Monday, June 30, 2014


Zootastic is a very small zoo that allows kids to get up close and personal with the animals on exhibit. Jackson and his MiMi went to this zoo with his preschool class in October. Today was Teacher Appreciation Day at the zoo, which meant all family members received free admission AND a free lunch. 
Jesse decided to go into work today, but I never pass up free entertainment. The kids and I left immediately after Maddie's PT. 

I showed my teacher badge upon arrival and received a ticket for the meal and program. I didn't realize we would be assigned a specific time to eat and I didn't even know there was a program. We had an hour before lunch so we leisurely strolled through the exhibits and playgrounds. The babies were in the double umbrella and Ergo. (Our quad stroller is missing a wheel and the seat belts aren't installed in the wagon.)

I was much more excited about the animals than the kids were. Jack just walked around nonchalantly as if he is regularly within inches from giraffes, camels, llamas, and tigers!  The babies followed each animal with their eyes and appeared mildly curious. 

I was so impressed with the play area. There were large playgrounds for the big kids and several playsets for toddlers. I always bring the blanket since the babies prefer to crawl and pull up. The babies enjoyed a much-needed break from their confined stroller/ergo. All appeared happy to move around and play.

Lunch was very stressful. I arrived a few minutes early. I set everything up in the barn, put the babies on the blanket, and made the bottles, all before realizing there was a growing line of people waiting to pick up their lunch outside. We waited on the trio to finish their bottles before packing up and joining a line that had doubled in length. Jackson was amazingly patient under the circumstances. By the time we got our food, there was no longer any room left in the barn so we had to eat in the hot sun. While it was not ideal, I can't complain about free hamburgers, hotdogs, chili, slaw, chips, and drinks.

Now would be a good time to mention how challenging it was to wear a hot baby and push a double umbrella stroller through thick mulch, gravel, and hay. I could not maneuver the stroller in between picnic tables or through certain doors. After our lunch, bathroom breaks, and diaper changes, we headed to the indoor amphitheater for the program. I was immediately greeted by the sign, "NO STROLLERS!" After a bit of negotiation, the employees took out some chairs and made room on the floor level for the stroller.

The program was led by a Jack Hanna type character who taught about a variety of animals. Of course, he promoted field trips and other ways for teachers to collaborate with the zoo. He pulled out animals and allowed audience members to feed, touch, wear, etc the animals.

Unfortunately, it was at this point in the day that James decided he'd had enough. Neither pacifier, Ergo, rocking, swinging, nor pretzels could console him. We sneaked out during the presentation. (And by sneaked out, I mean, asked multiple people to move so I could unlock the second door and fit through the doorway--all while wearing a screaming baby.)

Though this was one of the harder solo outings I've done in a while, it was a change of pace, free, and fun. It's hard to find safe places for the babies to explore and have fun. It's even harder to balance my attention between all four kids and ensure that Jackson still feels special. 

Not surprisingly, every kid fell asleep on the way home.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Me Before You

I stumbled upon this title while reading a thread on a local mom forum titled, "What book could you not put down recently?" I read the summary of every single book listed and requested several titles from the library. 
Me Before You was absolutely a book I could not put down. The story is mostly written from the point of view of Louisa Clark, a 26 year old who lives with her financially struggling family. When she is let go from her job, she eventually accepts a job as caretaker for Will Traynor, a former CEO and adventure seeker, who becomes a quadriplegic after being hit by a motorcycle.

The characters are so well developed and there are many layers to the book. This is no Nicholas Sparks book. Will and Lou's relationship is complex, even painful to witness at times. A deep level of trust and intimacy evolves between the characters despite uncomfortable tension.

One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is the change in point of views. While the majority of the story is told from Lou's perspective, there are multiple chapters throughout the book that are written from supporting character's point of view. I found myself empathizing with each character and these snippets into their lives helped me better connect everyone together. 

I consider the turning point in Will and Lou's relationship to be when Lou had a panic attack in the maze. The author made the characters so raw and vulnerable. I have reread those pages over and over and continue to feel Will's frustration when he cannot scoop her up into his arms and comfort her in the way he yearns to. Yet the transforming power is in his words rather than his physical actions. 

The lack of physical contact makes his dialogue that much more meaningful. And the small touches that Lou provides heightens the intimacy the two share. One of my favorite quotes that showcased Will's frustrations was: 
"And I don't want to look at you every day, to see you naked or to watch you wandering around the annex in your crazy dresses and not...not be able to do what I want with you. Oh, Clark, if you had any idea what I want to do with you right now. And I...I can't live with that knowledge. I can't. It's not who I am. I can't be the kind of many who just...accepts. 
Without giving too much away, there is a major ethical dilemma on what makes a life worth living, or worth ending. I looked up Dignitas, which is referenced in the book, and was shocked and fascinated about their services. I guess I can understand the desire to die in dignity rather than prolonging further suffering. Again, I don't want to spoil anything, but the discussions are extremely thought-provoking.

I tried to begin another book on my list, but my mind keeps returning to Me Before You. I suspect this one will stay with me for a while.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What You've Missed

Money Saving Attempts Result in Headaches

  • We switched phone services from AT&T to T-Mobile. This didn't save as much money as we thought because we ended up having to buy new phones through T-Mobile. Being without a phone for three days and the four different trips to T-Mobile could be a blog posit in itself, but my irritation has since calmed. The day after we bought new phones, I dropped mine and over half the screen formed a spiderweb of cracks.
  • We cancelled our cable through Time Warner and bought a Roku so we could stream Netflix and Hulu. This is significantly cheaper than paying for cable. We won't be able to watch anything live, but we never did anyway. The "simple switch" required us to either buy a new upstairs TV or an HDMI converter because our television was so old the Roku could not connect to it. Jesse ended up finding a $20 tv on Craigslist that worked.
  • The bottom line is we are still saving over $100 a month with these two changes and we've been able to upgrade phones and our TV upstairs. 
Fully Potty-Trained
  • Through no effort from Jesse and I, Jackson no longer wears a pull-up at night. Jackson was potty-trained during the day since December. We had noticed that Jackson's pull-up has been dry for many weeks now. Jackson asked if he could wear underwear to bed. It's been over a week now and he hasn't had any accidents. He even woke up to pee at 4 a.m. one night and went back to bed.
  • Maddie had her neuro follow up last Friday. When she first went to the neuro in March, she was 4-5 months behind. She is now only 2-3 months behind. The doctor was very pleased with her progress and commended us for spending so much time on Maddie's physical therapy exercises. 
  • Despite progress, the neurologist could neither confirm nor rule out CP. Maddie still displays mixed muscle tone by tightening and extending her leg (even while crawling) but hyperextending her back and loosening her trunk. When we return at 15 months we hope Maddie is at least cruising around furniture; then walking at 18 months. She will likely schedule an MRI at 18 months.
Social Opportunities
  • Lunch date at Firehouse Subs sans kids. 
  • Our local mommies group started a Bunco group. (Technically, they resumed Bunco after taking several years off.) This Bunco group was significantly more alcohol friendly than others I've attended. I somehow became known as the OCD/Type A personality of the group because I've always played where there is one scorekeeper per table. They have each pair tally points. I met a lot of new moms (new to me, most of them had school-aged children). I encountered the typical gawking over the fact that I have triplets. 
  • Jackson attended a birthday party at the park for one of his classmates. All but two of his classmates attended, as well as one of his teachers. It was so fun for the kids and moms to meet up in the summer. We exchanged numbers to meet up again this summer. All of the kids will move up to the same "3's class" in the fall. The triplets stayed home and Jackson was busy on the playground. It was a rare treat to actually converse with the moms beyond the few rushed minutes during drop off and pick up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Boone Bound

On my short list of things-to-do this summer was to take a family trip to Boone. It's only a two hour drive, but we thought it would be better to spend the night rather than cram everything into a day trip. Jesse and I spent our first four years together attending ASU. It is where we met, fell in love, and married. We've taken Jackson to Boone when he was an infant, but hadn't yet taken the triplets.

We began our journey with a trip to the park, in hopes of exhausting the kids before the long ride. It worked well since the babies were asleep before we got on the interstate. It was an easy drive with quiet, sleeping children. A college friend had graciously contacted me about giving us several  containers of formula she no longer needed. We met her off the interstate to pick up enough formula to last us the next 2-3 weeks (aka the one year mark! Did I really just write that?)  

The babies required a pit stop another hour later. It began to downpour, so they had a diaper change and bottle in the back of the van. 

Jesse and I used an Olive Garden gift card for lunch. It was our first restaurant outing as an entire family. Everyone was well behaved and fairly clean. Lunch began an unofficial 36 hour wheat and sugar binge for Jesse. I decided to be less restrictive, but still try to select the best option with each meal and refrain from wheat. As we were leaving the restaurant, it began to torrential downpour. The staff escorted us out individually with umbrellas.

Random fact: the couple in the background were awkward over-sharers. 

We arrived in Boone earlier than our hotel check-in time. With an hour to spare, we walked around ASU campus. Walking around campus was nothing like what I experienced as a student. We had to push strollers up and down ramps that were a quarter mile out of the way from the direct staircases.

The kids played in the library. As an elementary ed major, I spent a significant amount of time in the basement (aka children's literature section) of the ASU library. I never thought I would return to the carpet with big books and read to my own children.

We walked around King Street and surprised Jackson with a special treat at the Mast General Store. Jackson literally picked a piece of candy from every single barrel he could read. I followed behind him and put most of them back. We let him have a lot of freedom, but he was stocking up on licorice, gum, and other candies that he wouldn't eat.

Jesse found a cheap hotel the night before using a "flash discount" on Priceline. We usually stay at a very cheap hotel but it would not have been able to accommodate three cribs. Actually, the hotel we did stay at didn't even have three cribs available, even though we called ahead to request three cribs in our room. The hotel staff scurried around bringing up ancient cribs from the basement and a pack-n-play.

Attempting a nap was a lost cause. The babies were way too excited! We found out quickly that the hotel room was not baby proof. James pulled the batteries out of the carbon monoxide detector. The girls climbed on the cooler and dumped ice water out. Amelia smashed her fingers in the dresser drawer as she pulled up to stand. Lamp and telephone cords were beyond tempting. It was a mess!

After a failed attempt at downtime, we decided to have a picnic dinner on campus. I raided our pantry and refrigerator before leaving and thought ahead enough to bring the griddle for quesadillas and grilled cheese.

The plan was to have a picnic at Duck Pond and let Jackson feed the ducks. As soon we laid the blanket out and began to get settled, dozens of ducks aggressively approached us. We ended up feeding the ducks first, then finding a new picnic spot.

Jackson was initially scared, but he laughed when the ducks stole the bread directly from his fingers.

Despite grey clouds looming, we walked further from the van for a new dinner destination. We stopped to take silly pictures with Yosef, the bizzare Mountaineer mascot.

The rain held off while we ate dinner and played.

The big boys splashed in the creek,

while the babies and I checked out the gazebo.

James was so proud of himself for taking steps while holding onto the bench. I should probably start making the babies (especially James and Amelia) wear shoes.

We tested our luck by walking a bit further to the campus sign, where a random dog-walker took our picture. Ideally, we'll recreate this picture with the kids in their caps and gowns one day.

We escaped any meltdowns, rain drops, and meltdowns. Praise be to God! Once back at the hotel, we rushed through the bedtime routine. It took longer than usual for the kids to settle down, but they slept well. Amelia and Maddie had adjacent cribs in the corner. James was in the pack-n-play. Jackson and I shared a bed. Jesse got a bed a to himself. 

Wanting to take advantage of every minute, we were all up and dressed by 7:30 a.m. the next morning. The continental breakfast was grain-heavy. The babies and I ate yogurt and oatmeal. Jesse and Jack ate waffles and pastries.

Every time I visit Boone, I like to walk around campus and drive on the Parkway. My favorite spot is the Moses Cone Center. This is the same place where Jesse and I went immediately after our wedding ceremony for pictures. We took a few family pictures against the breathtaking back drop.

We made a quick stop at a park to let everyone expend some energy. Unfortunately, most of the slides were wet. Jackson and I attempted to rock climb.

Jesse and the trio tested out the swings.

We went back to the hotel for another failed attempt at napping. We gave up after an hour of the babies laughing, yelling, and standing up in their cribs. We cleaned and packed up, made lunch, then checked out of the hotel.

Our good friend from college, Caroline, happened to be in town while we were there. I was so glad we had a chance to cross paths, and even more grateful that she is understanding of our crazy life right now.

Seriously, can you think of any better place for kids to run (or crawl) free and simply play? It is just stunning. My love for the mountains only increases every time I go back. Unfortunately, this picturesque scene was disrupted by steady rain.

Thankfully we found refuge under a picnic shelter and were able to wait out the rain. I spent most of lunch trying to redirect the babies from eating unfortunate findings (fake fingernails, pine needles, bird poop, etc).

Alas, the rain cleared and we were able to go rock hopping along the river.

Caroline kept an eye on the babies while Jesse and I were able to spend a few quality minutes with Jackson.

The kids crashed on the ride home. 

We had many adventures during our short getaway. It was very challenging to keep James, Amelia, and Maddie on their napping schedule and give them a safe space to crawl around. I can't wait to return each year and provide fun opportunities for the kids as they get older and are able to do more. I envision hiking, paddle boating, checking out waterfalls and caverns, etc. Mostly, I want the kids to develop their own love for the beautiful NC mountains.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thank You Notes: Clothing Edition

I am quite a hoarder when it comes to clothes. I have such a hard time getting rid of shirts, especially. I still have my senior t-shirt from high school, t-shirts from my first 5k and half marathon, and t-shirts from Red Cross and youth group. I may only wear them once or twice a year, but they will remain in my dresser for a bit longer.

Yesterday I spent hours going through my closet and trying on clothes. I finally let go of some very sentimental articles of clothing, including my maternity clothes. It was an emotionally draining task. I even quizzed Jesse periodically by asking, "What's special about this one" He grew annoyed with my game and eventually answered "it's from our wedding" with every fashion show. I eventually filled four trash bags full of clothing and shoes to donate.

I don't know if you ever watch Jimmy Fallon's "thank you notes" segment, but here's my version while I let go of some very memorable clothes.
. . . . . . . . .

Thank you, skanky top, for making me feel sexy during my college years. You revealed more cleavage than most strippers, but always made me feel attractive at parties and dates.

Thank you, pink and black striped shirt, for instilling a sense of confidence in me and helping me earn a full ride to ASU. I debated for hours on what to wear to my final Teaching Fellows interview. I ultimately picked you, and Teaching Fellows picked me.

Thank you, green sweater, for keeping me warm enough while outside in a cold garden on December 16, 2006.  You simultaneously kept me cool while all the blood rushed to my head when I said "yes" to Jesse's proposal.

Thank you, maternity dresses, for making me feel pretty even with a gigantic pregnant belly. You were my go-to dresses for baby showers, special occasions, and milestone weeks. (FYI, I wore the black and white dress when I was 40 weeks pregnant with Jackson and maxed out at 24 weeks pregnant with the triplets.)

Thank you, pink and white nursing gown, for allowing me to breastfeed four children over the past three years during countless exhausting nights. I always appreciated your convenience and comfort in helping me feed and soothe my newborns.

Thank you, farmer-inspired maternity shirt, for making me realize that I was an accomplished teacher. I was able to receive job offers from last-minute interviews, even while wearing you with jeans and flip flops.

Thank you, peasant skirts, for enhancing my classroom comfort. You allowed me to sit on the floor with reading groups, play kickball at recess, sit on my stool without crossing my legs, and twirl around desks. I wore y'all until you had holes, then stapled you back together.

. . . . . . . .

I hope you provide wonderful memories for your future owners, as well.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Return of the Wagon

You might recall several months ago the story where I became stranded with all four kids in the neighborhood when the wagon wheel fell off. I had to crawl on my hands and knees up and down streets while carefully balancing a wagon full of children. 

I wanted to revisit the wagon now that it's summer and we will go on many family walks. Jesse ordered a hubcap and the wagon is as good as new (or better). Except, we still don't have seat belts installed. James did not pass our test run in the driveway. He refused to sit down!

I pulled the girls and Jack while Jesse pushed James in the umbrella stroller. Initially, Jesse led, but I was uncomfortable not being able to see the girls. Jesse and I switched positions so I didn't have to keep turning around every 30 seconds.

Jackson took turns walking, pulling the wagon, and riding.

This is a bit mean, but I can't help posting this ridiculous photo of Amelia. She's always so photogenic. All three were asleep in their cribs shortly after we came home.

Next thing on our to do list: install seat belts. Go for more walks.