Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Potty Training Jackson vs. Triplets

Jackson was incredibly easy to potty train. We used the three day method over Christmas break when he was 32 months old. Some of the factors that contributed to easy potty training were that Jackson
  1. had a strong interest in potty training. He was showing many signs of readiness long before we did the 3-day method. 
  2. had previously been in daycare, where he watched his peers use the potty.  He then started preschool two mornings a week where we was encouraged to use the toilet.
  3. had been sleeping in a twin size bed for over eight months before we started potty training. If he needed to pee in the middle of the night, he simply woke up and walked to the bathroom. 
  4. had stopped taking naps four months before we did the three day potty training. 
  5. had been dressing and undressing himself for many months. He was used to wearing pull ups for preschool and was comfortable taking them on and off.
  6. was used to being home. He's always enjoyed playing at home. Being stuck at home for 3 days wasn't a big deal because he wasn't used to going somewhere every single day.
  7. never had to be in a car for a long period of time. His preschool was only two days a week and was five minutes from the house. 
  8. was potty trained in the winter. He wasn't outside in the heat needing extra water. It was dark by 5:30 p.m. It was easy to restrict his drinks before bedtime.
  9. had multiple little potties that were easily accessible. We only needed one little potty upstairs and one downstairs, in addition to toddler seats to place on top of the regular toilets. Jackson was comfortable using any of them.
  10. didn't have any pressure to potty train by a certain age. While it was expected that Jackson be potty trained if he was in the 3 year old classroom at preschool, that was nine months away. There was no rush or stress that he needed to be potty trained. 
  11. had a great incentive system with a marble jar. Jackson put marbles in a jar every time he used the potty. Once the jar was full, he was able to pick a prize.
  12. was only one child. It was easy to follow his every move. We could rush him to the potty if he was starting to have an accident.
On the contrary, the trio
  1. aren't nearly as interested in potty training. They weren't even telling us when they peed or pooped in their diapers. 
  2. have had zero exposure to seeing their peers use the potty.
  3. are still in cribs
  4. take a nap several days a week. On the days they don't nap, they still spend time in their crib with books or quiet toys.
  5. have never used pull-ups. James hasn't even mastered taking his pants on or off.
  6. are accustomed to going to the park, museum, library, etc every single day. The more time we spend at home, the more fights they have over toys.
  7. have to sit in the van for over 45 minutes four days a week to pick up Jackson, wait through car line, and return home. 
  8. have been playing outside in the warm spring weather. The sun doesn't set 'til after 7:30 pm, so we also like to play outside before bed. I assumed this would be a benefit, but it just makes them thirsty. I want to keep them hydrated, but at the same time, we need to limit drinks before naps and bedtime.
  9. have to share potties. We have three little potties total, which means if all three are trying to use the bathroom, we have to rush to move them around upstairs, downstairs, or in other rooms.
  10. MUST be potty trained in four months. The only way they can attend full time preschool in August is if they are potty trained. The only way I can go back to work is if they are potty trained. The pressure is on! My stress is not helping their stress.
  11. have no incentives. We were going to do the marble jar or sticker chart, but I was overwhelmed setting everything up for three. This is just an excuse, of course, but further proof that I don't have my potty training affairs in order.
  12. are three individuals that don't always stick together. I've kept an eye on two of them but one will go downstairs and have an accident. The worst part is they may or may not tell me if they have an accident.
The trio are 32 months old. It's certainly not unreasonable to expect them to potty train. However, we are in the middle of Day 2 and I have such a negative attitude about potty training. It is not going smoothly. I may have a nervous breakdown within the next 24 hours. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

NC Zoo

There are too many pictures in my posts lately, but I just don't feel like spending the extra time to create collages for everything. So, prepare for another photo heavy post.

Spring Break 2016 is devoted to potty training the triplets. We are choosing to do the three day naked method, which means we are all confined to the house. I can't stand staying home all day, especially while wiping pee and poop off the floor and clapping and dancing over using the potty. Potty training is just not my thing. Anyway, I say all of this to explain why yesterday was our only chance to get out for the day. Thank God the weather was gorgeous so we could spend the day at the zoo.

Since the zoo is an hour and a half away, we typically only go twice a year. It only cost us $10 more to get a family membership so we splurged on that. I've been researching it and the NC Zoo membership includes free admission to several aquariums and nature centers, as well as half off at various science centers and children's museums. I definitely plan to make the most of our membership!

It's always a debate whether to park on the North America side or Africa side. I was most excited about the polar bears, so we parked in North America and began our journey. The bears were swimming and walking around. 

Our next stop was the play area. While I was eager to see the animals, the kids had been stuck in the van for a long time, so we wanted them to burn off some energy. There was a fun "mud area" and splash pad. Since we had a long day ahead of us and no change of clothes, we prevented the kids (i.e. James) from exploring this area too much.

There was a series of really cool bridges you could walk across to get an aerial view of things.

Adjacent to the Nature Play area is a somewhat more traditional playground with slides and nets. This proved to be equally fun for everyone except Maddie.

We continued the tour of North America with black bear and grizzly bear sightings. The kids have seen black bears a few times while visiting the mountains (in various nature preserves, not in the wild!) and were unfazed.

There is a neat exhibit on bees. They even let you sample local honey. With Jackson's terrible allergies, I considered buying their entire stock to try to desensitize Jackson from the pollen.

While Jesse and I have been to the NC Zoo many times, neither of us had ever been inside the desert.

It was to be expected--lots of cacti, snakes, scorpions, etc. There was an adorable sand cat (not pictured) running around in a glass exhibit. The cat generated the most excitement and conversation from the trio.

After many hills and an exhausting walk, we stopped for a picnic lunch at the junction between North America and Africa. It was so crowded, we asked if we could sit at a table with some strangers. Technically you aren't supposed to bring outside food, but everyone does. We feasted on pb&j, cheez-its, grapes, yogurt, and cookies.

Once in Africa, Jesse became child-like with his excitement over the baboons. We spent a long time watching the primates interact.

A mama baboon kept picking up her baby baboons by the tails and swinging them around.

We toured the animals of the savannas, including the giraffes, lions, and zebras.

The elephants always prove to be entertaining, mostly because of the helicopter kids can climb inside. James was most excited about the helicopter. We had to carry him out crying because he didn't want to leave.

The NC Zoo is very spread out and requires a lot of walking. Most people who visit both continents choose to walk across, then take the tram back to where they parked. Because Jesse and I had the wagon, stroller, and four kids, we thought it would be easier to just walk back. I'm not sure that was the case, but we took turns pulling the wagon and pushing the stroller.

Our energy was fading quickly and I was over it after a particularly long stretch of hills. We stopped to rest, rehydrate, and have a snack.

James and Amelia were deliriously silly. They kept wrestling, giggling, and tickling one another.

Jesse was eager to get home, but I asked to stop and see the polar bears again on the way out. We ventured to the lower level to get a different view of the bears. Maddie got a uniquely close up view of the mammoth creature! This was my favorite photo of the day.

Our final stops were to purchase cotton candy with the kids' Easter egg money,

then walk through the marsh to watch the alligators.

We ended up spending five hours at the zoo, plus three hours in the van. All four kids slept the entire way home, which was a much needed, but very late nap. We returned home just after six. Thankfully we had enough leftovers for dinner.

The only thing I regret about our day trip to the zoo was not wearing sunscreen!

Now, back to potty training hell...

Easter Weekend

This past weekend was filled with plenty of people, celebrations, and preparations. Unfortunately, I spent far more energy checking off items on my to-do list rather than celebrating the risen Lord and enjoying the company of family.

One of the more exciting tasks on our list was dog-sitting. Our next door neighbors were out of town and we had the pleasure of feeding and walking their dog multiple times a day. While we all loved playing with the dog, I remain adamant about not getting a dog. We don't have the time to commit to be good dog owners. It was awfully fun for the weekend, though. 

My favorite Easter tradition, the annual Robinson egg hunt, took place on Saturday afternoon. My aunt and uncle are gracious enough to stuff and hide hundreds of eggs on their enormous property. I absolutely love seeing all of the cousins together!

The kids had a blast outside, despite gray clouds and a few rain drops. The trio needed little prompting to find the eggs. They were all eager to hunt the eggs.

The best part of family gatherings is watching my older nieces and nephews care for the kids. The older cousins take care of the younger cousins so well.

After the egg hunt, we drove an hour to celebrate Easter with Jesse's family. We gorged on a delicious traditional dinner of ham, mac-n-cheese, green beans, potato salad, and rolls. The cousins played with one another. Of course, MiMi and PaPa gave them Easter baskets full of goodies. I hardly took any pictures, but it was a fun evening.

Despite a very full day, Jesse and I had a long night ahead of us once we returned home and put the kids to bed. Jesse had to replace our garbage disposal. (The other one died and we couldn't run the dishwasher or use the left side of the sink until it was fixed.) I had last minute preparations for the church egg hunt. I ended up waiting in line at Walmart for over 30 minutes. It was a mess. Jesse stuffed eggs with Teddy Grahams and Cheez-Its and filled baskets; then I hid the eggs around the house. Throughout my childhood, my mom hid candy throughout the house. My sisters and I have continued this tradition with our own children.

Easter morning at home was rushed. Jackson knew they weren't allowed downstairs until everyone was awake. We woke everyone up by 8 a.m. so they could find their eggs together. James was the only one who collected eggs. Jackson, Amelia, and Maddie immediately found their baskets and went through everything. We didn't even bother fixing pancakes because we anticipated the kids would eat their snacks, then have muffins at church.

The greatest stress and anticipation of Easter weekend was the church egg hunt. As the Christian Education coordinator, it was my sole responsibility to:
  • Publicize the event--create and distribute hundreds of flyers, make announcements at church and in the bulletin
  • Select a book for read-a-loud, find someone to read the book during the egg hunt
  • Select a craft for children, gather all materials, find someone to lead crafts during egg hunt
  • Select songs and find someone to lead sing-along during egg hunt
  • Select a game for children to play, find materials and someone to lead game (i.e. parachute)
  • Purchase 500+ toy egg fillers, find helpers to stuff 500 eggs with me
  • Create a sign-up sheet and ask congregation members to bring juice, muffins, etc
  • Ask teenagers to hide eggs on Easter morning
  • Set up all rooms, go over plans with volunteers
  • Make sure children are welcomed and participating in activities, monitor time
  • Clean up

The biggest factor I could not control was the weather. After days of beautiful weather, Easter morning was cool and dreary. Despite taping flyers to hundreds of doors and passing them out to classrooms and daycares, we only had 20 children in attendance. (Of course, four of those were our children!) I am hoping the rainy weather was the cause of low participation. Still, the families that were there had a good time.

We kept most of the activities inside. 

I surveyed the parents there and none seemed to mind if we held the egg hunt outside, even though the grass was wet. It's always exciting yet disappointing to see so many hours of work disappear in five minutes.

I was the only family member to actually attend the church service. The trio stayed in the nursery while Jesse and Jackson ran home to check on the dog and grab refrigerated items for our Easter lunch with my side of the family. The church service was lovely. Easter lilies, music selections, handbells, communion, and a presentation from the quilters club increased the beauty and meaning of the service.

Our favorite elderly couple attended. They are the reason we joined the church, and they've taught me more about how to lead a Godly life than any sermon.

After the service we wrapped up our Easter festivities with lunch at my sister's house. We kept it quick and easy with sandwiches. I apparently didn't take any pictures.

I cannot end the post without acknowledging how supportive and exceptional Jesse was throughout the weekend. There were so many things he could have been upset about: the disaster I left in the kitchen after cooking and baking all the Easter treats, the lack of a working garbage disposal, the fact that I focused more on other children than our own during the church egg hunt, the subpar lunch, the rain, the added drive times to go check on the dog, and on and on. Not to mention all of the weekend's festivities revolved around a holiday that he does not believe in at all. Thankfully, he was nothing but calm and patient--staying up late to stuff eggs, turning the van back around when I forgot the craft materials, and wrangling three toddlers and a preschooler through a busy church event.

The children had constant smiles plastered to their faces throughout the egg hunts, dog walks, and family visits. It was a fun, albeit occasionally stressful, weekend.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Lenten Meal Ministry

As someone who grew up in the Catholic church (at least in early childhood), Lent was usually observed by fasting of some kind. It was never particularly meaningful. Whatever I gave up, I more than compensated for on Easter morning and the weeks that followed. I remember getting sick to my stomach eating multiple boxes of Girl Scout cookies on Easter Sunday after denying myself the delicious treats in the preceding weeks. The only thing I gained from my early Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence was how to purge and binge.

Because of those early experiences, I still don't care for the idea of fasting, especially from food. It is more meaningful for me to add a new habit or offer of myself to God in a different way. When it comes to making sacrifices, I am limited in many ways. There is only so much wiggle room in our budget. I do have time to give, but only if multiple toddlers can accompany me during the day or I can participate in late evening activities.

I tried to think of things I'm already doing, but could enhance to become more Christ-like. Our interim pastor has preached at length about using our gifts and interests to serve others. This year I decided to use the time of Lent to cook and pray for others. I challenged myself to find at least one family or group of people every week who could use a meal. I intentionally picked labor intensive meals or inconvenient times because the point of Lent is to stop focusing on myself and instead focus on my relationship with Christ and others. It was important to me that I have to exert mental or physical energy to create a meal that could be shared with others. While cooking and/or driving, I continuously prayed for the individuals that would eat the meal. I signed up for as many Room in the Inn opportunities as I could because God commands us to love our neighbor and care for those in need.

As a blogger and recorder of events, it shouldn't surprise you that I kept a diary of meals served throughout the six weeks of Lent.

  • Wed. Feb. 10--Potato soup, chicken salad/croissants for MIL post surgery
  • Thu. Feb. 11--Chili, chips, chicken salad for friend on bedrest who is expecting twins
  • Mon. Feb. 15--Taco soup, Caesar salad, pound cake & strawberries for Room in the Inn (30 homeless guests and volunteers)
  • Mon. Feb. 22--Chicken pot pie, Caesar salad, pound cake for friend who just gave birth
  • Mon. Feb. 22 and Wed, Feb. 24--Chicken pot pie and lasagna to next door neighbor (widower) who had extensive dental work
  • Wed. March 3--shepherd's pie potato skins, salad, store-bought pie for friend who just gave birth
  • Tue. March 8--waffles, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, yogurt, cantaloupe for Room in the Inn (16 homeless guests and volunteers)
  • Sun. March 13--hot dogs, chips, slaw, baked beans, pound cake, banana pudding for in-laws to celebrate father-in-law's birthday
  • Mon. March 14--hot dogs, chips, slaw, baked beans, brownie sundaes for Room in the Inn (30 homeless guests and volunteers,assisted by two members of youth group)
  • Tue. March 22--baked red velvet birthday cake for Jesse's teammate on her 30th birthday
  • Fri. March 25--Chicken tetrazzini and Caesar salad for next door neighbor as he acknowledged his deceased wife's 70th birthday

Out of shear curiosity, I counted up the number of meals I provided throughout the six weeks of Lent. In addition to nightly meals for our family of six, I was able to serve 92 meals to various friends, extended family, neighbors, and guests. There were a few occasions where the extra time cooking or delivering meals caused me anxiety, but for the most part, I truly enjoyed observing Lent in this way. It helped me become more aware of people who may be in need of food, prayers, comfort, or simply knowing that someone else is thinking of them or celebrating their life.

If I recognized a need in someone, but knew a meal would not be helpful, I tried to act in other ways. As an example, a widow at church lives in a assisted living facility where she eats in the cafeteria each night. Instead of bringing her a meal, I bought her holiday decorations for her walker to help her quickly identify her walker in the cafeteria. There were similar examples of small, silly, or inexpensive gestures that proved to be very meaningful for me.

For me, I feel God most in my interactions with others. The meal ministry helped me make connections with others, think more about their needs than my own, and in turn, grow closer to God.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Afternoon at Jetton Park

Jackson had a half day at school today. His normal school hours are 9:15-1:15, but half days are from 8:40-11:10. Knowing that we would have the full afternoon ahead of ourselves, I brainstormed fun ways to kick off our spring break. I decided on a picnic at Jetton Park.

Before today, we had not been to Lake Norman since August. It's only 30 minutes north of where we live, but it's in a direction I rarely travel, making it seem much farther than it really is. It took 40 minutes to get there from Jackson's school. Jackson slept the entire way. He's been having restless sleep and waking up by 6 a.m. because of his awful seasonal allergies.

The drive was easy and the trio talked and giggled in the back. Thankfully Jackson did not wake up in a grumpy mood, likely due to the beautiful scenery and excitement of a beach.


Jackson, James, and Amelia immediately took off their shoes and ran in the sand.

I could not get over how grown up Amelia looked. I don't know if it was the outfit or what, but she's such a big girl.

I was so proud of Maddie. Despite several strong breezes, she kept her composure. She was initially hesitant to get out of the wagon, but she had a great time once she started playing in the sand. She thought it was hilarious to bury her feet.

I had my handy bag of duck feed along with a dozen small cups. The cups and miscellaneous toys rolling around in the van were the only things we brought to play in the sand.

Amelia wasn't the only one looking grown up today. I swear I glanced over and didn't recognize Jackson. His baby cheeks are long gone. He suddenly has these long legs and thinned face. I don't know what has happened to my babies!

Considering how much the kids love their sandbox, it should not have come as a surprise that they would be perfectly content playing in the sand the entire time. We hardly spent any time exploring the shoreline.

Jackson's eyes were continuing to bother him, but at least there weren't any flowers nearby to further agitate him. He was the first to venture out into the water. Swimming is prohibited at this park, but we stuck our feet in the water and collected shells.

Lunch was more of a snack assortment: applesauce, yogurt, and crackers with peanut butter or sliced cheese. In the photo below, Jackson made a stick family. He made sure to find three sticks the same size to represent the trio, as well as a slightly larger stick for himself.

Our biggest excitement was when we spotted duck tracks. The boys followed the ducks while I ran to grab the feed.

James was absolutely gleeful feeding the ducks, which soon included geese.

There were several other families on the beach and a handful of women sunbathing. A few of the children played with our kids. When one of the girls saw Jackson attracting the geese, she asked if she could feed them. I gave her a cup with food and she scattered it on the shore. A few minutes later, her mother pulled her to the side (2 feet away) to lecture her on how the" geese are God's creatures and we should never go running at them throwing things". I informed the mother that it was duck feed but she seemed ever more bothered by that fact. It was an unnecessary, awkward encounter.

Amelia was clearly tiring, as evidenced by her sitting alone in the wagon cuddling Clifford. I gathered our things and put James and Maddie in the wagon. Jackson was still in good spirits, despite his constantly watering eyes. We took the long way back to the van. I think I would actually take up running if I lived closer to this park. The scenery is stunning!

It was a beautiful day with ideal weather and company. It makes me excited about summer!