Aunt Karrie was here again from Seattle, and she brought Isabella's birthday sign, a masterpiece of countless hours. She creates for one for Isabella's and the twins' birthdays each year.
On the morning of her birthday, Isabella donned her "summer birthday" crown, given to her at preschool at the end of the school year, and opened the books and coloring books we gave her to use on the trip to Sesame Place. The Olivia books and tv show are big with Isabella right now.
Then it was time to get ready for the party, drink heavily, and then attempt to orchestrate a photo of my three children in which there is no crying, closed eyes, or darting out of the frame without warning.
This was as good as it got. Isabella is doing her best dinosaur roar.Do you like her dress? Mamacita didn't. On Saturday, almost a full week after her party, my mother asks me, "Did you not have enough money to buy Isabella a party dress? You know you can always come to me if you need money." I had not a clue what she was talking about, as I thought the dress I picked out for her was very cute. Mamacita, apparently, thought it "was not special enough." My family does a lot for me, but family closeness always comes at a price. That price? Bearing the weight of Mommy Fail whenever they're around.
Her cake was made by the same woman who has made all of Isabella's and the twins' birthday cakes. She doesn't respond to my emails when I send her images and design ideas, but I can overlook her crappy customer service skills because her cakes look and taste so damn good.
Then, she opened presents. Lots and lots of presents. Among others, she received many books, lots of dinosaur-themed gifts (books, stamp sets, sticker books,) a few craft/Play-doh kits, and some Thomas trains. But I think her favorite gift was all the Dinosaur Train cars, plus the dinosaurs themselves, from Aunt Karrie.
This was the best photo of the two of us taken on her birthday. One day, my oldest daughter will learn to smile like her younger siblings, who very willingly ham it up for the camera on cue.
Thanks so much for all the birthday wishes for Isabella, both here on the blog and on Facebook. She is very lucky to have so many who care for her.
And to my Mini Mussolini, (as a wise mama says to her precocious preschooler in your favorite book): "You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway."
The twins' birthday is coming up in October, and I've been on the hunt for train tables. This is something all three kids can play with together (I hope).
As a CSN Stores Preferred Blogger, I can review a new product for them every month or so. CSN Stores sells a ton of great stuff, including modern rugs, baby gear, and, of course, train tables. I've had nothing but positive shopping experiences for everything I've ordered from them, and many products come with free shipping. I'm going to review a train table for CSN Stores in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for the review!
And if you have a train table that your kids love, please let me know which one!
Isabella had a fantastic time at Sesame Place and The Crayola Factory. An update on our trip and her birthday is coming this week!
Yesterday, you turned four years old. The night before your birthday, you were quite upset at bedtime.
You did not want to turn four.
As Daddy came to say goodnight, you asked him whether your birthday cake had a four on it. When he replied that it did, you asked him to scrape it off.
Luckily, you woke up in a great mood, announcing, "I had a conversation in my head last night, and now I'm okay with turning four."
I'm so glad, because as the years have passed, you've become sillier, funnier, and smarter. Three has been my favorite age so far.
Over the last few months, I've often been struck by how grown-up you are. Of course, we have two toddlers running around the house. This, by default, makes you the "big kid," and sometimes my expectations of you are beyond your years because of your sister and brother.
But you often speak and negotiate like a mini-adult, reciting memorized facts about dinosaurs, retaining and then talking about minute details of events that happened almost a full year ago, and using words like, "unfortunately," "actually," and "concentrate" in the correct context. Sometimes, this makes it difficult for me to see that really, you're still a little girl, even though you take a serious affront to that label. In fact, you were very offended when one of your camp counselors recently told you that you couldn't ride on the teeter-totter, because you were a little girl, and the teeter totter was for big girls.
You love being the "big girl" and I could not be more proud of the independence and confidence this desire brings.
Over the past year, you've seen some big changes. You rocked your first year at preschool, making me wish I had enrolled you for three days a week rather than two. You loved your teacher and your classmates, and other than a few days in March when you were upset about the switch to a new room, you never had any issues with separation anxiety. You loved the camps and swim lessons you took this summer, in part, because you were able to sail right into them, separate from me, and engage immediately with other kids and your teacher.
When I think about you at school, how much you learned, how confident and social and adaptive it helped to make you, I am filled with pride once again.
Of course, whether you want to be or not, you're still my little girl. Your heart (and mine) broke in two this past spring when we lost Charlie. He is your best friend, and you carry him everywhere. Fortunately, we found that you had stuffed him in a puzzle box, and were able to return your world to normal.
And you've dropped your nap, which I happen to think you still need. Sorry, but it's true. You'll be headed to preschool four afternoons a week beginning next month, so I'm hoping this will help to add a little structure to this time of day when you're at your most restless while we're at home while the twins sleep.
You continue to love art projects, drawing, coloring, and anything that involved glue. It's been close to a year since you began sleeping with books shoved under your pillow, and I can often hear you "reading" them after I've tucked you in. Trips to the library are among your favorite activities, and books about dinosaurs, birds, and the Berenstain Bears are usually tops among your picks.
In so many ways, I see myself in you. From the minute you wake up in the morning, you are on the go and your brain is working. I often feel like your personal cruise director, and on the very rare occasion I don't have a playdate or outing planned for the day, you are not happy. You always want to be out and active, asking me "who's coming over today?" "where are we going?" and "Can we go to the playground/museum/Starbucks?"
Yes, even though you only ever get milk and the occasional juice box when we're there, you love Starbucks almost as much as I do.
We've seen some big emotions from you over the past few months. Like me, you enjoy getting your way. And when negotiations break down, you are less than thrilled. You've logged some minutes in Time Out lately, and I hope the pouting and random exhaustion-fueled tantrums are not around for the long haul.
Your brother and sister adore you, their "Ba-Ba" and "Bella." You love them right back, and are very patient with them, even when they play with your toys. Our house is often filled with screaming, but it's sometimes filled with laughter too.
For your birthday this year, we decided to try something new. The greatest gift I ever received (besides you and your brother and sister, of course) was my college graduation gift, given to me five months before graduation. Your Grammie gave me a three-week class abroad in England. The gift of travel and of experience is incredibly important. I want you to see the world (and for awhile, the States) as I have. So, this year, we're starting small. We did not buy you presents this year.
Instead, tomorrow, we're leaving for Sesame Place. You've loved Sesame Street since you were a toddler, and right now, Big Bird is your favorite. We're spending tomorrow afternoon and all day Wednesday at the park, and then we're spending Thursday at The Crayola Factory, which, given your penchant for art projects and drawing, you might just enjoy more than Sesame Place. Your brother and sister are staying with Grammie. You'll have mommy and daddy all to yourself for the first time in almost two years.
I couldn't possibly love you more, baby girl. Happy 4th birthday.
I have been nursing a double calf strain for the past two weeks. My left calf is feeling better. My right one is not.
To say that I am wrecked right now is a drastic understatement.
My training program, the one to which I've religiously held for so long, has been basically untouched for the last 14 days. My last long run was on a Saturday a week and a half ago. I did 11.5 miles in 1 hour, and 39 minutes (an 8:36 per mile pace). My calves hurt a bit then, but it was still possible to run relatively pain-free. The handful of short "does it still hurt?" test runs I've done since then have not gone well. I've slowed down my pace, but pain radiates through my right calf even then.
I have spent a small fortune on various products and services to try and heal this injury. I have bought: heel lifts, Blue Emu, compression sleeves, Allieve, a calf massage at my health club's spa, ace bandages, athlete's tape, and soon, I will purchase a new pair of sneakers, since mine are almost shot (again). I am on a chiropractor's cancellation list, someone who was recommended to me by a trainer friend at my gym as the best chiropractor for runners in my city. I was able to have an evaluation at the physical therapy center, which is also located inside my gym, and the PT determined that my soleus and gastrocnemius muscles are indeed tight and strained, likely due to my training. He gave me two stretches to do, three reps of each leg, 1-2 times a day. I have to hold each stretch for 90 seconds, which seems like an eternity while I'm doing them.
The PT also said I should do seated and standing calf raises. I needed to get over my loathing of the weight machines at the gym in a hurry.
He recommended laying off the running for awhile and cross-training instead, which is what I've been doing. I've been doing interval workouts on the elliptical and the Arc Trainer, desperately trying to keep my fitness level up. He told me that if and when I do run, I should slow down. That if I'm able to run the half, I might have to be content with 10-minute-miles.
I did not train for this long and this hard to run my half-marathon at this pace. There is nothing wrong with running a slower race, but it's not what I've worked for. My goal all along has been to finish under two hours, and this is what I've trained for. It's only been the last month or so when I've believed that through the quality of my training runs, this time was possible. I cannot fathom running a slower race. But that might be my only option, if I'm able to run it at all. And if that's the case, I'm not sure I want to do the race. I had planned to do long runs up to 15 miles, so that when it came time for the race, 13.1 would seem very do-able. I've done two 10-milers, and one 11.5-miler. That's as far as I've gone. Even if I'm able to resume training in a week, there's no time to work up to a 15-mile run.
For the last six months, I have dedicated a large part of my life to training. I have dragged myself out of bed at 6am every Saturday and Sunday morning when I would have given anything to stay under the covers so that I could get my runs in before the heat and humidity arrived.
I have packed up two or three kids, every Monday through Thursday morning, and taken them to the gym daycare so I could train (Friday is my rest day, and Saturday and Sunday, I ran outside). With preschool or camp drop-off and pick-up, various errands, and my mounting freelance work, my schedule has become a chaotic mess, in part, because of this training.
But this was my choice. Running this half-marathon has been a dream of mine for years. I arranged my life as I did so I could reach this goal.
And now? The goal might not be possible.
I appreciate the support and advice some of you have given me on Facebook and in emails. I know if this race isn't possible, there are others. I know I only have one body, and that I need to take care of it, or else I might jeopardize my ability to run in the future. My mind knows all of this.
My heart, though, is breaking right now.
I have given my training everything I've got. I did not skip runs or workouts. I did not run 5 miles when the training program called for 7. I did speedwork, which I loathe, because I knew it would make me faster. I ran in the rain and the wind. I competed in four races and placed twice in my age group. I juggled and scheduled and rescheduled my life with three kids under the age of 4 on a daily basis to get my training in.
And the thought that this was all for nothing is literally destroying my spirit.
The half marathon is 3.5 weeks away.
I'm not sure I'll be at the starting line.
I bought almost all the decorations and party favors online at Oriental Trading Company. Best.Party.Site.Ever. Really great stuff. And one-stop shopping. When you don't have the time to blow your nose, much less shop 15 stores for party gear, this site is a lifesaver.
We decorated our screened-in porch, and this is where we had the food and drinks. I loved these hanging dinosaur swirls.
We played three games with the kids. First, I hid dinosaur eggs all over the backyard. Inside each was a baby dinosaur. The kids had an egg hunt to find them.
Then, we did a "dinosaur dig." We hid tiny, plastic dinosaurs in our sandbox and the baby pool (filled with sand), and had the kids pretend they were paleontologists and dig for them.
Finally, we did a "lava flow" game, where we divided the kids into two teams, and they raced to fill a bucket by transferring water from each other's cups. Trying to explain and then help execute this game with a group of four-year-olds was a bit like herding cats. There was some confusion and lots of team-crossing, but I think everyone had fun.
Then it was cake time. Here is my masterpiece. Isabella requested a red (no surprise there) stegosaurus. Instead, she got a pink dragon/pig hybrid.
This cake represents 7 hours of my life I'll never get back. In case you're wondering (and I know you are), the spikes are food coloring-sprayed saltines, the claws and nose are raisins, and the eyes are pieces of gum that I colored with a black marker.
Fortunately, she loved it, and took many of her friends to see her cake as they arrived.
When it was served, she requested the head.
Isabella was sad to see the party come to an end, but that also meant she could dive head-first into her toys. This was definitely something that had changed from her birthday last year. Where last year she would spend time with each gift, and not hurry to move on to the next one, this year she wanted to open and play with every single gift she received, one right after the other.
But before that happened, a little goodbye to her peeps.
Isabella was so excited about having her friends come to her house for the party. Having the party out would be a whole lot easier and less stressful, and it's something I will probably do in the future. But I really like the idea of a casual home party. It was a TON of work, but worth it to see her joy.
Can you believe she turns four on Sunday?
However, what we do have are aprons. Lots and lots of aprons. These have come from baking sets Isabella has received as gifts, and some I've purchased for her to wear when doing messy craft projects.
On Saturday morning, the twins channeled their inner Jamie Olivers:
Nicholas especially loves playing dress-up. We've been hitting the library a lot this summer, and the children's room has a huge supply of costumes. This is the exact costume, down to the bandanna and the kerchief, that he picks out each and every time we're there. I have not the slightest idea what this costume is. One of my friends suggested Nicholas looks like a Communist from the Old Country. I think he looks Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.
Since I've known him, he hasn't ever been trim. He's told me he was a chubby kid, but in photos of him as a boy, he looks pretty healthy. We started dating in 1997, and he was overweight then. Not dangerously so, but, like many people, he was carrying around some extra weight.
Several years into our relationship, and again after we were married (our ninth wedding anniversary was on Wednesday), he began to gain the so-called "love chub," which I recently wrote about on my health and wellness blog. I was not immune from packing on the pounds. I gained weight after we were married too. He has done the South Beach Diet several times, with pretty incredible results. At one point, he lost over 50 pounds. It was really, really hard for him, but he stuck with it and it delivered results. I was so proud of him.
He has gained it all back, though. And despite my suggestions that he give it another try, or go to the gym more often, or lay off the unhealthy food choices, nothing is working at this point. He just doesn't want to lose weight. I want him around to see our children grow up (because God knows I can't handle the Triple Threat on my own). I want to see him have more energy and to be more active. This isn't about physical appearance. It's about life and death.
But he doesn't seem to take it seriously.
I have realized that losing weight is one of those things that you have to want for yourself. No one can make you want it, and while a support system helps, you lose each and every pound on your own. No one loses the weight for you.
When I took up running almost seven years ago, I was at my heaviest weight ever, and I made a conscious choice to change my life. I started eating more healthfully. I started exercising. And the weight came off. It was hard work, but I did it.
I really, really wanted it.
Lots of others don't.
I wrote on this topic on my health and wellness blog yesterday. Almost 27% of the American population is now considered obese, and while there are certainly other factors as to why this is the case, I contend that for a lot of overweight and obese Americans, the desire to change their lives is just not there. They are complacent and unwilling to take charge of their health problems.
And I just do not get it.
If you wouldn't mind, please read my post.
Why do you think so many Americans are unhealthy?
Life was easier in a one-child household.
Isabella wanted to cook in her play kitchen?
Have at it!
Play with the pink doll highchair that cost $15.00 at Target, but from the way my kids fight over it, one would think it was made of chocolate?
Color at the ancient little table with a now-not-so-convenient two chairs, one of which had been smashed to smithereens and glued back together?
And then the twins came along. And then all of a sudden, our house, currently full-to-bursting with toys, transforms into the Sahara for all three of my blessed babies, where a Lord of the Flies atmosphere reigns and they contemplate a duel to the death for even the most insignificant of objects.
We desperately needed another table for them to draw on, and use for tea parties, and pretend play.
This one, which I love, and which belonged to me and my sister when we were young, was no longer cutting it. We needed to upsize.
And then this arrived from CSN Stores, an online retailer with over 200 stores, offering everything from dining room furniture to office supplies to fitness equipment.
The Kidcraft Nantucket Table is, in a word, awesome. It has seating for four: two chairs, and a bench that sits two.
It's made of extremely sturdy wood and I don't fear that I will obliterate the chairs when I sit on them.
It's cute and functional, with a large table perfect for four kids to use at the same time.
And best of all (for the hubs, anyway), it was super-easy to put together. The screws were sorted in separate bags by function, and the directions were a breeze to follow. The entire set was up in less than 30 minutes.
It's perfect for a quiet dinner for one
A social lunch for two
Or a raucous party for three.
And I am completely thrilled that I no longer have to break up fights over who gets to sit at the two-seated table, and for how long.
(That table-and-chair set has been moved to Isabella's bedroom.)
Once again, as it was when I ordered Isabella's bike from them, the entire ordering experience from CSN Stores was fantastic. I ordered it on a Tuesday and had it delivered three days later. A lot of their products, including this table, ship for free.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was recently chosen as a CSN Preferred Blogger, so I'm able to review products for them every couple of months.
In the meantime, if you're in the market for a great table for your kids, I would highly recommend this one. I love it, and the kids love it too.
Losing It is Jillian Michaels' new show in which she moves in with a family leading an unhealthy lifestyle and tries to help them change their habits and lose weight. I've seen The Biggest Loser a few times (of course I have), but I didn't really pay attention to who she was until I began watching Losing It. And while her voice is grating at times (especially when she's yelling at...err...motivating people), I like her. She's hard-core, she has a rockin' body, and she's overcome childhood obesity to become a fitness expert and personal trainer.
Which is why I believe she absolutely does not deserve the flack she received a few months ago (yes, I am behind with my posts) for the comments she made in Women's Health Magazine. Jillian said she plans to adopt rather than giving birth because "I can't handle doing that to my body."
Critics assailed Jillian Michaels for portraying pregnancy as a negative thing, and as something other than a natural function for a woman's body. They said her comments were insensitive to new mothers who are struggling to lose weight and that pregnancy was a wonderful, life-changing experience that she should feel fortunate to experience.
Contrary to what the lithe, lovely, and apparently extraordinarily dim-witted Gwenyth Paltrow has said recently about every woman having the time to work out and lose her baby weight, pregnancy, while wondrous for some women, can create pretty hard-to-reverse changes to our bodies. For many, losing the baby weight isn't as easy scheduling an on-call trainer for a three-hour workout while our nanny(ies) watch our baby.
Real women (read: those of us without a staff to make our meals, clean our houses, and tend to our children) have to work hard to get back to pre-pregnancy weight, and even then, our bodies sometimes look differently than our pre-kids one. Stretch marks, sagging breasts, and persistent cellulite are the war wounds of pregnancy and childbirth. And yes, our little bundles of joy are worth it (most days anyway), but that doesn't erase the fact that having a baby takes both an emotional and a physical toll on a woman's body. And admitting the truth about this and our displeasure with it doesn't make us unappreciative, horrible mothers.
Jillian Michaels' livelihood is dependant upon...her body. She's not only a fitness expert and personal trainer; she's a celebrity whose image is constantly on tv, on the web, and on bookstore shelves. The last five pounds many women struggle to lose after giving birth? The droopy post-nursing boobs? Probably wouldn't help Jillian's career. And although critics can argue all day that our culture needs to stop holding up an unattainable figure as the "ideal woman," the fact is that the entertainment industry is brutal, and if Jillian wants to keep her celebrity fitness guru job, having a baby might compromise that.
And also, it's her body and her life. She's not asking other women to forgo pregnancy and pursue a six-pack. If she doesn't want to have biological children, why do people care so much?
What do you think about the Jillian Michaels' controversy?
One of Isabella's current favorite pastimes is playing restaurant. Sometimes I am a guest, along with a few dolls and of course, Charlie. She'll set an elaborate table, take my order, and bring me my food. She's also cognizant of what food is served when. If I try to order eggs and toast, she'll say, "This is a dinner place, mommy."
Isabella and I have been using my health club's pool quite a bit to practice the skills she learned in her swimming lessons there. She's now able to go completely underwater all on her own, without getting water up her nose, which is something she definitely wasn't able to do before.
She's taught herself how to whistle, and she also now enjoys hopping around on one foot.
Isabella's been keeping busy this summer, a priority for me since there are a limited number of things I can do with three children by myself, given that two of them are crazy toddlers. She's taken two camps at our children's science museum: Amazing Animals and Wheels, Wings, and Moving Things. She's loved both of them, and I'm so happy to see her literally racing off to her camp each day without caring one bit that I was leaving her there. I'm contemplating enrolling her in one more at the museum, and then she has another in the middle of August, and then in September she's off to preschool, four afternoons a week.
On the last day of her most recent camp, I was a bit early for pick-up, so I pulled up in front of the building just in time to see her and her "campmates" walking in a line from the museum across the street to the building where the camps are held. Each child held the hand of a friend, and Isabella was talking animatedly to her buddy. And I recognized a feeling that I had when she began preschool last September - that she is developing a whole world that is entirely hers.
Her dinosaur-themed birthday preparations are under way. For the first time, she'll have both her friend party and her family party at our house. In the past, only her friend party was held here, given space constraints. But this year, big family party will be here too.