The mother is not fond (to put it mildly) of the junk food her kids eat at school during their classmates' birthday parties and other special occasions. Rather than allowing them to eat the cupcakes, juice pops, and other sugary treats, she gives each of her kids a Tupperware container (the "junk food collector") and makes them place the treat in it, and bring it home.
She regularly fires off angry emails to the school district and to other parents concerning the treats, and believes there should be permission slips for any food not on the school's lunch menu. School district officials have called her hostile, and while some parents agree with her message (with a childhood obesity epidemic, do kids really need regular injections of sugary treats into the school day?) many other find her tactics offensive.
Granted, it seems as if this woman is a bit unhinged. I did a little digging, and it seems her crusade might be more about weight than it is about health. (In an interview with the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, she told the interviewer that she will not eat until after she's exercised, even if she doesn't get in her workout until 4pm. She also claims she's a master at meeting with people in places and at times of the day that do not revolve around food, lest she, you know, want to eat something.)
But while her methods are questionable and offensive, is she wrong? In my opinion, no.
My children's health and nutrition are very important to me. Isabella's diet is made up of about 90% organics and the twins eat nothing but organic. I made all of Isabella's baby food, and I'm now making the twins'. The fact that one in five preschoolers is now obese (obese, at three or four years old) scares the shite out of me. The hubs is not a small guy. Weight issues run in his family. I do everything I can to make sure Isabella eats healthy foods and gets plenty of exercise. I don't believe that my kids need a lot of sugar-laden treats in order to survive or even to be happy.
That said, as I wrote a few months ago, Isabella is hardly denied sweets. She gets a small dessert after dinner a few nights a week (we don't offer if unless she asks, and if she's eaten a decent portion of her dinner, she gets a small cookie or a sugar-free popsicle), and now that it's warm, the hubs has stopped the ice cream truck for her a few times, and we've also taken her out for ice cream as well. We used to give her one M&M as a reward for using the potty while we were potty-training her (that's since been discontinued, not because I stopped it, but because she no longer asks for it.).
But I don't allow her to eat cookies and other snack-type foods before lunch or dinner. If she says she's hungry, she can have as many carrots, cauliflower florets, edamame, grapes, or blueberries (all of which she loves) as she wants. But do I let her stick her hand in one of the many boxes of cookies or crackers my aunts and grandma are constantly bringing over here? No. And they think that's criminal.
Most of my relatives, including my mother, believe I am the Cruella de Vil of food. My grandma and my mom have told me on numerous occasions that my withholding sweets from Isabella is going to make her develop an eating disorder when she's older and that I am "denying her her childhood."
No, they're not kidding.
And so they sneak Isabella food. If my grandma comes over to watch Isabella and the twins in the mornings when I go for a run or do some errands, she gives Isabella cookies, ice cream, or whatever it is that she happened to bring over for her that day. This, even though I always leave Isabella her morning snack (which is usually fruit, or cheddar bunnies, or some other healthy, kid-friendly fare). And I know this because Isabella tells me.
One of my aunts hustles off Isabella to the back bedroom of my great aunt's house where we have dinner every Sunday and lets her feast on a hidden bag of M&Ms. She thinks I don't know about it.
There is a cupboard in my kitchen that is literally full of crap food for Isabella that I didn't buy. And while I may have given her more of it in the past, the fact that my relatives are on me constantly about how horrible I am for not offering my child her weight in cookies each and every day makes me want to withhold it from Isabella even more. It really pisses me off because their actions seem to me like a gigantic "screw you." I know that in my Italian family, food is a way to show love. But they don't respect the way I'm choosing to feed my child. They think they know better and tell me constantly, "we allowed you to eat whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted when you were growing up." What if I was raising Isabella as a vegetarian? Would they sneak her meat? What if I were raising her as a Buddhist? Would they kidnap her and take her to church?
The thing is, because it's not an everyday part of our lives, Isabella doesn't even ask for treats. Occasionally, she'll ask for whatever treat my grandma brings over (since dear grandma shows it to her the second she walks through the door) but 5 seconds later, she's moved onto something more important, like trying to putting Dora stickers on the cats. She doesn't whine for food, or even get upset when I tell her no, you can't have more ice cream or a second cookie, or whatever.
So here's the bottom line. I'm not sending Isabella to preschool with a "junk food collector." If there's a birthday party or Valentine's Day celebration at her preschool, she can eat whatever the treat happens to be. I'll have to accept the fact that she'll be eating a morning snack twice a week that's provided by another parent and might not be all that healthy (she's attending a semi-cooperative preschool, and parents provide snacks for the entire class on a rotating basis). And I won't be staging a revolt at her preschool, or firing off angry emails to teachers and parents, although I will admit to hoping for an "approved" snack list of mainly healthy foods to be mailed home in advance of the school year.
But when she's home, she'll eat the way the hubs and I want her to because the health of her little body and her tiny teeth are more important to me than making sure she has a favorite flavor of potato chip by the time she's 3 years old.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some puppies to skin.
I'm older (sigh...) and wiser now. I also have two more kids than I did when I wrote it. I have much more parenting experience. I've taken my children a lot more places, and have felt the visceral need to get out of my house and interact with the world a lot more deeply than I did when I was the mother of one fairly portable 5-month-old.
So, where do I stand now on this issue?
Check out my post on Grow Together, Root & Sprout's social networking site. You'll need to register there to comment (it only takes a few seconds), or leave your comments here. I'm interested in your opinions.
My daughter has always been a curious girl, but this past month, I've noticed her amping up her questions. She's constantly questioning one thing or the other: "What's that building over there?" "Is this the way to grandma's house?", "Why is the sky dark?", and a few days ago, one that I am just not equipped to properly answer for an almost-three-year-old, "Where is heaven?". Every Father's Day, we go to the cemetery to visit the graves of our grandfathers. Isabella has gone each year, but this is the first year we've had to explain a little about where we were headed. I gave her a very basic explanation: "A cemetery is where we go to remember our family members who are in heaven" (Isabella has heard my grandma mention "heaven" before as an explanation for where her papa is). Fortunately, my half-assed response, "Heaven is in the sky!" seemed to cut it-for this year, anyway.
Isabella is not what I would call an adventurous kid. She's pretty hesitant to try new or potentially scary things, and always has been. But this past month, I've noticed her growing more brave. She would never think of jumping off the play mats in her weekly gym class before, but now she does so with ease.
And she is a jumping machine. She loves pretending to be a frog or a rabbit. The twins get a big kick out of her antics.
She's loving the warm weather, and would spend every second outside if we let her. Blowing bubbles (especially with the plastic bubble gadgets her relatives keep buying her), riding her caterpillar (a gift for her second birthday from Aunt Karrie), and digging in her sandbox are her most favorite activities these days.
We must worry about our hair, our makeup, our clothes fitting too tightly or not tightly enough. Then there's periods, childbirth, baby weight, and wrinkles.
Frankly, it's exhausting.
But here is the ultimate injustice. Imagine the following: You're more petite than your brother. You weigh less. You nibble. He scarfs.
...he gets shapely, toned thighs and you get dimpled and pudgy ones that mommy loves to chomp on.
However, fear not. Like my mother, I may forgive, but I do not forget.
The boy loves his binky.
And this, my friends, is a game...
...that never gets old.
Check out my new blog header! The fabulous Vanessa from MacNessa did an incredible job. Thank you, Ness, for the amazing work.
I often bemoan the fact that I have what equates to a first-grader's artistic ability, and yet I come from a family of artists. My grandfather was a signmaker by profession. For each of his grandchildren's birthdays, he would paint an amazing sign that was the hit of the party. My mother is an artist and an art teacher. And my sister is an amazing artist as well. She's continuing my grandfather's birthday sign tradition, and has painted a sign for both of Isabella's birthdays (and is hard at work on a Clifford sign for her birthday in August).
I may not have an artistic bone in my body, but some of you-in fact, a lot of you-certainly do.
Vanessa from Drover's Run is an incredible photographer. Don't believe me? Check out this. And also this. Oh, and this too. I'm currently trying to figure out a way to coerce her into traveling from South Africa to NY to take photos of my kids because the photos she takes of hers are gorgeous. And not only that, she's studying graphic design, and creates some really cool blog headers, buttons, banners, Twitter backgrounds, postcards, and business cards. Check out her graphic design blog: Macnessa. In fact, she's updating my header with new photos of Isabella and the twins right now. I can't wait to see it.
Kristin of This Endless Love and her talented husband Matt have recently formed their own graphic design company: Dream Designs Online. I may know very little about art, but I know good when I see it, and their stuff is good. Need a logo? Or some invitations? Or how about advertising for your business? Check them out.
Lisanne is the graphic artist extraordinaire who designed Interrupted Wanderlust. She changes her own blog often, and each design is just so unique and pretty. She's also a masterful knitter, and she takes some beautiful photos as well.
Stacey from 4evermom (photography), Holly from Growing a Life (digital scrapbooking), In Due Time (painting and diaper cakes), Judy (floral artistry), and B from Cats in the Cradle (pottery) are also wickedly talented.
Bravo to all of you (and any of you who I might have forgotten). I am in awe of your abilities.
The breadth of my readers' talent does not end with the visual arts, however.
Sasha from My Wombinations is a hugely successful journalist who has published in a wide range of commercial magazines, from Parents and Parenting to Runner's World and Self. With strong opinions (like yours truly) and an unparalled drive to succeed in everything she does, Sasha inspires me to someday get my arse in gear and send my first query to a publication. Perhaps when my children release their strangleholds from around my neck.
And last, but certainly not least...
Melissa has built Root & Sprout from the ground up (ha). Root & Sprout publishes one or two parenting articles a day (add it to your Google Reader!) with topics ranging from teaching your baby to swim to rainy-day craft ideas, to protecting your preschooler from the sun (which, coincidentally, is my most recent article). Melissa is one of the most focused, dedicated, and hard-working individuals I know. Her vision for Root & Sprout is exciting and motivating, and I am proud to write for her each month. If you're a parent, grandparent, or spend any time with kids, I highly recommend you check out the site, and then join its social networking site, Grow Together. And, if you have a business you want to advertise, Root & Sprout has some of the most affordable rates on the web.So, this is me taking my hat off to you. My little world is made a whole lot more beautiful and inspiring because of the work you do.
There have been lots of exciting developments this month, the highlights of which are increased mobility (I am in serious trouble) and the fact that Luci now loves to eat, finally.
Both twins can roll from back to tummy now, although Luci is far more proficient, and does so any chance she gets. She's a rolling machine, and can make it quite far if I turn my attention away from her, which, let's face it-with three little kids, this happens often. As long as she doesn't roll out the front door, I figure she's fine.
Nicholas doesn't roll as often as Luci does, but he manages to pivot and scoot himself around too.
I will need to commit myself once these two begin to crawl. Wrangling one crawling baby was enough, but two at a time, plus an increasingly erratic preschooler? TERRIFYING. Now, where did we put that fence?
Neither Luci nor Nicholas is sitting up independently yet, but both can do so for a few seconds before face-planting onto the floor. Hopefully, this will happen next month, at which point I think they (and I) will be a whole lot happier when left to amuse themselves with toys.
We unearthed the Jumperoo from the attic this past month, and Luci-Lu loves it. She took to it right away. Nicholas, on the other hand, sat in it for a good week, completely confused as to what he was expected to do while in it. He finally picked up on it, and now both babies love it. Ah, containment parenting (TM: Marie). How I love thee.
Mealtime is akin to feeding time at the zoo. The babies cover themselves in food, lunge for spoons, bowls, and wipes, and Nicholas screeches the entire time for more food, and MORE FOOD NOW. Seriously, the boy is insatiable. 99% of the time, I'm feeding them on my own, and cannot shovel food down that kid's mouth fast enough for his liking. This is another twin task for which I require two more hands than I was given. I'm feeding them twice a day (lunch and dinner), and eventually I'll work in breakfast, although mornings are so nutty.
So far, they've eaten broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, bananas, peaches, apples, pears, mangoes, yogurt, acorn squash, butternut squash, corn, and avocado, all organic, and all made by me (except for the yogurt, of course).
They are still so tiny, and I'm reminded of this each time I see a baby their age. Luci and Nicholas are about the length of an average five- or six-month old, and probably the weight of a three- or-four-month-old. They're certainly growing, but people are shocked when I tell them how old they are. Then, I feel inclined to launch into the "they were six weeks premature, adjusted age, blah, blah" speech, but I'm wondering if I'm going to need this speech at the ready for their entire childhoods.
With the twins? Not so much in the reading department. Or, as has already been established, the preparatory department.
But I did read one book on twins, whose title now escapes me. I read it because while I had two years of experience with a singleton, I had absolutely no idea what it would be like to bring two babies with identical needs, wants, and crap-filled diapers home at the same time.
I was also the recipient of a lot of advice once people found out I was having twins. Everyone* from distant relatives, to the teller at the bank, to my next-door neighbor had varying degrees of advice and assvice for me, and plenty of stories about their best friend's mother's cousin who had had twins, what she experienced, and how she coped.
And so I entered twin motherhood with some preconceived notions of twins. Allow me to tell you that most of what I read and heard from others has pertained not in the slightest to my two darling, yet perpetually irritable, bundles of joy.
* As you might imagine, it was actual moms of twins who helped me prepare the best.
Here are six myths about twins:
Myth: Twins are much more patient than singletons because they learn early on that they must share attention with a sibling.
Fact: Survey says...Wrong! If I'm feeding Luci, and Nicholas is hungry, 9 times out of 10, he's screeching like a howler monkey. If I'm changing Nicholas' diaper, chances are Luci is vocally expressing her preference that her twin sit in a puddle of his own urine so I could tend to her instead. I'm only 8 months into it, but there ain't no patience going on in Casa de Crazy (and I'm including myself in this assessment as well).
Myth: One twin is the "good" twin, and the other is the "bad" twin
Fact: Not so much. In general, I'd say the personalities of my two are very much alike. I love them to pieces (most days, anyway), but oh my holy hell, they are both extremely challenging. They are not laidback, easy babies. (Incidentally, if you have more than one child, did you find that your second was a breeze compared to your first? Check out this article. Apparently, my "spirited" two place me in the minority.) Both aren't "bad" babies, of course, but they're not what I would call "good" babies either. Is it weird that I kind of wish I had one of each?
Myth: Twins have a unique and special bond that formed in utero
Fact: I'm not seeing it. Okay, so they're still little and can probably barely distinguish between me and the lifesize cardboard cutout of James Dean I have stashed in my basement (don't ask), but my two do not appear to care in the slightest about each other. One seems to barely know the other is in the room, much less that that little person shared a very cramped space with him/her for 7.5 long months. Sure, they attempt to gouge out each other's eyes when they're lying on a blanket next to each other, but that's about the extent of their "bond."
Myth: Twins learn to sleep through each other's cries.Fact: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Myth: Twins (even boy-girl ones) will resemble each other
I don't think I need to say much more about this one.
Myth: Baby A is the dominant, stronger twin. Baby B is the passive, weaker twin
Fact: Luci is Baby A. Nicholas is Baby B. Luci is smaller than Nicholas, and for most developmental milestones thus far, Nicholas is ahead of Luci by 3-4 weeks. That said, Luci rolled from back to tummy before Nicholas did. And I think I've already established that neither is what I would call "passive."
I am going to make myself feel better by believing that my two little myth-busters are unique and exceptional individuals, and therefore fail to conform to what is expected of them (kind of like their mother).
Yes, I think that's exactly it.
As you may recall, Nicholas refuses to sleep in his crib, and therefore takes his naps and sleeps overnight in the swing in our living room. The hubs sleeps on the couch to make sure Nicholas is adequately trained by age 1 for his future career as deckhand on The Deadliest Catch. Luci sleeps in her crib in her room upstairs, and I sleep in my room next door.
In the last month, I've taken some of your suggestions to alter this arrangement to try and get Nicholas used to his crib without disturbing Luci's sleep. Now, for their morning nap, Luci sleeps in Isabella's toddler bed (oh, the wrath I would have to endure if Isabella knew of this). I still swaddle Luci and then I place her in the center of a sleep positioner. Isabella's bed has a half rail, and I stuff a pillow in the small gap at the base of the bed where Isabella climbs into and out of her bed. Luci isn't going anywhere as long as she's still swaddled.
Then, I place Nicholas in his crib. Sometimes he lasts about 45 minutes in there. Other times, it's mere minutes before he's up and screaming. Sometimes I let him CIO in an effort to get him used to his crib. Sometimes when I'm sick of the crying and desperate for some quiet, I transition him back downstairs to the swing, where he will usually fall asleep. When I leave him crying in his crib, he will not settle himself down, no matter how long I hold off going to him.
For the afternoon nap, Luci sleeps in her crib because Isabella needs to nap in her bed, and Nicholas goes directly into the swing. Knock on wood, everyone is taking decent afternoon naps for the time being (although as soon as I hit Publish, someone will wake up screaming. That's just how they roll, lately).
But bedtime is quickly going down the tubes. Nicholas is up almost every hour from his bedtime around 7-7:30pm until midnight or so. We stick his binky back in his mouth, and most of the time, he falls back to sleep. Last month I smugly wrote that the boy is sleeping through the night most nights, and now he hasn't done so in weeks. This, despite the fact that I am stuffing him full of solids around dinnertime. I'm nursing him at least once in the middle of the night.
Luci has started getting up more than once in the middle of the night as well. Unlike Nicholas, though, she's usually fine until somewhere around midnight or 1am. I'll feed her, and sometimes she'll fall right back to sleep, and other times, she's up and crying for over an hour, despite attempts to rock her back to sleep. Oh, and she stopped taking a binky months ago, so my boob is the only thing that silences her.
Not to be outdone by her younger siblings, Isabella has taken to awakening in the middle of the night as well, and at hours where the babies are sleeping, so her night wakings aren't caused by hearing their screams. She wakes up crying and starts calling for me. Sometimes she's completely incoherent when I enter her room, and other times her reasons are classic bedtime procrastination tools, which I barely have tolerance for when she pulls them out hours earlier: "I want a cup of water," "My blanket is untucked,"I want to give you hug and a kiss," (although it's hard to get mad at her for this one), and my personal favorite, "Tell Daddy I said "hello."
One night last week, fed up with the insanity of babies sleeping where they shouldn't be and constant nighttime drama, I put both Luci and Nicholas down for the night in their room, together. Both were asleep when I put them down, because if they were awake, the arrangement didn't stand a chance of working. All was quiet for 45 blissful minutes. I patted myself on the back, ran around the first floor of my house feeling free as a bird, since I didn't have to tip-toe because Nicholas wasn't asleep on the first floor, and then started to do some work. And then all hell broke loose. Nicholas woke up and started screaming. I didn't go to get him in the hopes he would settle himself down. Shortly thereafter, he woke Luci up, and the symphony of two babies simultaneously screaming reverberated throughout the house.
I was so damn pissed off that I let them scream for over an hour, something I've never done. They.Would.Not.Quit.
I finally grabbed Nicholas, brought him downstairs, and stuck him in the swing. He promptly fell asleep. Luci, on the other hand, had no intentions of going back to sleep, even after her brother was removed from the bedroom. I tried to get her back to sleep using everything in my bag of tricks, and yet she was awake and crying until well after 9:30. Needless to say, I haven't tried putting them in the same room at night since then.
So, the result of all this madness? Very little sleep for me. The twins are almost 8 months old. It's been a very, very long time since I've had a good night's sleep. Luckily, I've learned how to function with the few hours I'm able to grab. I'm tired, but not cripplingly so.
Listen up, precious little hellcats. I love you, but you are slowly killing your mother.
Cease and desist immediately.
I come from a deeply religious, Roman Catholic family. They say novenas. They go to confession regularly (to confess what, I have no idea, since they are some of the most pious, selfless, and humble people I know). Some attend mass every single day.
Needless to say, they are completely against gay marriage on religious grounds. And while I completely disagree with them, I do understand it. They live their lives 100% in accordance with their faith. If the Bible doesn't say it's so, well...it isn't so.
But it would seem that if the Catholic Church wasn't being made to marry gay couples, then their issue really isn't about religious freedom after all. It then becomes as issue of approval. They don't approve of the "gay lifestyle." They think it immoral and contrary to God's teachings (as if the heterosexual world were somehow immune to immorality). But while heterosexuals, who have done more to damage the institution of marriage than Cheryl and Cathy getting married ever would, enjoy 1,138 rights granted by marriage, gay couples are relegated to second-class status. A gay man cannot make decisions on his partner's behalf in a medical emergency. A gay woman cannot take advantage of the FMLA to care for her sick partner. And this? Is unconscionable. For me, gay marriage is about equal rights under the law. Plain and simple.
What I do not understand (and what I've told my family members repeatedly) is why they and others who are against marriage equality for whatever reason oppose civil marriages (those performed by the state). More people married = increased stability, happiness (most of the time, anyway), and taxes. It's a win-win for the couple and the state, isn't it? Hell, gay marriage can even help end the recession.
I am perpetually befuddled as to why people care so much about the topic of gay marriage. How does it affect you or me in the least if Tim and Craig who live next door get hitched? It doesn't.
Yes, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal to my core. But even if I weren't, I fail to see why this is such a big deal for those in opposition to it. No one is asking your church to marry gay couples. You're not being asked to bless their unions or buy them wedding gifts or even to lend a gardening spade to that horrible gay neighbor across the street if you don't want to.
If New Hampshire's governor was able to look beyond his personal views on gay marriage and see it for what it is: a matter of equal rights under the law, then I cannot for the life of me understand why those who oppose it on religious grounds cannot do the same. Live and let live.
This is the photo that hangs on the outside of the Unitarian Church whose building houses the preschool Isabella will attend in September. While the preschool is unaffiliated with the church, I think I shall take her photo under it on the first day of school and mail it to all my relatives.
Having angry thoughts about where they went wrong in raising me me will give them something to talk about in confession.
On Saturday, I was able to experience a little bit of the thrill of the Amazing Race, albeit on a much smaller scale. My friend and I competed in my city's version of The Amazing Race, which was put on by High Trek Adventure. Billed as "the ultimate urban adventure race," it was part scavenger hunt, part trivia contest, and part race. The hubs paid our entry fee for my birthday gift this year.
The race started at a local bar. A quick survey of the competition revealed that there was no typical racer. There were buff 20-somethings (some of whom we totally smoked!). There were 40-year-old marathon runners. There were a few families. I'd say 90% of the racers were in shape, which can only help you compete, but it certainly wasn't a prerequisite. However, some racers actually showed up in jeans. Um, what?
The founder of the company, a native of my hometown, stood on a chair and held up a huge sheet of paper with the first question on it. As soon as he did so, all the teams sprinted to the destination that corresponded to the answer they chose.
My friend and I chose correctly, and ended up in a nearby coffee shop. Our clue packet was waiting for us there. Once we tore it open and scanned through the clues, we commandeered the laptops belonging to a group of hipster college students, and began trying to figure out the clues and the addresses that corresponded to the places (or "TrekPoints") we needed to visit. A lot of other teams whipped out their Internet-capable phones and began searching that way. At each TrekPoint, we had to take a photo of our team in front of whatever it was we were looking for.
For example, in the photo above, the clue read, "This one-word TrekPoint's name is a hip section in Manhattan. You'll find this location in the hip section of the High Falls District." The answer was the coffee shop called Tribecca.
We solved anagrams and crossword puzzles that corresponded to landmarks, restaurants, and statues. We matched song lyrics to a band that was also the name of a bar. We matched clues to establishments all over the city. We chose a "Detour" that required us to take a photo of our team with seven people on any bridge that crossed over the river that runs through the city (not an easy task on a Saturday afternoon when our downtown is deader than dead. But we lucked out and found a family of eight (with one on the way!) who graciously agreed to let us photograph ourselves with them.We finished 12th out of 43 teams with a time of 1 hour, 45 minutes. The winning team ran it in 1:17. Not bad for first-time racers (the top three finishers were teams who had ran the race before), and a team where only one of us is a runner (me). My friend has bad knees and fought through the pain so were able to run a lot of the race (about 5.6 miles), which we didn't anticipate we would be able to do. I am so proud of you, Jenny!
If this race comes to your city, I would highly recommend you do it! You don't have to be a runner (although it certainly helps).
I had a fantastic time. I had five blissful hours away from my children (my mom, my dad, and my grandma assembled a 3 on 3 childcare team at my house). It was a gorgeous day outside, perfect for running. I managed to avoid lactating all over my team shirt during the race, and for the first time in quite awhile, I felt young and alive.
Can I race again tomorrow?