Last weekend, while I ran a 10K, she and the hubs camped out at the house of one of my friends who lived on the route. Her kids and Isabella ran a water table for the runners, and Isabella had a blast filling cups and passing them out to the runners. I was told later on that she especially liked it when the runners would dump the water over their heads.
Also last weekend, Isabella and I and two of her friends and their moms went to see two plays at a local college: The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon, which were put on by the traveling theatre group from The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Both were fantastic plays, very well-done, and if you're anywhere near St. Paul, MN, (the company's last stop on the tour) I would highly recommend you check out this show in June. We had a great time with her two buddies and their moms, and we even were able to meet the "animals" after the show, which was a big deal for Isabella, since Goodnight Moon has long been her favorite book, and the theme of her first birthday party too.
Here she is doing her best Olan Mills photo shoot pose before the play.
And with the "young mouse" from Goodnight Moon.
She is getting better at writing her name, but most of the time she flat-out refuses to even try writing the "s." She can, however, figure out the letter that most words start with, and can often be heard walking around the house looking at things and saying, for example, "d-d-desk, starts with "D"!
Her first year at preschool is winding down in a about a week and a half, and while I know she will miss her teachers and her friends, I think she may miss the father of one of her classmates most of all. Isabella has developed her first crush.
One day a few weeks ago, she was eating lunch after coming home from preschool and out of nowhere she said, "I love Keegan's daddy. I think about him every day."
Umm... yeah, I am not ready for this. My daughter clearly has a thing for older men.
I asked her why and she said, "He's a nice Daddy. And Keegan brings Thomas the Train books to school!"
I thought it was perhaps a conflation of ideas in her little mind: Keegan + Keegan's Daddy = Thomas, but a few nights later, as I reminded her that she had preschool in the morning, she said, "I'm so excited I get to see Keegan's Daddy!"
The Tiny Dictator has been getting up at the crack of dawn (anywhere from 6am-6:30) and this is putting a huge cramp into the way I normally start my day (caffeine and work), but the upside to this is that she's begun taking naps (usually) on the days she's up this early, which sure as hell beats her calling me 52,000 times during naptime, asking me if she can come downstairs yet.
She continues to be a great big sister to the twins, but I've noticed her taking on the "mommy role" with them a lot. This works both ways. She is in one minute sweet and gentle with them, taking them by the hand to play with a toy or read books...
And in the next minute, she's screeching that they're pulling her hair, biting her, or playing with a toy that Surprise! all of a sudden she wants to play with, after having ignored it for months. She also shouts "Bad! Bad!" at them a lot, which is odd because that's not something I ever say to them (I stick with "Shut the f-up, you annoying little sh*t"), so I'm uncertain where that's coming from.
One of her favorite tasks is cleaning with Luci. She loves to tell everyone and anyone about the time she and Luci cleaned up the whole dining room area all by themselves. I heaped lavish praise on her for that one, so hopefully her desire to help continues.
It looks like the birthday theme this year is going to be dinosaurs. Aunt Karrie will be painting another masterpiece like this, this, and this with a dinosaur theme, and probably including a few of her favorites from Dinosaur Train.
In just two months, my baby is turning 4.
Current Likes: Negotiating things to death, flashlights, puzzles
Current Dislikes: Waiting, Luci wearing her old clothes, the letter "S"
This is Charlie. He has been in Isabella's crib since the day we took her home from the hospital almost four years ago. He has spent every nap tucked under her arm. She often sleeps with him draped over her head. She kisses him goodbye before she heads out the door to preschool. She wheels him around in her stroller. She teaches him in her imaginary classroom in our living room.
Isabella, the twins, and I had gone on a walk around 11am. Isabella was riding her bike. She had taken armfuls of crap with her on the ride: jewelry, her binoculars, a flashlight, a canteen...and Charlie. She placed all of these things in her bike bag, which fits over her handlebars.
Usually, I place Charlie in her bike bag. This is because he just barely fits in the bag, and I almost always secure his front paws inside the bag, so that he has less of a chance of falling out.
But on Saturday, I didn't. The twins had spent the morning screaming, and a change of scenery was desperately needed, so we decided to go on a bike ride. I was busy loading the twins into their stroller, while Isabella stashed her things, including Charlie, in her bike bag. I strapped on her helmet, and we took our usual route around the neighborhood.
We stopped twice along the way: once to chat with a friend and her kids, and once so I could place a quarter I found on the ground inside her bag. We came home, gave the kids lunch, got them down for naps (or quiet time, in Isabella's case), and right afterward we left for a party at our friends' house.
We returned home at bedtime. Usually, Charlie is lying around in one of his usual spots: the kitchen counter, the sofa in the living room. On top of the gate at the bottom of the stairs. But we could not find him anywhere. We got the twins in bed, and then spent a good half an hour scouring the house for Charlie.
Once it became apparent that Charlie was not going to materialize anytime soon, I realized I needed to get Isabella to bed. She was already up way past her bedtime.
"Would you like to choose another friend to sleep with you tonight?"
"I only want Charlie!"
"Sometimes it's nice to cuddle with another buddy."
"I want Charlie!"
And then the great, heaving sobs started. Huge, from-the-belly sobs, which quite literally broke my heart.
"I love Charlie and he loves me!"
"Charlie's looking for me!"
"Did someone take him?"Both the hubs and I began to suspect that Charlie had fallen out of her bike bag during the walk, although I felt I would have noticed this if it had happen, because Isabella is always in front of me while on bike rides. So, just before we attempted to get her into bed, I ran our bike route, desperately scanning lawns and gutters to see if I could locate him.
When I returned home empty-handed, things took a turn for the worse. Isabella was borderline hysterical. She was in bed, but had no intention of sleeping. She had been up since 6:30am, and hadn't had a nap. She was exhausted. I climbed into bed with her. She cried quietly while I stroked her hair. She fell asleep with her body curled into my chest.
I extracted myself from her bed without disturbing her, went downstairs, and began scouring the Internet for Charlie replacements. The hubs took a flashlight and did his best peeping tom imitation, as he walked our bike route looking for Charlie. He wasn't out there. I immediately emailed our neighborhood's Yahoo group to alert the neighbors to keep an eye out for him.
I IM-ed the incredible Stacey, who had gone through a similar ordeal with her son's beloved "Harry" about a year ago, to ask for pointers as to how to deal with Isabella's deep sadness over her loss. She spent over an hour helping me search for replacement Charlies. We compared fur patterns, mouth and nose shapes, "old-style" Gund bears versus "new-style." She gave me some great tips: put up flyers, post on Facebook about finding a new Charlie, spread the word far and wide to see if anyone could help. She dropped whatever she was doing late on a Saturday night to help me. For this, I will always be grateful. Thank you, Stacey.
It was nearing midnight. The hubs and I were literally sick to our stomachs over this loss. I hadn't eaten dinner. I had to get up at 6am to run a 10K yesterday morning. We were exhausted and despondent. Charlie was just a stuffed bear, but he was everything to Isabella. If we couldn't find him, or convince her to accept a replacement, which, hey, had been returned to us bathed and looking brand new!, we would be wrecked.
The hubs was picking up toys in the dining room. He opened up Isabella's Thomas the Train puzzle box to pack away the puzzle she had put together earlier that day.
Inside was Charlie.
I was so happy I started crying. I grabbed Charlie, tip-toed upstairs and into Isabella's room, and placed him on her pillow. The next morning when she woke up, I went into her room as I always do, and she sat up with a huge smile on her face and Charlie in her arms.
"Mommy, while I was sleeping, I felt a little bit of fur, and it was Charlie! So I hugged him under my arm and went back to sleep."Parents watch their children suffer through unimaginable horrors much worse than the loss of a stuffed animal. Isabella is a healthy, happy little girl, and I am thankful beyond measure for this.
But oh my god, it was literally killing me inside to watch her go through the emotions associated with losing Charlie.
I hope it's a long, long time before we have to head down a path like this again.
I am now officially one step closer to having myself committed than I was one month ago.
There's been some good that's happened this month. Both babies have adjusted wonderfully to life in the gym's daycare, which has really made my life so much easier. Nicholas just walks right in and takes off to play with the several zillion toys they have available, and while Luci tends to hang back with me while I get their stuff settled, she eventually chills out too. The staff has told me that they've been happy and playing after I've left, whereas just 4-6 weeks ago, they would be screaming off and on the entire time, and several times so uncontrollably that I've been paged mid-run to pick them up and take them home.
So, this is definitely +1 for the twins, and I'm really proud of them.
Both Luci and Nicholas now follow directions somewhat well. If I ask them to pick some toys up, fetch me a missing sippy cup, or bring me a book, they will do so. Luci is especially compliant in this area. Neither twin likes tv, which I find surprising, because if I remember correctly, Isabella was about this age when she was very interested in Sesame Street. The tv is not on often here, but when it is, they couldn't care less about what's on, and frankly, I wish they did. It would be nice to use the tv as a calming mechanism during one of their frequent tantrums.
Their language skills continue to grow, and while Nicholas still has the edge on Luci (he speaks many more words, and puts together two-and-three-word combinations), she has more words than she had last month.
At their 18-month appointment, their pediatrician said that Nicholas is "very verbally advanced" for his age after hearing him chatter away in the exam room, since she doesn't look for combination sentences until age two. She said Luci's language development is exactly where it should be, which was good to hear. And Luci does say, "All gone" so I know she's heading in the right direction.
Here are their 18-month stats:
Weight: 2o lbs, 2.5 oz (less than 5th percentile)
Length: 29 inches (less than 5th percentile)Nicholas
Weight: 22 lbs, 13.5 oz (10th percentile)
Length: 30.5 inches (less than 5th percentile)
Head Circumference: Gigantic. Dude has a head in the 93rd percentile
During their appointment, I finally brought up their seemingly non-stop crying and screaming, because it's gotten so bad that I've honestly begun to think that there's something wrong with them. I told their doctor that they begin crying usually less than 10 minutes after they get up in the morning, seemingly for no reason at all, and that despite living in a house overloaded with toys, their most favorite activity is to follow me from room to room screaming and crying. No amount of holding or cuddling is enough for them, because the second I put them down, they're right back at it. This is what I see at my feet literally dozens of times a day.
She asked me if they stop crying when I'm holding them. I said yes. She completed their exams to ensure that there was nothing physically wrong with them and potentially causing them pain, and then she told me that she suspects they are simply very high-needs children, which, of course, I've known since I took them home from the NICU. She said it's okay to put them down, reassure them that everything is okay, and continue with whatever it was I was doing when the outbursts happened. Obviously, I already knew this and do this, but apparently she must have thought that I went about my daily tasks carrying 40+ pounds of baby everywhere.
And then she said, "The most important thing with babies like this is that you're getting a break from them. Are you?"
I take them to the gym for about 1.5 hours, 2-3 times a week. My grandma and great aunt come over once or twice a week for an hour or two, but given their ages (80+), I cannot leave them alone with the kiddos for very long. These constitute my "breaks" during the week. On the weekends, which is when I get the bulk of my work done, the hubs generally takes over twin care, but I'm hardly relaxing on the back deck with a margarita and Us Weekly.
So, a break? Not really.
Luci is my helper. I can count on her to help me pick up or take things into different rooms. She has also begin taking great naps, and snoozing until a reasonable hour in the morning. Of course, she spent the first 15 months of her life screaming through the night and waking up at the crack of dawn, so she owes me.
Luci now calls Isabella "Bel-LA" (with a big emphasis on the "la"). She calls Nicholas, "Dude," which I find hilarious, because along with "Nico," this has been his nickname since he was just a few months old. It's also interesting, because a few months ago, Nicholas starting calling Isabella, "Ba-Ba," so they don't call her by the same variation of her name.
She still has just 1.5 teeth. Fortunately, her doctor is not concerned. But seriously, 1.5 teeth at 19 months old?
She's developed a big interest in baby dolls, carries them all over the house, and loves feeding a bottle to Isabella's small baby doll, which is the perfect size for her hands. She's still majorly attached to her stuffed bunny named Bonnie, but whom she calls Baby, and insists on taking the bunny downstairs with her every morning.
In addition to her appearance, which is very different from her brother and sister and from her parents, there's another part of Luci which leads me to question her lineage. She is a ridiculously slow eater. The hubs and I? We eat quickly. Nicholas? Scarfs his meals down in about 30 seconds flat. Isabella is on the slow side as well, but compared to Luci, even Isabella is speedy. We all finish our dinners, and Luci is not even halfway through hers.
My dear, this is not how we roll in this family.
Nicholas is my talker, just as Isabella was at his age. He's constantly pointing to something, and saying, "Oh, burds!," "Oh, car!," etc. He is 100% boy in every single way. He loves shoving gigantic dining room chairs and the ottoman in my office all over the house. He is prying open drawers, attempting to get into the bathroom to play in the toilet, or hurl himself off the arms of the couch every chance he gets. He even smells like a boy, a scent very different from both Isabella and Luci.
He is never full. He is always asking for "more" of everything, and literally screams for his food while sitting in his highchair waiting for me to bring his meals to him. Apparently, this non-stop hunger is a boy thing? I don't know.
Nicholas has now transitioned to calling me "mommy" (rather than "mama") about half of the time now. He still wants me to hold him all day long. While both babies are high-needs, Nicholas is much more likely to follow me around the house screaming. I love him, but ohmygod, sometimes I wish we had a soundproof room I could stick him in until he learns to chill the hell out.
We hang out on the porch a lot now. The babies seem to like it, and Isabella loves it when we eat lunch out there. I'm so happy the warmer weather is here.
Anyway, I want to address a few of the comments, which is something I wanted to do days ago, but, of course, my schedule got in the way, as it does often.
There were two "Anonymous" comments (I swear I won't bite you, mystery people. Even if you don't feel comfortable leaving your real name here, make one up and leave it at the end of your comment. It's much more personal than my now having to address you as "Anonymous 1 and 2"...and it helps me avoid spelling "Anonymous" incorrectly 15 times too).
To make things easier, I will refer to the Anonymous comments as A1 and A2.
A1 made an interesting comment. Here's what she said, in part:
Why is it that there is so much disdain towards moms who truly do not feel the need to get that one day a week to themselves away from the kids? Why is it thought that there is something wrong with those women or that they must feel like their lives are so not their own?... those of us out there who feel the way I do are just plain annoyed with people mockingly calling us martyrs and the like. Our lives are better because of our children - we don't get sick of singing the ABCs, it isn't a task for us to take 4 or more kids to the market or to the park. Why is that so hard to understand for some?
I agree with Mary's response to A1's comment wholeheartedly. A1, it sounds to me as if you have struck the almighty "life-in-balance gold" for which so many others (myself included) are still searching. You work out two hours a day at the gym. You make time for your appearance, and your interests, and you don't feel as if your kids are sucking the life out of you. Because you are actually able to take time for yourself, you don't feel burdened by motherhood. Mommy martyrs don't take that time for themselves, and give and give and give to their children to the detriment of themselves and their goals. As Meagan said in her comment, moms who do this end up miserable in the end.
There is nothing wrong with a mother who loves every minute of "mothering." Personally, this does not describe me (not even close, especially lately), but I know several women for whom being a mother is the only thing they've ever wanted, and they are happy with their lives. But for me, I am as Jess said: My running and my work enable me to be a whole mommy, and not solely a mommy. I could not hack it as a traditional stay-at-home mom. But that's just me. It may not be you. And that's okay.A2's response nicely sums up my own views on mommy martyrdom. She says:
My mother is a mommy-martyr. She became nothing but her children, she had nothing outside of us, and when we grew up and left she was alone with nothing. I swore I would never turn into the invisible woman, that I would have something for myself and be someone that my children could be proud of. I swore this, whether I worked or not. I am lucky to have a job I love, a job I would do for nothing if I was independently wealthy. I love my children too and I love that I can arrange my schedule to be with them, but I will also be myself too.
Much as I love them, I cannot and will not live solely for my children. I do not want to wake up in 20 years and realize that I have completely lost myself to motherhood, and that I cannot identify where my children end and I begin. And above all that, I want my kids to be proud of not only the mother I am, but also the woman I am. I want them to see from my example that they can accomplish anything they want: that they can run a half-marathon, work and raise their families at the same time (although at times, it is certainly a struggle), climb Mount Everest, go to cooking school, or whatever it is they desire most.
Motherhood is incredibly important to me. I went through more than most to achieve it. But other things are important to me too. I'm still in the hunt for the balance others like the first Anonymous commenter has already achieved. And it may not come until all my kids are in school. But until that point, I will gut through the insanity of my current life. I will wake up at 6 to work and finally turn off my laptop at midnight. I will run at 7am or 11am or 4pm or 8pm because a regular running schedule will not work for me right now. And I will bitch and complain for the next few years until some semblance of normalcy returns to my life.
Some mothers might not require theirs, but I need my blue dress to keep breathing.
My grandma was one. My mom was one. My aunt was one.
They sacrificed their own interests, desires, and in my mom's and aunt's cases, their financial security, in the name of fulfilling their own definition of the "good mother."
For the women in my family, being a good mother meant you first and foremost did not work, especially when your kids were young. Working meant time away from them, even though you might have enjoyed your pre-motherhood career and you really, really needed to be working to avoid financial ruin. With the little money you did have, you bought for the kids and not for yourself. You shuttled junior here, there, and everywhere without complaint, even though you might have just wanted to sit home and read a book. You squashed your own dreams, and you lived for your kids. Oh, and you did this with a smile on your face because this is just what good mothers do.
I am not denying that motherhood comes with a certain amount of sacrifice. 90% of my wardrobe is made up of clothes purchased before Isabella was born. I get my hair cut much less frequently than I would like, simply because my fabulous stylist charges more than I can afford to spend every few months. And I muscle through exhausting trips to the playground with all three kids by myself, because I know they love it.
But there is one thing that has become increasingly important to me that I absolutely will not sacrifice, and that is my running and my September half-marathon goal.
Whenever I talk about going to the gym, or my running schedule, or my plans to run a half-marathon in September, my grandma and my aunt (the two relatives that see me and the kids most often) cluck their tongues and give me disapproving looks.
"You're trying to do too much."
"You have too much on your plate."
"Do you really need another "thing"?"
In this essay, which I hope you will take five minutes to read, the writer tells of an expensive blue dress she bought - a dress she ordinarily never would have purchased for herself because she was used to saving money to spend only on her kids. But this dress made her feel beautiful and successful and alive. And then she says this, a statement that makes me want to reach through my screen and kiss her:
"Sacrificing the things that make us feel feminine or happy or heck, just human simply because we are mothers isn’t helping anyone in the long run."
She goes on to say that our kids are not better off if we live in sweats, that they did not ask us to give up our designer purses or our daily showers.
Women are not better mothers because they're martyrs.
I would not be a better mother if I gave up working, my running, or Starbucks. In fact, I would be a much worse one.
Running is my blue dress. And no amount of mommy or grandma or auntie guilt is going to make me give it up.
Yesterday, we had awful weather. Rain and extremely high, 50 mph winds all day long. Trees and powerlines were down all over the city. People lost power. We were gone for most of the day, but when we returned, we watched the mama bird sitting on those three eggs literally hanging on for dear life as she was pelted with rain while the branches swayed and the tree moved in the wind. If that's not motherlove, I don't know what is.
On Friday, we went to my fertility center's annual IVF celebration at our children's science museum. In previous years, the event was teaming with multiples. This year, I didn't notice as many (although there were certainly more sets of twins in one place than I've ever seen before).
It was a complimentary event, and it was great to be able to see for free the museum's temporary dinosaur exhibit that I had been warned against paying to see, since it was geared for kids older than Isabella (it was). She did enjoy the few moving "dinosaurs" though, and especially the dinosaur babies.
The event ran from 5-7 pm, not exactly the twins' favorite time of day. Fortunately, a steady stream of crackers kept them from tearing the place apart.
On Saturday, we left the twins with my mom who was in town for the weekend, and Isabella, the hubs, and I went to the "Day Out With Thomas the Train" event, which was taking place about an hour west of us. And I learned an important lesson about long car rides with preschoolers, and that is, don't take them. I packed a bag of snacks, books, and toys for Isabella to keep her occupied, and she still lost her shit about 30 minutes into the trip. And by "lost it," I mean complete, crying meltdown about wanting to get out of the car. Apparently, if we take the trip to Sesame Place (5 hours away) this summer, I will either need to pack a small DVD/tv player or some Valium.
Thomas was fun. It consisted of a 25-minute train ride, and then five or six tents filled with other activities: (more) face-painting, temporary tattoos, Play-doh, train tables, faux-sand tables, movies, and of course, a gigantic souvenir tent with every conceivable Thomas product ever imaginable. You could drop $200 in there in about 5 minutes. We gave her the usual "one-present limit" and she ended up picking out one of the least expensive things in there - a Thomas bubble set for $3.99. We relented when she also asked for a Thomas book. And we secretly bought her the "Isabella Train," which we didn't even know existed prior to a playdate at a friend's house a few weeks ago (thanks, Kelly!). We gave her the train in the car on the way home as a means to keep her quiet, and it worked. $15 well spent.
There were plenty of opportunities to see Thomas throughout the day. The train arrived and departed every 30 minutes or so, and each time Thomas returned, a woman would alert the crowd via a loudspeaker.
This is the best of perhaps 50 shots. And once again, no, I'm not kidding.
We had an 11am departure time.
Isabella's first train ride. All systems are a go.
The ride itself could have been a bit more entertaining. I don't know if I was expecting a Polar Express-like experience (I was so damn cold and wind-blown, perhaps I just wanted hot cocoa), but I thought they could have played some Thomas music (there was a recording playing in the train, but the volume was so low, we couldn't hear it), passed out Thomas coloring books, or something else.
All in all, it was worth the (somewhat high) ticket price for the day. Isabella had a great time (despite the awful weather and the conductor actually coming over the speaker while we were in the train to warn us about taking shelter in case a "wind emergency" was declared), and I can see us returning in two years with the twins, when they're three.
And earlier today, I hosted Mother's Day brunch for 15, as I do every year. This was my gift, which rocks, and which I can't wait to put to good use tomorrow in a long run. Isabella made me a pin in preschool, which I wore all day today, plus some potted flowers and a flower card. These were my favorite gifts, because she made them.
And of course, it wouldn't be Mother's Day without the accompanying Holiday Photo Shoot of Futility.
When I got up this morning and went to my office, I peeked out the window and the mama bird was still sitting on her nest. The wind had died down some, but we were still experiencing some heavy gusts. I was so happy that she (and her eggs) had weathered the storm. Sometime between 6am and 1pm, something happened. The nest is now empty. There is a cracked egg in the flower bed beneath the tree. The other two eggs are gone. And the mama bird has disappeared.
We told Isabella the baby birds hatched and flew away. I couldn't bear to tell her that in all likelihood the wind had blown the eggs out of the nest. She was so looking forward to seeing those babies hatch. The mama bird lost her babies on Mother's Day.
Life is fleeting. There are millions of women for whom motherhood is elusive, difficult to achieve, or impossible to maintain. Not so long ago, I was one of them. Today, on Mother's Day, I'm thinking of my IF sisters.
For those of you fortunate enough to be mothers, I hope you had a Happy Mother's Day.
This is one of my favorite photos of Isabella, taken when she was 18 months old. Both she and Luci have my hair: super-fine and wispy.
Here's one of Luci taken last week.
I'm sorry, girls. Your hair genes suck.
You will cease and desist the public humiliation, mother.
We've had several warm and humid days in the row here, and the heat and humidity are wrecking havoc with Luci's hair. It always had a slight wave to it, but the warmer weather made it look like I had taken a crimper to her hair. It will not be tamed, much like Miss Explosive Personality herself.
This is how you deal with bad hair days, isn't it, mommy?
And then there's Nicholas, who seems to have a lot of hair. Despite the fact that the hubs is practically bald, when he was younger his hair was thick and wavy.
Nicholas' hair doesn't so much resemble the hubs' when he was a lad, though.
It seems to grow forward and straight down, like this:
Which is why I'm a bit concerned that Nicholas' lineage can be traced instead to a certain former governor.