Tuesday, November 04, 2008

finding solutions to the problems of our universe

Apologies up front because this post was *supposed* to be about how I organized the 2.5 closets in our house to accommodate the clothing and footwear needs of six people, four of whom are growing at warp speed and one of whom cannot get rid of anything remotely nostalgic.

But eh ... Election Day is tomorrow and it turns out I have a few more opinions to voice.

Late last night, one of our neighbors came over to tell me that voting "No" on Prop 8 was a direct violation and opposition of God. My response was that although marriage may be spelled out in the Bible as a union to be formed between a man and a woman ... the civil rights associated with such a union have been put in place by man and until such time that equal rights prevail, I will vote against discrimination. I indicated that perhaps a solution that would satisfy the majority of people who are opposed to this measure based on religious principles, would be to have churches perform marriages and states perform unions? But both couplings would be entitled to the exact same civil rights and privileges.

My neighbor told me that the fact that homosexuals are not afforded the same civil rights is punishment for chosing to live a sinful life. I abruptly changed the subject because I couldn't see going down that road without crashing headlong in to a tree, so I broached the topic of abortion.

My question was whether or not they had an opinion on my triplet pregnancy and what their position would have been if I had to deliver our babies before they were viable. Without hesitation, my neighbor replied that they would have put their complete faith in God and they would absolutely not have delivered the babies before they could survive outside of the mother's body.

All I could think was, "Wow. I wish I had that kind of faith." Because although I do consider myself a very faithful person, if doctors told me that I was going to die and I could actually see that my body was failing ... I don't think I would have the courage to refuse treatment.

It is estimated that only 54% of the eligible population will vote tomorrow. Regardless of whether you agree with anything I've written in the past few days or not, I hope that anyone that is eligible to vote, will get out there and do it. This is a hugely important election for our country. So if you don't do it for the satisfaction in casting a vote for the next leader of the free world, do it for a free cup of Starbuck's coffee. Or, a free ice cream cone from Ben and Jerry's.

(Or both, if you are me. Or Charlie)

In other news.

Four is HARD.

Not just the number of children mind you, but particularly THE AGE.

I don't know what happened. What went wrong? What should we be doing that we aren't?

Charlie and I really strive to be a disciplined yet happy and loving family. We try to create a peaceful environment where our kids have the freedom to explore. But this weekend? It was horrific.

I would ask the children to please stop doing something - anything - and they would look at me square in the eye and continue to do it. "Elizabeth, please don't nibble the new dryer balls that I just bought." She stares at me for a moment, and then takes off running with the dryer ball in to
the other room and ferociously CHEWS it. I run after her, grab the ball away and incredulously ask, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Did you not just hear the WORDS that came out of my MOUTH?" She coyly smirks while trying to grab the balls away from me.

We attend a party where there is a beautiful birthday cake on display. All three of our four-year-olds wander off and slyly drag their fingers through the frosting, scooping up entire cream roses and wolfing them down. Charlie and I catch the scene from the back. We see the kids, looking at the cake. We can see them pointing. And the next thing we see are three little heads, bobbing, like dogs who just found chunks of prime steak on the ground. That's when we ask each other "Please tell me that they didn't just do what I think they just did...?" And of course they did. And it takes everything I have to not knock them clear in to tomorrow.

The kids are beating each other. They are picking up random objects and smacking each other as hard as they can. They chase each other around the house - the store - the doctor's office - and they grab at each shirts and then with all the force they can muster, they whip their sibling to the ground. They JUMP on one another. While one lays on the floor, the other one will stand on their abdomen and jump up and down as hard as they can. How it is we've avoided any visits to the emergency room for internal bleeding is a mystery.

On Halloween night, Charlie took the children trick-or-treating while I stayed home with Henry to hand out candy. One of the first (and last) stops was by our neighbor's home, a lovely Filipino family that had just sat down to dinner. When they open the door, Charlie said that the delicious smell of pancit wafted out from the kitchen and Carolyn and William both held their noses and yelled, "I SMELL POOP!!" My poor husband said he almost died on the spot.

When they came home and Charlie traded off with Henry while I sat outside and handed out candy with the triplets - and Elizabeth, in her full Princess regalia, hiked up her dress and pee'd on the front lawn in front of a 12 trick-or-treaters, I almost died on the spot.

While at the store on Saturday, the kids are innocently playing with the huge display of snow globes and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer stuffed animals that are lining the check-out aisle while I'm trying to unload my groceries and pay for the purchase. I'm glancing down every few minutes to be sure that my children aren't being destructive ... when I notice that Carolyn has opened the boxes on FOUR of the Rudolph's and is disassembling the battery pack. In the blink of an eye, she has completely trashed the packaging. I ask, "Wha... WHAT are you DOING?"

She shrugs. "I don't know. Deese for me?"

Today, despite having a full blessed extra hour thanks to the beauty that is Day Light Saving Time, we were late getting out the door for school. I would tell the children, "Kids, come on, let's get dressed. Let's get a move on ... the family bus is leaving in five minutes!!" If the children were to communicate with me, as opposed to say, completely ignoring any prompt for conversation, I suspect they would respond, "Take a hike. Can't you see I'm laying here naked on the couch shredding your newspaper?"

I start to get angry. I start to raise my voice. "KIDS! I NEED YOU TO FUNCTION. LET'S GET DRESSED! MOVE IT!!" They pick up a book and start flipping through the pages about the same time I start to black out. I think back on a comment I received last year, where someone observed that I expect my children to have control when clearly I have none of it, myself.

But why must this be so difficult? Why do my stickers and rewards and counting to three and etcetera etcetera etcetera NOT work? Why are these kids driving me so crazy? Why has one of them had a huge regression in the potty training arena? Why do they feel compelled to destroy our home?

Within seconds I'm at a full-force rage. I look down and see Henry, running two steps behind, shaking his hands at the kids, grabbing at his head and yelling. Just like me. I stop ranting long enough to pick up the baby, smother him in kisses and thank God for sending him in to my life.

Henry is my reality check.

Charlie loads the children in to the car and starts to drive to school. Seconds after he has left, I remember that I not only forgot to brush their teeth, but I also forgot to sit them on the potty.

On the way to school, as I will hear about later, William smacks Elizabeth in the face with his Batman figurine. Her lip is split wide open and there is blood everywhere. Charlie leans back and swats at William's leg, while yelling, "WE DO NOT HIT!!" (Well, except for when in a fit of fury, we hit you. Because we are hippocrites and we have no control over our actions, although we expect more of our four-year-olds.)

Suddenly, someone has to go potty. IMMEDIATELY. Charlie is in the truck and doesn't have a potty chair. There is no way they are going to make it for another 15 minutes to school. He pulls off the road and directly in to a fire station parking lot. He unloads the kids. William is standing up, peeing on the grass. Carolyn and Elizabeth are both sitting down, peeing on the lawn. A fireman appears to ask if my husband needs any help. Charlie pauses for a moment, before nodding to the kids and asking, "Do they still qualify for a safe child drop?"

This afternoon, when I picked the kids up from school I vowed that I would have full control. I vowed that for at least the rest of the day, I would not get angry. I vowed that Charlie and I would be a united front and regardless of what the kids threw our way, we would stick together and we would not crumble.

So tonight, we poured ourselves big glasses of wine and we listened to Beatle's music. And while our children played with bananas that they pretended were telephones, disintegrated the daily newspaper across our living room floor, grated cheese directly in to their mouths and ate tapioca straight out of the carton ... Charlie and I were so happy.

Nothing that our children could do would bother us. For the first time in a very long time, we were above being annoyed.

The moral of this story is that when you sip good wine, listen to timeless music and dedicate yourself to not stressing over things things that really aren't that important, it's incredibly liberating. It is for that reason, Charlie and I will be drinking wine and listening to "Let It Be" every single night from now until the day our children move out.

Or, at least the day they stop pooping in their pants.

(which ever comes first is anyone's guess)


  1. Jen, stop writing. Now. YOU'RE SCARING ME. Everyone tells me that Age Four will be the time when the kids finally CALM DOWN from Age Three, not get worse.

    What am I supposed to do to get through it? I don't drink...

    Your friend in the triplet trenches,

  2. Dear Debbie & Jen,
    You think this is bad?! You just wait till they turn 9. 9yr old trips is lots of fun, especially when two of them are girls who are catty as all get out and a boy who is oblivious of the world around him and chooses to live in his world. Yep! Fun times baby! Just around the corner! ;-)
    Another Trip Mom
    ps..Jen..thanks for the continued laughs

  3. First of all, I'd like to commend you for putting the sign about Proposition 8 out on your lawn. Congratulations for trying to make this world a better place for everybody. As a Canadian, I obviously don't have a say regaridng Prop 8 or your upcoming election, but I'm still duly impressed with the way you have stood up for what you believe in.

    However, I'm shocked that people would come to your door and challenge your beliefs (I can't imagine having the nerve to do that).

    As for FOUR? I have twins - albeit not even half the work and stress of triplets, but let me tell you, I HATED year four. It was the most difficult, challenging, sanity draining and stressful year for raising my kids. I always warn people that four year olds are like 2 year olds, but with attitude.

    You aren't doing anything wrong. The kids are just acting in a normal four year old way. They are too young to understand that there will be consequences to their actions (well, long term consequences) and also I found that the stickers/rewards program didn't work unless the award was immediately after the good behaviour. They just cannot grasp the whole "If I am good now, something good will happen later".

    I wish I had some good advice for you, but honestly, my only course of action was to keep them busy in a preschool during the day and try to stick to some kind of routine in the evenings...they also spent a lot of their time in their rooms, having "time outs".

    You'll make it through this. There are a ton of excellent times in year four, as well. Just remember that your kids are acting the way four year olds should (at least in my opinion) and that this is just another stage.

    Thanks for the laughs!

  4. This is such a great post. I love what you said to your neighbor. And the fact that you can see that it was the best of times when children "grated cheese directly in to their mouths," you're doing it just right.

  5. Sandy (Ann Arbor)11/4/08, 7:18 AM

    I've picked up some tips while watching Super Nanny; at the very least it's entertaining! And it feels good to see other families overcome discipline problems.

    On a more serious note: while I don't endorse all of Michael Pearl's concepts (he lives in an Amish community and is training his children for a more submissive life than the one that I want my daughter to live), "To Train up a Child" has been the most helpful parenting book that I've read. Pearl has given me a framework for thinking about training pleasant and obedient children. He emphasizes the difference between training children and disiplining them. He uses tons of examples and is fun to read!

    While his concepts are controversial (he strongly endorses physical discipline), there is a lot to gleen, even if you have chosen not to use physical discipline. You can skim the first chapter here:


    Good lucky, Jen. You're a great mom and are exactly what you need to be to raise your kids.

  6. Wow! You have some really...interesting neighbors! I can not imagine the personality it takes for someone to come to your door and tell you they know what their God think (which seems impossible to really know, on the face of it) and that they would presume to think you should change your mind because they believe something. How very odd. My neighborhood is starting to have a few low-level gangbangers hanging around, but they are not nearly as scary! They don't tend to be delusional, and don't ring my doorbell asking me to believe in anything, at least. I'll take a few drug dealers and graffiti artists over your neighbor any day.

    Good luck with the kids! It does sound like they are being regular kids - just a whole bunch of regular kids. :) I was a Montessori kid, and I remember just LOVING school. I was a painfully shy kid, but loved being able to spend the day with other kids. I'm sure, years down the road your kids will be talking about how much fun they had when they were four, in school and at home. The fact that they were driving you crazy will not even register to them. (My poor parents; I suddenly feel like I should call my mom!)

    I love your blog, partly because I love the way your are so forthright about your issues. Even for those of us without kids, it is always good to see how other people handle the problems that come up. Thanks for sharing your struggles! It does help the rest of us. :)

  7. I enjoy reading your about your triumphs and tribulations raising triplets + 1. Regardless of age, children learn very quickly if they have marshmellow parents. Discipline and respect are not the bad things society would have us believe. Respect for authority, other people, and self are vital for children and adults. The family is a micro-culture of our society. Poor leadership breeds a poor society. Your blog is a small portal into your life and no one except you can fully understand your situation. As a parent of 4, I offer this. Deal with each child individually and privately. You already use this solution when working with Henry,and you see the difference, so just apply the same to the Trips. Children are a joyous gift that God has entrusted us with. Lets use Legos as an analogy. You were given a set of Legos to create something. You have creative control of your product and must finish in 14 years. What is the goal for your Lego creation and what foundations are you building today?

    Also, here is an interesting blog about a 4 year old and older parents.


  8. thanks for the good laugh this morning - sorry it was at your expense...... my kids came one at a time and now are older. someday you'll be the one in the store, watching someone with 4 year olds, and you will smile and feel bad for them, but remember that you made it thru, and then say, "those were the best years" - yes, it'll happen! hang in there - thanks for your continued - thoughts and convictions!

  9. The month my twins turned 4 I got pregnant with my singleton. It was a rough pregnancy full of morning sickness. I had the energy of a flea the entire pregnancy and the low energy combined with constant nausea/vomiting put my patience level at an all time low. To top it off my husband traveled Monday-Friday the ENTIRE pregnancy and my closest family was 4 hours away. So, for me the 4's were when I got super serious about discipline. If we were out anywhere and their behavior was bad, we left and came home. If we were at home and their behavior was bad, they went in time-out and their favorite toys went into time-out as well (the kids in timeout for a few minutes, the toys in timeout for a few days). My twins LOVE going places and being out and about so they hated having to leave. They caught on VERY quickly and things were much better once they understood what would happen if they didn't follow the "rules".

    In hindsight, I don't know if I would have become quite so strict that year had I not been pregnant and feeling awful, but I am glad I was because it really worked for them (and me!).

    As far as your neighbor is concerned, I agree with what Patti posted...I am shocked that anyone would come to you and say something like that!!!


  10. I am so sorry, I know its got to be crazy but on the listening end and not in reality it is really really funning, I'm saying it again, write a book, make enough money to buy your own beach and let them run free like wild animals, never mind that probably wouldn't work out so well, already read a book about that.

  11. Cool! Thanks, Jenna... now I don't need coffee this morning.

  12. Sorry you are having trouble...it must be so hard with them the same age.

    One thing that has worked well for us raising our four is like what Kelly said, to be really strict and consistant in public. If one of our kids misbehaves, than one of the parents will leave immediately with that child. It's not always fun; I've missed a parade and a couple other things, but it really works. Absolutely no fun for them if they don't act appropriately. We also have "Toy Jail" for toys that kids fight over or don't use properly.

    That's just a few ides for what has worked for us...but..our kids came one at a time and I think you are dealing with so much more when they are the same age.

    I can't wait to read your blog everyday! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Oh my... as a mom of just one, soon to be two year old all I can say is oh my. I get short with him sometimes and there is only one. You are a brave, brave woman!! Keep fighting the good fight!! I'm sure they will stop pooping in their pants by at least 10. :-)

  14. Geez, I don't know. I feel that I've let you down. I have LOVED the fours. This has been the greatest age so far. Sure, we have had some bumps in the road, but I can go anywhere now and do anything with the kids and they don't make me want to find an escape hatch and tunnel away anymore (only a couple times!).

    Plus, with them being gone all day five days a week now, it seems like there wouldn't be enough time to even irritate you anymore. Do you think they are missing you guys and want to just hang out with you on the weekends? Can you let everything go and do nothing but play, play, play for a couple weekends and see if they are not just wanting your attention? Maybe they are missing you?

    But when mine act like they are deaf, I grab them by the arm and march them right into the corner until they can "hear" me. Do a crackdown Jen. Get firm. I have had mine doing time-outs right in the store before! Plus, I have to tell you that mine are just a tad bit afraid of their father. He's crazy, you know. A little fear goes a long way.

  15. Back again. Just read your comments. Don't read the Pearl website or I'll be forced to vomit and then drive there and beat you with a PVC pipe (that's what he condones - beating children with PVC pipe). People who are training animals should read that website, but not people.

  16. .....not people training kids. Lost my train of thought.

  17. you crack me up... moving the discussion from Prop 8 to Abortion had me laughing! I'm in NY and don't get to watch the news that often so let me/us know how the vote ended up.
    No advice on the kiddos. My girls are 2.5 so I'm learning from you. Hang in there!

  18. Michele S-
    You are so funny! I love your comments! LOL! :)

  19. Hang in there- your kids are only just 4, so only just 4 that they still qualify for the beastly behaviour of the threes. I felt that 4 and 1/4 was a magic age where reason started to make an appearance in our house, occasionally, but still, better than nothing! In the meantime - time-outs are GOOD, if only to give you enough time to calm  down and go to the loo without someone banging on the door and demanding to know if you  are pooing or weeing! I don't like the naughty step for 2 reasons. 1- if you tell a child they are naughty often enough they'll believe you and act naughty all the time because that's what they are - you just told them. 2 - you are punished too having to listen to the screaming and wailing if they sit and having to park bottoms back on the naughty step if escape is attempted. So give them (and you) 5 minutes to calm down in a safe, secure room they can't escape from and you can't hear more than is strictly necessary and have a calming cup of camomile tea ( as you are being so good at getting fit). Here endeth the lesson. All else I can say is you are doing a fab job and you and Charlie trying to present a united front is the best thing possible.Oh the other thing is, can you shop online where you are? I would never willingly enter a shop with anything under earning age as even when the desire to randomly destroy has gone the desire to randomly buy gets even stronger and I am not a great fan of logo covered plastic tat that falls apart in a couple of days.

  20. Oh THANK YOU for this post today!! My twin girls just woke up from their nap -- the nap they finally chose to take because their only other choice was to be bound and gagged and driven around in the car until losing consciousness (theirs or mine). They are now awake, sitting one each on my knees, trying to use the mouse, but I feel less alone and less crazy -- and less guilty and more human -- as I read your words. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  21. OMG. Don't tell me that. Four is supposed to be better than three. And three? Is hell. Seriously, he turned three last month and in the last 4-5 weeks, he's been near death many, many times.

    Four cannot be worse. He won't survive. I won't survive.

    And? The morning pooping thing? THAT'S SUPPOSED TO STOP. I told myself it would stop at three. PLEASE tell me they're not doing it at four. Because I might start crying now, and I won't be able to stop until he graduates from high school.

  22. Also, our son is the reason we came up with the phrase, err, mantra, "There's a reason that God made him so damn cute."

    And I'd like to point out that yours? Are ESPECIALLY adorable.

  23. Food for thought: A puppy can be trained to go outside to potty and in a few months. They can be trained to sit, roll over, lay down,and jump. They can be trained on what to chew on and what not to chew on. If the puppy did not do these basic things, they would receive additional training until success was achieved. 4 year olds are much smarter than puppies, so if you would not tolerate a dog pooping all over the house, tearing up household furniture, or biting people, why should you allow intelligence 4 year olds to get away with poor behavior? Low expectations breeds poor performance. This is the age to Disciple your children, and I did write Disciple, the root of Discipline. Ditch the PC of society and get control of your kids. The evil parents children of the 40s and 50s put a man on the moon. Since our society has become PC, we have accomplished nothing as a nation.

  24. I found you through MamaDB, and boy am I glad I did! I may not agree with everything you wrote politically (or your neighbor, for that matter), I love the wise way you offered your opinion. It is wonderful to find women who are opinionated yet not hateful. Well said!
    Geez, I have one 4 year old, and I can't imagine that x3. Bravo to you and your hubby who manage to appreciate the fine things in life (kudos on the Beatles choice) while chaos reigns. Cheers!

  25. Have you heard about "Love & Logic" when my daughter turned 4 that was the only way I survived some days. In the beginning I used to write on the back of my hand "GIVE CHOICES" that way when I got frustrated and started pointing at things I would see the RED pen on the back of my hand that said "GIVE CHOICES" and I was able to take a breath regroup and give her a choice... "it's time to go potty, would you like to walk or march to the potty right now?" This worked SO WELL... If she told me that she would like to crawl to the potty... works for me. I got what I wanted and she got some control in the process. Time to leave... I would simply say "I'm leaving as soon as the baby's diaper is changed, you can make the choice to put shoes on or you can choose to go without shoes... I hope you don't hurt your feet if you go without shoes" I left the house several times without her shoes on, just packed them along in the diaper bag and she REALLY hated when the cement was hot! Now when I ask her to put shoes on she knows why and knows that I will leave without worrying about whether or not she's done what I've asked. Reading the LOVE and LOGIC book changed my life at home, and I now use it in my classroom. If you can get good at it your life might be much easier with the trips... It's hard to change but SO SO SO worth making the effort. I am so much less stressed and only YELL every now and then now.

    Good Luck

  26. P.S. Here is a link to the LOVE and LOGIC book that I bought... It's called Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim and Charles Fay. It's a small purple book that only cost me around $20... did I mention how this book changed my life?


  27. i have read your blog for a few months and find myself nodding and laughing at the same time. i am the type of person that does what i need to do with my 2 year old twins, however, when others say something or gasp i snap back. the "stop hitting" yet Hippocrate part sent me roaring. More power to you, i believe kids push the limits as much as they can and can sense our worse days in order to push more! :) Your a great mom.

    ps. i wish i had more marathons here in cold ass wyoming...but hey wyoming is cold and windy 8 months out of the year. :) keep working hard!

  28. Hang tough, woman!

    And good on you for putting out your sign.

    We put out ours, too. (yes on 8!)

    It's going to be a close race ... we keep on checking in like every three minutes for the latest results.

    My finger's are crossed. So far we are hanging on to the lead.

  29. In a day not so crazy, try to pick up the "Love and Logic for Early Childhood". They have some great ideas that without them, my head would have popped off eons ago. They also have classes or seminars. I liked the book and just thjought I would mention it to you.
    Good luck!

  30. Jen,
    Well although I don't necessarily agree with your neighbors tactic. I think you did put the sign up as well as those of us who put up yes in our lawns. My brother is gay and I Love him to pieces but will not condone his relationships. I accept him and his partners into my home like I would do if he was with a woman. As some other comments suggest it is amazing to know what our God thinks how do we know. Well we know becasue it is in black and white in the Bible. That is the beauty of God he lays it right on the table. Marriage has already been defined as between a Man and Woman. The next thing they are going to allow is multiple partners. I am sure you don't want to teach your kiddos that is okay. Where do we draw the line. Faith is what our life is built on. Don't we have faith your children will be healthy, didn't you have faith that you would get preg one day, I am sure it wavers but it has always been there. That is what gets us through each day is our Faith. Here is a great book to read. If you are really challenging or questioning the faith Josh Mcdowell has written a book you need to read "The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict". It will change your life forever. I think you need to do more study on what you think Christianity is before you decide either way. Really it is a matter of time before our society is completely dumbed down that anything goes. It is going to be a scary place for our kiddos.

  31. Wow, anyone who would write a comment like that (about control) has clearly NEVER tried to parent a four year old. I am pretty sure that if you look up "defiant" in the dictionary, it cross-references to four year olds. I lose my s*it on a regular basis with my now five-year-old child; how you survive and maintain grace with three (and a baby)is beyond me. It sounds to me like you're doing just fine. Give yourself a break!!!

  32. Wow. Someone actually knocked on your door and challenged you about your choices (re: your "vote no" sign)?? Just out of curiosity, how many of your "vote yes" neighbour's doors have you knocked on to challenge their choices? It made me angry to read that and amazed me that you could reply so calmly and reasonably. My response would have been a good deal more heated and not terribly friendly. Kudos to you.

    It scares me that so many people still vehemently believe that the answer to society's problems today is *less* tolerance rather than more tolerance. Their logic baffles me. But if there is religious rhetoric to back up their beliefs, nothing will ever make them see differently. Sadly, I truly believe that organized religion has done far more harm in this world, right down through the ages, than it has ever done good. Just my opinion, but one that grows with each passing day. And that coming from one with a Christian background.

    As to your question "why?" regarding your 4 year olds, well because they are FOUR, you silly woman. ;-) I've done four three times over now. I honestly can't imagine my youngest (going on five) times THREE. Really. It would kill me. Stop being so quick to take the blame and give yourself a pat on the back for raising such incredibly happy, confident children who feel safe and secure enough to constantly test their boundaries as any healthy, happy, well-adjusted child their age does. And just think, when Henry reaches four, it will seem SO much easier just doing it with one!