Sunday, March 30, 2014

Things That Make Life Easier

-Babies that can hold their own bottle.   
I've looked forward to this milestone for months.  All three have consistently been holding their bottles for a few weeks now. 
-1:1 adult-child ratio 

I look forward to weekend visits with the in-laws because I know each child will receive individual attention.  It's the only time in the week when children don't outnumber adults.
-Convertible car seats

We switched all three babies to convertible carseats when they turned 8 months old. It made no difference for Maddie because she sits in the middle.  However, it's much easier to get James and Amelia in and out of the van since we go through the hatchback. No more bulky infant carriers and worrying about hitting their heads.

Double Umbrella Stroller

While there is a time and place to use the quad stroller, I'm so much happier using this double umbrella stroller and Ergo.  I found this stroller on Craigslist for $40 about 15 minutes away.  It was an easy transaction and I've lost 85 pounds of stress trying to maneuver the beast that is the quad stroller. 

The double umbrella stroller is so light, easily fits through the doorways, and hardly takes up any space in the back of the van.  I rotate who gets to sit in the stroller rather than always wearing Maddie in the Ergo.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mommy & Jack Date

Earlier in the week I mentioned to Jesse that I wanted to go out with just Jackson this weekend.  It's been well over a year since I've been able to give my full focus on solely Jackson.  During the end of the pregnancy I couldn't even lift Jackson or care for him by myself.  Ever since the babies were born, strangers constantly make Jack feel like an afterthought when we are in public. 

He's really matured a lot in the past few months with potty training, preschool, and becoming more independent.  I really wanted give him individual time.

We all had a rough start to our morning with a power outage and little sleep.  Amelia was up screaming for no known reason from 1-3 a.m.  The power outage prevented me from being able to pump. Jesse didn't get his much needed coffee.  And Jackson couldn't have his usual breakfast and TV.  Everyone was grumpy.

While I went to the garage to pump in the van, Jackson followed me and sat in the passenger side. He said, "Mommy, we go on an adventure today?"  Jesse and the babies were all sleeping and Jackson and I were getting restless.  Those things combined were definite causes for a Mommy/Jack date.  We headed out around 11 a.m. for our "adventure".

I decided to take him out to eat at a non fast food restaurant.  We originally drove to Denny's but we couldn't even get in the door it was so crowded. Our next stop was Cracker Barrel, which also had a wait. I was hesitant about making Jackson wait since he was getting a bit antsy already, but the store offered plenty of entertainment that quickly passed the time.  I thought it was precious that Jackson picked out dresses and cowgirl boots for Amelia and Maddie.  He also wanted a firetruck and carried it around the entire time.  (Of course, I had no intentions of buying anything since I hate making unnecessary purchases.)

When our name was called, Jackson sat down and began playing with the classic puzzle.  I tried to teach him how to play, but he just wanted to make patterns.  He was also concerned that there was a peg missing and kept looking around the table and floor to try and find it.

Jackson goes through days where he barely eats and days where he cannot get enough.  Today was definitely an insatiable appetite day!  He devoured an entire grilled cheese, a biscuit with jelly, whole apple, and bites of my mashed potatoes, green beans, and mac-n-cheese.

Our lunch conversation revolved around our favorite things we did throughout the week.  I'm always impressed with how reflective and articulate Jackson can be.  When I pick him up from preschool he'll ask, "What you and babies do while I at school?" After we discussed our highlights from the week he asked me what I thought each of the babies' favorite parts were.  Here's what we decided:
  • Mommy-watching planes take-off while eating lunch
  • Jackson-"driving the fire truck at the museum" and "dressing up like Uncle Skoshe"
  • James-riding in the new stroller with Amelia, playing at the library
  • Amelia-looking in the mirror at museum
  • Maddie-riding the tractor at the museum

Just when I thought our date was perfect and I went to pay the bill, Jackson freaked out because we were leaving his fire truck (again, no way was I going to buy a $12 fire truck when he has one exactly like it at home).  I ended up having to carry him out of Cracker Barrel crying hysterically.

Thank God he calmed down fairly quickly in the car and was laughing before we got home. I guess it was all-encompassing of typical toddler moods.  Still, I'm so glad I got to spend a few hours alone with Jackson to talk, eat, and play together. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

8 Month Old Playtime

Eight months old is such a fun age!  I absolutely love watching the babies' interactions with one another and how they play with their toys. Now that we have two sitters and one scooter, the trio are showing interest in toys that they previously didn't care about. 

The activity cube offers entertainment for each baby. James and Maddie are content sitting and playing with the lights, music, mirrors, and gadgets on each side. Amelia is happier confiscating the blocks and scooting away.

Maddie and James took turns driving their stationary car today.

This photo op was short lived as James got mad that he couldn't press the buttons and Maddie cried because James was pushing her.  It was amusing to witness their interactions and first attempts at sharing.

Amelia was elated to jump in the jumper/exersaucer.  She would jump about ten times, then laugh and blow raspberries, then jump some more. Her leg strength is impressive.

The babies are also developing cause and effect relationship with their toys.  I'm noticing each baby make intentional efforts of pressing certain buttons that create different outcomes.  For example, Maddie favors manipulating the monkey to make his arms move, whereas Amelia likes to press the top buttons for animal sounds.

After so many months of watching the trio lay on their backs, it still surprises me to look at them sitting or moving about the living room.

I want to enjoy this stage for a while longer before having to bring out the walkers and toddler toys.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Benefits of Taking the Kids Out

It's no secret I like to go out and stay busy. One of the most frequent comments I receive from triplet mom friends, strangers in public, and family is centered around how much we go out.  Sometimes the comments are really positive like, "Good for you.  I can't believe you're out with all of them." Some comments are rude, such as, "You need to keep those babies home.  They're going to get sick." Either way, we go on our merry little way, exploring the world around us.

Last week I was complaining about the quad stroller and what a pain in the ass it is to load and unload the kids into.  Jesse said, "You know you don't have to take them everywhere. What's the point? Do you remember anything from when you were two?"

His comment made me angry and caused me to second-guess my motives behind our outings. I vented with other moms and brainstormed reasons why it's so important to me that I take the kids out.  Here's what we came up with:

Benefits for Children
  • stimulates their minds
  • provides different sensory experiences
  • creates interest in things outside the home
  • develops curiosity
  • strengthens their immune systems
  • shapes their behavior in public places
  • builds an understanding of their community
  • builds their vocabulary and language development
  • keeps them physically active
  • reduces social anxiety (hopefully)
  • creates opportunities for social interaction
  • expends energy
Benefits for Mothers
  • increases independence
  • provides variation/prevents monotony
  • creates valuable memories with children
  • creates opportunities to take pictures that can be shared with children later
  • increases confidence level
  • provides opportunities for social interaction
So...while my children may not have any recollection of what they are doing right now, I think it's important to expose them to books, music, people, exercise, different languages, etc. as early as possible. Going to the park, museum, library, rec center, aquarium, and so on, fills our days with a sense of adventure and makes our time together so much more enjoyable than if we stayed home and watched TV. 

I'll conclude with pictures of us out and about at the museum today.

Life is so much easier with self-feeders and a double umbrella stroller!

Jack and Maddie taking turns driving the tractor.

Maddie, James, and Amelia admiring themselves,

before it turned into a wrestling match.

Exploring colors, shapes, and textures

Jackson discovering his new car seat has a cup holder.

“Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
― Walt Disney

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Superior Play and Airport Overlook

I'm always on the lookout for free things to do that are appropriate for Jackson.  Several months ago I learned of a warehouse that sales private playsets, trampolines, and commercial playgrounds.  Everything is on display in an enormous showroom.  It is open free to the public every Wednesday and Friday from 10-1.  I was told to arrive closer to 10 a.m. since they put a cap on how many people are allowed in the showroom at one time.  I've been trying to go for quite a few weeks now but something has always prohibited us from going.  Today was the day!

The playroom is all the way across town and it took about 40 minutes to get there. I was skeptical if it would be worth the drive, but we were not disappointed!

Per usual, Jackson spent several minutes looking around before playing.
James and Amelia waited for their big brother at the bottom of the slide.

Jack was a master at rock climbing on his first try! 

Scoping things out on the trampoline before jumping.

While Jackson had a blast and it was an awesome morning of free fun, I still don't think it would be worth the drive if we didn't find something else to do in the area.  I asked some moms in the showroom what they recommended to do nearby, but everything they suggested cost money.  I decided we would head towards home and stop along the way if anything caught our interest. 

The international airport is about ten minutes from the play place. I remembered Jesse and I taking Jackson to the airport overlook before the triplets were born.  The skies were crystal clear, so I thought it would be a great place to eat our lunch. If I had planned ahead today, I would have made lunch.  Instead, I drove through Burger King, spent $4 on burgers, and parked at the overlook. It was too cold eat outside, but we enjoyed our lunch with a view of airplanes landing and taking off.

Ideal lunch for Jackson

Watching a plane take off

Maddie was curious, but unimpressed

Waiting on the taxiway
James was especially amused.

"Whoa! What was that? Come back?"

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Belly Laugh: Charotte Mommies

When Jackson was born, I found myself feeling isolated and inadequate as a new mother.  I stayed home for four months before returning to work. During that time, I reached out to a local online group of mothers.  I posted occasionally but was never brave enough to attend any of the events.

Fast forward two years and three more kids later.

Earlier this fall when the reality of being a stay at home mother hit, I rejoined the online community of local mothers (Charlotte Mommies).  Once I gained confidence in going out with the kids, I began to participate in events.  Just in the last month I have met mothers for:
  • Coffee meet and greet every Thursday
  • GNO at the movies (August: Osage County)
  • play date at the park
  • play date at the rec center
  • hosted a baby play date at my house
  • GNO: book club
Initially, every get together was like an awkward blind date.  We would message one another to say where would be sitting or what we would be wearing.  I was worried that the women would be catty or exclusive, especially among those that already knew one another.  I've been relieved to experience no such thing. I think we all get along so well because all of us are mothers to young children who feel the need to connect with other moms.  We all took a chance on one another and we have all been the new mom at some point.  I guess that's what makes us all so welcoming.  I can't tell you how refreshing it is that there are no cliques. 

This past Sunday we met up for book club at a fellow mom's house. We ended up staying just over four hours.  It was ridiculous in the best way possible (and there wasn't even any alcohol).  I laughed so hard I cried many times and my belly ached. By the end of the evening it had evolved from a book club to a game night, complete with prancercising.  Amidst the laughter, there were serious moments spent discussing the novel, sharing genuine challenges with raising our kids, and seeking advice on mother-in-laws.

Many of the triplet moms I've befriended through my Facebook group complain that they've lost themselves and no longer recognize themselves.  I, too, have struggled over the months embracing my changing role and losing my career.  However, I have gained so much more than I've lost.  The most surprising gain has been fellowship and support through Charlotte Mommies.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Day in the Life (SAHM to 8 Month Old Triplets and an Almost 3 Year Old)

Midnight: Pump. Go to sleep.

2:00 a.m. Wake up to Maddie fussing. Give her a pacifier repeatedly.  Eventually give her a 5 oz bottle of breastmilk. Go back to sleep.

5:00 a.m. Jesse wakes up for the day as usual and begins exercising.

5:30 a.m. I wake up and pump for 45 minutes.

6:15 a.m. I give Maddie her bottle and go back to bed.

6:30 a.m. Jackson wakes up.  Jesse gives him breakfast downstairs and gives James & Amelia their bottles in their crib.

7:00 a.m. Jesse leaves for work.  Jackson watches TV downstairs.  I sleep.

7:45 a.m. Maddie and Amelia wake up.  I ignore their babbles until 8.  (It was a late night last night.)

8:00 a.m. I take the girls downstairs to play.

8:15 a.m. I eat breakfast and stuff cloth diapers.

8:30 a.m. Make bottles. Puree strawberry and banana in food processor.

8:45 a.m. Give babies their bottles. Snuggle with Jackson on the couch.

9:00 a.m. Change babies' diapers. Wash bottles.

9:15 a.m. Feed trio strawberry banana. Make up silly songs.

9:45 a.m. Play with babies and Jack on the floor.  Encourage Maddie during tummy time.  Support Amelia while she sits.  Discourage Jackson from sitting on top of James.  Repeat. Finish stuffing and putting away diapers.

(Okay, I took this picture last week, but this is how tummy time always starts.)
10:30 a.m. Put babies in cribs for nap.

10:40 a.m. Call Maddie's case manager to check on PT services.  Ask if he received papers from neurologist. Check e-mail/Facebook.

11:00 a.m. Make Jackson lunch. (PB&J and strawberries) Heat up leftovers for myself.

11:15 a.m. Load the dishwasher.  Clean counters.

11:20 a.m. Pump for 40 minutes. Blog while Jackson watches TV.

12:00 p.m. Realize the TV has been on all morning.  Turn it off and do story time and crafts with Jack. 

1:15 p.m. Give Amelia, Maddie, and James a bottle as they wake up.  Each kid eats a graham cracker.  Jackson also eats a banana.

1:30 p.m. Change babies' diapers. Load everyone into the van and drive to rec center.

1:45 p.m. Unload van, load stroller, and take kids into gym for open play. Babies have tummy time or sit on blanket with toys.  Jackson and I play with gigantic blocks and bouncy balls and befriend another family.

3:20 p.m. Leave rec center.  Drive home.

3:30 p.m. Unload kids. Put babies in cribs for afternoon nap.  Play outside with Jackson. Fix popcorn for a snack.

3:45 p.m. Go inside to begin dinner preparations, unload dishwasher, sweep floors, clean counters/tables, etc. James refuses to nap.

4:30 p.m. Jesse comes home. I finish cooking dinner (shepherd's pie) while he plays with the kids.

5:00 p.m. Make bottles (5 oz formula) and give them to babies. Set the table. 

5:30 p.m. Eat dinner. Talk about our day.

6:00 p.m. Clean up. Do dishes. Sweep.

6:15 p.m. Unwind.  Zone out in front of TV/computer.  Eat ice cream. Cuddle with kids.

7:30 p.m. All six of us go upstairs to begin bedtime routine. Change babies' diapers and clothes. Jackson puts on pajamas and brushes teeth.

7:45 p.m. Jesse reads Jackson three stories in his bed while I pump.  I upload pictures from the day and blog.

8:00 p.m. Give babies final bottle of the day (5 oz breastmilk). Talk to/kiss babies. 

8:15 p.m. Put them in their cribs awake but sleepy. Jesse and I watch America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country. Jesse inevitably falls asleep while I finish watching the show.

8:45 p.m. I use the computer or read until I eventually fall asleep (between 10-11 p.m.)

Middle of the night-Wake up to give pacifiers, bottles, use the bathroom, etc.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bottle Propping

I switched from breastfeeding to exclusively pumping when the triplets were a month old. I know most moms do the opposite, but there were a lot of factors that went into my decision. You can read more about that here.

No pediatrician will recommend bottle propping. In fact, many articles state the hazards of bottle propping. They claimed that your child could choke, overeat, suffocate from bottle props, develop poor eating habits, and even suffer psychologically from a lack of intimacy. Some of those things could happen if the babies weren't supervised, but those warnings always seemed to be fear tactics from attachment parenting articles.

With all that said, I was the one and only person responsible for feeding three infants and a two year old for ten hours a day. Bottle propping saved my sanity. My babies weren't crying because they were hungry and I couldn't feed them all at once. We stuck to a schedule and everyone ate at the same time. Nobody choked, suffocated, or had trouble bonding with me.

I began bottle propping when the triplets were six weeks old. (Keep in mind, my babies weren't preemie, nor did they have any problems sucking or swallowing.) I tried boppy pillows and receiving blankets, but I could never get the angle quite right. Of all things, I found my son's stuffed animals worked the best. They were firm enough that they kept the bottle in place. 

Initially, I bottle propped one baby while feeding the other two by hand. 

The problem was, when someone needed to burp I had to disrupt the feeding. I realized it was faster and easier for me to bottle prop all three and sit beside them while they ate. That way, if anyone started to cough or wiggle, I could immediately adjust him/her without stopping the other two from eating. The first baby that finshed (normally James) could easily be picked up and burped without bothering the other two. And feeding time was still bonding because I would sing or read stories while they ate.

I learned to prop in most any situation. Again, the babies were always supervised and sometimes they needed readjusting. I was able to feed all three while taking Jackson to the park, museum, library, etc. Since the triplets were eating every 3 hours, they frequently ate outside of the home. It was unfeasible for us to always be at home during every single feeding.

If we were running several errands and the babies were getting hungry, I fed them in the parking lot using thick blankets as bottle props. (Again, this was always supervised. I never gave them a bottle while I was driving at this age.)

I used pillows as bottle props and placed something weighted underneath the bottle to prevent it from slipping.

I never bought any bottle props, though you can find plenty on Amazon and Etsy. They sell props that are plastic, foam, fabric, etc. Some of the popular ones among my triplet community were Lil Helper Baby Bottle Holder, Bugaboo Bliss bib props, and BeBe Bottle Sling.

Now that the triplets are 8 months old, they are each able to hold their own bottles. Gone are the days of creative bottle propping. Hello, independence!