Just before Christmas, my aunt's present for the kids arrived. Isabella was beyond excited, it wasn't freezing cold outside, and there was about six inches of snow on the ground, so we decided to take all three kids out in the sled. This was Luci and Nico's first experience with the white stuff.
It started out very well for all three.
We put Isabella in the back seat, and then put Luci in Nico's "lap" in the front seat, given that he's the heavier of the two.
I wear mittens on my feet because that's just the way I roll...and also because my mama's too cheap to buy me boots since I'm not walking yet.
Care to wager a guess on approximately how long it took to get us all dressed?
I switched Luci and Nicholas' positions in the sled, and added Nicholas' trusty sidekick (he will be 15 before he abandons the binky-or more accurately, before I allow him to abandon the binky), and that seemed to work for awhile, although it appears Luci got the raw end of the deal here.
I may suffer in silence now, but you will pay for it after midnight.
Isabella wanted to get out and play soon after that, and then each twin had his/her own seat.
Inside these gloves, we are flipping mommy the bird for forcing us to freeze our collective arses off.
Then, Isabella wanted to give pulling the sled a try.
Have you considered South Beach for these kids? Seriously.
Nicholas was soon politely expressing his desire to exit the sled (read: screaming at the top of his lungs), so I thought, hey, maybe he wants to play in the snow too.
Nicholas enjoyed 30 seconds of frozen fun. Then, this happened.
I've given him plenty of fodder for his therapy sessions when he's five.
It's been a mixed bag of a month in a lot of respects. She continues to be a sweet and charming little girl when she wants to be, and I still contend that three is my favorite age thus far. But Isabella has also turned into a big-time negotiator, which is amusing some of the time, but pull-your-hair-out frustrating most of the time.
Isabella always has an alternate plan about the way things should go down, even when I make a point of giving her two choices from which to pick. This tends to get very exhausting, very quickly.
For example, if we're upstairs in the morning and talking in her room just after she's woken up, and I have to get Luci (or Nico), I'll ask her if she wants to wait in her room, or come with me to get whichever baby is up. She always has a third option in mind, so she'll say, "Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to go downstairs and then you'll follow with Luci later, okay?" And this is a fairly benign example. Usually, her attempts to control the situation extend into eating at meal times ("How about if I don't eat my cauliflower, but I eat all my chicken?") and picking up her toys ("I'll pick them up AFTER I finish this book"). Sorry, kid. There's only one sheriff in town and it's not you.
My Mini Mussolini is generally speaking, a benevolent little dictator with her brother and sister. That said, she's made comments to me lately, mostly in the early morning hours when she is awake and they are not, that's she's growing tired of the three-way tug for my attention. She's said, "I'm glad I can spend time with you without the babies" and "don't get the babies!" when she hears them crying in their cribs or in Baby Jail (if Isabella and I happen to be in the kitchen alone together). She often asks me to read a book to her in my office, or play with her in the special area I've set up for her and her "small parts" toys in our dining room/living room. And of course, most of the time I can't indulge her because the twins require so much supervision and attention.Her room is mostly complete, although I am still searching for white curtains that aren't excessively frilly, we're overdue in converting her toddler bed into a full-size bed, and I still want to order some prints from some Etsy shops Jess recommended to me. As you may remember, Isabella hated the color of her room in the new house (it was lavender). She would constantly tell me "purple is NOT my favorite color" and would ask for her room to be painted red (her favorite color). We compromised and painted one big wall and one small, recessed wall red, and the other walls white. I added peel-and-stick red polka dots to the large white wall. The bookcase is based on this one. My MIL's boyfriend built it for her and I'm not sure who loves it more: me or Isabella. And the little red chair is courtesy of her very generous Aunt Karrie.
This room is Isabella. She's not a girly girl. She's a primary colors kid. She's not into the princesses or many of the things that interest other girls her age. She loves her bedroom.
She's starting to write the letters in her name, and she's doing a great job with all letters except the "s." Also, I cannot recommend this DVD enough. She's known most of her letters for awhile now, but this DVD has allowed her to learn the sounds each letter makes.
I made the preschool decision that I was deliberating last month. I called her teacher and asked her opinion as to whether I should enroll Isabella in the three-day-a-week morning program for three-and-four-year-olds, (which is essentially what she's doing right now, except Isabella currently attends two days a week), or if I should enroll her in the four-day-a-week afternoon program for four-year-olds, which is more academic and similar to Pre-K. Her teacher said that Isabella just adores school (told you so, grandma), that she thought Isabella would "thrive" in the PM program, and that Isabella loves Circle Time (stories, songs, and finger plays) and could "sit in circle time all day long" so she would enjoy the extended Circle Time in the afternoon program.
That conversation made the decision pretty easy, so the Afternoon Program it is. I figure by that time Isabella won't be napping anymore anyway (she now naps maybe two or three times a week) and the twins take horribly short naps now as it is (down at 1pm and most often awake before 2:30pm) so I won't be disrupting their sleep when I have to go and pick Isabella up at 3:30. I think I've made the right choice, and I think the structure and the four consecutive days in the row will prepare her for kindergarten (gulp!) next year.
Current Likes: Brushing the cats, rice cakes
Current Dislikes: The nightlight in the hallway, her screeching siblings
Thanks so much for the many awesome suggestions in yesterday's post. Keep 'em coming!
Such were the milk-and-honey days of a one-child household.
And now? There are two more eaters in the house. I use the term "eaters" in the most liberal sense of the word, since they actually fling more than they eat. Not only are these two far pickier eaters than Isabella ever was, but finding the time to cook for all five of us is more of a challenge. Dinnertime is Crazy Time in my house, and rarely is the hubs home before it's time to eat so I'm almost always cooking (or microwaving) with three kiddos under foot or screaming in the next room.
Our meals are boring, repetitive, and not always entirely healthy. I am bound and determined to change this, and I'm not alone. I have been reading a lot on this topic on quite a few blogs lately. It seems there are quite a few of us who want to change our families' diets to make them healthier, and full of less processed, less last-minute, less pulled-from-the-back-of-the-refrigerator foods. Jamie, fellow mom to twins and a toddler, asked me awhile back for some healthy recipes, since she knows I do the organic thing, and that feeding my kids good and "real" food is a big deal for me. Of course, I referred her to Mush, my long-dead baby food blog, but I also told her I'd blog about some of the healthy and kid-friendly things we do eat.
That said, I think we both could use all the help we can get.
I saw Food, Inc. over the weekend. Seeing this movie reaffirmed my belief in healthier eating and in buying organic for the kids (in spite of the high cost). This movie also has made me want to seek out as much sustainable, non-factory farmed, grass-fed beef and hormone-and-antibiotic-free poultry as I can (and to reduce the amount of meat and poultry we eat overall too).
And so, I started immediately.
On Saturday, I made these zucchini muffins, except I reduced the sugar by 1/3 of a cup, and substituted one cup of wheat flour in place of one cup of white flour. All three kids loved them. The recipe made 48 mini muffins plus two full-sized muffins.
I am now on the lookout for a healthy and low-sugar granola bar recipe. If you have one, please share it!
I realize this will be a baby-steps process. Meal-planning, baking, and cooking healthfully takes a great deal of time, and I barely have time to brush my teeth. But I figure if I start by giving the kids a zucchini muffin for their afternoon snack instead of a handful of baby puffs for the twins and a high-sugar granola bar for Isabella, that's a good start, right?
I would love to hear what you're feeding your family. If you have an easy, healthy, low-sugar, kid-friendly breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack recipe that you wouldn't mind sharing, I would love to have it. Oh, and if nothing I've written here resonates with you, and you just want to throw up now because of the hippiness of it all, you can let me know that too.
My reasons are not what you might think. He works outside the home. I work within it (double duty, really. Childcare all day, and my freelance work all night). I am with the kids 24/7. I am wiping their butts, playing endless games of Candyland Bingo, schlepping them and their massive amounts of gear here, there, and everywhere, and scraping their tossed and pulverized Cheerios off the floor All.Day.Long. I am entitled to losing my shit with them every once and awhile.
He, however, sees them for less than two hours a day during the week. It should be sunshine, rainbows, and puppies when Daddy's around. Only one of us is entitled to being strung out and exhausted with the kids, and it ain't the guy who just enjoyed a blissful 30-minute whine-and-tantrum-free commute home, in which he wasn't forced to listen to "The Wheels on the Bus" for the 4, 457,286th time.
Truth be told, I'm not a yeller. I will swear aloud (not at the kids). I will walk out of the room to escape the screaming, yelling, fighting, or whining that's pushing my buttons. But I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've yelled (more than just raised my voice) at Isabella. I'm more a fan of the stare of death. One look can almost always get Isabella to do whatever it is she's protesting. Either that, or I freeze her out and ignore her. Behavior modification at its finest, people! Are you taking notes?
But on the rare occasion when I have raised my voice, I can't say I've felt that guilty about it. Apparently, I'm in the minority.
A few months ago (yes, that's how far behind I am in blogging about news stories I've read), I came across this NYT article. The article describes a survey of 1,300 parents, in which respondents were asked the main source of parental guilt. Two-thirds of them named yelling as their biggest guilt-inducer.
Okay, so parents feel guilty when they yell at their kids. Really guilty, apparently. That's not so shocking. In the era of mommy guilt that flows forth from just about every parental choice (from working outside the home to nursing versus formula-feeding, to tv or not-to-tv), I don't believe it's shocking to find that parents feel badly when they yell at their kids. Many feel like backing over themselves with their car when they forget to send their children to school with a hat on a 40-degree day.
But what irked me about this article is this quote: “Parental yelling today may be partly a releasing of stress for multitasking, overachieving adults, parenting experts say.”
Come on. Seriously? Do we really need this kind of anvil thrown at us?
Reading between the lines, this line of bull really means that parents are less patient with their kids because they're working (or maybe working too hard). We're trying to do too much, all at once, and our kids are suffering.
I will admit to being even less patient when I'm on a deadline. When the work is piling up, the hubs is due home late, and my kids aren't napping in the afternoon, a period that sometimes allows me a little time to work, I am more prone to snapping at them.
But give me a break. Even if I wasn't working, or if the hubs and I were Trump-esque in our lifestyle and bank accounts and didn't need to work for a living, we would still lose our patience with our kids once and awhile and yell at them. We aren't spanking them. We aren't locking them in their closets with only a handful of Baby Mum-Mums and a sippy cup full of water for hours on end.
So guess what? I don't think there's anything wrong with us occasionally raising our voices when the situation warrants it.
I don't feel guilty when I yell.
Both babies are obsessed with climbing the stairs, and would do so all day long if we let them. They are cruising machines, and both love walking with their walkers. I'm guessing that within the next two months, both will be walking independently.
And now, on to Teeth Watch 2010.
Nicholas seemingly has a new tooth breaking the gumline each morning. He has 2.5 on the bottom, and four coming in on the top. As a result of this (I think), he is a whiny, crying mess of despair almost 24/7. He is also biting. A lot. He's bitten me more times than I can count. He's sunk his choppers into Isabella's chest and leg. And he's finally realized that he has a mouthful of WMDs in his mouth, should he tire of Luci's beatdowns.
Both babies' sleep is horrendous. I would have thought that with three kids, the odds were in my favor that one of them would be a good daytime napper. Apparently, I've done a whole lot to anger the Big Man Upstairs.
I'm often struck by the thought that my babies are not aging. I don't mean in terms of size, because Nicholas is certainly heftier and looks much fuller than he did a few months ago, while Luci is still very small. But it just seems like I still have two "babies" and not two toddlers, which at 15 months, they really are. Of course, they're not exactly "toddling" yet, but their crying, screaming, and overall behavior just seems so babylike. They look and act like babies most of the time. They aren't walking yet, which may be part of it, but in re-reading my blog posts of how Isabella was acting at the same age, she just seemed so much...easier. And yes, I know they were premature and as a result are really more like 13 months than 15 months, but I'm ready for less crying. I'm ready for less round-the-clock neediness. I'm ready for more independence. I'm ready to sleep through the night again.
Come on, kids. Cut mama a little slack. Trust me, we'll all be happier in the longrun.
Likes: Giving kisses, sibling domination
Dislikes: Diaper changes and food groups that don't contain bread
Likes: The feeling of pliant flesh beneath his teeth, vast quantities of food
Dislikes: Cutting the cord
Luci:Weight: 18 pounds, 10.5 oz (She's finally on the charts! 5th percentile, but she's still on it!)
Length: 27 1/2 inches (less than 5th percentile)
Head Circumference: 45 1/2 cm (45th percentile)
Weight: 20 pounds, 5 1/2 oz (He's on the charts-5th percentile-too!)
Length: 28 1/2 inches (less than 5th percentile)
Head Circumference: 49 cm (90th percentile)
I contemplated letting Isabella loose on his straggly mess of hair with her safety scissors, since she's all about the cutting these days, but I figured Nicholas might want to enjoy the gift of sight for just a few years more.
Nicholas was encouraging me to simply cut the hair around his strategically placed snack bowl. I thought about that option for awhile too.
In the end, I took him here, which is where I've taken Isabella for her cuts for the last year.I had high hopes he would be lulled into an Elmo-induced, zen-like state (the shop plays videos for kids to watch while having their hair cut), and let the stylist quickly cut his hair.
I was quickly brought back to reality as soon as Nicholas' diapered tush hit the Bumbo seat. This is my "spirited," sound-barrier-breaking son we're talking about here.
Dear God, the water! Is Horrible!
I will get you for this, woman.
I'm secretly enjoying this, but have affected an expression of stony solidarity for my brother in the chair.
In the end, Nicholas' hair came out quite cute, and no one lost an eye or a finger in the process. Of course, I'm going to have to start cutting his hair at home now since we've been banned from the salon (who knew screams could actually break glass. I swear this was an urban legend I saw on Snopes), but other than that, I'd call the trip a complete success.
Today. 10am. The shearing of Ringo.
But on the inside?
Luci is 100%, without a doubt, the dominant twin. This is fine with me and not altogether unexpected. The females in my household are strong-willed, stubborn, and assertive.
But this little girl takes aggressive to a whole other level. She has made her brother into her own personal punching bag.
And Nicholas? Takes it. With zero retaliation, unless, of course, you count his attempts to break the sound barrier with his cries.
If they are sitting anywhere near eachother, and there are toys in the vicinity, Luci will pick one up and immediately begin hitting him on the head with it. If there are no toys in the vicinity, she will use her hands.
She's taken to pinning him down. Or perhaps she's attempting to hitch a ride on his back. I'm not sure which.
One afternoon last week, I watched as she took one toy after another and beat him upon his head with it. I would take one toy away from her with a firm, "No. No." And she would look at me, and then pick up another one, and do the same thing. This happened three times in a row.
She was smiling the entire time.
For his part, Nicholas does nothing. He sits there and takes it. He cries and looks at me, all, "WTF, mom?" He doesn't fight back. He doesn't move away. It's as if Luci is a python who immobilizes Nico with her venom, and then moves in on her prey for the kill.
But the other day, karma came back to bite Luci in her diapered behind.
Check out the following two videos*
Who's laughing now, sucka?
*As you probably noticed by his lack of tears, the ball was a soft, squeezable one from this toy. It wasn't a hard ball, and if it were, I may have put down the camera and stopped the assault...after I had captured a few seconds of it to sell to Cops, of course.
But am I glad I did?
It didn't take me long to realize that life with twins and a toddler (now preschooler) was about as far from "easy" as it could get. Going anywhere requires major planning and preparation and I'm constantly looking at the clock and counting backward to build time into our schedule for dressing, hair-brushing, meltdowns, diaper changes, and loading of all gear into the car. There is no "pick up and go" in my world. Everything requires advance thought. Everything is difficult. Getting places on time (something that is hugely important to me and always has been-love her though I do, my mother was constantly running behind when my sister and I were younger. We were late for everything, and I hated it) demands organization, and it means that those of us who can dress ourselves, put on our own coats, and get themselves ready to go (and I count Isabella in this mix) do so.
Fortunately, Isabella (for the most part) has stepped up wonderfully, and I have noticed a huge change in her behavior over the past year. Yes, she's a year older, and I think maturity is a part of it, but by encouraging her to do things for herself instead of seeking my help, I believe I've empowered her with a sense of accomplishment. She loves saying, "I'm a big girl. I can do it" and most of the time, I let her run with this. Sure, it takes longer for her to put on her coat, hat, and mittens then if I were to do it for her, and it does take more time to clear the table after dinner when Isabella takes her plate to the sink and her napkin into the garbage, and it sometimes takes a very long time for her to clean up her toys at the end of the day.
But I like to think that my encouragement of her independence, instead of doing the things for her that I know she's capable of doing herself, will not only help me stay sane, but also help her self-esteem too. She gets such a thrill from calling me into a room ("Come see what I did, Mommy") to show me some big-girl task she's done for me without asking-picking up the babies' toys, putting napkins on the table for dinner, etc. Isabella frequently tells me, "When I get bigger, I'll sweep the floor for you/make the babies' breakfast/wash the dishes," etc.
Fortunately, her preschool re-enforces the independence I'm encouraging at home. In the mornings, the kids are encouraged to hang up their own coats and place their school bags in a basket. One child each day is chosen as the snack leader and he/she helps the teacher pass out the snack. The kids help with cleanup too.
Of course, just as you can rely on the moon rising as the sun sets each day, my family members are not fond of my parenting style. I am "too hard on her." Isabella is "just three" and "still a baby." One of my aunts still carries her around every time she sees her, as if Isabella wasn't 31 pounds and 32 inches tall. They bundle her up when we're leaving their homes after a visit. They sometimes even feed her when Isabella refuses to eat at mealtime. I realize that some of this is just what relatives do. They coddle. They spoil. They like the idea of Isabella still being a baby, because babies are Cute! Cuddly! And babies most certainly do not tell you, "To bad for you, I won't."
But for me, with three little ones, two of whom are supremely cute, but incredibly needy little parasites, allowing Isabella to do for herself everything that she's capable of doing (most of the time anyway) makes my life a bit easier.
And these days? I am all about "easier."
Nicholas is currently smack-dab in the center of teething hell. Actually, we all are.
His teeth are bursting through his gums by the gross. His top two front teeth are coming in, and the incisors on either side are just about to break the gum line. For a little boy who is extremely "exuberant," "spirited," and "vocal" on good days, the past few weeks have been bad. Very.Bad.
"Ohhh...fun. A box! Me likey!"
"Um, what's with the flap-shutting?"
"Farewell, dear brother. I shall miss you so much (but not your screams, which interrupt my viewing of Dinosaur Train on a daily basis)."
"Get me out of here! I have not a single tooth in my mouth! You can't pin the past few weeks' misery on old Luci this time!"
"OMG. I'm really going, aren't I?"
Farewell, Little Man. I'll take you back once all your teeth come in, I promise.
You know what this means, don't you?
My free childcare has abandoned me. I am once again flying solo with the hellcats.
It's no secret that I am not a big fan of the holidays. Four sets of parents means four Christmases and a whole lot of gift-buying, which occupies virtually every free minute of every December, each and every year. Then there's the schlepping of kids here there and everywhere, and the perpetual exhaustion each night as we arrive home, hurriedly get the kids in bed, and collapse on the couch.
But the past two weeks have had their perks, namely, I haven't had to do much of anything with the kids, which sounds horrible, but which was oh-so-very-necessary. Now, of course I did meal-prep, fed the twins, gave baths, did laundry and cleanup, and played with them, but the vast majority of the day, someone else was "in charge" of them. All of them. Which allowed me to catch up on household projects (I finally-finally-unpacked, set up, and cleaned my office, cleaned the babies' rooms, framed some photos for the walls, etc.).
I also enjoyed a much-needed break from work. I finished up some freelance work before Christmas, and while I have several more freelance projects starting in a week or so, my online classes were on a two-week break for the holidays, which meant loads of free time for me. I watched three movies on DVD, something I haven't had the time to do since summer, and I'm in the middle of reading a book (one without pictures!), and again, something I haven't had the time for in months.
And on Monday of last week, I enjoyed the best Christmas present my husband has ever given me.
On Christmas morning, I opened a series of envelopes, each of which held a piece of paper that provided a clue as to my gift. One said, "This is something you really need." Another said, "Pack your bathing suit." Another said, "You may want to bring a book." You get the idea. The last envelope said that I was going to this hotel near my house for the night by myself on December 28th. He also provided a gift card for dinner and breakfast the next morning.
Allow me to tell you that I almost whipped off his socks and started kissing his feet right then and there. This was exactly what I had been wanting and needing for months. I contemplated leaving right then and there, but being Christmas morning and all, I decided to stick it out for another few days.
When Monday came, I packed my bag (swimsuit for the pool and hot tub, two books-I like having options-a magazine, and the stash of snacks the hubs also provided for my stay). I checked in, threw myself down on the hotel bed and...did absolutely nothing. The soundtrack to my life (screaming, crying, whining, and "Mooooooommmmy") was absent. I listened to the hum of the heater in the room, and that was all.
I invited my friends to join me for dinner, and we enjoyed an awesome meal, complete with a Pumpkin Pie Martini for me, in the hotel's restaurant. One had brought her bathing suit, since I mentioned that I planned on going in the hottub, so she and I headed there after dinner, while another friend stayed and kept us company.
The rest of the night was spent in total and complete peace and quiet. I read, surfed the web, watched a wee bit o' tv, and went to bed around 11:30. Luci wasn't there to wake me up with her screaming in the middle of the night, so I slept the entire night through.
The next morning, I enjoyed a leisurely carb-tastic breakfast, checked out around 11am, went shopping with some gift cards I had received for Christmas, and then arrived back home around 2.
I didn't diaper a butt, prepare a meal, give a bath, dress, undress, feed, carry, soothe, play with, or yell at a single child for 24 straight hours.
I may make this an annual, semi-annual, monthly, or weekly occurrence. This "vacation" was worth whatever the hubs spent and more.
Of course, now it's back to reality. But it's also a brand new year, and one that I know will be better than the one before.