Thursday, December 10, 2015

What Most People Don't Think About

When you have a child with any sort of special needs, there are things you have to think about that would never even cross your mind otherwise. Since becoming mommy to Charlie, I've found that I now think in a different way. The things I think about are different than other people.

For example, the other day we were driving down the road after dark. We were stopped at a light, and Charlie started pointing out the window and yelling excitedly, "Mom! A pumpkin!! Mom! Pumpkin!". I looked out the window to where he was pointing, and I searched for the pumpkin. But it's December, and there were no pumpkins in sight. Then I decided to try and see things from his point of view, so I squinted my eyes to blurr my vision and I looked around again. This time I noticed a building with three downward facing lights with orange-tinted bulbs in them. The orangey light that was cast down on the side of the building formed a sort of round ball. With my eyes squinted, I could see how that ball of orange light could look like a pumpkin. So I explained to him that it looked like a pumpkin from a distance, but it was actually just a light. If we had been able to get up close to the building, I would have taken him right up to it to look closely at it so that he could see what was making that shape.
Every single time he thinks he sees something from the car or out our window or on the TV, I have to try really hard to figure out what it is that he's looking at and what about it makes him think that he's seeing what he tells me he's seeing. Sometimes, like with the orange light and the pumpkin, I can figure it out. But I'm still learning to try and see things the way he does.

Other things that I think about on an almost daily basis:
Every day I try to come up with a new sensory experience for Charlie. Children with vision impairments generally have other heightened senses like hearing, touch, and taste. Because of that, Charlie has some sensory aversions. Playing in the corn-boxes during the fall, for example, is a nightmare for him. Also, if he falls down in grass, he won't use his hands to help himself up again because he refuses to touch the grass. Same with snow. He loves play-doh as long as I use it to form a road, and then he can drive his car on top of a road. But he won't actually touch the play-doh.
Everywhere I go I take an extra pair of sunglasses for him, a hat, and sunscreen.
Every time we get in the car I think about where we are driving and which direction the sun will be coming from. Then I try to position Charlie as far away from the sun as possible.
At every meal I pick out a bowl or plate for his food. And then I pick out a utensil. But I can't pick just any utensil, I pick out one in a color that contrasts the color of his plate or bowl. For example, if he has a green plate, I try to pick out a red spoon. I think this is more me being crazy than Charlie actually needing it, but if I pick a green spoon for his green bowl, I worry that he won't be able to see it. One day we were playing outside and I threw a green ball to him and it landed behind him on the green grass. He turned around and scanned the ground for a minute, and then he actually found the green ball! I know it's a really small thing, but that was a very proud mommy moment for me.
When we walk into a restaurant, or go to any new place, I check the lighting to see if I need to put darker sunglasses on Charlie or if there's a better location for him to sit or play.
Whenever we go on walks or to a new place, I try to remember to grab his cane.
While walking outside, I have to remind Charlie when we are approaching a curb, a bump, a drop off etc. Even changes in color or texture can throw him off in unfamiliar environments.
When Charlie asks where something is, I am having to retrain myself to not just point and say "over there". I need to say "it's by the toy box" or "under the chair". That also poses some more difficulties, since he doesn't understand most directional words yet. We are trying to teach him "under" "behind" "inside of" etc.
We have so many therapies, toddler groups, doctors appointments etc. to keep up with. I've had to resort to a much larger and more visible calendar to keep track of it all. He has therapy 3x a month; toddler group (with other visually impaired children his age) once a week; visits with the Geneticist every year, Ophthalmologist every 6 months, and the Dermatologist (for cancer screenings and eczema) every year.
I also have to think about not favoring him. Not that I love him any more than I love his sisters, because I don't, but I find myself wanting to go easier on him. Wanting to help him more than I help them. It takes a conscious effort on my part not to do that.
Then there's trying to figure out how to respond when people comment on his hair. Sometimes I just laugh and say, "He is very unique." Other times I mention that he has Albinism, which I nearly always have to follow up with "albino" for others to understand what I mean. Sometimes I just ignore the comments altogether. It depends on my mood and the situation.
Forrest and I also have regular conversations about how we can teach him everything we want him to know. Forrest wants him to learn karate or some sort of martial art, in addition to the basics of fighting so that he can be confident that he can defend himself if he needs to. I'm on board with that. We've also started a collection of books and movies about people who have overcome challenges to be successful. Some of the movies we've started with are Finding Nemo, Frozen (mostly because Elsa has white hair), Mulan, Meet the Robinsons, and Monsters University. Being a mom is a lot of work and a lot of pressure, but I feel some added pressure to teach Charlie that he can do anything he wants to do. He needs to know that there are ways to work around his impairment, and I am trying my hardest to give him all the tools he needs to be able to do that.
Additionally I think a lot about his future. Will he want to learn brail? What sports will he want to play? What if he chooses baseball? (I'm terrified that he will choose baseball, actually.) Will he be able to drive a car? (At his most recent eye appointment, his doctor said he thinks Charlie will be able to drive. YAY!!!)
I also think about ways we can develop his current talents and interests. Music in particular. I hope he will want to play an instrument, or sing, or do something musical.

I have learned so much since becoming Charlie's mom, and I'm so thankful for him and that my mind is expanding and growing in ways that I didn't even know it could. But as much as my mind grows for him, my heart grows infinitely more. There's something so special about Charlie, and I'm so grateful that he's mine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Things I Want to Remember

Charlie and Caroline refer to themselves as "me me"
They call all other children and toys "friends"
They are obsessed with the Magic School Bus
Charlie calls Juliet "Ju-et" or "JuJuJee"
Every morning we eat oatmeal with blueberries in it. Charlie and Caroline have this little battle that they do constantly throughout the day where one of them yells "Oatmeal blueys a night!" and the other one yells back "Oatmeal blueys a breakwast!" over and over again. I don't fully understand it but they think it's hilarious.
When care bear is cold she says "colder colder!"
When Charlie is cold he covers his eyes with his hands
Every time I pick up Juliet, she pats me twice on the back
Charlie's favorite food is macaroni and cheese. When I ask him what he wants to eat, regardless of what meal it is, he responds excitedly "Mac and cheese!"
Caroline was playing with a little M&M statue at her grandma's house. The M&M was in a recliner watching tv with a remote stuck in his hand. Care bear tried for at least 5 minutes to get that remote out of his hand, when finally she got so exasperated and she said to him in her most concerned voice "friend, me me need that remote!"
Charlie loves to tell me what color things are, and he loves to name things around our house. If he doesn't know the name for something he calls it "this" or "that" until I teach him what it's called. He is such an eager learner.
Juliet still sucks on those two middle fingers constantly
One day I took Caroline to the bathroom and left her in there to go potty while I was feeding Jules. She yelled in to me "mommy, all done, eee wipe!" (She prefaces lots of words with eee). I told her to wait because I was feeding her sister. Then she yelled to Charlie "Jawj, eee wipe!" (She calls him Jawj). I immediately jumped up and ran into the bathroom to see Care Bear leaning forward on the potty, Charlie standing next to her with a wad of toilet paper in his hand and trying to wipe her bum. 
Charlie calls me "momeem"
Every morning when Caroline sees Juliet she yells "Hi Sweet Pea!"
Juliet LOVES food in any form. When she sees food she grunts and won't take her eyes off of it until she gets some
Charlie had brought two remotes to the Wii upstairs. Caroline found them and said they needed to go back downstairs. I asked her if she would take them and she looked up at me and said, as serious as could be, "No mom, can't. Too heavy."
Char loves music. He's been able to sing the ABC's from start to finish for almost a year. He sings to himself constantly. His current favorite songs are "Jingle Bells," "Wheels on the Bus," "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam" and the Fire truck song.
Anytime Caroline sees a wrapped gift, she gets so excited and yells "Happy birthday to Care Bear!"

My favorite things about each of my children:
Charlie - he just LOVES. He dotes on Juliet, he adores Caroline, and he smothers Forrest and I with hugs and kisses constantly. He always wants to be holding my hand, and he's always my little pal. And my very most favorite thing about him is how much he loves to laugh. He always has! Rough-housing and being tickled are his all time favorite pass times. He has the most contagious laugh and people around him can't help but love him. He draws attention everywhere he goes, and I'm absolutely certain his face is in photographs in homes all over the world (foreigners seem to especially love him and beg to take his picture).
Caroline - She is just so happy. All of the time. When she wakes up from her naps and in the morning, she wraps her arms so tight around my neck and yells "Hi mom!" (She doesn't ever just say anything - it's always a yell.) She is so full of energy and just bursting with excitement about life. When she does something she likes, she yells "That so fun!" Even when she gets scared she giggles and says "That scare me!". She loves everyone and she loves life.
Juliet - My little Jules is the most content baby ever. She never makes a peep, she just crawls around and eats anything she can find on the floor. She is the easiest baby ever to get to sleep. She never cries when I lay her down and she just sticks her fingers in her mouth, rolls over onto her belly and falls right to sleep.
Oh how I love these little people of mine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bad Mom Days

Yesterday was one of those days. I spent way too much time on my phone, I didn't do any dishes or clean up after any meal. I let the TV babysit my children (or at least my one child who will actually sit and watch it.. but still, taking care of 2 kids is infinitely easier than taking care of 3). We all stayed in our pajamas and didn't even brush our teeth. I took a nap while my children were awake and playing near me, despite Charlie's best efforts to get me to play blocks with him. I attempted to make dinner but burned it to a crisp. When Forrest finally walked through the door at 7 PM and asked me how my day was, I felt ashamed. "I was a bad mom today," I told him. He assured me that I wasn't a bad mom and that I was doing the best that I could.
That night after the kids were in bed, I sat there thinking about that. About my bad mom day, and about how I was doing the best that I could. But that started bugging me. Was I really? Because seriously, if what I just described was "doing the best that I can" then my children are doomed. I do think that sometimes I (and maybe moms in general) hold myself to unreal expectations that my kids will be fully dressed and hair done by 9 AM, we will eat healthy and delicious meals 3 times a day (all prepared by me), our house will remain clean and our laundry will always be clean and put away, we watch minimal TV and we spend our day reading books, experiencing new sensory play, and learning our shapes, numbers, colors, and alphabet. Some days that happens, and it is usually my goal. But then there are just those days.
I feel like social media has influenced parenting, and particularly motherhood, immensely. So much sharing of so much good is wonderful, but it definitely plays a role in making mothers feel inadequate. It's not right, but it's only human to compare ourselves to others. When I have a bad mom day, I start comparing myself to Penny down the street who has 8 kids under the age of 5 and has a clean house and children who are dressed with hair done and who seem absolutely perfect. But then there's the other side to social media and it's influence on parenting. There's the side that says that "this is real life" in reference my bad mom day activities. It's the side that is trying to make us all feel better by telling us that it's unrealistic to have a clean house and happy children and healthy meals. And that it's ok to spend all day watching TV and scrolling through Facebook because motherhood is hard, and we all deserve a break. But it's not ok for me.
Me "doing the best that I can" means that I'm at least giving an effort. I know that I won't always live up to my perfect expectations, but I'm not ok with lowering my expectations so that I can meet them every day with minimal effort. My kids deserve better than that.
I know I'll still have bad mom days. And probably a lot more of them than I would like. But the important part is that that's not the norm. "Real life" to me is laughing with my kids, reading them stories and giving them kisses. It's watching them grow and learn and amaze me every single day. Bad mom days are a part of that life, but only a very small part.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My Name is Mommy

As I've gone through the various seasons of my life, I've found that my identity changes depending on what is important to me at any given time. Of course there are the constant core values that have always defined my innermost self, but my outward identity has varied over the years. As a child I was a tomboy. That tomboy grew into a teenager who identified herself as an athlete. After high school the athlete label followed me into college, where I ran on the university's track team. For so many years, that was who I was. I was a runner. An athlete. I practiced 5 or 6 days a week 8 months out of the year. My weekends were spent at track meets, my evenings in the weight room. When people asked me what my hobbies were, I easily responded that I ran track. My hobby was exercise.

And then everything changed. One week after graduating from college, I competed in my final track meet. There was so much suspense leading up to it and the meet itself was fantastic. I set new personal records, and our team did well. And then it was over. I cried, of course. Just like I'd cried in high school after my soccer team lost our semi-final match in penalty kicks, and I knew that was the last time I would ever really play soccer like that. I still play soccer occasionally, just like I still run, but it's not the same. It will never be the same again. And that makes me sad.

In the case of track, it didn't really hit me that it was over until a few months after the season ended. When all of my friends (and even my husband) were starting school again, but I wasn't. When my old teammates started practicing again, but I didn't. I'd get texts from friends saying things like "you are so lucky you didn't have to do those 800's with us today!" and I never thought I'd miss 800's. But in moments like that, I did. I quickly tired of staying home and watching TV, so I started volunteering at a local high school and soon got a job as the head soccer coach and assistant track coach. Coaching helped fill the void. When I'd go watch my old teammates at track meets, the fact that I was now coaching helped me not miss it so bad.

Coaching helped me find a new identity. I wasn't a college athlete anymore, my new name was Coach. And I loved it. When I got pregnant with the twins, I was sad to leave that title behind. But with the sad came so much excitement over my new name: Mommy.

I quickly realized that being a stay-at-home-mom is hard. Really, really hard, actually. But in the midst of the hard, is the overwhelming wonderful. There are times as a mom to my 3 little munchkins that I feel like I don't really know who I am. When people ask me what my hobbies are now, I don't know what to say. If I answered honestly, I would have to say my hobbies are watching Parenthood, Gilmore Girls and Psych during naptime. But somehow I don't think that's the answer they're looking for. I could also say my hobbies are changing diapers, making dinner, doing dishes, washing and folding pile after pile of laundry. But again, not the right answer. I used to like reading, crafting, hiking, and running. But who in the world honestly has time for all of those things when you are raising little children? Maybe superwoman does. I don't.

It can be so easy to lose my identity in the monotony of the everyday. But it's all about perspective. When I think of things from a more eternal point-of-view, I know there is nothing else I'd rather be doing. I wouldn't trade all of the reading, hiking, running, or underwater basket weaving in the world for this opportunity to raise my children. My new name is Mommy, and it's my favorite name yet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lessons in Parenting

Little M and Uncle Forrest
When I was newly married, we lived near one of my older sisters. She was the first of us to have any kids, and at the time that this story takes place she had a two-year-old daughter and a newborn little girl. She would come into town to do some shopping and if I wasn't in class or at track practice, I would tag along and play with the girls while she shopped. On one of these occasions, we were driving from one place to another. My sister was driving, I was in the passenger seat and the girls were, of course, in the back. Sweet little M, the two-year-old, was really upset about something and she was crying and kicking and screaming and crying. My sister asked her several times to relax, to which M finally got so exasperated that she threw her sippy cup in the direction of her mom. My sister immediately pulled the car over to the side of the road, opened her door, and marched around to the other side to talk to her daughter. I looked back at little M who's face was covered in tears. She looked absolutely terrified. I whispered to her "Uh oh, you're really in trouble now!" As my sister opened the door to talk to her tantrum-throwing, sobbing child, I fully expected her to get a swat on the bottom and a good talking to. But what my sister said and did that day is something I will never, ever forget. She climbed into the back seat next to her daughter, put her arms around her and gently said, "Little M, I love you so much. Will you please tell me what is wrong?" I don't remember what exactly it was that was upsetting M. Something small and silly to us, probably, but I do remember that after her mom acknowledged her and tried to resolve what was bothering her, there was far less crying and tantrum throwing for the remainder of the drive.

Now, 6 years later, I find myself in a position similar to my sister's all too often. Whether we are in the car, at home, or visiting some friends, it seems like somebody is always crying or upset about something. Though I'm not always successful, I try to repress my feelings of frustration and show instead my love and concern for my children as I try to help them overcome the challenge (however small and silly it may be) that they are facing.

I am so grateful for my sister and the example that she showed me that day. I hope that one day I can be half the mom that she is!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bandaids and Blessings

My little lady has been such a trooper the last two weeks. She is so brave. Her most recent surgery went very well (I actually feel strange calling it a surgery since it's only a pinky finger, but that's what the surgeon and hospital call it so we'll go with that) and she still has a pinky, fully formed. There was some concern that the fingernail wouldn't ever grow back because there was some significant damage done to the nail bed. The surgeon worked some magic though, and was able to reform it all quite successfully. We are so grateful and our prayers have been answered. 
After surgery Caroline came home with instructions to keep her left hand completely dry and if it got wet at all the "bandaid" as she calls it needed to be replaced. We did great at keeping it dry for the first little while. But trying to keep a rambunctious two year old out of water is really hard, particularly when you go on a beautiful family hike that ends at a waterfall and all her cousins are playing
in it. She "fell" in not three minutes after we arrived and soaked her bandaid through. Changing the bandage that night was a nightmare. She was overtired, in an unfamiliar environment, and probably in a little bit of pain. As I changed the bandage I tried my best to avoid looking at her finger. I get woozy that way. It was traumatic for everyone involved. 
Only a few days after that traumatic event, the new bandage fell off in the car. Apparently in my hurry to finish the awful affair I hadn't put it on very well. Care bear was in the car holding the bandage on her finger and crying "no touch!" "No touch a bandaid!" I was heartbroken as we had to explain that we had to again replace the bandage on her sore little finger. But we did it. This time Forrest sat on top of her and held her hand flat for me. And she miraculously did great. She whimpered and cried a little, but it was nothing like it had been the day before. And this time, I actually braved a good look at it. And I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't black. It was pink, all in one piece, and somewhat normal looking. Not covered in blood, not crooked. Just bruised with a funny looking finger nail. It was such a relief to see that.
That was last night. And then today during bath time, the silly girl bit a whole in the bag that I'd taped over her bandaid and it filled with water. She knew right away that we'd have to replace it again, and though I could tell she didn't want me to, she laid down and put her hand out and let me do it, all the while saying "a brave a finger." She didn't make a sound other than telling us how brave she was being. Again I got a good look at her finger, and so did she. I left the bandage off for a minute to dry and she practiced bending and straightening her finger and even dared to touch it. She didn't flinch when I touched it, and she hadn't even had any pain medicine all day. It was wonderful and left me feeling so much better about things. I know she has a long way to go until she's back to normal, but things are improving steadily and we are so grateful! 
As for the blessings, they are two-fold. First, we had a wonderful weekend visiting my sister and her sweet new baby girl as she was given a name and a blessing. It was so refreshing, exciting and relaxing to spend a weekend away from the world and visiting with family. We hiked, talked, visited and ate. It was the perfect weekend. And second, we have been so blessed and overwhelmed by the love and kindness that has been shown to our sweet little Care Bear over the last two weeks. Friends, family and complete strangers have sent gifts, cards, prayers, treats and love. We feel so blessed and so thankful. Thank you, all of you, for your kindness toward our family. We love you! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Operation: Save the Pinky

Yesterday started out like any other Wednesday. The kids woke up earlier than I would like, and we took our time eating breakfast and getting dressed and ready for the day. At 10 we went to the church for a toddler music class that the kids just love. We were about 10 minutes late, per the norm. Charlie and Caroline sang their little hearts out. They did the actions and had a grand time. At the end of the class we were all playing around and talking. Juliet was sitting at my feet and the twins were over playing behind the piano. And then they weren't. So I walked out the door to find them, and I heard her. Poor little Caroline was screaming at the top of her lungs. I wasn't too alarmed because that happens 10 times a day around our house, so I found her with some other kids in one of the rooms. And I saw that her poor little hand was stuck in the door. It must have been slammed shut on her. My heart broke (I thought) and I ran over and opened the door, expecting to see an angry and bruised purple finger. But I didn't. I saw gushes of blood. I saw the end of her little finger barely hanging on to the rest of her hand by some skin. Just writing about it is making me sick all over again.

I panicked. I froze. I couldn't even pick her up. Thankfully another superhero of a mom was in there and quickly rushed Care into the bathroom and wrapped her finger in paper towels. There was blood all over the floor. In my delirium I didn't even know what to do, so I started wiping the blood off the floor. That mom had the good sense to clue me in that we needed to get Caroline to a doctor right away. We grabbed the other kids and rushed to the car. It's a good think the finger was covered up because I couldn't have stomached looking at it again. Once again, in my delirium, I thought it would be a good idea to take her to Urgent Care. They took one look and sent us to the nearest ER.

The same awesome friend who had helped Caroline at the church and driven us to the hospital took Juliet and Charlie home with her. Did I mention she's 9 months pregnant and has a 2 year old son, too? Rockstar friend right there. Forrest met us (me and Caroline, and my sister and nephew) at the ER. By the time we got in and saw a doctor, it had been about 45 minutes. All the while we were in the car and at the Urgent Care, Caroline was shaking and sobbing. "A sting!" "A finger, a door, a ouchie!" and I was trying to keep it together. Once we got to the ER though the immediate shock must have worn off and she was just somber. No tears. No shaking. Just being little and brave. When the doctor examined her finger, he immediately started discussing the likelihood of amputation. That shook me a little. I hadn't even considered the possibility that she would lose part of her finger. They finally got her some pain killer, did some x-rays, and then moved us to a room where they would attempt to reattach the end of her tiny little pinky finger.

When they started the surgery I had to step out. My mom was there with me and she walked the halls with me while we waited. They had given Caroline some anesthetic but she was still pretty awake and when they started hooking her up to machines she was crying "mommy! Mommy!" I couldn't handle it. Forrest stayed by her side the entire time as they stitched her back together. As I waited I had to keep reminding myself that it is just a finger. Even if she loses it, it's just a finger. But the thought of my baby girl being in so much pain just wrenched my heart out.

Once they finished, the doctor said it had come back together well and he was hopeful that she might be able to keep her finger. He gave it a 50% chance of success. We go next week to see a hand surgeon (who knew there was such a thing?!) and he should be able to tell us whether or not it will need to be amputated. My sweet little Care Bear was such a trooper through all of it, and she still is. As she was waking up from the anesthesia, I got to just sit on the hospital bed and hold her in my arms. Despite the trauma of the day, sitting there and holding my sweet sleeping little girl was a beautiful moment filled with peace.

When she woke up this morning she looked at the cast on her hand and said "A finger, a door, a ouchie" again. Besides the constant pain killers and antibiotics, though, she's been completely normal (albeit a little bit sad that she can't carry anything in her left hand for the time being). So now we just wait. Wait and pray that her tiny little pinky finger will heal and not cause her any lasting pain. If ever there was a time to just sit and watch movies all day, this is it.

In times like these I am always blown away and extremely humbled by the amount of love that others show to us. Friends and family that come to visit, bring meals and gifts to the hospital and to our home, take care of the other kids for us and offer countless prayers in our little Caroline's behalf. I'm so grateful. She is one loved little girl!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Veggie Time

I am so super grateful that the twins aren't picky eaters. Of course they have their favorite foods and I have to bribe them with applesauce to get them to finish their dinner, but all in all they do pretty well. Charlie is a bit more resistant to vegetables than I would like, though, and Caroline is a bit of a treat-aholic. So I've been trying a few strategies lately to get them to eat more veggies and I've found a few that have worked really well for us!
  1. Cook veggies into rice. My kids LOVE rice. Especially Char. So a couple of times a week I pull out every vegetable in my fridge, chop them up, sauté them in olive oil then add some rice and chicken broth and bake it until it's soft. Usually it ends up that the veggie to rice ratio is about 3-1, seriously packed with some vegetable goodness. And the kids gobble it up! Charlie averages about 3 bowls of rice each time I make it. I can throw any veggie into it that he would normally gag on and he downs it anyway. Some of my favorite add-ins are squash, mushrooms, celery, eggplant, tomatoes, and carrots. But really, anything goes and it's always delish.
  2. Cut out pre-dinner snacks. While I'm making dinner, the kids are usually running around destroying the house, sitting on the baby, or pulling one another's hair. One way I used to help tame the madness was to give them applesauce, crackers, goldfish etc. to keep them occupied while I cooked. And then, surprise! They weren't hungry for dinner. At least not hungry enough to eat the vegetables on their plate. Now, I try to offer them bites of the veggies I am cutting up and using for our meal. Surprisingly, I have found that they love raw potato, zucchini, and cucumber. I don't mind letting them snack before dinner if it's on vegetables that are going to be on their plate anyway!
  3. Serve the vegetables first. I used to try to put everything on their plate at once and cross my fingers and hope that they would eat their vegetables. Usually, though, they go right for the fruit, grains and dairy (and sometimes the meat) and the veggies get thrown on the ground. When they haven't snacked before dinner, though, and sit down super hungry, it's the perfect time to throw a plate filled with colorful and delicious vegetables down in front of them. The clean their plates nearly every time. Success!
  4. If I don't get the vegetables to them before the rest of the meal, then they have started responding well to bribery, as I mentioned before. Not bribing with sweets or candy or cake or anything, but bribing with something that I'm ok with them eating more of. Example: the other day we had a fruit salad with our dinner. I put everything on their plate, and they ate the fruit salad first, followed by the rest of the meal but leaving some vegetables on their plate. When they inevitably ask for more fruit, it has worked well for us to say "You can definitely have more fruit, you just have to finish your vegetables first." It took a few tries to make it work. Usually Charlie is super eager and so he finishes his vegetables and gets more fruit right away, and Caroline looks longingly at the fruit before finally deciding it's worth eating the vegetables for. We have had so much less food wasted with this tactic!
Clearly I'm no expert. But this is what has been working for us lately. And as an added bonus, when I'm focused on making sure my kids get plenty of vegetables, I eat more too! Anybody want to share any other secrets to getting toddlers to eat more vegetables?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

So long, 7:00 bedtime.

Charlie started climbing out of his crib when he was 17 months old. He didn't just climb out once and then not do it again, like a lot of kids do. Once he figured out he could escape there was no keeping him in. So we promptly took the bottom out of his crib and put his mattress flat on the ground to buy us a few more inches and a little more time. That worked for a couple of months until he figured out that he could tip his entire crib over and use the slats as monkey-bars. By the time he had that down, Caroline had finally gotten brave enough to climb out of her crib on a consistent basis. They were about 20 months old at this point. So we heeded the advice of some friends with much older twins and turned their cribs upside down on top of them like cages. At naptime and bedtime we would lift one side of the crib up off the ground, they would get on hands and knees and climb right in. It wasn't a perfect solution but it at least kept the madness contained to their cages. That lasted until just before they turned 2.

One day we had the brilliant idea to try out toddler beds. Sheer genius, I tell you (insert eye roll here). The first night we were completely shocked that they actually stayed in their beds. I thought it was going to be perfect and wonderful and way better than cages. I couldn't have been more wrong! It didn't take long for them to start getting out of bed. And pull every single article of clothing out of their drawers. And try on every single sock and every single shoe. And try fit six bowties around their waist at a time. Every time I entered their room, there was no floor to be seen.

But at least the mess was contained. Their room only. I could live with that. And then they figured out how to open doors. The dreaded day of days. I woke up at 4:30 AM with a tiny little finger (not mine) stuck up my nose. Good thing I had doorknob covers in stock and ready to pull out when needed. It took Charlie less that a day to figure out how to break them off the doorknobs (on Caroline's bidding, probably. I always say she is the brains and he is the muscle). For over a week they woke up between 4:30 and 5:30 AM. If there is one good thing about that, though, it is that it made me really appreciate their standard 7:30 AM wakeup time, which I used to think was far too early for little humans to be up and roaming around.

We passed the super early wake-up phase, thank heavens. And now we are stuck in the "never going to sleep" era. Oh how I miss those days of putting them down at 7:00 and knowing they would be asleep before long. I used to really look forward to bedtime. And now I dread it. Dread with a capital D. Caroline wants the light on so she can read. Charlie hates the light on but wants the door open with the hall light on. Caroline doesn't like the door open and keeps getting up to shut it. Charlie wants his bear to sit up next to him in bed but his bear keeps falling over, because it's stuffed and stuffed bears don't sit up very well. And when stuffed bears don't sit up very well, that's cause for many many tears in our house. Caroline demands that every single book in sight be on her bed. But then she can't lay down because the books are taking up the entire surface area of her bed. And heaven forbid you take the books out of the room. She NEEDS her books. If there is even a single book on top of the dresser, you'd better believe she will be found standing in one of the drawers trying to climb onto the top of the dresser to get it down and safely into her bed with the other books. Charlie has at least eight blue blankies. And try as I might to hide all but one or two of them in the dresser, he goes to bed with a couple of them and cries and cries that he needs "mo' blankies." He would steal Caroline's in a heart beat if she'd let him.

You get the gist. Lots of tears and bedtime. And when there aren't tears, there are giggles. I love giggles. But giggles are now an indication that somebody is out of bed and running around the room with a bare bum and yelling "nakey nakey!". How do you even get mad about that? Especially when accompanying the bare bum are a pair of blue dinosaur rain boots and the cutest little head of white hair you've ever seen?

Long story short, our 7:00 bedtime has turned into 7:00 bedtime that doesn't actually end until 9:30. I'm not too hopeful that it will get better anytime soon!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The New Routine

I was reading back through some old blog posts and I came across this post about our daily routine when the twins were Juliet's age. I laughed out loud at how different life is now, and how much crazy has come into our lives. Here's a little look at what I'm talking about, a peek into our average every-day kind of a day:

7 AM - twins wake up, climb on top of the dresser, pull out every article of clothing in any drawer in their room, empty the trash can and laundry basket, undress themselves and attempt to re-dress themselves in swimming suits and rain boots, and spread lotion all over every available surface
7:15 - I finally realize they are awake and walk in to find what appears to be the aftermath of Hurricane Charlie and Caroline
7:16 - rush to the potty and sing "The Wheels on the Bus" for what already feels like the 57th time that day
7:20 - go rescue Juliet from her crib moments before Charlie crashes in on top of her, and remind myself that I need to put a child-proof door knob cover on her door
7:30 - make oatmeal and toast for the twins, strap them in their seats with their milk, breakfast, and "treats" (which are actually vitamins. I've conned them into thinking they are a treat.), and then sit down to feed Juliet
7:45 - clean up the kitchen which was spotless before breakfast and is somehow now coated in a layer of oatmeal, and grab myself something to eat, also intermittently interfering in Charlie's attempts to lay on top of Juliet (confession - sometimes I let him do it if it doesn't appear to be bothering her. I have to pick my battles)
8:00 - put Juliet back in bed. Brush kids teeth (this involves me pinning them to the ground and holding their head in-between my knees. Caroline's tears usually make a brief appearance.), do hair, use the potty again, and get dressed for the day. Sounds simple, but it takes a certain amount of finesse to get Caroline to allow me to touch her hair and get it done in the brief moments of light that Charlie's obsession with flipping the bathroom lights on and off allows me. Also taking care to keep the water faucet pointed toward "cold" so that Charlie doesn't burn himself when he gets bored with the lights and moves to turning the water on and off
8:15 - mop up the bathroom counters and floors from all of the water that somehow made its way out of the sink and onto everything else
8:20 - go into my bedroom and attempt to get dressed. If I'm super lucky, I might get to use the bathroom privately, and might get a bonus of brushing my teeth, putting my contacts in, or maybe even putting on makeup (ha! not likely). Meanwhile, my room now looks like it too was hit by Hurricane Char and Care.
8:30 - head down in the basement, our most kid-proof area in the house, and play. We work on puzzles, peg boards, and mega blocks. We play pretend with dolls and little people and throw balls at each other. The kids climb over the back of the couch and play peek-a-boo with each other. At some point I go and get Juju, feed her, and add her to the madness.
Noon - finally lunch time. Head upstairs, and I make one of three meals: grilled cheese, cheese quesadilla, or macaroni and cheese (somebody loves cheese a little too much..) Eat, potty, and then the most glorious time of all is here.
1 PM - Nap time!! Hallelujah. Caroline goes in her bed in her room. Charlie goes in Juliet's crib. Juliet goes in the pack n play in my room. Put them all down then sit in the hallway watching the monitors like a hawk. Go put Charlie back in the crib at least 4 times. Take Caroline to the potty once or twice more. Then finally, heaven-sent silence. If I'm lucky I get 2.5 hours of beautiful wonderful naptime. Enter the debate: nap? Clean up after hurricanes? Work on a project? Watch TV? The possibilities are endless, and yet somehow I find myself spending at least 15 of those precious naptime minutes sitting in the bathroom scrolling through my Facebook news feed. So lame.
3:30 - twins wake up from nap. Same sequence occurs as when they wake up in the morning, only this time they are in two separate rooms so Juilet's room now gets the hurricane treatment as well. I swear they get out of bed silently and destroy without making a peep.
4:00 - try to start some kind of a dinner, all while protecting Juju from her siblings and protecting the twins from hurting themselves. Charlie inevitably bring his bike over to the stove and tries to use it as a stool to get up and help me cook. Caroline digs into the drawer and pulls out two oven mitts and tries to open the hot oven saying "help you mommy!". I constantly remind myself to keep the knives away from the edges of the countertops, in the sink, or basically anywhere except for the top of the refrigerator.
5:30 - dinner. Convince the twins that they can have a "treat" (treat this time meaning applesauce, yogurt, or Almonds..) if they finish their dinner. Charlie finishes first every single time and gets his treat. Caroline cries that she doesn't get her treat yet, then finally after many tears decides it worth eating her dinner for.
6:30 - twins bath, brush teeth, potty, go on horsey rides, read scriptures, say prayers, tickle their guts out and then sing lots and lots of songs. And read lots of stories. And then some more.
7:00 - lights out, door shut, and hope they stay in bed. Sit by the door and listen to their conversations.
Charlie - Gramma!
Caroline - No! No gramma. Night night.
Char - Outside!
Care - No! No outside. Night night.
Char - Jumping jellybean!
Care - No! No jumping jellybean. Night night.
She loves her sleep, and she also loves telling Charlie no.
7:30 - Juliet bath (on the good days), feed her, and put her in bed.
And then party because all 3 kids are in bed and asleep before 8:00. Do some laundry, sleep, and repeat. That's how we roll.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Turning Two

I'm in denial. I have been for quite some time, actually. As of Monday, my babies are two. A little over two years ago I was a whale. I was so swollen I could barely fit flip flops on my feet. I turned heads everywhere I went. I slept in a chair, surrounded by 20+ pillows. I ate a watermelon a day (seriously. I lived on watermelon). And then at 6:22 and 6:28 PM on August 10, my life changed forever.

Suddenly it wasn't about me anymore. I didn't matter how swollen or uncomfortable I was, or how often I had to pee. I was consumed with love for two little tiny humans, and I spent every waking moment (which was about 23 1/2 hours per day for the first 5 weeks) worried about whether they had enough to eat, were warm enough, and had a clean diaper.

And now I still worry about them constantly. Just about different things. I worry about them breaking every bone in their tiny bodies when they fly kamikaze off of the couch and onto the floor. I worry about them being nice to other kids and others being nice to them. I worry about them getting cavities and eating a balanced diet. And every day I love them in a whole new way. Every day they make me laugh and burst with pride and want to pull my hair out (usually all within a matter of 4 minutes).

The last few months have been full of changes for my little people. Milestones. Transition to toddler beds. Potty training at 20 and 23 months. Moving from clothing sizes that end in "months" to ones that end in "T". Talking up a storm and communicating their emotions so well. They've handled the transitions like champs. Yet another sign that they are growing up. And as exciting as it is to see them grow and change and learn, it's also heart wrenching because I just want them to stay little forever.

Potty Training Tales: What They Don't Tell You

If I've talked about potty training too much lately it's because I've basically been consumed by it for the last 4 months. But now, I am proud to say that I only have 1 child in diapers. Woot woot! Prior to starting the toilet training process, I was terrified. I'd heard horror stories of walls, clothes, floors and hands covered in pee and other unpleasant bodily excretions. Like I said, absolutely frightening.

So I approached the potty training process with caution and solely out of desperation to stop the poop-flinging fiascos that I spoke of in my last post.

But as I started potty training, I was surprised by my experience. I expected disaster: screaming, crying and lots of cleaning. And there was some of that. But what I noticed most was excitement. Pride and satisfaction. Nobody told me how FUN potty training could be! That's right, I just used the words "fun" and "potty training" in the same sentence. Seeing those big smiles and proud faces when they were successful.. now that is rewarding. Singing happy songs and clapping and handing out treats. Hearing their cute tiny voices call out "potty!" when they're in their beds because they know it will get them out. All in all I'd say our experience with potty training was really positive!

And yet there is another thing they don't tell you about potty training. At first it's harder. You get all excited thinking you don't have to change diapers anymore, which IS really exciting. But then you realize that leaving the house is nearly impossible. You have to time it so that you leave immediately after they "go" and even then you pack extra undies and pants just in case. You carry a folding potty with you everywhere you go just in case. And then there are the times that they forget to tell you they need to go and they have an accident. So you make a habit of putting them on the potty every hour to try to minimize those accidents. And then you realize that you are sitting reading books to kids on the potty for what feels like half of every day, whereas a diaper change only takes 37 seconds.

But that hard phase doesn't last too long. A few months maybe. And then life is good. Much cleaner. And it costs WAY less! And immediately after you high-five yourself for successfully teaching your child to use the potty, you find yourself in tears over the fact that they are growing up much too quickly.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Double Diaper Trouble

If I've been a little absent lately, it's because I've been cleaning up poop. Not even kidding. I should warn you that this post will include a lot of talk about poop and other unpleasant bodily functions. Not mine, thankfully, but disgusting none the less.

I don't know what kind of a special affinity my children have for pooping on me, but they've had it since they were newborn. All three of them. And I'm not just talking blowouts or diaper explosions, I mean like pooping all over my leg in the middle of a diaper change, or pooping on me when I pick them up to put them in the tub. I've been pooped on more times than I can count. But little exclusively-breastfed-baby-poop isn't so bad. It cleans up pretty easily and doesn't smell awful. But the bigger they get, the worse it gets.

The twins were about 15 months old when they (and by they, I mean Caroline) learned how to take off their diapers. That's the way it works around here. One figures out how to do it and does it over and over again until the other learns how. So when they say "double trouble" for twins, they really should say quadruple trouble. Because not only are there two children with their own ideas of how to get into trouble, but they are each learning from and copying the other's trouble-making skills. Learning to un-diaper themselves was one of those nasty, awful, no good trouble-making skills. And they both mastered it very early on. I think it's payback for laughing about one of my besties' babies learning to un-diaper before her mom was ready to go through potty training. I had no idea.

When they started un-diapering, I was pretty big pregnant with Juliet. I wanted to potty train, but I knew it was a bit early and frankly I just didn't have the energy to do it. So I opted for duct tape instead. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. I got to where I would go around the entire circumference of the diaper around their waist two times with a strip of duct tape. But even then they would somehow weasel themselves out of it.

They got into a really awful habit of taking their diapers off in the middle of the night. So then they would wake up sopping wet. And on some very unfortunate mornings, I would walk in to the awful stench of tiny human poop spread all over their sheets. And their hair. And their crib slats. And under their fingernails. And sometimes (I shudder even to think it) even smeared around their mouths. Gag. Cut to me rinsing out pajamas and sheets in the toilet, wiping my babies down with wet wipes and spraying them off (from a distance) in the shower. I seriously think I deserve a medal for the amount of poop I've had to clean up in my less than two year stint as a mother.

After Juliet arrived, I decided it was time to potty train. I committed myself to three entire days and nights diaper-free. Day 1 was awful. I think we maybe had one success. The entire day. Potty training two little bums at the same time is a lot harder than I expected. It seemed like each time one was sitting on the potty, the other had an accident. And trying to put two little bums on the potty every 20 minutes while also breastfeeding a newborn and trying to maintain peace and cleanliness in our home is no small task.

Day 2 was better. After I caught her mid-pee and stuck her on the potty to finish, Caroline seemed to get the hang of it. Charlie would pee on the potty but had a hard time going #2. By day 3 Caroline had it down and rarely had accidents after that. Charlie, not so much. He went back into diapers on day 4. That was about 2 months ago when the twins were 20 months old. Caroline still does really well for the most part. I still take extra undies and pants with us everywhere we go, and I still wash her sheets nearly every morning because she wets the bed, but I consider here successfully potty trained.

Charlie still rips his diaper off nearly every night. I've given up on duct tape because it's a pain in the rear and it doesn't work half the time anyway. So every morning when I go into their room I cross my fingers that it's only a wet diaper I have to deal with. The finger crossing works exactly 67% of the time. The other 33% of the time I'm not so lucky. And each time, the award that I think I deserve gets bigger and bigger.

I'm almost out of size 4 diapers. When I run out, I have sworn that I will never put another diaper on that boy. I figure I'm cleaning up his poop anyway, so I may as well be doing it in the name of potty training. Heaven help me!

And with that, I hereby promise I will never talk about poop this much ever again. The end.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Stepping Up

Lately I've been feeling like I'm in survival mode (again. See my previous experience here). Though I guess when you have three kids under two, the only mode is survival mode. We're lucky if any of us are dressed before 10 AM. I finally gave the baby a bath today after a week and a half of baby grime started to smell. I have however nearly completed a 1000 piece puzzle and watched far too many episodes of MASH. Survival at it's finest.

So here I was going along thinking life was hard. And then I was looking through my journal and I came across a talk I had written for church 10+ years ago about my paternal grandparents. They were absolutely incredible people. And if I thought my life was hard - wow. My grandmother was absolutely stunning. Just gorgeous. I'm sure she had scores of boys chasing after her, but she fell for my grandpa, who was pretty good-looking himself. They married young, and at age 16 my grandmother was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis. I can't imagine getting that diagnoses at all, let alone at such a young age. Despite her crippled hands, she faithfully raised six children (5 of whom were boys, and after my brief experience raising a boy, I have some major respect for her). When my grandpa was 52, he broke his neck in a tragic accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. I hadn't been born yet, and so I never knew my grandpa without his wheelchair. Even so, he was the strongest man I have ever known. I vividly remember his hands. As worn and crippled as my grandmother's were, his were large and strong. When my grandma struggled to open cans or brush her hair, grandpa's hands were there to fill in the gaps.

Grandpa loved to garden. They planted their rows of fruits and vegetables far apart so that grandpa's wheelchair could fit in between. I remember going out with him and he'd let me pick fresh strawberries and eat them right there. That was heaven to little four-year-old me. Even as a very little girl, I was awed and amazed by my grandparents. There was never anything they couldn't do together. Grandpa was particularly fond of a story told by Elder Boyd K. Packer, titled "Equally Yoked Together." It's a story of two small, skinny looking oxen defeating a pair of much larger and much stronger oxen in a pulling contest. While the large, strong animals lacked coordination, the smaller team had great teamwork and pulled together at the same time. My grandparents' legacy has become being equally yoked and pulling together. When I think of their lives and trials, it is clear that it would have been much simpler for them to just survive. To forget going to church or gardening or hosting big family get-togethers. But they didn't just survive. Despite their incredible challenges, they thrived. And they were able to do it because they were equally yoked.

Recently I attended a graduation where the speaker re-told a familiar story of a mule who falls into the well. The farmer, instead of trying to lift the mule out, decides to bury him inside of the well. The mule becomes determined to conquer his challenge by telling himself that with every shovel full of dirt that falls, he will shake it off and step up. Eventually, by moving the dirt underneath himself instead of letting it remain on top of him, he finds his way to freedom. What could have buried and killed him ended up liberating him instead, all because of his attitude and determination to keep going.

The story of the mule and my memories of my grandparents have made me determined to do more than just survive. Sure, life is hard. Sure I have three very young children that require a lot (ok, ALL) of my time and attention. But that doesn't mean I have to let the rest of my life fall to shambles. Life is what we make of it. It will never be perfect or easy or trial-free. I don't want to spend every single day waiting for it to end. Life is good and we have so much to LIVE for! Not just to survive for.

So my goal is no more survival mode. Living life to it's fullest every day. Laughing instead of crying, and finding joy in the journey.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's About Time

It's been a rough month. Juliet is a perfect little angel, thank goodness. She NEVER cries, she sleeps 10-12 hours at night, and she naps most of the day. Sometimes I forget I have a third child because she's so quiet. Caroline is funny and spunky and a little crazy, but she is a people pleaser and she loves helping me with the baby, throwing away diapers, cleaning up toys etc. But she is also newly potty trained. Potty training her was a piece of cake, actually, but now that she is potty trained we have to plan our day around when she needs to use the restroom. But still, Caroline's pretty easy to handle. Charlie, on the other hand, is hitting a rough stage. He was doing so well with potty training, and then he got really sick and now he wants nothing to do with the toilet. Actually that's a lie, he's fascinated with flushing the toilet and climbing on top of it. Just not sitting on it. So he's back in diapers, which is fine. He's not even 2 yet. I'm afraid, though, that he's entering the "terrible two's" much sooner than I had anticipated. He's mastering the art of tantrum throwing with incredible skill. He's not sleeping quite as well as he used to, so it seems like he's always tired, and he only ever wants ME. On rare occasions he's clingy to Forrest, but he almost exclusively only wants Mommy. It's completely exhausting.

And then you put Charlie and Caroline together.. and sometimes I consider it quite a miracle that we are all still alive. My daily dialogue goes something like this:

Get down!
Be soft with the baby.
Don't play in the toilet.
Please get off the dresser.
Don't climb over the back of the couch.
Could you put all of the spoons back in the drawer?
Don't throw food.
Charlie let go of her hair!
Caroline don't bite!
Where are your glasses?
Do you need to go potty?
Get down!
Don't climb on the counter.
Where did you get those scissors?
What is all over your face?
Why is the floor all wet?
No, we can't go outside, it's raining.
Hopefully daddy will be home soon.
Please stay in your crib.
Don't push buttons.
Get down!

Just imagine all of that being repeated 1,000 times per day. Meanwhile the twins' dialogue:

Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. 
Oh no.
Ooh a puppy!
Bird! Tweet tweet.
Toot toot!
Slow feet... Quick feet!
A B C...
Mommy? Mom. Mom. Mommy!
Daddy work.
A baby! Hi JuJu.
I love you.
Apple! Nana! Snack!
Dressed? Tubby?
Brush teeth.
Ouchie! Hair!
Ouchie! Bite!
(Mischievous giggling as they move chairs to the counter and climb up before I can catch them)
No no no.
Roar! Woof! Meow! Moo! Monkey!

They are hilarious. But I think they could quite easily keep 5 adults hopping. I absolutely cannot keep them off the kitchen counter. I've occasionally had to resort to drastic measures to keep them safe. These include putting all of the kitchen chairs out on the back patio, putting Charlie and Caroline on top of the kitchen table and moving all of the chairs away so they can't get down, tipping all of the chairs upside down in the living room (but that doesn't really work, they can still tip them back over and move them), and finally just clearing every unsafe or breakable item off of the counter top and giving up on trying to stop them from getting up there.

I had a bit of a paradigm shift the other day. I was spending the late afternoon as I usually am, trying to make dinner and pick up the house before Forrest gets home. The kids were up to their usual climbing and terrorizing activities. Once I eliminated all climbing opportunities, the crying and tantrum throwing began. Mostly from Charlie, but Caroline was also joining in. I was just about to my breaking point (my ears were ringing from all the screaming and hollering), when I decided to sit down and read them a book. And then there was instant peace. Sitting there on the floor in our disastrous living room, one child on each side of my lap and reading "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" for the 7,659th time, I felt a sudden spirit enter our home where the contention had gone. 

Dinner didn't get made that night. I think Forrest ended up making us a batch of pancakes instead. The house wasn't spotless, or even sort of tidy. But I was happy and my children were happy. And most importantly, I was finally making them feel like they were more important than dinner and a clean house. And they are. No comparison.

Later that night I was listening to a few General Conference talks from sisters who mentioned how they wished they had spent more time playing with their children and less time worrying about the endless to-do lists.

Not that dinner and a clean house aren't important. They are important to me, and I know they are important to Forrest. And hopefully, most days I will be able to make dinner, have a clean house, and have happy children. But not all days. And on those harder days, I hope I always choose my children and settle for eating a bowl of cereal for dinner. 

You know those cheesy yet insightful Mormon-ad commercials where the dad is super busy and his son keeps asking him to play catch, and then finally the dad stops his work and plays with his son, and the commercial wraps up by saing "Family - isn't it about TIME?" Like I said, a little cheesy. But so so true. 

Here's to recommitting myself to being a better mom. To being more concerned about my family and the time we spend together than about keeping my home in perfect order. To giving my children more of my time. And to being happier because of it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Orientation and Mobility

My little Charlie is amazing. He plays and runs and acts just like a normal little boy. Because he is just a normal little boy. Most of the time I actually forget that he has Albinism. It catches me off-guard when we go out and people stare at him, or comment on his hair. To me, he is just Charlie. My sweet little rhinoceros.

Sometimes, though, it becomes painfully apparent that he has a vision impairment. Especially when he is in an unfamiliar environment. The biggest problem with his vision is his lack of depth perception. The first time he came to our new home, for example, he would get on his hands and knees when transitioning from the carpet to the tile, because he couldn't tell if there was a drop or not. All he could see was that there was a change. Another problem is when we are outside. He loves being outside and he runs and plays right alongside Caroline. He has, however, fallen off of the curb a few times. He has difficulty seeing the differentiation between the raised sidewalk and the lower part of the cement.

Last week we were playing outdoors and as Caroline and I walked on ahead, I turned and watched him on the sidewalk. He slowly approached the curb, got down on his hands and knees, and crawled down onto the cement beneath. Then he faced the change from the cement to the pavement. My heart burst into pieces as I watched him put his hands back down on the cement and hesitantly felt around with his foot of the pavement. He finally got to the point where he was confident that he could step there, and then he stood up and walked to join his sister and me.

A few days later we were outside building a snowman. I set both the kids out in the snow and then I joined them. Caroline soon started moving around and helping me pack the snow. But Charlie didn't budge. He just stood there quietly, both feet deep in the snow, and watched. After about 10 minutes he started to cry, so I picked him up and walked around a little bit, wondering why he wasn't joining us in building the snowman. And then I realized that he couldn't tell where the ground was. So I set him back down and I held both of his hands and I walked alongside him as he took his first few unsure steps. He was very hesitant at first, but soon he started enjoying himself and I was eventually able to hold only one of his hands while he walked circles in the snow.

It hurts to think that he has to do that. I tear up just thinking of the challenges he faces now and will continue to face throughout his life. But I am equally amazed by him. That he does it. That he doesn't just stay inside because it's easier. That he doesn't just stay where he knows he is safe. He is a fighter and a champion and I couldn't be more proud. I know he will do great things, regardless of his condition.

Next month Charlie is going to be meeting with a new specialist. Her official title is "Orientation and Mobility Specialist," but people refer to her as the "white cane lady." She is going to teach Charlie how to use a white cane when he is outside, so he can feel when the ground changes from up to down. I have mixed emotions about him using a white cane. For the most part, I am anxious for him to learn anything that will help him maneuver and that will help prevent falls. Partly, though, I am hesitant for him to have something that will make him even more different. We will see, when he gets older, whether he chooses to use the cane or not; but for now I am trying to focus on all of the good that can come from it.

Wish us luck!

To Be Like Her

A few years ago I was sitting at a table with some friends, listening to their sometimes funny and other times terrifying stories of things their "crazy" moms had done. Most of them had less than perfect relationships with their mothers. As I sat their listening, I began to smile thinking of my own mom. When asked what she was like, all I could say was that she is perfect. Amazing. Hilarious. Supportive. Heaven-sent.

If I can be half the mother that my mom is, I will count my life a huge success. I learn so much about how to raise my children from her. So often I find myself frustrated with not knowing how to teach one of my children something, and then I watch my mom and she answers my frustrations with perfect teaching and discipline. She is beautiful, elegant and graceful. Intelligent, loving and kind. And, like I said before, she is absolutely hilarious. I mean I have found myself rolling on the ground in fits of laughter from the things she says and does more times than I can remember.

One of my favorite memories of my mom is from when I was an early teen. My parents always made an effort to gather our family together in the evenings for family prayer. We had a routine that the person who had prayed the night before would get to pick a number, and whoever guessed closest to that number would say the prayer that night. My dad, who without fail picked the number 17 every single time, was notorious for saying exceptionally long prayers. So long that our knees would ache from kneeling by the time he finished. On this particular night, my mom had been the one who got to pick the number since she had prayed the previous night. She started with a "pick a number between 1 and 50." We all stated our chosen numbers out loud, and my dad predictably stated that his number was 17. Apparently my mom had momentarily forgotten his tendency, and she reluctantly admitted that he was closest to her chosen number, so he would get to pray that night. We all groaned and gave my dad a hard time, begging for a short prayer so we could all go to bed. Of course that only made it worse. The prayer went on, and on, and on. After what felt like a solid 15 minutes, my mom couldn't take it anymore. She suddenly interrupted my dad in the middle of his prayer with a muttered "I should have lied." We were all so taken off guard, including my dad, that we burst into laughter that lasted a long, long time. In fact, I don't think the prayer was ever finished.

My mom taught me how to be silly. How to laugh at myself. She taught me how to clean. She taught me how to work. She taught me to love the Lord. How to serve. How to be good and how to do good. When I think of goodness and righteousness, I think of my mom. And I also think of how blessed I am to have been raised by her.

I love that we have Mother's Day to honor all of the amazing women in our lives. I love my mom and I want her to know that. Somehow, though, I find that I am never able to adequately express my love and gratitude for her. Flowers, gifts, and cards are never enough to do the job. Maybe that's why Mother's Day comes around every year, though. As a reminder. So incredible women every where, including my mom, will never forget the powerful influence for good that they've had on all of those around them.

I feel so blessed to have an amazing mother, a wonderful mother-in-law, two incredible grandmothers (both of whom are watching over me from above), all of my awesome sisters and sister-in-law, and so many other sweet friends as women and mothers who have taught me so much. I learn from you all each and every day. Sometimes when I feel down, discouraged and overwhelmed, I look to your examples and it gives me strength to keep on keepin' on. So please know that you are loved and appreciated beyond measure. Especially you, mom. I love you.

This Mother's Day I'm also overwhelmed with gratitude that I am so blessed with my 3 beautiful angels. Let's be honest, sometimes I want to rip my hair out and throw a little tantrum myself. Having 3 kids under 2 is no joke. But 3 years ago when we were on the middle of our battle with infertility, I could never have imagined how full of love, laughter and craziness my life would be. Being a mother is the hardest fun I've ever had. And for that I am grateful.

And so once again, to women everywhere, Happy Mother's Day. 

Monday, March 23, 2015


I grew up in a family of 7. It was my mom, my dad, and 5 super awesome daughters. My poor dad - he is a very patient man. He handled it pretty well. He does blame us (the girls) for every single gray hair and every last inch of balding on his head, and I think he's probably right in doing that. We didn't exactly give him an easy time. I think I remember one of my sisters getting caught using my mom's razor to shave my dad's head while he was napping in the bathtub. I personally recall drawing pictures all over any part of exposed skin with my mom's lipstick while he napped on the couch (maybe he should have learned not to ever nap while we were around). My mom even has some blackmail pictures of him wearing one of her dresses, some heels, makeup and jewelry. He would occasionally let us paint his toenails and put clips in his hair. He was a good sport. And he was always our biggest supporter. Whatever we were doing - whether it was a sporting event, a play, cheerleading or a spelling bee - he made an effort to be there. In short, my dad is a rockstar.

When I was little, we bought a boat. Most of us called it the banana boat because it was as yellow as a perfectly ripe banana, but my dad officially named it "Outnumbered." It was quite fitting. The guy was surrounded by 6 females constantly. Even when we all started having kids of our own, it was years before a boy finally made an appearance.

I think I'm starting to have some sympathy pains for my dad's experiences. Not being outnumbered in terms of gender, but simply being outnumbered by my children. When it was just me and Charlie and Caroline at home, it was manageable. Crazy, yes, but doable. And then when Forrest was home from work we could move to a man-on-man defense. It worked well for us. Enter Juliet. Now life is a whole different story!

Life is now a whole new level of crazy. Still wonderful, of course. But so crazy. Juliet and I have had to learn to breastfeed "on the go." Meaning that I often have to jump up with her in the middle of a feeding to pry Charlie away from Caroline before he rips a chunk of hair out of her head. Or I have to intervene when Caroline is about to slam the door on Charlie's little fingers. Or when one of them has climbed onto the kitchen counter and is headed straight for something dangerous.

As an added bonus, I now have 3 children in 3 different sizes of diapers. Not at all confusing! My plan is to potty train ASAP, though I don't know how in the world I can give the twins enough attention to successfully potty train while I'm feeding a baby around the clock. Wish me luck with that one!

Even when Forrest is home to help, leaving the house takes us about 5,692 times longer than it used to. And once we do finally get out the door, inevitably someone is hungry, or a diaper needs changed, or I forgot to stock the diaper bag with diapers, wipes, or an extra change of clothes. Or I forgot to brush my teeth. Gross, I know, but when you are so focused on getting 3 little bodies ready to leave, it's easy to forget the basic things like that!

In all honesty though, having Juliet at home has still been 100 times easier than the first couple of months with the twins. Having two newborns was just so demanding! With only one baby to wake up with in the night, I feel so well rested. Seriously. So much easier with one, even though I am woefully outnumbered.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Last Tuesday, I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant. Once again I felt like a whale, but in comparing pictures of me then vs. when I was 38 weeks with the twins, I literally think I was about half the size this time around. That morning I woke up, disappointed that I was still pregnant. Like so many of the nights before, I'd woken up in the middle of the night with a few strong and steady contractions, only to fall back asleep and wake up contraction-free. I had an appointment with my midwife that day, where the plan was to sweep my membranes and hopefully bring on labor.

I didn't think I'd be in any hurry. When I first found out I was pregnant, I was ready to have the baby stay inside of me as long as possible. Because every day the baby was inside of me meant that Charlie and Caroline would be one day older. And hopefully one day easier to care for. But then 38 and 39 weeks rolled along and I was beyond ready to not be a whale anymore. I longed to be able to roll around on the floor and rough house with my kids like I used to. And I desperately wanted to meet my baby. To know if the little tenant in my tummy was a boy or a girl, and to know whether he or she would be another white haired beauty or not.

And then there was this military training. A few days before, Forrest and I found out that he had a required military training at Camp Williams on March 6, 7 and 8. He would be gone day and night for those three days. And I was due March 9. I was absolutely terrified that I would go into labor while he was away and out of reach. So Forrest and I talked about it and decided that we would talk to my midwife about breaking my water early in the week, before his training so that there would be no chance of him missing the birth of our sweet little one.

So back to Tuesday. I woke up that morning and got myself and the twins ready for the day. Forrest went off to work. I drove to Salt Lake and dropped the kids off at a friend's house, then went in to my appointment. The midwife came in and swept my membranes (it hurt - I didn't expect it to hurt), then we began discussing my concerns and our options. She called over to the hospital and found an opening for me to go in for an induction the next day, Wednesday, March 4.

I didn't want to be induced. I had been having a fair amount of contractions and was reasonably dilated already, so breaking my water wasn't a big deal, but I still didn't want to have to be induced. I had decided I wanted a natural, un-medicated birth, and I hear inductions usually make that a little more difficult. But given the time constraints and my overwhelming desire to have Forrest present at the birth, I nervously agreed to be scheduled for Wednesday morning.

It's a strange thing, knowing what day your baby will arrive. Knowing that that day was our last as a little family of four. Knowing that my next few hours with the twins before I put them down to sleep would be my last with them as my only children. After I picked them up from my friend's house, I didn't just want to go home. I wanted to make some memories and have fun with my sweet Charlie and Caroline. So we went to a mall and walked around for a while and got a Jamba Juice.

Forrest met us at home where we bundled the kids up in their snowsuits for the first (and probably only) time this winter and went outside to play in the snow. They thought it was wonderful and so did I. Then we went and picked up some dinner, ate at home together, gave the twins a bath and kissed them goodnight. With my pregnancy hormones at their peak I cried and cried, knowing that the next day they wouldn't be my little babies anymore. Of course they will always be my babies, but I hate knowing how fast they will have to grow up now.

You know when you have something important the next day and you know you need to sleep, but you just can't? That was one of those nights. Forrest and I talked, watched TV, added some last minute things to our hospital bags, and went to bed well after midnight. And we were to check-in at the hospital at 9 AM. The next morning my mother-in-law came over to take care of the twins and we drove to the hospital.

Checked in at 9:30. Water broken at noon. Contractions started almost immediately. Then slowed. We walked, and walked, and walked. My mom came. Then my dad came. And my mother-in-law came. Forrest was there, and my nurse was there, and my midwife was there. I spent hours walking the halls with Forrest, pausing every 2-3 minutes to breathe through a contraction. I spent hours on a birthing ball, rolling my hips in a figure 8. All the while I was feeling pretty strong. I was hungry, yes, and tired, yes, but I was able to talk and laugh and join in conversations. And at every check, it was apparent that I was progressing pretty slowly. Finally around 8 PM, we decided to start some Pitocin to help increase the frequency of the contractions. After that, I wasn't much for conversation. I vaguely remember what was going on around me, but all I could do was breath and groan from the pain of the contractions and try to remember the end product.

My midwife was amazing. She was perfect and even though I hated it at the time, she knew exactly what to do to help me get closer to delivering. Sometime around 10 PM, she had me kneel up on the bed. It was completely agonizing and after only a few contractions of that, I remember yelling out that I needed to push. After some changing of position and a little confusion (at least it was confusing to me - the pain made everything so hazy), she checked me and told me I could start pushing. The time was finally here. It was nearly 10:30 PM and I had been in labor for over 10 hours.

And I thought the pain of the contractions was bad. Pushing was completely unbearable. I can't even describe the pain. It was like every fiber of my body was on fire. And I honestly and truly felt like I wanted to die. I remember telling Forrest that and he just smiled and said "no, you don't." And then suddenly, after 6 minutes, the pain was completely gone and there was a perfect little dark haired miracle laying on my chest. Forrest took a look and called out "It's a girl!" and we were all thrilled. We knew right away we would call her Juliet. Juliet Rose. She is the most perfect thing I've ever seen, just like her brother and sister.

Her birth was without a doubt the most difficult thing I've ever done. I have gained a whole new level of respect for anyone who has ever gone through that. I don't know if I will do it again, but it was a beautiful experience and I'm so glad to have gone through it.

Now that she's here, life is a whole new level of crazy. Today I sat in a chair nursing baby J. I was holding her with one arm, using that elbow to shield her head from the toys Charlie kept bring to put in my lap, and holding Caroline on my lap to read her a story with my other arm. The twins love her so much, but they are still learning how to control their impulses. They constantly want to touch her nose and poke her eyes and kiss her head. Caroline is obsessed with sharing things with Juliet - particularly her food. I can't put her anywhere close to the ground when the twinados are awake, but it is a wonderful kind of crazy and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

As for me, I feel fantastic. The recovery from a natural child birth has been a breeze compared to recovering after the twins. I am looking forward to being able to run again, hopefully soon. And life is good. So, so good.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Raising a Rhinoceros (and His Sister)

If I were to start writing this blog today, it would be called something clever like "The Twinados" or "Raising a Rhinoceros x2". Clearly they were still very young and innocent when I started blogging. Oh how things can change in a year! 

When they were babies, I would have bet anything that Caroline would be the trouble maker and ring leader. Boy, was I wrong. Charlie's exploits range from climbing out of his crib to climbing onto our dresser. He has recently discovered that by moving the kitchen chairs around the house, he can get to nearly anything his little heart desires. He taught Caroline his little trick, but she is perfectly content with pushing her chair up to the light switch and turning the lights on and off. Not Charlie though. The chair can get him to the microwave, the sink, on top of the kitchen counters.. I could keep going but I won't.  

Yesterday he dragged the chair over to the silverware drawer. He opened the drawer and pulled every single utensil out, licked them, and threw them on the ground. Then he climbed down and picked up each utensil and one by one put them back in the drawer. After each one hit the drawer bottom, he congratulated himself with a "good boy!"

I've found him on the kitchen table with the blinds over his head, standing on the trays of the highchairs, standing on the arm of the armchairs in our living room, sitting inside of the dryer while Caroline tries to shut him in, on top of the desk, in the bathroom sink, and inside the entertainment center.

My biggest concern is how I'm going to keep him alive once this baby gets here. I've considered wrapping him completely in bubble wrap, but aside from that I am totally open to suggestions! Poor kid. He's constantly covered in bruises from head to toe.

Apart from climbing, some of his favorite activities include tipping over the trash cans and sorting through garbage, drinking all of the water out of the bathtub, opening the pantry and putting everything he can find inside, opening the drawers to his dresser and pulling out every item from inside, stashing food inside the couch to save for later, and diving into the toy box.

Caroline's mischief is slightly less... mischievous. She loves climbing into her high chair, standing on the table, banging silverware on the counter, playing with the light switches and buttons on the microwave, and stuffing diapers into the diaper genie. Like I said, pretty mild in comparison to her brother.

I don't mean to make it sound all bad. Of course they do crazy things and yes, my hands are full. But never in my entire life have I found so much joy in the little day-to-day moments. Despite the constant biting and hair-pulling, Charlie and Caroline really do love each other. They love giving each other books, toys and food. They LOVE reading, even occasionally together. They are excellent eaters and fantastic sleepers. They make each other laugh constantly.

Charlie loves music. His very favorite song is the ABC's and when he's upset, he'll calm down the instant he hears it. He can even sing most of it himself up to the letter "H". He loves stacking blocks and when he builds a tall tower he looks at it and then says "I did it!" Caroline is fascinated by chickens and bursts out in "bock, bock" at random times. She loves to pretend to eat pictures of food out of books, and "pops" every picture of bubbles she sees.

So if you've ever wondered what it's like to raise a rhinoceros and his sister, it is really hard work. Especially when you're 9 months pregnant. But it's so worth it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Unpleasants

When I was 32 weeks pregnant with the twins, I felt like a small whale. Or a large whale. Something gigantic. I had over 10 lbs of baby inside of me, in addition to two placentas, lots and lots of fluid, and all my usual organs, which felt like they were being reduced to the size of peas. I was uncomfortable, to say the least. Caroline was up so high that I had to constantly push her legs and elbows out from under my rib cage. Charlie was so low that anytime he hiccupped, kicked, or wiggled at all, I peed my pants just a little bit. I generally prefer not to ponder on these "unpleasants" of pregnancy, but now that I am feeling as giant as a whale again, the memories are flooding back in.
While I was in the height of my discomfort with two babies inside of me, Forrest's work held an end -of-busy-season party. It had been a particularly awful busy season, where they were working 80-90 hour weeks for nearly 5 months. So to celebrate surviving the madness, we were invited to a lovely weekend resort stay, complete with meals, spa treatments, unlimited golfing etc. And it was wonderful.
I was treated to a facial, an hour-long pregnancy massage (with a giant pillow with a hole in the middle so I could actually lay on my stomach - pure bliss), an entire afternoon in the spa.. it was heavenly. One of the evenings, the company had arranged for all of us to get together for dinner at one of the fancy resort restaurants. I dressed up as fancy as is possibly for a small whale, and headed to dinner at 8 PM. That was a little late for me since my usual pregnancy bedtime was between 8:30 and 9:00. But I went anyway, and guided Forrest to a seat near the exit so I would be free to get up and use the restroom as needed. What I didn't know when we showed up was that we were about to be served a 500 course meal. Seriously, the food just kept coming. With plenty of time in between each course to cleanse our pallets, I suppose. I tend to drink a ton of water when I'm dining out. Especially when I have to wait a long time for my food. So I was drinking a lot of water, and my tiny little pea-sized bladder kept filling up all too quickly. And then Charlie felt it necessary to do a little jig at frequent intervals. All of this meant that I needed to use the restroom. A lot.
And the restroom was nowhere near where we were sitting. And it wasn't the "weave your way through all the tables to the other side of the restaurant" kind of trip to the restroom. The restaurant itself didn't actually even have a single toilet anywhere inside of it. Instead, guests had to stand up, weave their way through all the tables to get the to door, walk out the door and into the resort, and then walk another half-mile to the restrooms in the hotel lobby. It was quite the trek.
The entire journey to the restroom and back took me about 10 minutes. Which is about the frequency at which I felt I needed to use the restroom. So my night looked a little something like this:
8:00 - Seated
8:10 - Restroom break
8:20 - Eat first course, drink lots of water
8:21 - Restroom break
8:30 - Eat second course, drink a gallon of water
8:35 - Restroom break
And that was only the first half hour. This dinner continued on well into the 11:00 hour. And everyone seemed to be wide awake, with no intent to wrap it up anytime soon. Sometime after my 137th trip to the restroom, one of my husband's coworkers leaned in close to Forrest and quietly asked if I was ok. Forrest just laughed and responded that yes, I was fine, but pregnant women just have to pee an awful lot. Finally around 11:30, I could barely keep my eyes open. My legs were numb from sitting in the same chair for so long, and I needed to use the restroom yet again. I decided it was time for me to call it a night, so I excused myself for one final time and headed to bed while everyone else stayed and chatted and ate until heaven knows how late.
Thankfully I haven't had any experiences with the unpleasants this pregnancy that have even come close to that one. Even last night at Chili's, when I had to use the restroom four times during our hour long dining experience - it didn't even come close to what I experienced at the resort that night.
I had actually somewhat forgotten that resort dining experience until now. I think when I was pregnant with the twins I was just so beyond exciting to finally be pregnant that I blocked out all of the difficult and uncomfortable parts. I had waited so long for the experience, and it was something that I didn't know if I would ever get to experience again. So I chose not to dwell on the unpleasants, and to some extent I don't think I really noticed them. But let me tell you, I sure have noticed them this time!
It's a good think this pregnancy has been unpleasant, though, because otherwise I think I would want this baby to stay inside of me for as long as possible. Unpleasants make it exciting to think of the new baby finally being here, and help to drive away the terror of having 3 kids under the age of 2! Actually it doesn't completely drive away that terror... but it helps a little.