Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Social Graces. Or lack thereof...

Last night, we decided to eat dinner out. This was a rare event for us, because although we may do take-out once a week, we very seldom venture in to the restaurant world.

But last night, the house was relatively clean, I still needed to pack for my business trip and was feeling particularly lazy wanted to appease Charlie's craving for Mexican food. The last time we ate dinner at this particular establishment, which happens to be one of our favorites, was approximately six months ago. Everything had been going fine - until, our waiter appeared. The waiter was ... I'm looking for the politically correct term, here .... vertically challenged. He was approximately 4'4" tall. With shoes. And really thick socks. And spiked hair.

Our children had never seen such a small adult and they were mesmerized. While they gaped at our waiter, whilst drinking milk, the lid fell off Elizabeth's cup and she splashed her beverage all over the table. The waiter, a very nice man who Charlie and I had met before, dashed off to grab some napkins. When he returned and made sudden moves to clean up the spilled milk - the kids started screaming like they had just seen a ghost. Or, been jabbed with a cattle prod. While seeing a ghost. And sitting on Santa's lap.

I mean, they were SCREAMING.

People in the restaurant stopped talking. They stopped eating. They stopped drinking their margaritas and turned to stare at us and our pack of screaming toddlers. They wondered, aloud, what in the world had happened to cause all three of the formerly adorable children, to freak out, uncontrollably? Had somebody slipped a jalapeno in their lemonade?!

Although Charlie and I had never experienced anything like this before, we both knew what had happened. The kids weren't merely crying over spilled milk. No, they were completely traumatized by our pint-sized waiter.

It took a good five minutes to calm the kids down. But then, the waiter reappeared, and the kids started all over again. What made the situation much worse was when our waiter, unknowingly asked "What is wrong baby, why are you crying??" And he started making funny faces and waving his arms around, in an attempt to cheer them up.

Eventually, when after turning their highchairs around and holding menus up in front of their faces every time he walked out of the kitchen didn't work ... I told our kind-hearted waiter that sometimes the children are frightened by new people and maybe a woman waitress would help alleviate their stress. And, the stress of every other person in the restaurant. It was a horribly embarrassing situation - but I felt like it was the only option available until we could choke down our food and make a hasty exit.

Last night, when we walked in to the dimly lit restaurant, I noticed that the place was packed. There was a mariachi band playing in one corner, people standing around the bar drinking margaritas and imported beer, and every table was full. While Charlie and I - and our three happy cherubs - waited for a booth ... out of nowhere, our waiter - from before - appeared.

William saw him first ... even before I did. Once he started screaming, I figured that either someone had inadvertently stepped on him - OR - he was scared out of his wits by something he had seen. When I saw the waiter ... I immediately knew that the screaming trigger was caused by the latter situation. When I looked at Charlie with a horrified expression, I was even more horrified to see that Charlie could barely contain his laughter. He actually thought that the small waiter sending our kids in to a tizzy of hysterical crying was funny.

I was really surprised that six months after his first encounter, William was still traumatized by the small waiter. Even more surprising was that both of his sisters were equally traumatized. Similar to before, our three screaming toddlers were enough to cause every person in the restaurant to stop talking, stop eating, stop drinking ... the mariachi band to take pause in their song ... and people wondered, aloud, why were three small children disrupting the festive atmosphere to such an enormous degree??

And more importantly - why aren't their parents LEAVING?

We thought about leaving. Really, we did.

But rather than exiting the restaurant - which is what we would have done if we weren't so darn hungry and had our minds fixated on the tasty concoctions that are served up in molcajetes - Charlie and I picked the kids up, tried to distract them with colorful pictures on the wall, and stayed the course. Darn it. We were eating out. Our kitchen was remaining clean at all costs.

Much to the relief of everyone in the restaurant, our kids stopped screaming. Except for when the small waiter came within 20 feet of our table. The poor guy. Eventually, he realized that he was the reason our kids erupted in to sobbing hysterics - and would avoid walking past our table. Seeing how our kids affected this kindly, small man, made me feel lower than dirt.

Charlie and I had a nice dinner. It was a wonderful meal - even better than we remembered. The kids, when they weren't screaming - had a good time, too. But after having this exact situation repeat itself, we're faced with the decision to:

1) Not eat at this restaurant until the children are old enough to know it is not polite to scream at a waiter ... (not sure when that will be);

2) Hope that eventually the kids will get over their fear of vertically challenged waiters;

or ...

3) Call up the restaurant before hand, find out when this guy is scheduled to be off, and plan our nights out, accordingly.

I'm not sure what to do, which is why I have sent this very question to Emily Post.

Because I don't know how long it will take for Emily Post to respond ... and I don't want to deny ourselves the joy of an oven hot molcajetes (not available for take-out), what would YOU do?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Pea In a Pod. Of Whales.

Except for my right arm that is completely numb every single morning - and, the inability to brush my teeth without gagging ... thus far in my pregnancy, I feel great.

However, I was so accustomed to what it took to carry triplets, this transition to carrying *only* one baby has been a big, fat challenge for me, on the dietary front.

When I was pregnant last time ... I was instructed to maintain a diet of 4,000 calories a day. It wasn't uncommon that I would put away a 1/2 gallon of ice cream, by myself, in two nights. Rather - it was uncommon if I didn't put away a 1/2 gallon of ice cream, by myself, in two nights. Because I highly doubt that the 21 pounds I've packed on in the past 18 weeks is entirely due to fluid retention (that was my initial thought) ... and considering the baby only weighs 3/4 of a pound ... there is no question my insatiable appetite is to blame.

Such a pity. I'm so very good at eating large quantities of food.

Since my doctor's appointment on Thursday, I started paying close attention to what I eat.

I tried to limit the amount of ice cream I've been ingesting and the amount of bread I've been inhaling. For example, last week, when the kids were sick, for several nights in a row, my dinner consisted of 10 pieces of Sheepherder's bread ... lightly toasted ... and covered with melted butter. That's got to be where my pregnancy glow is coming from, the grease from butter across my dimpled cheeks? I'd also have a bowl of ice cream and a cookie or two. And a taco. And, some strawberries dipped in chocolate - because I know how important protein and fresh fruit is for a gestating woman.

My whole life Since I've been pregnant, I have had an absolutely ravenous appetite ... but I also haven't been nearly as active as I was, pre-partum. Over the past four and a half months - rather than taking the kids for a power walk during the day ... I'll lay on the floor and play with Legos. Or ... I'll lay on the floor and watch the kids play with Legos. When I climbed out of the shower Thursday night and took a good hard look at myself in the mirror - I could clearly see what eating a loaf of bread complimented with a stick of butter for dinner, and laying on the floor during the day does to your body.

Pregnant or not ... it isn't a pretty sight.

Friday morning, I decided to change my lifestyle and eating habits. To start things off right, I was going to take the children on an outing, by myself. I packed a picnic lunch with PB&J and cheese sticks for the kids ... a granola bar and celery sticks for me, loaded them in the car and drove to the San Diego Zoo. I put two kids in the double stroller and took turns with the third child who was free to walk, or hang on my leg, whichever they prefer.

After four hours, we had covered at least 3-miles of steep terrain. I'm certain that I burned over 5,000 calories between pushing two kids in a stroller up steep hills and carrying a third child, most of the way, on my hip.

And, chasing and grabbing them before they fell in to the antelope enclosure.

And, jockeying the bulky double stroller full of secure toddlers, and a roaming unsecure toddler into a handicap restroom stall and desperately trying to keep those kids from touching every germ infested object while I did what needed to be done - on four separate occassions while at the zoo - because Baby D has deflated my bladder.

Even more calories were burned as I scorned the profusion of pregnant women, cruising around in velour jumpsuits, that looked like they just stepped off a model shoot. Protruding bellies were everywhere.

I noticed more pregnant women on Friday, than I ever did when I was struggling with infertility (which was all the time). But these pregnant women on Friday looked like none I had ever seen before. Their bodies resembled a toothpick with an olive strategically placed, mid-way down. They were absolutely perfectly proportioned from their hands to their feet. And - they all had tans. Every single last one of them.

I was ashamed. And inspired.

After I was fully drenched in sweat and unable to breathe, we drove to Costco, grabbed a nice shady parking spot, and all four of us took a power nap in the car. When we woke up, I loaded everyone in the grocery cart and completed a week worth of healthy shopping. Fresh salmon, lean meats, loads of fresh veggies and fruit, whole grain breads, raisins, nuts and yogurt. Around that time, the little voice in my head that was chanting "You, too can be a red hot pregnant mama!" Was drowned out by a more familiar voice that was shouting "CRAZY LADY, YOU NEED TO EAT, RIGHT NOW!!!"

Sadly for my figure, my energy levels bonked and I lost the momentum to go home - unload the groceries - and prepare a organic basil chicken spinach salad, like I had planned.

Instead, I manuevered my cart to the food court and bought the largest chocolate frozen yogurt they had for sale. While I ate this larger than life chocolate frozen yogurt, I pondered why in the name of peanut butter, I would subject myself to walking for 3-miles, up huge hills, at the world's largest zoo, while pushing a stroller with two toddlers and carrying a third ... with nothing more than celery sticks and a revolting granola bar to eat. When I'm pregnant.

(At least it was frozen yogurt and not ice cream. Of course I would have elected for ice cream - had that been an option.)

Tomorrow, I'm leaving for a one-week business trip while Charlie stays home, flying solo with the kids. This time, I will remember to pack my shoes. But, considering my maternity wardbrobe is limited to a pair of pajamas that Alex and Kathleen bought me for Christmas, I'm at a loss for what else will go in my suitcase. (This is a strangely familiar, antithesis, to the dilemma I faced last year.)

I can guarantee I won't look like this ...

Although, I'm thinking this isn't too bad of a look...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The good people in my life...

I am blessed to have some amazing people in my life. Here's a sampling of a few people that have humbled me, this past week.

********
My sister, Beth.

When I was a freshman in college, she signed me up for Pepperidge Farm's Desert of the Month Club. Every month, I would have to sneak to the campus post office and smuggle out my cheesecake, brownies, carmel popcorn, chocolate chip cookies and fudge. When I would return to my dorm room, I would sit in the dark and snack on my tasty treats ... ignoring my ringing phone and friends banging on the door that would shout "I know you're in there! Come on, share!!!"

These days, Beth sends us almost every toy that her 6-year old son, Michael, has outgrown. It is because of Beth that we have a Little Tikes kitchen, even though Little Tikes stopped making this exact kitchen several years ago. When it was still on the market, the kitchen retailed for approximately $80.00. Since it's no longer available - Beth boxed Michael's up - and mailed it from Massachusetts to California ... for $78.00. Beth also recently mailed us 14-miles of Brio Railroad Track and at least 50 Brio and Thomas The Train, trains. Not to mention books. And videos. And clothes. And stuffed animals. And a Kelty backpack. And wooden puzzles. And pictures. And blocks. And piggy banks. And puppets. And Fisher Price Little People sets. And play food. And trucks. And coloring books. And ... the list goes on and on.

Even though all of these gestures are amazing ... the energy and time that Beth is devoting to my 75-year old father as he is going through one of the most challenging times of his life (including a sudden divorce and struggling with Parkinson's) is downright incredible. We're extremely lucky to have Beth in our family. It's no wonder we named our first born daughter after her.


********

Early last week, just before the sickness hit, my long-time friend, Mary Drury, sent us a package, out of the blue. In that package was a beautifully illustrated children's book "Kiss Good Night, Sam" and three little stuffed animals - that are perfectly coordinated with the stuffed animals in the book - that Mary had sewn by hand. Mary will always tuck some kind of wonderful homemade creation in to her packages. Her last package included scrumptious desserts that kept me us content for two weeks.

I met Mary while attending church in South Carolina. One week - just before Christmas - I was asked to babysit Mary's two daughters, Meg and Susan, while Mary stayed home taking care of a few holiday chores. I spent a fun afternoon helping the girls bake Christmas cookies ... and then we ran around and played hide-and-go-seek in the front yard. At the end of the day, Mary reappeared and paid me $20.00. It was the funnest, easiest $20.00 I've ever made. And, the most noteworthy - considering 19 years later, I still remember it.

The last time I saw Mary was in 1987. But, we've continued to stay in touch, even though we live in different parts of the country. Mary is one of those people that I suspect I will always have within my life. She is an amazingly gracious and talented woman. I wish our children could meet her, soon. I know they'd think just as highly of her as I do.


********

Last week, in the midst of the sickness ... out of the blue, I received a package from my co-worker, Felicia Jones. When I opened the package ... I found a bottle of Comet, a book written by The Super Nanny ... a laundry bag to keep little shoelaces from getting lost ... and a box of peanut butter cookies. Comet and peanut butter, the two things that I needed more than almost anything at that moment in time. The only thing that could have made me any happier is if Felicia managed to get Super Nanny, herself, in the box.

Yesterday , Charlie was talking with me and I could smell peanut butter in the air. When I got a little closer and checked his breath - there was no doubt. He had dug in to my stash, yet again. To protect my husband from me an untimely death, I promptly wrapped him in a queen sized sheet and catapulted him to the roof of our house.

Felicia is an incredible athelete. She competed on Charlie's Los Angeles triathlon team, and may be his only hope for getting him down.


*********

This afternoon, Alex and Kathleen dropped by for a very quick visit - on their way home to Arizona. They were just returning from a week in Mexico, where they got up close to migrating gray whales. Yesterday, out of the blue, we received a large package from them. It was a tower of sweets from a local outfit - famous for their candies. They knew that everyone had been feeling under the weather and they thought that a bit of suga would help to cheer us up.

It certainly worked for me.


Although the kids enjoyed the candy - what they really enjoyed was crawling around on the ground with Kathleen and playing with the Mexican marionette that was brought over the border. What I didn't enjoy was seeing Alex and Kathleen leave less than 30 minutes after they arrived.

Sometimes, I really wished we lived closer to family. Or, at least the kind of family that will watch the kids so I can take a four hour nap in the middle of the day, like Alex and Kathleen did when they visited us last month. Thankfully, the kids took up all of their attention this afternoon and they didn't ask about Charlie, who was still wrapped tightly in a bedsheet, on our roof.



*********

Today, out of the blue, I received my first subscription to Prevention magazine, courtesy of my sister-in-law, Susan. The timing of this gift could not have been more perfect considering I had a doctor visit this morning where I received my 18-week checkup.

I almost fell off the scale when I saw how much I weighed. Since this pregnancy began, I've packed on a whopping 21 pounds.

Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies and Tower of Candy. That's more than a pound a week.

My doctor told me that if I didn't want to weigh 400 pounds by the time our singleton is born, I ought to switch from 2% milk to nonfat. And, I really need to stop shoveling everything that doesn't move in to my pie hole. Hmmm. Pie. That sounds good.

It definitely appears that I need some help and I'm absolutely sure that my new subscription to Prevention magazine will get me on the right track. But, first, I need to finish off the candy tower and peanut butter cookies.

I can't stand temptation. And as Charlie can attest ... these days, I most certainly cannot stand to share.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chugga, Chugga ... Choo!! Choo!!

Thankfully, the children have rebounded and are doing great. They are eating everything in sight and are drinking constantly. Whereas I use to spend a large portion of time cleaning the table of crumbs and niblets that the kids didn't consume and would throw off their plate with great passion ... within the past day, they will pick every last morsel off the table and shove it in their mouths. My after meal cleanup has all but disappeared.

Yesterday, I made approximately 4-dozen banana muffins.

Today, they are gone. I ate two of them. Charlie had a half of one.

Since the kids appetites returned on Monday, off the top of my head - they have consumed over a gallon of orange juice ... two pineapples ... a loaf of bread ... a box of Wheat Thins ... 45.5 banana muffins ... french toast, bacon, waffles ... three ears of corn ... six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ... a half a chicken ... three grilled cheese sandwiches ... and a 12-inch pizza.

When we went to feed the ducks yesterday, the kids ate the majority of - what I thought were - stale croissants. Usually, when I give the kids food to throw to the ducks - they throw it. Yesterday, they couldn't shovel it in to their mouths fast enough.

I could have sworn the ducks were giving our ravenousness children dirty looks.

Normally, I limit the amount of ice cream our kids eat. But, because they lost so much weight last week, I've been giving them second and third helpings at night, without blinking.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think they love me for it.


But, that light at the end of the tunnel? It was an oncoming train.

I KNEW IT.

Charlie was feeling better and finally able to stumble out of bed yesterday, just in time to turn off the water supply to our 40-gallon water heater that sprung a leak all over our garage - but not before it damaged a large portion of drywall.

Forty gallons of water. In our garage.

Thank heavens the water heater didn't decide to fail on us last week - when we had an average of seven loads of laundry each and every day to wash along with three vomit covered children and two vomit covered parents to bathe, each and every night.

This experience has convinced me: Somewhere in my youth or childhood - I must have done something good.

This morning, while I was preparing a 12-egg omelet for our children's breakfast ... our childproof cabinet door - that holds dangerous and expensive appliances (and several bags of flour) - fell completely off the hinges. While I stared in horror wondering how I was going to keep the kids OUT of said formerly childproof cabinet full of dangerous and expensive appliances (and several bags of flour) ... the children began laughing at their good fortune.

Not only did they have a garage full of water that they could stomp around in ... they had a cabinet, previously off limits, that they were going to ambush at their earliest opportunity.

I could tell they were thinking: Somewhere in my fetal stage or infancy - I must have done something good.

Tonight, as soon as I finish watching the greatest freak show ever to hit television American Idol ... I am going to take a nice hot bubble bath, with the aid of our brand new water heater that cost us $985.15. Installed.

Calgon ... take me away.

It's a good thing Charlie and I have been able to hardly work for the past two weeks. Large appliances ain't cheap. But neither is replacing our couch, cabinets, or feeding a pack of toddlers with voracious appetites.

Too bad this was just a joke.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Day 6, 7: It continues...

Saturday I spent the majority of the day cleaning. When the kids woke up from their nap, I read them stories, gave them sips of Gatorade and bites of popsicles and by 7 PM, had bathed all three of them - dressed them in their pajamas - and tucked them in to bed. Once the kids were asleep, I made myself a nutritious dinner.

By 11:30 PM, the house was immaculate. All surfaces had been decontaminated, plants watered, rugs vacuumed, floors mopped ... and every single clothing and/or linen item was washed, dried and put neatly away. I even managed to write a few overdue thank you notes and start knitting a baby blanket for our good friends, the Higgins.

The last thing I remember is sitting in the kitchen and reveling at all of my accomplishments. I certainly don't remember falling asleep with my head on the table, but when I woke up two hours later with a huge slobber puddle beneath my cheek, I heard Charlie moaning that he needed a gun and someone to please put him out of his misery.

Sunday, I woke up with a burst of energy and took off for the store to stock up on peanut butter cookies a few critical supplies. When I returned home, Charlie was doing better, and suddenly, I was so tired I thought I was going to vaporize. Luckily, I never did feel sick. It just felt like every ounce of energy was spent and I had barely enough to shove peanut butter cookies in my mouth breathe - or - watch "Finding Nemo", yet again, while our three children were slumped on top of me.

By Sunday night, Charlie was starting to complain he wasn't feeling well ... at about the same time our kids made a miraculous recovery. There was a window of opportunity, approximately 8 minutes 30 seconds, where both Charlie and I were unconscious and the children had free run of the house. During that time, they went from three lethargic lumps - to three wobbling destructo machines.

Fortunately, today, the kids seem to be on the mend.

Unfortunately, today, Charlie is unable to move.

What I find extremely interesting is that when faced with the reality I was the only capable person in the house to care for our three children ... I stepped up to the challenge remarkably well. But when I thought Charlie had recovered, my stamina was instantly shot and I couldn't get off the couch. Now that I know Charlie is once again, completely out of commission, I have found it in myself to DIG DEEP.

Although, I don't know how much deeper I can dig before I start drooling.

I've decided it's a whole lot easier to take care of a sick husband and three sick toddlers, than to take care of a sick husband and three healthy toddlers - while you are also trying to work (as in, "career work", not to be confused with "house work" which I do all day long).

Some might think this sounds crazy, but it's true.

When they are all sick - at least I can prop them on the couch and see everyone at once. But when only 25% of the platoon is sick - and scattered through different parts of the house - it's insanity. Charlie is in the bedroom and since he is hardly able to stand and can barely talk above a whisper, he'll call me on my cell phone. "Hi. Jen. I need Jell-O and Kleenex."

To which I'll reply "Hi. Charlie. I need Tahiti and vodka."

Last week - I had planned to work today while Charlie looked after the kids. Because Monday was suppose to be "my" day, I took the liberty to set up several important calls. But because the only thing Charlie is able to look after today, is the inside of his eyelids, I'm trying to keep three toddlers constructively entertained while I field conference calls.

This is no easy task.

Today, even our kids are tired of watching "Finding Nemo" so instead of knowing that they are safely occupied, I've got my phone to one ear, while the other ear is straining to hear what everyone is up to, as they roam through the house.

It's a good thing when I hear them jabbering. This means they are playing with things that I've approved for a 2-year old.

It's a bad thing when I don't hear anything at all. This means they are trying to pull down the 5-gallon humidifier, full of water, that is perched on top of the linen cabinet. Or, trying to open a can of paint.

I've had to explain to everyone that I talk to that I have 2-year old triplets who are just getting over the stomach flu and I am taking care of my husband who is currently in bed with the stomach flu. Otherwise, I'm certain people would think I'm crazy for interjecting our conversation with sentences like:

"I'm sorry. You must wear your diaper ... it has to stay on your body."

Or ... "Please don't chew your brother's ear."

Or ... "Please don't use your cheese stick to draw on our nice Ethan Allen dining room table. Cheese is for eating."

Or ... "You can pick your nose. But your sister doesn't like it when you try to pick her nose."

Or ... "What are you eating?! OH MY GOD!! Are those matches?!"

It's incredible to me that thus far, I've dodged this bullet. It's also incredible to me that I didn't get sick with the last virus the kids and Charlie had, either. I thought I was sick - but I soon learned the "virus" I had was the kind that takes 9-months to resolve. There is a lot of truth in the statement "Just when you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you realize it's an oncoming train." But seriously ... when you consider that I catch every single cold that comes down the track, I'm astonished that these viruses have been passing me by.

At the risk of cursing myself, I'm hopeful God has spared me, once again.

We've decided, however, our couch has not been spared. We'll be getting a new one - of the leather / stain, liquid, vomit repellent / variety - soon.

*****

(By note to my riled up cousin Margaret: the $75.00 co-pay was for the Emergency Room. When we take the kids to see their pediatrician, it's only a $15.00 co-pay. Our pedi recommended that we go straight to the ER because that's probably where he'd send them if they did need IV's. After hearing Carolyn sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" much of the car ride home from the hospital - I know I made the right decision to turn around. I can just imagine the kids singing nursery songs while they're being examined and I'm trying to convince the doctor they are terribly sick. You don't need to write to the Govenator. At least not yet.)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Day 4, 5: It continues...

Everyone under the age of three ... that resides in this house ... threw up yesterday. Thus far today, William has thrown up twice - once all over our bed, once all over the couch.

This morning, the kids increasing lethargy (is that an oxymoron?) or, decreasing energy levels - had me really worried. I finally decided enough was enough and it was time to take them to the hospital. After convincing myself that everything was in order for a full day at the Emergency Room, I looked over at Charlie and asked if he was ready to go. Instead of heading for the front door, which I fully expected him to do, he took off running for the bathroom.

Five days since this virus has invaded our house ... Charlie's now got it. It struck at promptly 10:37 this morning. This thing is kicking ass and taking names. I just hope my name is no where on that list.

After changing the sheets on the bed and making sure hoping that Charlie would be okay on his own, I loaded the kids up in the car and drove 35 minutes to Children's Hospital. The whole time I drove, I was debating if this was the right thing to do. Spending an entire day at the hospital - by myself - with three vomiting toddlers is not something I have on my wish list of things to do before I die. Nor is forking out the $75.00 co-pay per child ($225.00) for the doctors to tell me everything that I am doing at home is right on the mark.

Still. I worry. Maybe they DO need IV's. The last thing I want to do is wait too long and put our children's health at risk. I hear of that happening all the time. A parent finally brings their ailing child to the doctor and they increduously ask "WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG?!"

For the record, the reason I have waited so long is not because I have better ways to spend my time, or because I'm a spend thrift. Although ... both are true. The reality is - I don't want to expose our children to other germs when their immune systems are weakened, only to hear something that I already know.

But, maybe I don't know.

Maybe they do need to be in the hospital.

But, maybe they don't.

They are eating and drinking. But, they are also throwing up. When they aren't eating or drinking or throwing up, they are either sleeping or crying for more food. Especially William. It's brutal not to give him as much applesauce as he wants - which is, incidentally, all he wants. It's even more brutal to see how emaciated all three of them look. My instinct is to feed them everything in the house, but, what I've learned is that their stomachs can only tolerate very small amounts. Feeding them too much, only makes the situation worse.

Darn, it's hard.

As soon as I arrived in the parking lot at the hospital, my sister Eileen called me on my cell phone. She told me that today was a day from hell for her. She was currently stuck in Los Angeles on her way home to Michigan. As of 11:30 AM, she'd been re-routed to LA from San Francisco, and had been waiting to catch her 4-hour plane ride ... for the past 7 hours. The silver lining was that she had just picked up a good book and would be bumped up to First Class for her trip home.

She then asked how I was doing.

"Well. Let's see. The kids have been vomiting for the past 5 days. Of course they didn't start this vomiting until the day after we went to Costco and spent a fortune on food that is now going bad because the only food I like to eat are peanut butter cookies and lettuce wraps from PF Changs. I'm sitting in the parking lot at the Children's Hospital Emergency Room. When I left the house, Charlie was on the floor in the bathroom telling me that he thought he was going to die. There are at least 8 loads of laundry, drenched in vomit, that need to be done as soon as I get home. Not to mention, stains that I doubt I'll ever get out of our couch. I have no idea WHEN I'll be home because I just saw the waiting room and it looks to be standing room only. I have pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel so bad that when I woke up this morning, I couldn't feel my right arm, and was struck by the smell of burning toast. I thought for sure I'd had a stroke, but then remembered I have a baby on board. Not to downplay your situation, but if I had my druthers - being stuck in an airport with a good book in hand and 7 hours to spare, and then a First Class plane ride home to a clean house and healthy children sounds like a DAMN VACATION."

She started laughing and immediately echoed my sister Beth's sentiment that if the hospital doesn't admit the children ... maybe they would admit me. Wouldn't that be a glorious treat? Someone to do my laundry ... bring me meals ... and let me sleep, all day, if I wanted. Maybe they'd even give me a catheter so I didn't have to get out of bed at all.

After talking to my sister for 10 minutes, she convinced me that what we were doing at home was the right thing. She suspected that after a 12-hour day in the hospital, the doctors would not do a single thing for us and instead, send me on my pissed off and disgruntled merry way. After listening to her reasoning and experience as a mother to three children ... I decided that she was right.

If the kids can continue to keep down small amounts of fluid and if they continue having a wet diaper every 6-hours ... that's the best that can be expected when they are this sick. The lethargy, I suppose it's normal. Yes, it's scary ... but after throwing up for 5 days, I'm sure I wouldn't have the energy to stand up and dance around, either.

Ten minutes after pulling in to the parking lot, I turned the car around and drove 35-minutes home.

When I arrived back at the house, Charlie had dragged himself to bed and was sleeping soundly. Fortunately, I was able to transfer all three kids from the car to their cribs without waking them, even as I stepped over the huge mounds of laundry and dodged a pile of vomit in the kitchen. Now, I'm just hopeful that I can get through the loads of laundry and get this house back in order before everyone wakes up. I suppose it helps that some of the feeling has returned to my right arm. And, nobody threw up in the car. Add to that the fact that we have a brand new container of Costco-sized Tide and life is bright.

See, there are good things everywhere. Sometimes, you just have to look a little deeper.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day 3: It continues...

After we made it through the chaos of the NICU (I promise that eventually, I will get around to finishing the story), the first year of our children's lives were remarkably healthy. Some might argue that the reason they all remained free of any illnesses that first year was because of dumb luck and/or excellent hand washing.

I, however, choose to think that the primary reason our babies remained healthy is because I nursed all three of them. It's no mystery that breastmilk is packed full of a mother's antibodies and helps to boost a babies immune system. The fact that they were receiving this "liquid gold" from me is what - with the exception of their vaccinations - kept them entirely out of the pediatrician's office their first year of life.

I'm convinced of it.

Now, since the time I weaned our children, they've had at least eight horrible colds, three ear infections, one case of the flu, and two stomach viruses so bad - I honestly question if the end of the world is near ... or if we are the next victims of ebola. Since the time I have weaned our children - not only have they been sick ... I have been sick, too.

Several times.

Just tonight, I felt the familiar scratchy throat, itchy inner ear and headache that I know, all too well, will accompany a cold that I'll be battling, tomorrow. A cold which most likely, will last for a minimum of two weeks. I know this because I just got over one - a week ago.

Yet, each time I get the slightest inkling that the crud is afoot, I put up my dukes, BIG TIME.

I launch a full out immune defense war with 5,000 mg of Vitamin C, Zicam, Cold-Eeze, Airborne, and Emergen-C. Although, with the success I've had in my war on colds - I may as well not do anything.

A friend of mine recently recommended I start taking cod liver oil. I will be adding that to my regimen, too. Heck, at this point in the game, I'd rub eucalyptus oil all over my face, shove wheatgrass poultices up my nose and stand on my head in a steam room if I thought it would help. I cannot take being sick anymore.

I. CAN'T. TAKE. IT.

Today, the kids are still sick.

So much for thirty six hours of vomiting.

Elizabeth is the only one that seems to be on the mend, having not thrown up all day. Although, she is terribly lethargic. William and Carolyn, on the other hand, threw up at least five times and are so weak, they cannot support their own body weight. When I spoke to our pediatrician, he said that we could give it another day - or - we could take them to the Emergency Room for IV fluids. Because it was only noon - and we would much prefer to go to the hospital in the middle of the night and sit in the waiting room for six hours - we decided to give it another day.

Tonight - we're already planning to bring the kids to the hospital if they are not considerably better by tomorrow morning.

After being out of work the better part of the week, Charlie and I tried to work from the house today. We set our laptops up on the kitchen table and had a birds-eye view of the children propped up on the couch and watching "Finding Nemo" for the nine millionth time in three days. The only things that make them happy are being held, holding the balloons leftover from the Halverson birthday party, and watching TV (Once we get through this - I swear, I'm throwing the damn television out. Mark my words.)


I didn't get a lot of work completed. I spent a lot of time on the couch holding children.

When I wasn't on the couch holding children, I was working on my laptop. Holding children.


I spent a lot of time taking pictures, with the hope that it would cheer the kids up when I showed them their faces on the camera. It didn't. They'd rather be held. While holding their balloons. And watching television.

I spent a lot of time rubbing Zicam swabs in my nose, drinking Emergen-C, chewing Vitamin C tablets, gargling Listerine and hoping that the scratchy throat I have is due to the vats of acidic organic applesauce we've been consuming. While holding children.

But mostly, I spent a lot of time thinking about breastfeeding and how healthy our babies were during the time I nursed them. Which is why a solid year after I weaned our children ... I am going to start it up again.

That's right. All three of them - they're going back on the boob. But not to worry, I plan to sign them up for counseling, too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Day 2: It continues...

When I spoke to our pediatrician yesterday afternoon, he said that the virus our kids have most likely picked up, will last for 5-days.

According to Dr. J, typically, the vomiting lasts for 36 hours, diarrhea then kicks in and lasts for approximately 3-4 days. All told, he said it should be gone in a week. I told him that after our 2-week vomit fest in October, I would hold him to that.

Today, I watched the clock. Because the vomiting began at 1:00 AM, yesterday morning, I fully expected the vomiting to stop at 1:00 PM, today. Sharp.

That's what the doctor said. 36-hours. Thirty six.

Tonight, all three kids threw up before we put them to bed. So, as of this writing, the vomiting has lasted for more than 36-hours ... we're at 42-hours and counting. Don't think for a moment Dr. J won't be hearing from me, tomorrow. That's right - I'm calling to complain.

I don't think there are words to express just how much despair we feel. It's the absolute worst watching your children so sick that they can barely lift their head off the couch - and there is very little you can do about it. It's almost as bad, watching them throw-up and instead of aiming for a bucket, they turn their head and vomit on the one part of your couch that is not covered in towels.

We gave all three of the kids baths and put them to bed at 7 PM, last night. They woke up every hour, on the hour, crying for "juice." Not that they really wanted juice, per se - but they wanted something to drink. The poor little things are completely parched. Unfortunately, we couldn't give them more than a tablespoon at a time, because otherwise, they would wretch. So, we'd give them a sip of water and refuse any more fluids - despite their weak cries.

It was awful.

The good news was that there was hardly any vomiting last night. (Because, obviously, there was hardly anything in their systems which to throw up.) Incorrectly assuming that everyone was feeling better, this afternoon, I fed them Jell-O and applesauce. Not much - just a teaspoon or two, per child. But within a half our, they threw every single bit of it up. And then some.

As counterintuitive as it might seem ... what I've learned from this experience is that we shouldn't be "pumping" fluids. We should be giving them an ice chip or two every 15 minutes. That's it. No more, no less. Their little systems cannot handle big swigs of Gatorade at this point - no matter how badly they might want it.

Now, within the past 42-hours, here are some things that have really surprised me:

1) Our children have slept for almost 22 hours in the past 24. They woke up this morning at 7 AM. All three of them were brought to bed with us, where they continued to sleep until 10 AM. They woke up, were transferred to the couch, and slept for another 2 hours. They were changed out of their PJ's, transferred to their cribs, and slept for another 4 hours. They woke up, were given baths, put into clean PJ's and transferred back to the couch - where they slept just long enough for Charlie and I to transfer them back to their cribs - wherein they continue their slumber. This is like having three newborns in the house again. They wake up every hour throughout the night ... there is massive amounts of laundry ... massive amounts of sleeping (for them - not us) ... and massive amounts of whining by both Charlie and I, "When will this get better?! I can't take it anymore...!!!!"

2) As awful as it is seeing our kids so sick - I love holding them and not having them squirm after 5 seconds to get away. Infact, they want nothing more than to be in my arms. I love that part. I don't like it when they wake up and throw up all over me. Vomit is much worse than spit-up.

3) Television. I hardly ever watch it - but it has been on non-stop since this ordeal began. I 've learned some fascinating things. Like ...

3a) I cannot believe that people would spend over $10,000 dollars on a dress for the Golden Globes ... when they could buy an ABS knock-off for $300.00. In my Adidas sweatpants and barf covered sweatshirt ... I know I'm not a fashion statement. Infact, my sister-in-law Kathy told me that she was going to nominate me for "What NOT to Wear" if I don't get my act together soon. But, $10,000 dollars for a dress? I honestly don't get it. That could buy you a new car.

3b) American Idol. Seriously. Do these people have NO friends or family to tell them that they absolutely stink and should NEVER EVER ever, ever, ever, ever go on national television and sing, or dance, or juggle? My heart really bleeds for these people. I will cringe watching the show - especially when the panel of judges ask the contestant to please stop singing and they don't. Or, when after the contestant is told that they have no talent and rather than gracefully exit stage left, they have a complete meltdown in front of the cameras. These people need a friend like me because I would truthfully tell them if they had a snowball's chance in hell to go to Hollywood, before they went on a show that is watched by over 37 million people.

4) My hands, when a bowl, bucket or pan are not handy ... make a great "catch basin". However, I seriously doubt that I'd be able to "catch" anything that came from anyone other than my children ... without requiring a bowl, bucket or pan of my own.

That's it from the sick bay. I'm continuing to hope and pray that tomorrow is a better day for our kiddos. Now, I've gotta run. American Idol's on and I can't bear to miss the train wreck talent they find in Seattle.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One, Two, Three ... Floor

After a one-month hiatus ... today, I had planned to continue the rest of my pregnancy, delivery and NICU experience. But instead, I am writing about the events that unfolded at our house. Last night.

This may seem hauntingly familiar.

1 AM: Elizabeth wakes up crying. Soon thereafter, we bring her in to bed with us, but not before she threw up all over the bathroom floor. We change her pajamas, wipe her face, and after feeling confident that this was a one-time event, climb in to bed. As soon as I start to fall asleep on the comfort of clean crisp sheets, she rolls in toward me - and vomits all over my chest and pillow.

Oh bugger.

I say a prayer that this is only limited to Elizabeth.

2 AM:
William wakes up crying. I scoop him out of his crib and rendezvous with Charlie who is in the family room holding a vomiting Elizabeth. By the time we arrive in the kitchen, William is vomiting. We lay down on the couch and just as soon as I start to fall asleep on the comfortable, albeit lumpy couch - he lifts his head and vomits all over my chest and clean pajamas.

OH CRAP.

I say a prayer that this is only limited to Elizabeth and William.

3 AM:
Carolyn wakes up crying. By the time I arrive in her room, she has vomited all over the inside of her crib ... all over her blankets, stuffed animals, and pajamas. I bring her out to the family room where William is perched perilously on the couch and Elizabeth is snuggled up with Charlie. I quickly retrieve the trusty bed pads that we used during our last trip through hell, and spread them all around the couch and floor. I sit down with Carolyn on my right side, William on my left side and a huge Shamu bucket that the popcorn came in, when we went to SeaWorld two weeks ago.

OH ^&*#^(*&^#$@!!!!

This has got to be a nightmare. Surely, I am still sleeping.

I pray that Charlie and I don't get this and that it's limited in duration.


For the next ten hours (and counting) ... every 10 to 15 minutes, all three of our children have coordinated their vomiting so that it is entirely synchronized. As soon as one starts, the other two are seconds behind.

Fortunately, Charlie and I have not been sick.

Unfortunately, the children are not yet at an age where they know how to hold their own emesis pan. When I can hear them start to gag and I bring the pan, bowl or bucket up to them, they swat at it furiously, like it is the thing causing them to vomit. Holding a pan, bowl or bucket for three vomiting toddlers who are swatting at it - simultaneously - is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

I cannot believe that our children are so sick, they cannot tolerate slivers of a popsicle, sips of water, three Cheerios, or ice chips before wretching everything out of their system.

I cannot believe that it was less than three months ago we went through a vomiting pandemic like the one we appear to currently be experiencing, again.

I cannot believe that our little children can stand to lose any more weight. They have only barely recovered from the last event.

I cannot believe that before noon, we have done six loads of laundry.

I cannot believe that we have propped our children in front of the television all day, and thus far, we've watched an entire PBS repeat of Dragon Tales, Clifford, Curious George, Sesame Street, Between the Lion's, It's A Big World and Caillou.

I cannot believe that Caillou was even more annoying the second time. How is that possible??

I cannot believe that I have only had 3 hours of non-consecutive sleep in the past 32-hours ... nor that Charlie has only had 2.

Like before, I don't know where this was picked up. Applying my three-day rule for germ incubation, we were at Church on Saturday. The children were in the nursery. Other than that venture - and small trips to the park [where there are rarely other kids] - our children have not been around any other kids for two weeks.

I have decided that after two weeks of continuous vomiting in October ... the flu in November ... bronchitis in December (that William is still coughing from) and now, this ... we are not going to expose our children to other kids until Spring. Of 2010.

I cannot believe this is happenening again and I would give absolutely anything to trade places with them.

If this bug lasts for more than 24-hours, so help me ... I am going to crawl in to a hole and not come out again until the Fourth of July, give or take a day or two, as necessary.

OR, until I get an uncontrollable craving for chocolate.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Few Little Points to Ponder (III)

Just a few more little points to ponder...

A 12-year old labrador retriever is one of the best pets to have with small children. I can't think of any other dog that would allow a 2-year old to hold their leash and take them for a walk. However, if our 12-year old dog doesn't stop eating her own poop, despite the nutritionally balanced food that she is served up twice a day, and the gourmet dog cookies that she receives after every walk ... I'll be sending her to live in the country.

If our children weren't so adorable, I probably would have consumed them by now. Especially when we spent an entire weekend cleaning the house and within seconds of finishing the huge job, our children enthusiastically rubbed their peanut butter and banana sandwich all over the table top and bottom. They then rubbed that same peanut butter and banana sandwich, that they somehow managed to sneak away from the table, all over the walls. And the floor. And the doorways in our hall.

Having a picnic at the local park, at least one meal a day, might be the smartest thing I've ever thought up. Not only do the children love sitting at a picnic table and eating their lunch outdoors, our kitchen table and floors, and walls, and doorways, and chairs stays clean. Since we live in San Diego where the weather is almost always mild - I just might take to eating at the park every single meal of every single day. I'll slap some wheels on my old dormitory refrigerator and fasten our camping stove to the top. Or, we could just eat peanut butter every day. That's what we do, anyway.

Sometimes, I have more patience than others. Sometimes, I have no patience at all. I don't know what happens to it - or where it goes - but it will literally vanish in to thin air just like the 3-dozen Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies Charlie made less than two days ago. I find myself scratching my head and wondering "What happened to all that patience I had a minute ago...?!? I REALLY NEED IT RIGHT NOW." I've decided that unending patience when you have 3-2 year olds is an essential characteristic. Quite likely, the most important one of all. Especially when two of your three children hack open the childproof locks and simultaneously, dump two full boxes of rice, one white - one brown, all over the kitchen floor. And rather than staying at home and cleaning up the mess that they've made, you decide to take the whole lot of them, by yourself, to the park. And while at the park - they take off running in three different directions, while your totally deaf dog takes off running in the fourth direction ... and you stand paralyzed wondering who is in the most peril and who should I rescue first?!"

A 12-year old labrador retriever with an insatiable appetite is a valuable companion when you enjoy a picnic with 2-year old triplets. Whatever food the kids do not eat, and take to throwing all over creation, is quickly consumed by the dog and you don't feel like a total slob walking away from peanut butter sandwich squares littering the ground. Molly is my portable Animal. Now, if she could just stop wedging down her own fecal matter, we'll be set.

I've heard that God never gives you more than you can handle. With three toddlers and another baby on the way, I've decided that God must really trust me. Sometimes, I wonder if He trusts me a little too much. Maybe He knows that I won't eat them.

Taking on a task like painting the inside of the house with three toddlers underfoot, just might qualify Charlie and I as clinically insane.

Although we've only been giving the kids baths every other night, I think the time is ripe to initiate bath night, every night. Especially when the children find no greater joy than walking on their hands and standing on their head everytime we go out in public. Why is it that they choose to do this move when we are in the nastiest of locations? Like, say, a basketball court that is littered with partially digested sunflower seeds, or, the restroom at the zoo?

Now for some semantics. The word "wine" is music to my ears. Hearing a child "whine" for more than an hour straight, makes me want to grab a bottle of wine and drink the whole damn thing. Over the past four months, our "House Wine" has changed from Cabernet Sauvignon ... to "Maaammmmaaa!!" It is especially challenging that about the time I had to stop enjoying wine in the evening - our children's primary vehicle for communication during the day, is hanging on my leg(s) and moaning words which I do not understand.

Returning to work last week, after almost a month off, it's safe to say I missed our children more than I ever have before. Sure, the job of a mother is grueling and at times, down right excruciatingly painful. But, I'm convinced that there is no better job in the whole entire world. Especially when your three toddlers, who a mere year ago could barely walk ... run to catch up with you and hold your hand at the park when you wave "BYE BYE!" and walk in the opposite direction - praying desperately to God that they follow. Or, when they do their absolute best to jump and throw the ball through a basketball hoop. Or, when you lay down on a blanket and the three of them pile on top of you ... and looking in to their perfectly happy and smiling little faces, you cannot make a distinction between the beautiful blue sky above ... and the eyes of your children.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Breakfast at the Ranch

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

Although I rarely give dinner a second thought and am often scrambling to pull together something early in the evening - I will contemplate, the night before, what will be served up on the menu when we finally drag ourselves out of bed at 8:00 AM at the break of dawn.

Breakfast is always a grand event at our house. This morning, I decided to capture what has evolved in to a typical morning with our two-year olds.

Doesn't everyone sit with balloons at the breakfast table? If not, they really should - it makes dining a much more enjoyable experience...


William offering some of his bagel with berry cream cheese to his Choo-Choo train (check out the stylish haircut, I didn't do too bad, eh??)...


Carolyn graciously sharing her bagel with Nemo...


Elizabeth giving her baby doll a bite of bacon. Oh, how we love bacon...


Utensils, please, why bother??? We don't need no stinkin' utensils!!!


This last photo is what I had for breakfast this morning.


It is a remnant of the first uncontrollable food craving I have had thus far, in my pregnancy. It struck at 10:30 PM last night. Like a ton of bricks it hit me that I MUST HAVE A CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE.

RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT.

So Charlie, being the wonderful husband that he is, dragged himself out of bed and drove down to the store. He returned with two different kinds of cookies and a pint of Haagen Daaz chocolate and peanut butter ice cream. I couldn't have been happier seeing my husband walk through our bedroom door with a bag full of peanut butter and chocolatey goodness. I was positively giddy. Fortunately for my thighs, I only needed two cookies and a scoop of ice cream to satisfy my craving.

But, this morning when I woke up, the ice cream was gone and there were only four cookies left. When I asked Charlie what had happened to my goods - he chuckled and told me that he'd had a craving, too.

I looked at him in disbelief for a solid two minutes. And then I said, "WHAT THE &%*$!!!&*#*! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!"

Maybe it's my current state of mind - but in my opinion, it is suicidal to indulge on a pregnant woman's stash of crave-satisying food. That's just NOT something that you do.

EVER.

What I had failed to inform Charlie, is that before I went to sleep last night, I was already thinking about my breakfast this morning ... which was going to consist of scrambled eggs, bacon, a bagel and cream cheese, a bowl of yogurt .... and chocolate and peanut butter cookies. That, my friend, is a well-rounded meal.

Of course, I was also thinking about the four marathons that I am going to have to run this year, after the baby is born, if I ever plan on wearing a single item from my pre-pregnant wardrobe, again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hi, I'm Two. Can You Tell?

What do you think takes more courage ...

1) Giving your two-year old triplets a haircut - when you are home alone - and when you know not the first thing about cutting hair and can barely shave your legs evenly?

... or ...

2) Taking your two-year old triplets in for their 2-year old portraits - by yourself - late in the afternoon, just before dinner time? Keeping in mind that although the kids turned two almost three months ago, I am right on target for their photos, because I notoriously run a few months behind schedule for this kind of thing.

Take a moment and think those two questions over.

Part of the reason I cut the kids hair while I was home alone today, is because Charlie always gets nervous when I take out the scissors, and has explicitly forbidden suggested that I not cut the children's hair. Maybe it's because it wasn't that long ago that in the quest to save a buck - I cut Charlie's hair and chopped off the top part of his ear.

I think I've improved since then.

Now, although a person with an ounce of sense might not try cutting their squirmy toddler's hair when they have no *good* hair cutting experience ... and then, the same day, opt to take their squirmy toddler's in to a professional photo studio ... I did.

I thought I did a fairly good job cutting the children's hair and was impressed that I saved $60.00 and the hassle of a morning out. But when the photographer asked if William turned his head while he was getting his hair trimmed, I gave her a puzzled look. She laughed and said his cut was so choppy, it looked like the person who did it was riding on a rollercoaster.

Nice. Well, maybe there are some times when it pays to hire a professional.

At first, the children were really interested in all the bright lights, big cameras, backdrops and props in the photostudio. When the photographer asked me if I'd like to take a group shot of all three children at first - or individual pictures - I thought that individual pictures might be the best approach.

Carolyn Grace went first. She happily let me put her headband on and the very first shot was perfect. She was smiling, she was laughing - the picture came out great. (These are a little blurry because I pulled them off the website in an effort to save some time scanning the photos we purchased.)


Elizabeth went second. She happily let me put her headband on and the very first shot was perfect. She was smiling, she was laughing - the picture came out great. (Minus William's little hand on the bottom left of the photo. This was cropped out of the picture we ordered...)


William went third. He would have happily worn a headband, but I didn't think that would have been well received by his father. Although, in hindsight, I should have put him in the headband. It would serve Charlie right for making me take all three kids by myself to have their pictures taken.

By this point, the novelty of the photostudio was starting to wear off. The girls didn't want to stay in one spot and took off running around the store. William wanted to take his baba (lovey) in to the picture with him ... and me, being the cruel mother that I am, vetoed his request.

The photographer tried to pacify William with various props. At first she gave him a football with the hope that he would throw it to her, just before she snapped off the picture.

Of course that didn't happen.

As I was looking at the adorable pictures of the girls - and the photo of William holding a football (with the lines facing in as Charlie so kindly pointed out, to which I replied, if he'd been there he could have made sure the lines were facing out) - I thought that maybe, just maybe, we could do better.

So we tried again.

Unfortunately, William didn't like having the football taken away.

The photographer gave him a toy train and a little toy truck. These were props meant simply to pacify him - and once he was happy - she thought that she could take them away. Had I been standing right next to the photographer, and not chasing Carolyn and Elizabeth through the store, I would have told her that giving a toy truck and a toy train to a 2-year old boy and then trying to take them away, is never a good idea.

But then again, she might have thought that a woman who cuts her 2-year old triplets hair and then takes all three of them for their professional portraits, by herself, surely lacks common sense and doesn't know a good idea from a good eye deer.

I was never more than 15 feet away from the photo set, but when I came back with the girls and saw the photographer holding the toy truck while William was in the midst of a horizontal temper tantrum ... I yelled "TAKE THE SHOT! This perfectly captures my life, everyday!!!" The photographer was genuinely surprised that I wanted the picture taken.

She was even more surprised when I paid money for prints of the pose. Apparently, people don't usually purchase professional portraits of their children having temper tantrums.

To which I ask ... "WHY THE HECK NOT?!"

I decided that the picture with the football was the best we were going to do and it was time to move on to the group shot. It took a solid 30-minutes to get the children to sit still.

A solid 30-minutes. That's half an hour. At about the time I would normally be serving dinner to my three children, who had by this point consumed over 100 animal crackers, each.

I was literally flipping cookies at them, like you would feed monkeys at the zoo.

By now, the novelty of the photostudio had completely worn off and the girls would not let go of the teddy bears that they had swiped from the neighboring photo booth. There was no way they would let me put their headbands back on ... Carolyn was beginning to sob ... Elizabeth was beginning to scream ... and William was reeling from not only losing the football, but the toy train AND the toy truck.

Following our photo shoot, I loaded the children up in their stroller and briskly walked around the store. When I returned 10-minutes later to pick up the pictures, I could hear Elizabeth yelling, "Mommy, BOOGIE!!!" repeatedly, behind me. When I finally turned to look at her, she was excitedly holding out her tiny little finger for me to inspect. Atop her tiny little finger was the largest, slimiest booger I've ever seen. If I hadn't seen it myself, I never would have guessed such a large booger could have come out of such a little person. Incredibly, she chose this opportunity, while we were out in public and she was looking perfectly precious, to learn how to dig boogies out of her nose. The photographer laughed and said, "Seriously. I don't know how you do it!" Seriously. Neither do I.

Really, I couldn't be more thrilled. Although, I suppose it could have been worse. She might have picked that winner just before her picture was taken.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Heart Strings

Charlie and I rarely fight.

For the most part, he agrees with just about everything I say, and we get along swimmingly. But more than that, we genuinely appreciate each other. Throughout the day, I will thank him for things that he has done => putting clean towels in the bathroom, throwing in a load of laundry before he leaves for work, making the bed. And at least once a day, he'll ask if he's told me yet today - how much he loves me.

On a daily basis, we look for - and find the good - in each other.

As we are cruising through our 12th year of marital bliss, I've credited a large portion of our success to our communication skills. We will set aside time, every day, to talk. "What did we do during the day ... what do we have going on during the week ... how are we feeling about life in general ... what can be improved?"

I really try to not hold anything back. If I'm upset about something, frustrated, or need assistance - I express myself, and I seriously encourage Charlie to do the same. Not just on the homefront, but in all aspects of my life. Over the years, I've noticed that Charlie does not complain is not nearly as expressive as I am, and will not ask for help as openly as I do. Yet, it always amazes me when people are surprised that I'll tell Charlie, "I need your help. Can you please do X, Y and Z?"

It also amazes me, how many people tell me that they rarely ask for help - they assume that it will just happen, and/or, they prefer to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders because no one can do it as well as they can. This approach of "doing it all" would never work for me, because if I had to do everything myself - I would be tired, resentful, and most likely a time bomb crab to be around.

Rather, I am a professional at delegation.

Just today, I had my toddlers retrieving diapers from the nursery, so that I could change their siblings in the family room, and was thrilled at my communication success, until I realized that they had thrown more than 50 clean Pampers in to the diaper pail. Which had been hauled outside and mixed with our other trash, tonight. We'll be working on that.

The fact is, with both Charlie and I working part-time and raising our toddler triplets together ... we must make our expectations and needs crystal clear. The only way to do that, is through open communication. If we need some time alone - to workout, take a nap, or just sit and enjoy the quiet - we express that need to each other. Quite often, one of us might recognize that the other one needs some downtime and we'll step in and say "Take Five."

Sometimes, it only takes five minutes to recharge our batteries.

Sometimes, it takes five hours.

When the days are longer, we will load the kids up in strollers and take a leisurely walk in the evening after work. But when the days are short and it is dark by 5 PM, we might throw a log on the fire, pop a bowl of popcorn, and sit down with a drink (although not wine anymore - and oh, how sadly I miss it) once the children are tucked in to bed. This is our sacred time to connect.

Even though I think our marriage is wonderful, over the past couple weeks, I've started to notice that despite the things that we do to keep our marriage strong, I've been a bit of a pill to live with. Fortunately, Charlie hasn't told me this ... it's just something that I've become aware of. It's almost as if I've been having these out-of-body experiences and I'm looking down on this ranting crazy woman who is completely off the hook.

With some of my spare time, I've been trying to understand why I am feeling so neurotic. It could be that I am expecting ... which is compounded by the fact that there are some very big changes coming up on the road of life, and it seems that there is indecisiveness at every bend.

For instance.

When I return to work from my vacation time off, I am committing myself to working less hours, while Charlie is committing himself to working more. During the past three weeks, it's struck me how much I really love being home with the kids and even though I am here when I'm working - I feel like I'm missing out on so much of their lives. I want to stay home. But I also want to work. I don't know which I want more or if I have it in me to juggle the two anymore.

We've looked at moving in to a larger house. We've discussed relocating. We've talked about quitting our jobs and moving to Wyoming. Or Canada. Or ... New Zealand. Or, maybe down the street. If we go AWOL from our careers, we could take up jobs working in a coffee shop, flower shop or brewery. Stability with good benefits and a dental plan is key.

I'm looking at a half-day of Montessori school for our children next fall, provided they are potty-trained. But then, I'm convinced that I will never send our kids to school and I, alone, will homeschool them on our Flathead River Ranch in Montana. If we were to move to Montana.

We have contemplated having cabinets professionally installed in our garage. But why in the world would we incur that kind of expense when we are moving out of this house in a few months?! Of course we can stay in this house for another 3 years. Yes, it's small, but it's perfect for us right now - everything on one level - and when hard pressed, I can clean the entire 1,600++ square feet in an afternoon. By myself. When I have the energy. Which I rarely have anymore. Speaking of which, why do I not have any space for our vacuum cleaner?! We must move. Why haven't we moved yet?! Tomorrow, I'll call an agent.

We need to hire help. We need a cleaning person and maybe a mother's helper. I can't do all this by myself ... for Pete's Sake ... I'm pregnant and getting bigger everyday. None of my pants fit and all of my maternity undergarments are long gone. How could we ever find a competent, capable, trustworthy stranger, with a resumé to rival Jo Frost and a strong vocal resemblance to Mary Poppins? Rice and beans - why did I get rid of every single pair of maternity underwear?!

I'm hot.

Life is a comedy.

I can do this.

I'm hungry.

I want a burrito and salsa. And a dollop of Cool-Whip.

I'm cold.

Life is a drama.

I can't do this.

I'm full.

But I might have some room for crab rangoons and egg-drop soup. And a pickle.

And thus, insanity persists. This past weekend, I was upset with Charlie. And for darn good reason.

He lost a shoelace.

Did you catch that? He lost a shoelace.

I had washed the kids shoes, their little white Keds, in the washing machine. I wanted to throw the itty bitty shoelaces in with the shoes, but Charlie convinced me to soak them in a bowl with bleach because, otherwise, they would surely get wrapped around all the clothes and cause a mess. Two days later, the dirty brown shoelaces were still soaking in a bowl of bleach in the bathroom and the mere sight of them frustrated me. If we'd done it my way, they'd be clean by now and re-threaded in to the shoes so I wouldn't have to keep putting the kids in sandles or patten leather shoes every time we went for a walk.

Despite Charlie's prior protest, I made the decision that the itty bitty shoelaces were going in with the very next load of laundry. Tangled clothing be damned.

Saturday morning, when I removed only five sparkly white itty bitty shoelaces from the dryer, I asked Charlie if he'd seen the sixth shoelace, which, is a very important component for the sixth little white Ked.

Much to my surprise, Charlie said that he had seen the shoelace. It was wrapped tightly around William's blanket and he removed it from the wash en route to the dryer. Much to my displeasure, he couldn't recall what had come of the little shoelace. He thought for sure, he'd put it back in the dryer, but alas, it was not there.

This one event, caused a whirlwind of emotion. While I stammered "What do you MEAN you don't know where the shoelace went?!" Charlie laughed and said "Jen. It's a shoelace. We can buy another one." To which I replied "No, we canNOT. I can't even manage to buy a can of Comet for the bathroom, which has been on our shopping list for two months ... what makes you think that I have the time to go search for a little itty bitty shoelace?!! And by the time I find an itty bitty shoelace, chances are, the kids will have outgrown the shoes and I'll need to buy a whole new pair."

This was a big deal. This was a huge deal.

I WAS NOT OVERREACTING.

Even though the kids are probably at a point where they need new shoes anyway, the principle of the matter was that my husband lost a shoelace and didn't seem to understand the importance of keeping tabs on little itty bitty clothing items.

Pure and simple, he wasn't paying attention. Now, he didn't understand why it was so important that we conduct an all out search ... at that very moment in time ... for the itty bitty shoelace.

He wanted to drink his coffee and make breakfast. I wanted to fume. He drank his coffee and cooked.

I boycotted breakfast because surely my absence would get the important point across. Charlie meanwhile, was seemingly oblivious to my frustration and deep exasperated sighs, and was happily listening to the new Yusuf Islam CD while cooking homemade waffles and apple-chicken sausage on a sunny Saturday morn. The aroma emanating from the kitchen smelled so delicious, I was in physical pain.

Fifteen minutes in to my martyrdom, I held my head high and was led uncontrollably by my stomach to the table. Unfortunately, I am at that point in my pregnancy where I will eat anything and everything in sight - which is a terrible inconvenience when I am upset with my husband and trying to make a point.

I took my seat and gracefully inhaled everything that was on, or beside, the plate Charlie had set for me, including the mint garnish and paper napkin. A moment later, he removed the sixth shoelace from his pocket and handed it to me. Apparently, it was in the dryer, all along.

I had missed it.

Charlie didn't dwell on the situation. Infact, he didn't even mention it. At no point did he tell me that I need to grow up, take a chill pill, or relax ... he didn't even wrap the string around my neck and threaten to hang me from the ceiling fan.

These are things I most likely would have said - or done - had the roles been reversed.

Charlie didn't challenge if I was seriously willing to ruin an entire day over something as insignificant as a piece of string for a $15.00 toddler's shoe. Nor did he ask if my irrational behavior was due to pregnancy hormones - which quite likely would have sent me in to a tailspin of ranting and sobbing. Rather, Charlie talked to me about what we had on the agenda for the weekend. And then, he asked if he'd told me yet, today, how much he loved me.

This got me to thinking.

A successful marriage isn't just about open communication. Sometimes, it's about knowing when to bite your tongue. It's about seeing the good, through the bad. It's about kindness, patience and respect. It's about being the right person, but equally important ... finding the right person. It's about telling each other, how much you love them - even when they are acting like a pain in the ass slightly unlovable.

I'm lucky that my husband is my best friend. I deeply admire him - and in many ways - strive to be more like him. And even though he could have shown me the shoelace and ended my sulk 15-minutes earlier (hence, giving me a headstart on devouring breakfast), I love him with all of my heart and sole of a toddler's shoe soul.

Now, if only he can put up with me for the next few months ... surely he could fly to Oslo and walk away with the 2007 Peace Prize.