July 28, 2010

Putting it in Perspective

At the end of each month, I always wonder how things went by so fast. Then I took at look at our calendar:It's not that we are overbooked... it's just that we always have something going on. Sue Sue has physical therapy, I have to work, all the girls have swim lessons, we have a birthday party to attend... the list goes on and on. If you look closely, some days are crossed out... but that's only because other things came up that interfered with our original plans.
Next month doesn't appear to be as booked... but appearances can be deceiving. While many days don't have anything written on them, they're still busy because preschool will be starting again soon.
I'm just glad that even though our calendar is chock full of plans, many of them have been fun activities: a mini-vacation, a trip to a new park... we may have had to "book" them on the calendar, but at least that meant we actually did them!

July 27, 2010

Meal Planning

Ever since we had our quadruplets, I've realized I'm a pretty good cook. I became a stay-at-home mom and found myself with time to actually make dinner (after the first year of raising quads, of course, because nothing was getting accomplished in year one). But now that Hubby has a whacked-out work schedule, things went back to our BQ (Before Quads) Days.
BQ, we both worked full time. BQ, we ate a lot of frozen meals or food from a box. BQ, we usually had one "good" meal a week (either Hubby grilled or I experimented with a new recipe).
PQ (Post Quads), I, amazingly, had time to cook: casseroles, lasagna, lots of new recipes and tons of acorn squash on the side. A side note: acorn squash is my favorite vegetable. I could eat it every day. It's easy to fix and it's yummy.
Anyway, now that Hubby is only home two nights a week for dinner, we're back to the BQ meals. I started out making a casserole once a week, but we got tired of tuna casserole, lasagna and Mexican chicken on a rotating basis. I wanted to make things that would generate lots of leftovers for both of us to eat during our solo dinners... me at home, him at work. When we became bored, our "leftover meal" became Hamburger Helper. There's nothing wrong with HH, but it can become monotonous.
And then, a mom of triplets told me about Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer. She lent me the cook book and it has been wonderful. The book is full of recipes for meals you can make ahead. It gives you the measurements to make it in large quantities, as well as the measurements to simply make it tonight's meal. The book even walks you through which freezing method works best for which recipe. The nice thing is that you only do the prep ahead of time. The actual baking takes place on the night you're going to eat, so you don't end up thawing out a soggy meal. You still have to take the time to thaw out the meal, but it's worth it. So far I've made two meals from the book. I made the "Cheesy Chicken Bundles" in bulk. I only made the one-meal serving of Sloppy Joes, but it still lasted all six of us for a week. (This is partly because only three out of my four girls liked them. The fourth referred to them as "Slimey Joes.")
I hate constantly turning to store bought meals or food that comes out of a box, so I'm very excited to experiment with more of the recipes in the cook book.... and in case you're wondering, this is not a sponsored post. No one compensated me for writing this post... but I highly recommend you take a look at this cook book if you have a chance.

July 26, 2010

No Evil Stepmother in This Story

My life is no Cinderella story. Sure, I met my Prince Charming, but life isn't always a fairy tale. Still, we're happy, despite the curve balls life throws us.
A little over eight years ago my mom died. A little over five years ago my dad remarried... and that same month my new stepmother found out she was going to go from having zero grandkids to having four. Some people are amazed that she so readily accepted the role of grandma-to-be and, ultimately, grandma. I say, if you're going to join a family, you might as well do it with gusto. It extends to her family, too. Her daughter refers to herself as an aunt. While her father was alive he eagerly took on the role of "great grandpa." She is the only "Grandma Smith" (not her real last name) my daughters know. When I refer to my mom, I refer to her as Grandma Karen. (My daughters are still trying to understand why Grandma Smith isn't my mom, so there's no need to confuse them further).
Her generosity goes beyond my immediate family. She has developed a close relationship with my aunt, my mom's sister. They've even shared several Christmases together. Last week, my aunt fell and was seriously injured. This led to a hospital stay for several days. The person at her bedside 24/7? My stepmom. As a nurse, she made sure she was there whenever the doctors came to discuss treatment. I say it takes a pretty selfless person to take care of your husband's late wife's sister.
Has our relationship always been picture-perfect? Of course not. It's not easy to see your parents remarry, regardless of the circumstances. It takes time to get to know someone and accept them into your life. We are lucky to have someone join our family who wants to be a part of our family and a part of our lives.

July 21, 2010

Another Round of Tough Love

Before I had children, I always said I would never be the type of parent who forced her children to eat. I grew up with a mom who didn't make us finish everything on our plate. My sister and I were super-picky eaters, so from time to time my mom would make us a different meal than she made for my dad and her to eat. Then I had quadruplets....
Sorry, but I'm not a short-order cook. I make my girls one meal and that's it. OK, from time to time if I make something that I KNOW one of them dislikes, then I may offer an alternative, but it's always leftovers.
Sue Sue is my pickiest eater and she and I are currently engaged in a battle. Lately, she has refused to eat breakfast. What?! It's the most important meal of the day. I finally figured out that it's because for awhile I was in such a rush that the girls were only being served Pop Tarts (yeah, yeah, not the healthiest, but whatever). Now that I've had time to give them choices (waffles, cereal, French toast, fruit), she has started eating again.
Last night, though, the battle carried over to dinner. I made spaghetti, which all four of the girls like. Sue Sue was on board... until she found out there wasn't any bread. I usually throw a Pillsbury French loaf in the oven, but didn't plan ahead and ran out of time last night. First, she wouldn't sit at the table. Then when I coaxed her to the table, she refused to eat. I made a tough decision: she didn't have to eat, she just had to sit at the table while her sisters ate. She didn't eat a crumb.
I hate sending my daughters away from a meal with an empty stomach... but I have to take a stance. If my daughters take one bite of something new and truly don't like it, then, yes, I ignore my rule of not being a short order cook. But when my daughters refuse to eat just because... then I have to be "that mom." Not eating for one meal won't damage them. If they're truly hungry, they'll eat. I don't want my daughters to have issues with food. I don't want them to think they have to eat every morsel on their plate and I don't want them to think eating is the only way to make Mommy happy.
Still, I'm open for suggestions. What do you do when your children refuse to eat?

July 20, 2010

Traveling With Preschoolers

When we took our mini-vacation last week, I was concerned about potty breaks. Twelve hours of driving and four four-year-olds who are all potty trained... it could have been a disaster. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
On our drive to our destination, we drove overnight. We didn't take our first potty break until roughly five hours into the trip. Believe it or not, we only made one more potty stop during the remaining seven hours. I think it's mainly because breakfast consisted of a Pop Tart in the car and a few sips of juice. The drive home was done during the day. I highly recommend keeping an atlas in your car. It was nice to be able to look at the atlas and know where the next rest area was. All the rest areas we stopped at were surprisingly clean, too.
Two years ago, we drove two days to visit my family in Ohio. Before the trip we splurged on a two-screen portable DVD player, so we could put one screen in the middle row and one in the third row of our Suburban. This thing has quickly paid for itself. It was great to have on our recent trip. We watched The Sound of Music, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, The Princess and the Frog, Mary Poppins and various Nick Jr. shows. Sure, my girls were restless during much of the 12 hour drive home, but having shows on to keep them entertained definitely helped.
I'm glad this trip was such a success... it makes me willing to embark on another journey in the future.

July 19, 2010

Our Mini-Vacation

Last week a wonderful thing happened. After not going on any trips for two years, we took a mini vacation. It was a whirlwind, to say the least, but it was well worth it.
We visited with family and friends in the Quad Cities (Moline, IL area). Yes, laugh it up. Hubby and I met in the Quad Cities and we now have quadruplets. Keep laughing... the area used to be called the Quint Cities, but apparently East Moline doesn't hold rank any more.
We made the decision to make the 12 hour drive there overnight. It worked out, to an extent. We avoided construction and truckers. We only had to make two stops... one for gas and potty, the other just for potty. Hubby was exhausted when we reached our destination. I was exhausted, too. I managed to sleep in the car... in 10 minute intervals. Every time I would fall asleep I would be awakened by "MOOOOOOM.... are we there, yet?!" Let's just say Wednesday night I fell into a coma very early in the evening and slept for a looooong time.
We only spent two full days in the Quad Cities, but it was nice to visit with family and friends who we don't see very often. We went to the local zoo where we rode the train, rode the carousel, rode the ponies and fed the lorikeets. Our zoo has a lorikeet feeding area, too, but apparently our birds are spoiled. The birds in the Quad Cities acted like they had never been fed, hence the pictures of Hubby covered in lorikeets.
We also had the chance to visit the local children's museum and the John Deere Pavilions, where there are tons of tractors, combines, etc. to climb on. (Moline is the home of John Deere). Oh, and Hubby's friend who is a firefighter gave us a fantastic tour of one of the fire stations, even letting the girls climb on the trucks.
Now it's back to reality...

July 14, 2010

Buried in Toys

From the minute my daughters were born, they have been inundated with stuffed animals. I think it's great that people see a toy and think about my daughters. I am grateful that others send gifts. Still, at the end of the day, when it's time to pick up their mess, I wonder why we have so many stuffed animals.
It would be easy to say, "Oh, we'll just thin the pile." It's not that easy. Each stuffed animal has a purpose. Each animal is sought after during specific games. I'm trying to figure out the best way to thin things out without causing a ruckus.
Please don't take this as an indication that my daughters are spoiled. They're not. It's just that it's not easy for them to see their toys taken away, regardless of the reason. Every six months my moms of multiples group holds a sale so we can get rid of clothes, gear and toys. My daughters have actually been really good about helping me determine which toys are "baby toys." We've sold or donated a considerable amount of toys and books... still, every time I turn around, I'm stepping on another stuffed animal.
Some days I threaten to throw it all away. All of it. These are the days when no one wants to help me clean up. I'll never follow through with that threat, but it's always interesting to think of what my house would like without toys in every corner!

July 13, 2010

Creative Play

Now that my daughters are getting older, it's fun to see how their play has progressed. For awhile I wondered if they would ever engage in creative play without being prompted. Now they make up the most interesting games.
Right now Tortilla is having her Barbie ride a horse. She's making the horse noises, too. She's so absorbed in her game that she doesn't even know I'm watching her.
Roo and Sue Sue like to play "robot." We have a magnet that has a small button on it. One of them will be in charge of pushing the button and the other walks around pretending to be a robot. They use monotone robot voices. Right now, though, they're playing a game called "Toodle Wuzzie." I can't figure out the concept, but they're enjoying it.
Cakes loves to dress up. Most days she'll walk around in a princess dress and high heel shoes. She's four and already better at walking in heels than I am. It's a nice feeling that most of the time when I turn the TV on, they ignore the tube and end up playing a make believe game.

July 12, 2010


Why is it that whenever a bug is in sight my girls scream like, well, girls?! It doesn't matter what kind of bug it is... they scream. You may be thinking about my fear of spiders and conclude that I instilled this terror in my daughters. Nope. In fact, I rarely react when I see a spider, just so I don't teach my girls to fear them.
I've tried getting them to hold lady bugs. They're all for it, until the bug touches their skin. Then they frantically try to shake off the bug. Flies? Forget it. If they see a fly they freeze. Gnats? Bound to cause squeals.
Keep this little tidbit in mind: about a month ago we went to our local butterfly pavilion. Three of my girls held a tarantula. Let me repeat: three of my girls held a TARANTULA. But a fly makes them scream in terror.

July 08, 2010

The Cry-It-Out Method

When my daughters came home from the hospital, I quickly decided to be a "cry-it-out" mom. I didn't have much of a choice. They ate every three hours. Sometimes it took 2+ hours to finish a feeding. If I then checked on them for every fussy moment I wasn't going to get much sleep. Hubby and I alternated feedings overnight. There were some nights when we passed each other in the hallway: one of us was headed to bed after a feeding, the other was getting up for the next feeding. Crying it out became the only way we could get sleep.
And now, here we are four-and-a-half years later and I'm having to resort to the cry it out method again. Cakes and Tortilla fall asleep right away most nights. Sue Sue goes to sleep in a reasonable amount of time if Roo isn't bothering her. Roo is my hold out. I blogged awhile ago that Roo is having some separation issues. Something has really scared her and she doesn't like to be in a room without Mommy or Daddy.
Bed time hasn't been a huge issue, but it's definitely a drawn out process. Roo needs to say good night over and over until she falls asleep. She'll yell it out her door after I've gone downstairs. Or she'll need to ask me a question, something mundane like "what are we doing tomorrow?" The other night I reached my breaking point. She had been upstairs for more than an hour and was still shouting the occasional "good night" out her door. The next night I took a stand. I tucked everyone in, gave them all their hugs and kisses, read stories, etc. Then I told Roo good night and told her I would not speak to her any more until morning. It was hard. She yelled, she screamed, she cried. We have a camera pointed at her bedroom door due to a recent habit of disturbing her sisters while they sleep. When I switched over to see what she was doing I thought I was watching an episode of Super Nanny. If you've ever seen the show, then you've seen the night vision camera where inevitably one child has an extreme meltdown. I ate my dinner and when I was done, I realized it was quiet. She conked out in less than an hour. The following night, her rage lasted maybe 20 minutes. Last night? 10 minutes.
I don't want to traumatize her. I want her to know I'm downstairs and that I'll certainly come running if there's a true emergency. But I think we're finally making some progress in getting her to understand that at bed time we go to sleep... and if we can't fall asleep then we stay in our bed and be quiet.

July 07, 2010

My Latest Kohl's Find

I work part-time at Kohl's. I was a frequent customer, so when I started looking for part-time work, Kohl's was on my short list of favorites. I try to only buy things on clearance, that way I know I'm getting a huge bargain, since I can also use coupons for having a Kohl's card plus my employee discount. For instance, when winter gear went clearance, I bought my girls Totes brand boots for less than $10 a pair. I bought them a size too big in hopes that they'll still fit next winter.
It's my latest find that has me ecstatic. If you shop at Kohl's then you've likely seen the stuffed animals and coordinating books near the cash registers. It's part of the Kohl's Cares program and all proceeds go to local charities. This quarter's theme is Winnie the Pooh... but if you look closely you'll find something that has nothing to do with Pooh. Right now Jessica Seinfeld's cook book Deceptively Delicious is for sale for $5 as part of the Kohl's Cares program. I saw it while working yesterday. Thank goodness there were no customers in my path because I would have shoved them out of the way. I have been wanting this cook book for a long time. I haven't been able to justify the price tag. But for $5?! MINE!!!!! For those not familiar with the book, it's full of kid-friendly food, but with "secret" ingredients (mac and cheese with butternut squash, chocolate chip cupcakes with pumpkin and yellow squash).
I'm headed to the grocery store today for my weekly trip and I've been thumbing through the recipes to figure out what I'm going to make first. I'm leaning toward mozzarella sticks with cauliflower puree or mashed potatoes with cauliflower puree. I figure if I start with a side or appetizer, I can ease into this trend of sneaking vegetables into food. Now I just have to buy a steamer to make all the purees!
(Just a note here: Yes, I work at Kohls, but no one provided me with this cook book nor did anyone ask me to write this post. I bought the cook book myself and wanted to share with you the low price associated with such a popular item. Oh, and since it's part of the Kohl's Cares program, I did not receive any discounts on the cook book, including my employee discount).

July 06, 2010

Swimming is Ruining Our Summer

I've made no secret of the fact that we like to swim. My girls would stay at the pool all day if I let them. Now that they've started swimming lessons they're so brave. They like being underwater. They like diving for coins, rocks and diving sticks. Unfortunately, swimming is taking a toll on our health.
So far this summer I've been to the pediatrician for two ear infections and one case of Swimmer's Ear. Tortilla had the two infections. Each time it was a different ear. I don't know if that's good or not. In all fairness, the first ear infection came after one trip to the pool and it turned out she had pink eye, too. I doubt the swimming caused that ear infection. The second ear infection came just a few weeks later. The pediatrician recommended Tortilla stay out of the pool for 10 days. I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud... possibly even snorted. I explained that we have weekly swimming lessons, so she prescribed ear drops and recommended ear plugs. I care about my daughters' health. I really do. But how do you explain to four four-year-olds that they have to take a long break from swimming when it's sweltering? The ear plugs and drops seem to be making a difference.
Just a week after that second trip, Cakes started complaining about a sore ear. Fortunately it wasn't an infection, just a case of Swimmer's Ear. Unfortunately HER ear drops cost $30 more than Tortilla's. She's now wearing an ear plug in her affected ear.
It's only Tuesday, so I'm sure I'm jinxing myself by saying we don't seem to have any health problems this week... but it's just a matter of time before Roo and Sue Sue start having issues with something, too, I'm sure.

July 03, 2010

A Delicate Conversation

I spoke too soon in my last post when I discussed the lessons my daughters learned from the death of our cat, Elwood. The very next day I had an emotional conversation with one of my daughters... a conversation which is still bothering me.
It all started with a trip to the zoo. During our adventure, we saw "Foxes on Stilts." (I can't remember what they were really called). Near their habitat, a zoo volunteer had a table set up with a fox pelt. There were too many big kids around, so we didn't venture over there. Still, my daughters caught a glimpse of it and wanted to know why "the bones weren't in the fox." I tried to explain to them what a pelt is. They still wanted to know why the bones weren't in the fox. I explained to them that the fox had died and the zoo workers wanted visitors to be able to see the fur up close. The conversation was over. Until....
Later at home, the girls started talking about the fox again and pondering how he might have died. I tried to end the conversation by saying "He was probably very old." Then it happened. "Oh," said Sue Sue. "So animals die when they get old. But not people, right?" I explained to her that even people die when they are old. "But not mommies,right?" she asked. In an instant I knew I had reached a crucial moment. I could lie to her, which I wasn't willing to do, or I could tell her the truth. My answer was something along the lines of this: "Yes, even mommies die, but most of the time it happens when mommies are very, very old. I plan to be around for a long, long time." One of her sisters distracted me and we moved on. Then I happened to glance at Sue Sue. Tears were welling in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong. "I'll miss you when you die!" She wailed. This, of course, made tears stream down my face, too. I pulled her to my lap, hugged her tight and had a quiet conversation with her. I tried to explain that even though Mommy will die some day, it's not going to be any time soon, if I have anything to say about it. We spent a lot of time snuggling that day.
Since then, all four girls have had more questions about death, especially when it comes to Mommy and Daddy. I've tried to be as honest as possible, while still putting it on a level a four-year-old can understand... but really, who can understand death?