Ride, Isabella, Ride

On a dark and rainy morning earlier this week, Miss Isabella took the inaugural ride on her very first "big-girl bike."

The hubs had returned home late the night before, and spent about an hour putting together this bike while she slept.

In the morning when she awoke, the bike was waiting for her in the kitchen. Given that the weather was nasty and that she was off to preschool later that morning, I allowed her to take a spin on the bike around the house. Her excitement level was off the charts. She rode that bike in circles around the house for an hour and a half.

Fortunately, the weather cleared up later in the day, and she was able to ride it outside, which she did for almost two hours.

And the bike? Well, for lack of a better term, it's pretty kick-ass.

Most little girls' bikes look like this, or this, or this. Which is fine, if your daughter is a girly-girl. But, much like her mama, Isabella is not. This is the little girl who declared at barely three that her favorite color was red and that she did not like the lavender shade of her bedroom in the new house. The child who has an encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs, and who watches Thomas the Tank Engine. Clearly, a stereotypically feminine-style bike was not the right choice for her.

So, I spent a lot of time I did not have to spare researching bikes on CSN Stores to find the perfect bike to suit Isabella's preferences and personality.

The Kawasaki Girl's 12" Bike in Periwinkle Blue fit the bill perfectly.

The bike has a great safety rating (it's made by Kawasaki, after all), has a very padded seat (which many kids' bikes do not), and has a fully protected chain to keep curious little fingers away. Frankly, it's just a cool-looking bike, and definitely not one you'll see every kid in the neighborhood riding.

And Isabella's favorite part? The bike comes with a bag that can either fit over the handlebars or on her back AND a small water bottle that fits into a pouch on the bag. Isabella loved taking her best pal, Charlie, for spins on her new ride, and the water bottle was a bit hit too.

The only drawback to this bike was the directions provided for its assembly. The hubs said they were vague, lacking in detail, and did not describe how to install some of the parts. Of course, this is the fault of the company supplying the instructions (oddly, it's not Kawasaki), and given the hubs' high level of intelligence (he married me, remember), he was able to ascertain which part fit where without much difficulty.

The entire ordering experience from CSN Stores was seamless, from start to finish. I ordered the bike on a Wednesday, and it was delivered on the following Monday. Best of all? The bike ships for free.
Watching Isabella ride her new bike so well and with minimal help has made me realize that I'm the mom to an almost-four-year-old. And while I post often about wanting my kids to grow up quickly and pedal their way into a whine-free existence...
it also makes me just slightly nostalgic, because it seems not so long ago that Isabella was riding her first bike.
What a difference two years makes.

My Children: Future Hyperactive, Depressed, Binge-Drinkers

From 2003 until Isabella was conceived in late 2005, I was one of the six million or so Americans dealing with infertility.

After almost two years of trying, during which I had multiple Clomid and injectible cycles, it all came down to IVF, and at that point, I spent exactly zero minutes contemplating the safety of the procedure, the potential health risks to my potential future child (children?) who would be created in a dish, or the fact that my offspring would spend the early stages of embryonic development somewhere other than my very eager womb.

I wanted a baby (and then two years later, I wanted another one), and that? Was that.

And then recently I read this. Apparently, my IVF kids are headed down the road to disaster.

The headline is a bit misleading. It suggests that no really, your IVF kids are just as healthy as the ones created via mood lighting, silk sheets, and a little Barry White. It's only as you near the midway point of the article that you find out that children conceived via IVF are at an increased risk for ADHD, depression, and binge-drinking.

Interestingly, the reasons for these elevated risks are hard to pinpoint; however, one of the potential reasons given for this is that previously infertile parents are too overprotective of their IVF kids, which may hurt their social and emotional development.

This made me think of this recent post, and my contention that I would never in a million years let one of my kids stay unsupervised in the children's section of the library for five minutes. Despite my claim that I am not a helicopter parent, perhaps I am.

Rachel offered the European perspective on this issue (in a comment that for some reason isn't showing up). She's an American living abroad in a country where "stranger danger" simply does not exist. She's left her toddler in a stroller outdoors while she runs into a store or in a cafe while she uses the bathroom in the next store over. This is a routine practice there, and not something that would cause onlookers to grab their cell phones and quickly make a call to Child Protective Services.

I can't see myself doing these things (although I believe there is much we can learn from Europe about raising our kids) but based on some of your comments, perhaps I am in the minority. A friend last night who has actually heard Lenore Skenazy (author of Free Range Kids) speak sent me an email in which she mentioned that the constant 24-hour news cycle has changed how we view the world, but not the world itself. Perhaps the "lurking danger" some of us fear isn't really that great of a risk at all.

Infertility is an interesting beast. At times, it is the root cause of my mommy guilt over wanting to shelve all three of my kids next to the jars of peanut butter at the grocery store, and walk away. I wanted them so badly, paid a princely sum, and endured injections in my arse for months for the chance to be their mother, and yet their behavior is often so infuriating that it's all I can do to not put them on Craig's List.

But is infertility the reason why I am overprotective of my children (and as a result, will my kids end up with emotional and mental health issues because of it)?

That's what I'm pondering right now.

Isabella at 3 Years, 8 Months

It's been an exciting month for Isabella.

A few weeks ago, we took her to her first live "theatre" production: Elmo Live. Sesame Street is still one of Isabella's favorite shows (we're contemplating a twin-free visit to Sesame Place this summer as her birthday gift), and while last year she seemed a bit too young for the live show (or rather, we didn't want to shell out the bucks for a ticket for an antsy two-year-old), three-and-a-half seemed like the perfect age to take her. She had a complete blast, and when told she could pick out one souvenir (read: piece of overpriced plastic crap), she chose binoculars, which honestly, were overpriced at $12, but considering she played with them non-stop for two days, and continues to play with them often, were worth the money.

Ready for Elmo!

The territory wars over toys continue. Now that the twins are free from Baby Jail, Isabella's secure play area is compromised. We need to come up with some way for her to be able to use her crayons and coloring books and toys with small pieces in a space where the babies cannot access them, but we're not there yet. And, understandably, she is not happy that they're into her things. I can't say I blame her.

One of my favorite things she's started saying over the last month or two relates to her "growing up." She's always asking me to look at how long her legs are getting, or how tall she is growing, and of course, I admire her length and width accordingly. But most amusing about these conversations is the fact that she always ends them with something like this:

"Mommy, when I get bigger, you can stay in bed ALL MORNING LONG. I will get the babies up, make them their breakfast, get them dressed, and play with them for you."She's also fond of telling me that when she's older, she'll drive the car for me so I don't have to drive.

Off to "Pajama Day" at preschool.

She's begun sounding out words all on her own, and telling me, for example, "Q-Q-Quack begins with "Q!" And she adores books, still, which makes me so happy. We've been making a lot of trips to the library lately, and current favorites include Curious George, Kipper, anything to do with dinosaurs, and of course, the Berenstain Bears. I am trying to make it a priority to read to her more often throughout the day (we always do at least two books before bed), but with the babies, it is so hard because everyone wants to be in my lap.

And speaking of bed, the other night Isabella went from sleeping in this bed...

...to this one! Earlier this week, we bought her a full-sized mattress and converted her toddler bed into a "big-girl bed." Isabella does not deal well with change. For example, she is madly attached to the quilt on her bed, and even though my mom (despite my advice not to) bought her an expensive and very soft blanket for her bed almost a year ago, Isabella has not slept a single night underneath it, and it remains folded in her closest for her sister or brother to use. We feared the worst with the switch-over to the "real" bed, but after some complaints of "I don't like this bed!", she's slept in it without a problem and loves it.

And yes, that is duct-tape I have on her shades to keep out the light. I have still not found any curtains I like for her red-and-white room. All the curtains suitable for little girl rooms are pink and purple. Grrrr....

Isabella looked so big sleeping in her toddler bed. But in this gigantic full-sized bed, she looks so small.

This month has not been without its struggles. It seems that Miss Isabella has a wee bit of difficulty telling the truth, even when caught red-handed in a lie. She's taken toys from the babies, causing them to scream, and even though I know she's done it, she will say that no, she hasn't, and the offended baby is "screaming for no reason." She will sneak snacks from the babies' bowls, which they do not tolerate at all, and when I ask her if she's taken food from them, she will say no, even when her hands are full of their snack.

We have talked to her about lying, and the importance of always telling us the truth, but this is a very abstract concept for a three-year-old to grasp. I'm hoping my Mini Nixon grows out of this phase fast.

Meanwhile, I am hard at work planning her summer schedule of camps, classes, and activities. I want to keep her moderately busy this summer for several reasons. First, I want her to have plenty of time to play outdoors with her friends, and it is very, very difficult for me to take her and her brother and sister outdoors (backyard, playground, etc.) all on my own. The twins are often two steps away from hurling their bodies into traffic, and I feel like Isabella gets the short end of the stick, because she enjoys outdoor play so much, and we just cannot stay out long. Second, I want her to stay in the rhythm of being dropped off places on her own once preschool is out for the summer. I don't want her to have separation anxiety in the fall when she will attend preschool four afternoons a week, because she's been home with me all summer long.
So far, she's attending a two-week camp at her preschool (water play, crafts, etc., all outside), she'll have two weeks of (comped-yay!) swim lessons at the health club, she's going to a three-day "Adventure Kids" camp through my town's recreation program, and finally, a "Royalty Camp" at her friend's preschool. And this one? I have slight misgivings about. I read her the descriptions of three camps her friend is doing, and she chose this one, which is gender-neutral, but includes dress-up, making a coat of arms, and enjoying a feast in a "royal hall." I will admit I have "princess issues," which may be a topic for another post. But I am very interested to see how my "not-a-girly-girl" does in this camp.
Current Likes: Somersaults, a super-annoying Dora CD, and pointing out her "freckles" (beauty marks)
Current Dislikes: Nothing but the truth, plans not of her own making

Hoagies and Grinders: What's for Lunch in Our Schools?

Back in the early 90s when SNL was in its hay day, my sister and I would stay up late and watch it together.

Adam Sandler's "Lunch Lady Land" was one of our favorites, and honestly, prior to last night when I was searching for this video, I hadn't heard the song in over a decade, and yet I still could sing just about every line of the chorus.

("Hoagies and grinders, hoagies and grinders. Navy beans! Navy beans! Navy beans!")

This SNL skit was really popular when I was in high school, a time when I spent my 25-minute lunch period (25 minutes in total to walk to our lockers, swap our our morning class books for our afternoons ones - we were prohibited from visiting our lockers between classes-get to the cafeteria, stand in line for lunch, eat it, and get to our first class after lunch, by the way) eating pizza and french fries. I brought more often than I bought, but when I did buy, pizza and french fries were offered every day, and that's what I ate.

I have a new post up on my blog for the health club about "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." In case you're not familiar with the show, Jamie "Naked Chef" Oliver is on a quest to overhaul the way Americans, and more specifically, American children, eat. He set up camp in Huntington, West Virginia, a city named by the CDC as "The Unhealthiest City in America" and is working to radically change the food served in school cafeterias there.

Some of you have already made your way over there and commented (thank you!) since I wrote about the post on Facebook yesterday, but I would love to hear what those of you who haven't yet read it think about the show, and about how you encourage your kids to eat healthfully.

Obviously, if you're a long-time reader, you know that nutrition and healthy eating is a big deal to me. I'm hardly a foodie (considering my own diet is embarrassingly almost-vegetable-free), but I'm determined that my kids won't end up like me. Hence my long-dead baby-food blog, my choice of organics for the kids, and my long-held desire to rob my children of their childhoods by keeping the sugar at bay whenever possible.

But I'm fairly certain that I'm a part of a very small minority. Most of my friends look at me a little strangely when they hear that Isabella has never eaten a chicken nugget, loves edamame, and has probably had juice about 10 times in her three-and-a-half years of life.

So, let me have it. Check out my post on the other blog and either in my comments section here or there, give me your thoughts on what your kids are eating at home and at school, and whether you think Jamie has a prayer of accomplishing what he's trying to do in Huntington.

I, for one, really hope he succeeds.

Easy Rider's New Ride

Isabella loves playing outside. The fact that she's able to play outside everyday she's at preschool is one of the reasons I chose her school. Kids spend far too much time plunked in front of entertainment centers, video games, and computers, and even though I like a good marathon of Real Housewives of Orange County just as much as the next reality-tv-addicted girl, getting my kids outside, active, and running around is important to me.

Bike-riding is one of Isabella's favorite outdoor activities, and she loved her first bike.

Here she is riding it last September.

When I pulled it out for her about a month ago when we were experiencing some warm, early-spring weather, it was clear she had outgrown her tricycle. Her knees were brushing the handlebars when she peddled.

So, I am thrilled to be doing a review for a new "big girl" bike for Isabella from CSN Stores. They sell a huge variety of products at great prices from over 200 sites. Stay tuned for my review coming soon!

Luci and Nicholas at 18 Months

Last Sunday, all five of us took a walk around the neighborhood. The weather was beautiful. The twins were enjoying their first wagon ride of the season, and Isabella, who started out in the wagon, had occupancy of the double stroller all to herself.

For 20 or so blissful minutes, everyone was happy. The twins weren't crying (a rarity in itself) or lunging forward to escape from the stroller (something they do often now, as being contained is not high on their list of enjoyable activities). Isabella was in a good mood, too. And in that brief while, I had a glimpse of our future. Of what being a "normal" family of five might be like in a few years, when we can stop operating in disaster mode.

I really, really want it to be two years from now. I really, really want three-year-old twins and a Kindergartner. I am not wishing away their childhoods, and I know these ages bring with them their own sets of issues, but I am so ready for the baby stage and the never-ending screaming to be over.

My little hellcats are now a year-and-a-half old.
And never has the term hellcats so accurately described their behavior than the past month.
First, RIP, Baby Jail. Luci and Nicholas are no longer content to stay in the gated off family room. This has been the case for months, and I had been springing them from jail quite a bit to let them roam free, but I've reached the point where letting them wander through (read: destroy) the house is easier than listening to the all-day screaming for freedom.
And so Luci and Nicholas are now free, which has meant that I have had to step up my babyproofing efforts. Nicholas is 100% of the time hell-bent on destruction. He is emptying every drawer and cupboard in the kitchen that isn't locked. He is pushing dining room chairs across the floor, upending lamps, and playing in the toilet if I forget to shut the bathroom door. He is not only knocking framed photos off their shelves, he is attempting to open the frames and extract the photos. Just when I think he can't reach or destroy something, he proves me wrong.
Apparently, this is what it's like to have a boy, because while Luci is curious and is into some things she shouldn't be, neither she nor Isabella (when she was a baby) have the level of mischievousness that this one does.

Both babies are heavily into climbing - couches, chairs, stairs, you name it. And this? Gives me heart palpitations. Isabella's chairs for her little table are now on top of the dining room table because the babies are climbing them. All chairs that aren't in use are put away. I don't remember this phase with Isabella. Apparently, I have blocked it out.
When they aren't running through the house looking for something to break or jump off of, they are yammering.
Both babies have had the 18-month-old language explosion that Isabella had, although Nicholas is more advanced than Luci. Both babies are pointing to things and calling out their names ("Car!" "Dog!" "Book!").
Nicholas is speaking in two and three-word sentences, including "good boy," "all done," "bye-bye dada" and his favorite being "more pease (please), mama." Oh, and "All Aboard" (as in "The Dinosaur Train"). He will repeat just about any word I ask him to, and he regularly says upwards of about 50 words. If I say, "One," he will say Two." If I say, "Three," he will say, "Four."
And every single time he sees me (or hears me) opening the refrigerator, he yells, "Cup!"
His favorite words include: play, up, down, mama, dada, Baba (Isabella), Elmo, bi-bi (binky), car, bye-bye, shoes, coat, toes, hi, baby, book, door, dog, and cat, no, and probably at least 20 others that I am forgetting because I am way too busy to document every single little thing that he's doing and saying, and please make me feel better that you've let the milestones of your second, third, and fourth children go slightly less recorded than those of your first born, because OMG, I just realized that I wrote down every single one of the words Isabella said at this age. Oh dear.
Luci's language is steadily increasing as well, but she is not as verbal as her brother. Her favorite words are "No!" (and yes, she includes the exclamation point and an accompanying finger wag) and "baby" (which is what she calls her stuffed bunny that's her best buddy). She's also a fan of "up," which she says no fewer than 1,000 times a day, while following me around the house, arms outstretched.
Other favorites of "The Goose" (as we've started calling her), are mama, dada, down, dog, cat, bup (cup), hat, uh-oh, and head.

Both are about to begin wearing Size 4 diapers.

Nicholas is wearing size 12 months pants and shirts (and some 18 month shirts)

Luci is wearing size 12 months in pants and shirts, and some 9 months clothes still as well.

Nicholas has 8 teeth, and is cutting his two-year-old molars on top.

Luci has 1.5 teeth. One-and-a-half teeth at 18 months old.


Current Likes: Vocal runs, Elmo books, pulling Luci's hair

Current Dislikes: Leaving well enough alone


Current Likes: Being carried around everywhere, giving spontaneous kisses, freestyle screaming

Current Dislikes: New people

I apologize for the dead air around here this week. I am buried in work, but will return next week to a more regular blogging schedule. Hopefully.

How Much Freedom Do You Give Your Kids?

Going out in public by myself, or even to play in the backyard, with three little kids (the smallest of whom are no longer content to stay in their stroller for very long) is challenging. They run in opposite directions. The constantly need to be re-directed, or corralled, or scooped up. I feel like I need at least eight arms and Roadrunner legs to keep up with them.

There are a lot of errands I simply can't run (or choose not to run, because the hassle far outweighs the benefit) with my three in tow. While I can take all three grocery shopping, thanks to carts that accommodate three, Target, pharmacies, and smaller stores are out. Pushing a gigantic stroller through narrow aisles and crowds of people seems foolish to me.

It's crossed my mind many a time to simply leave them in the car while I run in to grab a latte at Starbucks, a tube of toothpaste at CVS, a package of diapers at Target. Of course, I never would. I value my freedom too much, and I certainly don't need a CPS hassle in addition to everything else I have going on. But most of all, it's because I don't trust anyone.

Yes, we're bombarded in the media with the message that "Danger is Lurking Around Every Corner! Protect Your Children!" And yes, the greatest danger to kids often comes from people they know, and not complete strangers.

But still. They are my babies. And I'm not willing to take the chance, however small, that something might happen to them while I'm not there.

So I read with surprise this article, whose events took place in my home town. The basics are this: Mom and five-year-old are together in the children's section of their local library, a place they visit often. Mom wants to run upstairs to the adult section to check out a book. Instead of taking her daughter upstairs with her, mom asks daughter if she would like to stay in the children's section alone for a few minutes, or head upstairs with her. Five-year-old chooses to stay put. Mom informs librarian that daughter is staying and that she'll be right back. Librarian warns mother about "stranger danger." Mom leaves daughter for three minutes to check out book upstairs.

And so the question is this: Are we too over-protective of our kids? The author of this piece seems to feel that yes, we most certainly are. I did a little digging, and found that she's the founder of a movement and a book called Free-Range Kids, which is designed to "raise safe, self-reliant children, without going nuts with worry." (Incidentally, the mother was the subject of a huge public outcry a year ago when she allowed her nine-year-old son to take the NYC subway home from Bloomingdales by himself.)

I am all for fostering independence in Isabella (much as I would love the twins to change their own damn diapers every day, they just aren't there yet). Simply by virtue of being the older sibling to two very demanding toddlers who occupy a lot of my time, there are a lot of things she's able to do by herself that I know many of her peers are not. I want to raise her to be a strong and confident child who isn't afraid of new circumstances and surroundings. I want to raise an independent daughter.

But at the same time, I cannot see myself (in 1.5-years' time, when she turns 5) allowing her to stay in the children's section of the library by herself, even for a couple of minutes. In general, she's a very well-behaved kid. She listens when we're out in public, and she's not overly inquisitive or prone to escapism. It's not her that I would not trust. It's everyone else. And even in my neighborhood library, a place Isabella knows very well, and where some of the librarians know her, I would not place the safety of my child in someone else's hands (someone whose job is to help people find books, and not watch my child).

Isabella is in my constant sight when we're at the playground, the museum, and at the library. Hell, I watch her constantly when we're in our own yard. And of course, as she gets a little older, she will have more freedom. I am not a helicopter mom. At all. I want her to fall. To experience failure and disappointment, outrage and sadness. I want her to test boundaries. These things will make her stronger.

But leave her (or the twins) alone in the library, or any other public place, as a kindergartner in a few years? Not a chance.

What do you think?

My New Blog

I've spent the last month collaborating with my awesome friend, Ness, on my latest project: a blog for Midtown Athletic Club. The Internet is awesome. Despite the fact that we live 8,000+ miles away from each other (she's in South Africa) and our time zones place her six hours ahead of me, we were in almost-constant communication. She was able to design a beautiful blog in record time, which thrilled the club. Ness is amazing, and I would highly recommend her to anyone in need of design work.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is the club that's allowing me to train for my half-marathon, and to enjoy certain perks I never would be able to afford otherwise. The hubs has lost 20 pounds because he's started working out there. I am very grateful for the opportunities I've been given.

The blog is health-and-wellness-focused. Some posts will be about the club, but many will include posts similar to those I write about here: commentary on stories or current events relevant to the blog's audience (those who enjoy working out, doing yoga or pilates, playing sports, eating well, and living a healthy life). You'll find my take on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution appearing in a post on that blog and this one soon.

My first post is up there today. And this is my shameless plug for it: If you are so inclined, I would totally appreciate your checking it out and commenting. Some might hesitate to be the first person to comment on a new blog, so perhaps one of you might like to get the ball rolling?

You can also check out the Facebook Fan page I created for the club. And if you'd like to become a fan, well, I would of course appreciate that too.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support!

Bunnies, Boogers, and Brunches

Easter weekend was packed with activities, as it always is. One of these years, it will take less than 7 hours and every ounce of energy I have to dress, comb hair, pack, bundle, strap in carseats, and unload three children for the multiple family holiday gatherings we have during the year.

Until that point, mama needs whiskey. Stat.

Our Easter festivities actually started last weekend. Isabella, the hubs, and I attended the Bunny Brunch at my fabulous new health club. They transformed the "daycare area" into a really cute dining area. There was a music lady and a clown there to entertain the kids. And there was a bunny. And Isabella let this bunny hug her. So far, since she's turned three, we're 2 for 2 with close encounters with dressed up characters.

On Friday, we colored eggs. In sleeveless shirts. Because it was 87-freaking-degrees in New York in early April, people.

At some point, I will cease to look like a strung-out heroin addict in photos. Until that point, humor me and tell me I look fabulous if you ever meet me on the street, okay?

This past weekend, I decided to go for broke and take all three kids in for haircuts. Luci was having her first. Her hair, while not technically long, was hanging down to her nose in the front, and mullet-esque in the back.

Initially, I thought she would do better than her brother.

Sweet. A lollypop and Elmo on the tv. What the hell was he bitching so much about?

Wait a minute. No one mentioned water!

I may forgive, but I do not forget. See you at 3am, mother dearest.
Luci's new do.

Then it was back home for naps, and off to an egg hunt at the hubs' father's house.

While Isabella hunted, the twins pillaged her basket from grandma and grandpa.

Then it was time to head home, stick the kids in bed, and get ready for Easter. Here are their chocolate-free baskets. Once again, mommy denied her babies their childhoods by stocking their baskets with toys instead of the sweet stuff. Plenty of treats were to be had at grandma's later that day, so I saw no need.

Isabella did an egg hunt in our house on Easter morning while the twins (miraculously) decided to sleep in. Then, she dug into her basket.
When Nicholas and Luci woke up, it was clear that Nico's little cold had crossed over into Disgusting, Snot-Dripping Territory. He was not happy.

Luci, however, was in the Easter spirit.

Then it was time to get dressed and out the door for mass. Taking 17-month-old high-needs twins to church on Easter Sunday = Epic Fail. Given their less-than-ideal behavior, I wouldn't be surprised to see us physically barred from entering the building in the future.

After that, it was off to brunch at the hubs' aunt's house on one side of the city, home for a quick nap, and then on to dinner at my grandma's on the other side of the city.

This is the best one from my regular Holiday Photo Shoot of Futility.

If you celebrate Easter, I hope it was a good one.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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  • "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." -Martin Buber

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