Monday, September 30, 2013

Milk Making Machine

The babies are 11 weeks old today, which means I am one week away from reaching my first major breastfeeding goal.  Technically, I haven't actually breastfed in several weeks, though the trio receives 100% expressed milk.  I'm able to pump around 85-90 oz of breastmilk per day.  (FYI, I did the math and that is roughly 5 gallons of milk a week!)  Each baby drinks 24-28 oz per day.  In addition to feedings, I've been slowly building my freezer stash by adding a 4 oz bag of milk each day. 

My next goal is to provide exclusive breastmilk for 6 months, but I'm not going to stress out about reaching this goal.  If I'm no longer able to provide enough breastmilk, I've got 18 cans of unopened Enfamil waiting to be used (and two more free shipments a mere phone call away.) It was very difficult for me to exclusively breastfeed Jackson for 6 months.  I experienced low supply after returning to work and Jackson was no longer gaining weight between 4-6 months.  (This was likely due to untreated reflux in addition to low milk supply.)  After 6 months, Jackson was exclusively formula fed and he is a smart, healthy toddler.  If James, Amelia, or Madeline need formula, I'm at peace with that.  I've already exceeded my expectations by being able to provide exclusive breastmilk thus far. 

Currently, I don't have any major supply issues, though I have noticed a slight decrease in production since the IUD insertion.  To combat this, I decided to make lactation cookies.  Here's the recipe (courtesy of my sister):  

1 cup crisco/butter/margarine
1/2 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
2t vanilla extract
1/4t salt
1t baking soda
1/2 C whole wheat flour
3/4 C white flour
3 T brewers yeast
2 T milled flax seed
1/4 C wheat germ
2 C oats (quick or old fashioned)
1 C of chocolate chips/butterscotch/toffee

I had to go to Trader Joe's for some of the ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350.

Combine sugars & butter until smooth.
Add eggs & vanilla, mix well.
Combine all remaining ingredients, excluding oatmeal and chips/toffee until smooth.
Add oatmeal and chips/toffee.

Jackson kept eating the chocolate chips!
Spread onto foil lined, large cookie sheet.

Bake for 15-18 minutes.  Cool and cut into bars.

This recipe makes several dozen cookies
I look forward to nibbling on lactation cookies throughout the day!  No sense worrying about weight until I'm no longer pumping.

In other pumping related news, I finally bought a car adapter so I can pump on the go.  I am so, so excited about this purchase!  I frequently drive 30 minutes or more to visit family or take Jackson on adventures.  I have to feed and change everyone and pump before I can get out the door.  By the time I've done all of that, I only have a two hour window or less before the babies need to eat again.  If I'm away for more than 3-4 hours, I have to lock myself in a bathroom to pump.  Now I can save time by pumping in the car.  

I've pumped in the car before using the battery pack, but the suction isn't as strong and the pump quickly eats through 8 AA batteries.  I still don't own a pumping bra, but I use the hair tie trick and it works just fine. 
"Hands-free Pumping" by Catharine Decker, MD
Cheers for eating cookies, pumping in the car, and feeding my babies!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trains and Pumpkins

Jackson had an impromptu sleepover with his MiMi on Friday night.  They had big plans to go see Thomas the Tank Engine at a nearby train station on Saturday.  I must admit, it was a refreshing break to only care for the babies.  Three infants are so much easier than an unpredictable two year old! 
Jesse spent most of Friday evening like this:   
And I spent most of Saturday morning like this:
Needless to say, it was a lazy 24 hours spent catching up on sleep and shows on the DVR.  With the exception of two middle of the night feeds, we all slept 12 hours! 
While we relaxed, Jack met up with his aunt, uncle, cousin, MiMi, and PaPa.  From what I can tell, Jackson was all smiles and created exciting memories with his family.  I stole these pictures from my mother-in-law. 

While Jack was away for the day, I wanted to do something special with the babies.  The last weekend in September only means one thing to me--the opening of the pumpkin patch!  I fondly recall picking out pumpkins as a child, cutting them open, and toasting pumpkin seeds with my dad.  Now that I'm a mom, there's nothing cuter than babies in a classic red wagon with some bright orange pumpkins!

Unfortunately, James didn't share my enthusiasm!

Jesse was growing increasingly more uncomfortable with the stares and comments from strangers. He kept mumbling, "They're looking at us like we're a freak show."  I, on the other hand, was in total bliss loving on my babies in the pumpkin patch!

You can expect another pumpkin patch post because I'll be taking the babies again with Jackson at some point in the next few weeks.  This year will be the first time Jackson can pick out a pumpkin and paint it himself. 

After the pumpkin patch we met up with the family for a pizza dinner and to bring home our sweet, exhausted Jack.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Evolving Belly: A Photo Timeline

I participated in a discussion with other triplet moms about what our post partum bellies looked like.  It got me thinking about how drastically my skin has stretched over the past three years.  I debated on making these photos public, but we all know I have no shame.  It bothers me that women don't take pride in their bodies, especially after carrying multiple children.  If anyone ever wants to look at my pictures and dare make any negative comments, I'll show them a picture of my babies and have them find something negative to say then! 

This was what I looked like just before conceiving Jackson.  I had just completed the Country Music Half Marathon, was eating well, and wore a size 8.  
May 2010
Here I am at 40 weeks pregnant with Jackson.  I remember thinking how huge I was and that my body couldn't possibly stretch anymore.  

April 2011
This was taken exactly 4 weeks post partum from Jackson.  My belly button was a sinkhole and the stretch marks felt like valleys.  My hips had expanded so much I couldn't fit into any of my pre-pregnancy clothes.  I wore size 12.
May 2011
In 2012, I had two miscarriages and a D&C, gained another 15 lbs and a dress size, and went on medication for massive anxiety attacks...all before conceiving triplets.

Next is me at max capacity with over 18 lbs of babies!  My uterus had expanded to 62 cm at over 36 weeks pregnant with triplets.  My skin burned and itched from being so thinly stretched.
July 2013
And finally, I took this photo at 10 weeks post partum.  I've lost 60 of the 70 pounds I gained and can squeeze into pre-pregnancy pants but prefer elastic.  I still have the linea nigra, deep stretch marks, squished belly button, and hanging skin.  I don't expect it to change much and am at peace with it.  I would never consider a tummy tuck because it would mean more surgery. 

September 2013
And there you have it.  Blame it on genetics, poor diet, lack of using stretch mark cream, triplets, whatever.  It is what it is and I wouldn't change a thing!

Not According to Plans

Here are a few things we encountered this week that I didn't anticipate:

While singing "Open Shut Them" during storytime at the library, I glanced up to see blood trickling out of Jackson's nose.  I just broke out the baby wipes and kept on singing before he had a chance to freak out.

Later that afternoon Jackson awoke from his nap hysterical. I was feeding all three babies, but stopped to run upstairs and see what the cause of his blood curdling cries were.  Poor thing had soaked through his diaper, pants, and sheets after drinking two cups of water before naptime. 

As I walked downstairs carrying all the bottles and freshly pumped milk I slid and dropped them in the hallway.  Why was the floor wet, you ask?  Cat vomit.

After loading everyone up in the van to head to the park, I looked back and noticed Jackson didn't have shoes!  Thankfully we were still in the neighborhood so I turned around to quickly get them.  A little over halfway to the park, the skies open up with torrential rain.

About 5 minutes into my 3 a.m. pumping session, the power went out.  And the battery pack was dead.  My only choice was to hand express.

While I was warned that the IUD could cause spotting, I've been surprised with heavy bleeding and a decrease in milk supply this morning.  Praying it's a temporary side effect.

It was Jesse's turn yet again for more car battery troubles, this time with the car.  He had to jumpstart the car with the van this morning.  He's going to become an expert with jumper cables soon.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Geese, get back in the water!"

Jackson is borderline obsessed with geese.  All week he's been asking me to feed the geese.  On Monday we went to a park a bit farther away that I swore had a pond with geese.  We brought the bread with us.  Apparently I made that up.  Jackson just kept calling out, "Geese!  Where are you?"  I'm sure the other moms thought he was insane, but I thought it was cute.
Tuesday was storytime, so we made no attempts to find any geese.  Wednesday morning I decided to take the tribe to a different park closer to uptown that I knew for sure had geese.  I fed and changed everyone, pumped, and loaded us in the van by 10:30.  There were a few clouds in the sky, but I didn't think anything of it.  About 10 minutes away from the park it started to downpour.  I tried to wait it out but the rain just kept coming.  Knowing that we would have to alter our plans and Jackson would be once again disappointed, I decided we would go to a McDonalds that had an indoor playground.  Jack always asks to go inside, but I never want to take the babies out just so he can get a $1 cheeseburger.  Not knowing that part of town as well, I drove around trying to find anywhere that had an indoor playground.  By this point it was almost 11:30 and I was getting irritated, so we went through the drive-thru, ordered a cheeseburger, and ate in the car.  Our happy Jack was perfectly content playing in the glove compartment and eating while the babies slept in their carseats. 
At last, the weather was perfect today and we loaded up first thing this morning on the hunt for some geese.  There is something so genuine and endearing about seeing his excitement over something as simple as geese.  He was shouting and pointing, "Geese, Mommy!  We found 'em!" 
Slight rant: This particular park is where all the skinny stay-at-home moms with one child in their jogging strollers flock.  One little boy passing by asked his mother what we were doing.  She said in an unnecessarily loud voice, "They are feeding the ducks bread.  It's very bad for the geese. They shouldn't do that."  [Insert eye roll here]  Thanks for the public service announcement, lady!

While Jackson fed the geese, I laid the babies down on a blanket.  I had no clue that they would come so close to people!  They just kept following Jackson and walked right up to the babies.  I had to put the babies back in the stroller because the geese were just a few feet from James.  Jackson kept yelling, "Geese, get back in the water!"
I had planned ahead and brought our lunches and a fancy picnic set that we received as a wedding present.  (It was the first time we used it in 6 years.)  We scarfed down our sandwiches.  Jack played while I fed the babies. 

As always, we were stopped numerous times by strangers.  People always feel the need to ask overly personal questions and/or elaborate on their life story.  As long as I'm not in a hurry, I really do enjoy it.  Afterall, it's the only adult interaction I get during the day!  One couple (Kathleen and Mike) were especially pleasant and talked to us for quite some time.  I asked them to snap a picture of us. 

This is how we travel when Jackson gets too tired to walk.

The weather was beautiful and we had a nice, relaxing afternoon.  It's always nice to not have any set agenda.  Each of us were able to do our favorite things: Jackson enjoyed feeding the geese, eating, and running around.  The babies got to eat, sleep, and look around.  I had the opportunity to talk to other people, walk in the perfect 75 degree weather, and take pictures of my kids. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Breastmilk Storage 101

Step 1: Pump milk. 
My assorted bottles were taking over the refrigerator and becoming an unorganized mess.  I rotate the bottles and use the oldest milk first, but I had accumulated so many bottles that I was getting confused.  I tend to be a few ounces short during my daily pumps, but overcompensate with my middle of the night pumps.  Therefore, I need to keep around 12 oz in the fridge at any given time to add to bottles as necessary.  I have recently been producing enough excess to freeze.  I ended up with 58 ounces in the fridge from the past week.  Sadly, I had to discard 6 oz of spoiled milk.

Step 2: Pour milk into bags.  Be sure to write the date and number of ounces. 
Step 3: Freeze flat.

I froze ten 4-oz bags of milk from the past week.
 Step 4: Cut a slit along the bottom edge of a small gift bag. 

Step 5: Place the oldest milk on the bottom and continually place the most recent milk on top.  Pull the oldest milk from the bottom slit to constantly rotate your stash.

Bring on the Fluff

With four children in diapers and only one income, using cloth diapers is an obvious choice!  Jesse and I cloth diapered Jackson until he started daycare when he was 16 months old.  We had a variety of challenges with Jack, including a severe allergy to suede-cloth (no Bum Genius for that guy), psoriasis, and skin infections.  After swapping stashes with my sister, we now have quite the variety of diapers. 
We planned on cloth diapering the babies as newborns, but we were given thousands of newborn and size 1 diapers as gifts.  After two months, we've used most of the disposable diapers (with a hundred or so on reserves) and are finally ready to break out our expansive cloth diaper stash.  I'm thankful that we had enough disposables so I had a few months to master feedings and our schedule before adding the logistics of cloth diapers into the mix.  
We have a changing station upstairs in the nursery and downstairs in the living room.  Each changing station has a dry diaper pail and variety of cloth diapers.  Though we used cloth wipes with Jackson, we are choosing to use disposable wipes right now strictly for convenience.

My personal preference is to use fitteds with covers or one-size pockets.  We use Alva one-size pockets for Jackson and an assortment of fitteds with Thirsties covers for James, Amelia, and Madeline.   
We have enough cloth to do laundry twice a week, but that would be a whole lot of dirty diapers piled up!  Between the four kids, we use up to 30 diapers per day.  I'm currently doing laundry every other day.  We do the standard rinse cycle, wash cycle with safe detergent, and additional rinse cycle.  I prefer to line dry them when possible to reduce stains and smell.  

And now for a baby fashion show! 
Seriously, who can resist babies in fluff? 
Jackson's pretty cute himself.
For those that are wondering, I'm too lazy to potty train, though Jackson is beyond ready.  I really don't care so long as he's fully potty trained before his third birthday.  He does use the potty by himself a few times a day, but I'm not pushing anything until Christmas break when Jesse and I have two full weeks together to kick the diapers once and for all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sayonara Summer

With all the craziness of last week, I forgot to post the fun, relaxed ways we closed out summer.  We spent the final days of summer:
going for wagon rides,

napping outside,
playing on the deck,
going on picnics (make your own pizza),
trying out new parks,
walking trails,

and taking evening strolls.
Now we will bask in the perfect 70 degree weather and welcome the cool nights, changing leaves, pumpkin patches, hayrides, Halloween costumes, and more!



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Before and After Home Improvements

I told Jesse all week that I was feeling overwhelmed about all the things piling up.  I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water just to keep up with the laundry, dishes, trash, cooking, sweeping, mopping, changing, feeding, and pumping.  To add anything else to my routine is next to impossible.  Thankfully, Jesse and I both worked hard this weekend to revamp and organize a few things that have been driving me crazy.  Here are the before and after shots:
 . . .
The most dysfunctional room in the house is the laundry room.  Because it our mud room and the first room we enter from the garage, it becomes the dumping grounds for anything and everything.  If our hands are full (which we know they most always are) we toss it on the washer or dryer.  What's not pictured is the cat food container and hanging laundry bag behind the door.  We couldn't even fully open the door.  I have to temporarily put baskets and various odds and ends on the floor just to open the washer or start the dryer. 

I sorted through everything and rearranged a bit.  To give you an idea of the last time we cleaned out the laundry room, that diaper bag was from Jackson.  It had tiny shoes, a size 2 diaper, and a church bulletin from February 2012.  Oh dear!  Every miscellaneous item found a proper home throughout the house (or trashcan).  I utilized the narrow space between the washer and the wall to store the cat food and hanging laundry basket.  Now the door opens all the way, the baskets and detergent are easily accessible, and nothing is blocking the washer and dryer.

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Jesse literally took a machete to the next eyesore.  We have this awful pampas grass that was so overgrown it was taking over the deck.  I had to move our patio furniture so we wouldn't cut ourselves amongst the sharp blades.
So much better!
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While the next makeover is less dramatic to the eye, it's a huge difference in functionality.  Now that we're finally down to our last packages of disposable diapers, we're ready to transition to cloth diapers.  Here was our previous changing station downstairs:

I moved Jackson's toys behind the chair (far left) and pushed the exersaucer to a corner in the dining room.  The babies aren't quite old enough for the exersaucer, but it should soon be helpful for entertaining one while we eat dinner.  The storage drawers now have organized cloth diapers, burp cloths/blankets, and books/baby toys. The new addition is a diaper pail. 
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Next on the list was to update our family pictures that hang above the couch in our living room.  We had a large 11x14 wedding picture and two 8x10 pictures of Jesse and I holding Jackson when he was two months old.  Now that James, Amelia, and Madeline are two months old, their photos are overdue for joining the wall.

I had to find another baby picture of Jackson by himself, which required us to dig out the hardrive and go through old pictures.  (This ended up taking an hour because I had to reminisce and look through hundreds of pictures from when Jackson was an infant.)  We picked our favorite pictures of Jackson and the triplets, ordered them at Walgreens, and switched out the photos in the frame. 

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In addition to the above "before and after" pictures, we also tackled the mile high piles of insurance claim, hospital bills, multiples discounts, thank you cards, car repair payment, birth certificates, social security cards, etc.  Basically, all important papers have been placed on the hutch in our dining room for the past two months.  Jesse filled out the many hospital insurance requests while I sorted and filed papers upstairs.  There isn't a single stray paper in sight!
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I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that my to-do list is back to the basics.  Knowing that everything else is in place (for now!) makes our challenging daily routine much more manageable!