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I have twinnis elbow — a malady common to mothers who perform heavy lifting of twin toddlers, repeatedly. The condition manifests when twin boys mature to the solid, hefty sum of thirty-two pounds and still love their mama’s arms as much as when they were newborn lightweights. It is a painful and beautiful thing. My specific ailment originated from a robust bedtime routine… one I refuse to give up, regardless of the carnage.

I am one who believes in the sanctity of routines. The girls had them — bedtime ones, bath time ones, weekend and weekday ones. And while theirs were enforced, I was a bit more flexible with them than with the boys – as was my mind and body some twenty-three years ago… Because according to twin parents everywhere (and if you’ve survived twins, you’re my go to guru; otherwise, just walk away) without routines,  I would be nuttier than our ultrasound on gender reveal day. (No, that’s not quite accurate because on gender reveal day, one of the boys’ turtles was shy and tried to disguise itself as a hamburger — ultrasound speak for boy and girl parts. Which means we thought we had both Almond Joy and Mounds babies (remember the jingle? Almond Joy’s got nuts. Mounds don’t.) for approximately two weeks. But I digress…

From 4:30 until around 6:00 there’s no real set schedule. And it almost kills me and my twinnis elbow, but there’s not much that can be done about it. There is a constant frantic flurry of me heaving boys in and out of car seats, up and down my hip from stove top to watch pots cooking, to sink side to wash hands a gazillion times –because either they love the feeling of running water on their hands like every other toddler on the planet, or they are developing their father’s OCD –and then there’s more launching into and out of high chairs. By 6:00, my elbow is a fiery fulcrum… And this is where routine comes in to both  help and to hinder… it helps my sanity and hinders my joint health.

From 6:00 until bedtime, the routine is solid and unwavering (except on Friday nights during football season…). They get their tablet time from 6-6:50. It is a welcome respite for all three of us. They love their iPads, and when I say love, I mean nothing comes between them and such youtube favorites as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and any and all fire engine assembly videos. I mean nothing.

Like literally, I mean nothing to them when they are plugged in.

But that’s all well and good because iPad time is when I get laundry, dishes, and maybe a couple of blog paragraphs done. But it’s also the time when my elbow gets the opportunity to cool down. And you quarterbacks, pitchers and moms know it’s never good for your muscles to relax and cool down, mid-game. There’s a reason heated arm sleeves are worn on the sidelines… Raising twins is a heavy contact sport. I may need to invest in some occupational equipment…

Anyways… once the iPads are put away, the heavy lifting begins again. Carrying the boys, with arched backs and flailing legs (that’s them AND me, by the way) into the tub, out of the tub, onto the bed and into PJs as tight as sausage casings can all do a number on your humerus hinge, folks. And it’s not funny.

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The boys go to bed at 7:30 pm — without fail. Because if they don’t get a full eleven to twelve hours of sleep at night, their tantrums would register on the Richter scale. So at 7:20, after they’ve been bathed and brushed, we head to the kitchen for a rich, sweet, conventional-and-unconventional-all-at-the-same-time tradition that will be fondly remembered by all of us—including my achey joints. We cop a squat in front of: the dishwasher. Why, I have no idea. It just sort of happened once and has kept happening forever after. So now, in keeping with the sanctity of routine, it can’t be changed. Therefore, the three of us huddle on the kitchen floor, sip our warm milk and read our bedtime stories. Tate usually picks a nursery rhyme book that simply MUST be sung, and Parker picks a truck book. So we sing one, read one, and then it’s off to bed — and the closing ritual that really delivers the one-two punch that nearly puts me out of commission every night.

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Parker’s little bedtime routine is fairly simple. He gathers up all of his various and sundry fire trucks, and then it’s a quick snuggle, a goodnight kiss, and in he goes. Even Tate’s nightly ritual SEEMS innocent enough. He scoops up his books, two or three at a time, along with his Mickey Mouse. But then comes the The Holding Pattern — the single-most sustained piece of heavy lifting I do all day. Tate wants me to stand at his crib and rock him in my arms for a full four minutes and forty-seven seconds while Jewel sings Brahm’s Lullaby. It is the best of times and it is the worst of times. It is best because Tate snuggles and nuzzles and inhales deeply. (No lie. He sniffs long and he sniffs hard. He smells me. Weird, but precious.) And then he pats me on the back until the song ends. If it “ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” then the fat lady is my left radial nerve, and boy, she’s hitting a High C by the time Jewel is through.

And speaking of fat ladies, a quick side note… I added insult to my twinnis injury yesterday afternoon while dressing for football pictures. Instead of wrestling my customary twin opponents (I left them to their father), I attempted to wrestle my fat ass into a pair of Spanx. I headed into the privacy of my bathroom, praying for a little leniency from a very worthy foe. I’ve gone the distance with Spanx before and it’s never an easy battle. This time was no exception, but with my injured arm, the battle was bloodier than ever (in the oh-so-English sense of the word.) Let me tell ya, these undergarments really hit below the belt. I wriggled and pulled and kneaded and squished, my tendon screaming in anguish. The Spanx tightened and tortured, mangled and marred– and at one point, the slimming intimates very nearly snapped off a bit of my tender intimates right along with my tendon, but eventually I found myself hermetically sealed in a cruel and sadistic nylon cocoon. Success!! But at what cost? For a slimmer, but disabled, silhouette? My body is not as young and taut as it once was. Nor are its muscles and joints as supple and stretchy. So battling gravity and age with weaponry that hurts more than it helps makes zero sense. Goodbye Spanx, and good riddance. I’m saving my elbow for the heave-ho of my junior welterweights. Because if anything is going to take this body down, it’ll be the ones that I love, not the ones that I hate.

The boys and their bedtime routines create carnage on my body, that much is true. But I wouldn’t change a thing about their bedtime ritual. Not a single, solitary thing. The twins are worth all of the TWINges they bring along the way. Because we are creating memories. Sweet memories. And sweet memories become kisses from the past. These memories are worth the pain. And that makes all the sense in the world to me. So night and sleep tight, my Bug and Bear. Mommy would give her left elbow and right wrist (but that’s another story) for you. Nightly. Forever and ever.

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