September 30, 2009

Little Miss Independent

In some ways I was dreading the start of the new school year. I imagined myself needing to rise well before the crack of dawn to make sure all four of my daughters were dressed, fed and ready to go. Then something amazing happened. Some of my daughters have decided they can get themselves ready.
Tortilla was my first "Miss Independent." She is usually the first one to race to the potty in the morning and by the time the others have done their business she is dressed. All I have to do is comb her hair. Roo is on board with getting herself ready, too. Cakes has always been a mommy's girl and prefers that I dress her. I truly think it's because she wants my undivided attention for those few minutes. Sue Sue savors every last millisecond of sleep. She is definitely not a morning person. I consider myself lucky if I can manage to rouse her without making her grumpy.
I've really had to remind myself that I need to step back and let my daughters do as much for themselves as possible. It's part of growing up, both on their end and mine. I'll admit, sometimes it is painstakingly slow. Some mornings I want to reach over and help them put their arms in their coats and zip it myself. But, instead, I let them take the time they need... it's better to be an innocent bystander than to be told four times over "Mom, I can do it myself."

September 29, 2009

Different Families, Different Rules

Teaching toddlers all the household rules can be challenging. Sure I want them to behave at the table, clean up their toys, etc., but that doesn't always happen. I have a few rules, though, which are non-negotiable: We don't bite, we don't hit, we don't push. It can be difficult for my daughters to understand why other children are allowed to do these things.
For the most part if another child pushes one of my girls, she'll simply move to a different area or activity. I think some of this comes from having siblings. If your sister is bothering you, the quickest way to resolve the issue is to take yourself out of the situation. But when you're in a confined space, say a preschool classroom, moving away isn't always easy.
From time to time I'm told this on the way home from preschool "So and so pushed me" or "The boy took my toys." When I ask "what did you do?" the answer is usually "nothing... but he was naughty." I have explained to my daughters that not every mommy and daddy have the same rules at home and even if they do not every little boy or little girl remembers the rules all the time. I'm not suggesting there are parents out there who think it's OK for their kids to bite, hit or push, but I know there are parents out there who don't discipline their children for doing these things.
On an outing to the local children's museum, a boy who was clearly older than my daughters pushed one of the girls out his way so he could use the activity with which she was playing. I didn't say anything. I just steered her toward another activity. A woman with the mom of the boy in question must not have seen what happened because a few minutes later she said to the mom "Did you see those four little girls? Wow. Look at how well-behaved they are." Do you know what the mom said? "Yeah, well, I bet she wouldn't have the same luck if she had four boys." It still makes my blood boil. I don't buy into the notion that boys are harder to raise than girls. Come to my house when my daughters are trying to do a live version of WWE. But that's a post for a different day.
My daughters are becoming better at understanding that regardless of what other kids do, they are still expected to follow certain rules. They're also becoming better at standing up for themselves. While they haven't hit back or pushed back (yet), they will say "Don't push me." I don't expect my daughters to be perfect angels... but I do expect them to do their best to follow my rules and treat their peers the way they would want their peers to treat them. Heavy stuff for a four-year-old.

September 28, 2009

I'm a Barbie Girl

When my daughters had their birthday party last weekend, one guest gave each of them a Barbie. The mom, who only has sons, asked me if it was OK for my girls to play with Barbies. Ummmm... yeah. You see, the liberal, "girl power" side of me cannot come to terms with the notion that Barbie is supposed to be evil.
I grew up with Barbie. My Barbies were my favorite toys... ever. I have a box in my basement full of Barbies and another box full of clothes. I spent hours playing with my Barbies through sixth grade when it was no longer cool to play with dolls. Sure, I brushed their hair and dressed them in fancy clothes, but playing with Barbie was more than just playing dolls.
Each doll in my "Barbieverse" had a name and a specific role. I made up elaborate stories and acted them out with my Barbies. Barbie sparked tons of creative play for me.
I know, I know, if a real woman had those proportions she would fall over. Let me break this to you gently... Barbie is a doll. Shortly after my daughters were born they each received a doll that was the same length my girls were at birth. I like to point this out to them every now and then when they're playing baby dolls so they have some concept of how small they were. But here's the kicker: Sue Sue's doll is a chubby little thing. Sue Sue may have been the biggest at birth at a whopping two pounds four ounces, but she didn't have the chubby cheeks or meaty legs this doll has. Where is the outcry over baby dolls whose proportions don't add up?
Barbie is a bad role model? I seem to remember her motto during my childhood being "We girls can do anything." And my Barbie did. She wasn't limited to her wedding dresses and ball gowns. She had adventures and kicked butt along the way.
If my daughters want to play with Barbie, I'm all for it. It's more about playing with a doll and making up stories, than which doll their playing with. But if they ever decided they like Bratz dolls it will be whole different story.

September 23, 2009

The Boob Tube

I have never wanted to be one of those parents who sets their child(ren) in front of the TV and disappears. But I have to admit, some days TV is my friend. It can be next to impossible to accomplish any chores without a distraction for the kids.
I try to limit what my daughters watch, I really do. But now and then, we spend a day camped out on the couch. We don't have cable, so we are restricted to PBS, Qubo and our own DVDs. At least I'm showing them educational things, right?
During the summer we were out and about most mornings, usually at the pool or the park. Now, with school back in session, my daughters are gone all morning. In the afternoon I'm either shuttling them to appointments or trying to do housework.
Yesterday was a good example of a "TV day." I was still cleaning up from their birthday party, doing laundry and trying to clean all three of our bathrooms, too. While they were at school I managed to do some of the laundry and steam mop the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, I then managed to shatter a glass on the kitchen floor and spent the rest of the morning cleaning up shards of glass and figuring out how to wedge a few shattered pieces out of the wood. So during the afternoon I was scrambling to clean three bathrooms and the rest of the kitchen. I did it, thanks to the distraction of TV. After lunch my daughters watched Kung Fu Panda and then a few shows on Qubo.
Nobody's perfect. The housework had been neglected long enough. Now that it's done we can get back to better activities, such as coloring and playing with their new magnetic dolls.

The Changing of the Seasons

The changing of the seasons is a difficult time for me. Sure, I dislike cold weather and am sad to see the days grow shorter. But my biggest problem is figuring out how to dress my daughters.
We live in a desert climate so it can be practically freezing in the morning and nearly 80 by noon. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you see my point. Layering is the most practical way to dress this time of year, but it's a concept that is easily lost on 4-year-olds.
When in doubt I always have my girls wear a jacket to school. In fact last year there was one morning that I was stripping the coats off of them by the time we arrived to school because it was warmer than I thought. Other days I have sent them in long sleeves and pants... and immediately changed them into shorts and t-shirts when they came home.
The problem with always sending my daughters with a jacket is that they aren't always able to judge when they don't need the jacket. If they wore it to school they must need it at recess and on the way home, right? The teacher has 16 kids to worry about so she can't spend her day figuring out who is overheating and who truly needs a coat. On a purely selfish note: that's a lot of laundry if I have to put them in more than one outfit each day!
So, as much as it pains me to say this: bring on winter. At least then I won't have to spend the day questioning what they're wearing!

September 22, 2009

Flu Shots Times Four

Now that my daughters are in preschool, I try to have them get their flu shots in mid to late September. Yes, my daughters are vaccinated and receive annual flu shots. If you're here to debate that please go somewhere else.
Anyway, I found a clinic doing shots for $15 instead of the standard $25, so after school yesterday the five us stopped by for shots. Well, the four of them were getting shots... I can get mine free through Hubby's employer. Thank goodness I decided to go directly from school rather than wait until after lunch, which had been my original plan. We received the clinic's last four shots! Oh, they'll receive a new shipment in about a week, but it never occurred to me that there would be a flu shot shortage this year. I guess the H1N1 scare coupled with this particular clinic offering cheaper shots has people rolling up their sleeves. (Yes, I realize this current vaccine does not protect against H1N1, but I'm not sure everyone else realizes this).
I had talked up the shots all morning, explaining to my daughters that it might hurt for a minute but the shot would help protect them from certain illnesses. They seemed onboard with the plan... until the nurse walked in with the syringes. No one wanted to go first. The nurse wanted to do the shots two girls at a time, but being the only one capable of mommy hugs I nixed that idea.
I made Sue Sue go first. She's a tough girl and I hoped she would set the tone. She didn't disappoint. I held her hands and as the needle went in she said "ouch, ouch, ouch" let out a little whimper and then decided the moment had passed. Roo was next. She can be a tad dramatic. She cried, she screamed, she cried some more. This did nothing to help calm Tortilla and Cakes. Roo finally settled down and I grabbed Tortilla. She popped her thumb in her mouth and gave me a pathetic look. I wanted to nix the shot, but knew we had to proceed. She cried, gave me a hug and was fine. As I approached Cakes she looked at me and said "I don't want a shot." I tried to soothe her, told her she could hold my hand and told her she would receive a cool bandage after the shot. She started crying the minute she saw the needle, but Cakes is a trooper. After her shot, she buried her head in my shoulder, gave a few sobs and was done. Fortunately the nurse then handed everyone a sucker. Candy right before lunch? For those four brave girls... absolutely.
Later in the evening when Hubby came home the girls told him all about their flu shot adventure... how brave they were, how they didn't cry. What? Well, I retold the story in front of them and gave examples of each of their cries, which they thought was pretty funny. All this morning they regaled me with tales about how funny it was to receive their shot. Still, on the way to school this morning Sue Sue was adamant... "No shots after school today, OK mommy?"

September 21, 2009

Don't Stop the Party

I have officially survived a 4th birthday for 4 girls that, appropriately, lasted 4 days. Our celebration began Thursday. My daughters took cupcakes to school and their teacher made each of them a "birthday crown."
The fun continued into Friday (their actual birthday) when we surprised them with a V-Tech Smile. All four of them have been eyeing Hubby's Playstation, so I thought it was best to buy an age appropriate and somewhat educational video game system. Hubby thinks it's funny that I had trouble playing the "difficult" level, which is meant for six year olds. We also saw Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Unfortunately to see the 3D or IMAX version we would have blown more than $50, so we settled for the non 3D version. It's a pretty funny movie. Appropriate for children, but a few jokes thrown in for adults. We also had more cupcakes.
Saturday was the day of the big party. The weather was perfect and (I think) everyone had fun. We played games, we ate cupcakes, we ran around until we were all exhausted. What more could you ask for from a party for preschoolers?
Sunday was a day to relax. We played some of their new videogames and watched a movie. Oh, and we had cupcakes! Yes, my daughters are on sugar overload.
Today I'm trying to get back to the normal routine. Roo didn't want to get dressed. Sue Sue didn't want to eat breakfast. Heck, I didn't want to take them out in the pouring rain to go to school... but I did... because today is another little girl's birthday and they're having cupcakes at preschool!

September 16, 2009

Where Did My Babies Go?

Tomorrow is a big day in this family. My four daughters will turn four. How did that happen? When did they go from 1 1/2 pound babies fighting for their lives to these... these... people?
This birthday is a hard one for me. Basically I have to face facts: my babies aren't babies. They're beautiful little girls, who will grow into teenagers and adults. It's such a blessing to see how far they've come, but a little sad, too.
Just the other night, as I prepared for bed, I checked on my girls. All I could do was stand there and look around the room. It's amazing to be in their room in the middle of the night, watching them sleep and know they beat the odds to survive. It's also amazing to look around their room and realize we managed to fit four cribs/toddler beds in there. I'm still stressing about our plan to move them to twin beds in the spring. Something tells me we'll be saying "bye-bye" to the room we use as an office so we can split the girls into two rooms.
So much has happened in four years. They've learned to walk, talk and (finally!) use the toilet. I take none of these milestones for granted.
For now, my daughters still love to snuggle, still love to be held. I cherish these moments because it's only a matter of time before I become "uncool," before they start rolling their eyes at me or give exasperated sighs. So, bring on the birthday cake, but don't let my little girls grow up too fast. Happy birthday!!!!

Let the Sickness Begin

When I picked my daughters up from preschool yesterday, I asked them what they did in school. Their reply? "A boy threw up." Oh no, here we go again. Preschool is wonderful, but it is a building full of germs.
It would be easy to point fingers at the parents of sick children. How could they send them to school? But let's be honest here, if your child throws up often times there is very little warning. When we began "BarfBash '09" this past January, it started unexpectedly. Earlier in the day we had a picnic lunch in the playroom. We watched a movie. We had fun. Then at dinner Sue Sue suddenly had a funny look on her face and barrrrrrf... right at the dinner table BarfBash '09 began. All six of us were unwilling participants in the "festivities."
A few months earlier Tortilla had pink eye. When I sent her to school in the morning there was no problem. Later in the day I looked at her and saw a swollen eye. Thank goodness the pediatrician's office was open for another hour and the nurse called in a prescription without asking to see us. How I managed to keep the other three from getting it is beyond me.
Child care is also a huge factor. When I have to call off work because my daughters are sick sometimes the managers act like they don't believe me. Believe me... I need the money. I'm not playing hooky. I imagine there are parents who send their children to school simply because they have to work. I'm not suggesting it's right, I'm just saying it's understandable.
I'm fully prepared for either BarfBash '09 2.0 or BarfBash '10. I'm just hoping and praying we get through this week of birthday celebrations. After that, germs, you are free to wreak havoc on our immune systems.

September 15, 2009

Who Says Boys Don't Cook?

This past weekend was my semi-annual moms of multiples club sale. One of the items someone was selling was a Step 2 kitchen. You know... the really nice, really expensive one? Anyway, one mom wondered aloud if it was an appropriate toy for her son. All of us immediately responded with a "YES!" How in the world can a play kitchen be only for girls?
The majority of our imaginary play happens at our play kitchen. Yesterday, for example, I was served strawberry juice (the play strawberry was in the cup), doughnut soup and an egg. Yummy, right? Oh, and I can't forget the tea I was served in a princess cup. I was stuffed after my pretend meal.
Not only do we have the play kitchen, but we have the obligatory gigantic bag of play food to go with it. The food cracks me up. There are the standards: spaghetti, peas, bread. But some of the food has me scratching my head: soy sauce, sushi, asparagus. (Side note: many of you own this exact same bag of food. Toss the sushi unless you want to constantly be telling your children not to put it in their mouths. It's small, it's dangerous). There is one item in this bag that I have no idea what it is. It's three brown cubes stacked together. I'm at a loss. Anyone? Yesterday one of the girls served it to me on a plate. Then she asked me "what's that?" I couldn't even make something up.
The day my daughters stop using the play kitchen will be a sad day. Who else would think to serve me a raspberry tart in the middle of the afternoon? I eat well... even if it's all pretend.

September 14, 2009

Party Planning Panic

The big day is almost here. At the end of the week my little babies will no longer be babies. They will be four years old. We're spreading out the celebration over several days. Thursday they'll take cupcakes to preschool. Friday is their actual birthday and we hope to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Saturday is their party, which has me stressed out.
I sent invitations home with every classmate. Today is the deadline to RSVP. Only one child from the class has RSVP'd! She's bringing her sister who is in a different class. At this point we have my four girls and 3 other children confirmed for the party. How am I supposed to plan for this?
I specifically asked people not to bring gifts to the party. I didn't want any parent to not allow their child to attend because they can't afford four gifts. Plus, I just wanted my daughters to have a fun time running around with their friends and chowing down on cupcakes. How am I supposed to plan for this if no one will even say whether they're coming?
The cupcakes I want to order are from Sam's Club and you have to order a minimum of 30, so I guess I'll just go with those and we may have a lot left over. I bought party favors awhile ago from the Target dollar bin so I'm not in danger of running out of those, either. But what is wrong with people? All I want to know is whether to plan for a backyard full of preschoolers! Do people not RSVP anymore or am I just the victim of poor manners? Oh well, we're going to have a blast no matter how many kids show up!

September 11, 2009

When Will You Tell Your Children?

Today is one of those days that most of us will never forget. I can tell you where I was and what I was doing on this day in 2001. When I turned on the TV this morning, all the networks were airing tributes and remembrances. One of my daughters turned to me and asked me why a little girl on the TV was crying. "Something bad happened today," I explained. That answer seemed to be enough to appease her. Then I turned the channel and we watched "Dinosaur Train" on PBS.
At nearly-four I'm not sure the details of today are appropriate. I don't want my daughters to be scared of planes flying overhead, wondering if the planes will be crashing or flying into buildings. They don't have a real handle on death, yet, and I don't think it's something they're ready to hear about in this magnitude.
But it really has me thinking: at what age does it become appropriate to explain Sept. 11 and other tragic events to our children? It is important for all of our children to understand our history and how it shapes our future, but it needs to be done in a manner without scaring them. I'm at a bit of a loss.
On a personal note: thank you to all the men and women who have worked to protect our country and to their families who also make sacrifices so their loved ones can continue to preserve our freedom.

September 09, 2009

The Magic Hat

I have found the solution to our chore time woes. It's simple, really. If I want my daughters to clean up, one of them needs to wear the "magic hat."
It all started a few nights ago. Cakes was a few stickers behind the others on the chore chart. The other three landed on the "star spot" and were able to pick a prize in the morning. By the end of the day Cakes was just one sticker away from picking a prize. I spent the day explaining to her that if she wanted a prize that day then she needed to do all her chores. When it was time for the final chore, cleaning up her toys, I was a little worried. Then I saw something magical. She was picking up each and every toy by herself. In fact, she told her sisters not to help her. She was wearing a beret that they have in their dress up clothes. She wore the beret throughout the clean up and took it off as soon as she finished. She happily picked a pair of Strawberry Shortcake socks for her prize. The next night Tortilla was the only one out of the four who cleaned up the toys. The common denominator? The beret.
I have no idea what it is about that hat, but for some reason, the girl who wears it is the girl who does the best job cleaning up. Hubby has joked that he's going to put the beret on one of the cats and see if any of them have a sudden desire to do housework. It's worth a try.

September 08, 2009

Mr. Mom

It's always fun for me when Hubby has a chance to really experience what I go through on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong... he really does do his part around here. But when he has to do pretty much everything on his own, the results are often interesting.
Saturdays are always "Daddy's Days." I work my part-time retail job and often am out the door before anyone else is awake. On those days Hubby has to do one load of the girls' laundry and vacuum the house. There are some small chores here and there, but those are the priorities of the day. When I came home from work this past Saturday Cakes informed me that "Daddy combed our hair today." This was quite a triumph because I have been preaching to him for months that even though it's a weekend their hair needs combed or I will be faced with four tangled messes by Sunday morning.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to earn time and a half at work. With Hubby's company recently instituting a mandatory pay cut for employees I jumped at the chance for some extra money. So while I spent the day prepping fine jewelry for inventory, Hubby spent the day finding out what a typical Monday is like in our house. (Hey, it may have been a holiday, but laundry needed to be done).
Monday is the laundry day. Hubby found himself faced with six loads of laundry. It would have been seven, but I condensed the whites and the lights to one load. Unfortunately it didn't all get done. Hubby forgot to do the sheets and what I fondly refer to as the "cat sheet," a sheet on top of our comforter so the cats can sleep on our bed. Well, 4 out of 6 loads isn't bad. Then he "forgot" where the girls' clothes go in the closet and conveniently left the basket for me to put away. He also "forgot" that baths are necessary when the next day is a school day. Still, we managed to get it all done, so you'll hear few complaints from me.
I'm giving Hubby a hard time with this post. He actually suggested this be the topic of today's post, so I decided to run with it. I am grateful that he makes every attempt to lighten my load, even if the end results aren't "perfect." I'll take his attempts over perfection any day.
I'll leave you with the most important lesson learned during Hubby's weekend stint with the girls: toddlers and cat toys made out of feathers do not mix. I am still finding feathers throughout our TV room.

September 03, 2009

No Habla Espanol

I live in an area with a large Hispanic population. I am now kicking myself for taking French in high school and college. I actually learned Spanish throughout elementary school, which is why I opted for French later in life. I simply wanted a change. Now I wish I had put more thought into which language I learned.
I grew up in a college town, which is not the area where I currently live. My elementary school was the closest to campus and so we had numerous children of international students in our class. Some of the parents would come and teach us about their cultures. In kindergarten and first grade we learned a lot of Spanish. My dad says I could even converse in Spanish at that age, but clearly I have lost that skill. Years later, maybe around fourth grade, we learned Arabic. Many of my close friends throughout elementary school were from Malaysia, although they spoke spot on English, so language was never a barrier. Keep in mind all of this happened in (gasp) a public school.
I know there are people who say if you live in the U.S. you need to speak English and nothing else. I'm not trying to stir that pot with this post. Still, because of where I live, I wish I had a better grasp of the Spanish language. It would make my retail job a lot easier. For the record, I also wish I had a better grasp of American Sign Language, as I have had numerous hearing-impaired customers recently. I took an ASL class in college, but my skills are rusty and I don't think these customers want to stand around all day while I finger spell everything.
My daughters are learning Spanish in preschool this year. The teacher's aide in their classroom is one of the only bilingual aides, so many of the students in the class are bilingual or only speak Spanish. I think being exposed to Spanish at a young age will be good for my girls. On the way home from school yesterday, Roo told me some of the kids were speaking Spanish in class. I asked her if she knows Spanish, too. She said yes... "Hola, mommy." It's a start, although I think she already picked up that much from Dora the Explorer.

September 02, 2009

The Preschool Fashion Show

I am convinced that I am the only mother who doesn't care what she looks like when she drops her children off at school. I savor every moment of sleep. I roll out of bed, get my daughters ready for school and off we go. I don't wear my pajamas in the drop off lane, but it sure would be nice.
Most mornings I come home from the drop off, run upstairs to change into exercise clothes and then take a long walk through my neighborhood. Why would I shower if I'm going to workout as soon as I get home? Yet there I am every morning at the drop off surrounded by perfectly manicured, perfectly coordinated moms who remembered to comb their hair before heading out the door. I understand the moms who are headed straight to work, but I've never been a woman who feels the need to be "done up" to head to the grocery store. I would much rather come home and have a shower in peace and quiet.
I don't judge the moms who are already prepared to take on the day before I've even thought about what I'm going to wear. I'm comfortable enough with myself, though, that I don't care if they judge me.

September 01, 2009

The Same But Different

People always ask me in regards to my daughters "oh, do you notice different personalities starting to come through?" Starting? Their personalities have been shinging through since birth!
I understand that it's hard for some people to grasp that children born at the same time are not the same. Trust me, I'm not even being sarcastic with that last statement. If you see four little girls who are sisters and all the same age, it can be hard to see them as individuals. But most times my daughters won't let you forget how different they are from one another.
In the NICU the nurses told us preemies can exhibit various signs of communication. My response? Mmmm hmmm. But they were right. The second Tortilla felt she had enough attention and needed a break she would put her hand out in that "talk to the hand" pose. She still does that sometimes when she wants to be left alone. Cakes on the other hand wanted to be picked up the minute anyone walked in the room. She still wants to be on your lap the second you sit down.
All four of my daughters have different likes and dislikes. Roo will eat almost every vegetable you put in front of her, except cucumbers. Sue-Sue, on the other hand, only likes cucumbers. Tortilla can't stand carrots. Cakes eats any and every vegetable known to man. Tortilla loves to dance. Sue-Sue likes to sing. They all like Dora the Explorer but will have tear-filled arguments over which Dora movie to watch.
I think it will be a challenge for some people to ever see my daughters as anything more than "the quads." Even "singletons" face this problem when younger siblings are compared to older siblings. But I think if people take the time to get to know my daughters they'll realize how different these similar sisters really are.