Tuesday, July 07, 2009

the mother of all meltdowns

Today, I worked for several hours in the morning before Charlie headed in to his office in the afternoon. But all morning, while I worked, I was thinking about the fun things I wanted to do with the kids. When Charlie and I finally traded off, I sat reading stories for about an hour before I implemented a new "Reward" chart that I had formulated.

Our children, for the most part, are very good. But there are three of them at the exact same age. And quite honestly, the challenges of having three children, the exact same age, can not be fully understood and appreciated unless you experience it.

All day.

Every day.

The theory behind my reward chart is that it will serve as a means of encouraging positive behavior. When I catch the kids being helpful, kind, polite or listening - they will get a star. At the end of the day, whoever has the most stars, will be "Leader" for the following day. Now the role of "Leader" is coveted because it is the leader that gets first dibs to help me on big activities such as cracking eggs for breakfast - pouring detergent in the washer - or putting mail in the mailbox. And at the end of the week, whoever had been the Leader the most times during that week, would have a special day with either Charlie or I, where we would take them out for lunch. Or a matinee. Or something fun to celebrate their good behavior.

Today, once I finished the chart and reviewed it with the children - I tried to test it's effectiveness. I told everyone to put on their shoes and within two minutes, all three of them had put on their shoes - after having been told only once - and they had also fetched Henry's shoes for me to put on his feet.

I was thrilled and could instantly envision world peace and a Reward Chart for Korea.

Everyone climbed in to the car and buckled themselves in to their carseats while I loaded Henry. We set off for REI where I had intended to buy some new shoes for Carolyn who is going through yet another growth spurt and has shot up more than three-inches in the past six months. The kids do fairly well in REI. Minus an event where they hid themselves in a clothes rack and almost flipped it over. And the small scale fight that broke out when Elizabeth pushed the up button on the elevator, and then held her hand over it so no one else could take a turn.

We left REI and we go to the car. The kids buckle themselves in to their carseats while I load Henry. In the backseat, Carolyn and Elizabeth are fighting over my water bottle. Carolyn has already consumed more than 1/2 the water in the bottle - and Elizabeth now wants to take a sip. Carolyn won't give her the bottle. Elizabeth is flipping out. I remind the kids of the Reward Chart and Carolyn passes the water bottle to her sister - but her sister hasn't had the bottle to her lips for more than a second - when Carolyn throws a conniption fit that Elizabeth is going to DRINK! IT! ALL!

Followed by a full body convulsion, with arms flailing, legs kicking, head slamming in to the carseat. I summon calm and tell Carolyn to take a breath. Then I tell Elizabeth that once I finish loading the stroller in to the car, she needs to give Carolyn another sip. Another 30 seconds lapse and the stroller is loaded. I walk around to the side of the car and tell Elizabeth that she needs to give her sister the water bottle. Carolyn, at this point, has resumed her conniption fit SHE'S DRINKING IT ALL! SHE'S DRINKING IT ALL!

And Elizabeth.

Elizabeth just sat with the water bottle to her lips and continued to sip. And sip. And sip. And her eyes gleamed and sparkled and I could just see that in her four-year-old mind, she was teasing Carolyn, "I'm DRINKING IT ALL!" and to me, she was taunting, "YOU CAN'T STOP ME!" So I climbed over the back seat, popped her on the leg, snatched the water bottle away and flipped it at Carolyn while yelling something in Vietnamese.

I'm flushed and angry.

Why can't they just act CIVIL?!

Reward Charts are CRAP!

William, meanwhile - who sensed all this was going on directly behind him - in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere asks me, "Hey MOM! Why did the chicken cross the road?!"

"I don't know!" I answered. "I'm going to guess to get away from her baby chickens?!

We then drive to the local duck pond where our plan was to feed the ... you guessed it ... ducks. I'd post pictures of this outing, except my Macintosh has crashed for the second time in two months and is in the shop.

The whole way to the duck pond - all three miles of it - I ranted from the driver seat, "YOU KIDS NEED TO BE KIND! YOU NEED TO BE RESPECTFUL! YOU NEED TO LISTEN! It is entirely up to you. Do you want to have a GOOD day or do you want to have a BAD day? Because when you act NICELY - you will have a NICE day. When you act UGLY - you will have an UGLY day. Do I make myself clear?!"

Then I repeated that same exact spiel at least four more times. Because there's nothing like kicking a dead horse repeatedly. repeatedly.

So we get to the duck pond. The kids are doing well for the first 3/4 of the walk around the pond. And then, someone sticks their hands in to what they thought was mud - but turned out to be duck poop - and then tries to rub their poop coated hands all over their sibling who was wearing a WHITE shirt. While someone else climbed a tree and broke off a small branch, which they then swung around their head, hitting random objects, including me. And someone else, jumped in to what they thought was a puddle, but turned out to be a small sinkhole that engulfed them to their knees in muck.

Then the baby started howling.

I'm trying to find the joy as I clean everyone up and load them in to the car for a final stop by Trader Joe's on our way home. It is critical that we stop for popsicles. And lemonade. And fresh fruit. And milk. Once we arrive in the parking lot, I run through the rules before we enter the store. There is to be No Pushing, No Hitting, No Yelling, No Running.

We go in to the store and someone promptly begins constructing a tower out of canteloupes. Someone sticks their finger through a cellophane wrapped package of portobello mushrooms and someone else runs headlong in to a grapefruit display.

(And to whomever it was that wrote me a note last week asking if I make this stuff up for an interesting read ... I will tell you that NO, I DO NOT. Triplet mothers, please chime in, here.)

I'm done with all of our shopping in less than four minutes. On our way out to the car, the kids grab uninflated balloons from the basket next to the door. And before I can stop them, they bring them to their lips and try to inflate. Because our saliva is now all over the balloons, I let them keep them, which goes against almost everything that I believe. Because although balloons are a wonderful toy for most children - very rarely have balloons been anything but a nightmare for my trio. The fighting. The popping. The subsequent confiscation of balloons that were originally not yours. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I blow up the balloons. We get in the car. We drive home. The balloons are blowing around the inside of the car and the kids are all upset because their balloons are on the floor. We arrive home and when I open the side doors to the van, two of the balloons blow out and take off tumbling down the street.

The kids go crazy with hysteria, so me - being the awesome mom that I am - take off running after the balloons and save the day.

Once I catch them - I bring all the balloons inside the house. Then I deposit the groceries by the front door. Then, I bring in the kids, who had been securely strapped in their carseats. Then, I tell the kids to go outside and play in the backyard while I put away the refrigerated items. The kids go in the backyard and promptly knock each other's balloons over the fence, then they come in the house to tell me that they want me to run down the street and get their balloons. That's when I notice that in the two minutes they were outside, Henry has successfully removed every stitch of his clothing.

I tell the kids no, that's what happens when they knock balloons over the fence, and then I set about spraying the baby's bottom with sunscreen.

Just then, Charlie calls.

I'm feeling a little frayed and I want to talk freely. So I go in to the laundry room and while I'm transferring a load from the washer to the drier, I hear the front door close. The front door. That leads to the street. A very busy corner street, where I have seen cars bank the curve at 25 miles per hour. The front door that has a dead bolt and a latch up high to keep small children IN.

While my husband is still on the line, I run out of the laundry room and in to the front of the house - which is less than 10 feet away (because we live in a box) and I see that Elizabeth is sheepishly holding her balloon. While William and Carolyn are staring at her, bug-eyed.

I have a monumental flip out because it is clear that she OPENED the front door and went outside of our house and walked along the street to get her balloon. And if I wasn't scared enough about cars driven by teenagers that go flying up and down our street, oblivious to anyone and anything, I was scared about the convicted pedophile who lives six doors down. Or ... the people who have never been convicted of a crime against children, but are waiting for the opportunity to strike. And the people who come across the border, kidnap children, and bring them back to Mexico where they hold them for ransom.


The kids know this. I tell them all the time that they can't go outside without me. They know that they can't open the front door for strangers (which they have done) and they absolutely can't wander off our property. I lose my cool and I dig in to a defiant Elizabeth for opening the door and going outside without me. For the next two or three minutes I alternate yelling from one child to the next.



And right about then, it was as though someone whispered in my ear...


I screamed at the kids, "Where's the BABY?!" but they were hiding under their pillows and didn't even respond. So I ran out in the backyard to see if he was there, but before I completed a full scan or looked in to all of his favorite hideouts, I sprinted to the front door and dashed out to the front yard.

He was no where to be seen.

I ran around the side of our house, the side that borders one of the busiest streets in our immediate neighborhood, and standing 100 feet down our property line - in the nude - was the baby, picking up rocks and throwing them on the road. I ran down and grabbed him - and the whole 100 feet back to the house - I kept thinking that I needed to breathe and decompress because I was on the tippity tip verge of losing complete control.

A few years ago, someone told me that if I can get through a day and my children are all still alive, the day has been a success. So when I got back to the house - I made the decision that the triplets would be immediately put in to their pajamas and deposited directly in to bed, without dinner. Even though it was only 5:00 PM, I knew that if they were up a MINUTE more, there would be no guarantees how the day would end.

So yay for me.

Today was a success.


  1. You poor thing. Too scary to be funny.

    You did the right thing.

  2. All I can say is OH MY GOSH! What a day. You deserve a big medal. You deserve a big, giant medal.
    I used to teach Kndg, but at 5 they are not nearly so busy. It can and will only get better as they get older.

  3. Yay for you! Really. I feel for you because I know EXACTELY how it is. Fortunately my flock is at the coast with their granny. Hopefully she is still alive :).

  4. Yay! I'd send a glass of wine your way, but it looks to me that you might need a shot of bacardi 151 in stead. And also, seeing as though I live in a dry community, I can't send you anything for fear of getting put in jail. So...sorry.

    And I bet you asked for it, cause you said to yourself this morning, "I don't have ANYTHING to blog about..." hehehe...I'm mean like that sometimes. But that's what gets me too.

    Hope your day is better and you have something to blog about.

  5. I will confirm that there is no way this is made up...I feel like I just read a page from my life! Hope tomorrow is a better one for you :)

  6. Phew. I'm tired. Hope today is just as successful.

    ;-) Love, Marg.

    P.S. The house up the street is still for sale. And. It's bigger than a box.

  7. I am sending you wine.

    Lots of it.


  8. Good for you! Stick to your guns. Raising one is HARD work. I can't imagine the difficulty of four little ones. If only everyone would attempt to control their kids!

  9. Jennifer P7/7/09, 8:20 AM

    OMG Canada is GORGEOUS. I went to Lake Louise when I was maybe 12, and loved it. So glad you are having this adventure with the two ladies and their monsters, and so glad I am going to Montana on Friday to see MOUNTAINS and get away from the Texas heat. Have a blast on the rest of the road trip!

  10. The reward chart sounds like a good idea and rewarding good (rather than punishing bad) behavior has always worked well for me and my triplets plus one. You may want to think, however, about whether setting it up as a direct competition amongst the three of them is the best idea - maybe there can be a way where if they earn a certain number of points they can all be in the "winner's circle" and do something special with you. I have gone so far as to only give the reward if ALL of them reach a goal to encourage them to work together and support each other (although this sometimes backfires into blaming each other if one just doesn't want to get with the program.) My triplets are eight and the competition levels in my house have gotten fierce - I keep telling them that if they devoted the energy they spend making sure everything is fair amongst them into something more positive, we could all have much more pleasant lives. I'm not sure they are connected, but it was interesting to me that your post talked about introducing a reward system and then moved onto a description of the competition between your daughters over a water bottle. I'm not saying that some healthy competition is bad (it certainly has motivated me to accomplish lots of things in my life), but I personally prefer an atmosphere in my home that is dialed back a little bit. By the way - the description of shopping with your triplets is totally par for the course - I still remember when my three year olds caused such a disturbance on the escalator at an upscale department store that the piano player providing "atmosphere" stopped playing to gawk.

  11. I can't believe someone wrote to you and asked you if you MADE UP YOUR STORIES. LOLOLOLOLOL!

    From the perspective of another triplet mother, I thought your outing was quite successful. We usually lose our balloons before we even get into the car and mine usually sneak bites out of the produce IN the store.

    Awesome job on not killing anyone. I didn't kill any of mine yesterday either. WOOHOO.

  12. I don't know what you're going on about. Sounds like a normal day to me.

    Fellow triplet mom, chiming in.

  13. Oh dear sounds like you need double locks!

    And as a triplet mom as well, I have to say - Thank You God for giving me my oldest two first!!!

    Please don't kill me but I never experienced any of what you do on the scale you do. I learned a lot about discipline from my older 2.

    I will say good Mom! I would have sent them to their beds long ago!! ;-) To hell with the balloons and the trip to the park!

  14. Wow!! What a day. It sounds like you may have to start putting the deadbolt on and wearing the key around your neck. Forgive yourself for the super meltdown. It happens. Let's face it---you are outnumbered. You do a terrific job!


  15. Actually, I thought the first part of your post, with the kids in the car and the water bottle, was COMPLETELY reminiscent of my own children, none of whom are multiples but all of whom are perfectly capable of pushing buttons with each other. However, by the time you got to chasing a naked 2-year-old down the street, I decided that perhaps you are right, and having triplets IS different than having four of different ages. At least I've never chased naked children down the street.

  16. Anon - Since you never experienced things on the scale I do with your triplets ... I think it has largely to do with the fact that your two children ARE older.

    Henry doesn't behave the way that the triplets did when he was their age - not because I'm a more seasoned mother - but because I have three little scouts that are helping to teach him and look out for him. Except of course, when they leave him outside the front of the house in the nude.

    In so far as the Reward Chart, this is definitely a work in progress. I have tried various charts in the past and am trying to adjust this to something that actually WORKS, without creating hostility or resentment.

    I do try to use competition in a good way >> who can buckle their seat belt first, or put on their shoes first? >> but I also want to be careful that the kids don't feel like they've been pitted against each other. I might need to rethink the reward component...

  17. Yup . . . sounds like a normal day in triplet-land to me.

    BTW - I know there are those that love the reward charts . . . . personally, I never thought I could implement one unless I hired a rewards chart "manager" too! It always seemed to complicated to implement and maintain!

    C u Soon! - Jessica

  18. Holy crap, that is scary. REALLY scary. Then your mind starts to go to all the scenarios that could have happened. I've been there.

    I use the reward chart/leader of the day too - definitely works best when it's not a competition....it's too hard to deal with the repercussions of one of them (with the multiples) getting something that the others do not. Just MHO.

    Good luck - it's got to be a better day today!

  19. You did the right thing. Did they go to sleep? I have found that lack of sleep is the #1 primo contributor to grouchy, cranky behavior in our house. A nap (or a good night's sleep) and a good meal seem to solve a lot of problems. Good for you for sticking to your guns - sounds like they learned an important lesson.

  20. My blood pressure is pounding in my ears just reading about your day!

    Well done on not killing the kids. Seriously.

  21. Oy. OY! Yeah, putting them to bed was the best idea.

    Rewards charts definitely have their place in a house of multiples. You have to have some sense of order and I think it rewards the good behavior instead of just maintaining the "squeaky wheel gets the oil" mentality. How can you not focus on only the bad behavior sometimes, when it is total chaos? With the reward chart, the good behavior gets the attention. Yay for good behavior!

    As for the front door, we had similar problems with my daughter when she figured out the child-proof door knob. We even went so far as to put up a picket fence in the front yard because our street was so busy.

    We have a friend who's 3-year-old daughter went out the front door, in the middle of the night! My friend woke up because she swore she heard the front door bells (she hangs sleigh bells from the door knob). Sure enough, her daughter was standing in the neighbor's yard, poking a stick into the flower bed. She took her back inside, flipped on the lights to the bedroom and packed up every toy the girl owned and put it all into the garage. Now the daughter earns one toy back at a time. It sure hit home!

    And that trip to Trader Joes? Oh, girl. I have those with a 3 & 4 year old. I end up sticking them both into those tiny grocery carts because I can't stand the sound of my own voice shrieking at the kids. Guess I need to work on some stuff my own self.

  22. OMG! Only have one 2-year old right now (baby on the way)but my on-going nightmare is that he'll get outside at our house or the babysitter's and wander somewhere where we can't find him. He LOVES to get the back slider door open.

    I can SO imagine how you felt when you saw Henry that far away from your home! Thank heavens you found him so quickly!

  23. I only have 1 son. He turned 8 this week-end and we took 5 8 year olds out to pizza and a movie to celebrate. I was exhausted by the end of the afternoon. I can't imagine 4 under the age of 5 ALL THE TIME. You have my respect (and my sympathy!). The patience level required is super human, and congrats for keeping them alive for one more day...they'll thank you one day.

  24. First I want to know what Jenny P is reading... Is she saying you need to escape to Canada with the 2 girls?

    This post really hit home for a couple of reasons. First, because I have a sweet little "spare" that gets lost in the shuffle and this could scenario could unfold in my world too. The thought of finding him naked on the side of a busy street just makes me sick. Second, because we lost one of my twins at a park with an unbelievable amount of play equipment 6 months ago. It was the 5 worst minutes of my entire life. All that play equipment is supposed to equal fun, but all I feel is fear when I see big play structures like that now. This post brings up all those feelings of terror.

    Good job on making it through the day and doing such a beautiful job of writing it up. Next time, PLEASE throw out the stupid balloons! The kids took them without asking in the first place and all they got you was trouble!

  25. Wow what a day! So far it seems to me you are succeeding since your kids are still alive and so are you, so give yourself a pat on the back instead of a kick in the rear.
    Our middle daughter was an escape artist, she never managed it in the nude but once wearing just a diaper and rubber boots on a cold rainy March morning she let herself out for a stroll. I gained a LOT of gray hair before I found her across a busy street.
    I decided that something had to be done about that doorknob that was just too easy for her to turn so I crocheted a tightly stitched half ball out of two stands of heavy yarn and tied it on the doorknob so that it spun around but wouldn't pull off. It worked like a charm and frustrated the life out of my little wanderer. Only a large hand is able to grasp the knob and the sock to successfully turn it enough to open the door. P.S. If you make it out of dark colored yarn it won't show the dirt of all those little hands trying to get it open. If you don't crochet I will be happy to mail you one, just let me know where to send it.

  26. Triplet mom, chiming in.

    You are still 1000x more under control than I am on any given day.

    Oh ... and our last trip to the grocery store resulted in exploded bottles of Pinot all over the floor. It was a nice display ... was being the key word here.

  27. I want to know how it went putting them to bed at 5:00pm!

    Tracy B

  28. Time for a 6' high deadbolt lock and an entire bottle of Two Buck Chuck, STAT!

  29. That little voice that whispered in your head, "Henry"? That was his guardian angel. I have three boys (not triplets!) and with each one I have had a moment like that. Once, as Will was about to eat something that had peanuts in it. Another time it was when a woman at the mall had the middle child by the arm and was leading him away from me while I was christmas shopping two weeks post-c-section-partum and was distracted. Anyway, at the end of the day I am just so thankful for that voice that calls my attention to what I need to notice in time. Before I had kids I would have been so skeptical about something like that. Not anymore. The day WAS a success. All children present and accounted for. All children unaharmed.

  30. Aunt Grace7/7/09, 7:00 PM

    can I help you in any way, like taking the trips off your hands??Wow what a day you can keep Henry, but it would be my pleasure to give you a break. any time, any day, thoes children are wonderful, and so well behaved. It must be you!!

  31. Aunt Grace7/7/09, 7:07 PM

    on further thought, let me tell you what Lisa does. She goes to dollar store and picks up stuff, shows them to the kids and then puts them in a trunk, (the stuff not the kids) they salivate for this stuff, when they are very very good, she allows them to pick one thing out of all this junk, and they are perfect for that day.
    Of course, you would have to spend more, because your kids have everything!!! Surprise, it really works.

  32. I guess I had a day like that when everyone in the car was fighting, and I stopped the car and put everyone out. It will get better and one day, before you know it, you will be a grandmother.
    Relax, and take a few deep breaths.
    They are all only babies and you are just one person taking care of them. Thank God for Charlie.
    I wish I could come and help him next week.

  33. another triplet mom sounding off...

    you are a great writer/ storyteller so i can see why someone without multiples might think your stories are just made up.

    we use a very similar reward chart, but my girls are already fiercely competitive (2,2,2 &4) so i don't include any comparisons between them. when they reach 10 smily faces on the chart they pick a treat out of my basket. that way there's no comparing one with the other.

    as of 5:30pm my day here was equally "successful". i'm sorry yours was rough, but thanks for sharing... makes me feel a bit better to know i'm not alone.

  34. Oh my. It sounds like you had a wild day... Putting them to bed was probably a wonderful plan.

  35. OMG...what a day! time for some ice cream! We had to install one of those security chains on our front door...You are a brave, strong woman! Chin up! After wanting to be a stay at home mom, all school year, this time of year, I think to myself, WOOHOO I'm at work!....and the kids are at DAYCARE!

  36. I hardly ever chim in, and was going to even before you mentioned for other triplet moms to...chime in.

    You hit the nail on the head - sounds exactly like my day - minus the baby of course.

    I am going to forward it onto my family and say, "See this IS how it is, to the T."

    THANK GOD Henry was right there. You must have been so worried.

    I have been doing star charts for awhile now, and they do work----when I remember or get around to put a new one up....it's been about a month now. yes you do need a star chart manager.

    Jeanmarie - fellow triplet mom

  37. Most days I am praying for patience and restraint before we can even get out the door. But, we HAVE to get out the door or else bodily damage will be done! Being stuck inside the house all day is this mother's version of torture! YOU always tell it like it is and I love you and your blog for that!!

  38. My chest was literally constricting with empathetic stress for you as I read that entry, especially when it got to the part about not knowing where Henry was. It was a killer day, and I can honestly say I think you handled it brilliantly. Really. Give yourself some credit woman - a day like that would have had Super Nanny on her knees!

  39. WOW, I'm amazed their still all alive. I don't think I could have held it together. But, dangerous as it was, I do find Henry naked throwing rocks funny.

    Good for you putting them all to bed at 5 pm. The question is did they go to sleep?

    You're due at least one bottle of VERY nice wine for living through this day.

  40. I just have two singles - one 1 and one 3. You're awesome. I read your blog for inspiration (if she can do it, so can I.) I think my two read it for inspiration, too. That sounds exactly like our most recent trip to TJ's. No way someone could make up those stories, they sound too authentic!

    Now, someone needs to invent straight jackets for bed, so after any of those episodes, you can put them there safely, and just have a moment to breathe. Good for you for finding the joys!

  41. I had never heard of Trader Joe's peanut butter cups or Jo Jos before I read about them on your website. They are absolutely heavenly. I thought they might be good, but when I opened the package on the trip home, my husband and I immediately looked at each other and said, "Ohhhhh!" It is not uncommon for us to drive up to Hershey, PA (almost 2 hours away) for a chocolate and peanut butter sundae. So, to find those little pieces of heaven only 45 min to an hour away at Trader Joe's is wonderful.

    Based on the day that you have had... consume a glass of wine and large quantities of chocolate peanut butter cups immediately. That may help... a little. And... to chime in... unless someone has 3 toddlers (mine are 3 1/2 years old) that can turn crazy at the drop of a hat, they cannot understand.

    Take care!

  42. This was like reading a well-written chapter in a well-written book that's in progress. WOW!! It gets crazy over here and I only have two . . . .

    I would call it a successful day, for sure.

    Did you get a good glass of wine in bed before bed?

  43. What can I say? It is so nice to see that it is not just ME that has ridiculously crazy and near-dangerous days...

  44. That is just too too scary. I can't imagine the panic you went through! Glad to hear the trips decided to do as mommy said... smart kids you have there.

  45. This post, right here, makes me want to hold a huge parade (supplied with babysitters) for all the stay-at-home parents out there.

    Because I couldn't do it.

    I NEED my job as a break from the kids so that I can be a good parent.

    How you manage to be such a great mom with no breaks is beyond me.


  46. The balloon paragraphs were too funny. We loathe balloons in our house as well. They ALWAYS cause chaos and meltdowns!