Thursday, January 31, 2008

an amazing trip trick: staying healthy

Sorry, folks. I was in such haste to post last night that I didn't proofread this. A few clarifications are shown in red. (For the inconvenience I'll throw in another tip: Do not rent the movie Good Luck Chuck.)

I have been extremely apprehensive to post this. Especially since the last Amazing Trip Trick I posted was about potty training and how I was such a pro.

Laa dee daa dee dah!

Now, less than a month later, I've got kids springing leaks all over the floor.

But. The fact that we've dodged any serious colds or illnesses for the better part of this year makes me want to sing from the rooftops. So, just hear me out on this and then, if we're all struck with the flu - you can bet I'll never post advice again. Or, at least not until I have something really important to share.

Okay ... so you know the theory "It's good to get your kids exposed to different germs because then they'll build up an immunity"? Well, I think that is a load of hogwash.

Growing up, it seemed that I caught every cold that came along. As an adult, it seems that I catch every cold, too. So why is it - that if I was sick as a child, I get sick as an adult? Where's my immunity? With as many times as I've been sick in my life, I should be immune for the rest of my days.

Whenever I get sick, it always starts out the same way. Scratchy throat, painful to swallow, my ears feel full and I'll have a dull headache. Then my nose will start dripping. By the next day, I am completely congested and unable to breathe. Within a week, the congestion will have moved to my lungs and I will spend the next two or three weeks - possibly four or six - hacking up all kinds of grossness.

I'll try anything to make myself feel better. Humidifiers, decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines, saline nasal sprays, eucalyptus body oil, gargling salt water, steam rooms, Emergen-C, various types of tea, honey, zinc, vitamin c, soup, echinicea, wheat grass, orange juice.

You name it, I'm pretty sure I've tried it. Magnets? I've tried those. I've also tried acupuncture, acupressure ... I met with an allergist, a herbologist and a ridiculously expensive homeopath who had me taking puffer fish pills while standing on my head and wearing green socks. Through the years, I've been diagnosed with bronchitis and put on more antibiotics than I can count. I've missed countless days of school and work.

Recently, my fabulous sister, Beth - who is a pharmacist (and a lawyer and a chemist), suggested that I try Zicam. Considering Zicam is a homeopathic remedy, I was really surprised to hear her recommend it. Maybe because I think of homeopathic remedies to be more eastern medicine like and I think of my sister as being a very western medicine like person.

Whatever the case, I tried it because when I'm sick and feeling miserable I'll try anything.

Unfortunately, Zicam doesn't work well once you are sick. You need to start taking it at the first sign of getting sick. So the very next time I felt the tell-tale sore throat and clogged ears, I began using the nasal gel swabs. If I tell you nothing else of value on this blog ... I honestly can say that those things worked.


Now, let me throw in this caveat.

I did still get sick and was stuffy for a few days, but it wasn't nearly as severe as it had been every single time I ever had been sick every other time in my life. My nose was stuffy for a few days, but within a week, I was completely cleared up and back to feeling spiffy. It has NEVER happened (in my entire life) that I've recovered from a cold in such a short period of time.

Once the children turned three, I started using Zicam on them, too. As soon as I can see that they have runny noses and are acting grouchy - I will administer a dose four times a day: When they first wake up for the day, before they go down for a nap, once they wake up from their nap and once they go to bed.

Depending upon whether or not they are running a fever, I may also administer another dose while they are in bed sleeping, before I turn in for the night. I will continue to use Zicam on the kids and on myself, for several days (five?) until the symptoms begin to subside.

Thus far (knock on wood), our kids have not had a single chest cold for the past eight months. Considering they go to the church nursery, gymnastics, soccer and meet with fellow triplets once a week, I think this is nothing short of a miracle. Our children have been exposed to a lot of children during this time, including several kids that were being treated for bronchitis, croup and pneumonia.

So, my conclusion is that Zicam most definitely shortens the common cold and reduces the severity of the symptoms - dramatically.

We use the nasal gel that comes in the pump. The Zicam nasal swabs, which are essentially Q-Tips soaked in Zicam, work well also, but I believe that buying the pump and depressing an application directly on to your own Q-Tip is a much more cost effective approach. (You also get more Zicam with the presoaked swabs then you could ever actually use with one application.)

I have tried the tablets and they taste awful. We'll continue to stick with the nasal gel because the administration is painless for everyone and I recently saw a write up in the December/January issue of Parenting magazine (or maybe it was the February/March) (if Charlie didn't rent a movie tonight and wasn't beckoning me to join him, I would go look it up) that indicated that nasal gel zinc is absorbed more effectively and works better than any other application.

I've heard claims that the use of nasal zinc can adversely effect your sense of smell. This article suggests otherwise. And considering I change an average of 20 diapers a day and still feel like passing out, I am fairly certain my sense of smell is undiminished. Although, at this point in my life, I doubt I would complain too much if my sniffer suddenly stopped working.

You can purchase a package containing two Zicam gel pumps for $11.99 at Costco. Because there are only two pumps in the package - but five people in our family that use the stuff - I will depress the pump once or twice on a clean cotton swab, and use that on the inside of each person's nose. Then, I'll flip the cotton swab and use the other end on the other nostril.

You must use it several times a day, for several days to see any effect. Don't expect to use it once or twice and be healed.

Here are some other things we do to stay healthy...

I wash everyone's hands frequently.

Definitely whenever we've been out playing, and before we eat. As soon as the kids walk in the front door - I herd them in to the bathroom to wash their hands. Because we're often on the go and finding a bathroom can be tricky, I always have with me a hand sanitizer.

I once used Purell religiously, but have recently converted to Vick's Early Defense which I like better. It doesn't contain any alcohol (important when you have a thumb sucker), doesn't dry out your skin, or sting any cuts.

Everyone in our home takes a vitamin each and every day. I'm still taking a prenatal vitamin, but the kids have been taking Gummi Vites for at least the past year. They'll take two of the Gummy Vites and one of the Immune Booster. Part of the reason I started giving them a vitamin is because I was concerned that their appetites had slipped and wanted to be sure they were getting the vitamins they need.

Whenever the kids do have coughs, I'll rub Vicks VapoRub on the soles of their feet (as well as their chest and neck) and although it may be coincidence - I can tell that their coughs are notably abated. Maybe it has something to do with pressure points? I don't know. I just heard it, tried it, and could tell a difference.

Green socks and standing on your head - you can skip that one. Unless, you have VapoRub on under those socks and nostrils coated with Zicam.

So that's what I've got and I'm sticking to it. Because although all of our friends have been leveled at least once this year ... we have not.


That my friends, is what you call taunting the Gods of fate.

Better known as jinxing yourself.

Now if I don't update my blog for the next week, you'll know why.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

life events

On Monday night my friend Debbie and I went to see the movie, Juno.

Apparently, this film has been nominated for an Academy Award - which I might know - if my television viewing included anything other than Super Why and Barney or if I'd glanced at a newspaper once in the past month. My ignorance of what is happening in the world around me is blissfully frightening.

I think I heard that this is an election year, so I probably need to get my head out of the sand at some point, soon. Or - just hope that someone can tell me who I should vote for and why.

Needless to say, this was the first movie that I have been able to sit through and watch from beginning to end, in at least a year. And what a great movie it was. It was humorous and yet extremely touching - a perfect pairing of emotions.

The main character, a 16-year old girl named Juno, becomes pregnant. She is only a Junior in high school. She cannot care for a baby at this point in her life and she does not want a baby at this point in her life. Weighing her options, she decides to have an abortion. But while sitting in the waiting room, she changes her mind and runs out.

The bravery of this young girl - to approach her parents - carry a baby to term - and search out adoptive parents - while still attending high school is incredible. And the story of the woman who ultimately adopted Juno's baby is amazing, too. She wanted nothing more than to have a child of her own. Her marriage, her home, her very existence ... everything in her life revolved around her overwhelming desire to become a mother.

For the past two days, I've been thinking about this movie. I've been thinking about how painfully desperate it feels to want a child that you cannot have ... how much courage it must take for a mother to put her child up for adoption ... how adoption truly is a gift of love ... and how I know so many good people who have grown their families through the adoptive process.

For instance, there is my friend Deana and her husband Jack, who struggled with infertility for five years, before adopting their beautiful baby boy. Less then two years later, the birth mother of their son - gave birth to another baby - that Deana and Jack also adopted. Late last year, there was a two part news segment done on Jack and Deana's story.

(You can watch the first segment
here and the second segment here.)

I've watched the segment several times and each time, I've been moved to tears. But adoption stories do that to me because the whole process is bittersweet. There is the love that a mother has for her baby to give them life - and then give them up - with the hope that their baby will have a better life ... and then there is the love and longing that the adoptive parents have had for a baby, before it was even conceived.

The movie also made me think about my own children and how I am going to talk to them about sex, as they grow up. I know I've got a ways to go before I need to worry about such things, but I'm already thinking about it, because I like to inundate my mind with things that have not yet happened. It helps me to stay awake at night when I'm up feeding a famished six-month-old in the midst of a growth spurt.

I really hope that our children will abstain until they are married - or at least - until they are in a committed relationship with someone that they love and trust and who loves and trusts them in return. And I'm really hoping that they don't find that person until they are 40. Or 45.

Although some people might think that an unplanned pregnancy is the worst thing that could happen to their child, I happen to believe that contracting a sexually transmitted disease is far more severe. Whatever you believe, it is my humble opinion that the most important thing anyone can do is arm their children with knowledge.

My mother had me enrolled in a sex education class as soon as I was wearing a training bra and she escorted me in to a planned parenthood to hear about birth control options when I was 17 and had been dating the same boy for four years, because she suspected the birds and the bees were on a collision course. I knew growing up that the whole issue of abortion and a woman's right to choose is an extremely difficult topic. It isn't black and white, although it may seem that way on the surface.

I will tell our children that I know a lot of women, many who are good friends, that have had abortions because they became pregnant either as teenagers or young adults and they were not ready at that point in their lives to have a child. Almost all of these girls and women were terrified what their parents would think - one to the point that she attempted to perform the abortion, herself. Sadly, I know women who made the decision to terminate a pregnancy because it occurred as the result of rape or an incestuous event. My heart breaks for all of these women because although they did what they felt was right for them, at that point in their life, their decision will always be with them. Often in later years, with much regret.

Much like my mother did with me, with our children, I will do whatever I can to protect them. I will be sure that they receive the appropriate vaccinations and be armed with an unambiguous education on the subject. I will also tell them that if they ever find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy, I am here to help. Whether it be my daughters or my sons, I am here to help and support them.


In other serious news ... beginning tomorrow, I am going to help my children by ridding them of what seems to be, an increasing dependence on diapers. Not a single one of my children has used the toilet in an appropriate manner for the past three days. Even those children who I thought were almost completely potty-trained, have had a regression of geologic proportions.

So let's just FORGET what I said about a person needing to have patience and not get frustrated. Blah, blah, blah.

My patience quota has been tapped.

So help me, if I have to change one more diaper on a child that weighs more than 30 pounds and is capable of articulating that their defecation is comparable in size to that of an Asian Pachyderm, my head will fall clean off my shoulders.

So one way or the other, our area rugs are coming up.

he knows me too well

This morning, Charlie got up with the children and let me have a few more minutes of heavenly shut eye. While I was starting to doze off and could feel myself slip in to that floaty peaceful place, I heard little footsteps come running down the hall and a small fist banging on our closed bedroom door.

"Mommy! Mommy! Are you in there?!"

"Mommy! It's not the big bad wolf ... it's me, WILLIAM!!"

I remained quiet, hopeful that if I didn't make a noise, he would be distracted and run away. But instead he continued to knock. When after a few minutes I didn't get up and open the door he dug deep in to his three-year-old lexicon and said "Mommy ... I have CAKE!"

Monday, January 28, 2008

speaking of bath time

While I try to clean the bathroom during the children's bath time, Charlie likes to sit and strum his guitar and think about what new things he'll cook up next.

If you look closely, you might be able to see a head of lettuce floating in the tub. Not to worry, though. I seriously doubt he'd ever wash vegetables with the children if and when he opens his own restaurant.

pulling a kramer

I just received a note from someone telling me that letting kids play in a kitchen sink - where I cook food - is gross. I might be in the minority, but I don't actually cook food in the sink, although I do wash vegetables, fruit and dishes in it.

When the triplets were infants, we used an infant tub and as they grew older and we didn't want to bend over the tub, we'd wash them in the sink. Now, they all like to splash together in the tub (or shower), but I bet I give someone a bath in the sink at least once a week. Henry gets one at least every other day.

I didn't consider this a rude comment, but it did make me wonder.

Why is bathing kids in the sink gross?

Is it gross because the kids are going to get food on them?

Or is it gross because food goes in the sink?

Let's just assume for a moment that I never clean the sink thoroughly before or after I use it for children. Or food. Or both at the same time, providing I'm trying to save a few minutes by making a salad while giving a bath.


It's been a while since I've done a Q&A and since I've received a lot of the same questions over the past month, I decided to answer them before I completely forget.


Q: Where was that picture of your mom in the blue dress taken?

A: That picture was taken at my sister Mary's wedding in ... June (?) ... of ... 197 .... uh ... 7? I've always thought that was one of the best pictures of my mother ever taken. She is absolutely stunning.

Q: How do you do strike through of your text or reference back to previous posts with in your posts?

A: I know very, very little about HTML, or that process of being all technical-like with blogging. But, to do strike through of a word or phrase, follow these commands, shown in parenthesis. Type the symbol (<) followed by the word (strike) followed by the symbol (>). Then, type the word or phrase you want to have struck through. Then, type the symbol (<) followed by the symbol (/) followed by the word (strike) followed by the symbol (>).

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold. Peas porridge in the pot nine days old!!

Now, to refer back to a previous post, or other website, if you are using Blogger, you can simply click on the icon that looks like a little globe with an infinity sign on it, within your tool bar. Here are the steps ... open a new post on blogger. Start typing whatever it is that you want. Now, you want to link back to a story about your children learning their colors (or whatever!) that you wrote earlier in your blog.

Highlight the word that you want linked and go click that little globe icon. (You'll see font, text, bold, indent, color, and it's the very next icon. Sixth from the left on my template.) Then, open a new window and go to the post that you want linked. You need to click on the date/time stamp (at the bottom of the post with your signature), copy that from your URL window, and paste it in to the URL window on from your link icon, and hit OK. Now, when you look at the text in your blog, it will have a hyperlink back to whatever it is that you want linked.

Q: How and when are you planning to wean Henry?

A: I'm not planning anything at this point. I can already tell that he is nursing less since he's been eating solids and if he is anything like his siblings, I suspect that nursing will continue to slow down and taper off around 18 months. I'm definitely not in a rush. I love the nursing connection that I share with him.

Q: Where did you get those awesome wooden blocks?

A: I have searched high and low for a good set of wood blocks. I knew exactly the kind that I wanted to purchase, but had never been able to find any that fit the bill. All the wood blocks that I'd seen were too small, or didn't feel durable. As soon as I saw these blocks, I knew that they were perfect. They were a bit expensive, but you get what you pay for. I see toys that are constructed well as an investment because they will last forever and hopefully be something that our grandchildren will play with one day.

With that preamble in mind ... I bought the Preschool set of wooden blocks with a block case, online at Community Playthings. I also bought an entire fleet of village vehicles and wooden trucks. Including this big rig which the children actually sit on and ride around through our house. Almost all the toys that the children received for Christmas (with the exception of the princess bicycle), were constructed of wood. I'll be doing a write up once I get around to it, of some of the truly spectacular gifts they received.

Q: Do you have Henry on any kind of schedule?

A: Yes, I do, but it isn't nearly as stringent as the schedule I had with our triplets. For the most part, I'll nurse Henry every morning anywhere between 4 and 6 AM (sometimes between 4 and 6 AM) and then I'll feed him breakfast around 8. I'm working on getting him to nap in his crib at around 9 or 9:30, but this is tricky because we are so often darting out of the house - that those times when I want him to nap in his crib, he really resists it. He usually sleeps for only 45 minutes to an hour (whether in his crib or carseat or stroller - depending upon where we are) and then I'll nurse him again around noon.

He takes his second nap of the day around 1 or 2, which is typically the same time I try putting the triplets down for their only nap of the day. This nap will also last around 45 minutes, although one day last week, he snoozed for three hours. I'm also trying to get him to take this nap in his crib, with mixed success. I'll nurse him once more in the afternoon (he might take a 15 minute or so catnap) and then I've been feeding him dinner promptly at 5 PM. He goes sleep in his crib, without nary a fuss, between 6:30 and 7, every night. Then he's up again 4 and 5 AM to start anew....

Q: Have the triplets given any indication of giving up their nap?

A: Yes. If I let them, they will skip their nap, completely. For a few days, I let them skip it and then I realized that life was miserable for everyone when the children didn't sleep in the afternoon. Life was especially miserable for me. So, I reinstated the nap. There are certain challenges with having more children then we do bedrooms. I've had to split the girls up - one in our room - one in their room, because they play around too much and don't sleep.

Today I had William sleeping on a couch in the living room while Henry was crying-it-out in his crib; Elizabeth was sleeping in our bed and Carolyn was sleeping in the girls room. Meanwhile, Charlie and I stood quietly in the kitchen and played 15 games of Boggle.

Usually, I'll try and get them down anywhere between 12:45 and 1:30. They will typically sleep for two hours, although William will sometimes only sleep for 45 minutes. It always happens that I no sooner get Henry down for his nap that William is waking up. Although it would be nice to have more quiet time to myself in the afternoon, I really have been enjoying the one-on-one time with William while everyone else is sleeping. I think he enjoys it too, which is why he sleeps so little during the day.

Q: Where did you find that fanantastic sink?

A: Ah, yes, how we LOVE our kitchen sink! It is but one of the reasons we opted not to move in to a larger house last year. I couldn't stand the thought of leaving that sink behind. Someone told me that we wouldn't be able to bathe our children that much longer in the sink, but I respectfully disagree. Heck, if I wanted to - I could take a bath in it. We installed the sink ourselves when we did a kitchen remodel a few years ago. It is a stainless steel undermount manufactured by Blanco.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for toys or gifts for children?

A: I have a lot of recommendations, but it is late and I must get to bed soon. So, I'll say this. Books are great. Books are awesome. Books are probably my favorite gift to give and to receive. Books are my children's favorite toy. I'll be posting something soon on some of our current favorite books, but in the meantime, here's a teaser... if it says anywhere on the book "Winner of the Caldecott Medal" it's guaranteed to be great.

If you don't like the idea of a book, consider giving cash. Let the parents decide what the child needs or - better yet, let them put the money in to an educational fund.

Q: Can you post something about how you guys stay organized?

A: Yes, I would love to. I think that we've learned a lot about optimizing our organizational strategies because we are in a rather small house with a rather large family. I'll do a whole string of posts on this very topic because I have a confession to make. I'm an organizational junkie. I look at baskets and plastic bins and label makers with the same kind of lust that a druggie looks at crack cocaine.

Or a dieter looks at ice cream.

Or a sleep-deprived mother of four looks at a pillow top.

Before I go, here's a question for you.

How is it possible that children as precious as these...

Are capable of turning in to villains that dunk their father's brand new iPod in a glass of ice water, under the premise that it needed a "bath"?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

saturday shopping

The question isn't so much "What did you buy?" As it is ... "How did you push that thing across the parking lot without a single bag falling off?" Followed closely by ... "How could you spend three hours in Target and still forget to purchase two items off your list?"

After I spent the better part of the morning at Target, I headed over to Trader Joe's where I spent another hour conducting a little experiment which I'll call "Healthy Eating While Living on a Budget." It goes something like this ...

We spend a small fortune at Costco each and every week. I seriously cannot go in to and come out of that store without dropping at least $200.00. Over the past year, almost all of our grocery shopping has been done at Costco. But more and more, I've noticed that the selection at Costco leaves a lot to be desired. Probably because I've been doing a lot more shopping at the new Trader Joe's and local Farmer's Market that just opened by our home and am starting to compare.

This has got to be every retailers worst nightmare.

A comparative shopper.

Now, Costco has just about everything a person could need ... but they don't have much variety. Their fresh produce is typically good, although you can't find anything organic, unless it is frozen. And even then, their selection is limited.

Did you know that meat quality goes: Select, Choice, Prime - with prime being the best cut of meat? Whereas our local grocer stocks predominantly Select cuts, Costco stocks Choice - which means that their meat selection is a great value. Their fresh fish, baked goods and wines are excellent as well.

But, so much of the food at Costco is processed. Although that's nice to have when you're in a pinch, we're really making a concerted effort to eat healthier. We're trying to eat more greens. We're snacking on nuts. We're buying more organic fruits, vegetables and dairy - and trying to make almost everything from scratch. With Charlie being the phenomenal cook that he is, we're having a blast with all kinds of new recipes. I'm actually trying to convince Charlie to start his own cooking blog to showcase some of the stuff that he's been whipping up.

Sometimes I think that he might have missed his true calling in life. "Cooking with the Red Hot Chef Charlie." Did I ever mention that one of his life aspirations is to have his own restaurant? It's true. Another aspiration is to travel around the country in a motor home, visiting every National Park. My greatest life aspiration is to get our three-year-old children to stop wearing diapers.

Anyway, back to my experiment.

I went shopping today at Trader Joe's and our local Farmer's Market and with an entire shopping cart full of predominantly organic food and one box of Joe-Joe's - that will easily last us for the next week - I spent a whopping $97.00.

So far, my experiment is yielding that I can buy healthy food for our family for less.

To offset the cost of the awesome organizational supplies that I spent a small fortune on at Target, I purchased All laundry detergent in lieu of Tide ($9.00 savings) and bought Target brand instead of Ziploc brand bags and Johnson's brand baby wash ($14.00 savings) (We go through a lot of bags and soap).

I also saved $2.50 because Christmas peanut M&M's were discounted 70%. That's a lot of green. And nuts.

As you can see, I'm off to a roaring start.

ninety minutes

The amount of time that the kids happily played in the kitchen sink.

The amount of time it took me to get all the bubbles out of the sink, clean up the soapy water from the floor and soak up the water that had spilled across the counters and dripped in to our cabinets.

This would have only taken me 20 minutes, if I hadn't seized the opportunity to scrub our floors until they shined and reorganize all of the cabinets in the kitchen. But to accomplish those tasks, without having curious children under foot, I put them back in the sink.

For another ninety minutes.

The only thing kids love more than water ... is water abounding with bubbles.

Sure, we could spend a few thousand bucks on a Rainbow play structure for the yard, but why when we have a kitchen sink and lots of soap?

Friday, January 25, 2008

the princess bike and the superhero

Back in November, we promised the children that when they said "bye-bye" to diapers and were going pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty, Santa would bring them all brand new bicycles. Elizabeth heard the word "bicycle", whipped off her diaper and hasn't looked back since.

Up until Christmas, every time she would go to the potty, she would jump up, throw her arms victoriously in to the air and shout "PWINCESS BIKE!!" Because Elizabeth, as it turns out, has an infatuation with bicycles. And princesses.

While we were at Costco the week before Christmas, what to our wondering eyes did appear, but a hot pink bicycle with training wheels that was covered in princesses. It was a bona fide princess bike. I'd never seen one before. I didn't even know something like this existed. But Elizabeth obviously did and as soon as she saw it, she yelled "DAT MY PWINCESS BIKE!!"

Of course we didn't buy the bicycle as soon as we saw it, because that would have been much too organized and prepared. Instead, we discussed that either Charlie or I would swing by Costco one night when we didn't have all the children in tow and get the bike squared away for Santa to pick up on Christmas Eve. Of course that didn't happen either. Because we are much too tired to go shopping at night once the kids go to bed.

Two days before Christmas we went back to Costco and all the princess bikes were gone. We drove all over San Diego County looking for another princess bike. We couldn't find a single one. Not a sparkling white tire. Not a tasseled handlebar. Not a pink basket. Not a shiny bell.

Just as we were about to throw in the towel and print up an IOU for our three-year-old daughter's stocking, we found a princess bike at a store 40-miles from our house. It was the floor model. It was a little scuffed. It's tires weren't sparkling white. But it was pink and it was slathered in princesses - so as far as our child would be concerned - it was perfect. We made the purchase and stealthily slipped the bicycle in to the back of our van, where we hid it under several Mexican blankets.

Elizabeth was to be the recipient of a bicycle because she was the only one who has mastered the potty, between the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM. William and Carolyn had been informed that it was highly likely their sister - and only their sister - would be receiving a bike on Christmas morning because of her potty training prowess and they, up until the day before Christmas, were completely unfazed.

They didn't need a bicycle.

They didn't want a bicycle.

Even though I promised them one too ... if they would go pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty, they were perfectly content with their diapers and their tricycles.

So, Elizabeth received her princess bike for Christmas and it was highly coveted by her siblings.

You've never seen a happier child.

She sat on the bicycle for the better part December 25th with her feet just barely able to reach the pedals, every so often looking at the fireplace and shouting "Your welcome, Santa!!"

Because try as I might, she doesn't understand that when expressing gratitude, the correct phrase is "Thank you!"

Fast forward.

For the past week, Elizabeth has had a major regression in the potty training department. I think this regression can be traced directly to her brother, who last week, hijacked a bag of prunes out of our cupboard and had a number of very messy diapers, which have required several impromptu baths in the kitchen sink.

Every time William was lifted up to take a quick rinse, Elizabeth would say "But Mommy, I want a bath in the swink, too!!" And usually because we were in a rush to go somewhere, I'd tell her, "No love bug, you don't need a bath in the sink right now, because you go poo-poo on the potty."

Any person with an ounce of sense could tell you what happened next.

After changing my eighth ... or what seemed like one hundred and eighth ... pair of dirty princess underwear, I decided that I needed to up the anty. So earlier this week, I told Elizabeth that if she went poo-poo in her underwear again, Santa was going to take her princess bike back to the North Pole.

She didn't believe me. Of course Santa wouldn't come back. Santa only comes at Christmas time. Every fool knows that.

But guess what?

Santa did come back and he traded the princess bike for a new box of diapers. He also left her a message to the effect that when she goes poo-poo in the potty again, Santa will bring her bicycle back. Because bicycles with training wheels are for big girls and big girls go poo-poo in the potty.

When Elizabeth saw that the princess bike was missing, she was shocked. But when her brother, the enforcer himself, saw what had happened, he was absolutely furious.

It has taken a few days for the severity of the situation to sink in, but tonight over dinner, William - whose verbal skills have taken off in the past month - exclaimed, "Dat Santa is very, very naughty. I, I, I am going to go to da North Pole and I am going to GET Santa. I am going to get him and Rude-off. I am going to say 'HEY SANTA. YOU GIVE BACK DAT BIKE TO MY EWIZABETH. DAT NOT YOUR BIKE!!! And den, den, I am going to THROW HIM IN DA OCEAN!!'"

In case you missed it, that's what we do around here with things that are giving us trouble, we throw them right in to the ocean.

(Really. It's no wonder why the kids don't like the guy. This maneuver certainly isn't winning him any brownie points.)

Oh, what a temper my first born child has!

I wonder where on earth he gets it?

I'm starting to see that having children is a lot like holding a mirror up against yourself. Or Charlie, as the case may be. This has got to be his genes.

William is determined to make things right for his sister. With his cape and sunglasses and red-painted toenails, Santa better watch out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

chew on this

We recently had our children in to see the pediatric dentist for their routine exam and cleaning. I am very, very lucky that my insurance covers everyone in our family (with teeth) to go see the dentist three times a year, or once every four months. Especially because going to the dentist once every four months for me is like a small-scale vacation.

I get to sit in a fancy chair that has a full-body massaging pad on the top, while tuning in to something interesting on cable television, completely undisturbed, though padded headphones. I always come out of the dentist feeling relaxed, happy, and ready to take on the world - or at least a huge chunk of cheesecake.

Oh! How I love the feeling of clean teeth!

I love it almost as much as the the knowledge I gain when the dentist tells me that my chompers aren't at risk for falling out of my head any time soon.

The first time we took our children to see the dentist, they were only 19-months old. We've been back ... let's see ... where's my calculator ... five times since then. That would be a grand total of six visits to the dentist before they are even 3.5-years old. I think that's pretty amazing since my mother didn't even own a toothbrush until she was seven.

Some people might think this is overkill, but I like to know that their baby teeth are in good shape and have no signs of decay.

After reading this post the other day, I felt more justified that bringing them to the dentist with such frequency is worth the effort.

With six dental visits across three 3.5-year old children, we've received enough free toothbrushes and floss and mouth wash to last us for at least the next 3.5-years. But we don't actually use the toothbrushes that the dentist gives us. Except to chew on while we sit waiting our turn in the big chair.

Recently, I picked up a few Oral B Cross Action toothbrushes for the children that I really like. They come with a AA battery and replaceable heads, which means that I can just replace the battery and the head without having to replace the entire toothbrush once every few months. When the kids get a little older, I'll buy them all their own Sonicare, but for now, these work great.

We're not the best about brushing their teeth twice a day, although I do focus on a thorough brushing at least once a day - just before bed. For the most part, they don't drink juice - although when they do - I will dilute it with more than 50% water (unless of course it's a juice box, which I try to minimize).

I also don't give them very many sweets. Sure, I'll let them eat ice cream directly out of a carton once in a blue moon, but I can count on one hand the number of times they've had lollipops.

Although I've never put our kids to bed with a bottle, I have been putting them to bed with a sippy cup of water ever since I weaned them off their bottles at 18-months.

Personally, I've always liked having a cup of water on my bedside table, in case I wake up thirsty at night, so I see no harm in this. I also don't think that it will significantly hinder our nighttime potty training. When the kids are fully potty-trained they will wake up to use the bathroom. Until then, they'll sleep in a diaper and/or have a waterproof mattress pad.

At first the kids weren't too keen on the dentist. Now, they love going.

If anything, I have a hard time getting them out of the chair.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

finding a shoe that fits

Have you ever seen a pair of shoes and thought "Those look awesome!" Only to try them on and realize that they are the most uncomfortable pair of shoes you've ever worn?

Or, although they look good on your friend's feet or your mother's feet or your sister's feet, they look ugly on your feet - and only after you've bought them do you realize that what looks good on them, doesn't necessarily look or feel good on you - because you have different styles and your foot isn't shaped the same?

Parenthood is much the same way.

You've got to try things on, walk around in them for a bit, figure out what fits your taste, what feels comfortable to wear and what's in your budget.

You might have read stories about attachment parenting and thought "That's the natural way to raise up a child!" until you have a child that is fifteen-months-old and still unable to sleep through the night. Or, you might think that letting your baby self-soothe by crying-it-out is the best way to teach a child to sleep, until you hear your baby cry from their crib and cannot imagine a worse form of torture imaginable for you or them.

So, you develop your own style. You figure out what works for you - what works for your child - and what doesn't. Even though a lot of people, who have raised children before you might tell you exactly what you need to do because they have "experience" doesn't make them an expert on your situation. Sure, it's good to listen to their advice and maybe you'll hear something that might help ease your load. But ultimately? You must do what feels right for you.

Maybe feeding your children vegan snacks from a burlap satchel is right up your alley. Or maybe, it's feeding them Fruit Loops from a Ziploc bag.

Maybe breastfeeding your baby on demand is the easiest solution. Or, maybe it's serving them evaporated milk and Karo Syrup with a chaser of formula in a sippy cup.

Maybe it's co-sleeping until your child gets married and moves out of the house. Or, maybe it's putting them in their own crib the first night they are home from the hospital.

Maybe it's going back to work full-time and putting your child in daycare. Or, maybe it's putting your career on hold (indefinitely) and staying home.

Maybe it's putting your children in public or private school. Or, maybe it's teaching them from your kitchen table.

Any choice that you make - or don't make - when you are a parent is going to be scrutinized by those closest to you. And when you write your thoughts and feelings and post them on the internet? Oh well then, you are really asking for it.

After thinking about things for the past three weeks and closely evaluating my mood every day, I really don't think that I have postpartum depression. My OB/GYN, that I spoke with last week doesn't think that I have it, either.

Once I talked with him for the better part of an hour, he very kindly said "Anyone with four children under four is entitled to feel overwhelmed at times." And then he added "I'll be thinking about you." It surprised me that he laughed as hard as he did and nodded his head in agreement when I replied, "Yeah, you'll be thinking, 'Hooyah! I'm glad I'm not her!!'"

I don't want to down play the hormonal surges that follow child birth, because I know that they happen and they are very real. If not for those hormonal surges, I doubt I would have woken up every night for a month after Henry was born in a cold sweat with a sopping wet nightshirt and fallen in to a crying fit every time I saw a commercial for Johnson's Baby Wash.

But I suspect that the feelings of anxiety that I'd felt mounting for the past few weeks are a result of feeling tired from the holidays, transitioning my baby to solid foods, reducing my nursing, sleep deprivation, parenting three-year-old triplets, debating the future of my career, contemplating where we are going to live - if we are going to move - when and how, what the implications will be for my husband's career if I return to work, concern for my father's failing health, deciding what we are going to do with our dog, and how the cotton pickin' heck we are going to get rid of the rodents in the garage.

More than any of that ... there is something extremely sobering about the fact that these are our children. No one is going to come in and raise them for us, or take away the tremendous responsibility of being a parent 24/7, when we're plumb worn out. Even during that time when I worked and would be gone from the children for several days at a time - when I came home - I was still bombarded by the responsibilities required to raise a family.

Don't get me wrong. It's a wonderfully awesome experience to raise children. But it can be exhausting at times, too. The dog? I can just throw a scoop of kibble in her bowl and make sure she has clean water. Unfortunately, whenever I've tried that with the kids, Charlie gets really upset.

Parenting is tough. Even if you have a nanny or au pair.

Or a part-time sitter.

Or family that lives nearby.

Or your children are in school.

At the end of the day, these are our kids and ultimately, it's up to us to bring them up right.

For the past 39 months, Charlie and I have managed to raise our children, just the two of us, by relying on each other - together, as a team.

In our situation, outside help wasn't the right fit. It's not that we haven't wanted help or didn't consider bringing in help, but whenever we tried, it didn't feel comfortable.

My friend Jessica tells me that if I want to hire help, I have to be seriously committed because finding good help is difficult and keeping good help is difficult, too. Maybe if I'd forced my foot in to that shoe and worn it around for a while, it would have broken in, and soon I wouldn't be able to imagine my life with out that support. But I've gone so long without it, the thought of dropping our children off somewhere or having someone come in seems about as uncomfortable as wearing flip flops in a blizzard.

Or ski boots on a beach.

When the babies were 10-months old, I interviewed several people to watch the children when I returned to work. As each person entered our home, and I noticed their body piercings and tattoos - or crucifixes and "I Love Jesus!" pendants - or plain Jane appearance, I felt terribly uncomfortable with the thought of paying anyone to be with our children. Sure we could bring someone in to look after them. It wasn't a financial issue. If we were both to work, we would make enough money to send all three of the children to daycare AND have a full-time live in nanny.

But we didn't want to.

That shoe didn't fit me. It was uncomfortable on my foot. It was ugly. It hurt like hell and just looking at it gave me a blister.

Since then, we've had a lot of people judge our decision, but this has been our choice and quite honestly, we're very happy about it.


When I had my full-scale meltdown two weeks ago, I felt desperate. I felt like I needed things to change - immediately. I discussed with my boss returning to work by the end of the month. I researched preschool and I almost passed out when I heard that the soonest our children could start would be July, six whole months from now.

What was I suppose to do between now and then?!

But since that time, I've recovered. We have things happening almost every day of the week and having activities to look forward to, truly is my saving grace.

Over the past few months, as I've tried to adjust to having a new baby in the mix, a lot of people have told me
"Put the kids in preschool!" as if I could just blink and they would be enrolled the very next day. Or they'll say "Hire help!" as if finding a competent and trustworthy person was as easy as opening my front door and inviting in the masses of qualified, kind, affordable, open-scheduled people that are camped out on my doorstep.

Maybe if I was committed to the process, I would already have had our children enrolled in school and I'd have a long list of people we could call in a pinch.

But I'm not there.

Truth be told, the effort that it will take to get four children up and dressed and fed and out of the house, so I can drop three of those children off by 9:00 two days a week for three hours, seems terribly great. And even though the financial aspect isn't an overwhelming issue - I am not entirely convinced that they are going to be any better off for the experience. Maybe if they were all potty trained, and could dress themselves, I'd be more open to it.

Or, maybe if I knew that they wouldn't bring home every (if not every-other) virus and spread it through the entire family. Or,
if I didn't have hangups about exposing my precious children to the general population. Perhaps I'd embrace preschool if they were at an age where their language was more developed and they could tell me if something was wrong.

So where do things stand now?

I am going to put our children's name on the roster for preschool, which starts in July. If it were starting next week, I know for a fact I wouldn't send them because I'm not ready. Maybe I will be ready come July. Or, maybe I won't.

I absolutely don't buy in to the hype that if I decide to skip preschool I am "robbing" my three-year-olds of some vast learning or social experience. At this age, they are learning everything that they need to know (and then some) from me. They are exposed to other children during their weekly triplet play dates and they are learning how to follow instructions from another adult during soccer and gymnastics and the church nursery.

What it comes back to is me and after all this time, I'm still trying to find the shoe that fits me best.

I wrote about my nervous breakdown experience because I know that the feelings I had were normal in the grand scheme of things and maybe it might help someone out ... there ... read how a fellow parent in the trenches handled a really difficult time. And now that I've divulged my inner most thoughts and bared my parental flaws, I'm trying to think what would be another highly personal subject to tap.

Maybe the best cure for hemorrhoids.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Sometimes, it isn't very easy to convince your three-year-old child to expand their culinary repertoire to include food other than peanut butter and jelly. Or yogurt.

Sure, you can tell them that there are people starving in this world. You might also want to tell them that you slaved for several hours preparing this meal and a fish gave it's life so that they could eat.

You might want to tell your child who earlier that day was pretending to be a grizzly bear, that salmon is a favorite food of grizzly bears, and if they want to grow up to be a big and strong grizzly bear, they need to eat their dinner.

"Here comes the choo-choo train!! OPEN WIDE!!!"

When all else fails, you might want to try opening wide your freezer and removing what I like to call "Heaven in a Carton."

Suddenly, salmon isn't the worst thing imaginable.

Ah, but if only my cooking could elicit this kind of response.

Monday, January 21, 2008

leisurely stroll

Almost every morning, I take the kids and the dog for a walk around the block.

Sometimes, I'll push my luck and do the "big" 1-mile loop around our neighborhood, which once was considered the "small" loop relative to the "big" 4-mile loop ... but then we had children. That's when we realized that walking 4-miles with young children - who insist on walking themselves - can take the better part of a week.

Inevitably it happens that once we are midway around the block - or the farthest possible point from our house - those children that insisted on walking and haven't caught a ride in the double stroller alongside Henry, will plop themselves down on the sidewalk and take a rest. That's when I realize that maybe purchasing a quad stroller still might not be a bad idea.

I know for a fact that the double BOB wasn't designed to hold four kids.

The only thing that is more difficult then pushing four children in a stroller designed for two, while walking a dog - is when I let the kids take their bikes and scooters on the walk ... and wind up carrying those, too.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

my mother mary

You know the Beatles' song "Let It Be"? I've always believed that the verse, "When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be, let it be..." was written for me, about my mom.

My mom's name is Mary and more often than not, she is the person that I turn to when I find myself in times of trouble.

Here's a little history.

My mom is the youngest of nine. She grew up in Boston during the Depression. Her family lived in a small apartment, above a store. They had one bathroom. Mom slept in a crib until she was seven and didn't own a toothbrush until she graduated in to a real bed.

Her oldest brother, that mom never met, died from a ruptured appendix at the age of six. She has memories of my grandmother washing clothes by hand and hanging them out to dry on a clothes line - and during the winter - my grandmother would be in misery because her hands were so cold as she plucked garments off the line that were caked in ice.

They were poor, but mom said she never realized that they were poor because there was always a lot of love in the house. There was also a lot of laughter.

Mom is convinced that although her older brother, Bernie, was the youngest Sergeant Major in the history of the United States Marine Corp, she was my grandfather's favorite. Frequently when he would come home from work - provided he had work because it was often difficult for an Irish Catholic plumber to find employment at times, specifically when stores would hang signs that read "IRISH NEED NOT APPLY" - Grandpa would scoop mom up and buy her an ice cream cone. So my mother felt love, even though her family never verbally expressed it.

Even mom's older twin brothers, Robert and Raymond, loved her. Despite the fact that they would threaten to throw her dolls out the window unless she would sit in a closet and "confess her sins". In return for a Necco wafer (which was supposed to be Holy Communion), they would rat out all the bad things my mother (the family pet), confessed to my grandmother.

Everyone loved my mother. Everyone still does. She has a magnetic personality and has more friendships than anyone I know. She is genuinely interested in every person she meets and has the nickname "Barbara Walters" because she will know your life story in 10 minutes or less. And then, she'll teach you how to play cribbage.

My parents met at a dance and married right after my mother finished her nurses training, in 1956, when she was 23-years old. My oldest sister came along nine months and three days later. Mom then went on to have another six children over the next twelve years ... the next five children were born within six years of the first.

Mom worked hard. Really, really hard. She was raising her children, helping my father with his business, and trying to remain sane in spite of it all.

It wasn't easy, particularly when our family suffered several losses. Within two months, mom lost both of her parents - my grandmother passed on January 1, and when my grandfather heard his wife had died - he passed five days later. My 14-year old cousin died of leukemia and my aunt died of lung cancer, leaving behind two young children. Because my mother was the "nurse" in the family, she was present when each person died.

When my parent's marriage dissolved a few months later, after 23-years together, my mother loaded my brother in the car, and with just the clothes on her back, drove to South Carolina to visit her older sister, Grace. (I know that my Aunt Grace is rolling because I just wrote that she is older than my mom. Sorry Auntie, I promise I'll mail you some Godiva.)

My sister, Eileen and I were in South Carolina already, visiting with Aunt Grace's family and I remember the day that we were supposed to fly home, my Aunt told me "Jenny, you and Eileen are staying with us for a while longer. Your mom and Wally are on their way down."

It sounded good enough to me.

I loved South Carolina.

My Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill lived on about 50 acres in the country and had horses, a lake, a tennis court and riding lawnmowers. But little did I, or anyone for that matter, realize that my mother would never return to live in Massachusetts.

Of my mother's seven children, only three were with her when she first moved to South Carolina. My oldest two sisters, Mary and Janet, were both married; my oldest brother, Frank, was in the Marines; and my sister, Beth, was finishing high school and working alongside my father in his drugstore. So it was just the four of us and for the next several months, we lived with Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill, and my four cousins - Margaret, Lisa, Bill and George.

Thankfully, they had a large house, but their hearts were even larger than their home. They'd have to be, to take in all of us.

My sister, Eileen, soon made the decision to return to Massachusetts to finish high school. My brother and I, however, stayed with my mother and were enrolled in school. Once the school year finished, we drove back to Massachusetts with my mom, because the divorce process had begun and we needed to be present. Ultimately, my brother and I stayed with my father in Massachusetts (and my sisters Eileen and Beth) - and my mother returned to South Carolina - alone with my Aunt Grace.

That year away from my mother was the hardest year of my life. I suspect that was also the hardest year of my mom's life.

Looking back now, I know that mom needed the time to get her life on track, but I was only nine and I missed her terribly.

The summer of my fourth grade year, I flew down to South Carolina to visit mom and the day that I was supposed to get on the plane and fly back to Massachusetts, I remember as if it were yesterday saying, "Sorry, Mom. I'm not going."

My bags were packed and we were walking to the car for the airport and mom said "Jen. You have to go back. Your father is waiting for you and I'll see you soon enough. Besides, I need a little bit more time for myself." My response was "You've had enough time for yourself. I'm 10. I need my mother and you need me. I'm staying."

And that was that.

I moved in with mom who had moved out of my Aunt Grace's house and was living in a one-bedroom apartment. For the next year and a half, mom and I shared less than 600 square feet of living space.

Even though my father had made a very good life as a pharmacist and had a 50-foot motor yacht and a 13 room house chocked full of possessions, my mother didn't want anything from the marriage. After all that she had been through, the heart ache and pain, she wanted a fresh start completely. As a result, mom started out - on her own - with very little to nothing.

The art that hung on the walls of our apartment were rented from the library. She went from driving a brand new Lincoln Town Car to an old Plymouth Volare that had been willed to us kids, by a good friend of our family. Instead of a sun roof, air conditioning, power windows and fine leather ... there was sticky vinyl, an AM radio, no air conditioning and hand-crank windows.

Thankfully, mom had her education to rely on and accepted a job working as a nurse for General Electric. By the time I moved to South Carolina, my mother had the foundation of her new life in place. She would go for hikes in the local mountains on weekends, was a member of the Natural History Society, both the YWCA and YMCA, had found a new church, and in typical fashion, had developed friendships with people, everywhere.

Mom's shift was from 6 at night until 2 in the morning. But because I was only 10, mom hired a high school girl to come sit with me until 10 every night she worked. Still, I was alone from 10 until 2, so very soon, mom quit her job at GE and took on another occupational nursing job that allowed her to be home with me in the evening.

There was a lay-off and for a short period of time mom accepted unemployment. But never did I have a want. Well, except for a pony, but that was unlikely in a one bedroom apartment. Come to think of it, I'd still like to have a pony. But sadly, it's just as unlikely now as it was, then.

Mom had me enrolled in horseback riding lessons, gymnastics, tennis and I was on the swim team. Because I fell a year behind in math, mom hired me private tutors. When we moved in to a two-bedroom condominium, mom had an interior decorator come design my room. Mom never dated during the time I lived at home, because all of her energy was directed to me, her friends, and trying to heal herself.

Even though I am one of seven, I grew up feeling like I was an only child.

During my summer vacations, mom would volunteer as a Camp Nurse at the YWCA camp I attended, so I wouldn't have to go alone. When my cabin had a mouse infestation and I was afraid that a critter would scamper across my face in the middle of the night, mom let me and several of my girlfriends come sleep in the nice big beds of the rodent-free infirmary.

Mom took me everywhere. We went camping together and I traveled with her on almost all of her business trips. She was my best friend. Which was good, because I didn't have very many friends my own age. What with all the moving that I had done from Massachusetts to South Carolina to Massachusetts and back again - I attended nearly 10 schools by the time I was in 9th grade.

I remember being in 5th grade and mom driving me to school and on the way we passed my friend, Paula's house. Paula was sitting outside on the trunk of her parent's new Mercedes and as we drove by, mom honked the horn on the Volare - which sounded more like a pachyderm passing gas. I was so horrified to be driving in the old blue Volare, that my mother was HONKING, I dove under the seat, smacking my head on the AM radio on the way down.

Not long after that, mom gave my brother, who had returned from the Marines, her Volare and bought a sporty BMW. I know she didn't buy that car because of me, because at the time, I thought BMW's were the ugliest vehicles on the road - next to Volares - and what I really wanted mom to buy was a Buick Century with electric windows.

Even though the BWM didn't have electric windows, it did have a sun roof and air conditioning. It also sustained about $7K worth of damage when I crashed it my sophomore year in high school, while returning from the grocery store with a box of Betty Crocker brownies. I'll never forget the anxiety that gripped me and the fear I had for my social life, when the police officer drove me home and I saw my mother sitting on the dark porch. Waiting.

Mostly, I was embarrassed and ashamed. Here my mother trusted me to take her car and I got in to an accident and caused damage that would cost her money that she hardly had. How could I be so foolish?

About 20 years ago, my mother befriended a man from her church, we'll call him Tony, that became her financial adviser. Tony is happily married and an extremely nice guy. In his spare time, he is a nudist.

Tony and my mother get together once a month for lunch and to chat about her finances. I'm convinced the guy is a multi-millionaire because he absolutely doesn't spend a dime that he doesn't have to. I'm sure I could learn a lot from Tony, if only I could give up my pesky desire to have nice things.

A few years ago, when mom was living in California at the Optimum Health Institute for a couple months, Tony came out to visit. I think that he came out because he missed seeing my mother - but also - because he couldn't wait to get a tan on Black's Beach.

While he was in California, he rented the smallest vehicle I've ever seen. I think it got 70 miles to the gallon. According to Tony, the rental was virtually free. He had a coupon for this, and a discount for that, and rented it on such-and-such off month. By the time it was all said and done, he paid $15.00 or something crazy, to rent a car for an entire week.

While he was here, he stayed with Charlie and I at our house. Every morning, Tony would get up and eat a bowl of Cheerios. The name brand variety, in the yellow box. At the end of his stay, he wanted to replace the box of Cheerios, so he drove down to the local grocery store. While my mother was sitting in the tiny car waiting for him, Tony ran in to the store. Standing in the checkout line with a generic box of O's, the cashier informed Tony that if he had a Club Card - or knew the telephone number of someone with a Club Card, he could save $0.25 off his purchase.

While he made the people behind him in line wait, Tony scurried out to the car to ask my mother our telephone number, so he could plug that in to the computer and save a quarter, off his purchase of generic cereal. For him, O's are O's are O's. What does it matter if they are generic? What's important is that he could save money.

Once my mother met Tony, she began scrimping and saving (and saving). It is because of Tony and his financial tightfistedness wisdom, that mom was able to pay off her condominium and have enough money put aside so that she could retire at the age of 65. Yet even with the tight reins Tony has on my mother's spending, she has remained generous. She has given her older vehicles to family members, instead of trading them in. But the new cars that she buys are the absolute base model. No whistles and bells. No electric locks. No power windows. No cruise control. No CD player.

When I moved off to college, mom supplemented my education fund, that she was managing, with her own money and because of her generosity, I didn't have to take out any financial aid until I went to graduate school. Although I did work over the summer and had around $14,000 in a trust fund, I know my resources weren't enough to cover books ... supplies ... two years in one university ... three years in another out-of-state university ... costly field trips ... and general living expenses.

Through the years, I know that mom has helped my siblings at times, too. Whenever someone turns 40 in my family, my mother will take them wherever they want to go, in the world. Thus far, mom has been to Ireland and China, Alaska and Nova Scotia, Spain and the Caribbean.

When Charlie threw his back out the first time in 1999 and wound up in the hospital for a week, my mother flew out to California to help. When Charlie threw his back out in 2006, mom was here again.

Mom came out for two months when the triplets were born and came out for six weeks when Henry was born. Mom has flown out when Charlie had to go away on a business trip so I wouldn't be home alone with multiple infants, days on end, and has flown out to help Charlie when I have had to leave on business trips.

It is highly unusual for a son-in-law to adore his wife's mother, but I think it's safe to say that Charlie loves my mother almost as much as I do. In fact, a boy that I dated for six years through high school and for the first two years of college - still calls my mother every few years just to check in and make sure that she is doing alright. Here, I haven't spoken to the guy in almost ten years, but my mother gets a Christmas card from him, every year.

My mother is by no means financially wealthy, by American standards. She has worked very hard and lived very simply. For the past few years, she has spent four months out of the year with her fiancé Jim, renting a condo in Florida. Perched high with an ocean view, I will talk with her every few days and she will excitedly tell me about the whales that are migrating, right past her windows. And then she'll tell me that she's exhausted from playing Bocce and Bridge and swimming in the pool, everyday.

Yeah. That retired life is a real kick in the pants.

Before I went on maternity leave with our triplets and cut back to part-time status, I was making more than twice what my mother was making when she retired as a nurse from 3M. Yet even still, my mother - with the guidance of Tony - set up a college fund for our children when they were born. Every year for Christmas and birthdays, mom will send a check for the children's college education. Mom doesn't send toys or clothes because she believes that more than any material possessions, children need money for school. If she sends toys or clothes, they are things that she has picked up at her church thrift store. The only exception is when she sent Elizabeth a pair of Princess shoes to commemorate Elizabeth going poop in the potty.

Mom understands, first hand, the importance of having an education and she knows that more money will be added and with the beauty of compound interest, there is a chance that there will be enough to cover tuition, when it's time.

This past week, mom sent us a check that would almost completely cover a full year tuition at preschool for all three of the children, if we so chose. Although finances aren't the primary reason we haven't sent our three children to preschool, they have been a consideration.

But just like that.

Without so much as asking, "Do you need..." Or "Do you want...." or "How would you like it if I..." my mother cranked out a check. A check that she knows would be put to very good use, because we have cut back substantially on our work schedules to stay home and raise our children. A check that I didn't even know she was sending, until I opened up the envelope.

My ability to look at the bright side of life comes from my mom. When I am feeling desperate or down, my mother is the one who taught me to count my blessings, get out and shake the house off myself, and then - go do something for someone less fortunate.

My ability to find humor in almost any situation also comes from my mom. I know very few people that would laugh if their temporary bridge fell out, leaving them almost completely toothless the day before their daughter's wedding - and they were supposed to perform a reading in front of 250 guests. Her response? "Well. What are you gonna do?!"

My mother would do anything for her family. She has already done so much for me and continues to humble me with her generosity, compassion, laughter and love. It is for this reason, that if there is one thing in my life that I must accomplish ... it is getting my mother to Chicago for a television show. Because if there is any person that my mother loves as much as she loves her children, it would have to be Oprah.

With all she's done for me, I figure it's the least I can do.

Now, I just have to make it happen.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

watch and learn

It's nap time.

Four children are supposed to be in bed.

Two children are in bed.

One cried for almost an hour before falling to sleep.

One paged through a book for almost an hour before falling to sleep.

As I was sitting down for a spare moment to write a few thank you notes, one of my children came in telling me that they had a poopy diaper. Seconds later, another child came in telling me that they, too, had a poopy diaper.

Once I changed the diapers and put them back to bed, moments later they returned.

One child was holding what remained of a new poopy diaper, sans poop, and the other child was holding what remained of an 80 pack of diaper wipes, sans diaper wipes.

When I went to investigate I found poop squashed all over the floor and diaper wipes scattered all through the house.

How did I not hear them??

My thank you notes will have to wait.

For now, I am going to show my children how to eat ice cream directly out of the carton.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

gratitude journal

Do you have a gratitude journal?

I don't, although I've always thought it was a great idea. Even though I don't write down five things every day, I do frequently take an inventory of things in my life for which I am grateful.

For instance.

I am extremely grateful that even though our triplets were born almost 2.5-months prematurely, at three-years-old, they are the picture of good health. They are happy, energetic and incredibly bright. When they are talking back to me, or climbing a bookshelf to reach fragile ceramics that I have perched high, I often stop myself before I get angry and give my thanks to God that they are not only alive, but that they can climb and aren't confined to wheelchairs and that they can talk back and aren't impaired with severe mental handicaps.

It is so easy to take for granted our health and the health of our children. The lengths that we took to get our babies in to our lives and home from the hospital is so often forgotten with the bustle of life and their sometimes less than desirable three-year-old behavior.

Yet once again, I was painfully reminded just how fortunate we are when this past weekend, I read the blog of a woman I met several years ago on an infertility parenting website. Patrice gave birth in October to boy/girl twins that were born 14 weeks prematurely, at 26 weeks gestation.

Her baby boy died three weeks later.

Her baby girl died this past Friday.

I am extremely grateful for my husband. He listens to me and genuinely wants to be a part of our children's lives. He has stalled his career to stay home and help raise our family, together, and he would happily pack up and move anywhere or anytime with me ... in the pursuit of adventure.

I am extremely grateful for my little baby, Henry. Whenever I can feel my buttons start to get crushed, I can almost always look down at his absolutely angelic face and see him smile, and everything ... I mean everything ... is immediately put in to perspective.

I am extremely grateful that the neighbor that lives behind us works for Subway and once a week she will bring me a trash bag full of left over sandwich rolls. Whenever we receive a bag full of bread, we take it down and spend an entire morning, or afternoon, feeding the ducks that live on a nearby lake.

I am extremely grateful that our gymnastics instructor recently asked if I thought it would be helpful to me, if she opened her gymnastics center up every Friday morning for two hours, so that the kids would have a place to come and have "free" play.

I am extremely grateful for my fellow triplet moms that I get together with once a week for play dates and for the strong friendships I am forging with each of these awesome women.

I am extremely grateful for all the people - except the one who thinks I'm a raving lunatic - that left me messages of support in response to my last post. And because of the occasional odd-ball remark I receive, I am extremely grateful for comment moderation.

I am extremely grateful for the 50+ e-mails that I received in addition to the over 100 comments (several of which were not posted because the commenter specifically asked that I not) and the telephone calls that poured in from friends and family around the globe.

I am extremely grateful that even though Christmas is over, Trader Joe's is still stocking peppermint Joe-Joe's. My mood has improved dramatically ever since I came to that realization this past week.

What else has helped me tremendously is constantly reminding myself, during the crunch times, that it's alright for the baby to cry for a few minutes while I'm trying to get a meal ready, or for the dog to bark before I have a free moment to give her a scoop of kibble. After careful evaluation, I have determined that those are two primary factors that set my blood pressure soaring.

Once I realized that, I have made strides to live intentionally and focus on one thing at a time.

It's really no wonder that the most stressful times of my day are breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I need to change diapers, feed children, prepare meals and clean up from meals and either get the children up for the day, down for a nap or down for the night.

All the hours in between, I do just fine.

I am working hard to take each moment as it comes and trying just as hard to not worry about what is coming next. Or next. Or next. Because this has to happen and then this, and then I can do this, and this. Don't forget about this. Or this.

So I am grateful for my renewed ability to take one moment at a time.

And I am grateful for Peppermint Joe-Joe's.

In case I didn't mention that already.