Tuesday, May 14, 2019

MileBoulders: Triplet Milestones

Tomorrow is the last day of Kindergarten for our triplets. I can hardly believe that they will be 1st Graders next year as that sounds incredibly old to me. From the very beginning of our triplets' lives, every milestone and birthday has felt huge to me. Now that I have a singleton and I can actually compare how I feel about Graham's milestones and birthdays vs. the triplets' milestones and birthdays, I've realized that the triplets' milestones feel more like overcoming huge boulders simply because everything is triplicated. And completing Kindergarten that was part-time in the classroom and part-time homeschool, is no exception to this feeling.

Alexis, Jack, and Faith attended school on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:00-3:30. I clearly remember their first day and how anxious I was to pick them up. They had gone to preschool, but they had been in the same class as each other both years and the longest they were ever in school was four hours. For Kindergarten we decided it would be best to put them in three separate classes which was quite the change for them, and 7.5 hours seemed like an extremely long time to leave my young 5-year-olds. I have to admit, though, that once I got used to the 7.5 hour school day it was great since Graham and I could run errands and do other things in the morning, and then he took a three hour nap in the afternoon so I had some time to work for my job, clean up the house, put dinner in the slow cooker, etc. 

Jack had the most difficult time transitioning to his days at school as he was upset from the moment I woke him up. Thankfully, after a few weeks he stopped crying every time I dropped him off, but I still worried about all three of them. During their 7.5 hour school day they only had one recess at lunchtime, which didn't seem like enough to me since my kids were used to playing most of the day. But they all persevered and honestly they never seemed that tired after their long day at school. They also didn't seem bothered by being in separate classes once they got over the initial shock of not being together all day, every day. In fact, I think they all enjoy being apart to some extent as it meant they weren't in constant competition with each other and they were able to build relationships with other kids. On the playground, though, they mostly played together, but they did talk about playing with other kids as well.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we had a form of homeschool. In reality it was more like extended homework as the lessons were mostly taught on Mondays and Wednesdays during their actual school day, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays we did worksheets and written assignments and we reviewed what they learned the previous day. The work on our home days took us between 2-4 hours to complete (a couple of times it took longer). 

In theory 2-4 hours of work sounded easy to me, but in practice it was difficult. The assignments were due the next day so we had to do the work on the assigned day. We had up to a week to turn in missed work, but if we fell behind we would have even more work on our next home day, so we never did that. At the beginning of the year we did a little bit of school work in the morning but we saved the bulk of it for the afternoon when Graham was napping. Again, in theory I thought this would work great since I wouldn't have to entertain a toddler while trying to help three kids with their school work, but in practice it was difficult since no one wanted to start school after lunch since they had been having fun playing all morning. 

In October I was ready to call it quits, even though I knew this wasn't really an option since we were paying for this school and we had signed a contract. I decided to put a little less pressure on myself and only do the minimum amount of work required to be turned in the next day, which seemed to help a little. During Christmas break, though, I decided that I should just try to do our school work first thing in the morning even though Graham would be around. When I implemented this after Christmas it worked much better for everyone. I still dealt with my fair share of complaints since everyone would rather be playing, but the reward of being able to play was motivating and helped everyone get their work done. Unfortunately, this didn't work out as great for Graham. Some days he would sit at the table with us for awhile and scribble or play with play dough. When the weather was nice he would play in the backyard by himself while we sat at the kitchen table where we could watch him. But many days he had fits and cried and I couldn't figure out what to do to make him calm. It was incredibly stressful trying to help three kids with math and spelling while trying to keep the toddler happy (and make sure he was safe). 

Although I believe all three kids had great experiences during their school days as they all had wonderful teachers, there were only 13 kids in each class, and they were in a loving, Christian environment, I believe our home days caused more harm than good. Many days I felt overwhelmed and although we got through the work, it wasn't exactly done with joy. In fact, everyone was tense and there were many tears shed during homeschool days. All three kids had numerous meltdowns at home over things they would never complain about at school, simply because they were more comfortable at home. They also are constantly comparing themselves to each other, which caused extra stress. Because of these things, we've decided to try public school next year. 

I will definitely miss knowing exactly what my kids are learning at school since each week we were given the lesson plans for the school days and the home days. I will also miss spending so much time with our kids as they will go from spending 15 hours a week at school to spending 30 hours a week at school. And honestly, public school scares me. Both Micah and I went to public school, but that was in a small town in Michigan many years ago. I do have several friends in ABQ that send their kids to public school that are having good experiences, so that gives me hope, but the world is a big, scary place and sending our kids to public school feels like I'm sending them out into the world. I know that as long as I'm involved in their education everything should be okay, but I can't control what they are exposed to while I'm not there. We keep telling ourselves that we have to give it a try and we can always change schools again, but it's really hard to know what the right thing is to do. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Graham is 2!

And just like that, our baby is 2! In reality I've been thinking of him as being 2 for the last month since he suddenly seemed more grown up, so in some ways I've just been waiting for his birthday to make it official. Micah commented tonight that Graham's first birthday seems like so long ago and neither of us can remember what we did to celebrate! Thankfully I wrote about it in Graham's 1-year-old blog post. Time seems so strange once one becomes a parent. A year seems like an eternity and a blur at the same time. In the last year Graham has grown into an adorable, loving toddler.

Here is a snapshot of Graham at age two:

Weight: 22.5 lbs, which is a full pound heavier than Jack at this age and about the same as the girls' weight at this age. 

Height: 32.5 inches, which is tiny but exactly the same as Jack at this age.

Size Clothes: 18 month pants and 2T tops (although they are still a little big on him)

Night Sleep: Two weeks ago I moved Graham's crib into Jack's room. We have four bedrooms so it worked well to have Graham in his own room while he was a baby and nursing during the night, but now whenever guests come to town his sleep and our sleep would be disrupted since we had to put him in our room in a pack n play. I decided it would be better to put the boys together so that they got used to sharing a room, and then nothing would be different when guests came. In the past Jack went to bed and we never saw him or heard from him until morning. Now that he has a rowdy toddler roommate, though, things get a bit noisy in his room. Although I hear Jack talking to Graham, mostly it's Graham being noisy and Graham sometimes calls for me to come in. Overall, though, things have been going well and once they fall asleep they both sleep well. I was very happy when Micah's parents came to town last weekend and we all slept well.

Naps: Graham still takes a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon. I'm not as consistent as I should be about when I lay him down since life gets busy and we don't have the same routine every day since the kids go to school 2 days a week and we homeschool 2 day a week, but he usually goes down for his nap between 12 and 1. Depending on the day and whether or not we have school pick up, I wake him up between 3:00 and 3:45. Most days I have to wake him up as it takes him awhile to fall asleep and then it seems like he could sleep all afternoon.

Food: Graham continues to be a fairly picky eater, but thankfully he usually eats a good amount of food throughout the day and he eats a nice variety. He still doesn't eat many vegetables, but he has been more willing to try the bite of vegetable that I put on his plate...even if he spits it right back out. He surprises me sometimes with what he is willing to eat, though, so I keep trying to introduce new things. If he refuses to eat, I usually give in and feed him something he likes as I learned with Jack that it just isn't worth the stress of wondering if he ate enough. Most mornings he eats a small breakfast but then he has a couple of snacks mid-morning. The amount of lunch he eats depends on how big his snacks were. Since he generally naps until 3:00 or 3:30 he might eat one small snack before dinner, which means he's usually ready for a bigger meal at dinnertime. We always feed him a bedtime snack as well. 

Eating donuts at a park
After figuring out that dairy gave him a mucousy cough (I fed it to him for about six weeks and then I realized that his strange cough coincided with when I first gave him milk and yogurt), I cut out milk, cheese, and yogurt. I've continued to give him butter and foods with dairy baked into them and I don't think they are hurting him, but I'm going to ask the pediatrician at our next appointment to make sure. Thankfully he likes almond milk and almond milk yogurt, so I give that to him every day.

Milestones: Graham loves to gallop. He is starting to walk up the stairs on his feet (instead of crawl). He can jump off two feet on the trampoline. I'm sure there are other things he's learned in the last few months, but mostly I think he's been working on speech.

Speech: Graham is a bit speech delayed and he has been in Speech Therapy since December. We see the Speech Therapist twice a month and Graham adores her. He is progressing nicely, but he's still behind. Recently the Speech Therapist commented that he is about where an average 18-month-old is in speech, but she's always shocked by his receptive language. He follows along with our conversations and he will try to add to it. For example, when I was telling the Speech Therapist about putting in our new flooring, Graham grabbed his toy tools and started babbling and showing the therapist what we did. He can also follow multi-step directions such as "go find your shoes and your animals and then walk to the car." 

Ready for his shoes!
Graham has learned to use gestures and sound effects to compensate for his lack of words, so communication isn't necessarily a problem for him. When Jack fell asleep first the other night Graham called for me and when I came in the room he started pointing to Jack and imitating Jack's snoring to let me know that he was doing that. Another example of him using gestures is when I got Graham up in the morning on his birthday and sang Happy Birthday to him, he started saying "daddy" and holding out his hand and then blowing. He was telling me that the last time he heard me sing him that song (two days earlier) Daddy lit the candles with the lighter in his hand and then Graham blew out the candles. Because of his ability to communicate without words he doesn't seem to have much incentive to use words, but we are working on it with him. He does seem to add a new word every couple of days and I don't know that I can even come up with a complete list. Just this week he started saying "no." Just today he said "backpack" when he saw one on the floor. He says "cheese" whenever I'm taking pictures of him. He also makes several animal noises. But he doesn't talk to the other kids yet using their names and he still isn't putting words together. I know he'll get there so I'm not really worried, but it is nice to see your child meeting milestones on time so it is a little stressful.

Teeth: Graham has all 20 baby teeth! On his first birthday he had 8 teeth, so he cut 12 more (two sets of molars and his eye teeth) in the past year. I'm so happy this is behind us as he wasn't a very happy teether.

Some other interesting things about Graham:

  • Graham was mostly a "mommy's boy" but lately he has started to be more independent. Most Wednesday mornings we go to a small Bible Study while the older kids are at school and for months Graham has hardly left my side to play with the toys and other little kids. When we would go to dinners at friends' houses he would mostly stay near me, and he would panic if I left the room. But just in the last few weeks he has started to venture out and do his own thing. We went to an Easter get together with at least 40 people in one house, and I hardly saw Graham because he was playing on his own the whole time! It's a weird adjustment for me after always being with him in public for the past two years, but it's a sign he is growing up!
  • He has started playing on the big kid play equipment more at parks and going down twisty slides by himself. I still follow him fairly closely to make sure he's okay since some parks really aren't designed for little guys like him, but there have been times he has done things by himself that have shocked me.

It's great to be the little brother of triplets when everyone wants to push you on the swing!
  • He seems to be an introvert as even though he spent a lot of time away from me at this most recent gathering, he spent most of the time playing alone. At home he is fairly good at entertaining himself as well, and he seems to enjoy a lot of quiet time playing alone. He can look at books by himself for a good chunk of time, which is every mother's dream. I'm so thankful for all of this since I pretty much have to ignore him on homeschool mornings. At the same time, though, he is quite the character and he enjoys smiling at strangers and making faces at people behind us at church.  He's quick to smile and I often get stopped by strangers who tell me how adorable he is (which I totally agree with, but I know I'm a bit partial!).

Toddlers like the strangest things
  • Graham loves music, just like his big brother. Although he's not saying as many words as he should be for a 2-year-old, he does try to sing along to songs. After hearing Happy Birthday sung to Grammy, to himself, and then to his cousin on a video we saw, he tried to sing it by himself! He loves to pick up one of our toy ukuleles and sing along saying "lalalala." He also loves to put on the toy guitar that plays pre-recorded songs and dance around with the music.
  • He continues to suck his index and middle fingers on his right hand. Whenever I pick him up, especially when we are out in public and he feels comforted by me picking him up, his fingers go straight in his mouth. I am a bit of a germaphobe, which is I feel is warranted since we are exposed to plenty of germs with four little kids in the house, so I try to grab his hand and spray it with high quality hand sanitizer before he can put his fingers in his mouth. He also sucks his fingers when I put him in his car seat and when he goes to sleep.

  • He loves to play with water and bubbles. He can stand outside next to the water table for hours playing, and he always gets mad when his baths are over. Now that he can blow bubbles he is a little obsessive about it, but I think it's fascinating to him.

  • He loves all things boy, like cars, trucks, bikes, and guns. He loves to make car noises when riding on a toy or pushing a small vehicle around. Although we only have a couple of toy Nerf guns in our house, they are kept on a high shelf and we have rules about how they can be played with so Graham hasn't used them at all. Just like Jack, though, he turns the most random things into guns and runs around. It's crazy to me how innate this is for many boys.
  • Graham hits, pushes, and bites to get his way. We try to stop this behavior right away, but since he doesn't have many words to communicate what he wants this behavior unfortunately comes out. Thankfully he seems to only act this way around his big sibs and me, but I do worry that it could come out with another toddler if they start fighting over a toy or something.
  • We removed the gate on the stairs a few months ago and he has only taken one scary tumble down the stairs that involved a backwards somersault (he was totally fine after...he hardly even cried!). He is a cautious boy so I don't worry too much about him on the stairs since he crawls up and down, but lately he has started to try to walk up without holding onto anything which is a little nerve-wrecking. I know this is an important developmental milestone, but since he is petite it's hard for him to put his legs up that high.
  • I think Graham has decided that it's his role in our family to be the comedian. When we are around the dinner table he loves to make people laugh by doing silly things or leading us all in various motions and noises (he'll stick his hands up in the air and wait for us all to follow, and then he'll bang his hands on the table and we all follow, and on and on). 
  • He has figured out that if you want to be seen or heard in this family, you need to be loud and cute. He competes with his siblings for attention quite well, although it can make conversations at dinner time challenging. When my parents' friends stopped by when they were driving across the country Graham was hysterical as he grabbed the toy guitar and started singing and dancing to get everyone's attention. He also kept giving them hugs, even though to him they were complete strangers. It was as if he could see his siblings behaving this way so he wanted to win everyone's affection. 
  • Graham is a problem solver, especially when it comes to getting things that he wants. For example, he's a little to short to get onto our backyard trampoline (which is only a couple of feet off of the ground), but he's figured out that he can tip over a toy truck and use that as a step stool to climb on the trampoline. The other day is went into the downstairs bathroom, grabbed the kid stool,  carried it upstairs (by this point I was following closely because I knew he was up to something and I didn't want him to tumble down the stairs with the stool), and he brought the stool over to the toy kitchen set so that he could reach a headlamp that someone put up there. He was still too short, but I was impressed by his ability to think this all through!
Pretend play

Working with Daddy on the floors

Jack is so proud to have matching shirts with Graham

Train ride to Santa Fe


He thinks he's a 5-year-old

We continue to draw a lot of attention at stores...

Posing at a park

First carousel ride



Graham's 2-Year Birthday Celebration

This year Graham's birthday fell on the Monday after Easter. Micah's parents came to town for Easter weekend, which gave us a chance to celebrate his mom's birthday which was on Friday and Graham's birthday a couple of days early on Saturday. On Saturday morning Graham opened his gifts. Although we didn't buy him much ourselves, he received gifts from his grandparents and aunts & uncles, so he got plenty! We waited until he woke up from his afternoon nap to sing Happy Birthday and eat cake. For dinner we had his favorite take out, which is Chick Fil A (he loves the fries and CFA sauce!). 

He insisted on helping with his birthday cake. Right after this photo he got mad when I told him his turn was done, and he flung batter across the counter.


New Crocs and a new watering can

He tried really hard to blow out these candles!

On Monday I dropped the big kids off at school and then Graham and I met a few friends at the zoo. We picked up donuts on the way which we enjoyed in the grassy area of the zoo. Graham enjoyed being with his toddler friends and I enjoyed hanging out with my friends instead of running around and doing errands like I usually do on Monday mornings. Graham ate another birthday cupcake in the evening, but we really didn't make a big deal about it being his birthday since we had already celebrated over the weekend.

He got into a bit of trouble after the zoo, but I let him get away with it since it was his birthday. This is usually NOT permitted.

He really enjoyed that cupcake on his birthday!

In the evening I actually went climbing with a friend, mostly because that was the day that worked best for us this week. Truly, though, it felt good to get out on Graham's birthday as my kids' birthdays are hard for me in some ways as they remind me of the trauma around the births. The triplet birth was extremely traumatic because the events leading up to it were scary and they were born 9 weeks early. I hoped that Graham's birth would be healing, but I've learned that in reality every birth has it's own trauma since it's not an easy process. I also don't feel good about how much weight I put on during pregnancy and I don't feel like myself at all when I'm pregnant. Doing something that I enjoy on my kids' birthdays is a way of realizing that although the pregnancy and postpartum months are difficult, I do get back to that person I was before kids and I am more than "just a mama."