Thursday, October 31, 2013

Photo Fun-3.5 Months Old

After spending some chilly days in footed pajamas, the warm weather today was the perfect excuse for the girls to wear cute dresses and headbands and lounge on the deck all morning.  Of course, the boys had fun, too.  We spent a good three hours outside playing in the back yard.  I was in quite the picture taking mood, so here are some of my favorite shots of each kid.  Of the 128 pictures I took, I limited myself to the top two for each child.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Miscellaneous Updates

-Pre-school has been going well.  I've been having to wake Jackson up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though he's wide awake before then every other day!  The first thing he tells me about before when I pick him up is what all he ate from his lunchbox.  Thank goodness for his daily folder with "work" or I'd assume all they do is eat and play with a "big ball in gym".  They've been working on a different shape, color, and letter each week.  Jack's been invited to his first kid birthday party, has his first field trip coming up on Thursday, and  Picture Day is scheduled next Tuesday.  Last week a local dentist did a program for his school.  He was beyond excited to show off his new toothbrush and big boy toothpaste!

-Our Foundations Quad LX stroller arrived on Monday.  I had a heck of a time trying to put it together with Jackson rearranging all the parts and moving screws around, plus the babies fussing.  I finally gave up and waited 'til Jesse came home.  Somewhere along the way a small metal rod (maybe 1/2 a cm long) chipped off, causing the brake system not to work correctly.  Jesse packaged it back up and brought it to WalMart for a refund.  When I went to order the same one, it showed up as "out of stock online".  Despite the great reviews, this stroller is not meant to be right now!

-Amelia has been rocking tummy time the past few days.  It's like a switch went off and our lazy girl is suddenly all about looking around. 

-Maddie is still seeing the chiropractor and making huge strides!  She saw him three times within the first week, then twice the following week, and now weekly.  She has almost full range of motion with her neck and naturally holds her head up at a level, centered position rather than downward to the left.  Her muscles are still underdeveloped compared to her siblings and tummy time continues to be unproductive.  I haven't noticed any significant improvement with the reflux.

James and Amelia wait patiently during Maddie's appointments.
-It's been exactly six weeks since getting the IUD inserted and I still have very unpredictable, heavy spotting.  On those days, my milk supply decreases.  It's frustrating to say the least.  The babies haven't had a drop of formula in over two months and I have just over 200 oz of breastmilk in the freezer.  It's still incredibly stressful on the days in which I just barely produce enough milk or have to rely on refrigerated ounces to get by.

-It's been exactly two weeks since I waited over an hour at the DSS to change our Primary Care Physician on the Medicaid cards.  I was told we could expect new insurance cards to arrive in the mail within 7-10 business days.  We still don't have the updated cards, which means I still can't schedule any doctor appointments.  I am becoming increasingly more concerned about unintended delayed vaccination schedules and lack of medical care for our children!  (If anyone is wondering why I don't just call or fax something to DSS, our county requires changes to do completed in person.  Living in a county with a population of 1 million, all resources are stretched thin.)

I think those are all the latest developments and updates.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Festival: Round Two

We were invited to attend a fall festival/trunk or treat event by my sister-in-law.  This meant I needed to figure out the babies' Halloween costumes ASAP!  We have so many solid pink onesies, I originally had the three little pigs in mind.  Then I realized how cold it would be and how hard it was to find affordable baby pig hats.  I had no clue how expensive Halloween costumes cost!  I set my budget for $30 and after a lot of digging and borrowing, I was able to create a lion, tiger, and bear outfit. 

I'm still not satisfied with the bear outfit, so I'll have to get a bit more creative for James. 

Jackson had his choice of Halloween costumes, but he ultimately decided on this $2 skeleton costume we found at a thrift store. 

The outdoor festival had several activities for kids to do such as bean bag tosses and bowling.  Nowadays they don't let you bob for apples, so the popular thing to do is bite a dangling doughnut off of a string using only your mouth.  Jackson and his big cousin were hilarious to watch!

After lots of laughter and failed attempts, Jackson used his hand to shove the doughnut into his mouth.   

After games and candy, it was time for the hayride. The boys were equally excited.

Before leaving the church, we managed to get a decent family picture.  I'm pretty sure the last picture we took with all six of us was taken on the day the triplets were born.

After the outdoor fun, we headed off to CiCi's with the family, and then to visit PaPa.  While eating pizza we received a most bizarre comment that Jesse and I must be like rabbits.  Umm...inappropriate, lady!  Overall, it was a busy, fun-filled Saturday.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


A picture says a thousand words...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Lovers

While Jackson was at school on Thursday and the babies napped, I went to work in the kitchen.  My mother-in-law brought over two large containers of creamy peanut butter that were on sale.  We are crunchy peanut butter fans, so I found some recipes to utilize our new supply of creamy peanut butter. 

Jesse requested those no-bake cookies that have chocolate, peanut butter, and oatmeal.  I apparently didn't cook the sugar mixture long enough on the stove because my first batch never hardened or formed into cookies.  They still tasted great but we had to leave them in the fridge.  My second attempt following this recipe exactly was a success.    

While the cookies cooled, I made brownie bites with peanut butter frosting.  I used one of my favorite brownie recipes and experimented with the frosting.  I didn't measure everything, but it ended up being 1/2 a stick of butter, tbsp. of vanilla, and about a cup of powdered sugar and cup of peanut butter.  Since the brownies were baked in mini cupcake tins, they didn't take long at all to bake (15ish minutes). 

Both desserts were well received by Jesse, though not my favorites.

Big Boy James

James continues to outperform his sisters in all areas.  As the oldest, he continues to be the strongest and heaviest of the three. 

While the girls barely turn and lift their heads, James is perfectly content pushing himself up while talking and looking around for extended periods of time.  Maddie and Amelia inevitably fall asleep before James shows any indication of exhausting himself.

James has been swinging at toys for over a month, but he just recently discovered that he could control where his hands go.  His hand-eye coordination has improved enough to allow him to intentionally grab and pull objects closer to him.

Our big boy constantly tries to hold his own bottle.  He has always required the most milk per day and is currently drinking 4.5 oz 7x a day.

I suspect James will be the first to teeth as he has already begun to drool incessantly and gnaw on his fists.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Deafening Diva

Dear God,

Grant me the patience to continuously comfort this child.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Free Fun at the Mall

We were all up early this morning.  Since I still don't have Halloween costumes for the trio, I loaded everyone up right after our morning feed and we spent the better part of the morning at the mall.  James and Amelia looked around and cooed most of the time. 

Maddie was once again my cuddle buddy in the Ergo.  She spent most of the morning napping.

Despite going in a dozen stores, we left empty-handed.  We did, however, have a lot of fun without spending any money.

Five free things to do at the mall:

1. Play on all those miniature carousels (without actually paying for it to go around).  Jackson loves to pretend to be a train conductor, pilot, etc. 

2. We play games with the floor tiles.  Nobody is at the mall on weekday mornings.  Jackson has mastered his colors and we're now working on shapes.  I call out specific objects such as "green triangle" and he has to find a green triangle to stand on.  As long as it's not crowded, I let him run around or skip to make it fun.

3. Select books to read inside the bookstore.  Jackson was really excited to see "little Cliffords" and "Monkey Harwood".  Haha...I have no clue why he calls Curious George that!

4. Climb and slide in the kid's play area.

5. Who needs to pay to go to an aquarium when you can go to Bass Pro Shop for free?  They have a floor to ceiling fish tank along an entire wall.  It has an impressive variety of fish. 

Bonus: Our local mall is 1 mile around.  By the time Jackson walks around the entire mall I can expect him to take a nice afternoon nap. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How We Get Around

I have three main options for transporting the triplets during outings. 

If we are going for a walk around the neighborhood, I prefer to use our Triple Radio Flyer wagon.  Right now the babies are small enough to lie down with support of blankets, though before long they'll be able to sit upright in it. 

If I go to a place where I want to easily take the babies out (i.e. to feed them, lay on a blanket, etc), I use the double stroller.  James gets a seat to himself and Amelia and Madeline share the second seat.  At three months old, the girls are just now outgrowing this set-up.  The downside to this is that people feel the need to touch the babies when they are out in the open like this.

If I'm going shopping, running a quick errand, or don't want to wake sleeping babies, I use the Double Snap-n-Go and put one in the Ergo.  This is by far the fastest, easiest, and least conspicuous option.

I ordered the Foundations Quad LX stroller over the weekend to use as an alternative.  (It should arrive next week.)  I'm excited to be able to offer a stroller where Jackson can sit down as well.  This is the stroller I expect to use until the triplets are 2-3 years old. 

Meal Makeovers

Now that I'm the one cooking dinner every night, I find myself getting bored with the same meals every few weeks.  When we were little, we would ask Mom every night, "What's for dinner?"  She would always reply, "Poison."  I never understood her irritation or need for sarcasm, but I imagine it's because she was tired of answering obvious questions and equally tired of cooking the same meals.

Jesse and I have about 20 meals that we rotate through each month.  We create our menu every Sunday, make a list, and go grocery shopping for the week.  Inevitably, the in-laws bring us dinner or I end up staying for dinner with family, so those meals move over to the following week.    

To combat boredom, I decided to try a new main dish every week and to update some of our favorites.  So far I've made:

Chicken Tetrazzini--so easy and delicious.  The recipe made enough that we had plenty of leftovers for lunch.  It was just as good as the first night.

Shepherd's Pie--We didn't have all the ingredients (celery, fresh rosemary and thyme, or tomato paste), but our improvisation was still tasty.  Once again, the recipe made enough for leftovers.

Pot pie has been one of our fall/winter staples for a few years.  We normally use a can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken and mix in cooked chicken and frozen vegetables, then cover with pie crust.  While it's tasty enough, there's always the odd wrinkled lima bean and crunchy green bean from the frozen mix, along with an after taste of cream of chicken.  I tried this recipe and loved it!  I watched videos on how to make a roux.  The filling had a nice consistency and flavor. 

One of our easiest meals is baked potato and grilled chicken.  Those are two of my favorite things to eat, but even they get old.  Instead of baked potato I made these twice baked sweet potatoes.  Oh. My. Heavens.  They were so good.  How could they not be when you add brown sugar, cinnamon, and cream cheese?  They weren't overly sweet and they tasted light and delicious.  So worth the extra 15 minutes.

If you have any favorite dishes, feel free to share.  A little variety makes cooking less mundane. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Math Facts

Note: I tried to be conservative on all of my cost estimates.  I used value-size, store-brand prices and did not factor in tax.

How Much Time I Spend Pumping Each Week
30 min per session x 7 pumps per day = 210 minutes
210 minutes ÷ 60 minutes = 3.5 hours
3.5 hours x 7 days per week = 24.5 hours
That means every week, I spend an entire DAY hooked up to a pump!

How Much Milk I Produce Each Week
Each baby consumes seven 4-oz bottles of breastmilk per day.  I pump just enough and am able to freeze 1 bag of milk a day.
(Typically pump 12 oz per session x 7 pumps per day) + 6 extra oz at 3 a.m. pump = 90 oz
90 oz x 7 day a week = 630 oz
There are 128 fl. oz. in a gallon.
630 oz ÷ 128 oz = 4.9 gallons

How Much Money We Would Spend on Formula Each Month
3 babies x 7 4-oz bottles per day = 21 4-oz bottles per day
Parent's Choice Value Size Infant Formula (makes 60 4-oz bottles)= $22.47
21 bottles a day x 30 days last month = 630 4-oz bottles a month
630 bottles ÷ 60 bottles per Parent's Choice container = 10.5 containers
10.5 Parent's Choice Value Size Infant Formula containers x $22.47 = $235.93

How Many Cloth Diapers We Use Each Month
Approximately 8 diapers a day x 4 kids = 32 diapers
32 diapers x 30 days last month= 960 diapers

How Much Money We Would Spend on Disposable Diapers Each Month
144 Parent's Choice diapers = $19.77
960 diapers ÷ 144 diapers = 6.67 boxes
6.67 boxes x $19.77 = $131.80

How Much Money We Save Each Month by Breastfeeding and Cloth Diapering
$235.93 (formula) + $131.80 (diapers) = $367.74

At three months old, we have saved $1,103.22 by being able to offer breastmilk and use cloth diapers.

If I reach my goal of exclusively pumping for six months (and continue to cloth diaper), we will save $2,206.44.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Testimony of Faith

We've been going through the entire book of Acts at church.  In two weeks, we'll be reading about Paul sharing his testimony of faith.  My pastor announced to the congregation that he would like volunteers to share a brief testimony of their faith during that service. 

Let's review.  Over the course of a decade I have:
  • served as a Youth Director for a Presbyterian church
  • led recreational events for Vacation Bible School
  • organized national and international mission trips
  • written devotionals for monthly church newsletters
  • taught Sunday School classes and led year-long Bible studies
  • walked labyrinths
  • attended a slumber party with orphan girls in the Dominican Republic
  • mixed concrete with a shovel to help build a wall around a home in Brazil
  • gutted homes in post-Katrina New Orleans
  • performed a liturgical dance in front of a thousand people at a Music & Worship Conference
  • taught 5th grade to refugee children
  • "read" to at-risk youth in Spanish and Portuguese
  • been a Small Group Leader for a group of 25 teenagers at week long retreat
  • volunteered at local soup kitchens, nursing homes, and Salvation Army
  • served communion to hundreds of adults at a retreat
  • cooked numerous dinners for the homeless at Hospitality House
  • acted as Mary in the live nativity scene
  • served as lay reader multiple times
  • installed siding on a post-Katrina house
  • organized weekly games, science experiments, and crafts for homeless children
I have enjoyed each of those things and didn't once hesitate to do any of them.  (Okay, the liturgical dance was a bit out there.)  But ask me to write and share my testimony of faith?  That's stepping on my toes.  It's a bit too personal, too intimate, too vulnerable for my liking.  And yet, I felt compelled to do so.  God calls us to serve him outside our comfort zones, so here goes:

I have been broken and healed by God over and over throughout my life.  There are times I have turned away from Christ and many more times when I have turned towards Him.

Growing up in a Christian home, it wasn’t until the age of 11 when my father died that I began to question my relationship with Christ.  My father’s unexpected death caused me to doubt everything I was taught about a God of love and grace.  I was left asking the hard questions at a young age.  

In the years that followed, God opened doors of opportunity for me to grow in my faith.  Two years after my dad’s passing, I attended my first Montreat Youth Conference.  I had not been involved in a youth group at the time, but at the last moment I was invited to attend by a friend.  Her simple invitation ended up igniting a new and passionate relationship with Christ. My Small Group Leader at Montreat led a devotional on a verse from Proverbs 3 that quickly became my mantra. 
      Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
      In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.    

That scripture was exactly what I needed at that moment.  From that point forward, I recited this verse with each obstacle I faced, which caused a dramatic shift in my beliefs.  I learned that it’s not my job to understand why things happen.  As a Christian, my job is to surrender to God and allow Him to guide me. 

My high school and college years were spent immersing myself among strong faith-based communities.  My beliefs were challenged and strengthened through work as a Youth Director, participating in a year-long Disciple Bible study, and serving my neighbors through mission trips to New Orleans, California, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic.  When my mother passed away my senior year of college, I had established a strong faith and community of believers to hold me up.   Rather than separate myself from God, I turned to Him for comfort and peace. 

In recent years, I have felt closest to God while pregnant.  The ability to conceive a child, feel their movements, and hear that precious heart beating within my own body is truly a miracle.  Only God could design a woman’s body to create life.  Having a natural childbirth with my son allowed me to experience a unique part of creation.  Becoming a mother comes with the momentous responsibility of teaching my child to love God, through both my words and actions.     

After months of being on a spiritual high as a new mother, my faith completely shattered with the devastating news that my next pregnancy ended in miscarriage.  In that unforgettable moment in which the doctor informed me there was no longer a heartbeat, Proverbs 3 could not console me.  How could I trust in a God that would allow my child to die?  Why should I rely on Him to guide me when I’ve been led to yet another loss?  If God could bring Lazarus from the dead, why couldn’t he keep my child alive?  I felt betrayed and abandoned.      

But I was never alone.  Though I was bitter and angry in the months that followed, God never left my side.  He was constantly present through loved ones and strangers.  God spoke to me through the voices of my sisters.  God held me through the hands of nurses in the operating room.   God continued to reach out to me through conversations with friends, support from family, and the members of Newell.  And through my personal devastation, I became a light and comfort to others who experienced similar losses in the subsequent months.  

As Christians, we are told that we will have suffering in this world (John 16:33).  We were given free will and can make the choice to either run towards or away from God.  As you all know, I have since given birth to three more miracles and I am constantly in awe of the wondrous works God is creating in my life.  I cannot predict what the future holds.  I know I will have my shares of joys and heartaches.  There will be unanswered questions.  I simply pray for the wisdom and strength to always seek God’s guidance and mercy.  

Annual Fall Festival

Jackson has been talking nonstop about riding a tractor.  He's been so excited about the upcoming annual fall festival my aunt and uncle host.  We are fortunate to have grown up on a huge plot of land and my aunt invites the entire family over once a year for a fun outdoor gathering.  It has become one of our favorite fall traditions.
The fall festival didn't begin until late afternoon, which meant I had all morning to distract Jackson from asking about the tractor ride.  Thankfully, a long walk around the neighborhood in the wagon kept him entertained for an hour.

The babies were looking around for the first half, but fell asleep as always.

After resisting naptime, Jackson was sound asleep by the time Jesse got home.  I put the babies in their adorable footy pajamas while Jesse got Jackson ready.

By the time we got there, my siblings and cousins were already there.  When you have that much land, it's fun to simply run around and play games.  Of course, owning a golf cart to drive around doesn't hurt either!

 It wasn't long before our feast of hot dogs and chicken was ready. 

Let the binge eating commence.

One of my favorite things about family get-togethers is that babies are always passed around and held.  Tonight was no exception for our sweet James, Amelia, and Madeline.  They have no idea how many people love them.

After enjoying games and food, the highlight of the evening is the hayride. 
Jackson was all smiles when he finally got to go on the tractor.  James and Amelia were bundled up in a blanket and slept peacefully in my brother and sister's arms.  Maddie was my bright-eyed cuddle buddy.

 The evening wouldn't be complete without a bonfire and s'mores.  Yum!

Despite staying for 3+ hours, we were the last to arrive and the first to leave.  Of course, we also have the longest drive and the youngest children.  Everyone was getting cranky so we knew our fun evening was ending. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jack Goes to Preschool

The original plan was to wait until January to enroll Jackson in preschool.  The reasoning was that Jackson would (hopefully) be fully potty-trained, the babies would be getting mobile, and we would be able to budget enough money for a few months.  I'd been thinking more and more about pre-school after watching Jackson follow the teacher around during weekly Storytime, coupled with the fact that he regularly asks, "I go to school?".  He needs socialization and a break from the babies as much as I need a break from toddler tantrums.  The deciding factor to enroll him now was receiving an unexpected bonus based on last years students' performance  (a bonus so large it will cover the mortgage for the rest of the year). 
Here was my criteria when searching for a preschool:
  • no more than $150 per month
  • either Mon/Wed or Tue/Thu (I want my Fridays free)
  • program hours from 9-1
  • a 10 minute drive or less
  • allow child to wear diapers (i.e. not required to be potty-trained)
  • drop off/pick up line (so I don't have to bring the babies in every time)
We were able to find a preschool that meets each of these requirements.  Technically, they don't have a drop off line, but they are accommodating by having a teacher escort Jackson to and from the classroom for me.  It is at a church so it's definitely a faith-based curriculum.  While that's not something I was seeking, it couldn't hurt to add a little prayer to our kids lives.  I took all four kids to tour the school and fill out registration paperwork on Tuesday.  Wednesday Jackson and I went shopping for the never ending school supply list.  This is just the generic required list:
There was a secondary, class-specific list as well!  In addition to the listed items, we also had to purchase pull-ups since they don't accept cloth diapers.  (His teacher requires pull-ups rather than regular diapers.)  We then had to get a lunchbox since Jackson will now be packing a lunch twice a week.  Jackson picked out Spiderman. 

Jackson was pretty keyed up from his late night WalMart trip and exciting new purchases.  After his bath he laid out his clothes, packed his back pack, and made his lunch.

Even though Jackson normally wakes up by 7:30 AM, I had to wake him up around 8:20.  I had just awoken in a panic a few minutes prior.  I had twenty minutes to wake up, change, and dress all four kids.  Jackson needed breakfast and we all had to get in the van and out the door.  I felt like I had run a marathon by the time we got to school.

I made sure to snap a quick "first day of school" picture.  I was so rushed I only took two, compared to my usual 20 photos.
When I pulled up to the church building there were already a dozen or more moms standing with their kids.  I was told on Tuesday to wait 'til a staff member came out to greet us so I wouldn't have to leave the babies.  Once the director unlocked the doors and parents began escorting their children, Jack kept repeating, "C'mon.  Go to school."  He was so eager.  His teacher came out and took his hand and he just walked away.  No goodbye hug or kiss for Mommy!
I was alarmed when the director called me at lunchtime.  She just wanted to give me her cell phone number so I could call her when I got there and they would either bring Jackson out or stay by the van if I wanted to run in and talk to his teacher.  I was informed that Jackson was well-behaved, but was given more freedom today while he learns the routines.  She said that he was looking at stories while his classmates were coloring.  (He is one of six students.)
The first hour that I was home with just the babies, I had the overwhelming urge to be as productive as possible.  I fed and changed the babies, gave them each individual time, pumped, did a load of laundry, swept the floors, and uploaded pictures.  After an hour the trio settled in for a nap and I spent an hour on the couch talking to a college friend and surfing the web.  Time snuck away from me and I found myself rushing to eat lunch and feed the babies before picking up Jack.
When Jackson first saw me, he waved, grinned, and shouted "Hey, Mommy!  They not let me eat candy!"  He then opened his lunchbox, gave me the mini Butterfinger that came with his lunchable, and demanded "open".  I found this perplexing and hysterically funny. 
I was happily surprised to receive a folder full of Jack's daily work.  The curriculum seems a bit advanced and far-fetched.  Apparently he worked on the letter "F" by tracing it and gluing Goldfish. 

As soon as Jackson got home he started to pack his own lunch for tomorrow.  I kept reminding him that we don't have school on Fridays, but he continued to argue, "No!  I go to school tomorrow!" 

 I'm so thankful for a great first day of preschool.