Thursday, July 31, 2014

Adventures Uptown: Romare Bearden Park

Ever since my girls' night out in uptown, I've been itching to take the kids to Romare Bearden Park. I don't often venture uptown anymore simply because I hate having to pay to park and have never had the best sense of direction. It was another unseasonably cool day, so our family of six decided to spend the afternoon in the heart of our city. Despite gray skies, we had a fairly dry picnic in the park. The park has a lovely view of the Charlotte skyline, waterfall fountains, interactive chimes, colorful gardens, and open fields of clean grass.

After eating and playing in the park, we walked around a few blocks. The babies were so distracted they didn't know which direction to look. Every pedestrian, bicyclist, and car that passed by was something new and exciting for the trio. Jackson was perfectly content walking around hand in hand with Jesse.

Hopefully I'll be brave enough to wander around uptown alone with the kids this fall.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This is What Happens When...

Jackson and Amelia are the only two people playing in the nursery.
The safety lock is taken off the cabinets for a second (long enough for me to grab a pot).
Jackson leaves food on the coffee table.
James throws his cup of milk (approximately 16 times a day)
We attempt to play on the deck.
I ask Jesse to take a picture of the girls and I playing in the sprinkler. Really?
James plays in the sandbox.
Maddie wants more food. (Guess it's time to actually use the buckle.)
James refuses to nap. (Please note: He was fully dressed when we laid him down.)
I run upstairs to get something without putting the gate up.
Amelia sits on Maddie's foot. (Maddie pushed her to the ground a few seconds later.)
Amelia's inner bad ass comes out. (She crawled across the yard and got on Jack's bike by herself.)
James discovers saran-wrap.
You marry someone obsessed with psychological thrillers and horror. 
James feeds himself beans.
Jesse practices the long jump.
MiMi tries to leave.
the bathroom door is accidentally left open.
You blink and you suddenly have three one-year olds standing up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"But You've Got to Have Friends"

I've had that song intermittently stuck in my head ever since Jackson watched the scene in Shrek where Donkey sang it to Shrek. I digress already...

One of my biggest fears about being a stay at home mom was that I would be isolated and never leave my home. I quickly learned how to navigate the town with four children in tote. I found free entertainment and bought the museum membership so I could offer fun activities for the kids. Still, I felt like all my friends were at work doing their own thing while I was alone with the kids, feeding geese for the 500th time.

It took a few months for me to get involved with a local mom's groups. Now that I spend every waking hour with the kids, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything with the kids by attending book club, bunco, dinner, or Bible study in the evenings. In fact, I'm really not missing anything since I rarely leave before I put the triplets to bed. 

People assume I never get out, but the surprising truth is that I am significantly more social now that I'm no longer working. When I first started teaching, I devoted all of my energy to teaching high-needs children and spending long hours preparing lessons. By the time my workday was over I wanted to crawl in a cave and ignore most everyone except Jesse. The only social group I had was my grad school study group. Once Jackson was born, Jesse and I worked opposite hours so we were essentially two single parents. Everything I did in the evenings and weekends, Jackson did with me. The following year I spent weeknights struggling to keep up with 70+ students in an even more challenging school.  Weekends were spent soaking up every second with Jesse and Jackson. My last year teaching I conceived the triplets, and spent the year in a completely exhausted state. My "social outings" were monthly National Board meetings.

In the past year as a SAHM, I've learned a few things about making friends as an adult:
1. It takes risks meeting new people 
2. Some moms can be extremely competitive and pretentious.
3. Social media is a great networking tool for moms, too. 
4. Being a mother of multiples or having a child in the same preschool is not a prerequisite to being friends. Those things are not enough common ground alone to form friendships.
5. Making friends outside of work requires much more intentional effort.

I've also learned that it is next to impossible to maintain friendships with people who aren't interested in children. Thankfully, most of my friends are teachers or mothers and happen to enjoy babies and toddlers. I look forward to monthly dinners with former teammates and catching up with old friends. It's a comfort to have reliable friends who not only care about me, but my whole family. Friends that have known me before I even had children.
Hope you don't mind me stealing your photo, Lucy!
Beautiful day to enjoy the skyline
I am so thankful for all the women in my life who have kept me grounded this past year, offered me advice, and made me laugh so hard I cried. I love having both old and new friends. When people ask, "How do you do it?" I think to myself:
  • I ask my sisters for advice through constant texts or weekly visits.
  • I post (sometimes hourly) on my Triplet Mama's Facebook group to figure out how to feed all three at the same time or what schedule I should follow.
  • I meet up with CharlotteMommies friends to vent about Jackson's tantrums.
  • I pray about challenges and joys with friends and church members.
  • I receive support from old friends who live all over the world through intimate conversations.
  • I have fun distractions and remember I'm more than just a mom while discussing books and playing games.
Bottom line...I am able to balance things with the love and support of some amazing friends!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Spiritually Fed

July has been a very spiritually fulfilling month for a variety of reasons. It took Jesse and I a while to stop being cynical towards one another in regards to our different religious beliefs. Once we finally came to an understanding and agreed to stop nagging the other person about going to church or not going to church, I've been able to enjoy my time at church much more. It's allowed me to focus on my faith journey, independent from our marriage. I've volunteered to participate in a few things outside of Sunday worship that have been especially meaningful this month.

Communion for Homebound Members
Jackson and I joined the pastor and a few other church members to visit multiple homebound members at their houses and retirement centers. We each had a role in a mini-service and shared communion with those members. Jackson was amazingly well behaved considering we were gone for four hours in strange homes and driving all around the county. The experience was made more meaningful by Jackson's presence. The elderly members gravitated towards him. The only reason Jackson came is because he wanted to visit "Maw Maw Jack", his honorary grandmother who has had declining health in the recent months. She is truly one of the most genuine women of God I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. It was a privilege to be in her home and serve her communion. 

Meeting with Christian Education Team 
I had lunch with the CE team to outline my plan as youth director. I will take over weekly youth group meetings in September. The youth program has fizzled out over the past year, so I feel really blessed to be able to bring energy and consistency back into the program. The night before the meeting I stayed up til the wee hours preparing a detailed plan of the first five weeks of youth group (complete with ice breakers, scripture passages, and devotion/activities). Thankfully it was well-received by the team, which includes a youth and parent. My experience as youth director in college was the most gratifying position I've ever held. To say that I am excited to return to this role at this time in my life is an understatement.

Wednesday Night Small Group
One of the things our church has been lacking is small groups. I joined a multi-age group that meets at a member's house every Wednesday. It's an intimate group where we can share our joys and concerns. The emphasis of the group is less on scripture study and historical context, rather, an emphasis on reflecting where God is in your life and where you need support. We have prayer partners where we have guided questions and pray for one another by name. The group meets at 7:30 pm, which means I am able to help put the triplets to bed before I leave and tell Jackson, "good night".

Friday, July 25, 2014

Backyard Fun!

Our children have been blessed with all the clothes, toys, and books they could ever need during their first years. However, we really haven't had any kind of outdoor playsets or large toys that all four kids could play with. Until now!

With only a small fraction of the babies' birthday money, we were able to purchase two Little Tikes playsets off of Craigslist.

Jesse's brother and sister-in-law bought the babies the water table we had wanted.

Jesse's mom bought this extravagant climbing playset with tunnel. We chose to keep this toy inside so the babies would have a safe place to climb in their playroom/nursery.

And finally, Jesse's father built a sandbox that all four kids can enjoy.

We've been able to spend our evenings in our own backyard playing with water, sand, slides, swings, etc. I predict many afternoons will be spent playing in our backyard once the weather is cooler, Jesse goes back to work, and the babies are walking. Here are some action shots from the past few days.

In addition to all the big toys for the triplet's birthday, they were also blessed with food, wagons, electronic toys, shoes, gift cards, cups, and more.

There are so many fun things for James, Amelia, and Maddie to explore!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I officially joined the ranks of the thousands of low-income families in our county that benefit from WIC. There was no question that we would qualify based on the one measly NC teacher salary to support our family of six. I had no need to apply for WIC this past year since the triplets primarily received breastmilk, then formula through the Enfamil multiples program. However, now that the trio consume one half-gallon of soy milk a day, along with three full meals, the prices add up quickly! And unlike last year, I will not receive any performance bonuses this year so I will not be able to make any financial contributions. (Even though I did not work last year, I was able to pay the mortgage every month through various bonuses and stipends from my student's scores the previous year.)

Our WIC appointment was painfully humbling. I would have left in tears if Jesse had not gone with me. Even though we had a scheduled appointment time, it took 2.5 hours from entering the health department until we returned to the parking lot. I was disappointed that there were absolutely no toys, books, or entertainment for the children to play with. I wasn't about to let the babies crawl all over the health department floors. I was not prepared to have to keep the babies confined to the stroller or our laps. I didn't think to bring Jackson's LeapPad or anything to occupy him. 

Thank God I brought the printout from the triplet's one year well check the day before. We avoided having to undress each baby for weight checks. More importantly, we avoided repeated finger pricks to check iron levels. Unfortunately, Jackson was less than cooperative during his weight check and finger prick. I was humiliated by his outburst. He absolutely refused to stand on the scale. I was eventually asked to stand on the scale by myself, then while holding him, so they could get an accurate weight. Jackson violently kicked and screamed while numerous parents watched with disgusted faces (as if their children have never had temper tantrums). The finger prick was equally traumatic.

The entire process was tedious and unorganized. We were herded around like cattle from one room to the next, with nothing to occupy the children. Each worker had a different title, such as "the nutritionist" and "the interviewer". Most of the employees were apathetic and cold. The nutritionist told us Amelia had low iron and Maddie was average for weight. Jesse and I just exchanged "what the hell" looks and kept our mouths closed.

As frustrating as the process was, the actual program provides tremendous support.  We will receive a great deal of food through WIC. We received vouchers for the next three months. Each child has two vouchers per month. Maddie and James have the same vouchers (pictured below) with soy milk. Amelia and Jackson both receive cow's milk and cheese.  This is one of eight vouchers we have per month.

If I wasn't embarrassed enough during the WIC appointment, I felt absurd getting on my hands and knees looking for which items were WIC approved. The tiny "W" that indicates whether or not an item is approved is at the very top of the price tag. That slip is narrowly covered up in the refrigerated section so I had to try and take the tag out to confirm I was selecting the correct soymilk.

I quickly learned the many rules for using WIC vouchers in NC.
  • You have to buy everything on each voucher at once. If you don't buy something at that time, you will not receive it. 
  • You should give the WIC voucher to the cashier before the transaction begins.
  • Each voucher should be separate transactions. So if I were buying anything else, such as a jar of applesauce, I would have to separate my purchases. The applesauce could not be scanned with the other items.
  • You must sign the check after the cashier rings up the items. The cashier keeps the check.
  • I am the only person who can use and sign the WIC checks. (Jesse cannot.)
  • The check-out process takes a bit longer. Impatient people will grumble and stare.

Here is what we were able to receive with the one voucher pictured above. 

We will return to the WIC office in three months for a (supposedly) 20 minute appointment and receive vouchers for the next three months. Three months after that, we will repeat the 2+ hour process with weight checks and blood work. That totals four appointments per year, where children are required to attend every other appointment. I will make every effort to schedule WIC appointments immediately after well-checks so I can simply forward the doctor's notes to the WIC workers.

I wish I could say I felt no shame whatsoever applying for and using WIC vouchers. I wish I hadn't pridefully debated whether or not I should write this post for the past week. I wish I wasn't resentful about being a low-income family, despite the fact that I have a Master's Degree and National Board Certification. But just like I ended a previous post with, having triplets changes all plans. I'm still learning to roll with the punches and make things work, all while smiling.