Thursday, February 25, 2010

Backseat Drivers

I always hated backseat drivers. They drew my attention away from the road and managed to slip in some comment alluding to my dangerous speeds or lack of using a turn signal. I'd like to think that I am a pretty good driver, but I guess it's all relative. One thing I am not is an overly cautious driver. I'm not reckless, per se, but I have been known to have some great "defensive driving" skills in my driving tenure. Speaking of driving tenure, I am going to be very sad when I hit the point in my life when I have been driving longer than I haven't been driving. I realized that the day after I turn 32, I will have officially been a licensed driver for longer in my life that I was an unlicensed driver ... sad. I know it seems trite, but for some reason it makes me feel older (as I'm sure the day I turn 32 will make me feel old as well).

Anyway, back to the point. My mom is the worst of all my backseat drivers (sorry mom :-)). She is so good at it that she doesn't even have to SAY anything. She communicates her anxiety strictly in body language. Well, not body language so much as awkward and forceful stomps on her imaginary brake when she thinks I am not stopping quickly enough. This is in addition to loud gasps of air I hear her sucking in as I change lanes too quickly for her liking. I just chalk it up to the protective motherly instinct. Hey, maybe I'll be like that when my kids learn to drive ... three at the same time ... Lord help me.

Since the kids are unable to drive the car themselves these days, I spend a lot of my time carting them around in Mr. Mini Van to various activities. They really do enjoy going in the car for some reason, I'm at a loss as to why. But I don't question it because it's a lot easier to go places when they enjoy the ride. I remember when they were babies they used to HATE the car. They were ok as long as we were moving, but if we had to come to any type of stop at a light or in traffic, they screamed. It got bad enough that we would take much longer routes to get places as long as they involed long stretches of highway and no traffic lights. I am glad those days are over and that driving can be somewhat pleasant again.

I only say sometimes pleasant because my little car riders have now adopted an affinity for backseat driving. Oh, they're not savvy enough to tell when when to turn my turn signal on or to slow down, but they do like to give commentary on the day's events, their needs and wants, and just basic observations (this actually constitutes the bulk of the comments). Here are some examples of what I get to hear on a daily basis on my rides in the car:

Sam: "It's cold outside today."

Me: "I know Sammy."

Sam: "Well, then turn on the heat!"

Sam (as we're passing the KFC with a picture of Colonel Sanders on the sign): "Look, it's Grandaddy!"

I had to give it to him on this one. It was an older man with white hair wearing glasses - a good description of Grandaddy (Sam's great grandad) if you ask me.

Many comments are ones they make to themselves that I just happen to overhear.

Sam (to himself): "You hungry Sammy? You hungry? Yummy biscuits!"

I'm pretty sure Sam has never had a biscuit (sad, I know), so I don't know how he knows they are yummy ... but he's right again!

Peyton: "Calculating ... calculating."

Anyone with a GPS system will know what I am talking about.

And finally ....

Sam: "I want a f@%&ing tissue."

Me: "WHAT?!?!?"

Sam: "I want a f@%&ing tissue."

Me: "A WHAT tissue?"

I realized at this point that he is pointing to the package of FROGGY tissues sitting in the front seat. I guess "froggy" is hard for him to enunciate correctly because it definitely sounded like something else! This made me feel much better since my mind was racing with thoughts of Sam sitting outside smoking cigarettes with his tattoos and swearing with all his other 2 year old friends. I do admit that we still hold up the froggy tissues and ask him to identify them since it brings us a good laugh.

Most of the comments I hear are from Sam since he sits directly behind my seat. The girls are in the back, so their comments are more muddled and harder to make out. I'm considering rotating Peyton, our motor mouth, to the seat where Sam sits so I can hear more of what she is saying. I'm sure she has some pretty good comments. However, in the Clifford triplet land of order and routine, this would probably cause a meltdown of some sort and I'm not really willing to take that chance. Maybe one day when I'm feeling brave and have some reinforcements nearby. For now, I'll just keep the radio turned down low and listen to what other inventive and interesting things they come up with next!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week in Pictures

Sometimes pictures are just the best way to summarize a week of routine activities ... and that's what we had this week. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Grocery Game

Has anyone ever heard of this? If not, you can read about it HERE. We have recently tried to cut down on our spending for groceries. Having 4 hungry kids who need a lot of food and a lot of milk can take a toll on your wallet. I am also missing my cheap Florida produce people! Seriously, who knew it would be so much more expensive to buy fruits and vegetables outside of the sunshine state? It kind of makes me wish I hadn't pushed the fruits and veggies so hard with my kids.

Although the online Grocery Game can be fun to play, it is nothing compared to the grocery game we play whenever we decide to take the kids along to the store. I will admit that the triplets never even entered a grocery store until they were over a year old. I was just not that brave. I've heard many moms of multiples say that they would take the stroller in with them and push it while pulling the cart behind them. I don't know what kind of advanced motor skills these women have, but I could not do both of those things at the same time while trying to navigate food and cart packed aisles as wide as a toothpick. I have a hard enough time just trying to get the cart down the aisle without knocking over some precariously constructed food display when I'm ALONE at the store, much less with a stroller in tow! No, pushing a stroller and pulling a cart was not an option for me. So my husband and I just resorted to one of us going to the grocery store at night once the kids were asleep. It was just easier that way.

Once the triplets got a little older, I really started to worry that they weren't getting exposed to normal everyday things like other kids do (I know, first time moms worry about little things like this). I felt embarrassed that my kids had never been to a grocery store, so we decided to take them along. I remember being so nervous the first time, but it went (gasp!) beautifully. No screaming, no tantrums, no having to abandon the half-full cart in the middle of the store and go home ... nothing. I was truly amazed. Gradually though, things started to get a little tougher at the grocery store. I contribute this increase in toughness to two things: 1) The disappearance of the novelty of the grocery store and 2) The arrival of baby #4. This is when we really had to start to play our own version of the Grocery Game.

The newness of the grocery store wore off quickly. I mean, how many times does a kid have to go up and down the aisles to realize that they're all the same? Coupled with that is the fact that they realize they aren't getting to eat any of the food going into the cart. Letting them gnaw on the box of Cheerios only lasts so long before they realize that it's just not the same as the real thing. Their new found antsiness resulted in us making our first move in the game ... distraction. What better way to get a kid through a trip to the store than with a carefully constructed distraction tactic? So we started with balloons. We thought it was innocent enough. Our grocery store offered balloons free to kids and we thought, "What could the harm be?" Man, were we ever wrong. In a matter of a few trips, we created balloon craving monsters. All three kids became obsessed, no, completely consumed, with having a balloon as soon as we drove into the grocery store parking lot. It was sheer madness. We would get them in the carts and sprint through the parking lot, race past the deli, and just miss toppling over a few children on our quest to get to the balloon station before the wailing would begin. And the obsession we nurtured was not just limited to the grocery store. Suddenly our sweet little babies became balloon hunting mongrels. I swear they could smell them from over a mile away. If there was a balloon within a 100 yard radius they saw it and they wanted it. It was like suddenly we had created these little heroin balloons addicts that had to get their fix every time we left the house. Finally, we had had enough. We put them through an intensive balloon detox program and they can now be in the same room with balloons and not go completely insane. Occasionally one of them will start twitching, but we just find something else pretty to distract them with and it's fine.

The next hurdle we ht with the grocery trips was when Luke was born. Suddenly, our carefully crafted trips to the store had another wrench thrown into them. It wasn't too bad when he was still in an infant seat because we could just put his seat in the back of the cart and he was fine. But Luke is a big boy and he graduated from that infant seat in no time flat. Because he was still a bit too small to sit in the cart with one of the triplets, we had to resort to carrying him. I don't know about you, but it is not my idea of a good time to lug a 20 pound weight on my hip up and down an aisle while simultaneously pushing a child in a cart and trying to shop for food. Not gonna happen. Luckily I have a sling/wrap that lets you carry your child on your hip. This has actually worked out pretty well. It allows me to have two hands free at times and I don't have to support all that baby weight with my arms. I'll admit my shoulders are little crooked from the weight once we are finished, but they usually straighten back up in an hour or two.

So, as you can see, the Clifford Grocery Game is an ever evolving contest that has taken many twists and turns. I'd probably liken it to an intense game of chess ... Matt and me on one side, the kiddos on the other ... and every carefully thought out move by one side is met by another well planned move from the opposition. I admit that it does make me cringe a bit when I think about what their next move will be. But, for now, I'd have to say that we're playing a nice clean game. The stakes are high, but I have full confidence that we will eventually come out on top.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Baby Must Haves - Part II

OK, here's the rest of my baby must haves list. I noticed that this part of the list tends towards all things food related, which makes sense due to the fact that a baby eats a lot during that first year. So I guess that explains why I have a lot of must haves related to feeding that baby.

#5 Space-Saver High Chair
When we had the triplets, we bought three smaller high chairs to use for them once they could sit up and eat solid foods. Basically, this meant we had to get rid of our dining room table because the high chairs took up so much space. This left my husband and me to either eat our meals on our laps, or on a high chair tray ... neither was a really good option. So, needless to say, we were quite excited when the trips moved out of high chairs and into booster seats.

When Luke came along, I was not going to make the same space-eating mistake I did with the previous high chairs. So we went out and bought a space saver high chair.

This is a great investment. It is the size of a regular high chair from the seat on up, but it just straps on to one of your dining room chairs instead of taking up the additional space that a high chair normally does. It is very easy to take on and off the dining room chair as well in case you need to use the chair. Plus, it is very affordable, even cheaper than a normal high chair. An added bonus is that you could take it with you on a trip if you needed a high chair to go with you. I love it because the tray is very big and accomodates all the messes my little guy seems to make with his dinners.

#6 Wipe-Off Pocket Bibs
Looking at Luke's mess above points out my next must have, the wipe off pocket bib. Now these really aren't necessary until your baby has started eating actual pieces of solid food, not just strained baby food. For the purees, I just prefer to use a regular old cloth bib. Just buy a pack of cheap oversized cloth bibs and use those for when he/she is eating baby food purees. The purees stick better to cloth than to plastic bibs, which makes for easier containment of the mess.

Once you have moved on to letting him eat pieces of food, the wipe-off pocket bib is the way to go. I think Luke gets maybe 1 out of every 4 pieces of food actually into his mouth. The rest ends up in the pocket of his bib. This is great because when his tray is empty, we just dump out all the extra food pieces in his pocket and he starts all over again. We have tried many different kids of pocket bibs (like we did with the swaddles) and hav only found one that is really good. I have no idea what it is called, but here is the picture.

The best part about these bibs is that the pocket is a snap closure. Therefore, you can unsnap the pocket to clean it well. Plus, the snaps really help make it a well-defined pocket, something other bibs lack. Most bibs have a pocket that does not open well at all and food ends up in the lap instead of in the pocket, therefore negating the whole point of the pocket bib. The only place we've ever been able to find them is at K-Mart, so we stock up on them whenever we happen to go by the store. Trust me, these are the only way to go in terms of good, quality bibs that do the job of containing a mess.

#7 OxiClean
Ok, all this talk about high chairs and bibs is conjuring up memories of the many food messes my kids have made. Think 18 month olds and spaghetti, ice cream cones, pudding ... you get the picture.

No matter how hard you try, of course their clothes are going to get stained and dirty. I tried a lot of things to try and get stains out of their clothes, but the only tried and true product that I turn to now is...

Yes, the long trusted household name of OxiClean. They actually make a powder version of this and a spot spray cleaner. I tried the spray for a while, but it wasn't great at getting out all stains. Plus, it was tough to use on a large stain. So now I just keep a bucket in the tub filled with about a gallon or two of water and a scoop of OxiClean. Whenever someone has a messy day, I just toss the clothing into the bucket and it soaks in there until the next load of laundry heads to the washer. The soaking makes a big difference and it gets virtually everything out. I have become a believer in this stuff!

#8 Self Feeders and Snack Traps
These are actually two separate things, but both are pretty cool contraptions that I discovered with the triplets.

Th item on the right is a self feeder. We got ours at Publix, but I'm sure Target, Walmart, and the like carry them as well. They are awesome. They're made for babies who are still too young to eat large chunks of food. You place food (usually fruits work the best) inside the little mesh part and the baby can suck and and chew the fruit through the mesh. Luke loves it because he gets to taste the fruit and the juices. Plus, it is great for teething babies if you use something a little harder like apples.

The item on the left is called a snack trap. It can be found a lot of places too. The idea behind this is that you can put snack items (Cheerios, Goldfish, etc.) inside the container and then it has a top that prevents the snacks from falling out if the container is dropped (which it will be ... 57 times a day). The lid allows the child to reach in and pull out the snack very easily. It did take my kids a little while to get used to these and figure them out, but once they did it was a life saver. It meant we could do snacks on the go if needed instead of sitting at a table. Sure it added to the Goldfish cracker count in my car, but it was worth it for the convenience.

Hopefully this was helpful to anyone wondering about those 15 million baby products floating around out there. It's fun for me to reminisce about the days when the triplets were just little babies and we were figuring all these things out. I hesitate to call myself a pro, but I do think I have gained a good bit of knowledge over the past 2 years of what does and doesn't work when it comes to baby products. If anyone has any cool baby products they know of that I should try, let me know. I love to try out all those neat and different items and see if they make my life easier!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Baby Must Haves - Part 1

Having a second baby is a completely different thing than having your first. Even though Luke is my fourth child, I really only consider it my second time of going through the "babyhood" of the first year since the triplets were all my guinea pigs together. I tried out all types of things on them ... bottle holders, swaddle blankets, all types of shoes and clothes, etc. I tried any book or commercial's suggestion of anything guaranteed to make life better with your infant. With Luke, I have found that all my experimenting was, at least, not in vain. When he made his debut a short 9 months ago, I knew I was ready. So many people want to know what baby things are and are not "must haves", so here is my list of the essentials for the first year.

#1 Swaddles and Sleep Sacks
Let me be clear that not just any swaddle blanket will do. I have tried them all. When the triplets came home from the hospital, my husband and I were pros at swaddling with just a receiving blanket. This worked well until they became a bit bigger and could break out of the blanket in no time. We tried many different store-bought versions of swaddle blankets too, but the little Houdinis were able to get out of those in about 3.7 seconds as well. We were pretty desperate because we still felt that the kiddos needed the swaddle (plus, it meant they slept for longer stretches since it helped with the moro reflex that young babies have that tends to wake them up). I remember hearing my husband cry out in sheer joy one night soon after when he was on the internet and discovered this ... The Miracle Blanket.

This handy dandy blanket literally gave us hours of uninterrupted sleep. Plus, it kept those wiggly little buggers nice and snug and it was literally impossible for them to break out of it. Other swaddles may promise you things like this, but none of them come close to the Miracle Blanket. It was well worth the investment.

After transitioning out of the swaddle blankets, we went straight into sleep sacks (and before you ask, no, this is not my baby).

These were recommended to us by a friend and are great. The are wearable zip up blankets. Since you can't put blankets in a crib with a baby due to SIDS risks, these are a great option. They stay on the baby once he/she is rolling around and the baby stays all toasty and warm. The come in fleece and cotton. We only had to use the cotton ones with the triplets since we lived in a warm climate, but Luke has been using the fleece ones now that we have moved into colder weather territory.

#2 One-piece Outfits
There are so many clothes options floating around out there for babies. Onesies, overalls, gowns, you name it, they have it. And let's face it, they are all just so darn cute that you want to buy them all. I found that little girls are way easier to figure out than little boys. Dresses work perfectly because they are super cute and make diaper changing a snap. For boys, I have found that the best thing is to stick with one-piece outfits.

Especially once baby starts really moving around, the one-piece outfits are the way to go. Personally, I feel like I dressed Sam in "big boy" outfits too early. I mean, he has the rest of his life to wear polo shirts and jeans. So I am going to get away with letting Luke wear the adorably cute one-piece jon jons and one-pieces for as long as I can. I am determined to extend his baby-ness for as long as I can!

#3 Baby Leg Warmers
I did not use these with the triplets and I really wish I had. They are called baby leg warmers and they are for babies who have reached the crawling stage (again, not my baby).

A baby learning to crawl in the winter has a hard time doing it in pants. Pants are hard to crawl in and Luke often gets his feet stuck in the cuffs as he is trying to get around. The leg warmers are awesome because they prevent your baby from ripping up his/her knees when crawling around the house (especially if you have wood or tile floors like us). They keep Luke's legs warm and make changing his diaper so easy. He gets to move around as fast as he wants and I get to spend less time at the smelly changing table. It's a win-win situation for the both of us.

#4 Robeez Shoes
Keeping with the apparel theme, this is something I definitely learned from experimenting with the triplets. If you need shoes, Robeez shoes are the only way to go with an infant.

The triplets taught me that shoes for infants are ridiculous. Whoever got together and decided that we should all outfit our non-walking babies with shoes is crazy. Plus, their feet grow so dang fast that you buy a new size every month! I think they are just counting on the cuteness factor again because who can resist the cute little Nikes, right? Anyway, DO NOT put shoes on your baby in the summer, it's pointless. The only time I would put shoes on a baby at all is if it is cold outside or once they have started pulling up and cruising. And if you have to put shoes on them, go with the Robeez. These are slightly expensive, but they are literally the only pair of shoes Luke owns. I just bought a pair that pretty much go with all his clothes and he is set. They have soft soles and protect his feet now that he is standing. The best part is that these are literally impossible for him to get off. Luke can kick off socks with ease, but not these shoes. I just ordered him a new pair in the next size up and I guarantee we will wear those into the ground as well.

That's a pretty lengthy post so far, so I think I'll take a break. I'll be back tomorrow with the second half of my "must-have" list for babies. If anyone out there has any more ideas for me to add to the list, let me know!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More House Pics

I know I promised more house pictures, so here are the latest. I found myself chucking all of the baskets of laundry and such out of the way as I took the pictures, and there is still a lot of evidence of moving-itis in the rooms. I don't think it will ever end. Anyway, here is what I have for you.

Here is our living/family room. I never know what to call this room. Some people call it a den, I don't know. Here's the room where we hang out and watch TV. As you can see, the TV is still currently covering up our fireplace. We are eventually mounting it on the wall above the mantle (something I'm not too hot on, but it's really necessary for space reasons and keeping small hands off the screen). Notice Wilson having a hard day on the couch.

Oh, and the circa 1976 fan is on its way out. Just haven't had the time to get a replacement yet.

As you walk in the front door and through the living-family-den room, you are in the dining area. I think I put a picture of it already, but here's another. I really love our new table and we're looking for 6 new chairs to go around it (any suggestions?). The table is awesome because it can be a round small table, a larger oval (which is pictured), or a much larger oval. Great for us and our family of six.

Like the living-den fan, we're planning on replacing this chandelier at some time. It's too formal for our informal dining area. Plus, it lights up the house like the Christmas star the night Jesus was born and I need a little less light than that at 7am.

I already included pictures of the kitchen and playroom , so no new ones here. Plus, they're a mess as I type.

The hallway to the left of the dining table is the kids' "wing" that includes their bedrooms and bathroom. Their rooms are last on my list and have had nothing done to them. It will actually be a while until I will show anyone those because I'm planning on turning them into boys' and girls' rooms once we move Sam into a bedroom with Luke. That won't be for a few months or more. So here's all you get to see of their area. There is a door to the right that is the triplets' room and a door to the left that is Luke's (and future Sam's) room.

Here's a view from the playroom through to the front door so you get a better idea of the layout. The kitchen is to the left of the table.

The master bed and bath are upstairs. After the university purchased the house, they turned the upstairs attic into a master suite (notice the lower ceilings). I was worried about the ceilings being too low, but they're really not. And they did a great job making the space into a great bedroom with its own bathroom and his/her closets.

The last is a picture of our hay/mud backyard. They are hoping to seed it once we get a dry and warmer spell ... neither of which looks eminent in the coming weeks. So I have resigned myself to not having a backyard until spring. We are able to use the driveway and the kids' ride-on toys when the weather is warmer, but that's the extent of the backyard use for now.

So there is the latest update. Seriously, if anyone has suggestions for cute boy and girl rooms, I would love to hear them. I am not really a fan of themes in kid rooms, but I would  probably go for some type of color scheme, cute art/bed ideas (no bunks), etc. I'm planning on putting them in twin beds, two in each room. Especially if anyone has ideas for window treatments or decor I am all ears. I wish I had that designer's eye, but the gene seems to have alluded me!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Peek-a-boo, I see you

Our littlest member is motoring around at a pretty fast clip these days ... and apparently he fancies himself quite the comedian as well. Wonder where that gene came from?