) I've learned that the hard way! I've learned that when I do take time to myself and take care of myself I'm a much better mom, even when it is hard to do it.

Threeundertwo said...

I can't even imagine the emotions of being in that house at holiday time, but what I get from this post is a feeling of moving forward. Even though there were tears and frustration, I think you really did do a lot of healing.

I'm glad you have positive thoughts about the upcoming holiday. I know you'll do the best you can to make it special for the kids.

amber said...

oh, i'm really glad you had a good thanksgiving. i, too, have trouble asking for help as a general rule, but i think it's really good that you're coming around to the idea that accepting help isn't admiting failure. it just means that you need some help, now and again. nothing more, nothing less. :)

Misplaced Country Girl said...

I read your blog all the time but, have never commented before. I just wanted to say that under the circumstances I think that you are doing wonderful and your twins are lucky to have you as mommy. You inspire me.

Susan said...

I agree with Misplaced above. With everything you got going on, your trying and doing so good. I think it is great that the grandparents are keeping the twins for a week. Good for you and for the twins.

Anne said...

So glad you're working on asking for help. I have to say, Snick - you're amazing. So much for one woman to handle but you're doing it beautifully. Better than I would, certainly. Glad you enjoyed your time with John's family!

Becky said...

Glad to hear that the visit went well overall. I know that The In-Laws can be difficult.

Watercolor said...

It is odd but I seem to find my moments of greatest healing over the past couple of years seem to come right after the moments of the deepest dark. Hugs hun. I hope you are heading into some healing.

django's mommy said...

It's funny, I almost feel better when I have some Horrible Parenting Moment in front of my parents or inlaws, because I *don't* want them to think we are always doing okay. Because we're not. Sure, 70% of the time these days N and I do okay, but that other 30% is just brutal. I guess even though I mostly feel okay these days, I don't want anyone to ever think that I'm 'over' this, that it's 'easy'... so somehow it's a relief when that comes out.

My inlaws are also taking N for a week following Christmas. They offered, and I happily accepted. I don't know what I'll be doing besides work, and I don't care. I just need some time. Good for you for accepting the help offered to you, and for telling your dad that you wanted him to stay on.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what else to say other than You are remarkable. Just that. Peace and love to you this holiday time.

OTRgirl said...

I'm so glad you were able to say, "Yes, please" on a couple of the offers. I'm really, really happy that time with your in-laws is good. I kept trying to imagine what that relationship would be like without an 'intermediary', and it sounds better than I could have ever thought. It feels brave that you were willing to go there.

me said...

What a gift from your parents to watch the kiddos and give you rest!!!!

Anonymous said...

Snick: Wow, what a weeknend! I have to say that after being constantly short tempered with my two kids, I thought to myself. . . . I need a night away- just me, maybe a friend, but no hubby or kids. And now, I'm going to ask my DH for that - and soon.

Thanks for giving me the courage to realize i need it.


Melissa in TN said...

I think you are handling everything gracefully considering this is only your second Thanksgiving without John.

A week to yourself will be fantastic for you, I think. I know you will miss them terribly, but it is important for you to have some me time.

I hope you and Mr. Coffee get things worked out.

buddha_girl said...

I am so damn proud of you for accepting help! Even though we have higher expectations and standards for ourselves, that fact, in no way, should become one for the views of the ones who love us.

Like you, I've been feeling overwhelmed and angry for a myriad of reasons lately. The idea of letting go and enjoying a crying jag sounds good right about now.

Kerry Lynn said...

How exciting to have a week to yourself!!! Can they take my duo too :-)

::::wifemothermaniac:::: said...

I have my spouse and I don't have twins and I don't always parent so gracefully, go easy on yourself there. How beautiful, that you're able to be with your former inlaws so peacefully, and that they are so accepting and kind with you now, I loved reading that, I was worried before.

~ Rachel, newish reader.

Lucky said...

You are amazing and THE BEST mother. Ask any mother that reads this post, the truth is, none of us are really holding it together, none of us do it gracefully...but your job is EXTRA hard and you still manage to find joys and humility. Amazing.

DEBRA said...

Just consider that those family member want you to ask for their help. They don't want to intrude on your feelings, but I bet if you expressed that you want and/or need their help they would gladly give you that extra set of hands you need.

All in all it sounds like you have a wonderful support group that would be there for you.


Karrie said...

Frankly, your life is not hard. You need to realize that and start coming to terms to reconcile whether you're going to continue to play the martyr, especially with Riley. They're children - they're going to whine sometimes, especially about clothes - so you blow up and abort your attendance on the outing? Not terribly adult, I must say. Especially if a child is judging himself because his interaction with you is what caused your absence. Sure, they had a good time on the outing with your family, but your child is going to remember the constant negativity. Just keep that in mind! It sounds like you're resenting jumping to the single-parent status; you're dwelling because you don't want to do it alone, but do you have other options? I'm disappointed to find that you're one of those parents who dump their kids at the grandparents for a week or two, so they can have some "alone" time. Why'd you have kids then? And that's not directed specifically to you, it's just the first thing that I think when people talk about "Mommy's day out" programs or whatever. If daycare is mandatory for employment, I can understand that, I can understand getting a sitter for Christmas shopping, doctor's appointments - but your kids are constantly being left with other people so you can date, sleep over, go to outings - just seems like they're an accessory in your life instead of your world - which many people would give heaven and earth to have your "burden".

I'm new to the blog and have been reading the entries the past couple of days, so just my observations from many of your posts.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

A week to yourself sounds wonderful and what a great opportunity for your parents!

I, too, know how difficult it is to ask for help. Somehow we women are always thinking that we need to do everything ourselves. I suffer from this and need to get over it. We can practice asking together!

Anonymous said...

Wow Karrie, thanks for being judgmental!!! And let's talk about who is sounding negative? Please do not tell someone how to walk in their shoes unless you have walked them. And tell me again why it isn't good to allow grandparents who don't get to see the kids enough as is, to spend some quality time with their grandchildren??? Where do you come from?

shiel said...

wow, Karrie, it's obvious you don't know snick at all

Allison said...

Why do people leave unproductive and negative comments on others' blogs? Really. If you don't like it or disagree, just don't read it. It really is that easy.

Karrie, STFU. Read the entire history before you make your comments. You'll see that Snick is a wonderful mom who has had to deal with more pain and heartache than most.

Allison said...

Me again. I just want to add that every summer when I was a kid, my brother and I would spend a week with each set of grandparents. Sadly, they're gone now, but those times are some of my most cherished childhood memories. I never felt 'dumped' on them, I was happy to have had a chance to spend time with them and get to know them better.

Giovanna Diaries said...

Snick, you're doing great! I would be doing and feeling the same exact way. Don't beat yourself up too much!

Snickollet said...


I'd like to clear something up for you. Here is how many times in 2.5 years my kids have been "dumped" on other people overnight:

• One night for my husband and I to spend a night together alone when he was sick
• One night so that I could attend a friend's wedding in another state
• Two nights so that I could attend my grandfather's memorial in the midwest
• Two nights so that I could go to a birthday celebration for my sister-in-law
• A total of three nights for sleepover dates

That would be nine nights out of the approx. 1,050 nights they have been alive for a percentage of 0.008% of the nights. Oh, wait, 0.009% if I round up.

How oh-so-very neglectful of me.

99% of the time when I go out in the evening, I have the sitter come after the kids are in bed. So when you read about me being at book club or "going on outings," most of these events happen when the kids are asleep. They never even know I'm gone.

If you want to read about why I had kids, check this out:

Karrie, I ask you to kindly remember something when you read my blog or anyone else's: a blog is a slice of someone's life. It is not a complete picture. I write here to work on aspects of my life that I find difficult. The joys in my life get the short-shift because I don't need therapy for the good stuff--I need it for the hard stuff.

I hope you'll read the rest of my blog so that you can get a more complete picture of my life. And I hope that you can work on whatever is hurting you and making you attack people without basis. Whatever your pain is in life, I'm sorry, and I hope it goes away.


s_ivan said...

After my parents split and my dad was out of the picture, my mother made a huge effort to preserve our relationship with his side of the family nonetheless. This included at least 2 weeks each year of solo time with the grandparents and a trip out to see the cousins - no mom. From the time I was about 3.

I never EVER thought my mother was leaving us to do more fun things or dumping us. It was such a treat each year! And I'm so grateful for the relationships I was able to forge directly with these relatives simply because my mother wasn't there to be the intermediary. Ask me more about it, snick. Seriously, this is a gift to the kids as much as some time for relaxation for you. I'm not just saying that because we're friends.

I hope you decide to make it an annual thing.

Snickollet said...


It's great to hear from you and others that grandparent time was a cherished part of your childhood. I do plan to make this an annual thing, not only with my parents but with John's when the kids are a bit older.

And, as you and others have pointed out, time that the kids have on their own with their grandparents is not just a break for the parents. It's important, special time for the kids and grandparents alike. That the parents get a break is a nice bonus. I believe this kind of situation is called win-win :).


Allison said...


I wish I had your ability to handle nastiness with grace.

Anyway, also want to add that it didn't occur to me until years later that my parents also got a 'break'. It was always 'lucky us to go see Grandma and Grandpa'. I wouldn't trade those times for anything. So unless you actually say to M&R that "Mama needs a break", they will not see it that way.

Christine said...

Karrie -- You could not be more wrong. STFU. Parents need breaks. If grandparents are in the picture and want to help, it's a win-win for everyone. I'm guessing you have no kids.

And Snick: Thanks for keeping it real. I'm so glad you show all of you. Keep writing!

kate said...

I remember being young and spending a week in Maine with my aunt and uncle with my 3 cousins. After that, I'd go spend some time with my grandparents in Vermont. I LOVED the time I had with them. I have so many great memories. I never thought I was being "passed off". I would actually get mad when my brother got his turn to spend time with my grandparents and I had to stay home. I think you should make it an annual trip for the kids. I hope you have a relaxing week and have sleepovers every night! You deserve it!

shiel said...


i can't remember how old i was, probably around 9 or 10, when i spent the one and only week alone with my maternal grandmother. my brother came, too, but he literally spent all his time with one of our same-age-as-he-was cousins. i spent all my time with grandma and i will absolutely never forget it. it was the BEST and i wish i'd had more time with her. i felt like i got to know the real person she was. i recently was reminiscing about this with my mom and i thanked her again for having us spend our spring break with grandma that year (nearly 25 years ago).

you won't regret it and neither will the babies.

Anonymous said...


If you read back a bit, you will see that Snick had a daycare-closed-no-vacation-time dilemma which seems to have been solved. I don't think there's a better way than having some grandchild-grandparent time.

Anonymous said...

I also have wonderful memories of spending one week of the two week Holiday break we would get every year from school, with my grandmother. I lost my grandmother last year, and some of the best memories I have of her and from my childhood are those times spent with her. I hope I am lucky enough to have that time with my own grandchildren someday.

As others have said, you handled this person's negative comment very gracefully. I would agree that there is something in her life causing her pain enough to want to hurt others with her words. It could be that she is in a position where she is not happy being at home with her own children all the time and really wants a break, but feels it would make her seem less of a mother to ask someone to take them for her. Maybe she doesn't have anyone in her life that she can trust to leave her children with, so what appears to be her wanting to be with them all the time is really due to her having no other option, and without even realizing it, she resents families that have those resources.

I hope you get to spend one of your evenings just sitting in a coffee shop with a book, people watching, sipping coffee, with no time limit. Man, those are always good days.

Anonymous said...

I am truly impressed with your
response to Karrie.I too believe
that she is hurting and my guess is
that she doesn't have kids and
wants them in her life.

I spent summers in Ireland with
my grandparents and I wouldn't trade those days for anything.
If children have grandparents they
shouldn't be deprived that time
and love from them (even if the
parents have had issues with them
in the Past)

This is why I love your blog because you are so honest about
your relationships and you are so
open to anger, forgiveness and
love. M & R are so lucky and will
thank you for time they spend with
both sets of grandparents.

NanarocksWeen said...

Well, I see that "Karrie" was addressed... thank goodness for the great people who spoke up on your behalf. I can't believe you even responded to her mean-spirited comment. Something is truly wrong with that girl/woman/man - whatever "Karrie" is. I hope she feels better soon. And, Snick, great job, as always. Thanks for sharing.
NANArocksween (the grandma who reads your blog :-)

MaggieO said...

You are an amazing woman to be doing what you're doing. A few stumbles and hands helping you up along the way do nothing to take away from that. I admire you very much.

Ellen said...

May I just say that I appreciate those commenters who don't react to Karrie's perceived judgementality and negativity with more judgementality and negativity. It's great to want to protect Snickollet, but, as the commenters who tried to look deeper into Karrie's comment noted, she may need your understanding too. Being mean to her doesn't help anyone, and it just makes you look like the kind of person you're accusing her of being.

Don't just compliment Snickollet on the grace with which she handles negative commenters, learn from it.

Ellen said...

Oh, and I can't help noticing that if someone leaves a negative comment anonymously, they get blasted for not signing their comment. If someone leaves a signed negative comment, they get blasted just as much. Why exactly would anyone want to sign their comment, given that?

Julia said...

Yay for you on accepting the help. Big step, and something to look forward to.

Christine said...

Ellen: Point taken. And Snick rocks. That is all.

Anonymous said...

Ellen - you are right. Thanks for pointing that out since I was one to leave probably a not so nice. Not horrible but not positive either :) I would have to assume that this person is hurting. However, as we know, the tongue is hurtful and sometimes words are left unsaid ALL the way around. Thanks.

Amy said...

I grew up with grandparents who lived a couple of thousand miles away but my parents made sure we had good visits with them every year. The highlight was always the time we spent with them without Mom and Dad around. It was our special time. Like another commenter said, I never thought at the time about the fact that they were getting a break -- I thought it was a treat for me!

And congrats on learning to ask for, and accept, help. A hard habit to build, but those who care about you are grateful, I know.

Michele (Moosh) said...

Snick, I'll be happy to help with Mads and Ri-Man while you're here--or while they're here and you're not! Do you still have my email? I'll send you my digits just in case. Did I ever tell you my Madeleine D'Engle story from the day you flew home last time? Creepy in that fun sort of way--don't know why I'm remembering that right now but I am.

Let me know if you want to get our Maddie's (and Riley's and Alex's) together while you're in town, or seriously--if I can help with ANYTHING. I have lots of toys you know...and lots of kids in our neighborhood...and did I mention SAFARI SAMS? OH, have you experience the wonder of jungleoffun.com yet? The place rocks. You can sit and be lazy and let the kids run and play safely until they're begging you to put them to bed. OK, not really, but pretty darn close.

Hugs to you, friend! Give yourself a break! I'm glad you're starting to realize that YOU need time, too...not just an hour here or there, but toddler detox time.

Michele (Moosh) said...

Good heavens, Karrie.

I like Ice Cream a whole lot too, and yes have even dreamed about it my whole life (LOL), but if I had it every day 24/7 would that be healthy???

OK, crappy retort, but others have given you much better ones. It's 11:10 pm and I'm TIRED from being with my cherished 3 and 1 year olds. Huh. I'm tired after having them for a week alone with no help--Snick's tired from having them 1.5 years alone with no help--yeah, right, she has no room to complain. *eye roll*

And how DARE my friends who struggled through years of infertility and IUI's and IVF's and adoptions EVER get tired and complain about how their kids are running them ragged? Those children are OBVIOUSLY neglected and unwanted. Your post makes absolutely no sense to me.

Whatevah. *hair flip*

Fairlington Blade said...

Snick - great post. I've learned how to accept help and an better for it. [I'm a married father of three year old twins.] In my case, my lovely Keen is occasionally gone for a couple of weeks on business trips and we've been lucky to have a wonderful grandmother stay with me.

I have been encouraged to HANG OUT AT THE BAR after work while she handles the twins. That beer after work feels so good. Bad dad? I don't really care. It helps settle me between work and home (often more worK) and I'll take it.

Karrie is just your usual garden variety troll. My favorite food blog, Mighty Appetite, has one who shows up now and again. It's a shame how pissing in the punchbowl ruins it for everyone.

winecat said...

Snick, I'm so glad that Thanksgiving was mostly wonderful for you and the kids. Bless your Dad's heart for staying longer and both your parents for keeping the kids at Christmas. What a delightful time they will have enjoying special time with Grandma & Grandpa.

Excellent response to Karrie. I have a feeling she is hurting in a big way and you became her target.

Angela said...

That's so great that you will get some time for yourself, hooray, you are letting people help you. I'm so glad you had a nice holiday, despite the sadness with all the John memories that were in abundance.

~ Jolene said...

Glad you had a good trip and that you and your in-laws have a pretty good relationship now. So happy you'll have a week to yourself to reboost after Christmas! Happy Holidays to you and the kiddies. :)

Roads said...

There were mementos all around the place, but we spoke remarkably little about John.

Yep. That's how it is. Don't ask me why. Everyone wants to remember, yet keep it to themselves. I don't understand it, but that's how in-laws do it, I think.

As for losing it with the kids, and letting them see you fall apart, just a little -- I wouldn't underestimate how helpful it is, how really fantastically good it is, for them to get a taster of what life is really like.

It's not pretty sometimes, this situation, as a bereaved lone parent of bereaved tiny children, and the really daft thing is that the better you handle it, the less credit you get. I'm convinced it's really good for people to see it ain't a bed of roses. Because it isn't.

Sounds like important progress has been made all round. Well done, and spirits up.