Isabella at Two-and-a-Half

Isabella turned two-and-a-half on Sunday.

There's so much to say about this past month. Lots of it is good. She's begun to enjoy helping me around the house with everyday tasks. She loves to set the table, help empty the dishwasher, and entertain the twins. She's become a bit more adventurous in trying new foods (see her "Current Likes" below), and she's been going to bed a lot better and sleeping better (most days) since the arrival of her "big girl bed."
And, after months of resistance and refusal to allow me to put her hair in pigtails, she finally relented this month, and I'm able to get them in on a regular basis now. This has reduced my desire to get her hair cut now, since you can't see what a split-endy mess the back is when it's pulled into rubberbands.

She's really into pretend play now, and her little mind concocts some pretty intricate story lines ("Let's take my doll to the waterpark, slide down the slide, then stop for ice cream and go home." or "Tell me a story about Mr. Bleakman (from Clifford) being really, really mad at Clifford for digging a hole in his garden.").
We've also stopped bathing her in the baby tub (yes, I realize we're probably about a year late on that one), and now she loves the freedom of taking her bath in the big tub.

But this month has also been marked by some very undesirable behavior. Before I go any further, let me say I know she's two. I know a lot of what I'm about to write is expected behavior for the age group. And I know she's still adjusting to the twins. But oh my holy hell. Knowing that certainly doesn't make dealing with it any easier.
She seems unable to deal with any kind of direction or authority. Many, many nights, our requests for her to pick up her toys are met with, "I can't!", which she then follows up by lying face down on the floor. If we ask her to stop doing something, she'll say, "I have to!".

She has become obstinate and even more stubborn than she was before. Many mornings, she flat-out refuses to get dressed. And then she issues specific orders about where she wants to get dressed (the floor, her bed, downstairs, etc.) The shirt she loved to wear one week is suddenly completely unacceptable to wear the next. Isabella, whom I've always thought had fairly decent manners for a toddler, has declared war on the words, "please" and "thank you." I have to remind her to say them now more often than not. So, we're hearing lots of "Gimme more bananas. Get them NOW!" And if there's anything I loathe more than a bratty, demanding toddler, I'm not sure what that might be. The problem is, I think I've suddenly become the mother to one.

Isabella has also reverted back to her obsession with being held. She will often refuse to walk down the stairs without one of us carrying her, when she's known how to navigate them on her own for many months. She will stop dead in her tracks when we're out and refuse to walk, yelling, "Hold me!". She's over 30 pounds now. Holding her is not so easy as it once was, and even if I wanted to hold her constantly, she's way too old for it.

She's also ridiculously bossy. She tells me, the hubs, and my relatives, the people with whom she's the closest, what they can and can't do, and if we don't listen, it's tantrum city.

And then we made the horrible mistake of trying to potty train her for the second time last week while the hubs was off from work. Let's just say it was met with a bit of acceptance and success, followed the next day by a rigid wall of resistance in the form of withholding, and then vomiting. Instead of using the potty, she "kept it all in" (so-to-speak) and ended up throwing up two separate times because of it. We quit after four days.

This potty-training business is not for the weak. I am frustrated because the kid is so damn smart. She uses the words "actually" and "appropriate" correctly in sentences for godssake. I thought potty-training would be a breeze. But she will not use either her potty or the toilet with the insert. I know, I know. All kids are different. She'll do it when she's ready. But at this point, I have serious doubts she'll be potty-trained by September, when she's going to preschool. Hell, she may not even be trained for kindergarten. Sasha wrote a great article in Parenting magazine about parents who outsource certain tasks to professionals, and I now fully understand why potty-training is one of them. Seriously, sign me up.

Current Likes: Horseradish hummus (shudder), Martha Speaks, Daddy

Current Dislikes: Mommy, opposition to her dictatorship

Out of Commission

Being ill with a wicked stomach virus and stuck in bed for the last 48 hours has taught me the following:

1. The hubs is so much more qualified to run a household of crabby children than I thought he was. He took off from work yesterday to stay home and watch the kids because I barely had the energy to lift my head off my bed pillow (unless of course I was running to the bathroom, which I did frequently). I have a stress-related meltdown being home with the little darlings at least once every 30 minutes. Oddly enough, he doesn't. He attributes his demeanor to something called "patience." Remind me to Google that at some point.

2. Exclusively breastfeeding twins while knocking at death's door is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I basically laid in bed in a semi-upright position while the hubs brought me the babies. I sat there feeling nauseous while sharp little limbs jabbed by stomach for upwards of an hour per feeding. I didn't (and still don't, really) have the strength to even burp them once they finished.

3. If I had anything other than a stomach virus that kept me in bed, it would have been like a mini-vacation. No diapers to change! No tantrums to manage! No meals to make! Unfortunately, those things sound like heaven compared to my symptoms.

4. Daytime tv really sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Unless you like Law and Order reruns and lots and lots of shows about having babies, bringing home babies, raising 18 children, and decorating babies' nurseries. I watched three episodes of Nanny 911 on Country Music Television, for godssake.

5. The flu diet is a no-fail approach to melting away those final pregnancy pounds. I am just about where I was prior to getting pregnant with the twins. Why aren't more people promoting this weight-loss approach?

I hope to return to regularly scheduled whiny posts about how hard my life is soon. Until then, the Jello in my refrigerator is calling my name.

Bed Head

The day after Isabella took a header out of her crib in November, I ordered the toddler rail for her 3-in-1 crib. It took excruciatingly long to come in, and during the interim we lined the floor in front of the crib with pillows lest Evil Knievel decided to take another flying leap.

The rail came in last week, along with the full-size bed rails we ordered at the same time, which we'll use when we're ready to buy her a real mattress. The hubs is off from work this week, so he installed it one morning while a very excited Isabella watched. We had our concerns over how she would react to it. Change and Isabella are not good friends. When I removed the bumpers from her crib because I thought she had used them to boost herself up higher, leading to her fall, she pitched an epic tantrum and refused to go to bed that night until I returned them. Not her "lovey," Charlie. Not her binky. Not her favorite blanket. Her bumpers, people.

But our fears were all for naught. Isabella loves her "big girl bed." She wants to play in it, sleep in it, eat in it, and invite everyone to join her in it. Hello, enormous relief. And other than a small incident the other night where she caught her arm in the slats and couldn't dislodge it and to which she alerted me by calling out very softly, "Mommy, I've got a problem here," she has gone to bed without incident. She's even taking more frequent naps!

For me, it's all a bit disconcerting though, because somehow in the span of two years, the baby who used to sleep beside my bed in this

...and who then progressed next door to this... now this happy little girl.

Stop growing, baby. Your mama wants you to stay little for a wee bit longer.

Sickeningly Sweet

I've never been big on Valentine's Day. Perhaps it's because I don't like chocolate, or perhaps it's because I'm fortunate to have a husband who, when he's not very busy pretending to sleep through the twins' eardrum-shattering cries at 3am, brings me home treats I do like (Starbucks, flowers from a way-too-expensive shop, and Sour Patch Kids) all throughout the year.

So, we've never been big on grandiose displays of affection on February 14th. We buy eachother a card and maybe something little (this year I bought him some fancy nuts and he bought me a caddy for my K-cups).

But, as is the case with most holidays, having kids makes celebrating them more fun.

So, last week, Isabella and I did a little research for an article I have appearing in the March issue of Root & Sprout. We made and decorated heart-shaped cookies. What? You're not reading Root & Sprout? You should be! The new site goes live on March 1st.

On Valentine's Day, my mom happened to be in town and staying with us for the twins' baptism the following day. My aunt who is possibly Isabella's favorite person in the universe stopped over with a new tea set for the little darling, a bag of cookies and chocolate, and a balloon. So, we had ourselves a little tea party.

In addition to the cookie, Isabella sampled some of my aunt's index finger and thumb too.

The babies celebrated Valentine's Day in their own special way by abstaining from crying for an entire hour!

We ended the day by arranging the kids on the couch for a charming family photo, certain to grace the mantles of many a family member this year.

What did you do for Valentine's Day?

Luci and Nicholas at Four Months

The twins turned four months old on Sunday, and are quickly moving beyond the infant stage into the animated, gurgling, and laughing baby stage.

The babies are not on any predictable schedule, and getting them to do anything at the same time (awaken for the day, nap, play, etc.) is next to impossible. This means there is never any downtime in their care. Seriously, is there a Supernanny for twins, because I could certainly use her help. How exactly do parents of multiples ever get their kids in sync? I had Isabella on a schedule when she was 4 months old, and not being even remotely close to having one for Luci and Nicholas Is.Killing.Me.
We have, however, established a bit of a nighttime routine that works most evenings. We settle them down between 6:30 and 7:30 in the pack-n-play in our living room after I nurse and swaddle them. Most nights, they'll sleep until 10 or so, which has enabled us to reclaim our evenings, which we spend staring glassy-eyed at reality tv.
They're still up every 2.5-3 hours during the night. I've stopped nursing them at the same time, unless they're both simultaneously hysterical, which means my night sleep is even less than it was before. I've had some very bad nights lately in which I've gotten only three hours of broken sleep at a time. I'm hopeful this is because they've been sick and that I'll get back to averaging five hours, under which I can function just about normally. Of course, I continue to get the assvice about switching to formula to get them to sleep through the night. I continue to ignore it.
Luci and Nicholas have also switched personalities. Nicholas has long been the fussier of the two, until this past month when he's developed a much more pleasant and calm demeanor. He'll actually sit in his bouncy seat quietly munching on his fist for half an hour without crying. He'll play on the floor mat for 45 minutes at a time. He smiles a lot and laughs a lot too. And Luci, long the more laidback (although I use that term loosely, since both of them are still what I consider colicky) twin, has morphed into the fussy one. She cries A.Lot. She will not sit still for long before screaming. She wants to be held all the time. And girlfriend hardly sleeps during the day. She's had more sleep strikes in the past month than I can count. It's incredibly frustrating, and I can't figure her out. I have lots of questions for their pediatrician at their four-month appointment on Friday.
Nicholas seems to have passed Luci in their development. He's much more mobile on the floor than she is and can roll onto his side. They both grasp toys, but he does so a lot more often. His neck control is stronger as well, and he weighs what seems like a lot more than she does. I know all babies reach their milestones at different stages and I probably wouldn't even notice that she seems behind if their weren't two of them, but this worries me all the same.
That said, they are both growing. They've moved beyond newborn diapers into size 1s, and although some of their newborn-size clothes still fit them, they're wearing mainly 3 month-size clothes now. While they weigh less than a full-term four-month-old (Luci especially), I think they're both the length of full-term four-month old babies.
Things are still very, very difficult in my world. One or both of them is screaming uncontrollably and without reason during dinnertime every single night. I either eat standing up while bouncing a twin in the Bjorn strapped to my chest, or I don't eat at all because I'm nursing whomever is complaining louder, or we all just have to ignore the screams and gobble down our dinner so we can deal with the babies. It's near impossible for me to work during the day now, which is frustrating to say the least. Isabella is two (very, very two) and my patience with all three of them during the day is in short supply. Most days, I'm still searching for the escape hatch from my life.

But I know it won't always be this way. Getting through the early months (the first year?) with twins will no doubt be the hardest thing I will ever do. But at the end of these awful, trying, someone-shoot-me-now days, I will feel like a rock star for having survived it.

(They were baptized on Sunday, Luci wearing the dress that I wore and that Isabella wore, and Nicholas wearing the outfit the hubs wore when he was baptized. They were baptized during mass, in front of the entire congregation and our 40+ family and friends, and despite the fact that I forgot to put on lipstick, that each took a turn screaming during the ceremony, that Nicholas pooped through his outfit just prior to his baptism, and that Isabella exclaimed, "There's poop!" when pointing to a fuzzy on the kneeler in the bench during a particularly quiet part of the mass, the day went off without a hitch.)

Confessions of Octomom

I thought I'd be able to stop talking about the octuplet situation after my post last week.

But then the mother went public and did an interview with Ann Curry. And now I'm angry all over again.

The highlights:

Octomom apparently felt unloved and ignored growing up while growing up with her parents. You know, the parents she now lives with and relies on to support her litter of children? Yes, those parents. Apparently, they were so horrible to her when she was a child that she couldn't help but expose them to her children, whom she says are her entire world.

She wants to raise her children to feel loved and special, because she felt she wasn't as a child. Octomom? It might be a little hard for your children to feel as if they're the center of your universe when they must share you with 13 siblings, eight of whom are very needy, pre-term infants who no doubt will need a lot of care and attention once they come home, one of whom is autistic, and two others of whom have behavioral conditions that also warrant extra care.

She said she takes no public assistance, which she says is fine for "other people" but not for her, and will only accept gifts that benefit the babies, such as swings and diapers. Unfortunately, it came out later through her lawyer that she receives monthly food stamps as well as child disability payments to help her feed and care for her brood. She also says she's living on student loans. I have no problem with people accepting public assistance. I do have a problem with people lying about it.

And then today I learned from Gracie's Dad that the mother has set up a website to...wait for it...solicit donations. So much for her purported notion that she's able to take care of them on her own.

She went through multiple cycles of IVF, and each time, her doctor transferred a ton of embryos. She insisted over and over that he did nothing wrong. Luckily, the state of California feels otherwise.

And the revelation that irked me the most? Her contention (no doubt targeted at the heart strings of "snowbaby-lovers" everywhere) that the frozen embryos were "her children" and that there was no way she could ever opt to "have them destroyed" should she decide not to use them. No, Octomom did the noble and the Christian thing and had all six transferred. Here's the thing, though. She had another option. She could have donated those embryos so that another infertile woman could have a chance at motherhood. She wasn't backed into a corner by her faith, much as she'd like the world to believe.

This woman should have all 14 of her children taken away from her. What she did is grossly irresponsible, selfish, and deluded. Her contention that she can take care of them by herself is ludicrous. She knowingly and willingly had this many children. It wasn't a freak circumstance, and it most certainly could have been prevented.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of money coming her way from magazines, tv shows, and publishing companies. And the fact that she will profit from reproducing irresponsibly is perhaps the most nauseating aspect of this entire story.

In Absentia

I'm sick with a cold.

So am I.

Me too.

Mommy says, "Send ice cream and tequila."


Cake for Breakfast

The weekend had the potential to be pretty awful. In a lot of ways it was. The hubs was gone on Saturday night until midnight, chaperoning a dance at his school. He was gone again Sunday morning, back at school for another function. He didn't return home until dinnertime. This, of course, left me alone with the three kids for most of the weekend, a time I look forward to with a ridiculous amount on anticipation starting each week about Tuesday, because it means two full days of help wrangling babies.

Isabella has a cold, which means she's more needy and whiny and tantrumy than she usually is. Luci the Insomniac would not settle down on Saturday night, and didn't get to sleep until 10pm. That meant my hopes for a peaceful night with my friend who came over to help me get the kids to bed never happened. And predictably, the babies were up all night on Saturday, which meant no sleep for me. On Sunday, Luci staged another sleeping strike and cried most of the day.

In a lot of ways, the weekend sucked. Yet it wasn't entirely awful. I'm a glass-half-empty person. Always have been. Always will be. But if being the mother to three children under the age of 2.5, two of whom are colicky, pre-term infants, and the other is a headstrong toddler whose main goal these days is to turn every hair on my head gray before my 33rd birthday next month, it's that I have to find happiness in the small stuff.

I didn't get a night of peace and quiet or more than 4 hours of total sleep on Saturday. I had virtually no time to do anything other than wipe butts and feed kids for most of the weekend.

What I did get was two hours in a one-baby household on Saturday morning. The hubs took Isabella and Luci to my grandma's, and left me with Nicholas, who in the last month has swapped personalities with Luci and is now "the good twin." And he slept the entire time they were gone. I worked uninterrupted for the first time since the twins were born. I enjoyed two cups of decaf hazelnut coffee in my new Keurig. I devoured the silence in my house, and it was divine.

What I did get was a 20-minute dinner on Saturday with Isabella and the hubs in which neither of the twins was crying. Every single night during dinner, at least one of the twins is crying. I either eat standing up while bouncing a baby in the Bjorn, or I don't eat at all because I'm trying to calm one or both of them down. Or I'm nursing them. But on this night, they were both calm and peaceful and smiling away in their bouncy seats during dinner. This has never happened before.

What I did get is my best friend giving up her Saturday evening to spend it in the International House of Chaos. She rocked Nicholas to sleep while I was upstairs getting Isabella to bed, which meant that when I made my way downstairs, I had only one baby to deal with.

What I did get was a husband who brought me home two pieces of cake left over from Saturday night's dance. This cake was made by the same woman who made each of Isabella's birthday cakes, and is, by far, the best cake I've ever had. Instead of waiting to eat a piece at a more reasonable hour, I had cake for breakfast yesterday morning, surreptitiously, while Isabella was watching Caillou, so I wouldn't have to share. Definitely not a part of the "trying-to-shed-the-baby-weight diet," but oh-so-good.

Sometimes when the planets align and the twins are sleeping at the same time, I let Isabella watch an extra episode of Caillou or Clifford so I can have a few more minutes to catch up on emails or read the morning paper. Sometimes I stop at Starbucks after my highly anticipated solo weekly grocery run and sit in my car in the parking lot, drinking my coffee in silence. Sometimes on the rare occasion when the twins and Isabella are still asleep in the early mornings and the night shift with the twins wasn't particularly horrible, I'll get up with the hubs and once he leaves for work, I'll sit in the absolute darkness and quiet of my living room and snuggle with my cats before the house is filled with a cacophony of noise that doesn't end until the last kid is asleep for the night, many, many hours later.

These days, it's the smallest of life's pleasures that deliver the greatest happiness. Cake for breakfast every day might not be such a bad idea.

You Give IVF a Bad Name

When I first heard about the women in California who had given birth to octuplets, I thought that surely this was a case of someone who had used fertility treatments and had experienced an incredibly rare circumstance, whereby multiple embryos had split in-utero, resulting in eight babies.

Then it came out that this wasn't the case at all, that she had done IVF, and that her fertility doctors had shockingly transferred eight embryos (an unprecedented number) and each took.

Finally, it came out that the woman was a single mother, living at home with her parents, and that she had six other children, all of whom were conceived via IVF too.

And then I became pissed off.

Having gone through IVF (and an FET) myself, I know a bit about the protocol and ethics behind it. To my knowledge, transferring eight embryos is unheard of. From what I've read and heard about embryo transfer over the years, the maximum number most doctors will transfer is four, and usually a transfer of four in the U.S. only occurs in women of advanced maternal age whose embryo quality is not ideal. This is because transferring more than four embryos not only puts the babies at risk should all four embryos take, but it also places the mother's life at a considerable risk as well. Twin, triplet, and higher-order pregnancies come with a number of serious complications (trust me, I know). For the octuplets' doctor to have transferred eight is not only irresponsible but borders on malpractice. I believe there is more to the story here.

IVF is already viewed in many circles as "playing God." Those who have suffered from infertility, or know someone close to you who has, understand the incredible stress, pain, and heartbreak of being unable to conceive and appreciate the medical technology that exists to make parents out of those yearning for a child. But I would wager a guess that the majority of the population holds a negative view of IVF. We infertiles should "just adopt" because obviously God never meant us to be parents.

A few months ago I wrote an opinion piece for my city's newspaper advocating for IVF to be covered by insurance here in New York. You wouldn't believe the amount of hateful email I received from people equating IVF to a boob job or rhinoplasty-in other words, "lifestyle medicine." I later "appeared" on a radio call-in show to defend my position and received more of the same, although this time, I was pitted against a doctor (an opthamologist) who argued against my views.

My own extended family believes IVF is wrong, although their reasons are rooted in their Catholic faith. Never mind that their lives have been incredibly enhanced by my three children.

My point is that this story isn't doing IVF and those who undergo it any favors. The woman's mother has said in interviews that she believes her daughter is obsessed with having children. The octuplets' mother is unemployed, unmarried, and lives in her parents' small home with her six other children. This isn't the case of an infertile couple's low-order embryo transfer resulting in the freak circumstance of embryo-splitting. From all accounts, this is the story of an unbalanced and possibly emotionally disturbed woman and a fertility doctor exercising bad judgement that borders on the criminal. In other words, this is exactly the kind of press IVF doesn't need.

I feel sorry for this woman. I feel even sorrier for her 14 children. But I'm also sad for all the couples going through fertility treatment right now in order to conceive. Because of this story, they'll no doubt have to explain to friends and family "in the know" that 99.9% of reproductive endocrinologists are ethical and moral, that no, they won't have 8 children themselves, and that no, IVF is not an unregulated, backroom science experiment. It's a medical procedure performed with the goal of achieving a single, successful pregnancy.

Without it, these three little monkeys wouldn't exist.


On a completely different (and much lighter) note, the new issue of Root & Sprout, the online parenting magazine, is now live. It's a great time to start reading the magazine. Why, you ask? Well, because yours truly has been hired to write for it. So, if you like what you read here, make sure you check out Root & Sprout for my articles (and others' too, if you're so inclined). My regular articles will begin appearing in next month's issue.

While you're reading, check out the Giveaways section and register to win some great prizes. And Melissa, the site's talented and extremely dedicated creator, is always looking for articles. You know you want to see your name "in print," so read the writer's guidelines and submit an article.

Lovely in Lavendar

When I found out I was expecting twins, I almost passed out on the ultrasound table. After I recovered, I decided I would not dress them the same so I could foster the idea of separate identities. When I found out they were boy-girl twins, I figured this was a moot point anyway.

Since their arrival I've changed my tune. I've decided that matching outfits, including ones that are the same style but different colors, are cute on twins, even on those who don't look even minimally related.

My grandma thinks so too. She enjoys buying the twins identical outfits.

Gender-specific, identical outfits.

Now, to clarify my views on dressing little boys in "girl" colors and vice-versa: I generally don't care. Isabella wore tons of blue when she was in her infant "is that a boy or a girl?" stage. And personally, I love pink polo shirts on little boys.

But then grandma brought over her latest purchase, and promptly dressed Nicholas in his.

Yeah, I'm wearing lavender. What of it?

(It says "pretty kitty." Meow!)

It seems I may have my very own Aunt Clara situation on my hands.

The ladies love me in lavendar. I wear it for them.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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