Sleep-deprivation, work craziness, hellcat-raising, and the never-ending pursuit of some semblance of balance in my life all combined to form the perfect storm of mind-numbing fog. There are many events in 2009 that I simply cannot remember.
Fortunately, I have this blog to remind me.
I re-read my post from last New Year's Eve. In it, I mentioned that I "hoped things would be easier this time next year."
Things are still tough. Really, really tough. But they are better. Not significantly better. But better. Instead of both twins up all night, every night, I now only have to deal with one baby (Luci) awake for a couple hours a few nights a week. Still maddening, but better.
I don't feel as if I am barely scraping by anymore. Most days anyway, I think I have my shit together. Of course, the state of my house suggests otherwise, but now I have a routine with the kids and a schedule, and that had made life a whole lot easier.
And I've lost all my baby weight. All my old clothes fit, and since I've stopped nursing, my boobs have returned to their regular size. Oddly enough, this has been a big deal to me. Not having the resources to go out and buy a lot of new clothes and struggling to squeeze myself into clothes that no longer fit was stressful for the 9 months it took me to lose all the twin pounds. Now, I have a whole closet of clothes 4+ years and older to choose from!
There are many, many areas of my life that need improvement. I have no patience with my kids most days. I am constantly struggling to find time to do my work outside of the midnight hour. I have virtually no time to devote to my personal interests, including this blog and reading all of yours.
But just like I did last year, I am not making resolutions for 2010. Once again, my resolution is simply to survive, and to try to make the small improvements and adjustments that will make my life easier. The specifics of these are to be determined, but just the idea that I will soon be sorting these out has made me feel slightly better about the cloud that's been hanging over me for the past year.
And on that note, Happy New Year, everyone.
She understood Christmas and presents and cookies and Santa last year to a certain degree. But this year, she was really into the holiday season, which has made muddling my way through it with a smile plastered on my face for her a bit easier.
Isabella thoroughly enjoyed watching Christmas specials in the evenings after Loud and Louder were in bed as her reward for taking naps. I think her favorite was Prep and Landing, minus the Christmas Eve elf-induced meltdown, and I have to say, it was mine too. Very well done, and packed with above-the-heads-of-children humor, which is a must-have in any kids' movie or tv show. I'm now going to need to come up with another bribe for encouraging her to nap in the afternoons.
While her vocabulary and the things she picks up from the hubs and me always amazes me (highlights include, "Mommy, that's absurd!", "I've told you several times...", and my personal laugh-into-my-arm favorite, lest she see me finding her sassy behavior funny, "Too bad for you, I won't!"-in response to me asking her to get dressed), she's also been using babytalk a lot lately. I'm assuming she's mimicking the twins, but it's hugely annoying to listen to your very verbal three-year-old gesture at what she wants while saying "Dada" or a combination of consonants and vowels that have no meaning.
She's begun taking on the job of snack delivery for the babies in the mornings and afternoons. She spreads a blanket on the family room floor, and places their snack bowls and sippy cups in front of them for me (and gets upset if I forget to let her do delivery). She then tells them, "Bon appetit! You may eat!", which I learned is what her teacher tells the class before snacktime at preschool.
After almost 15 months of very good behavior toward the twins (her tendency to steamroll them notwithstanding) Isabella finally lashed out about a week ago. We we in the car heading home from one of the many family gatherings we've had lately, and she was listening to one of her books-on-CD. She always complains that she can't hear the CD over the babies crying and babbling, despite the fact that we crank the volume as loud as we can tolerate. That night, Luci was crying, Isabella was complaining, and Nicholas was staying out of the ruckus. All of a sudden, Luci let out a piercing scream. I turned around and immediately asked Isabella what happened. Isabella told me she had "sucked on Luci's finger." In reality, she had bitten her. Needless to say, the benevolent dictator received quite the lecture on appropriate outlets for her frustration. And immediately upon arriving home, Isabella rushed to her sister, gave her a hug, and asked her if her finger was okay.
In Isabella's defense, I can only imagine how frustrating it is to be stuck between two often-screaming babies in the backseat of our Trailblazer (yes, you can fit three car seats across the back seat). I am constantly frustrated by their crying, and I'm supposedly the adult. But what she did that night was obviously not the appropriate reaction.
Fortunately, the sisters were able to bury the hatchet.
Isabella has begun waking up in the mornings before the babies (oddly enough), and when she comes downstairs to the kitchen, she often climbs up on one of the counter stools and asks if she can keep me company. This is often the only time of day I'm able to spend with her on a one-to-one basis, and this makes me incredibly sad. I continue to have to turn her down when she asks me to play with her not-baby-safe toys, read her a story, or go upstairs with her to play with her dollhouse. On a lot of days, I'm half-inclined to allow her to skip her "nap" so we can have some rare alone time, but most days I'm trying to cram 5 hours of work into a 1.5-hour-if-I'm'-lucky napping period, and I just can't afford to lose the time. I'm thinking of trying to work out a childcare arrangement with my relatives one day a week in which they would take the twins for one of the mornings Isabella has preschool, and then keep them until dinnertime, so I could spend the afternoon with Isabella.
And speaking of preschool, I have a decision to make in January for next year. I have the option to re-enroll her in the same morning program she's in this year, but I would opt for three days a week instead of the two days she currently attends, or I can opt for the four-afternoons-a-week program for four-year-olds. This is still a play-based program, as her program is now, but it also includes a bit of kindergarten readiness and more focused attention spent on concepts, since it's four consecutive afternoons.
I think she would do very well in this afternoon program, except I really wish it was in the morning instead of 12:30-3:30. The twins would never be able to nap past 3:10pm at the latest (as if they would anyway-most of their naps are 1.5 hours in length) and Isabella wouldn't be able to nap or "nap" 4 days a week, since she would be in school during that time. There are other positives, because in addition to the kindergarten readiness aspects, our mornings would be free for playdates, museum trips, and when the weather gets warmer-playground time, BUT almost all of her friends are in preschool in the mornings, whereas she would go in the afternoon. I definitely want her to stay at her preschool, since I'm very happy with it and thrilled that she loves it so much, so switching schools isn't an option.
Isabella continues to be my sensitive, precocious, funny, and talkative little girl. She has her moments, but most days, I feel like she's my lighthouse in the storm. I'm very lucky to be her mom.
Current Likes: Making blanket caves in the family room, Berenstein Bears books
Current Dislikes: Having her hair brushed, eating at mealtime
Isabella had fun putting out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer on Christmas Eve.
Christmas morning began around 7:30am. While Santa delivered new gifts to Isabella, he sensed that the twins' behavior had been less than stellar this year. As a result, he re-gifted some never-even-unwrapped-because-they-received-so-damn-many birthday presents for Luci and Nico. They sensed the subterfuge, and decided to stick it to Santa by playing with cat toys all morning instead.
One of the favorite presents this year was from Aunt Karrie.
Her monogrammed chair in her favorite color gave her a great seat to open the rest of her presents...
and to trap her brother in a death-grip later on.
Speaking of Aunt Karrie, Isabella was totally the president of her fan club this Christmas. From the second she flew in from Seattle to the moment she left, Isabella was All About Aunt Karrie, All The Time.
Nicholas vowed to never again spend another Christmas alone under the mistletoe, so he hijacked Isabella's laptop to set up his eHarmony profile.
Because I am a complete glutton for punishment, I tried to snap a Christmas photo of all three before we left for dinner at my grandma's.
Welcome to Project Fail.
"Now that she's gone...How YOU doing?"I've recently realized that much like it was in 1993, most of my wardrobe is black. I am wearing black in almost every recent photo I have of myself. Nine Inch Nails 4-Evah.
The holidays are just about over. I'm going to take a page from Luci, and enjoy the remaining days to their fullest.
How have you been celebrating the holidays?
This blog is therapy for me, though, and all of you are my unpaid therapists. I appreciate each of you who take the time to leave a comment here more than you'll ever know.
I hope you enjoy the holidays with your families and friends. I'm taking a few days off to spend time with mine.
Isabella is SO excited for Christmas. Her joy is overflowing on the inside, I assure you.
Luci doesn't know quite what to make of the wall of animatronic, dancing, plush animals and snowmen that sing Christmas carols that her great-grandmother has purchased for her and her siblings by the gross, but is hoping that they stay far, far away from her room at night.
If Nicholas' cranium wasn't being crushed by this too-small Santa hat, he would say to drink heavily during the holidays. It does his mama just fine.
And finally, Andy, this one is for you. I have not given my cats away because I was afraid they would sneak into my children's rooms while they sleep, crawl into their cribs, and suck the life out of them because they smelled milk on their breath (although I will confess to thinking about it given that they have christened the new house with vomit in virtually every room). My geriatric cats are alive and well and enjoying their new cat seat beneath the Christmas tree.
Happy Holidays, all.
This weekend, we went to a local garden center that puts on a Christmas! Spectacular! each year. We've taken Isabella there for three years in a row now, and this year, Luci and Nicholas joined us. They were too young for the rides, crafts, and general 10-and-under insanity of the place, but they weren't too young for their very first visit with the big man in red.
Gluttons for punishment that we are, we then added Isabella to the mix. She was thoroughly bewildered at what was happening, and I figured that any minute now, we would have three screaming children taking up Santa's valuable lap time while the waiting crowds frothed at the mouth and called for their parents' heads on platters.
She even gave him a hug when she was through telling him she wanted (and I quote): "A real cell phone, an iPod, a firetruck, and a candy cane."
It's amazing what the threat of "Santa Is Watching!" will do to a curmudgeonly little girl whose mama wants a damn photo of her kid smiling just once, pretty please?
Last weekend, we also attempted our first gingerbread house. This is a not a project for a Type A with no patience. I did not buy the gingerbread house kit. My dear grandmother thought it would be a nice project for Isabella and me to do together, because if there's anything I have right now, it's copious amounts of time to devote to a project that made me want to tear out my hair one follicle at a time.
The decorating part was actually fun. The construction of the house was not, most likely because it took me the greater part of an hour to realize that I had constructed the house's walls out of the gingerbread pieces meant for the roof. Fortunately, the hubs was able to fix it while I let out steam by punching in our shed doors in the backyard.
Here I am, 17 hours into Project Gingerbread House. I am not happy.
Isabella, however, was thrilled, until I told her she couldn't eat all the candies that came in the Wilton kit.
I let Isabella do whatever she wanted with the roof. She's 3, and I'm exhausted. This was not the year for perfection. However, I did make an attempt to design the outside of the house exactly like the one on the Wilton box.
Unfortunately, it doesn't come with 5-point harnesses for the twins, which means I will have to super-glue their bottoms to the seat to prevent them from attempting to escape.
And finally, on Saturday, we decorated Christmas cookies. I haven't yet had time to make my own. That will happen this week (I'm trying Sasha's sour cream and butter ball recipes this year). Fortunately, my great aunt opens a cookie factory in her kitchen each December and churns out over 3,000 cookies. So, just like she did last year, she brought over cutouts that she made for Isabella and me to decorate.
There have been great mobility gains in the last month, which means I am drinking a lot more heavily now.
Both babies walk using their walkers quite well.
Nicholas is, quite literally, into everything. We have Baby Jail set up in our family room, so there is no escape route for the prisoners, but that doesn't stop him from trying. If the gate is even slightly open, he will force his head through it like a battering ram, attempting to break free. He also climbs over the toy barricade and onto the brick hearth in front of our fireplace, and even attempts to scale the baby gate. When he's released from prison for good behavior, he attempts to climb stairs, open the fridge and kitchen cabinets, and play in the toilet.
I do not remember Isabella being so hell-bent on destruction, but perhaps I've simply blocked it all out.
It's also been a banner month for the boy because he has found a new toy. In the bath a few weeks ago, my son discovered...his manhood. Much poking, pulling, and fiddling ensued, all performed with a gigantic smile on his face. It's now his favorite plaything during diaper changes, baths, and anytime he's sans clothes.
Nico's hair is growing very long, and it's in his face quite a bit. The fam thinks I need to get the boy a haircut, but I think this works just as well.
This? How you say? Hairtie in my locks? Is curious.
But I like it!
His vocabulary increased this month too, and he's added "Mum-Mum" (as in Baby Mum-Mum), and "Bye-Bye" (with an accompanying arm wave).
After spending half his life being his sister's whipping boy, Nicholas has started to fight back. There's nothing quite as amusing as watching two 14-month-olds battle it out over toys, books, or the last Cheerio on the floor. He's starting to be the aggressor more so than his sister now, but Luci still enjoys beating him upon his head any chance she gets.
Luci is now pulling up and cruising the furniture right beside her brother. I actually think she's the faster crawler now too. Both babies are still entrenched in a fussy eating stage (their dinners consist of macaroni, string cheese, bananas, and Mum-Mums), but Luci is especially fussy.
She is still having an awful time at night, and at least a few nights a week is up and screaming in the late evening and early morning hours, and no amount of CIO or rocking her back to sleep works. I'm not sure if it's teething (she's currently still toothless...at 14 months), nightmares, or what, but I am ready for it to stop.
Her expressiveness is quite adorable, and she's constantly pointing at things and saying, "That." In addition, she now says "Bye-Bye," "Mum-Mum" and "Ba" (ball).
Just before Thanksgiving, I stopped nursing them. Nicholas was long ready for this, and had shown a complete disinterest in nursing since turning a year. I was only nursing him once a day (before bed), and he really wasn't into it for the last few weeks before I stopped. Luci, however, would nurse herself to sleep (or close to it) before naps and before bed. I contemplated continuing nursing her, and decided in the end not to. It seemed unfair to Nicholas (which sounds ridiculous, considering the boy was so over my boobs, but more than that, I was ready to be done.
I know this sounds selfish, and I know there are some nursing moms out there who will not understand, but I exclusively nursed twins for 13 months.
And while all along I said I didn't deserve the rockstar treatment for doing so, you know what I think now? I did. Nursing two babies exclusively for this length of time WAS an incredible feat.
It was hugely time-consuming. It was insanely difficult, especially in the beginning when Isabella had just turned two and used my nursing time to tear apart the house. And it was an enormous responsibility. I was the only one who could soothe two colicky babies when all hell broke loose in our house, which happened more times than anyone will ever believe. I was the one up all night long nursing one baby, then the other baby, then the first baby again, and so on.
I nursed twins for 13 months despite everyone in my family (and I do mean everyone) telling me to switch to formula and asking me with quizzical expressions exactly when I planned on stopping (as if nursing twins was this freakish and stupid choice). And while there is certainly nothing wrong with formula, it wasn't the choice I had made for my babies, and I wasn't going to
stop because I wanted to give them the best start possible, and the same start I had given to Isabella.
So yeah, I nursed twins for 13 months. And I am damn proud of myself for doing so.
And I think these two are too.
Likes: Calling the shots, crying, and hunger strikes
Dislikes: Sharing, all vegetables, and being steamrolled by Isabella
Likes: Preparing for his Spiderman audition, crying, and attempting to crawl back into the womb
Dislikes: Independence Day, "Miss Independent," and Freedom Fries
I secretly think these people return to their cars, or walk ahead of me into a store, or sprint ahead of me into preschool to get out of the cold because they aren't trying to simultaneously maneuver a double stroller and coax a pokey three-year-old into the warm building, thanking their lucky stars that they aren't me. 13-month-old twins and a three-year-old. Whoo, baby. I hope that mom has lots of patience and energy. I know I couldn't do it.
Funny thing. I most often can't. If I was to spend any time at all thinking about whether it's wise to take three small kids just about anywhere, I would never leave the house. I do it because I have to.
But I've had a few experiences lately that have shed some perspective on the insanity of the life I lead.
There are two-year-old triplets who attend the "young nursery" at Isabella's school. They are adorable.
But Oh.My.God. Two-Year-Old Triplets.
Last week I pulled up behind a minivan in the drop-off lane at school. We had had the first real snowfall of the season the night before, it was freezing, and as I was circling around to the back of my car I was dreading having to push my functional, yet pretty bare-bones hand-me-down double umbrella stroller through the snow and slush. I unloaded the stroller, strapped in Luci, and was unbuckling Nicholas from his car seat when I glanced at the minivan and realized it belonged to the triplet mom.
As I worked on getting Nico strapped in, and Isabella out of her car seat, I watched her unload one, two, and then three toddlers. One had taken off his coat and was playing in dirty snow on the sidewalk, another was crying and refusing to let his mother put him down, and the third stood on the sidewalk, a piece of toast clutched in her hand. The mom remained completely calm amidst the chaos that must occur several dozen times in each day of her life as she attempted to wrangle them into the building. I stood there thinking how the tasks I find challenging with twins and a preschooler must be exponentially more so with triplets. I can fit a side-by-side double stroller down the narrow halls of the preschool. A triple stroller wouldn't fit. I have two hands in which to grasp a twin hand in each. She must rely on a sibling to hold her third child's hand, or else trust that a curious two-year-old isn't going to run off at any time. I can (and do) carry both Luci and Nico at once to avoid multiple trips. She may be able to manage two in her arms when circumstances warrant carrying them, but certainly not three. And the list goes on.
I'm sure she never envisioned her life as a mother to triplets.
I could have had triplets. My life could have been her life.
My life could also have been mother to two.
Last week, I took Nicholas to the doctor because he breathes pretty heavily and I wanted to ensure he wasn't suffering from allergies (he's not). The process of getting one baby dressed for the day, bundled into coat and hat and strapped into a car seat was infinitely more simple than doing the same tasks for two. We arrived at the doctor and the double stroller stayed in the car. I carried him in. I didn't have to divide my attention between the baby getting examined by the pediatrician and the one fussing in the stroller.
We went to the grocery store afterward to pick up a few things. It was Nico's first trip there, since even if I could figure out how to take two non-walking, too-small-for-the-car-cart babies plus a three-year-old to the store, I'm not sure I would want to. The entire time I was alone with Nicholas, I couldn't help but think how different things would be if I had had a Luci or a Nicholas instead of a Luci and a Nicholas. How much more mobility and freedom I would have. How much easier it would be to find a babysitter for a preschooler and a baby instead of a preschooler and two babies. How much more enriched their lives would be, since taking one baby to storytime at the library or the children's museum or shopping while their older sister is in preschool is a breeze, while taking two is damn near impossible.My life could also have been mother to one.
Last week, Isabella got up before her brother and sister several times, and we were able to spend around 30 minutes of uninterrupted, quiet time together. She opened her Advent calendar to reveal her small, daily surprise. We ate breakfast together at the counter in the kitchen. We talked without having to talk over the sound of babies crying, which is as constant a sound in our house as the hum of the furnace or the ticking of the clock in the kitchen. And I thought that this is what my life would look like if I wasn't able to have the second child I had always wanted. I would have so much more time to devote to Isabella and her interests. I wouldn't be simultaneously pulled in three directions every minute of every day. The house would be so much more quiet. I couldn't help but think that Isabella's quality of life right now might be better as an only child, since her brother and sister are still so young, and not exactly offering up much to foster a sibling bond just yet.
Was I meant to be the mother of three, even though I had never wanted more than two children? Is my life what God and the universe had in store for me long before children were ever thought of? Was I given more than I can handle for a reason?
Being a mother to three young children is by far the most challenging thing I have ever done. It's a life I never would have envisioned for myself four years ago. Motherhood gives me more joy and more pain than anything else in my life.
But it's also something on which I desperately need perspective. The triplet mom's life is almost certainly more insane than my own. The lives of many of the other preschool moms who drop off their three-year-olds with their singleton babies in their arms are almost certainly easier than my own.
In the end, though, I am simply doing the best job I can. I just have to accept that for right now, that's enough.
It's because you, my faithful and fabulous readers, have some of the best advice on the planet. Blogging is my therapy these days. When I'm averaging 5.5 or 6 hours of sleep at night (because I work until midnight and then try to get up by 6am at the latest to beat my kids awake and work before they get up), while trying to maintain my sanity amid holiday craziness, I know I can post something here and someone out there will get it. And honestly, sometimes you are the only ones who get it. There are several of you whom I believe I was separated from at birth.
(I just read my middle sentence in the paragraph above, and no, I don't actually beat my kids awake. Why the hell would I do that? Beating them to sleep, though, I'm totally on-board with).
Anyway, where was I going with this post?
Oh, right. Your advice on my last post.
I would love it if we could draw names to make gift-giving in my family less of a money-and-time-sucking affair. Unfortunately, most everyone in my family wants to buy for the core, elder members (those being my grandma and my great aunt and uncle). And honestly, I want to buy for them too. They do a lot for me and my kids, and have been more like parents to me than grandma and aunt and uncle. I can't imagine NOT buying for them.
I also buy for my kids, and I think at least the older one might have an issue with Santa not showing up this year. The other two wouldn't know the difference. Then there's the hubs. I think he deserves a gift, or I do most days anyway.
My sister, my mom, and my dad are people I definitely need to buy gifts for. I also have two half-sisters from my dad's second marriage, and I buy for them as well. And my mother's 4th husband. Then there are my two aunts, who buy gifts for me and for my kids, so I would feel funny not buying for them, and I know at least one of them would be miffed if I didn't buy for her. Oh, and my great uncle's birthday is several days before Christmas, so we buy him a gift for that too.
Fortunately, we don't exchange gifts with the hubs' family. Both his father and mother decided long ago that they only wanted to buy for the grandkids and not for their two sons (or their wives), and frankly, that's fine with me, because that's four less people we now have to buy for (they are divorced and remarried/re-partnered). We also don't exchange with the hubs' brother.
That means I must buy Christmas gifts (plus one birthday gift) for 15 people.
I think I may use Stacey's idea for next year: gift cards. Simple. Easy. And everyone can buy exactly what they want/need.
Many of you suggested helping others, and that is exactly what I want to do. I do this in some capacity every year anyway (whether I'm donating food for a basket sponsored by my church or picking a toy for a poor child off an angel tree), but it would give me a lot of joy to be able to spend more on them, and less on agonizing over gifts for people who, frankly, don't really need them (and I'm including myself in this). I have spent so much time in the last 2 weeks trying to drum up wishlists for myself, Isabella, the twins, and the hubs for everyone who wants to buy for them and is bugging me for IDEAS! NOW! that I have completely lost sight of what this holiday is all about.
And THAT is what I want to get back to. I love my family dearly. They drive me insane on an almost daily basis, and I know I bitch about them on this blog, but they do rock.
However, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. It is about love and giving back, and togetherness, and quiet, silent nights (or something like that, anyway).
It is not about crafting an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of gifts for 47,866 people. It is not about spending vast quantities of time online and in line trying to buy gifts for people who truly do no need one single thing.
And it is not about throwing a shit hemorrhage because your children will not stop whining, crying, or crawling away during the Christmas card photo shoot, which is exactly what I ended up doing just before calling it quits and deciding to use the professional photos we had taken in September for the card. I love Debbie's idea: to fade my Thanksgiving disaster photos, attach them to cardstock, and add a funny comment. My friends would LOVE a card like this. I would love a card like this. One of my favorite Christmas photo cards ever is one of Chas' three girls all crying. And image like that would sum up my Triple Threat nicely. My family, though, conservative old-school Italians that they are, would not love this. They would really, really not love it.
But next year, I'm doing it. I am going to be easier on myself. I am going to take shortcuts and not feel guilty about them. I am going to try and enjoy this time of year, even though I know that's easier said than done.
Just promise me you'll still read here when I'm writing this exact post again in December 2010.
Luci loves the Christmas card photo shoot!
Can't we just put my face on the card? I mean, seriously, what's not to love here?
The best one of all three. And no, I'm not kidding.