Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Missing Daddy

Since they hadn't spoken to their dad in more than 24 hours, and everyone was feeling cruddy because of a head cold that has spread like wildfire - the kids were really excited to talk to Charlie on the phone yesterday. They each took turns saying "HI DADDY!! Dee doo la fla wee twee zee!!!" Then they would hesitate and when prompted, what does a cow, duck, horse, donkey say ... enthusiastically respond "Moo! Quack! Neigh! HEE-HAW!"

Elizabeth was so happy to hear his voice, she actually smothered the phone in kisses.

This morning I groggily woke up to William calling out "Mommy!! NOSE!!!" Hoping with every ounce of my being that maybe I'd only have one stuffy-headed toddler in bed with me and that maybe, I could catch another hour or so of sleep, I tiptoed as gently as possible past the girl's room to retrieve their brother.

Moments later, all three were spread out in our big toasty bed. They didn't go back to sleep, and they certainly wouldn't let me go to sleep, either. If the picture looks dark - it's because the sun wasn't up yet at 4:45 AM.

If Charlie had been home - I highly doubt I would have been up, either.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Toddler Toga Party

I've recently read that the first three years of life are critical for the development of a child's brain. From birth until three years old, a baby's brain cells proliferate wildly, making connections that may shape a lifetime of experience.

Once a child is born, the brain produces trillions of neurons - more than it could ever possibly use. "Then, through a process that resembles Darwinian competition, the brain eliminates connections, or synapses, that are seldom or never used. The excess synapses in a child's brain undergo a draconian pruning, starting around the age of 10, leaving behind a mind whose patterns of emotion and thought are, for better or worse, unique."

Herein lies our Catch-22.

I can see that our children are constantly learning and I know that the synapes in their brains have not yet formed completely. Thus, they do not know that climbing and subsequently falling off the kitchen table, walking in front of someone swinging on the playground, or jumping off the top of the slide may lead to physical injury and pain. My concern is that the synapses in our children's brain are never going to form correctly if they are constantly smashing - or having their noggin - smashed.

At our house, noggin smashing happens

A toddlers adorable - and yet totally insane behavior - is primarily due to their immature, but rapidly developing brains. Taking care of three toddlers is more than a job. It's a whirlwind, exhausting adventure ... and every single day, I want to bop myself in the noggin.

In a room of 100 toys - our kids will inexplicably be drawn to the same exact one. They will fight over this toy, yell, push, cry, hit and bite. Invariably, Charlie and I will step in to referee and when we introduce a new toy ... our children will now inexplicably be drawn to it, leaving behind the toy that they were gouging each other's eyes out over, seconds before. Now the once coveted toy is forgotten and the new toy is the only thing that will bring them any happiness. Damn be their siblings.

Until, Barney comes on television, and the children stop cold in their tracks and embrace each other in a group hug. They are like pint-sized schizophrenics on the loose.

When we go for walks around the neighborhood, we have been putting two children in our double stroller and letting the third one take turns to walk "free". A walk that once took us 15 minutes around our block, now takes two hours. Not because our children have little legs, which they do, but because they stop every 6-inches to carefully examine everything on the ground. Ants, worms, caterpillars, snails ... leaves, pinecones, rocks, bottle caps. Sometimes instead of walking in a straight line, they will hold their little arms up in the air and spin around and around in circles until they are dizzy.

And then, they will laugh hysterically as they try to stagger forward before falling down.

Last week, I found all three of our children eating a candle. Moments later, they had confiscated a roll of self-adhesive stamps and were peeling them off and trying to ingest them before I could see what they were up to. When I asked what they were doing, they began jabbering, and Carolyn started to sing incoherently. Then, they threw the evidence away from them and tried to look busy with something else.

Then, they all started to cry. They are extremely emotional. Then, they came over and tried to hug me. They are extremely loving. They are extremely dependent. They are extremely enfuriating. They are extremely amusing. They are extremely innocent. They will have moments of independence, yet, they are an absolute danger to themselves. They are the life of a party. But at the end of the day - I can't wait for them to pass out.

I have fond memories of toga parties in my collegiate days. Many times, I would be a "designated-walker" or, the person who remained sober enough to remember where we lived and was able to get my friends back to the dorm safely. What I remember most is that when my friends were intoxicated, and I was not, they were extremely emotional. They were extremely loving. They were extremely dependent.
They were extremely amusing. They were extremely frustrating. They would have moments of independence, yet, they were an absolute danger to themselves. They were the life of a party. But at the end of the evening - I couldn't wait for them to pass out.

Am I insinuating that caring for three toddlers is like caring for an intoxicated toga-clad freshman?

Why, yes ... I am.

Thankfully, a toddler is much more adorable and not as likely to throw up all over my couch.

Oh, wait a minute...

Monday, February 26, 2007

This is the Day

Put your arms in the air and raise your voices high ... because THIS is the day!!!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

the point at which I am prepared to be pushed run screaming off a cliff...

Charlie is leaving tomorrow morning on a business trip. He'll be gone for three days. I'll be flying solo with three toddlers and fat ankles.

Carolyn has a bad cold and I suspect it will only be a matter of time (days, hours, minutes) before the other two - and yours truly - come down with it. Because although I possess superhuman strength when it comes to dodging stomach viruses - my body has yet to meet a sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head bacterial strain that it hasn't embraced fully.

And I've yet to find a medication that does anything to help.

During my doctor's appointment on Thursday I was informed that my blood pressure was perfect and the baby is doing great. The doctor isn't overly concerned with my swelling - but he thought that maybe I needed to have another ultrasound to confirm the presence of one baby - when he checked my stats and noticed that I'd packed on another 10 pounds in the last month.

At the risk of sounding like an overeater in denial, I don't understand how that is possible.

I'm not nibbling off the kids plates excessively, and I have made a concerted effort to adjust my cravings from peanut butter cup ice cream to grapefruit. So far, it hasn't worked ... but still I try. I pleaded to the doctor that I had SEVEN inches cut off my hair and surely that has to account for something. Apparently not.

Maybe blonde weighs more than brunette??

I then argued that Charlie's family has a history of BIG babies. Our niece Lucy was born at 9 pounds. Our niece Alice was born at 11 pounds (at 17 years old she is 6'2"). Our nephew Geordie, to date, remains the largest home birth child in the history of Medocino County ... at 13 pounds. When my doctor heard the family history, he said that genetics might have something to do with my weight gain - but most likely - it had more to do with my appetite and decrease in exercise.

Bottomline: My calisthenics routine needs to include something more than chasing after three two-year olds. He also told me that if there was a chance our baby would be over 10 pounds (like - 20 pounds, with a 30 pound placenta - as I suggested) ... I might want to seriously reconsider the VBAC I was so optimistically planning.

It's really too bad that stress and indecision don't burn more calories. Especially since in the past 24-hours, we have entirely rethought our decision to move. I had called to schedule the installation of hardwood floors this past week, based on a proposal that was submitted to us four weeks ago - before all this indecision struck. When our contractor came by last night to have us execute the final contract - he informed us that he had mistakenly left off the labor costs to install the flooring. Labor costs which totalled more than 50% of the proposal cost.

I hate to sound fickle. But if we are going to stay in this shoebox for a few more years, I want to have carpeting that doesn't disintegrate when you walk across it. I'd love to have hardwood. But, I can't justify the cost when we are only planning to stay here for a few more years, and the real estate market is on a slow decline. And then, I started to think how if I feel squeezed in to this house with three children - I'll go right over the edge with four. And good golly - trying to sell this house with four small children under foot??

This whole flooring thing is a sign. I'm convinced of it.

We need a bigger nest. Right now.

Good luck, Jay and anyone else that can exist in a micro house. I can't do it and the thought of it, more than 6 months from now, is absolutely painful. For three solid days I tried. So within an hour of the contractor leaving last night, Charlie was on the phone talking with realtors.

At this point, I think my husband is prepared to stick me in a box, let Elizabeth punch in a few airholes, tape it shut and stick it in the garage until July. If you don't hear from me for a few days - please send a search party. I already know that our neighbors won't hear my screams.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

3 truths

1. Winter has finally settled in to San Diego. It was 54 degrees yesterday - outside. This was the scene inside, in our living room: Hats, mittens, warm quilts. I seriously doubt we'd ever survive in a snowy environment.

2. At 21.5 weeks, it is getting a little more difficult to see my feet. (I know my toes need some attention - they haven't been painted since our girls only weekend in September.)

3. Even after the most challenging day(s), nothing refuels my maternal patience tank and makes me believe that I can do this whole parenthood thing more than the sight of three beautiful sleeping children.

If only they were this quiet peaceful all the time...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bless me Father, for I have sinned... (again)

Within the past few days, there has been a flurry of e-mails on my triplet parenting board regarding discipline. Some members think that instilling a bit of "fear" in to your child is healthy (in the form of yelling or spanking), whereas other members have commented that the yelling or spanking they received as a child, has adversely affected the relationship that they have with their parents, as an adult.

I hesitated sending a response in to this hot topic, but I finally decided that I had to add my two cents. This is the e-mail I sent to my fellow triplet mothers...


In an ideal world, I would never yell at our children. I would never spank them. I would never have to worry that my uncontrollable emotional outbursts are potentially, scarring them for life. But I'm human - and it really stinks sometimes.

Recently, our toddlers favorite past time involves climbing on the kitchen table, trying to scramble on the counters ... and whenever I saw Elizabeth pulling BIG SHARP knives out of the knife block this morning, I thought I was going to die. My patience has been tried more in the past month than it has ever been tried before (I think I say that every month...?).

Today was a perfect example.

I was honestly ready to put William in a box, tape it up and stick him in the garage until Charlie came home. Don't worry - I would have given him airholes. Or, let Elizabeth do it with one of the BIG SHARP knives. Before he was in it, of course.

After the knife fiasco, I had to get out of the house, so I loaded the kids up and took them to Target. While there, I picked up this little toy that my friend Lorie, swears, helped her 2-year old daughter learn her ABC's. It's a Leap Frog magnetic letter thing-a-ma-bob that hangs on your fridge. The kids were playing with it in the cart - happy as can be. I'm doing my shopping, happy as can be. Except for when the kids threw one of the plastic (I thought non breakable) cups I had picked up for them out of the cart - it shattered all over the floor - and me, being the
responsible person that I am - kept walking - slowing down only to put back the other 7 plastic (apparently breakable) cups that will never withstand our spanish tile floor, on some random shelf in the middle of the dog food aisle.

**For the record, if I didn't have a shopping cart full of toddler triplets - I NEVER would have done that. I would have picked up the damaged cup, insisted on paying for it, and put all of the other cups back neatly where I had found them.**

We get home and William immediately starts whining "e!!" "e!!!" "e!!!" Because that happened to be the letter that was in the thing-a-ma-bob that he heard over & over & over & over (& over & over & over & over) again. So, I go to get it out of the bag and out of the plastic container that is sealed tightly enough to protect this $10.00 toy should it ever be dropped 20,000 feet to the bottom of the ocean, or launched in to deep space - and he starts to go crazy, screaming "E!!!" "E!!!!"

I'm trying desperately to open the box.

I'm trying to keep my eye on Elizabeth so she doesn't climb on the counters again.

I'm wiping Carolyn's runny nose because for the LOVE OF WINE (which I would give my right arm for a big glass of), they are sick again.

I'm organized. I'm pretty level headed. I'm in control. As far as motherhood goes, I think I've got my sh*t together pretty well. But every so often, I possess the ability to spontaneously combust. It happened about two weeks ago and I felt like a pile of dung for days. I thought it would NEVER happen again. But it did. Five minutes after returning home from Target.

The trigger? Whining. Incessant, uncontrollable whining. In my opinion, it is worse torture than fingernails on a chalk board - or having a tooth removed with a butter knife. Especially when three toddlers are doing it, simultaneously.

I turned around and started screaming at my 2-year old. Screaming I tell you, screaming. I didn't hit him on the head with the Leap Frog thing-a-ma-bob. I didn't send him in to time out, like I did last night in the corner of our small booth when we went out to dinner. I didn't put him in a box, punch airholes and tape it shut. I would have loved to have done ALL of those things - but instead I screamed at the top of my lungs.


Until a few minutes later when I saw the kids looking at me with huge saucer eyes ... William shuddering ... and Carolyn whispering to him "shhh!! shhh!!"

I love my kids, more than the world. It is impossible to believe that 3 short years ago - they didn't even exist in an embryonic stage ... and 2 years ago, they were tiny helpless infants. Now, they are toddlers and they are more adorable than I ever imagined. AND, at times, more of a headache than I ever imagined.

After today, I've resigned myself to the fact that there are going to be moments in motherhood when I'm going to CRACK like an egg. I'll always strive to do the best job I can and to keep my temper in check. But ... I sure as heck am not going to traumatize myself with the fear that I am ruining my children for life - or that they'll grow up distrusting me because I yelled at them when they were driving me crazy - or I gave them a swat on their behind when they climbed on the table for the millionth time in an hour and tried to juggle knives.

Apparently, some people have unending patience with toddlers. God Bless them.

I don't.

All I can do is hope that in the end, my children will know I love them - and they'll love me, too. I hope that they'll see the good things I've done FAR outweigh the bad. If not, they'll probably stick me in a home - and then I'll know why.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

And then … there was peace.

Even though I’ve been thinking and praying about a potential move, across the country – or – recently, across the street for several weeks, there is finally peace in my heart. I can’t pinpoint exactly how we ultimately arrived at our decision, but I have a several theories:

Maybe it was realizing that I don’t need to move 3,000 miles to be with my family, I’m already with them. They are my husband and three – soon to be four - children. And dog.

Maybe it was everything that would be involved with selling our house and moving, when I am pregnant and getting bigger everyday. Especially my hips, thighs and butt.

Maybe it was the thought of trying to keep tabs and chasing three – soon to be four – small children through a larger (possibly two-story) house, which would need to be thoroughly baby-proofed.

Maybe it was the thought of cleaning up after three – soon to be four – small children in a larger (possibly two-story) house.

Maybe it was acknowledging the sense of safety I feel when I can see and/or hear all three of our children from every room in the house – and only have to deal with one baby gate.

Maybe it was the thought of taking on a larger mortgage payment every month … before I am due to deliver another baby … and scheduled to take several months off of work for maternity leave.

Maybe it was reminding ourselves of the incredible situation that we have been blessed with – that allows us to affordably live in an absolutely gorgeous part of the world … in a lovely home … work part-time … and raise our small children without relying on daycare, nannies, or family.

Maybe it was realizing that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate our exact work situation - any where else in the country.

Maybe it was taking our children to the San Diego Zoo, again, earlier this week – when the temperature was 75 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the entire sky and I had to remind myself that this was February.

Maybe it was the numerous phone calls I received from my siblings that were buried under several feet of snow in New England, when they asked me if we moved – where would they go for spring break?!

Maybe it was thinking about how much we love the upgrades and improvements we’ve already made to our home - and how gorgeous hardwood floors with 3-inch baseboards would look - and how that is something we’ve always wanted to do (And I have since scheduled. They start in two weeks).

Maybe it was realizing that the master bedroom in the new house, would be smaller than what we have in our house, currently. And – there is absolutely no wall space for our new television.

Maybe it was the realization that we do not want to be strapped to a mortgage payment just before I go on maternity leave. Even though 600 additional square feet – in the form of a larger eating area in the kitchen, two extra bedrooms, a three car garage, four extra closets and another bathroom would be convenient.

Maybe it was the knowledge that the house across the street is not our dream home. Although it is nice, it is definitely not what we have in our mind’s eye for where we want our family to be 10 or even, 20-years from now. We want to live someplace where we can put a basketball hoop on the garage - and maybe, when the kids are old enough to swim, install a pool in the backyard. Even if we don’t do those things … we at least want to reserve the right to entertain the thoughts.

Maybe it was the discussion I had with one of our neighbors Monday afternoon, when she told me that she has been going to Mexico once a quarter and bringing food, clothing and miscellaneous supplies for migrant workers. She relayed how so many people live in the worst poverty imaginable – but yet – they are raising children. Children who are smiling and happy and extremely thankful for everything that they have. What an incredible reminder for me to COUNT MY BLESSINGS.

Maybe it was the impromptu prayer that my next door neighbor, Sydney - a deeply soulful woman, had with me standing in the middle of our driveway before I took the kids and dog for a walk Tuesday morning.

Maybe it was call I received from my mother Tuesday afternoon, while she was in Florida – three hours ahead of me in California - where she told me that I had to watch Oprah that afternoon. (If you recall, my mother is the greatest Oprah fan in the entire universe.)

Maybe it was the Oprah show I watched about the beauty of living in small spaces – and hearing testimony from Jay … a guy who lives in a 96 square foot house. When he asked “How much do we REALLY need?” it got me thinking. This man has absolutely everything he needs to survive and live a happy life. Although I’m not prepared to start using a compost toilet or buying a house I can tow around with a truck, like Jay does, I think the guy’s got a good point.

How much do we really need???

At this point in our lives: Do we need for our three (almost four) small children to have walk-in closets in their bedrooms … when all of their clothes can fit in 6 drawers?

Although I do recycle everything I can, I’m not obsessively “green”. But when you hear about Americans quest for bigger, bigger, bigger … cars, homes, televisions … it’s easy to see how people can confuse what “I WANT” versus what "I NEED".

Do we need to have a sprawling dining room when we already have a cozy dining room that comfortably sits anyone who comes to dinner, now?

Do I need to have a whole separate home office, when my company pays for a small executive suite 10 minutes from my house … or, I can work from the dining room table on the days I want to stay home?

Do we need to increase the financial stress on ourselves just so we can have a separate guest room … when in a few short weeks, we’ll have a new pull out sofa in our living room?

Does Baby Nemo need to have his own bedroom, when he can sleep with us for the first several months, and gradually, be transitioned to sleeping in the same room with his big brother, William?

Can’t we make the kid’s rooms really cool – and space efficient – with trundle beds and bunk beds, when they are older? Can’t I funnel all of the money that we would be spending on a larger mortgage payment directly in to Pottery Barn Kids?

We will move one day. In the meantime, we need to do a better job organizing our stuff and getting rid of things that we no longer need. We need to make a more concerted effort to keep the house picked up – because once it gets cluttered – it feels 10 times smaller than it really is. We need to extend more invitations to our family and friends from afar to come and visit so that we don’t feel as isolated, and then – maybe - we’ll need to set our tent up in the backyard for additional sleeping space if they all come at once. Thankfully, the weather is always nice.

Most importantly, we need to live one day at a time, because only God knows what’s in store for us.

But I think that these are all things that we can do.

The past few weeks have been very trying, emotionally and physically. I’m convinced that the house across the street was literally placed before us – to challenge what our priorities are, right now. If we purchased the house, it would not have been a wrong decision. But I believe that the decision we have made is a better one at this point in time. And with a decision, comes a sense of peace and calmness.

At least for now.

If there is one thing I am experiencing with this pregnancy more than ever with the triplets, it is a daily emotional rollercoaster. Stay tuned. I’m absolutely certain something new will set me off, tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

All but the kitchen sink...

We're still debating what to do. We make a decision - sleep on it - and then, have a whole new decision first thing in the morning.

And another new decision by noon.

And another new decision by the time we go to bed.

It makes logical sense to stay where we are because our house is thoroughly baby-proofed and it took us a long time to get that way. If you've ever installed a Tot-Lok, you would know what I mean. If you've ever installed 15 Tot-Loks, you'd never want to leave them - until you never needed them again.

Considering our children are still in to everything, and we have a new baby set to arrive in less than five months, we would need to have the new house baby-proofed, too. Additionally, our backyard is at least twice the size of the the house across the street and keeping tabs on children in a small one-story is a lot easier than when there are two levels.

But the NUMBER ONE thing that I keep coming back to the most is that our kitchen sink is magnificent. It is so large, I can bathe two kids at once in it. I would really, really miss it - and installing a kitchen sink just like ours in the new house, would require us to break out the new Corian they recently installed. And if I'm going to break out the Corian, I may as well upgrade the cabinets, too. Because the dishwasher is on the opposite side of the kitchen from all the cabinets - so you're walking all over the place to drop off your cups and bowls. Now we're talking a whole new kitchen.

And God forbid, what if there was ever a fire and I had four babies trapped on the second level?!? How well would we do climbing down a rope ladder with four small children?!? These are very important things to consider and the type of scenes that keep me awake at night.

If I can figure out where all the children are going to sleep, I think we can make it work for a few more years. By then, we could move to a larger home that meets ALL of our criteria (i.e. a larger kitchen, a larger backyard, a larger master bedroom, a double sink in the bathroom for the kids) and we won't have to worry about installing latches on every single cabinet through the house. Unfortunately, adding on to our existing house is not an option because we would entirely eliminate our backyard. Building up is not an option either, because our Home Owners Association will not allow any "modifications" to existing rooflines.

The house across the street is very nice and would certainly work well for us. No, it's not perfect. Yes, it would cost more every month. The question remains - is it worth it - especially since we both want to continue working part-time? And more importantly, does Charlie possess the dexterity and strength in his hands to install 30 Tot-Loks through the whole house??

The decision would be a lot easier if I could bring our kitchen sink. Or, if I wasn't as shallow as the sink that is in the house, currently.

While we continue to contemplate our next step, we have at least 10 mortgage lenders calling every day to find out if we've made a decision, or what they can do to help. I finally told one of them that if they really want to help, they would go grocery shopping, clean the house, cook dinner and rub my feet. And, answer the phone to tell the other nine mortgage lenders that we will call THEM when we're ready.

Because my mind is tired from obsessing over thinking through these different scenarios, I'm taking a little break and focusing on some interesting tidbits from the past 24 hours.

Yesterday morning, I thought I heard someone choking. When I flew over to see what was happening, I saw William holding a bucket up to his face and grunting like he was sick. Thankfully, he wasn't.

It seems that the kids are practicing for their next puke fest.

When William then held the bucket up for Carolyn and Elizabeth, and for all of their stuffed animals, I decided that maybe the time is ripe to return to church. In my humble opinion, if there is one place on this green earth that there should be a sanctity of good health - it ought to be in a church nursery. Don't you think?? But because the kids have been sick (almost) everytime we take them to church - we stopped going. Now that they have shown proficiency with bucket holding - not only for themselves but for each other (and the stuffed animals should they also throw up) - I feel a bit more courageous about returning to have my soul cup filled. Heaven knows I need it.

Our kids have come to an age where they have taken a keen interest in babies. They will fanatically call out "BABY, BABY, BABY!!!" whenever we see one in the store and have started to enthusiastically point to my ever growing waist-line and eagerly shout "Hiya BABY!!" We polled them recently for potential names - and after watching them with their dolls tightly swaddled in blankets, I suspect that they will be over-the-moon when their baby brother, Nemo, comes home from the hospital.

These kids are so adorable - and getting exponentially cuter every day except for when they whine incessantly and throw themselves on the floor kicking and screaming. I'm especially glad that Alex and Kathleen ordered three red velvet "flare" skirts for the children - considering all three of them insisted on wearing their skirts, over their pants, all around the house and to a playdate they attended yesterday afternoon. Watching the three of them twirl around the house and then grab hands to do ring-around-the-rosy, was an absolute gut buster.

If this isn't the best endorsement for having triplets, I don't know what is.

Yesterday was the first day, all year (?), that it has really rained. It started at about 3:30 in the morning and continued - all day. At one point, there was a Class IV River running down our street. That's one thing about living in a coastal desert - the ground is so dry that the soil doesn't have the same kind of absorption it does elsewhere and precipitation can quickly lead to flash flooding. And roaring rapids. On second thought, maybe it would behoove us to live in a two-story in the event our entire neighborhood floods...

When a playdate I had planned to take the kids to in the morning at a local park was canceled due to the inclement weather - by afternoon - everyone was going stir crazy. Charlie finally caved and took the kids out for some fresh air. While I watched Elizabeth, with great trepidation, step foot outside and gaze in amazement at WATER FALLING FROM THE SKY - I wondered how we would do living in a cold - or rainy - climate. Maybe in the beginning it would be great, but once the novelty wore off, I can imagine being locked inside on a freezing day with children bouncing off the walls and thinking to myself, "You dummy, you could be here!!"

A mortgage lender sent me the link to a website which helps to price homes in different neighborhoods. Unless you have nothing but spare time on your hands ... I don't recommend checking out Zillow. This is a horribly addictive thing when you're in a position to move - but not sure where - and trying to figure out what's the most you can afford. I was up until midnight last night and spent the better part of naptime today, checking out the housing costs for almost everyone in our address book. Not only can you see aerial photos of the neighborhoods and check out house spacing and the surrounding area - you get a little price tag over all the homes, for an approximate appraisal value.

Today, Charlie - who shares my addiction - informed me that we're moving to Austin, Texas. Unless, it rains more than ten days a year, the temperature ever drops below 40 degrees, or if there are big rats and spiders.

Clearly, we still need to do a bit of research.

Monday, February 19, 2007

should we stay or should we go?

The past few days, Charlie and I have been spending an insane amount of time crunching numbers ... talking to mortgage lenders ... scrutinizing our house ... scrutinizing the house across the street ... contemplating new floors in our house ... contemplating moving to the house across the street ... cleaning up our house to show to prospective buyers ... evaluating every possible angle of moving ... and wondering again and again and again what to do.

There's a big part of me that thinks we ought to stay right where we are.

There's a big part of me that thinks we ought to move.

For the same reasons we love our one-story tiny casa ... I am climbing off the walls because we need more space. Last night, Charlie and I were up late cleaning the house and putting things away. Because today, for the first time ever, we showed off our home to prospective buyers. This morning, we had breakfast at IHOP since the last thing we wanted to do was have the kids make a mess in our clean house before we opened it up.

This whole "potential move" has really taken on a mind of it's own and is just happening. Here I am, 5-months pregnant, with two year old triplets running everywhere - and just a few days ago - I was prepared to pack up the family and move 3,000-miles cross-country. Now, we're entertaining potential home buyers - without consulting a realtor - and eating Rooty Tooty Fresh N' Fruity breakfasts on the fly.

I honestly don't know if this is just part of the forward momentum that happens when things are meant to be ... or if we should stop, drop and roll.

This morning, while I stayed in the backyard playing with the kids - who wanted nothing more than to come in to the house and rip everything apart - Charlie proudly showed off our home. I could hear him pointing out the imported granite countertops ... the matching Kitchen Aid stainless steel appliances ... the upgraded cabinets ... the spanish tile floor ... the newly installed roll-out drawers in every single cabinet in the kitchen ... the newly installed pantry ... the outdoor solar lighting that is hardwired in to our home ... the central air conditioning unit ... the water softener ... the surround sound speakers ... the professional landscaping ... the beautiful view.

I don't know what I expected ... but when I overheard the people say that they loved it and wanted to talk "numbers" I got all freaky. I ran in to the house and started pointing them to similar houses in our neighborhood that were for sale. The one-story just two doors down from ours went on the market last week - maybe they should take a look at that one?! Or, maybe the one-story two neigborhoods over that's been on the market for 6 months. I bet they could get a great deal on that bungaloo!!

While Charlie beamed and was ready to pull out a calculator - I felt an overwhelming urge to run around and pee on all four corners of our property. For the first time in a long time, I was convinced that this is where we should stay. It's incredible how much I love our house when it's clean. But - when we went to look at the house across the street for the fourth time, tonight - Charlie was deadset that we should move. I think I'm deadset, too.

Kinda sorta. Not really. My mind changes every five minutes ... give or take four. And a half.

We could make it work where we are for another few years and maybe we should - considering we've got a new baby coming. Then in a few years - maybe - we'll have a better idea of where we're suppose to be. Provided I don't go absolutely insane from constantly trying to maximize our space. If we buy the house across the street - I feel that we have a longer term commitment to stay in the area.

Yeah, because everyone knows San Diego is such a dump.

When I bawled spoke to my mother the other day, she told me that I needed counseling. She thinks that my inability to settle down and find contentment where I am (aka: paradise), is a direct result of the divorce my parents went through 27 years ago. She might be right. It wasn't easy having my mother in South Carolina - my father in Massachusetts ... and shuttling between the two locations several times a year. When I think about what I really want, it's to know that the next home we purchase, will be the home where our children grow up and where we will remain. I want stability. I want peace. I want to know where we are going to be 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now.

For the love of all that is holy, I want to be decided and calm.

And I want to stop sounding like a broken record. I'm tired of thinking about it ... I can only imagine the people around me are tired of hearing me try to sort through these issues of "where" we're suppose to be.

The other night, I was trying to express this to Charlie and I couldn't hold back the tears. When I told him that I didn't want to be buried in San Diego, he agreed that I need to live more in the "present" and I am either struggling with latent issues that are surfacing from my parents divorce ... or ... this is the worst case of nesting imaginable. I guess if I'm still feeling neurotic after the baby is born, I'll know that these are suppressed feelings from when I was 8.

But speaking of Charlie ... is this a guy thing? We've been together for 16 years and I've never really noticed this idiosyncrasy before. Now, I notice it all the time. Seriously, I'm ready to TP my husband.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Valentines

Last night, I went out to dinner with three of my fellow triplet mom's and as we sat savoring fancy desserts, I made the comment that three years ago - only one of us at that table had a child. Three years ago, we didn't know that within a few months, we would be giving birth to triplets. It was quite mind boggling that the four of us have 13.5 children, 12.5 of which are under the age of 3. None of us knew how different our lives would be in three short years.

Life can be full of surprises that way.

Today, I was looking back on old photographs at a young couple newly in love - and thinking they have no idea what the future holds in store...

I was thinking about how fast babies grow from this ...

... to this ...

... to this ...

... to this.

What is more mind boggling than how quickly life can change - is that I love my husband and children more today than I did yesterday.

Three years ago, I never imagined I'd have room in my heart for more than one valentine. Today, yet once again I am reminded that as much as I would like to be in control, I am not. And that's a good thing - because I never could have conjured up such amazing life experiences.

There is a much greater plan and force in action. As for now, I've completely given up on my Magic 8-Ball since it keeps giving me the result: "Better Not Tell You Now". It's important - albeit difficult at times - to have faith that all things will work out.

But something tells me the best is still, yet to come.

Monday, February 12, 2007

the easy and the not so ...

If I was calm, I doubt I would have been awake at 3:03 AM this morning.

I doubt I would have stared at the clock for an hour with a million thoughts running through my mind.

I doubt I would have tossed and turned for another hour, frustrated that I wasn't asleep, when every other person in the house - and the dog - were snoring.

I was tired. Really tired.

Our bed was comfortable. Really comfortable.

But still, sleep eluded me - until 5:30 AM when I finally dozed off.

Carolyn woke up within moments. By 6:00 AM, she was in our bed - with her leaking sippy cup of orange juice rested on my head and an elbow dug in to my rib cage. The next think I know - there were two more toddlers in my bed. Their leaking sippy cups were also, situated on my head and their small elbows were digging in to my rib cage. Through the fog of exhaustion, I could make out three beautiful little faces, peering down at me and loudly whispering "Mommy! Wake?!"

For a moment, I was wondering if I had died - and this was my wake. But then it dawned on me if I was really gone - I probably wouldn't be bothered by six small elbows, three leaking sippy cups, and one husband who was trying desperately to go back to sleep and clearly excited that the kids weren't climbing all over him.

What kept me awake half the night, was wondering if the old adage "The answer was right before my eyes" couldn't have been accurate. Or, at least the catalyst for us to make a decision regarding the next stage our lives.

It turns out that the 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom house - directly across the street from our home ... in full view from our kitchen window ... is about to go on the market. The family that currently lives there, with 4-year old twin boys, will be moving to New York later this week. We have first dibs to purchase the house, before it is listed. If we so chose.

We've been approached by two highly interested families - out of the blue - within the past month to purchase our house. It's a desirable one-story, on a corner lot with incredible views. We could quickly sell our wonderful little home and walk away with a good portion of equity, in a very short period of time. If we so chose.

Potentially, we could save a bundle on the sale of our home - and the purchase of this new home - if we don't hire a realtor. The new house would provide us an additional 600 square feet of living space. Come to think of it ... that's not really a lot more space when you consider the property tax on this new home would rival the mortgage payment.

Upside to purchase: we'd have two additional bedrooms, a bathroom and a 3-car garage. The floor plan is wonderful. We already know all the neighbors and like the neighborhood.

Downside to purchase: the backyard is small. Even though it's across the street - there's more traffic then in front of our house. The view is not nearly as magnificent as what we have, now.

In the past 24-hours, we have oscillated from keeping our house and renting it, to selling our house - immediately - and purchasing this new house.

In the past 12-hours, we have oscillated from keeping our house and renting it, to selling our house - immediately - and moving out of state.

In the past 6-hours, we have been pre-approved for a loan to purchase the new house and have organized all of our finances to make it work. In my mind - I have thoroughly decorated the inside of the house and know where the majority of our furniture will be placed.

In the past 3-hours, we have identified two ideal properties in Massachusetts - close to my family, where we could see ourselves living for the next 20 years.

But what do we want?

Honestly, I have no idea.

Upside to staying in California: We have awesome jobs. The weather is great. We have a lot of friends and networks. We have 2-months remaining on our season pass to the Museums in Balboa Park, 4-months remaining on our season pass to the Zoo, and 7-months remaining on our season pass to SeaWorld. I wonder if I would have the patience and fortitude to load four small children - clad in snowsuits - in to their carseats.

Downside to staying in California: We have no family in the area. There is one season ... sunny. I cannot imagine us remaining in this location for the next 20 years because it makes more sense to settle down someplace where you actually stand a chance of owning a home in less than 30, 40, 50 60 years. I miss the seasons. I think....

As of right now (this very instant), our dominant plan involves selling our house and moving back to Massachusetts. I don't know what we'll do for work - or where we'll live. We should probably line up jobs and/or let my dad know that we'll be bunking with him, indefinitely.

These are some really tough decisions to make - and as much as possible, we're trying to rely on our parental instinct to do what is right.

I had my 20-week ultrasound today. Going in to the appointment, it was not my intention to find out the gender of our baby - because I thought it would be nice to be surprised. But then, I reconsidered. Our lives are almost devoid of any certainty at the moment ... and it would be really nice to have one nugget of information regarding our future family development.

Thus, I learned that another tough decision in our future, will involve picking out a name for William, Elizabeth & Carolyn's baby brother ... who weighed in at exactly 1.0 pound, today. With 10 little fingers and 10 little toes, he looks incredibly perfect and is measuring a full week ahead of schedule.

Absolutely everyone that I've spoken to, said that they knew we were going to have a another boy. Interestingly enough, Charlie and I were completely convinced that we were having a girl. Considering we both missed this, I think our parental instincts are severely challenged.

It is for this reason, that from now on, we are going to rely on a Magic 8-Ball for all of our big decisions.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Informant

Tonight as Charlie was getting the kids dressed for bed, I was busy cleaning up the kitchen from dinner. Carolyn and Elizabeth had already been changed in to their pajamas and were running around the house, noisily playing with their doll carriages.

At one point, I caught Carolyn calling "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

This is normal. She'll call out my name at least 10,000,000 times a day. But tonight, for the first time ever, I heard a hint of an accusatory tone to her tiny little voice. When I turned around to look at her, she was standing in the hallway, in her pink jammies, with her Mr. Potato Head glasses perched on her nose - pointing to the bathroom.

From my perspective, I couldn't see what exactly she was pointing at - but I could hear running water. When I saw that Charlie was with William in the nursery - the first thought through my head was that maybe my husband left the sink running in the bathroom.

You never know ... it's possible that he might leave the bathroom door wide open and the sink running with unsupervised two toddlers on the loose.

Possible, but not likely.

My second thought was "Oh $*&^#%..."

I ran around the corner and spotted Elizabeth, using the toilet as a step, leaning across the counter with her arms plunged in to the sink. She had managed to turn on both taps ... hot and cold. Her mission was to fill up one of the "blue bowls" that we had brought home from the hospital when the babies were newborns and which we use every-other-night to hold water when we give the children sponge baths. Apparently, Elizabeth was planning to give her baby doll a sponge bath, too. But only after my sweet little daughter dumped several blue bowls worth of water all over the counter, toilet, floor and bathmats.

Had the house not just been thoroughly cleaned a few days ago, I might have seized this opportunity to sprinkle Comet on the floor and scrub. Alas, the extra effort I exerted would not have been necessary - if there wasn't a gallon of water on the floor.

One day, I'm sure that tattling will be really bothersome. But as of right now, it's wonderful to know that when I don't see something ... I have two narks extra pair of eyes always on the look-out. Now, I just have to figure out a way to encourage our children to rat out ensure that their siblings remain out of danger or mischief. I'm thinking something along the lines of a candy - monetary - toy - new pony reward system.

So long as they're not working together as a team - ganging up against me - this toddler triplethood stuff ain't too bad. Although, it would be a lot easier if I could still have a glass of wine every night.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Grand Fool

Normally, I wouldn't share something that comes from work - but the mere thought of the pictures below, have been causing me to break out in a cold sweat, since the first time I saw them, two days ago.

The reason that these photos were circulated is because my company has put a large emphasis on "Behavior Based Safety Training" and one of the golden rules is to think, before you act. We are frequently (as in several times a day) encouraged to ask ourselves - before we engage in any task - "What could go wrong and what is the worst thing that could happen?"

Having a "safety all-the-time" mentality has served me quite well as a mother of toddler triplets. Although, I will admit, sometimes I don't think things through very well. Had I adequately thought through "what is the worst thing that could happen" I doubt I would have taken three 18-month olds for a walk on safety harnesses. Nor, would I have taken down all of our baby gates. Come to think of it - if I was as safety conscious as I should be ... our kids would be wrapped in bubble wrap and we'd never leave the house.

I'm not overly afraid of heights, unlike my mother who hung on to a telescope for dear life the first time I brought her to the Grand Canyon. But some people ... have NO fear and/or not a brain in their noggin.

The person that sent me these photos said that the absolutely crazy idiot with a death wish dare devil had a camera, a tripod and a plastic bag, clutched in his left hand. Only his right hand was available to grab the rock. He made it out of this precarious situation - but not before his flip flops slipped, he started to fall, and was able to grab hold of the rock and throw his gear on to land.

I'm not sure about you ... but if given the option of standing on perfectly stable ground, I would not take the risk of jumping across a 900 meter (2,953 feet) crevasse IN MY FLIP FLOPS to take a picture on a friable pinnacle that would not allow any better perspective, than the picture I took if I was standing 15 feet away, on solid ground.

As a note to my children: If you ever try something like this and live to tell about it ... I'll kill you (if I don't drop dead, first). Don't try me.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

William's World

There are certain foods that William loves to eat. Among those foods are: lemons, banana muffins and popsicles. Let's see, I think there was something else...

... pause ...

Nope. That pretty much sums it up.

Now, I know it's not good that our son eats lemons because they are acidic and can damage the enamel on his teeth - but - there is no stopping the child once he sees yellow citrus fruit. Kind of like me with peanut butter ice cream ... or molcajetes.

Speaking of molcajetes ... we returned to our Mexican restaurant, tonight. The place was entirely empty when we arrived and taking a quick inventory of the place, we realized that the waiter that sends our kids in to fits of hysterics had the night off.

This was a good sign.

We took our seats in a booth, placed our order, and started to feast on chips and salsa. The waiter brought Charlie and I glasses of ice water with lemon and before I could stop him, William had sunk his entire arm, almost up to his elbow, in to my glass to dig out the lemon. While he stood on the seat, chewing on the rind, a couple were seated in the booth behind us. I didn't pay much attention to these new patrons, until Charlie started fiercely whispering that the mayor of our city was sitting directly behind me.

Wow, the MAYOR!!

As if on cue, William turned around and leaning over the booth, tried to smack the mayor - in the head - with his spoon. While I was able to thwart his attempt at inflicting injury on the highest ranking political figure in our city ... I wasn't able to stop him from throwing his lemon rind.

Because everyone, including the good-humored mayor, knows that when you are two-years old, your mission in life is to embarrass the daylights out of your parents each and every time they step foot in a restaurant. That's what you do.

Although, I think it would serve the mayor well if he considered eating all of his meals in a bicycle helmet in the off-chance there was a citric loaded toddler laying in wait. It's really quite stylish. And, safe.

Since I'm not dumb brave enough to feed our children popsicles in the house, I'll give them these treats in the backyard. Yesterday, we were having a relatively cool winter day, by southern California standards. Because it was a chilly 60 degrees in the shade, I put the kids in sweatshirts and let everyone outside to eat their snack.

Carolyn and Elizabeth each took two bites of their popsicles and then handed them over to me. William ate his entire popsicle. He then instantly broke out in goosebumps and started chattering so hard he couldn't stand still. But if you think this temporary loss of body control would dissuade him from finishing off both of his sisters popsicles ... you'd be mistaken. And wouldn't you know - I've never seen him happier. Or shakier.

All it took for his core body temperature to return to normal, was being wrapped tightly in a blanket for the next three hours until his lips turned from blue back to pink.

While I was away at my business meeting last week - Charlie had made banana muffins for the kids and called to tell me that William polished off six muffins in less than an hour and six more muffins over the next five hours. He then called me back later in the day, before he'd made his trip to Target to pick up more diapers, to inquire if it is normal for a 2-year old boy to poop four times in a day?

I've read that the stomach is the size of a fist. Considering William's hand is no larger than say, a small lemon, it makes perfectly good sense to me that a dozen banana muffins, which are loaded in fiber, would cause several massive evacuations. I'm certain that I've seen a formula somewhere about this ...

Mass in = mass out. Except when: 2 adults - 1 adult (who is away at a conference and cannot assist with making a diaper run) = 1 dozen banana muffins + 1-28 pound boy, the output will > (exceed+1) whatever supply of diapers you have available (in your house + car + diaper bag).

Today, Charlie made more banana muffins - after he made sure that he had plenty of diapers on hand. He called me at work to tell me that when William peered in the oven window and could see what was cooking - he got so excited that he started to wave his hands in the air, run around in circles ... and ... this is the real kicker - bent down and kissed the oven door.

I honestly don't know where he gets his infatuation with food.

It's a mystery.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The problem with being human

Several months ago, *we* came to the conclusion that we needed some help with house cleaning. We hired a woman - actually two - that would come by every couple of weeks. After several more months ... *I* came to the conclusion that I could do just as good, if not better of a job, than the people that we were paying to clean. That was the end of that.

The reality is - I can do a better job cleaning and I love the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing housework. The problem is - I have very little time. Maybe I could go to bed later ... wake up earlier ... work less at my paying job ... sacrifice a weekend ... or use naptime more productively than updating my blog ... but I don't love housecleaning that much. Which is why it's been over a month since our shower has been scrubbed.

Now that I'm pregnant, Charlie doesn't want me near chemicals. I kind of understand his concern - but I honestly have no problem using products like "Soft Scrub" considering it isn't harmful and I'm not lathering myself in scrubbing bubbles. However, given my current condition, if I have the option of cleaning a commode or taking a nap ... I'd trade my toilet brush for a pillow any day of the week.

Which is why ... last night, Charlie called a housecleaner that was advertised in our neighborhood. He made plans that a two-woman team would be at our house this morning, at 9 AM. Today, I was up and dressed by 7 AM. I had the kids up and dressed by 7:30. While the kids sat in our bed watching cartoons and sipping orange juice, I set about putting things away to get ready for the cleaning crew.

One thing I've learned with a maid service is that their mission is to clean. They do not put all of your junk stuff away - which is something YOU need to do - unless you want all of your junk stuff put in random piles throughout the house. This is a real pet peeve of mine.

Maybe I'm crazy that way.

After spending an hour and a half putting all of our junk stuff away, I realized that it would take me just a tiny bit longer to actually dust, vacuum and mop the floors. For pete's sake - the hardest part of the job was already done. The fact that I was now going to pay someone a good chunk of cash to come in and do the fun stuff had me annoyed.

But more annoying was that I was totally off-schedule. And as any triplet mother can attest ... the key to happiness is schedule. They might also attest that it can easily happen that if your morning starts out off schedule, the rest of your day can be shot. Lunch is thrown off, nap times are thrown off, dinner and bedtime are thrown off.

That's what I feared would happen today.

And wouldn't you know - that's exactly what happened, today.

It was 9:00 AM. I didn't want the kids watching cartoons all day and I still needed to feed them breakfast. I was frustrated with myself that I didn't finish our "Pre-Clean" the night before ... or get up earlier and finish it so that our starving children wouldn't be stuck in front of the television because of their mother's inability to better manage her time.

I brought everyone out to the kitchen and loaded them in their booster chairs. Because I didn't want to have a repeat of breakfast Sunday and again, yesterday - where our children solely consumed 4 large containers of yogurt - I decided that eggs were on the menu. Pulling out the necessary ingredients and equipment, I started to cook. The kids started to fuss. They started to fight. They started to scream. I started to get flustered. Really flustered.

Right about then, I noticed my fluffy scrambled eggs had turned black and were smoking. There was also smoke billowing from the toaster oven because my english muffins had caught on fire. William, who was sitting in his booster chair whining, while flinging sippy cups and random utensils across the table at his sisters ... captured my attention.

The phone rang. The housecleaning women were totally lost, driving circles around our neighborhood. Just as I hung up with the housecleaners, and started cooking the second batch of eggs, the phone rang again. At that very moment, Charlie called and with pure innocence asked "How's your morning going?" I laid in to my husband that if he really wanted to help me, he would pick up his own junk stuff (not quite the word I used) before he left for work ... or better yet ... watch the kids and give me a morning to clean the house instead of imposing two strangers on us. As I'm typing this now, it doesn't seem like a big deal. But when I was living it this morning, I thought for sure I would crack in two ... especially when I burned the SECOND batch of eggs, realized we were now OUT of eggs and for the third morning in a row - our kids would eat yogurt (and pretzels) for breakfast.

When I'm not wearing my "mother hat", I work part-time as a senior environmental engineer for a major oil company. My job includes managing multiple remediation projects with annual budgets that are in the millions of dollars. I am directly responsible for overseeing consultants, contractors, subcontractors and interfacing with various local, state and sometimes - federal - regulatory agencies. My job is challenging and downright stressful at times. But being a good role model and positive influence on three two-year olds is the most challenging thing I've ever done. It is mentally more challenging than taking advanced structural geology, calculus, physics, chemistry, philosophy, Latin-American studies and piano in one semester. It is physically more challenging than hiking all the way in to - and out of - the Grand Canyon in a single day.

Trust me, I've done both.

William continued to whine - louder - and to the point that his fussing was the only noise I heard - echoing around the inside of my head, rattling my brain. Given the circumstances, my toddler son's behavior was completely appropriate considering he was 2-hours off schedule. This was entirely my fault.

My behavior, on the other hand, was not appropriate. Also, entirely my fault. Caused by my own fault.

This is the first time I've ever thought of our children as an inconvenience - but this is the second time that I've had an out-of-body experience as a mother. I can actually look down from some spiritual vantage point and see myself losing my cool ... and although I know I should always remain in control of the situation ... I am at a complete loss. My frustration, my temper ... my humanness gets the best of me. It's a horrible feeling when it's happening and even more horrible, when you see how your negative behavior effects your children.

Our kids are amazing. They are beautiful and bright. At two-years old, for the most part, they are full of love, happiness and compassion. It brings joy to my heart when I see them comfort one another ... bring loveys to a sibling who is upset ... and insist on giving kisses to each other before bed time.

Children Learn What They Live.

When I watched the kids today, emulating my frustration from earlier in the morning by yelling "STOP!" at each other, "NO!" at the dog, and jumping clear out of their skins every time I called their names ... I wished the earth would engulf me, whole. The only good thing is that they didn't start swearing. At least not yet. If they yell "Muckin' eggs!" tomorrow ... I'll know they picked up that gem, from me.

This isn't the kind of person I want to be and this certainly isn't the kind of mother I want to be. For all the years of going through fertility treatments ... these are the children that we wanted, more than life itself.

My children are not an inconvenience and they never will be. They are my very reason for being.

It's tough being two and having limited communication skills. But it's even tougher being 35 and knowing that your actions are strongly influencing the character of your children. This job of parenting never ends. It's not a sprint and it's not a marathon because the finish line doesn't exist. This is a race of life, for life ... and you absolutely must pace yourself and take inventory of your own needs. I'm not sure why nobody ever told me - but I'll say it now: This parenting stuff is damn tough work - no matter how long you've wanted children and no matter what you've gone through to get them.

As soon as Charlie walked in the door this afternoon at 5 PM (and our kids were still napping because everything was pushed back two hours) - I walked out. When my day was not getting any better by noon - and my fury was now being taken out on the dog who was gobbling poop out of a pile I had swept up in the garage (which is still a disaster from the water heater fiasco) - I knew that I needed some me time. Big time.

I headed straight to the hair salon, a place I have not visited in at least 8-months. If I wasn't pregnant - mark my words - I would gone straight to a bar. When I told the stylist that I wanted to look "10-Years Younger" she lopped 7-inches off my hair, colored me blonde and gave me bangs. I haven't had bangs since I was a sophomore in highschool, so I now look like a really chubby/kinda sorta pregnant (?) 15 25-year old. Then, I dashed over to the store and bought myself some maternity underwear and lip gloss. I feel like a new woman.

I was tempted not to post this story. But I think it's important to realize that we all have off days. Sometimes, they are REALLY off. My goal in writing my experience down is to remember it ... learn from it ... and hopefully (please God) ... never repeat it.

When I came home tonight, Charlie didn't recognize me. Now I just pray that tomorrow is a better day and our children don't recognize the monster that was their mother, today. I know I can do better than this. I have to do better than this.

Our children's happiness depends upon on it ... and I'd do anything for them.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Part IX: A Waddle In Time

Having one baby at home - and two in the hospital - posed a whole new challenge and level of stress. Add to that the fact that one of our babies had been moved back to the high-risk side of the NICU and was being treated for NEC ... I was fit to be tied.

Because Charlie and I both wanted to see the girls, but didn't want to unnecessarily take William on busy California freeways or in to a hospital environment, we were very fortunate that my highly qualified mom who is a retired nurse and mother of seven children - was in town to lend her help.

The previous day, when Charlie and I had visited the girls in the NICU, mom stayed home with William. But because all of us were scheduled to participate in an infant CPR class, the four of us went to the hospital Saturday morning. We arrived in the NICU shortly after receiving the call that Elizabeth had been moved to the high risk side.

When we arrived at the hospital, Elizabeth was in an open cradle with heat lights to keep her body temperature regulated. Our tiny baby, barely 4.5 pounds, was hooked up to several IV's and like her brother - less than two weeks earlier - was completely limp. The doctors assured us that she was stable and it did not appear that her case of NEC was nearly as bad as William's had been. Still, every ounce of energy in her tiny body was being used to combat the infection and keep her alive.

After visiting with the girls for a few hours, we retreated to a classroom in the hospital for our CPR training. Before we left the hospital for the day - I went to the pump lounge so I could express milk for Carolyn - since breastmilk was being withheld from Elizabeth. On my way out of the pump lounge, I could hear a baby crying loudly. Although I had not yet mastered the ability to distinguish my babies' cries ... in a nursery full of 60 newborns ... this one sounded familiar.

As I drew closer, I saw that the cry was coming from William. My baby boy was crying louder than I had ever heard before.

The first thing I noticed was that he was squirming. I asked Charlie and my mother what had happened and they told me that they had just finished giving him a bottle of expressed breast milk and he hadn't yet burped. His discomfort was most likely due to gas. When this diagnosis was echoed by the NICU nurses, my mind was put at ease.

Gas. That can certainly be painful - but is nothing to worry about.

We packed up our bags and left the hospital. On our way home, while William continued to sporadically fuss, we stopped by to pick up a pizza. Once we arrived home, we swaddled him in a blanket and laid him on the floor. I had just sat down and had yet to take a bite of pizza, when he erupted in to screams.

Blood curdling screams.

Instantly, I knew something was wrong. This wasn't just gas.

I snatched him up, ran in to the nursery and pulled off his diaper. His stomach did not appear distended, but he was writhing in pain. When it was clear that my level-headed mother was concerned ... I became alarmed. I frantically called the NICU and asked to speak to a nurse. When an individual picked up the phone, who I wrongly assumed had medical training, and I relayed William's history of NEC - what was happening - and asked if I could bring him back ... she told me that once a patient is released from the NICU they do not return. Therefore, if we were concerned about William, we needed to take him to a local emergency room.

I placed calls to our pediatrician and when I didn't hear back immediately ... packed William in his infant carrier and took off out the front door. Never before - and hopefully never again - will I feel as hysterical and desperate in my parenting as I did at that moment in time.

It was 8:00 PM.

While mom stayed home, Charlie and I loaded a screaming William in to the car. We drove to a local hospital and Charlie dropped me off at the ER while I ran inside with our baby. I remember a Border Patrol Agent standing in front of us. He was in obvious pain with a laceration across his face and a shoulder dislocated so badly his hand was able to touch his knee. As soon as this man saw my face streaked with tears, and took one look at the tiny screaming baby in my arms ... despite his own physical trauma, he stepped out of line and ushered us through.

We were seen within minutes. But when our triage nurse told us that he wanted to take a rectal temperature - we hedged. I had a flashback to standing in the NICU talking to one of the more experienced nurses. I clearly remembered her telling me that you should never take a rectal temperature on a premature baby because the risk of causing harm is so great. At the time, William was still five weeks premature.

Charlie and I looked at each other and took an inventory of the patients we'd seen in the hospital. This was a typical hospital ... but there were no other children, definitely no other infants and certainly no preemies, in the ER. Even though we'd yet to see a doctor ... we both knew that this was the wrong place for us to be, with our premature baby. With nods and words of understanding from the ER staff, we declined any further services, loaded a crying William back in to his infant carrier, and took off for Children's Hospital.

It was 9:30 PM.

We arrived at Children's Hospital just before 10:00 PM. Once again, Charlie dropped me off at the ER, while he parked the car. I ran inside with our distressed baby and was quickly triaged. The nurse put us in a back room and several doctors came in to evaluate William. Unlike the NICU, when x-rays were ordered and a machine drawn up bedside, I had to take my tiny baby in to a large, cold room. I had to undress him from his tiny outfit, remove his diaper, and lay his 5-pound body on a steel table. To this day, the most difficult thing I've ever had to do as a mother, is hold my crying newborn in various positions while multiple x-ray images were taken.

It was torture for William. It was torture for me. The difference is, William doesn't remember the experience. I will never forget it.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to pick him up and bring his tiny shaking body to my chest. My poor baby was exhausted. It had been hours since he'd slept, hours since he'd eaten, hours since he'd stopped crying. There was nothing I could do, except hold him. I couldn't even comfort him with nursing - because the doctors didn't want him to take in any food until a diagnosis had been made.

At around 12:00 AM, we were returned to a room and reunited with Charlie. While I laid on a bed with William cradled in my arms - Charlie tried unsuccessfully to get comfortable in a chair.

An hour passed.

Another hour passed.

At 3 AM, a doctor returned to our room and told us that all of the x-ray images taken clearly showed that William's intestines were distended. His white blood cell count was elevated and it was highly possible that he was having a relapse of NEC. After having been home for just over two days, our baby boy was being re-admitted to the hospital. Much to our surprise - he was being sent back to the NICU where he had spent the first four weeks of his life. Even though I was told that once a child is discharged from a NICU, they don't go back, they made an exception for our William.

When we walked in to the hospital lobby, at 3:45 AM, we were met by the same night guard that we had seen the night William had his first NEC episode. No questions were asked. Instead, he quickly handed us our visitor badges and quietly whispered "God Bless You."

After all that we'd been through over the past 7 hours ... walking in to the NICU with William in our arms was like coming home. The NICU had received a call from Children's Hospital - and it was the doctors at the NICU that directed the staff at Children's to send him back. As soon as we came through the intermediary room, we were met by at least eight nurses and two doctors.

They were waiting for us.

They scooped a crying William from my arms and placed him on a bed - immediately adjacent to his sister's. Charlie and I both commented later how William instantly went limp. It was as if he knew that this was where he was suppose to be and he was in good hands. We talked with the doctors and nurses about the drama of the evening and our visits to three separate hospitals. I told them how frustrated I was that the person I spoke to told me to go to a local hospital instead of returning to the NICU ... how terribly worried we were that William was having a NEC relapse ... and how incredibly grateful we were that he was back under the competent care of the medical staff in the hospital where he'd been born.

We remained next to William's bed for the next hour. Before leaving, we checked in on Elizabeth and made our way over to see Carolyn. On our way to the low-risk side of the nursery ... every single doctor and nurse stopped what they were doing and came over to give us words of encouragement. We were embraced in tight hugs by staff whose names we didn't even know, but who knew us. Over the past four weeks, these people had become our family and we deeply appreciated them all. except Brandy and whoever answered the phone earlier that night and sent us on a wild goose chase that included visiting three hospitals in seven hours.

When we returned home at 5:30 AM, once again childless, my mother was awake, waiting for us. I relayed what had happened and how we weren't sure what was wrong. But, I felt an odd sense of relief. Looking back, I never felt like William was ready to be discharged. My excitement to get a baby home, overshadowed the deep concern that he had been so critically ill, just two weeks prior.

William was once again, seriously ill and would have to remain in the NICU. Tests would be run, IV's would be administered, more x-rays would be taken and within a few days, a barium enema would be performed to rule out the possibility of a severe problem with his lower gastrointestinal tract. Several days beyond that, William would receive a second transfusion of his dad's "superblood".

Soon, a diagnosis of c-diff (or, Clostridium Difficile Colitis) would be made. There were questions where William could have picked this bacterial infection up, because such extreme care with hand washing was exercised by the limited number of people who came in to contact with him. The most likely explanation was that the levels of good bacteria were significantly reduced by the high doses of antibiotics he had received during his treatment for NEC. With time, the c-diff population, which is always present in a person's intestines, soared.

But once again - and for several more weeks - all three of our babies would remain in the NICU.

... to be continued ...