Monday, March 31, 2008

big decisions

There are very few things that I know for sure.

I know that I am going to start using Zicam again, even though there are concerns that it could be linked to anosmia. Minus the one week I was away on vacation, I have been seriously sick for EIGHT weeks straight. I've been coughing so much that I pulled all of my ab muscles and one in my neck. All four of our children have been sick, three of them with ear infections - one of them twice. Since this level of impairment never happened when we were using Zicam, this family is going back on the gel (and Q-tips).

I know that tonight for dinner, we'll be having fresh bread because I just made a batch. But the rest of the menu - as of almost 3:00 PM - is a puzzle.

I know that our house seems very small at times with six people, and the idea of a larger house sounds great. But I have no idea when, how, or where we will move ... if we ever do.

I know that I am supposed to return to work part-time May 1 and that a year from that date, I am supposed to return to work full-time. But whether or not I will actually return to full-time work, is uncertain.

I know that a structured education is something that our children will need in their lives. But whether I will send them to school - or teach them at home - is something I have not yet worked out.

Charlie says that I am an enigma wrapped up in mystery. But I believe that given time, any answer to any question will slowly unfold and present itself.

Last week was a difficult week, but the first week back from a vacation always is. Add to that, everyone was sick - we went to the doctor's office three times in five days - and we purchased a gargantuan play set that is now in parts across our patio, rendering the backyard "OFF LIMITS" to three curious children.

By Thursday (even before we had the play structure in parts across our yard), I was really struggling. I felt like our three-year-olds had been ascending to a point in their lives when they needed more than what I could provide them, every day. So out of sheer desperation, I called several preschool and Montessori schools in the area and lined up appointments for this week.

Today, while Charlie took all four children back to the doctor's office (that would be four times in seven days), I met with the director of a local Montessori school. I sat in on a classroom of four-year-olds and what I saw shocked me.

They were orderly.

They were disciplined.

They were organized.

They were polite.

They were engaged.

They were quiet, speaking only in whispers.

I'm not sure if the reason that they were so controlled in their emotions and behavior is because they are four-years-old (as opposed to three) ... or if it's because they are in a Montessori environment.

I don't know what kind of picture I paint of our children on this blog. I give snippets of their behavior, but that can change from day to day or hour to hour. For the most part, they are really wonderful kids. They are respectful, funny and if I may say so myself, extremely bright. They definitely have their moments when I'm ready to hang them by their toes, but I think that's par for the course at three-years-old.

It surprised me to not only see how well behaved these children were, but how I, turned in to a weepy mess as soon as I sat down. How is it possible that my babies - my tiny babies - are at a point in their lives where they could be sitting in a classroom setting and working on their decimals? And continents? And planets?? And raising their hands to get the attention of the teacher - and carrying a little backpack - and doing educational things ... without me??

I was biting my tongue so hard to hold back the tears, that I started to bleed.

After my 30-minute observation, I could actually envision our three children, in their three separate classrooms, learning, absorbing, and coming home with the ability to speak in Spanish. I believed - and still do, to a degree - that if we were to send them to Montessori, we would be providing a different (better?) educational experience, than what we could give them at home. And that experience, could - potentially - pave success for their entire lives.

But then. I could feel my wallet bleed when I picked up a tuition schedule and saw that it would cost $700.00 a month, per child, to send them to Montessori school, part-time. That does not include the $350.00 registration fee, per child, that is required at the beginning of each year.

Let's do the math.

$2,100/month X 10 months = $21,000 + $1,050 = $22,050.00

Because it is recommended that in order to get the full Montessori experience, children stay through kindergarten >> and since our children aren't slated to begin kindergarten until 2010 ... we need to triple that estimate. The grand total works out to $66,150.00, without any consideration to a possible increase in their fees, nor the 5% discount that is offered to families with multiples. But that deduction is pretty negligible, given the full cost.

I love being home. I love teaching our children and I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job, but I know that they are not receiving the same level of structure - and independence - and potentially, education - as they would in Montessori. And the question is, cost aside, does that really matter?

At three, four, five years old - how much education and structure do they really need??

Would they blossom more, and would I blossom more, if they were in Montessori, five days a week for three hours a day?

At this moment, I seriously don't know.

If we were to send the children to Montessori, I would need to work. Not full-time, per se, but we could not afford to send all three children to Montessori, pay our mortgage, fuel our vehicles, feed and clothe a family of six ... in California ... on one income.

Unless we ate potatoes every night and wore the sacks that they came in.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

this might be the death of us

It seemed like a good idea ... buying a huge swing set that we could put in our back yard to keep the children happily entertained for those times when we cannot dart out to the park. And yet, if we don't dart out to the park, the kids are prepared to chew limbs off of each other.

I've been thinking about this type of purchase for a while now. And then, while I was shopping last week at Costco, I spotted "the" one I wanted.

And everyday since then, I've been thinking about it.

Dreaming about it.

Fantasizing that if I had it, my whole life would be transformed. I wouldn't have to be out of the house every waking moment of the day. Sure, we'd still go to the park and go do fun things every day, but my sanity and survival would no longer depend upon it.

So today, after convincing Charlie that the $1,500.00 for this play structure is money well spent - especially when a similar play structure from Rainbow runs around $3,000.00 - we loaded up the van and with Charlie following in the truck, drove to Costco.

Costco, Costco ...
O how we love thee!! So much to buy, so much to see!! Food, cars, clothes and baked goods galore! It's great to get everything in one store!! Just about any earthly supply, whatever it may be!! Now all we need is a money tree!!

We drove home, unloaded the six boxes and slide and then we looked in the boxes and only saw lumber. And screws. And something that might look like a trapeze in 50 pieces.

While the kids took a nap, Charlie and I sat down and watched the TWO hour instructional video while thumbing through the 74 PAGE instruction manual.

I don't think that my masters thesis was 74 pages long.

Then we measured our back yard and were not sure why we thought our back yard was 60 feet wide, when it's only 35. We should know this, considering we did all of the landscaping ourselves and laid every last inch of sprinkler line and drainage pipe.

This monstrosity that we purchased is 19 feet across and will take up more than 1/2 of our yard. Once it is constructed, it will be visible to aircraft that fly over our house on approach to the airport. Assuming we ever get it constructed. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, is pre-assembled.

This play set is so "Do It Yourself", they even include the finish that you are supposed to use to treat the wood. We grabbed at our hearts and saw the gates of heaven when we read that the estimated time for completion, for two adults, is approximately 16 hours.

Two adults. Sixteen hours.

Two adults with four children under four who are constantly asking "Where my HOUSE?! WHERE MY HOUSE? YOU BUILD MY HOUSE?!" can probably add a couple hundred hours, frayed nerves and an aneurysm to that estimate.

This is why people pay twice as much for a Rainbow model.

They install it for you.

Since it took Charlie almost three hours to put together a rocking Moose that we bought from LL Bean, because our little "helpers" kept hijacking his tools, I'm holding hope that we'll get this fortress built by Christmas. 2010.

And here I was thinking we'd have it assembled by tonight.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

colorblind and beautiful

Little children have a way of loudly speaking out whenever they notice characteristics in people that are different. Within the past few months, I have discovered that their outbursts can be cause for serious embarrassment.

When we saw a wheelchair bound man waiting in line at Target last month and the three-year-old loud questions and observations began, I leaned down and said to the children "Isn't he beautiful?" When we saw a woman who had obvious burn scars across her face while at the zoo, and the three-year-old loud questions and observations began again, I leaned down and repeated "Isn't she beautiful?"

One day last week, while I was swinging Henry in the baby swing at the park, an African-American woman was pushing her five-year-old daughter in the swing immediately next to us. We exchanged brief pleasantries when her daughter - looking over at Henry - leaned back and said "Mama, that baby looks like my baby brother Omar." The mother laughed, and then said "I suppose maybe a little bit, but your baby brother is black."

I thought that this little girl was just trying to be funny, but when we came home and I was flipping through a photo album of our family members with the children, Carolyn began enthusiastically pointing to a picture of my bald, pale skinned, 100% Irish brother-in-law and shouted "Mommy, look there's Doctor Johnson!!" This caused me to take pause because Doctor Johnson is our African-American pediatrician.

Not much escapes our children, but it makes me happy that they are more aware that their uncle's glasses are similar to their pediatrician's, that they don't even notice the vast difference in their skin tones.

It also makes me happy that when we were in the airport last week and saw a little person, a woman who was standing next to us at the sink in the restrooms, Elizabeth looked her square in the eye and said "You are tiny, like me!!"

And then she sweetly added, "You are bootiful."

Friday, March 28, 2008

my future blogger

I spend the afternoon nap time updating my blog. Usually, I only have about 25 minutes of quiet time, before I am joined by Henry. And then, usually, 10 minutes beyond that, I am joined by William. Depending upon whether or not I've finished writing - I'll give William my small camera and he'll run around taking pictures of everything.

This is me, with Henry on my lap, updating my blog.

These are William's feet.

This is Elizabeth wondering how she is going to get the camera away from William, while I am walking in the other room - completely unaware that he has my camera at all.

I have a lot of pictures of his feet. I also have a lot of pictures of the ceiling fans, rug and miscellaneous items across the ground. Most of the time my memory card is filled with a bunch of flotsam that I'll delete. But sometimes, I'll see a picture that is blog worthy.

Like this one...

I'm guessing that maybe this was taken the day after she saw the lion clean her cubs at the zoo?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

the triplet reality

Triplets aren't as unusual as they once were because of infertility treatments. Still, whenever we are out and about, it almost always happens that people will ask if my three are triplets.

Or, someone will comment how adorable my twin girls are - before I tell them that they are triplets, and then their jaw drops open and they say something like "Wow! Are they identical?"

I'm such a punk I'll usually say "Yes, and it's a real bear telling them apart!" (This is funnier if you could see that Carolyn is three inches taller than Elizabeth and 10 pounds heavier ... and William is blonde. And a boy.)

When I had Elizabeth alone in Florida, she was a completely different child then she is with her siblings. She was content to play by herself. She would listen and mind me. She did not make a disaster at every turn. More than any of that, she was trusted to use the restroom - alone - and not unravel the entire roll of toilet paper.

Reunited with her siblings, the mob mentality has pulled her back and the lure of the toilet paper roll is impossible to refuse. It is for this reason that I know, having three-year-old triplets is not like having three, three-year-olds.

It is more than that.

It is much, much greater.

I could handle three of the Elizabeths I had in Florida last week. Three children that listened to me, came when they were called, and did not destroy things - just for the sake of doing it. When the triplets are together - as a unit - one of them, if not all three, will test your limits at every turn. Two will play together and the third will be off, getting in to something.

Sure, they have their moments of peace and love. But at this point in their young lives, those moments are overshadowed by moments of fighting, teasing and whining like you ain't never seen before.

More and more, once people hear that I have triplets, they'll ask if I've ever seen "Jon and Kate." Up until recently, I'd always said no - because I never had watched the show before. But I've heard so much hub-bub surrounding this series about the twins and sextuplets, that when there was a "Jon and Kate" marathon on TLC last month, I watched six shows, back to back. From 10 PM until 1 AM, when I could have been sleeping, I watched what my life is like on steroids.

Now when I hear people say, "She is so organized. She is so strict. I don't know how she does it!!" I can respond "Here's a clue. She's organized and she's strict."

I really don't see how you could successfully survive day-to-day with children if you weren't organized and strict. For that matter, I don't see how you could successfully survive day-to-day in life.

Most strangers that I talk to assume that I have - or had - a lot of help. They also assume that a lot was given to us, because triplets are such a rarity. But at least in our case, help and free stuff didn't appear on our doorstep once the stork dropped off our three bundles of joy.

With quadruplets or more, it is common that the families will receive a year or more, supply of free diapers, free formula and cases upon cases of free baby food. Many of these families might also receive a free vehicle - donated by a generous car dealership. I've read or heard stories of people with high order multiples (exceeding triplets) that have fund-raising conducted on their behalf - and they are moved in to a new house.

All of that is received in addition to the scores of people that line up to help. There are volunteers that will come in shifts, round-the-clock to feed, burp and rock the babies. There are people that bring meals and more people that will come to help with errands - or - watch the babies so that the parents can take a break for themselves, or - bring a baby to a doctor appointment without the whole entourage.

It is awesome that these large families are the recipients of such good will.

But it is also mind boggling.

Triplets get a lot of attention, but they definitely don't generate that kind of generosity. When our triplets were infants, we did receive three cases of free diapers, three cases of free baby food and three containers of free formula because I wrote to each of the companies directly and included a copy of the babies birth certificates. We also received a multiples discount on carseats and cribs that we purchased through a local baby store and parishioners from a local church brought meals twice a week for six weeks and cut our lawn.

I'm thinking...

That about covers it.

We weren't looking for hand outs and we weren't looking for support. Although, in hindsight, it would have been nice to have competent people come over and help feed our babies at night so that we could have slept more than 15 minutes at a stretch. I also wouldn't have turned down a year supply of free diapers, because with the money that we would have saved from diapering three little bums, we could have bought our own new house.

There is no question that Jon and Kate have their hands full. But whenever I saw that there are people that help fold and put away laundry every week, I was awestruck. Staying on top of laundry has got to be one of the greatest challenges I face, every day.

So what is the point of this post?

The only thing more difficult than triplets would be quintuplets or septuplets. It is my honest opinion that the challenges with an even number of high order multiples are less severe than those cases where there are an odd number - and not everyone has someone to play with.

I could easily handle four more kids if someone did my laundry every day.

And, I would love it if Charmin would like to sponsor us. Now that the triplets are almost completely out of diapers, our monthly expenditure on toilet paper is going to go through the roof.

At least until the kids learn that each time they use the potty they don't need to use an entire roll of paper.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

keeping the love alive

Charlie and I have a good marriage. We are good about talking to each other - we have like interests - and we share many of the same philosophies regarding work, career and home life.

When the triplets were born, and after I took off a year for maternity leave, I returned to work part-time. Because the thought of having someone come in and look after the babies made my throat dry and my eyes wet, Charlie reduced his schedule to part-time, also.

The decision that we would both work part-time wasn't something we had concocted while I was pregnant or during that year off. It was something that we came up with when our only other option was for me to quit my job. Which, I wasn't prepared to do for a plethora of reasons I'll write about some other time.

I've been on maternity leave since June 25 of last year.

I'm scheduled to return to work again, part-time, on May 1st.

I was supposed to return in October of 2007, but decided that I would opt for six months of leave without pay. I was then supposed to return to work on April 1st, but because I'd be required to attend a meeting out of state - the very next week - and my father and sister would be flying out to visit around the same time, I petitioned management to grant me another month off, which they graciously did.

Since I've been home, Charlie has dived in to a new job. He opened an office for a company in San Diego and is doing a stellar job. Whereas he once was home with me a large portion of the day, he is now in the office - working hard.

Since Charlie has been gone during the day, I have become the house master. Everything is done my way. A way that has slowly evolved to an exact science.

A way that is precise and accurate and if Charlie anyone messes it up, he they is are subject to the wrath. The wrath isn't a good thing. It's ugly and loud. It looks a lot like me, but with veins popping out of it's head and spit spewing on words.

Since Charlie has been working full-time, I've become more control-freakish about things in the house (and car and all things kid-related) then I ever have before. I feel like when things are where they are supposed to be and done when they are supposed to be, I am better prepared to have a day with flawless execution.

The last thing that I want is to be out somewhere and it gets chilly and I reach for the sweatshirts I packed for the children - only to find that they were removed from the car because of some asinine reason that makes absolutely no sense.

How! DARE! Anyone! Move! The! Sweatshirts! I! Packed! For! The! Children!

With all this time that I have been spending at home, running the show, I have become a lot more critical of Charlie. The poor guy can hardly do anything without me jumping down his throat or all over his back.

The night before I left for Florida, we were planning to have our Wills notarized and then grab dinner at a local restaurant. While I was meeting with the notary, I suggested that Charlie go buy a bottle of water - or some kind of drink - for the children. It was hot, they were thirsty and I wouldn't be finished up for another 10 or so minutes.

My husband left and returned 30 minutes later.

When I got in to the car, only slightly annoyed that he was gone for so long - especially when I still had packing to do - I became extremely annoyed when I saw that each of the children were holding 48-ounce cups full of lemonade from Wendy's. And when he told me that he had spent $8.00 on these drinks, there isn't an adjective in the English language to adequately characterize just how annoyed I became.

The kids were completely full on drinks. Charlie drove home while I chastised him from the passenger seat, and I wound up going to bed famished because I never did eat dinner. As I dozed off, I was thinking to myself "That'll show him! I'm hungry and it's all his fault!!"

Today, Carolyn and William didn't receive their morning dosage of amoxocillin.

I had asked Charlie to give William Tylenol. Somewhere in my mind, I was also thinking "Give him his amoxocillin, too." And if he was giving William his antibiotic, he should also give it to Carolyn. Because that's what I would do. I am perfect and extremely good at reading people's minds.

In retrospect, I didn't make it crystal clear that Charlie needed to give this particular medication to the children. But when I found out at 2 PM that the kids didn't receive their 7 AM dosage, I called my husband at work and threw out words like "Blinding incompetence."

If I had been on the other end of that conversation, I would have shot back words like "Unending bitchiness" but Charlie is far too respectful to say something like that.

Control issues.

It's all about control.

It's about wanting things to be done a certain way.

It's about wanting someone to drive the way I drive.

Clean the way I clean.

Discipline the way I discipline.

Shop the way I shop.

Fold the way I fold.

Spend money the way I spend money. Or not.

There are seven children in my family. Five of them are girls. Of those girls, three of them have been divorced. One of them twice. My mother has been divorced once, and my father has just completed his second divorce. One of my brothers has been with the same wonderful woman for the past - 25? years - they have three children together - and he won't get married because he is so jaded over the whole "nuptial" thing.

Even though divorce is common - and sometimes it is necessary - I strongly believe in marriage. I believe that in order for a marriage to work (or any relationship for that matter), there has to be - first and foremost - respect. There has to be time spent, everyday, talking to each other (as opposed to "at" each other), and there has to be common interests and laughter. There also has to be time for ones own self.

It can be very difficult at times.

It can become even more difficult when you have children. Whether there is one offspring, or twenty, marriage evolves in a way that you never imagined it would. There are new expectations and demands on each person when the couple-centered roll of "wife" and "husband" evolve to "mommy" and "daddy." Or, "Jenny" and "Charlie" as our children have taken to calling us.

Truth be told, I am apprehensive about returning to work part-time. I am apprehensive about the possibility of traveling on business, I am apprehensive about being gone from the children, I am apprehensive about Charlie's ability to do "this" everyday.

But I am also looking forward to the prospect of traveling on business and being gone, just a little bit, from the kids. Mostly, I am looking forward to sharing the responsibilities of running this house more equally with my husband, once again. I am looking forward to giving up some of this control, if only in my mind. I suspect it will be good for me, but even better for our marriage.

And if it isn't, I've heard good things about electric shock therapy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the sun is shining, the birds are chirping

Not wanting to repeat the tough day we had yesterday, I had everyone dressed and out of the house before they were fully awake this morning. Just the me and the four kids walked to a local park with the dog.

We brought a picnic lunch.

Elizabeth's baby carriage.

Curious George.

Two bunnies.

Two baby dolls.

Three balls.

The princess purse.

The potty chair.

William's baby panda that he carries everywhere with him.

And our kite.

If the children had their way, they would have brought the entire contents of our garage, instead of just the right side of it.

It's only recently dawned on me that the purpose of taking the kids to the park is so that THEY can burn off steam. Yet, usually, I'm the one running around and pushing them on the swings, spotting them on the monkey bars, and helping them climb the rope ladders. When we go home, I'm exhausted and they are pumped.

This photo was taken while I was laying on the ground holding the string of the kite and the kids tried to jump up and grab the tail. They were so tired after spending an hour at the park they were begging me to go home and sleep.

Now, that's what I'm talking about.

In case you're interested, the single line parafoil is one of the best kites I've ever found for children. There are no hard parts that can be broken - or lost - it folds up compactly in to a small bag for transport and it requires little wind. In fact if it's a calm day, just eat a can of beans and you should be set to go.

Charlie came home from work tonight and told me that he printed out vegan menus that he would like to try for the next two weeks. Apparently, he's been listening to NPR on his commute and one of the founders for PETA was interviewed, today.

I was a strict vegetarian for years. It was only when I met Charlie and he couldn't cook anything except barbecued chicken that I began to eat meat. Now, my husband (who eats meat at least once a day, everyday) is really upset about animal cruelty and is interested in embracing a healthier lifestyle, so he wants to cut out any and all animal products from our meals.

When he came home, he had a snack of prunes and sunflower seeds and declared that he feels completely satisfied. Then he added that since beer is made without animal products, this should be an easy transition. I'm interested to see how he holds up when I have a big bowl of double fudge brownie ice cream while watching American Idol tonight.

Something tells me he is going to crack like wheat when I'm savoring Dryer's and he is chomping on a rice cake.

the night of, the day after

Carolyn woke up from her nap less than an hour after I put her down. Her ears were really bothering her. She was tugging on them and crying. Henry then woke up crying because William - who woke up from his nap prematurely - thought it would be fun to launch stuffed animals in to his baby brother's crib.

Fortunately, I had the after hours appointment at 6:00 PM, because there was no way I could wait until Tuesday for Carolyn to be seen by our pediatrician. She has never had an ear infection before and I had a bad feeling this one was a doozy. Despite the pain medication I had been administering, she cried all afternoon.

At 5:00 PM, I began the process of loading everyone in to the car. By the time we arrived at the doctor's office - after a quick stop for petrol - it was exactly 6:00 PM.

Checking in, I noticed that we were the only people in the waiting area. As I gave the receptionist Carolyn's information, I was informed that her appointment was actually for 8:00 PM. Even though I was told that the appointment would be at 6:00 PM, the scheduler made a mistake.

I'm standing in the empty waiting room with a bawling Carolyn, William and Elizabeth who are both jockeying for my attention, and Henry who insists on being held.

I looked at the receptionist and laughingly said "April Fool's. Right??"

She smugly responded "No. Your appointment is in two hours."

I stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do and as I started to walk away from the desk, was suddenly more angry at a situation that didn't involve three-year-olds than I've been in a very long time.

I stepped back to the desk and said "Well. That's unacceptable. I tried to get an appointment with our pediatrician - or any pediatrician for that matter - this morning and after waiting for the better part of the day, was told that they had no space in their schedule. I sat on the phone for almost an hour to schedule this appointment and was confirmed for an appointment at 6:00 PM. And now, you're saying that there was a mistake and OOPS our appointment is in TWO hours?"

She gave me a blank stare before responding "That's what I'm saying."

Knowing that you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar, I tried again. "Here's the thing. I've got four children with me. Dinner and bath time is in an hour for these guys. If there is any way you could squeeze her in - she just needs to have her ears checked. It doesn't look like there is any one waiting. Please. I've got 10 pounds of unopened See's chocolate at home and it's yours if you want it. Please."

The receptionist let out a sigh and said that she'd check with the nurse.

Thirty seconds later she returned and informed me that they must adhere to the scheduled appointment times, out of respect for the other patients.

Those other patients who weren't there yet. Even though the doctor was. I could actually see him. Twiddling his thumbs in the back.

The receptionist stressed it again. "It's out of respect, you know."

Oh, RESPECT. After last week, I didn't think that anyone knew about RESPECT anymore.

While we were in Florida, I was ready to clobber a group of Spring Breakers who rushed in to the waiting area of a restaurant after us, as we put our names in, and grabbed all the available seats while Jim, an 84-year old man who just had a knee replacement, stood leaning against a wall. I'm certain none of them would have given up their seat if my mother hadn't spoken up and said something.

And then when I was walking through the rows and rows of cots at the DFW airport and was setting up our camp on the ground, not one person volunteered to give up their cot so that a woman with two small children wouldn't have to sleep on the floor. I wouldn't have accepted it - had it been offered - but I'm still in disbelief that no one came forward. Not even one of the 20-something year old guys that were headed to Cancun for a surfing trip.

If not for the after hours pediatrician that was respecting the time of the patients who had their appointments properly scheduled ... even though those patients weren't respecting the time of the doctor ... I'd be seriously wondering WHAT the world is coming to.

I left the doctor's office and tried calling Charlie from a pay phone (because I'm still cell-phone-less). Then, after feeding a ton of dimes in to the pay phone yet again, I called the patient help line for our health network and spoke to a representative regarding my "concerns" over the schedule mishap. Then, I loaded the kids back in to the car and we went out to eat.

Over dinner, William started grabbing his ears.

Fast forward.

Two double ear infections.

Although, with Carolyn it is speculated because there was so much wax build-up in her ears, the doctor couldn't even see her eardrums. He spent 30 minutes trying to aspirate her ears and clear out the wax before her screaming was so unbearable that I decided enough was enough. He hesitated writing a prescription and instead wanted for me to continue aspirating her ears and applying mineral oil for the next two days and then he'd check again. But ultimately, and with Carolyn's continued screaming, we convinced him that wasn't the best idea.

Charlie returned from Los Angeles tonight and he is sick. Henry and Elizabeth are both coughing. I was sick before I left for my trip, felt great while I was gone, and am sick again. I don't know if we're all in need of another vacation, or allergic to our home life.

Either way, I think it's time to strike up the band.

It feels like this ship is going down.

Monday, March 24, 2008

the day after

We colored Easter eggs today.

I boiled the eggs on Friday - put them in our outside refrigerator - and forgot about them until today, when I went looking for eggs to make pancakes and recalling that we had eggs - pulled out the carton - only to remember that they were hard boiled on Friday.

But because I have a mind like a sieve, didn't remember that I had already boiled them, until I tried to crack them and then for a brief moment, thought perhaps I had purchased a defective dozen.

So, we had oatmeal instead.

We didn't leave the house today. Normally, we do. Normally, I make it a priority to be out of the house as soon as humanly possible in the morning because otherwise the triplets have a way of making me ... how do I say? ... BATTY.

But today we didn't leave the house because Carolyn woke up complaining of an ear ache and I didn't want to leave until our pediatrician called to tell me whether or not there was any space in his schedule to squeeze her in for a quick appointment.

After waiting for four hours, the office called to tell me there wasn't.

During those four hours, while I watched my other three children succumb to what is surely the second plague of 2008 hit our home, we colored Easter eggs. And I was extremely thankful that we didn't complete this craft the day before Easter because the resulting bright green hands, that I couldn't get rid of with any amount of scrubbing, would have clashed with their outfits.

The whole act of coloring Easter eggs took me approximately two hours, when you factor the time it took to pick out the packet at the store, boil the eggs, get the whole ordeal set up in our backyard, and supervise children that tired of this activity in around four minutes.

Not included in that estimate is the time required for me to clean up the smashed eggs from all over the patio, table and children.

While we were still waiting for the doctor's office to call, my mind was reeling with what else we could do. I had a laundry list of things that needed to be done, including laundry - of course, and registering the kids online for some new classes at the YMCA and lining up a tour of a local Montessori school.

But every time I turned my back to do something - anything - I was chased by a crying, crawling Henry and the triplets would start to brawl.

Opening the back door, I shooed everyone outside and by the time it took me to walk 10 feet to the kitchen, they would be banging on the door to come back in.

Finally, I decided to go wash the car. It was covered in squashed bugs from Charlie's six-plus hour drive to pick me up last week in Palm Springs and was in dire need of some suds.

Filing the kids in to the garage - and loading Henry in to the stroller - I filled up a big bucket with soapy water and handed each child a sponge.

Before I got the hood washed off, Carolyn had broken out sidewalk chalk and was smearing it all over the wet driveway, Elizabeth was methodically removing food from the outside freezer and William was throwing tennis balls down our steep driveway and in to the street.

And Henry, who had been sitting in the stroller, began to scream.

The car was partially covered in soap.

I rounded everyone up with the threat that they not touching anything except car washing sponges and water, or they would go straight in to time out. I then gave Henry something new to play with and in what I estimated would be 30 seconds I had remaining before all hell broke loose, fired up the hose and started to spray the soap off the car.

William had to go potty.

But he wouldn't sit to go potty, because he was too busy. After watching him out of the corner of my eye do his jig, I put down the hose and helped him on to the outside potty chair. I then ran in to the house to grab some toilet paper and in the six seconds I was gone, could hear William and Carolyn start to fight. I ran back out to the garage and could see that Carolyn was trying to pry out of William's hands a bottle of Turtle Wax car wash. With William sitting down, she darted around the backside of the potty chair and shoved him so hard he flipped off.

Carolyn has turned in to a real brute. Because she is the largest of the group, she throws her weight around quite a bit. She will frequently push and shove her siblings and every so often, pin them until they cry. Last month, she had William in a headlock and held him underwater in the bathtub until Charlie realized what was happening and pulled her out, gave her a smack on the bum, and put her straight to bed.

As I'm running in to the garage with a roll of toilet paper, Henry is crying.

William is laying on the floor with Turtle Wax all over his hands and screaming.

Elizabeth opened a bag of frozen cranberries and has spilled them on the floor while Molly is running in circles and frantically eating them up.

Carolyn is holding what remains of the Turtle Wax and looking victorious.

The sensation I experienced felt a lot like the pictures I've seen of Krakatoa.

I exploded.

I was furious.

Furious that I cannot get one thing done in this house without the kids causing absolute havoc.

Furious that I cannot turn my back for less than 10 seconds with out there being a fight - an injury - pee spilled across the floor.

Furious that unless I have them out of the house every moment that they are awake, or, camp them in front of the television, they cause destruction at every turn.

Furious that although I work my fingers to the bone, it almost always looks like a bomb went off.

Furious that at 13 and a half years old, Molly is still a spaz.

Furious that I was allowing myself to be furious over three year olds and a deaf dog.

I was yelling and yelling and yelling some more.

I threw Carolyn in to her room - William in to his - pushed a pooping Molly outside - and brought Elizabeth and Henry in to the house.

I'm so glad for these children.

I really am glad that they are here.

But oh my GOD.

Someone told me last week, when we were stranded in Texas, that they couldn't imagine anything worse than being stuck in the airport.

I could.

It would be much worse to be in a heap of crumbled, smoldering metal on the ground - after having fallen 32,000 feet.

Or, it could be worse to be stuck at home with four sick children and a dog that has cranberry-induced diarrhea while my husband is on another business trip.

The good news:

Turtle Wax removes Easter egg dye.

Carolyn has an after hours pediatrician appointment at 6 PM.

And the trash truck came rolling down our street less than five minutes after I retrieved the small plastic bag that was full of Easter chocolate I had thrown out last night because I foolishly thought I wouldn't need it for my sanity.

Things are definitely looking up.

chocopalooza 2008

They searched ...

They found ...

They ate their body weight in chocolate.

It was incredibly convenient that the Easter Bunny included a toothbrush in everyone's basket (along with some bubbles and a new pair of sunglasses), considering each child had their teeth brushed FOUR times today.

Thankfully, we had the Easter egg hunt after church. Because following a breakfast of jelly beans, I think that the 25 pounds of chocolate they ingested for lunch would have made it nearly impossible for them to sit still in Sunday school.

Tomorrow and likely for the rest of this month, they will be eating only vegetables.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

an amazing trip trick: air travel with small children

(EDITED: with something hugely important - shown in red below. I can't believe I forgot to mention it!!)

Charlie and I first flew cross country with the triplets when they were 8-months old. We flew again cross country when they were 10-months old. Again when they were 17-months old, and again a few weeks after they turned two. This vacation to Florida with Elizabeth was her fifth cross-country plane trip. It was Henry's first plane trip. We had a great time, every step of the way. Even when we were stranded in the Dallas Fort Worth airport for almost 20 hours.

Here's why.

I didn't bring a lot of stuff that I had to lug around. My bags were light and I could easily access everything that I needed. We were completely sufficient and didn't run out of food - or entertainment.

I brought a few new toys for Elizabeth. Small things that were easy to pack, didn't contain very many parts, and she had never seen before. For instance, a princess coloring book with stickers and a pack of Crayola crayons (personally, I prefer the twistable type that don't break). I also brought her a travel Magna Doodle and a doll and pony set.

These items kept her happily occupied for much of our trip. They were secured in her own personal backpack and she spent just as much time playing with them - as she did taking them out and putting them pack in her satchel. If I was flying with the whole family - or would be on a longer trip without a change of planes - I definitely would have brought along a portable DVD so our kids could watch a movie and be entertained. (Actually, I probably would bring a laptop with a DVD player. Because then I could at least update my blog while I was on vacation...)

As soon as the novelty of her toys started to wear off, I pulled out various snacks ... crackers, fruit, chocolate. It's wise to purchase this stuff before you arrive at the airport. Because I ran out of time (and forgot), I had to make these purchases at the airport and wound up spending $1.50 (that would be A DOLLAR FIFTY) for an apple. Needless to say, I couldn't bear to throw it out and although it took five hours, Elizabeth ate the whole thing.

The only thing that you shouldn't bother to purchase outside of the airport, are drinks. These will be confiscated when you walk through the security line - so you're better off to make your beverage purchases before you board your plane. If you are bringing formula, you can either bring powder or, bring premixed with you. The first time we traveled we brought premixed formula for the triplets and they wouldn't drink it. The second time, I measured out the necessary amount of powder and added water when needed. This worked out much better because I brought less bottles (washed them in the restrooms) and it took up a lot less space.

Definitely make sure that you pack gum or are having your child eat/swallow when the plane is descending. I nursed Henry during take-off and landing, while Elizabeth happily smacked (for the first time in her life) on Bubble Gum. Charlie forgot to bring gum on his plane trip up north and William and Carolyn both screeched when the plane began it's descent because of their ears. And this is even though I specifically told him to NOT forget to pack gum. Thankfully, I don't nag too much and he'll only hear about this oversight two or three or twenty more times.

For Henry, I packed a few linkadoos, which he didn't even play with. He was more intrigued with the safety bulletin and air sick bag tucked in to the seat back pocket. And, of course, chatting it up with people who were sitting behind us.

I also didn't bother to bring baby food for him. Not only does it make a mess trying to feed an infant carrots or apple sauce on a plane, but baby's appetites when traveling are notably decreased. Instead, I brought along some Arrowroot cookies and similar snacks that are easy to dispense, and he could nibble on, himself.

In my carry-on bag, I packed a full change of clothes for each of the children, and a change of shirt for me. Even though we were going from one warm climate to another - I packed sweatshirts for everyone. Just in case we got cold - or - got stuck somewhere it might be cold.

I also packed a sufficient number of diapers >> or, approximately twice what I would expect to need in a single day. Because, as it turns out, you never know if you might get stranded and the last thing you want to do is run out of diapers.

I packed my small First Aid kit, because I never leave home with out it. When I'm traveling, I make sure that I've got a small bottle of Benadryl and Children's Tylenol or Motrin.

You might want to test the effect of Benadryl on a child if you intend to use it in an attempt for them to be drowsy. These days I carry it with me to use for motion sickness - or in case one of the kids has an allergic reaction.

The first time we used Benadryl on our triplets , in an attempt to have them sleep the whole flight, was when we flew from San Diego to Boston when they were 10-months old. We hadn't tried it out beforehand and they were completely wired. Even though they were on a two solid nap a day schedule, they didn't sleep the entire day. I don't think a straight IV of Mountain Dew would have hyped them up more than a 1/2 tsp of Benadryl.

I packed a simple receiving blanket that packs small and can be used to drape a nursing baby, or - can be used as a protector for seats or floors or even changing tables (if you use them), for diaper changes. Although I didn't have any one sitting next to me on three of the four legs of this journey, I did use the blanket to drape Henry's head when he was nursing. This is something I would not typically do, but because I was afraid I might doze off, if he dozed off, the last thing I wanted is to have him de-latch and have me sitting there with the nip exposed when people came walking back to use the bathroom. I'm sure I'd be snoring peacefully and that would be an awfully embarrassing sight - once I came to and realized my situation.

If I didn't have anyone sitting next to me, I changed Henry on the seat. If I did have someone sitting next to me - I didn't change him. Or, I would wait until we landed and could quickly change him on the floor - in a private area, tucked behind seats or a planter.

Maybe it's just coincidence, but in all the trips that I've taken with our children - never once have they had an offensive dirty diaper that must be changed. Typically, I change them before we get on the plane - and they are good to go until we change planes, or arrive at our final destination. Unless, they are soggy - and then I just change them on the plane, in the seat next to me. As for Elizabeth, even though she is fully day-potty-trained, I put her in a Pull-Up diaper for the entire day that we were traveling. As it turns out, this was an excellent move, because without fail - despite her using the restroom immediately before boarding, she would always inform me that she had to go potty as soon as the plane was taxiing out on the runway - or just as the plane was ascending or descending. And then again, once we got on the freeway and were in the car driving back to my mother's house. If your child doesn't have any accidents, great. But, it's better to have a small recently-potty-trained child wear a Pull-Up and not need it, then the other way around.

That's probably enough rambling about diaper changes.

But along that same vein ... literally ... I suggest that if you are traveling alone with an infant, you learn how to use the restroom with a baby suspended in a carrier.

Although I'm sure that fellow passengers would have been happy to hold Henry while I used the facilities, I like to have him with me at all times.

Especially if I haven't yet met my fellow passengers and would prefer that my introduction didn't consist of "Hi, can you please hold my baby while I go to the latrine?"

To use the restroom with a baby suspended in a carrier really isn't difficult. If you've never done this before, it's better to practice before you get on a plane and find yourself in a two foot by two foot cell cruising at 32,000 feet - where air pockets and turbulence are not unusual. It also helps to wear drawstring pants.

Back to the contents of my carry-on bag.

In the outer pocket, I keep things that I need to have easy accessibility to. Particularly, diaper wipes, snacks and a large Ziploc bag that I can use to collect trash. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is making a mess. I also cannot stand when other people make a mess and leave it behind.

We always pick up after ourselves.

Even when we're in restaurants and we're paying for people to do that for us. It's just something about my neurotic personality that I cannot leave an environment with food and wrappers on the floor.

I also have a small, over the neck purse, that I use to hold all of my necessary credit cards, cash and boarding passes. My wallet at home is rather bulky, so this is a perfect sized travel pouch that sits in my backpack when I'm not wearing it.

Our automobile insurance agent told us that a carseat, when checked, is liable to sustain the same amount of damage as a carseat that is in an automobile accident. Therefore, it is recommended that if you ever check your carseats as luggage - you replace it, before using it in a vehicle. Considering we have $300.00 Britax carseats for our kids >> replacing them every time we travel is highly unlikely. There are two solutions if you don't check your carseats.

One - rent or borrow them when you arrive at your destination.


Two - bring them on the plane.

If you bring your carseat on the plane, you have to purchase a seat for it. We have done this and I can easily say it was the biggest inconvenience you could possibly imagine. Hauling carseats on to the plane before everyone boards - getting them installed correctly - running back and bringing babies on the plane - only so that they won't sit in the carseats that you've been dragging through the airport and breaking your back to install is definitely not worth the inconvenience, in my humble like-to-keep-things-simple, opinion.

The only exception is if you are flying with infant triplets with only one other adult. Or infant twins, by yourself. In which case, I'd suggest that you bring one carseat for the baby that you cannot hold.

We purchased two seats for two carseats only once - and I think it was a waste of money because both Charlie and I wound up holding a baby the whole time, anyway. Even once they turned two and we had to purchase seats for the children, they still wound up sitting on our laps for the duration of the flight.

If you chose to check your carseat as luggage (which I did on this trip - even though I am only very slightly to not-concerned-at-all that the integrity of our carseats have been compromised), I recommend bringing a large (45 gallon) trash bag that you can put your carseat in before you check it. If you have access to a large canvas duffle bag that will hold the carseat, all the better. But if not, it's good to at least put your carseat in something to keep it clean. Otherwise, the chances are great that it will come out on the baggage carousel looking like it's been dragged through dirt.

Most airlines no longer supply bags to keep carseats protected, and like Pull-Ups for recently-potty-trained travelers, you're better off to bring one and find out that you don't need it - than the other way around. Actually, make sure you bring at least two 45 gallon bags per carseat. Because you'll need a new one for your trip home.

It's important to note that carseats do not count as checked luggage.

Although bringing carseats on board is difficult, I roll my stroller right up to the plane. It is always gate-checked and is waiting for me when we deplane.

If you are unable to remove the wheels for it to fit on the security conveyor belt for x-ray, it will be scanned by an agent. Again, in my humble like-to-keep-things-simple opinion, the single BOB stroller is the best single stroller on the market.

Not only can the wheels come off for it to fit on the security conveyor belt for x-ray, but, it can be used as a double when you load a second child on the sunshade.

This is the only way I could use the restroom without fear that Elizabeth would try to untie the shoes on the people in the stall next to us.

Because we live in San Diego, it is unusual that we can get direct flights to any of our east coast destinations. The one time we had a direct flight, it was an extremely long day and if I could have, I would have landed the plane just so we could stretch our legs and let the kids roam for a while.

I believe that a brief layover is a nice change of pace for everyone, especially if the amount of time spent in the air will be more than four hours.

As for us, until our children are a little older, I will intentionally book cross-country flights with one change of planes - that is at least an hour, but not more than three. Unless, we're flying red eye - or, internationally on longer flights. Of course the drawback of changing planes is the possibility that you're flight is delayed - or canceled. For me, it's a risk worth taking.

Where you sit on the plane is largely personal preference. When I'm traveling with small children, I like to sit in the far back. Even though there is more leg room in the bulk head seats, there are usually less people in the far back of the plane - so more likely room for you to spread out. Because most people like to sit towards the front, there is typically more over head space for your belongings and you are close to the restrooms.

Other back of the plane advantages ... it is louder because you are near or behind the jets, and the noise either helps to quell rambunctious children, or lull them to sleep. There is no rush to get off because you are at the back and have sufficient time to collect your belongings and exit. Also, if you need to get up and walk, you can do so with less impact on your fellow passengers.

And, in the off chance you have to make an emergency landing - there's a good chance you'll be the first one off.

Friday, March 21, 2008

our week in paradise

This trip that Elizabeth, Henry and I took to visit my mom and Jim in Jensen Beach, Florida - really couldn't have been more perfect. Well, maybe it could have if Henry slept more than an hour at night. After the second night, I just pulled him in to bed with me as soon as he would wake up - and he'd remain next to me (and the boob) until the sun came up. His fragile sleep schedule went to pot and naps in the stroller (with a pacifier, nonetheless) became our new normal.

Now that we are home, he is having an extremely difficult time transitioning back in to sleeping alone in his big, cold, devoid-of-boob, crib.

But that minor point aside, it was a fantastic trip.

Hutchinson Island has been my mother and Jim's home-away-from home for four months out of the year, for the past four years. They rent an ocean front condo and the first night that we arrived, Elizabeth was afraid to go out on the balcony because it sounded like the beach was crashing right below her.

Which, it was.

Of course, I was afraid for her to go out on the balcony because her head could cleanly fit through the railings and the thought of my baby tumbling seven stories made (and makes) me wobbly. Thankfully, she is more safety conscious now then she was when we first visited mom and Jim (with all three of the kids) two years ago. Charlie and I were a bundle of nerves the whole time we visited and insisted that the sliding glass door to the patio be closed and locked at all times.

As great as this vacation was for me, it was equally as great - if not more so - for Elizabeth.

There was no competition for toys.

Everything was there for her to play with.

And my mother went absolutely crazy spoiling her with gifts and all things delicious.

Although Elizabeth asked for Charlie almost daily and said that she missed her daddy, never once did she ask for Carolyn or William. According to Charlie, Carolyn and William didn't ask for Elizabeth, either. I think that everyone was having so much fun on their independent vacations, that they were afraid if they asked for their sibling - they might actually show up - and that would dilute the undivided attention that they were receiving.

And that, would be no good at all.

Charlie had an awesome time visiting his family in northern California, as well. They celebrated his dad's 80th birthday - and Charlie said that it was one of those trips that was so full of special moments, like breakfast with just his dad and two brothers, that he had to keep reminding himself "Don't ever forget this time."

Unfortunately, Charlie didn't bring a camera along on his trip ... but of course, I did.

All told, I snapped off 394 pictures in seven days. The last picture that I took, before the battery died, was the photo of the children laying on the floor of the DFW airport. If the battery had lasted just a little longer ... or if I'd thought to bring a spare ... I can guarantee I probably would have snapped off at least a hundred more while we were stranded.

I've whittled down the photos to these. But I believe they sum up our adventure, quite well.


When we arrived at mom and Jim's, around 11:30 PM on Tuesday night, my mother presented Elizabeth with a princess dress and accessories. This probably should have waited until morning, because she was up until almost 3:00 AM prancing around the house and singing "Bippity, Boppity, Boo!!"

She ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in her royal costume. She played tennis, bocce, and watched the pelicans being fed, wearing it, too. In fact, the only time she took off the ensemble was when she would be swimming in the pool or playing in the ocean. Even then, it required serious negotiation for her to remove the gown, shoes, gloves and crown.

There were plenty of beach walks and long days spent jumping and running and chasing waves at the beach.

We also spent a lot of time playing at the pool - and everyday, I profusely thanked Alex and Kathleen for sending us the full coverage bathing suits for the children. The sun was so intense and even though I was extremely careful with sunscreen, Elizabeth still managed to get a slight burn on her arms. In my opinion, this style bathing suit is a must have for anyone with small children that will be spending an extended amount of time outdoors in broad daylight.

I'll be purchasing one for Henry before summer rolls around, because although all of our children have Charlie's blood type, they didn't get their dad's beautiful olive complexion and instead, seem to have inherited my crisps-like-bacon-in-the-sun pale white skin.

It also appears that they inherited my family's propensity to eat large quantities of ice cream.

But for every ice cream cone we ate, we spent at least two minutes playing on or with exercise equipment.

Never once, though, did we take the stairs.

We did, however, take beautiful walks along the beach and watch the sun rise.

We caught a magnificent sun set, every evening.

And we did things that some people might take exception to. Like - sitting in hot tubs in our underwear and getting baths in the kitchen sink.

This trip was great on so many levels. It was great because we got to spend a week in an absolute paradise, it was great because we got a break from the crazy daily routine that is our life, it was great because Elizabeth made a new friend.

But mostly it was great because it had been seven months since my mother last saw Henry...

... and moments like these don't last forever.