The Inevitable

Much to my dismay the quads aren’t babies anymore, and they’ve verbalized this fact. Numerous times. This year will bring about many changes from toddler beds to potty training and increased independence.  Knowing these changes are upon us, we are always trying to bob and weave in anticipation of the next phase.

I’m clearly anxious about toddler beds because I have a recurring nightmare.  One, or more of the quads escapes their crib, opens their bedroom door, opens the playroom gate, opens our bedroom door and jumps into our bed.  I then frantically dart around trying to figure out the cause of the security breach.  It may not be nightmare caliber, but this is certainly not a welcome scenario for me.  I’m currently relishing these days where all four are safely tucked into cribs during naps and at night, and I know these days are finite.

Ideally, we will transition to toddler beds when the quads are mature enough to manage the responsibility and freedom that comes with toddler beds.  I also know that any one of them could climb out at any moment.  Consequently, we toddler proofed the rooms by strapping furniture to the walls, covering outlets, securing blind cords, and latching drawers.  Yet, I still feel angst about four toddlers having free reign in their rooms.

In preparation for toddler bed transitions, I started “room time” five to 15 minutes daily.  I split the pairs into their respective rooms with a few safe toys and go about my business while they play.  I use the baby monitor to spy on them periodically, and they’ve done well.  I’ve overheard bickering, but they’ve proven themselves capable of resolving issues on their own.

Today as room time approached, the four pack paired off independently and shut the doors themselves.  Rylin and Harper retreated to the girls room with the Klip Klop stable while Mason and Sydney flipped through a stack of books.  I typically take the girls to their room, and the boys to their room since that’s how it will be with toddler beds, but this arrangement seemed fine.  I thought it an ideal time for me to brush my teeth and tidy the kitchen.  As I brushed my teeth and odd scratched permeated the girl’s wall and I knew mischief was in the making.

As soon as I flung the door open, Rylin proclaimed, “Harper did it!”  Harper flashed a blue toothy grin as he revealed a bath crayon masterpiece all over the girl’s wall and dresser.  Rylin maintained her innocence as Harper took full credit as he squealed, “Harper draw it, blue!”  He was oh so proud.  I took a deep breath as I fished blue bits from Harper’s mouth and tried my best to explain that paper is the place for drawing.  Thankfully, we had one Magic Eraser that Harper (and I) used to wash the walls.

I don’t think a day will pass that I’m not organizing and preparing for the next phase.  Yet even with the best laid plans parenthood holds many inevitable moments.  Today it was our first crayon on the wall.    I’m sure many more will unfold and I’ll just try to preserve these moments in time as the inevitable.

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Yes, there is an exposed outlet. Toddlers can remove the covers…must find more….

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The Magic Eraser mostly removed the blue crayon, but I think we’ll need another to get rid of the blue haze.

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This was a while after the blue crayon clean up, but there is still evidence wedged in Harper’s cheese face smile.  That grin makes Little Man easy to forgive.

Have you ever tried a Magic Eraser?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Let’s Talk About Cups, Baby

About a year ago George and I rejoiced as we said farewell to bottles forever.  After the babies were born, bottles consumed our lives.  During their NICU stay we fretted over each milliliter the babies drank hoping they would learn to eat and come home.  Once they were at home we found ourselves running a milk bank of our own as we whipped up gallons of formula to fill up to 32 bottles daily.  Oh, and the bottle washing was the worst.  Bottles invaded our dishwasher so we succumbed to hand washing a gazillion bottle parts daily.  It was laborious.

preemie eating in the sidelying position

Make bottles for multiples for 24 hours at a time

This was a mere fractions of the bottles I washed daily.  We had 3-4 bottle drying racks at any given time.

This was a mere fraction of the bottles I washed daily. We had 3-4 bottle drying racks at any given time.

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Little did we know that ditching bottles meant searching for The Holy Grail: a toddler cup that doesn’t leak.  No one mentions this, but toddler cups be they sippy or straw are a nightmare.

Some of you may be wondering why we don’t just switch to open cups.  After all, open cups are supposed to be introduced around 15 months.  The quads are all capable of drinking from open cups and practice routinely during snack time outside or during bath tea parties.  They are not ready for open cups at every meal.  They are sloppy eaters and a few of them have no qualms about chucking a cup 20 feet across the kitchen.  To teach them responsibility, they clean up their messes, but they are barely two. I still have to go behind them to keep milk from souring on the tile.  I’m tired.  Always.  When they prove themselves capable of the self-restraint to drink from open cups we will go there for all meals. In the meantime I FINALLY have a cup we like for milk and another for water.  It took a year to find these gems, people.  A year.

In order to transition from bottles of formula to cups with cow’s milk we began with trainer cups.  We tried a variety of brands and styles that I can’t even recall now.  We found success with Nuby trainer cups with handles.  They were similar enough to bottles with soft spouts the babies didn’t protest them.  The handles helped their little hands manage a cup and learn to tip it.

Use sippy cup straws if your baby is learning how to drink from a cup, and enjoys throwing his cup

Nuby trainer cups with handles

As the babies grew, I wanted them to learn how to use straws.  After all, the trainer cups were strikingly similar to bottles.  Whereas straws are socially acceptable for any age.  In fact, I love straws!  I even sip coffee from a straw to keep my teeth from being coffee coated and yellowing.  The babies weren’t ready for regular straws so we began using Nuby silicone straw cups.  The babies took to them easily.  They struggled, however, to switch between using sippy cups that should be tipped up to straw cups that needed to stay vertical.  Thus, we made a total switch to straw cups.

Nuby silicone straw cups

Nuby silicone straw cups

We loved the Nuby silicone straw cups until the fateful day when Harper learned to unscrew the lid and dump his milk.  We then switched to similar cups, Munchkin click ‘n’ lock silicone straw cups.  These were THE cups for several months.  Harper could not open them, the straws worked just like the other cups, and they were spill proof.  Until they weren’t.  Eventually the quads gnawed the straws and sometimes they poked their forks through the straws, which created leaks.  It wasn’t long before we started having a problem with fluid funneling up through the top and making a huge mess.  These were inexpensive cups so we planned to just buy new ones.  Except they were impossible to find.  George found Nuby’s click and lock straw cups, which seemed quite similar.  We liked Nuby before so why not?  Oh my!  These cups were awful….leaking from the sides, bitten straws, funneling.  The works.  We were exasperated.

Munchkin click 'n' lock silicone straw cups

Munchkin click ‘n’ lock silicone straw cups

toddler cups

This is our cup hoarde. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even include the earliest cups because many of those are long gone.

I polled moms of multiples about their favorites, and wondered IF the Holy Grail existed.  Many grumbled that ALL sippy and straw cups leak.

BEHOLD, the HOLY GRAIL at last…..

My quad mama pal, Krista, and another mom of triplets both swore by the Contigo Kids cups for water.  I was hesitant to purchase them since they retail for about $10 each.  Just getting one cup per kid was a $40 investment.  In the meantime, I experimented with a variety of cups.  All failures.  I finally bit the bullet and bought a set of Contigo Kids cups.

I was easily swayed when I noticed they came in the quads “assigned” colors: pink, blue, purple, and green.   The first night we had them, George attempted to dash my hopes of finding THE cup.  He taunted proclaiming these were too expensive for just another cup.  He practiced slinging them on the tile, turning them, and tilting them.  He could not make them leak!  YIPPEE!!!   We used our first set for a month or two before I found them in three packs at Costco at a discounted price.  I bought two packs for ourselves (spares aren’t bad) and bought a set for a triplet birthday party.

The Contigo cups are by far the best we’ve ever tried for water.  However, due to the flip top valve, I think it would be rather difficult to fully clean for milk.  We still needed a leak proof milk cup.

Contigo are the preferred cups for outings.  The flip top and handle make them easy to scoop up when we are on the go.

Contigo are the preferred cups for outings. The flip top and handle make them easy to scoop up when we are on the go.

Contigo kid's cup

 

Having a cup in each child's color makes identifying whose is whose a snap.

Having a cup in each child’s color makes identifying whose is whose a snap.

Another of my quad mama friends, Amber, suggested the Tommee Tippee Explora cups.  These were a little less expensive in two packs for $10.  Again, these cups came in the “assigned colors” so I snagged one for each of the quads.  I was admittedly hesitant to believe in these cups.

Rylin refused to drink from hers for well over a month because I couldn’t put a straw in it.  Just recently she agreed to give it a go when I told her the Bell quads used them (peer pressure at it’s finest).  One day I thought it was over, Sydney’s cup leaked.  I was ready to throw in the towel on this set too.  That was until another mom of quads told me she called Tommee Tippee to complain that their “leak proof” cups indeed leak.  They informed her of an instructional video to properly attach the valve.  I thought I knew how to work a sippy cup and tossed my directions.  Low and behold if you properly attach the valve the cup does NOT leak, even when tossed by a toddler.  Another perk?  These cups are insulated, which is fabulous for milk.

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Again, having a cup in each child's color is a win for us.

Again, having a cup in each child’s color is a win for us.

In addition to my two favorite milk and water cups, I like to use Take ‘n’ Toss cups when I make milkshakes, applesauce drink, or smoothies.  The quads cannot be trusted to drink from them regularly because they have a blast tipping them upside down to watch drips of fluid fall to the ground or table.  However, they work really well for thick liquids, particularly ones I don’t want gumming up my Holy Grail cups.

use take and toss cups for toddlers at a party

I snagged the idea of using Take ‘n’ Toss cups from my quad mama friend, Amber’s, birthday party. They were great for the toddler guests especially since we have white carpet now.

Alas, all of our favorite cups in harmony at the dinner table!

Alas, all of our favorite cups in harmony at the dinner table!

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

 

P.S. This post contains affiliate links.  Please visit my disclaimer page for further information.

10 Spots to Visit with Tots in Dallas Fort Worth

Because the quads were born nine weeks early we took extreme precautions their first year of life to protect them from potentially fatal germs.  It was difficult being homebound most of the time, but we do not regret that time since we did not have a single sick visit to the pediatrician until 13 months.  It’s been a year since we lifted our “lock down” restrictions and have been on a mission to explore the greater Dallas Fort Worth Metro area ever since.  It’s always a challenge getting out and about with four toddlers, but a worthwhile mission.  With each new adventure the quads learn just a bit more about the world around them.

10 places to take babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in the Dallas Fort Worth area

1. Sea Life Aquarium

 

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Sea Life Aquarium

Location:

Grapevine Mills Mall
3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway
Grapevine,Texas 76051

Hours:

Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 7:30 pm
Sunday 11:00 am – 5:30 pm

Cost:

Adults $20

Children 3 and up $16

Children under two FREE

Favorite Features:

Seeing the fish that were featured in Finding Nemo (Dori, Nemo, and Marlin)

360 degree aquarium

Touching the sea stars

The toddler slide in the play area

Tips:

Arrive early and go on a weekday if possible as the aquarium becomes crowded easily.

Look for coupons.  We were able to get $4 off each adult ticket with a single coupon.

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the food court of the mall, or grab lunch in the food court.  After you buy aquarium tickets you are allowed reentry during the same day.

The aquarium is stroller friendly so bring one along if you have young toddlers who may tire easily.

2. Celebration Party & Event Center

Celebration Party & Event Center Celebration Party & Event Center Celebration Party & Event Center

Location:

5950 Park Vista Circle #140, Keller, TX 76244

Hours:

Tuesday-Friday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Cost:

12 months and up $5

Adults accompanying children FREE

Under 12 months FREE

Favorite Features:

Children’s town made up of a fire house, police station, hair salon, restaurant, movie theater, day care, and hospital

Toddler sized bounce houses

Cozy coupe cars

Tips:

If you may go frequently, consider buying a punch card ($40 for ten punches).  It can be used with multiple children and will save you money over time.

All children must have a signed waiver to play.  You can sign it online ahead of time to save you time in the center.

You can bring your own food and drinks so pack a picnic or snacks to enjoy.

Shoes aren’t allowed in the bounce house area so skid proof socks are a great way to keep your little one’s feet clean.

Arrive early to avoid crowds and go during the weekday free play times.

If you have a child who receives ECI services, ask your case manager about their monthly play dates.  Admission is discounted for ECI families during the play date.

3. Perot Museum of Nature & Science

 The Perot Museum

Location:

Hours:

Monday-Saturday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday noon-6:00 pm 
Thursday Night Late Nights: 5:00 -9:00 pm

Cost:

Prices vary depending on which exhibits you choose.  General exhibit admission is as follows,

Adults $15

Children 2-11 $10

Seniors 65+ $12

Youth 12-17 $12

Children under 2 FREE

Best Features:

The children’s museum located on the first floor was most appreciated by the quads.  They splashed in the water table and loved the side area.

Tips:

Purchase your tickets online ahead of time.  Your ticket is valid for the entire day after your reservation time, so choose an early time even if you are going later.  (e.g. if you choose 12:00 pm, you will not be allowed entry until 12:00 pm or later.  So don’t expect to enter even at 11:59 am).

The Perot has elevators, but they tend to become extremely crowded at there is a long wait time.  Therefore it is not ideal for strollers.  I do not plan to bring the quads back until they can manage walking distances and do not need strollers.

No outside food or drink is allowed in the museum area, but there is a lovely concrete park with splash pad that would be great for a picnic.  With your ticket, re entry is permitted during the same day.  Therefore, you could leave the museum for a picnic lunch and return later in the day.

Check to make sure the museum is not closed for a private event.  It was closed the original date we planned to visit.

4. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese

Location:

There are multiple locations, check for your nearest location.

Hours:

Varies by location

Cost:

Technically, entry is free.  In order to play games, you’ll need to purchase tokens, and you may choose to order food from the menu.

Best Features:

Dancing time with Chuck E. Cheese (the quads loved chasing him and playing follow the leader)

The toddler play area/ slide

Tips:

Complimentary bibs are provided so no need to pack one (or more) in your diaper bag.

Remember, you don’t have to buy a meal to play at Chuck E. Cheese.  I’d suggest going when it’s not a mealtime, and either order a small snack to enjoy or eat prior to arrival.  Going when it’s not a mealtime means it’ll be less crowded and you will likely spend less money on food.  You can buy tokens and enjoy the games and play area even if you don’t buy food.

If you sign up for the Chuck E. Club, you’ll receive discounts, and a calendar with 10 free tokens.

5. Island Carousel 

Island Carousel Island Carousel

Location:

Grapevine Mills Mall

3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway Grapevine, TX

(there are many other locations nationwide)

Hours:

Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

Sunday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

Cost:

Children 2 and up $2 per ride

Adults riding with a child are free

Best Features:

Carousels are nostalgic!

It’s located close to the Sea Life Aquarium and Rainforest Cafe so you can stop by if you are already visiting Grapevine Mills.

Tips:

If you have multiple children or plan to visit often, don’t forget to get a frequent rider punch card.  Your 11th ride is free.

If your child has never ridden a carousel, you may want to choose a stationary horse or sleigh seat.

6. Paradise Pond

Paradise Pond

Location:

First Baptist Church Grapevine

301 E. Texas Street

Grapevine, TX 76051

Hours:

Thursday & Friday mornings 9:00-11:00 am (arrive at 9:00 sharp because they close the doors when they are at capacity)

Cost:

$1.00 per person (ALL ages, babies & adults)

Best Features:

Play areas are sectioned off by picket fences, which makes keeping an eye on babies and toddlers easy.

They have a limit to the number of guests per day so it doesn’t get too crowded.

Tips:

Shoes are not allowed in the play area, and socks are required.  They have loaner socks available, but you’ll want to pack your own.  If you feel generous, and want to support the ministry, I suspect they’d appreciate new packages of white socks, especially in toddler sizes.

The area is designated for ages 2 to 6th grade.  There are plenty of areas for smaller babies to play with close supervision.  Older children, especially pre teens would not likely find this play area entertaining.

There is a required Liability Release Form that can be printed and completed at home.

Girls wearing dresses are not allowed in the jungle gym or bounce house, so dress your children accordingly.

7. Fort Worth Zoo

Fort Worth Zoo

Location:

1989 Colonial Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76109

Hours:

open 365 days per year

10:00 am – 5:00 pm (hours may vary on holidays)

Cost:

Adults (13+) $12

Children (3-12) and Seniors (65+) $9

Children 2 & under FREE

Parking $5/ vehicle

Best Features:

MOLA (museum of living art), which houses the reptiles and fish

the food court is open to MOLA, which creates an entertaining back drop for family meals

There is a toddler and children’s petting zoo and play area that looked great, but we did not have time to visit this trip

Tips:

If possible, visit on a Wednesday when admission is half price.

Check for coupons, local employers often have access to discounted tickets as well.

The zoo is stroller friendly so be sure to bring one if you have little ones who will tire from lots of walking.

8. Dallas World Aquarium

Dallas World Aquarium

 

Location:

1801 N Griffin St, Dallas, TX 75202

Hours:

9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily

Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas

Cost:

Adult  (13+) $20.95

Child (2-12) $12.95

Under 2 FREE

Senior (65+) – $16.95

 

Best Features:

The majority of the facility is indoors and climate controlled so it’s a great place to visit if it’s rainy, too hot, or cold.

Despite being an “aquarium”, a significant portion of the facility is made of rainforest creatures.  The quads most appreciated the monkeys.

9. Legoland

Legoland

Location:

Grapevine Mills Mall

3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine, TX 76051

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 6:00pm

Saturday  10:00am – 7:00pm

Sunday 11:00am – 4:00pm

Cost:

Children 2 & under FREE

2 and up $18

Best Features:

The Lego miniature of Dallas-Fort Worth was by far our favorite attraction.

Tips:

Look for coupons, especially if you are also interested in visiting the Sea Life Aquarium.  There are often discounts if you buy tickets together.

If you don’t score a coupon, you can save money by booking tickets online the day before.

There is no reentry and outside food and drinks are not permitted so plan accordingly.

Allow about 2-3 hours for your visit.

While babies and toddlers are welcome to play, Legoland would likely be most appreciated by children over three.

10. Old Town Lewisville Playtown

Old Town Lewisville Playtown

Location: 

Vista Ridge Mall

2401 S. Stemmons Freeway
Lewisville, Texas 75067

Hours:

Open during mall hours, except for cleaning at 3:00 pm

Cost:

FREE

Best Features:

The entire play area is soft sided, which is ideal for new walkers, and even crawling babies.

Everything is toddler sized and not too tall for younger babies.

The price is unbeatable!!!!

Tips:

Visit early in the day, or after the 3:00 pm cleaning so the area is fresh.

 

There are so many more places on my list….The Dallas Arboretum….The Botanical Gardens….The Dallas Zoo….AND at some point we plan to travel outside of our metro area for a legit vacation.  I’d like to wait until the quads are potty trained and sleeping in beds before we take that plunge.

What’s the best place to visit in your hometown?

 

hugs!

 

Amber

Ahoy, Mateys! Greetings, Ladies!

As the quad’s second birthday approached I began to panic as I fell short on party ideas. Instead of choosing a theme and then searching for a coordinating invitation, I reversed the order.  I perused invitations first, and found a simply adorable princesses and pirates birthday invitation for boy girl twins. I contacted the designer and she customized the invitation for us by adding an extra pirate and princess making it the perfect invitation for quadruplets.   Once I had a theme and invitation chosen, I discovered a treasure trove of ideas on Pinterest fit for a princesses and pirates bash.

pirates and princesses birthday party

When we choose a party theme, George and I go all out.  consequently, we both dressed the part. I made good use of an old bridesmaid dress my mom had in storage and accessorized it with my bridal tiara. George wore a few tatty items from his closet with a dew rag to create a pirate look.  As part of their birthday gift, I ordered princess dresses (on clearance) from the Disney store for the girls and Carter’s pirate t-shirts for the boys.

After our guests were welcomed, each tot was given an empty bag personalized with their name, which would later be used to collect game prizes.  Little pirates were to take a hat, sword, and eye patch while princesses were asked to select a dress and tiara.  The pirate gear was all found in Target’s party section and doubled as party favors for the boys.  The dresses were on loan, but  the tiaras were also party favors.  I used a shower curtain rod to display the selection of princess dresses available.

Give party guests an empty bag to fill with game prizes at a party

I used free clip art from Disney Junior to create labels for the loot bags.  Unbeknownst to me, it’s a “Princesses and Pirates” summer on Disney Junior.  This made finding party goods a cinch.Pirates birthday party dress up clothes double as a favorI used more free clip art found online to create signage for directing pirates and princesses about what to get.

Use a shower curtain rod to hang dress up clothes for a party or to store in a play room.

A few weeks before the party, it occurred to me that the quads weren’t familiar with pirates.  To prepare them for the party, we watched The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  We also read Unexpected Treasures from our own bookshelf.  Since I love literacy based crafts, we created a few pieces that served as party decor.  Pirates don’t generally have the best reputation for being kind and such so I carefully selected books and videos where pirates were portrayed as having desirable virtues.

Pirate and princess crafts to decorate for a party

The quads had fun making their party decorations and still enjoy looking at their masterpieces.

Princess themed birthday

My friend, Jen, kindly served as our party photographer. I have enough trouble being a hostess without also managing the camera. Besides, she’s a far more talented photographer than I! To make sure she’d be IN a picture and not just behind the lens, I snapped this one of her.

My sister and cousin, Brandi were both on board with our princess theme and donned old formal dresses to the party.  Noteworthy…CiCi is wearing my junior prom dress, and I think she looked just like Belle.

Wear old prom or bridesmaid dresses for a princess themed birthday party princesses and the queen

Matt did his best to dress for the pirate theme with his red and white stripes with eye patch.

Matt did his best to dress for the pirate theme with his red and white stripes with eye patch.

Each of our little pirate guests came sporting pirate themed threads, but our quad buddy, Harrison matched Harper.  It was adorable!

Each of our little pirate guests came sporting pirate themed threads, but our quad buddy, Harrison matched Harper. It was adorable!

Since the quads are two and all of their guests were two, I planned a few simple party games to keep everyone occupied.  First, everyone tried their hand at fishing.  My cousin, Ryan, sat behind a black curtain hung by a tension rod while the little ones tossed a fishing pole over the curtain.  He then clipped goldfish crackers or shark fruit snacks to their line for the “big catch”.

Go fishing game for a pirates birthday party.

I also set up a treasure dig in the yard.  I filled a bucket with sand and littered it with gold doubloons (Dollar Tree plastic coins), gems, and rings.  Each guest had a chance to riffle around to find a few treasures of their own.

treasure dig game for pirates birthday party

My friend, Ashley, is talented in the baking department so I sequestered her help for creating cupcakes and cake pops.  Both were a huge hit!  By the end of the party one cake pop remained and I enjoyed savoring it with a glass of vino.

pirates and princess birthday cupcakes

Ashley made cupcakes for each princess and captain, and the liners coordinated with their “assigned colors”.

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pirate and princess cake pops

Ashley hand-made each of the sweet treats served at the party.  Her attention to detail is impeccable. The boys easily made wishes and blew their candles out, but the girls were a bit more hesitant.  Rylin used a straw to finally blow hers out, but Sydney got help from Mason.

The boys easily made wishes and blew their candles out, but the girls were a bit more hesitant. Rylin used a straw to finally blow hers out, but Sydney got help from Mason.

This year the cake smashing was much more tidy.  I love how each of the  quads approached their cupcake their own way.

This year the cake smashing was much more tidy. I love how each of the quads approached their cupcake their own way.

Harper willingly wore his eye patch for just long enough to capture a photo.

Harper willingly wore his eye patch for just long enough to capture a photo.

With four tykes, gift opening was a bit like a Christmas extravaganza.  I was proud of how well the littlest guests as well as our four managed the scene.   No one protested, tried to get into things they shouldn’t, or caused any trouble whatsoever.

The quads worked well together to open packages.

The quads worked well together to open packages.

The quads are all able to tear through paper, but still need a bit of encouragement to realize there's something beneath the pretty paper.

The quads are all able to tear through paper, but still need a bit of encouragement to realize there’s something beneath the pretty paper.  With a little help from Captain Flynn Jen, Mason decorated his arm in Jake temporary tattoos as did his troupe of friends and siblings.

Set up a temporary tattoo station for a pirate themed party.

Little princesses chose from an assortment of princess tattoos. Sydney’s choice was none other than Cinderella.

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What a scene!

What a scene!

The boys immediately made use of the pirate ship riding toy they received.

The boys immediately made use of the pirate ship riding toy they received.  This toy has been among our most popular toys since the party, and is often sought after.

Hugs!

Amber

I missed out on taking pictures of our food spread, but we served toddler favorites (PB & J, goldfish crackers, fruit, chicken nuggets, ect) and paired them with cute labels with fancy names for the Plain Jane fare.  Here are all the printables I created using the free clip art from Disney Junior.  Feel free to edit and use for your own Princesses & Pirates Party!

Treasure Dig

Captain Flynn’s Tattoo Parlor

Go Fishing

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Pirate Food Labels

Pirates Please Take

Princess Food Labels

Princesses Please Choose

Thank You Labels

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Health & Wellness Month

July is apparently our family’s official health and wellness month. EVERYONE, including the dogs had one or more annual well visits this month. I kicked off the round of appointments with my dental cleaning, which I firmly believe counts as “me time”. For a full hour, I sat comfortably in a lounge chair as I watched uninterrupted television and someone spoke to me as if I were the most important person in the world. I left with a sparkling white smile, a goody bag of dental accessories, and clean bill of health. Ahh! I LOVE having my teeth cleaned!

During the middle of the month, Sydney lapped up a little mother daughter time when she returned for her follow-up appointment at the pediatric ophthalmologist. She loved every minute of it as she got to snuggle in my lap while watching The Princess and the Frog. Since there are limited opportunities for screen time, Sydney clamors to watch a new flick whenever she can. Long ago George dubbed her a “professional movie watcher” due to her zeal over movies. Even though she’s mildly far-sighted, Sydney’s vision is within normal limits and does not require corrective lenses. Whew! Glasses are adorable on toddlers, BUT I shuddered to think of the challenges of keeping glasses on this feisty girl with three toddler siblings.

Last week marked a trifecta of appointments.  Breaking from our usual group well visit, everyone went in pairs.  We started with the girls.  It was so much more relaxing focusing on just two kids at a time, and not trying to either cram four kids into a tiny exam room or pop in and out of two separate rooms.  Both girls remain petite, but thankfully have grown in the past year and are overall very healthy.  They are also doing well with developmental milestones.

2 year well visit & stats

Sydney also enjoyed the feature film in the pediatrician’s office.

Following their appointment, I took the girls out for a mini girls day complete with a Target shopping trip and lunch at Chick fil A.

George's cousin, Brandi, came along for the girl's day.

George’s cousin, Brandi, came along for the girl’s day. And, in case you’re wondering, that is ketchup on Sydney’s cheek and all over her fists. She believes ketchup is a stand alone food rather than a condiment.

Two days later, it was the boys turn. Both were given a clean bill of health and kudos to developmental progress as well.  Given the statistics regarding premature birth, I’m both relived and proud of the progress they made to close the gaps of prematurity.  Aside from being tiny, there is little to no evidence of their rocky start.

The boys seemed to enjoy not having their sisters tag along for the appointment.

The boys seemed to enjoy not having their sisters tag along for the appointment.

The boys didn’t get a shopping trip, but they enjoyed the kiddie rides outside Kroger after I rented a movie.  Then, they came along to drop of a baby gift for a friend. They behaved so well at my friend’s house they were given plenty of praise, which made me a proud mama.

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Later that evening, Nisey babysat while I took Sasha and Lily in for their annual well exams. Lily’s anxiety kicked into overdrive and she behaved like a lunatic while Sasha cozied up on the exam table.

The quad's car seats worked well for transporting the dogs to the vet.  I buckled the harnesses and secured the leashes to them.

The quad’s car seats worked well for transporting the dogs to the vet. I buckled the harnesses and secured the leashes to them.

The canine family members didn’t fare as well as the human ones…both are due for dental cleanings and Sasha needed allergy medication for her skin and eyes. We love those two nonetheless and I’m relieved all those appointments are DONE, at least for another year. It was exhausting on my part.  The quads still need their first dental exams, but we are waiting a few more moths for that as I recover from our health and wellness month.

Sasha's calm demeanor seemed to help Lily ease her nerves after a while.

Sasha’s calm demeanor seemed to help Lily ease her nerves after a while.

My favorite part about all well checks is tracking the stats, and for fun I included the dogs weights.  Lily is officially the smallest family member and always will be.

Rylin

21 lbs

2′ 8″

Harper

27 lbs, 4 oz

2′ 9″

Sydney

19 lbs, 8 oz

2′ 7.5″

Mason

21 lbs, 4 oz

2′ 7.5″

Sasha

20 lbs, 4 oz

Lily

9 lbs

 

Do you find dental cleanings relaxing or anxiety provoking?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Four Foodies

Before the quads, George and I enjoyed trying local eateries, sampling different ethnic cuisines, and trying our own hands at the culinary arts.  During my pregnancy with the quads, our foodie days quickly became a distant memory.  I couldn’t venture out and there was no time for whipping up new dishes.  Much to our dismay, many meals were reminiscent of our college years and newlywed days.  You know, boxed macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper type meals.  Not terribly adventurous or healthy stuff, but it was what we needed then.

As we began to adjust to life with quads, we slowly began cooking again, but meals were simple and often from the slow cooker.  It was sustenance, not really anything a foodie would appreciate.  When the quads were six months old, we excitedly began serving up homemade baby food and took great pride in expanding their palates.

Once the quads experienced a reasonable variety of foods AND had enough teeth for noshing, they started eating family dinners with us.   Now, as toddlers they most certainly express their opinions on food.  That doesn’t stop us from serving them a wide array of foods, and giving them many chances to decide if they are willing to sample them.  I’ve heard it can take a toddler over a dozen exposures before they’ll decide if a food is liked or not!  And, they are fickle.  One day they’ll gorge themselves on something and the next day refuse the same item  (this has happened with everything from bananas to tacos).  They are fans of the usual kid favorites: chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and yogurt.  BUT atop the list of favorites are black beans, quinoa, curry chicken with roti or basmati rice, and pomegranite.

As they are maturing becoming easier to manage outside the home, we are gradually trying new eateries fit for foodies.  At the start of the summer, our friends Allison and Preston, joined us for an al fresco meal at a food truck park.  There, the quads enjoyed street tacos, tater tots with jack cheese and chives and salted watermelon lemonade.

Dining at the Food Truck Park with quads

The food truck park didn’t have high chairs or booster seats so we improvised with our Combi twin strollers.

street tacos and salted watermelon lemonade

Mmmmmm, street tacos with salted watermelon lemonade! I don’t even typically like watermelon and found this drink extremely refreshing as it screamed “summer!”

Food truck park

Though the quads enjoyed their meal from stroller seats, they proved they were capable of sitting a the big kids table.  Next time, we probably won’t bother with strollers.

food truck park

Not long after our food truck adventures, Aunt CiCi and Matt joined us for a Thai lunch.  There, the crew scarfed fried rice, padthai, and spring rolls.  This particular place may become a family hot spot since they also boast a toddler play area!  It worked splendidly for occupying quaddlers as our meal was prepared.  I love watching the quads as they experience these new things, and hope with continued exposure they develop an appreciation for trying new foods and of other cultures in general.

toddler play areas at restaurants help keep everyone happy

The toddler play area included a playhouse, which could have easily entertained the quads for hours. Thankfully, our food was ready much sooner than that.

toddler play area

I’d love to have a playhouse like this in our backyard!

 

spring rolls and pad thai

Spring rolls and padthai were both beloved by the entire family, and everyone enjoyed eating leftovers later that night for dinner.

Restaurants with large tables and many high chairs are ideal for large families

Another perk of this establishment? HUGE tables and plenty of high chairs to accommodate our family.

 

Quads scarf Thai food

Thai cuisine, quad approved!

 

What is your favorite type of cuisine?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Four Two Year Olds

It’s official, four two year olds now reside in our home!   It’s unbelievable to me.  Today we celebrated the momentous occasion with a Princesses and Pirates birthday bash.  This mama is quad-exhausted so enjoy these snippets from today, and stay tuned for more.

 

Pirates and Princesses birthday

Mason, Rylin, Harper, and Sydney on their second birthday.

Princesses and Pirates birthday.

 

 

Hugs!

Amber

Easy Literacy Based Crafts for Toddlers

Any craft can be literacy based, all you need to do is read a related book first, and introduce new vocabulary/ concepts. Pairing books with crafts helps make concepts and vocabulary salient for little ones.

Last week Rylin casually informed me that she’s not a baby.  She very earnestly said, “Mommy, I not a baby.” as she furrowed her brow.  It was like daggers to the heart, but she was right.  The quads aren’t really babies anymore.  They are transforming into children with opinions, thoughts, and voracious appetites for learning.  They never cease to amaze me with bits of knowledge they absorb.  I want to nurture this love of learning, and literacy in particular so I’ve begun literacy based crafts.  It sounds fancy, but I promise it’s simple.

Part of our day is devoted to semi structured learning activities such as flash cards, songs, and story time.  A few times a week we do a craft, most typically one I remember doing from my days in the classroom and sometimes a Pinterest find.  Crafts in themselves are fantastic for toddlers; they can teach direction following, concepts (e.g. shapes, colors, counting, alphabet recognition), develop fine motor skills, and inspire creativity.    However, children learn and recall new concepts best when associations are presented to them.  Therefore, I’m now pairing our craft activities with literature (aka toddler appropriate board books).  When I have a craft project I’d like to do, I peruse our library to find a book that coordinates with it (or a favorite book inspires a craft).  I read the book to the quads as I present new vocabulary and concepts related to the book.  As I read, I also ask many “wh” questions (e.g. who, what, when, where).  Of course, these questions are all asked with toddlers in mind.  For instance, I may say, “what animal is this?”  I also try to help the quads draw connections between the book and their world by pointing out things in their environment or that they’ve seen other places.  Following the story, we do the craft, which I hang in the quads new “art gallery” (aka a wall in their playroom).  As days and weeks pass, I continue to ask the quads about their art and the corresponding story.  When I re-read the story, I bring up their art and they proudly tell me about it.

Does it still seem complicated?  I assure you, it’s not!  Here are two recent crafts:

1. Coffee Filter Butterflies

I remembered doing this craft while working in a daycare and found two books from our shelf related to butterflies.  We happened to have The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Caterpillar Spring, Butterfly Summer so I chose those for our literature. Any book related to caterpillars or insects would suffice.

Vocabulary Introduced: Butterfly, Caterpillar, Cocoon

“Wh” Questions: What did the caterpillar eat? What did the caterpillar turn into? Where did the caterpillar sleep?

Butterfly Summer and The Very Hungry Caterpillar were both in our library so I pulled them for this activity.

First, the quads scribbled on their coffee filters with maker.  I used Sharpie to write their names.

First, the quads scribbled on their coffee filters with maker. I used Sharpie to write their names.

I sprayed the coffee filters with water to make the marker run, creating a watercolor effect.  Then I pinched the middles together and wrapped them with pipe cleaners to create our butterflies.

I sprayed the coffee filters with water to make the marker run, creating a watercolor effect. After the filters were dry, I pinched the middles together and wrapped them with pipe cleaners to create our butterflies.

Simple toddler craft: coffee filter butterflies.  Scribble on coffee filters with washable marker, spray with water, allow filter to dry then pinch together with a pipe cleaner.

I love how every time I ask the quads what a butterfly used to be they say, “caterpillar”.

2. Muddy Car Tracks

One of the quad’s favorite books is Little Blue Truck.  Again, it reminded me of working in day care and painting with car wheels.  I read the book as well as another related to cars and spent time discussing mud.  It was fitting that it was a rainy day so we peered out the window and watched the raindrops create mud in the yard.  Afterwards, I explained that my plate was covered in mud (brown tempera paint), and our toy cars got stuck.  The quads then had a great time dislodging the cars and creating muddy tracks on construction paper.  It’s been at least three weeks since we did this project, and the quads still talk about their muddy tracks, and tires getting stuck.

Vocabulary introduced: mud, stuck, tracks, tires

“Wh” Questions: What does blue truck say?  Who helped push the trucks? Where were the trucks stuck?

The Little Blue Truck was ideal for introducing the concept of mud.  However, any book related to vehicles would work for this project, and the paint could be any color to create tracks.

For this project we used: construction paper, tape, brown tempera paint, and Little People cars.

Toddler craft: roll cars through paint to create tracks.  Brown paint looks like mud.

I taped the edges of the paper down to keep it in place as they rolled cars.

Chikldren's art gallery wall using picture frames.

This is our new art gallery wall in the playroom. I used the frames from our old study, and found another to expand it. The quads LOVE seeing their materpieces and telling about them. It probably doesn’t hurt that I constantly ask them to talk about their art.

Anytime we do a craft, I try to keep it simple using basic supplies we already have, most of which I collected from the Dollar Tree.  There’s no need to make things complex or expensive for toddlers.

What is your favorite toddler craft and/ or book?  Any we should try?

 

Hugs,

 

Amber

 

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Toddler Tip #457: Improvised Seats

With each passing day, I find myself trying to solve some new challenge with raising four toddlers, aka “quaddlers”. They are a cunning lot who inspires a little ingenuity on my part (and George’s) just to manage day to day life. While my ideas are born from being surrounded by four toddlers, I think many of them could be helpful to any parents of little ones so I'm sharing.

This weekend, we headed to Nisey and Poppa’s for a family dinner. In the past, we brought our Super Seats for mealtime away from home.  It was easy to line the babies up for a spoon feed, or to pull them right up to the dining room table for finger feeding.

The Super Seats are amazing for traveling spoon feeds!  Love them!

However, we recently parted ways with our beloved seats as the quads were getting too big for them, and I was tired of storing them.  I refuse to spend money on any more booster seats because I know they would be short lived.

Instead, we improvised at dinner using an old trick I learned from my cousin, Jennifer. We boosted each child with a floor cushion.  We then tied the apron strings around the back of the chairs to keep each child seated.  This little tip worked especially well since I forgot to put bibs in the diaper bag. The aprons covered the majority of the quad’s clothing and laps.  For some reason, by parents happen to keep four aprons, which was perfect.

Use an apron and a pillow/ cushion/ phone book to make a booster seat when eating away from home with toddlers.

Phone books would have worked well for boosting, but Nisey and Poppa only had one remaining. I think the internet made phone books nearly obsolete.

Use an apron and a pillow/ cushion/ phone book to make a booster seat when eating away from home with toddlers.

The quads didn’t stay at the table as long as they have in booster chairs or the quad table, but our improvised seats enabled them to self feed and for the adults to enjoy dinner.  A win-win in my book!  After dinner, I just shook the crumbs off the aprons and hung them back in the pantry for next time.

Hugs!

 

 

Amber

 

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.

Puddle Jumping

As soon as the temperatures rose to the 90’s we started enjoying water play in the back yard almost daily.   Between our water table and inflatable pools, the quads have passed many hours of splishing and splashing.  However, Fourth of July weekend marked their first time in a full sized pool since last summer.  When they were little babies, we bought Swim Ways inflatable baby floats, which worked great for water exposure.

Family picture in the pool.

This summer, the quads would have fit easily into their old floats, but as busy toddlers, they would have been irritated by the constraints of a float.  Instead, I decided we’d try the Puddle Jumpers, which were given to us by the Crisanti Quads earlier this year.  Before heading to the pool, I attempted to get the quads to wear their Puddle Jumpers around the house, but only Harper agreed to this idea.  The others fought me tooth and nail so I wasn’t expecting much at the pool.  In fact, I braced myself to sideline at least three toddlers at the pool if necessary.

On July Fourth, we visited our family friends, the Turner’s.   Since they have a beautiful pool, it was time for the maiden voyage with the Puddle Jumpers.  Although they initially resisted, each of the quads eventually donned a Puddle Jumper.  The next problem…getting them to wear them in the water.  Initially all four were extremely timid and hesitant to touch the water.  After all, the water was cool in comparison to the Texas heat and they were wearing foreign devices.   Each of the quads was paired with an adult who coaxed them into the water and showed them how to splash and blow bubbles.  Of the quads, Sydney proved herself to be brave.  She happily jumped to us, back floated, and kicked her legs about.  In time, the others enjoyed themselves and worked up hearty appetites for our barbecue.

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They had a second opportunity to use Puddle Jumpers at Grandaddy’s house later in the weekend.   This time, all four were more eager to enjoy the pool.  To my surprise, they all seemed to appreciate the goggles I scored at the Dollar Tree earlier in the week.  Keeping their eyes free of water seemed to really help ease them into the pool.  Even with a healthy fear of the water, all four enjoyed lots of jumping and kicking around the pool.

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Even with the Puddle Jumpers, we watched the quads like hawks since they could easily face forward in the water.   This year we opted out of swimming lessons since we’d probably only visit a large pool a handful of times at best, and the quads wouldn’t be able to recall skills learned next year.  When they are old enough to participate in a class and develop salient memories, we will absolutely enroll them in swim lessons.  Swimming is a critical life skill.  In the meantime, we are fans of Puddle Jumpers!

Just for fun, George and I took snapshots of the quads on the Fourth of July using our color accent feature on the camera.

I realize it's not kosher to allow an American flag to touch the ground...but with four almost two year olds around, they may have grazed the ground a bit.  Please forgive us.

I realize it’s not kosher to allow an American flag to touch the ground…but with four almost two-year olds around, they may have grazed the ground a bit. Please forgive us.

Rylin

Rylin

Harper

Harper

Sydney

Sydney

Mason

Mason

 

How old were you when you learned how to swim?  Who taught you?

 

hugs!

 

Amber

 

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.