(And here's last year's. What a long, strange trip it's been.)
I did take up the issue with my mother. It didn't go well. She essentially told me that she was numero uno growing up as the first of five children, I was the big cheese as the first grandchild in the family, and now Isabella is wearing the crown as the first great-grandchild. And oh yes, "there's nothing like the first." It is maddening and hurtful and insane, all at the same time, but it's not an issue that's going anywhere soon, so to preserve the dangling shreds of my mental health, I am dropping it until the next flagrant violation, which should occur in approximately two months.
On to the celebration for my second-class citizens!
The morning of their actual birthday, the twins awoke to surprises on their highchairs. Since the theme of their party was Elmo and Abby, I gave them little buckets, crayons, and books, all with the characters on them. Thank you, Target dollar bins!
Crayons are taboo for Luci and Nicholas unless they're under some serious supervision. This is a rare shot of them using the crayons on paper. They usually prefer other surfaces, such as floors, walls, and their own teeth.
And now it's time for the posed birthday photo part of the celebration, always an event guaranteed to send mama straight to the liquor store upon unsuccessful completion.
What's that? Two two-year-olds smiling simultaneously, and neither has their eyes closed or food on their face? I'm buying a lottery ticket instead of vodka this year!
Don't worry, they're still the same hellcats they were at age one. The lovely grins lasted approximately .00002 seconds, and then it was back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The twins received a train table for their birthday. All three kiddos love it, although Isabella, clearly forgetting that she has lived in the International House of Chaos and Mayhem for the past two years, had a slight meltdown as the pieces started hitting the floor: "They're going to mess it all up!!!"
We had their party last Sunday. My sister painted this awesome sign for them, a gift she creates for the kids on their birthdays every year.
Yes, I stood them on top of a chair. It's not like they don't climb them (and the dining room table too) every chance they get. We like to live dangerously here.
A friend pointed out how similarly Luci and Isabella look in this photo, something I've never noticed until now. Isabella and Nicholas have always been the pair to look alike.
We sing to them individually, and this year we sang to Nicholas first.
And then it was present time.
Luci and Nicholas sat demurely on the couch, patiently awaiting Isabella, who delivered each gift without first helpfully ripping into it herself. Upon opening each gift, Luci and Nicholas graciously thanked the giver, scribbled off a "thank you" note, and moved on to carefully open the next present.
Didn't they look like this, just five seconds ago?
Two-Year-Old Checkup Stats
Weight: 23 pounds, 13.5 ounces (10th percentile)
Length: 31 1/4 inches (less than 5th percentile)
Weight: 27 pounds, 15 ounces (50th percentile)
Length: 33 inches (10th percentile)
No one has ever said I was a nice mama.
And speaking of the cranky mama, I have yet another family gripe. And it goes a little something like this.
Isabella is the rock star with my family. She was the first grandchild born on my side, and has received a bordering-on-the-ridiculous level of top billing since her arrival. It was Luci and Nicholas' birthday this weekend, but she also received a gift from almost every member of my family. The twins each received a book from my mom on Isabella's birthday. No one else brought them gifts.
It's difficult to manage the emotions of young children on their siblings' birthdays, and I'm grateful that my relatives thought of Isabella. However, my problems with this are three-fold.
1. I do not want to set a precedent that on the kids' individual specials days, everyone gets gifts. I know this may be a product of their ages, and hopefully will lessen as they get older, but I believe strongly in not creating a culture centered around receiving material things. They have so much already. They do not need any more toys.
2. The number and cost of the gifts given to Isabella this past weekend were ridiculous.
3. Luci and Nicholas have not received the same treatment on Isabella's birthdays.
Here's an example.
Isabella and I went to a card store on Friday. While I picked up thank-you notes, she hugged the oversized stuffed animals by the door. When it came time to leave, she started to cry because she wanted to take home the big yellow lab. It wasn't an "I want it now!" bratty kind of cry, but more of an "I don't want to leave him" kind of misery. She was genuinely sad about leaving this dog.
My mom was in town for the birthday party, and was tucking in Isabella that night. Apparently, Isabella told her about the dog. My mom mentioned the dog to me, and asked where we saw the dog and what the dog looked like. I explicitly told her not to buy the dog because A.) I didn't want Isabella to think that any time we go into a store, she can cry and whine and get what she wants and B.) The dog is huge, almost as tall as Isabella. I am not a fan of giant toys in a house already overflowing with kid stuff.
Guess who now has an almost three-foot-tall and two-foot-long dog in her bedroom? Mamacita, despite my telling her not to, bought Isabella the $45 stuffed animal.
She's been doing stuff like this for Isabella since her birth. The twins do not receive the same treatment, on their birthdays or any day.
Undermining Aunt (background here) bought everything but the kitchen sink for Isabella's birthday back in August-toys, books, money, etc. She must have spent over $100. The twins each received a $25 savings bond from her. She spent $25 total on them. And my issue is not with the dollar amount of the gift. It's with the disparate treatment given to my children.
It makes me sad to see this. I am glad Isabella is so loved, and I know Luci and Nicholas are too. But I love them and treat them equally and I want everyone else to as well.
I am at a loss as to how to deal with this. Do I live up to my Mean Mommy reputation and tell my family to stop spoiling one of my kids and to treat them all equally? Or do I just let this occur, and hope that once everyone is a little older, the ridiculous (and disparate) gift-buying will stop?
At 3:09pm and 3:10pm on October 15th, 2008, first you, Luci, and then you, Nicholas, made your way into the world. From those moments on, nothing about our lives has been ordinary.
You are both high-energy, curious, and not concerned in the slightest for your own personal safety. You streak through the house causing chaos, upending chairs, dumping over toys, and climbing onto everything. You were Thing 1 and Thing 2 last year for Halloween, and at the time, I thought dressing you as the "Things" and your big sister as "The Cat in the Hat" was a cute idea. I had no idea the costumes would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While you share a penchant for trouble, top-tier lung capacity, and a love of Italian food, you are also very different.
Luci, you are my tiny firecracker. Small in stature, with a huge presence, you are fiesty, bossy, tough, and often the instigator in fights with your brother. You whack him, and then smile at me and laugh while he cries. And yet you are so cuddly and love being held and hugged for long periods of time. When I rock you toward sleep for your nap and at night, your eyes are closed, and yet you always lift your head to give my cheek a sleepy kiss before settling down. You tell your Daddy or me to "Sing!" as we're rocking with you, because Daddy has long soothed you toward dreamland with your special song that he picked for you before you were born: "My Girl."You are Daddy's little girl, for sure, in a way that your older sister is not. While your brother prefers me, you prefer him, and that makes both of you happy. You love your great-great aunt too, and she dotes on you in a very special way. There is no shortage of people who love you in our family.
Eating is not your favorite activity (how is that possible in our family?), but you do love your Cheerios, yogurt, and strawberries. You love pointing out new or unusual things and sharing them with me ("Look, Mommy! Look!") and you are a big helper around the house, picking up toys, bringing me things I need, volunteering ("I get it!") to pitch in when we need you. You are the "Goose" (what Nicholas calls you) to your brother's "Dude" (what you call him), and while your bond is still on the thin side, given that the two of you are at war a lot of the time, I watch you growing closer to him by the day, and it's so much fun to watch.
Binkies are your bedtime buddies, and I am not looking forward to the day (which is coming soon), when we are going to strip you of your four (yes, four) binkies you sleep with. It is my fault you love them so, since we eagerly handed them over to you when you were a tiny baby to quiet your sound-barrier-breaking screams in the middle of the night.
You are incredibly attached to me, and you always tell me "Mommy rock Nicky" before nap and bedtime. On the rare occasion I'm not around at bedtime, it does not go well for you.
In addition to his penchant for the library's Fiddler on the Roof-esque costume of his own making, he enjoys wearing aprons, hats, my shoes and sneakers, and just about anything else he can find around the house.
He also loves wearing his sister's pink Elmo jacket, which was a gift someone originally gave to Isabella when she was a baby.
Every time we go to the closet to put on jackets, he asks for it by name. He has his own jacket, of course, and the Elmo jacket isn't even Luci's primary fall jacket, so it's not as if he sees her wearing it all the time and is blinded by a jealousy. He just loves it. So, I let him wear it.
The hubs does not like it.
And yet the hubs is not that guy.
Despite being a guys' guy and a sports fanatic currently participating in no fewer than 12 fantasy football leagues, he has never coveted a boy. He didn't put a ball in Nicholas' hands the second we brought him home from the NICU. He doesn't play soccer or baseball with him (instead, he plays with Isabella who loves to swing a bat), and doesn't insist that his son play with only trucks and cars. He's progressive, open-minded, and (mainly) a liberal, like me.
And yet the idea of his son in a pink jacket bugs him. I think boys in pink probably bug more people than just the hubs, too.
Here's Luci wearing what is obviously a boy's jacket. I doubt that this would bug anyone.
But why do boys dressed like girls (or boys playing with "girl" toys) bother people?
It is, of course, the leering spector of "gayness": that to allow a little boy to wear pink, girly jackets, play with dolls, or carry around a Dora purse (all of which Nicholas does) will "turn" him gay, which it obviously will not, given that sexual orientation is not learned.
It's also the antiquated notion that boys should be tough and strong and masculine. Pink ruffles are not masculine.
Young kids don't see gender as rigidly fixed as adults do. And frankly, I don't want my children to believe in the narrow ideas of gender identity-that only girls wear pink, that only boys can be police officers. I have no doubts this will inevitably happen to a certain degree once they hit kindergarten, but until they do, I want to create a gender neutral play environment for them.
So if Nicholas wants to try on Isabella's old Christmas dress, I'm going to let him.
Nicholas is growing up with two sisters, and yet our house is not an explosion of pink and princess. Since Isabella was born, I've made it a point to buy mostly gender-neutral toys. Yes, we have dolls, doll strollers, and doll houses (and of course boys can and should play with them, and Nicholas does), but we also have a tool bench. We have cars and a car garage, complete with an elevator and ramp. We have trains and tracks, a baseball and bat, and a set of golf clubs. These were all originally Isabella's toys. All three kids play with them now.
I loathe the idea of "boys toys" and "girls toys." I didn't run out and buy trucks and sporting equipment when my son was born anymore than I ran out to buy Disney princess dresses when Isabella and Luci arrived. Luci and Nicholas' birthday gift from us is a train table, which some might see as a stereotypical "boy toy." And yet both twins love playing with Isabella's train set, and so I knew this would be a perfect gift for them.
Research supports gender-neutral play environments as being the most developmentally beneficial for kids. It makes me sad to enter houses where the kids are all one gender and see only that gender's traditional toys. Yes, some girls naturally gravitate toward the frilly, girly princess-y stuff and some boys to the dinosaurs and trucks, but I believe that this is the exception rather than the rule. Many people buy their kids (or their nieces/nephews/grandkids) playthings that the big box toy stores tell you are "for girls" or "for boys."
"She's a two-year-old girl, so of course she'll love the Disney princesses!"
"He's a two-year-old boy, so of course he'll love this talking dump truck!"
Sure, these toddlers might like these toys. But I also think that the two-year-old girl might like the dump truck. The two-year-old boy might like to wear the tiara.
And there's nothing wrong with either of these preferences.
What's the toy box (or dress-up chest) like in your house?
Isabella currently wears clothes in size 5T. For my international friends, this is basically the biggest clothing size in baby and toddler lines. Most 5Ts are a little big for her and some of her 4T wardrobe still fits her (depending on the brand), but 5T is the size I'm currently buying, since they'll last longer.
In less than a year, she'll be moving up to the "big girls" clothing sizes.
I am not pleased.
I'm finding a huge difference in style, cut, and patterns between the "toddler" sizes and the "big girl" sizes. It's not a change for the better.
I read recently (can't remember where) that clothing designers make the same clothes for girls just out of the 5T size that they do for tweens and even teens. Because tweens and teens do not want to wear the styles and colors that the little ones wear lest they appear too babyish, companies design "up," meaning, the clothes are much more suited to an older girl than they are to the pre-schooler or Kindergartner who just moved into the big girl sizes.
Here's an example.
I mainly shop at Target, Old Navy, Carter's, and The Children's Place for Isabella's clothes. Most of the time I shop online because I am not masochistic enough to haul the Triple Threat into stores on my own. But I had to return an outfit that Isabella received for her birthday to one of the stores listed above, and in looking around for a replacement outfit, I was at a loss to find something - anything- age-appropriate for her to wear, since this store's little kids' line stops at size 4T.
Here's what I found available in her size:
Ultra short skirts in animal print, and pleated, with a zipper down the center. I really don't want my four-year-old resembling a groupie at a Kid Rock show.
Glittery shirts, adorned with peace symbols, rhinestone butterflies, or tie-dyed hearts. They had sayings on them like "Love, Peace, and Harmony" and "Totally Awesome."
Ripped jeans. Lots and lots of "distressed" (read: shredded) jeans.
For my four-year-old.
I'm hardly old-fashioned, but perhaps my sense of style is. I'm already missing the adorable polka dot shirts and tights, striped leggings, and long peasant dresses Isabella will soon outgrow. "Big kids" clothing for girls does not look well made in these stores, nor does it look appropriate for a preschooler. And while I know there are more expensive stores whose clothing for girls does not look like what I just described, I can't afford to shop there.
Apparently, I am stuck with what's available in these stores.
If you have girls who have outgrown the toddler sizes, please tell me where you find cute, age-appropriate, and not-too-expensive clothing!
And speaking of scary, there's a new PSA inferring that feeding kids junk food is the same as giving them heroin. It's designed to address the skyrocketing rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. Check out my post on my health and wellness blog and let me know what you think about it.
I've noticed that four is a defiant age. Isabella is testing her limits and objecting to things that she would normally placidly agree to, seemingly just to push my buttons. She's always been opinionated and outspoken, but recently, she's taken this to a whole new level.
Let's talk tennis for a moment, shall we?
My health club has the best tennis facilities, coaches, and programs for kids in my area, so when the fall schedule for kids' programming came out, we asked Isabella if she would like to take the 7-week-long lessons. She eagerly agreed. I pitched the idea to write about the Kids Tennis Program for my health club's blog, and received comped lessons.
She picked out a new tennis racket. She practiced with the hubs, who played tennis in high school. She had a blast at her first two lessons.
But at her third lesson, she refused to participate. She clung to me like I was dropping her off at boarding school for six months. She cried and asked to leave. Despite my encouragement and that of her coach, we had to leave the court and go home. This was not even a drop-off scenario, because I sit 10 feet away from her, on the bleachers on the court, taking notes and photos for my blog post. And she never said she didn't want me to leave her.
She never gave any reason at all for wanting to stop taking lessons.
And on Saturday, the scenario repeated itself. Except this time, we didn't even make it into the car in our driveway.
I am completely confused. I think she is too, especially since she is jazzed about going to hit balls with the hubs today after preschool. She loves to "play tennis." Apparently, she does not love tennis lessons, which, I must say from having watched them, are so much fun and not hardcore in the slightest.
On the school front, she is doing wonderfully, although I must admit the back and forth loading and unloading of kids to make the preschool trip twice a day, four times a week is a bit tiresome. Preschool needs busing. I would pay for it, gladly.
And, school is wiping her out. She goes to preschool from 12:30-3:30, a time she's to this point spent either napping or more recently, having quiet time in her room. After picking her up, she's asked to take a nap at least three separate times, something she has firmly resisted doing for months now.
However, I must give credit to the awesome idea that Notes From the Frugal Trenches suggested in response to my need for Isabella to have quiet time in her room this past summer. She suggested filling 7 boxes with some of Isabella's toys, and giving her one box to play for each day of the week during quiet time. I started this over the summer, filling the boxes mainly with Isabella's own toys, but adding in a new box of crayons, or a sheet of stickers to keep things interesting.
To my complete delight, it worked. Now, on the days she doesn't have preschool (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) she stays in her room from 1-3pm and plays. No more yelling to come downstairs. I added in a Sticker Reward Chart, so each time she successfully stays in her room for quiet time, she places a sticker on her chart, and after so many stickers in a row, she gets a reward.
Oddly, the treat has not mattered to her so much as the excitement of adding another sticker to her chart. I've only purchased her one reward, this book, which I adore and highly recommend for any little girl.
Isabella continues to be a sweet and gentle big sister. When I begin to lose my mind with the twins, Isabella talks calmly and sweetly to them, trying to get them to comply with whatever it is they've been ignoring from my mouth. But I know their neediness grates on her. My great uncle took her and I out to breakfast on Friday morning while my great aunt and grandma watched the twins. After eating she said, "At least we got to eat in quiet!"
She continues to ask me first thing in the morning, "Where are we going? Who's coming over today? Do I have a playdate today? How about preschool? Where are we going after preschool? Can we go to the library/playground/so-and-so's house?"
She likes to stay active, but I do believe she needs her own cruise director, because mommy is really, really tired.
Current Likes: Helping me clean (Holla!), doing somersaults, boys (God help me)
Current Dislikes: Tennis Lessons of Doom
If Nicholas weren't hell-bent on climbing on top of our end tables and catapulting himself into death's path, I might order new ones, because ours are basically wrecked and CSN Stores has some great ones. They have over 200 online stores, so if you need it (or want it), they sell it and will deliver it to you really, really quickly. They also have a great rewards program, so when you create an account and place an order, you receive 3% back on your purchases to spend on future orders.
Instead, I might opt for a pair of shoes or maybe a new bedding set, since mine pre-dates the Reagan era.
And if you're interested in the train table I ordered for Nicholas and Luci's birthday, this is the one I chose.
They are turning 2 in less than 2 weeks!