Thursday, October 29, 2015


Tuesday was a cold, rainy day. Jackson didn't have school. After going out of town the previous day, I didn't feel like going anywhere. We stayed in our pajamas (or dress up clothes) all day. It was fun at first, but the toddlers were getting antsy and Jackson grew bored. I rummaged through the pantry to find something to entertain us. After finding a box of corn starch, I knew exactly what we were going to do.

Oobleck is a fun science project you can make with kids of all ages. Simply mixing 1 cup of water with 1.5-2 cups of corn starch will create a perplexing substance that acts as both a liquid and a solid. I've made it in classrooms and with Jackson many times, but this week was the first time the trio made it.

The first step is to gather materials. Oobleck can be messy, even with older kids. With four kids ages four and under, I played it safe by placing a tarp under the table and a tablecloth on top. I gave each kid a round cake pan and utensil. I also collected a pitcher of water, measuring cup, bowl, and box of corn starch. 

I let each kid pour one cup of water into their pan. While unnecessary, I also let them pick out food coloring so they could dye their slime. I placed a few drops of food coloring in each pan and had them stir it. I could have stopped here, since James was more than content with this step.

Next, everyone added 1.5 cups of cornstarch into their pan.

We've done enough baking so all of the kids are pretty good at mixing wet and dry ingredients.

Once the substance thickened, I encouraged everyone to use their hands to explore the texture.

Maddie copied most everything Jackson did. She was very enthusiastic and vocal, making sure I watched her.

The kids played with their Oobleck for almost an hour. They tried to pour it, cut it, let it drip from their fingers, scoop it up, etc. I sat beside James since he was the most animated, splattering blue goo everywhere. I could have easily extended the activity by giving them different utensils (plastic knife, ladle, spatula) and other sized containers to try and transfer the slime. 

I needed to fix lunch and couldn't leave them unsupervised, so I eventually called it quits. I had wet hand towels ready to go, making clean up quick and easy. Miraculously, there were no Oobleck handprints on the couch. I threw the tablecloth away and tossed the tarp over the deck railing. The house was clean in less than 10 minutes.

I'm proud of how well the trio handled their first science experiment. They didn't try to eat it. They listened to directions and kept their mess confined to one area. This makes me excited to try similar activities with them.

Reasons My Kid Is Crying

I hope we are at the peak toddler tantrum age, because I'm not sure I can handle an increase in meltdowns. The kids have excellent behavior during structured activities and outings. However, anytime they play informally, must wait for food, or simply don't want to do something, all hell breaks loose. Bottom lips start to quiver. Arms flail. Bodies roll around on the ground. Tiny tears fall. 

I'm very conscientious about preventing tantrums by addressing their basic wants and needs. I do my best to make sure they have food, drink, love, clean clothes, dry diapers, and engaging activities. When they do get upset, I try to be patient, get down on their level, comfort them, etc. Sometimes, the cause of tantrums are so mind-numbingly ridiculous that we all must suffer through. Here are six examples, all taken today, of why my kids are crying: 

She wanted to wear socks as soon as I painted her toenails. (They were still wet.)

I closed the pantry door.

She didn't want me to change her diaper after she pooped.

I gave him the wrong pacifier.

I took the nail polish away when I caught her painting her hands.

She wanted her milk in a different cup.

The sad part is that I could have easily photographed many other meltdowns. The incessant whining and irrational tantrums create one frustrated mom. I have to keep reminding myself that toddler tantrums are normal and healthy, and I survived the worst of Jackson's tantrums. We'll all survive this stage, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Wizard of Oz Halloween

After having so much fun as a Ninja Turtle family last Halloween and Chick Fil A's Dress Like a Cow Day this summer, I've been looking forward to another excuse for family themed costumes. I purchased very inexpensive Wizard of Oz costumes from another triplet mom last year. We had a lion, scarecrow, and Dorothy costume for the trio. That only left Jesse, Jackson, and me. My only goals were to dress as something easily recognizable and to spend as little money as possible. I'm proud to say that I only spent $30 for all six of us (excluding Amelia's ruby red slippers which were purchased by MiMi)!

I struck gold (or silver) at Goodwill with a gray shirt, pants, and silver vest for Jackson. After duct taping an old funnel, our Tin Man was ready to go. 
I decided to dress as the Wicked Witch of the West. I wore my black college graduation gown, borrowed a witch hat from a friend, and spent 98 cents on green face paint. Easy enough.
Jesse had originally planned to dress as the Wizard. A few hours before our Halloween event, Jesse decided that he didn't have a good enough Wizard costume and would feel out of place in a suit. We improvised with this $3 shirt from A.C. Moore and 50 cent roll of electrical tape. In less than 10 minutes, the yellow brick road was created. 

a "during" photo for the easy DIY yellow brick road
One of our newest Halloween traditions is to participate in a trunk or treat event with close friends. Just under a dozen families meet at a nearby park, decorate our vehicles, trunk or treat, play, and enjoy a potluck dinner together. I used the same electrical tape and a green plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Tree to create our Emerald City backdrop.

Here are all the kiddos dressed up (minus an uncooperative James):

After the previous night's fall festival, Maddie and Amelia mastered walking around and picking up candy.

Amelia had no limits and I had to repeatedly encourage her to return handfuls of candy back in the bowls.

James was still unsure. I had to hold his hand and walk him to each car, then pick up a piece of candy for him. When we reached our car, James dumped all of the candy from our basket into his bucket.

Here are a few silly family photos:

I get way too enthusiastic and take more pride than I should in our family costumes. I really hope the kids will look forward to this tradition for a few more years. Even if they wear one of their many play costumes at other Halloween events, I hope we can continue to follow a family theme for our annual trunk or treat.

We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz!

Kannapolis Fall Festival

Saturday evening we dressed the kids and headed out to a local fall festival. There were several in the area, but this worked best with our schedule. We let Jackson choose his outfit. He decided to be a ninja. I can't understand why he loves this costume so much, considering he can't possibly see well out of it.

The trio wore their Wizard of Oz costumes. We'd been searching for ruby red slippers to complete Amelia's Dorothy costume. Jesse's mom just so happened to give us a pair the day before! Now we just need to work on Amelia's heel clicks and recitation of "There's no place like home."

Here's all four dressed up for their first Halloween event of the year.

The event promoted "trunk or treat, face painting, carnival games, train rides, inflatables, and lots of candy". The trunk or treat consisted of four vehicles/tents, which was more than enough for the kids. The triplets were timid to get out among the crowds. Their shyness wore off once they understood they could get candy.

Most of the games were geared for older kids. Maddie attempted the one toddler friendly game, with the help of Jackson.

We waited in line with Jackson so he could play some of the older games. It turns out he's pretty skilled with darts.

We waited even longer so Jackson could play in the inflatables.

There were way too many big kids to let the toddlers play in the inflatables. They waited patiently and gnawed through wrappers to eat their candy.

Maddie was an exceptional lion and had a very fierce "roar". Unfortunately, she stopped roaring when Jesse and I took this picture. Oh well!

James was content, but the one thing that truly made him smile was the train. We didn't even ride it because it was getting late and I still needed to cook dinner. Just watching the train provided enough excitement for James.

There was a steep hill and open field that proved to be perfect for rolling down. Jackson rolled down while his siblings scooted down.

It was all fun and games until James ran out of candy. Taking a piece of candy from Amelia left her utterly devastated.

This selfie pretty much sums up our moods as we left.

I'm not sure we picked the most inclusive, age-appropriate festival. Jackson had a lot more fun than the trio. I regret not packing sandwiches for dinner. Then we would have been able to eat, run around the field, ride the train, and play on the playground. I'll keep that in mind for next year.

"Where Girls?"

This past Friday night the girls had their first sleepover with their MiMi and PaPa. Based on the pictures, they appeared to enjoy their laid back time together. They shared a bed with MiMi and PaPa, ate whatever they wanted, went on a walk, and played inside. 

Not only was it the girls' first night away, it was also their first night away from James. When James woke up alone in their room Saturday morning, he kept saying, "Uh oh. Where girls?" I'm sure it was odd for him to be apart from his wombmates. 

We ended up having a low key day at home, too. The boys binged on all forms of screen time.

I finally cut them off and suggested we paint pumpkins. Technically, Jackson suggested the pumpkin painting hours beforehand, then forgot about it. Jack had already painted a pumpkin the day before, but this was James' first pumpkin of the year. As always, he was very serious.

The boys and girls were reunited by lunchtime. I'm always thankful when our kids are able to get individual attention from their parents and grandparents.

Preschool Homework, Party, and Pictures

I thought I would love Jackson's preschool this year, but I'm pretty indifferent. If anything, the pros are outweighed by the cons. It takes 20 minutes to get there, which means by the time I've dropped him off, returned home, picked him up/waited in car line, and returned home again, the trio and I have spent a solid 90 minutes in the car every day. The commute feels like such wasted time!

Another thing I don't love about the school is the lack of set classes. I've mentioned before that parents just sign up for whatever days they want to send their kids to school and the staff groups them by age. While Jackson does have the same teacher every day, he has a different combination of students in his class on any given day. This makes it hard for me to know other parents and it's often confusing because his class will have multiple picture days, parties, etc.

My other concern with the school is the amount of work sent home. Just in the past week he was sent weekly homework, classwork that was to be completed and returned, and a weekly reading log with two new books. He can't complete any of it independently and we both get frustrated with having to correct/rewrite certain letters or numbers. I didn't anticipate having homework struggles at 4 years old!

Despite those frustrations, there are enough positive aspects to keep Jackson enrolled. The expectations are high, he's learned a ton, and the communication with his teacher is excellent. I also love the fact that he has daily gymnastics in addition to daily recess. 

Last Thursday Jackson had a Halloween party at school. He was very excited to show off his homemade Tin Man costume. Jackson has an impressive collection of dress up clothes, so I let him know he could select any outfit to wear. I was secretly worried he'd be upset when none of his peers knew who he was. He was committed to Tin Man.

I signed up to bring cupcakes because I love decorating festive cupcakes for the kids. I made Christmas and Easter cupcakes for both of Jackson's previous schools. The teacher sent a reminder email about sending in store-bought items only. I totally forgot about that rule, and was disappointed that I couldn't make my own.

The program consisted of a 10 minute list of silly songs and dances. Their school doesn't have a music class or specific music teacher, but the lead teacher does a great job incorporating song and dance in their daily schedule.

James, Amelia, and Maddie were great audience members.

We also received fall pictures back last week. Look at this handsome guy!

Jackson was scheduled to have a school field trip to the farm. I chose not to go because:
1. It was going to cost over $30 for the five of us to attend.
2. I don't feel comfortable managing all four kids by myself on a wagon ride. I don't know any of the parents or teachers well enough to ask for help.
3. We already went to a farm, picked out pumpkins, painted pumpkins, etc. I'm over pumpkins.

Today it is cold and raining. The teacher emailed saying the field trip was still happening, though they would provide refunds for those who don't want to go. I can't imagine there's a lot of parents that want to drag their kids around a farm on a cold, wet day.

Those are all the preschool updates worth mentioning. It's been a busy school year already and Jack has made so much progress--who knows what all he'll be accomplishing this summer!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pumpkin Party

Yesterday afternoon I hosted our annual pumpkin party. It was BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin). I provided paint supplies, cookies, and icing. 

Events leading up to the party were a bit hectic. 
--Jackson had an abbreviated school schedule since the county had an early release day. I had exactly enough time to get home for speech, then return to school immediately after speech. 
--After three long weeks without a working dishwasher, we were inconveniently told that the the installer would be coming that afternoon to install the dishwasher. Jesse was the correspondence. I made him call back to clarify he could not come before 4 pm. 
--I laid the trio down for an early nap, expecting to wake them up mid-way through the party. They boycotted naps. 
--I had two sinks full of dishes, a dish rack full of drying dishes, and a counter full or raw cookie dough, and cookies on cooling racks. Friends arrived 20 minutes early to a disastrous kitchen. Thankfully they are true friends and immediately shuffled around my kitchen, helping where they could.

Including my kids, there were fourteen kids energetically running around. The weather was nice enough to leave the back door open. It was a hot afternoon with temperatures in the 80's. We completed for fleeting shade.

Jackson has been asking every day for the past week to paint the pumpkin he picked out from the farm last Wednesday. He happily painted his pumpkin with green and purple swirls.

The direct sunlight was an advantage when it came to drying the pumpkins. The pumpkins dried while kids played in every nook and cranny of the house and yard.

The oldest child helped roll and cut remaining cookies while I set up the cookie decorating.

Most of the kids haphazardly squeezed mountains of icing and poured half a bottle of sprinkles on their cookies.

Jackson was one of the only children who had a clear design. I was impressed with his spooky ghost.

I didn't let the trio paint pumpkins since they were still fighting naps, but they did get a chance to decorate cookies.

The kids continued playing, mostly outside. James sneaked back inside to help himself to unlimited cookies and candy. This is why we still have to keep our chairs on top of the dining room table!

Amelia and Maddie cuddled with other moms. One of my friends sent me this glamour shot she took of Amelia sitting in her lap.

I absolutely love having a yard full of kids.

It makes me happy to be known as a fun mom who lets kids make messes, paint, bake, and play freely. I'm well aware that "fun" should not be the goal or priority for a mom, but I think about how much I wanted to have friends over, bake, or do crafts as a child. Those activities were not encouraged by my mother. I don't want Jackson to ever worry about inviting friends over, making a mess, or being too loud. Of course we are teaching him to take initiative, br responsible for his actions, and self-regulate. I just want my house to always be a place where messes are allowed, creativity is encouraged, and friends and family gather to laugh and play. Yesterday we accomplished each of those things. It was a good day!